Google me this

So we use WordPress to publish this precious dribble, and today i discovered a new feature (it’s probably several years old, but I just noticed it).  If someone is Googling and ends up clicking on our blog, WordPress statistics keeps track of what Google search term was used to make them find our blog and actually click on us.

The results are outstanding.  Here are two favourites, and I promise these are truly not made up:

bobo the german puppet from beer fest

British Leafy Salads Conference d. 19. november 2008

for the leafy salad one, we’re number one!!

LHC at CERN – It’s Like Mecca for Science

This weekend I visited the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland. This was their last “open day” before the equipment becomes active – and radioactive – later this year.

Even if you’re not a particle physics fan, this thing is really cool. LHC holds the title as “world’s largest machine.” It’s a 27km ring of vacuum tunnels and superconducting magnets under France and Switzerland for the express purpose of generating two beams of protons and smashing them together at 14TeV to see what happens. Of course, it’s all under ground, but this is the area it covers:

All this can be yours for only €5-€10 billion

CERN is also interesting because a lot of technologies have come out of the research done here, including Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) used in hospitals and the World Wide Web (the thing you’re reading this blog on and download your porn from).

LHC was designed to probe deeper into the “stuff” the universe is made of, and will help answer several questions:

  • What is the universe made of?
  • How many dimensions of time and space exist?
  • Why do particles have mass?
  • Why is everything made up of matter instead of anti-matter?

… or, it may just swallow up the entire Earth into a giant black hole. Either way it will be exciting.

While the site at CERN was very interesting, the logistics of “open day” were atrocious – thankfully their physics are better than their event management! They certainly weren’t prepared for the number of visitors they received; the event was insanely popular! There were people of all ages there and the queues were enormous. I got there early, but there was already a crowd of a few hundred people before the official 9AM opening time.

Queue for the LHC Tunnel
One of the many queues during Open Day.

In total I ended up queuing for about 3.5 hours throughout the day, most of that to see the LHC tunnel. Of course, the LHC lifts (to bring you 3km under ground) weren’t made to shuttle thousands of people per hour:

However the capacity problems were exacerbated by the interesting choice of the CERN staff to put every sign and instruction only in French. OK, fine, you’re a site based in French Switzerland and France, but when about half of your guests are from other parts of Europe and don’t understand French, don’t be surprised when half of your crowd doesn’t follow your instructions. During one tour a woman asked if the tour guide could mention some instructions in English and he said that “many people understand French so I’ll just talk in French.” One CERN employee called me a “faux Canadien” (in French) when he found out I was Canadian but didn’t speak French. The most entertaining part of all this was watching the crowd during a presentation of “introduction to particle physics” in French. I captured a minute of it for your enjoyment:

Good thing I already learned this stuff in University.

The first thing I saw under ground was the biggest detector at the LHC: ATLAS: a giant ring made up of 8 superconducting toroid magnets and the height of a 5-story building.

The pictures don’t do this justice: this thing is HUGE. It’s amazing that you need something this big to detect particles that are unimaginably small.

After seeing ATLAS, and a particularly long queue, I finally got to go down into one of the tunnels of the LHC where the protons travel before being smashed together in ATLAS:

Magnets chilled to -271C – can you imagine the electricity bill?

Another interesting part of the day was the computer centre. As I said CERN invented the world-wide web back in the early 90s and now they’ve invented “grid computing” to process the massive amounts of data that the LHC will generate when it goes online later this year. They had an interesting real-time map that showed where the data is being processed right now:

If you’d like to donate your own computer resources while you’re not using them, you can install the LHC@Home software.

Of course they also have their own data centre which is still looking quite empty as the continuously dropping price of computer technology means they won’t buy the computers until they need them:

Sure, it’s really cute until it becomes sentient and takes over the world

Ever wonder where the old equipment goes? I found this out back:

Let’s hope they recycle

One other funny thing is that all the streets at CERN are named after famous physicists:

Route Schrödinger isn’t always there: it depends how you observe it.

All in all – and despite the queues – it was a really good day. I didn’t get to see the ALICE detector, or the SPS, but I was able to go underground twice which is better than most visitors! It will be interesting to see what comes out of this experiment when they fire it up later this year.

PS: If anybody at CERN is reading this, I would love to come back for another tour! Just let me know when and I’ll be there. 🙂

BlackBerry Blogging

To continue our reputation of “the house of the future,” I’ve decided it was about time to set up mobile blogging on britlog. Through the miracles of modern technology, Sylvia and I can now post to the blog from our BlackBerrys. Here’s Sylvia blogging on the street:

This will ensure we can post all of our rage as it happens.

The excitement that is … Computex Taipei!

Marry Me? DianaAnother week of work with the same old grind. Well, that’s what you may be thinking, but I just got off the most exciting week of the year – the glamour and excitement of one of the world’s largest trade shows for PC component and peripheral manufacturers: Computex Taipei 2007! Yee haw! Jealous yet? You will be.

Computex Taipei is an enormous sprawling collection of Taiwanese electronics (fun fact – the domain name is the only .biz address not owned by spammers). The show is spread out throughout four buldings of the Taiwain World Trade Centre complex that surround the Grand Hyatt Taipei and Taipei 101 (after four days, still no word from Diana). The show floor is mainly made up of endless booths from every Taiwainese company you’ve never heard of.

Source Come Science & Technology
Who these days doesn’t own a monitor from Source Come Science & Technology?

Taipei Weather - Computex 2007Normally I look forward to the beautiful Taipei summer weather for my annual Computex pilgramige: a crisp 38C with 95% humidity and heavy smog. Unfortunately this year it was only about 30C with 90% humidity and constant thundershowers. Nevertheless, I didn’t let that put a damper on my mood – there was pointless technology to explore.

While you would think that most attendees come to see the latest in cheap Taiwanese electronics, the primary draw seems to be the booth babes. Seriously, follow that link. You would think by the photos that Computex is just an endless line-up of scantily clad Taiwanese girls flaunting obscure technology brand logos.

But there’s more to Computex than just booth babes. There’s also the exciting game of hunt the Engrish.

Keep Rotating the Earth
Few of us comprehended the importance of green power until now.

VESA Vedio
VESA need a spell checker.

Eee! PC! ASUS are one of the biggest PC technology companies in the world and they still don’t understand that “Rock Solid. Heart Touching” doesn’t make any god-damned sense.
I’ve been to and this is clearly false advertising.

Of course the big-names in the PC industry also share the stage with Shiunn Yang Enterprise Co., LTD. Intel and AMD put plenty of cash into the event:

Intel and one AMD
Never have I seen market share put so eloquently in picture.

In the end, Computex met all of my expectations – it was exactly the same as last year. As much as I would like to make this one my last (you know, go out on a high-note like Seinfeld) it’s pretty unlikely given my choice of career. It’s inevitable: I’ll be back for Computex 2008 along with all the rest. With any luck, Diana will have made up her mind by then.

See you at Computex 2008

Make Faire: Meet the Makers

I’ve been in the San Francisco Bay Area (aka “Silicon Valley”) this weekend and have been trying to keep myself busy. I used to live in the area (during an internship at a tech company in Sunnyvale) and I have some friends who still live here. My friend Amber was kind enough to suggest a few interesting things happening this weekend and I decided to attend the Maker Faire. It turned out to be very entertaining! Unfortunately I didn’t bring my proper camera so you’re going to have to live with the pictures from my mobile phone or pictures I can find elsewhere online.

The event is put on by Make: Magazine, which is a quarterly magazine for people who like to make things (usually technology related). It a very entertaining magazine but I’m not enough of a “Maker” to justfy the exorbinant cover price (New Scientist is the only magazine I subscribe to FWIW). I acutally saw Mark Frauenfelder, editor-in-chief of Make: Magazine while I was there:

Mark Frauenfelder - not my photo

While not exactly what I would consider a celebrity encounter, he is the only person I’ve ever seen in person who has appeared on the Colbert Report.

But I digress. There was all sorts of cool things there including GIANT TELSA COILS there! YEAH:


This guy was lighting a fluorescent bulb with his Tesla coil:


Posted about were warnings like this one:

Waring - Telsa Coils

They had electric vehicals:

Electric RacecarElectric Bike

Antiquated technology:

A pile of old cables

People who made all kinds of wacky stuff, including giant robots:


And, of course, the truly insane, like this guy who was knitting whist playing the drums:

Knitting Drummer

And the “Redneck Pool Heater“:

Redneck Pool Heater

The event was much bigger than I expected and I never did end up meeting up with Amber while I was there. The SF Bay Area is one of the only places that can support this kind of insanity at this level. Between stuff like this and the beautiful weather it makes me almost miss living here!

Never buy a Microsoft phone

I know this should be obvious, and I should have known better, but (suprise!) my Microsoft-powered “smart” phone that work bought me is a piece of trash. I’ve had this thing since November and it’s been nothing but trouble. The phone needs to be rebooted every day or the phone will stop rining and alarms and notifications will stop going off, making the phone basically useless. And now, whenever I reboot, I get this for about 10 minutes:


NEVER buy a Windows Mobile phone if you can avoid it. I’m just hoping that I can convince my work to get rid of this piece of trash and get me a BlackBerry again. Palm should be ashamed of themselves for going over to Windows.

2 wires, £81 each

I solved my little BT problem last night. After some short research on the net (particularly this great PDF) I found out that it really was as easy as I thought it would be.

Here was my daunting task: 6 wires. But which should I hook up?!

6 wires

According to my research online, only two are required (technically wire 3 should be hooked up or the phone won’t ring but those little ADSL filters they give you take care of that and the less noisy wires the better for Internet access). 5 minutes with my trusty 110-block punchdown tool later and we’re done (you do have a 110 punchdown tool at home, don’t you?):

110 punch down tool

And the final product:

Wired Up

5 minutes for £162. Not a bad day’s work. I hate you BT.

BT, Bloody Theives

As if it wasn’t bad enough that they force you to get an £11/month home phone line with a £106 “set-up fee” to get DSL Internet (something not required in Canada). Now I find out that when BT hooks up your phone, they only hook up one phone jack. To get your phone line in any other room you need to pay for an “extension socket” for the low, low price of only £162.16 including installation. £162! Just so that we can get our ugly Internet router out of our livingroom and into our second bedroom!

I just couldn’t bring myself to do this because I know it’s just hooking up a few wires (I just don’t know where those wires are in my house). The sockets are already in the house, they’re just not live. A blindfolded retarded monkey could hook up a phone line:

Phone line twisted pairs

Does anybody know where the phone line hookup is normally found in a UK flat? I’m sure people regularly do this themselves. Certainly people don’t actually pay £168 to attach a few wires, right? Right?

Theiving Bastards

I do have to give them credit though – BT find some very innovative ways to screw people that I’ve never seen anywhere else.