The firegrid Blog. Thoughts, humour, ranting and general randomness. Wowzers!


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Thu 8th January 2009

Cannot find http://(chinese characters)

Filed under: Internet and Technology

A friend of mine recently presented me with their Vista PC running McAfee Antivirus which had a strange problem.  Everytime they tried to open Internet Explorer they simply got a message stating that Internet Explorer cannot find http:// and then a string of random Chinese characters.  These characters changed everytime Internet Explorer was opened.  Internet Explorer would then shut down and restart itself, the message would again appear and this loop would continue until you ended the "iexplore.exe" task in task manager.

No problem!  Classic Malware/Virus infection I thought.  So, I get my trusty copy of Combofix out and run it on the machine.  Unusually it finds nothing.  So, I decided to install and run Spybot Search & Destroy thinking it would just be a standard piece of Adware, this found nothing either.  Strange indeed!

So, I decided to Google the problem and hence the reason for this post really.  The only post I could find relating to this problem was here and the only fix offered was a complete Operating System re-installation, no thanks!  Anyway, read on for the fix....

I ran Internet Explorer with no Add-Ons (Start->Programs->Accessories->System Tools) and it ran fine.  This proves the problem to be with one of the Add-ons.  So, I went through each Add-On disabling them one by one until I found the culprit.  (To do this, right-click the Internet Explorer icon on the desktop and choose "Properties", click the "Programs" tab and click the "Manage Add-Ons" button).  The culprit turned out to be the McAfee SiteAdvisor Toolbar, once this add-on was disabled Internet Explorer worked fine.

I'm guessing unistalling and reinstalling McAfee would fix this but in my friend's case I uninstalled McAfee and stuck avast! on instead.  Job done.
Fri 7th November 2008

Call of Duty: World at War - A review

Filed under: Gaming

OK, so it's been about two weeks now since I got my hands on a BETA copy of Call of Duty:World at War and I'm going to give a review based on my experiences so far.  Please remember I am reviewing the BETA of the PC version here, the finished game may be slightly different when released.  Also, I'm a keen CoD4 player so take this into account when reading.

The first thing you notice are the menus.  When the game is first loaded the menu structure is almost identical to that of Call of Duty 4.  However, one welcome addition (something console owners got but we PC users didn't with CoD4) is the Prestige Mode.  This is greyed out (obviously you need to reach a high enough level to unlock it) but it's definitely there on the main menu.  Browsing through online games is also identical to CoD4.  Eseentially, because of this getting into a game is no hassle if you're a CoD4 user because you're used to everything immediately.

Once the game loads, things are very different but are also very familiar at the same time.  The main difference is the fact that we're back in World War Two, this gives the game a very dark and almost bleak look on every map.  The graphics are very much similar to CoD4, very little has been tweaked but I found the game ran smoother on my PC than it does when playing CoD4.  The game physics have been tweaked a little, there are some ragdoll effects now employed in the game, also limbs can detach in particularly gruesome style when hit by the right weaponry.  The on-screen icons are very much the same as CoD4 and this is what gives the game that familiar feel. 

The in-game sounds are what really stand out for me though.  The sounds are so much more immersive than in CoD4 and you really feel as though there is a battle raging with the troops shouting and explosions going off all over the place.  The weapons sound suitably "clunky" as well, as you would expect World War Two weaponry to sound I guess.  Also, if you play on the side of the Marine Raiders, Kiefer Sutherland voices the leader - anyone who knows Kiefer's voice will agree that it lends a very suitable and realistic edge to the game.

Gone are the Airstrikes and Helicopter of CoD4, and in come Artillery Strikes and Dogs.  The Artillery Strikes are less than impressive when it comes to hitting the enemy, they really are inaccurate but the noise and visuals of these are great.  The Dogs on the other hand are brilliant.  They appear out of nowhere and will finish you off in seconds - they also keep you on your toes when you know the enemy have called them in.

Call of Duty:World at War has now implemented a vehicle combat system.  On the BETA version the vehicles are only available on the Roundhouse map and the vehicles come in the shape of tanks.  Now, when using the vehicles, I can't help but feel that this area of the game didn't have as much thought put into it as other areas.  While the vehicles move around reasonably easily it just seems a little bit difficult to control and use the weapons.  It's hard to pin point what it is exactly that doesn't work with the vehicles, all I can say is it's a frustrating experiencing when using them.

All in all, Call of Duty:World at War is a good addition to the series but I couldn't help but feel slightly let down when I finally got to play it.  I felt as if it could have been so much more.  I'll definitely be purchasing a copy when it's released on the 14th November 2008 however.
Mon 27th October 2008

Forgotten what an Egg looks like?

Filed under: Random Stuff

The chaps down at the News & Star Website have really played their journalistic trump card today with an absolute cracker of an article entitled EXTRA POLICE DRAFTED TO CRACK KESWICK EGG-THROWING CASE.

Yeah, thanks lads.  I'd totally forgotten what an Egg looked like, thanks to you I am now fully informed.  No longer will I shriek in terror every time I open the fridge and see six pale pink coloured oval shapes staring back at me.

LOL, nice one chaps ;)
Thu 23rd October 2008

Epic Fail - classic!

Filed under: Humour

An Australian call centre employee has become an overnight net celeb down under after an email exchange between him and his firm's workforce manager regarding a "sickie" escaped into the wild yesterday.

This is truly a classic, read on...

From: Niresh Regmi
Sent: Wednesday, 27 August 2008 9:35 a.m.
To: Kyle Doyle
Subject: Absence on Thursday 21st 2008

Hi Kyle,
Please provide a medical certificate stating a valid reason for your sick leave on Thursday 21st 2008.
Thank You

Real Time Manager, Workforce Operations


From: Kyle Doyle
Sent: Wednesday, 27 August 2008 9:38 a.m.
To: Niresh Regmi
Subject: RE: Absence on Thursday 21st 2008

1 day leave absences do not require a medical certificate as stated in my contract, provided I have stated that I am on leave for medical reasons.

Kyle Doyle
Resolutions Expert - Technical


From: Niresh Regmi
Sent: Wednesday, 27 August 2008 9:39 a.m.
To: Kyle Doyle
Subject: RE: Absence on Thursday 21st 2008

Hi Kyle,
Usually that is the case, as per your contract. However please note that leave during these occasions is only granted for genuine medical reasons. You line manager has determined that your leave was not due to medical reasons and as such we cannot grant leave on this occasion.



From: Kyle Doyle
Sent: Wednesday, 27 August 2008 9:43 a.m.
To: Niresh Regmi
Subject: RE: Absence on Thursday 21st 2008

Hi Niresh,
My leave was due to medical reasons, so you cannot deny leave based on a line manager's discretion, with no proof, please process leave as requested.

Kyle Doyle


From: Niresh Regmi
Sent: Wednesday, 27 August 2008 9:50 a.m.
To: Kyle Doyle
Subject: RE: Absence on Thursday 21st 2008

Hi Kyle,
I believe the proof that you are after is below

Kyle Doyle' Facebook page declaring: Kyle Doyle is not going to work, f... it -- I'm still trashed. SICKIE WOO!

Brilliant. To his credit, the busted Doyle concludes:

From: Kyle Doyle
Sent: Wednesday, 27 August 2008 9:55 a.m.
To: Niresh Regmi
Subject: RE: Absence on Thursday 21st 2008

HAHAHA LMAO epic fail
No worries man

Kyle Doyle

Fri 10th October 2008

Ballista Watch

Filed under: Random Stuff

Regular readers of my Blog will remember the post I made not so long back regarding the Roman Ballista for sale on eBay.  Random or what?

Well, alas it didn't sell.  But before eBay remove the listing from their servers completely, I think it only fair to post all 18 questions and answers this auction generated.  Fair play to the folk at Carpenter Oak and Woodland for joining in with the fun (obviously some of these were genuine enquiries but the majority made me laugh):

Q:  hello & help!. i have lost my only house key & can't gain entry to my flat!. would this help me get in?. also where i am is a real quiet street. from the looks of it, am i correct to say the noise will be minimal without disturbing the peace?. i hope you can help & reply soon as it's getting freezing waiting around out here like this!
A:   Your thinking is sound as pound. The ballista is virtually silent when firing so you wouldn’t upset the neighbours and the friction of your skin on the rough oak runway will take the edge off your shivers. Providing you get the trajectory right you should sail through the roof-light and land snugly in your settee in front of your favourite TV programme. 

Q:  hi trying to save you time & money here, so would you consider posting this to me fully already built please?. im in the UK based in the roman town of Ratae (Leicester). could you take it over to your local village post office & have it weighed, let me know how much & i will pay via paypal where the fee's on an amount such as this, will be lower/better for you. thank you. 
A:   If you promise to increase the size of your letter box to take it!

Q:  Wonderful! Would you consider donating it to a non-profit organization in the U.S.? We have people in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) that could make it work again.
A:   Whatever happens we would very much like to see this fabulous piece of kit in action again in a location where as many people as possible can see it. It is a great piece of timber engineering and does credit to the Roman ingenuity. If we are unable to sell it on eBay and you were able to cover the costs of shipment we would like to discuss the possibilities with you.

Q:  Hi. Does one need a background check to purchase siege weaponry?  
A:   I couldn’t be sure. I imagine that as preparing to fire a 12 ton, 8m high weapon is not something you can do on the quiet it might be that the government relies on spotting pending disaster in time to take evasive action. Just like they would if the entire financial system was about to collapse!!

Q:  hallo, würden Sie auch nach Deutschland liefern ???, in die Babelberger Filmstudios nach Berlin und wenn ja, wieviel Frachtkosten ??? Meding, HU.
A:   Ich hoffe, dass ich Ihre Frage richtig als verstanden habe: Hallo würden Sie auch nach Deutschland liefern? zum Babelberger Filmstudio in Berlin und wenn so, wie ist die Wagen-Kosten? Das Verschiffen nach Deutschland würde nicht ein Problem sein ich werde von Wagen-Kosten erfahren und zu Ihnen zurückkommen. I hope I’ve understood your question correctly as: Hello, would you also deliver to Germany?, to the Babelberger film studios in Berlin and if so, what are the carriage costs? My response: Shipping to Germany wouldn’t be a problem I will find out about shipping costs and come back to you. 

Q:  Is it possible to arrange a visit to where the ballista is located and will we be able to inspect all the parts of the ballista?
A:   The ballista is stored at our yard in Scotland. The full address is The Framing Yard, Loch of Lintrathen, Kirriemuir, Angus, DD8 5JA. There is a map on our web site at . We’ve now moved all the parts to a flat area of the yard so they are easy to inspect. We are open between 7am and 6pm Monday to Friday, if you need to visit out of those hours just let me know.

Q:  hello my good roman sir, my greatest nephew in nigeria has only today passed his final college exams with the highest marks. this will make a loving family gift. will you post please to nigeria?. god bless you & the catapult!. 
A:   Being the customer facing company that we are we will do better than that, we'll deliver it personally, erect it, provide staff for a year to fire it and, and...deposit £10,000 in your account!

Q:  I see scope for a partnership agreement here. If Labour loses the next election (likely) could we both raise funds by organising a "Toss the Tosser" open day? Beachy Head maybe. Load it with a politician... £10 per spectator. We'd be millionaires in a day. 
A:   I get your drift but not wishing to offend any potential buyer who might be affiliated to said party (although I’m not sure the particular party matters) I think I’ll decline to pass comment

Q:  In your ad you state that it will be incapable of being fired again without repair works, due to the recoil damage from when it was fired on the show? Does this mean that it is not a 100% accurate replica? As I'm sure the Roman's managed to get more than one shot out of their ballista per siege?
A:   Bear in mind that when we say it is a replica it wasn’t as though we had a first edition copy of the centurions guide to building your first ballista! However you’ll see from the video that there were a significant number of experts brought into the project. Towards the end of the 10 day build programme the engineers raised some concerns about the arresting stops for the throwing arms but the production company were concerned about time and money so it was fired without further modification. You will see from one of my previous responses that we are fairly confident that with the right people involved and some further investment this could be restored to full working order.

Q:  I have often said I wouldn't trust my Mother in Law as far as I could throw her. This device raises interesting possibilities. Could a Witch's Stool be fitted....?
A:   I have now doubt that such a modification would be within the capabilities of even the most modest DIY enthusiast. Just beware of health and safety regulations.

Q:  I have been contemplating a career change of late. Would you be so kind as to advise the current market demand in your region for freelance ballisters? I have no direct experience in siege warfare, though my corporate position has left me quite competent in the areas of windmill tilting, entrenched thinking and provided a deeply seated bunker mentality; traits I should think translate well to a budding siege entrepreneur.
A:   It sounds as though you’re quite well qualified for a position as a full time ballista rooky but unlikely to make the heady ranks of stone loader or pin puller. I hope you’ll understand that we are currently inundated with applications but if you would like to put together a CV we will do our best to look at it. Bear in mind that a well scribed document on the best available parchment is likely to work in your favour.

Q:  Hello. I work for a debt recovery company that deals in recovering large properties from defaulting payers. An unfortunate sign of the 'credit crunch' We have one defaulter who says 'I bloody well shouldn't have to pay for my house, I'm the bloody future king, don't you know' Well that shows how far removed from the real world he is. He is now refusing to hand over the front door keys to Windsor castle. Could we hire this device from you to assist in out recovery of the said property ? Thank you 
A:   As a resident of Tetbury in Gloucestershire and close neighbours of He Who We Won’t Name, I hope you understand my reluctance to comment. 

Q:  If the catapult where to fire again would there be enough room to load a cow?
A:   Does your mother in law know that you have plans for her? If however you are referring to the bovine variety there are some points to consider with regard to ammunition. Firstly the ballista has a fairly narrow launch channel designed to accommodate a stone ball of about 350mm diameter which is launched by a sling behind the it. Clearly a cow would require a much larger ‘slipway’ and of course a sling of equal proportions. In addition, whilst festering cows were a favourite in times of siege to spread disease amongst the enemy I have a feeling that these days there might be certain conventions controlling the use of biological weapons. However adaptation of the ballista to accommodate dysfunctional relatives is a possibility.

Q:  Thank You for the quick reply.... Does it come with a Guarantee for pieces and where is the present situation of the Catapult.. I am over for a Man Utd game next week with people from and would have half a morning to inspect.... Also when was the last time it was fired and is it been used at present for anything.. 
A:   With regard to a guarantee for the pieces I assume you mean will we guarantee that all the parts are there. Indeed, in fact the buying price includes us making any necessary repairs to get it back to a full display condition and delivery to a UK mainland destination. It is currently stored in our timber framing yard in Kirriemuir, Scotland. If you only have an afternoon to spare you would only have time to view it if you charter a helicopter; you would be able to land near our site. It was last fired in 2002 for the BBC programme, Building The Impossible and is currently dismantled so not in use.

Q:  Is there any particular reason that it will never fire again?
A:   No there isn’t. The original build was done in just 10 days and as you can imagine it was mayhem towards the end. It was recognised before the first firing that the recoil could cause some damage to the timbers that arrest the firing arms. The engineers suggested some additional steel strapping to help prevent this but time was becoming a real issue. As a result the arresting stops suffered some splitting but we believe that this could be quite easily rectified with some remedial steel work.

Q:  I would be very interested in this. Can you tell me whether there is movement on teh price if I need contruction and how would it take. I have a team of builders who would be able to help, would it be possible to have 2-3 people from your end to manage the rebuild. 
A:   Interestingly the original build used a number of volunteers. It is possible that we could provide some supervision for the re-erection process and of course this would be reflected in the price. 

Q:  Hi, If it were fully restored, what sort of castles would I be able to lay siege to with it? Is it suitable for Norman stone castles or is it purely for knocking over wooden motte and bailey style structures? Thanks  
A:   Clearly this depends on the ammunition you load up, obviously feather pillows are less effective than chunks of stone!

Q:  How long does it take to erect?
A:   Hi Ray If we undertake it we would reckon about a week for an experienced team of four, dependant on site conditions.

Fri 10th October 2008

Do you want flies with that?

Filed under: Random Stuff

Banksy's latest project has opened in New York - The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill.

It's essentially an old store that Banksy has converted into a pet store themed art gallery.

If you're in the New York area, you can see the gallery at No. 89, Seventh Avenue South, Greenwich Village, New York (Open 10am - 12am Daily until 31st October 2008)

If, like me, you're nowhere near Greenwich Village, and aren't likely to be anytime soon, take a look at the website by clicking here.
Mon 6th October 2008


Filed under: Design and Graphics

The BBC ran an interesting article today on the different fonts in use on film posters, something I've never really considered but something I'm finding quite interesting now I've seen some examples.  This blog post is a single page version of the BBC's, please see the end of this blog post for a link to the orginal BBC article.

We see film posters every day. But have you ever stopped to think about the lettering they use? Sebastian Lester has. As a typeface designer for Monotype Imaging, he's a literal font of knowledge.

Many posters, like this one for the fourth Indiana Jones, use custom lettering. As Lester explains, though, others employ fonts in common everyday usage.

2001: A Space Odyssey (Futura)
According to Sebastian Lester, the font used on the poster for Stanley Kubrick's 1968 sci-fi epic has "a truly space-age pedigree". "Futura was the official font of the Apollo moon landing program," he explains. "Because it's based on geometric features - the square, the circle and the triangle - it's got an inherent simplicity and timelessness."

Trainspotting (Helvetica)
Sebastian Lester says the Swiss font Helvetica was chosen for the Trainspotting poster because of its similarity to that used on a train timetable. "It's also used a lot on chemical packaging, which was suitable given the drug references in the film," he adds. "Helvetica is associated with modernism and minimalism. It's clean, simple and ordered."

The Matrix (OCR-A)
OCR-A, the font Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne's names are written in on the Matrix poster, was a typeface designed to be read by computers in the 1960s. "It's a monospaced font - all the characters are the same width," says typeface expert Sebastian Lester. "OCR, which stands for Optical Character Recognition, has a very digital aesthetic."

The Dark Knight (Franklin Gothic)
"Franklin Gothic has a stark and heavy feel to it," says Sebastian Lester. "The Dark Knight's approach was to firmly establish a believable, real-world version of Gotham and the choice of typeface reflects this. "Gothic is an industry term. But I wonder if someone at the studio connected Gothic with Gotham - it could have easily been that lateral."

Sex and the City (Trajan)
"This typeface is the most used and abused typeface in Hollywood," says Sebastian Lester. "Based on the stone carved letters found on the base of the Trajan Column in Rome, it's as beautiful as it is ubiquitous. "Graphic designers originally used it to elicit a sense of epic history, but now it's used on everything from Titanic to The Mummy."

Quantum of Solace (Neutraface)
"The typeface used in the new James Bond poster has its roots in the early 20th Century and the architectural lettering styles of that period," says Sebastian Lester. "Geometric fonts like this have a sense of efficiency and modernity about them which is universally appealing. "It takes its name from the Austrian architect, Richard Neutra."

(Source: BBC News)
Wed 1st October 2008

In the market for some Roman siege artillery?

Filed under: Random Stuff

Global jumble sale and all-round purveyor of random tosh eBay really have come up up trumps this time.  For sale on their site today is a full-size Roman siege catapult, otherwise known as a Ballista


The Ballista, as connoisseurs of ancient siege weapons will be well aware, was based on quite advanced technology which the Romans originally lifted from the Greeks. It functions in many ways like a giant crossbow, though it was often used to shoot stone projectiles rather than spearlike bolts.

The catapult was recreated by a team of experts, following all known records, as accurately as possible – and then successfully fired.  It was created for the BBC in 2002 for a programme called Building the Impossible.  It was built by(and is now being sold by) the timber-frame team at Carpenter Oak & Woodland.

Even you're thinking of making the purchase for the wife's birthday/christmas present - or simply to defend the ol' homestead, there are a couple of things to note:

1.  It weighs about 12 tonnes, as such postage will be a problem.  Equally, customer pick-up in a Transit van just isn't going to work.

2.  It's about 7.5 metres tall and about 8.5 metres long - make sure you have adequate space in the garden.

3.  Handy with a hammer and screwdriver?  If not, an additional £17,500 will be required on top of the purchase price to pay the team at Carpenter Oak and Woodland to erect it.

4.  Rich?  Good, because the starting price for this little beauty is set at £25,000.

So, in conclusion if you have aspirations to overthrow a neighbour’s castle, the Ballista isn’t ideal, as even though it is potentially capable of throwing a stone ball over 100 yards, it is now not in firing condition. (Please note that even if it were, you would need a team of several skilled operators in order to do this, and these are very hard to find today. You may also find that advances in weaponry since this was designed place you at a considerable disadvantage on the modern battlefield.)

But, if you're still interested, click here to see the listing - but be quick, the auction ends on the 10th October 2008.

Mon 29th September 2008

LG KF700 Review

Filed under: Personal

It's been a while since I updated my blog, so I've decided to write a little review of my new phone.

Regular readers will know all about my o2 Cocoon disaster, after which I ended up with the Samsung U600 (o2 didn't have anything else half decent at the time and I needed a phone quick.)

Now, the Samsung U600 started out OK but after a while it kept losing its signal.  Which in turn drained the battery.  I spent about 3 hours in a pub once with no signal and by the time I left the phone had turned off because it had used so much of the battery.

Anyway, stare in wonderment and amazement at my latest purchase - the LG KF700.

This little beauty is an excellent bit of kit, and the first thing you'll notice is its full touch-screen display.  But that's not all, it also has a slide-out keyboard and a scroller dial - that's 3 different types of navigation available to you!

In the box you get:

1 x LG KF700
1 x Battery
1 x Screen Protector
1 x USB Cable
1 x Mains Charger
1 x Headphones
1 x Software CD-ROM

The touchscreen is very simple to use (no stylus needed) and the optional vibrating feedback confirms that the touchscreen has accepted your input which is quite a nice feature (you can change this to a tone response, both vibrate and tone or turn it off completely if you wish).  For dialling you can use the touchscreen or the keypad, but for texting you must use the keypad - there is no on-screen qwerty keyboard.  I would recommend you make use of the included screen protector however.

General navigation through the phone's menus are simple and have been designed for use with the touchscreen in mind, making a call or writing a text is literally a simply few presses on the screen, reading a text or taking a picture is literally just one click away.  The scroll dial on the side I haven't used to be honest, the touchscreen is so logical and effective I've found no use for it (although I did use it to turn up the in-call volume once).  I particularly like the lock/unlock button on the side also - it instantly locks the phone or with two presses unlock the phone - meaning you can't accidentally ring your best mate in Timbuktu for a silent 4 hour chat.

The camera is only 3 Megapixels but does take very good pictures, it includes a flash and a handy auto-focus feature.  Getting into camera mode is as simple as pressing the camera button on the side of the phone and the application is very quick to load.  Once loaded, the phone automatically rotates the screen to landscapre mode which is a nice feature.  All the camera options and features are then easily accessible via the touch-screen interface.  So far I've managed to take a picture of a dog and a piece of road.  Quality.

I haven't used the phone for music or the built-in FM radio but I'm sure it will be just as easy to use.  The phone has an SD Card expansion slot at the top so has plenty of scope for playing a large library of songs if required.

When reading reviews before buying the phone, several people mentioned the battery life being a problem - now I'm sure it's going to be quite a drain on the battery if you use it for music but with moderate use (without using the phone for music) I've only charged it once in two weeks.

All in all I'm very pleased with the phone, and for £99 brand new from o2 you just can't argue with the fact that it's a bargain and a half.  If (like me) you wanted an iPhone but just couldn't afford it, you could do a lot worse than the LG KF700.
Sat 6th September 2008

Shoe Circus

Filed under: Humour

lol.  Just lol.