December 2009 in the Life of Ben (Blog)

  1. January
  2. February
  3. March
  4. April
  5. May
  6. June
  7. July
  8. August
  9. September
  10. October
  11. November
  12. December

GHBM Released for Testing (28th December 2009)

Sektor has let me add a download link to GTA2 Game Hunter Ben Millard Edition! (That’s GHBM for short.) This allows people to test it more easily than before, when I had to e-mail it to them. Click that link to see screenshots, changelogs and screenshots.

Various people have already tested GHBM. I use it for nearly all my games. My goal was to make it even more reliable, lightweight and simple to use than the official Game Hunter by Sektor.

Compatible with 1.491

Game Hunter 1.491 is what everyone uses at the moment. It was released on 19th July 2008. GHBM is based on that but removes a lot of the settings, removes some of the features and changed a lot of user interface stuff.

Quote from Sektor

BenMillard:congrats on the “soft launch” of 1.5 :)
BenMillard:can I do a public “soft launch” of GHBM yet? :P
BenMillard:I’ll add a download link to that blog entry, maybe update the GTAMP forum thread as well
BenMillard:think there’s a Polish forum with a GH wishlist, I could mention it there
BenMillard:sound OK?
BenMillard:I’ll mention GH1.5 is available from that topic for beta testing, too
Sektor:I want to fix some things first and make an installer
BenMillard:leaving it to the forum means pro players will find it but noobs won’t, which is probably a good thing
BenMillard:perhaps the main download link could have friendlier link text, instead of the filename?
BenMillard:Download the current version, _Game Hunter 1.491_.
Sektor:that version is anything but current
Sektor:I want to burn it

A couple of days ago, Sektor made a quiet beta release of Game Hunter 1.5 for people to test. It only supports Vike’s GTA2 v11.x. That has various fixes and small enhancements missing from the original game. Again, that’s just for testing at the moment.

You can get all the current GTA2 stuff, as well as links to the new stuff, from Sektor’s GTA2 homepage.

Blogging Omnibus (26th December 2009)

Another meta-entry to publish the scribbled notes on paper about things I’d like to blog about. (Previous one was a few months ago.)

Some of these notes have become Articles About Building Websites, mostly drafts with a few still unpublished. The remaining ones have now, finally, become published blog entries.

December 2009

  1. New Pension
  2. 10th Blood Donation
  3. Webkit on Mobiles
  4. Treated Myself to a New Water Bottle
  5. Car Taxed

Page Counts

Incidentally, my blog is by far the largest section on this website. Searching recursively for *.htm* files within each major section, ranked by number of results:

Section Pages Notes
Life of Ben (Blog) 819 725 entries, then index pages. Biggest area by far!
Web Research 241 20 pages of analysis, then index pages and archives.
Grand Theft Auto 107 Original reason I created a website!
User Interface Reviews 91 Could be about double the size if I had sponsorship.
Experiments 60 I do link to it publicly. Worth adding to navigation.
Tools & Editors 38 25 pages are changelogs for TextStudio.
Articles About Building Websites 27 There are a few unpublished ones.
Thoughts 24 Turn these into blog entries and remove the area?

Having seen these results, I’ve now given the /!dev/ section an Experiments item in the navigation. I do point people to parts of it from other websites, IRC and so forth. Now it is easy to find for people visiting the website directly.

Family Xmas Summary (25th December 2009)

Zoe came over for a couple of days, so it was just the 4 of us. Kept it simple and homely. Reminded me of bygone times, especially when we’d always eat a family meal together. Speaking of which, the ones we had this were delicious. Home cooked festive dishes make Xmas, Xmas, imho.

Maybe I’ll list all the presents I received. We all had lots of items, many of which were unique to this year and some were even a surprise! I remember not knowing what I was getting until I opened it, then sitting wide-eyed in front of it exlaiming “Coooool!”

Even thought I have a better idea of what it will be these days, that excitement still resurfaces.

We did the usual family things. I caught up with some online friends, too. It’s funny how my oldest and most constant friends are people I have yet to meet and usually just talk about, modify and play Grand Theft Auto 2.

Car Taxed (25th December 2009)

Having been serviced and passed its MOT earlier in the month, my car is now taxed. Cost me £150 for one year to do this but it was all online.

Treated Myself to a New Water Bottle (22nd December 2009)

From the narrow newsagents behind where I work, picked up another perfectly shaped 1l Volvic bottle. This entry was going to have several additional bits of trivia, namely:

Instead, I found a past entry about Fliss from over 2½ years ago. It tugged a few heart strings. It made me reflect on things which are more important than charting the useful life of plastic containers. Maybe that’s something I should do more of?

Webkit on Mobiles (21st December 2009)

QuirksMode reports There is no Webkit on Mobile.

It seems mobile vendors take different versions of Webkit, then break/disable/remove advanced and experimental features. (Stuff from CSS3, HTML5, ES3 and hybrid features being drafted at W3C such as querySelectorAll().)

Ironically, this actually means there is lots of Webkit on mobile. It's just that they differ at supporting advanced and experimental features.

This might mean we should test Webkit-based browsers separately. Or it might mean they all support about the same amount of “baseline” technologies, so it won’t affect the way standards-compliant websites test mobile compatibility.

Office Xmas Party (20th December 2009)

(The below was written on 25th February 2010 but refers to events in the latter half of December 2009.)

Xmas Lunch

Initially I had declined the electronic invitation because the menu looked way to fancy for me. When the organisers queried me, I explained my plebian tastes and they felt the restaurant could sort something out for me.

So I requested a steak or a roast dinner, humbly joking that I hope it wouldn’t be too far below the restaurant’s chefs!

Lo and behold, on the day I was served with steak. Since the event I have discovered it was almost certainly Fillet Steak. As my dad described it: “That’s the best kind, very fancy.” It was my first time having it, so I just thought it was a series of small, neat cuts of carefully cooked Sirlion.

After the dinner we opened the Secret Santa presents. My gift was to one of the IT Support team, so I bought him a pair of the lovable Linux mascots: Tux the Penguin. Another gift contender was a badge, which read: “I’ll try to be nicer if you try to be smarter.”

After eating there was mingling and chatting. I managed to mingle and chat a little. Not a great deal, really, even after a few glasses of rather lovely red wine.

Xmas Party

After the lunch we walked down the road to the party. There was little or no music when we arrived but they soon got it going. No tunes I recognised…maybe it was some sort of “Modern Drunkard“” Background Mix”.

Started chatting more, including people from other departments of the company. Considered leaving several times but instead decided to drink more and the event seemed more fun. (This appears to be by design, afaict.)

At the end of the night I mutually staggered to King’s Cross Station with a colleague. We went our separate ways, myself taking the Northern Line to Euston. Spent some time walking back and forth between the same two stations which I didn’t want. Eventually realised I had to walk along the platform to connect to the station I did want. After that it was plain sailing.

Once I got back FLE, I decided to walk home instead of drive. Next time I’ll take a cab or a bus. Must’ve been over an hour’s walk!

This socialising stuff is more fun when I worry less and take more risks. Maybe I should embrace risk more? Focus on the chance of this success. Remember the history of things which have gone right for me.

10th Blood Donation (11th December 2009)

Did it in Fleet this time. A few of the people at the Farnborough service are also at this one.

Goody Bag!

Got an envelope with various celebratory things in it:

Red pin
Has a gold blood donor service logo and number 10 beneath it, presented on black foam in a clear little plastic case. Found the pin’s clasp too bulky for my wallet, so it is now alongside the Firefox badge on my coat.
Bronze Award Certificate

The National Blood Service awards this certificate on recognition of 10 donations of blood given for the benefit of others.

Letter from the Chief Executive
A few of paragraphs thanking me for “achieving the first milestone as a blood donor”.

Donations So Far

  1. Late June Visit to Fliss’ (1st July 2006)
  2. Given Blood for the Second Time (2nd December 2006)
  3. 3rd Blood Donation (27th April 2007)
  4. Gave Blood for the 4th Time (28th September 2007)
  5. 5th Blood Donation (8th February 2008)
  6. 6th Blood Donation (4th July 2008)
  7. 7th Blood Donation (14th November 2008)
  8. 8th Blood Donation (6th March 2009)
  9. 9th Blood Donation (3rd July 2009)
  10. 10th Blood Donation (11th December 2009)

Conventions for Titles & URLs

Each entry was written as a standalone piece, to some extent, so the titles vary a little. The URLs vary a lot. I will standardise on:

Title nth Blood Donation
URL gave-blood

Below are the reasons why.

Title Analysis

The 1st title is correct. My donation was just one of the events written about in that entry.

The 2nd and 4th titles were attempts at standardising a repeatable form which was in a more flowing and natural style. More so than “nth Blood Donation”, at least. I generally prefer a more succinct style, although the phrase “gave blood” ties in better with the “give blood” message of their advertising.

The others follow the the matter-of-fact, clear and compact style. That’s what I’ll use from now on.

URL Analysis

The 1st URL is correct quirk for the same reasons as the 1st title.

Simply using blood, as the 7th URL did, is too vague. It could be about being squemish, getting injured or be the title of something I saw.

The 10th entry (the page you are on now) ended up being blood-donation but even that is ambigious. It might be donating blood in general.

The numbered entries mostly begin with gave-blood which actually seems optimal:

The next 10 entries will use gave-blood as their URL. I’ll review it again after that. If gave-blood proves to work I might rename and redirect all the old ones.

New Pension (9th December 2009)

Due to commence in January 2010. Possible that I already have a pension with Tesco…I should check that out.

Shopping with Zoe (5th December 2009)

Went to The Mall in Camberly, which adjoins The Vue where I saw Terminator Salvation some time ago. Actually bought quite a lot of stuff even though I was trying hard to buy only a few things!

New Footwear

1 pair of Karrimor K-SB, in black and grey colouring. Long ago I used to own some black trainers and really liked them. My white ones are distinctly tatty compared to new trainers. These light hiking shoes immediately caught my eye due to their style, colouring and fabric. Also bought 3 pairs of Karrimor wollen socks.

Never heard of the brand before so we’ll see how they go. Unfortunately, the packaging says .cpm instead of .com for the Karrimor website. Somebody’s embarrassing typo, I imagine. Had me wondering whether some 3-letter ccTLD had been introduced, though!

The packaging also talks at length about them being “built to Karrimor end-user specification” and is wholly convincing about it.

I now own the following shoes and boots:


1 red jumper. Initially tried a Small and quite liked the tightness. But it was just a bit much and the sleeves were really short on me. So I went for a Medium and this was a better balance.

Tailoring is probably the only way I’ll get a really good fit from tops.

They also had this jumper in a bright blue. Blue is a colour I like, in many shades. But I have no red clothes and brighter colours are something I’d like to try.


1 pair of dark blue new-looking jeans. It seems quite rare that new jeans look new; they all seem to have deliberately worn-looking patches. Some looked positively creased and even grubby!

Thing is, jeans last a long time. Demim is sturdy stuff. So I like getting ones which look new. Then I can enjoy them gradually changing appearence with natural wear. Becoming all the more trendy throughout their lifetime, it seems.


3-pack of, according to the packaging, “Loose fit knitted boxers”. Although to me they seem more like what a previous package called “Jersey Shorts”.

Hopefully these will be equally snug and insulating. Quite important when there are chilly Winter breezes!


A blue/green marle parttern T-shirt. Impulse buy; I’ve been meaning to get some more colourful clothes and this type of pattern has always appealed to me. It’s a bit like looking at the static from an old TV which has been detuned. But blue and green rather than black and white.

A redominatly dark blue chequered shirt. I had one in a lighter blue ages ago but grew out of it.


Ate at the Pizza Express just outside The Vue entrance. Zoe has been recommending we go to one for ages and I was very much satisfied with the food and the service. The orange juice was proper orange juice, too!

Can’t remember exactly what pizza we ordered between us. Turned out to be exactly the right portions, the right temperature and the right level of spicey hotness. The dough was thin yet succulent and not at all soggy. An amazing balance to strike!


Lots of driving, including getting lost in a suburb which my SatNav dutifully took us too. It seems it thinks the city centre is the geographical center rather than the center of activity. Zoe managed to redirect us back to where we needed to be.

Oh, my parking in the multi-storey was epic! There was barrier on my left, a car on the right and quite a tight area in which to nab the spot. Got it absolutely spot on by reversing in! Used the mirrors a lot and largely ignored the shrill wailing of the parking sensors.

It was rather tight and I took it slowly. Ended up just beyond an inch from the barrier and had adequate space to exit from the driver’s side. (Zoe got out on the passenger’s side before I started reversing into the space.)

Zoe finds my commentary whilst driving highly amusing. Somehow it seems a lot funnier when there is another person in the car. Also, the context of it being a recreational half-day out changes the feeling.

Nissan Almera Serviced, Cleaned & Refuelled (3rd December 2009)

Dropped my car in for its yearly service. This was an intermediate one. Next year will be a small one, then the next will be a full service. Wonder if I’ll still have it and be using it by then?

Service Check List

They also washed the body and hoovered the inside. An unexpected but pleasant surprise which is, apparently, part of the service!

Road-Legal for Another Year

Had the annual MOT Test done while it was there, too. It expires on 19th December 2010.

The odometer says it has done 27,705 miles. Not many at all for a 6-year-old car.

Re-fuelled Car for 2nd Time

Stopped at Tesco on the way back. First time I’ve refuelled there, although I’ve been a passenger when mum had refuelled this car there in the past.

You have to press a button to set the payment method before it will reset the pump and you can start doing anything! This was similar to but different from the previous experience of using a fuel pump.

Confusingly, the pump had both a Cancel and Reset button. Neither of them where the correct button to press!

There’s a message on the digital screen saying You must select a payment method first. or words to that effect. Button are at the edge of the screen, aligned with the option for Pay at pump or Kiosk. Somewhat like a cashpoint.

Anyway, this time it took £50 of fuel because the predicted range was down to just 30 miles. Like before, the fuel guage was a little above the full mark when I restarted the engine.

According to the kiosk staff, my Solo card isn’t taken by the machines. Bit of a shame, since the pumps which seemed to only support the pay-at-pump method are virtually deserted. I was in a queue behind 1 car, while the 2 cars ahead of that used the pumps.

With a full tank of fuel I can almost sense the car feels refreshed. More responsive and alert. Perhaps I’m becoming as much of a petrolhead in meatspace as I am in computer games!