September 30, 2004

Andy's always banging on about Vim. And having seen him using it, I have to admit, he can go like stink using it.

Well, now I've got a console only Debian box that I'm working on, so I'm having a go. I don't like it. It keeps beeping at me.

I've also just wasted 3 hours trying to get PHP 4 running under Apache 2, only to find that it was all going Pete Tong because I'd installed the wrong package - libapache-mod-php4 rather than libapache2-mod-php4. Doh! Still, it's all going now, and it's all been very educational. I'm relearning the knack of getting around a command line, I'm learning some Linux commands and a bit of Bash, and if I'm not exactly becoming familiar with Vim, I'm no longer utterly bewildered.

Posted to Linux by Simon Brunning at 04:26 PM

Women have four G-spots, apparently.

Not each - that's four between the lot of them, I think.

Via - who else - Steve.

Posted to Funny by Simon Brunning at 04:13 PM
September 29, 2004

Listening. Yup, that's me alright. ;-)

Behind the Name: the etymology and history of first names. Great site, via lonita.

Posted to Apropos of nothing by Simon Brunning at 02:24 PM
Blue Screen of Megadeath

Microsoft server crash nearly causes 800-plane pile-up. What kind of moron uses Windows in safety critical systems?

Uh, this kind.

Via Lex in the City.

Posted to Software by Simon Brunning at 02:03 PM
Another woody to avoid

This wooden PC is lovely to look at, but:

this winter
I hope you get a splinter
if you make a toboggan
and it is a mahog'un

Posted to Apropos of nothing by Simon Brunning at 12:36 PM
Goodbye Woody, hello Sarge

So far, so futile. :-(

Plan A was to install Debian 3.0 r2 (Woody). The install process dies on the first reboot:

Aiee, killing interrupt handler!
In interrupt handler - not syncing.

I don't appear to be the only one with this issue - it appears that roadwarrior's hardware isn't compatable with Woody.

I know all the hardware can be made to work with Linux, though - Knoppix 3.6 drives everything fine. So, Plan B was to install from Knoppix, but that didn't work either:

Error: Formatting of  failed.

I'm not alone in having this problem, either, but I don't have a scooby what to do about it.

Now, I'm sure that if I were a Linux guru, I'b be pulling working bits out of Knoppix and stuffing them into Woody, but frankly, I wouldn't know where to start. So, Plan C is to grab Sarge and see how far I get with that.

Posted to Linux by Simon Brunning at 10:47 AM
September 28, 2004
Nice People

Are Python people really nicer than Java people? Hmm, well, it seems to be that case that is unusually good natured. But I have to say that I've found Java people to be really nice too. People are ridiculously helpful over on the iText mailing list. And last night's nerd-crawl was a pleasure as always.

Posted to Java by Simon Brunning at 01:16 PM
Where's Hal?

How sci-fi is this?

Posted to Science and technology by Simon Brunning at 12:39 PM
September 27, 2004
Managers are *weird*

I've just been flamed by El Presidente for bottom-posting, would you believe!

I did steer him towards Top-posting vs. bottom-posting - or - Microsoft Outlook vs. The Right ThingTM, a good, non-dogmatic, seeing both sides of the argument overview, but he's not having any of it: "personally it irritates, my eye skips backwards and forwards trying to find the pertinent point without having to re read all the text". :-(

Anyway, that's me off down the pub now.

Posted to The Internet by Simon Brunning at 05:38 PM
Historic City Maps

Maps of Historic Cities, via lonita. I do like the Plan Des Villes De Londres from 1700.

Posted to History by Simon Brunning at 03:03 PM
Which Distro?

Excellent! My next project will involve building a new site which will include some 'announcment and discussion forums', or, well, blogs. I wonder why I'm in the frame for this one? ;-)

I'm thinking WordPress for the blog engine. Seems to be all the go at the moment.

Even more excellent, if a little scary, is that all this is to run on a Linux box. I've not used Linux in anger, and I'm really looking forward to it. I'm very much a command line man, so I'm sure I'll get on fine once I've got some momentum up. But getting started...

Which distro should I use? I quite fancy Debian, but I'm not sure that I'm hary chested enough for it. Would I better off with SuSE, or is that a bit desktop oriented? Is Ubuntu ready for prime-time? Or is there another distro altogether that I should be using?

Update 28th September: Ubuntu is looking promising, but I'm going with Debian. CDs burning as I write.

Posted to Software by Simon Brunning at 02:56 PM
Click here

The craft of writing link text, via Off On A Tangent.

Posted to Website construction by Simon Brunning at 02:21 PM
Night of the Crawling Nerds

The inaugural London Java pub-crawl is tonight. Not the last, I hope. Nerds of all ranks and persuasions welcome.

Posted to Java by Simon Brunning at 01:10 PM
I could stop...

If I wanted to.

Two weeks? That's evil. Isn't there something in the Geneva Convention about that kind of thing?

Via holygoat.

Posted to The Internet by Simon Brunning at 01:07 PM
September 24, 2004
Now I feel nauseous

Smittens, via boingboing.

Also making me laugh recently - That is just so degrading, Gary Rhodes, Pirate Riddles for Sophisticates, and many more.

Posted to Funny by Simon Brunning at 04:13 PM

Firefox extensions. Geddit? (Whistling wind, tumbleweed.)

Suit yourselves.

Anyway, Gordon mentions some of his favourite extensions. The Web Developer extension in particular is a must-have. If, that is, you are a web developer. ;-)

There are a few extensions that I'd hate to be without that he doesn't mention:

  • Linky allows you to drag-select a bunch of links and open them all at once.
  • IE View allows you to open a page or link in IE - dead handy for testing. And like it or not, you have to test with IE.
  • Tabbrowser Extensions allows you to drag and drop tags, close loads of tags at once, and quite a few more things. Give it a try.
  • Google Bar - a clone of Google's IE toolbar.

That's what I use, but your needs are probably different, so check out all the Firefox Extensions and see what you fancy.

Posted to The Internet by Simon Brunning at 12:02 PM
September 21, 2004
Anyone got a spare liver they can lend me?

I survived last night, just. But my ordeal by ethanol is not yet at an end. Andy Todd is off to the land of Kylie soon, and it's his leaving bash tonight.

Wish me luck.

Posted to Beer by Simon Brunning at 11:20 AM
Boris Johnson's blog!

Everyone's favorite Tory, Boris Johnson, now has a blog! Via NightHawk.

Posted to Blogs by Simon Brunning at 09:23 AM
September 20, 2004
This is all I need

I'm feeling as rough as a terrier's nads today - so naturally, I come across Tequila: Culture and Myths (via lonita). Bletch.

What's worse, I've just been reminded that I'm out on the lash with Steve, Michael and others this evening in Latymers, Hammersmith. That first pint will go down like broken glass, I can tell you...

Posted to Beer by Simon Brunning at 01:43 PM
The act of removing weeds from one's garden

You'll have to be gentle with me today. My little brother got married this weekend, and I'm a little fragile today.

I've put up the first of what will probably be a number of image galleries - Dan & Abby's Wedding, September 2004.

A few highlights; the bride and groom, the bridesmaids (my daughters and nieces), the bride and groom with the best man and ushers, with me on the left looking pretty dapper, if I do say so myself.

Thanks to Les for these pictures. If you have any more, please send them to me...

Update: Another gallery. These pictures are from Mum, which is why they are mostly of my sister and I, and of our offspring. ;-)

Update 12th October: A late entry, this - yet another gallery, this one featuring the lovely Laura, Claire and Cass, and the not quite so lovely John and Dan. ;-) Thanks to Keiran for these.

Posted to Family by Simon Brunning at 09:47 AM
September 17, 2004
How Chav Are You?

The Sun ran a quiz today - How Chav Are You? I should have thought that the answer was easy for its readers - you read The Sun, so you're a Chav.

Anyway, I got four points - "LESS THAN 10: Admit it. You couldn't bring yourself to do the test in case you found out the awful truth, could you?"

OK, 'fess up - how Chav are you?

Via mad musings of me.

Posted to Funny by Simon Brunning at 12:25 PM
September 16, 2004

It's gonna be hell in the Tube tonight...

Still, nice idea for a site. Via Ollie.

Posted to On the road by Simon Brunning at 04:58 PM

iText - it's just so easy! I may be seeing it through rise tinted spectacles, scared as I am by my recent run in with StyleReport, but I'm just loving using this. I've finished the tutorial, and I'll get started on the real deal tomorrow.

Posted to Java by Simon Brunning at 04:56 PM
Form an orderly queue...

A Girl's Guide to Geek Guys. It doesn't just say "Run away!" - they can work that out for themselves.

Via Coofer Cat.

Posted to Funny by Simon Brunning at 04:51 PM
September 15, 2004
I'd argue. If I could be bothered.

Brit workers are 'apathetic and unskilled'. Yup, that's me alright.

Posted to Business by Simon Brunning at 05:17 PM
40 years of The Current Bun


Posted to Funny by Simon Brunning at 01:03 PM
September 13, 2004
She's Got a Bottom!

Freja and I met up with Neil and his girls for a visit to The British Museum yesterday. It was a huge success.

I wasn't by any means sure that it would be. I've taken Freja to the V&A a few times recently. She is happy enough for an hour or so, but she's getting bored and restless by then, so we decamp to the wonderful Science Museum, which is only a few minutes away. And our visit to The National Portrait Gallery didn't go at all well...

But The British Museum was lots more fun. The girls spent a fair amount of time running around, elbowing each other and saying things like "you can see his willy" and such like. Well, shouting to begin with, but Neil and I got them calmed down a bit fairly quickly. The dead bodies were also big hits.

Unfortunately, the Roman galleries seemed to be closed. Freja's looking at the Romans in her topic work, so it was a shame that we missed that section - Freja really wanted a look.

Lunchtime was a bit rough on the pigeons - the girls spent most of the time chasing them. But they needed to blow off a bit off a bit of steam having been kept quiet.

We finished off with Mummy: The Inside Story. We all loved this. The girls liked the gory details of mummy preparation, particularly the brains being pulled out through the nose. I loved the theory as to how the mummy got its hat.

You see, the mummy has what what looks to be a shallow pottery bowl on its head, somewhat like a skull cap. This is the only mummy to have been found with one of these, and since the workmanship of the bowl appears to be pretty rough, its unlikely to be of ritual significance. No, the theory runs that this was on of the embalmers bowls which got stuck to the corpse's head with resin during the embalming process. Rather than own up to this, the embalmers simply wrapped the mummy's head up with the bowl in place. They thought that nobody would ever know! People never change...

Museums are always tiring, especially when you have a good time. Freja and I were both totally knackered on our way back to Reading, and by the time I was back in Colliers Wood again I was nearly comatose.

Posted to Family by Simon Brunning at 02:31 PM

Goodbye StyleReport, goodbye Inetsoft. I have the go-ahead to rewrite our PDF reports in iText.


Posted to Java by Simon Brunning at 01:31 PM

I suspect that Google's Gmail is topping out now - everyone seems to have an account if they want one at this point, and everyone has accounts to give away.

Charles Miller's controlled growth theory is such a brilliant but simple idea that I'm sure it has to be true - in which case, we might see Gmail's doors thrown open to all and sundry any time soon. Still, in the meantime, I have invites if anyone wants one...

BTW, Charles' reply is a scream.

Update: Perhaps the marked isn't as sated as I thought - only one more invite to go...

Posted to The Internet by Simon Brunning at 01:27 PM
September 10, 2004
Girding My Loins

I'm not really sure if I'm man enough for one of Steve's pub crawls, but I'll give it a go. We are starting off at the Devereux from six 'till seven, the Stars from seven 'till eight, and on from there.

Wish me luck...

Posted to Beer by Simon Brunning at 04:53 PM
Rotten Statics

We had rather an obscure issue today.

Rather against my advice, we have a class to keep all our string constants in - I wanted to keep these strings either in the classes to which that naturally belong, or in a configuration file if they were likely to change.

What can I say? I was outvoted. ;-)

Anyway, consists of nothing but a bunch of lines like this:

public static final String PRINCIPAL_SESSION_ATTRIBUTE = "principal";

At the last minute before going live, the value of one of these strings changed. We ran our dist target, and installed.

One of our classes, let's call it, refers to this string - and we were finding that it was picking up the old value. We were, to say the least, perplexed. We removed the web application completely from Tomcat, and deleted WARs and classes from all over the shop before reinstalling the app. No dice - it still picked up the old value. We bounced Tomcat, which didn't help. We rebooted the server, ditto.

We even decompiled Constants.class. It contained the new value.

In the end, I tried decompiling Skippy.class. Lo and behold, there it was - the old value. WTF was it doing in there? It should have referred to the value in Constants.class, shouldn't it? Why did it have its own copy? And if Skippy.class was supposed to have its own copy of the literal, why didn't Ant recompile it for us?

Anyway, we only had to run ant clean dist, and install the WAR file we got from that, and all was well.

Lessons learned today:

  • Really don't use a bloody constants class.
  • Make your dist target dependent on your clean target.
  • Nobody likes it when you tell them "I told you so". ;-)

Posted to Java by Simon Brunning at 04:40 PM
Hog the middle lane, would you?

These missile balloons are fantastic. Almost good enought to make me want to get a car.

And learn to drive...

Posted to Funny by Simon Brunning at 10:53 AM
Bend Over...

From an ongoing dialogue with one of our suppliers:

> From: [Name deleted to protect the, uh, whatever.]
> Simon,
> My name is [Name deleted] and I am an account manager at Inetsoft. My 
> records show that
> your maintenance expired on May 1, 2004. To get support at 
> this point, you
> would renew maintenance as usual, but also would need to pay 
> a $100 penalty
> for the breach in maintenance (This should have been indicated on the
> original quote). As you were operating on the complementary 60-day
> maintenance, a 1-year extended maintenance would be traced 
> back to the date
> of purchase (Mar 2, 2004), giving a renewal date of Mar 1, 2005.
So, as I read this, in order to get serious defects in your product repaired, you want to charge me a year's fee for six month's support, plus a hundred dollar fine on top?
This doesn't sound too reasonable to me...
Cheers, Simon Brunning.

Update: They got back to me:

Please understand without these terms, many customers would decline initial
maintenance, and come back to the sales department and purchase maintenance
only when they run into a problem. This causes problems for our customers,
as they need to produce the funds and process the order all the while
development is on hold because of a bug or issue in the software that does
not allow them to continue their efforts. Comparatively speaking, the
penalty is a small amount and is primarily in place to discourage this

Ah, so these terms are for our benefit! It all makes sense now!

iText it is, then.

Posted to Java by Simon Brunning at 08:48 AM
September 08, 2004
Delta Green

Speaking of Cthulhu - there's got to be an excellent Delta Green scenario lurking in this story, hasn't there?

Posted to Toys and games by Simon Brunning at 01:17 PM
iPod shuffle

One thing's been keeping me sane while I've been working with Cthulhu's crud - my lovely new iPod. ;-)

I've now ripped just about every CD I own - every one that I might want to listen to, at any rate. Here's a full listing of what's on my iPod now. Be warned - the list itself is nearly 3 MB!

One of the best things about the iPod for me is the shuffle feature. Just fire it up, and it selects tracks at random from your iPod - it's just like having your own personal radio station.

I say at random, but I'm not sure that it is entirely at random. I'm fairly certain that highly rated tracks are picked more often than are lower rated tracks. (You can assign every track your own rating, one to five stars.) This is great - exactly what I'd want.

What I'm a lot less sure about is multiple tracks by the same artist. It seems to me that you hear two tracks by a single artist within a track or two of one another far more often than you should. But then, the human is very good at spotting patterns, even when the patterns aren't real. There are good evolutionary reasons for this - it's better to start at the tiger that isn't there than it is to ignore the tiger which is. So, it's quite possible that I'm imagining this. Without doing some stats, it's impossible to tell...

Anyway, technical help. Is there any easy way to transfer my iTunes library from one PC to another, without loosing my ratings and so on?

Posted to iPod by Simon Brunning at 01:14 PM
StyleReport Pro

I've not been blogging too much recently. I think that this is mainly because I've spent the last two weeks grappling with the suppurating ulcerated sore that is StyleReport. This is simultaneously boring and frustrating - incredibly frustrating. It's got to the point where I've been dreading coming to work, and I've been clock watching and leaving dead on time. Working with StyleReport is actually stressful - I feel tight in the chest all the time I'm doing it, and at times it makes me genuinely angry.

Besides - StyleReport's report builder eats all the memory on my PC, leaving none for running a browser.

Still, I've finished with it for the moment, Thank Christ.

I think I can see how we ended up with it. If you tried out a really simple report, you could knock it out in minutes. Problem is, real world reports are difficult if not impossible. This is usually the case to some extent with tools which try to do too much for you - simple stuff is simple, complex stuff is difficult if not impossible.

StyleReport just takes this one stage further - sometimes, easy stuff is impossible, too. A justified paragraph with some words in bold? Sorry, no, impossible. Page breaks after a given database level break? No, a bug prevents any pages being printed thereafter. Embedded PNGs? Too slow for practical use. Tables with cells with differing border formats? Do one. A mix of portrait and landscape pages in a flow report? Sorry.


Sorry about that, everyone. Rant over. I just had to get that off my chest.

Update: The report I've just spent over a week working on won't run - java.lang.OutOfMemoryError. Bastard.

Posted to Rants by Simon Brunning at 09:12 AM
September 03, 2004
Mad Hungarian

One for Mark: Hungarian notation: an outdated concept. See, Mark, there's almost nobody left who still thinks that Hungarian doesn't suck.

Posted to Software development by Simon Brunning at 01:48 PM

Chris Applegate has put together a useful little web app: Post2Tiny. Give it a UK postcode, and it'll give you a short URL to a map. Nice. Details here.

Posted to The Internet by Simon Brunning at 01:37 PM
What's on my iPod II

Here's what's on my iPod, just in case you were interested. (Be warned - this is a 2 MB page!)

This listing was generated by the lovely iPod Agent, which will also be helping me out this evening by enabling me to dump all this stuff onto my home PC. The listing isn't quite how I'd like it - there's only one route into the tracks, whereas I'd like to be able to go in via genre, artist, album or composer, and the tracks don't link to anywhere - but it'll certainly do for now.

Posted to iPod by Simon Brunning at 12:46 PM
September 02, 2004
The dangers of site meters

Recently, I was asked to add a site meter to a client's site. The obvious choice for a site meter was of course, Site Meter, so thats what I used.

I've always been a bit wary of metering my blog. I really don't want to turn into one of those hits-obsessed please-leave-a-comment-if-you-are-visitor-number-n-thousand type bloggers. But I was impressed by Site Meter's stats, and I was interested to know what operating systems and browsers people are using to browse my site, where in the world they all are, and that kind of thing. So I added Site Meter to my site - my stats are here.

These things can be a little deflating, though. Via qwghlmBlog.

Posted to Blogs by Simon Brunning at 01:27 PM
September 01, 2004
What's on my iPod

Music on my iPod: 15 genres, 66 artists, 117 albums, 1433 songs, 4.5 days, 8.48 GB. I've got 4.25 GB of data on there, too - a copy of my essentials DVD, so I'm down to five and a bit gig. But then, I've burned nearly every CD I own now, so I won't be needing that much more room!

If you're interested, here is my iTunes library in zip format.

I will be hunting around for CD copies of any vinyl that I own. I'm very anti-piracy, both the software and music flavours, but as far as I'm concerned, if I own the vinyl, I've paid for the song, and ripping from someone else's CD is legit. So, anyone have anything by The Beatles or The Police on CD that they wouldn't mind lending me? ;-)

My next job is to improve the metadata. Many of the tracks are missing composer details, and dates are often missing or wrong. I have all the CDs, so it's just a matter of banging it all into iTunes while I'm watching telly or something.

Then I want to put together an iTunes XML to HTML converter. I know that there are such things already, but I fancy doing my own all singing all dancing version. I'll want to do all the indexes - by genre, by artist, by album, by composer, you name it. And I want it to look nice. So far, so easy, I reckon, using Python, PyXML andCheetah. But I'd also like to make the artist, album and track names into links to the appropriate allmusic page, and I don't know if this is even possible. The Mp3 Tag Tools claoms to be able to do it, but it doesn't seem to work. It looks like allmusic has changed the format of its URLs, and not for the better - I can't see any meaning in them whatsoever. Sigh. Perhaps I'll drop them a line...

Posted to iPod by Simon Brunning at 03:10 PM
London as it should have been

This is how the underground ought to look.

Except that getting from Colliers Wood to Bank where I work would be a bit of a bastard...

Via Rhodri.

Posted to Funny by Simon Brunning at 02:44 PM
Insert your own shopping trolley joke here

So, it appears that Page Three girls aren't air-headed bimbos after all. No, it seems that they are fascists. Via Boing Boing.

Posted to Funny by Simon Brunning at 12:46 PM