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Archive for November, 2005

New TFT Monitor

November 27th, 2005 No comments

On Thursday, I finally bought myself a flat screen monitor. I’d wanted one for some time, but finally got spurred into it when I bought my Mac Mini.

I bought a Samsung 19 inch SyncMaster 913N, from a shady little outfit called PC World, all for £200.

So far, I’m sooooo impressed. It looks gorgeous, the resolution is more than I need, and the picture quality is brilliant. I did look at other 17 inch screens, including the Samsung 713N, but that had lower specs (brightness ratio and cd/m^2), and it was the same price (Hmmm, let me think – good 17 inch, or better 19 inch for the same price).

I’m still getting to used to looking at so much info on a screen at the same time, GMail in particular looks amazing!

What I’m also surprised at, is Samsung had put in the installation instructions the information for setting up the monitor in Linux, under X11 – pretty impressively comprehensive!

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VMWare Player

November 21st, 2005 No comments

I’ve been playing the past couple of weeks with VMWare’s new (and free!) “VMWare Player” product.

Essentially, it lets you “play” with, but not create, VMWare Virtual Machine images (and quite sneakily, it also works with Microsoft Virtual PC images).

What I’m having the most fun with though, is trying out different operating systems that I would not usually experiment with, due to the amount of time it would take to continually build the images, and the cost of the hardware. So far, I regularly download the latest builds* of Haiku, which is an open-source reimplementation of the still excellent BeOS, I have also attempted to use Syllable and Plan 9, and at the weekend I managed to successfully build a Fedora Core 4 image which I plan to use for development.

All this is possible as I found a website which tells you how to install an OS into an image using an ISO image for the CD drive, and a blank VMWare image (all perfectly legal!), and also a website which provides the blank VMWare image**. This way, although I’m not directly creating the image file, I’m can create installed images to my hearts content. One of my work colleagues also managed to find a website which lets you construct the configuration file in a nice, easy to use, web interface.

I must say, that running each “machine” is somewhat slower than you would expect from running it natively, but it’s something that I can live seeing as I cannot even begin to comprehend the complexity of what the software is doing.

Speaking of VMWare, I am quite lucky as I have recently had exposure to it (or at least, the one of the enterprise server editions) at work (all be it, from a “using” rather than an “administering” view point), and I am so impressed with what we can do with it at work. I initially had hesitations over its use, citing performance issues, but my worries appear to have been unfounded.

The greatest use we have of it so far, is with building servers for live installation environments. Due to the large world-wide nature of our company, we have installations throughout the world, and although the project that I work on has only just released to it’s fifth country, it means that we need at least 10 different testing servers, plus two servers for each live country.

Our new VMWare installation has changed all of that though. Instead, we have 10 test server images that we can start and stop on a whim, all on one piece of hardware. This means that, if a country requires a specific setup for their servers for testing purposes (e.g. They have a third server that we need to interact with), it’s not a problem to build an image of that server, and use this image as when it is needed. This has happened to myself in the past, where I needed a particular server just for one country – this setup allowed our administrators to create two extra disposable images just for myself.

We are also slowly merging the deployment of the two live servers (one database server, one webserver), into one server (plus back up servers), by using two VMWare images. The other advantage that we have is simple: if the physical hardware on one of the boxes fails, then we simply migrate the VMWare image onto a temporary server (e.g. our larger development server), and everything continues as normal (no change of IP addresses, etc).

* Make sure that you also download the configuration file “haiku.vmx” from here before you start to use the image.
** Ensure that you read the comment posted by James Rose, as this details a small error in the configuration file. The configuration file can be changed using any text editor.

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Are You A Psycho – Part 2

November 18th, 2005 No comments

So Richard has managed to confirm what I have always known – he has psychopathic tendencies. Apparently, my boss is a psycho too. Nice! (I’ve moved my chair a little further away from hers now).

The answer to the question is quite simple: She killed her sister in the hope that the guy will be at her funeral too.

My first and only solution to the question was that the man was her sister’s new husband/boyfriend, or something like that. Everyone else who I gave the question to, seemed to come up with a similar answer to me, so at least I’m normal!

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Are You A Psycho?

November 16th, 2005 1 comment

I’m currently reading “Mary, Mary” by James Patterson at the moment, and close to the beginning there is a little test that a character performs on themselves.

Basically, the test is to see if you are a psychopath. If you can answer the question in the right way, you’re a nutter! So here goes: (incidentally, I’m not a knife-wielding maniac – contrary to what others might say)The mother of a single woman dies. At her mother’s funeral, the woman sees her most perfect man, but doesn’t ask for his name or phone number. The next day, the woman kills her sister. Why?I’ll post the answer in a couple of days, but if you want to have a guess, then leave a comment!

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Kingston Head Race

November 14th, 2005 No comments

I raced at the Kingston Small Boats Head race yesterday.

Didn’t do too well. Less said, the better.

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Spooks

November 11th, 2005 No comments

Damn it! They bloody well did it again! Another amazing cliff-hanger at the end of the season – these things get my so irrate because I need to know what happens next (and have to wait a year to find out!), but paradoxically, I love them and their ingenuity.

Last night was the last in the current season of Spooks, on BBC One. My god, it’s been back on form this season. Season 3 was a bit of a disappointment for me, seeing as they spoilt the cliff hanger at the end of season 2 in the advert for the upcoming season, and also because all 3 main cast members left.

Season 4 has been absolutely brilliant again, and I had a double surprise because I thought that last night’s episode was number 9 out of 10, and not the final one! It was another outstanding cliff hanger (which I won’t go and spoil for people who haven’t seen it yet) and leaves a great number of questions unanswered for next season. Spooks obviously have a very talented set of script writers, one of which (at least) has written the brilliant novel “Good News, Bad News” (I would certainly recommend it!), and I’m hoping that season 5 will continue with their excellent tradition.

Well done BBC, another brilliant series in the bag!

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Lance Ulanoff Is An Arse

November 10th, 2005 No comments

Actually, he might not be, but he has written a stupid article for PCMag.com (Link) about his top 10 computer peeves for 2005.

I though that it would be quite a good article describing some of the worst interface designs, etc, but it appears to be a pointless whinge. I’ll address each of his points:

  1. Telling Time – What do you want? Microsoft to invent the crystal ball? The speed is calculated from the rate that data is being received by your computer. This can change due to many things, and affects all computers, not just ones running Windows.

    Firstly, the Internet is not a fixed beast of wiring. There is not a single wire connecting every single computer to one another, and so data gets routed around between different computers in order to find the best route. That route can be affected by computers crashing, links getting blocked by too much traffic using it, and everything can be affected by the number of people using the Internet. The Internet needs to do this in order for it stay working.

    Secondly, it depends on how you are transferring the file (as in, which protocol). I know for a fact that many FTP servers do load balancing, so that the connections that are transferring larger files get less bandwidth than smaller files (the idea being that it will get rid of as many connections as possible in the fastest time).

    Finally, it depends on what you are doing. Each connection to the Internet that you have (e.g. email, web browser, IM, FTP connections, etc) all use a portion of the bandwidth allocated to you. The more connections, the smaller the portion.

  2. Can You Hear Me Now? – Simple, stop fucking with your Audio settings! Something is changing them, and it’s either a piece of software (which you have changed the sound settings in), or it’s you changing them. And as for the icon disappearing? See that little blue arrow to the left of the system tray? That’s there to hide icons that you don’t necessarily need to see. It’s called a feature.
  3. Fast Dial-Up – A fair point, but it’s not really a computer peeve, is it? They may have some point in what they say, though. They could have upgraded their bandwidth, installed caches, implemented v92 standards, which could let them justify their case; but again, it does sound dubious.
  4. It’s Video – You seem to have the impression that Microsoft run all the Internet software on your computer. If AIM is playing sound back at the wrong point, it’s a fault of AOL, not Microsoft. That said, you do have a fair point – it is annoying.

    I do love this quote though:In general, the Web is now video-happy.It’s always been “Video-Happy”, due to the very nature of HTTP, it’s just that Browsers have started supporting more.

  5. Bad Buddies – Why on earth would you sign up for “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”? Never mind, I think I understand.

    The point is, if this is happening, then tell someone about it. If AOL don’t know this is happening, then they won’t know that they need to do something about it – people can’t mind read, they need to be told.

  6. Microsoft Word – OK, everyone agrees that Smart Tags suck. If they are getting turned back on again, something is doing that. Work out what it is.

    I’m not entirely sure what you mean when you say I am tired of having to put “English” on the mouse when I select text. I’m not playing Ping-Pong.Are you writing the word “English” on your mouse? – that could be your problem – did you buy it abroad?

    Your next point is totally unacceptable though. You seem to be blaming Microsoft for your hand spasms. It is true that Undo was invented to reverse a mistake, but I don’t really think that it is Microsoft that is being stupid in this case.

  7. Driver, Please! – Drivers are a hot bed of problems. When you think about it, they are actually doing a hell of a lot of work. Not only do they need to be able to hook into the Windows API correctly, they also have to be able to accurately communicate with physical hardware correctly, in all combinations of hardware. It is inevitable that they do not work with all hardware combinations. In this instance, it is the driver manufacturer’s fault, and not Microsoft’s. Vista may fix things, but only if the driver manufacturers do their thing properly
  8. Too Many Buttons – Don’t buy a mouse with so many buttons, fuck wit. Plus they have the benefit of being cheaper.
  9. Pop-Up Spyware Arms Race – Like you say, it is an arms race. Things change. To put this in another context: Someone invented the sword. So someone invented chain mail. So someone invented the arrow. So someone invented thicker shields. After a while, someone invented the gun, so someone invented a bullet proof vest. Someone invented armour piercing bullets, so someone invented Kevlar, and so on. When someone invents a form of attack to get around someone’s defence, those defences need improving, and so the cycle continues. Outlawing Pop-Ups – good luck enforcing that one!
  10. Unreliable Wireless – Jesus, would you look at what you are complaining about.

    Just sit and think about this for a moment. You are sat, using a device the size of an A4 pad. That device has more processing power than it took to put a man on the moon. It has no wires, no power leads, and yet still keeps going. And you complain that natural background radio waves interfere with your precious AIM sessions?

    The amount of hours of pure invention and dedication by thousands of highly skilled technicians throughout the world and throughout the years, appears to mean nothing to you because of the physics of radio waves.

    Give a little praise once in a while for those people who do this, but get little praise and who no-one knows their names, and realise the miracles of processing power that people use everyday, but give little thought to.

  11. Lousy Tech Repair People – As far as I can tell, you problem here is that Radio Shack have a slow Internet connection on their till systems? If you think that you could do a better job, then give it a try. At least it would stop you whinging.
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When Mark Met Richard

November 6th, 2005 No comments

Following on from my previous rant about feeling old, I also remembered the other day about when I first met Richard!

Turns out, we met in our very first Electronics practical class in our first year at Uni, and got talking because we both had Nokia 8210 phones…..

The rest is just history

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Lewes Bonfire

November 6th, 2005 No comments

I got back about an hour ago, from this years Lewes Bonfire.

It was absolutely amazing. It was the first time that I had been, and although I had heard stories about it, nothing compares to actually experiencing it.

The main town procession was just brilliant. The amount of effort and work these people must put in is just unbelievable. Afterwards, I went to the Cliffe Bonfire. I have never seen so many fireworks. It must be the best display that I have ever been to, and all for £5.

If you were involved, well done to you – you gave me a brilliant night out!

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