You can keep Mr Huntley

Part of me wants to write a scathing commentary on how much of a tonsil I think Brandon Huntley is, but there’s no point in beating a dead horse so I’ll just say it once. Brandon Huntley is an a-grade, raging, super massive ass hole. There, I’m done.

Canada is a lovely country, it’s so lovely it gets boring. When I was living there they had a shooting in Alberta. For two days the news covered this shooting, which is entirely reasonable until you found out that nobody actually died; in fact nobody was even hurt… actually, nobody was even shot at… it was just a guy shooting his gun into the air to show how much of a man he was. For two days they covered something that probably happens on an almost hourly basis in the Cape Flats. When a Canadian says their car was hijacked they actually mean it was stolen…. when they weren’t around, stolen… because in Canada the idea of someone actually forcing you out of your own car at gunpoint is just too far fetched for them to comprehend. Keep that in mind.

Canadians are also lovely people, they are friendly and helpful. I didn’t meet any racist Canadians while I lived there, but I also didn’t meet many black people. Canada has a much better reputation for “knowing about other countries” than the Americans, but the truth is that a lot of them, while *knowing* full well that we have cities and suburbs etc, still have a very romanticised, sleeping in tents in the bush with the lions roaring in the distance, idea of South Africa.

In contrast, South Africa is a pretty scary place at times. We have levels of crime that are unbelievable. Babies getting raped, people getting shot for the cars etc, just insane… and it’s published internationally.

Enter Brandon Huntley. He went to De Villier’s Graaf High School in Villiersdorp, an Afrikaans boarding school about 100km outside of Cape Town. This is a school for kids who had been expelled from other schools or wanted to get as far away from their parents as possible, a school where the machismo and racism run side by side. The boys are tough; disputes are resolved in fist fights where the loser can walk away covered in blood, and the winner, a hero. Kids go through initiations that involve being caned repeatedly for no reason. The idea that any boy who attended De Villiers Graaf High School could end up as the repeated victim of racially motivated attacks is very very hard to believe. And I should know; I went to school with Brandon Huntley… I only stayed for a year. He was 1 year ahead of me.

I don’t remember Brandon clearly but his face seems familiar and based on what people who knew him better have said about him, he fits very neatly into a stereotype that existed in the school. Hard, tough and mean. He did martial arts and played rugby.

Brandon claims that he was attacked multiple times, by black people, who attacked him because he was white. To put this in context, I have never been attacked by a black person. I know a few people who have been mugged by black people, but they knew, just as their attacker knew, that the attack wasn’t motivated by the colour of their skin, but merely because they had stuff worth stealing. When Lucky Dube’s attacker pulled the trigger it was because Lucky was driving a luxury vehicle… No other reasons, No racism needed.

Brandon claims to have scars on his body from all the times he was stabbed by black people who were attacking him because he was white. I find it so incredibly far fetched that a tough white kid who went to the school he did, and subsequently lived in the suburbs he lived in, ever got attacked by anyone… without provocation. I think that it’s far more believable that Brandon went around looking for shit, picking fights with people in night clubs and occasionally came off second best.

There are really two issues here.

1. Brandon lied in order to stay in Canada. There are some unforgivable lies. Lying about being the victim of racially based attacks in South Africa is one of them. Brandon has perverted the most painful element of South Africa’s history to his advantage and in doing so has brought about a world of pain for himself. I’m sure he never thought that we would find out what he’d said, but now he has made himself unwelcome in two countries… one of them being the country of his birth. We legally have to take him back… pity.

2. The Canadian authorities believed his lies. The individual who processed Brandon’s application is definitely a racist. Brandon’s story seems unbelievable, even to most Canadians. To be in a position within government responsible for dealing with foreigners on a daily makes this official’s ignorance unbelievable… ie. I don’t believe that he really believed Brandon, I think he just wanted to help Brandon get away from the savage and vengeful blacks that both believed in. The part of this story that is so incredibly sad to me is this: The officer responsible for approving Brandon’s racist lies is also responsible for approving, or denying, the refugee applications from countries like Darfur. What chance do honest, petrified human beings, whose families have been slaughtered and who happen to be black, have of gaining asylum when being interviewed by a man like that?


HTC Magic – Android Review

htc-magic-vodafoneI’ve been using an Android phone, the HTC Magic, for about two weeks and I think it’s time to report back.

Build Quality: The phone feels very good, it look slick (at first you’re surprised by how quickly it picks up fingerprints but that isn’t an issue after day 1). It isn’t as solid as an iPhone, but it doesn’t feel like it’ll break easily either.

Voice Quality: Better than my Nokia E61i, better or equal to all the phones I’ve had.

Screen: The screen is nice. The same resolution as the iPhone, just smaller (because the phone is smaller). It certainly is bright enough, I usually have the brightness set to 50%. The image quality is great, better than the iPhone IMHO.

On Screen Keyboard: This is the question most of my nerd friends ask first. When you first get the phone you feel like it’s going to be hard. Coming from the full qwerty on the E61i I was struggling to get up to pace. But it gets better, a lot better. After a while your brain figures out how to thumb the right keys and the Android’s brain figures out what you meant to type. This is like predictive text on steroids… if you’re typing a word but along the way hit a few wrong keys, the phone works out what words you could have meant to type with keys near the ones you pressed. It’s hard to explain but in practice it really does feel a little like magic. So overall the on screen keyboard is actually awesome.

Signal: So far I haven’t had any situations where I’d lost signal while others had signal. The wifi is MUCH better than my E61i.

Connections: The Magic just has one port, a mini usb port. Actually it’s slightly different to mini usb since mini usb fits it but it can also accommodate HTC’s proprietary connector for the headset. I would have loved a regular headphone jack, but they’re trying to keep it minimal. You can get an adaptor. The good news is that the phone charges over usb with a standard mini-usb cable. That in itself is f-ing awesome.

Battery Life: Okay, not great. Look, lets be honest, if you get one of these phones you’re always playing with it… that sucks power. I need to charge this phone every night in order to keep it happy, sometimes more regularly. Happily I usually just plug in into whichever computer I happen to be sitting at and let it charge that way. I’m sure that future androids and future OS improvements will have much better battery life.

General Experience: This phone KILLS anything I’ve ever used before because of the general experience. When you first boot the phone it asks you for a google profile and then from that moment on your phone is perfectly synced with Google Mail, Google Talk, Google Calendars etc. Mail arrives on your phone in seconds and an “@” sign is placed on the notifications bar. From any application you can drag the notification bar down and get a preview of the email and decide whether to read it then of come back to it later. SMS’s, Calendar events, App notifications, like Twitroid saying there are new tweets, etc are all handled by the notification bar.

Evolution: The most awesome thing about this phone is its position in the software evolution. Things are changing all the time. I’m currently running release 1.5 of the Android base system. Since I have already ROM’d and ROOTed my phone I will be trying out the HERO (HTC’s latest Android Phone) ROM, which, while still Android 1.5, comes with a bunch of interface improvements from HTC. Later on this year Google will release the Android Version 2 which no doubt come with a whole whack of ui improvements, stability, batter life etc. The key to me is survival of the fittest. Because the Android development team is far more open than anything else out there, there is a constant source of feedback into the community. I have a long list of suggested improvements that I’m collecting and will publish. It’s not unrealistic to think that the Android devs will read that list and maybe even comment on it.

Openness: Android lets you replace any part of the OS with a replacement part. What that means in general terms is that if I want to phone someone I use the Android default dialer app that ships with the phone. I can replace that app with one that queries an LDAP database over wifi to get all our staff phone numbers. Even the Home application (the one you see when you press the home button) is replaceable.

Just a little teaser... I've subsequently installed the Hero ROM... and it is beautiful.
Just a little teaser... I've subsequently installed the Hero ROM... and it is beautiful.

My Top 11 Android Apps

  1. Android Market – The marketplace has all the apps. Sure you can get a lot of the files in other places, but not as easily as using market
  2. Skymap – Using the compas and the tilt sensor this shows you the stars where the phone is “looking”. It really is quite amazing to see in action.
  3. Timeriffic – A very simple app but amazingly useful. It allows me to change the phone’s volume, brightness, ringtone etc based on certain times. This means my phone automatically gets louder at 8am and softer at 11pm.
  4. ACast – A podcast client in your phone. Can be configured to only download over wifi.
  5. TaskKiller Light – Simple app, lets you kill other apps.
  6. GPS Status – Shows you all the info it can get from the GPS, compass and tilt/motion sensors. ie. Gradient, G forces, GPS Accuracy, How many sattelites it’s using.
  7. CellFinder – Nerdy app, but cool. Shows you where the GSM tower is in relation to your GPS position and shows you how far away etc.
  8. Transdroid – Control your Bittorrent client from your phone.
  9. AndFTP – FTP and SFTP (ssh) client, on your phone. Awesome for grabbing stuff of the network. (Astro is a file browser that supports SMB too)
  10. Twitroid – Fully featured twitter client for your phone.
  11. Google Maps – While it doesn’t have turn based navigation for South Africa yet, it does have all the roads now and can show you your exact location with GPS. This is very cool.

Overall, this phone is amazing, mostly because of Android… I can’t wait to see where Android world goes next.


I’m having the best birthday evar! Thanks to everyone who’s making it so awesome, but most of all to Lynnae for being the world’s best girlfriend!

Charly’s Bakery is quite surreal; when you walk in the door it feels a little like you just stepped onto a scene from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. I will keep you posted on how good the cake tasted.

Over and Out!


Big Ideas

The internet gives everyone the opportunity to be surrounded by smart people. I think one of the tenets of being a geek, whether you’re a programming geek or a hair stylist geek, is that we love to surround ourselves with people who are a hell of a lot smarter than us. For instance, I would love to go work at CERN; a place where I am at a loss for an analogy to reference my relative stupidity. However, I would absolutely love every second of it… even if I walked around confused by everything I heard or saw… on some level I would take some stuff in and leave wiser. I think, as I said before, this is one of the differences between geeks and non-geeks.

I’ve found that a lot of my non-geek friends try and avoid situations where they might look dumb because they fear that it will reflect negatively on them. Perhaps true geeks have realised that there is always someone else who is a hell of a lot smarter than you, so there’s no point in trying to look clever. Obviously geeks revel in being the smart one and teaching others, but this is also part of being a geek: we love to teach because we make the world a better place by doing so. It’s also possibly why geeks are so incredibly fanatical about things like programming languages… because we believe that by convincing someone to switch from PHP to Python will make the planet a better place… and we’re probably right.

Which is all a very long introduction to the guy who made this:

Embedded video Big Ideas (don’t get any) from James Houston on Vimeo.

You want to jump to about 1.10′ for the music. Anyway, the guy who put it together has a blog, read it.

In his own words
Based on the lyric (and alternate title) “Big Ideas: Don’t get any” I grouped together a collection of old redundant hardware, and placed them in a situation where they’re trying their best to do something that they’re not exactly designed to do, and not quite getting there.

This speaks volumes to me. I like to imagine that the old hardware really all want to make music and this is their best effort an effort which, albeit rough around the edges, translates to something beautiful. Mankind’s quest to understand time and space is similarly rough, but we’re on our way.

Over and out.