MJR's slef-reflection

Powered By MaBloss This section is something like a blog. You can subscribe to RSS 1.0 feeds of the entire thing, just hacking or just scheme. The scheme feed will be the base for the new SWN once ready.

To contact me, email mjr AT dsl dot pipex dot com.

koha news

MJ Ray

koha development summaries:

  1. to 27 June
  2. to 4 July
  3. to 11 July

The installer is going to get a rewrite to make it easier to package. See installer meeting outcomes.

2005-07-13T09:23:19

London bombed :(

MJ Ray

London has been bombed - maybe four explosions (underground at Edgware Road, outside Aldgate, outside Russell Square; bus at Tavistock) rather than the seven reported at first, but it's still pretty confused. Over 100 injured for sure, probably over 10 dead. Also confusion about whether these were simultaneous or whether Aldgate and Russell Square were first, then Edgware, then Tavistock. Fortunately, none of my family were nearby, although they were expected.

Speculation about who did this already blames Al-Qaeda, but it doesn't seem very like their coordinated attacks, nor does it milk as much terror from a single incident as IRA did.

Unlike the commercial media, don't forget the g8, the pens, the arrests and so on. A counter-terrorist unit is being returned to London, but things aren't safe in Scotland yet. Will the bombs hide a failure to make poverty history, make trade fairer or address climate change?

2005-07-07T13:45:22

No Death in the Walks

MJ Ray

I can't believe I forgot to mention that last week, I helped Death pay a visit to the Town Hall as part of the "restoration comedy" called No Death in the Walks:
Death and Scythe with two sacrifices
At least 5 trees clearly visible in that shot would be felled soon, with the rest of the tall line along the back to be felled in about 20 years, if they go ahead with the current plan.

2005-07-06T15:27:20

News Not Noticed

MJ Ray

Sun get a patent covering apt-get and Intel get a patent covering mythtv. Please keep European software unpatentable. The EPO doesn't seem much better at checking obviousness than the USPTO.

Bristol Indymedia server seized by police - corporate media fail to report.

Seen in John Airey's sig: "Believing that complex life evolved from nothing is like believing that houses are the result of an explosion in a brick factory." John's off to do the Etape du Tour for RNIB. Madness, but admirable madness.

Fun and games at Gleneagles, with the police announcing that the protest march is cancelled. Organisers continue regardless. Yay. Hear it live: g8radio.

This one will get noticed: EuroParl rejects swpat by 648 votes to 14. Parliamentary Democracy beats Software Patent Promoters again. Phew. Now what happens? Conciliation or will the Commissioner really kill the bill?

2005-07-06T12:10:31

Software Patents Film Theme

MJ Ray
2005-06-28T15:12:34

This WEEK, I will be MOSTLY

MJ Ray

At LugRadioLive 2005

I'm sure Jono has gotten older and lost hair since that picture was taken...

2005-06-24T16:50:24

Feeling hot hot hot?

MJ Ray

I've a good book here, called "Fraicheur sans clim'" (Cool without aircon) by Thierry Salomon and Claude Aubert. I bought it after seeing an interview while on holiday during last summer's hot spell. It's a guide to keeping your home cool in the heatwaves, although it does also cover keeping warm in the winter. Here are some top tips for cooling in northern Europe:

  • Open the windows full at night: it'll recharge your home with cool air and cool the walls from the inside as well as outside. You won't freeze when the outside air is 16C, after all. (No, don't open downstairs windows that can be climbed in.)
  • Close the windows in the day: they're good for keeping heat out too, especially double-glazed. If you filled the house with cool air overnight, it doesn't get stuffy. If you have a west or north-west window, you can leave that open early, too. North-east windows can't be opened until quite late because the outdoor air will still be warmer than the indoors.
  • Drop the blinds or curtains on the sunny side. Seems obvious, but I'm surprised how many grill themselves...
  • Water any pavement around your house: evaporation will make the air feel fresher. On really hot days, dry washing indoors, well-spaced. Well-watered green plants and even damp cloths can help put water into the air too.
  • Use small fans: moving air helps evaporation. Big fans motors can generate too much heat, though. In general, reduce power use to a minimum to reduce heat sources.
  • Beyond that, don't wear too much and keep yourself well-watered.

Now I've posted that, this hot spell will surely end!

2005-06-24T10:18:48

Politics: patents, G8, Chiapas

MJ Ray

Tom Chance has posted a good action list about what we developers can do to help the struggle against software patents in the EU.

Indymedia UK have a summary of why people will be protesting at the G8 in Scotland. Really, name a global social injustice and probably some of the G8 are implicated: Environmental damage, Corporatism, Poverty, Arms Trade, Nukes, Migration Politics.

Gunnar Wolf posts about Zapatistas from inside Mexico - apparently not all may not be as our beloved media reports.

2005-06-24T02:01:27

koha, CC, HST, quotes, wikis

MJ Ray

New koha release 2.2.3: get it from sourceforge. I have a question about searching and a summary of this week's coding.

David Meme told creative-friends about CC celebrating their birthday by using donations to pay AOL Time Warner!

I finally wrote up the news about housing stock transfer.

Funny out of context: "We just need a ruler and a scalpel/cutter." -- Jesus Climent (I think that beats "I searched debian-policy for porn and didn't find any".)

And finally, the award for discovering the blindingly obvious goes to: the LA Times.

2005-06-22T16:07:34

Stunning news and more

MJ Ray

Joe tells ALUG he "Spoke to a few people about Linuxy stuff, met a couple of ALUGers, flipped burgers in the kitchen, accidentally converted a white nationalist BNP supporter to the joys of co-operatives. Nice day but nothing terribly earth shattering."

The new UK government discussion forum needs input from Free software developers and other permissive copyright holders.

You can cause £40k damage with yoghurt in Iceland.

2005-06-18T03:09:42

Trademarks, uneditables and pragmatism

MJ Ray

Revisionist Raphael Hertzog now wants to "correct the formulation of the DFSG" to allow non-free software into main. He follows Matthew Garrett's tactic of appealing to "historical background" without giving any particular points from it. What parts of the SC/DFSG drafting discussions form this frequently-mentioned background?

It's a bit irritating that "pragmatist" has been claimed by people who often take a "who cares as long as we can copy it" approach. I am a pragmatist. I started using Linux to solve problems with computers and I started appreciating free software because it let me solve problems with the software I use - problems that I can't fix lawfully if there's a "you may not edit" label on it.

Pragmatism is about solving problems. It's not about "keep the names of well-branded software" - to a pragmatist, it doesn't matter much if it's called a rose, as long as you can find it when you search for roses. I think that removing non-free software is a short-term "lose" for solving problems, but the only long-term clear "win" is to replace them with free ones (whether by rewriting or relicensing).

People who have read my writing for a while will know that I don't write about "purity" or other radical views of software. I'm at my best when I emphasise the practical advantages. I am not much of a philosopher. I am the son of an ex-mechanic and I want to be allowed to work on the "engine" of these modern machines.

Since the DMCA, EUCD and Sklyarov, I do campaign politically, because I believe that there is a danger that politician decisions that will make my work more difficult and give the dominant companies a perfect lock-out. To avoid bad decisions, we need to inform the decision-makers. (The latest opportunity in the UK is described here.)

I'm realistic about the current Firefox trademark thing: it's a relatively rare situation, good advice is in short supply and I think renaming is the most likely outcome because maintainers dislike messing with licensing and this is messy right now. Personally, I think debian could use some trademarks without licensing, as long as we are careful, but I'm no lawyer and I know mine is an unpopular view with people who want to support the Mozilla Foundation as a point of principle.

2005-06-17T10:41:24

Debian, DFSG 8 and Writing

MJ Ray

Matthew Garrett puts into practice the ideas from this web page. Let's count them:

  1. Structure - barely coherent, but fewer CAPITALS than he often uses;
  2. Punctuation - no, only a couple of questionables;
  3. Write like you're on IRC - yes. Throws in a "DJ Ray in da house" for this;
  4. Inappropriate format - yes. There's nothing like a livejournal post with IP address logging and "you only have a name if you are a livejournal user" when you rant about someone else's blog comments policy;
  5. Make personal attacks - yes, fully stacked again;
  6. Claim false credentials - yes, well out there. Claims to be "the one" and plays historian;
  7. Make shit up - yes. Hand-waving about "historical context" to argue that the guideline drafters "simply phrased it badly." The drafting of the Debian Free Software Guidelines included rewriting to make clear that software in debian "should be shippable under the same terms with FreeBSD" for example. If a licence term is debian-specific, we should just ignore it, although some disagreed with this guideline from the start;
  8. Cite Urban Legends - yes. "The rights" isn't only "the rights required by the DFSG";
  9. Emphasize and Misinterpret Religion - no, not done;
  10. Ramble - definitely. Dense paragraphs and lots of parentheses;
  11. Post Non Sequiturs - yes. At least three past and private discussions referenced;
  12. Make Stupid Threats - no.

Total: 8 or 9 out of a possible 12. So, still poor writing, like posting an inconsiderate personal message to a public mailing list.

2005-06-16T23:54:43

Debian - trademarks and website

MJ Ray

Raphael Hertzog writes an odd post about the Firefox trademark problem. His flaws in the reasoning are:

  1. DFSG should be used because some trademark licences apply to software, just as DFSG only concerns itself with copyright licences which apply to software. The trademark licence restricts the freedom of the software and we use the DFSG to help decide if it gives enough freedom to be free software.
  2. There were uneditable logo artwork files compiled into Firefox, last I looked. It looks like they're still there. They should be removed either way. (This silly stance has caused problems for "spread firefox" supporters before, if I remember rightly.)
  3. Debian users and derived distributions don't get the same permission to use the trademark. The default licence looks like exactly the sort of thing DFSG 8 seeks to avoid and no amount of "reinterpret" demands from Matthew Garrett changes that.
  4. It's a disservice to include non-free software to our users when we've promised not to. If the trademark licence means firefox isn't free software, we're damned either way on that aspect.
  5. The debian trademark "policy" is a bug and I don't think we resorted to enforcement against Trusted Debian (just asked nicely). There are also bugs in the logo licences. Finding a bug we already have isn't a good argument for including similar bugs.

I find it somewhat comical that debian-devel is rehashing old debian-legal debates, but with more flames, and that Gerv refuses to state any policy from MoFo, but requires a policy from debian. In face of bizarre positions like that, I still think the likely outcome is to rename to something recognisably Firefox but not firefox.

In other news, I responded to this Request For Discussion about Debian's Website.

2005-06-16T13:52:59

Conferences and app-hunting

MJ Ray

I'm only just back from the BIALL conference and now news arrives about the Free Software in Education Conference, Bolton, 14-15 July 2005. Welcome to conference season.

koha library system development news - some improvements to acquisitions, the dictionary search being ported forward from 2.2(!) and French and German translation work.

I wrote this quick look for bug trackers - is bugzilla really still the best choice? Can "register before reporting any bug" be avoided easily?

Another quick look around provoked this lament about calendaring - still no killer app? Hula and OpenGroupware.org both look good, but a server seems OTT for one-person manual scheduling.

The spare time for this blog entry was brought to you by ediff :-)

2005-06-14T23:55:01

ZDnet trash debian

MJ Ray

So, ZDnet announces the new debian release with "Debian drops ball on security updates".

Of course, it's not a "security flaw" itself. It's a one-line configuration error which means that security updates would need installing manually until the configuration is corrected. Security updates will still work on it. There are no security updates for that distribution yet anyway. Did ZDnet's journalist read the announcement, or just scan for soundbites?

I think this is typical of ZDnet's accuracy. I don't read them regularly. You can tell the level of people who do by their forum posts.

2005-06-09T22:35:22

In the clear

MJ Ray

COPYLEFT is at Trondhjem Kunstforening, 2 June 2005 - 24 July 2005. It's An exposition by Stian Rødven Eide Based on The GNU Manifesto by Richard Stallman The exposition can also be seen at copyleft.julipan.org

What is the point of putting mailman on https when all the email is allowed in the clear? I mean, really!

I upgraded both distributions on my two main machines yesterday. Today's task is to get them stable again, or at least record the bugs. Ooops.

2005-06-09T12:13:27

Cycling on TV, 11 June

MJ Ray

Dauphine Libere is showing on France 2 on Saturday 1615cet and France 3 on Sunday 1630cet (last stage). Both are currently viewable in analogue and digital via satellite at 5W.

Tour de Suisse starts on Saturday and is covered by D:SF, usually starting 1530 or 1545cet, but later (1650) on Saturday 18th and earlier (1430) on Sunday 19th. You can see D:SF via satellite at 19E.

2005-06-07T21:10:47

Phpbb to RSS

MJ Ray

A very small, very stupid, very simple, very useful way to retrofit an RDF Site Summary onto a phpbb site. I just wanted to share it, in case anyone wants it. If you're into twiddly bits, look at how much cooler the RC version is: no for loops. Distributive string concatenation on arrays, yay!

2005-06-03T02:10:56

Hall of mirrors

MJ Ray

Following this email and a few others from Marco, I wrote this patch for the mirror list. If you know where any of the missing mirrors went, let me know and I'll write more patches. So, what's the state of the mirrors buglist?

  • 5 bugs will be fixed by that patch.
  • 2 I can fix with more work.
  • 2 I forwarded upstream.
  • 3 were already forwarded upstream.
  • 1 I reassigned.
  • 3 are the same problem (ftp.dk missing) and merged.
  • 1 is a political problem (ftp.nz unusable to non-WIX ISPs).
  • 3 are another problem (img http Content-type) and merged.
  • 5 concern long-term questions.
  • 2 are reassignment candidates IMO.
  • 10 might be fixed already and I followed them up.
  • 37 bugs in total.
2005-06-03T01:39:56

TVs and trains

MJ Ray

Advertised the old 51cm-ish colour TV up for free. Anyone willing to collect from K.Lynn can take it. Snapshot. Email.

Consultations are open for the Thameslink Great Northern rail franchise, which will operate regional trains through St Pancras Low-level. National Express Group PLC and Stagecoach Group have consultations open. If you travel on the lines, go tell them what you want. I'm looking for cycle facilities and no on-train tv adverts (as used on NatEx's c2c and Central trains). If you travel on the lines, you might also be interested in Fen Line UA or Bedford CA.

MTR / John Laing plc, Danish Railways (DSB) / English, Welsh and Scottish Railways (EWS), and First Group plc have no consultation yet, as far as I can tell. The SRA has released a "stakeholder briefing" about it and the current operators of Thameslink (Go-Ahead) are not shortlisted.

2005-06-02T18:04:18

Things to see and do

MJ Ray

Against software patents? "Free Software Vs. Software Patents" conference on June 2nd in Brussels with Richard Stallman and Alan Cox and register online (deadline is actually the day, as long as you turn up with passport).

Multimedia hacker? SMIL 2.1 comments requested by 15 June.

Near the fens and arty? Greyfriars Tower Community Arts Project announced.

In Cambridge, England? Strawberry Fair is 4 June.

2005-05-27T13:55:30

From the WTF dept

MJ Ray

An ftpmaster flames debian-legal for being uncommunicative which seems stupid from a delegate expected to ask that list for help, but who hasn't posted to it since his appointment...

Why are developers so unsympathetic about licensing? Yes, legal bugs are a complete pain in the backside and it would be great if we were able to ignore them, but that's not really healthy now. I wonder whether it's the inability of many developers to fix them which offends them? I mean, people like me like free software, because it's usually fixable, but if the licensor has cocked up the licence, I can't fix it alone.

It would even be great if we could make a list of "these licences are OK and these are not" but we've even seen licensors do cunning stunts with GPL and BSD licences before, so even that has to be done carefully to avoid getting a false sense of security. There are a lot of grey areas and licensors' lawyers are usually pretty slow IME. Meanwhile, sometimes debian supporters move at hacker-speed and a d-l newbie rushes out something like the notorious MPL summary after less than 48 hours of discussion, which is seized by Marco d'Itri, DWN and other d-l-bashers.

I am not a lawyer, but I don't hate them all either.

2005-05-26T12:57:08

Government, hacking and elsewhere

MJ Ray

Updated West Norfolk Council Watch.

Commented on Creative Commons Scotland - I hope the Evan-led effort fixes the main CC, as these bad licences just keep reproducing.

Go sign the Linux printing petition

Minutes of the May 2005 Koha Town Hall (for the koha library system).

Anyone for MetaMetaXML?

What the Hack apparently can't happen legally, after petty persecution by a local government (seen via edri). In their words: The mayor of Boxtel, J.A.M. van Homelen, cites "fear of disturbances of law and order and danger to public safety". This is noteworthy because the previous editions of the event saw no incidents of any kind – neither at the event itself nor on the Internet. In my words: Boxtel is a rogue state!

Better than a dead grandmother is a commentary on student excuses at exam time and one prof's attempts to make it worth his while listening to them.

2005-05-25T11:17:23

Creative Commons Non-Commercial, the creative flowerbed licence

MJ Ray

Posted to creative-friends UK:

You seem to be ignoring my point: NC is a licence which does not permit commerce in the CC-licensed copy of the work.

Except, of course, by the artist himself, or under the artists' authorization. What is the problem with that?

It's not a creative commons. It's a creative flowerbed or creative open private park. It may be possible to act commercially there (graze cattle or whatever) but it's not part of the general consent and you have to try to get another agreement to do so. Of course, for some purposes, a flowerbed or private park is fine, but I wouldn't want them to be seen as public space. So, what is the problem with private parks? Your opinion might differ to mine.

[...]

2005-05-20T13:22:05

Rants

MJ Ray

Martyn Drake: London Eye given eviction notice!

Steve Dodd: "This is the switch for your FOG LIGHTS. Your FOG LIGHTS are for use in FOG. They are not mist lights, rain lights, or it's-getting-a-bit-gloomy lights. Try switching on your HEADLIGHTS first."

Wil Wheaton (yes, that Wil Wheaton): "This is an incredibly stupid move. I don't know anyone, blogger or otherwise, who enjoys spam [from Wall Street Journal]"

Is it because the moon is Waxing Gibbous?

2005-05-20T11:22:13

Hi-tech

MJ Ray

At Lidl GB from 23 May: FTA digital satellite tv pack. £69.99 all in. It will pick up all BBC stations (including interactive video streams), itv3, s4c and the news stations, along with a few hundred other special interest stations. With a later optional upgrade (under 100 quid), it could probably pick up a few thousand European broadcasts. All that, without paying Sky. See satelliteforcaravans for fitting instructions, more or less, even if it's for your house.

Yes! Rob's letter to the owners of Jamba/Jamster and I'm not surprised it's verisign.*.com (Thanks to Stechjo#alug for link)

2005-05-19T17:15:27

Roundup

MJ Ray

No, not the weedkiller. Weedkiller is bad.

Richard Allen comments on recycling. Here, we have a green box collected at random times once a fortnight. They take paper, card, plastics and tins, but no glass (supermarket bottle banks). It would be pretty good, if only it was consistently collected and there was some way of stopping all that "light" matter from blowing out of the lidless boxes. Only other thing on my wish list is for public bins to be segregated into recyclables and rest, like in Germany.

I've been baking my own bread recently, especially now the breadmaker (which was OK, not brilliant). I found my two main mistakes now: use a ceramic bowl and prove it slower for a less dense texture. Thanks to FRAW for the factsheet and read the linked article on CBP ("Industrial Bread") if you want to know why most UK bakery bread is arguably not bread and doesn't taste the same. Staying natural, here's a very strange picture of a bee with a transponder on it.

I have internet phones working well, after messing with firewalls and configuration. I'm using linphonec. This is a perversion of IAX or so I'm told. I think I still like SIP phones and the "Application Development Adviser" had an article on other uses of SIP.

Setting that up wasn't very usable. I've been commenting on usability of Vindaloo, a forthcoming GNUstep Image App. Hopefully this will be done right. The answers to this usability quiz from 1999 are still not widely known so who knows.

I'm pondering Markdown vs Wiki's TextFormattingRules and for now I still write HTML. I also noticed that I use content:encoded in RSS without content:item, which is evil.

Adobe, inventors of the "Sklyarov Inside" campaign, have published an Acrobat Reader which supports spyware. dburrows reviewed the licence and concluded it was insane but I suspect it's deliberate.

That licence shows an opportunity: if you're marketing free software (as I do), you should read this article which claims Key Advantage is Not Cost Savings. The message is getting through. Anyone for Linuxopoly? Shame about the inaccessible web design on that economics article.

Staying on inaccessible web design, Imen is totally broken if you don't have Javascript.

2005-05-18T15:53:18

SQLJournal at last

MJ Ray

SQLJournal is a simple accounting journal CGI script. Version 1.3 is the first public release (in production use, but still under heavy development). I'd welcome any eyes and hands on it, but I suspect the prerequisites of MzScheme and a working postgres module will deter casual investigations for now. Please email me if I'm wrong.

2005-05-09T19:50:15

You want *what* as a minimum spec?

MJ Ray

Fortunately, I don't deal with Microsoft products much any more. As a result, I only hear about them when the news media is going gooey over latest product launches. Meanwhile, the flip-side is covered by Tats reporting that XP on 64bit wants a gig of RAM as minimum. Heck, I was getting worried by the rising minimum for debian...

2005-05-09T12:03:20

Film notes: Super Size Me and Octopussy

MJ Ray
  1. Super Size Me - eat at McDonald's for a month and die. It's a real possibility, despite what the medics thought. Everyone should see this film and wonder what's gone wrong over fast food if nothing else.
  2. Octopussy - I finally figured out what annoys me about the early part of this Moore-era Bond film, besides him being my least favourite Bond. When he's in India, looking bewildered by everything and making jokes, in a white jacket, he looks like a 1997-ish Terry Wogan, Radio 2, licensed to chuckle.
2005-05-07T02:23:13

Election results

MJ Ray

Locally

The change for the NW Norfolk parliamentary election was the Conservative holder getting over 50% while Labour's share fell, mostly to the Lib Dems as far as I can tell. Same MP next parliament, then.

For Norfolk County Council, a neighbouring division elected a Lib Dem with a majority of 13. I think that's unusual. In this division, they could still just weigh the old Labour vote rather than count them. Over in the county town of Norwich, the Green Party got their first county councillor. At least there should be some dissent in the chamber against the N25 road then.

Nationally

As you probably already know, Labour have a third term with a reduced-but-fairly-big majority in the UK parliament. A lot of the so-called "old Labour" MPs got back in despite the trend, while there were upsets for "new Labour" past MPs against people like ex-Labour rebel independents in Gwent and the ex-Labour too opportunist for Socialists Respect Unity Coalition leader George Galloway in East London. More Conservatives and more Lib Dems too.

Geographically, the nearest "surprises" were North Norfolk and Cambridge. North Norfolk's margin of victory went from 1% to 18% for the Lib Dems, while an astonishing shift took anti-war student city Cambridge from Labour to Lib Dem. The local news has been saying that the Labour ex-MP spoke out against student fees... and it seems voters didn't care: her party still voted them through and went to war badly. CUR1350 recording of Cambridge announcement and speech (mp3, 2Mb)

Update: "spoke out"? That ex-MP voted to charge students.

2005-05-06T19:38:06

Football and finance

MJ Ray

More on the rest of today later, but if you want to watch the 19:45 Chelsea-Liverpool match, it's on Sat.1 broadcast to Europe via the Astra satellites at 19.2 degrees east. It's silly that an all-England match is free-to-air from Germany, but only pay-TV on UK stations.

Thought for the day

Perhaps I'm just old fashioned but somehow "We got our accounts software off ebay" just doesn't give me that feeling of confidence that I like to have in firms I do business with.

-- mike@emgee in uk.comp.os.linux

2005-04-27T18:26:00

"Oh, grandmother, what big teeth you have got"

MJ Ray

I can't believe that EICTA is trying to misrepresent SMEs to the European Parliament. Jonas Maebe, FFII Board Member, comments: "It is really sad how low EICTA is sinking here. Unable to factually counter the resistance to software patents from real SME associations such as UEAPME and CEAPME, they are now resorting to dressing up Microsoft as an SME." Time to write to my MEPs again.

2005-04-25T13:47:52

Bits from debian-legal, -project and -vote

MJ Ray

debian-legal: resolving problems

I posted my debian and mplayer FAQ for comment. Jacob Tarrio called for comments on his documentation FAQ. Work is continuing on discussions with Creative Commons.

Polling debian-project

I posted a surveys in debian page for comment. Hopefully, it will help people make better surveys in the future. My anger is directed at "expert" researchers who survey in exchange for large wodges of our tax money, but don't contribute back to debian. There's also been a flameful reference-deficient subthread about free software and documentation, following pyro's user poll.

debian-vote: debian elected WHO?

So why did Branden get elected? There's some analysis from Anthony Towns and Rafael Laboissiere which might give some ideas.

2005-04-22T20:01:41

Yet more surveys and commentaries

MJ Ray

A survey from a researcher at Bath university was posted to the fsfe-uk list.

Co-operative Bank is hosting a vote for trade justice. Recently read some concerns about their ethics. Not sure myself, but they're better than alternative banks. Mutuals are probably better but trickier.

Commented on the poll of debian-user about the GNU FDL to debian-project. Basically, Brian's survey was run well mechanically, but most of the questions give no decisive answer and I think the preamble biased the responses.

Commented on the debian-legal summary of Creative Commons and on Matthew Wilcox's Free Documentation Guidelines.

2005-04-20T13:41:43

Consultations and responses

MJ Ray

What one thing would you most like to see change about Britain? Floodtide want your answer to use in theatre and put online. Email info@floodtide.org.uk

There are papers for the World Group on Internet Governance April meeting online: comments should be sent by 15 April.

Another online survey for "the Free / Open Source Software Community" at Reiss-Projects.de. It's not quite accessible and I think one question is fluffed, but I think this one is quite a lot better than most we have seen previously and the plan for releasing the data is stated up-front. Very good and this is "just" a Masters student.

Sent an accessibility tip to unhappybirthday.

There was a reply from SPI lawyer Greg to debian-project about the debiangnulinux domains which are currently offering various other distributions for sale, followed by what I regard as an odd DPL statement.

This lot wins a prize for oddest conference title so far in 2005.

2005-04-14T01:34:54

Meetings

MJ Ray
Meeting horror stories
I expect meeting horror stories to fill the trackbacks to VentureBlog: Personal Hygiene and PowerPoint Don't Mix (via Ian Murdock). Should be fun to read later.
Horrible meetings
Speaking of horrible meetings, I finally replied about so-called "scrutiny" committees to the ALUG mailing list. We're about to elect a county council and a UK parliament, so the letter probably has to wait until just after 2005-05-05.
Malfunctioning meetings
Indymedia Cambridge have been having a few problems with their lists and meetings, so they're trying to agree discussion principles. References and pointers welcome.
From small to big
Indymedia Cambridge doesn't seem to be a large group, but the problems also afflict large groups. I've tried to point this out in my response to a claim that the Internet Governance caucus is open. You may remember, this is the group which apparently appointed mostly itself to the United Nations Working Group on Internet Governance without asking other organisations.
And finally
Will there be more debian meetings with one of the "small teams" candidates winning? Will they have less fall-out than Vancouver?
2005-04-12T12:27:34

Running and running late

MJ Ray
Processes
Branden seems to have been elected as DPL. Cool. Just to remind you: SPI meets on IRC at 1900 UTC tomorrow (2004-04-12), rearranged from 2004-04-19 to help quorum. Come along and watch, if you've not before (and see how various people work, rather than read reports). Then help keep things flowing, if you can.
How To Blog Without Getting Fired
If you write from or about your workplace, and it's not as friendly as my firm, I think you should read this EFF advice. Scary. Why does anyone accept these employment straitjackets?
Council Watch West Norfolk
Following what I think's a good idea from cam.misc, I posted a list of next week's council discussions to the east-anglia newsgroup. I'm going to watch for the green space and urban strategies, as well as the report of the consultations task group, which all affect the Walks project. It seems that the third (busiest) meeting has been cancelled. All their work will be shunted to their next meeting. That could be a long meeting!
ICSTIS fine
Another spammer, "Ozeano International Inc", just got fined 100k by ICSTIS and banned for a year. Keep complaining if you get phone spam that mentions UK premium rate numbers.
2005-04-11T18:35:19

Communications, Complaints and Cyclynn

MJ Ray
Association for Progressive Communication
Spotted an interesting newsletter from this group, which I'll read for a few months and see how it goes.
How Not To Handle Customer Complaints

Because I live in a sparsely-populated area with one train line out of town and only two decent long-distance bus services, I do drive a fair bit, even though I'm trying to cut down. I used a Jet petrol loyalty card until my local filling station stopped taking loyalty cards (can't say I blame them). I saw on a recent stop when travelling that there was a new edition, Smile@, and I can convert my points from the old card.

So, I jumped through quite a few hoops to set up the web account required by the new card and convert my old one, only to be told: all my points have expired. Cue complaint email:

You make me jump through hoops to convert my old Smile card into a Smile@ account and only then tell me that all of my points have been removed. You had my contact details, but I guess it's cheaper to keep quiet. Why should I ever stop at a Jet service station again?

Yes, I know it's a bit off-colour, but I was pretty angry after the hoop-jumping. The reply came back today:

The terms and conditions of the scheme do state if cards are not used within 6 months, points are expired.

That was it. Not a good answer. If my memory is right (and it's from a time I remember quite well), the terms were on the back of the form I completed five years ago.

More seriously, it seems even the customer service staff can't give a reason to ever use Jet again. So I won't.

Cyclynn
I put a grid over the local cycleway map, picked certain lines to be coordinates, fed selected route coordinates to a plotter, made the output into coloured layers, added labels and a few mods with the GIMP. Result: a tube-style map for my new page about Cycling in K.Lynn. (Yeah, I later wrote out the routes I use, to make it clear, which took far too much time. Oh well.)
Written...
between 6 April and 8 April
2005-04-08T14:19:43

Politicking on the increase

MJ Ray
Public Comes Last in US and UK
Mako's comments on the US Supreme Court "public" gallery pretty much echo what I would write about my local development control board. We don't quite have commercial line-sitters, but the gallery is overstuffed every time I've been there, yet they keep using the cramped committee suite instead of the far larger assembly room. There's no good reason for not having some relay of the discussion to audience rooms either, as far as I can tell.
(Lack of) Development control
Updated the Walks site with news of the latest planning bizarreness, approving building a kiosk on a children's playground in the no-building zone (with other problems). Has the council gone mad?
Computer Misuse Act
Sent a short report on the attempt to add stuff to the Computer Misuse Act to debian-uk (where it was mentioned it last month) and fsfe-uk at gnu.org. Also included a couple of suggestions for the coming elections.
AFFS
Sent the two grant emails I'd been asked to; wrote items for a forthcoming newsletter; cleaned the newsletter subscriber list; drafted a complaint letter to the UK Patent Office about their consultation. Still to do: banking, subscriptions and the books. I'm feeling on top of this, but I'm still looking for: a good Single Transferable Vote election rule set; and someone to join ctte.
debian-legal
Updated my licence list to include the BitTorrentOSL 1.0 discussions and my summary of how d-l works.
DISCUSSION OF GREATER CAMBRIDGE
It's a cheap shot, but I enjoyed this comment on a pasted council agenda. I guess it's all caps in the agenda, so I don't blame the original poster.
Written...
between 30 March and 6 April
2005-04-06T11:22:02

Codes

MJ Ray
Code of conduct
Debian lists already have a Code of conduct which is against flaming, but no-one endorses or enforces it much.
School Shootings
Steve's links to articles about the most important question: Why? Although I don't understand why the US still has such little gun regulation, that's not the problem. It's just a deadly facilitator.
Corporations and Cooperation

Regulation of another sort.

Finished reading the Corporation by Joel Bakan. It's a pretty interesting book which makes some pretty interesting points, some of which I agree with. The attack on the absurdity of "deregulation" is spot on: corporations are a figment of our collective regulation, so if you truly deregulate, you destroy them all. The trick is to get appropriate regulation for what we want and that's a debate for people, yet corporations and their friends get special seats on "better regulation task forces" and so on. Not good.

Other thing is, I've been looking at old log books for some other reason and figuring out why I wanted to create Turo Technology. I've looked at the governing document and it's almost a cooperative. Something to think about when reviewing it around 5 April. Oddly, cooperatives aren't in the Corporation's index and I don't remember much discussion of them.

Source code
Finally, I've been cleaning a server of yet another phpBB break-in. I'm setting my "hunt and kill insecure versions" script onto that server. There's some security fixes to apply and a new rsnapshot to upload to debian. Routine but still fun.
Written...
between 23 and 26 March.
2005-03-26T03:10:11

Voting order

MJ Ray

About the DPL vote. I want to reread some stuff before picking the final order, but here's current thinking:

Above None Of The Above
Andreas Schuldei (6) - I've heard both grumbles and praise from people who have worked on things with him. On the whole, I liked the sound of most of his ideas and think they could move debian on.
Borderline
Anthony Towns (4) and Branden Robinson (3) - Not sure which side of None to rank these two. Anthony has been approachable and explained a lot, in good style, but some of his suggestions still worry me. Branden has made serious errors of judgement in the past, but he seems to have learnt from them. Even so, I think there's time needed yet to fix one of them and he could have commented more to -vote, when doing so would have made a case for him and demonstrated how well he can avoid flamewars when we wants.
Below NOTA
Angus Lees (5), Jonathan Walther (1), Matthew Garrett (2) - I can't add much to others' comments about Jonathan. Angus hasn't answered all questions asked of him specificially. Matthew's role in a couple of controversies (with an attempt to demonstrate reconciliation skills which I found really patronising) have made me value him less than I did before this contest.
2005-03-21T02:38:43

SPI-- (UK)

MJ Ray

Some DDs sat in a pub in Cambridge and made up a constitution in order to apply for a bank account. It was said the constitution needed to define who the society is, what it does and how decisions are made. The constitution approved doesn't mention what the society does and provides no way to change its constitution. Oops.

This thing is backed by some critics of SPI and AFFS, yet see what a half-baked cake has been created. I really hope the bank bounces them, but I suspect that with all the hoohah about money laundering rules, associations don't get a second glance today.

At least with one DD handling money for a territory, we know where the buck stops. This looks like most UK DDs are included, yet we're told not to comment on the errors. Sod that. We now have a society with debian's name, claiming DDs as members by default, that has no governance or transparency safeguards. Deep joy.

2005-03-21T01:08:07

Hacking on freedom

MJ Ray
DPL IRC debate
Used my nice tool to mark-up a colourised log file. I've even read the thing now too
Software Patent Workshops
I've written up my notes from yesterday's workshop on "technical contribution" - I've other stuff here if you want to ask me questions. If other people email me to let me know where their notes are, I'll link them in.
No freedom to protest?
If Beer and Speech is accurate, we're in terrible shape in the UK. "effectively outlaw any form of protest" and "Do not protest in your own house"
Worrying other news
Apple forces bloggers to reveal sources (reporters vs press-card-holders), BT offers software to stop rogue diallers (like how long until that's cracked?), The Sun newspaper started a campaign to "stop (the) Gypsy invasion" (inciting hatred?)
2005-03-16T11:03:53

Planes, Automobiles and Empires

MJ Ray
Don't bother with the Hollywood remake

Martyn mentions The Terminal. In my opinion, Tombés du Ciel is a far better version of the same story, if a little difficult to find in the UK.

Vehicle Licence Applications

Apparently after I pay for this year's car duty, I'll have my tax disc and a EU-style registration certificate posted out to me. It says rates may change in the budget and I can't apply before 15 March. When is the budget announcement?

Collaborate: Say No to Empire

An article in ADA which arrived here today. Not sure it says anything we don't already know, but it's nice praise from SuitWorld. Other than that, a small link to BIOS, an entire article using an acronym without expansion and use of "they're" when it should be "their" caught my eye, while most of the issue is devoted to CMMI, which looks like Yet Another attempt for developers to convince clients they can be trusted rather than worked with.

More googlespam!

I got emailed by a google autoresponder on their jobs address. How hard is it to add a short human-check before sending a form reply if humans read them all, like you claim? Morons.

Sexism

Still no fun on debian-vote trying to do mop-up while some nits claim I hold random unpleasant views they just made up. It's a shame that any criticism of a part of debian gets such an extreme reaction. Interesting to see similar reactions to my criticism of d-w as Sven's criticism of d-l. Institutional character, perhaps?

On a lighter note, Norway's Prime Minister has admitted to reading manuals for help screwing. I'm glad there's going to be a more representative balance in the manuals, too.

Written between 11 and 14 March

2005-03-14T09:27:36

Blasted EU SwPat Anti-democratic BigCorp-loving SME-bashing Morons!

MJ Ray

It's a Banana Republic, I agree. I'm told there's going to be something in tomorrow's FT.

2005-03-08T03:43:04

Random tech

MJ Ray

Entirely fair comment, a first view of OOo 2.0 and brave DPL summariser steps forward. Too many from me so far, but they'll get lost in the volume now I've asked all mine.

2005-03-05T03:26:32

Democracy

MJ Ray

I seem to have fallen into a few democratic processes this month.

I updated a guide to the Borough Council of K.Lynn and W.Norfolk and went along to a few of their meetings, as you may have heard. I'll report the last one I went to as soon as I get time.

I'm trying to provoke debate on debian-vote about the DPL election and issues that will affect my vote. I've crossed a couple of lines into "attention-grabbing behaviour" but, damnit, I'm not going to be ashamed of trying to make DPL elections work as a democratic process, even if debian as a whole isn't democratic. I'm just ashamed when I spend too much time on it.

Rounding off with the really political one, the UK Parliament, I'm trying to find out the sitting MP's position on trees and I noticed Norfolk MPs discussing bus problems and it seems it's not getting better any time soon.

2005-03-04T13:35:24

What is "affordable housing" officially?

MJ Ray

After last week's confusion about social and affordable housing, I found section 9 of the local plan: It seems that "social housing" is an undefined term. "Affordable housing" comprises "low-cost market housing", "discount low-cost housing", "shared equity or ownership", and "social rented housing". The local Borough targets are 30% of affordable, 25% of social rented and 3-4% of shared equity on "qualifying sites".

2005-03-02T15:29:07

Local sports and grants

MJ Ray

1 Mar local council Community and Culture meeting on sports in the Walks and community group grants: cc0301.ogg (90s, 183k Ogg Vorbis, phoned in, BEWARE loud beep at start)

2005-03-01T23:58:00

BCKLWN-watch

MJ Ray

Summary of 24 Feb Borough Council meeting: bcklwnfeb.ogg (4min, 644k Ogg Vorbis)

2005-02-25T22:49:07

Oddments

MJ Ray

Once again, it's time to try linking random stuff from around the network into a thread.

  • pid points out that UK Government web sites ignore their own guidelines (I think they've fixed it a bit since, but not enough)
  • Staying with government, Neighbouring council fells urban trees - I'd look at this in more detail if I had the time, but I've got our town's own problem too. I think the telling quote is "this was the best way of ensuring we had good healthy trees in future in Swaffham Market Place." Well, duh! New trees now are likely to be younger and healthier than old trees, but that doesn't mean we should go around replacing all old trees!
  • Of course, all of these batty tree-butchers are helped by the English planning polilcies, which is why The Burngreave Masterplan is an interesting article: "What's the difference between consultation and participation?" For a long time, the Walks project had consultation but not participation.
  • Jumping to planning of a more tech sort, LWN comments on OSDL masochism because that's what it is, sheer masochism. A call for One True Desktop to be chosen and some rather odd requirements. I hope no-one listens uncritically.
2005-02-24T12:16:17

Would you like shoe polish with that?

MJ Ray

As widely predicted, McDonalds products have been added to the list of foods contaminated by the cancer-causing Sudan-I red shoe polish dye. All this from one batch of chilli powder at one food processor. Terrorists, are you listening?

I'm mildly annoyed. I don't have any of the nearly-400 products listed yet, but there are two "near misses" even though I try to eat well. Our food is corrupt and buggy and it's damned annoying. Annoying enough that I will gradually act. Anyone got some good food-growing links to share?

2005-02-21T20:02:56

There is hope for humanity!

MJ Ray
Reason for new non-tech ALUG member using GNU/Linux: "I wanted a computer, not a glorified fruit machine."
2005-02-19T01:28:30

Avoid BT, dumb advertisers

MJ Ray

Continuing from iDunno's post about their misleading adverts, I had a nice letter from BT today, inviting me back and pointing out how good their "Together" package is. They're incompetent muppets and here's why:

  1. I closed my account in protest at being transferred to their "Together" package. They don't sell just line rental any more and the cheapest "Together" pack is more than the line rental used to be. It's designed to discourage using other calling companies. I wrote and told them that I was leaving because of the "Together" package. Sending me adverts about it is just damn clueless.
  2. Every time this advert letter mentions a "free" offer, it has a small note number by it. Like a footnote number, but the notes are printed on the reverse in light grey type. Of course, all of the offers have thick strings attached, like reconnection is free only if you don't keep your existing phone number. Using the word "free" when it's not believable is just damn clueless.
  3. There's no data controller address on the letter (is that legal?), so I phoned to ask to be taken off the list. First of all, I sit in a queue for a few minutes (glad I have a speakerphone and it was an 0800). Then the person answering has to transfer me and drops me on hold for a few minutes (and as soon as I went to get a drink, they picked up again). Then the new person started by asking for my customer number (which I don't have, not being a customer any more). Then they drop me on hold without asking too (asking a supervisor perhaps?). Then they take my postcode and tell me that I'll get another letter anyway (is that legal either?).

I now buy my phone service from IT. They're a bit slower to respond occasionally, but they're cheaper, the billing runs smoothly and they prefer to call back rather than drop onto hold.

2005-02-18T13:31:29

More media laments

MJ Ray

Continuing the theme from the last item about TVs on trains. By the way, those are packed commuter trains which take anything up to 2 hours for a full journey with many passengers heading to/from the main terminal at one end, not just short-hop tube trains.

I've updated my tv guide to link kanal 3's schedule, which looks like it's showing "Iguana" tonight. Last night, I watched "One Tough Cop" which was interesting for the sheer number of actors who I'd seen in other good films. It's not that great a film and an IMDB comment said "Copland" is better. "Copland" is showing on Friday, I think.

I watched CBS's morning news today. It's amazing for two reasons:

  1. it took over 20 minutes for them to reach an item not about the US - that really does reinforce the impression that USians don't care. The US-Syria spat was even later;
  2. the adverts were all for medicines, transnationals, or both. Painkillers for kids were advertised because they're a fun sweet. This followed a news item about the Federal Drug Administration effectively gagging one of their scientists.

A bit earlier, I'd seen a news clip of Bill Gates puffing how great Microsoft are because they're going to include anti-spyware for free. Presenting past failures as new successes: he has no shame.

Moving from billgates to killgates, which is the name of the server streaming the Working Group on Internet Governance meeting. Well done to them for getting coverage out of there, but it's really not fun on free software:

  1. mplayer works but doesn't cache rtsp yet (as far as I can tell from libmpdemux/cache2.c) so it pops and skips like mad, even on a pretty fast line;
  2. nemesi caches, but doesn't produce any output and the fancy screen trickery garbles any debugging output I try to add;
  3. VLC needs too many dependencies.
2005-02-16T13:18:08

TVs on Trains

MJ Ray

Oh damn. It seems that "one", one of the train companies serving the fens (with a lame name), has signed up with a firm called 360onboard to put TVs on the trains.

It seems that nearly 4/5ths of the train gets TV sets. I've not seen any here yet, but the other nxtrains companies already have them. Maybe WAGN won't bother modifying their trains because their franchise expires next year. If they put TVs on them without fixing any of the other problems, it might start a revolt.

Looks like "360onbored - out of order" signs would be useful.

Read more at TRUG.

2005-02-16T00:18:55

Printers

MJ Ray

Andreas Barth mentions printers and the rather patchy state of drivers. I have to agree. For most of the reasons he describes, I agree that CUPS is overengineered if you're not a networked print server.

I still use a filter script that sends postscript straight through ghostscript and out /dev/lp0 - I'm troubled by the lack of spooling very rarely and the few times I network print, I can ask the remote station to do "ssh bouncing lpr" instead of just "lpr". This is truly the Simplest Thing That Could Possibly Work.

2005-02-14T15:45:09

Draft Branden

MJ Ray

I think we should Draft Branden into the 2005 DPL election. I need 99 other DDs to support it too. Here's why I think you should:

  1. Read Branden's 2004 platform. How many of these things still need doing?
  2. Read Martin's 2004 platform. How many of these still need doing? How many have only been done very recently? A release strategy? Core team transparency? Expanding short-handed teams? Encouraging Debian-based distributions and companies? (Will Martin stand again?)
  3. By asking Branden to participate, you are not pledging to vote for him. Participation of this experienced developer in the process will ensure that all prospective DPLs have to come up with real goals.
  4. Branden is older now. Don't judge him on emails or IRC logs from years ago. Judge him on how he behaves recently.

I really hope that debian doesn't just elect someone who mentions debian's success multiple times in his platform and that he works in a "beautiful" bastion of inequality: not really reasons to elect as DPL. The tamagotchi can do that.

2005-02-11T12:11:26

Making PDFs from PHP

MJ Ray
What I'm Looking For
A way to make PDFs from php which is actively maintained and can be used across all of the web sites that I sysadmin. The easier the better and I prefer free software. (The php module in the manual needs me to obtain another licence for the commercial sites.) If it is or looks like it could be a debian package one day, so much the better. I excluded the apache-fop-based one and so I didn't find any more than the list in the PHP manual.
pdf4php
Last release July 2003. No developer sites linked. No public list archive. GPL.
R&OS pdf class
Last release March 2003. Developer admits limited time. Reasonably active web forum, but some questions unanswered. Public domain.
FPDF
Last release December 2004. Talkative web site. Active web forum. Listed on PEAR. Licence unclear ("freeware") but looks like they mean to be free software (just haven't given some permissions yet).
phppdflib
Last release April 2004. No developer web sites found. No public list archive. GPL.
panda
Last update April 2004, about 3 weeks spread across sites. Main developer sites don't seem to mention it. Email lists seem dead. Minor activity on bug trackers. Listed on PECL. PHP licence.
Conclusion
I'll investigate FPDF further.
2005-02-10T15:39:50

Wrong country?

MJ Ray

There was a stampede and a stabbing at the opening of an Ikea store (I think Ikea sells cheap tat... designy, but cheap materials!)

The local Murdoch news channel thinks that the announcement of Camilla Parker-Bowles and Charles Windsor's wedding plans is a good reason to camp on their doorstep for at least 8 hours and run nearly wall-to-wall hate messages to the couple. Amusing when one of their pundits points out that most people seem pretty comfortable with the idea, contradicting the "news crawl" showing at the time.

Days like this I wonder whether I'm in the wrong country, but that's probably because it's been raining hard too.

2005-02-10T14:29:10

Politicians: IT and Trees

MJ Ray

Blair's answers to Richard Allan go a long way to explaining the dire situation of government activities to do with computing. Some commentators think he went a bit lightweight, but hey, we've got a lightweight PM, so lightweight questions actually extract answers instead of a lackey passing a note and Blair spouting the party line.

I'm a little irritated because I watched part of that session, but wandered off before the end. Interesting later in the day is this debate on tree protection. I've sent a few messages off about it, as The Walks is a good illustration of how pathetic tree protection in England is right now.

Finally, I found that Write To Them has replaced FaxYourMP. I'll work that into the Walks web site Real Soon Now.

2005-02-10T10:08:22

Network uses and abuses

MJ Ray

Warning: contains strong language. Skip this entry if you have a problem with that.

mChicago's email stupidities post isn't that far from my own email suggestions.

Ol' Bagel Belly seems to be complaining that you can't just allow unfiltered commenting and actually have to read other people's blogs to have a conversation. When wasn't that true? (He also says he's unsubbed from ALUG. Should I remove him from planet alug? Probably will, when I get some tuits.)

Steve D writes about google's "rel=nofollow" marketing spam in a comment there. Really, it's the least they could do to fix the damage done by their rank methods. Why do they need everyone else to fix their software? Why not just fix the rank methods? So, let the rest of us fix google by using another search engine.

Meanwhile, in France, BBC reports they're suing filesharers. On one level, the possible maximum fine of EUR 300k seems a bit excessive and the 10k one for this is still harsh for 600 albums. On the other, I don't have much sympathy. Reduce and eliminate your use of publishing companies. Buy more friendly indie music or sharable online downloads.

Now Playing: Drawback - Split - Fuck the RIAA

2005-02-04T10:42:10

Review: Snack Bars

MJ Ray

Today I had the misfortune to buy a frum'boost bar made by frumba today from the stationers on Cambridge station (and what kind of stationers has any branch, even a small station newsagent, not stock any pencils?! But that's another story...).

I picked it up because it looked interesting and not something I'd seen before. I went by the picture, as the front-of-pack writing was too blurry to read quickly (but I thought that was my eyesight...) It was with the flapjacks, but it's actually a dried fruit, seed and crisped rice mixture. I like both of those, but the fruit and seeds pieces were both an annoying size that sticks between my teeth and it was all held together by a bucket of honey.

Cutely, it says on the front "Best before: your friend eats it". They're welcome to it, but I wouldn't wish it on them.

The best snack bar I've bought recently was the nut-free crunchy flapjack sold by Morrisons. Sorry I've forgotten the brand.

2005-02-03T19:11:53

EU Computation Patents: RESET

MJ Ray

It looks like this is really happening. Others who know more have written already: Joe Ll G Blakesley, Eddy Macnaghten, data.

Now we need to make the next attempt be something that doesn't hinder us. Even better, something that helps us.

2005-02-03T10:29:39

Google politics

MJ Ray

Seeing as google sponsors the World Economic Forum, I guess some people may want to change search engine now. The googlespam problem meant that I changed a while ago. As so often, it was "WWW-VL to the rescue!" with a catalogue of search engines.

I think the most interesting right now is gigablast and their GigaBits feature suggesting extra search terms is pretty helpful in narrowing the search down. Very different mix of results from firstsfind - not sure what I think of that.

So, how do you search without google?

2005-02-02T12:07:01

East Anglia Social Forum

MJ Ray

I went to the EASF last weekend and wrote a report. And there's a report from someone else too.

2005-02-02T11:16:48

Digital Audio Players and Ogg

MJ Ray

Update: Ogg-supporting players, reminded by M

Reading the excellent achievements of Steve McIntyre has prompted me to write up what I've found out about Ogg and "digital audio players". I have a couple of players. Neither support Ogg Vorbis, so I have a dap_recode script which takes ogg files from the main disc (or the net) and puts them on the device. Quality stinks, but it works. Both devices are the typical solid state things, so I'm not sure how to even try upgrading them. Contact the manufacturer, I guess, which is something I don't usually do any more. I can fix most things myself, thanks to free software.

The other thing I've been looking at lately is "podcasting" and, frankly, I've been horrified. It's audio files with a half-arsed RSS 2.0 (aka "the non-RSS RSS") and a custom app to download them. Why are people raving about this? Use normal RSS and download to the devices. It's about as simple (if your browser is configured), you get more control and you avoid Winer's embrace-and-extend.

2005-02-02T11:12:59

ViewPDF working again

MJ Ray

I have ViewPDF installed and working again. I forget how I broke the last version. This one needed a trivial patch (emailed to developers) but now I have a friendly graphical file viewer again.

In between times I used ghostscript directly. Just how do you get that to antialias? I never did.

2005-02-02T01:47:25

Interview: RMS, patents and lots else

MJ Ray

Interesting recent RMS interview which covers a lot of issues, including the latest EU computation patenting about 30 minutes in. Pretty accessible to non-technical users too, I think. From RadioActive San Diego.

2005-02-02T00:28:00

Interview: the INGOTs

MJ Ray

Fellow AFFS member Ian Lynch is interviewed on NewsForge about the INGOTs, a relatively young competitor in office suite certificates.

2005-02-01T19:12:45

Trains: How to Hide

Unknown

Latest FLUA newspaper arrived today. It seems that the train timetables for Lynn-London are now in the pages marked "Norwich to Ely and Peterborough". For those who don't know the geography here, roughly, London is 120 miles south, but Norwich is 45 miles east, Ely is 30 miles south and Peterborough is 30 miles west. I don't know why anyone wanting to travel to London would think of looking in the timetable for a route that arcs around us.

Overcrowding was also mentioned again. It does seem to be a problem. At FLUA's 2005 meeting, it was mentioned that the power supply can only support 5 x 4-car units north of Cambridge and it's an expensive upgrade, which will probably done by the oft-delayed Thameslink scheme. Now that I think about it, there seems an obvious question: why not replace some trains with diesels at Cambridge, to allow peak-hour 8-car trains to continue without splitting? "one" already run diesels Cambridge-Ely...

2005-02-01T12:14:04

Review: debian ftpd packages

MJ Ray <mjr@dsl.pipex.com>

Now, this is a review as in "I just tried to use them" and not as in "I just reviewed these against a specification." The background to the problem: a remote site wants to send me two large files. They cannot install programs on their Windows system. Their mailserver rejects the files as too large (rightly IMO). I want them to send the files directly to my system. The target system runs an HTTP daemon, but it does not support CGI, uploads or DAV. So, I think the simplest approach is to install an FTP daemon. The system is currently running debian testing.

twoftpd
This advertises itself as a simple ftp daemon in the short description. I was a little confused by the two packages, twoftpd and twoftpd-run: how many people want to install a daemon and not run it? Once twoftpd was installed, a README explained that the -run was for some inet/init system that I don't have and that running from inetd.conf is not supported. I tried adding it to inetd, but I couldn't figure out how. I just didn't get a connection. Simple? Not if you don't support a default debian system, in my opinion. Purged. And then I had to remove the log directory it made. Syslog not good enough for you?
oftpd
This one installed nicely, with debconf used to configure it. It would be nice to have a way to go through all questions without having to pick each one in turn, but I didn't find one. The local test client connected fine, but I couldn't upload files. Looking in the FAQ, it seems that this server doesn't support any file write commands. That is, it doesn't implement all of FTP. Why isn't that mentioned in the package description? Purged.
muddleftpd
One last go with a new "simple" ftp server before I move on to the heavyweights. Again, this installed easily. I edited the config file in a text editor and followed the instructions in the comments. The local test client connected fine, but I couldn't upload files. I checked the example config files and copied a few lines across. Still couldn't upload. Tried using a password-file based authentication. Still couldn't upload. I couldn't persuade the log file to contain anything interesting. I just got the blanket statement "Permission denied." Not sure why. If I had more time, I'd strace it, but I don't. Purged. And then I had to remove the logfile it made.
vsftpd
I've been wanting to try this for a while, but I had hoped for something simpler today. It installed OK and a quick run through the config file (while looking at the man page for it) produced a working server that allowed uploads to the right place. Good enough for now. Problem solved. Running.

Related reviews: file sharing

If you're looking for secure network filesystems rather than quick file transfer solutions, I suggest reading Alex's "Steaming pile of dung" day.

2005-01-28T16:39:47

Friday afternoon

MJ Ray <mjr@dsl.pipex.com>

Lots of interesting stuff happening, I think. Here's a link jumble to distract you.

That concludes the results of the West Norfolk jury.

2005-01-28T14:44:07

World Economic Forum: See for yourself

MJ Ray <mjr@dsl.pipex.com>

After watching the World Economic Forum 2005 today, I am convinced that if more people watched it for themselves, there wouldn't be any need to publicise against them. Without the soundbiting and polishing of TV news, these people are scary. They're less slick than the European Social Forum, too.

Satellite TV viewers in Europe can watch via SFi on Hotbird at 13 east. Internet users can watch via RealMedia (yuk) on SFDRS web site. For a view of the protests see Indymedia UK or CH.

Later in the day, there's Tutmonda Socia Forumo covered by their press room, CMI Brasil and on satellite in the Brazil area.

2005-01-27T17:22:48

End of September?

MJ Ray <mjr@dsl.pipex.com>

It looks like the AOL Newsgroup Service Ending announcement might be for real. Is this the end of September? Wake me up when September ends.

2005-01-24T23:26:39

Anti-tech day

MJ Ray <mjr@dsl.pipex.com>

I am having an anti-technology day.

First, the satellite TV system has finally broken. It's been on the slide for about a week, since a storm, and I've been putting it off until I have both time and better weather. I hate being up a ladder in the cold, windy darkness. Current guesses are that the dish elevation has come loose or that water has got into the motor-dish cable somehow. Neither are big problems (I have the tools and spares) but it will wait for the morning. I just hope it's not a LNB fault, else I'll have to order one. More details

Second problem was changing the battery in my audio player. The new battery lasted no time at all. Less than five minutes. When I pulled it out, there was some goo on the -ve plate. Then my finger started stinging. Leaky battery :-( Cleaned the acid out of the battery holder and let it dry. Threw the rest of the batteries (expiry date Oct 2004) away, as they didn't look good on the meter.

2005-01-24T18:58:26

Review: Buying Clothes

MJ Ray <mjr@dsl.pipex.com>

I've been putting off buying a piece of clothing. I've been busy and I'm getting fussier in my old age: I'd rather buy as ethically as possible. I know the UK "No Sweat" people say that the battle will be won in the factories rather than the shops, but it can't hurt, can it?

First, I looked at ethical consumer magazine buyers guides. Slightly surprised to see Matalan praised, but that means there's a fall-back option in town here. From the guide, I followed a link to Clean Clothes Campaign and had a browse around, noting the questions they ask of ethical traders. From the European firms listed, three didn't stock the item I wanted (and that's no surprise, as some big chain stores don't) and I can't tell whether "Made In Dignity" do or not because of their accessibility-busting flash-only web site. Idiots.

So, that left Gossypium as the one store with a suitable item. Silly Javascript rubbish going on with that site with some "yoga page" appearing and vanishing, but it works in a Gecko-based browser. Price a little high, but not too bad comparing with chain stores. £4 delivery is a bit steep - surely it's not that heavy? Order placed. I'll let you know if it goes wrong...

2005-01-21T19:49:41

EU swpat - Ag and Fish attempt 2

MJ Ray <mjr@dsl.pipex.com>

Tom Potts let ALUG know that the swpat directive has been put up to the Ag and Fish council again, after Poland blocked it in December. Link-heavy page is on groklaw. I like being part of Europe, but the European Council is looking more like a nutcase organisation every day. :-/

Update: Phil Hands found contact info for the relevant UK minister.

2005-01-21T15:55:21

ICSTIS says: You Win

MJ Ray <mjr@dsl.pipex.com>

The ICSTIS Committee has recently considered the facts of the case and found that each of the five services provided by the company were in breach of the ICSTIS Code [... long gap before charge info, full cost not given, random autodialling of TPS and XD numbers, no contact details, references to "free" despite a premium rate number, no required competition details, continued after ordered to suspend ...]

The Committee decided that sanctions should be imposed against the company in light of the breaches found and it has therefore issued a fine totalling £300,000 across the five different services. Access to each of the services has been barred for twelve months and the company has also been barred from providing any premium rate competition service for twelve months.

The mystery phone spammer was: Consumer First Marketing Ltd of Bedminster

Gotcha!

2005-01-17T13:52:54

Wildduck Microsoft Abuse

MJ Ray <mjr@dsl.pipex.com>

Don't let Microsoft plan your routes... I laughed when I tried it. I like route planners and I've seen beta test ones suggest some silly things (like over 50mph along drainside tracks) but nothing on that scale since a green screen.

2005-01-14T00:42:43

Crisis of the Press

MJ Ray <mjr@dsl.pipex.com>

There's an article in LMD esperanto about the crisis of the press. Falling circulations and viewer figures, consolidation into groups owned by arms producers, cynical views of managers... are free media the answer and will blog planets or indymedia be the format? (update: also in French)

2005-01-12T11:36:29

RSS aggregator security

MJ Ray <mjr@dsl.pipex.com>

I need to implement traps for common RSS failings in schycyroll. For now, anyone doing severe messing on planets I run gets removed.

Anyway, I really advise having javascript switched off for normal browsing and only activating it when needed.

2005-01-10T12:31:06

White butterflies, black people, bright flowers

MJ Ray <mjr@dsl.pipex.com>

Spectra mentions white butterflies painted on the road to show fatal crashes. When travelling in France last summer, I saw black cardboard people stood by the side of the road, forming ghostly silhouettes of victims. Both of those seemed to be placed there by campaign groups.

Around the fens, you quite often see small clusters of flowers on the roadsides: the combination of long single carriageway roads, slight curves, elbow bends, soft verges and deep drains is lethal. Also, if you do crash, the nearest hospital is probably a long way and it might even be many minutes before another passing car spots you. Flowers from relatives on anniversaries of deaths are less organised but no less chilling reminders.

We're currently have strong winds here. It's very easy for a tail wind to increase your speed by ten, or a cross wind to blow you towards oncoming traffic. Drive safely this winter, please. Better to arrive late than become late.

On better news, plan your route on the new Transport Direct site. It can also do public transport, which might be safer.

2005-01-10T12:31:06

Royal disMal

MJ Ray <mjr@dsl.pipex.com>

I used to live in a small town with what seems to have been a tricky name for Englishmen to spell, as it's pronounced very differently. Our post used to often go to a small town in a neighbouring county with a similar name, adding a couple of days for the detour. Now I hear Royal Mail sends post to the wrong country and I'm not surprised at all.

2005-01-10T12:31:06

Welcome Debian Developer

MJ Ray <mjr@dsl.pipex.com>

I sponsored a maintainer who is now a debian developer in his own right. Bartosz Feński (fEnio) is coordinator of PDDP and maintainer of fuse. Well done fEnio. You were probably the most experienced of my first group of sponsored maintainers, already doing NM. It's should horrify people that it took 10 months between your AM recommendation and DAM approval. Once I've finished my cleanup, I guess I have another sponsoring slot available and should browse debian-mentors again.

2005-01-10T12:31:06

This website is copyright 2004 MJ Ray. See fuller notice on front page.