The current situation in the Middle East is unbelievably depressing. Stuff like this from Melanie Phillips hardly makes one more sympathetic to the Israelis.

Wikipedia CD

Hadn’t come across this before, but the children’s charity SOS Children’s Villages UK has produced a downloadable .zip of Wikipedia entries they think would be useful to children in terms of subject and quality, that people can distribute via CD.

SOS Children have released a free encyclopaedia (with 8000 images and 4000 pages worth of text) made up of articles cleaned up and selected from Wikipedia, and aimed at improving awareness of the world around us amongst 8-15 year olds. They include articles of particular interest to children (dinosaurs, space travel, the Solar System, plants and animals) and a wide variety of other scientific and geographical topics. The 2006 articles have been hand-picked from Wikipedia, tidied up (by deletion only, not alteration), checked for plausibility and suitability (by volunteers, whom we gratefully acknowledge) and put together in a form suitable for publication on a CD. We judge the content to be child friendly and allows a “surfing” experience with many cross-linked articles within a safe offline environment. The encyclopaedia can be downloaded as a zip file together with a copy of the SOS Children UK website with some details of our work in 125 countries.

What a brilliant idea.

Yahoo, Microsoft tie message knot

From the BBC:

Users of the Yahoo and Microsoft instant messaging programs can now contact each other directly.

The two firms have released software that ties the two networks into a huge community of 350 million users.

The trial software allows people to swap text messages but will eventually let people talk to each other too.

The move marks a break with the past when operators of the big instant message systems resisted calls to open up their networks.

Chat channel

AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo operate the largest instant messaging networks and, until recently, anyone wanting to talk to friends using different text chat systems had to maintain several separate accounts.

Users can sign up for the test software via the Yahoo and Microsoft messaging sites. Only those using the latest versions of the IM software will be able to join the trial. Eventually the software will be made available to every user.

The software uniting the two networks will use icons next to people’s names to denote whether that person is on the Yahoo or Microsoft system.

“It does make it easier for many consumers who will need to keep one less instant messaging system up and running now,” said Jupiter analyst Michael Gartenberg.

The tie-up makes good on a promise the two companies made in late 2005 to get their networks linked.

The trial version of the software is being made available to users of the two networks in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey, the UK and US.

While AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo have the most users of IM, there are many other operators of these text chat systems. Some of those operating IM networks, such as Google, or developing the software, are pushing systems that use more open ways of letting users chat.

England 0 – 0 Portugal

So, England’s World Cup campaign has come to an end, through the usual medium, the penalty shoot out. A few things came out of the tournament for me:

  • England were nowhere near as bad as their critics have made out
  • England have to play with two strikers. I don’t think they necessarily have to stick to 4–4–2 (after all, Bobby Robson was successful in 1990 with 3–5–2), but two up front is a necessity for me. Other countries who play successfully with 1 up, like France against Brazil, last night, have a midfielder with a spark of creative genius. In France’s case it is Zidane, in Portugal’s it’s Deco. With one up and no Deco, Portugal looked ordinary against England. England’s creative urge is with the strikers, currently Rooney. He needs a partner to feed to take advantage of his good work. Gerrard is a wonderful player, but he isn’t a playmaker.
  • Frank Lampard really shouldn’t play for England again, unless some sort of dramatic improvement occurs. What is it that he does that Gerrard doesn’t? The two, for me, are too similar when played in the middle of the park. One option might be that if Beckham stops being a #1 choice, Gerrard could play wide right and that might give Lampard the room he might need – but the emergence of Aaron Lennon as Beckham’s replacement precludes that.
  • Taking four strikers, when two are unfit and one you have no intention of playing, just isn’t enough for a major tournament
  • Pinning all your hopes on an emotionally combustible 20–year old is probably not a good idea
  • England are almost certainly a better side than Portugal, or at least a better side than Portugal without Deco

As for Eriksson’s reign, well, I think he did alright. People are quick to forget the total mess England were in when he took over; after a clueless defeat to Germany and a draw with Finland that was considered a good result. He deserves credit for creating a relatively settled side, and passes on a good squad to McClaren. What McClaren will hopefully bring to the job will be a little more creativity in squad selections and bravery in terms of picking the best players to fit a settled system, rather than trying to play the best XI regardless of how they fit together.

My England side for the Euro 2008 qualifiers:

Neville, Ferdinand, Terry, Cole
Lennon, Hargreaves, Gerrard, Cole
Owen, Rooney

I think Hargreaves emerged during the Portugal game as a quality holding midfielder – he might not have Carrick’s ability to pass, but his all-action style would give Gerrard the freedom to bomb forward at will.