The Open Rights Group needs you!

Living in Britain? Give a monkey about civil rights? Give a monkey about civil rights in a digital age? Me too.

Get over to pledgebank and pledge a fiver a month to fund The Open Rights Group, then. Yes you can afford it, and yes it’s worth it.

Or at the very least, read this to find out why you might want to do such a thing.

Message ends.

The Feynman Lectures on Physics

The Feynman Lectures on Physics – PDF notes on all the lectures and mp3s for most of them. Gigabytes of data, however…

Update 2006-10-07: looks like that’s now a dead like. I guess the copyright police wrote a threatening email, or something. Ah well…

Python Browser Poseur

Python Browser Posuer (formerly “Python Browser Probe”):

… exposes browser functionality at the level of a shell-like interpreter so that testers can quickly write tests in a simple language designed specifically for that purpose. Anyone familiar with a command line should be able to write test scripts for even the most complex web applications with PBP.

Handy. Other approaches to this problem exist and will be blogged about when I can be bothered to try them out (as will this, further). For now, a bookmark.

Perhaps I’m just getting bored with it at last…

A month of silence. What have I been doing?

The Linux 2005 conference showed me two things very clearly.

One, I needed my own laptop. I’d been limping along using a departmental Windows laptop shared with another tutor, but I knew that wasn’t going to fly this year because it was tricky enough last year, and our teaching loads have both increased since then. Sitting in a room full of Unix geeks listening to talks about Unix while typing on a Windows laptop made me feel dirty – time to break free.

Two, Linux is getting very messy – maybe it’s time to give the BSDs a try. Another good reason for this is the security module I’m teaching this year – part of that’s gonna cover OpenBSD and the like, so…

Result: one second-hand Dell C600 from eBay, a new battery, a new big hard drive, FreeBSD 6.0 beta 4, and lots and lots of learning. It’s taken a while to get up and running, and the process hasn’t been helped by having to return the hard drive ‘cos it was riddled with errors (but I learnt about SMART, so that was good), and it hasn’t been helped by the metal pins in the right-hand hinge of the laptop screen shearing, necessitating the purchase of a replacement “screen backing” (but I learnt about lapop repair, and how easy it is in this modular age, with the right instructions at least, so that was good too, ultimately).

It’s been fun, but for some reason I haven’t felt in the least like blogging throughout the whole episode. You’d think this would be ideal technical blog fodder wouldn’t you…? Imagine, a whole month of “OK, so video was crashing the laptop hard every time I started vlc, but I spoke to TR and he suggested I use the VESA driver instead of the ATI one and that’s completely fixed it – w00t”. That would have been exciting, wouldn’t it? Well, arguably yes, and arguably it would have helped other people with this same laptop when they installed FreeBSD in the future. Maybe I’ll summarise my experience sometime – discharge my public duty that way. Or maybe not.

Anyway, for whatever reason I was more focussed on actually doing the job than writing about it. I think I’ve also been feeling a bit less like blogging because it’s been suggested to me that the words I write here are not my own; that I only echo others’ thoughts and sentiments without truly reflecting myself. That’s possibly true. Perhaps I don’t want to truly reflect myself in public. I started this blog long enough ago to predate the blogging explosion, and its primary purpose was (and remains) “a big list of links I don’t want cluttering my browser bookmarks”. Any ranting or diarising included was incidental (though yes, there’s been more as time’s moved on). But these days a blog is seen as something more than that, a window on the writer. Having this pointed out to me, that through my window it looked like I had no thoughts of my own, has disturbed me, and I’m not sure how much I want to play. This has certainly influenced my recent quietness. Whether the outcome will be more or less (zero?) opinionating in the future, I don’t yet know.

Having said that, I’m going to give one short, informed, and genuinely “mine” opinion: BSD is very nice indeed. Linux has been feeling increasingly cluttered and messy to me, and FreeBSD (on the laptop) and OpenBSD (on another box which I’m using for various things) are undeniably both clean and coherent in a way Linux never has been and probably never will be. I’m enjoying that. And I haven’t, so far, found anything I can’t do with this system that I could with a Linux distro (or would want to, anyway). Thus, and in summary: It’s good to have finally made the switch.