March, 2004

PS2 Online

Much excitement on Sunday, when I finally got my PS2 online. I bought the adaptor… ooh… back in May last year. Registered, and then borrowed a copy of SOCOM to try to get online. Unfortunately, while I was able to register, using my good old crossover network cable, unplugging it from my other PC, seemed to throw a spanner in the works I progressed no further.
Of course I promptly forgot my “handle” and password, and so when I tried again with SOCOM II at the weekend, I was completely in the dark. Sony’s nice system for recalling passwords didn’t help because I wasn’t sure of my username, or indeed, which security question I’d answered. Finally, a couple of calls to their helpline furnished me with everything, and I got it online successfully.
Do I feel a bit on an idiot sitting on the sofa with a headset on? Uh, yes! But it’s fun. Of course it’d be even more fun if I had the faintest idea what I should be doing. Just need to put a load of time aside to learn the finer points now, and that way I won’t get shot within seconds of starting the game.
Still the headset is USB and seems to be recognised by my PC OK, so if I get my act together with one of these Voice over IP systems, I should be able to have conversations using it via Skype or something.

Hey, Nostradamus

The latest Douglas Coupland novel, just out in paperback, is set in the aftermath of a high school massacre, not unlike that which happened at Columbine. This time it takes place in Vancouver, but there are plenty of quite purposeful similarities.
We follow the story from the point of view of four people over a period of years. The links are made between each of the four, as they each tell their story in turn.
I felt a little disappointed by this novel to be honest. Is this ground too well trodden now? Maybe not, but I felt that it was just that bit too similar to other Coupland work.

Peter Ustinov and Alistair Cooke

To be honest, lumping together these two people doesn’t do much service to either of them, but this weblog isn’t an obituary column. I just mention the deaths of people I respected for one reason or another.
Alistair Cooke, who’s death was announced this morning, always struck me of something of a curmudgeon. But he was undoubtedly a radio legend, who only retired from his weekly letters a month or so ago. The long standing nature of his weekly reports is as much reason as any that we admire him. He did his own thing, and didn’t find it necessary to follow the crowd. Radio 4 had an hour special this evening, which I missed, but I’ll listen out to the repeat in the Archive Hour slot this Saturday.
Peter Ustinov was, to my mind, the very definition of a raconteur. An actor and writer, he was in his element on a chat show. And he had a voice to die for. He almost certainly wasn’t as good as David Suchet on television as Poirot, but the films he made still stand up enormously well. But the one thing I’ll always remember, was a book of the week he read on Radio 4 some years ago, Rifleman and Hussar by Sir Percival Marling. I heard it one holiday, and it’s one of those books you have a look for on the internet every so often. In fact I’ve just had a hunt around for it now, and the only place that has a live link, it seems, is the University of Stellensboch library in South Africa. It’s one of those titles that pops up in military bookshops every so often, but you need to keep your wits about you to get a copy.

Euro 2004 Spreadsheet

In 2000 I wrote an Excel spreadsheet which I called the Euro 2000 Wallchart. I called it this because come every major tournament, everyone I knew would get their poster, or newspaper pullout and chart England’s (and other teams) performance throughout the competition.
There was nothing spectacularly original with this idea – I saw one done for World Cup 98. I made it better and look smarter. But there were a couple of flaws which I had fix along the way.
I made a conscious decision to do two things with the spreadsheet: I didn’t want it to contain macros, because they can be nasty and untrustworthy if you don’t know who’s sending it; and I wrote it in such a way that the curious could delve into it to see what I did. I’m not an Excel whizz. Another reason I didn’t put any macros in was because I’m rubbish at macros!
I never distributed beyond close friends, but these things end up flying around the world, and to this day I receive a steady trickle of email about it, asking for adaptations for their leagues etc.
I didn’t get around to producing a World Cup 2002 version, for reasons that I’ll come onto in a minute. But others did modify mine, leaving alone the properties page (which is the only page that gives an email address).
This year we’re on Euro 2004, and at least three different sets of people have adapted the sheet that I wrote for the new competition. But they’ve locked it up to some extent so that you either can’t enter details into the sheet beyond a certain point, or can’t see the formulas used. I’m beginning to get emails about this.
I’d love to help, but as I didn’t make the changes, I’m at a bit of a loss. I have used a password cracking macro (from here) to get into these sheets. Use the following depending on what version of the program you’re using.
1. If there are two small Euro logos at the top of the page, one over the dates and times of the first round matches, and one over Grupo A/Group A, then try using AAAAAAABABAw in Tools > Protection > Unlock Workbook.
2. If the map of Portugal is to the right of Group A and the spreadsheet is titled Euro 2004 Wallchart, then try using this password: AAAAAABBAAB7.
3. Another version is modified by “yakyak” and is unprotected by password. It has a larger Euro logo spanning the top of the sheet across from the first round games to group section.
In either case, you then should go to Tools > Options, select View, and check the Row and Column Headers, Horizontal Scroll bar, and Vertical Scroll bar, as well as Sheet Tabs.
If you then look at the columns, there’ll be a gap between at least two of the columns alphabetically. Highlight the columns either side of this gap (ie. Cols T:BV) by clicking on the letters themselves, right hand click, and choose Unhide. This should reveal the inner workings of the spreadsheet. There are three sets of three sorts, each changing the teams’ points, goal difference and goals for.
The reason for not putting together a new version of the spreadsheet was simple: I couldn’t get one working properly on the group round. If a group goes to a three or even four way tie, the mathematics and permutations of what’s involved get awfully complicated, with matches played between the tied teams going into their own mini-league. I have seen someone do this, but didn’t want to rip off their code.
In fact the workings that I employed are those used in traditional leagues, like England’s Premier League. It sorts teams first by points, then by goal difference, and then by goals scored.
But UEFA doesn’t use this system. UEFA’s rules are outlined here, but in summary if two or more teams finish level on points, they’re divided by looking at the results between those teams:
1. Points between the teams involved. (e.g. if two teams are on the same points, but one beat the other in the group round, that team goes higher)
2. Goal difference between the teams involved.
3. Goals scored between the teams involved.
4. Goals scored between the teams involved.
5. Goal difference in all games.
6. Goals scored in all games.
7. Coefficient points from World Cup and Euro competitions.
8. Fairplay so far (ie. Yellow cards etc)
9. Drawing of lots.
Oh and if the final group game between two teams ends in a draw and they have the same number of points, goals scored and goal difference, they ignore most of the above criteria and go to a penalty shoot out.
You try coding that lot into an Excel sheet!
I may still put together something for this year, but there’ll have to be some degree of originality involved before I do it. And, er, quite a lot of work!
Read on in the extended entry to learn more about the sort techniques involved to produce your own league table.
UPDATE: I will publish more about this at a later stage, but I’d recommend using the official UEFA spreadsheet which can be found here since it does follow all the competition’s rules regarding splitting teams. Once I’ve fully understood how it works, I’ll publish a full explanation.

New York Times & Daily Telegraph

Today’s Telegraph is the first edition to appear with a New Yorks Times supplement. Under an agreement announced a couple of days ago the Telegraph is publishing a weekly broadsheet supplement from the NY Times. It’s a strange pair of bedfellows, since the Telegraph is just a tad on the right-wing side, and I think “liberal” wouldn’t be an unfair word to use about the Telegraph.
I was surprised not to read an introductory piece explaining the background in today’s paper, although it did get an above the masthead plug on the cover. Interestingly, first editions of the Telegraph didn’t include it (we get a very early edition at work).
The fonts and style is New York Times-esque, but the content is obviously not today’s news, but a digest of recent things, with a few sections. I couldn’t see any opinion pieces which is a shame.
Quite where The Guardian’s deal comes in with this I don’t know. They’ve long taken copy from the New York Times. I expect that more than one paper can have a deal though, in the same way that Reuters reports get carried all over the place.
Could be worth picking up the Telegraph on Thursdays from now on.

Dasani Ditched

So Coke have announced that Dasani’s not coming back anytime soon. They’re going to tend their wounds and rethink the brand.
I suggest that they re-evaluate European water drinking tastes. Supposedly France is/was next on the list. They’ve been drinking bottled water longer than most of us, and I just don’t see a not Natural Mineral Water brand overtaking companies like Evian.

ALL NEW Entry!!!

Yes that’s right, this isn’t a repeat. It’s an All New entry.
BBC3 is the latest channel to go down this ridiculous and mis-used path. During half-time in the football last night I was flicking around and stumbled over BBC3’s Celebrity Boat Race thing. Obviously an entirely pointless and uninteresting programme, but championed below the DOG as being ALL NEW.
I suspect that the real reason for doing this is that it pisses off those DOG-haters (myself included) who make a lot of noise about these needless logos.
But the usage in the UK is just wrong. What it really does in multi-channel television, is advertise the fact that you have barely any new programming. In which case, why flag up the fact? Is it because programmes like Vic & Bob’s new sitcom Catterick, are repeated so many times that you don’t know where to jump in? I don’t know.
The TV terminology, “All New” comes, as far as I know, from the US, where traditionally a TV season lasts from September until May. But they only make 22 or so episodes per season, and so don’t have enough material to run new programmes every week. So you get re-runs during the season. In the dead months like January, this may go on for two or more weeks, so you advertise the fact that you’re running a new episode by calling it “All New”. (OK the US TV market’s changing, and will probably see the end of traditional TV seasons as we now know them).
But the term “All New” is dreadful. Can a show be “Partly New”? I suppose there are “Revised Repeats” like episodes of Ground Force where they revisit the garden as an excuse to reshow the programme in full, and check that the garden hasn’t gone to ruin in the intervening time. As I understand it, these are largely to reduce the reported quantity of repeated programming being output. But could a programme be “Mostly New”? “All New” is such an Americanism. We don’t get advertisers talking about their “All New” products.