Thursday, October 02, 2008

Sunday, July 20, 2008

MacBook Pro

[reading: R.J. Hillhouse, "Outsourced"]

New toy: a MacBook Pro to use as my new primary machine.

I put the other blog to good use—I decided to reinstall everything from scratch, rather than use a Time Machine restore (which would have transferred a bunch of cruft, and would have meant that all the binaries would be the slower PowerPC versions rather than Intel versions). A couple of days later, I'm done.

It's definitely faster than the old machine, but I don't have a good feel for by how much. I compared the time taken to rebuild one of my current projects (90 seconds vs. 255 seconds) but that was for quite a disk-bound build process, which will limit the advantage of the new machine.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Please accept from me this unpretentious bouquet of very early-blooming typos

[reading: Christopher Brookmyre, "Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks"; recently Neil Gaiman& Michael Reaves, "Interworld", Connie Willis, "Uncharted Territory", Joe Abercrombie, "Before They Are Hanged"]

A new low: this time I spotted the first problem while the initial printed draft was still en route. What's worse: it was a bug in the TeX code, rather than a typo, which means that the mistake affects 85% of the pages…

Thursday, April 17, 2008


[reading: Jean Hugard & Frederick Braue, "The Royal Road to Card Magic (revised edition)"; recently Henning Nelms, "Magic and Showmanship: A Handbook for Conjurers"]

Today's --work-properly option: adding -rdynamic (a.k.a. --export-dynamic) to a GCC link line will mean that any dlopened libraries are able to bind to the symbols in the running executable.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Programmed Obsolescence Bug

[reading: Donald Knuth, "Digital Typography"; recently Neil Gaiman, "M is for Magic"; Neil Gaiman, "Odd and the Frost Giants"; Atul Gawande, "Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance"]

We had a new washing machine delivered today, because my old washing machine was on its last legs—it only spins about a third of the time, although the rest of the cycle still seems to work fine.

Which is a shame, as I bought the old machine (a Zanussi FL828) in 1995. Second hand.

(And yes, I was impressed enough with it that I've bought another Zanussi).

Saturday, March 22, 2008

At the Zoo

[reading: St. Clair, John, "Project Arcade: Build Your Own Arcade Machine"]

The plus side of going to the zoo:


The slightly more disconcerting side:


But someone didn't seem that impressed (he was more interested in the neighbouring boy's sandwich):


Monday, March 17, 2008

Ken acquires restraint (for some unfathomable reason)

[reading: Mary Gentle, "Ilario: The Lion's Eye"; recently Robert Harris, "Imperium"]

Imagine my surprise. Unlike every other year, this year's hike in the GLA part of my council tax bill is below inflation.

Year Annual Cumulative
2000/2001     100.00100.00100.00
2001/2002 22.7%0.9%2.3% 122.69100.90102.30
2002/2003 15.2%1.5%1.3% 141.39102.41103.63
2003/2004 29.1%1.5%3.1% 182.47103.95106.84
2004/2005 7.5%1.1%2.6% 196.24105.09109.62
2005/2006 5.5%1.9%3.2% 207.04107.09113.13
2006/2007 13.3%1.8%2.4% 234.68109.02115.84
2007/2008 5.3%3.1%4.8% 247.10112.40121.40
2008/2009 2.0%2.2%4.1% 252.04114.87126.38

March 2008 CPI/RPI figures not yet available; January 2008 figures used instead.

You'd almost think there was some kind of impending election*.

* Which is a wonderful link, by the way. I'd pretty much given up hope of any journalist bothering to do their job, rather than just recycle press releases.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Back /home

[reading: Iain Banks, "The Steep Approach to Garbadale"]

After a long break, I've just reinstated Linux as an OS on one of my machines.

I was tempted to go back to Slackware, which I used from 1993 to 1998 (until I was tempted away by the shininess of Red Hat), but as I keep hearing mention of Ubuntu, I thought I'd try that. (Also, it gave me a chance to run with the Debian package system instead of RPM for a change.)

The install was very smooth—smoother than any of the Windows installs I've done in the last few years (about 7 XP + 2 Vista), and just as smooth as Mac OS X (which I've done twice recently). However, the Linux install really wins big when in comes to adding in extra packages with the package manager.

On Mac OS X, getting all of the software, tools, utilities and depedencies was a fairly long-winded process (hence the blog about it, both so I could repeat the process myself if the machine died, and so that anyone else who had similar problems might be able to find useful information via the Magick of Google).

On Ubuntu, I just ran my top-level makefile; whenever some bit of build failed I just went into the package manager and installed the relevant missing package, then moved onto the next step of the build. In the end I think I only had to install three things from source, and two of those were very obscure.

So now I'm up and running fully, with access to all three of the major desktop development platforms.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Remote Reset

[reading: Neil Gaiman, "Eternals"]

Someone at work was complaining the other week about the difficulties of testing with the OSE board. The board needs to have the reset button pressed after each test, and the problem was that the board lives in the machine room at the other end of the building.

I remembered that I had an old Lego Mindstorms set rotting in the cellar, so I decided to help out:


One of the motors had died in the meanwhile, but a contraption to press a button only needs a single motor. The software had rotted quite badly too—the old software that came with the set wouldn't work with XP, and there didn't seem to be any updates on the Lego website.

Open source to the rescue: the NQC compiler together with the Bricx IDE sorted out the 6 line program that I needed, and so remote reset was born.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Picture Sale

[reading: Yannis Haralambous, "Fonts and Encodings"; recently Joss Whedon, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Long Way Home"]

Apparently I (sort of) sold my first picture last week, which was a framed print of this one:


The details are little less impressive: I gave the picture to a charity shop after a clear out. They put it in the window for £9.99 and it was there one day, gone the next.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Back to Normality

[reading: Richard Kaye, "The Mathematics of Logic: A Guide to Completeness Theorems and their Applications"]

So my laptop is back, and the Time Machine restore has gone smoothly (mostly), and I now realize (after a couple of weeks without the machine) just how dependent I am on it…

Saturday, January 05, 2008


Well, my laptop is now in for repair, and I've got a new iPod. After the crash, the iPod demanded to be restored from iTunes, and continued to demand this even after I'd restored it a dozen or so times (downgrading the firmware, trying on both Windows and Mac, reformatting the drive, changing the drive letter, all had no effect). So they gave me a new one.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


[reading: Warren Ellis, "Crooked Little Vein"]

Apparently you can never be paranoid enough. My backup system for the laptop was

Tonight my laptop hard drive died…while I was updating the offsite backup, taking the backup disk with it. So I hope the on-site backup is still OK….