[ from the have-you-updated-your... dept. ]
Photos (from left to right): Schin Op Geul (the view while crossing the tracks at the Railway Station), Leeds Canal, my iPod,
It’s been too long since I last updated this blog, but then that’s life. When I last wrote, I had returned from visiting Ottawa, Canada for the 2004 Linux Symposium and had spent a few days in Cornwall (which I didn’t mention in the last entry). I have since been to the 2004 UKUUG Summer Linux Technical Conference in Leeds, the 2004 Linux Beer Hike, a few other events, joined yet more mailing lists, been writing on a variety of topics, and stuff in general. I’m trying more human things – not just computer stuff – so I bought some more sheet music for my violin, did some more non-computing reading and went to a nightclub for the first time in a number of years – that kind of stuff.
I’m still thinking about the wonderful time I had during my visit to Ottawa in July and how much I would like to go again. Next July seems like an awfully long time to wait so I’m going over in the early new year. I want to go skating along the Rideau skateway – the Rideau Canal freezes over and becomes the longest skateway in the world – experience the temperatures (-20 degrees) and difference in winter climate, as well as simply to enjoy the people and places there once more. I know a guy who lives and is studying in the area and we are planning to hire a car and drive around Ontario for a week or so when not in Ottawa. I recently joined a few worldwide LUGs (in addition to the twenty or so that I’m on in this country), including oclug, and I am supposedly going to speak at their meeting when I’m over.
Would I move to Canada? I seriously like the place. Seriously. It’s crossed my mind on more than a few occasions. This is why I must go again more often to get a feel for living and working there – then maybe in the future I can seriously consider moving there – at least for a while. Not having visited the US, I also decided it was time I did that too. I want to see a country which has some of the most barbaric and inhuman conditions on earth, a place where 92% of people may never leave the country through not even having a passport, and most will never move within a few hours of their home town. A country where 80 million people are classed as illiterate, run by a monumental moron-in-chief, who couldn’t tell the difference between a good idea and a complete screwup if you branded him with it. I’m off to
New York with some friends within a couple of months – in time for the presidential elections. I want an enormous coffee from Central Perk (apparently a place with that name does actually exist).
My grandmother celebrated her 80th birthday in July. I returned from Ottawa on the day of her party and, after a brief stopoff for a shower at Paddington station, caught a train to Bodmin to join my family and certain parts of my extended family for a week in the Cornish countryside. We hired two barns which had been converted in to luxury holiday accommodation and are owned by a relative of mine. My grandmother was born 23 years before the Transistor was invented and has seen such change in her lifetime – wars, peace, changes in world order, the stuff of legend. Despite the rate at which modern technology adapts, it is unlikely that we will endure such a monumental change in human society as happened over the last 80 years.
Cornwall was really fun. I seldom go with my family when they visit our many relatives in the Cornish countryside and this was a good opportunity to play at guessing who people I met 10-20 years ago might actually be. Despite the extended family presence, it wasn’t overkill and it was both entertaining and relaxing also. I enjoyed running along clifftop paths with my cousins, two 80th birthday parties I attended (another relative was also celebrating at the same time as my gran), and cakes in small villages. While they might have ADSL in these parts today, it’s a far cry from the city life in Reading. I caught a train back to Reading midweek in order to check on some things in the office and see how Oliver (our cat) was managing with the care of a friend of the family. Upon rejoining my family, we enjoyed hillside readings of John Betcheman on a beech and had cornish pasties (well, I tasted one, since I don’t really eat beef – and haven’t ever since the beef scares of the mid 90s – these days I just don’t like the taste any more).
I returned from Cornwall in time to fairly immediately travel up to Leeds for the UKUUG Conference. I was presenting a paper of the Business Case for Embedded Linux, and travelled to Leeds with my Belgian friend Philippe, and Paul, both of whom were also presenting papers. I had tried to organise an Embedded Track at the conference and I hope that is was a reasonably successful first attempt. Incidentally, I am fighting apathy to get another event organised soon.
The conference was really cool, mostly because of the people I meet at these things, and the kinds of extra-curricular activities that can happen. I enjoyed our evenings in the town, playing with Paul’s Brompton in the dark, drinking some Belgian beer with wja, rooftop partying, and seeing people that I have either worked with or otherwise been involved with. Leeds really is much more pleasant than one might first imagine – while it might have once been a rundown town suffering from the move to a more servies and technologically orientated modern society, the regeneration is quite apparent and the city really is most enjoyable indeed. The canal area has obviously undergone serious development over the past few years.
The Linux Beer Hike
The Linux Beer Wanderung (LBW) – or Linux beer hike – has been a regular event for the past four years. This was my first year in attendance and I could not be there for the whole week – but nonetheless it was fun. LBW took place in Schin Op Geul, in the southern Nertherlands, and featured a number of walks, trips and other events. I particularly enjoyed meeting Kimble, Sarah, and Dave, as well as seeing numerous people I have either met or encountered in one way or another, and regular Linux people. The beer was good and the accommodation was pretty cool too – with the caveat that some unsubtle geeks did have a bondage session with pink cat 5 cable in the female dormatory on the last evening.
I decided to go to LBW just over a week before it happened, so I had to rather quickly book a
Eurostar ticket to Schin Op Geul via Brussels and Maastricht (ticketed as to Amsterdam but it allows you to go to any station), and get things prepared. I had magazine deadlines and work commitments so I only went for the latter part of the week and arrived on the Thursday evening of an event that ran until Sunday. After some fun and games with finding the barn location, I plugged my laptop in to the network and geeked out for a while before deciding to do some regular human stuff too. During the course of the four days that I was at the LBW, I went for a few walks around the area, visited a few bars and restaurants with fellow LBWers (including an interesting gay bar) and even went toboganning.
On the Saturday I joined a group who were driving to Amsterdam for a day trip to visit the Van Gogh Museum, as well as the town itself. In addition to contrasting Manet and Monet (neither or which I find particularly gripping in their works – but then Van Gogh seldom painted faces and seemed to have a few interesting quirks) at the Van Gogh museum, I had a Bagal at Bagals and Beans (where a law student from Oxford served me – she’s been studying there for around 4 years and I pointed out the similarity with that establishment and G&Ds in Oxford itself), and a river and canal tour which was particularly interesting. Of all the day trips I have recently done I would rate this very highly indeed.
Meanwhile in the UK
Meanwhile in the UK, I have been reading various bits and pieces, I’ve signed up to a large number of additional Linux User Groups – partly out of interest and partly for a new column I’m working on – and I’ve been keeping myself busy by writing for several different publications. You’ll notice I am in the current issue of Linux Magazine in addition to my regular columns in Linux User & Developer, and if you look carefully enough you might notice more of my writing appearing elsewhere over the next few months. I decided to properly tracked the Linux Kernel Mailing List, Kernel Newbies, a bunch of websites on kernel development, and get in to making a public contribution in addition to the top secretish stuff I do at work. I have also started trying to regularly follow the happenings of Dave Jones and various other random Kernel hackers. I already have a subscription to LWN, which I find useful. This all fits in with getting a Gmail account for tracking high volumen mailing lists much more readily and easily in a way only Google
can do. Their threading support is pretty damn good as is the service generally – although it has been down a little (but it is beta), I have some invitations if someone wants an account.
I’ve been travelling around the UK a little too recently. A couple of weeks ago I visited Manchester, Liverpool, Manchester again, Birmingham and Nottingham in the space of a few days. During this time I was able to meet various people I had either not seen for a while or had arranged to see. I’ll need to make arrangements to see Sid because the last few times just haven’t happened and I feel bad about that – but it’s mostly just a result of trying to fit things around when we’re both available in the same place. It was good to see Nottingham as I had not been in months. I went to Carl’s stag party day event thingy thing – Quad Biking and Wagamama
with a pub stop in between and driving around with Hannah and Joe Wrigley. On the previous few days I had been to see Tom in Congleton and a guy from work who I’d agreed to help install ADSL in Liverpool. On the evening before the party, I had arrived in Birmingham a little later than planned (thanks to Virgin Trains et al and in part due to arrangements I had made), and so I missed meeting the guys from
Open Advantage and in any case had immediately had to find a shoe shop because the nice new slipon comfy shoes I had bought turned out to rub something awful at the back. Upon the conferance of positive encouragement from Hannah and Joe to my idea of boots, this is my first forary away from regular shoes. While they might make me look a bit like an arrogant American, they are pretty neat.
Toby went to the stag party too, which was really convienient as I hadn’t seen either him or Sara in ages and really wanted to. I’ve not seen
Robin or Beckie in a while either – but we’ll hopefully fix that fact soon. Toby and I caught a train to Cambridge after the party and I crashed over there with them before going on a walk in th park with some light provisions for our quasi-picnic lunch on a bench. Toby’s iTrip really is an improvement over the analog FM transmitter I was using for my iPod so I got a friend from work who just returned from the US to get me one while he was there – I’m quite sure it’s powerful enough to give people cancer but it works really well.
On the Sunday afternoon, after our picnic, I went in to Cambridge, walked across the green and in to town. I bought some stuff in Maplin (I had yet another conversation with the staff in a Maplin about how they are phasing out components and how much the staff also don’t like this particular move very much on the part of Maplin), visited a few bookshops and went punting along the river Cam. I discovered that Heffers are having a drive to turn themselves in to yet another crappy bookshop – the computing section is probably not the only section which was moved, shrunk, and now sells most popular mainstream stuff that I don’t go to Heffers to buy. Bah. I was also somewhat annoyed at an arrogant drunk who was on the tour punt I went on, and who not only ruined the experience but necessitated a call to the Cambridgeshire police force after he reacted to me asking him not to behave quite so disgracefully as he was (throwing water over people in the boat, others, causing a disturbance, while having a newborn baby with him and managing to be with an entire family of drunken people that should not be on a punt but were allowed anyway). Aside from these issues, Cambridge was quite entertaining. I discovered the summer fruit smoothies in Nero and met Dave Loew in Borders (the famous Celloist whom I met last year in Reading Smiths – this time his first words to me were “you’re Jon Masters” – which was somewhat amusing. He’s using an email I sent to him complimenting his music in publicity, which is why he recalled my name on that particular occasion). I bught his latest Safari In Classics 3 CD.
I went to a club recently. I’ve not done that in years but a friend suggested I might like to join her and some others and I decided to go. It wasn’t as bad an experience as I thought it might have been – I can’t dance and generally have been to the wrong kind of clubs in the past – and I think I’ll do this again when the opportunity arises. Mylo was DJing and I’ve since bought his CD in the Reading Fopp (it’s a very different CD from the live stuff and much more chillout, relaxing music in nature). The club was in East London (it’s called Plastic People and it’s near Shoreditch highstreet) and I saw Trevor and Frank on the way to it – haven’t seen Frank in years. I left the club before the others because I was feeling ill from a stomach bug that’s been going around which subsequently made me feel pain all weekend (and delayed this update by yet another week) but was not in time for the last train back to Reading. It took 40 minutes to find any staff at Paddington (managed by Network Rail – nobody in the shops had emergency contact details or would help (or both) – I later told the management that I must help prevent them getting a Safer Stations award as they clearly have appauling security and no ability to handle minor incidents of passangers feeling ill…doesn’t bode well for major incident handling. This is not the first time I’ve had to moan about this kind of thing at Paddington – I once had to complain about the security implications of large bins they kept around for catering while all the time removing general public wastebins.
I’ve been out in London a few times recently in fact. Mostly meeting a friend for dinner or for watching a film screening, or moonlit strolls along the Thames – I like doing that kind of stuff. This evening I went bowling with Hannah and Joe Wrigley, my younger sister, and mum. It was good to go bowling again as I have not been in several years, but unfortunate that the environment was encreadibly smokey and filled with the most disgracefully bad music at the loudest volume – next time we’ll have to avoid going there on a Friday night.
I didn’t die flying to Canada. Or to several other places. So I’m going to do it more often. Over the next six months I hope to visit Slovenia, New York, Paris, Canada, Brussels, Tux, and a few more besides. Trains and flights are pretty cheap and while I am concerned about pointlessly burning jet fuel to go to these places – I’ve not done it heavily in the past and I’m sure at some point I’ll have family commitments and other reasons why it is less feasible to travel as much as I would like to right now. Perhaps it’s just pure escapism – I’ll ask Eliza for some comments.
It has been too long since I updated this blog, there’s stuff I haven’t mentioned because it’s hard to get it all in one at this point, and I generally should write more stuff here. Once my laptop returns from being repaired by John Lewis (I’m having any issues resolved since the warrenty just expired) then I’ll upgrade the disk and fix a load of software updates on it – then hopefully I can sort out being more productive in writing and developing on to go. I’m reading “Understanding the Linux Virtual Memory Manager” and playing around with bits of code for the GBA after a friend sparked an interest. I’ve got a pet project which is beginning but I’ll mention more about that once I have something to show for it.