Archives for March 2006

You don't have to be Microsoft, but it helps

The last release of Squib was in December 2005. At that point I boldly predicted a new release in January with all sorts of interesting new features. Hrm... life never works out quite how you expect.

For one thing my job has hotted up big time since the new year, for another I've moved house, and, perhaps most importantly of all, the expedient hacks I made when I first wrote Squib came home to roost.

To get back on track I tossed out multiple weblog support which proved to be harder to retrofit than I'd imagined and a few other bits and pieces got kicked back to 0.5. However this has left room for numerous smaller improvements that make the day-to-day experience much nicer and with the recent fixes to publishing in place I'm almost ready to kick the 0.4 release out the door!

So, nearly 3 months late and minus the showboat features that were promised in December. I'm codenaming this release Vista.

31/03/2006 22:57 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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How do these things happen?

At the moment I have no TV reception at all. This has turned out to be a good thing because it has drastically reduced (practically to nothing) the amount of mainstream media I am exposed to. I can almost feel the poision seeping out of my system.

I do still like to watch some sort of television when I am eating though so I still buy DVD's from time to time. A couple of weeks ago I picked up the first season of Firefly. I'm glad I did because I think it's great.

And I want to ask: How on earth did this show ever get cancelled in the first place?

Oh wait. It's good and it's a Sci-Fi show. Say no more. Please attribute my even asking this question to the euphoria of not being a slave to the TV anymore. About the only thing I will miss is baseball on Channel 5 but I guess I can subscribe to MLB Radio for my Giants fix.

31/03/2006 21:06 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Scary numbers

According to figures I just saw on BBC News 24 the National Health Service is running at a cost of around £208,000,000 per day.

Of course with absolutely no context at all it's very hard to be anything other than scared by such a number.

31/03/2006 15:38 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

Escape from Baghdad

No Kurt Russell isn't being wheeled out again... rather I have been listening to Condoleezza "Condi" Rice delivering a lecture today in Blackburn about Liberal Democracy. What an interesting experience that is! When listening to what she had to say it is useful to remember that, as a Professor of Political Science, she has been trained to manipulate events in history to make her own point. She's very good at it.

She makes reference to Jefferson & Madison as architects of liberal democracy in the US. But Jefferson had no blind love of democracy and with the other framers of the constitution made it clear that America was a Republic. The Bill of Rights is specifically intended to protect the individual from the mob.

Rice and her fellow neo-cons have accelerated the accretion of powers by the US state, where they are being abused. The government is awash in National Security Orders and petty bureaucrats who are enjoying all the extra secrecy so loved by this executive. I'm not sure even Thomas Hobbes, whom she understandably claims to admire, would have approved.

She has been mentioned as a future president of the USA. Is she qualified? Well she seems happy to preside over mass murder and to wield power and twist meaning to suit her current purpose. She may be over qualified!

She did make two good points in her speech, however. First she said that we in the West take for granted our Democratic cultures and I think voter apathy probably supports that viewpoint. I don't think that problem can be addressed without breaking down the power structures we already have and moving decision making power - on all fronts - away from central government. I'm not sure Condi and her neo-con friends would be with me on that one.

The second point she made was her concluding remark:

Advancing the cause of freedom is the greatest hope for peace in our time.

I completely agree with that. It's just a shame that she, apparently, doesn't. Or she has some kind of "freedom at the point of a gun" concept in mind.

Douglas Hurd, former UK foreign secretary, made some following remarks the most enjoyable of which was when he said that killing others was unacceptable even if you are a foreign invader with a good cause. You have to admire his use of coded diplomatic language.

By the way is there anybody in UK policis more smug and supercilious than Jack Straw?

31/03/2006 13:54 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

Links for 31/03/2006

31/03/2006 10:09 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

Brushes with reality

You know I think of myself as a good coder. Not a great coder by any means, but a good coder. So it always comes as such a huge surprise to me how many bugs there are in my code.

But that's not even the worst part. The worst part is when I figure out there is a bug in my code right after I've just said "There's no bug in this code."

30/03/2006 22:08 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Links for 30/03/2006

30/03/2006 17:40 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

Links for 28/03/2006

28/03/2006 21:07 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

Almost four years for me too

Paolo writes:

4 years don't sound like a lot of time from here: it's about 12% of my life.

My blog comes up to 4 years in May, I can't remember the time before I blogged. What was it like?

Paolo was the second blogger I met (introduced to me by ex-blogger Marc Barrot who was the first). That was a good time, it was exciting and an affirmation of what I think we hoped blogging might be.

I'm not blogging much anymore on the English part of my blog, I write a little bit more on the Italian side. I'm not involved in many conversations or I don't feel I have much to add to what is discussed. The atmosphere is changing, pretty soon you won't even be able to say that blogging is not "mainstream media".

After 4 years of pouring stuff out I think we're all a little jaded. Terry and I have talked about this often; That feeling that you've nothing interesting left to say.

But I don't believe that's true, and I think the reason that neither Terry, Paolo, or myself have closed our blogs is that lurking feeling that the spark may come back. Interesting things happen all the time and sometimes to us.

Here's to four more interesting years! Happy birthday!

27/03/2006 11:37 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

One of the scariest things I've read recently

From San Francisco Bay View a piece about the long term impact of (and the reason for) the deployment of depleted Uranian weaponry:

Just 467 U.S. personnel were wounded in the three-week Persian Gulf War in 1990-1991. Out of 580,400 soldiers who served in Gulf War I, 11,000 are dead, and by 2000 there were 325,000 on permanent medical disability. This astounding number of disabled vets means that a decade later, 56 percent of those soldiers who served now have medical problems.

The number of disabled vets reported up to 2000 has been increasing by 43,000 every year. Brad Flohr of the Department of Veterans Affairs told American Free Press that he believes there are more disabled vets now than even after World War II.

There's a lot more in that piece and, if true, it's quite disturbing.

I tried verifying the numbers and can confirm that number dead & wounded (at least Wikipedia seems to agree)[]. I have no idea how to go about verifying the number of U.S. servicemen and women (and their families) dead since 1995.

Does anyone in the US know where to get those numbers?

27/03/2006 09:45 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Change is good

Now that my broadband and my blogging tool are both working I thought it was time to pick up the slack. It's been some weeks since I posted last.

I've been living in the new house for exactly a month. So far I love it. The house itself is great and the neighbour is quiet and peaceful. Best of all, I love having my own space. I've been sharing basically all my life and it feels really good to, finally, have somewhere I can call my own (even if I'm only renting it).

I'm pretty much settled in although the spare bedroom and office are both disaster areas. I've no regrets about leaving London although it has sunk in that meeting people in town isn't so convenient now that I have trains to manage. Still change is good.

24/03/2006 17:18 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Links for 24/03/2006

24/03/2006 00:09 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:

Nildram it is!

After some deliberation I have choosen to go with Nildrams Broadband2 service. It's an "up to 8mbps" service but I am thinking I will be lucky if I get 2mbps. I guess I can live with 1mbps, 3 years ago I'd have been happy with it. I also went with a single static IP address because I think that's a useful feature to have.

Luckily my Dad has a spare ADSL modem (a Nokia but I forget the model) and micro-filter so my costs are only the £40+VAT setup fee.

I went with Nildram because several people have now told me that they got excellent service from them and certainly they are among the best performers that I can see on the ADSL guide.

With luck I will be connected on the 20th March. Here's hoping for a happy first ADSL experience!!

07/03/2006 16:37 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Now, this is nothing to worry about....

Steve Yegge's father went through a heart-bypass and tells a good, if disturbing, story about what it's like. He makes an interesting point that health professionals can make a process like a bypass run like a smoothly operated machine but that the patient - battered, confused, and often frightened - is not a cog.

If there is something that I would hope the Medical Center personnel could learn from this brief iteration of my story, it is as follows. Within each step of these medical processes and procedures, the medical personnel that touch the lives of the patients, do so for only very brief periods of time - sometimes as little as a few minutes. But, these patients are not simply cogs in the machinery of this well-oiled machine. They hurt and are tired and are very often frightened. Take care that you treat them with dignity and respect for their condition. Because, this really is a big deal.

In my own medical experiences (rather less serious than Mr Yegge's but even so) over the last couple of years I've been grateful that the medical people I have dealt with have seemed very sensitive to my fears.

07/03/2006 15:26 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Don't sit in the front-row or a box

Dad and I went to see Jo Caulfield's stand-up show last night at the Norden Farm Theatre. If you've ever heard her Radio 4 show "It's That Jo Caulfield Again" the live show is funnier, a lot ruder, and quite terrifying.

Jo is very into audience participation which she interprets as "find things out about the audience and then pick at them mercilessly". I don't imagine slutty Kathy will choose to sit so prominently at future events. I think it works well because she seems to be good at judging how up for it anyone she picks on is. Nevertheless I felt a mild sense of panic every time her gaze passed my way.

She's a great laugh and I'd definitely go see her again (and sit further back than row 3)!

06/03/2006 11:21 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Great flow

Despite being very money conscious right now I shelled out $20 on Friday for Flow. I can't remember where I got the link from but I'm damned grateful because it's great.

According to author Karlheinz Essl, Flow:

Generates an ever-changing and never repeating soundscape in real time that fills the space with flooding sounds that resemble - metaphorically - the timbres of water, fire, earth, and air.

I now tend to leave it running while I work and I find it really helps me to get into flow state and ignore distractions. I also find it quite restful in the evening before bed.

Definitely recommended.

05/03/2006 11:54 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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iCal appointments don't work for me

Something that's beginning to bug me is the way I never seem able to receive iCal attachments properly. I am using Mail.App and iCal, the rest of the company Outlook. When I receive an invitation it does end up in iCal and I get the warning indicator, but when I click it I get:

No invite for you!

Only it doesn't list any email addresses for me to check, my _Me_ record in Address-Book has my email address (to which the invitation was correctly addressed) and I can open it fine in Entourage.

I'm baffled... what the hell is iCal's problem?

03/03/2006 11:04 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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ADSL is a mine-field

Thanks to everyone who responded to yesterdays post and pointed me at the ADSL Guide website and forums. Their site has a very useful comparison tool allowing you to rank up to 6 ISP's on speed, reliability, and customer service. I guess I've narrowed the field to Zen, Pipex, and Nildram as being fast, reliable, and friendly.

However I ran a broadband checker today that showed I shouldn't get too excited about ADSL

Broadband speed checker for my house

It seems that, at 2.33km from the exchange, I might be lucky to get 1mbps. Today that seems pretty slow. Also ADSL seems pretty much capped at 256Kbps upload which sucks. An old friend tipped me the wink about something called MaxDSL which, if I understand it correctly, might change the picture somewhat as long as the SNR on my line is decent.

My impression is that, today, I should opt for a cheap, slow, service with monthly billing and no activation charge and wait and see what MaxDSL brings.

03/03/2006 10:32 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Rails 1.1 looks good

I don't really have the time these days to keep up with edge Rails so I'm very much looking forward to Rails 1.1 especially the new features in ActiveRecord for managing relationships and the RJS templates. Like Curt Hibbs I think it sounds more like a 2.0 release.

02/03/2006 18:26 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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Looking for ADSL recommendations

For the last 3.5 years I have been a very satisfied user of BlueYonder Broadband. I'm leaving behind a cable-modem delivering an uncapped 4mbps/768kbps connection. I think I was paying about £35/month for that (bundled with cable TV).

Now I have a BT line again (which I'm not very happy about, I never wanted to go back) and am looking around for ADSL ISP's. Frankly I'm starting to feel like it's a make the best of a bad situation deal.

All this "up to 8mbps" I won't trust until I've seen 1Mb/s downloads. So for now I'm comparing companies on the bandwidth they guarantee for my line (i.e. 1mbps).

I've had one recommendation for Nildram where they're saying I'll get 1mbps/256kbps for £25/mth. That doesn't sound that great a deal and it's capped at 50GB per month during peak hours (8am-midnight). However they seem to be well regarded. On the other hand I've been waiting 3 days so far for them to respond to an email to their sales desk. If they don't answer sales messages what on earth should I expect from their support desk?

Bulldog are offering 500kbps upload, uncapped for about the same money (there's a deal on right now but it's £25/mth when that ends). On the other hand Bulldog seem to have an appalling track record with endless customer compliants, referals to OfCom, etc... I'm inclined to give them a wide berth.

Pipex are offering 2mbps uncapped at £18/mth with no connection fee. However I've seen suggestions that they "traffic manage" heavy users. Seems an odd kind of uncapped service where you can't use it. Or are they just talking about people streaming at 2mbps 24hrs a day?

Zen Internet, Wanadoo, Tiscali, and so on are all offering similar kinds of deals. But I have very little to go on choosing between them.

Without some reason to think otherwise I guess I'd go with either Nildram or Pipex but I'd be grateful for pointers from others who are getting good service.

02/03/2006 18:05 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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