Saturday, December 31, 2011

Indian call for affirmative action on Free Software

Erosion of privacy and personal freedom on online media drew worried mention at the just-concluded Fourth International FOSS (free and open source software) Conference-Kerala (FOSSK4). [...]

It demanded affirmative action by Governments around the world - especially in the Global South - to promote the use of FOSS as a cost-effective, customisable and robust technology option.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Linux package dependencies show predator/prey relationship

Computer people often talk about a "software ecosystem" on various computer platforms, but it's rare to see someone take the terminology seriously. Evolutionary biologists Miguel A. Fortuna, Juan A. Bonachela, and Simon A. Levin of Princeton University have used the tools of ecosystem analysis to look at the evolution of Debian releases, examining things like package dependencies and software incompatibility.

"Overall, the key feature of the modularity the team identified seems to be that the decreasing number of conflicts across modules means that more of the software available for the operating system can install, since it's rare that a conflict will completely block an entire module from installing and running. The authors suggest that we might learn something about biology by studying software, but they don't actually provide examples of how this might work; at this stage, then, it's not an especially compelling argument. "

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Facebook engineer talks about how they made FB mobile run everwhere

Facebook has the most downloaded smartphone application ever and over 350 million users accessing their website from both smart and dumb phones.

This is a talk by Dave Fetterman of Facebook on how they evolved their smart phone interface from fairly thick client to a progressively thinner one with more Html 5 features in the mix.

How Facebook Mobile Was Designed to Write Once, Run Everywhere:

Zurker A New Social Network

Over recent days Zurker a new social network has gone into alpha test.

For the benefit of anyone who has been trapped in a windowless room for the last 7 years, social networking is a web phenomenon where individuals interact with other individuals through sharing information. Usually there is a way for businesses to spread their message as well.

Today the 800 kg gorilla of social networking is Facebook who took the mantle from Myspace and Bebo in 2008. They are being challenged by Google, but look to be weathering that storm. They are also challenged to an extent by special purpose social networks like linked-in for business connections.

Previous social networks have had privacy issues as people didn't really trust the corporations to whom they gave all that personal information. Zurker has turned that on its head by allocating a portion of their ownership to be owned by their members. Currently these are "Virtual shares" but they say that when they launch their corporation they will be turned into real shares.

Zurker is being rolled out on a country by country basis and today it's New Zealand's turn! A couple of days ago I was approached by one of the founders I've had previous dealings with and asked to help with the Kiwi operation, which I agreed to. Just after midnight I registered the .nz domain name and today it's live.

Technically it's invite only at the moment but they make it pretty clear that they welcome invites via blog posts, so here's yours ... Click here ... send me a "Convo" when you sign-up. Yes, like all the others, they have their own jargon, but it translates fairly easily to the terms you are used to.

As alpha quality software you can expect a few glitches, and so far I've found a couple of fairly minor ones, but the quality seems pretty good.

Disclaimer, I'm not an executive but subject to negotiations, I intend having a personal stake in Zurker.

13 Ways To Think About And Crush Your Competition

I've been thinking about Internet start-ups a bit recently and was impressed when I stumbled across this article
13 Ways To Think About And Crush Your Competition by Jason L. Baptiste who is the co-founder and CEO of a growing venture backed startup.

He's got thirteen points and they are all different, but if I had to produce a summary it would be under two headings:
  • Be your own business - leave the competition to make their own mistakes and don't copy them.
  • Make sure you have sufficient funding in place to survive.
There's a lot more and I have no qualms recommending reading and thinking about this article.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Clement Family Christmas

Today was Christmas day and as we have done for the last several years we gathered at my sister Diana's house for the day.

To save an early start, my mother went over the night before and stayed. Tessa, my wife, Tessa's mother and I arrived around 8:30 AM. Although she runs her own baking business these days, Tessa is a fully qualified and experienced professional chef and she she insists she prepares and cooks the turkey. She soon had it stuffed and in the oven.

Then it was outside to enjoy a breakfast of Diana's home made bagels on the porch. In New Zealand, December is summer and we are having one of the first really hot days of this year's summer. Sitting on the porch was great. It was a small gathering this year, just Diana, her two children, our mother, me, Tessa, Tessa's mum and our cousin's adult daughter.

After breakfast the children wanted to see their gifts (and I suspect some of the adults did too) so it was inside for the presents to be passed out. The kids loved their presents .. mostly games for their playstation and a couple of Harry Potter DVDs. The adults gifts were more mundane, but were appreciated, Tessa got given a couple of cookbooks (I think she has them all now) and a food dehydrator which she went into raptures about ... she's been dropping hints about wanting one for a few months.

I have two brothers, one in Sydney and the other in England. The both usually phone during the day, the one in England did, but got a really bad phone line so he's going to phone Mum tonight. No word from the one in Sydney, but he'll probably phone in the evening.

Then on to the Christmas dinner. Traditional roast turkey with potato, kumera (a local sweet potato), onion, broccoli, asparagus and salad. The meal was tasty and enjoyed by all. After lunch Tessa made a devastating discovery. Her mother is an insulin dependent diabetic and while the rest home had sent her insulin with her, they had forgotten to pack the needles! Fortunately we were able to obtain one and didn't have to return to the rest home on the other side of Auckland (about an hour round trip) to get it. I can tell you we were really panicking

Next on the agena was dessert. Tessa had made a diabetic trifle which was delicious and my mother had provided a traditional Christmas pudding. A small amount of brandy was poured over the pudding and my niece tried to light it using my childproof cigarette lighter. For the first time I can remember the childproofing worked and I had to light it then try to pass it to her already lit ... it only took three goes.

Finally the kids got to play with their presents and the adults could relax over coffee. Diana and I fixed her son's bicycle, somehow the chain had come off the front derallier and wedged between the gear assembly and the frame but with a lot of jiggling and a modicum of force we freed it so he can enjoy the bike during the summer holidays.

Then finally with farewells like we would never see each other again we left to take our mothers home.

It's good to have these get togethers and it always seems a shame that we do them so seldom. It's also a little sad that two brothers are so far away, but we always think about them and often talk on the day. Family is the most important thing there is.

Originally published on Qondio

Friday, December 23, 2011

Tis the season ... for cute rescued animal stories

First-up this report from the Herald: A dog in remote north-eastern Bangladesh has become a local celebrity by breastfeeding a baby monkey back to health after it was rescued from angry villagers. The monkey sleeps with foster mum and rides around town on her back. It shows no interest in returning to the wild.

Then this report: on how a cat napped in a car's engine and was found 300km later, with a few minor burns but otherwise unharmed. It wasn't even the car of the cat's owner.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Virgin TV's Sunthorpe Problems

In the UK a new system, which automatically checks the Virgin TV programme guide, went into over-drive over the weekend with programmes such as The History of Canals showed up as ‘The History of Ca**ls’, the Will Smith film ‘Hancock’becoming ‘Hanc**k, ‘Charles Dickens’ became ‘Charles D***ens’ even the name of London football club, ‘Arsenal’, was blocked out in a bid to remove inappropriate language from the TV menu. Full article at the Telegraph

Isn't it amazing how they just don't learn? The UK, after all, contains the place that gave its name to the generic name for this effect as the Scunthorpe Problem way back in 1996.

You'd think they'd an*lyse their software better before deploying it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Give poor children computers and walk away

Interesting opinion piece in New Scientist. The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) founder Nicholas Negroponte is interviewed on his new idea ... give kids a tablet computer and leave them to it.
"OLPC, even after giving out nearly 3 million laptops, is still criticised along the following lines: "Negroponte believes that you can give a child a laptop and walk away." Whether I ever believed that or not is now secondary. It became such a refrain that I finally asked myself about a year ago: "What if you could?" [...]"I am really going into this with an open mind. It is an experiment, and one outcome could be "no, they cannot"."

Sounds like a very interesting experiment. Negroponte and the rest of the OLPC team have already proved they could do what the naysayers said they would never achieve. Now they are advancing the experiment further. If they succeed the world will be a very different place in 20 years time.

Apple's Lawsuits Made Galaxy Tab A Household Name

From Tom Holwerda's blog on OS News
This is, of course, a tasty and delightful serving of karma for Apple. The company clearly set out to use software and design patent lawsuits as an anti-competitive club, but instead of reducing competition, they may have actually made the competition stronger. In the end, we can only hope all these anti-competitive offensive software and design patent lawsuits turn out like this. Sure, there's a lot of wasted money here on both sides, but at least the defendant gets rewarded with more sales, and the aggressor punished with lower sales
Full Article:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Killer Snake

Something out of nightmares ... 7 metre long snakes that hunt people :( Ed Jong blogs in discover magazine
"Giant snakes frequently attack people in fantasy and science-fiction stories, but such attacks are not merely the stuff of fiction. Through his extensive work with the Agta, Headland has found that a quarter of all the men have been attacked by pythons. The reticulated python is the world’s longest snake. Females typically weigh 75 kilograms (165 pounds) and grow larger than 7 metres (23 feet). The Agta, by contrast, are a small folk. Adults reach around 1.4 metres (4.5 feet) in height and weigh around 44 kilograms (97 pounds). For a snake that can swallow an entire pig, an Agta would make a mere medium-sized mouthful."
Full text at Discover Magazine:

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Chrisco guilty over unfair Xmas hamper fees

Tessa's a great believer in them, but I've long been a bit suspicious of hamper companies like Chrisco and this article from the Herald just helps confirm my feeling
"Quite a lot were hit by huge cancellation fees - not huge by most people's standards, but something like $50 which is huge for our clients," Chrisco charges up to $150 to $200 more for its hampers than the individual items cost in low-priced supermarkets. A Consumer NZ survey in March found that the items in Chrisco's "traditional" hamper could be bought online from Woolworths for $327.84 - about $83 less than Chrisco's price of $10.53 a week for 39 weeks ($410.67). NZ Herald News
Add to that, on the day they will deliver your hampers in early December they refuse to give the customer a time of delivery, expecting their customers to waste a day waiting around for Chrisco to deliver. I don't think this is acceptable in today's busy world.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Canterbury earthquake first anniversary

Today is the first anniversary of the September 4 Canterbury earthquake. The one where there was property damage and we congratulated ourselves on how lucky we were that nobody was killed, largely because it was at 4 AM and nobody was on the normally busy shopping streets where there was damage, that and people whose homes were damaged were just plain lucky.

Sixth months later a smaller earthquake in the same area killed 181 people. Like all New Zealanders I still think about where I was when I first heard about these two earthquakes and still mourn the 181 strangers who died.

We were still lucky. On the 12th of May 2008 there was a massive earthquake in Sichuan, China that caused 69,195 deaths, and even that did not match the 2006 Boxing Day earthquake and tsunami that killed at least 230,210 people. My thoughts, although a little dimmer, are also with the victims of those and other natural disasters.
Kia kaha, Christchurch
Kia kaha, Aotearoa
Kia kaha

Monday, July 25, 2011

Indians call centre training teaches Australians are stupid

In this morning's Herald was a piece on how trainee Indian call centre staff are taught that Australians are the world dumbest people who drink constantly and are touchy about animals.

The trainees are told to speak slowly as according to the trainer, Australia is the dumbest continent. I'm wondering if the trainer just didn't like being called a "Brown Bastard" (Apparently the Australian name for Indians) or if they have just been closely studying what Kiwis, Yanks and Poms say about Australia.

Heads up to the Indians: The comments about Australians being dumb are just a joke. There are a large number of intelligent, cultured, articulate people in Australia. They crossed the Tasman Sea to get away from here; what's India's excuse?

Google ranking algorithm no longer secret

Or, if you prefer, Black boxes have hair

A "black box" is something that is known only by its inputs and its outputs, in principle nothing is known about what is actually inside the box. It's reasonably well known that if you allow someone to analyse a sufficiently large set of inputs and outputs of the box then they can analyse it. This is the principle behind the belief held by most cryptographers that there is little point keeping the algorithms secret and now this has happened to Google's search ranking algorithm.

Researchers took a limited number of ranking criteria and a set of search results and fed them to a machine learning algorithm. After a bit of churning the machine learning algorithm spat out a formula that gives a reasonably close match to Google's actual ranking. They only used 17 factors while Google actually uses over 200, but they have proved the point that this type of reverse engineering can reveal what's going on inside the black box that is the Googleplex. More Here

 I can see others taking their work forward and doing the analysis on many more factors. Maybe they will publish, maybe they won't but either way the genie's out of the bottle.

It will be interesting to see what Google's reaction is.

Thanks to Leo Kobes for the pointer.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How AV Researchers Deciphered Stuxnet

The fascinating story of the people who decoded the Stuxnet worm and how they did it.

"Stuxnet a one-shot weapon. Once it was discovered, the attackers would never be able to use it or a similar ploy again without Iran growing immediately suspicious of malfunctioning equipment. “The attackers had to bet on the assumption that the victim had no clue about cybersecurity, and that no independent third party would successfully analyze the weapon and make results public early, thereby giving the victim a chance to defuse the weapon in time,” [...]. In the end, Stuxnet’s creators invested years and perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars in an attack that was derailed by a single rebooting PC, a trio of naive researchers who knew nothing about centrifuges, and a brash-talking German who didn’t even have an internet connection at home."
It's also being discussed here in Bruce Schneier's blog.

And the moral of the story is "If you find a USB stick lying around, do not plug it into your computer. Especially if you work for a super secret research facility."

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Switching To Debian Testing

We've been using Kubuntu for a few years on all our home PCs, but on Monday Kubuntu on my main desktop machine suffered a "misfortune"; I was halfway through the 11.04 upgrade when the lights went out. When they came back on, Mr PC, he no boot no more.

I probably could have fixed it given enough time and inspiration, but my / partition wouldn't mount despite fsck assuring me it was fine and I've been wanting to try Debian Testing as my main desktop for a while.

Back in 2003 I ran Debian 3.0 Stable as a desktop before reverting back to SuSE and I've used Ubuntu for the last 3 years or so, so Debian isn't exactly a stranger to me. More recently, for the last several months I've had a non-gui Debian Testing VirtualBox client server and Testing seems stable enough for my purposes. The reason why I'm interested in using Testing is to avoid the whole upgrade process and simultaneously avoid Debian's release cycles ... For a production server their philosophy is correct, but I really want to play with newer software.

So far I've installed the base system and added KDE to it. As I refer synaptic, I've added in quite a bit of gnome. I'll probably be rebuilding for a couple of nights more before restoring my home directories. Fingers crossed that that goes smoothly.

I've had one incredibly annoying problem where my screen would flicker every 10 seconds or so and at the same rate all consoles received a message "[drm] nouveau 0000:01:00.0: No native mode, forcing panel scaling" A bit of Googling found me the solution to this on a Debian mailing list

edit /etc/default/grub

change the Linux command line to read
GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet drm_kms_helper.poll=0"

sudo update-grub2

I've also got another annoyance that "sudo kate" (or other X program) can't access the display. I'm working around that for now by running root commands through a terminal session that I've sshed back to localhost

ssh -X -l root localhost

Not the world's most elegant solution, but it works for now, I'm sure I'll find the answer when I budget time to look.

I suspect I'll be finding out more little annoyances as I go, but for now I'm quite happy with how things are going

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Link Builder's Guide To Directory Submission

SEO involves a lot of tasks and one of those tasks is link building, getting other websites to make quality links to your target website. There are only a few sources of quality incoming links, and internet directories are one of those sources.

What many SEO engineers don't realise is that directory owners are also actively involved in SEO, the successful ones have been around for several years and understand exactly what they are doing. They are fully aware that their directory is at least in part an SEO machine. I'm one of "Them", I own and run over a dozen directories, listed at, that accept public site submissions; my oldest directory has been running since late 2006, my newest ones have been running just over a week.

You and the directory owner both want to get quality links into their directory and as long as both sides play by the rules, you are allies and not adversaries. This article is to explain the real rules and why those rules exist.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Domain Admin for Drupal 7

With over 100 small sites deployed using a mix of technologies, I'm always on the look-out for things that will make my life easier. I currently have 3 Jojo CMS installs, 8 phpLd directories, 6 active blogs on b2evolution and manage 2 Wordpress installs for family members. Each of these pieces of software has limitations and a lack of scalability so the other 100 odd sites I have are created with straight php, but sharing menu structures within the sites and templates and a simple library in a cross-site back-end. There's no database, no CMS, I edit them with the kate text editor on my home PC and then publish them using rsync. Horrible as this sounds, this scales remarkably well. I can manage it pretty well and see myself being able to manage 2 or 3 times as many sites but eventually it starts to get limiting. Currently I can grep the source for common strings I will want to update, but ....

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fossil fuels deadlier than nuclear power

Interesting snippit.
"Yet again, popular perceptions are wrong. When, in 1975, about 30 dams in central China failed in short succession due to severe flooding, an estimated 230,000 people died. Include the toll from this single event, and fatalities from hydropower far exceed the number of deaths from all other energy sources."New Scientist
So hydro power is more dangerous than fossil fuels which are in turn more dangerous than nuclear? At least the nuclear people don't just dump their spent fuel in the oceans the way the hydro people do :)

Monday, March 21, 2011

New Zealand, Three Countries in One

Today is the first day of Blog4NZ (Facebook) (Twitter #blog4nz). I'm all in favour of this campaign, but what can I say to you about why New Zealand is a great country to visit? I've been pondering it for a couple of days and have come to the conclusion that there isn't really a New Zealand, there's three almost completely different things covered by the concept. And there are three different places.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Best Interest Rate Home Loans Online

In a bit of a follow-up to yesterday's piece about competitive insurance quotes, what do I find on-line but mortgage services like this one Five Star Mortgages in the US that help people find the lowest cost mortgages. They proudly proclaim "We Specialize in low rate lending across the united states. Lowest Interest rates online!" and go on to say "Our professionals specialize in helping people just like you find the right type of mortgage loan to suit their needs. In addition, our goal is always to find the right program and the right lender to help you save money on your home purchase." In other words they are like an on-line version of Mike Perro with no need to go into the office and with the ability to go through the process at your own pace. Anything like this here? The best I could find was a spreadsheet-like display of current bank mortgage rates, sorted alphabetically.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

On a roll

I seem to be on a roll tonight. I had a good day at work documenting a part of our development process ... normally, like most developers, I can't stand doing documentation but this was developer documentation and partially involved writing some skeleton code to improve the way we develop.

The evening started off badly though, after cycling home I got straight off the bike to go for a 6km walk in practice for the Round the Bays this Sunday. I got about a kilometre down the road when the heavens opened. I sheltered under a shop awning until it eased to light rain and then walked briskly home arriving more than a little damp.

Competitive Quotes Car Insurance

There's obviously a lot of margin in car insurance. You only need to look at how much AA Insurance and Tower have spent on their recent TV ads, or if that doesn't convince you go over to clixGalore and have a look at the affiliate scheme offers by major insurance companies, you can see the offers without having an account or logging in. One (I won't name them) are currently on the front page and offering 12% commission.

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Rat Is Back

Sometime around 1995 I started using "Kiore", the Maori word for "Rat" as my nickname for on-line bridge. It became my off-line nickname as well then my ISP email address and in 2000 I registered to get the email address I wanted. The url of this blog comes from the same source, the original name for the blog was My name/Kiore.

Starting a few months before I created the Muffins blog I had set up on my PC at home as a simple php-Nuke CMS that was mostly a blog as an experiment, I eventually exposed it (dynamic IP and all) to the public internet so I could demo it to friends. Eventually it migrated to the same storage as I later set the muffins blog on. Like a rat crossing the motorway, disaster befell it a couple of times, like the muffins site it had to be restored and rebuilt, eventually becoming a Drupal site before dieing badly early in 2007 leading to the, I won't say "abandonment" as I always intended to restore, but failure to actually restore. I still used the domain name, but only for mail until yesterday.

Revision 3 - R3: b2evolution server

After a not very fortunate attempt to set up the b2evolution blog software a few weeks back that was cut short by the 9:37 event, I had another go during the week. As always with these things it took quite a while to get it right. When I did I blew it away & started afresh.

The b2evolution software has multiple domain support built in, but based on what I learned from my experiments, it is clear that the first domain has special properties and I didn't really want my other domains relying on a real domain name, so as this is my third b2evolution install and I was informally referring to it as "R3" I deployed and the site is now officially  "R3 (Revision 3)".

The earthquake caused substantial damage - Treasury NZ

I love the understatement and the New Zealand Treasury has issued this pearler of one in its latest economic indicators report. To be fair, the report's target audience includes people who are overseas and may have had minimal exposure to the direct information on the earthquake we've had here. The treasury is tasked with providing a best estimate of the amount of damage caused, and without even a reliable deathtoll it must be almost impossible to come up with a financial cost, still they try and only give themselves a 33% confidence level:
"It is still too early to estimate with confidence the financial cost of the damage caused by the February earthquake, but it is likely to be [...] we estimate the combined financial cost of the two earthquakes at around NZ$15 billion. There is considerable uncertainty associated with this estimate (and its components) which is best described as a working assumption rounded to the nearest $5 billion."
Repairs could take over four years They later say
"it is unlikely that all this work will be completed within our four-year forecast period. Except for important infrastructure, this recovery will mainly occur from 2012 onwards because of the planning required and the extent of the damage."
It's worth remembering this. In Bob Parker's famous words, "Christchurch is currently munted" but it will be rebuilt eventually. Full Report

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Christchurch Earthquake Community Response

A dedicated volunteer team of Internet people, web masters, programmers, and computer savvy helpers have built the Christchurch Earthquake Community Response site to coordinate help efforts. Anyone who is able to offer help or who needs help because of the earthquake should go there.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Useful Resources Christchurch Earthquake

Christchurch Earthquake Community Response
A dedicated volunteer team of Internet people, web masters, programmers, and computer savvy helpers have built the Christchurch Earthquake Community Response site to coordinate help efforts. If you need help or can offer help, please go there.

Because of the dedicated site, this page is no-longer being maintained.

Christchurch Earthquake Update - Support and Condolences

The following message was sent by The Queen to John Key:
"I have been utterly shocked by the news of another earthquake in
Christchurch. Please convey my deep sympathy to the families and
friends of those who have been killed; my thoughts are with all those who
have been affected by this dreadful event. My thoughts are also with the
emergency services and everyone who is assisting in the rescue efforts.


Christchurch Earthquake Update

Edit 28 Feb 2011: The death toll is now nearly 150. The 38 was the confirmed death toll when I wrote this, less than 1 day after the quake. There's about 200 reported missing, so it's reasonable to assume that the confirmed number of quake deaths will grow before the recovery effort is over.

The official death toll from yesterday's earthquake in Christchurch has been reduced to 38. Looks like they double counted the dead yesterday - with the stress and confusion that was going on I suppose that can be forgiven.

The news media is reporting that the death toll could reach 300 once the rubble is cleared away, one person in 1,000 of the Christchurch population.

 The TV feed continues this morning and the rescue workers are all looking like they had no sleep last night. Two that are being interviewed as I type just said they had about an hours sleep.

Kia kaha Canterbury.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Christchurch Earthquake Two

TV One and TV3 are running continuous programming on the Christchurch earthquake that went off at lunchtime today. To their credit, both of these channels have suspended advertising so we are getting no breaks in the coverage.

It's hard watching it, nothing like as hard for the watchers as for the people there on the ground though.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Back on the bike

Having managed to reunite it with my helmet I was back on my bike today.

Coming home I was stopped on Broadway at the red light at the corner with Khyber Pass  when this idiot on a bike whizzed straight past me at maybe 30km/h straight into the turning traffic from Khyber Pass. How he avoided being hit eludes me. Idiots like him are too stupid to ride push bikes in public and should stick to driving cars.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Go By Bike Day: I missed another one

Normally I ride my push-bike to and from work. 5 days a week. It's my only source of exercise.

Every year they promote have a ride your bike to work day, with a free healthy breakfast if you can be bothered biking into Aotea Square in town ... that's about 4km from work so I can't ever be bothered. This year it's today and it seems to be called "Go By Bike Day"

Last year, for the second year in a row, I wasn't able to ride my bike that day. I can't remember exactly why, but I remember being annoyed that I couldn't ... note to self: blog more often.

Yesterday I was nearly home when my head felt a bit funny, I put my hand up to check my helmet and discovered to my horror that I wasn't wearing it, so I hopped off the bike and walked the rest of the way home. Somehow I'd managed to take my gloves and goggles out of the helmet, put them on and leave my bike helmet on my desk.

This meant I was on the bus today and missed it yet again. In the immortal words of A. A. Milne ""Bother!" Said Poo"

Zinc an effective defence to colds

Finally some good news on alternate medicine NZ Herald: "Zinc supplements have been confirmed in a large international study as an effective treatment of the common cold, shortening symptoms by nearly one day." I'll have to remember this come winter.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Fruit and fruit juice harm fetuses?

The Herald reports:
"An expectant mother could be putting her unborn child at risk by drinking as little as three glasses of juice a day or eating five apples." More...
Well, in rats anyway and the quantities are scaled up from a study done on rats. Humans and rats are both omnivores, but while rats descend from grain eaters, we descended from largely fruit eating ancestors so I really wonder if you can extrapolate from rats to humans in this case. It would be interesting to see if vegans and fitness fanatics, both of whom consume more fruit than the average person have a higher incidence of fetal abnormality. Somehow I doubt it as I'm sure we would have been told if health conscious people were having deformed babies in any significant numbers.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The worst of times, the best of times

There's an old saying "Just once I wish I could have the silver lining without the cloud?" well once again it wasn't my turn.

A week ago I mentioned how I was exhausted after cleaning up domains and sites. Well I continued cleaning and improving over the weekend and by Sunday night was ready for a distraction. I had an on-going problem that my VM was CentOS 4 and current versions of Mediawiki won't run on the XML library in there. I've been looking at upgrading to version 5 for a while but the documentation is scary and advises starting again from scratch. The problem is I didn't really have a good way of doing that, so I decided I needed a distraction. I decided to have a play with the b2evolution blogging software instead. What makes this interesting is that with some minor set-up in the control panel it can support multiple blogs in the one directory. Unlike its cousin (both descend from the now dead b2/cafelog) Wordpress they did this years ago with no add-ins, tweaks, etc. Just point both domains at the save virtual server & tell b2evolution about the blog and you're going.

Although not ideal, blog software will usually do service as CMS substitutes, and Wordpress is often used as a straight CMS so I think b2evolution should easily be able to be made to do the same.

Unfortunately my experimentation was cut short by the arrival of 9:37 PM. Suddenly my site was dead. Not just the domains on b2, but all of them. Dead, dead, dead. I went to my hosting company's control panel & the log-in was broken. It flashed up something about not being able to contact the machine my VM was on then reloaded itself ... in a loop. I logged onto their CRM and raised a support ticket. Just over half an hour later they let me know that the disk had crashed hard and they were creating a new VM for me on a different node, what operating system would I like. I decided to ask for CentOS 5 ... at least Mediawiki should work :)

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Getting a handle

Today has been flat-out. Actually all week has been much that way. I've made some dreadful mistakes setting up my little mini-site empire:
  • Domains that aren't delegated
  • Domains with no content
  • Domains with no incoming links
You name it, and it exists somewhere in my portfolio. Yesterday I sorted out the domains that are part of the mini-site group that should be delegated or have content ... sorted out meaning I know what they are, not that I've fixed them. On the other hand I've found a new writer and tasked him with completing the work I had started on a year or so back. If his work is OK, I'll get him onto the next domain and so forth.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Web Directories

I'm taking time out from my normal activities to be a little self serving. In the beginning, the world wide web was both small and either academics or closely related hobbyists. They built small sites and links between their pages based on shared interests. People would find interesting sites based shared interests following links from sites to site. The web grew, the founders of Yahoo came along and built a massive directory, then the search engines arose and largely supplanted the directories. These days web directories are nowhere near as important as they used to be, but some still have a reasonable amount of influence on some web surfers. I've applied to list this blog on a few of the more important and have created this post to share some of the love back at them.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Tessa's big day in

Today has not been a great day.

Earlier this week Tessa had to have a small surgical procedure under a general anesthetic. Today Tessa & I were delivering a wedding cake she'd made for a friend's wedding tomorrow. She is still in a bit of pain so I was doing chauffeur duty.

On the way she was suddenly nauseous so we stopped for a bit then started again, about 1 minutes down the road, same again so we stopped for about 15 minutes while she sat on a park bench. Then we went down to Albany shops & she had a herb tea but still didn't feel any better. We went to the Albany village care pharmacy and Sue Jan, the pharmacist, suggested I should take Tessa straight to hospital. They gave Tessa a couple of ginger lozenges and some tissues and Anne, the assistant, spent some time with us while waiting for Tessa to be well enough wouldn't even accept payment. How's that for kindness to strangers?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Round The Bays

I've just signed up for the annual Round the Bays run, except I'm going to walk it. I have some old damage to a tendon in my leg ... normally it's no problem but the jarring of running can cause it to fire up. Walking, cycling, etc aren't a problem.

It's not until 13 March, so I have 6 weeks to make sure I'm up to walking 8.4km at a steady clip. Look forward to progress reports.

Ironically I haven't been on my bike all week ... need to get back on the bike as well.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The price of Internet is eternal vigilance

I feel I've just done something really dumb. For some time now I've been buying content as part of my project to turn my parked domain names into small sites. I've been offering to buy up unsold articles from article writers at a reduced price. When I wasn't ready to deploy I've simply been archiving.

Unfortunately I've got way behind on developing the sites and I've had a slowly growing backlog of unused articles. In some cases I didn't even read the articles before filing them away. As time has gone on this tendency has got worse.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Icelandic Espionage, perhaps

There's something not quite right in my mind about the recent computer bugging reports from the Icelandic parliament, Althingi. See, for example, the report in Iceland Review Online. As reported, a computer was found attached to the parliamentary LAN in an empty room next to the offices of two minor parliamentary parties, The Movement and the Independence Party. This was back in February 2010. Some key "facts" that have been revealed include
  • “All identifiers had been wiped off the computer, all numbers and such, so it couldn’t be traced back to the owner. It was a very suspicious computer but we just couldn’t figure it out and neither could the police,”
  • "When the computer was disconnected a program automatically started which deleted all data on the hard drive."
  • There has been speculation that Wikileaks may have been behind it (denied by Birgitta Jónsdóttir)
Personally I doubt the Wikilinks speculation. Their style isn't to plant bugs, but to accept data leaked by others, nor was it likely to be a serious attempt to bug Wikileaks collaborators. According to this time-line Wikileaks wasn't to publish the Apache Helicopter video for another two months. At this time very few outside Iceland knew much about the link between Wikileaks and Birgitta Jónsdóttir. Sure the CIA, FSB, MSS, and so on would have had a pretty good idea what was going on, but I can't believe they would employ such a crude bugging attempt ... unless they wanted to send a message.

Next question, if a program started which deleted all data on the hard drive (presumably including system logs) how do they know there was ever anything there to delete? Did it give a nice little "Deleting files" progress bar?

I also find the whole business of the computer wiping its disk when it was found suspicious in the extreme. Any computer forensics worth its salt wouldn't give the rogue computer time to change anything on its disk. I would have thought any parliamentary IT service would have standing instructions to immediately take steps to prevent the computer taking any further activities, naively cut the power ... but I'm not an expert. Perhaps the IT "experts" are genuinely clueless, perhaps they were in on it.

So, who are the culprits? Perhaps an insider in The Movement or Independence party, wanting to monitor their own party, perhaps someone in one of the other minor parliamentary parties, perhaps the whole computer was a dummy designed to send a message and if so, why weren't the affected parties informed for ten months?

This whole thing raises far more questions than have been answered.

Edited to fix some badly worded text regarding knowledge of Birgitta Jónsdóttir - 24/1/2011 07:39 NZT

Friday, January 21, 2011

Unwashed jeans don't get any dirtier

In his book The Naked Civil Servant Quentin Crisp famously remarked "There was no need to do any housework at all. After four years the dirt doesn’t get any worse."

The Herald is reporting that the same applies to denim jeans, only more so "Great news for students - jeans left unwashed for a year are no dirtier than those that have been worn for a fortnight."

There is, of course a gotcha ... the wearer's personal hygene becomes very important to the process and the jeans need to be aired.

Seems to me it would just be easier to wash them

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Bicycle Typogram

This is absolutely brilliant.  Aaron Kuehn has drawn this typogram of a bicycle. Every element of the bike is made of the name of the element as text (although he does stretch it a little with the front forks). The S of the saddle is superb.

He offers it in a limited edition screen printed form or you can download the PDF from his site and print it yourself.

He even allows re-use of the graphic, with credit.

Way to go Aaron.