HTC Titan, WiFi problem

Not a long post here. I just wanted to share the fact that the HTC Titan has a little bug (highly likely to be software-related) which results in the quality of the WiFi connection being a bit iffy; that is to say the phone connects to a network fine but after a little while is mostly unusable and may require frequent toggling of the WiFi option between off and on. A Windows Phone update via Zune didn’t seem to address this problem.

The ‘fix’ I found is that if you turn your data/3G connection off, the WiFi works fine. So the issue is some sort of interference between the two signals, most likely through some software problem. It’s certainly inconvenient for some to have their data connection totally off at home as this will halt the delivery of MMSs, so hopefully a permanent fix will be available which will allow the two to co-exist; but for now just turn off network data when using WiFi.
I don’t know if this affects all Titan owners but certainly a number of people have alluded to it online. Someone demonstrated the issue on YouTube too:

28 November 2011: I contacted HTC Support (Europe), and I found it a little bit incredulous that they think it’s normal to switch data off for WiFi. As far as I know all other smartphones allow both 3G and WiFi to be on simultaneously. This allows MMSs to come in while on WiFi.

18 May 2012: Microsoft seem to be aware of the problem (since Feb) and are working on a fix. It’s a Mango OS problem as it affects several WP phones; most likely all those which have had the Internet Sharing function used.

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Review – Positively False: Birth of a Heresy @ The LOST Theatre, 21/11/11

About six months ago I attended a screening of the dissident HIV/AIDS film House of Numbers, after which I was briefly interviewed as part of a vox pops for a British/European cousin-film that premiered last night.

I attended partly to have my ego stimulated but deep down I knew that it was likely that my face and words would be in the Recycle Bin because the film was to talk about the problem and not the solution(s). I was right and I didn’t take this to heart, but amusingly my name appeared in the rolling credits. It was a full, albeit small, theatre too so I would’ve liked to have a remote to pause it for a second.

Positively False: Birth of a Heresy is the first full-length film (90mins in length) by award-winning documentary maker Joan Shenton whose Meditel programmes (Dispatches etc.) stimulated the brain long before “I’m an idiot watch me eat some bugs.” subverted the main British channels. Much of the film presents nothing new as it largely relies on 25yrs of archive footage, but sequenced into a whole it does make an intriguing documentary on why so much (still) remains unclear about the HIV/AIDS hypothesis. It’s not very dissimilar to Brent Leung’s House of Numbers – in fact a number of the same clips were used – but this one would probably attract this side of the Atlantic more if one had the chance to choose between them in a rental shop.

Positively False… has already won one award, gaining 3rd place at the Lucerne Film Festival for a tiny pre-screening (though the cameraman who I chatted to, modestly, proposed that this was perhaps out of sympathy), and it seems to be headed for Europe over the next months, though I’m not sure how much of a dent it will make. This is an independent film with a subject matter that many find uncomfortable. If the more talked about House of Numbers faded into obscurity I doubt this will fare better; and that’s more a criticism of the environment into which it was birthed. There’s no mention of this even being put online or released on DVD yet.

One of the final points in the film by historian Jad Adams emphasises the current scenario very well: Not much has happened in the last quarter of a century. The Sisyphus rock, as Celia Farber mentioned, is still being pushed. The side of Robert Gallo and Luc Montagnier still has the upper hand over the blue corner thanks to how entrenched the current hypothesis is and some unproductive in-squabbling between followers of Peter Duesberg and The Perth Group. It’s hard to see how a resolution will come so clearly, though I believe, in my opinion that a certain type of science will pass the gas to The Perth Group’s igniter. And in fact the chain of events that led me to this screening would lead me to the casino with a bucket of counters. A million on the Aussies! …Later.

Perhaps when the troops are better armed will we see a Galileo-like exoneration as a sequel.

July 21 2012 update: Want to see the film? Click here to see it online for a small fee to help out the film’s producers.

Sticks and stones

Over the last few months I’ve come across a number of articles or comments about the need for people online to not hide behind pseudonyms and false identities in order to prevent miscreants from abusing people. While I see a valid point I think it creates more problems than it prevents.

I myself hover somewhere in the middle about identity. My philosophy is that I don’t walk around in public with a full name tag on me so I won’t online, where possible. People in public might overhear from a talk with a friend that I’m ‘Mo’, but not unless a stranger comes up and talks to me would I consider telling them more about who I am. I’m quite happy to do that by email or private messaging, and I know that there are certain circumstances where it is advisable to let people publicly know about you if you’re offering some sort of service or product, but I think it ends there.

Some people say that commentators on blogs or people on social networking sites should all be forced to reveal who they are. The ugly part of this is that it makes the net unattractive if, for example, you’re being stalked by someone or you don’t care about connecting with past friends, or even current ones. Furthermore, forcing someone to use their real name isn’t going to be a fix-all; no doubt there are plenty of John Smiths in the world and if one of them is making nasty comments on someone’s site, just which Mr. Smith it is we won’t know. You could go a step further and insist that people have photographs of themselves on some sort of universal Disqus/Gravatar database. At this point we’re creating a web passport. You could go further and creepier by insisting that a web user has their address and phone number in their account details, even if not shown, so that an offender could be outed. I might sound like I’m rambling about a Big Brother nightmare but I do take privacy moderately seriously.

Sure, the internet has a very dark underbelly that contrasts with all the positive benefits we get from it, but the positive of a seedy side is that is there to be seen and tackled. The vast majority of us are disgusted by child pornography, but the fact some paedophiles, extraordinarily, choose a policeable outlet such as the internet means that such people are easy to find – and you don’t need ‘web passports’; present the evidence to an ISP and they will handover the holy grail of an IP address which leads to a date and time of use and billing details to catch the perpetrator. This is back door outing.

When talking about less serious things (not to diminish the stress they cause), things like sexism and racism, if delivered through anonymity, often reveal cowardice on the protagonist’s part. In some cases it’s probably not intentional as they may value their privacy overall, but if I were to say something completely objectionable and knowingly, it would be man of me to attribute it to some sort of identity that can be attacked; not just ‘Anon’. For this reason I see any rash statements by anon as void.

There are websites (e.g. white nationalism) where one can say certain things in public comfort, but you know what? That’s the beauty of free speech. I might not like it, but if I can speak so should they; and it’s only in observing opinions can you tackle them. It’s better to be aware of things we don’t like rather than to bar them or create an environment in which one would not like to speak; to shove them in a corner somewhere out of debate.

I understand that, in light of some media cases, cyber bullying is seen as a valid reason to de-hood people, but if you go too far you may harm the victim and push the offences outside of the internet where people were tracked and recorded. Barring people from being objectionable doesn’t stop them from being objectionable, it just makes them more resentful and forces them to unleash elsewhere. The further problem about objectionable is defining it. There are many isms that people find abhorent, but if we start clamping down on more people with undesirable thought, where do we stop? Every one of us holds some sort of opinion that causes friction, even if delivered in the form of a constructive argument, but we can misconstrue constructiveness and sometimes, due to our humanity, veer into ad hominem attacks. Who, then, in the end gets to speak?

I agree that something needs to be done about abuse, but making sure that everyone is seen on the class register isn’t the way to go about it. The same thing applies to the nonsense idea of ID cards. I already have a passport, and by whatever means you identify me, it still wouldn’t reveal why I chose to do something.

Review – The Sisters of Mercy @ Olympia Theatre, 11/11/11

You don’t have to be a goth to like The Sisters of Mercy, in fact they (or he) would probably prefer it if you weren’t as it’s not a label they’re happy with. This is just as well, as though I may have the black hair, I wasn’t prepared to match the effort of others as I would need to go a step further by dunking my face in gram flour to douse my Eastern glow.

If you like dry ice machines a TSOM gig would be a real treat! In all seriousness, the severity switch should’ve been turned down a few notches, but to their credit I’ve never seen a band cloaked in so much as to give a mysterious illusion; made more ambient by coloured and strobe lightning. TSOM isn’t a band that wants to chat with you, they want you to chase their shadows and limbs before leaving you satisfactorily lost.

This was the first time I saw them live and in a city that had been starved of them for about fifteen years. All sorts were there, so it wasn’t just a stereotypical sea of black contrasting against the regal red of the theatre. TSOM are as old me so it would’ve been comical to see many ageing vampires anyway. There was a support band too of course, and they gave it their best for an audience, that as ever, only cares for the headliner.

Apart from being stunned by the galaxial visuals (think looking at Orion’s Belt), I had a bit of trouble tapping my foot and mouthing some lyrics as I didn’t know half of what they were playing. It’s been 21yrs since the band released an original studio album but this hasn’t stopped them from airing new material. New for me as certainly some punters recognised the songs very well. There were a couple of songs I knew even that took a few minutes for my brain to register as familiar, possibly because they don’t always recreate recorded sounds.

The big draws of the night – that is where some people in my seated area got up and danced – were the beefy hits such as Dominion/Mother Russia, More and Temple of Love. They might’ve lacked some of the electronic nuances of the studio versions but the feel came across well. One other plus of a band that relies on a drum machine than a drummer is that in a live situation nothing gets drowned by the acoustic instrument; useful with such a baritone-heavy singer (more so than on record) as Andrew Eldritch. A handful of laptops glowing with the Apple logo in the corner of the stage served as an ample band mate to the three men in front.

I don’t think we’ll see TSOM moving a league up to stadiums any time soon, and it would be a shame if they did as the band creates enough distance between us and them in an intimate venue. Classic, moody, albums like Floodland will keep trickling in new fans by word of mouth, and as long as there’s rubbish like The X Factor on TV, long may they keep being awkward and fascinating on stage.

See a 1988 (lip-syncing) TV performance by TSOM below. I add this over an Olympia Theatre version as the song is best heard by newcomers as recorded; albeit this is a single edit.

Whoever’s out, say I

The Welsh are considering a new health law for 2015 which would see the need for people to opt out of organ donation rather than opt in. If instated, Wales would be the first part of the UK to have this system; but it does not necessarily mean that families cannot veto the harvesting of loved ones’ organs.

I’m going to guiltily put my hand up and admit that I don’t carry a donor card. A few times I have filled in application forms but I never took them to the letterbox or pressed the submit button. Why? While I wholeheartedly support organ donation on the surface, I find dealing with the subject a bit morbid: not only am I thinking about my future death but I wonder how my relatives would feel knowing that I go underground with pieces missing that I utilised in my life; albeit accepting that in time only my bones remain. True, I’ve not faced any opposition when bringing up the topic before but there’s a difference between accepting when a person is alive and when said person is in a hospital bed.

In my life, fortunately, I have not come across any event where a family member or friend has needed an organ, but I know that many people out there are desperate for them and the British South Asian and black communities are often those faced with the most limited supply. If I want to receive, surely I should offer? I would happily not opt out if everybody was in the same boat. It removes the need for me to think about it as most people would have their organs removed instead of just some of us.

Never mind giving organs, I haven’t even given blood even though I personally know the value of receiving it: my mother required a large transfusion nearly a decade ago without which she surely would not have survived. Blood had to be helicoptered in from Birmingham, an area with a large South Asian community; London couldn’t provide.
I would like it if you could actually donate blood in more places, say your GP surgery or pharmacies. My failure to provide blood is partly because it seems something to go out of your way to do, but I will one day as how else could I pay for my mother’s life being saved than helping another?

Printable organs and artificial blood will appease any want to keep ourselves intact, but until then I’m happy to have my organs used. In fact, let this be my public declaration if anything happens to me.

Album review – Lou Reed & Metallica: Lulu

A double dose of heavyweight, heavy metal came in to close the end of last month, and it was my intention here to talk about Megadeth‘s latest album as they need more kudos than the other band, but the problem with Megadeth is that they don’t really present a problem, not lately anyway. Purchase a ‘deth record and it’s like buying a burger from a familiar restaurant: you know the taste, you know that it’s going to be satisfactory and you know they won’t return to their briefly modified recipe as it didn’t work out for them.

The same is not true for Metallica. You loved the original recipe but many know that they won’t get the original taste, yet still we open up the bun and examine what’s in there. Talking about Metallica is more interesting because you can only give straightforward praise to Megadeth’s ‘Thirteen’.

‘Lulu‘, if you’re not aware, is not a typical Metallica record. It’s a project they recorded over a few weeks with Lou Reed about the life of some German dancer (there is some story about this but it never stuck with me and it’s not clear from the lyrics). The lyrics are all written by Lou, with the band providing the music and a bit of backing vocals by James Hetfield. Most reviews have been very critical, and certainly, ‘Lulu’ does seem like an indulgent project. It looks good on the CVs of both artists that an odd-pairing worked together.

Like the average Metallica fan (I have supported them through some dreary releases), I’m not that familiar with Lou Reed, but given that Metallica’s symphonic collaboration with composer Michael Kamen in the late 90s pulled off well (‘S&M’), I wasn’t too put off by news of this experiment. It was made clear that this is not a traditional Metallica record so it doesn’t have to taint their pure discography, and with the album’s direction seeming to be mostly Lou’s, you could blame him for a bad product.

When I first heard ‘Lulu’ (streamed online for free) I wasn’t very impressed. It sounded as if two separate acts were doing their own thing in adjacent studios and someone had placed a recorder in the adjoining wall. Lou Reed was listlessly talking over some uninspired music, sometimes drawn out for more than ten minutes for no good reason. A subsequent listen made me feel it was not too bad but then I hated it on a few more, eventually settling on that I respect the spirit of it.

Not too much works, but had they settled for making a single or EP they could’ve got away from the knives of journalists and fans. What works is that it is quite a creepy album. There are other musicians on it and they add a sort of horror-film atmosphere. While I cannot really follow the narrative of ‘Lulu’ (indeed, Lou’s voice often gets buried in Metallica’s classic din), when something does register with my ear it’s quite disturbing. Hearing a 70yr old man obsessing like a pervert about or as Lulu is quite uncomfortable, but Lou is known for being edgy and that’s what makes it dramatic. The music isn’t very technical but there’s times when the weight works. The two best songs to me are Mistress Dread and Dragon. The former is early 80s Metallica – albeit as one repeated riff – with eery bits of noise as solos, while the latter merges the fire and brimstone of Black Sabbath, topped off perfectly by the slimy narration of Lou Reed.

This isn’t an album I’d want to play over and over and I hope that we never hear this stuff live, but if we accept it as a ‘fun experiment’ to keep peoples’ bellies full ’til the next main course of pure Metallica it’s ‘alright’. I hope they don’t do something like this again but it’s a curious car crash that isn’t quite as bad as some people make out. I don’t think it’s as bad as ‘St. Anger’. More odd, yes, but this does have some charm if you divorce it from the names that produced it. Funnily, I bet the people who might ‘get’ this release the most are probably people who like neither Metallica or Lou Reed.

5.5/10.

Suggestion: ‘Lulu EP’, buy 4 tracks from a download store at an average of 79p each to spend £3.16:
1. Mistress Dread, 2. Cheat On Me, 3. Dragon, 4. Junior Dad.
…If you want to just get an A and B-side, try, Cheat On Me and Dragon.