An update from Oxfordshire

[ from the wibble-wibble-blog-blog dept. ]

Photos (from left to right): Walking around Wolvercote fields, playing with Embedded Debian on an iPaQ and getting Debian running on the Gamecube, Dinner with Richard Stallman, tidying up various crud.

Once again it has been a few weeks since I posted an update to this blog (sorry Chris and others) and a few things are worthy of note. I have been to London a few times, cycled around various random bits of countryside (until that bike was eventually stolen) and I have taken a number of long walks too. On the books front I finished the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time within a couple of days and have recently bought Brick Lane written by Monica Ali. I want to do a lot more reading on all manner of topics. I have done a bit of hardware and software hacking too; When Tom visited I built an LIRC receiver board for him and I have now got an Embedded Debian box as well as a Gamecube which plays A-Ha – Take On Me (Superior Techno Remix) whilst running Debian. There are a few framebuffer issues left to resolve and I want to look at IDE hacks too.

Oxford has both the Thames flowing through it and a canal for good measure. I work out in Witney and have cycled to the office a couple of times so it was cool to discover that one can join the canal half way from Witney and cycle or walk in to Oxford on a very pleasant (Tom says I need a new word other than pleasant to descibe such experiences as these….hmmm) towpath. I enjoy walking along the Thames or the Oxford Canal and especially in and around the Wolvercote area of Oxford – famous for the Trout but I believe that I have taken some photos of fantastic countryside on my travels. It is not only Wolvercote that I have been to recently – we went on a family picnic to Sonning and had to reliquinsh our first picnic location to a bunch of swans who really felt they should be there instead.

A few weeks ago I went in to London to locate Richard Stallman (I missed his patents talk but have heard him talk about such issues elsewhere) with a vague plan of eating some Chinese. Paul Sladen and Trevor Parsons were there too as well as a guy from GLLUG called Nick and a games programmer whose name I do not have available. We had some Cantonese cuisine somewhere and I talked to RMS about a variety of topics – from open hardware and embedded systems to LinuxBIOS and even his penchant for reading about the history of the East and the books he had bought.

Afterwards Richard returned to his hotel and several of us talked outside opposite a giant Napster projected advertisement on a wall. Paul, Trevor, and I went for a moonlit cycle around London: from a view at the top of Primrose Hill to a Biegel (London spelling) on Brick Lane and even skipraiding – we did a few variable things on three different styles of bike in a procession (Paul on a Brompton, Trevor on his recumbant and myself on a mountain bike which has since been stolen). Having a Bagal on Brick Lane at 02:00 is certainly a cool experience – especially when you have been cycling around and it is a hot fresh Bagal with Smoked Salmon on it. We found some PS/2 promotional branded mice in the skip and an LCD panal as well as some miscellaneous stuff (such as a desk) which I do not know if Paul ever got back at a later point.

I stayed in Seven Sisters that evening, having cycled with Paul after we left Trevor in London. In the morning we went to Tottenham for a brief meet up with our friend Hussein. Afterwards we cycled in to London, visited Foyles (I ordered a copy of Bach’s Concerto for Oboe, Violin and Piano so that I can play the violin part with a friend from work who plays the Oboe and one of his friend’s who plays the piano in a trio), and got some bread, Humous, and Olives in a Sainsbury’s before cycling to Hyde Park for a picnic. We met a guy on one of those Segway-like wheelchairs which is self balancing on two wheels using 5 gyroscopes and 3 computers. Unfortunately it did take 7 years for FDA approval but that’s probably because this is a useful invention we are talking about and they likely have no real interest in being nice to people who invent cool accessibility devices for the disabled. Anyway I enjoyed this extended period of cycling around London, playing a friend’s violin and generally enjoying the outdoor experience as a whole.

Image: 14 Black Bags of rubbish resulting from a recent clean out.

I cleaned up stuff. Not just a little cleaning, but a big clean that is of course fully photo documented for no particular reason. Notice the excessive state I had let the room get in to as well as the temporarily nice shiny look I have achieved on it for the moment (I hope it lasts but I also know that these things tend to like to make themselves messy almost without any real help). I throw out some stuff (I decided to keep some of my old academic computing work for posterity, as well as a complete copy of Slackware 96. The 5.25″ Windows 95 floppy disks that I happened to have on a shelf were probably a little obsolete by now) sometimes dating back to 1996-2000 because it is probably not so useful by now and I also removed a couple of old machines to the loft so that I now have no 10base-2 networking left at home. What is the world coming to? Anyway the process of cleaning allowed me to locate several items of interest – including a radio clock which sets itself to the rugby time signal and a talking clock which annoys Joe enough to remove its batteries.

I bought myself an adequate Cambridge Audio A1 Amplifier and some Eltax speakers from Richer Sounds. The total came to around 150 pounds and I enjoy the reasonable frequency response in output. While I was recently in a Borders store in Oxford I noticed that they had a half of half price sale and bought some more music. I have now relegated the shitty pop music to the back of a cupboard and am trying to listen to more interesting material. Currently I am enjoying an albulm of Vanessa Mae’s various works and last night bought an old album by Sixpence None The Richer for background music. I have been playing my violin a bit more and reading a book on the mechanics of the instrument. Bowed string motion is actually more complex that your average physicist would wrongly infer and have you believe.

I called Vodaphone recently and said that I wanted them to give me another six months of half price line rental and a new phone in exchange for roping me in to a new contract. Requring a quick confirmation from their supervisor person, the chap at the call center agreed to this and a shiny new 6230 turned up a few days later. I can now listen to MP3 and AAC audio files from my mobile phone if I really want to and at a cost of 10 pounds for the handest. I bet they still made money on that. It has a ring tone too – it goes something like “ring ring, ring ring” – like all phones should. This is coming from someone who once thought having the Free Software song as a ringtone was cool (it isn’t and don’t even go there please).

Image: Homebrew Linux Infra-Red Receiver made for Tom Hawley.

Tom came to visit me in Reading over this past weekend. We went in to town and saw The Day After Tomorrow, having been to the Zizzi in Reading for a quick pizza that actually turned in to more than an hour and necessitated moving the tickets to another time once we arrived at the cinema itself. To the credit of Vue (formally Warner Village cinemas) the chap there did allow us to move our tickets by an hour once we had missed the screening. Actually Zizzi annoyed me recently when I was in Birmingham because they refused to allow three of us (myself and Hannah and Joe Wrigley) to have only tea and coffee without ordering food, despite having free tables. Not good for overall customer relations.

Tom and I built another LIRC receiver unit for him to take home for his jukebox and I got my LCD module up and running again for demonstration. I recently also wrote a simple 2.6. driver for the ITE8212 PCI IDE controller as part of an article and have been reading a lot about the block layer stuff in 2.4. and 2.6. kernels. I also signed up to LWN with a paid subscription because Jonathan Corbet and co. are pretty damn cool.

I mailed in a kernel hacking article on Monday morning and then went to Oxford with Tom for a day trip thing. We went punting along the Cherwell from the boathouse and through the University Parks. A very enjoyable experience which went well with the G&D’s white chocolate homemade icecream which we had beforehand. Afterwards we had dinner at the Trout.

I have some plans to go to Cambridge over the next few weeks and am due for a trip to visit Nottingham also. I am at the moment assessing the options with regards to attending the Ottawa Linux Symposium 2004.

Photos (from left to right): Punting along the Cherwell to the Victoria Arms, A family picnic trip to Sonning, Cycling around London with Paul Sladen, Cycling along the Oxford Canal from beyond Wolvercote in to Oxford.

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