Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Terrorist Threat

I find it hard to say anything really constructive on this subject, but it's something that makes an impact on me and my family. It makes an impact on all of us, whether we realise it or not. It's just such a difficult thing to write about. I am going to try though, because there are things that need to be said and opinions I need to express.

I suppose the real issue is trying to understand the people who commit and intend to commit terrorist acts. I'm a peace-loving man who respects all forms of life, so the idea of purposefully destroying it is abhorrent to me. I can't imagine a cause being so important that innocent lives are expendable in the pursuit of it.

I was shocked by an article on the BBC News web site that I read today. The part that shocked me most was the attitude of the defendants in the case. It seems these men discussed killing and maiming innocent shoppers in the same way one might discuss computer game strategies, and felt completely justified in planning to kill people in a nightclub simply for "dancing around".

What is wrong with these people? They don't go into the nightclub, they don't mix with the people who visit the nightclub, yet they want to kill as many of them as possible. Why? Just for dancing? I'm sorry, but in this country we can do pretty much anything we want, as long as nobody gets hurt. This is what we call freedom. Other countries and/or religions may feel differently, but they have absolutely no right to dictate to us what we do here.

Besides, these men live in the UK. From what I can tell they are British Citizens. They have prospered from being part of our society. They have been accepted and supported by our government, yet they want to destroy it. It's something I cannot begin to understand. Is there no sense of gratitude for the benefits they have received? If they hate our country so much, why are they still here?

I'm sure there are many peaceful, civil Muslims in Britain, but the news reports appear almost daily of Muslims who basically want to kill anyone who doesn't follow Islam. It seems they are a pretty big group, even if they are a minority. It's hard to stop yourself from branding all Muslims as terrorists when that's all you see.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Intelligent Design

There are big questions that all of us must ask at some point in our lives. Things such as "where do we come from?" and "what's the point of it all?" There are no easy answers to these questions. I like to think of them as unanswerable questions, things to which we can never truly know the answer. I think we're probably better off this way. After all, if we knew all the answers, life would be pretty boring.

One thing that really gets my goat at the moment is so-called ''Intelligent Design'. This is basically Creationism wrapped up in non-religious, easy-to-swallow sheep's clothing. There is a persistent minority out there trying hard to integrate this 'theory' into our lives and to teach it to our children.

This particular rant has been triggered by an article on the BBC News web site. The article basically says that there are proposals to include Intelligent Design in science lessons where it will be discussed along with Darwin's Theory of Evolution. To me this seems like the wrong place to put it. I don't have any objection to children learning about Creationism and the idea that a supreme being brought the world into existence, but it is pretty clear that the correct place to be discussing this is in Religious Education lessons. It is an idea based upon religious belief, not science.

Many supporters of Intelligent Design try to point out that Evolution is 'just 'a theory. It seems these people were not listening in science class. The word 'theory' in scientific terms has a slightly different meaning. has a useful definition. Basically, a scientific theory is something that can be shown to be true, can be used to make accurate predictions, but which cannot be created in practise. Thus, the Law of Gravity is called a law because we can create and manipulate the forces involved and precisely observe the effects. The Theory of Flight is something we can explain and demonstrate, but we cannot directly create flight. We can only take advantage of its properties.

The same holds true for the Theory of Evolution. We can explain it, demonstrate it and predict it, but we cannot directly create it. Time and environment are the only things that can do this. Thus it is called a theory. This doesn't make it any less valid, it is simply a way of labelling it. Flight is a theory, but that doesn't stop us from jetting off to Florida with the kids for two weeks.

There has been quite a controversy over Creationism in the US in recent years and I'm not keen for it to spread over here. We're lucky to live in a largely sectarian culture in Britain, where religion is quite separate from the rest of our lives. Those of us who have chosen to think freely can do so without encumbrance. I hope this will be the way of things for many years to come.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

New Pet Peeve

Ok, before I launch into this, you have to understand I'm a computer geek. I was raised on them almost from birth. That might explain my bias on the following issue...

Anyway, I was reading about DVD book types (-R, +R, etc) and came across a 'problem' that seems to have passed me by. It appears that many people don't understand that 1GB = 1024MB, not 1000MB. A lot of non-geeks (i.e. normal people) are getting in a fluster as they feel the terms kilo, mega, giga, etc should refer to round numbers, as they do in scientific and engineering fields.

The confusion has arisen over the way DVD and hard drive manufacturers have labelled the storage capacity of their products. DVDs are advertised as holding 4.7GB but users quickly discover that they can only fit 4.38GB of data onto them. This is because the 4,700,000,000 bytes of space on each DVD is calculated in base 10 (move the decimal point) giving 4.7.

However, since this is binary data we are talking about, any calculation has to be done in binary, or base 2. This calculation is 4,700,000,000 ÷ 1024 = 4589843.75 ÷ 1024 = 4482.27 ÷ 1024 = 4.38. This is the value that Windows and all decent PC software will give you. People think they are losing data capacity somewhere and are being ripped off.

The problem I have with the whole thing is that the manufacturers are claiming higher capacity products than they are actually supplying and misleading customers. Hard drive manufacturers have done this for several years now. I'm quite used to buying 200GB drives and only seeing 186GB of free space.

The solution put forward by some in the industry is to create a new acronym for computer-based binary storage. Instead of GB, MB and KB, we now have GiB, MiB and KiB. Gibibytes, Mebibytes and Kibibytes. I'm sorry, but I find that hard to swallow, let alone pronounce. "I'd like a 500 Gibibyte drive please." Ridiculous. If the manufacturers hadn't taken advantage of purchaser ignorance in the first place and realigned the definitions, we wouldn't have this problem. I'd like to say we should put everything back the way it was, but it's looking increasingly likely that GiBs, MiBs and KiBs will become the standard in the next few years.


I've decided it's finally time to release my ravings on an unsuspecting world. After several abortive attempts at keeping a regularly updated site of my own and ending up spending most of the time redesigning it, I've gone for the simple option and started this blog. It may not be interactive or pretty, but I'm more likely to add actual content to it more than once in a blue moon.

I'll add information to my profile as time goes by and as time allows. I very much doubt that anyone is interested in who I am anyway. If you do feel like finding out more about me check out the relevant section to see if there's anything there to enlighten you.

I'm almost certain to start fiddling around with the design of the page. I can't stand templates designed by someone else. Hopefully my options will be limited, otherwise I may be some time.

Anyway, check back occasionally if you like what you see. There are sure to be plenty of bizarre mumblings, nuggets of wisdom and heated opinions as time goes on.

Be excellent to each other.