MJR's slef-reflections

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Entries from May 2008

Back from Cuba

Mon, 12 May 2008 15:58:47 +0100

I'm just back from a trip to Cuba. Sorry for the abrupt disconnect. I expected to have limited connectivity there, whereas I actually had none at all except for 23 minutes! I hope the other members of the cooperative and the editorial team stepped in suitably well. I'll check in with them now and then start on the emails, but I wanted to put this broadcast out first for those who are watching closely and wondering...

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Tags: cooperatives, cycling, life, travel.

Strategy on Strategies

Wed, 14 May 2008 20:39:48 +0100

[SNR Event Welcome Slide]
Anyone seen this before?

Today, I went to an event about the Sub-National Review Consultation (as a substitute for someone else AIUI).

I'd not heard about this before, but if you're in England and you've any interest in our regional planning system (which I think you should, if you have your main home here or run a business here), you have six weeks left to comment on the UK Government's suggested changes.

As I understand it, it will move the second-highest tier of planning control from democratically-accountable regional bodies to the business-led Regional Development Agencies, with some oversight by MPs and the very- indirectly-accountable council leaders. I've posted more detail on Co-opNet.

When I asked about local involvement and cooperatives, I was directed towards Local Strategic Partnerships, but I'm pessimistic about how easy it will be to influence regional planning through those: a few weeks ago, I was at the launch of the North Somerset Partnership Sustainable Community Strategy for 2008-2026.

It's a 72-page A4 glossy book which I've still not found time to read properly. I think the size says something about its sustainability. I've posted a little more detail on WsMForum.

I'll try to answer questions about either of them on this blog or those forums...

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Tags: cooperatives, life, wsm.

Posting Ahead

Thu, 15 May 2008 09:52:52 +0100

I'm convinced by The Argument for Posting Ahead [Network Blogging] so why didn't I set it up for my recent trip?

Well, a while ago, I had a bit of an email discussion with Steve about delayed posting features for Chronicle which I think ended with the addition of chronicle-spooler to the released files. I initially suggested ignoring a post when its Date is in the future, like Wordpress does, but I think that wouldn't be backwards-compatible and isn't as flexibile as it could be.

chronicle-spooler works by moving files from a spool dir into a live dir. I'd forgotten how much it confuses me when files on a "static" site start moving themselves around. It means I have to merge before upload, which isn't a big change, but still annoying.

So, I've added the following lines to chronicle to skip entries with a Publish header in the future:-

--- chronicle-2.7/bin/chronicle.orig	2008-05-15 10:13:55.000000000 +0100
+++ chronicle-2.7/bin/chronicle	2008-05-15 10:13:43.000000000 +0100
@@ -607,7 +607,8 @@
         #  Read the entry and store all the data away as a
         # hash element keyed upon the (unique) filename.
         #
-        $results{ $file } = readBlogEntry($file);
+        my $result =  readBlogEntry($file);
+        if ($result) { $results{ $file } = $result; }
     }
 
     #
@@ -1479,7 +1480,7 @@
     my $tags    = "";    # entry tags.
     my $body    = "";    # entry body.
     my $date    = "";    # entry date
-    my $publish = "";    # entry publish date - *ignored*

+    my $publish = "";    # entry publish date
 
     open( ENTRY, "<", $filename ) or die "Failed to read $filename $!";
     while ( my $line = <ENTRY> )
@@ -1527,6 +1528,14 @@
     }
     close(ENTRY);
 
+    # MJR - embargo stuff until its publish date.
+    # Steve recommends using chronicle-spooler,
+    # but I want uploaded files to stay where I put them,
+    # else I get my local copy confused.
+    if (($publish ne "") && (str2time($publish) > time())) {
+    	return 0;
+    }
+
     #
     #  Determine the input format to use.
     #

I think that's compatible with chronicle-spooler, too...

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Tags: life, software, web.

No Battles - Just Stand Firm On Best Practice

Fri, 16 May 2008 08:52:52 +0100

"Here are three examples of rules that I think it's time to abandon. These particular examples are all about email.

1/ Top Posting [...]

2/ HTML Email [...]

3/ Reply-To On Mailing Lists [...]

So, yes, the barbarians are at the gate. The lunatics have taken over the asylum. Good ideas have been crushed by the number of people who don't understand them. But there's no point in complaining about it. You just have to accept it and move on."

-- Pointless Battles For Geeks, By Dave Cross

Unsurprisingly, given the above links to my site, I disagree with Dave Cross's conclusion, but I do agree with two aspects: battling is generally pointless and using hard rules about these things is unnecessary.

I have those pages on my website so that I can point to them when their broken emails aren't handled as expected. I use some aspects of them as scoring inputs in my mail filters. I don't use them as rules and I try not to complain about them too often.

Nevertheless, I still believe sending properly-trimmed plain text emails from a list-friendly email client is clearly best practice, to be recommended when someone asks why their email bad habits are causing them problems.

4 comments.

Tags: life, software, web.

BBC TV: Click: Free=beer and facebook-flaming

Fri, 16 May 2008 17:15:36 +0100

Free software finally gets significant coverage on BBC TV's Click show this week, but I think it's very much Linux rather than GNU/Linux and free cost rather than freedom. They mentioned free security software and even raised the possibility of trojans, but didn't mention how free (as in freedom) software allows any random end-user to check or have it checked.

Quite a missed opportunity! However, Click has a regular letters section, so watch it (times below), email click@bbc.co.uk and see if we can get the free software view across.

The letters section this week seemed to be flaming proprietary SaaS social network site facebook for their pathetic default-permit approach to security of user details. I really think there's a role for something like noserub in free software social networking.

Click-UK is shown on BBC News Channel Saturday 1130, Sunday 0430 and 1130, Monday 0030 and Sunday 0430 on BBC-1 (times BST)

Click-World is shown Thursday 19:30 GMT, Repeated Friday 09:30 and 12:30 (Asia Pacific only), Saturdays 06:30, Mondays 15:30, Tuesdays 01:30 (not Asia Pacific, Middle East or South Asia) and 07:30 GMT

Anyone else see this?

1 comment.

Tags: life, satellite, software, web.

Mystified by Remote Controls

Sun, 18 May 2008 13:44:36 +0100

Can a Panasonic EUR7615KTO remote control for a NV-VP30 video player use its TV mode to control a Goodmans 257NS TV?

I've tried every setting listed in the instruction book and I still can't get it to work. Neither the book nor the stuff on Panasonic's web site has a compatibility list. Search engine results are full of people selling replacement controls and no compatibility lists.

I guess it doesn't work, but it's a bit irritating not to know for sure. Why doesn't anyone produce proper hardware compatibility lists for these devices? Video players are worse than Linux...

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Tags: hardware, life.

Met Calyx about Koha

Tue, 20 May 2008 12:22:23 +0100

I met Irma and Bob from Calyx yesterday. They're fellow Koha service providers from Sydney, Australia who are over in Europe visiting various people.

It was nice to see them (first time I've met Bob) and have a bit of a chat about where we're each going with Koha. One interesting difference is that they have several private-sector clients, while I don't think my cooperative has yet done a private-sector Koha, but there seemed to be more similarities than differences, including adding more robust project management and ticketing as we deliver Koha 3 to people.

We went for lunch at The Cliffs Tea Rooms at the other end of Kewstoke Toll Road, which has great views towards Wales, but I forgot to take any pictures. Ooops.

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Tags: cooperatives, koha, life, software, wsm.

Another Toll Road Crash

Tue, 20 May 2008 14:07:44 +0100

I'd not long written about lunching at the other end of Kewstoke Toll Road yesterday when I read this news of another Toll Road crash. I hope the three people carried from the wreckage recover.

I fear the press will have another field day about how dangerous the road is, instead of primarily blaming whatever caused the accident. (The fishmonger crashed while avoiding a loose dog, by the way.) That road is not up to modern standards and I don't believe it was designed for the volume of traffic that's been using it since they stopped collecting the toll, but there is a very low speed limit (25mph) and warning signs all over it. Neither car left the road this time, as far as I can tell from the reports.

I hope the press proves me wrong.

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Tags: life, toll road, travel, wsm.

SPI Meeting May 2008 - Doldrums?

Wed, 21 May 2008 08:54:38 +0100

At the time of writing, I've not seen an announcement (again), but there's an agenda for an Software in the Public Interest IRC meeting at 19:00 GMT tonight (Wednesday 21st).

It doesn't include any reports, motions or items for discussion. This is particularly surprising because Michael Schultheiss declared in the last meeting that there would "definitely" be a complete treasurer report before this meeting (see 20:07:48 in the meeting log http://lists.spi-inc.org/pipermail/spi-general/2008-April/002571.html I sent to spi-general after last month's meeting).

But why are there no motions or items? Are we that short of work to do?

I may not be at this meeting (library event in Bristol instead) but I'll post a log to spi-general later if I have one.

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Tags: charities, debian, spi.

Updating the Accounts

Thu, 22 May 2008 08:52:23 +0100

I finally closed my cooperative's annual accounts for the year to 5 April 2008 yesterday. We wrote off one project (not bad for a year) and now we can start on the annual reports. For day-to-day entries, we're still using my simple scheme/web app called SQL-Journal and I should make a new release real soon now. I've added some features since 1.3 and there's a few more I want to add, but I'm no accountant, so it will remain simple and stupid, but good enough for me.

Bristol Wireless's accountant has written some comments on GNUcash which is an interesting view: "not quite there yet" which could help finance software developers.

Better searching is one thing I will add to SQL-Journal some time, but it will probably never have features like reporting (I either use an SQL-based report package or export to a spreadsheet) and I know it's no better at handling VAT, mainly because TTLLP isn't VAT-registered yet.

I also spotted Finance software in Emdebian, by Neil Williams recently. I wonder if the bursts of accounting interest are connected to the end of the financial year?

4 comments.

Tags: cooperatives, software, web.

Silver Surfer's Day 2008

Fri, 23 May 2008 08:54:38 +0100

Today is Silver Surfer's Day 2008, intended to give a taste of the internet to some of the nearly 10 million over-50s who aren't yet online. There's an SSD event finder on the site of organisers Digital Unite. (Thanks to SW ICT Champion for the tip.)

I also spotted Rural broadband households overtake urban for the first time from Ofcom, but I wonder whether the Ofcom definition of broadband is as broken as the Ofcom definition of digital television.

1 comment.

Tags: charities, web.

Updates: Fishmonger re-opens, Bombing Exeter, Eurovision

Fri, 23 May 2008 10:58:07 +0100

Three quick updates to items I've posted in the past:-

Justin Rolfe has re-opened his fishmonger's shop on Alexandra Parade Weston-super-Mare less than six weeks after what Avon Fire called a "lucky escape" when his van crashed off Kewstoke toll road.

I'm glad I didn't try to go to an event in Exeter yesterday that I was invited to. I don't remember seeing that restaurant, but the BBC writes it only opened last September. A religious bombing in Devon. Whatever next?

Eurovision is tomorrow night. I'm not going to write in detail here this year (because I don't want the pain of dealing with the planet-purgers again) but I might try to guest blog somewhere else and mention it at the end of tomorrow's post.

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Tags: life, toll road, wsm.

Sky Data Protection

Sat, 24 May 2008 08:52:34 +0100

For the first time in a while, I've filed a data protection complaint with the Information Commissioner's Office about a company's bad behaviour.

Take a bow, Sky TV! Claiming that you can't remove my details from your mailing lists because I'm not one of your customers is stupid beyond belief. If I'm not one of your customers, never have been and have never permitted you to have my personal details, then you shouldn't have them anyway and you definitely shouldn't keep them after I've asked you to stop.

1 comment.

Tags: life, satellite.

Update: Experts Say Ofcom Wrong About Rural Broadband

Mon, 26 May 2008 17:24:34 +0100

Last Friday, I mentioned Ofcom announcing that Rural broadband households overtake urban for the first time and wondered whether the Ofcom definition of broadband is as broken as the Ofcom definition of digital television.

Of course it is.

Apprently, it ignores download speed, alternative access points and lots of other aspects. See Rural broadband - lies, damn lies and statistics (hey, don't blame the numbers - blame those doing the interpretation!), Lifetorque: Ofcom still out of touch on broadband and It's Broadband Jim - but not as we know it! for some of the points and links to more.

Can we ever trust any of Ofcom's statistics?

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Tags: life, phones, statistics, web.

Bristol and Bath Perl Mongers

Tue, 27 May 2008 08:55:01 +0100

The first meeting of the new Bristol and Bath Perl M[ou]ngers is tonight (Tue 27th) at 7pm, according to this mailing list post.

Despite their rules, I've already been well-flamed by one member, so it will be interesting to see what sort of group it becomes. Hopefully the flamers are nicer in real life.

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Tags: koha, life, software.

Fuel Price Bleating and Biking

Tue, 27 May 2008 10:17:26 +0100

[Photo of Cyclists]
England swings like a pendulum do!

There's another fuel price protest and the coverage in the London press is pretty biased, with occasional balanced reports and very rare dissenting opinion.

One of the favourite whines on news-and-nutters phone-ins is "waah, I live in a village, I need my car". While that's true for some people, most villagers could switch to bicycles for many journeys without problems.

At the moment, the biggest problem with cycling to town is the number of cars on the small lanes, followed by the number of potholes. Switching to cycling or walking will have a triple benefit: fewer cars on the road will free up space for cycling, wear the roads out less and reduce fuel demand (so petrol should become cheaper for those who really need it).

Over the last few days, I've been happy to read Bike The Drive 2008 [Dirk Eddelbuettel], Mountainbike, By Joerg Jaspert and How to Start Bicycling to Work, by John Goerzen.

A couple of tweaks to that last one: in England, I don't think that a cycling helmet is necessary. I've not worn one for the last few months (it went mouldy after a rain storm) - I find I can hear traffic better and many drivers seem to give me more room on the road. I wonder if helmet-wearing "dehumanises" cyclists to drivers? The safety data seems rather confused, but it's a personal choice. If you feel safer with a helmet, wear one. I also wear ordinary business or casual clothes, relying on a good quality commuter saddle rather than cycling shorts. I suspect that drivers here are developing a sort of blindness to the "screaming yellow" hi-vis jackets, so I don't wear those - but sometimes I wear hi-vis reflective armbands if I'm wearing black in the dark. I agree completely with the comments on that page about being predictable, Cateye lights and pannier bags.

Finally, Bike Week 2008 starts on 14 June, which would be an ideal time to try a group ride - or just get a free breakfast for cycling into town.

Update: Wheelism: How To Commute By Bicycle and Drake.org.uk: The Pushbike Song - it's a veritable wave!

9 comments.

Tags: cycling, life, travel, wsm.

Kewstoke Annual Village Meeting

Wed, 28 May 2008 08:51:23 +0100

Tomorrow (Thu 29th) at 7.30pm is the Kewstoke annual village meeting. That should be my first meeting as a councillor, if I get back from London in time. (I hope I do - councillors who miss meetings get this sort of criticism but at least village councillors aren't paid that much: I think expenses for all 12 or so councillors totalled under £60 last year.)

Apart from the two reports, the agenda is a good summary of the challenges affecting the village this year: Cygnet Liaison, Sand Bay Management and the Toll Road.

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Tags: life, toll road, wsm.

Quick Question: opticaljungle.com = publicdomainregistry.com?

Wed, 28 May 2008 12:21:26 +0100

Are opticaljungle.com and publicdomainregistry.com the same people?

Their addresses look identical but their phone numbers are different. Both appear to have some connections to directi.com. Is there any way to check if they are the same people?

I don't know how to verify US companies when they appear not to want to be verified... Domain Detectives thinks they're both directi

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Tags: cooperatives, life, software, web.

Getting Linux InfraRed Beaming to a Palm III with a Belkin USB Device

Thu, 29 May 2008 08:55:01 +0100

I lent someone my old Palm IIIe as a data entry device for an exhibition this week. I don't use it much since I got a Samsung K608i last year. They weren't comfortable with using their smart phone as a data entry device. I can understand that: I'm still pretty slow at phone-typing and it corrupted data when its memory filled recently.

The batteries had been removed from the Palm to avoid them leaking, so it needed reloading with useful Palm free software for data entry. The first problem was that I decommissioned bouncing a while ago and that was the last machine to sync with the Palm. I wasn't keen to pull it out of the store cupboard and connect all the wires, but my current desktop machine nail doesn't have a 9-pin serial port for the cradle and that's the only connector on the Palm.

Actually, it's not the only connector: the Palm has an InfraRed emitter and I have a Belkin F5U230 USB-IrDA dongle thing. I don't use it that often, but it worked enough to connect nail to the internet through my old mobile phone. That was a while ago and I forgot the specifics, but eventually I noticed the key phrase in the irattach man page:-

"Note that there is another USB driver for those devices called ir-usb which is NOT compatible with the IrDA stack and conflicts with irda-usb. Because it always loads first, you have to remove ir-usb completely."

Sure enough, I checked the lsmod output and found ir-usb there, screwing stuff up. A few modprobe -r commands, then I simply ran

"irattach irda-usb"

and saw the irda0 network device appear.

Still one thing to do: beam the actual applications. This was pretty easy because I remembered reading that obexftp defaulted to IRDA sending when I was getting bluetooth working. All I had to do was enter a command like

"obexftp --irda --put db.prc"

and the Palm asked if I wanted to accept it! Yes!

First test with obexftpd for receiving files wasn't encouraging, though and I can't see how to use sobexsrv for this: I'll probably write next week whether we get any data off the Palm! The Palm IIIe is too old to hotsync over infra-red, as far as I can tell. I've got a roundabout route through the K608i but it doesn't seem to be very reliable. Anyone got any expert tips?

2 comments.

Tags: gobolinux, hardware, life, phones, software.

Told You So: Exhibitions and Spammer Registrars

Fri, 30 May 2008 08:54:13 +0100

I used to help staff more exhibition stands than I do now. Part of the reason I stopped was that few free software people seem to appreciate the basics of running a good exhibition stand and I got bored of arguing that we should give people space, avoid putting a counter across the stand, keep notes of contacts made and basic stuff like that.

So, it was good to read Connecting People: Making an exhibition of yourself - the exhibitor and the linked Business Startup Coach shares Exhibition & Trade show secrets which repeat many points I've made before. Don't want to listen to me? Listen to the marketing experts.

Some time after noticing WDPRS, I tried reporting as much spam as possible for a while, to hosters and registrars based on WHOIS details.

Some hosts and registrars were good at dealing with spam (Yahoo and walla.net.il were exceptionally good) many were bad (bresnan.net, registrationtek.com, publicdomainregistry.com (PDR), ait.com, omantel.co.om, ttnet.net.tr) and some were ugly (Tucows/OpenSRS wrote back to say they don't do anything about domains they register, while ENom and Moniker never sent human answers).

So it's no surprise to see ENom, Moniker, PDR and AIT on the list of

"Top Ten Worst Spam Registrars Notified By ICANN" ultimately taken from this report.

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Tags: cooperatives, life, software, web.

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