Vidzone working at last!

Success at last. I’ve written before about my problems getting vidzone working, and tonight while taking a breather from some work I tried the Oracle of Google again, and I found a solution. As I suspected, it wasn’t a network problem at all.

Kudos to lyonix, who suggested that deleting a corrupt cache for Vidzone from the game data utility often works. It worked perfectly for me, (note even removing and reinstalling the software doesn’t affect that).

Android 1.6 (Donut) initial thoughts

I installed donut earlier this week. This is on my G1 devphone, so I don’t recommend you use the htc page otherwise. This time I didn’t bother going through all the nonsense with the tools, I just mounted the phone on USB and slapped the image across one by one into the SD card as update.zip.

This is not as significant an upgrade as cupcake was but nevertheless, it’s improved the phone in a number of key ways.

  • the search widget now searches phone content as well internet content, this works very smoothly;
  • the camera / camcorder apps are now easy to switch between, and much faster;
  • the gallery is quicker, but only after it takes a complete age to index/whatever;
  • the market application is hugely improved, and as a bonus, lots of content that was previously unavailable on the devphone is now listed;
  • the speech synthesis stuff is installed, but I don’t really see it does much just yet;
  • the battery monitor app is very useful, especially since the g1 battery life sucks so badly.

My battery life is, by the way, 29% taken up by wifi (forgot to switch it off today), 18% by display, 14% cell standby, and so on. 8% was taken up by voice calls.

Be warned, the new upgrade seems to suck up more space, and takes a long time to start-up after first reboot.

You can see a full list of the changes here, and though it’s modest, I think it’s a nice upgrade in lots of ways. At this time, it’s hard to know how much limitations in the G1 experience are from the hardware or the OS, I’m looking forward to seeing how android behaves on new hardware.

Compassion in the Martial Arts

I recently had a conversation with some people who wondered if there could be any place for compassion in the martial arts in general, and certainly in Iaido, or Japanese swordsmanship in particular.

It may be useful to start by considering the idea of Bushido, or “the Way of the Warrior”. A lot of people have heard about Bushido, but often through a very distorted perspective. This is not least because the ideas have been smeared by the inexcusable behaviour of some Japanese in the Second World War. These individuals were not, by the way, samurai. That class had long since been dissolved in the Meiji Restoration.

The closest analogous concept for us in the West is that of Chivalry and the word has similar linguistic roots. Now, we do not believe that Christian knights always behaved in a way that was above reproach, do we? Certainly not, but we do not throw out the baby with the bath water. The legend of Arthur is a romanticised and idealised idea of chivalry but one that has inspired many to better conduct.

Bushido lists seven virtues (some say the seven folds in a hakama represent these), which I will borrow the listing of from wikipedia rather than mess with the kanji myself:

Do you find any of this list surprising? It might temper your view of how a warrior might see himself. Perhaps you did not expect respect and benevolence to make such a list.

I think it’s a nice list to consider with a martial art like aikido which is a modern budo that seeks to avoid gratuitous damage to the “opponent”. For the practitioners of such an art, it provides a compass for our behaviour. I constantly emphasise the importance of compassion in aikido when I teach, and strive to embody it in practice. There are actually pragmatic and selfish reasons why this behaviour is martially more effective; you do not damage joints you need to effect control; you do not provoke responses you need to contain and so on. Some might argue if compassion with self-interest is still compassion. The concept of cause and effect, or karma provides a strong incentive for acting appropriately, isn’t it a bonus that it is not merely “right” but also effective?

But the sword is not a weapon designed to control or subdue but to kill. There is a Japanese word katsujinken, the sword that gives life. What can that mean? It can have many meanings. It could mean to not use the sword when not necessary, to fight without fighting.

Compassion requires the love of others. I feel I have long understood that. It has taken me longer to realise it also implies the love of one’s self, and I still struggle with the consequences of that. Compassion can manifest itself in many ways. Exercising compassion may require hard and apparently brutal choices to avoid greater suffering caused by another path. Such choices can be be traumatic for the one who acts as well as to those whom it appears to affect the most. Reconsider the list of seven virtues in that context if you will. The samurai were required to take quick, just decisions, and see them through, with all that entailed.

To assist another as they commit Seppuku was (it is now illegal in Japan) an act of respect, benevolence and compassion. There are many stories of samurai acting as seconds for both their closest friends, and their defeated enemies to shorten their suffering. To regretfully, but decisively take a life to protect one’s own can be an act of compassion (to one’s self), and in many cases as an act to protect the lives of many innocent others.

A final thought from the modern era. If you found yourself in a hijacked plane post 2001, with the split second opportunity and means to kill the hijacker, would it not be a compassionate act to swiftly and decisively kill that person before they could take any action to kill so many others? Might it not even be an act of compassion towards that person and their family?

If you seek mastery of the sword, seek first sincerity of the heart, for the former is but a reflection of the latter.

Iwakura Yoshinori

Derren Brown tells porky pies, get over it

Derren Brown has been back on our screens recently with a series of big events. It’s brought him a lot of publicity, and a lot of the public comment has been amusing to say the least. I’ve been watching everyone comment on the TV and Radio that he’s a trickster, and his explanations of how he does things are often bogus.

Yes…. Yes… That’s the point. He’s a magician, a showman, he tells you right up front at the start of the show. Misdirection, magic, showmanship and more. It’s entertainment. He is the first to make it clear that what he does is a trick. He doesn’t claim otherwise. If you can’t bring yourself to enjoy that, I humbly suggest you watch something else. And while we are on it, I’m relieved people see it’s a trick. I think David Blaine’s closeup magic is among the most impressive I have ever seen, and I shudder when those around him don’t even seem to consider it’s just a trick.

Personally, I love Derren, I love his cheeky smug as hell smile as he gets away with it. I enjoy his faked discomfiture. I enjoy it when he fakes near success in tricks to make them more convincing. I enjoy calling him names as I laugh as he lies through his teeth to the audience. I have casually studied a bit of magic in my time, and he is a fine magician. Many big stage magicians rely on assistants, who actually do all the hard work, but he is clearly the architect of most of his own tricks. I’m reading his book and it is informative and very amusing to me, and I very much respect him as a fellow in fight against (rampant) irrationality (a little bit can be a fine thing).

Sadly I’ve missed a few of the “events”, since it clashes with my Iaido class and I wasn’t organised enough to record it. I’m slowly catching up on 4OD. But I did see the program on how he stole the lottery. And I’m a mathematician, and I laughed and laughed at it. I didn’t believe a word of it, but even the deceit was cleverly convincing and it’s not trivial to say exactly what he really did.

He claims he averaged the results of a crowd of people picking lottery numbers. There’s a consequence to this. Consider this: how many ways can 50 people pick a number that averages to 1? How many ways can they pick numbers that average to 30? If you understand this point you’ll see the possible “answers” from the crowd have an odd distribution. But the cover story was very amusing in its own right. You don’t want to know how he really did it, it’ll be shockingly dull.

So yes. We know he didn’t show the numbers in advance of the draw. Yes, we know his explanation is nonsense. It’s a trick. That’s the point. Enjoy it and smile along with his insufferable smugness :-).

Virgin Media, Netgear and Vidzone

The PS3 has an free network application called Vidzone. I downloaded it when it originally came out some time ago, but it never actually worked. It would load, show playlists, adverts, and the seize up the whole console when I tried to actually play videos. It’s a shame, because it looked like a nice app for putting on some music.

Since then the PS3 itself has had a big firmware upgrade to 3.0.1 and Vidzone was upgraded to 1.0.4. Worth trying again I figured. Well, initially I couldn’t get the application to crash the console anymore (I did later!), but certainly it wouldn’t play videos. It did show adverts, even video adverts, playlists, everything but actually play videos. Which is weird to say the least. So to be honest, it looks like the problem is somewhere at the PS3/Vidzone end, since absolutely all other network functionality works on the PS3.

But, as a precaution I thought it was worth checking out that old bugbear, the router firmware, and there are some hints that’s an issue. I’m a Virgin Media customer at the moment, for complex reasons I don’t really have a choice at the moment, and they supplied a cable modem and router when they connected me (rather late as it happened). When I looked at the router firmware, it’s shockingly old. So I clicked on the link for the knowledge base and downloaded the latest firmware. It failed to upload, no explanation of why. I tried every intermediate release, which took quite a while to do. They all failed.

So now I’m suspicious and confirm that, yes… Virgin are specifically blocking updates, even though many, many bugs have been fixed in the new releases. I find this pretty puzzling.

I phoned their tech support to try and confirm this in person. I suggested that I would have to buy my own router if I wanted to get round these problems, and they informed me I wouldn’t be supported. I put it to them that I seem to have a choice between being supported with no actual support and no means to help myself, or getting new hardware, being officially unsupported but able to help myself. He put me on hold to check it out, a minute later the line went dead. 🙂

So if you’re out there googling for “vidzone doesn’t work”, this might be part of the reason, but who knows? It seems it could be fixed at the PS3 end in any case. But it’s a cautionary tale that the stock VM hardware might come with lots of problems you can’t fix.