Archive for November, 2006

Birmingham’s First Gift To The World: J.R.R. Tolkien

Since November 26, Metroblogging sites around the globe have been unveiling seven “gifts” their cities can share with the world. David Markland over at the Los Angeles metblog site has put up an ongoing guide for all the posts on this subject.

Birmingham is a little slow getting in on this act (hey, what do you expect from a one-man show? How about some help around here?!?), but here is our first “gift” to the world: John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, most famous for writing The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Although he was actually born in what is now South Africa, Tolkien moved to Birmingham at the age of three along with his mother and his younger brother after his father died of rheumatic fever. Throughout his childhood he remained in the area, where he met and fell in love with his future wife, before moving on to Oxford for university.

While in Oxford, Tolkien became great friends with one C.S. Lewis (author of The Chronicles of Narnia). Apparently Tolkien hated the Narnia stories. Although I’m not certain on the exact reasons, it was generally down to the way Lewis “beat the reader over the head” with the religious allegory… or perhaps it’s just because Lewis managed to finish the seven Narnia novels in just 5 years (from 1949 to 1954), whereas Tolkien took over 10 years (1937 to 1949) on the Lord of the Rings? ;)

I’ll spare you a detailed breakdown of his entire life since such information is already in abundance around the web (e.g. Wikipedia), but I hope you enjoy this “gift” of literary genius (Tolkien’s… not mine, obviously :P). Stay tuned for several more over the next few days!

Apple’s UK “Black Friday”

It’s probably in my best interest not to mention this, but Christmas is just around the corner so…

I read an entry on Infinite Loop saying Apple were trying to bring the “Black Friday” shopping experience to the UK, throwing a big sale this Friday, December 1st, in all their Apple stores (and their online store)! The store in the Bullring will also be hosting live music events all day (see their website for full details).

The Black Friday deals put on in the US weren’t overwhelmingly brilliant, but if they knock a bit off the price of a Mac mini I might be tempted to buy myself an early Christmas present…!

City Council Drops Open Source

An article on is reporting that the project to introduce Open Source Software to libraries in Birmingham has “failed”. The article claims that the project cost £534,710 just to get 200 PCs up and running the FREE software! How on earth can they justify spending that much? Apparently the original goal was to set up 1500 such PCs, however this “was a figure plucked from the air at the time.” Hmm… plucking figures from thin air? Now there’s a sign of good project management.

A commentator on the original article also provides further insight on the failure of the project:

1) A trial of 4 differently configured Linux desktops (Ubuntu-based) and one Sun Java Desktop machine was held at Birmingham’s central library in the summer 2005. A local research company was employed to measure the outcomes of the double-blind trial, specifcally which configuration was viewed as the best by participants. The Linux desktops took the top four spots with Sun’s Java Desktop coming in last. Unsurprisingly the report was never published. BCC are a major Sun client.

2) The Open Source community… was entirely excluded from the project after the initial trial. BCC IT’s department thought they could undertake the deployment themselves.

3) BCC selected an obsolete version of Suse Linux rather than the Ubuntu desktops that won the Library trial. They were unable to replicate the winning desktop configuration because the IT department accidentially erased it.

Stephen Booth wrote a couple of entries on this topic last year (well, regarding the trial that was held in the central library), so perhaps if he’s around here somewhere he can give us his insider’s point of view on the matter!

Birmingham Under Fire(works)

Big ben burns…

Originally uploaded by digitaldust.

The leaves have finally started to fall from the trees, the temperature has dropped to “normal” English November, and once again it’s coming up to Guy Fawkes Night, where we all celebrate that failed attempt at “regime change” of 1605. To celebrate, countless hoodlums will be purchasing bottle rockets from Asda and setting them off at ungodly hours of the night in neighbourhoods are the city. Expect this onslaught to continue until approximately January 2007.

But if you want to see some REAL fireworks there are a fair few bonfires & fireworks exhibitions being put on around town over the weekend. Since the 5th is Sunday this year a few venues, such as the show at Pype Hayes park, will take place on Saturday. Fortunately the Edgbaston Cricket Ground is sticking to tradition and will be putting a show on for the Sunday. Now I just have to put together a good “Guy” to throw on the fire!

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