Archive for February, 2006

Arthritic joints

Sunday, February 19th, 2006

I think I’ll get my left pinky properly looked at in due course. It’s really stopping me from playing some of the pieces that I want to play on the violin, though my technique is improving. Once I’ve picked up a car and settled over in Boston, I’ll get myself a tutor and see if I can work on the technique some more. But the finger will remain. I damaged it once and it’s not been quite the same since (fine for everyday use, just creaky if I push it too hard). It’s not worth having a surgical procedure carried out as that’ll possibly make it worse and would take me out of action for too long but there might be some gel or medication I can apply to help with my playing. In the meantime, I think it needs more exercise so I’ll see if I can find some good exercises for it while I’m travelling.

I figured out the fingering for “Running to the Light” by listening to the music and sitting with the violin. It’s in a horrible key, but it sounds good – I so need to brush up on my theory (Hannah “borrowed” my theory books a while ago – I’ll just pick up some more I think). But there’s plenty of time for this – I’ve already found one possible choir over in Littleton without putting any effort into that (thanks Jim) and would love to get my violin playing up to orchestra standard again – it’d be a bit of work to get there, but definately worth it.

I’m pulling an all nighter on Portability.


Mailbox vs. 186K (continued)

Sunday, February 19th, 2006

[UPDATE] I found the following quote on the Mailbox website (rofl):

“Mailbox prides itself on having a human face. We are and have always been a company where customers can call for assistance or advice and be sure of speaking to someone who will appreciate their problems and provide workable solutions.”

I had another ADSL drop out last night, which affected my ability to get useful work done. I’m not getting the warm and fuzzies from Mailbox any more. It’s just so damned frustrating and annoying – they used to be so good and had staff like Alex to go beyond the call of duty. Now, they’re just being annoying.

For your amusement, check out the Mailbox website section on ADSL Guide, where they recommend that you check out the forum for posts about them. It’s a shame most of those posts are now filled by people who feel like I do about the situation. 186K might want to remove that link – if they’re not planning on improving their service – I’d be embarrased to link to that now.

I sent them a letter, where I bluntly asked them if they’re going to get better or worse, except I wasn’t quite so nice about it this time. I’ll let you know what they say.



Sunday, February 19th, 2006

Photo: You meet some very cool monkey loving people in Massachusetts. I went wondering around the White Mountains up in New Hampshire with these two (kernelslacker and veebl).

I signed up to a Pro account on Flickr. This is intially a temporary measure (until I find more space for my gallery) and also good for backup – I’ll probably copy the rest of my photos over in due course. Check out my Flickr photos.


Playing catchup

Sunday, February 19th, 2006

It’s been an interesting week. Over the past week:

  • I completed several chapters of my book.
  • I signed a contract of employment with a large Linux vendor.
  • I resigned from my job[0].
  • I sent off the paperwork for my visa.
  • Did some planning for the conference and for FOSDEM.
  • Bought several books – including two on moving to the US.
  • Bought some technology – including another iPod cable.
  • Finally committed to getting rid of some redundant technology, and consolidating the stuff I have here into a more manageable quantity of reasonable kit.
  • I hacked up some MTD code, played with OProfile, wrote some examples, discovered a few bugs, etc.

I also just got the guys at Advogato to sort out the login for my account over there (I last tried to get them to fix it back in 2004). Goodness, I used to be a much more pessimistic person back then. I’m still bothered by issues like randomly dying, but a better solution is to be successful enough to find a technological solution to that (I don’t believe I’m going to la la land). I’m probably even more opposed to organised religion than I was then, though I respect the right for others to believe they do good things that they do because they were told to rather than just because they happen to be a nice person.

Tonight, I went to see Final Destination 3 with Hussein. The movie was as crap as you’d expect, but still somehow enjoyable. If you’re at a loose end, or just keen to do something with a friend – then go see it. I’m up writing on the book at the moment, taking too much time out to write on this blog, but that’s life. I spent a while figuring out why cxoffice was broken earlier (very annoying – no OSX isn’t better, but Linux software really should always tell you why it’s failing) and had had a few cups of tea (in fact, I had breakfast at 03:00 this morning again). I’m going to make some progress today if it kills me – and if it does, tough. I’ll get it done anyway.

I’ll be hanging around Oxford on Thursday (I offered to help a friend out with some embedded problems in exchange for a curry and a chat) and now expect to swing by Cambridge sometime next month, probably after I get back from a couple of days/weeks in Germany.


P.S. I think I now officially want to take up sailing again. I’ve become quite interested in one day having a cutter ship of my own – I’d call it the Cutty Sark and sail on the high seas. Ooooh Arrrrh!

[0] Which means working less with MVL and DevRocket. I’ll probably now buy an ML403 to hack on in my spare time, in addition to getting more involved in other cool projects.

The land of the Free

Sunday, February 19th, 2006

I feel the need to re-explain my aversion to the current Identity Card legislation going through the UK parliament at the moment. Central to both my argument and that of the two main opposing political parties (who rightfully stand against Labour in this matter) is the issue of compulsion. While I don’t condone Identity Cards on principal (the government have no right to this information – treating your citizens like criminals a police state creates), I have fewer reservations about a voluntary system that I can opt out of on a personal basis (there would need to be protections in place to prevent compulsion by the back door). When I do strongly object is at the point now reached – one where Identity Cards are to be forced upon us.

And don’t tell me that’s not true. As the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats may well point out to you, around 85% of the British population have passports (and many more have other documents that are apparently also to be linked to the database). Thus, at least 85% of the British population will be forced to have an identity card over the next few years. We don’t have an option about passports either – although many travel on vacation, many also work overseas or need to travel on an occasional basis to visit family, or even for emergencies if a friend, colleague, or family member is taken ill. No, passports are not something we can just do without.

My passport is due to expire early in 2007, just before the mandatory Big Brother system is activated. I called the UK Passport Office[0] the other day to check on how I can expedite the renewal process. I also asked them about Identity Cards. I was told that the only briefing they have right now is to refer us to a government website – they have no other information to offer to callers. It is fortunate, then, that my replacement passport should see me through another 10 years without an enforced Identity Card. I have ten years to upgrade this passport to a better one and/or to rescind my British Citizenship in order to be removed from such a database.

Remember, the issue of compulsion is what bothers me. Iff the ID card was voluntary then my whinging would likely go away (or be substantially along the lines of it just being a waste of money) – I might even consider getting one some day if life became too hard without them. But since the government has decided to throw the right to choice within the UK down the toilet, it’s necessary to resist Identity Cards as much as is possible.


[0] Who immediately ask you identity questions before speaking with you, regardless of the topic, just like modern banks (you may recall the situation I had with Barclays after refusing to give them such information in order to find out general information about Barclays that had nothing to do with my account). They seem to default to wanting to know your inside leg measurement before talking to you.

cxoffice annoyance

Saturday, February 18th, 2006

I’m writing a book at the moment, for which it’s useful to have Microsoft Word kicking around from time to time. So, I installed an old copy under (the otherwise absolutely fantastic – go buy it now!) Crossover Office so I could check things before they’re sent to the publisher. It’s been working great for a month or two. Until I tried to play around with my regular wine.

Here’s ticket 77817 from the Codeweavers tracking system, which I just filed. Notice two bad design decisions here:

  • the broken assumption that it’s a good idea to go looking for replacement dlls randomly, not using the standard cxoffice defaults whenever possible (that have been tested).
  • not providing a graphical error message with descriptive text on systems running graphical applications.

This is very bad, because the average Joe using this software isn’t likely to fire it up under strace or a debugger and see why it’s failing and then report that to Codeweavers – they’re just going to think it’s broken. Now I think cxoffice is a fantastic product, but it could be better if it handled this stuff and didn’t just break if a user stuck a file in their home directory. That kind of stuff is what puts some people off using FLOSS and it shouldn’t have to be this way.


Can someone patch up cxoffice not to default to looking for dll’s in the current directory?

I’ve been recently playing with getting Google Earth to work under regular wine (I don’t know about cxoffice support thereof) and had an ole32.dll kicking around in $HOME. When I came to launch cxoffice to run Microsoft Word, it spewed a bunch of errors and fired up the debugger (without enough useful output – it just died, no cxoffice error dialog).

I removed and re-installed various bottles and cxoffice before I finally started shouting at it and wound up running the whole thing under strace. I then manually went through the output to see what was getting loaded and found the offending dll that way. In any case cxoffice *should not* do this – it might be something wine does, but cxoffice should not.

Thanks for an otherwise great product. Keep up the good work – and please add an error dialog wrapper so users can /see/ when this happens as the default experience on cxoffice 5.0.1 is “Word started to launch but nothing happened”


England bans death sticks

Wednesday, February 15th, 2006

England is to ban smoking in enclosed public spaces from the summer of 2007, playing catch up with several other countries in the UK, who have already taken positive action over the past few years. This is fantastic news and mirrors the actions of many other states over the past few years, since it finally became politically correct not to endorse these little death sticks and all of their evils.

Smoking is an evil, horribly disgusting activity, which adversely affects me as a non-smoker. I don’t want to inhale smoke passively and risk acquiring lung cancer just because somebody else wants to smoke next to me. In fact, in the past I have been known to carry face masks around in public to remind those who decide to smoke that I very much don’t consider their actions to be reasonable. This being said, I’m not against people smoking (if they want to kill themselves, then that’s entirely their own decision – I’ll even support their right to free treatment on the NHS because of the tax they pay) but I am against them doing it in enclosed public spaces and in places where I am going to be eating. If people want to smoke then they should do it somewhere else – at home, outside where there’s less risk, etc. We don’t let people walk into bars waving guns in the air, so it’s a good idea to stop them from waving death sticks too.

This isn’t a civil liberties issue either because my rights as a non-smoker outweigh those of smokers in this matter. Nobody is going to convince me that this ban is anything but a good idea.