Thursday, August 31

Milk, Muffins, Apples and Bananas

Thank heavens for 24-hour Tescos.

Wednesday, August 30

New Music

Well, admittedly not that new. I've been trying to clear my backlog of music-to-get and this is what I ended up with:

Pyar Hogiya Ft. Alyssia & Dee (Desiton Mix) - Panjabi Hit Squad

Remix of a song previously added (way back in March!). I hated it at first but now see it's pretty good. Perhaps even more than the original...

Khwaab Feat. Swati Natekar - Niraj Chag

Shak does chill out? Maybe, but this is good despite that. I think Niraj Chag is becoming more and more known as time goes on and since this was being played months ago don't be surprised if you've heard more of his album already.

Kom Igen Feat. USO, ADL & Salah Edin - Outlandish

Forget Aisha and all their other stuff; this is what Outlandish is all about. Tune.

Dangerous Ft. Jade Foxx, Jai Boo, Fame, Hard Kaur - Juttla

More rap, this time from the girls. One of Hard Kaur's better tracks in my opinion.

Chasing Cars - Snow Patrol

I've been hearing this on the radio for a while now but didn't realise what it was till a friend named it on their blog. Kinda makes me want to find a cliff to jump off, but at least I'll be bopping on the way down.

Video of the Day Click for more info

I think only the obsessive fans of SF will appreciate this. Things get interesting around 2:36:



What a guy.

Tuesday, August 29

Snippet

xxxx says (17:21):
    my pizza guy just asked me if i work in tv or radio because i have a beautiful voice
    and don't laugh, i've been asked that before a few times
Shak says (17:26):
    i think radio
xxxx says (17:27):
    maybe i should start up a phone sex line as a side business
Shak says (17:27):
    youd do well i think
xxxx says (17:27):
    would you call?
Shak says (17:27):
    nah
Shak says (17:28):
    would it come out of my free minutes?
xxxx says (17:28):
    lol. no
Shak says (17:28):
    then no

Monday, August 28

Film: Severance Click for more info

A bunch of people being stalked and murdered in a Eastern European forest. Sound familiar? Well there's no original plot here. In fact, there doesn't seem to be any kind of plot at all. But since this had been billed as another British comedy horror in the vein of Shaun of the Dead I wasn't really expecting one.

After a slow start it eventually got going it and turned out to be quite entertaining. Severance was really hilarious when it wanted to be, but it just didn't do it often enough for me. The horror also came up short; it was more slow burning gruesome torture stuff than the shockers of other films.

Still, it did have it's own charm (I silently cheered for the heros at the end) and is worth catching if you're particularly looking to watch a comedy horror. Otherwise I'd advise waiting for it to hit DVD.

How Domestic

It's still the weekend and I have chores to do. So far I have managed the following:

  • Cleaned the bathroom, including the scrubbing of the sink, toilet and shower.
  • Cleaned the kitchen (but not the cooker since it's not being used).
  • Swept the (tiled) hall.
  • Vacuumed.
  • Half-loaded the washing machine (with only coloured delicates).
  • Hung out the above to dry.
  • Taken the rubbish out.
Things I didn't do:

  • Iron.
  • Cook.
Go me. And beware anyone who drops food on my carpet or messes up my bowl.

Mashed Up (Or: Thank Heavens for Bank Holidays)

11:30am! That's almost all the way past noon! I never lie in and I can't remember the last time I slept for more than eight hours so this is pretty unusual for me. Still, at least I've managed to catch up with the lack of sleep I had over the past week. I just know I'm going to feel groggy for the rest of the day though. Perhaps a run in the rain will wake me up...

Three day weekends really are fantastic things.

Out Late (Again)

Medea was actually the venue for an IC Massive get together. The timing was interesting since it was the complete opposite in character to Saturday night: rude, brash, disgusting, chaotic and loud but just as totally and utterly brilliant. Yes, I know everyone thinks that their uni group is special and different and unique. But when I think when I say it it's in a very objective sense. This isn't a matter of opinion. We really are different.

The group itself is as schizophrenic as the people making it up. On the one hand we're all typical, (sometimes) professional and capable of being classy - we read books and travel and eat at fancy places. At other times we're nothing more than a yobbish mob, the kind that makes any passer-by cross the road or restaurant diner in the vicinity ask for a different table.

So yeh, we're extremely balanced I guess. And we know we're different 'cos very few people can actually handle us (and that's more a regret than a boast). The ICM actually serves as a stress test for any new relationships we might find ourselves in - if a new girlfriend or boyfriend survives us then they're probably worth keeping and collectively we've been responsible for more than one break up I think...

Anyway, today was another classic do. After the restaurant we ended up at a friend's flat close by where we stayed till late swapping anecdotes and laughing till sore. It was, again, just like something we might have done during uni. It was especially nice both as a complement to Saturday night and because we really don't do it often enough. I guess that keeps it special though.

I think I'm gonna give the finger to my clock radio and for once in my life lie in tomorrow. Oh, and the first person to say "while the cat's away" gets a punch in the arm.

Food: Medea Click for more info

Now here's a deceptively small and cosy Moroccan place down on King's Road. I use deceptively since it actually spans three floors, each filled with its own character and vibe. They managed to accommodate eleven of us in a small enclosure and cosy which was nice since it made everything much more intimate than it would have been otherwise. Top marks for setting the stage I think.

Food was typical North African cuisine. We stuck to a set menu and for starters were given some (literally) sweet meat pastries which I really liked. The mains were less special, consisting of various (ie meat, chicken and salmon) Tangine dishes with Couscous. Theses were generous though and filled me up adequately. I skipped the traditional pastry dessert, but on appearance they seemed like the usual Arab fare.

We were also given a show by the resident belly dancer; the best I've seen in a restaurant, although that's not really saying much. Still, she managed to entertain and involve all those watching. Actually, while we're on the subject, Medea was packed with some very pretty women both in terms of guests and hosts. Perhaps it was just a good day to go, but it was something more than one guy in our group noticed!

The bill came to 27 quid for those who chose not to drink, which for the food was pretty expensive in my opinion. Still it was clear that no one actually minded; we were having too much fun and for the experience alone the price was very reasonable.

And I think that pretty much sums up Medea well: despite being a great place to eat it's not really somewhere to go to for the food!

Sunday, August 27

Film: A Scanner Darkly Click for more info

If you've seen trailers for A Scanner Darkly already then you'll know all about it's weird and wonderful rotoscoping animation effect. To be honest this didn't really add to the film much in that it was a fine concept on it's own. On the other hand, perhaps I wouldn't have enjoyed this film as much if it was made in a more traditional manner.

There's not really much to say about the acting, especially since it's difficult to tell where the actors end and the style of the movie ends. Having said that, I thought that Downey Jr was brilliant and rose above the other characters (with Reeves especially playing the same ol' character he usually does. "Woah").

Out there and confusing, you really should make sure you're alert and concentrating if you choose to watch this. It's not difficult to follow in the same way, say, a murder mystery is, but instead due to the way a lot of the subtext is omitted. This is totally deliberate and in this way those that are watching feel as lost and confused as the characters in the film were.

So yes, it's a bit of a challenge to get out of this flick knowing what exactly happened in it. It's very much worth the challenge though, so I'll recommend that you go check it out. Just make sure you've had a good night's sleep before you do.

Out Late

You know, sometimes you go out to meet friends for dinner and it's alright. At other times it's really good. And at others still it's brilliant.

I dunno what it was about tonight though. Perhaps it was just how intimate it was (with just the four of us and a home cooked meal as opposed to the 15-large restaurant parties that have been common of late for me). Perhaps it was the lack of planning, and hence, free flow of the evening. Most likely it was just the company (and I've written about dinner with this particular host before).

We ended up wondering around Hampstead at 1am in the morning looking for dessert, which isn't really something that's happened since my university days. Maybe that just goes to show how things have changed since then. On the other hand, it also means that those kind of feelings and experiences aren't necessarily lost forever as we grow and change and are readily available if we ever want them.

Saturday, August 26

Paintballing

Today was my first go at paintballing. I've had previous opportunities to go but had always missed out on those for some reason, so I was quite excited to be finally taking part. So there I was, up at the crack of dawn (literally - I left after having prayed Fajr) to meet up with the rest of our thirteen man group at Preston Road for 7:30am in order to travel another seventy miles or so to Andover, where we had booked our day.

I won't bother describing how paintballing works, since I'm sure most reading already have a good idea. We joined people already there, and in total there were two teams of 25 odd. We managed to get ourselves all on the same Green team, which in retrospect wasn't really a good idea.

The Oranges consisted of a mix of ex-military Vietnamese, Chinese commandos and a few gang bangers to round them off. We, on the other hand, were made up of some Mauritian (who, although very nice were hardly vicious) and a few Eastern Europeans. Oh, yes, and three Imperial students. If you haven't guessed already folks we were totally outplayed.

I am being a teeny bit harsh here though, since we did draw the team games overall. It was a bit frustrating for a while though as since the Orange team were clearly better than us most of the last-man-standing games (where one team wins once the other is wiped out) were reduced to both teams holding back, hiding under cover and not doing very much.

It really became a game of who became bored first, since as soon as one team had enough of waiting and so charged, they got wiped out by the other. And we Greens were consistently impatient. I think once we realised that all of our strategising and planning wasn't really working and that we should concentrate on having fun instead, we did.

Still, things changed in the timed games, where teams had "infinite lives" with which to complete a task, the fastest time determining the winner. Since Green were all very much gung-ho this suited us better, and although we may have died more than we had to we did get a unbeatable time.

Personally, I came out pretty well, with not many aches and bruises. Perhaps I wasn't playing properly, but I did get killed in every game so it's not like I wasn't involved. I think I also got a positive kill count by the day's end, so I was happy with my performance.

Still, I'm not sure I particularly like paintballing. I'm not sitting here desperately wanting to go back, although I have a hunch it would be much more enjoyable if most/all of the players were known to one another. Still, I'm glad I finally got to try it.

Thursday, August 24

Pluto No More Click for more info

Or at least it's no longer a planet of the Solar System. On the face of it that's a pretty trivial event, but I couldn't help but feel a bit upset when hearing about this. I mean this is something that's been true for all of my life. How can they just take it away like this?

So goodbye Pluto. You'll be erased from textbooks but will never be forgotten; they'll always be nine planets in my mind.

Wednesday, August 23

Roll Call

Two years have passed, and according to my hit counter more and more people are reading these pages. I cringe each I try to think why they do, but there's no doubt I'm curious, especially as according to the figures there must be more people reading than I actually personally know.

So here's a strange request: how about giving me a wave? The easiest way to do this is to leave a comment, but you can also give me a shout via email (sshaikh at the usual). You can be as vague or as disclosing as you want to be and I don't need names or return contact details, but a geographical location would be nice. This all goes for those who obviously do read too.

Feedback on the blog would also be appreciated but is not necessary, since most of all I just want to know whether you exist or not.

Two Years On...

... Or alternatively 929 posts later and I'm still chatting poo on these pages. I was never sure how long or short my time would be here, but I think I've passed that stage where this was just going to be a temporary thing. Then again, I had been posting on the ALMBs (for which this was a kind of replacement for) for an even longer amount of time and then stopped suddenly, so who knows, maybe there won't be a third year?

There's no doubt that the nature of this blog has changed over the past year as more and more people found out about it. I don't think I've written it any differently; it's just that, for some of the new people I've met this place seems to be a major source of determining who I am - up to the point where some may even use it between themselves to discuss and, on a more extreme level, manipulate and even cause trouble. It's all very, very weird and I've mentioned before how it sometimes feels that this blog has a life of its own (although I'm sure recognising its birthday doesn't really help with that either).

I'm often asked why I maintain this place, again by those that don't really get the whole thing. I don't think there's any one particular reason, and I didn't really think long and hard before creating Radio Shak (or as it was then, Spammy's Spam), but in retrospect there are a few things I've found it handy for:

  • It's simply a diary or journal, enabling me to record and look up when I did stuff.
  • It acts as a reference. So if friends ask me what I thought of a certain film or restaurant, I can usually recall my initial thoughts here.
  • It lets me get on my soapbox and comment on various things whenever I want to.
  • It lets me share my thoughts with others, allowing them to choose when they want to listen instead of my imposing on them.
  • It allows me to organise and clear up precisely what I think of a topic, and commit to what I've said (and so I'll never edit the content of a post without making it clear that I have).
  • It acts as a quick way to publish documents, how-tos and photos.
  • It means I don't have to repeat myself, so for example when many people ask me how Dubai was I can point them here. Lazy, I know, but it is handy (and chances are that you were linked to this post after asking me why I maintain this blog).
  • It allows me to stretch my creative literature legs and practise writing.
  • It passes time at work and stems boredom.
So this was never meant to be a definitive indication of who I am, what's going on in my life or taken too seriously (and certainly not more seriously than I do!). At most it's a complement to knowing me on a more personal level - and those who really do will see where the inconsistencies lie between these pages and real life. There is a huge amount that I'd never post about or mention here.

To understand this place I think you have to really understand me first, and doing it the other way around won't really work. That's probably why I'm reluctant to give out the address to people I don't really know that well (if at all), since there's a proven danger they may misinterpret what I've written. Unfortunately I can't control those that link to these pages (yet) but then that's just part of what makes blogs so interesting, I guess.

Tuesday, August 22

Snippet

xxxx said (10:38):
    how many does that make it now?
    2 or 3 ?
Shak said (10:38):
    3
    :D
    more than yyyy
    although he doesnt leave the hosue so...
xxxx said (10:39):
    lol
    my count is 2 but not in this time of heightened security
Shak said (10:40):
    thats cos you aint a gangster like me
xxxx said (10:40):
    innit dough

Stopped and Searched Again!

Totally randomly (or perhaps not so), but hey, I've now been S&S'd the most out of all the people I know personally (and that's three if you're not counting).

It was with BTP again, and I still think that they handle the whole thing pretty well. When the copper called me over I think he kinda knew from the grin on my face that I knew the score and wasn't gonna make things too difficult. I was even offered the officer's name without asking, which I thought was nice of them. Shame they didn't know what a DS was though.

I love the way certain demeanours change as soon as I open my mouth too. I know I'm not the most well spoken, but when I talk it's like they suddenly realise what a waste of time the whole thing will be but that since they've made the stop they'll just have to follow it through anyway; he knew already that I'd be wanting my completed pink slip. I guess that's the real problem I have with these things as opposed to the more public issues concerning profiling - the fact that there's sometimes surprise that a stopped Muslim might actually be vaguely clued up.

Apparently I was called on 'cos I had a bag (perhaps these guys were the fashion police, bdum tish) and because I used the leftmost barrier on exiting The Tube. That last bit made me chuckle (although perhaps only terrorists do use empty barriers?), but overall the whole thing was painless as usual.

Monday, August 21

Snippet

xxxx says (22:07):
    red suit - yyyy
Shak says (22:07):
    whos that
xxxx says (22:07):
    my cousins kid
Shak says (22:07):
    aha
Shak says (22:08):
    coolio
xxxx says (22:08):
    teh one whose same age as ur nephew
xxxx says (22:08):
    ;)
Shak says (22:11):
    man
Shak says (22:11):
    all my hindu mates are after idris :o
Shak says (22:12):
    unlucky for you guys he has an uncle to protect him

Requirements Analysis

Another dinner and another heated discussion about relationships. It seems that whenever this particular circle widens, the topic just has to be raised; perhaps as a kind of rite of passage to more chilled out and regular conversation later on or something. It's enough to make me want to dump single people altogether and just stick to the couples, although everyone knows how boring they are (and I probably enjoy these conversations way too much to do that anyway. But that's not the point).

Last night, I was once again asked the question of What Exactly Shak Wants in a Woman. The pretence is so that those questioning would know who to look out for on my behalf, but I think they're just being nosey really. Anyway, as some of you know, my stock reply to this line is "anything with a pulse" which usually gets a laugh or two (ok, fine, it doesn't get any), but regardless of that it's actually not the facetious answer that it may seem to be.

I've always claimed that I've not had the objective criteria others may do. I don't really have hard limits (well, in isolation anyway) for things like age, height, nationality, ethnicity, education, whether they wear a hijab or not, what language they think in, what their parents do, skin tone or cup size, whether they can cook, any history, if they want to stay with my parents or move out or whether they want a career or not. However ideal a potential wife might be I can't bring myself to say any of the above is important enough to write anyone off completely.

"That's not good enough. You have to give us some where to start!" was the reply this time. "For example, the three things I need in someone are for them to put me in my place when I need to be, make me laugh and make me feel special". I raised an eyebrow at this point.

There are a few issues I have with statements like these:

  1. They're largely vacuous. I mean, it's not like anyone would want someone that made them unhappy or feel not very special at all.
  2. They're very rhetorical, and not much for a friend or colleague or Shaadi.com member to go on.
  3. They're vague, subjective and difficult to measure. It's unlikely the person in question would recognise these things themselves let alone a third party.
In short, it's not really a very useful specification to give out. I don't think I'd be able to filter out people for a friend in that position; in my opinion potentially anyone could do all of the above under the right conditions. Better to make the introduction and let the relevant parties find out for themselves, methinks.

Sunday, August 20

Food: Blue Elephant Click for more info

This is another place that has been on my to-do list for a while. I've not met anyone who has had a bad experience at this place, so was looking forward to pick at the holes others may have missed.

In short, there weren't many. The first thing that strikes you when entering Blue Elephant is the decor. It sounds incredibly cheesy writing it here but the internal water pieces (and bridges over them), real live fish and lots of, erm, plants were actually pretty striking and attractive, and the floor itself was vast and seemingly never ending. I'm not sure I've been to such a visibly different and interesting place since La Porte De Indes.

But we were there for the halal Thai food, not the decor. Since it was a bit of a do, we stuck to a set menu. For the starters, this consisted of Spring Rolls, Fish Cakes and Chicken Satay, all of which were wonderful - if it was up to me I would have stopped right there. Instead we moved onto the mains which, although still nice, weren't as special as the previous course. Of the three I liked the Chicken Curry the most, but the Beef and Fish were edible too. In contrast, dessert was disappointing; especially as the papaya was kinda off. Urgh.

Other things: the service was passable, nothing great but nothing bad either. Atmosphere and ambiance were fine with the tables spaced well, and we were both able to talk quietly and be reasonably loud without any trouble - I think everyone was able to enjoy themselves. The cost was a pleasant surprise too; the set menu was priced at £25 which would have been fine as it stood, but after some kind of discount (I'm not sure of the details) we paid a meagre £22 per head including drinks (which largely consisted of water). It actually felt odd paying so little.

Blue Elephant is a fine resturant. It hasn't quite made it to my favourites list, but I'd have no qualms having to go back, especially if it meant dining a la carte.

Saturday, August 19

Eng Vs Pak, Fourth Test, Day Three

So, finally, I got to attend a test. This was the third day and the previous two had set the stage for some exciting play. The rain did cause some problems early on (from the start the pitch had been vacated three times in as many hours), but once the clouds had finally settled down it didn't come back. At least we got to get some lunch during the rain breaks.

The game itself was good though. We couldn't have really asked for more than it gave us:

  • A good Pakistan batting display. Check.
  • Some brilliant English fielding and catches. Check.
  • A session each for Monty and Sajid to bowl, including a few wickets between them. Check.
  • The beginning of England's second innings with some impressive batting. Check.
  • Fast bowling and spinning by Pakistan, including a wicket. Check.
Some pictures are up on Picasa.

I still think I prefer one dayers to tests though. I mean, today was good, but it's a different atmosphere and crowd during games of the other format. At times we (my friend and I) thought we were the only Pakistani fans there! Oh, and most importantly, there didn't seem to be any kuriya watching with us either.

Thursday, August 17

What Not To Wear

I don't often comment on ladies' fashion. I think it's as imposing as saying whether they should wear hijab or not, plus it changes so often most of the things that make my toes curl drop off the radar sooner or later anyway.

However there have been a few things lately that have just refused to lay down and die. Here is my current list of no-nos:

  • Cropped trousers. The classic just-above-the-ankle ones were just about bearable. But anything higher than that make these shorts and girls should not wear shorts on a day to day basis; and especially not to work. In fact, when you have gypsy skirts available to you why would you ever want to wear anything else?
  • Peep/peek toes. Ok, I admit that some women can pull these off. However, most can't and it's best to err on the side of caution with these. And they look freakingly uncomfortable too so we should ban them for health and safety reasons anyway. If you really have to display your toes (if, for example, your life somehow depended on it), then show them all instead of just your biggest, innit?
  • Wedges. Urgh. The natural progression of the platforms of the 90's but just as cheap and tacky. Don't do it, Billy. Regular heels are where it's at, and if you need stability go kitten or even flat altogether. No one really cares about your height or calves. Honestly, they don't.
Don't worry, the above advice is completely free. No need to thank me; consider this my gift to society. And if you ever need fashion advice on a more personal level, let me know. I am pretty busy nowadays, but I'm sure I can give you a quick look over at the very least.

Wednesday, August 16

Shak's Choice: Lucy Verasamy

Yes, she's a weathergirl. A Sky News weathergirl. I know I'm risking the little credibility I might have here, but hey, just look:


She's not just the pretty face either, spouting all kind of impressive meteorological fact each morning with that wonderful voice of hers. Rain or shine I reckon that I could watch Lucy present the weather all day (and that's probably entirely possible thanks to Sky News Active) and she's definitely become the top weatherperson on telly at the moment - yes, that's right, even better than Francis Wilson.

Oh, and no, that's not my screencap. I'm not a freak, y'know.

Tuesday, August 15

Third Parties

There are certain groups of people who are, romantically speaking, off limits to those currently single. Some are obvious, like those already in a relationship (unless, of course, you're SRK or Rani), those that are too young or too old, or those that just plain aren't interested in you back.

There are less obvious groups as well though. Like those not compatible in a more practical sense (due to religion, culture or family), or those that will bring you nothing but trouble and grief no matter how attractive they are on paper. The group I want to talk about here, however, I like to call Third Parties.

This is that group of people who, in theory, have nothing to do with these matters (unlike, say, family who are rather more legitimate) but in practice actually have quite a big influence on any decision you may make. I know it's a bit of a reach but maybe an (admittedly contrived) example will help demonstrate what I mean here:

  • Boy and Girl are good friends already.
  • Girl likes Boy.
  • Girl makes her feelings clear to Boy.
  • Boy doesn't like Girl in that way and tells her so.
  • Boy and Girl remain good friends.
  • Boy, however, does like Girl's Sister. Oh yes.
  • However Boy cannot do anything 'cos he doesn't want to hurt the feelings of Girl.
Where Girl is the Third Party in this case. Now Girl could be perfectly mature and adult enough to wish nothing but happiness on Boy and her Sister. Or Girl could be over Boy (like, hello, he was SO last week) and have already found someone else to obsess on. However, unless this is made explicit, Boy has no way of knowing and being the considerate soul he is will carry on protecting Girl.

Extremely Dawsonesque and unrealistic right... or is it? I think people avoid forming relationships based on these Third Parties all the time. A slightly different example is how some guys will never move in on a girl whom their best mate has already made clear he's interested in. Love triangles are sticky enough without the risk of hurting someone you consider to be your good friend too. I think it happens more often than we realise, but is just a bit too subtle to see each time it does.

It doesn't even have to involve geometry: the third party might not even like the other guy or girl or see you in that way, but if they're involved in your life enough that particular relationship could be a problem for them anyway. Close friends hold these implicit "veto rights" over each other pretty often I think.

So, ok, they do exist. But is this a reasonable situation to be in? Some may argue that making someone feel bad for a few days is a small price to pay for something that may prove to be much greater in the long term. And then if they're a real friend it shouldn't matter anyway. And if we all always allowed others to dictate who we like and who we don't we'd quite probably never get anywhere, so something has to give eventually. On the other hand, for some, a good known friendship is much more important than a potential love. So bros over hoes for the guys and vice versa for the girls.

I guess it all depends what's on stake at the time - whether the friendship etc really does mean that much and whether there really is something else there worth risking it for. However you look at it, and whether it's something that concerns you on a personal level at all, I suppose it's just one more aspect of relationships that make them so blummin' interesting.

New Music

Loose - Nelly Furtado

Have a kid, become sexy. I actually prefer Maneater to Promiscuous (yes, even though it has Justin in the video), but both were enough for me to give the album a try.

Breakaway - Kelly Clarkson

A bit late with this one - the album seems to be coming to the end of its life now. It's really Breakaway that's prompted me to get this, but now that I have Because of You will probably linger around on my playlist too.

Monday, August 14

Alton Towers Muslim Day Cancelled

And has been since the 3rd apparently. Not that the official website says otherwise.

Now this was a pretty novel idea. Anyone can hire out the whole park, apparently, and Islamic Leisure planned on doing just that, reselling the tickets to the Muslim public. There would have been no smoking, no alcohol, no gaming machines and Halal food and prayer facilities made available. And apparently the rides were to be segregated too. A big hmm to that last bit, but anyway, it would have been pretty interesting to go and experience a UK theme park in a totally unrestricted and free manner.

It's unclear why it fell apart though. Alton Towers blame Islamic Leisure, saying that they hadn't sold enough tickets. I find that pretty hard to believe since a lot of people I spoke to were totally up for it. I'm talking at least 30-40 people that I had asked personally; I'm sure many that I hadn't talked to would have gone as well. Then again, none of us had bought tickets yet so I guess it could have been a case of our procrastination and inaction biting us in the rear again.

I think it's more likely that AT pulled the plug though. Now, I'm not particularly paranoid about these things, but the idea always had a separatist and isolationist vibe about it (even if it wasn't necessarily the case - as far as I could tell the park was still open to people of any religion), and the stick AT and IL got in the media was indicative of that. I think AT deliberately decided to pull out, even if it was based on a real technicality.

Either way it's a shame: to be cancelled on the one hand but mainly for being a potential problem in the first place. Any group should be able to do these kind of things without having to defend it or face accusations of prejudice. Still, I think we'll will get there eventually, and when we do I'll be there waiting at the front of the queue[1].

[1]for the Nemesis, not planning to hold on during the ride. 'Cos only cowards hold on. YEAH!

Link Of The Day Click for more info

Scary, scary stuff. Not that I have anything to hide, but still. If you want a laugh (or shock) have a look at some of the presearched items.

And some people think all you have to do is clear your cookies...

Happy Independence Day!

Yes ok, I admit it, I don't normally notice when it's the 14th of August. The only reason I remembered this morning was 'cos Geo was on the telly. I've written before (exactly a year ago, in fact) how I don't really feel the passion for Pakistan that some friends might, but I do see how it's important for some; especially when I have guests from Pakistan staying over.

I think it might be 'cos my family is of what some would call the mohajir (literally, refugee). I mean, technically, my family have now lived in the UK longer than they had done so in Pakistan so I don't think it's unreasonable not to feel connected. Not that I think I'm in a bad position 'cos of that: I reckon that not being "ethnically" from Pakistan helps give me and my family a kind of "balance" free from the more unnecessary parts of tradition and culture. On the other hand, I've never been to where my grandparents were born or where my roots truly lie. I've never been to my village or pind (innit).

Despite not really feeling Independence Day, I do sometimes wonder what it would have been like if partition hadn't occurred: I'd have never experienced Karachi for a start, and I'd have actually gone to Gujarat every couple of years instead (I've not yet in this reality). I may not even have made it to the UK.

The wider implications are more interesting though. The sub-continent would have been a massively different place. Better or worse than it is currently, I don't know. There'd be no Kashmir issue, sure, but partition happened for a reason so it's likely there would have been something else in its stead. But then perhaps we (that's a figurative "we" by the way) would have gotten over all that and spent time, effort and money becoming something pretty awesome. At the very least I wouldn't have had to spend 50 quid for a Visa to enter Bangladesh.

I'm rambling now; clearly I don't really know enough about the history and issues to write anything substantial. I do wonder though. Anyway, if you are celebrating today or tomorrow have a good 'un. And remember that although it's all good being independent and all, but it's even better working in a team. Oh my, I'm getting all teary now.

Game: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (DS) Click for more info

I've had this for a while now but for some reason (namely FF4) it had been put on the back burner. Now that I've played through some of it, I regret leaving it for so long.

Phoenix Wright is a pretty unique game. I use game in the loosest sense of the word since it's more of an interactive adventure comic, than a videogame. I've only played through some of the first chapter, but so far all I've had to do is sit back and enjoy a well presented crime story, listen to a witness's testimony and point out the inconsistencies in it using evidence already submitted to the court.

Sounds very vague and difficult, no? Well to be honest I didn't really understand how this game would work - I mean there's an infinite number of ways to run a defense (Phoenix is a defense attorney). However that's where the neat and clever design of the game comes into play. Holes are pretty obvious if you pay attention and the Press and OBJECTION! (you can even shout that out loud if you want) mechanics are tight enough to keep everything focused and fun.

Nice visuals, good scripting and original gameplay make this a game worth playing. It is old now, but proves just how strong the DS system is - it just wouldn't work as well on other platforms.

Just make sure you don't shout "Objection" while playing on a public train.

Sunday, August 13

BBQ In Sarf Landan

I attended a BBQ today. This was no ordinary BBQ though, since it was held in the depths of South London. Now, I don't usually venture that far past the river, but since there were a potential 90 people turning up (and so the biggest private BBQ I would have ever been to), many of whom I already knew to be interesting and fun, it wasn't really something I could miss. I had been looking forward to this one for a while.

First things first though: the food. No burgers (gasp), but there was plenty of kebabs and sausages for the lazy people (like me) while on-the-bone chicken legs was provided for the purists. Apparently there was a wide variety of salads and veg too but I must have blanked those bits out. The rain was threatening to break at times, but the weather behaved itself for the most part. We did have the most wonderful shower at the end though.

The company was good too. Most of the people I already knew from the supplementary school network, but I did meet some new people outside of that particular circle. I even bumped into a pal from Leyton who happened to be related to the hosts! Speaking of which: they did a pretty fantastic job catering for and making everyone feel welcome. I don't think just anybody can pull off such an event (or at least I know I couldn't), so it's all the more impressive that they did. Oh, and just in case you think that this was a totally atypical Asian do, there was at least one auntie on the prowl. Ho hum.

The worst thing was having to leave relatively early; it was Sunday and we had a way to go getting back, but it was a shame since I didn't quite get that "closure" you get when you stay till the end of these things. The despondency we all felt on the way home was a kind of testament to the high the afternoon gave us; it was one of those unique occasions with bags of carelessness and feel good factor that you can't help but lap up.

I just can't wait for next year! Provided I'm invited, of course. Ahem.

Saturday, August 12

Film: Monster House Click for more info

As I wrote in a previous review, CGI animations seem to be ten a penny now with at least a couple being released each month. And as these things go, quality ends up suffering. Still, like any other genre there'll always be one or two that rise above the rest. Monster House is such a film.

And it's not just for kids either. In fact, I'd go as far as saying that this PG rated film is more for those who can watch a film without their parents. It's wasn't quite adult in the same way as previous animations (particularly the Pixar stuff) were, but it did have some genuinely scary bits (at least one member of my audience was reduced to tears) and some eyebrow raising (although funny) jokes: "So it's a girl house?".

To be honest, the animation wasn't great and technically it didn't really do anything for me. Instead, the makers (of which Spielberg and Zemeckis are producers) seem to have concentrated their efforts on the more traditional things that make a film like this great. As a result we have a flick with good plot, lovable characters and bags of charm.

Empire described this as "The Goonies for the Noughties", and that pretty much sums it up really. I totally recommend it.

OMA IMPS (Or: How To Get MSN Messenger To Run Natively On Your Phone) Click for more info

Those of you with a modern Sony Ericsson, Motorola or Nokia phone may have found a reference or two to some kind of built in presence or IM client. On my K800i it's referred to as "My Friends" while the N70 was simply refers to it as "IM". These are actually clients for the Open Mobile Alliance's Instant Messaging and Presence Serivce, a kind of open standard mobile version of WLM or Yahoo Messenger.

Now, technically, servers for thee services should be supplied by our network providers. But since those in the UK are pretty much crap (and presumably want to protect their other revenue streams) it wasn't going to happen at any time soon. However, since IMPS can be run over HTTP (ie via regular WAP), it was only a matter of time before third parties filled this gap. Smart VAS is one such provider. This one is unique, however, in that it also acts as a bridge to your MSN list.

Depending on your circumstances it may be well worth doing. Unlike the Java MSN clients I've seen, on my K800i you end up with a background process that "pings" you every time you receive a message. You can also talk to multiple contacts (including groups), especially those that may not be accessible any other way. Finally, it's much cheaper than SMS (especially with international contacts). If you can access the web via your phone then you should be able to use any IMPS server too.

The instructions are on the site and pretty straightforward. There are a few things I'd note though:

  • IMPS (or perhaps Smart VAS) only supports 30 contacts. You can pick which ones get passed to your phone via the website.
  • You have to provide your MSN log in details (including password) to Smart VAS, a third party.
  • The client uses the existing data connection on your phone and so will be charged in the same way as your web access is. Although cheaper than SMS, having a continuous IM session can add up to a hefty bill. As an example, Three charge £2 per MB, and a brief three message chat session used up around 10k of data (so around 2p).
To get around the first two issues above, I'd suggest that you create a special "disposable" MSN account (perhaps by suffixing mobile to your existing one) with a new password. This way you don't have to worry about security (since you'll only be using the account for mobile messaging) and can add the fewer exclusive contacts you'd want rather than all those that you have on your desktop.

So anyway yes, I've signed up and will now be connected to MSN even more than I usually am. Hmm. Wait a sec. That can't be good...

Film: Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna Click for more info

Oh my, this was good. I'm going to quickly get the technicals out of the way first though.

KANK has been beautifully shot and directed by Johar. I don't have many qualms with the script either; it was a bit disconnected and forced at times, but not often enough to be a problem. The laughs are universally funny, but the film does get a bit risque at times - or at least that's what my friend thought when she had to leave the screen for a particular scene (her mum was with us, bless).

The acting was wonderful too. Shahrukh Khan (looking old), Preity Zinta (swoon), Rani Mukherjee and Abhishek Bachchan (swoo.. erm, nevermind) all did their roles justice, with Mukherjee clearly the weakest of the four. Amitabh played a superbly promiscuous father to his real life son's character and added much to the film. EDIT: Reading back I didn't really say how impressive I thought Abhishek was. I've been rating him for a while, but his efforts in this film kinda prove he's no longer living off his dad's legend status. I'll even say that he's one of my favourite actors (and if not, the most favourite) in Bollywood at the moment.

Music: admittedly I did kinda slate the soundtrack around a month ago when I first heard it, but sitting in a context it's now much better. Tumhi Dekho Naa is still good with the title track now joining in its melancholy. Where's The Party Tonight, Rock N Roll Soniye and Mitwa are just poptastic.

What about the film as a whole though? Well, tackling a very real concept, KANK always had an excellent starting premise. It doesn't cop out either, and manages to deal with infidelity with respect and class and without being patronising or judgmental (although I do have some reservations about the ending).

There are no morals to learn here and no lectures dished about what is good or bad. No blame is dished out and there are no bad guys. In fact, like the tagline suggests it really is a film about relationships rather than any specific extra marital affair.

The subject matter was always going to be ambitious and risky but the film handles it with apparent ease resulting in a bit of a dual personality - KANK ends up being both real and a fairy tale at the same time.

So yes, KANK is classic Bollywood magic. In fact, it's the best example of Bollywood I've seen since KHNH, and in my mind lies with all the modern greats. It manages to provide all the highs the lows we demand from the genre without pretentiously trying to be something its not.

Not to be missed. And no, I didn't cry this time.

Thursday, August 10

Book: Islamic Commercial Law: An Analysis of Futures and Options, Mohammad Hashim Kamali Click for more info

Aww. My very first book from Amazon.

Anyway, Islamic Commercial Law is an attempt to bring the concept of futures and options (together called derivatives) under the fold of Islam. This is a pretty tough premise considering how the consensus opinion is that they are pretty much unlawful. Kamali does make some interesting points though - enough at least to make the subject indeterminate rather than absolute. But hey, this is a review, not an Islamic debate.

The book itself is split into three parts, the first of which discusses futures in general; how they work and what they are used for. The second part then argues their Islamic lawfulness from a variety of different angles, most being in defense of the more classic criticisms made against them in recent times. Finally the book talks about options, by both explaining how they work and then by performing a brief Islamic analysis of them.

The explanations of futures and options are a joy to read, with everything set out in a reasonably logical fashion and timely examples were given when particularly complex topics were being explained. My knowledge of futures certainly improved during this first part, and this alone was enough to make the book worth reading.

However, Kamali seems to be able to explain financial concepts much better than the Islamic ones. It's these parts that were the hardest to read (and is why it's taken me so long to get through the book. I had to reread pages many times and was literally put to sleep more than once).

Quite complex terms and ideas are thrown at the reader without any of the consideration given in the other parts. Explanations were muddled and repetitive; at times the author seemed as confused about the subject as I was. I'm not even entirely sure what was concluded by the end of it - it seems slightly contradictory at best.

It's a shame because this is the precise reason anyone would want to read the book. Although very good, the qualitative analysis of derivatives could have been found anywhere, so it was really the Islamic take that made this book unique.

All these issues are probably due to a lack of understanding on my part though, and a another read, possibly after some preliminary study (in the pure sense) of the Islamic principles used by Kamali, might remove some of these problems. So at best this book is only able to open the way to a more broader study, which is understandable given how vast and complex the subject matter is in the first place.

Link Of The Day Click for more info

Oh dear. I can see it now: "Latest Jilbab Fashions", "Win Tickets to Sami Yusuf" and "Islam Allows Me A Maid, So Why Isn't My Husband Getting Me One?".

No, no, NO. I'm being cynical. This magazine is a good thing... See?

Thanks to Adnan for the link.

Bottling Out

There we were, commuters on a crowded train, somewhere between Chancery Lane and Holborn. I had my heads on, trying unsuccessfully to catch a few winks before reaching work.

"Does anyone know first aid?" someone asked all of a sudden. Looking up, I saw a bit of a commotion one set of doors away. Without hesitation, I jumped to the rescue. I saved the girl and carried her out of the train at the next stop to the cheer of a admiring crowd and random back pattings. I even caught a smile from a random pretty Asian girl. Hooray!

Except that's not quite what happened. Let's rewind a bit.

"Does anyone know first aid?" someone asked all of a sudden. Looking up, I saw a bit of a commotion one set of doors away. And then I froze. I mean I did know first aid, or at the very least I had attended a class around two years ago (or so I thought at the time. Checking my blog now it was actually, rather shamefully, just the one), but I had no idea what I was supposed to do on the day.

I vaguely remember something about the recovery position and possibly even CPR, but ideas plagued my mind about her in trouble being better off without my "help". And of course there was the whole issue of FAILING in front of so many people. Yes folks: this was all about me and not some poor girl collapsing on the Central Line.

So I remained where I was, debating with myself on what to do. And to be fair I was leaning towards getting over myself and going to see what I could do (even though, potentially, people would wonder why it took me so long to do so). Even if I wasn't confident I did have more experience than the others present (assuming they were indeed untrained and not being as cowardly as I was), and what little I knew may have helped. But by then it was too late - thankfully the same person who shouted the initial request for help was now informing us that the girl was alright and how everything was now ok.

Half of me breathed a sigh of relief. The other half was kicking itself for being such a pussy. Thinking about it I didn't really need to do much - she was conscious, so it was just a matter of making her as comfortable as possible and possibly even checking her pulse. Not much is ever expected of a first aider, and even the best would have had to request more help at the next stop. Hindsight really is a bitch y'know.

Now, I don't mind not being able to help. I don't mind being unequipped for a task, a useless bystander or even forgetting my training. However, not being able to step up is a behaviour I've criticised others for and is something I thought I had rid myself of a long time ago. It seems that that's not quite the case, and instead of writing a blog about how heroic and manly I am I've ended up having to do the the opposite. Jeez. It's still about me.

But perhaps some good can come out of this whole thing. I'm now going to arrange a time with my fellow first aiders and have a bit of a refresher to get some of that confidence back. And luckily, although first aid wasn't really required on this occasion, it could be vital the next time. And if I happen to be in a position to help at that time I'll most certainly do my best to do whatever I can; I mean it's the least I can do in order to redeem myself for today's failure.

Wednesday, August 9

One Wedding, To Go

So both my phoopi and phoopa want me to get married before they leave. And just in case you've not been counting, that's in under two weeks time.

"Give us some good news to take back home" they say. "We'd be soooo honoured if we were to be of the few relatives from Pakistan to attend your wedding". It would be funny if they were joking. But they're so not.

I'm amazed at how they think it's actually possible (for me) to get married in under fourteen days purely on their request. I mean there are two people who could do that, but I trust them enough for that not to happen.

I've given up trying to explain to my guests how it's not going to happen, since they keep reducing the reasoning to my being fussy as opposed to them treating marriage as a triviality. And now, being silent and ignoring them is the least rude response I can reply with. It's all the more disappointing 'cos just when I think my relatives (in general here, and not just these guys) are cool and aware and understanding, they go and make comments like this. And all of a sudden it hits me how cliched the whole situation is. I read about this kind of stuff all the time.

The irony is, of course, that it totally could run like that. I'd be the first to suggest a shotgun wedding under more ideal conditions (those mainly being regarding the girl). It's just extremely unlikely, no matter what kind of pressure is placed upon me. I just don't understand how my dear uncle and aunty don't get that.

Monday, August 7

Video Of The Day Click for more info

Now, I'm not much of a fan of Galloway, but this was an impressive performance of his on Sky News. Poor Anna!

Thanks to Saema for the link.

EDIT: Now mirrored on YouTube.

If Only It Was A Handkerchief

Early starts and busy trains seem to increase the likelihood of seeing Victoria[1] at Oxford Circus. And that was exactly the case today. Now no, I'm not beginning to log every single sighting on my blog, but this one was very different: it was different because I talked to her.

There we were, riding at the same set of doors in the same carriage after having let the same busy train pass us by previously (even though this one turned out to be just as busy). We got off at Victoria, as usual, and then found ourselves on the same escalator heading up towards the exit, her leading the way in front of me. And now, dear readers, this is where it became interesting.

SHE DROPPED HER SCARF. Right there in front of me. It took a few steps for her to realise that she had, and by then I had already picked it up and made a motion to offer it back to her. "Hey, thanks!", she said. "No problem!", I retorted. And so then on our respective ways we respectively went.

So yes: the ice has been broken, first contact has been made and a context has been created. Does it mean anything in a practical sense? Probably not... But then that doesn't mean I cant be happy for the rest of the week anyway.

[1] That's right, I've now given her a pseudonym. If there was ever a time to call the police, now would probably be it.

Sunday, August 6

Food: La Figa Click for more info

Not being much of a fan of the cuisine, Wapping's Il Bordello was the only place I'd really go Italian food. Brilliant service, lovely food and reasonable prices could be a few of the reasons why, but apart from these it also had the magical ability of always giving us a good time whenever we visited.

Sister to the above but located in a more accessible (well, for me anyway) Limehouse, La Figa is, in effect, another chance for fans to grab some blummin' great Italian food. I've been wanting to give it a go since it opened quite a while ago and tonight I got to.

Today, we shared the Garlic Pizza Bread, Grilled Mozzarella in Breadcrumbs and Avocado and Prawns for starters, while I plumped for the Smoked Salmon and Cream Pasta for the main. All were wonderfully delicious and generous, with the majority of us unable to clean our plates. Service was just as good as that of its sister restaurant. It cost about the same as Il Bordello too: today came to a very reasonable £25 per head (which includes drinks, although only two were ordered).

I found the restaurant itself much more attractive than Il Bordello. It had a nice clean line to it (unlike the older restaurant's more traditional theme) but it's main trick was to have an open front that allowed the tables to spill out onto the promenade outside. It was perfect for a warm Summer's evening like tonight and the ambiance, as well as the general Canary Wharf-ish location, now makes La Figa my new most favourite Italian place.

If you're out and about in the area you could do much worse, although seeing how transport links to the place suck unfortunately it may end up being one of those hidden gems most won't get to try.

Film: Miami Vice Click for more info

With an end MUCH better than a beginning and middle, Miami Vice makes you wait before delivering the goods. This turns out to be too late though, as by then I had already bored of the aimless plot and shockingly crappy dialogue.

The film was lacking any kind of charisma, with Farrell and Foxx two of the most wooden leads I've seen for a while. It was almost as if it was being made up on the spot, as each weak scene flowed into the next.

Still, I can't help but feel like I'm being harsh here. Despite all of the above being true the film is worth watching on, say, DVD. Wait till that, I say.

Saturday, August 5

38 Hours Later...


Huzzah! Ok, I only "helped" but still, I'm glad it's done.

Work in progress piccies on my Picasa. Click here for why, and here for what I got from it.

New Music

Pink - Who Knew

Building a wall -> 12 hours listening to the radio -> hearing the same playlists over and over -> being beaten into liking something. In this case, Pink.

Damien Rice - The Blower's Daughter

Big ominous sigh.

Friday, August 4

A Simple Asynchronous Messaging System

A recent project of mine required some network communication code. Now, in the age of modern .NET Frameworks and Java APIs this is no longer the headache it used to be. However, just because I can get two computers talking to each other doesn't mean that it was done in the best possible way, so I decided to spend a bit of time to create something a bit relevant to the job at hand.

The main requirements I had included that:

  1. It had to be fairly abstract and self-contained, since it was to be used by other developers.
  2. It had to be type-safe, and be able to pass well defined data only.
  3. It had to be immediate, and be able to both send and receive at any arbitrary time.
  4. It should be resource-friendly, efficient and non-blocking.
  5. It should work on a single channel of communication.
"But what about Remoting?", I hear you cry. Well that was a consideration, but it fails on a few of the above. Remote object could have been wrapped up and made self-contained, and they would have certainly been type-safe. However, the technology is pretty inefficient and not really suitable for performance applications or those communicating over the Internet. Further, its event mechanism requires a return channel to operate on - something we needed to avoid due to firewall and NAT issues. And although it wasn't likely we may have required platforms other than .NET to be able to listen or send. So no, Remoting wouldn't do here.

From the requirements, a design began to fall into place:
  1. A maximum of two worker classes would be required: a client to initiate a connection and a server to listen for and spawn another (identical) client with which to interact with.
  2. Data would be passed in well defined messages, and in order.
  3. A single overloaded and non-blocking send method would be provided on a client to send messages. Clients will also have events, that fire on receipt of any messages, for consumers to subscribe to.
  4. Any sends should be completed on a separate thread. Any polling (for messages and initiations) should also be done on their own dedicated threads. Any events should be fired off on separate threads.
With this design in hand it wasn't too difficult to implement a working solution. I decided to start with a messaging system suggested by Eric Gunnerson[1]. This, by design, was lightweight and efficient, and dealt with type-safety by defining an extendable message class. It also used a simple send method to pass messages and, as a bonus, worked fine over a single channel.

I thought that there was potential to do even better though. There was scope for more efficient threading, and a lot of the internals of the messaging mechanism were exposed to the application in Gunnerson's version. There was also a limited use of events to communicate back messages in a more generic fashion to a variety of consumers; it didn't seem completely asynchronous. Most of the adaptations were straightforward but I'll discuss some of the more complex issues below.

Encoding and Decoding Messages
Message objects need to be serialised into bytes in order to be stuffed down a TCP connection. This is made pretty straightforward by using a BinaryWriter which provides us with an overloaded Write method that converts primitive types (which is all our messages are a collection of) into the bytes required. Deserialisation is just as easy, by using the various BinaryWriter.ReadXXX methods to return us to us the original primitives back again. These can then be used to reconstruct a message object.

The problem however is figuring out what message is coming through in the first place, since on receipt of a bytestream a TCP socket wouldn't be able to tell (does this int belong to a Count message or a ClientID message?), and so wouldn't know in which order to decode or indeed when to stop altogether.

We can use either a prefix or suffix to delimit here and I decided to use the former by sending the type of message before any actual data, since if we know at the start what we're dealing with we'll both know how to decode and when to stop (at which point any further data should belong to another message). It all sounds a bit complicated, but will sense when we talk about receiving messages, below.

Sending Messages
As discussed, sending messages had to be non-blocking. Since sending on TCP can be slow, we need to spawn a thread to do this for us. And since we may be sending messages concurrently, we need to ensure that these threads are synchronised. Assuming we're in a message-sending thread already, the mechanism will look something like this:

Encode bytes to send, prefixing them with the message type
Obtain handle to networkstream
Wait for signal that networkstream is free
Indicate to other threads that networkstream is busy (A)
Send bytes
Indicate to other threads that networkstream is free

The synchronisation primitive I use for this is the AutoResetEvent, which means that I don't have to deal with step (A) above. This should be enough to keep any concurrent sending threads synchronised (and it's worth noting that sending and receiving on a single socket is already supposedly thread safe).

Polling and Receiving
The main strategy used for polling (both for receiving messages and listening for clients) is to block in a continuous loop:

Spawn thread
Begin loop
    Wait on activity (TCP receive or TCP Client Accept)
    Spawn thread to handle activity
End loop

Where "handle activity" usually means to fire an event. Server applications would receive an event notifying them of a new client; the eventargs associated with such an event would hold a reference to the server-side client created, to which you can subscribe for notification of the receipt of various message types. Receiving the messages themselves is a bit more complex, so we'll discuss that it its own section below.

Receiving Messages
From the above, we've already managed to receive something from the socket. Assuming this was a brand spanking new connection, the first thing we should have received is the type of the message to follow. Once we know that, we can then build the relevant message object by decoding in the manner described above. That should leave the stream empty or cued up for the start of any proceeding messages. We then, simply, carry on with the strategy described above and fire the relevant event:

Spawn Thread
Begin loop
    Wait for message type
    Based on above message type, decode rest of stream and    build the message object
    Spawn thread to deal with firing a type-safe message    received event
End loop

And that's all there is to it. This implementation is far from complete and there is more work to be done, including exception handling and being able to gracefully disconnect (possibly by sending a special message type), but the framework is there to build upon. The messaging system we end with is quick, robust and straightforward while managing to be flexible enough to cater for a variety of applications.

Source available on request.

[1] Building a Lightweight Message-Passing System, Eric Gunnerson

Wednesday, August 2

All K800i'd Up Click for more info

As some may have read already, I began a new phone contract way back in April with Three UK. What I didn't mention then was that I had received a Nokia N70 with it. That's mainly because it's a pretty unexciting phone. I'm not here to bash Nokias but I will say that they're pretty crap.

So, around a month after it's release[1], I've finally gotten my hands on an SE K800i. And as soon as I had, I once again felt at home. I know it's only a phone, and as long as it's something that makes calls (not that I do that anyway), it shouldn't really matter how it does this. But despite that there's something I find intuitive about SE phones that make them much more agreeable than those from other manufacturers. It's the little things really.

So now, for example, I won't accidentally delete whole contacts when I just want to delete a single number. Or text messages now have the first name first instead of the surname. And unknown numbers are now trivial to add to your phonebook (I actually had to use pen and paper at one point with the N70. Smartphone? Yeh, ok). I also have the much missed events menu back, putting an end to the N70's habit of reminding me of appointments for the coming day at 12am. Data connections finally make sense and are flexible (no GSM dial up on the N70? Bizarre). I did have to debrand my Vodafone Live!-stricken K800i, but that was cheap and painless with the wonderful WotanServer.com.

So it's a winner already purely 'cos it's an SE. But it does also bring new things over and above its predecessor, the K750i (which is almost certainly my favourite phone ever). The main thing is the camera, or more specifically its Xenon flash. Personally I think that this feature has been underplayed by the industry; for me, it's easily the one thing that makes the already amazing camera (including the standard autofocus and now with a mechanical shutter) even more brilliant; expect more pictures and an increase of night shots.

Other goodies are also present; we now have an improved browser and RSS client for instance, both of which will be of interest to me now that Three have finally opened up their Internet access. There are downsides, like the use of M2 instead of something more open and how Outlook synchronisation just doesn't work as well as Nokia's set up (ie, not at all). And the K800i is slower, heavier and bigger than the K750i too.

But memory is cheap now and I'm sure I'll sort out the sync software eventually so these are minor issues really. As a non-Symbian phone I won't get to run Tomtom on it like I could on the Nokia, but I'm looking for a new Satnav system anyway and the other applications I'll live without.

So yeh, it's Lovely. Of course it's early days still and I've jumped the gun before (here, and here), but I'm pretty confident that this is a good bit of kit and should last me a year or so. Oh, and apparently I can now blog on the move too. Uh oh.

[1] And once, again a month after Zubs. Y'know, I don't think I'll ever get a phone before he has already.

Tuesday, August 1

Link of the Day Click for more info

Not a word, guys. Although perhaps I should bookmark this, y'know, just in case...