Friday Apr 15, 2005

WindowMaker Prefs

For some reason the Windowmaker install I installed from doesn't have the preference application available in the menu. If you have the same problem you can find the binary here


And from there you can add Wprefs to the menu if you want. I had a hard time finding this out, since everything I googled for 'windowmaker menu' returned data about wmprefs

Friday Apr 08, 2005

Windowmaker on S10 x86

So, a bunch of us were bitching about the bloat and slowness of GNOME - and before you spam me, personally I find GNOME bloated and slow. It's my opinion, and I'm entitled to it. Anyhow, I decided to do something about it, and install Windowmaker and see how it compared.

As it turned out, this was a lot simpler than I imagined. FYI, here's how I did it....

1) Go to blastwave and download the pkg-get application. Install it on your workstation using pkgadd.
2) Edit your /etc/pkg-get.conf appropriately. By default it will look to, which gets very busy. I changed mine as below. Add in your proxy server if required.

# See for other mirrors

# North american site for CSW packages, instead of sunfreeware ones
3) Run the pkg-get binary, to get a catalog. ./pkg-get -U My binary is in /opt/csw/bin
4) Type pkg-get -i windowmaker The pkg-get magic, automatically gets all the required packages for you and installs in the right order.
5) Once finished you'll want to have Windowmaker appear in the list of available window managers at the desktop login screen.
6) Simply follow this script, you can directly cut and paste the text files linked off of the page.
7) Logout of your existing window manager, and login under windowmaker.

That's it.

Grand National on Solaris

Those in the UK will probably know that it's the Grand National tomorrow. FWIW. According to, the online bookmaker BlueSquare BlueSquare is running Solaris 9. Glad I'm not on-call.

Thursday Apr 07, 2005

Truss is easily fooled.

Was talking to Tim U about an Oracle TNSlistener problem that we had a timestamped truss for. It turns out that that I'd misunderstood the timestamps, and I suspect I'm not the only one. Tim has a concise explanation in his blog, but since I like to see this stuff in action (Ruth tells me this makes me a Kinesthetic learner) here is a simple example. We have a short program that does an open/close, then a big loop doing arithmetic in userland and then another open/close.

int  main()
 int c,d,i,x;

 int \*ptr;
 for (i=0;i<9999999;i++)
  for (i=0;i<99999999;i++)



The resulting truss shows that the second 'open()' took over one second, to open the same file which previously took <10 msec truss -Dd
 0.0183  0.0002 setustack(0xFF3A2088)
 0.0193  0.0010 open(".", O_RDONLY)                             = 3
 0.0198  0.0005 close(3)                                        = 0
 1.5498  1.5300 open(".", O_RDONLY)                             = 3
 1.5503  0.0005 close(3)                                        = 0
 1.5511  0.0008 _exit(0)
In reality the time was spent in userland doing the large loop, but all we see in truss -Dd is the time between the last close and the next open. By changing the loops to be smaller we change the output thus:
 0.0168  0.0002 setustack(0xFF3A2088)
 0.0177  0.0009 open(".", O_RDONLY)                             = 3
 0.0182  0.0005 close(3)                                        = 0
 0.0194  0.0012 open(".", O_RDONLY)                             = 3
 0.0199  0.0005 close(3)                                        = 0
 0.0203  0.0004 _exit(0)
Prior to Solaris 10, there's not much that can be done about that, but being aware of how truss calculates the values is at least a start. With Solaris 10, and -E option we get a much better representation of what's going on. truss -Ed

 0.0243  0.0001 setustack(0xFF3A2088)
 0.0254  0.0004 open(".", O_RDONLY)                             = 3
 0.0266  0.0000 close(3)                                        = 0
 1.6171  0.0004 open(".", O_RDONLY)                             = 3
 1.6178  0.0000 close(3)                                        = 0
 1.6184  0.0000 _exit(0)

Wednesday Apr 06, 2005


Spend an hour watching one of googles eggheads talk about the innards of the worlds favourite search engine here, grab a cuppa and a stale hot-cross-bun, relax and be educated. Talking of google, just checking the refers to this blog, shows that right now Google is the internet. I reckon there's a good book to be written on how Altavista managed to blow it so badly. The remaining legacy seems to be astalavista the similarly named 'security' related search engine.

Erins first bike ride.

We took this movie of Erin learning to ride her bike this weekend. Taken using movie mode on our Ixus V. It's in Windows media format, and seems to play best in the native media player. Erins first bike ride

Wednesday Mar 16, 2005

GNOME login problems.

Having just started using Solaris10 on my laptop, it turns out that there is a bit of a problem with logging into GNOME that may be related to using variable hostnames (e.g. using DHCP) The symptom is that logging in to GNOME will result in a black screen with the timer icon which never goes away. Logging in via CDE, or failsafe works fine. To resolve the problem, remove the GNOME session files from /var/tmp, then change $TMPDIR to be /tmp so that the files will be removed on boot (/tmp on solaris is mounted on tmpfs - i.e. swap) The files concearned have this sort of signature. drwx------ 3 gjl other 512 Feb 24 09:21 gconfd-gjl srwxr-xr-x 1 gjl other 0 Feb 24 11:31 mapping-gjl drwx------ 2 gjl other 1536 Feb 24 14:18 orbit-gjl I had no problem removing these files when logged in to CDE or failsafe, YMMV.

Tuesday Mar 01, 2005

Scammed on ebay

I tried to sell my record decks on Ebay (2 x Technics 1210's from my days as a raver) The winning 'bidder' then sent this highly suspicious email..
  I am happy to buy this item from you that i saw on
ebay.however, it look great and I 'm interested in
purchasing it.Concerning the shipment,my shipper will
come and pick it up from your location as soon as we
seal this transaction. A client of mine in uk is owing
me some funds (£3,800)and i have inform him about this
transaction and i will instruct him to issue the
cashier cheque in your name and once the cheque clear
in your account you will deduct the cost of the
(2x Technics 1210 MkII Deconomix console, 100
records}{£410.00}and icompensate you £50 with your 
money and you will send my remaining balance to my
Shipper via western union money transfer for immediate
shipping arrangment. If this is okay with you do get
back to me immediately with your
information as listed below for me to instruct my
client to issue the
cashier cheque in your name.Hope to hear from you

Best regards, 

A quick check on the bidder's ID showed that this 'person' had tried it on with several folks. And is now barred But as another person put it, doing any sort of business on ebay is getting harder and harder.

Thursday Feb 24, 2005

symphony for dot matrix printers

As heard on BBC Radio6 this Sunday whilst doing the washing up. It really is a piece of music made with dot marix printers. Probably, a lot, LOT better than you would think, which admittedly probably isn't much. Hard to draw a comparison - the world of impact-based hard-copy musicians is notoriously insular. Anyway check it out here

Tuesday Feb 22, 2005

South Ken to North Camp

I found this great recipe for Grilled Lobster tails last week, I cooked it for Ruth on valentines day, and though I say it myself it was pretty impressive. My tip, though it's obvious now is to put the lobster tail flesh side down when you cut it in half, and make sure you use a really sharp knife. On Tuesday we went to the Science Museum which is where the South Ken part comes into the equation. We took Erin since it was half term, and had a great time. Definately check out the new Welcome Wing, very cool indeed with loads of interactive stuff, and a family favourite which is the sort of groovy sound sculptures that encourage you to prance about like your in a sixth form drama class trying to be an ancient Oak tree.... or something. Oh, before that we went to Thai Square restaurant for lunch. £8.95 for a set meal, was very reasonable considering the location, nothing too special but filling and relaxing having come into town from Guildford. So, after an afternoon of culture we had to go and check out the Krispy Kremes at Harrods. I was expecting a few doughnuts on the deli, but they have a whole section, done up like one of the speciality Krispy Kreme outlets that you get in the US. We arrived at about 6pm and there was a steady queue of people about 20 long. You get a free sample whilst you wait which is a nice touch. Thanks to some spyware and a dodgy PC power supply I earned us some babysitting duties from one of Ruth's work colleagues, so we went to a local restaurant in Farnborough (personally I would call it North Camp, but it seems there is some snobbery about it) called Malacca. It could have been the apple martini's I made before we left, but the food was great, and the best bit was that I really felt like I wasn't in a horrid little town 30 miles outside London, but instead in a chic restaurant....well, somewhere else. I can't believe anyone will really ever read this far, so it makes sense to stop here.

Peep Show

Fans of the TV show Peep Show should check out this Radio4 sketch show

Thursday Feb 10, 2005

Donald! give us a wave

Whilst idly browsing ebay for books like the cheapskate I am , I came across this link to the top 100 or so scientific book as selected by Scientific American (1999). As usual it made me feel a bit of lightweight... The only one I'd read was Feynman's Surely you're joking ...\* (which I can like, totally recommend) but even better was a link to Donald Knuth's pages at Stanford University - the guy was selling 'The Art of Computer Programming 3 book box set (why? I don't know) But anyway browsing around the site, lead me to this page where you can watch a streaming video of the man himself talking casually about 'stuff' to the well to do CS students of Palo Alto.

\*Interestingly, I was talking to my friend\*\* bond, who when I asked him why he didn't have a blog replied 'well, if I was doing anything worth blogging about, I'd be too busy doing it and wouldn't have time to blog' Which I think has a certain recursive truth about it, and explains a lot....

\*\*well, I say friend, I actually mean colleague, fellow drunkard/egotist/serial fantasist.

Catalog pose Bond in "Catalog stance"

Sunday Feb 06, 2005

asbo wating to happen

I bumped into a old colleague of mine whilst out this weekend. It was a brief conversation, I'm not sure whether he failed to recognised me, or perhaps thought he was about to be mugged since I was wearing a baseball cap and an ASBO\* hoodie. Either that or the fact I'm 2 stone heavier and 10 years older. My first job after leaving university was for a firm called 'SoftCore' a Belgium based company, and seriously un-googlable . The company was consumed by American outfit opentext, and all this being pre-web mainstream, it's almost as if it never existed. The only really relevant link I could find was this article about the back end architecture (ArchIS). My favourite memory was of going over to the Netherlands to install a Netware network, something neither I nor Geert - who at least spoke Dutch was qualified to do. The job was in the hague, and we agreed to do it if our boss paid for us to spend the weekend in Amsterdam. Geert went to work for Psion as they were bringing out the Series 5. I went to Sun via a few years at EDS.

ASBO = Anti Social Behavior Order

Monday Jan 17, 2005

Erin on the Web

Erin was on the front page of the Aldershot News this week as her school had collected £350 for the Tsunami appeal. I think the candle was to symbolise a light in the darkness of despair or something like that. Erin is just to the right of the candle as you look at it. She was very excited about her bit of fame :-)

Tuesday Jan 04, 2005

Goodbook Badbook

I just finished reading two related but quite different books, namely "Hackers' tales" and "Backroom Boys". They are related in a very tenuous way in that they are both books about british 'engineers' in a field which is dominated by our buddies over in the US, however whereas one was well written and researched the other was IMHO complete rubbish. I picked up Hackers' Tales in a local ottakars near my Mum's place over Christmas, I have quite a collection of 'hacker' books which I started back in about 1986 when I picked up "Hugo Cornwall's" book The New Hackers Handbook. I was about 16 at the time, and the whole world around hacking seemed very mysterious and exciting. It was on the back of this book that I pursuaded my dad to get me the clunky 1200/75 modem that plugged into the back of the C64. But that's another story.... anyway Hackers' Tales is absolutely terrible. I'm pretty sure that there are some interesting stories to be told from the past 15-20 years of hacking in the UK, beyond all the well known hacks, but they are certainly not in this book. What you get is stuff like this

"I was in the Mathematics teachers office...." and basically goes on to describe how someone had written down their userid and password for the voicemail system. The userID and password happened to be the same.... and guess what lots of people never bothered to change the default. How that makes a worthy story is beyond me. The authors are all anonymous, which is fair enough - but it seems that the big boys declined to contribute so the project seems to have stalled and all that was left is a bunch of wannabees.

"Backroom boys" on the other hand is absolutely excellent, and deserves all the praise it has received. The section on the creation of Elite for the BBC is superb, as is the stuff on Beagle2, Concorde.. in fact the whole book is superb. If you've read and enjoyed any pop-science books you'll like Backroom Boys.




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