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Another embarrassing Windows failure on live TV

Live TV… can you think of anything else that can provide this much schadenfreudic entertainment? Watch and enjoy as Windows Vista’s speech recognition is put to the test. And fails, miserably, in front of millions.

[flashvideo filename=”http://sjhoward.co.uk/video/speechrecognition.flv” /]

Video credit jplfree via Guardian Technology Blog

It’s all a little bit reminiscent of this, which you may remember from eighteen months ago, when Bill Gates himself experienced a Windows failure at the worst of times… But then, doesn’t Windows always fail at the worst of times…?

This post was filed under: News and Comment, Technology, Video.

The Shak Grass mystery

Shak GrassThroughout Stockton-on-Tees, graffiti has appeared stating ‘Shak Grass’. In some places, it’s ‘Big Nose Shak Grass’. In one place, it’s been spelt wrong and corrected. But it’s all over the place in Stockton, right from one end of the town to the other: Far too widespread for one person to have done on a drunken rampage (and anyway, it’s continuing to appear). I’ve counted at least twelve different sites, though some of it has started to be cleaned up now.

The graphic above doesn’t show the best example, but I feel I bit of an idiot taking photos of graffiti, and then worried slightly that I might be arrested on suspicion of creating it myself, so we’ll just have to make do with it. But, more importantly…

What the heck does it mean?

There are a couple of theories here:

I think it’s one of the asian guys that live near me. Some dude called Shakif (I Think) got a coke dealer sent down.

It’s a new indie night!

This guy has used it as a comment on YouTube.

But none of these are particularly satisfactory explanations. Does anyone have any other suggestions, or actually know what it means?

This post was filed under: Miscellaneous.

Lotto offers smallest ever jackpot

Animated banners online annoy me. I can just about cope with one on a page, but when bombarded with several like at once, as you are on many previously very user-friendly sites (Digital Spy being a case in point), I tend to get somewhat het up.

Imagine, then, my amusement at discovering this gem of an animating banner at the top of one page on a website which shall remain nameless:

Edit: Unfortunately, legal eagles at The National Lottery have insisted that I remove the image that previously appeared here. The image contained a picture of a clearly broken banner, cyclicing between text saying “This null it’s an…” and “estimated jackpot of £0 million”. I’m sorry that I’ve had to spoil your fun! (01/09/2006)

The banner animated between those four images, though each image was considerably larger than as reproduced above.

It’s certainly an original marketing strategy, but I’m not sure advertising the most likely payout will be terribly successful. Slight improvement over those awful Billy Connelly lottery ads from a couple of years back, though.

This post was filed under: Media.

G24: What a brilliant idea!

G24I’m delighted to see Guardian Unlimited leading the way once again with a brand new feature launched this week: G24. Essentially, this presents a multi-page almost magazine-formatted downloadable PDF digest of the very latest news on the website, so that one can print it off and read the very latest news at one’s leisure.

The G24 (a play on the names of ‘G2’ and ‘G3’ sections of the paper) currently comes in five editions: Top Stories, World, Media, Business, and Sport, each updated every fifteen minutes and containing no more than 10 A4 pages.

The launch is covered in more detail in the Editor’s Week column of today’s Grauniad:

This week Guardian Unlimited launched a new print edition – but unlike any newspaper you’ll have come across before. For a start, its distinguishing features appear to owe more to the world of online news than traditional print. It is updated every few minutes, is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is free, and it can be found around the world.

The big difference is that we’re now asking you to, in essence, supply the printing press.

Is this the future of the newspaper? I don’t know. But it’s definitely a service I’ll be using (indeed, it’s one I’d probably be willing to pay for, as I already do for an ad-free Guardian site), and I will be amazed if this isn’t imitated within weeks by competitors.

I think this is a really good idea.

This post was filed under: Media, News and Comment, Technology.

Behind the scenes at sjhoward.co.uk…

A couple of site updates have happened over the last few days. Firstly, the Javascript error IE users were reporting has been fixed. It wasn’t really an error as such, so much as something IE wanted to moan about. Switch!

Secondly, I’ve finally got round to embedding audio files rather than merely linking to them. This is something that’s been bugging me ever since I’ve used (albeit third-party) embedded videos. Now, posts which rely on audio (like this one or this one) now have an embedded audio player, which is fairly self-explanatory (press the play button!)

I’ve uploaded more work, particularly here, which I hope will be of some use to someone at some point.

There was half an hour or so of downtime a couple of days ago when I, quite literally, pressed the wrong button, and zapped much of the site’s template into oblivion. Thank goodness for Google Desktop‘s caching feature! If that didn’t exist, neither would much of the site right now…

WordPress 2.0.4 is currently in the final stages of Beta testing, so I anticipate upgrading shortly. As usual with platform alterations, an announcement will be posted on the blog.

Other than that, everything’s running pretty tickety-boo at the moment. Woohoo!

Update – I’m now on WordPress 2.0.4 – the update was released about three hours after I posted this, and was installed within 9 hours of release.

This post was filed under: Site Updates.

Yet another dodgy government transcript

Margaret BeckettThe Labour government were, just four months ago, caught changing transcripts to say what they wanted them to say, rather than what was actually said. In that last case, Tony Blair’s words magically changed on two occasions: First he unadmitted a mistake, then he suddenly didn’t want to say his MPs supported him, so used some more magical speech Tipp-Ex.

This time, he seems to have passed a bottle of the enchanted correction fluid to his Foreign Secretary. More4 News have discovered that part of a Channel 4 News interview with Margaret Beckett has disappeared from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office transcipt. The offending piece, spoken and yet apparently not heard:

JON SNOW: Foreign Secretary, are you happy to discover that bombs and rockets and missiles are being sent through Prestwick Airport from the United States to Israel?

MARGARET BECKETT: No I’m not happy about it, not least because it appears that insofar as there are procedures for handling that kind of hazardous cargo – irrespective of what they are – it does appear that they were not followed. I’ve already let the United States know that this is an issue that appears to be seriously at fault, that we will be making a formal protest if it appears that that is what has happened. We’re still looking into the facts but I have already notified the United States that we are not happy about it.

Is it now official government policy to delete from the archives anything which, in retrospect, is a bit politcally awkward?

This post was filed under: News and Comment, Politics.

BBC News covers DTI accident figures

The figures on the number of accidents people manage to have around the home has been a source of great amusement on this site pretty much since the beginning. But I’ve only just discovered this rather old video of Jane Hill attempting to tackle them on BBC News 24:
[flashvideo filename=”http://sjhoward.co.uk/video/janehill.flv” /]

For some reason, I can’t seem to find the most recent figures on the DTI website… don’t tell me the government is taking action to prevent me laughing at other people’s expense!

This post was filed under: Video.

Mark Oaten produces the best excuse ever

Mark OatenFor the best part of the last academic year, some friends and I have had a running joke that the best excuse ever is, “I’m sorry, I can’t do that, I’ve shit myself” (due credit to Charlie Brooker). It really works in any given situation. However, I’ve found a new pretender to the crown.

You may remember that one of the most esteemed weekly news journals of our time – the News of the World – found that Mr Mark Oaten MP, a dedicated husband and father, had been having a relationship with a rent boy. Oopsie. But, according to this, he had a great excuse:

In an article for the Sunday Times, Mr Oaten said his fall from grace was prompted by a mid-life crisis brought on by his rapid hair loss.

“I slept with a rent boy because my hair fell out”. It could be taken straight from the cover of Chat or Pick Me Up. I should know, I unashamedly read these magazines when they’re lying about the hospital…

But the real question here: With a killer excuse like that, why did he have to resign? I can’t imagine. But he obviously never consulted Prentiss McCabe. He should have said he was a fellow urban fox-spotter.

This post was filed under: News and Comment, Politics.

“The internet is a series of tubes”

Today’s 4radio Morning Report first highlighted for me the story of Senator Ted Stevens’s rather large gaff (and yes, I know that puts me way behind the curve). The guy in charge of regulating e-commerce in the United States thinks the internet is a series of tubes. Tubes that can be filled and blocked.

Here’s Jon Stewart’s take:
[flashvideo filename=”http://sjhoward.co.uk/video/tubes.flv” title=”The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Comedy Central)” /]
Now my worry is: To whom do I report an internet leak? And if ten people watch that video, my personal internets may be delayed.

This post was filed under: News and Comment, Technology, Video.

Our children dying because of our embarrassment

'Depressed child' (from The Observer)The Observer reports today that a leaked report shows that the NHS is ‘failing our children’ through a lack of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAHMS). And how.

One quarter of the country does not have crisis teams for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. That is beyond belief. If the report was that we didn’t have ambulances to pick up children in 25% of the country, nobody would accept it, because we know children would die. Newsflash: The lack of crisis teams means children are dying.

Imagine for a second that, god forbid, your child is standing on your roof and threatening to jump and kill himself. Who do you call? In 25% of the country, there’s no-one to help. Imagine your teenager suddenly has horrific hallucinations of millions of spiders coming to kill him. In 25% of the country, there’s no-one to help. Both of these children might kill themselves, because in 25% of the country, there’s no-one to help – and all because we’re pulling funding from such services to serve the less common but more palatable diseases like cancer.

We’re awful at providing mental health services in general, because we don’t like to talk about them. We like to imagine that the ‘crazy’ people are locked up, and brand every criminal going as having some mental health problem – usually schizophrenia – because we can’t accept that some people are just evil. Poor mental health and criminality become inextricably linked, and who wants to spend money helping criminals?

This is an utterly ludicrous situation. 9 million people in this country – one in six – has a mental health disorder right now. More than 1 in 3 of us will have a mental health disorder at some point – more than will experience cancer. Yet we’re cutting the amount spent on mental health services. Where’s the logic?

The situation is worse for children, because as repulsive as society finds the idea of an adult with mental illness, the idea of a child with it is far worse. When was the last time some do-good charity collecter asked you for money for children with cancer? And when the last time they asked you for money for children with serious mental health problems requiring treatment? The latter is 56 times more common. Yet in some parts of the country, there are no Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services at all.

We need to get over ourselves and face these issues, otherwise our own children will continue to suffer. And there’s a pretty huge chance it will be yours next.

This post was filed under: Health, News and Comment, Politics.

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