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Wednesday, 30 March 2005

Christopher Eccleston apparently doesn't want to be involved in the second series of Doctor Who. Damn. It's a pain for no other reason than the limit on the number of regenerations is reached and we get to see The Valeyard. I can't believe that the BBC has been planning this new series for over 18 months, and yet Eccleston didn't have a contract which tied him in for a certain number of series, with the option of more.

Tuesday, 29 March 2005

Bad head - so unfortunately missed work, but managed to get up by mid-afternoon. Watched Contact in the evening. It's a good film, but the ending's a bit of a let down. It tries so hard to show Ellie's realisation in the hearing that one person's profound experience sometimes has to be sufficient proof (as per Palmer Joss' religious experience) that it throws the science out of the window. The first thing that'd be checked, thoroughly, after the test would be her own personal video - and Ellie would be involved in that. The thought that 18 hours of static recorded in a 43 second drop could be missed and only revealed in a confidential Government report is a suspension of disbelief too far.

Monday, 28 March 2005

Safari park & home. The car survived the monkeys with no ill effects (I didn't stop long enough to let them clamber up ;-))

Sunday, 27 March 2005

A lazy day: got up, went swimming, went out for lunch at a local pub, went swimming in the evening, had some chips from one of the burger bars afterwards.

Saturday, 26 March 2005

TRODWD! (The Return Of Doctor Who Day). OK, I'm sad...

Didn't do a great deal today: went swimming, for a walk and a drive through the countryside. Got back in time to sit down for the "Making Of" documentary, Strictly Dance Fever (eugh, thank goodness for having a paper to read and champagne to drink) and then... finally... Dr. Who.

I was impressed - not sure about the TARDIS, but I'm sure I'll get used to it; love the theme music (the strings in the bass line add a lot) and both Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper were good in their roles. The only thing I'm not sure about is compressing whole stories into 45 minutes. I know they want to be more like Buffy, but one of the great things there were the individual stories tied together with a season-long story arc. Of course, standalone eps didn't stop Star Trek being good, however one of the most distinctive things about Dr. Who was that the slower pace allowed the incidental characters to be more fully fleshed out than you'd usually find; giving a greater emotional attachment when they were zap-pow-kersplatted like Trojan pig dogs.

Of course, trust the BBC to muck up the audio on one of their most heavily promoted and anticipated programmes. Yes, Graham Norton, you probably are on the sofa - but we really don't care: Autons are attacking!

Afterwards, walked down to the leisure complex for a meal in the Italian restaurant. Unfortunately, wasn't very impressed - the pasta pollo had dry, chalky chicken in bland, watery pasta.

Friday, 25 March 2005

Up relatively early for a bank holiday, packed the car and headed off down the A303 towards Longleat. Arrived at the house just before 10am. Wandered round, took the "Safari Boat" trip (seeing sealions, gorillas and hippos - note, the gorillas weren't in the water ;-)) and then went into the house and on the tour of Lord Bath's murals. Personally, I wouldn't have found going to bed as a child in a room decorated with garish monsters and space aliens particularly appealing, but his kids would've probably been at a disadvantage in the sanity-stakes anyway due to the criss-crossing on the genealogy chart hanging in the central hall. Admittedly, pre-1000AD goes back much further than Mel's got with ours!

After egg & bacon butties did the famous maze. It wook us 40 minutes to get to the centre, but only 10 minutes to get back out again :-)

Got to the CenterParcs mid-afternoon and found champage, Belgian chocolates and flowers waiting for us - a perfect start to our anniversary treat!

Thursday, 24 March 2005

In a surprising announcement, from April our benefits package is being extended to cover free broadband for home use. A mad scramble to find out what BT's "standard" offering was and how that maps to other ISPs suggests that we may soon be getting 2Mbps broadband with the majority paid for by work :-)

Tuesday, 22 March 2005

Took a day off to get the Focus. Not sure my project manager was particular enamoured by the short notice, but not a lot could be done really. I'm still ahead of schedule on my work, anyway.

Got home and installed Ubuntu in Virtual PC - mainly to play with briefly, the real aim is to get WIMP OS in there as my main x86 Linux with further development of it being self hosting.

Monday, 21 March 2005

Watched Channel 4's The Government Inspector which we recorded from Thursday. Well acted by Mark Rylance as David Kelly - capturing the hopelessness of his situation, but it didn't really seem to add much to our understanding of what happened what with the Hutton inquiry and so on. Still, serious investigation, drama and government scrutiny is public service broadcasting at its best and Channel 4 should keep it up. What with this and the Moazzem Begg interview, C4 should almost certainly be getting part of the licence fee as well.

Switched the NFS server back from nfs-kernel-server (which I'd switched to in the vain hope of that solving the NFS issues) to nfs-user-server, with the added advantage that I can use the latter's UID mapping to have home directories mounted on the Mac mini with owners and permissions mapped correctly. The only minor niggle was that the userspace server doesn't support an asterisk (*) as a wildcard in /etc/exports for IP address; so those all had to be removed.

Still, however, looking for a free NFS client for Mel's XP Home laptop.

Sunday, 20 March 2005

Giving Willow a static IP and adding it to the NFS server's /etc/hosts also solved the NFS problems. So static IPs and /etc/hosts fixed both slow SSH and bad NFS. Hacky, but it works.

Also figured how to re-organise/shuffle the system installed apps in /Applications which, despite protestations from some quarters that wanting to do this just showed I didn't "get" the Mac way (ie. using the Dock, the desktop, the Apple menu's recent items etc.) I wanted to do anyway; despite the dire warnings of system updates not taking into account the new locations.

With the Developer Tools package installed, you can use either symlinks or Mac OS aliases to put the app where you want it (eg. in /Applications/Internet) and then set the original in the "proper" location to be invisible to the Finder using /Developer/Tools/SetFile -a V /Applications/ (see man SetFile for more details). Unfortunately if you've opened a Finder window on /Applications already, you'll need to restart the Finder, but if you've dragged it to the Dock for right-clickability then that'll update immediately. For reference, a complete example:

andrew@willow:/Applications $ sudo mkdir Internet
andrew@willow:/Applications $ cd Internet; sudo ln -s ../ .
andrew@willow:/Applications $ sudo /Developer/Tools/SetFile -a V

Saturday, 19 March 2005

Work's annual dinner. Mel and I walked to the train station since it was such a lovely day (lugging a bag which was much too big and heavy for a single night away, my newly acquired dinner suit and Mel's ballgown). Checked into the hotel opposite Madame Tussauds, but since the room wasn't yet ready left our bags and headed off into the city, stopping off at a nearby Wetherspoon's for a quick Leffe. Mmmm, beer. First stop was the city area - it's amazing how quiet the Liverpool Street/Bank area is on a Saturday; especially considering how manic the touristy spots like Madame Tussauds were. We then went to Hamley's which was fun, but mobbed and popped into the flagship Apple store on Regent's Street.

Headed back to the hotel and were disappointed to find the room was in another building across the street. The corridors stunk of cigarette smoke and the room was... interesting. The bed was a futon and in generally nice condition, but the bathroom was ex-communal and a pretty sorry state. The whole place felt just a bit cheap and thrown together. It didn't help to find our shower had no hot water. Fortunately, the duty manager let us use his room's ensuite. Suffice to say, would not recommend The Prince Regent Hotel, Maryleborne.

Finally dressed, we effectively stepped out of our hotel into Madam Tussauds. A short ride showing an animatronic history of London preceded drinks and canapés surrounded by waxwork stars - and Howard the Halifax guy. The dinner was good: grilled wahoo for us carnivores, and a lovely looking risotto for Mel. Wine was free-flowing and the bar was just plain free. The band was good, but only a few people were dancing. Unfortunately, as I've only been there for 6 weeks now, the number of people I know well enough to really socialise with are limited meaning we were fairly isolated (apart from during the dinner and the frequent hellos and introductions). Still, one of the perks of being married is you've always someone to talk to at a party :-)

Photographers were doing the rounds, but I've not yet dared look at the photos.

Friday, 18 March 2005

More playing with "Willow", as the Mac mini is named. (After Warwick Davis' diminuitive character in the film of the same name) Got Virtual PC working: first testing it with Salvare and then installing Windows 2000. W2K has some nice (well, gimicky) features include draging and dropping files from the Finder into Windows Explorer to copy them, and having a copy of the Windows start menu appear in the Dock, even when VPC's not running.

Left the machine on overnight ripping a DVD to DivX with Handbrake - which really couldn't have been simpler. It'd be nice to have an option to resize anamorphic screens though, rather than having to set the Aspect ratio option in VLC's Video > Advanced options.

SSH into the box is still very slow at the initial connection (ie. before the password prompt). Running a separate sshd with sshd -ddd -p 2222 still shows it trying to lookup the connecting IP which, being, doesn't have any reverse DNS. This is despite setting VerifyReverseMapping no in /etc/sshd/config. Solved it by adding all the IPs involved to everyone's /etc/hosts.

Some useful bits and bobs of info at Mac OS X for Geeks.

Thursday, 17 March 2005

After TNT failed to leave the Mac mini with a neighbour yesterday, I trekked through traffic to a hidden and obscure TNT international hub outside Reading. Late night playing with it after dinner.

It worked straight off with the KVM (a Belkin Omniview Soho series) with PS/2 keyboard and mouse. By default, the account created during setup is an administrator one; so once sorted I added a new Administrator account, logged into that, renamed Andrew Flegg to Andrew Flegg (admin); and created a new, standard Andrew Flegg; with my wanted shortname of andrew. Checked everything worked ok and then removed the superfluous original account.

The "British" keyboard layout in Mac OS X seems to be for an Apple-supplied keyboard rather than the IBM-keyboard I was using. Fortunately, found a PC-keyboard UK layout, but there still seem to be problems with \ and |.

The dock, which was much maligned when first released, seems like an interesting mix of concepts from Windows and RISC OS (with TinyDirs). It'd be nicer if the window with the focus didn't need to be on top, and that windows could be moved without bringing them to the top; and if applications which were running in the dock would open a new document rather than bringing windows to the front on clicking on them. However, Exposé is very impressive.

The cheap USB<->serial adapter worked with Java Psion Link to my netBook without any problems. Though after so long with Linux it was a little disconcerting to actually have to use the supplied CD to load the drivers.

Although the Microsoft corefonts seem to be included (probably because of the MS Office trial included), Andale Mono was missing and makes a lovely terminal font. Managed to find it as a .sit.hqx file. Just unpack and drag into /Library/Fonts.

VLC is a wonderful video player (preferable to QuickTime in terms of UI, let alone playing DivX etc. out-of-the-box). The hideously misconceived concept from Mac OS days of yore which allows icons in Finder windows to be arranged at a user's whim can be turned off by opening View options; and selecting Keep icons arranged by name.

Only problems apart from the UK PC keyboard (ie. backslash and pipe characters not generating the correct symbols) are that I can't mount NFS shares (which work perfectly on the RiscPC): doing it on the command line gives the following error, mount_nfs: bad MNT RPC: RPC Timed out. Also SSHing into the box from elsewhere on the LAN seems to be very slow at bringing up a password prompt. Even with these niggles, it's a very nice piece of kit.

Sunday, 13 March 2005

Mac mini dispatched...

Friday, 11 March 2005

Wow - over 100 downloads of the MyTunes alpha in less than 24 hours! I wonder how many'll redownload it tomorrow when v0.02 is released with fantastic features such as "volume control" and "previous track" *cough*.

Thursday, 10 March 2005

Another late night coding, but got the alpha version of MyTunes out the door... and ahead of Paul Vigay's ROTunes ;-)

Wednesday, 09 March 2005

Wrote the library parsing code for MyTunes and uploaded a new screenshot. It's probably another night's development away from a public release.

Tuesday, 08 March 2005

Meal out in Otterbourne with Linda and Dave for her birthday. Very enjoyable.

Monday, 07 March 2005

Tested MyTunes with 4000 tracks - now I'm using a DrawFile for rendering it loads and redraws very quickly. Not massively memory efficient unfortunately, but over a megabyte of RAM for a library of over 4000 songs doesn't seem entirely ridiculous.

Also produced a very lovely abstract-style trashcan in !Draw :) Also, they're fixing the car; took a while to get that decision, but now we're getting a hire car.

Sunday, 06 March 2005

It turns out that Paul Vigay also started work on an iTunes-inspired MP3 player for RISC OS last night. Thanks to Andrew Poole for pointing that out. He's also posted it to the frontpage of The Iconbar where I found out that the AcornURI modules providing an HTTP fetcher etc. aren't 32-bit neutral.

Saturday, 05 March 2005

Fed up with all the MP3 players on RISC OS. The best one looks like AMPlay, but that's boycotted as it's developed with WimpBasic (eugh). So started work on !MyTunes using WimpWorks, with the aim of it being a cross between iTunes, RhythmBox and ROX's MusicBox. Got MP3s playing, pausing and skipping using an AMPlayer-backend with unrestricted queueing in exactly 100 lines :-)

Also updated and released !TVGuide for offline viewing of today's TV on RISC OS.

Friday, 04 March 2005

Had some interesting thoughts on the train about the gateway website that Dave and I could set up. nget(1) is very natty, though could do with some enhancements regarding filename clashes.

Still no estimate for the repairs on the car, which means that Elephant won't give me a hire-car yet.

Thursday, 03 March 2005

I've been referenced! An interesting article about "self-centred design" versus the more traditional (and arguably faddish) UCD. The point is one I've made several times regarding middleware development: developers/designers who are also the end-user can do iterative development based on what they want to do. Add in the recent thoughts by the ex-MS distinguished engineer on the rapidity of change that delivering software over the web can give you and you have a very short turnaround for bug fixes and user enhancements.

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