MJR's slef-reflection

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Scheming

MJ Ray

Linux Gazette have a (non-free) article on learning to program with DrScheme which was announced to the scheme-uk mailing list.

A few critical comments there, but all good awareness-raising.

I quite like the new lisp logo by Conrad Barski.

2005-11-17T10:05:45

Local tale of converting to debian servers

MJ Ray

This reminded me a lot of the diaries which used to appear in some columns in Computer Express, which I read when first starting out:

"I've learned a lot more in the past two days that I would have done just using Ubuntu on my laptop and having the odd fiddle with different apps. Never *ever* let your kids near your servers......."

-- Win2k to Linux upgrade, or "How I learned to Love the Kernel" by Paul Ireland to Peterboro' LUG

Over in Norwich, people are preparing for the Norwich Forum on ID Cards this Saturday.

2005-11-03T12:20:39

Audiovisual

MJ Ray

itv4 launches tonight on freeview and ntl cable, but it seems that Sky have an administrative problem that will stop it being on Sky until next week. Anyone else suspicious?

To compensate, itv4 launch night is being broadcast on Men and Motors too (which is visible across Europe, I think). The talk on the newsgroups suggests that itv4 is on satellite and it's only the non-standard Sky EPG which won't be updated. If you want it sooner, you may be able to use a standard DVB-S receiver or "Add Channels".

Eutelsat float price falls. The report suggests it's because of other floats, people not wanting to invest so much in communications and bad bank practices.

BBC World closes 10 radio services, opens 1 TV service which might suggest how much more expensive TV is to make. Meanwhile, a report says:

"Public service broadcasters are compromising quality to compete with commercial channels, and many of them depend on Governments or political parties. Meanwhile, ever-larger concentrations are developing in the commercial sector, often with clear political affiliations."

(Television across Europe report from OSI EUMAP)

There's a guide to what I'm planning to do Real Soon Now: konekti la komputilon al televido

If you want to get involved with radio instead, you could answer this call for help with rampART radio, from ram radio. I think they were interesting listening during G8 and on 7 July, but maybe they need a different approach for the rest of the time.

RampART broadcast over the internet, which was how I listened. Many of the documents describing the internet are non-free, which is a silly silly pain. I've supported the petition about Problems with the IETF's copying permissions, by Simon Josefsson (author of libidn and gnutls) but I haven't done more yet.

Moving to games, Sam Hocevar's post about Monsterz is unhappy with the difficulty of finding items for it:

"it makes me feel like coders are years ahead in terms of sharing their digital work for everyone to use and improve."

He's not alone. Want a big example? Stuart Yeates noticed that ibiblio's torrents have poor copyright info. I've also spotted Sourceforge and BerliOS hosting non-free data in the past. That's really annoying: you can't adapt everything you download from them and you have to read the terms really closely if you want to develop free software. It surprises me that Sourceforge and BerliOS stick so closely to the FSF's software=programs myth.

It might be surprising that ibiblio's torrents seem blind to copyright metadata, but it's probably little surprise that a European Commission group assumes that strong, standardised, zealously-enforced copy controls are The Only Way and has meant the EFF Urges Fresh Inquiry Into Ramifications of DRM.

There's news of a peer-to-peer technology that honours copyright law, by Derek Sooman. Will it work? Will it support liberal copyright terms as well as Big Media Grabs? Might Big Media outdo ibiblio? I doubt it.

2005-11-01T14:23:21

October oddities

MJ Ray

Tomorrow (1 November), there's a protest against the Norwich Northern Distributor Road (N25) taking place in... Ely... which seems to be where the powers that be decided is a good place for the public examination of the east of England plan. It would make too much sense to hold it in any of the main cities, wouldn't it? On the plus side, Ely is a main railway junction, so maybe people will turn out despite the terrible roads to it.

"* poof... Clippie appears * It looks like you're trying to type a job advertisement. Shall I ..."

-- darsh, replying on-list to the day's third spam

"H5N1 BIRD FLU BELIEVED TO BE FIRST VIRUS UNABLE TO SPREAD THROUGH MICROSOFT OUTLOOK Researchers Shocked to Finally Find Virus That Email App Doesn't Like"

-- Mock news release forwarded to ALUG by Tony

2005-10-31T12:43:55

Alug web site development

MJ Ray

ALUG had a kit-meet last Sunday and there's some description of what happened on the mailing list.

A week or two ago, there was some discussion about improving the ALUG wiki. I think it was broken while trying to cure the repeated spam attacks while I was abroad in the summer. The immediate problem has been fixed now and there was an offer of renovation, which I'm trying to take up.

Around the same time, I outlined some planned improvements for the main site which are described on their own page now. The release announcement provoked a typical discussion about how the site needs rewriting to do things it already does. :-/ I hate it when that happens. All the world's a webmaster these days. One practical improvement idea and one good suggestion so far, too, so maybe it's worth it :-)

A retheme competition was started at Brett Parker's web site, and there's a later version of my entry too.

2005-10-28T11:40:20

Dear West Norfolk Council,

MJ Ray

There are three ways in which your new web site is worse than the previous site :-

1. it is hard to read. It doesn't set a background colour (which is good because my browser preferences are my preferred colours), but it sets black text, which is hard to read on my preferred background. This means the site is not following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

2. All of my links and bookmarks for pages on the council web site have been broken. This is very irritating. I will delete most of the links rather than try to find the pages' new homes. Why have you not followed the advice of Tim Berners-Lee (1996, URI Axioms) and other web experts (for example, Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox for June 14, 1998: Fighting Linkrot) and set up redirects?

3. When browsing the site, I sometimes get an ASP.Net error page with a stack trace telling me that I haven't got permission to use the site. If I wait a minute and reload the page, it usually appears. What is the problem and why aren't you using customised error pages?

It looks like the site could be quite an improvement, but it currently doesn't get the basics right for us old visitors.

Also, why is this comment textbox so small? It's barely 10 letters wide for me.

I await your reply with interest.

MJR

Postscript for blog only: I didn't even start on the more general problems with the navigation, attempts to make page links look like adverts, abuse of query strings, or all other others. I think the site is still an improvement, especially if you use View->Page Style->No Style.

2005-10-27T12:00:01

Emacs collaborative editing

MJ Ray

I wrote

"If you want collaborative editing, then try Emacs's File -> New Frame on Display"

in three tips.

Philip Kern replied:

"Seriously, this feature is quite dependent on X, right? ... you'll probably run into trouble despite Emacs being ported to all of those platforms like OS X and Windows."

Last I tried, OS X had X with it, while it's a quick download for Windows. It was simple enough and is probably useful for other things, unlike installing a special editor that uses horrible horrible GTK+2. I'm pretty sure it would be possible to make emacs highlight differently depending on the frame doing the input, but isn't collaborative editing meant to help break the "this is mine" ego? (Not that I can find any references about why collaborative editing works now I want them... anyone got some? Replace 2005-2.html# with tb.cgi/ and send trackbacks, or just email me via the top of the page.)

2005-10-26T11:34:41

BBC spam

MJ Ray

Like Jibbering, I also got the BABY BBC spam from Mentorn. As advised, I didn't reply to the spam by email. It had the phone number 0141 204 6620 in it, so I called it and they said they'll reply within a week to say why they thought they had a consenting email list.

2005-10-25T12:44:04

Scary world

MJ Ray

Last week, I read that the bird flu drugs problem is partly caused by our governments (after pressure from big pharmaceutical developers), Xerox DocuColor printers put tracking codes on all printouts, an Australian farmer is being sued after GMOs infected his crop, there's an amazing claim that XML is patent infingement and ATM fraud nearly killed British banking.

More amusingly, Granada's annoying copyright screens had the opposite effect on Rob Myers:

"I've never wanted to copy a DVD before. But if there was an easy way of copying this particular DVD to strip this amateurish mood-breaker off of the beginning I'd be sorely tempted."

2005-10-24T16:41:24

Will the last ex-UEA-er to leave Norfolk please switch out the light?

MJ Ray

A surprisingly high proportion of ex-UEA people stay in the area after finishing at UEA. Over 40% want to, according to the local chamber of commerce. Eventually, that number falls: with John and Brett leaving, I think I can now count on one hand those from my Norwich years (1994-1998) who I know are still here. Most left some time ago. Why? Small place syndrome? Underpaid work? Both?

Possibly. It feels like only in Norfolk could the train station start to expand its car park to cope with demand and the same week most train services to it are cancelled because a Cambridgeshire farmer drove onto the single line stretch, was killed and it takes at least a day for access and safety checks in this sparsely-populated area.

From the BBC's picture, the unit involved was one of the commemorative King's Lynn "picture trains". You seldom hear what happens to the damaged trains and injured drivers. I guess the railways and the media doesn't like to worry passengers. Even the Potter's Bar investigation ending only got brief mentions that I saw.

Also at the train station, local police put out a picture of people they would "like to interview" about the spate of recent bike thefts. Possibly as a result, they've charged one man. Someone I know had a bike nicked, which meant a long walk to/from work until it was replaced. Very annoying. The sort of petty bike vandalism/theft which annoyed savs is also on the increase here again. I'd've expected nicked bikes to sell better in summer, but maybe the local crims are thick or there are more easy-to-nick bikes in September.

At least it's not Fakenham, (which is one of the most boring places on earth, you may remember - original source ) where the headline story is that the kerbs are too high. I'm sorry someone was hurt, but kerbs here seem tiny compared to the ones in Northamptonshire. Probably they've all been lowered for safety there too now.

As a result of adding Dave's blog to Planet ALUG, I noticed BritBlog for the first time. I spent a while browsing the other Norfolk-based blogs on it one evening. Unsurprisingly, I knew about most of the ones I found interesting already, apart from Ztroller who links to me... erm, why? Does he read this?

Most listings are from blogspot and I still won't add Atom support to my blogging software - I want to read, not edit, so Atom is mostly extra cache filler. I only added Really Simple Syndication as well as RDF Site Summary because it was fairly cheap to do and I didn't know about the obvious way to get RSS 1 from Wordpress.

Finally, in local(ish) concerns, Northern Ireland, from Noodles' emptiness:

"while I'm ranting, why is the adjective for someone from the UK "British"? Britain doesn't cover all of the UK. I wasn't born in Britain yet I'm British. Can't I be UKish or something?"

I'd hate to be called UKish. I don't have any particular affection for this Kingdom's political boundaries. If the UK ended tomorrow, would anyone besides its rulers mourn? I'll not thank you if you call me British. I'm English, a midlander and Towcestrian. British nationality is a side-effect. (And why is it so hard to get .gb domains anyway?)

It's odd that there's such argument over England's anthem. So there is imagery or irony involved in Jerusalem, depending how you want to view it: who cares? It's rousing (unlike the UK dirge) and mentions England past. Yikes, I've just discovered I'm agreeing with Billy Bragg of all people.

As for the UK, why don't we work together with others when we agree and work independently when we don't agree? Unfortunately, few politicians advocate English self-rule, apart from racist bigots and English imperialists. The really depressing thing is that those sort of people would probably easily get a majority in any English legislature, if backed by the mess media. Maybe Britain is diverse enough that it balances the extreme English... diverse we are or de verse it gets... (ouch)

Update

Brett, John and Martyn all mention the right jobs not being in Norfolk at the right time. Small smile at Martyn picking a title I nearly used. Anyone else? Trackbacks to http://mjr.towers.org.uk/blog/tb.cgi/leftnorfolk

The local newspaper has more about the train crash victim.

2005-10-21T11:39:48

Selling, the web, chipping and bloody hacking

MJ Ray

The Internet Advertising Bureau thinks the UK spend could be over a billion for the first time. It's now 5.8% of the national advertising spend and is growing at a pretty remarkable rate. Is Christmas coming early for online?

OSCommerce - the future will be templated. We're doing more OSCommerce work and 2.2 MS2 is a fairly typical PHP application, with some structure, but also lots of spaghetti code. The next version is looking a lot better, including this announcement from the lead developer. Templating and styling has to be the most-requested work. I find it a little worrying that OSCommerce is not more openly developed, but it'll be good when the new release ships.

Jakob Neilsen has announced the top ten web design mistakes of 2005 and "Legibility Problems" are number one. This isn't a surprise to me. Many websites, including some big names, are totally broken if your browser defaults are light text on a dark background, because that's easier on your eyes. I once spotted the Disability Rights Commission getting this wrong. Even planet.debian.org is missing a:link {color: ...}.

The second top mistake is bad linking, including:

"In particular, don't open pages in new windows"

.which is another thing which I find irritating on many sites. If I want a new window, I'll pick the link for a "new window" from the context menu, or by shift-clicking. Does Mozilla or Firefox or something have an "ignore _blank link targets" option yet? It's only a matter of time.

My own company's web site has been updated and I've tried to take these on board. We don't do any of the worst things, but there are always things we can do better. Our site isn't that high a priority - there's so much else to do.

The W3C's internationalisation working group has issued a note on working with time zones. I get a lot of unusual time zone requests while programming, but I'll remember these explanations and I think I usually follow the recommendations in s1.5 anyway.

Also from W3C is a Working Draft of "Mobile Web Best Practices 1.0" which they'd like feedback on, if you use or develop for mobile web devices. At first glance, it seems that many of the items are stronger versions of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

PlayStation chipping is legal in Australia but not in the UK, where it was ruled illegal last year. Chipping is the practice of adding a part to the games console so that it can play imported titles. If the chipping and the risk of breaking it costs less than the difference between imported and domestic releases, some people will want to do it. It's competition between markets. I remember similar things for the old cartridge-based machines of my youth.

UK law-makers seem to be trying to kill off that trade in favour of foreign companies that want to tightly control the consoles long after they've been sold. The ruling from Australia might bring the start of a backlash against the increasingly restrictive UK laws, but it's more likely that the EU, US and others will press Australia to fall into line. Copyright seems to be one of the few areas where free trade is being reduced, rather than increased.

And finally, I remember the feeling of getting sparc32 Linux working.

2005-10-20T11:34:36

Central Trains to die

MJ Ray

The Department for Transport has announced how it will reshuffle the English midlands railways currently operated by Central Trains, Midland Mainline and Silverlink. There will be east and west midlands railways, with other routes transferred to cross-country (currently Virgin) and possibly Trans-pennine Express and Chiltern.

For East Anglia, this means Norwich-Peterborough-beyond will transfer to the new east midlands railway, while Birmingham-Peterborough-Cambridge-Stansted will transfer to an expanded cross-country. This is probably good. Every time I've used the Birmingham service, it's been crowded and slow (but comfortable if you get a seat, at least recently). The cross-country unit runs some InterCity trains, so maybe Stansted might get bigger, faster trains.

2005-10-18T12:00:53

Three software tips: Wordpress, Emacs, Emacs

MJ Ray

I've told these to a few people recently, so I'll put them here too.

If you use Wordpress, you can probably publish RDF site summary (rss 1) by adding wp-rdf.php to the end of your URL. RDF Site Summary is better because it's real XML (without rss 2's namespace crippling), community developed and, well, RDF :-)

If you use Emacs and work on CVS'd applications, the Tools -> Version Control submenu is your friend.

If you want collaborative editing, then try Emacs's File -> New Frame on Display... to open many views on one file on different machines. (ssh X forwarding or xhost access permission recommended!) It's been there for a while and only needs the editor software installed on one machine, unlike some competitors. If the files are on another machine, tramp or ange-ftp can help.

2005-10-07T15:15:38

koha stable version roadmap

MJ Ray

Koha RM Paul Poulain outlines the roadmap for 2.2.4 and .5 and I think this is a good approach. Bugfixes only now, with new features going into 2.3 (for 3.0). 2.2.4 should be out this week and .5 in 3 months or whenever a critical bug is discovered.

2005-10-06T09:48:40

FECking expensive buses, flame-grilled browsers and copyright

MJ Ray

I love to hate First Eastern Counties. Their buses here are old rejects from other First regions, like the aging Leyland Nationals, compared to Go West/Norfolk Green's more recent Mercs and Volvos, yet still FEC dominate urban services. On the few times I've used FEC here, I didn't get where I was going on time.

When I first moved to this town, I lived on the Springwood estate. Apparently, a family living there now would have to walk half a mile to the bus stop on the A road and pay over 8 pounds for a return trip to town, according to this news report. Is it any wonder bus user numbers are falling? So the routes are cut, become less convenient, price-per-user gets higher and the death spiral continues. From the large busy car parks, I don't think the improving town cycleway network is where the bus passengers are going.

Out of town, a charcoal factory caught fire. I wonder if they know what fuelled the fire.

I agree with Brett's flaming of web browsers:

*all* web browsers suck, some suck marginally less than others. Basically, I use firefox on the basis that it, currently, is sucking the least for me, is reasonably fast and reasonably light weight, and does come somewhere *near* implementing the standards.

And Joey has noticed the problem with Stallman's blog licence:

"anyone using it [for syndication] would violate his copyright"

:-) By the way, did anyone else get a debconf transition mass bug report for a package that's already fixed?

I've yet to hack trackback support into these postings. For now, http://mjr.towers.org.uk/blog/tb.cgi/fecflame

2005-10-05T11:21:49

Brazilian Free Software & Copyleft

MJ Ray
  • Monday 10th October, 7pm - late
  • Guanabara, Parker Street, Nr. Drury Lane, London WC2
  • Cost: Free
  • This Cybersalon will discuss the Brazilian government's free software project and its support for copyleft at the forthcoming WSIS conference on 18-19th November in Tunis, Tunisia.
  • Longer description
2005-10-03T17:31:45

Awards, FACT, Formats, DreamBox

MJ Ray
Outstanding Contribution to Software Development

Congratulations to the Winner: NoSoftwarePatents.com & The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII)

Instant Blitz Copy Fight Project

"I have a project to take a flash photo of every FACT warning I see before a film, flash b/c it lets everyone in the audience know that I'm doing it." -- Cory Doctorow

360K Floppies Were Not The Problem

This mention of closed binary file formats sounds a lot like one of the incidents that persuaded me that free software is the best way forwards.

I lost my system, but I had backups. I didn't have a backup of the unlocked version of a shareware word processor (some sort of copy-protection? I don't remember). So, I installed the original again, but the unlock code no longer worked (timed expiry) and the new owners of the shareware wouldn't/couldn't sell me an unlock code for such old software. Ow. I didn't have time to argue: I had papers to submit.

I gave up and rewrote the papers I just lost in TeX (using tex4all, IIRC). Now I mostly use groff, but I'm pretty sure I can still read and process TeX if I need to.

DreamBox 500 only 150 quid???

It can't take a hard disk, but it seems that it can NFS mount one. I don't know much about this and I'll probably continue my DIY receiver project (because I want to integrate disc and stream players), but I'm interested if anyone has a review of this. Let me know by email or trackback http://mjr.towers.org.uk/blog/tb.cgi/affd1003

2005-10-03T11:54:57

Packages seen by debian-legal

MJ Ray

Packages covered on the debian-legal list last month include:

  • celestia
  • cinelerra-CVS
  • howtos (many but not all)
  • faac
  • flamerobin
  • gcfilms
  • ike-scan
  • larn
  • linux-kernel
  • linuxsampler
  • ntp
  • Loads of php-pear stuff
  • Stuff including tux images
  • star
  • stixfonts
  • umoria
  • vigra
  • warzone
  • wwwcount

Read more...

2005-10-01T12:33:56

Quotes on music players, blogs and ADHD

MJ Ray
ipod nano too easy to scratch...
"Have managed to scratch the screen quite a bit - and this is just having the thing in my pocket - no other objects in there. ... Apple is great at design, but not so hot on practicality." -- Martyn Drake
Samsung Yepp YP-T6X, can play Ogg Vorbis
"All in all, I am extremely happy about this toy." -- Lars Wirzenius
Handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents
"handy tips and technical advice on how to to remain anonymous and to get round censorship, by choosing the most suitable method for each situation. It also explains how to set up and make the most of a blog, to publicise it (getting it picked up efficiently by search-engines) and to establish its credibility through observing basic ethical and journalistic principles." -- RSF
Online ADHD
"I started taking an online ADD test, linked from someone's blog. I never finished it; I got distracted, and clicked on random other shiny things" -- Andres Salomon
2005-09-27T08:05:16

Decentralised hosting services

MJ Ray

This post about the Launchpad landgrab ambition sounds a lot like the stuff I was saying about the "you can't delete your own project ever" sourceforge.net a few years back. I tried to help do something about it by developing a project distribution format (not just the source code, but all the metadata too) but it never got very far. Not enough developers saw it as a problem and we never figured out what benefit hosting sites would get from supporting project movement. Our aim was to make life easier for hackers, not hosting sites.

So, nomeata, there's the challenge: can someone find a way to build the first distributed services with the few paranoid developers who want them?

(and in reply to Dick Davies's comment: GMail does stink. I am sick of all their invite spam and I don't see why they can expect me to register all of my addresses with them. I'm also sick of them base64-encoding plain text emails! - Companies like google freely pollute the internet and it's left to the rest of us to try to minimise those bad effects. It seems similar to how companies pollute the natural environment. We need an equivalent of greenpeace for the internet.)

2005-09-21T14:41:48

Writing and drawing

MJ Ray
Potential of OpenOffice
Jono's take on the opportunity and weaknesses of OpenOffice. I don't see a great attraction in OpenOffice: most of the time, something simpler (and easier to implement) would be good enough. Of course, Works lost out to Office, so what do I know?
Laws of Interface Design
From the LUGradio and interface fundamentalist department.
The trouble with universities
"The sad fact that an impressive publishing record is more important to hiring committees at many large research institutions than the ability to teach undergraduates only exacerbates the problem."
2005-09-20T19:52:44

Commentaries

MJ Ray
A pretty funny title to have
Some people are Mr, some are Rev or Dr, but just put "2 Erik Zabel" into your favourite web search.
SPARQL for RDF queries
Last call working draft. Comments welcome until 14 October.
Don't email the European Parliament if you don't speak en, de, fr or es.

"Thank you for your message. We should be grateful if you would send it again to us in English, German, French or Spanish because we have no Hungarian-speaking staff in our team." -- Webmaster Europarl [source: sce]

Clarkson pied

Why? Well, some people think that awarding the ranter a degree has cheapened theirs and brought Ox Brookes into disrepute. They should have expected some trouble after this.

Couldn't happen to many more deserving. Not sure from the pictures, but I think Clarkson and guard saw the funny side. I guess it's more fodder for his rant columns in the newspapers.

Election in Germany: It's democracy, Jim, but not as we know it.

Last week, I wondered if the election would change anything for two issues which I mention here a lot: cycling and free software, which Germany has a mostly-good reputation for, rightly or wrongly.

Well, it's not clear which coalition will emerge from the vote: red-black ("grand"), black-yellow-green ("Jamaican") red-yellow-green ("Traffic light"), red-redder-green (?), or what. They've got something under a month to sort it out.

Meanwhile, many commentators from GB and US are getting quite ranty about how actually the negotiation and compromise is so terrible and Germany should move to first-past-the-post, because that can give a government a big majority if it gets 35% of the vote. Yeah, and might makes right, too. I hear these people and want to shout "It's democracy, stupid." If the people are divided, surely a democratic system should reflect it? On some issues, majority rule is unavoidable, but it's not everything.

More comments from: Erich Schubert or Philipp Kern

2005-09-20T19:22:01

Lands of IP Glory?

MJ Ray
Sing along now:

Lands of I P Glory,
Mothers of all fees,
How shall we enforce thee,
While we're cussed wi' thee?
Wider still and wider
Shall thy bounds be set;
God, who made thee mighty,
Makes thee mightier yet.

EU IPRED 2 Alert

This beauty of anti-free-culture says:

"Member States shall ensure that all intentional infringements of an intellectual property right on a commercial scale, and attempting, aiding or abetting and inciting such infringements, are treated as criminal offences."

As the commentary says: "If we give litigators increased access to national enforcement bodies, and if we increase the harmful effects of litigation, we will encourage people to use litigation as a commercial tool in the market." Anyone for SCO UK?

USPTO proposes more international "intellectual property" rights
"The treaty language proposed for a webcasting right would create a new layer of property rights, lasting at least 50 years, for materials that are transmitted by web servers over the Internet and other networks. [...] The proposed treaty will harm the public, by imposing a costly and time-consuming thicket of rights, and will make it illegal to redistribute or copy works that are in the public domain, or which have been licensed for public distribution under a creative commons type voluntary license. "
2005-09-20T11:11:21

Never mind the petrol, what about the buses?

MJ Ray
The joy of public transport
"No traffic chaos as bus strike starts, says the EDP. What bollocks" says Andrew Savory. I agree. Lynn is also mostly served by FEC, whose drivers are striking, and I was puzzled by the high levels of traffic yesterday, until I almost ran into the picket by the depot on my bike. I don't use them much any more, as Lynn seems to get Norwich's old buses, so they're pretty unreliable, but it's surprising how quickly things gridlock if you transfer people from the buses into individual metal boxes.
Cycle Forum
I was at a cycle forum this afternoon. It's interesting times, most definitely, as the members realise the limitations of the way they're working and start to take steps to address it. In addition, it seems that the town is getting the "gaps" in its cycleway network slowly filled in. I can only think of two obvious gaps that will remain when planned works are complete: between the two market places, and town to the docks. Then the challenge becomes keeping it up to scratch and signing it. More on my CycLynn page.
Germany

Often Germany and the Netherlands are mentioned as examples of how to do cycleways right. Lynn shares a lot with both places. I wonder whether I can find some examples of good practice from them.

Germany holds elections on Sunday. Will it change anything for cycling or free software?

2005-09-16T18:55:28

Fun in London

MJ Ray

Have to chuckle at Brett's description of fun in London. The straight/crossover cables caused no end of fun working at the uni. Nice to know he still uses the "try it in the uplink" test. I guess nothing has exploded as a result. Yet.

I was working in London myself at the weekend (less traffic, especially fewer fuel panic buyers). We had the amusement of moving rack pillars around to the only position which accommodates both the normal extending rails and the long Dell ones. Seemed to go well and we found an extra third of a U by rearranging some of our own admin equipment.

Shame we've still more cables to replace.

2005-09-15T20:50:55

debian-legal package list for August 2005

MJ Ray

If you are interested in packages of:

  • bittorrent
  • bsdiff
  • dcc
  • enigma
  • fai
  • freemind
  • ironpython
  • larn
  • mail-notification
  • php4-apd php4-pear php4-pear-log php-auth php-date php-db php-file php-http php-mail php-mail-mime php-net-smtp php-net-socket php-pear php-xml-parser
  • rheolef
  • stixfonts
  • texi2html
  • tvbrowser or
  • zsnes

then you might find this package-based index of debian-legal interesting.

2005-09-13T15:48:36

Random bits

MJ Ray
SCO's 3Q conference call
Report says "SCO now has 190 employees". John Airey (Peterborough LUG) said "This company is losing money like it's an Olympic Sport." I know it's mean to laugh, but: Haha!
Attack on Human Rights
[UK Interior Minister and Norwich South MP, Charles] Clarke said: "The view of my Government is that this balance is not right for the circumstances which we now face - circumstances very different from those faced by the founding fathers of the European Convention on Human Rights - and that it needs to be closely examined in that context."
Stalker Etiquette
"A stalker with good manners would remember that it is impolite to make normal phone calls after 10pm, and stalker phone calls after midnight."
UNESCO: Software Freedom Day
"UNESCO continues its efforts to develop free tools for processing information and to provide access to resources on Free and Open Source Software" (see also: FSF/UNESCO FS Dir)
More on sleep
Does what it says on the tin
2005-09-13T09:52:23

Why societies should be opt-in.

MJ Ray
Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 20.

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
  2. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
Data Protection Act 1998 Legal Guidance

[...] It is not sufficient for a data controller to assume that a member does not object simply because the member is aware that his\her details are held on the club's computer and the member has never registered an objection. (Chapter 6)

(And the society shouldn't have my details listed as a member to start with if I never joined, never mind claiming a transition.)

2005-09-07T12:09:33

Vuelta A Espana

MJ Ray

The third and final Grand Tour of 2005 is underway! La Vuelta A Espana started from Granada on Saturday. My picks for the race are:

  1. Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa, Phonak) - looked good in this race before and could do well again if his team backs him (but they have two other potential leaders);
  2. Aitor Gonzalez Jimenez (Spa, Euskadi) - the orange train hasn't had much success so far this year, so maybe this will be their big race. It's a strong team: the mighty Iban Mayo is riding support;
  3. Tom Danielson (USA, Discovery) - horribly interrupted season from a Giro injury, but a lot to prove in this comeback.

Watch how the race is going on Eurosport (free in German at 19e, other languages in various European pay-tv) or TVEi (free on 30w, 22w, 13e, 19e and 100e, pay-tv worldwide). Online coverage from official tv site, cyclingnews live and RBR.

2005-08-29T14:37:07

New monopolies and laws

MJ Ray
Community Designs
"A Registered Community Design will grant a monopoly right to prevent unauthorised persons from dealing in products, which incorporate the design. Did anybody notice this new monopoly right going through?" - email from David M Berry.
Opposite of good: BT
Just to balance the last company recommendation, a company warning. BT don't even do the little they say they will.
Ulema Edict on Intellectual Property Rights Could Be Misleading
"This conclusion means that utilizing IP without a right is a violation of God's prescribed law and thus a sinful thing to do for a Muslim. [...] MUI's argument could be mistaken" - Mohamad Mova Al 'Afghani
2005-08-29T13:30:04

Conference, buggy society, website revamp

MJ Ray
AFFS conference report
The AFFS conference and AGM took place on Saturday just gone and was quite an interesting day. (click title to read more, get links to talks, and so on, gentoo talk now at dev.gentoo.org)
Barbecue
It seems we don't need a constitution to open an account anyway. I think that assumption has gone unchallenged since the outset and now it seems to be wrong.
p.s.: Can we convert GNUstep site to some CMS instead of having it on CVS?
For a postscript, that's got a lot of implications. Unsurprisingly, it's started a lot of debate. One specific question: What are we trying to improve here?
Wal-Mart bad ad slapped back
"the term official also wrongly implied the survey had been carried by a government department, public authority or industry body. Asda were ordered not to repeat the claim in the ad" - Also, it's sort of sad that so-called cheap food is still such a pulling power when we know more about the true cost to people and our environment.
2005-08-17T09:54:28

AGMs, Searching and Bad Orange

MJ Ray
AFFS Annual Conference
"The Association for Free Software [...] We hold an annual 1-day conference and Annual General Meeting [...] Date: 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM SAT 13th AUGUST 2005 Location: [...] LONDON" - Gentoo, Hula, Software Patents, more to be confirmed. Hope to see you there.
No Bureaucracy at Barbecues!
Yet Another August AGM? Reports, voting and elections at a barbecue for a society which can't fulfil the aims of setting it up? "I move: the AGM dissolves the Debian-UK Society and authorises the transfer of all its assets to a Debian-UK trust, which will include the current account signatories if they wish."
koha Searching and ILL
  1. Referring to practical problems as ideology looks like trying to polarise the discussion, even if it's not.
  2. CQL default for advanced search, att:val for simple search.
  3. Implement as few search engines as possible, translate to/from any other similar ones.
  4. OpenSearch should be supported, but not with its own engine.
From Shiny to Orange
After the last junk mail a few months ago, I phoned and asked Orange to remove me from their list, which they assured me they would. A few years ago, I left Orange because their customer service is incompetent, so I'm not really surprised that they didn't remove me from their mailing list. This time, they've included a FREEPOST, so they'll get a postal complaint.
2005-08-08T18:01:32

Software Patents, Spam, ICE, Copyright, Terror

MJ Ray
Transcript of EuroParl debate on swpat
some interesting points, clear signs of the pro-patenters arguing for rejection and shadows of the "Community Patent" problem to come.
Latest newsletter from Zeus Technology
"Dear Debian, Please find below a copy of this month's Zeus newsletter. I hope you find it informative, and if you have any questions, please feel free to email me back." -- why the heck are Zeus spamming debian lists? I emailed and got the reply "We outsource our telemarketing [...] It's looking like the quality of the list [...] is extremely substandard. For what it's worth, please accept my apologies." Well, at least that stable door is closed.
Help out in a crisis - with ICE
"By entering the acronym ICE - for In Case of Emergency - into the mobile's phone book, users can log the name and number of someone who should be contacted in an emergency." Another good East Anglian idea.
MP Responds on Recording Copyrights
"I tend to agree with you that the current 50 year period protects the artists' interests, whereas an extended time could actually be to the detriment of the performers. If the artists have already sold their copyrights to the record company, the expiration of these copyrights would effectively give them access back to their own work." - Stephen Crabb MP, who might actually understand this effect of lengthening copyright terms, holding work outside the creative public domain.
Data retention is no solution!
"The European ministers of Justice and the European Commission want to keep all telephone and internet traffic data of all 450 million Europeans. If you are concerned about this plan, please sign the petition."
Regrets
"If [the bombers] had not done what they did, then there would not have been armed officers on alert for suicide bombers." So what does this mean? That terrorism works and it changed how London must behave, eroding our way of life? Yikes.
Key escrow in the UK
In reply to Jeremiah Foster's "there has come the request from the Police to escrow the private keys [...] Is it permissible to allow key escrow by the authorities?" Rui Miguel Seabra answered:

"Let's see: TERRORISTS. How much do you think they care about using encryption illegally? Don't THEY DIE with their bombs already?

ORGANIZED CRIME. They thrive on hard drugs, prostitution, blackmail, murder. Those things will get them arrested for MANY years. Do they even CARE about a couple more years for not disclosing their private keys? [...]

What you say is not public need for information. That's a state who treats every single citizen as a potential terrorist. Guilty until proved innocent. "

UK Police and Encryption
Finally, understatement of the month to "There's something fishy going on here" from crypto expert Bruce Schneier.
2005-08-05T14:02:42

This website is copyright 2005 MJ Ray. See fuller notice on front page.