Free downloads available to all

I have just added a new downloads page to the site, where you can get free stuff for your amusement and edification.

So far, there are only a couple of desktop background images (wallpaper if you prefer), and a little print-and-make paper jeep that I designed years ago. Hopefully, I’ll have a chance to add some more stuff soon.

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Nailing custard to the wall

I have recently installed IE7, a compliance patch developed by Dean Edwards that takes heroic measures to fix all the holes in the CSS support of Internet Explorer 5 & 6 on Windows. It uses CSS and Javascript to force IE into more compliant behaviour, and reduces the need for ugly style sheet hacks that have been used to get round the flaws in Microsoft’s hideous but ubiquitous browser.

If you are security concious, don’t worry. The patch requires no action from the user, and doesn’t install or change anything in IE itself. If you are paranoid and have Javascript disabled, then the site will work as normal, but the appearance might be a bit wonky in places.

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Monkeys are funny period

Jane Austen begins her most famous novel, Pride and Prejudice, with the following sentence:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

It would have been more succinct, and far funnier (in my opinion, anyway), if she had started with:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that monkeys are funny.

I do, however, refer specifically to monkeys as apposed to apes. Apes aren’t funny. Anything that can pull your arms and beat you with the wet end should never, ever be laughed at. Ever. Seriously.

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Splash out with some Sterling

I’m getting very tired of all the dubbed foreign adverts on TV.

There seem to be more and more instances of ads on TV that are clearly foreign language ads, over-dubbed into English. A small percentage of these have clearly been designed for international use, and cleverly avoid lip sync problems. However the majority are painfully obvious re-dubs, and frankly I find them insulting. If the manufacturers of these products care so little about the British market, then I’m damn sure I don’t care enough to buy their products. If you want my hard earned British Pound, start making ads for this specifically for this country, or start employing agencies that can produce language-agnostic content.

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For no real reason

Mark Pilgrim’s weblog article about his favourite jokes has spawned some very good comments. My favourite:

A penguin, bored with the Antarctic weather, was on holiday driving through outback Australia when he started hearing a strange knocking sound from the car's engine. Knowing how dangerous it would be for a polar sea-bird to be stuck in the middle of the desert, he quickly pulled into the next service-station.

The mechanic took a quick look at the car, and said it would take a few minutes to find out what was going on. So, the penguin ducked into the shop and bought an ice-cream. Unfortunately the hot sun was melting the ice-cream, and penguin flippers are not the most dextrous of limbs, so he got as much ice-cream on his face as he did in his mouth.

Now rather annoyed, the penguin went back to the mechanic to see what was wrong. The mechanic looked at the penguin for a moment, and shook his head.

"Mate, I'm sorry, but it looks like you've blown a seal."

"No, no!", replied the penguin. "It's only ice-cream!"

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Malice aforethought

Today sees yet another article on The Register about vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer allowing the installation of a particularly unpleasant bit of “spyware”. The application in question, installed on a fully patched and firewalled version of Windows XP without any interaction from the user, infested the entire system with links and pop-ups to porn sites. It took the technically proficient owner of the computer a considerable amount of time to remove the malicious code, which even managed to evade software designed to find and remove it.

My question is, how are Microsoft allowed to get away with this? They have created and distributed a widely used piece of software (Internet Explorer currently has about an 80% share of the browser market) that makes it possible to unknowingly install malicious applications that have system level privileges. This includes premium rate dialers that have landed owners of infected machines with huge telephone bills. Yet not one report I have seen about these exploits blames Microsoft. How is this possible? It is their product that allows the machine to be hijacked. Even, it seems, when someone has installed Third Party software that attempts to plug the holes.

If you use Internet Explorer on Windows, I suggest you perform the following procedure to ensure your protection against the raft of vulnerabilities that infect this poorly conceived browser:

  1. Find a mirror.
  2. Look yourself squarely in the eyes.
  3. Ask yourself what the HELL where you thinking?
  4. Download and install Mozilla or Firefox.
  5. Sit back and enjoy a richer, better featured, and more secure Internet Experience.

Better yet, become a Switcher, and discover that using a computer can actually be a pleasure, not a chore.

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The Great British summertime

Well, what fantastic seasonal weather we are having here in the UK. In the last few days, I have seen high winds, heavy rain and low temperatures out of my office window. The Wimbledon officials must be crying into their strawberries.

So, to the dipsticks whose response to the threat of Global Warming is “It will be nice to have it a bit hotter”, welcome to the future!

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Apple launches iTunes Music Store

Apple finally launched a European version of the iTunes Music Store (iTMS) yesterday. At the moment, it is only available in the UK, Germany, and France, with the rest of Europe expected to be covered by October of this year. You need a localised version of iTunes to access the store.

I tried it out briefly, and browsing the store is a doddle. The content is nicely laid out, and it is easy to search for artists, songs and albums. The links to related material and information make it easy to explore new artists and albums too. I haven’t bought any music yet, but it won’t be long until I succumb to temptation, and setting up an account is simplicity itself if (like me) you already have a .Mac account, or an Apple Store ID.

I was pleased to see that the launch made all the major news broadcasts in the UK, though some of the reports showed typical skepticism about Apple’s chances in the face of competition from Microsoft. The iTMS has been a huge success in America, but many pundits are suggesting that Apple will have a much harder time cracking the European legal download market. Time will tell, especially as the catalogue of music and features available on the iTMS grows over the coming year. Personally, i think this is great news.

As an illustrator, I appreciate the need to protect the rights of artists against piracy. Although the financial model offered by Apple doesn’t offer the rewards to artists that it could or should, it seems this is largely the fault of the major record labels short sighted views of music downloads, and the restrictive licensing deals they have forced Apple to work with. All in all, iTunes Music Store is a huge step in the right direction.

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New sketches online

I have just added a small selection of sketches that I did back in 1997, when Russ and I first started formulating ideas for a childrens book.

I have loads more sketches that I produced at the time, but as the book has yet to make it out of our heads and into the hands of a publisher, I prefer not to reveal too much. Some of the work still looks really nice, even though it was done nearly seven years ago now!

If any wandering publisher would like to throw some money at us, we would be happy to get cracking on the finished product, or even just talk you through the idea as it stands.

You can see the new images by clicking the button below.

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Image selections available on the highlights page

Because there are now so many images in my portfolio (current count is 160), I have now added a highlights page which contains links to sets of images that I think might be of interest to visitors. There are only 3 sets available at the moment, but I will be adding more when time allows. Please feel free to contact me with suggestions for new collections.

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