Archive for March, 2006

Zurich Daytrip

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

Photo: I took a day trip to Zurich in order to hook up with Sven-Thorsten Dietrich, his cousin and Thomas Gleixner over in Uhldingen in Germany. The Gleixner’s kindly cooked us lunch and showed us around the local region.

I like doing some fun things on the weekend. I decided it might be real fun to swing by Zurich for the day on Sunday, despite having too much else I should be doing (I just didn’t sleep Saturday night). I wanted to hook up with Sven and Thomas and talk Real Time for a while, while having lunch and a stroll around the local region. Thomas certainly lives in a nice area and he’s up to some seriously interesting stuff with mingo et al, so that’s all pretty cool.

I had never been to Switzerland (or, by extension, to Zurich) before and even though I spent most of my time across the border, I have to say that I think I quite like the Swiss. It’s just a nice country – nice and neutral too, 12% income tax (apparently), but otherwise expensive. I got a 06:something flight out on Sunday morning, got picked up by Sven and his cousin at the airport and then we drove to Germany (taking the car ferry across Lake Constance, which we later walked around another small part of). We had lunch, lots of coffee and dessert, did some fun things, talked quite a lot, then Sven, Nicole and I went back to Zurich for dinner. All in all, that ranks up there with one of the more fun Sunday outings that I’ve had. I got the early flight this morning back to London City and then worked from home for the rest of the day – though I did work on Saturday so I didn’t get a lot really useful stuff done today.

I’ve synced down a ppc rawhide from a couple of days back onto a workstation here (3.5GB or whatever) and will go do an installation thang onto a laptop in the course of this week. I’m trying to get up to speed and figure out which way is up at work, so I figured it was probably also a very good idea to start properly tracking things like rawhide in my spare time. Did some work on the book too over the weekend and I think I’ve got the portability chapter nearly finished. That only involved covering all of the following in 30 pages (yes, ok the I18N stuff really should have had its own chapter, maybe, but it is actually a portability issue – just not a straight hardware thing):

  • History of portable systems from System/360 on up
  • Linux distribution portability, the LSB, et al
  • Packaging for RPM, Dpkg.
  • Internationalization with wide characters, gettext, and friends.
  • Autotools.
  • 64-bit cleanliness.
  • Endian neutrality.

I didn’t realize that when you write books, you actually need to write a lot :-) And if you think you understood what I just wrote, go try it sometime.


Vanity numbers

Sunday, March 12th, 2006

I’ve got a vanity cellphone number in the UK that ends in 131337, as many of you already know. I plan to keep this number pretty much indefinately and once I relocate, I’ll continue to pay for it and have it direct to a VoIP gateway that’ll shove traffic over to a cellphone wherever I’m actually at. This is all well and good, but I want a vanity number in the US too (cheaper for people to call me).

So, last night I had another look at vanity numbers. This time, I think I want a DID VoIP style number that can fallback to a direct cellphone. Specifically, I want a 617 area code DID number that ends in 31337 and I’m willing to pay a reasonable amount for this vanity too. I’ve mailed a bunch of providers about it but I’m interested in recommendations.

The fallback is to get a regular cell number of the form that I want, but I can’t so easily do that prior to having a residence in the United States. I have incidentally already inquired with HSBC about setting up an account with them in the UK since they can help me to port over my financial history to the US that way. But I nonetheless expect it to be hassle.


I hate spam

Saturday, March 11th, 2006

I hate spam, you hate spam, we all hate spam…
(to the tune of that annoying Barney song)

Anyway. I’ve moderated all of those comments you left for me (I approved them all – I don’t throw away any comments unless they’re actually legally iffy or whatever) and I’m sorry I didn’t do it before but I do tend to get a lot of spam these days, even after tagging things as spam. For example, last month I had around 20,000 spams in my email. A few hundred spam comments got through the filter I have in wordpress and while I was moderating, several new spams appeared during that time. I’ll try to do this more often, I guess.

The worst thing about spam is when things break under it. Like how printk recently suffered from mailman problems due to the sheer weight of spam backed up in the mailman queues (dudes – please please please fix the admin interface for mailman and please make it wipe its bum after you manually delete pending mail and not just crash out horribly. Pretty please). There have been other spam problems too but I have a cunning plan. The main thing I need to do right now is to get the hosting sorted out for my email/websites under my own Xen so that I can twiddle things properly. We’re upgrading our boxen next month so it’ll hopefully happen around that time – then I just need to work out way to make my Xen VM port itself properly to boxes running on different physical networking infrastructures. I’ll get it done.

In no particular order:

  • Chris! Sorry, I didn’t mail you yet – I will fix that now I’ve seen your comments.
  • David! I bought the wireless cameras on ebay (just search for “wireless camera” or 1.2GHz camera or whatever). One of them arrived today and didn’t seem to work but I confirmed my initial suspicion that the reason for the advice of using a high spec 9V battery is that the receiver draws quite a bit of current. With a mains adapter attached to deliver power, it all works great.
  • Paul! Yes. I did work out the LGA->JFK transfer and thanks for backing me up on the flights front. I enjoy travelling. It’s just unfortunate that it’s not environmentally as good as it could be.
  • Toby! (and others). I respect your views on the banning smoking in public places issue. Thanks for making them so clear to me :-)

Anyway. I finally got up and started doing stuff. My DE changed so the book is getting some figuring out over the next few days as we adjust the schedule to make it more realistic (thanks go to the contributors so far – you’re great!). I’m switching to EST properly soon so I’m getting a few clocks setup here with different times on them and I’m probably going to buy myself a new desktop machine soon. You might also notice an insane amount of weekend travelling is now booked – Zurich next weekend, Ottawa the weekend after that, then Boston, and finally Portland. It’s looking likely that I’ll have to go to Ottawa again in the middle of April for various reasons. I find I’m able to think better when I’m someplace interesting with my laptop. Viva le weekend!

We did some printk stuff yesterday. As part of that, I hooked up with hj at the Apple store in London and played around a bit. I checked out the new Apple Mac Mini and was photographing the device tree output on my cellphone camera when I had the realization that these are probably one of the most supportable Apple products on the market at the moment. Since Hussein isn’t interested in trading his PowerPC Mini, I might buy one. I need to think about that – on the one hand, it’s an Intel Mac (it’s not a laptop though and I currently have an x86 desktop PC that it would swap for) but on the other it has a graphics chipset that has a vendor supported Open Source driver. Mumble. Anyway, the Apple Store annoyed me for all the reasons I thought that it would.


Panorama – Stockwell Shooting

Wednesday, March 8th, 2006

Panorama just had an interesting feature on the Stockwell police murder of an innocent Brazilian citizen. I found this episode interesting for one of the interviews they ran with police officials – one guy sat and repeatedly tried to claim that there is no “shoot to kill” policy because they only “shoot to incapacitate” by shooting people in the head.

Ok. So, you might not kill someone by shooting them in the head, but you’ve got to figure that the odds are good that they’re never going to be quite the same afterwards and that they’re more than likely very dead in the process. But no, that’s not a shoot to kill policy because that’s not very politically correct with your average British television viewer, so they can’t have a police spokesperson stand up and claim that on TV.

I also found it interesting that in Israel, the police have to know that there is a suicide bomber (by seeing their weapon) rather than just having a cup-of-tea senior police officer think that it might be a good idea to pop off a few rounds in someone’s head over breakfast. Good to know I live in a country where even the Israeli policy wasn’t good enough.



Tuesday, March 7th, 2006

Looks like I might be visiting Zurich on the weekend of the 18th and 19th to hang out with a friend. Debating about whether to be around the whole weekend or just bits of it, depends really if one of you randomly mail me to say you’ll be there too. Anyone?


Hey! Let’s filter your mail!

Monday, March 6th, 2006

“Our technical experience is vast, allowing us to support Macintosh, Windows and all flavours of UNIX”
– Mailbox Internet

So Mailbox are running SA or somesuch on outgoing mail. They might have been doing this for a while, but in any case have the level (10) set too low to prevent legit. mail from getting rejected. I’m getting bounces on certain mail sent out using them and it’s got to a level that I’m noticing it.

This is a point of principal. I don’t care what they do with their own systems (though I think filtering people’s mail for them because you presume them to be stupid is not cool) but I do care when I’m not warned about it. I didn’t know they were doing that – how do I know mail that I’ve sent out has been going where it should be?

I don’t run a direct delivering mailserver at home because some people who enjoy drinking the ORBS/MAPS koolaid far too much think it’s a good idea to also reject mail from ADSL type address ranges. Until appeared, I also needed to have a second MX where mail could be delivered to in order to have redundant copies of mail – the current setup allows me to live with the loss of either colo or home and still have access to all mail (eventually, I’ll have triple backups setup and get this all nicely streamlined…maybe). So home is a valid MX for delivery but doesn’t send out directly all on its own.

Anyway. Colo is now handling all my outgoing mail, but I’m just annoyed once again that something happened and I didn’t get to know about it until things broke. Ok. I’m getting that other ADSL ordered in the next couple of weeks – I just need to get a line moved before it’s possible to do that.


Virgin Megastore Reading is no more

Monday, March 6th, 2006

So Virgin finally closed their “Megastore” in Reading. I think I can recall casually wondering when that would happen. They’re “old”, in the wrong place (the older shopping mall) and there are too many alternatives. More importantly, they’re around the corner from FOPP and I like to think that it was they who put Virgin out of business. This is a good thing because FOPP seem to care a little more than the big corporates (read: they’ll let you return music – though I’ve never actually had cause to do this) and it’s good for consumers to have that kind of thing.

I did something a little dirty. I bought the Pussycat Dolls album earlier. I know. But they don’t take things too seriously and they’re quite fit, so there’s some kind of motivation. The music isn’t as bad as it could be either. I did buy Coldplay X&Y as some kind of compensation for this minor musical taste indiscretion.

On a related note, there’s a second Starbucks at the Oracle shopping mall now. I wondered who it would be. That takes the number of Starbucks outlets in Reading to 3 or 4 that I know of now. It’s not quite like the US, but bear in mind that a few years ago there were none at all here. I bought one coffee in the older Oracle store and a tea, but I did also go to Pret for some variability. I love their veggie soup (though Hannah rightfully points out that it’s probably not suitable for vegans – it’s got to be fun if you’re vegan and want to eat somewhere even like Pret).

This is a random post. The point being that I hadn’t been into Reading for months (how cool is that? I got over the need to pointlessly go into town for no reason!) and it had changed a little in a semi-progressive kind of way. Though I couldn’t see a newspaper store I wanted to check out (I hope it’s not closed down). My final bit of consumer advice for the day is that Woolworths are repeating their Espresso machine offer – I have two of these stainless steel machines because they’re great and only £40 if you buy one now. I dislike Woolworths in general these days (they seem to want to sell themselves to chavs) and had to leave quickly, but it’d be worth going in there to buy one of these nonetheless.