Going back to school

m2010-pg-prospectusOn Wednesday of this week I attended a postgraduate open day at the University of Manchester. The world-renowned department of computer science at this institution runs a one year postgraduate MSc course in Advanced Computer Science and I.T. Management, designed for students with existing degrees in computer science. Parts of the course are taught by the Manchester Business School, well known for its MBA programme.

Why am I doing this, 11 years after graduating? There are several reasons:

  1. The industry I work in and the technology and knowledge that drives it changes rapidly and all the time. I can at this point only imagine how much the content of the average computer science course has changed in the ten years since I graduated. I expect to have my existing skills refreshed and to learn new skills and methodologies.
  2. My managerial skills aren’t particularly strong, which is why the I.T. management parts of the course taught by the Manchester Business School particularly interest me. From what I have researched, the course contains the parts of the MBA that are geared towards I.T. At some point in the future I might consider doing a full MBA, but in the meantime this will serve as an important and appropriate stepping stone.
  3. Returning to university after spending over a decade working will be a completely different experience from my first tenure. With such experience I shall be returning to study with “eyes wide open”. Many of my peers have said that they wish they could re-do their university courses armed with their years of subsequent industry experience.
  4. Teaching and study methods have completely transformed since I graduated and it will be very interesting to see what difference they will make to my learning abilities.

The entry requirements state that a first or an upper second class degree is required. I only have a 2:2 from Aberystwyth University in Computer Science, however, I do also have eleven years of industry experience and during the open day I discussed this with a member of the department’s admissions staff and she said to my delight that this experience would compensate suitably in my application. I also need to provide academic and professional references to support my application, along with “transcripts” from Aberystwyth University, which I believe are basically individual module results.

I intend to get my application finished and submitted before Christmas. It being a postgraduate course I don’t have to use UCAS; the application is direct. I’ll keep you posted, wish me luck!

Update 12/03/2010: I didn’t make the grade, unfortunately, my bachelors degree award was not high enough for their entry requirements, despite my industry experience, which by all accounts has not been taken into account. I’ve asked them for an explanation of why I was told it would be when it hasn’t been, but to all intents and purposes I’ve had my time wasted and been given false hope over this. Still, you live and learn, as always. I’m currently considering other options as to what I’m going to do, both academic and otherwise.


Stephen Gately dies

main_imageI woke up this morning to the terrible news that Stephen Gately has died in his apartment in Majorca, of causes unknown at this stage, although police say there are no suspicious circumstances. Stephen was 33 years old, exactly the same age as me, so to imagine what might have possibly killed him boggles the mind.

I can’t say that I was ever a fan of Boyzone, I’ve never been into boy bands, but I always did have a huge amount of respect for Stephen Gately himself. He came out in 1999 in the The Sun newspaper stating “I’m gay and I’m in love,”. This was a tremendously brave act and established him as a supremely positive role model for young gay people. Many gay stars remain “in the closet” for fear of their sexuality damaging their careers, but Stephen refused to accept that as a risk. Indeed, Louis Walsh, the manager of Boyzone, was unaware of Gately’s sexuality when he selected him for the band and has said that, had he known, he would have thought twice before picking him, citing that “it wasn’t cool then to have a gay guy in a band”.

The postmortem is expected on Tuesday.

It’s a terrible, terrible shame. Rest in peace, Stephen.

Update 17/10/2009: The postmortem returned a verdict of death by natural causes (fluid on the lungs). However, the vile Jan Moir of the Daily Mail disagrees, which has provoked extraordinary outrage. The funeral took place today.


Domain names available

browser-pointerUp until recently I used to run a small Internet service provider specialising in domain name registration, e-mail services and web hosting. I’ve now closed this company down for various reasons, but one of the left-over issues I have from it is that I have a random collection of domain names that belonged either to me or the company’s customers that are no longer required, either by me or the customer concerned.

They are all .uk domain names and are listed below. If you are the original registrant of any of them and you would like to retain it, or you are otherwise interested in acquiring one or more of them, please contact me.

The domains are:

  1. blimail.co.uk,
  2. blogerati.co.uk,
  3. bloggerati.co.uk,
  4. bluelightening.co.uk
  5. bluelightningmail.co.uk
  6. bogreport.co.uk
  7. burt.me.uk
  8. doofdoof.co.uk
  9. duncaninternational.co.uk
  10. fairlakeholdings.co.uk
  11. gamesanimal.co.uk
  12. gay-lo.co.uk
  13. gaylo.co.uk
  14. innit.co.uk
  15. l1ve.co.uk
  16. l1-lexington.co.uk
  17. l1-liberty.co.uk
  18. l1-lincoln.co.uk
  19. l1ve-lexington.co.uk
  20. l1ve-liberty.co.uk
  21. l1ve-lincoln.co.uk
  22. lexington-building.co.uk
  23. liberty-building.co.uk
  24. lincoln-building.co.uk
  25. qwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnm.co.uk
  26. sheeponheat.co.uk
  27. stuii.me.uk

Stargate Universe


On Tuesday 6th October Sky 1 starts screening the new Stargate series, Stargate Universe (SGU), the second spin-off from Stargate SG1, itself a TV spinoff from the original 1994 Stargate film and which is the longest running science fiction TV show ever. This follows the recent cancellation of Stargate Atlantis, which lasted five seasons in contrast to Stargate SG1’s ten.

This time the series is based around a Stargate Command (SGC) team that ends up stranded on an ancient starship, the “Destiny”, in a distant galaxy with no way of returning home through the Stargate system. Obvious parallels can be drawn between this and Star Trek Voyager, in which a vessel and its crew becomes stranded in another galaxy. This is no bad thing since the concept worked successfully with Voyager.

I have high hopes for this series. The trailer is very exciting and its clear that it has high production values. Certainly, the producers need to do something to revive the franchise a little, since Stargate Atlantis became really quite ropey during season 4 and season 5 and it came as no surprise to me that it was cancelled. SG1 was cancelled a couple of years previously, but after 10 years of quality sci-fi it was reasonable to do so. I was a little doubtful over some of the ways in which they tied up some of the loose ends but they had to draw the line somewhere.

Robert Carlyle, of Full Monty and Hamish Macbeth fame, plays the lead character, picking up the gauntlet from Joe Flannigan and Richard Dean Anderson from Atlantis and SG1 respectively. It’s a relatively surprising choice since the lead character is traditionally an all-American military man, whilst Carlyle’s character Nicholas Rush is a scientist, but that may indicate that the producers intend to try some new ideas with this series so it’s not necessarily a bad thing. The producers also intend to include occasional appearances from characters from the other Stargate series, which is always nice.

The producers of the show do not see it as a “spin-off” in the traditional sense as it has been designed to be able to be enjoyed by both seasoned Stargate fans (known as “Gaters”) and newcomers to Stargate. This is a very positive step as it’s important to get new people into Stargate, especially considering its overall age (15 years). Original fans are getting older and will eventually become fewer, so it is important that the new series is able to be understood and enjoyed without prior knowledge of previous Stargate stories told in SG1 and Atlantis. However, it is also important that they do not violate precedents already set in these earlier series, because existing fans won’t like that.

So yes, I’m very much looking forward to it. More detailed information on the series can be found over at Wikipedia.


Manchester Pride 2009

mcr-pride-09Another year, another Pride. Four days of hard work, hard play and general excess have once again come to an end. It wasn’t the best Prides I’ve had but all things considered I wasn’t disappointed with it. A combination of recession and bad weather meant that it was never going to be the best Pride ever, but despite that, everyone made the best of it and there was a great turnout and a fantastic atmosphere all throughout the festival. I’ve little to complain about, all told.

I spent Friday night in the Village and saw the opening events on the main stage before spending a couple of hours flyering for Manfest, an event that took place on Sunday run by a friend. I didn’t stay out late on Friday because I needed to be up on time on Saturday to prepare for the parade, with the Manfest float. The weather just about held off for the parade, which is good because the parade is hard work enough without having to deal with rain at the same time.

6413_147355157577_532867577_3514943_2081892_nThe parade is a wonderful event. It brings thousands of people from all around in to Manchester to line the streets. It truly is the highlight of the Manchester calendar, nothing else comes close to it. Manchester Pride as a whole is the single most important annual event for Manchester, since it’s not just about promoting and supporting the LGBT community but also Manchester as a whole, which is why it’s so heavily supported by the city council and the Greater Manchester Police.

On Saturday evening I took a break from the festivities and met an old friend from university in Spinningfields for a drink before succumbing to the exhaustion of the day, meaning that I didn’t get to do Federation‘s University Challenge this year.

I didn’t do much on Sunday save for a mooch about the Village marketplace and lifestyle exhibition. I bought another leather cuff from Rebel Dogg who have a stall at Pride every year. Their products are beautiful and almost collector’s items; I intend to buy one every year from now on.

IMG_6200On Sunday evening I helped set up Manfest but I was unable to attend the event itself, unfortunately, because I was knackered again, but I understand that it went off very well. It was held at Satan’s Hollow next door to Cruz 101, which is normally a straight rock club and it’s a fabulous venue. The dark and spooky theming inside is outstanding, I’ve only seen better in Disneyland. A lot of money and creativity has clearly been put into it.

I got up at a decent hour on Monday and see some of the fantastic live acts on the main stage. The sun came out and it was actually quite warm for a while before the clouds came back. On Monday evening I attended the Candlelit Vigil in Sackville Park, which I like to do every year because it’s a very touching event and I love the feeling of togetherness that it creates.

I had some nosh and a few drinks in the Village after the vigil and then went over to AXM for Sugarpops (a cabaret show) before turning in at about 3.00am. Walking back home through the village was quite surreal, everything was being packed up, with various lorries and machines scurrying everywhere, yet still there were people out on the streets drinking and enjoying themselves despite the rain.

By Tuesday morning when I went back in to the Village on the way to somewhere, everything was back to normal and it was as if it had never happened. Back to reality for another year. Almost overnight it has become autumn and the world feels like a completely different place. Nevertheless, it’ll all happen all over again next year :)


Facebook’s wretched application platform

facebook-logo During 2007, Facebook released an API (Application Programming Interface) that allows third party developers to create “applications” that run within Facebook, accessible by Facebook users and that have the ability to interact with Facebook accounts. Unfortunately, in contrast to Apple’s iPhone App Store, Facebook place little restriction on what sort of application can be developed and they care even less about the quality of such applications. As a result, these days the average Facebook “news feed” is a cluttered malaise of lame and pointless messages from third party applications that Facebook users have added to their profiles. It was quite simply the worst decision Facebook have ever made and remains so to this day, in my opinion.

I now as a matter of course hide these applications whenever they appear in my news feed, because they are almost 100% of the time always absolute garbage. It’s come to my attention recently that I now have quite an extensive list of applications in my “hide list”, just one short of a hundred in fact:

  1. All About Me
  2. Are You A Top Or Bottom?
  3. Are You Gay?
  4. Are you just ONE in a 1 MILLION?
  5. Bejeweled Blitz
  6. Bouncing Balls
  7. Daily Horoscope
  8. FarmVille
  9. Friends For Sale!
  10. Gem Blitz
  11. Get To Know Me
  12. Hottest Person Contest
  13. How average is my life?
  14. How Big is your Penis?
  15. How Common is your name?
  16. How Dateable are you
  17. How Dirty is your mind?
  18. How girly are you?
  19. How Good Are U At Gay Sex
  20. How good are YOU in bed?
  21. How good is your Grammar?
  22. How good is your medical knowledge?
  23. How Jewish are You?
  24. How long would you survive in the ghetto?
  25. How many Sex Partners will you have?
  26. How MEAN are you?
  27. How Retarded are You?
  28. How Sexy are you?
  29. How Sexy is your Zodiac Sign?
  30. How will you DIE!?
  31. If you’re single, take this quiz.
  32. iHeart
  33. Jewel Puzzle
  34. Know-It-All Trivia
  35. Likeness
  36. LivingSocial
  37. Lollipop
  38. Meaning Behind Your Name!
  39. MindJolt Games
  40. My Aquarium
  41. My Polls
  42. Nicest Person Contest
  43. Plastic, Nerd, Jock, Emo, Loner, Popular, or Normal?
  44. Polls
  45. Reign of Vampires
  46. Roller Coaster Kingdom
  47. Send Your Friends a HAPPY THOUGHT!
  48. Send Your Friends a Slap on the butt!
  49. Sorority Sisters
  50. Super Slot Machines
  51. Superhero City
  52. Tango Head Masher 3000
  53. Tattoodle
  54. Test your english
  55. Texas HoldEm Poker
  57. The London Underground Test
  58. The Official Michael Jackson Quiz
  59. What “Periodic Element” are you?
  60. What % Gay are you?
  61. What animal is your spirit guide?
  62. what coulor looks good on u?
  63. What do Your Eyes Say About You?
  64. What does your Eye Color reveal about you?
  65. What Era Should You Time Travel To?
  66. What is the name of the man you’ll marry?
  67. What is your Dream House?
  68. What is your patronus?
  69. What Kind of Gay Are you?
  70. What kind of heart are you?
  71. What Michael Jackson Song are You?
  72. what part of manchester are YOU really from?
  73. What Psychiatric Disorder do you have?
  74. What role will you play in the Apocalypse?
  75. What Tattoo Should You Get?
  76. What type of Flight Attendant are you?
  77. What type of gay are you?
  78. What will your Son’s name be?
  79. What’s Your Best Quality?
  80. What’s your geek level?
  81. What’s your Maturity Level?
  82. What’s your old lady name?
  83. What’s your true choir personality?
  84. Where in Stockport are you from?
  85. Which ‘Prisoner Cell Block H’ character are you?
  86. Which “Spaced” character are you?
  87. Which Airline are you?
  88. Which color is your aura?
  89. Which Friends Character are you?
  90. Which Gilligan’s Island Character are you?
  91. Which Muppet are you?
  92. Which of your Chakras is most open?
  93. which part of Salford are you from? INIT
  94. Which Tube line are you?
  95. Who is your lifetime match?
  96. who loves you?
  97. Who would be your celebrity boyfriend?
  98. You’re sooo Good Looking
  99. Your Tarot Card Reading

This list in all likelihood represents only a tiny fraction of all the lame applications available on Facebook. They’re just not necessary, any of them.

For comparison, I only use two applications (in addition to the standard Facebook applications such as Photos, Video, etc):

  1. Twitter – allows me to update my Facebook status via Twitter
  2. Friendwheel – generates a visual representation of the links between you and your friends, but without posting garbage to your wall (and thus other peoples’ news feeds).

That’s it, and I could easily live without the second one. The first one is however genuinely useful and to not use it would simply create more work for me updating social networking sites.

The madness has to stop some day.

Update 14/09/2009: It would seem that Facebook are finally listening with the launch of Facebook Lite, a version of Facebook designed for slower computers and low bandwidth Internet connections. One of its best features is that it does not include Facebook applications anywhere. You cannot access them and they do not show up in the news feed. Result! Now all that’s needed is to have that as an option on the full version of the site. Also, my list of hidden applications is now over 120 long.


Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi’s controversial release

_45204807_megra226b_ap I am completely torn over the highly contentious decision to release on compassionate grounds Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, otherwise known as the “Lockerbie Bomber”, convicted in 2001 for the murder of 270 people in the Lockerbie terrorist atrocity. al-Megrahi was the only person ever to be brought to justice for the outrage and has always denied any involvement. Whether this is true or not is not important.

The Scottish Justice Minister responsible for the decision faced a terrible dilemma. On one hand he had a reponsibility to uphold Scottish law regarding the release of terminally ill prisoners, regardless of the nature, scale or notoriety of their crimes. On the other hand he was under immense and almost unbearable pressure from the United States and the bereaved families of the victims. The UK government’s position on the matter is at this point unknown but it is widely believed that it will condemn the decision when parliament is recalled.

Of course, at the end of the day, while the United States is entitled to express an opinion on the matter, they had no control nor should they have expected to have any control over what happened to al-Megrahi. This was a crime that was committed on UK soil and so from start to finish had to be dealt with using the UK and Scottish justice systems, regardless of the predominant nationality of the victims. One might also argue that the United States has no right to comment on the situation since it was largely the United States’ foreign policy which created the motivation for the attack in the first place. Just saying, like.

_46240802_tripoli2 The reaction of the Libyan government and public on the arrival of al-Megrahi in Tripoli after his release was absolutely abhorrent, however, regardless of whether or not he is truly guilty of the crimes for which he has been convicted. It was made very clear by both the UK and US governments that it would be inappropriate and very bad for diplomatic relations should Libya allow a “hero’s welcome” to take place, which it did anyway. It was distasteful and wrong and I believe that Colonel al-Gaddafi should and will suffer for it in some way. Indeed, a royal visit to the country is already being reconsidered.

Assuming for a minute that he is guilty, and I have to have enough faith in the UK justice system to believe that he is, I think it highly unlikely and therefore highly unfair that he was the only person brought to justice over an atrocity which quite clearly required the involvement of more than just one person. The investigation into the incident should have been more wide reaching and should have brought more people to justice. For this reason it is valid to argue that al-Megrahi has been made a “scapegoat” for the attack, with the world’s anger and rage focussed solely on him. But this does not mean that somehow the laws of the country in which he was brought to justice and imprisoned did not apply to him. He was entitled to apply for and be granted release from prison on compassionate grounds just like any other prisoner in the UK. If we start making exceptions where do we stop? Where do we draw the line before the rights of prisoners become meaningless?

So I really don’t know what to think, it’s a difficult one. As a citizen of this country I feel I have to stand behind and have faith in its justice system, but at the same time I can appreciate the outrage and grief suffered by the families of the victims over what was the world’s worst terrorist atrocity before 9/11. Certainly, having salt rubbed into their wounds by the rapturous reception he received in Tripoli was both unnecessary and cruel and thoroughly undeserved, regardless of the decision to release him.


Broadband advice

photo-routerI am often asked by friends and family about which broadband service to buy and time and again my honest advice is ignored in favour of price and/or offers. Recently, certain amongst my friends have come-a-cropper as a result of this and have learnt their lesson, so I have decided to impart my advice to everyone, officially.

First, there are four simple DO NOTs:

  1. Do not order BT Broadband.
  2. Do not order Sky Internet.
  3. Do not order Virgin Media Internet.
  4. Do not order broadband from your mobile phone operator.

I don’t care how cheap these services are or whether or not they’re bundled with anything else. They’re bundled and/or cheap for a reason and with broadband it very much is a case of you get what you pay for. That’s the harsh honest truth. If you want a fast, reliable and un-crippled Internet connection then you’re going to have to stump up a bit on your monthlies.

Once this is established, this is my definitive, boilerplate, standard advice:

  1. Buy this router. That one. Not a cheaper one, that one. No, you cannot use your existing BT Internet, Sky Internet or Virgin Media router.
  2. Order this service, or this one (the “Pro” version) if you download lots of movies or use iPlayer (and similar) frequently.

This isn’t the cheapest router in the world, nor are they the cheapest ADSL services in the world, but there’s a very good reason for that. They work. All the time. You get what you pay for. It really is not worth trying to save what amounts to a matter of a few pounds per month for what is nowadays an essential service.

You are of course free to ignore either or both of these, but do so at your peril and if you get into difficulties with your broadband service having ignored one or both then I at no point want to hear about it.

I would also take this opportunity to point out that whilst Wifi is a useful technology, you should not leave yourself dependent on it. Most wireless networks work fine, but at the end of the day there is no substitute for eight strands of copper. There is a plethora of variables that can affect the performance of a wireless network, so if your Internet connection is critical, use a cable.


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