Golden Pillars | November 30, 2004

Golden Pillar from a temple in Shanghai

Golden pillar taken from a different angle

Another golden pillar

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The Incredibles | November 23, 2004

So after seeing the Incredibles game at the London Mac Expo on Saturday, I was keen to go see the movie. It doesn’t officially open in the UK till next weekend, but luckily our local Cinema was running preview screenings so I managed to catch it Sunday afternoon.

The Incredibles

Now while I was aware that it was Pixar’s latest offering I didn’t know much about the film. Coming from the same stable as Toy Story, Monsters Inc and more recently Finding Nemo I was pretty sure it would be good. However The Incredibles turned out to be quite a different film to it’s predecessors.

Pixar’s previous outings such as Nemo were essentially kids movies. Sure they had the smart jokes that only the parents would get, but they were primarily aimed at a younger audience. These movies created a fairy tale world and filled it with cute and lovable characters much like the Disney movies of our childhood. However The Incredibles is aimed at a much older and more film savvy audience. Rather than being a kids movie , The Incredibles plays like an action comedy and in that sense is much closer to films like Raiders of the Lost Ark. The movie has it’s funny moments but it also has it’s kick-ass action moments. At points you almost forget you’re watching an animated feature and you could just as easily be watching the latest Spiderman or X-Men film. In fact The Incredibles is a movie that could just as easily have been made using real life actors instead of CGI ones.

So if you’re wanting to see a movie at the weekend I’d highly recommend The Incredibles. If you go expecting the next Shrek you may be disappointed, but if you go expecting to see a smart, intelligent and funny action movie, you should have a great time. In the meantime–if you don’t mind the somewhat flakey Tomb Raider style controlls–why not download the demo and help Mr Incredible kick some butt.

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Apple Store Opening | November 21, 2004

I got to the new Apple Store on Reagent Street about 9:45. I realised there would be no chance to grab a Lucky Bag but I was happy to make do with an opening day T-Shirt. Fat chance. As I went to join the back of the queue it just kept getting further away. Round the side and then the back of the building, over the road to the end of the next block, up the other side of the street (and in the centre of the street as well) and finally ending round the side of a small park near where it started.

The Queue was BIG. Easily a kilometre long and growing by the minute. In fact I don’t think I’ve seen so many people queuing for anything ever, especially not the opening of a shop. Apparently in SF the queue reached 1,200 people by 10am. I’m not sure how many people were in the London queue but I reckon it would have bust a hole in that record easily.

As I walked back to the front of the store the whooping and hollering began. One after another, black clad Apple employees ran past me, shouting and high-fiveing those in the queue. With an almost Californian zeal the queue responded in kind. They’d been queuing for hours–some even days– and the moment they were waiting for was nearly at hand.

Close to the front of the line, around a hundred people back, I spotted a familiar face so went up to say hi. Rob–a student from Brighton– had been queuing since about 7pm the previous evening and braved the bitter London cold to earn his place at the front of the queue. Considering the previous nights below zero temperatures and an obvious lack of sleep, spirits were high. At least it hadn’t rained.

Round the front of the store a huge crowd had gathered. Police and security staff mingled with the Mac faithful and curious passers-by, trying desperately to keep order. Everytime somebody stopped for more than 5 seconds they were ushered away, and yet the crowds kept getting bigger. I’m guessing neither the Apple store or the Police had expected such a huge turnout as workmen hastily erected more crowd control barriers to contain the swelling queue.

From inside the shop music started blaring out, accompanied by the whooping, singing and clapping of Apple employees. A middle aged American woman asked me what was going on, although my answer that it was a shop opening didn’t seem to satisfy her curiosity or explain the spectacle before her. I have images of her going home with tales of commodity impoverished Brits going nuts whenever a new shop opens. Next up were a group of Spanish students eager to see what famous bands the crowds had obviously gathered to see. Sadly I had to crush their hopes of spotting a famous face, although in retrospect I really wished I’d started a rumour that U2 were there.

And then after a brief and inaudible speech, the shop was officially opened. Those at the front of the queue rushed into the store, high-fiveing the cheering staff as they made their way up the stairs for their first look around. Video cameras were in abundance. Staff were filming the Mac faithful stream past while themselves being filmed by the eager Mac fans. The media was on hand to record the spectacle and interview the first through the doors.

The main target for most people were the infamous Lucky Bags, and at around 10:30am the first people started leaving with their booty. Very soon somebody was circling the crowd offering to sell his lucky bag and currently there are over 40 bags being sold on ebay. I honestly don’t know what would make somebody camp out in sub zero temperatures just to be one of the first people into a new shop. For many the chance of making some money by selling their lucky bags on ebay was obviously a strong motivating factor. However for the die hard Mac faithful I guess it was their chance for a walk on role in the rollercoster movie that’s the history of Apple Computers.

Some related links.

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The Power of User Stylesheets | November 19, 2004

I saw a great post this morning on Mac OSX Hints that really demonstrates the power of user stylesheets. A chap called Lee Noble noticed that the main nav on the Sainsburys site broke on Safari. Rather than choose to do his grocery shopping elsewhere, Lee had a look at the code and fixed the problem using a simple user stylesheet.

How cool is that?

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Apple Saturday | November 18, 2004

This Saturday sees the launch of the first of several Apple stores in the UK. The stores opening has been eagerly awaited by Mac geeks all over the country, some going as far as to sneak pics of the building site from a nearby roof.

I did entertain the idea of queuing up for the opening in order to get my hands on a legendary Lucky Bag. However I read on one site that the length of the queue at the SF store opening was 200 by 6am, 500 by 8am and a whopping 1,200 by 10am. As we’re a nation of professional queuers (lucky I didn’t let my spellchecker change this to what it wanted to change it to!) I bet people will already be there with tents and sleeping bags.

With only 200 lucky bags to go around, even getting the first train to London would have been too late and I’m really not up for pulling an all-nighter, no matter how great the contents will be. For those people willing to brave the Nov cold, they will end up with £700 worth of stuff for a measly £249. Expect to see these bad boys on within minutes of the store opening. I’m planning to head up around 9am on the off chance that I’ll bag one of 2,500 opening day t-shirts. considering one person sold an opening day T-shirt on ebay for $510, it may not be such a bad investment. Hell, I may try to pick up two!

The stores are supposed to be amazingly well designed so I’m looking forward to checking out the genius bar, the theatre and the legendary glass staircase. I just hope to god they don’t do the whole high five thing here.

After the store I’m planning to head over to the other big Apple event of the day, MacExpo2004. I’ve never been to a Mac Expo before so an looking forward to test driving some games, checking out the latest peripherals and maybe doing a spot of Christmas shopping. I’ll probably be there from 12pm onwards so hope to see a few of you there.

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G5 iMac on the Way | November 14, 2004

G5 iMac

So despite my initial reservation about the form factor of the new G5 iMac, the specs won me over. At the end of Oct I put in my order for a 17” 1.8GHz G5 iMac with Airport, Bluetooth and a 160GB hard drive. Checking out the status page it looks like delivery is set for sometime this week and I have to say I’m quite excited.

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FireFox Birthday Bash | November 9, 2004

So FireFox has hit release 1.0 and geeks all over the world are throwing FireFox birthday parties in celebration. Brighton has a very high geek contingent so after an initial suggestion to the BNM mailing list, local web developer Tristan Roddis put together a Brighton FireFox bash with the backing of his employers, Cognitive Applications.

Tristan put on a great bash complete with decorations, party poppers, birthday cake and a £100 bar tab. There was also fun and games such as “pin the cursor on the <div> tag” and “guess the number of lines of code in FireFox”. I stupidly guessed 35,000 when the actual figure was closer to 3 million. However the highlight of the evening had to be the live video web chat with none other that FireFox icon designer John Hicks

Brighton FireFox birthday picture

The usual geeks were there and Jeremy Keith snapped this pic of me and Richard Rutter posing for the camera.

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Cooking on the Streets of Shanghai | November 4, 2004

Streeet Cooking

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Election Day | November 2, 2004

It’s election day in the US and it’s possibly the most important election we’ve seen in a long time. I try to keep politics out of this site, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me this one time. I’m not going to stand here and tell my American readers what to do. It’s your elections and at the end of the day the buck stops with you. However as one of your closes allies in the world, if your friends lean over to you at a party and tell you that you’ve had too much to drink and are making a fool of yourself, it’s probably worth listening to. If you choose to carry on, when you wake up in the morning with a screaming headache and the realisation that you pissed everybody else off at the party and won’t be invited again, you’ll only have yourself to blame. We’ll still love you, we just might not want to hang out with you for a while.

I’m sure most of my readers would have made up their minds weeks, if not months ago. With early voting many of you will have already had your say. As it stands the elections results of the “Worlds largest democracy” will be decided by around a million undecided voters in half a dozen swing states. It will be be decided by glossy commercials, staged appearances and millions upon millions of dollars, all of which will need to be paid back in one way or another.

At the end of the day, this election will determine how the worlds last super power is perceived by the rest of the world. Do you want to be seen as the popular kid? The one everybody wants to be like, who gets invited to all the cool parties, gets the cute girls and is nominated “most likely to succeed”. Or do you want to be seen as the hard drinking tough kid. The one who pushes the smaller kids and gets away with it because he’s bigger than everybody else and has equally tough friends.

So does America want to be Marty McFly or Biff Tannen? I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.

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