Monday, January 31, 2011

Microsoft Loses Another $543 Million Online

Jay Yarow and Kamelia Angelova:
Every quarter Microsoft reports earnings, and every quarter it reports a massive loss in its online operations. Today it reported a $543 million loss for its December quarter. This gives Microsoft a trailing-four-quarter loss of $2.5 billion. That’s simply astounding. We’ve asked it before, and we’ll ask it again: Has any company lost as much money online as Microsoft?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Non-Explanation of The Dead Birds Of Arkansas

So they were struck by lightning, or hit the ground when cold, or something - but FIVE THOUSAND of them????!!!!!
BEEBE, Ark. — Preliminary autopsies on 17 of the up to 5,000 blackbirds that fell on this town indicate they died of blunt trauma to their organs, the state's top veterinarian told NBC News on Monday.
Their stomachs were empty, which rules out poison, Dr. George Badley said, and they died in midair, not on impact with the ground.
That evidence, and the fact that the red-winged blackbirds fly in close flocks, suggests they suffered some massive midair collision, he added. That lends weight to theories that they were startled by something.
Earlier Monday, the estimated number of dead birds was raised to between 4,000 and 5,000, up sharply from the initial estimate of 1,000.
Keith Stephens, a spokesman for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, provided the new numbers.
Residents of the small town of Beebe awoke Saturday to find thousands of dead blackbirds littering a 1.5-square-mile area. The birds inexplicably dropped dead, landing on homes, cars and lawns.
Violent weather rumbled over much of the state Friday, including a tornado that killed three people in Cincinnati, Ark. Lightning could have killed the birds directly or startled them to the point that they became confused. Hail also has been known to knock birds from the sky.
The director of Cornell University's ornithology lab in Ithaca, N.Y., said the most likely suspect is violent weather. It's probable that thousands of birds were asleep, roosting in a single tree, when a "washing machine-type thunderstorm" sucked them up into the air, disoriented them, and even fatally soaked and chilled them.
"Bad weather can occasionally catch flocks off guard, blow them off a roost, and they get hurled up suddenly into this thundercloud," lab director John Fitzpatrick said.
Rough weather had hit the state earlier Friday, but the worst of it was already well east of Beebe by the time the birds started falling, said Chris Buonanno, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in North Little Rock.
If weather was the cause, the birds could have died in several ways, Fitzpatrick said. They could easily become disoriented — with no lights to tell them up and down — and smack into the ground. Or they could have died from exposure.
The birds' feathers keep them at a toasty 103 degrees, but "once that coat gets unnaturally wet, it's only a matter of minutes before they're done for," Fitzpatrick said.
Lightning or hail are also possibilities.
Karen Rowe, an ornithologist for the state commission, noted that in 2001 lightning killed about 20 mallards at Hot Springs, and a flock of dead pelicans was found in the woods about 10 years ago. Lab tests showed that they, too, had been hit by lightning.
Moreover, in 1973 hail knocked birds from the sky at Stuttgart, Ark. Some of the birds were caught in a violent storm's updrafts and became encased in ice before falling from the sky.
Rowe noted that birds of prey and other animals, including dogs and cats, ate several of the dead blackbirds and suffered no ill effects.
"Every dog and cat in the neighborhood that night was able to get a fresh snack that night," Rowe said.
Mike Robertson, the mayor in Beebe, said the last dead bird was removed about 11 a.m. Sunday in the town about 40 miles northeast of Little Rock. A dozen workers hired by the city to do the cleanup wore environmental-protection suits for the task.
Robertson said the workers wore the suits as a matter of routine and not out of fear that the birds might be contaminated.
"It started at 7 a.m., picking up birds on the street, in the yards, been run over. It's just a mess," Beebe Street Department supervisor Milton McCullar told WISC-TV.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Working Offline With Markdown

Using MarkDown In MarsEdit For MadMimi Emails

What Is Markdown?
Markdown is both ‘plain text markup syntax’ and a software tool that converts plain text markup to HTML.
In plain English, it is a simple way of writing an article that contains the code to make text that displays with formatting and that can also be displayed as a web page.
But Why Do I Need Markdown?
Many blogging platforms enable you to write articles with a Visual Editor. This blog uses the WordPress platform, and it is very easy to write and edit posts directly in this blog using the built-in Visual Editor.
So When Is MarkDown Useful?
Well, until I saw Don McAllister’s screencast I didn’t think I had much use for MarkDown.
However, when I saw the MarkDown code today, I recognised it as the code that MadMimi uses to make its email newsletters.
This is relevant to us because use MadMimi for our email newsletters.
Working Offline
Being able to work on email newsletters offline is very useful to us because it opens up a whole new dimension for composing newsletters with MadMimi.

Government to sell/not sell national forests, yes, no, maybe

"xisting charities say they will not take on the heritage forests without long-term finance, and may not have the capacity to manage them, anyway. So the plans envisage a new charity, financed by the government – creating what looks suspiciously like a quango at a time when ministers are vigorously culling them."

Caroline Spelman loses her way in the woods

Forestry Commission sell-off might actually double the Government's bill

Mole – Kenneth Grahame tells us in The Wind in the Willows – approached the Wild Wood "with great cheerfulness of spirit" and at first found "nothing to alarm him". But soon, hostile creatures forced him off his path. Eventually, a rabbit rushed by muttering: "Get out of this you fool, get out." By then, he was utterly lost.
Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary – like Mole, a loyal, mild-mannered creature – seems to have retraced his steps. Cheerfully
launching her plans to privatise England's woods and forests in October, she has since been driven off course by unforeseen (by her) opposition. No doubt some Westminster rodent has told her to cut her losses. But she may not find a way out.
Certainly, as Spelman admits, her plans – involving the biggest change of land ownership in Britain since the Second World War – have caused "great consternation". A quarter of a million people have signed a petition against privatisation, while groups determined to protect local woodlands have proliferated.
Eighty-four per cent of those questioned told an opinion poll that woods and forests should be kept in public ownership: only 2 per cent disagreed. Last weekend, almost 100 leading public figures, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote to The Sunday Telegraph, calling the plans – which the newspaper revealed last October – "unconscionable" and "ill-conceived". And Lib Dem MPs have threatened to vote against them.
No wonder the hapless Spelman has mounted a damage limitation exercise, confessing that she has "been working incredibly hard" to "disabuse" any impression that she was "flogging off" the forests. But it is unlikely to get her out of the woods.
The consultation document launched on Thursday gives every sign of being cobbled together in a panic. Much of it, by officials' own admission, has yet to be thought out.
The new plan would divide the country's woodlands into three. The first group, "heritage forests" – such as the New Forest and the Forest of Dean – would be

Friday, January 28, 2011

Are the changes to s44 a relaxation or an evasion of European law?

Reacting to the news, photojournalist Marc Vallée tells BJP: "The devil is always in the detail, and after reading the Home Office review it is clear that the coalition government is planning to give the police new stop-and-search powers to get around the European Court of Human Rights' ruling. I do not think for one minute that these new powers will protect photographers from harassment and abuse from the police on the streets of Britain, far from it."

Government to replace Section 44 with more limited powers [update 4]

In a statement made in the House of Commons, May said: "The government proposes to replace section 44 stop and search powers with a more tightly defined power allowing a senior police officer to make an authorisation for stop and search powers where they have reason to suspect a terrorist attack will take place and searches are necessary to prevent it."
However, BJP believes, the changes will only be minimal. The review recommendations are as follow:

Pollution Only Counts If The End Is Nigh – Discuss

Fear of 'The End' global warming or whatever - is a red herring - we shouldn't need the threat of a cataclysm in order to behave better and end pollution.

Pollution Only Counts If The End Is Nigh – Discuss

We believe in the power of redemption, of being able to pull things back from the brink.
Experience teaches us that things will put themselves back on course if we take a long enough view.
But we also fear the cataclysmic end to everything.
I recall reading years ago during the time of the ‘Bomb’ that people simultaneously believed that their lives would improve and that the Bomb would end everything.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Trees Do Not Need To Justify Their Existence

Sign the petition to save Britain's national forests. ALL of them
Trees do not need to justify their existence.  Trees feed the soul, the senses and the environment. The notion of selling national forests off to profiteers for profit is a national scandal and must not happen.
It is being reported that Caroline Spellman will announce tomorrow that certain national forest will not be sold off after all.
The government may still be bent on selling of some nationally owned forests. Now is the time to add your voice to the campaign to prevent any forest owned by the nation being sold off is reaping good results.
Pressure works - Sign the petition at Save Our Forests
Leave a comment

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Where has your Wordpress Theme Been?


Why You Should Never Search For Free WordPress Themes in Google or Anywhere Else

A few months ago I wrote about WordPress Security. Now, armed only with the words “free WordPress themes,” builtBackwardsTheme Authenticity Checker Plugin and Donncha O Caoimh’s Exploit Scanner, I’m going to take a look through the first page of Google to see just how safe pages ranking for “Free WordPress Themes” are.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Metal barrier no barrier to big truck

Photos on the site show that the tree is snapped off at the base - what a sad end to a newly planted tree.

The Sad End To A Newly Planted Tree

Some months ago I watched this tree being lowered into its spot and the root ball carefully back filled with soil. Then the protective barrier was welded into place.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Slight Warming - Signs Of Spring

A Question For Any Person From the U.S. Who Know About Foreclosures

I have been searching for the longest time for an answer to the following question about foreclosures in the U.S., and I wonder whether you can help with an answer.

I am in England and the law about foreclosures is as follows:
If the bank wants to kick out the owner for non-payment then the bank goes to court and gets an order that allows it to sell the property. It sells the property as 'mortgagee in possession'.

Or, if the owner just hands the keys over to the bank to enable the bank to sell, then again the bank sells the property as mortgagee in possession.

The important point is that if there is any surplus after the bank has paid itself off, then that surplus goes to the owner (assuming there are not any second mortgages on the property, in which case the surplus goes to the second mortgagee, and any surplus after that goes to the owner).

I know that the likelihood is that there will not be a surplus in many situations, but suppose there is...

Now there is another way that a bank can take back the property in England, and that is to foreclose. If it does that, then any surplus after it pays itself off does NOT go to the owner. Instead, the bank keeps it for itself.

However, at any time before, or up to six months after the sale, the owner can apply to court to have the foreclosure changed into a sale as mortgagee in possession.

Banks in England do not go the foreclosure route.

Apart from having the owner being able to get the court to overturn the foreclosure and turn it into a sale where the surplus goes to the owner, it would also make banks very (or even more) unpopular with the general population and the media.

So, how does foreclosure operate in the U.S.? Who gets the surplus?

962 Ecards For The New Year And Beyond

Stumbleupon toolbar tells me the number of messages I have in my inbox is '-1'

What does it mean, I wonder, when the number of messages I have in my inbox is '-1' 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Large Part Of Being An Artist Is Being Delusional

  • What drives me to be an artist, to make the work I do and I think that a large part of being an artist is being delusional. You have to be totally delusional and slightly narcissistic. You have to be delusional to think that you're going to think up stuff and people are going to be interested in it.
    -- Phil Toledano

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society surrounds Japan's whaling fleet

Japan's whaling fleet on the run

Hunted ... the anti-whaling vessel Steve Irwin pursues the Japanese whaling fleet on New Year's Day.
Hunted ... the anti-whaling vessel Steve Irwin pursues the Japanese whaling fleet earlier this month. Photo: AFP
The future of Japan's Antarctic industry hangs in the balance, writes Andrew Darby.
IN THE shadows of intent, somewhere between harmless fireworks and deadly force, lies the whaling conflict in the Antarctic.
At one end of this spectrum are the stink bombs thrown against water jets. At the other is the near fatal collision involving the Ady Gil.
Among all this piratical colour and movement, decisive moments of a decades-long struggle can pass little noticed.
Sea Shepherd's Gojira pursues Japanese Antarctic whale research vessel Yushin Maru No. 2 in Antarctic waters earlier this month.
Sea Shepherd's Gojira pursues Japanese Antarctic whale research vessel Yushin Maru No. 2 in Antarctic waters earlier this month. Photo: Reuters/Sea Shepherd
Such was the case last week when a bizarre fleet manoeuvre formed in the Southern Ocean.
Three black ships of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society took up positions around a red fuel tanker and escorted it out of the Antarctic. Skulking in their wakes were two of the three harpoon-equipped whale hunter ships in the Japanese fleet.
The hunter ships had been tagging the black ships for two weeks, instead of harpooning whales.
Sea Shepherd's Neptune's Navy had tracked them down on New Year's Eve, only hours after they reached their whaling grounds.
The factory ship Nisshin Maru, together with the third harpoon boat, gave the activists the slip. But the two hunters were ordered to keep tabs on Sea Shepherd, presumably to inform the Nisshin Maru so it could keep clear.
Now that the Sea Shepherd ships had locked on to the tanker Sun Laurel, the conservationists claimed to have found the fleet's Achilles heel. If Nisshin Maru could not refuel, Japan's whalers would have to cut their season short.
Neptune's Navy came one step closer to ruling the waves.
It was further evidence that, after spending 23 years killing about 10,000 Antarctic minkes in the name of science, Japan's whalers are increasingly embattled.
They have seen the collapse of International Whaling Commission talks that might have given them a legitimate Antarctic kill, and taken a series of hits at home.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The perhaps urban myth of easy quotations


‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’ (or words to that effect)

The pseudo-quote is therefore without authenticity or meaning, and is just another of those political slogans which are used not as an assistance to, but as a substitute for real thought. It is not a deep truth, although it is constantly treated as one. Burke incidentally hated such things.
He thought that cheap political slogans, or ‘maxims’ as he called them, enabled politicians to invoke principles of expediency, so they could pursue their own selfish interests instead of fulfilling their obligations to country, party and people. To him they were quite distinct from the deeps truths, or as he calls them here, ‘first principles’,
It is an advantage to all narrow wisdom and narrow morals that their maxims have a plausible air; and, on a cursory view, appear equal to first principles. They are light and portable. They are as current as copper coin; and about as valuable. They serve equally the first capacities and the lowest; and they are, at least, as useful to the worst men as to the best. Of this stamp is the cant of not man, but measures; a sort of charm by which many people get loose from every honourable engagement.
          Edmund Burke
And to this quote we can give a proper attribution,

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Glimpses Of The Future #2 Prosaic Teleportation

Glimpses Of The Future #2

I was thinking about Star Trek and teleportation and as and when it comes to pass for us all, I don’t see it being used to move people very much.
I mean if the idea is that you can go to a beautiful desert island in a split second, then you could well find yourself knee deep in other visitors.
No, I see a more prosaic but necessary use for teleportation – one that will get rid of toilets.
I see teleporters focused in on our bowels, neatly removing all the crap.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

On Photographs And Aspect Ratios

Understanding aspect ratios in photography - from panoramas to the traditional 3:2 aspect ratio of 35mm film used by millions worldwide for more than a century and carried over into digital, but why?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

About half of the fish caught in the North Sea are thrown back dead

This follows on from the information about the damage to the world's oceans and the fish in them first brought to light by The End Of The Line - from
Around half of the fish caught by fishermen in the North Sea are unnecessarily thrown back into the ocean dead.
The problem is that in a mixed fishery where many different fish live together, fishermen cannot control the species that they catch.
Fishing for one species often means catching another, and if people don’t want them or fishermen are not allowed to land them, the only option is to throw them overboard. The vast majority of these discarded fish will die.
Because discards are not monitored, it is difficult to know exactly how many fish are being thrown away. The EU estimates that in the North Sea, discards are between 40% and 60% of the total catch. Many of these fish are species that have fallen out of fashion: we can help to prevent their discard just by rediscovering our taste for them.
Others are prime cod, haddock, plaice and other popular food species that are “over-quota”. The quota system is intended to protect fish stocks by setting limits on how many fish of a certain species should be caught.
Fishermen are not allowed to land any over-quota fish; if they accidentally catch them – which they can’t help but do - there is no choice but to throw them overboard before they reach the docks.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Statement that you cannot put the FBML page first on FBook Pages

Comprehensive Static FBML Troubleshooting Guide - Why You Can't Add the App or Why Your Code Isn't Working

  • NOTE: You can have a maximum of 6 tabs visible on your Page, and Facebook reserves the "Wall" and "Info" tabs — which can't be moved or removed! Additional tabs will appear under the ">>" in the navigation. You can select them and then drag them to where you want them to appear in your navigation AFTER "Wall" and "Info".

Annotating Twitter

Twitter Annotations was for me the most exciting announcement of last year - structured data is everything - and the idea behind annotations was to allow arbitrary data to be attached to each Tweet to allow more exciting applications to be built.
Currently Twitter is still limited to the kind of use cases that the data associated with a Tweet allows. With Annotations a tweet can contain the meta-data to describe the meaning of the Tweet.
So for developers what could be built would be limitless - so if you want to build a Quora clone - by having the Tweet as the question with all the topic data stored in the annotation.
Game developers could build who new social games by storing game status information within each Tweet - so for instance the current positions of pieces on a chess board could be stored in a Tweet. So as you play others could look at the status update and see what move you made.
I viewed the announcement much in the way when Facebook released its App platform - that for me was one of the pivotal technology changes they made that allowed such growth.
I hope we see Annotations in 2011
(originally posted in answer to this Quora question)
Looking forward to Twitter Annotations in 2011

My Blog Is Carbon Neutral

I am pleased to be able to make the statement in the title to this article and I want to explain how I have done it and how I came to hear about the scheme that enables it.

The first step along the path that brought me to this happy state is that I have joined Seeded Buzz.

The idea behind Seeded Buzz is for the members to plant seeds - which means telling other bloggers about their blog posts and inviting them to continue the conversation on their blogs with a link back to the original post on their blog.

Well I have found a blog post from one of the members that covers a subject that interests me.

Seeded Buzz points out that better the Seed conversation and the more extendable / debatable it is, the more other bloggers will Buzz about it on their blogs and link to the original post.

And as we all know, links are the engine that pumps searches - and these are the lifeblood of the internet.

The seeder profile I found was from Thomas Chasm who blogs about a lot of different categories including Environment, Economy and Health & Fitness. The blog post that interests me is the post he wrote on Green Eyed View about how to make his blog - and indeed any blog - carbon neutral.

The way to do it is to post a badge from a website named Kaufda and write a blog post about their programme. In return they will plant a tree that will offset the 'carbon cost' of this blog.

So that is what I have done.

Now the amount of carbon that a blog creates varies with the number of visitors, but as Kaufa states:

According to a study by Alexander Wissner-Gross, PhD, physicist at Harvard University and environmental activist, an average website causes about 0.02g (0,0008oz.) of carbon dioxide for each visit.

Assuming an average blog gets 15,000 visits a month, it has yearly carbon dioxide emissions of 3,6kg (8lb.). This can mainly be tracked back to the immense energy usage from (mainframe) computers, servers, and their cooling systems.

Red Herring
I think it is a huge red herring to rely on carbon offsetting. This should not be used as a method to enable us to mess about with our environment in any which way we choose. We have a responsibility to keep our own back yard clean and pollution free - and in this case, our back yard is planet Earth.

Still, carbon offset is better than no offset - and if someone is offering to plant a tree, then I say a resounding YES!

I reported to Kaufda the fact that I had made the blog post and was displaying the button.

Here is the email reply:

Hi David, 
thank you so much for participating in our initiative and making your blog carbon neutral! We thank you for your support! 
Here you can find some news about the reforestation:
There are still some trees looking for a sponsor. So if you know some people who have a blog or website, pass it on and we'll make their blogs carbon neutral too! 
Best Wishes,
"Make it green"-team

The news link is here.