5 glorious years of Linux

Wow… I’m just going through some old stuff, folders, notebooks etc. in my office and I discovered some notes from my first attempt to install Linux. The date? 26th August 1999. Crikey, there’s nostalgia. I was working at STS, and had been trapped in Windows Programming Hell since leaving university (in fact, the first few years were DOS Programming Hell, but that’s another story). Knowing there was more to life than this, I bought a terribly underspecced used PC and downloaded Debian (it was Slink, I think). I didn’t do anything useful with it, but it gave me enough knowledge & enthusiasm to land a Linux programming/sysadmin job with Frontier a few months later.

Five years on, I’m back in academia, and Unix is my bread and butter. These days I use gentoo, and I’m thinking it’s about time I gave one of the BSDs a shot, but Debian will always have a special place in my heart, as my first step towards freedom… ;-)


BCTCS 21 – Will’s Pictures

Will’s photos from BCTCS 2005 are now online, and as predicted (and predicated), much better than mine.

Screen cleaner

Screen cleaner [faron].

Python vs PHP

A “python vs PHP” thread on comp.lang.python.

CASL on Slashdot – kinda

Wow… CASL gets mentioned on Slashdot, albeit in a comment attached to a predictably religious thread on commenting your code.

Post a secret

Post a secret – another secrets confession site, but this time with postcards, some beautiful, some funny, mostly touching.

Wow – great story, wonder if it’s true.

You and your research

You and Your Research by Richard Hamming – I should read this [lambda].

CS-238 students take note: this is Hamming as in Hamming Distance, Hamming Single Bit Code, etc.

Update 2005-05-02: Yep, read it, very inspiring and intersting.

I notice that if you have the door to your office closed, you get more work done today and tomorrow, and you are more productive than most. But 10 years later somehow you don’t know quite know what problems are worth working on; all the hard work you do is sort of tangential in importance. He who works with the door open gets all kinds of interruptions, but he also occasionally gets clues as to what the world is and what might be important. Now I cannot prove the cause and effect sequence because you might say, “The closed door is symbolic of a closed mind.” I don’t know. But I can say there is a pretty good correlation between those who work with the doors open and those who ultimately do important things, although people who work with doors closed often work harder. Somehow they seem to work on slightly the wrong thing – not much, but enough that they miss fame.

DHTML/Javascript calendar

Linked for my pleasure, a DHTML/JavaScript Calendar [smallcool].

Classroom Chaos

Who would want to teach in a UK school today? [robot]. Channel Five documentary on Wednesday…

‘The way teachers’ authority has been eroded is key,’ she said. ‘It is not simply that there is no respect for teachers or authority but that the children are actually in control of the schools. They own them and the teachers have no power to take that control back.’

Thomas illustrates her point with an incident when a boy walked out of her class during a lesson. ‘If I tried to stop him leaving by taking his arm, it would have been his word against mine that I hadn’t abused him and I would be suspended while the incident was investigated, which could take three years. My name would be in the local press and my reputation as a teacher would be destroyed. The children are very worldly-wise: they know they have this power.’

The Mentat Wiki

Mentat Wiki – “exploring ways to become a better thinker” [43folders]. Looks like a treasure trove of mental mental stuff.

Continuations for Curmudgeons

Continuations for Curmudgeons [lambda].

Reading by the light of the palm

For reading text documents on my shiny newly-acquired Palm Tungsten C, CSpotRun, which seems really good, and notes/utility for converting to the right format.

Also, Coldsync Conduits, for syncing from Unix.

Using OS X as an NFS Client

For my future reference, Using OS X as an NFS Client.

Context Free Design Grammar

Context Free Design Grammar and some very pretty pictures [lambda].


… and bowl ye with nuns [rivets].

Cheap Broadband vs the ISPs in the US of A

Strange things apparently happening with broadband provision in the Land Of The Free – ISPs and monopoly interests buying legislation to prevent cheap local community wireless networks undercutting them [robot].

Interesting, isn’t it…? If market forces were the only factors at play here, the telcos and ISPs would be losing this battle. But instead, the market is self aware, and sufficiently successful companies can modify the environment in which they must operate. Time to ask again, if aliens arrived tomorrow, what would they consider to be the dominant life form on the planet? People? Cars? Or companies?

NetworkX – “complex networks”, ie graphs, in Python.

NetworkX — graph creation, manipulation, rendering, and other funky stuff in Python. Looks like a nice toolkit for working with graphs, basically. Check the screenshots for “mmmm” and tutorial for “ooooh”.

(By the way, this is graphs in the “nodes and edges” sense, not the “plot y vs x” sense, for which, see gnuplot/gnuplot.py or (looks much better!) the pure python and very funkilicious matplotlib.)

Pictures of Walls

www.picturesofwalls.com – in fact seems to be mainly concerned with graffiti on walls rather than just being pictures of the walls themselves, which I found slightly disappointing; gladly, the graffiti is good [rivets].


Python course in Bioinformatics

Python course in Bioinformatics – an introduction to Python and Biopython with biological examples.

Welcome back to Beijing, Mr Gimblett

In November 2001, I went to China and walked on the Great Wall. On Easter Saturday this year, I flew out there again, to spend a week visiting Universities telling the students there that Computer Science in Swansea rocks, which of course it does.

It was a very busy trip: lots of travelling, lots of public speaking, lots of meeting Important People, and lots and lots of Chinese food – w00t. Donkey was eaten at one point. Specifically, it was the donkey from Shrek. Very tasty, and my chopstick fu is now at level five.

It was very much a Work trip; there wasn’t much time for sightseeing or recreation, but we squeezed in a bit: on the Sunday we arrived, we saw the Summer Palace and the China National Acrobatic Circus, and on the last day I was taken to the Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan, which I’d highly recommend if only for the chance to make a huge bell go CLONNNNGGGGGG!

I took 350 photos, the best 94 of which are here. And here are my personal faves:

Breakfast in Cardiff Help protect the railings Dr Wu, Jenny, and Qu Bo Headless Buddha Post lecture, getting some air The flag of the People's Republic of China Architecture in Wuhan Brazen Sage, close up The many roofs of the Yellow Crane Tower Cranes Li Jing rings the luck bell Part of Sweden Skanör, Sweden Welcome back


Via Will, a Guardian article on Hans-Joachim Roedelius, one time Cluster member and jamming buddy of His Enoship. Having spent this morning lounging in bed soaking up Music For Airports and Neroli as I lounged around in bed this morning, this is all very timely. I haven’t heard any Cluster, but may have to now.

Update 2005-04-10: Just in case the reader missed it, I was lounging around in bed yesterday morning.

Another good reason not to vote Labour

It was nice to see that the government’s plans for ID cards have been dropped, but if you want another reason not to vote Labour, it’s that they plan to reintroduce the plans should (when?) they win the election in May.

It’s not that I’m ideologically opposed to ID cards: in an ideal world, yes, they’d be a good thing and ordinary people would have nothing to fear. However, this is not an ideal world, and I have zero faith in the government’s ability to implement them properly. The IT infrastructure will be critical and as identify fraud becomes more and more popular, a single ID card is an obvious target. The UK has an appalling track record when it comes to large public sector IT projects – whether developed in-house or outsourced to the so-called experts, who then deliver late, over budget, or not at all. It’s just a recipe for disaster.

But don’t believe me: believe the London School Of Economics [schneier].

The Report concludes that the establishment of a secure national identity system has the potential to create significant, though limited, benefits for society. However, the proposals currently being considered by Parliament are neither safe nor appropriate. There was an overwhelming view expressed by stakeholders involved in this Report that the proposals are too complex, technically unsafe, overly prescriptive and lack a foundation of public trust and confidence. The current proposals miss key opportunities to establish a secure, trusted and cost-effective identity system and the Report therefore considers alternative models for an identity card scheme that may achieve the goals of the legislation more effectively. The concept of a national identity system is supportable, but the current proposals are not feasible.

Brian says: vote Lib Dem

Lib Dem This Time – Brian Eno argues (as he has for the last ten years) that it’s time for the Lib Dems to take over from the Conservatives as the opposition in the UK.

Powered by Mambo, I note.

Smile – not actually the internet back after all

How can Smile call themselves “The Internet Bank” but not provide any facility for downloading electronic copies of your statements?

In fact, even worse, the statements don’t even have a running balance on them, and old statements have a different format from the latest statement!

Yes, I’ve complained about this to them. They said thanks. Bet it doesn’t change by the end of the year…

tinyurl considered harmful

Interesting observation: tinyurl considered harmful, at least if you care about URL-based phising attacks.

I’m a little late on the uptake here – didn’t read RISKS while at BCTCS or in China.

Communication skills for email

Essential email communication skills [bash].

You smell lovely, gimbo

you_smell.py, and other programming for kids links [python-daily].

What the World Bank is for

What the World Bank is for and why Wolfowitz is the natural choice to head it. [robot]