Friday, June 29

Finland rocks. To a surprising extent it has lived up to the expectations I had, which I had thought were bound to be unrealistic, based as they were on stereotypes.

Let me now try to explain this in English....
From first landing at Helsinki we immediately had a very reassuring feeling of being in a sensible country where getting things done is easy and people are nice. Obviously when you first step out of an airplane there is nothing rational to base this feeling on, but everything in the last couple of days has served to reinforce it. For starters wegot through the airport, changed money, picked up luggage and boarded a bus for town before the time the flight had even been scheduled to land. We then realised we were on the "slow" bus into Helsinki. This took an agonising 15 minutes - you get the picture.

Then Helsinki itself was pretty impressive. We've only spent an evening there so far, so we haven't been into many places, but it is a beautiful city, surrounded by sea (it's on a peninsula, and has several harbours), with parks and open squares, but even away from the 'official' open spaces it has a sense of space and airiness to it. The streets are wide and straight, which immediately gets rid of the claustrophobia that being surrounded by big important-looking buildings can engender. The only thing that was a little odd was that much of the city (and we stayed in a very central youth hostel) seemed quite deserted. There were 2 streets that had busy cafés on them, but elsewhere it felt a little like a ghost town

Thursday morning we went straight to Tampere (we'll be back in Helsinki later), which was also wonderful. We travelled up there by normal commuter train, which was more pleasant than many of the intercity services in Britain, and of course arrived on time. The views just from the train were lovely, and so is the destination. Tampere is an industrial town, described by the guidebook as "Finland's Manchester". It's much nicer (and I am actually quite fond of Manchester as it happens). The factories are right in the center of the town, but they are also clean, generate little smoke, and don't smell bad. They look almost like monuments to the idea of industrial production, and it takes a certain effort to realise that they are actually in use. Several of them are prominently owned by Nokia, but then the company accounts for about half of Finland's economy and the town of Nokia (I guess where the company started?) is only a few miles away, so it's hardly surprising.

We stayed at a campsite last night, which was in itself wonderful. Cheap even though we had a 3-bed cabin between two of us, very nice staff, facilities as good as any youth hostel. We rented out bikes and went for an aimless ramble through the countryside. It's striking how much better provision there is for bicycles here, and how many more people use them. I think we actually saw more cycles than cars, even on the main road. Then we got to watch the sun set (around midnight) over the lake, which was absolutely stunning, and I think I'm going to start using the same adjectives again and again.

Anyway, I ought to go now, as food is beckoning us away from computers, but this evening we'll be off to Turku (the old capital of Finland). I just hope the whole holiday stays this good....
posted @ 3:31 AM -

Tuesday, June 26

less than 24 hours till I get to Finland. I'm finally all packed (a needlessly difficult mission - I'm not even taking that much with me), looking forward to it more than ever, and it's about time I got some sleep.

It's not as hot there as here: FMI - Weather and Climate - Local weather
posted @ 4:11 PM -
interesting, most interesting. The site below is not based in Turkey or anywhere in the Muslim world. It's based in America, land of the stupid and home of the lunatic.
Evidence: a trace from NeoTrace(large image: about 40K)
posted @ 2:10 PM -
disturbing this - the official web site of the Islamic Jihad in Turkey. The current (democratic of sorts) regime in Turkey is apparently a Kemalist/Zionist collaboration:
Ibda Avrupa Cephesi
posted @ 1:58 PM -

Monday, June 25

interesting sites if you want to know about the actual physical structure underlying the internet:

Steve Gibson's Open Letter to the Internet's Hackers leads on to a nice account of why hacking is possible and why a clever hack is so hard to counter.
The Atlas of Cyberspace gives a huge set of maps & visualisations relating to where bits of the net are actually located.
posted @ 3:06 PM -
ZDNet: Interactive Week: Microsoft Tries To Get Smart

hmm..... just as I was losing interest in the anti-Microsoft thing and starting to sing the praises of Internet Explorer 5.5 they have gone and done something seriously worrying again. The Smart Tags feature that might (read "will if our solicitors don't tell us it will get us into trouble") be included with the next version of IE is seriously dodgy. It lets the browser read through HTML pages (ie my beautifully handcrafted code) and interpolate its own links to information. This means it can pick up any keyword (eg "Microsoft") and add its own links (ie links to selected, Microsoft-friendly sites).

Problems with this idea:
(a) my code is my own and I don't want anyone else editing it
(b) it gives Microsoft too much control over information
(c) most people will not understand the difference between Smart Tags and links which the author put in

I think Stalin would have been proud of this one....

incidentally, if you are a web page author and want to make your page immune to Smart Tags, this can allegedly be acheived by putting the following tag somewhere in the head of your page:
<meta name="MSSmartTagsPreventParsing" content="TRUE">
posted @ 2:52 PM -
just found a nice site - a map of the world which you can click to zoom in on. Unfortunately it's very out of date - you may notice there are no borders drawn within the former USSR - but it's still a useful reference, and this is where I'll be going on Wednesday:

Xerox PARC Map Viewer: world 60.00N 24.28E (8.0X)
posted @ 1:42 PM -

2 days till I leave the country

well I am making progress with the inevitable list of things to do before I leave. I'm going to have to take some work with me, which is a shame, but hopefully it should be little enough that I can ignore it for the first week or so, and only actually have to look at once I am travelling alone.
more importantly, I've sent off a letter asking various people for their help fundraising for China. I needed to do this now because although I won't be going for a while I need to get a portion of the money sent off to Mencap soon after I get back.

Today I realised that I have told less people than I thought I had about China, so I'll explain what I'm on about now. In October (20th - 29th) I will be cycling somewhere between 450 & 500 km (different press releases contradict each other) in China to raise money for Mencap. It should be very cool, as well as intensely hard work - it's slightly further than my Brighton - Plymouth adventure of last year in one less day (we'll only actually be cycling for 5 days).

I feel vaguely guilty about asking people for money for this, because some of the money I raise will go towards the cost of the expedition itself, but then most will still be going to Mencap, and Mencap are a group who do lots of good work.

Anyway, it isn't really time to think about this yet, I just had to get those letters sent. When I finish my current round of travel I will have to start training seriously, but first there's tourism to be done around the Baltic, and a week's kung fu camp on the Isle of Wight, which should be a good start to my physical training....
posted @ 1:00 PM -

Please don't use Netscape 4.x, ever

I've been trying to fix the bug that makes this page unreadable in Netscape 4.x, and there is no elegant way to do it. Unless I manually set the font colour of each paragraph Netscape 4.x users are just going to have to manually highlight the text to read it. There is a simple solution: just don't use Netscape 4.x. It was always so buggy that it was insulting to users to even release it as finished software, and now there are several better alternatives.

Unfortunately I know that not everyone necessarily has a choice, particularly people in the computer rooms at COGS, but I also can't face working around this bug when I have religiously avoided this kind of kludge everywhere else in my site. If you are in COGS, and you really really want to read my ramblings, you can always use Lynx (which of course displays these pages in a clear and usable form because the pages have actually been written correctly....)
posted @ 3:02 AM -

Sunday, June 24

I've just noticed that blogger can put the date & time parts of this diary into Finnish. The fact that I care is probably a sound warning that I need to get to bed, but I've done it anyway.
posted @ 5:43 PM -
Time to launch my web site again. I started this project about a year and a half ago, and just never finished it first time round. Now I've made everything look smart and written content for most sections that might actually be worth reading, and the commercial parts might actually convince people to hire me. All I have to do now is get people looking at it. Search engine submissions are the next step....

Oh and by the way, its eldan.co.uk in case that wasn't obvious enough.
posted @ 4:58 PM -
my whole web site (eldan.co.uk /anything) has moved server. Hopefully no-one should notice, except that I have found the new server takes a few hours to notice updated pages. Odd, and slightly annoying.
posted @ 2:26 PM -
I've mentioned Blogger (the service that lets me keep this diary) to a couple of people, who have sounded interested in the idea. Here is a link for some information about it:


Needless to say I'm pretty enthusiastic about the technology, though I must admit I'm still skeptical about whether I'm really going to spend time in internet cafes while I'm off on holiday....
posted @ 2:24 PM -
it's almost time to launch this site. I've spent far more hours than I should have done tinkering with the various sections of eldan.co.uk, and it's very nearly time to re-submit it to search engines and suchlike. Hopefully I can get all of this done before going away so that when I come back I can immediately start advertising and try to get some more web-design & private tuition clients, which would certainly be welcome....
posted @ 5:35 AM -

Friday, June 22

hello Australia

I've been looking through access logs for this page and I notice it's been looked at by an someone from a .au domain, in 2 different browsers. My first thought was that someone I know must be travelling in Australia (though quite why they would happen to look at this is still a bit of mystery), but I don't think I actually know anyone out there right now.
So, mystery Aussie, who are you? If you do happen to come back I'd really appreciate if you could get in touch, providing I haven't freaked you out too much. How did you stumble across my little corner of the web, what did you make of it, and what made you decide to switch browsers? If it was illegible in the first one you used please please please tell me so I can fix it.

I also notice that there are a couple of hits from Turkey. To the best of my knowledge only one person in Turkey knows that this page exists so far, so hello Vala.

enough nonsense for now - I have work to do (no really I do)
posted @ 9:36 AM -

travel plans

here, for clarity, are my travel plans as far as they have been made:
  • Wednesday 27th of June: leave UK with Dunc for Finland - spend Wednesday night in Helsinki

  • Thursday 28th: Tampere (one of the larger towns in the Finnish lakes)

  • Friday - Sunday not sure yet, probably more wandering around the lakes, possibly also the south-eastern coast of Finland

  • Sunday 1st of July: Sam & Mark join us, we spend a few nights in Helsinki

  • some time in the first week of July: take a ferry across the Gulf of Finland to Tallinn

  • spend a few days in Estonia, possibly also visiting Latvia

  • second week of July: overnight ferry from Tallinn to Stockholm

  • Wednesday 11th of July: fly back from Stockholm to London, and catch a train straight home

  • Saturday 14th of July - Saturday 21st: kung fu intensive training camp on the Isle of Wight with this lot

As I start to get my loose ends tied up before leaving I'm looking forward to it more and more. Who knows - I might even keep you posted....
posted @ 1:53 AM -

Thursday, June 21

technical hitch

It seems Netscape version 4 doesn't interpret style sheets properly, with the result that this page ends up being white text on a white background. As of March this year only 9% of web users used Netscape 4, but that's still a fair proportion, and I think this applies to the version installed at the University computer rooms to make matters worse. Unfortunately I can't fix it without losing some of the advantages of having used style sheets in the first place.

Do I bother fixing it?

Opinions please. Feedback is always welcome in any case, and if no-one writes in I'll assume no-one cares.
posted @ 11:21 AM -
these links may come in handy:

posted @ 10:13 AM -
Anyway, now that I've got this set up I'll say something about what it's actually good for.

Adding content to my site normally entails a certain amount of hassle. Not much, but I have to write it as HTML and publish it, which I can only do from within the UK (my web host have a stupid security policy...). It's enough hassle to put me off regularly updating with unimportant things, and to make keeping an online diary impractical

Blogger makes it easy for me to keep adding to this page without the associated hassle, so now I have an online diary. This may not seem like the most exciting of ideas, but I'm about to go off travelling round the Baltic, and this means I can keep a travel journal. It remains to be seen whether I actually bother keeping it up to date, but watch this space and hopefully you'll get news of where I am and which places have impressed me.
posted @ 10:04 AM -
I'm glad I'm not going on a holiday like this
posted @ 9:49 AM -

Wednesday, June 20

well.... this is a first test of a nice service - hopefully this will make it easy for me to put thoughts online without actually having to write them out properly....

we'll see won't we....
posted @ 10:34 AM -
eldan's photos More of eldan's photos
eldan's photos More of eldan's photos
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