Monthly Archives: January 2011

From the IXI, SCO and Tarantella archives

The Tarantella Cambridge office finally closed its doors in summer 2003. I’d worked there for ten years: from its IXI days soon after a buyout by SCO, through the merger with Leeds company Visionware to become IXI Visionware, through the slow strangulation by corporate SCO overlords that was our time as the virtually anonymous Client Integration Division of SCO, through the gradual rise of the Tarantella Division, to a bittersweet couple of years at Tarantella, Inc. (It lived on after the final Cambridge folk left, and now toils under the yoke of another behemoth. I wonder how much of the IXI DNA still exists?)

That August we dismantled the tiny rump of an office that we’d become after several wearying rounds of layoffs. Our Leeds colleagues – their office still open then and now – took whatever kit they wanted from our server corner, and the rest was either skipped or accompanied the newly liberated into our exciting, redundancy-fuelled futures.

I took with me a 19-inch iiyama CRT monitor the weight of a neutron star belching in a Christmas afternoon armchair, and there, finally, went my back. But this post isn’t about that old story. I also became the Keeper of the Archives.

Hidden amongst the detritus of Marketing was a collection of ancient relics: a shoebox or two of photos from the Olden Days of IXI, and numerous 3.5-inch disks with enticing labels. Too interesting to throw away. At various times in the subsequent couple of years I spent some hours sorting through these – scanning prints and slides, and copying files from the disks before the hardware fell to bits – and performing holy rites of tagging. I combined them with images I’d kept from my time with the company – sometimes I’d created graphics at home, and hadn’t deleted them.

And now, finally, I’ve uploaded the entire archive to Flickr – all dated and captioned to the best of my ability. There are certainly one or two screenshots of historical interest, such as IXI Mosaic showing the very first IXI home page. I also tell a few stories in the descriptions.

There might be more to come. But this lot will do for starters.

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Turning Bertie

The single man from A Single Man as the Duke of York/George VI! Mrs not-Miggins from Sweeney Todd as the Duchess of York/Queen Mum! Dumbledore as George V! The girl from Outnumbered as Princess Margaret! The Master as the Archbishop of Canterbury! Him off Auf Wiedersehen, Pet as Churchill! Mike from Neighbours as the Prince of Wales/Edward VIII! How could The King’s Speech possibly disappoint?

Two speeches bookend the film. The first, the duke’s disastrous closing speech at the 1925 British Empire Exhibition. The second, his far more important broadcast to the Empire and the world as king at the outbreak of World War 2 (if you consider that a spoiler, I recommend you resign from the Internet immediately). The filling between those speech-slices shows how Bertie – the duke’s first name was Albert, not George – struggled to overcome a severe stammer with the unconventional help of aussie speech therapist Lionel Logue, played by Hollywood’s default Bruce, Geoffrey Rush.

The two meet after the Duchess of not-Miggins, quack-hunting, finds Logue in a dingy office on Harley Street. He and Bertie don’t immediately get on, not least because Logue insists on calling him Bertie. It seems that despite having married a commoner – not-Miggins wasn’t royal by birth – Bertie rarely interacted with the lower classes other than on a purely genuflective basis; unlike today, when you haven’t truly come of age until you’ve poked the Duchess of Cornwall in the ribs.

The turbulent relationship of Bertie and Logue is set against the ever-growing backdrop of the scandal of the day – Mike from Neighbours and That American Woman. In passing we also see our own dear present Queen in princess form, virtually mute for some reason; Princess Outnumbered, pre-gin and pre-fags-on-sticks, gets all the lines.

The film covers Dumbledore’s death and Mike’s accession, and we learn how both plum-tongued toffs played a part in perpetuating Bertie’s stammer. His authoritarian father took a shouty “just say it” approach to therapy, akin to the well-known “just cheer up, ferchrissakes” treatment for depression. His playboy party animal elder brother taunted him, calling him b-b-b-Bertie. Oh Mike, how could you? You were such a nice boy in Erinsborough.

Mike’s subsequent abdication and relocation to the Bungle Bungles with Her, though constitutionally a barrel-load of ZOMG! at the time that rocked the Windsors to their very core (somewhere in Bavaria?), was in hindsight the best possible outcome. Mike was far too chummy-chummy with the Austrian painter then wowing Germany with his hypnotic moustache; had he hung on to the throne through 1938 and 39 we might all be sporting that moustache today.

That’s not to say that Bertie, as king, was perfect. The film ignores the uncomfortable truth that he was entirely relaxed about Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler at Munich, and indeed favoured Halifax over Churchill when Chamberlain evacuated himself from Downing Street in 1940. But it’s true that Bertie, in contrast to his elder brother, was a fighter not a quitter. Although unprepared and untrained to be king – “I’m a naval officer,” he says in the film – he knew his duty. As Duke of York, despite his stammer, he stood before thousands and spoke – unconfidently, haltingly, with endless, excruciating pauses, with uneasy, embarrassed crowds – at event after event. And as king during the war he was seen as a symbol of Britain, a great strength, a huge asset to morale. Perhaps some of that was down to his Australian therapist and his apparently dodgy but effective techniques.

A few of the film’s visuals stand out: the original, partly-uncovered Wembley stadium is nicely recreated, and a balcony scene at Buckingham Palace is very effective. Mostly London is enveloped in budget-friendly smog.

With the exception of the cliched and slightly comic cigar-fatty Churchill impersonation of Timothy Spall, performances are universally good. Geoffrey Rush is entirely convincing. Derek Jacobi looks more and more like a barn owl with every movie. Mike from Neighbours has a tough job: not just doing toff, but the toff whose voice we all know from regular outings of the abdication speech (which he performs in the film).

Colin Firth’s Bertie, of course, dominates. This is no p-p-p-pick up a Penguin acting: it’s a real, raw, painful stammer. More than once I realised I was holding my breath as he spoke, my heart racing. In the final outbreak-of-war speech we will him on, fight with him, and cheer at the finish (not actually, we’re British, but we do fidget a little and exhale with a faint smile).

It’s a great performance, and a great film. Firth for the Oscar.

Avaragado’s rating: a pound of gobstoppers

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Avaragado’s 2011 predictions

In a shocking display of preparedness my 2011 predictions are actually ready for the start of 2011. I revealed them to an eager, captive audience of friends at the Second Annual New Year’s Eve B Bar Luncheon Event, known as 2NYEBBLE10 in the never-adopted Avaragadan Calendar.

News

  1. Kate gets William’s name slightly wrong in the wedding ceremony.
  2. The Great British Public vote No in the AV referendum.
  3. Sarah Palin officially declares as a Republican candidate for US President.
  4. At least one national UK newpaper closes by the end of the year.
  5. Sudan will break apart.

Sport

  1. Only one of the home nations qualifies for the Euro 2012 football championships.
  2. Andy Murray reaches the men’s singles final of at least one Grand Slam tournament.
  3. Pyeongchang in South Korea is awarded the 2018 Winter Olympics.
  4. New Zealand win the 2011 Rubgy Union World Cup.
  5. Manchester United wins the English football Premiership.

Tech

  1. Apple launches a new thinner, lighter, faster iPad model with a camera.
  2. Yahoo sells Flickr to Google.
  3. Facebook buys Skype.
  4. There will not be a ‘Windows Phone 7 for Tablets’.
  5. Steve Ballmer will be replaced as Microsoft CEO.

Entertainment

  1. Oscar for Best Actor: Colin Firth, for The King’s Speech.
  2. Oscar for Best Supporting Actor: Andrew Garfield, for The Social Network.
  3. Oscar for Best Film: The Social Network.
  4. Oscar for Best Director: Christopher Nolan for Inception.
  5. Upstairs Downstairs returns as a regular TV series.

Cambridge

  1. Pembroke finish Head of the River in the May Bumps (men’s first division).
  2. Cambridge win the University Boat Race.
  3. Strawberry Fair takes place.
  4. By the year’s end Cambridge’s LGBT pub is not The Bird.
  5. The Misguided Bus actually opens.

Celebrity Deathwatch

  1. Margaret Thatcher
  2. Zsa Zsa Gabor
  3. Kirk Douglas
  4. Michael Douglas
  5. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia

As ever, the glamorous Mr Chris Walsh shall be sole arbiter of correctness and at the end of the year it will be his solemn duty to produce a fully non-interactive score card explaining just how poorly I’ve done this time.

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Avaragado’s 2010 predictions – results

How to sum up 2010? To paraphrase Jim Crow from Dumbo, and with apologies in advance to the Disney Corporation:

I seen a penis tanned, was seen on TV and I went to London to march with Pride. But I been done seen about everything, when I seen a Melanie fly.

However, I did as usual make some predictions for the year just gone, and the results are in – courtesy of Chris as per. Adjudications and corrections in square brackets. Feel free to insert your own oar in the comments.

The Oscars

  • Best Actor: Colin Firth, A Single Man [No – Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart]
  • Best Actress: Meryl Streep, Julie and Julia [No – Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side]
  • Best Original Screenplay: District 9 [No – The Hurt Locker]
  • Best Director: James Cameron, Avatar [No – Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker]
  • Best Picture: Up in the Air [No – The Hurt Locker]

[Score: 0/5]

UK General Election

  • The election takes place on March 25th [No – May 6th]
  • Predicted share: Con 39%, Lab 32%, Lib Dem 21% [Close enough – 36%, 29%, 23%]
  • Predicted seats: Con 296, Lab 267, Lib Dem 56 [Close enough – 306, 258, 57]
  • A Green party MP is elected [Yes – Caroline Lucas]
  • Esther Rantzen wins Luton South [No – she lost her deposit]

[Score: 3/5]

Entertainment

  • ITV closes down ITV3 and ITV4 to save money [No]
  • Britain’s Got Talent contestants include a trio of drag artistes collectively known as The Fleurettes [No]
  • Robbie Williams rejoins Take That for at least one concert [Everything but! Rejoined Take That, recorded an album, announced 2011 tour, performed with Gary at Help for Heroes concert, Take That performing New Year’s Eve in Barbados but without Robbie – 0.9 points]
  • The final UK Big Brother is won by a lesbian [No – Josie, or Brian Dowling if you count Celebrity Big Brother]

[Score: 0.9/4]

Science

  • The Large Hadron Collider does not find the Higgs Boson this year [True]
  • Exoplanet GJ 1214b is confirmed as a water ocean planet with an atmosphere [No]

[Score: 1/2]

Sport

  • Winter Olympics: Great Britain win one gold medal [True], one silver medal [Wrong – zero] and zero bronze medals [True]
  • World Cup semi-finalists (in no particular order): England [No], Brazil [No], Denmark [No], Argentina [No]
  • Cambridge win the University Boat Race [True]
  • Andy Murray wins a grand slam singles tournament [No]
  • A fatal accident occurs during the construction of Olympic Park in Stratford [No]

[Score: 3/10]

Celebrity Deathwatch

  • The Duke of Edinburgh [No]
  • Jimmy Young [No]
  • Jimmy Saville [No]
  • James Garner [No]
  • Lady Gaga [No]
  • Ian Paisley [No]

[Score: 0/6]

[Total score: 7.9/32]

Well, that was rubbish as usual. Any moment now: my 2011 predictions.

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