Archive for May, 2005

Monday, 16 May, 2005

Monday, May 16th, 2005

Photo: My friend Trevor Parsons celebrates a special birthday. Plenty of candles around.

I went to my friend Trevor Parsons’ birthday party yesterday, having decided it was too much (train hassle) to try going into London after getting back from Birmingham on Saturday. I took a 18:09 train from Reading but it experienced delays and took an hour to get to London – in time to miss various potential connections (see previous postings about getting annoyed with engineering work and its inspiration to get my driving license/a car sorted out). I took a tube over to London Victoria and then an overground service to Brixton. I needed to head towards Tulse Hill. After I few minutes, I decided to get a bus part of the way, and then used my trusty GPS to locate the party. I had earlier pulled some rough co-ordinates off but they ended up being half a mile out (wrong end of a long road, probably further). Still, enough to find the right road – Google Maps need to offer co-ordinates (have I missed a feature that they already have?).

On the way back to Reading, Paul (who decided to randomly come along to Paddington – which was cool, I enjoyed the chance to talk about some bits and pieces we needed to discuss) and I ran across the “Jesus Guy” in London Paddington. This is the guy I’ve mentioned before, the one who will risk all manner of person injury by standing at the bottom of a tube escalator on a Friday/weekend evening and tell people to turn to Jesus. Although I have little interest in his choice of Religious practice, I do find him fascinating – simply that he spends so much time wondering around London without showing signs of bodily harm from drunken jobs is quite amazing.

Photo: The “Jesus Guy” at London Paddington Station Underground.

Tech News website meets Reality Distortion Field – film at 11.

This is a fantastical load of bollocks. Like, read the paper dudes. You linked to it, but did you actually read it? It would seem from your flawed discussion that you, like, didn’t. The SMT vulnerability doesn’t let you do “copying” of crypto keys, it’s actually a contrived and difficult to pull off side-channel crypto attack which exploits systems that have more than one path to memory.

Interestingly, having actually read the paper (no, I don’t claim to understand every aspect of the attack – I’m not a crypto expert and Colin Percival had many months to work on it since October), it would seem (to me) that any multi-processor architecture with multiple predictably weighted memory paths (e.g. with any caching) is vulnerable. This much is obvious. But it might not have been so obvious that such an attack would be possible against the G5 and other decent processors. Intel are in hot water because their Pentium designs share L1 cache (ewww, yuck, icky, sick) and so it’s a lot more practical to take the^W^W exploit.


Sunday, 15th May, 2005

Sunday, May 15th, 2005

I just spent a while looking at mortgages and came to some realisations:

  • I could afford to buy a small house/flat in Reading/Bracknell if I started saving now, so I should do that.
  • I need to save around 5-10K to make this practical. I’m 23 years old, would be buying on my own, and could take a 30 year term. Letting out a room makes this cheaper than renting.
  • I’ll continue paying my parents (folks) rent for the time being, since I have part of the house to myself and it’s better than throwing money away with someone I don’t know. We seldom actually want to kill each other anyway.
  • Even if I eventually moved elsewhere, having a small house/flat in the South East is disirable enough (note the property shortage) that renting it out would be very practical.
  • Not commuting to Oxford each day by train/bus/taxi will save me over 75 pounds each week. That’s more than buying/running a cheap car.

I’m having a family lunch, then I’ll go out to London for this party Trevor is having. I look forward to seeing him and it is such a nice day that I should go – I have other stuff to do, so I’ll probably try to get back before it’s too late tonight. I also would like to take my bicycle with me, but one of the tires is suspiciously flat. I should probably buy a decent bike too as/when I switch over jobs and can get to work a bit more practically on bike. I can spend the savings on more tech – like a Mac Mini.


Saturday, 14th May, 2005

Saturday, May 14th, 2005

Photo: Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucester. A visit with Frank Pohlmann to discuss our work in progress proposal. A-ha! We meet in person at last!

I popped up to Gloucester for supper on Friday evening. The afternoon was really great from a weather perspective and I enjoyed seeing some of the countryside en route. Unfortunately, the trains screwed me over yet again (so I’m now totally committed to getting a car – sorry, if “long distance” rail travel in this country were practical, then yes, but I’m fed up with it by now) by making me miss the connection in Swindon (at least I got to see a bit of the shopping area while I waited). Since my friend doesn’t have a mobile that I know a number for (if he has one), I asked Swindon to have a call put out at Gloucester at 17:30. Not a difficult question – it’s not my fault that the trains were delayed. The pleasant woman in the ticket office (who agreed that it wasn’t practical to travel by train if you want to be on time) tried to get through to Gloucester. Eventually I was told the call was put out, but when I arrived, I discovered that Gloucester doesn’t have the ability to make manual announcements any longer (it’s all wonderfully automated now – how does that help when the system fscks up?). They made the call by shouting along the platforms as soon as they got the call (before the 17:30 time I should have arrived, so pointlessly before my friend would have been there) but at least they tried.

Photo: My sister rolls down a bank. I tried it too, but felt dizzy enough after one go that I didn’t feel like going again (having just eaten lunch).

I went up to Birmingham with my family for a lunchtime picnic in the aboritum near to where my sister and Joe’s new house is. We took with us some light provisions and enjoyed a very civilised lunch on the green, separated with a little walk to and from the cars. We then tried to do the “ASDA (Walmart) Living” thing, but the carpark was full, so we went straight to Ikea. This was my first visit to an actual Ikea store (having managed to avoid it up until this point) and I obviously enjoyed it. How can you not enjoy the Ikea nesting instinct and the temptation to buy wonderful amounts of stuff you don’t really need, all at reasonable prices? Seriously, I thought it was ok, but had to fight off the temptation to buy some more coffee mugs that just happened to look pretty cool. After some tea back at the house (and a check for nearby caches – there’s one 200m away from the house for my next visit), we headed back home. I gave up on going to Manchester and/or Scunthorpe since I couldn’t be bothered with the trains being screwed.

I just saw The Terminal. Quite aside from the laughable Hollywoodisation and trivialisation of real world problems, this is a reasonable movie. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough faith to believe that events wouldn’t transpire in exactly the fashion decribed by the screenplay – I don’t have that much faith in the TSA/Home Security. Of course, the UK is just as bad, we’re apparently holding a Canadian citizen without bail for playing paintball (just when was that on the national news headlines here?). Great. And I have to defend my anti-ID card/government intrusion tendencies to friends and family? Can’t anyone else see how the world around us is going to the government megalomaniacs? Interestingly, they don’t. Most people in this country (and elsewhere) are probably quite happy to read trashy newspapers (if they do in fact ever read) and believe governments of the world are doing a good job. If they need to hold a few thousand people on trumped up terror charges, then ok, it’s in the interest of the “war on terror” the Bush administration invented to keep itself in a job and in office. Anyway, I finally got around to joining the Lib Dems – the pragmatist’s choice of liberal thinking political party for UKians.


Friday, 13 May, 2005

Friday, May 13th, 2005

Photo: Geopunting along the River Cherwell in Oxford with Dom.

I went Geocaching with dom last night. This was allegedly an OxLUG event, but nobody else turned up until the food at Cafe Uno later on. We hired a punt and went along the river for a while, until we reached a strip of land known as Parsons Pleasure, where GCJP8G should have been. We ended up decoding the clue and coming to the conclusion that the cache had been trashed by muggles. Bah. Annoying. On the way back, we were going to find more caches but didn’t get time to do so. I’ve got the details of a central Oxford cache and might have a look for that next time I am walking around the city centre.

The food session was originally a non-starter, but three of us turned up in the end. Which is still a tiny number, but several people had said that they couldn’t make it. I was not too disappointed since we had some reasonable food and chat. I think the OxLUG wiki shall be used next time I organise a food session – then we can put “likes” and “dislikes” on a calendar of prospective days. Maybe that’s a bit too organised, but I think the voting concept is most fair to those who might want to turn up. Next month’s official meeting is not yet organised and I tried to convince Dom that the idea of doing a keysigning is not a bad one. I think he’s coming around to the idea.

Off to Gloucester for the rest of the afternoon. Birmingham tomorrow. Some hacking still to do on interrupts on this board but at least the Embedded stuff at work was vaguely useful to them.


Thursday, 12 May, 2005

Thursday, May 12th, 2005

This is the sick reality of the police state we are trying to become in this country. When we live in a country where a man with a wooden table leg is gunned down mercilessly, then we have to question whether something really went wrong somewhere. Now, I wasn’t there at the time and I am only looking at this as an outsider, but I feel it vindicates my instinctive reaction upon seeing police officers with guns – I move away from them as fast as possible. I don’t want to be there when the voices in their heads take over or they otherwise decide it’s a good idea to shoot innocent people.

Papers, please!

I read various blogs about the “REALID” (see the UnREALID website for more informtaion) addendum to an illegal conflict (Iraq/others) war bill going through US Congress. It disgusts me that they do this – tack on completely unrelated legislation onto “must pass” bills to provide some other critical funding. But, on some level, I do wish this kind of legislation upon the U.S. – it might, just might, start getting ordinary people to take an interest in Freedom and politics once again. Maybe. Do you want ID cards? Do you think it’s a good idea? I think it’s a monumentally stupid idea but it seems to be popular right now – must have come up as a strategy at some private international governance convention or something. Can’t we just pay these people just to do nothing at all? I’m all in favour of “wasting” tax dollars/pounds/whatever on these people if we can pay them to just sit and feel important and pass no laws whatsoever.

Deary me, we’ve got a UK government being put back together from previously fallen ministers. Blunkett is back, albeit he can’t introduce ID cards quite so easily in his post in charge of the DWP (goodness help those poor, poor people) – but he’ll probably force the elderly to wear giant identification badges or something – there’s always something he and Straw can try to do. The cool thing about changing ministers is that they’re never around to account for their actions. I once wrote a letter to the European Court of Human Rights about Jack Straw’s human rights violations (evil legislation, incompatible with the Human Rights Act and designed to make our lives more unpleasant if at all possible) and he was well out of office by the time I got a response. Canada isn’t doing much better – a confidence vote is coming up on Martin’s government. Did I say confidence? Apparently that’s not a sexy term any more, so they’re trying to rebrand it as something far less serious than it really seems.

I’ve been pondering thusly: The US is in this case gigantic mess over fighting in certain “axis of exil” countries arbitrarily chosen from around the world. When’s it the UK’s turn? We’ve got nuclear weapons, George, and we’ve got 4 subs with potentially active nukes ready to go, surely we should be your logical next target? No? Why ever not? Oh, we’re not “officially” evil. Ah.


Wednesday, 11 May, 2005

Wednesday, May 11th, 2005

Decisions, decisions. Why is it that making seemingly easy decisions is always the hardest thing? Looks like my friends at work understand the choice I need to make now, but it’s still tricky.

Meh. That would be one of the reasons I’m still up, also because I ended up going to Pizza Hut for supper and kicking around Oxford for a few hours this evening. Twas interesting that the wheather wasn’t increadibly shite yesterday. That’s almost a guarantee that there’ll be a low pressure front heading in by Thursday, just in time for our potential impromptu OxLUG midmonth meetup.



Monday, 9th May, 2005

Sunday, May 8th, 2005

I gave a presentation to OxLUG entitled “An Introduction to Embedded Linux“. You can get the slides from my talk by clicking on the link. It will need some more work before it’s a good presentation and I need to produce an abridged version for LUG Radio Live next month.

British railways really piss me off sometimes. I’m all for advocating public transportation over using cars and other alternatives to meeting real people and experiencing the joys of getting from a to b, but sometimes even I will admit that it all just sucks. Like tonight. I turned up at Reading station just before 17:00 to get to Oxford to give a talk at 18:30. Now, Oxford is around 30 minutes away from Reading by a fast train service and so one could be reasonably forgiven for expecting a train to actually be running on that route. “It’s a Sunday”, came the reply from the ticket office person who served me a ticket and explained why train services were being so crappy. For those outside of the UK, weekends are by now simply a synonym for “engineering works will screw up your journey”. The rationale is that people who matter only travel during the working week and the rest of us have gotten used to the pain of weekend travel by train.

After waiting some time for a delayed train, it disappeared from the information screens spontaneously and I had to ask someone before finding out that it had been cancelled (in fairness, that was due to some “youths throwing a brick at the driver’s window” – I hope the driver was ok – but then, we don’t provide many alternatives to keep the little brats occupied and away from the railway|railroad tracks. Not that riding around on mopeds is much of an improvement – there’s no real social outlet for many of the people who will be doing this kind of thing). The next train was a slow stopping local service and ran a couple of minutes late from a different platform that was annouced at reasonably short notice – picture a scene with many already pissed off people rushing to switch to another platform over a bridge. Then the train took a weird routing (that I haven’t seen done in a while) where it went to Didcot (before Oxford) and then went into reverse on some interesting trek on a bypass route to eventually reach Oxford. I didn’t mention that the trains were stopping on the route to deal with engineering, did I? Oh well. It’s not like I had to be anywhere to give a talk to a large group of people or anything.

I’d like to thank the following train companies and operators for making this evening more interesting than it might otherwise have been with just a talk to give: Thames *cough* First Great Western, Virgin Trains and Network Rail. Thanks guys. Thanks for having zero co-ordination, for not announcing engineering works obviously enough and for having a complete lack of information exchange to the detriment of the travelling public. I really hope your management teams enjoy driving home in their cars tonight (you wouldn’t want to use your own services tonight). You really succeeded in disgusting and frustrating me. Sincere congratulations.