Saturday 16 December 2006

Back on the bike!

The insurance company finally got back to me after 3 months.

Their excuse is that they closed that particular claims office and they're still making all the callbacks.

Anyway, they promptly transferred the money to our back account and I went down to Halfords and bought a new one. This one is a 20" Saracen Rufftrax 2 2007. One thing that I like about it is that it doesn't make the characteristic clicking noise when free-wheeling -- stealth mode!

Just after I bought it I discovered that there was a problem with the rear tyre as it was constantly deflating.

I took it back and they replaced the inner-tube free of charge in under 10 minutes and I'm now back on the road!

Beryl and Metacity working in harmony

Here's a script I've thrown together to have Beryl manage the main display and still allow metacity to manage the second, TV Out, display -- until the Beryl Project get it to manage the second display correctly:


# Start Beryl on main display only
beryl --screen 0 &

# Metacity on TV out
metacity --display :0.1 --replace &

# Beryl manager
beryl-manager &

Thursday 30 November 2006

Creative journalism

Oops, an example of creative journalism was caught red-handed this week.

How much of this goes on, unchecked?

"Look! We made an accurate, silicon model of an elephant's foetus. We used a mixture of ultrascans and computer graphics to simulate how it might look for real."

"Wow, real ultrasounds of an elephant foetus!"

"Cool, the first, close ups of an elephant in the womb! Amazing. Tiny cameras, you say... inserted into the rectum?"

"Stunning! Live animal foetuses from cameras mounted in the womb. Crazy... people are going to love this!"

Thursday 9 November 2006

Patch for mythframes

This patch modifies mythframes to handle big files.

--- mythframes.c.orig   2006-11-08 19:13:59.000000000 +0000 
+++ mythframes.c 2006-11-08 19:03:44.000000000 +0000
@@ -52,7 +52,7 @@
typedef struct seektable_entry
- long long file_offset;
+ double long file_offset;
int keyframe_number;
} seektable_entry;

Patch for mkmovie

The following patch removes aspect ratio options from mencoder which causes it to bomb out.

These were some modifications that were needed to get things running on my setup.

--- /usr/bin/mkmovie    2006-11-08 19:00:23.000000000 +0000
+++ mkmovie 2006-11-06 21:15:32.000000000 +0000
@@ -329,7 +329,7 @@
} while (($retval != 0) and not($stoprun));
$command = "mencoder -idx " . $files . " -ovc lavc " .
" -lavcopts vcodec=mpeg4:vhq:vbitrate=" . $vbr . ":keyint=" .
- $keyint . ":aspect=" . $aspect .
+ $keyint .
" -oac mp3lame -lameopts cbr:cbr=" . $abr .
":padding=0 -o " . $currfile .
" -noskip";
@@ -398,7 +398,7 @@
$currfile = "seg" . $segcounter . "-" . $$ . ".avi";
$command = "mencoder -idx " . $input . " -ovc lavc " .
" -lavcopts vcodec=mpeg4:vhq:vbitrate=" . $vbr . ":keyint=" .
- $keyint . ":aspect=" . $aspect .
+ $keyint .
" -oac mp3lame -lameopts cbr:cbr=" . $abr .
":padding=0 -o " . $currfile .
" -ss " . $startpos ." -endpos " . $endpos . " -noskip";
@@ -679,7 +679,7 @@

$command = "mencoder -mf w=" . $width . ":h=" . $height .
":fps=" . $fps . " -ovc lavc -lavcopts vcodec=mpeg4:vhq:vbitrate=" . $vbr .
- ":keyint=" . $keyint . ":aspect=" . $aspect .
+ ":keyint=" . $keyint .
" -o " . $single . " mf://" . $png;
do {
unlink $single;

Monday 6 November 2006

Sun's Project Blackbox

Recently Sun announced a new Project called, "Blackbox".

Basically it's a rapid deployment datacentre - a black, Sun branded, shipping container full of racks and servers that will take up to 8Gs of impact shock. They'll even paint it in camouflage colours in case you need to hide it. ;)

I wonder what the local council would think If I had one of these taking up a parking spot or two in front of the flat.

Thursday 26 October 2006

Firefox 2.0

I know... every man and his dog are writing about how Firefox 2.0 is out. At least I'm not having a Firefox 2.0 party.

Speaking of parties, even Microsoft were nice enough to send cake...

Monday 23 October 2006

USB recharging without the USB

A couple of weeks ago I ordered a couple of universal USB chargers.

In combination with a 4-way, mini USB hub it makes a fairly compact, portable multi-device charger. They're perfect for travelling as they're 110-240V and come with a bunch of click-in power socket adaptors for different countries.

For the new Nokia-N73 I'll need a power/data cable combo.

Ooo, shiny!

A new phone upgrade and the promise of new beginnings!

This phone is it. The panacea. The gadget to end all gadgets.


Maybe not.

Anyway, it's the Nokia N73 smartphone and it's pretty cool on first impressions. The Symbian OS is a little slow but considering the features it packs, it's a small price to pay.

An auto keylock application needed to be installed as the functionality is missing from the default OS and, of course, Google Maps had to go on there too.

All appointments from Autoping have been transferred over and I suspect a rewrite of Autoping will occur now to make it more generic - now that I no longer need it for personal stuff. Things to play with next are:

Thursday 19 October 2006

Enjoy the Sun

Nexenta is a new distribution which has an Open Solaris kernel, GNU tools and Debian-like package management.

All the crunchy, yummy goodness of Zones, DTrace and ZFS with a GNU userland filling.

Apt is simply the icing on the cake!

Wednesday 18 October 2006


(No, not the musical)

In the last 2 days our SpamAssassin has caught a much greater amount of spam than normal.

Interestingly, the statistics from, and actually show a downward global trend in spam.

This could mean that the quarantined messages have a lower-than-normal score and are being delivered locally instead of being immediately rejected or they're simply delayed, grey-list messages from the usual weekend spam run.

Friday 13 October 2006

New look

I had received some complaints about the previous theme.

I agree it wasn't exactly easy on the eye but it was the best I could do at short notice.

Since I had to stay back at work late to baby-sit a site launch, I had some time to kill. So I went for a surf and found a fairly pleasent Drupal theme which I decided wasn't quite up to scratch.

What you currently see is a widened version of the Andreas03 theme.

There is also some other CSS hacks to personalise it.

The awful "Matrix" Gallery theme has been replaced with a heavily modified version of Carbon. Nice and clean.

There was some work to get rid of all the extra garbage but I think you'll agree it looks nice enough.

Sunday 24 September 2006

Bye-bye bikes.

A quick trip to Sainsburys yesterday to pick up some essentials turned into a nightmare.

Both our bikes were locked to a steel post buried in the concrete and then, within 40 minutes, were stolen. No lock, bikes or witnesses.

Sainsburys have CCTV cameras for that area, so hopefully the bastards will get caught but we don't expect to ever see the bikes again. :(

We tried to report the incident at Islington Police Station but the front counter was unattended.

Some other people had been waiting for more than 30 minutes with no one there to help. We could see staff in the station, behind the scenes, but no one wanted to come out and help any of us.

Do we still wonder why no one respects the police anymore?

Now, where's my Oyster Card...?

Friday 15 September 2006

Tirade to PlusNet

To whom it may concern,

First of all I would like to apologise for emailing all and sundry about this but as I find it extremely difficult to get a hold of a human at PlusNet – this is my last resort.

I would like to register with you my level of rage with PlusNet’s customer service.

I originally signed up with PlusNet in April 2006 and was happy with everything. My Internet usage is extremely heavy and I quickly exceeded my package limits. So I decided to switch ISPs and find someone with a package that would better suit my needs.

I informed PlusNet of my cancellation and paid the required cancellation fee promptly. I then requested a MAC Key so I could transfer to the new ISP seamlessly. PlusNet informed me that they were unable to provide a MAC Key as I wasn’t with BT and MAC Keys are only required when transferring within BT Wholesale.

After some back and forth with the new ISP and BT it was confirmed that a MAC Key should be provided by PlusNet. I logged a new support call for a MAC Key and I was informed that a request for the MAC Key was put through to “the provider”. (ticket #19835421)

Some weeks passed with no response from PlusNet, despite my requests for some kind of reply on how the situation was progressing. One month after the call was logged, the call was closed by PlusNet. I was unable to open this closed call as there is currently a problem retrieving previously closed calls on my account. So, I logged another call with Customer Service to either email me the response from the closed call or to paste the response into this new call.

The response turned out to be another question. This process of retrieving a MAC Key can take up to 7 days, I’m told, but in my particular case it took about month – and then I only ended up with yet another question for my new ISP.

At this point I have simply given up with trying to deal with PlusNet’s customer service team. I registered my grievances with OFCOM and have logged a new support call with PlusNet requesting that my cancellation goes through completely so that the line is clear of any ADSL service so there will be no problem signing up with the new ISP.

This means I will be devoid of any Internet access for probably about 2-3 weeks as the cancellation goes through (up to 5 working days, I’m told) and then my new ISP can submit the new connection request which will take up to 15 days to process — all because of PlusNet’s general level of incompetence at dealing with my request for a MAC Key.

This says nothing of the number of connection issues that have continued to plague PlusNet in recent months. I realise that some things are outside of PlusNet’s control – such has power outages in Telehouse in London’s Docklands, but PlusNet should have had contingencies in place. PlusNet’s RADIUS and DNS servers should have been geographically disperse so that they could failover to a DR location in the case of such an event.

As a consequence of all this, my saga with PlusNet is now a source of amusement amongst my family, friends and work colleagues. Almost every day my tales about either the lack of response to my service calls or lack of Internet connectivity leaves them rolling in the aisles. Almost everyone I know is now wary of dealing with PlusNet as are many others.’s forums are littered with people complaining about the same problems that I’m experiencing. Whilst this is a small comfort to myself – I am sure PlusNet’s investors must be (or, at least, SHOULD be) very worried.

I am almost certain that my complaint(s) will fall upon deaf ears but I wanted to at least try to make someone of influence aware of the issues within PlusNet.

Yours respectfully,

Scott Wallace.

(PlusNet user ID: ********)

PlusNet are dead! Long live Demon!

After writing a long email to PlusNet's board of directors and complaining about their lack of competence and support, they phoned me and tried to sort out my problems.

They offered to cancel my cancellation and attempt to work with me and my new ISP to get me transferred, seamlessly, using MAC Keys.

Unfortunately the cancellation had gone in to their provider, Tiscali, ahead of schedule and I had already been disconnected.

So I let Demon know that the phone line should be clear of any ADSL and that they could proceed with their installation. They quickly confirmed that the line was clean and that my installation request had been put through to BT.

Within 2 days I was online.

Demon are prompt, their support is brilliant, the connectivity is fast and extremely reliable. If anyone is using PlusNet and reading this - I urge you to switch ISPs.

PlusNet are truly hopeless.


It's been a while since my last blog.

Nothing too exciting has happened but I will let you know about some quality entertainment that passed my way recently.

First, for Craig's birthday, we went out to see Blue Man Group. One word: fantastic. The whole show from start to finish was really good and when the end came I was left wanting more. From what I saw, each show would be slightly different but I won't say too much more just in case I spoil it for someone. Awesome music - a bit like Simple Minds meets Mike Oldfield. There are some great special effects too.

The second is Severance. An extremely good mix of thriller/horror and comedy. It was filmed in Hungary and probably on a low budget but I think that's what made the movie so good. Definitely one for the boys.

Tonight, Katie and I are off to see Right at your door. It hasn't had great reviews but I've always found myself at odds with reviewers' opinions anyway. We'll see!

Update: It wasn't very good.

Wednesday 23 August 2006

Medically fit!

I had my BUPA Wellness full medical checkup this morning and it turns out that I'm in excellent health. Always a bonus considering my 30th birthday is just around the corner. Highlights include:
  • 9.6% body fat
  • Low bad cholesterol
  • High good cholesterol
  • 110% lung efficiency
Hearing and vision also 100% - which is weird considering I spend most of my day in front of the computer screen.

Friday 18 August 2006

PlusNet suck

Well, PlusNet still haven't been able to provide me with a MAC Key.

They finally replied to my repeated queries for an update stating it takes 7 days to provide a MAC Key. Considering the request went in on the 24th of July, I'd say it has been long enough.

Demon patiently await my MAC Key so I can move to their cheaper, non-capped service. The icing on the cake, of course, is that PlusNet were down again yesterday for most of the day due to a power outage in London's Telehouse in the Docklands.

Puh-lease. Have these people not heard of DR? Geographically disperse DNS, RADIUS servers, etc?

If we tried to run a nation-wide ISP without DR and something like this happened, heads would roll.

Sunday 13 August 2006

Corn Fritters

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 tspn baking powder
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ tspn salt
  • ½ tspn paprika
  • 2 cups sweetcorn
Mix everything together, except the corn, into a mixing bowl and whisk to a batter.

Add the corn and mix.

Heat a frying pan with a little oil and fry tablespoons of the batter mix.

Wednesday 9 August 2006


Whilst cycling into work this morning, I swerved to avoid a van changing lanes when my backpack got caught on the back of a stationary truck.

The bike kept going, but I stayed where I was.

My ankles somehow dragged over the gears on the bike and I've got a few cuts. :(

Monday 7 August 2006

F-Spot + Gallery2 = Photos!

I've installed f-spot on FC5 and installed Gallery2 on the site.

G2 integrates nicely with Drupal and f-spot has a plugin which allows seamless uploads and album management. Good combo.

Previously, I tried Digikam with the Kipi plugin pack which worked but wasn't nice as f-spot.

Wednesday 2 August 2006

Bulk image uploader

I've added a bulk image uploader (Drupal's image_import module).

So expect to see the photos from the original site to slowly make their way onto the Drupal version.

Update: This didn't really work too well with Digikam as it wouldn't allow nested albums.


This basic program simply prints out the current UTS (Universal Time Stamp).

If given an argument, it is assumed that is is a valid UTS value. It will convert that value into a human readable format.

#include <stdio.h>
#include <time.h>

int main(int argc, char **argv)
time_t uts;
if (argc < 1) {
/* Arugument supplied. Convert it to a human-readable time and date */
uts = atol(argv[1]);
printf("%s", ctime(&uts));
} else {
/* No arugument supplied. Print the number of seconds since Epoch. */
printf("%d", uts);

return 0;


MultiSeek was my first (and only) multi-threaded program.

It stemmed from a competition set by a close friend of mine.

I was living away from home back in '97 and was trying to understand multi-threaded applications. He bet me that I couldn't write something by the end of week. I couldn't and failed. But I did eventually get something out.

The hardest part was having something to write.

[Additional note: this is before markup progressed to the likes of XML and web-APIs were only in their infancy.]

Eventually this mess that looks kinda like code, below, will be commented and cleaned up. It's mainly here because I wrote it ages ago and seems like such a waste to throw away.

Update: This code has been taken, cleaned-up and been made real pretty. See it on:

Ricotta pancakes with warm sugared strawberries

Sugared strawberries
  • 500g strawberries, halved
  • 75g sugar
  • 250g ricotta
  • 15g sugar
  • nutmeg
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 50g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 30g butter
Heat the strawberries and sugar together in a saucepan over a low heat. Stir occassionally. The strawberries should release their juice. Let cool whilst preparing the rest.

Whisk ricotta, nutmeg, egg yolks, and 15g sugar in a large bowl. Then whisk in the flour with the pinch of salt.

Whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until they form stiff peaks. Fold into the ricotta mixture using a cutting motion with a metal spoon.

Heat 10g of butter in a frying pan over a medium-low heat (30-40%). Drop three large spoonfuls of the mixture in the frying pan. Cook for about 2 mins per side. (or until golden brown). Repeat for the remaining mixture.

Quickly reheat the strawberries and serve warm over the pancakes.

Szilvas Gomboc / Hungarian Plum Dumplings

  • 2½ dozen Italian plums split & pitted
  • 4 or 5 medium potatoes
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • buttered breadcrumbs
  • sugar
  • cinnamon
Peel potatoes and cook in salted water till soft. Drain.

Mash potatoes and add warm to sifted flour and salt on a kneading surface.

Make a well and add egg and knead gently till all is blended.

On a clean floured surface, roll dough out to ½ inch thick. Cut dough into 4 inch squares and put a plum into center of each square. Place ½ tsp. sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon in the hole of the plum.

Fold corners to the middle and roll the dumpling in your hands till round.

Cook a few dumplings at a time in salted water for about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.

Place in a pan in which bread crumbs have been toasted in butter (one cup crumbs to ¼ cup butter) and mixed with ½ cup of sugar and 2 tsp. cinnamon.

Keep warm. When all the dumplings have been cooked and are in the pan, gently spoon the breadcrumbs, butter, sugar and cinnamon mix over all.

Serve warm with bread crumb topping and a dollop of sour cream if desired.

Chocolate Pudding


  • ¾ cup self raising flour (3oz/85g)
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  • 1½ tspn instant coffee
  • pinch of salt
  • 4oz butter/marg (115g)
  • ⅔ cup caster sugar (4oz/115g)
  • 2 eggs (slightly beaten)
  • 1 tspn vanilla essence
  • 1-2 tbsp milk
Sift the flour, cocoa, coffee and salt together into a large mixing bowl.

Cream the butter and sugar and gradually add eggs and vanilla along with a little of the dry mixture.

Fold in the rest of the dry mixture and milk and stir until it is at a fairly soft consistancy.

Pour into an oven dish.

  • ⅔ cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
  • 1 tbsp cocoa
  • 1 cup hot water
Mix the cocoa and brown sugar into a bowl and stir in the hot water and mix until smooth.

Pour onto the sponge mix over the back of a spoon (so as not to create a hole in the middle of the sponge mixture).

Bake for 40 minutes at 190°C.

Pasta a la Kata

  • Spaghetti/Fettucini - al dente
  • Avacado & Yoghurt - blended
  • Sunblush tomatoes
  • Lemon juice
  • Roast courgettes - sliced
  • Roast garlic - whole cloves (not bulbs!)

Tuesday 1 August 2006

Bookclub Salad

  • Mixed salad/lettuce
  • Cous-cous - pre-cooked
  • Sunblushed tomatoes
  • Feta cheese - cubed
  • Avacado - sliced
  • Lemon juice
  • Balsamic vinegar - a light drizzle
  • Red wine vinegar - a light drizzle
  • Olive Oil
  • Sesame seeds


So I've decided to try and get Drupal up and running and into live.

Just read the Drupal basics to familiarise myself with it all and, well, here it is.

I'll add some more modules and things to try and re-create what I already have in the existing site.

Once done, I'll be making it fully live.