August 19, 2008
Epic Fail

My Mac died again a month or so ago - another HDD failure. Not a problem, I thought - new disk, restore from Time Machine, sorted.

Only my Time Machine backup disk had been plugged in to my Mac when it died, which is at least as bad as pulling the plug without unmounting. The backup disk wouldn't mount. Dash it, I thought.

All in all, though, I'm surprised how little I lost:

  • My music, all recovered from My iPod. Thank you Senuti. It even recovered most of my metadata - play counts, star ratings, the sort of thing that only the painfully anal people like me care about. I'm very glad about this - re-ripping all my CDs would have taken months.
  • My contacts were in a vCard file on my iPod too.
  • My email is all on Gmail.
  • My calendar, ditto, synched with iCal via BusySync.
  • My bookmarks are all in delicious, accessed via Delicious Bookmarks.
  • Most of my documents I managed to dredge out of email too.
  • Code. All in one Subversion repository or another, naturally.

What did I lose?

  • Some of my photos. It wasn't too bad - I have a backup from about six months ago, so most of them were there. I'd sent CDs to family with more recent stuff, so I could recvover those. But I know I lost some.
  • A few documents. Having said that I recovered most of my documents, I was missing a few things. Most notably, I have a couple of VoodooPad documents that I keep loads of notes in, and I lost several month's worth of these. Bah.
  • An episode of Doctor Who or two, grabbed with iplayer-dl. Ah well, they'll repeat them sooner or later.

Lesson learned - Time Machine is great for convenience, but don't trust it as your only backup mechanism. If it wasn't for those DVD-R backups I'd taken a few months back, i'd have lost far more than I have.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 09:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (51)
February 04, 2008
The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs: Monkey Boy's three-legged race

Fake Steve Jobs has really nailed the Microsoft/Yahoo! merger here: Monkey Boy's three-legged race.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 09:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
January 01, 2008
Now That's What I Call Service!

I bought Mum a copy of MarsEdit for Christmas. She loved it - ever wondered where I got my nerd genes from? ;-)

Anyway, she was having trouble getting a couple of her inexplicably large number of blogs up and running with it - and somehow Daniel Jalkut, MarsEdit's author, spotted her blog post and came and helped her out. Wow - you don't get Bill helping the frustrated Vista victims out, do you? And that cost far more than MarsEdit.

He was pretty positive about a change I suggested recently, too.

So, MarsEdit is now even more highly recommended than it used to be.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 08:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
November 21, 2007
Subversion Log Filtering

So, Annabel was complaining that she couldn't see a log of just her Subversion revisions along with details of the files that have changed from the command line. Shock horror - something you can do from Tortoise that you can't easily do from the shell!

(If you don't care about seeing a list of the files that have been changed, you can just do svn log | grep -A2 sbrunning | less, but adding the -v option turns the output to gibberish.)

Clearly I wasn't going to to let that stand, so I knocked up a very quick script. Then proceeded to over-engineer the snot out of it. (In my own time I must add.)

You can filter by author or by checkin message, with regexps. You can also reverse the output and see the latest checkin last, which is handy if you are only want to see the most recent checkins and don't want to pipe the output to less.

Get it here: svnlog (syntax highlighed - loving that Django TextMate theme) or svnlog (text). Requires Python 2.5. Works on Mac & Linux, probably on Windows too if you give it a .py suffix.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 06:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)
November 01, 2007

I've never been too intimidated by driving Subversion from the command line, so I've always maintained my branches by hand, keeping note of what had been merged in the check-in messages. But today Graham Tackley recommended I take a look at svnmerge. I must say, I didn't know what I was missing.

It keeps track of merges for you, ensuring that you'll never try to merge the same revision more than once, or miss any out by accident. Makes it easy to block revisions that you don't want to merge, too. Give it a try.

Don't forget - you'll need a decent merge tool, too

Posted by Simon Brunning at 12:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
October 25, 2007

Roar this evening. Good - I could do with a laugh.

I didn't get out of the office 'till after 11 yesterday - we were launching stuff. Shiny shiny!

It took so long 'cos the launch procedure didn't work properly 'cos of an Oracle bug. Bloody thing. Turns out that Orable's materialised views can be configure only to update periodically rather than synchronously. Which is fair enough, except that the query optimiser still sometimes decides to use the stale view. At one point yesterday, we had select

count(*) from table
returning zero, and
select * from table
returning a whole bunch of rows! Madness.

I mean, what's the point in an expensive product like Oracle if the bloody thing doesn't work? This stuff was all sorted on the '400 20 years ago. Bah.

Then, when I got home after midnight, I found that one of the t-shirts that I'd left on my washing line in my front garden had caught fire. It was one of my favorites, too - Make Coldplay History.

Bizarre thing was, only the one t-shirt was damaged. The other clothes hanging around it weren't even scorched. Weird.

I'm rather hoping that t-shirts don't do this sort of thing spontaneously, so I'm assuming that it was either some nasty little oik on his way home from school, or some drunken tosser on his way home from the pub. Git. Where am I going to dry my washing now?

Update: List minute bill update - Tim Vine's on! It's not too late to get here.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 05:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)
October 13, 2006
Merge tools

If you are going to be doing a lot of merging working with Subversion (or, I'd imagine, CVS), you are going to need good a good merge tool. And believe me, you are going to be doing a lot of merging.

Subversion itself doesn't provide a merge tool - and nor should it. It's a cross-platform command line driven tool, and besides, I suspect that most developers have their own favourite - or need to find one quickly.

If you are working on Windows, you'll probably have Tortoise installed, 'cos it's really good for simple stuff. Tortoise does come with a merge tool, but it's horrid, really nasty. Aside from just how damn ugly the thing is, it's also almost totally incomprehensible. All those colours - what do they mean?

But that's OK. There are alternatives, and they are easy enough to integrate into Tortoise. The first thing I came across was WinMerge. WinMerge is very good for showing diffs, but it doesn't (as yet) do three way merging - so that's out. Another, more powerful alternative is KDiff3. By the time I came across this, I'd already made my happy move to the Mac, so I've not used it myself, but my Windows-victim colleagues report that it works fine.

So the trick is to use the tool with diff in the name for merging, and the tool with merge in the name for diffing. ;-)

Tortoise also provides tools for making and applying patches, but they seem to use fully-qualified path names, so you can't apply patches from one machine to another unless it happens to keep everything in the same place. So, it's best to use Subversion to make your patches with svn patch > whatever.patch to make your patches (or svn st | awk '/^\s?[MAD]/ { print $NF } ' | xargs svn diff > whatever.patch if you've made the same externals mistake that I did), and to use unxutils' patch to apply them.

In the Mac, there's a natural solution - FileMerge, part of the XCode suite. It's very nice to use, if not perfect. (A few more keyboard shortcuts would be nice, for example, Apple, Just 'cos it's GUIfied and beautiful doesn't mean I should be reaching for the mouse all the time.) Integrating it with command line Subversion would be non-trivial but for Bruno De Fraine's lovely Using FileMerge as a diff command for Subversion - he's done all the hard work for you. Thanks for that, Bruno.

Oh, SubClipse also provides a merging tool, but I've never really used it. It's nice to have SubClipse around - the fact that it decorates all your files showing you their status against the repository is nice, and I often use it to add files - quicker than an svd add if you are in the IDE already. But IDE/version control integration is far less crucial than it used to be in the bad old VSS days when you couldn't edit a file without checking it out, so I do most of my Subversion tasks from the command line.

I'd be interested to know what all you *nix types use - especially anything console based.

Have I missed anything cool?

Posted by Simon Brunning at 08:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)
July 06, 2005
Instant Messaging redux

Having tried a few IM tools, I've settled on GAIM. I can use it to access the IRC #python channel on Freenode, which is nice, and also to over (gulp) MSN.

I'm not happy about using MSN, you understand, but if that's where everyone else is, that's where you have to be too, if you want to talk to them.

So, now I'm on Freenode and MSN as small_values. Do say "Hi".

Posted by Simon Brunning at 02:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)
Software Patents

It's not all bad news today, though; EU rejects software patents directive, for the moment at least. Yay!

Now if only the UK rejects ID cards...

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
January 14, 2005
Malicious software removal tool from Microsoft

Hmmm. So, does it remove malicious software, or does it maliciously remove software? I can't believe that it's the former - it's hardly likely to remove Word, Visio, Outlook and SQL Server (to name but a few), is it? So, it must be the latter - it'll probably try and take Java and Python off, then.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)
December 15, 2004
Bye-bye HP 1355

That's it, I've had enough. The bloody thing is going back to HP.

I tried email support and got nowhere. I tried downloading the latest drivers (373 MD, for bloody pribter drivers) and having another go, and got the same issue as with the shipped drivers. I would have tried phone support, but in addition to being expensive, it's only available during office hours when I'm at work.

So, it's either take a day off on the off chance that HP's support line can fix the problem, or just send it back. What would you do?

By the way, I blame Microsoft more than I do HP. HP's support may be crap, but I'm sure that it's Microsoft's nasty USB support that's the root of the problem.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 12:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
November 29, 2004
Reply to HP support

On Mon, 29 Nov 2004 08:53:39 -0800 (PST), Web Administration <> wrote:
> Re your message to:
> with subject: HP PSC 1355 installation problems
> Dear Valued HP Customer,

Not *that* fucking valued, clearly.

> The e-mail address you have used is not a valid HP address.
> Please visit our contact information page at
> for information about how to email, call or locate HP.
> Thank you for your interest in HP and its products and services.

I've been to a web site or two in the past, but it took me a good fifteen minutes to find the form that I need to fill in in order to get support from you. Unfortunately, I didn't have the serial number of the device that I can't get to install, because it's at my parents' house, and I'm at work, where I have an Internet link fast enough to find the fight part of your site in less than a week.

Sigh. I'll email them and see if I can find out. But your support is a *nightmare*. Try breaking your iPod - *then* you'll see what support should be like.

Simon B,

Posted by Simon Brunning at 05:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
What Hope the Amateur?

Family tech support. Sigh.

Now, I'm not claiming to be any great expert, but I think it's fair to say that I know my way around a PC rather better than the avarage home user. So, if I can't get that bloody HP PSC 1355 working, what chance does Joe-public have?

No matter what I did, the "New Hardware Wizard" showed up during the installation process. The troubleshooter suggested that I just restart the installer shoudl this happen, but there's only so many times I'm going to do that. The support site is a maze, but I'll try sending them an email.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 03:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
November 12, 2004

Konfabulator looks lovely - but who needs the iTunes widget?

I love the Steam Gauge Widget, though - it would really suit my cranky old PC. Some of the clocks are nice, too.

Update: Jokes apart the mini iTunes Remote is very nice, and Sing that iTune! is fun, too.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 05:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
October 05, 2004
Colourful Code

Paste (via My hovercraft is full of eels) is really cool. Just paste your code, and get a URL to a syntax highlighted version. Supports Python, Java, SQL, XML, and more.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 05:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
September 29, 2004
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 by Simon Brunning at 02:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
September 27, 2004
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 by Simon Brunning at 02:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)
August 16, 2004

One of the things that we've been up to in the last week is looking into some sort of group collaboration software. It seems that it's only a bad idea if it's my suggestion. ;-)

We looked a a whole bunch of tools. Plone looked like superb software for doing loads of publishing style things that we don't really want to do, but it was way over the top for us. SquishDot was another tool we looked at. Again, very nice, but it's not so much discussions and announcements that we want it host as it is a repository for all the how-tos that we always sent around by email. And lose. Tracey seemed rather keen on SharePoint, but it seemed rather too structured to the rest of us. Besides, that Microsoft lock in is a bitch.

In the end, we've gone for a Wiki. We are using the MoinMoin engine - it's one of the most mature, it does everything we need, and it looks good. At least, some of the themes do. ;-)

We are unlikely to be exposing it to the outside world, though, I'm afraid.

Now, the main question seems to be what to call it. ElPresidente, sorry, El Presidente seems to be rather keen on "Skippy".

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
July 14, 2004

SpellBound, Spell checker for Firefox, my browser of choice.

Via Geek News Central, via Erik again.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 02:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
July 07, 2004
Firefox 0.9.1

I've finally got around to upgrading Firefox to version 0.9.1, and it's nice. It seems a little more snappy that it used to be, and I'm sure its memory footprint is smaller. Looks nice, too.

But I have a problem with it. Whenever I open a URL via a shortcut, I get an error dialogue: "The system cannot find the file specified". The page opens fine, though. It seems that I'm not the only one: Firefox problem. I tried the suggested solution, but the result was worse than the original symptom - Firefox ended up opening the contents of the shortcut file as text!

This is almost certainly the same problem as has been reported as breaking Python's webbrowser module on, and I'm getting odd results opening URLs via Lookout, too - I'm getting a 'File Save' dialogue, though again, Firefox opens the page OK.

Anyone know of a fix for this? It's not a show stopper, but it is irritating.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 12:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)
June 23, 2004
Themed fonts

Get 'em before the copywrite police get to 'em: Themed fonts.

Via Boing Boing.

Also via Boing Boing: Roll-your-own Zelda.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 02:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)
June 18, 2004
High Dudgeon

Fuck. Fuck fuck fuckety fuck fuck bollocks.

I'm a bit pissed off.

Someone who shall remain nameless pulled my network cable out this morning, while sorting my phone out. Outlook went down in a trail of smoke, so I rebooted.

Ever since which, Outlook can't open the pst file in which I've been archiving my mail. For four years.

No problem, right? It's on the network, so I'll just get it restored.

Err, no - pst files don't get backed up on from our network, and nor do our home drives on the network. So that's two reasons why the file wasn't backed up.

Had I known this, I'd have kept the pst file on my local drive, and put zips of it onto the network weekly or so, somewhere where the backup will find them. Besides, it turns out that I shouldn't be keeping pst files on the network anyway. Sigh.

OK, let's see if the Inbox Repair Tool will do any good. I'm not optimistic.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 12:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)
June 14, 2004
Call DLLs from batch files

Evil stuff! RunDLL32 allows you to do all sorts of nasty things from the Windows shell, or from batch files; here's a reference guide.

Via Joe Grossberg.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 02:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
June 04, 2004
Son of Ooops!

The Royal Bank of Canada seems to have lost several days worth of transactions. It did have to do with computer software and at this point I understand it did have something to do with sequencing.

The have 155 people working on fixing the problem during the day, and 90 overnight. This is, of course, stupid - you can't possibly have more than three or four people working on a single problem at a time. So, you have four people trying to fix the problem, and over a hundred running around like decapitated chickens, making a lot of noise and getting in the way.

Unless, that is, they are manually typing the in the transactions - in which case 155 isn't close to enough.

Anyway, someone's getting the tee shirt again.

Via AMK.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 04:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
June 03, 2004

It could happen to anyone, but I'm glad that this is not down to me, I must say: Massive air disruption across UK.

Someone's going to get the tee shirt...

"The tee shirt" is our broken-build ritual, also applicable to general fuck-wittery around the office.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 12:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)
May 24, 2004
Extending IE

Phoenix Firebird Firefox is my browser of choice these days, but I keep IE around, too. Like it or not, you have to test with it. The vast majority of people use IE, so any web apps you write have to work under it. It's no good pointing out that your lovely code is failing 'cos of an IE bug; you just have to work around it.

(Also, we have an internal timesheet system which isn't too chipper under Firefox. Nothing to do with me, I assure you.)

I use IE View to open IE from Firefox; you just right-click on a page or link in Firefox, and the context menu includes a handy little 'open in IE' option. It seems that doing the same thing the other way isn't too tricky either: Extending the Internet Explorer context menu.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 03:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
Taskbar Commander

Taskbar Commander - "Only for the most eccentric of Windows users". That'll be me, then.

Via Ned.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)
April 28, 2004
Ditch the victim mentality

A brilliant opinion piece in The Register: Ditch the victim mentality.

Users want "effective, free, constantly updated security service requiring little or no user intervention". "It is fantasy", says Tim Mullen, "nothing like that will ever exist, as it simply cannot. New threats emerge every day with new associated risks, and there will never be any unified solution to the sea of possible attacks."

The user must take some responsibility, he says: "You don't have to be a computer expert to load AV software and install a firewall. We are not wasting energy blaming stupid users. We are calling for users to take a little time and to learn minimal skills before attaching their systems to the Internet. The time it takes for these innocents to wallow in victimization would be far better spent actually reading all those message boxes telling you that you are about to screw up your system before clicking OK."

To which I'd add: And no more opening bloody email attachments!

Posted by Simon Brunning at 04:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
April 27, 2004
More desktop toys

Via The 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities, via Rikei, I've found some new toys: Hotkeycontrol XP, TinyResMeter and Startup Control Panel. And via Gordon McLean, even more: Samurize!

All very silly.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 02:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
Windows shutdown

Anyone know how to get things to run as I shut Windows down?

I'm running XP Home. Yes, yes, I know. :-(

Running stuff on startup, no problem. On closedown, I've no idea.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Another one for the you-don't-need-this-but-if-you-need-it-you-need-it-bad department: Winspector.

If you need to look at your Windows desktop from underneath, seeing all the gruesome details of all the windows, dialogs and controls, and all the messages being sent around, this is for you. If you don't have access to Microsoft's Spy++, or even if you do, it's worth a look. Useful, for example, when using winGuiAuto.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
March 02, 2004
Ever wondered why VSS sucks so hard?

I use VSS at work, and it seems I'm not alone.

But Microsoft don't use it: For example, at Microsoft two of our critical LOB applications are our defect tracking system and our source control system. It seems to me that VSS's quality is an indication of what happens when you don't eat your own dog food.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)
February 13, 2004
Firebird is dead

Long live Firefox!

Firebird Firefox bits and bobs: Open external links in new windows or tabs, Optimizing Mozilla Firebird and a Firefox Spell Checker.

Anyone else having trouble getting themes?

Posted by Simon Brunning at 11:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
January 23, 2004

Thanks to Ned for pointing out the lovely SpaceMonger (screenshot), a nice graphical disk usage gadget. Have a play.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 02:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)
January 22, 2004
Microsoft - you're shit, and you know you are, part II

IE Sucks.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)
January 15, 2004
Off line...

Bah! That's it! I've had enough!

When my PC was rebuilt recently, there were apparently several warning and error messages during installation of the OS. Unsurprisingly, itís now about as stable as a drunk on a unicycle. So, Iíve decided to bite the bullet and reinstall from scratch, myself.

You wonít be hearing from me for a day or two, at least. Wish me luck; I'll need it.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 11:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)
December 16, 2003
Software Patents

Software Patents - A Bad Thing. It's nice to see that someone is taking an interest. It's just a shame that he's a Lib Dem, and won't ever be in a position of power. ;-)

Posted by Simon Brunning at 04:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
December 15, 2003
Ultimate Boot CD

JennyCide points out the Ultimate Boot CD. Looks bloody handy. I carry a Knoppix disk and an essentials disk of my own with me at all times. I may add this to the mix.

OK, OK, not at all times. But the CD wallet lives in my briefcase, which is with me most of the time, and I do try to remember it when I visit family and friends. It's amazing how often they want me to sort something out on their PCs when I visit them!

My essentials disk carries most of the free software mentioned here on it.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Microsoft employs human beings shock!

Tweakomatic looks like a nice toy, allowing you to do all the cool things that you can do with TweakUI with WMI scripts. All this from Microsoft themselves! Free! (As in beer, not as in speech. Totally unsupported. May contain nuts.)

The Scriptomatic Tool also looks interesting. I wonder if those auto generated scripts can be translated into Python? Oooh, Tim Golden's looks just the ticket... ;-)

Via Sanjay.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
December 01, 2003

Software goodies of the day.

Say goodbye to Partition Magic - Andy points out that Knoppix comes with QTParted, and Simon points out that, though QTParted doesn't work on NTFS, ntfsresize does, and that's on Knoppix too.

Hans' pic2html is very cool. I'm not really sure how much use it is, but it's cool nevertheless.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 10:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)
November 28, 2003
Windows-to-Linux roadmap

On Andy's repeated recommendation, I've been fiddling around with Knoppix on and off for a while. But I'm nowhere near the point where I know what I'm doing. With Windows, love it or hate it, at least I know my way around pretty well by now.

So, the Windows-to-Linux roadmap might be just what I'm looking for...

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
November 24, 2003
Scary singing

Is it just me, or is Vocaloid's rendition of Amazing Grace a bit, well, unnerving?

Via The Benblog.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 04:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tail for Windows

Tail for Win32 - A Windows version of the Unix 'tail -f'

Monitors a text file in real time. It can, for example, keep an eye out for certain keywords in a log file, and send an email if they occur. Very handy.

Via Sanjay.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 09:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)
November 06, 2003

The SchoolTool project isn't making too much of a wake at the moment, but I suspect that before too long, there will be a bit more buzz around it.

SchoolTool is (or will be) a fully open source, free education administration system. Think SAP for schools. It's written in Python, with an interesting and flexible architecture.

The project is being funded by The Shuttleworth Foundation, as founded by Mark Shuttleworth. Yes, that Mark Shuttleworth.

Mark was at last year's Python UK conference. He was already planning this project at that time, and he was looking for people to work with. He basically wanted someone with strong Python skills, and lots of XP experience. Since I don't really fit the former category, and I don't even remotely fit the latter, I wasn't the man that he was looking for. Which was a bit of a shame. But I though I knew a man who was - Steve Alexander, whom I'd met at a previous Python UK conference.

Bizarrely enough, I bumped into Steve on a crowded train to Reading just a couple of weeks later, and I mentioned Mark's project to him. Steve was (and is) working in Lithuania, so it seemed to me unlikely that Steve would be able to join the project. I was under the impression that Mark wanted the it all be based in London. But, with Steve's permission, I passed his contact details on to Mark anyway.

Clearly I was wrong, since Steve is now on the SchoolTool team. Cool! I suppose that these days, there's little reason why a project needs to be based on any one place, after all.

So, anyway, if you want to contribute to a truly worthy open source project, SchoolTool could be your man. I wish it luck.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 02:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
November 05, 2003
Linux Commands

O'Reilly's online Alphabetical Directory of Linux Commands is a great resource. One to bookmark.

BTW, does anyone know how to write to an NTFS partition from Knoppix?

Posted by Simon Brunning at 03:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)
October 31, 2003

I finally found some time to have a play with Knoppix, as recommended by Andy and Simon.

Is there a Nobel prize for software? If there were, Linus and Klaus Knopper should share one. The year after Guido's win, naturally. ;-)

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)
Windows archive software

Most Windows users have WinZip on their PCs. Naturally, almost none of them have registered it. WinZip is good software, supporting just about every archive format around. Explorer integration is good, and command line support is available, so you can script it.

Me, I use Ultimate Zip instead. It's free (as in beer), and just as good. But I'm looking for a free as in speech equivalent. Any suggestions?

Posted by Simon Brunning at 08:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)
October 30, 2003
Outlook one, Simon nil

I've been having a bit of a struggle with Outlook '97 today. Outlook is winning.

Yes, yes, I know, Outlook sucks, and I shouldn't be using it. Is there anything better that I can use, bearing in mind that my company is using Microsoft Exchange 5.5 as a server?

Posted by Simon Brunning at 02:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)
October 27, 2003
Windows tip of the day

Well, probably my Windows tip of the year, in fact. And it's better than just "Don't use it". ;-)

Enabling Windows Command Completion. If you don't fancy hand editing the registry, download and run this registry entry file, auto_completion.reg. At your own risk, naturally. ;-) This works for me on NT (SP6) and XP.

With this done, you can type in the first few letters of any file or directory name at the command prompt and hit tab, and cycle through all matching names. Class.

I simply don't understand why you have to hack the registry to get this working. Microsoft went to all the bother of putting this very useful feature in, then didn't provide any way of turning it on. Idiocy.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 02:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)
October 22, 2003
Sun Clock screen saver

Another cool screen saver to add to my randomiser - the Sun Clock. It'll show a world map with current daylight displayed, or a sky map showing stars and planets. Plenty of knobs to twiddle. Too cool for words.


My other favourite screen savers:

Posted by Simon Brunning at 03:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
October 17, 2003
Setup.exe, OK, OK, reboot, repead ad infinitum...

About halfway there with installing stuff. I'd be further along but for a lengthy lunch at The Halal, with Mark amongst others.

Cobra, class...

Posted by Simon Brunning at 03:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
October 08, 2003
Scroll Lock

What's the "Scroll Lock" key on my computer for?

It even mentions Python, though I must point out that using back-ticks instead of the repr() function is not the done thing these days.

The Windows key is actually pretty useful, and can be made more so.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 10:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)
September 25, 2003
Word Considered Harmful

Word Considered Harmful.

The title is a bit of an overbid, I must say, since many of the criticisms are rather narrow in scope. For a single user creating a static document for one off publication, Word is still a pretty good tool. (Said through gritted Microsoft-hating teeth.)

But it's true that for collaborative work, a wiki is a better fit - take a look at MoinMoin.

Via Square Rutabaga.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 09:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
September 10, 2003
A useful gadget

I found a useful Windows gadget today. PowerMenu allows you to minimise windows to the systems tray, to alter their application's run priorities, and to force them to stay on top of other windows. A less useful (though rather cool) feature is that it allows you to make (just about) any window transparent.

Via Scott Hanselman, via Ted Leung. Scott links to a whole bunch of stuff, some of which is really only useful to .NET developers, and some of which I already knew about. Worth a look.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 11:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)
July 23, 2003

Nice little windows utility - AR RAM Disk.

If you develop software, you probably have steps in your build process where you create a lot of temporary files. (For example, a typical Ant build process will compile a lot of Java into class files, then put them together into a jar file). Creating all these transient files would be quicker on a RAM disk, and would fragment your disk less.

If, that is, you have the RAM for it.

Via John Lipsky.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 02:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)
July 02, 2003
Google toolbar 2.0

The Google Toolbar 2.0 is in beta. The popup blocker is fab, and I'm sure the 'Blog This' button would be great too, if I were a Blogger user.

But what happened to the info button? Version 1.0 if the toolbar had one, and it allowed quick access to English translations and back references (amongst other things). I miss it!

Posted by Simon Brunning at 12:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)
July 01, 2003
Open source = higher quality

Interesting. In Closed source versus open source in a model of software bug dynamics, Damien Challet and Yann Le Du of the University of Oxford show that open source software has less defects than closed source, other circumstances being equal.

I'll have to try this on on El Presidente - "It's your fault that the software I wrote is crap. You insisted that it be closed..."

Via Azeem Azhar.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 02:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
May 27, 2003
Rude software

Rude software.

Yeah, bastards!

One more thing software which keeps on stubbornly insisting on your registering it. I'll register if I damn well feel like it!

Posted by Simon Brunning at 05:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
March 20, 2003
A nice little toy

Sizer - resize any window to an exact, predefined size.

Well, I think it's cool, anyway.

Via Sanjay.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 04:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
March 13, 2003
jEdit 4.1

jEdit is my text-editor-of-choice, and the new version, 4.1, is out.

I've not come across much new in it, but it's very pretty. ;-)

Not that I use it for coding - for that I use Eclipe (2.1 RC2 out recently), and PythonWin. But there are endless other text files to hack on, and jEdit is just perfect. Its XML handling is particulary good.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 02:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
February 20, 2003
Homeland Security Threat Monitor

The Homeland Security Threat Monitor made me smile, until I realised that it's not like the Elvis Detector. Oh no, this one is for real. Sigh.

Via dutchbint.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 03:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
January 17, 2003

I'm not really sure whether mouse-gestures are really silly, or really cool. Both, probably.

Anyway, StrokeIt is a fun little toy which lets you use mouse gestures to drive just about any Windows app. Have fun!

Via Markus Kohler.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 04:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
January 09, 2003
jEdit macros with Jython

Ollie Rutherfurd has a bunch of useful macros for jEdit on his site, most of them written in Jython.

Useful in themselves, but also good examples to get you started if you were to want to write some of your own macros for jEdit.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
November 18, 2002

There's a new version of ieSpell available. If you use IE, you want this.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
October 21, 2002

Software idea may be just crazy enough to work reports on Mitch Kapor's Chandler, a cross platform open-source PIM which might just be able to go toe-to-toe with Outlook.

Mitch Kapor designed Lotus Agenda about a million years ago.

Sound's like it's written (at least partly) in Python, too. Now that is cool!

Via Techdirt.

Update: Yup, it's in Python - see the technology page. Could this be Python's killer app at last?

Posted by Simon Brunning at 12:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
October 09, 2002
CVS and Windows

Real developers use CVS. We all know it. VSS is for girls.

Darren suggests some good CVS software for Windows.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
September 24, 2002

StarLogo is a specialized version of the Logo programming language.

I have been interested in Logo for a long time, right back to when I was training as a teacher. God, that was a long time ago.

Anyway, I always thought that Logo was a superb environment for the teaching of programming to children. The primitives give the child excellent feedback (i.e. the turtle moving around), and the introduction of things like procedures, variables and arguments can be introduced very naturally. (If you could get hold of one of the robotic turtles, then that would be fantastic! Or even instructions for making one... I feel a Google coming on.)

StarLogo offers quite a lot to the more advanced user, but does it still offer the nice lead in? I'll have a look. My eldest, Freja, is five now, and she loves maths and computers, so it probably isn't far off time to introduce her to some proper toys. ;-)

Via Sanjay.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 02:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
Atomic Clock Sync

Are you a bit anal about clocks which don't show the correct time? I know I am. Atomic Clock Sync will correct your Windows system time every time you boot.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 12:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
September 23, 2002

I've been looking at the stuff from Sysinternals a bit more - very cool stuff!

Windows utilities - I particularly like BgInfo, DiskMon and (best of all) Bluescreen.

Update: Also bloody handy - Regmon and TCPView. You won't use these two often, but when you need them, you need them bad.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
September 17, 2002
SQuirreL SQL

SQuirreL SQL - SQuirreL SQL Client is a graphical Java program that will allow you to view the structure of a JDBC compliant database, browse the data in tables, issue SQL commands etc.

Looks really cool.

Via Sanjay's Journal of Coding Tips, via Babu.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
September 13, 2002

AutoIt. AutoIt is a simple tool that can simulate key presses, mouse movements and window commands (maximize, minimize, wait for, etc.) in order to automate any windows based task (or even windowed DOS tasks).

What is cool about this is that it's available as an ActiveX control, and is therefore Python scriptable using win32com.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
Micro$oft finally getting wise about subscription software?

Microsoft dumps Office subscription trial

Via Techdirt.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
September 09, 2002
You thought the Windows key was useless?

Well it's not totally useless - there are a few useful shortcuts...

Windows Key + D - Show Desktop*
Windows Key + E - Windows Explorer
Windows Key + F - Find Files or Folders...
Windows Key + M - Minimize All Windows
Windows Key + Shift+M - Undo Minimize All
Windows Key + R - Run...
Windows Key + Tab - Select Task
Windows Key + Break - System Properties
Windows Key + F - Windows Help
* Requires Internet Explorer 4.0 Desktop Update.

Not all that much there, eh? Well, WinKey allows you to assign your own shortcuts. Dead handy. Recommended for all Windows victims users.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 04:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)
VSS plugin for Eclipse

Using Eclipse? Stuck with VSS for source control? Then you need Marcus Nylander's VSS Plugin for Eclipse.

Seems to work pretty well. The initial refresh from VSS takes an age, which is inevitable, but after that it's all really smooth, and much more convenient than swapping between Eclipse and VSS Explorer and navigating down to whatever it is that you want to check out or whatever.

BTW - some useful Eclipse options here, including -vmargs, which allows you to pass arguments to the underlying VM.

An end to OutOfMemory errors, perhaps? Just shove -vmargs -Xmx128m on the end of your Eclipse shortcut, and off you go. (See java - the Java application launcher for available VM arguments as at Java 1.3).

Posted by Simon Brunning at 03:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
August 27, 2002
Unix utilities for Windows

I know about cygwin, but it's usually a lot more than you need. Unxutils has most of the tools that you really need, and it's just a 2 meg zip file.

Links to other good Windows utilities on the Unxutils page:

Posted by Simon Brunning at 05:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
July 18, 2002

VNC is a very useful cross-platform remote control system, allowing you to control one computer from another in a browser window. Open source, too.

Update 5th August: TightVNC is an enhanced version of VNC, also free.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 12:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
July 16, 2002
Python Eclipse

Superb! Gerhard Kalab has started work on a Python plugin for Eclipse!

Early days yet, mind you, but excellent news nevertheless.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 04:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
July 15, 2002

PyUT is a UML class diagram editor with Python and Java round-trip support.

Or it will be...

It's going to be good, though - see the features list and screenshots.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
July 04, 2002
Fabulous icons

Some chap called Hide has put some fabulous icons up on his site for download. Free for non-commercial use.

I'm probably not going to use any icons on this site - I prefer a text based look. But if I were to use any icons, Hide's would be the ones. They are superb - clean, colourful and easily recognizable. Check out the Thunderbirds!

(Via Life As It Happens)

Posted by Simon Brunning at 12:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
June 27, 2002
Stargate Eclipse - iSeries Development Update

The dawn of Eclipse.

My boss and I attended the Stargate event at IBM yesterday. There we were shown the new version of the WebSphere Development Studio Client. This comes in a bewildering variety of versions, and consists of an equally bewildering array of subcomponents. All of the versions of WDSc, and all of the subcomponents were referred to by acronym, and all the acronyms began with W, and we were thoroughly confused.

But anyway, the long and the short of it is that if you are an iSeries shop, you get the lot.

The new version of WDSc is based in the Eclipse framework. As anyone who has used Eclipse will know, it is just beautiful.

Eclipse is basically a framework for building IDEs, and other things. It ships with a plug in which makes it into a Java IDE, which as I said, is superb. Tools vendors other than IBM are also basing tools on Eclipse.

WDSc consists of a number of plug-ins to Eclipse to enable iSeries development. It has tools to navigate libraries and objects on the iSeries - think of a cross between PDM and Windows Explorer, but with filtering options more powerful than either. You can edit and compile RPG, DDS and so on, with any one of several powerful editors. SEU is ancient history now.

There are also some powerful tools for developing Java based web applications possibly involving iSeries components, though not necessarily. The tools for building JSPs, beans of various types (including EJBs) and so on are powerful. There are also tools to building wrappers around iSeries based RPG modules and turning them into beans and/or web services.

All great stuff, and for iSeries development it is going to be wonderful.

It is missing one crucial set of tools, though, as far as I am concerned. There are no tools for refactoring RPG. All these clever tools which IBM provide are meant to work on nice modular systems, where your presentation and business logic are nicely separated. Our legacy system isn't like this - it consists of large programs (5000 to 15000 lines) with the business and presentation logic thoroughly mixed. There are no separate callable modules implementing business functions, and that is what much of the new tooling requires.

Now, obviously there is no way to automate the modularise of a large program - it is inevitably a manual job, and a big one. But there are tools which can help - or there could be.

The Java development tools which ship with Eclipse include a number of powerful refactoring tools. For example, you can highlight a block of code and extract into a separate function (method). All inputs to and outputs from the selected code are automatically worked out, and turned into parameters (arguments). If large RPG systems are to be modernised, this is the sort of tool which we need.

I brought this up at the event. IBM have no plans to build this sort of thing into WDSc. Eclipse is totally modular and extensible, though, so anyone could do it. It was suggested that this might be an opportunity for my company! We are not a tools vendor, though, so it isn't going to happen. There were a number of tools vendors present, though, and a couple were interested enough in the idea to come and talk to me...

The latest version of WebFacing was also demoed - on which more later.

Update: Eclipse Forces Developers Across the Java Divide at the iSeries Network.

Update 02 July 2002: See Welcome to the Dawn of Eclipse by Phil Coulthard and George Farr, the guys who presented Stargate. Plenty of screenshots, and lots about the RPG tooling.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 11:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
June 24, 2002
Microsoft bids to control your PC and the Internet

Palladium is Microsoft's attempt to gain full control for once and for all.

Amongst other things "Palladium won't run unauthorized programs". And Microsoft get to decide which programs are authorized. Yeah, right.

Still, they aren't getting it all their own way - further coverage of Peru's OSS laws, which I've mentioned before.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
June 20, 2002

AutoMouse is a utility for automatically driving mouse and keyboard driven programs.

This could be incredibly helpful.

Automated testing is a central part of Extreme programming, and is a great idea even if you don't adopt the whole XP methodology. There are some great tools to help you automate a lot of stuff, but not GUIs. And GUIs are most of what I'm doing at the moment.

Also, part of out integration build process involves a tool which isn't scriptable - it can't be driven from the command line, not via COM. AutoMouse might just just the the answer to automating our integration build.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 03:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
June 18, 2002

TrayIt! is a useful little gadget allowing you to minimise apps to the taskbar.

Free as in beer, but not as in speech.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
June 06, 2002
Moon Software

Moon Software are offering some cool little Windows utilities for free download.

I particulary like FileTarget.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
Mozilla 1.0 released...

Get Mozilla 1.0 here.

This should end up as the 2nd most prevalent browser fairly quickly, I think.

Update: Even the BBC is covering this!

Update 7th June: Reviews.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
May 23, 2002
The Art of the Screensaver

Some pretty cool looking screensavers here.

I still favour Electric! myself, but every time I leave it on, Tracey comes over and turns my monitor off. Sigh.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 02:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
May 01, 2002
OpenOffice 1.0 released

Or so Slashdot reports, anyway. I certainly can't get to the OpenOffice site - totally slashdotted!

I'll try again tomorrow - it certainly looks worth a try. Anything other than Micro$oft, after all.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 05:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)