Meewella | Fragments

The Life of P

Category: internet (page 2 of 10)

Danu site launches

With the successful launch party yesterday, the all new Downing Ball website is now live. Learn all about Danu and the Celtic seasonal theme of this year’s Ball. As always we aim to fully support all browsers and although the site is blessedly flash-free (Dave and I are on the same page there) it features our state-of-the-art MultiSeason™ and FourSkin™ technologies. You can now book tickets online or using the form on the back of the flyers that I am told will be doing the rounds, and as always Downing members can have their ticket(s) charged to their college bill. Below you can see how the four poster designs fit together as one.

Danu posters

While Apple’s Mac ads continue to push misleading stereotypes that are borderline lies (albeit more watchable with the help of the Peepshow guys), Dave showed me a great set of spoofs that highlight how pointless the entire debate really is.

The Event Calendar feature in the sidebar has been lying empty and unloved for a while now. I apologise for that, but will endeavour to get it filled up once more. If you are involved in any events that you would like to highlight then please let me know the details and I can add it to the calendar for all to see.

And that’s a wrap for the first month of 2007 — I figured you deserved a nice quick read after our self-indulgent retrospective last time!

A Brief History Online

Everyone’s sites seem to be reaching landmarks. Neil, Jane and James are all taking a look back, so I thought I would engage in my own retrospective charting the murky waters before P-2006 was recognisable in its current form and before all but the most dedicated readers were, well, reading. So let us travel back to the late nineties where a not-quite-teenage boy sits in front of a keyboard…

Scant evidence remains of the first proper site I produced, Palace of the Phoenix. It quickly evolved from a simple hobby into a sprawling web covering a variety of interests from music to web design, but the bulk of the site was dedicated to my chief hobby at the time — Warhammer fantasy wargaming. Being a creative sort I particularly enjoyed designing new characters and crafting entire backstories for them. The site eventually became a useful resource for others with archives of fan-created content produced by people worldwide. The fate of the Palace is long since forgotten although I suspect it may have been the victim of a server crash since no files from that period still exist online or in my archives.

Crypt of the PhoenixAt the very end of 2000 I began work on Crypt of the Phoenix, a new site dedicated to a somewhat darker interest of mine — vampires. I was new to the subculture and found that putting together the site was a great way to learn more about it. It was very much a special interest site, but many friends frequented it as it became one of my chief expressive outlets in the form of a large library of (often rubbish) poetry. The site gradually morphed and found its footing as a resource for those with similar interests in the vampiric, from role-players to researchers to the more hardcore vampyre lifestylers.

By 2003 it had become a hub for all sorts of people, many of whom started to contribute material and make requests. In 2002 I was pleasantly surprised to see it pick up a couple of web awards and it went on to earn a cluster the following year. It also marked my initial experience at writing film reviews. Reviewing within a specific genre provided boundaries and comparisons that make it much easier than I was to find generic reviewing later on. The site went through 4 iterations during its lifespan, and its final logo featured a photo of Emma Liddel, a Wiccan friend, although the site itself was never intended to become a generic occult resource.

P-2004I always had great difficulty in finding hosts as I could not afford to pay for hosting, yet refused to have my visitors constantly bombarded with flashing ads and pop-ups. By this time finding reliable hosting was becoming problematic with the Crypt’s host, Brinkster, reverting on their ad-free promise. P-2004 existed on the beigetower servers from 2003, a free community-based hosting solution that was self-selective. Only if the community approved you, based on examples of your work, could you become a member. P-2004 coexisted with the Crypt for some time, though the latter gradually fell into disrepair as 2004 progressed. My focus shifted to the new site that I felt better encapsulated me, particularly the Earth section which housed what became the regular blog that you now read. Beigetower worked well for some time but eventually maintenance of the servers fell by the wayside and it became more difficult to get things done resulting in the eventual move to a paid host in 2005.

Despite obvious similarities in name and the four-section layout, P-2006 marked major changes from its predecessor P-2004. For the first time I was paying for hosting and I also purchased a domain for the site. Although I was still handcoding the site, I had switched to WordPress for the backend which made posting much easier and more pleasant to do.

Which brings us back to the present day. I am incredibly grateful to those who have stuck with me throughout much of the adventure, Sam C in particular who contributed writings to the Crypt and still reads here occasionally although he does not comment as often as he ought. Although major overhauls now traditionally seem to happen in Septembers, I don’t know how old this site as a more ethereal entity really is, but whatever its age and despite all it has been through, I am quite sure the future holds even more exciting developments.

Auditory Workout

Over the weekend my speakers were given a real workout that I’m sure they thoroughly enjoyed. After Dyson’s birthday dinner people ended up in the party room without any speakers powerful enough to fill the large space so I got a call. Bringing down the Logitech beasts, I was able to turn them up to 3/4 of their maximum capacity as they belted their lungs out. It was the first time I had seen the Hamster Cage (as the improbably large sub woofer is known) moving a hefty amount of air through its hole. Now if only I can find an excuse to turn them all the way up to 11…

Much of the weekend was spent frantically coding as the Ball website is due for release this week with much of the art and content only now arriving. However a working model has been approved and I can confidently state that Downing Ball will have the best-looking website for the second year running. Sure, I’m a little biased, but it has certainly been a team effort this year and Angie has been awesome help. Not being on the committee this year I am not privy to all the inner machinations but I will endeavour to keep you informed and see if there’s any info I won’t be hanged for leaking. For now just be aware that tickets go on sale at the end of the month and will be available at a reduced price for the first 3 weeks so book early.

Finally the DVD Bargains page has been updated with some great box set deals on British comedies that I picked up over Christmas. The 8-disc complete Jeeves & Wooster box is a steal if you’re a fan of Fry, Laurie, Wodehouse, or — as you ought — all three.

The TV Fund

I mentioned Ciao! when I started using it back in November. Aside from enjoying sharing reviews through the community I’ve already made almost £20 through the site so thought I’d give it another recommendation to any hard up students out there. Go sign up now!

Kirsten and I have been arguing about vibrantly discussing the requisite essentials for a flat, given inevitably tight budgets upon moving into our dear Capitol City. I suggested that I could put up with virtually anything so long as I had a decent hi-def TV to escape into with films and games. She scoffed at the idea, suggesting a dishwasher was far more useful. Presumably she was suggesting a slave to scrub our plates clean as you already know my opinion on the mechanised variety.

She went on to accuse me of being silly with money, which may have been a mistake. I rose to the challenge by setting up a TV fund which would be calculated by totalling any excessive/frivolous purchase or impulse buy for which she is responsible. I reckoned I’d have my TV within a couple of months. Purely in the interests of transparency the course of the fund will be plotted in footnotes here as it expands.

TV FUND:
+£170 lime green luggage
+85 hairdresser/dye
Total: £255

For Your Own Protection

Having already replaced our staircase’s combination lock earlier this term (as it had a habit of sticking), College has now replaced the locks on every single one, only this time with key locks. As with the gates, this allows Downing members in and out easily but will cause major problems for visitors who now cannot even get into the staircase without a key. It certainly seems like a more secure system, though a key now grants full access where before a knowledge component was also required. Further, since every person has a lockable door, should they choose not to lock their room one might argue the consequences are their own fault.

The reason becomes clearer on discovery that the latest spate of university burglaries were not targeted at students but offices. Expect to see increased security in all Colleges now as they attempt to protect themselves. Pembroke’s back gate now features an alien keypad that emanates an eerie blue glow at night. But then with an ex-Chief of MI6 one would imagine access to some interesting (if not extraterrestrial) security technology is a given.

Scott Adams offhand suggestion that Bill Gates ought to run for President acquired much attention. The idea has since rapidly expanded resulting in the new Bill Gates For President website. As far as I can tell it’s not so much “why Bill?” as why not? He’s challenging people to look hard at American politics and ask themselves why he would be any worse than the alternatives.

It has come to the attention of certain people that I have started reading their blogs more closely once more. The reason, at least for the moment, is Google Reader. Sage provides a great Firefox aggregator for news feeds that are updated regularly and so checked on a daily basis. However neither it, nor the live bookmark system, provide a desirable interface for spotting changes to sporadically updated feeds. Google Reader lets me drop these occasional blogs into a folder so that I can read the latest additions to all of them with a single click. So if I have been noticeably absent from from yours, be warned: you are being watched.

Late to the Last.fm Party

I first stumbled upon Last.fm about two years ago and was intrigued by its idea of storing the regularity with which you play all of your music and sharing it with others. At the time I was using Musicmatch Jukebox as my primary player, which was unfortunately not supported. I recently revisited the site and decided to join now that I tend to default to WMP11 (at least until the next release of Amarok which finally has a confirmed Windows port).

The basic idea is simple enough: download the small Last.fm client and it will watch your music player, writing (or scrobbling) to the server whenever you play a song. This updates your profile on the site with the latest songs you’ve been playing as well as charts of your weekly and overall top artists and songs. Linking up with friend’s profiles it will also tell you how compatible your music tastes are. It’s all very Web 2.0 but has the unusual advantage that its premise is actually grounded in something that people already want. People have always wanted to share music with their friends and find out what their friends are listening to in order to discover new bands. Last.fm actually provides a surprisingly intuitive way to do this.

I’ve already linked up with Philly J, El, Jon and Louis. Let me know if you’re using it as well. No doubt my played songs will reveal a few dirty secrets and guilty pleasures, but my alibi is that Kirsten also uses this computer. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

One of my major gripes with Firefox has always been its lack of true fullscreen browsing. It still leaves far too much clutter that while not using much real estate is still distracting when I want to browse fullscreen. This has finally been fixed with the excellent Autohide add-on. This lets you select exactly which elements remain in fullscreen mode and which should be autohidden (i.e. until you move your mouse over them). Decent fullscreen performance is a feature I think should be incorporated into the main browser, but until then this add-on certainly does the trick.

Facebook This Story

Happy Separation of Church and State Day! Yes, that is what the Pilgrims were most thankful for.

-Stephen on Thanksgiving

A large number of our readers are Facebook users and it only takes a glance at our site statistics to see how many of you now regularly arrive through there. As such it seemed that a little more integration was due. You will now find a small Facebook icon at the bottom of each entry on the site, allowing you to “share” it through Facebook. This allows you to post it on your profile or send it directly to friends who may be interested. The idea is to provide an easy way for you to highlight interesting posts to others, store useful entries for later, or simply to collate all your favourites in one place.

The small change will hopefully be useful to Facebook/P-2006 regulars, while not getting in the way of others. Accompanying it there is also a minor alteration to the layout with a quotation at the bottom of the page replacing some defunct information. A cookie for the first person to identify the current Fragments quotation without use of search engines.

My Vitriol - GroundedTonight I’ll be heading down to Camden to see My Vitriol‘s sellout show at KOKO. The only show they are doing this year, the first time I’m seeing them, and the first chance to hear more of the new Chinese Democracy album, I’m more than a little excited. The demo of We’ve Lost Our Way sounds incredible.

Poor planning by the certain members of the Cranworth Law Society (who shall remain nameless, A— ) resulted in several of us not being able to attend the formal last night. In fairness, getting some work done to make up for tonight in London probably isn’t such a bad idea.

Bat Out Of (Extraterrestrial) Hell

My media law lecture was cancelled allowing me to listen to Alex, Jamie and Louis’ radio show, Another Planet’s Hell (Wednesdays 6-8pm, CUR1350), after quite a while. It’s still a fun show and well worth a listen, though obviously moreso when I’m free to email the studio with contributions about concept albums and Nazi dogfood (Pedigree Hun, of course), or whatever else they happen to be discussing at the time.

Flickr, the photo community, have released an interesting graph which reveals the most popular cameras amongst its users. It really highlights the success of the Canon range in particular, which I certainly agree with. I’d love a Canon EOS 400D if anyone’s feeling particularly generous this Christmas!

The new Hary Potter Trailer is out. Unless you’re a big fan, however, it’s just not that great aside from the familiar musical refrain at the end. But the comparison is inevitably with arguably one of the finest Teasers ever in Prisoner of Azkaban, which seems a little unfair.

A Dire Shortage of Virgin’s Blood

PS3 vs. WiiI’ve just become brother of the year after Gameplay confirmed that a pre-ordered Wii for my sister will be arriving on the day of launch (“Wii is yours!” being their somewhat dubious phrasing). Let’s just say I’m glad she wanted that and not one of the near mythical PS3 units that have resulted in several outbreaks of violence already. Particularly when people do this. I believe the current slow rate of production is now due to a shortage of virgin’s blood, needed to coat the lens of the blu-ray drive…

Speaking of violence on release, booking for Downing’s free Christmas Formal inevitably led to server suicide as 400 impatient students hit refresh in what would have been a perfect 10 in synchronised server slaughter, were it to become an Olympic sport. I fear they may have rules banning that level of performance-enhancing alliteration, however. The majority of the KLM crew (as Dave dubbed us) got through, but several will have to give it another go tomorrow. Whether the server will stand up to a second round of beating after being reinforced is anyone’s guess. I certainly would not want to be responsible for it right now.

For those who love Pandora as a method for discovering new music, Musicovery is a really nice visual representation of a similar concept. The user triggers the process by selecting a mood from a graph and can limit the genres if so wished. A visual array of lines is then produced with linked songs which are played in order. The user is free to navigate around to see and play similar songs in different genres. Definitely both unique and captivating to look around, particularly in genres one would not normally consider.

And for those who enjoy the fictitious boxart I occasionally produce, the latest speculates on the possible future direction of the Total War franchise.

Betting on a Better Bond

Casino Royale is fantastic. I’m inclined to leave it at that until you’ve seen it, although it was good enough to inspire a full review too. The November release date is perfect as it is far cry from the vacuous summer blockbusters we have been treated to in recent years. In some ways it harks back to the days of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but the new grounded, gritty style is all new and very welcome. The only downside is that you may have noticed the lack of a high profile theme tune being released alongside the film. That’s because it’s rubbish. Aside from that, this is finally nigh perfect action film-making for the 21st century. What the future holds for Bond has me grinning in anticipation.

We all knew the government’s proposed ID cards would inevitably end up a ruse for visibly heightened security with no actual substance. As it turns out these “secure” cards are even more hopeless than we feared asThe Guardian announce they have already been cracked. An expert reveals that, in remarkable display of ignorance, arrogance or stupidity (and quite probably all three) the encryption keys are based upon information actually found within the passport.

Returning to film news the first footage of Venom is floating around from a leaked Spider-man trailer. It looks a little rough with many of the special effects unfinished but it closes with a completed sequence showing a figure on all fours transforming in Venom, growling and then lunging forward. I have reservations about the quality of the digital effects in the film with much of it seeming too fluid and lacking any solidity. However even from just a few seconds, Venom looks just as comicbook fans will have hoped. It is wise to limit how much we see of him before the film’s release, and I assume the final trailer will include just the same few seconds. Look forward to seeing it in high definition around a month before the film’s release next year.

Finally, I mentioned Ciao! recently, and in less than a week I’ve earned a few quid through the site, so if you haven’t checked it out yet I do recommend signing up.

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"Luck is the residue of design."

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