Archive for May, 2005


Tuesday, May 31st, 2005

I resigned earlier today.

For the past three years, I have been working with a small band of extremely talented people at a small NMR instrumentation company in Oxford. Last summer, around the time of OLS, the company was sold to another and took on a whole new direction, one less conducive to furthering my career development.

I learned a lot from working at the company and really enjoyed working with a few individuals in particular. Some of these people are so seriously cool, you’d be very surprised – my boss is the greatest guy you could work with and the electronics guy is so amazingly skilled that he can write software, VHDL, design cutting edge NMR instrumentation, hardware diagnostics and run a company quite literally all at the same time. I really respect that level of natural-born skill in someone.

I’m taking a new job with an Embedded Linux company in July and this will be a change from working with NMR instrumentation but not all that different from what I have been doing. I hope that I get the opportunity to work with some of these people again in the future.

“so long, and thanks for all the fun”.


Monday, May 30, 2005

Monday, May 30th, 2005

I’m off to Clapham Junction to meet up with some fellow printk folks and tinker with panic. I’ve got a proposal to work on later and some articles which are starting to feel a little overdue. Meanwhile, the music practice is not as far along as I wanted. I’ve got to make a call on whether I can learn this one piece in time and it’s starting to look like a real bad idea adding it in at this stage – a shame because I don’t want to disappoint. Meh.

Apparently, one can fly to New York relatively inexpensively from Ottawa. I’ll have a think about doing that while I’m on the East Coast – I’ve been to the State but never to the City itself. Some other folks would like me to head over to LinuxWorld San Francisco, but I think that’d probably be a little too much for one trip, tempting though :-)


French probably vote “non”

Sunday, May 29th, 2005

Well, it looks like the French have voted no to the European Constitution in Sunday’s referendum. What a shame. Despite many of my friends and family not necessarily agreeing with me on Europe, I’m actually in favour of integration. A United States of Europe would be a good thing in the longer term and redress the balance in power across the individual member states (one reason I suppose for the French voting no to the process).

I was explaining my dislike for the Monarchy system in this country to a visiting relative this evening. I’m not anti everything, but I believe in doing things which pragmatically benefit the majority of the people. Having a Queen here is a bad idea (she’s unelected – I’m talking about theory here, not the practical fact that she never actually enforces her technical power) and having a disparity between rich “Western” European countries and those in the East is a bad thing too. We shouldn’t have rebates for the UK, we’re not that special (we’re only in the position we’re in due to our historical evilness as a Borg-like Empire) and we don’t deserve special treatment. We should look upon the recent member states joining Europe as a sign of things to come – namely that we are starting to see an effort to bring balance to the system.

Well that’ll make a few of you hate me. Meh. Think about it. Do you really care about the UK so much that you don’t see the idea of European integration as a good thing? Europe has so far been fantastically beneficial to us and allows for so much free travel and commerce between member states. We should take that to its logical conclusion and go the whole way. I’m not even British anyway – I’m a European Citizen.


Beagle for Debian x86?

Sunday, May 29th, 2005

Anyone got an apt repository I can use for getting hold of Beagle on a Debian testing box (no, I’m not going to switch to breezy)?

I have installed most of the prerequisites from experimental as per the Beagle Debian Install instuctions but am having problems building the sources and don’t have much time to spend on this (read: I’m just curious, I’m not going to spent hours trying to build it until I actually have a reason to do use it). Looks pretty cool though. They’ve apparently ripped out dbus support from the latest version hiding in CVS (which is amusing, given who’s working on the project) and have based the search infrastructure on what looks like a beagle daemon that uses XA files tags for markers (why not? It’s a valid use for extended attributes if ever I saw one – could we also get it to tag files with their supposed contents so I can do away with silly file extensions and then have it watch for inotify changes so new files get indexed automatially in the same way?).

Wibble. I should do some work. I’m not going to Totnes as I’ve been sticking bits together for a certain magazine whose editor (in Totnes) might hit me with a big stick if I turn up today without a few columns for him to peruse :-)

Got in touch with a certain Mark Lord last night. Looks like he’s also keen on meeting up at OLS. Hopefully I can get him to show me some climbing stuff – and we can go hunting waskally geocaches down by Dow’s Lake (I was walking on it in February). Yay!


Sunday, 29 May, 2005 (Part II)

Sunday, May 29th, 2005

Apple: Why did you use FAT32/HFS?

(Actually they’re between a rock and a hard place here but meh. I’m ranting as it’s 05:17 and I just had another lovely little ipod experience…)

The ipod is a cool little gadget, that’s certainly a given by most at this point. Why, then, oh why, did they have to pick the regular filesystem approach quite as they did? I’m actually starting to prefer the idea of not having a generic firewire disk. The problem with their approach is that it’s trivial to blow away the entire iTunesDB as just happened to my unit. Fortunately, I’m not using iTunes (I learned from my mistake last time when my first ipod unit got trashed when I was actually using iTunes with Mac OS X and the laptop went to sleep without – I guess – properly syncing the disk. Great. Turns out you really don’t want to run out of battery or reboot since you’ll risk losing it all and having a very empty looking 30/40/60GB or whatever).

So, not using iTunes, I’m able to copy over my gtkpod iTunesDB and iTunesDB.ext manually after running a fsck.vfat against the underpinning filesystem (and getting a scary FAT inconsistency error and guessing FAT1 was probably still actually ok to be used) and then finally convince gtkpod to fire up and recognise all of my music without having to go crazy. Not something I want to happen at 5am. Linux Firewire clearly needs a little work. Why?

jcm@perihelion:~$ uname -a
Linux perihelion #1 Fri May 27 00:54:19 BST 2005 i686 GNU/Linux

I just built this kernel (yes it’s already outdated by but meh) and yet it managed to roll over and dislike my firewire ipod disk after a day or so of uptime (needs some investigating after I actually do a proper backup of the contents). It’s also not possible to eject the device without eject getting stuck in a syscall and there’s a lovely little oops in the scsi layer there too. Cool.

I’m getting some sleep.


Sunday, May 29. 2005

Sunday, May 29th, 2005

On The Office of Antiboycott Compliance

(The following is a rant. Skip to the next entry if you don’t want to read my views on recent reading I have done about US politics.)

Did you know there are laws in the US against Boycotting countries the US doesn’t officially hate? (that’s not us by the way, we have a “special relationship” in which we do whatever the US says about using the same ID card system they’re just forcing through and everyone stays happy thanks to the clipper chips they’ve had implanted in their heads by the MPAA). There’s even a Beurocratic body that helps to regulate these silly laws. Yay! The Office Of Antiboycott Compliance. Yes, it’s a real government body – one of the most pointless I’ve managed to find yet.

What a wonderful waste of taxpayer’s money. How about we worry about things that actually matter like race, sex, age and other forms of discrimination against particular groups of people? What about a welfare state? Free public heathcare for all people, etc. No! Let’s waste money on anti-terrorism (how about a multi-billion dollar missile defence system for commercial aircraft? Get a clue dudes! There’s never been an attack of this kind, there are many other more likely situations that could occur and it’s not likely your system is going to guard against a determined whackjob with a grudge – but it’ll still cost you many billions that feeds shareholders in certain special companies who get paid to produce this stuff) and pointless government bodies like this one.

They might have half had a point in the 1970s when this office was set up. Might. I don’t think it’s a good thing to Boycott countries but I don’t think it’s necessary to legislate against it. But what the heck, the States just pulled in $600 Billion to help plug their budget problems so the federal government can rest a little easy that the lynch mob aint gonna turn up for a while. It’s not as if our government hasn’t done really stupid things lately, but I enjoy a good laugh when following the politics of certain countries I don’t live in. I like to think we’re not just as bad but the reality tends to speak for itself.

On breaking the US Constitution, one piece at a time

Robert Love made an ironic point in his recent blog entry about the teaching of the constitution: did you know that it used to be illegal for the federal government to mandate what is taught in schools? What gave this right? Oh, just a little document we know as the Constitution! (one reason for disparity in education between States – in particular, the Governator should be proud of his steps in California to funnel school funding into other areas that need propping up – and to give me something to rant about as an outsider looking in on a foreign political system). Except, it’s not illegal any more under a spending bill passed in 2004. So now it’s required to teach about the contsitution itself. Yes! The whole point of preventing the federal government from interferring has been undone by one do-gooder who didn’t think it through.

Yes, a spending bill. See, this is what’s great about US politics – they shove totally irrelevant items onto “must pass” legislation (as I’ve moaned about before). I know we do similar things here, but someone might actually care if our government tried to get away with some of the things I see passing in random bills before Congress. So now every school has to teach about the Constitution on or around (if there is a weekend or some holiday) 17 September. Wonderful! Yay! Won’t be long before some whackjob tacks on a “we must teach about terrorism”, “we must educate people about $whatever_we_don’t_like_and_got_paid_to_promote” or “we must teach about the evils of Darwin’s theories” or other crap onto the curriculum. Perhaps Bush will stick a personal lesson in there on his religious beliefs and how he thinks they are revelevant to his daily job as president of the US. He seems to think it is relevant to everything else. Great – that’ll really serve to increase my enthusiasm in the abilities of the US to handle education (George: can you spell ed-u-cation? Really? Can you? I very much doubt it).

Oh dear. It makes our whole little mess over UK education academies seem trivial in comparison. We do have a national curriculum which is mandated by the Department for Education – but it’s not usually dictated through commons bills which subjects will be taught (just that people of certain ages must be subjected to pointless targets and assessments). Every now and again I think to myself that I could run this whole system a lot better – and I’m probably right (if I belive in my own arrogance in this regard) but I wouldn’t want a job in politics as I’ve got more exciting things to do and haven’t quite got the level of arrogant vanity-cum-elitism usually required.


Saturday, May 28, 2005

Saturday, May 28th, 2005

Photo: A narrowboat navigates the canal outside Tom’s place. I tried finding the Valley View geocache but must have had the wrong co-ordinates or something as it wasn’t where I thought it should have been. I went to visit Tom in Congleton last Friday and we met up in Manchester beforehand for some dinner in Chinatown. I realised (after tasting some duck) that I don’t miss meat particularly any more.

A random collection of today’s ramblings.

(Nat Friedman might have a point about ADD).

I’m going to visit Portland, Oregon again. Yes, I’m psyched. I wasn’t sure I’d make it but since I’m in the process of changing jobs (from July 1 I will work with a large Embedded Linux company who shall remain mostly nameless in this forum as per my usual not blurring work and blog too much) I should have a bit of holiday time to play with around then and it turns out that ATP can change my return flights from Ottawa to the UK. So all I need to do now is get a 300 quid return from Ottawa to Portland. Cool. Managed to get an invite to the kernel BBQ too. Always good.

This makes my summer of crazy travelling roughly go like this:

London Heathrow->Amsterdam->Vancouver->San Francisco (sailing on the bay with Sven and Bill) ->Vancouver (board the train to Toronto and Ottawa) ->Ottawa (OLS/hiking/anything else after OLS->Portland (visit Deepak and co, Kernel BBQ) ->Ottawa->London Heathrow->Amsterdam(optional)->London Heathrow.

Not bad for someone who’s afraid of flying. There’s the possibility that I’ll get a train to New York in the week between OLS and Portland if there’s nothing much else organised since a friend is already going to Montreal (where the train leaves from). Might as well totally push the envelope to the max. I get back to the UK in time for the last day of UKUUG 2005 (if I can get a day return to Swansea) and the LBW 2005 up in Scotland.

Photo: Geocaching in central Oxford after Thursday afternoon’s driving lesson (note the Unicef filming in the background) . I found University Challenge 11 but gave up on one of the others after the GPS was wondering around all over the place. I probably want to get a better one if I do this more often as my old 12XL (thanks Jamie!) is cool for its age but much better and lighter ones are on the market now. Mark Lord has a super uber Magellan which works even in woodland under trees – I think my poor old unit would really struggle to get any single in such an environment.

I’ve been pissing around with realtime patches lately and battling with SuSE kernel builds in an effort to figure out the whole initramfs/klibc/etc. thing that is 2.6 Linux kernel booting. Having gotten myself excited enough to start breaking stuff, I decided to figure out gnome-volume-manager, HAL/udev and how I get it all working together to make my ipod “just work”. It’s not quite there on my Debian testing box (read: I’ve gotten the plug and play stuff working but need to fix pumount and get it to unmount and eject the ipod – less of an issue for me right at the moment). I need to use the sysfs destroy_node entry to occasionally kick my ipod into behaving itself – and it looks as if I might need to document this since people moan they can’t make their ipod work. If your ipod doesn’t come up properly and you get nasty kernel logs about the node in question, take the GUID from the message and send it to the sysfs ieee1394 control node after removing the ipod:

jcm@perihelion:~$ echo “$GUID” >/sys/bus/ieee1394/destroy_node

Then plug it back in and watch it come to life. Seems sometimes Linux can’t login to the device. I’m not yet an sbp2/firewire expert (but I know a man who is) although it could be something fun to play with. I think IEEE1394 makes my original paranoia about USB actually have a substance in the sense that average PCs without IOMMUs will freely give 1394 devices the ability to play with bits of the host’s memory (as I understand the protocol anyway) so you probably wouldn’t want to give general access to 1394 buses in a public terminal environment without better than white/grey box PC hardware available. Probably not a problem on the newer 64 bit platforms since they do tend to have IOMMUs.

I realised that Eric Gaumer is probably one of the most interesting and intelligent people I’ve met. There are few people who actually take that level of interest in the subject they study, and I like the ongoing efforts with python (puts my python ability to shame but I’ll work on that). If you don’t read Eric and Matt’s blogs then check them out (now linked from here) – and as to the elitism question in blog writing, Eric, it’s not particularly elitist and I agree with you, I enjoy writing too and that is my main motivation (aside from being increadibly vain at the best of times). Shannon’s photos are pretty cool too. Yes your South Park characters are pretty accurate :-) , I need to do my own South Park/Hackergotchi character for this blog. Meh, I’ll get around to it by the time they’ve gone out of fashion (anyone want to do me one? go on, loads of you are better at using the GIMP than me).

I’ve been listening to The Faders. Yes, they’re female (which I admit got my interest initially), but they’re also rather good. I went to Hickies in Reading and bought Laudate Dominum to see if it’s practical to learn it in time, and a copy of another piece I should be learning too. My violin practice has improved since I made some fundamental changes to my bowing technique last week – I decided to throw away all of the advice about technique and adopt one that works for me based on how I’ve observed professional violinists actually holding their own bows. Interesting that certain teachers seem to try to make you hold it in really really stupid ways. Meh.

I saw Star Wars last weekend at The Electric on Portabello Road in London. This was courtesy of some free tickets received through the magazine and I took Hussein as my guest. We had some juice mixes and nibbles, chatted, then lounged on a giant leather sofa with leg rests (I just rolled around like a beached whale and ended up with my boots on the floor and lying with my head on my hands the wrong way around – twas very comfortable however). The complementary popcorn was good and the screen was pretty cool. Having a bar in the audatorium is definately a big selling point for those who want to have caffeine and an almond croissant with their film :-)

That’s enough for now. Time to actually do something with this holiday weekend. I’ve got writing to do and a trip to Totnes to see Richard and Charlotte. Monday is hopefully an opportunity for an afternoon meetup for printk. Maybe we’ll get around to having some drinks and a BBQ if the weather holds up and we don’t suffer from too much apathy.

What is Your World View? (updated)
created with

You scored as Materialist. Materialism stresses the essence of fundamental particles. Everything that exists is purely physical matter and there is no special force that holds life together. You believe that anything can be explained by breaking it up into its pieces. i.e. the big picture can be understood by its smaller elements.









Cultural Creative








Onwards and upwards!