All the girls love me ‘cos I’m so depressed; also I have oil.

After graduation, Seyhan decided he’d had enough of computers, and moved into haulage:

Trucker Seyhan thumbnail

(Photo by Bash on Fabian Way, apparently.)

Click survey

Click survey – cool.

Searching for symbols via Google is hard

Hokay. Google is without a doubt the single most useful and successful tool ont’Internet, a marvellous success story and something most of us would miss deeply until the happy day it’s superseded by something Even Better. It’s fast, it’s got a nice simple interface, and most of the time it “just works” and gives you what you want.

Unfortunately, some of the time, it really doesn’t “just work” (for me, at least) and in an apparently non-fixable way. I usually hit this when I’m doing programming-related searches.

Read the rest of this entry »

Unity 10th Birthday Party this Friday

This Friday (28th July 2006), there will be an evening of “Uplifting Dance Music” (what Julie and Heather used to call “bleepy shit”) in Swansea, to which you should come.

It’s the 10th anniversary of the very first outing of the classic Swansea dance night Unity, which stopped running several years ago (certainly before I came to Swansea). I understand it will be something of a reunion of lots of people who were involved over the years, so it ought to be quite good fun.

It’s at “The Inferno” (above Blockbuster Video in Uplands), running from 9pm to 1am; admission is 4 quid (2 quid before 10pm). “Dress extravagantly”, the flier says. It’s being organised by Geraint, the man who first drew me to Swansea so many years ago in order to twiddle knobs on synths and make bleepy thumpy things happen.

Maybe see you there…

(Apologies for short notice; I’ve been meaning to blog this for ages… Wanted to scan the flier but don’t have access to a scanner and didn’t sort it out. Bah.)

Fake IDs save lives in Iraq

Fake IDs save lives in Iraq [schneier].

… Iraqis are using fake IDs in light of the recent growth in sectarian killings. The major groups in Iraq are not distinguishable by physical traits, but they are by name. To avoid being killed, people are getting false identification cards: Surnames refer to tribe and clan, while first names are often chosen to honor historical figures revered by one sect but sometimes despised by the other. For about $35, someone with a common Sunni name like Omar could become Abdul-Mahdi, a Shiite name that might provide safe passage through dangerous areas.

Of course, I’m not suggesting this is an argument against having ID cards here in the UK, at least unless Welsh-English tensions get seriously worse. I did once pretend to be Welsh in the face of some extreme hostility, mind – but the drunk Welsh rugby wanker in question didn’t demand my ID card at gunpoint, so…

wmii FreeBSD and xmms plugins (in ruby)

A few days ago I started using wmii, with Mauricio Fernandez’ ruby scripting magic, and oh it’s fun.

The status bar monitors that come in Mauricio’s code don’t work for me, however, because I’m running FreeBSD not Linux, and things like uptime and battery status get report differently. Also, there wasn’t any xmms control/monitoring. I have now fixed both of these problems, and invite others to partake of the goodness.

So: – a ruby/wmii plugin defining status bar monitors which work under FreeBSD.

And: – a ruby/wmii plugin defining an xmms status bar monitor, and some key bindings for simple control of xmms (play/pause; next; previous; forward 5 secs; back 5 secs; toggle shuffle; er, that’s it).

Status bar screenshot:

ruby wmii freebsd/xmms status bar monitors

From left to right: xmms monitor displaying track name, time elapsed, shuffle status (“>” is normal, “@” is shuffle); current master volume; the “-N-” is a standard plugin so I say nothing here; temperature and CPU speed; load averages; uptime (h:mm); battery status and time remaining; date/time.

Comments, suggestions, bugfixes, criticisms of my appalling ruby code all welcome.

Gird your mighty torso with amusing images!

All the t-shirts I will ever need are at threadless. And if they aren’t, I can submit my own designs and have them voted on. Quality.

Courtesy of DaveA, sporting the rather marvellous Heroes In An Art-Shell yesterday.

Shame they’re in America. Why isn’t there anything like this (or CafePress) but based in the UK? (At least, there wasn’t the last time I looked – is there now?) Seriously though, I could spend a lot of dollars here. If I had any. :-)

I want: Follow_It, Bear Hug, Who F*cking Cares?, Satan’s Little Helper, Bonsai Gardener, The Motive, Kabuki Fish, You Sank My Battleship, Rocketbird, Cheese, Zombie Donkey, Damn Scientists.

Web hosting: Nearly Free Speech

Interesting: provide (US-based) web hosting on a pay-for-usage basis. $1.00 per gigabyte transferred, and $0.01 per megabyte-month of disk storage.

Gimboland currently consists of about 200MB of storage, and about 1.5GB per month bandwidth (somehow!). So that’d be about $3.50 per month. Not bad.

OTOH I’m only paying $11.95 per month now, which with the current exchange rate is still fairly peanuts. Plus I get to pay by direct debit, which don’t seem to support. I’ve been pretty happy with webquarry‘s hosting, so I’m in no hurry to jump ship for the sake of a couple of quid per month. I may yet change my mind about this, however.

Anyway, in the meantime, maybe someone else will find this interesting/useful…?

Let’s groove!

This coming Saturday sees my glorious musical return to Aberavon, scene of my first (now legendary) gig, oh so many years ago.

This time round there won’t be any bleep or samples, but there will still be plenty of thumping drums – I’ll be there as part of drum troupe Shiko, laying down some African rhythms for the delectation of the good folk at the Sandfields Aberavon Beach Festival.

We’ll be playing at 1pm. Come and see! And hear!

The Politics of Paranoia and Intimidation

Great stuff. Bayes’ Theory applied to explain why one key “common sense” facet of the USA’s “war on terror” is a waste of time and money, at least for its stated purpose. [schneier]

If the following paragraph doesn’t cause you to nod knowingly, you really should read the whole article. (BTW, I’ve changed the figures to percentages, for enhanced legibility by non mathematicians).

Suppose that NSA’s system is really, really, really good, really, really good, with an accuracy rate of 90%, and a misidentification rate of .001%, which means that only 3,000 innocent people are misidentified as terrorists. With these suppositions, then the probability that people are terrorists given that NSA’s system of surveillance identifies them as terrorists is only 23%, which is far from 100% and well below flipping a coin. NSA’s domestic monitoring of everyone’s email and phone calls is useless for finding terrorists.

This kind of result is often very suprising and non-intuitive, and hence important. When reality diverges from “common sense”, we need to understand why, so we can explain it to people who like to trust “common sense” in their decision making processes (eg Daily Mail readers ;-) ). This kind of result crops up all over the place… I first came across it in the context of medical diagnosis, where it basically explains why misdiagnosis happens so often. Quite simply, the numbers are just stacked against us. There’s nothing we can do about it – we just have to understand what’s happening and get on with it.

Free at last

Our ex-landlords finally returned our £725 deposit last week, over six months after we moved out of the house (moved out 22nd Feb, cheque dated 27th June, received 3rd July). Five months! Nearly six! There’s no excuse for that kind of behaviour.

They were never particularly responsive or helpful landlords. For the entire time we lived in the house there were problems with the shower and bath, and it was a constant battle to get them to act: repeated phone calls and letters, constant chasing, long waits. When when they did act, the job never got done properly – the shower was still not usable when we moved out. (More moaning on this topic here.) The only time they leapt into action was when the rent was a week late because I was changing the account it originated from – we sure heard from them quick then.

So, farebadly, greedy fools – it’s good to be shot of you.

Update December 2006: the house stood empty from February until December, and has only now been reoccupied. That’s about six grand in lost rent they could have had from us if they’d been less greedy and more on the ball. Righteous.

wmii is better than ion

In August 2002, I started using ion as my window manager (and last year, upgraded to ion3). Today, I stopped using it.

ion beats the crap out of conventional window managers: placing and resizing windows is so tedious (not to mention 20th century ;-) ). It’s lightweight, maximises screen real estate, and has great keyboard support, all of which appeal to me. Until today, I’d have recommended it to anybody.

I did, however, have the following problems with ion: 1) Lua: yick and oh my god, yuck. What an awful language, but you’re stuck with it for configuration/control. 2) The documentation: there, but not very helpful. Too referencey, too automatically produced. 3) Tuomo (the author): sorry, but that is one surly gringo, and heaven help you if you disagree with him. None of these are killers (except maybe lua), but they’re the reasons I’m happy to leave ion behind.

Thus, introducing wmii, which is superficially similar to ion but has a number of features which really set it apart. The most important is its Plan9-inspired approach to control, which allows any language for configuration. You know what’s coming next? Ah yes, we can configure & control wmii using ruby [via the immortal _why].

There are other good reasons to use wmii, but that one is probably sufficient for me – and it speaks of a thoughtful and open design which can only bode well. The wmii codebase really is tiny, by the way – it compiled in no time at all. I started using it this afternoon and I don’t see any reason to stop: it’s easy enough to pick up, although I’ll be tweaking the config for the next week or so. Using Ruby – w00t!

The tide was in and no-one was home (cos they were on the beach anyway)

I’m pleased to report that Bash’s Budget Birthday Beachparty Bonanza went rather well. A few no-shows, but a respectable picnic, some kite-flying (complete with little girls gleefully chasing the tail as I trailed it before them with my l33t k1t3 skills), four of us swimming (not so cold, and big big waves), and a brief panic over a not-actually-lost wedding ring. Apres ca, back to ours for Dr Who (ooh, what a tearjerker) and an evening of nibbly chatty goodness. Today is relaxation day – watching Michael Palin and fiddling with wmii, of which, more shortly…

Best. Invite. Ever.

This Friday is Bash’s birthday. On Saturday we’re celebrating by going to the beach: Langland Bay, just round the corner from Mumbles. We’ll be there from about 4pm onwards. Anybody reading this is invited, and so are their friends.

More details and a link to a map may be found in the fabulous invite which Bash made using Mac Magic yesterday:

Bash's birthday party invite (PDF, 36KB)