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Staggering Stories Podcast #173: The Weekend of the Doctor

Staggering Stories PodcastStaggering Stories Podcast   on December 8th, 2013

The Weekend of the DoctorSummary:
Adam J Purcell, Andy Simpkins, Fake Keith, Jean Riddler, the Real Keith Dunn and Scott Fuller review ‘Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor’ and ‘An Adventure in Space and Time’, discuss their time at the official ExCeL convention ‘Doctor Who Celebration’, and a variety of other stuff, specifically:

  • 00:00 – Intro and theme tune.
  • 01:05 — Welcome!
  • 01:25 – News:
  • 01:32 — Doctor Who: ‘Day of the Doctor’ dominates!
  • 04:04 — Doctor Who: ‘Legacy’ mobile game now out.
  • 05:35 — Doctor Who: Daily Mail review.
  • 11:03 – Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor.
  • 30:44 – Doctor Who: An Adventure in Space and Time.
  • 44:10 – Doctor Who: Celebration.
  • 59:52 – Emails and listener feedback.* Hit us yourself at show@StaggeringStories.net
  • 82:18 – Farewell for this podcast!
  • 83:11 — End theme, disclaimer, copyright, etc.

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What is Open Source software and why does it matter?

Adam J PurcellAdam J Purcell   on August 14th, 2012

I am still surprised how few people seem to understand what open source (aka ‘free as in freedom’) software means and why it is important for us all. Therefore I shall try to explain, as best I can, concentrating mainly on the, primarily Google funded, mobile device OS, Android (for that is perhaps the most familiar open source software to most people today).

In a nutshell, open source software makes the source-code freely available to all, to do with as they wish. This is true of Android, Linux and so many more projects that nobody could hope to list them all.

So that means I can download Android, for free, and put it on my own device? Yes. I can tinker with it, make it do what I want? Yes, with one proviso – if you share the compiled (binary) changes with anyone else then you must also share the source code, so everyone can take what you’ve done and tinker with that themselves. That’s the deal – if you take and change then you also give those changes back.

This sort of community spirit openness might sound almost scary, wild west territory. Instead it has given us things like the effort to run Android on the Raspberry Pi and the Ouya, a games console that anyone is free to write software for, without the crippling licence fees, potential content censorship and expensive development kits of the established players. This cannot be stressed enough – students, the curious and the paranoid can all examine and learn from the Android source code. You want to know how any of it works, then it’s right there in black and white. I should also stress that Google did not need to be involved or even asked permission (let alone paid any money) for Android to be put on the Raspberry Pi or Ouya. Open source software is a resource for all and projects like Ouya could not hope to exist otherwise.

Why does this matter to me, I’m not a programmer? It matters because Android is effectively a community resource, those that can program are free to submit their improvements back to the Android Open Source Project. That’s how open source software thrives, lots of people scratching their own itches and submitting their ideas and software changes for all. But people aren’t that generous are they, they’ll just keep the changes for themselves? No, even with those who do think that way it quickly becomes too much effort – every time there is a new version of Android released they have to reapply their changes to the code, it’s easier to submit it ‘upstream’ into the official version.

What happens if Google really goes evil on us? You mean the Google that employs so many highly skilled (and therefore highly paid) people to work full time on Android and then gives that code away, for free, to everyone and anyone? Unlikely but not impossible, I suppose – management changes, circumstances change. In that case the community just takes the Android source code and ‘forks it’, which is to say they simply build a competing version of Android based on the same, mainly Google funded, source code. Anybody is perfectly entitled to do that. In fact, in essence, Amazon have already done just that with the Kindle Fire. In that instance it was for their own commercial purposes rather than a community-led move, so it will always be something of a dead-end fork but that need not be the case if there were community consensus. Maintainers of open source software, such as Google, always need to be mindful of their user and developer community, lest they lose their project from underneath them. This is what will make Google stick to their ‘Don’t be Evil’ motto more than anything else.

Well, I’ve rambled on in a manner that was rather less convincing that I intended. Clearly I’m not quite in the rhetorical mood I need to be!

It boils down to this: when you invest in open source platforms you potentially enrich us all, instead of the few. Think about the sort of person you are – are you one of those self centred people that you might find working in the City of London or the sort that values freedom and sharing?

You might think it’s just a phone. It’s not. It’s an ethos.

 


 

The New Computer – “Wanna turn up the heat?”

Adam J PurcellAdam J Purcell   on November 8th, 2007

Firebat - The New ComputerFirebat is under construction as I type. Firebat? Yes, that’s the name of my shiny new computer. My first new desktop machine in a good four years or so (Mac Mini not counting, as that’s really just a web terminal in the living room and a chance to play with PowerPC based Linux).

Why Firebat? I try to name my computers after things from some of my favourite old computer games. First there was my Atari ST, named Benson – after the sarcastic computer from Paul Woakes’ amazing Mercenary games of the era. Then came the Atari Falcon, named Benson 2, aka Benson Junior. My first PC, in about 1997, named Benson 3 – can you see a theme here? Benson 3 is still in use today, as my IPCop firewall, but now named Jameson, after Commander Jameson from Elite. Benson 4 was originally a Pentium 2 machine, my first home built machine, but has seen so many upgrades over the years that about the only remaining original parts are the case and floppy drive (and name!) Benson 4, aka B4, is still in good use as my secondary desktop machine and also running Ubuntu Studio to record the podcasts. Benson 5 is, for this second at least, my primary desktop. B5 is the last of the Benson computers. That’s for no other reason than as a reference to Babylon 5 – the last of the Babylon stations. My two laptops are named after Myst objects, the latest being called Kormahn. Finally, my home server is called Threepwood, after Guybrush from the Monkey Island series. There are other machines but they have boring names like Mac Mini and Zaurus. Yes, my electricity bill can be a little high…

I still haven’t explained Firebat, though, have I? I needed another classic game from my past. Something I spent far too much time playing. There are a good few but not many suggested a decent name for a computer. Populous? Civilisation? Quake? Diablo 2? Hardwar? Evil Genius? Black and White? Tomb Raider? None of those leapt out at me as a source for the name. I didn’t want to call my computer Lara Croft! How about Warcraft 2 or 3? Nah, I wanted something more Sci-Fi. StarCraft! Of course! Kerrigan? Protoss? No. Firebat – yes. A silly sounding name but I took an instant shine to it!

So, Firebat is still installing. Windows XP – this is as much, if not more, a gaming machine than anything else. I considered Vista but there appears little or no benefit to DirectX 10 right now, the only possible reason to consider the appalling bloat that is Longhorn. I’ve also got Fedora 8 being torrented down right now, another few hours to go. Coincidentally, Fedora 8 was just released today – perfect timing for dual booting on Firebat.

For the statistics interested people out there, this new machine is running an MSI P35 Neo motherboard, an Intel Core 2 Duo E6750 CPU, 2GB of DDR2 800Mhz RAM, a 500GB SATA HDD and (my favourite bit) a BFG nVidia 8800 GT OC (512MB). I wasn’t sure if that graphics card would hold up the order a few weeks as these new 8800 GT cards are THE card of the moment, high end performance for mid range price. They are selling out quicker than they get in stock at the moment. I got very lucky! I look forward to testing this machine with 3DMark and the like. It should put B5 to shame!

I should also point out that this machine being bought/constructed was not influenced by the Dunn’s recent purchase of a new machine. Really. I just got fed up with B5 freezing up two or three times an evening while I was playing World of Warcraft. Probably just an underpowered PSU, given all the drives I’ve got inside it now, but it was time for an upgrade anyway! Once Firebat is up and running I may fiddle around with B5 and may well end up fixing it. In the meantime I’ll have something a little speedier and, hopefully, rather more stable!

“Need a light?”

 


 

Stick ‘Em Up!

Adam J PurcellAdam J Purcell   on April 28th, 2007

Second Doctor Who Sticker AlbumWith all these deadly serious things I do in my life all I end up talking about in this blog are childish things like games consoles, MMOs, TV and, yes, the Second Edition of the Doctor Who Sticker Album! I must be doing something right!

I must say I had great fun with the first of these sticker albums last year, it took me right back to 1981 (not via a coma, I must add) and what was probably the last sticker album I had – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Of course the album itself is long since gone, trapped in carbonite somewhere, I expect. I do seem to remember the finished album being somewhat thicker than the last Doctor Who one. Probably just my childish imagination! It was certainly very shabby by the end, though – it hardly left my school satchel for many months! One thing that is for sure – my ability to put the stickers in straight has not improved with age…

Clearly last years album did well enough to make a second worthwhile for Merlin. I had no idea sticker albums still existed! I’d like to think that these Doctor Who albums have helped create a resurgence in the products but I see they also do the likes of WWF wrestling (or whatever they call it this week), Barbie, Pokémon and the big one, no doubt, Premier League Football. I suspect there aren’t many grown ups buying many of those, though. Yes, I know, there are probably only a few of the saddest old fans buying the Doctor Who ones, too. So, who else is going to join me for swapsies this time then?!

 


 

Buttons!!

hobbithobbit   on November 30th, 2006

Shop assistants have no sense of humour.

If they insist on stocking and re-stocking the shelves with every Doctor Who toy on the market, they have to expect people to press every button on every toy until the shop sounds like there is a war going on between Daleks, Cybermen and K9s while a million TARDISes take off and land.

Getting grumpy about it really is unnecessary. 🙂