Archive for April, 2005

Saturday, 30th April, 2005

Saturday, April 30th, 2005

Photo: VIA Rail’s “The Canadian” trans-Canada railway service currently operating between Vancouver, B.C. and Toronto, Ontario. Image is Crown Copyright (C) Government of Canada. This is fair non-commercial use under copyright law (image taken from Wikipedia).

I did something naughty this week. I booked a train. Across Canada. We (myself and dsaxena, and anyone else we rope in to joining us en route to OLS) are leaving Vancouver on July 15, and arriving in Ottawa on July 19, which is just in time for the end of the kernel summit and start of the main OLS conference. I’m totally psyched. I’ve booked my ticket for the conference too, and now need to follow up on arjan’s link to atp to get that cheaper air fare from Amsterdam->Vancouver and Ottawa->Amsterdam. This means I end up taking a pointless flight to Amsterdam in order to get a flight back again and connect to my transatlantic flight – but it’s 200 pounds cheaper this way. [ UPDATED: I've now booked the flights, departing LHR July 12th for Amsterdam, arriving Vancouver, B.C. July 13th. Cool. ]

I feel a little guilty about wasted jet fuel but I’m not a millionaire and “the flight was going there anyway”…the routing then becomes: London -> Amsterdam -> London -> Vancouver and Ottawa -> Montreal (or maybe even Toronto) -> Amsterdam -> London. I’ll need to book an el cheap easyryan (sounds like a gay porno star) flight to Amsterdam (probably not best to discuss gay porn in this sentence, but meh) for the night before I fly out. Next thing to do is figure out if there’s any way to: a). fly to Portland and/or San Francisco (I’ve got a date with a yacht on the bay at some point), b). take a train to New York and/or NJ if I’m not doing post-OLS stuff all week during the following week. Definately need to get in some cycling along the canal and am considering canoeing too (which I mention as a reminder that I should book for any course I want to do while I’m over there as places are limited).

Photo: Flying above the clouds in an Airbus A319. No, that’s not water below.

I’ve flown 8 times this month, which is my new record. Perhaps it’s also a sign that I’m slightly less bothered by the experience – although I still have many paranoias associated with flying. I guess it’s also related to the “fun factor”, in that going places to do interesting stuff is more enjoyable than just getting a bus from one city to another. Then there are the people you meet – “single serving friends” (Tyler Durden, Fight Club) – from the guy sitting next to me out to LAX, who’s moved from IT to wanting to study sustainable development, to the guy on the return flight, who is visiting from Australasia and has a mission to track down the family of a famous Australasian fighter pilot (I can’t recall if he is from NZ or AU so I’ll cop out and go with Australasian so as not be any more offensive than the idea of confusing the two in the first place).

Where was I? Hmmm, so, anyway, back on some kind of topic. I met a very nice girl on the Railair coach from Reading station at 05:00 on Thursday morning. She’s studying for a PhD in Physics at Reading University – but not wanting to be an annoying male type, I didn’t ask the obvious question. Meh. The question is, do I continue to follow my principle of not trying to ask out every female geek the first chance I get (because, frankly, it must be very frustrating to be thought of as a geek sex object rather than a scientist) or do I admit that on some level we’re all human and I should probably do more about being single. I wonder what stargirl and Val Henson would have us geek guys actually do in such situations. Well? What say you? :-)

I was just in Brussels again, for two days, visiting some folks in Leuven. We (mostly myself and Carlos) did a bit of ecos development in to the wee hours in their funky offices and I crashed out on a matress in one of the offices when the lack of sleep finally caught up with me. Figured out a few things about the particular port we’ve been looking at, and am getting more familiar with the isms present in the latest Xilinx tools. Speaking of which, I’ve borrowed an ml300 to do some development work – and to use at OxLUG next weekend. I should probably start writing my slides over the weekend, but I’ve also got a proposal to put together (that should really have been done by now) and a number of articles to churn off to Richard. Meh. That’s life.

If I actually get chance (or even the motivation) to do some hardware development with this board, I’d be sorely tempted to buy an ML403 on the grounds that it’s cheap (compared to the ML300) and can run both Linux on PowerPC and Linux on Microblaze with custom SoC designs built in Platform Studio (EDK – dudes, just call it EDK, that’s what everyone else does). As it is now, I need to fix up differences in HAL revisions and try to come up with a generic set of procedures for handling this next time they bump “compatible” releases. I’m getting to grips with ecos, figured out some changes to the default templates for building applications and have been reading the Bruce Peren’s series ecos book (Embedded Software development with ecos – download it over here) – which I finally started reading properly once I got it in paperback form while in London with Richard H. a week or so ago.

It’s looking like I might use one of those free vmware licenses the folks at vmware gave me in order to run some of these Windows-only tools. I feel slightly evil about actually doing that, but it might let me catch up on some of the .NET stuff too, so it could be reasonably educational. I’ve been domainified at one of my day-jobs so am now having to use a nasty Windows domain from at least one PC – I’ve found a way around having to actually contemplate using Microsoft Exchange by having my mail forwarded to an account sitting on a more friendly mail system that’s actually usable.

Photo: Linux Desktop Hacks – look for yours truly in the credits.

Finally found out what that DHL package which kept not being delivered when we were in actually was. It was my copies of Linux Desktop Hacks which had been shipped over from the US. I quite enjoy the form Jono and Nicholas went with in the end, and so far have found only a single typo in an hour or so of reading (a simple replacement of Hz with MHz – I don’t think you’ll find any monitor with refresh rates in the millions, not even in research labs, but meh. :-) ). I am, of course, bound to have a slight bias towards liking this book as Jono asked me to shove a couple of hacks his way – check out the Bluetooth Hack (number 92) in which I inform readers how to setup Bluetooth dialup connections using a single desktop icon.

Photo: University Parks, Oxford (Comlab in the distance).

I’ve been walking again (well, it’s springtime in the UK, and you know I’m a sucker for parks and canal walks) but need to get out and do some serious cycling and more outdoor exercise. I should actually go climbing properly sometime with my friend Ian from work – indeed, I could also go with twh or one of my other friends too.

That’s about it for the moment. There’s other stuff I should of course mention – like Hannah’s overall stress levels being a little high right now – but having read her blog I can at least see she’s feeling a bit better. Oh, I had supper with Philippe in Zaventem last night – Greek Kebab style. It was good to see him, if even only very briefly. Anyway, that’s all for the moment.


P.S. Still not eating meat.

Sunday, 24 April, 2005

Sunday, April 24th, 2005

Photo: Prospect Park History 2 – Mansion House geocache.

Since I had had Merlin the Wanderer and geoPirat Night Shift III for a bit too long, guilt finally lead me to some evening geocaching. I picked up J P II Home and will try not to hold on to him for so long. The main impetus for retaining Merlin for so long (in particular) was that I hoped to be able to take him to Windsor Castle or somewhere similar, but that didn’t happen, so I figured he had best go on his way at last.


Saturday, 23 April 2005

Sunday, April 24th, 2005

Photo: Cycling the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco.

I just got back from a week in the States. Well, ok, technically I got back last Sunday – but I’ve been busy. This was my first visit to the West Coast of the continental United States…and I enjoyed it. I may not be the best fan of the US Administration (George Bush and his intellectual underclass, who rule the country using FUD techniques Microsoft would be proud of) but I did enjoy meeting the folks that I did. I especially also enjoyed taking a day out to have lunch with some Linux folks in San Francisco. I did some cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge and surrounding places alongside the beach, and even bought a silly t-shirt to remind me that I did that. I also rode some cable cars on the Powell and Hyde route, and saw a ballet at the Opera house (though, they did have to reseat me three times before I had a reasonably unobstructed view – standing would have been better by that point). The San Francisco Tourist Information Center probably need a written reminder that the world doesn’t have to revolve around cars (I should write that, I should).

Photo: Mann’s Chinese Theater, a whistlestop tour of Los Angeles, mostly by taxi cab (complete with suitcases and other stuff, since Virgin Atlantic telephone staff seemed to be confused over the potential for early check-in).

Our green and pleasant land

Landing back in the UK after a 10 hour 28 minute flight, you might have thought I would have been worse for sleep, but this time I did succeed in using the ear plugs and eye mask to get 6 hours of much necessary kip. As I slept, I became more in sync with UK time and was reasonably ok by the time I got back to Reading. Although I wasn’t in the office the next day (for various family reasons), I think I could have managed it reasonably successfully. As it was, I was in the office until Thursday and spent much of Friday finishing my catching up with missed sleep.

In other news, I recently met Michael Robertson of Linspire fame, Richard H., and even Roger Whittaker (formerly of SuSE, now of SCC Computers and Jack Richards of GNU Solutions). I grilled Michael about some of the missing features in Linspire’s product, and offered to give some suggestions – which they’re apparently willing to entertain. So I’ll be suggesting they get HAL and DBUS integration done right, in combination with Dell’s DKMS and other technology – when users insert a removable device on a Linux desktop, they should get the regular “I found a new device, Dave” ballooon in their taskbar. It’s possible, it should be happening. Had lunch with some of these folks, Paul was there also (although I gather he’s probably now in Australia still – need to followup on what he’s up to at the moment in terms of logistics). Meanwhile, I’m waiting for a friend to get back to me about taking a train from Vancouver->Ottawa for the 2005 OLS. I think that would be neat.

I’ve been roughly meat free for 4 weeks now. Although I’ve not overtly eaten meat, I’m not going crazy to avoid things that might have been contaminated. I learned earlier on Saturday that Scotch Eggs have pork in them (makes sense when you think about the taste some) – so I’ve stopped eating those too for at least the moment. I’m feeling better for not eating meat and feel as if I have a little more energy quanta to go around. I still need to address my vitamin intake and sort out exercise, book another driving test, do that kind of thing. But I’m trying to get myself somehow out of the apathy I had been in for a while there. I’m in Brussels again this coming week and am planning some other stuff which might get mentioned here sometime.

Photo: New prescription glasses for slight long-sightedness.

I picked up my glasses. I’m not totally convinced that the prescription is perfect, but they do seem to be helping me when using the computer (read: I’m not getting so instantly tired so far, but it’s early days as I literally only just got them on Saturday). The test will be when it comes to reading some of the material I’ve been putting off reading due to the eye strain I’ve had. Spent most of Saturday afternoon in hospital looking after a friend, but otherwise had a fun day with Hannah and Joe, his family, my family, et al. I hope they made it back to Birmingham eventually – to their house even. Scary. I’m still working on that front, but suffice it to say I’m not ignoring the whole grand life plan stuff entirely.


Welcome to Dell

Monday, April 11th, 2005

Photos (from left to right): Deepak’s potluck, Portland, Oregon, Midnight Madness Cycle ride, walking along the Thames in Oxford.

Welcome to Dell, in association with the United States and Logitech.

I flew from London Heathrow (LHR) to Los Angeles (LAX) on Thursday lunchtime and arrived in time for the afternoon. Virgin Atlantic have a reasonable service and I was very impressed with the in-flight packs and entertainment options – I’d fly with them again on another trip. I sat next to a guy from Ireland who used to be in IT but is now planning to persue sustainable development after studying at either a US or UK college/University. Sounds interesting. Upon my arrival in LA, I was greeted by the Dell immigration officials – I’d say “US” but the first obvious markings at eye level are the Dell TFTs and (presumably) Logitech webcams from their silly anti-witch fingerprinting and automated privacy violation system. Rather familiar, from my previous trip to the US back in February, I fear Dell did a deal with the immigration folks to sell this pointless system’s much unneeded hardware, and are getting such advertising as a result. The food and agriculture folks also did an excellent job – with the aid of a sniffer dog (who also greeted us as we arrived straight from a ten hour flight across the Atlantic) – confiscating three apples from fellow travellers. We really wouldn’t want them consuming all that vitamin C.

So, having been immediately pissed off by a badly considered welcome lobby (staffed with very nice people though) which sends all the wrong messages (or perhaps the right ones if you’re not a citizen and are already not a fan of their government) about the US, I headed out to catch my second flight of the day – to Portland, OR.

Democracy is alive and well in Portland

Having just written the above, you’re probably expecting me to say similar things about Portland. However, Portland is magical and different – a blue town amongst many other Oregon towns which apparently are not – and it would seem to be an excellent place to live. Not only does Portland have a good number of hybrid cars (and realtively few SUVs), environmentally friendly programmes and cycle paths around the city, but it is also a very friendly town indeed. I arrived at the “International Airport” (it has very few international flights and you almost always end up getting connections) and took a TriMet metro/tram-like service to downtown. At PGE park, I disembarked and headed in to the “Alphabet District” (streets named in asscending alphabetical order) to find my friend Deepak’s appartment building. Incidentally, I don’t think I’d appreciated how useful the US number/street intersection addressing system is – although I’m very much not in favour of rigidly unpleasant blocky shapes, when it’s done right then it’s pretty cool.

Deepak and I exchanged greetings, I said hi to his two cats (hello India and Roosevelt), and then we immediately headed out for some late night drinking around the town. It was gone 22:00 when we started, and probably after 02:00 when we finally got back to his place – but, as per usual, the first night wasn’t the point where the jetlag caught up with me. The next morning, we went to a local pattiserie and boulangerie and had some breakfast (the proprietor had apparently studied in France before setting up the shop – and it’s pretty damn good too), then headed out on bikes for some cycling around the city with Matt Philips. We had lunch on the University campus in a (I think) student run coffee shop which sells only locally grown fresh produce. We had some excellent Veggie food and fantastic local juices from a farm at the nearby Columbia Gorge.

We found Powell’s bookstore and had coffee, before heading back to Deepak’s place. Portland is one town with a car hire concept called Flexcar – a hire-on-demand car hire system which aims to handle occasional demand for cars. They have car parking locations around the city, where one can simply pick up a car and drive it away. We decided to try it out and – after hiring a car for a couple of hours – Matt drove us to CompUSA in a Honda hybrid. I bought another iPod mic device, this time called “VoiceNote”, as it came with an external mic also and looks reasonable (the last mic was an iTalk). I hope that it will not get lost quite so quickly this time around. Matt wanted to buy a printer to work on a sustainable development DVD label for a forthcoming event event he’s involved with. Overall, I think CompUSA probably rates similarly to the UK PC World, although it’s a little bigger and just slightly more obnoxious initially – but then, I hardly ever to go PC World, so it might be just as bad by this point. Somwhere along the line, we probably swung by Deepak’s local coffee shop, just around the corner from his appartment since it’s a hive of local friendships.

We had some excellent dinner in the evening, especially the steamed bread, and I enjoyed a mild curry dish with some strong chilli. We returned to Deepak’s place for a few hours, before heading out for the Midnight Mystery Cycle Ride across town. Meeting at the pub starting point, and finishing less than a block away, we cycled around for a bit and then hung around for a few hours, chatting away. One of the folks at the ride works for WindRiver and had a birthday, so we enjoyed some of his “0×20th” cake, printed with a cycle on it. That icing was fantastic. I left with Matt and Joy (who was just a little incapacitated) in the early hours, but some stayed out even later. Apparently, the cops finally showed up just as the group was naturally dispersing and the evening ended without incident.

The next morning, Deepak and I went cycling around the downtown area, along the waterfront itself (nice view) and picked up some stuff for a potluck which was spontaneously organised for the evening. We had some more excellent local beer at a brew pub and some coffee in a “coffee people” coffeehouse (possibly slightly less evil than Starbucks). I don’t usually drink so much beer, but Portland is famous for its variety of good microbrews and brewpubs (the name can only be used if you brew onsite) – and I’ve got some excellent IPA here to take with me, or just drink before I get back home. After some lunch in another pub, we went to a local supermarket called “Trader Joes” to buy some organically grown groceries and other bits (this kind of chain store is impressive to see). These were used to make bits of our evening Potluck with some of Deepak’s friends each bringing random food along for us to enjoy eating. We enjoyed eating it in large quantities too.

On Sunday morning, a group of us met up for breakfast at Ken’s pattiserie (same place as before) and I tried a Portland Croissant (with berries) as well as another Cinnamon bun (I still think the widespread use of cinnamon is a difference from the UK – I would prefer it if we had more cakes, pasteries and even gum with such flavouring options) and then headed over to the coffeeshop around the corner to find some more space, and to play Go. I played with Joy for a few minutes and we both found it quite useful – I’ve photographed the board state so we can continue at a later date online/personally as I had to go get a flight. After an enjoyable stay in Portland, I took a flight back to LAX.

I’ve been meat-free for over two weeks now. Still eating fish and dairy products.