Thursday May 28, 2009

Leaving Sun

I'm leaving Sun, as I have to take up summer work elsewhere. I have a new blog which I'll try keep updated.

I'm very grateful for my time at Sun: for the people I've met, the experiences gained, and the support given to me. Hopefully I'll run into people again...

Thursday Apr 23, 2009

Summer work

As per an earlier blog, I'm busy outside of Sun (and Quagga) for the time being, except, however, for the summer when I need to work. Ideally I'd work at Sun, however that seems uncertain, if not unlikely. I'd really like to keep working on Quagga. So if anyone knows of any opportunities, do get in touch.

Sunday Jan 11, 2009

Catholic Orangemen of Togo

Craig Murray's new book, "The Catholic Orangemen of Togo", is now available (also available on Amazon, and other retailers). He's had to self-publish, as his original publisher withdrew due to legal threats from Tim Spicer. Craig has also made the book available to download for free via the internet:

The book is a prequal to "Murder in Samarkand", covering Craig's time in Africa from 1997 to 2001. It's the expected mix of intelligent observation and comments on far-flung countries, geo-politics particularly, as seen by a senior British diplomat; along with more personal tales of people, bravado and women (not always endearing). I pretty much couldn't put it down (electronically speaking) till I'd finished it! Both a very interesting and entertaining read.

Tuesday Dec 16, 2008

Conspiracy theories for kids

I'm curious if there's any well-reasoned argument, preferably with data, that shows that constructing a giant conspiracy to get kids to believe that a fat man delivers presents to kids across the world, in one night, in a flying, reindeer-driven sled, is a good idea, does anyone know?

Maybe it's just me, but it confused me greatly that all these adults enjoyed lying to me to make me think men in obviously fake beards knew whether I was good or not. These same adults who would tell me lying was bad and chastise me if I did so. That I was asked to believe in two different variants of the beardy-with-presents story1 didn't aid its credibility Also, it distressed my poor little sister, who was completely enthralled by the whole thing, terribly when she found out at age 4 or 5 or so that there was no Santa (it might have been me who told her - she hasn't forgiven me to this day). ;)

Perhap's there's some parental joy to be had in deceiving your child so fully, that I havn't yet had the chance to experience.. Does this Santa conspiracy really serve children, or more the adults?

1. The other one, Sinter Klaas, was a bit less fantastical and more plausible though. He was a bishop and dressed like those funny old men you'd see in church sometimes; he arrived by boat from Spain, with a bunch of Moorish helpers; he'd arrive a week or more in advance; he travelled the country on a white horse traditionally, but would avail of modern transport; he left the presents on your front-door step on the evening of the 6th of December. A sceptical child could still imagine he distributed the presents in advance, with the parents colluding in the final delivery (my uncle always disappeared before the knock on the door, I noticed). Still, I couldn't quite understand why adults so enjoyed us believing in this strange beardy - but it didn't matter as long as I got presents.

Wednesday Aug 13, 2008

More olympic fakery news

Tomorrow's big story: The piano player and the kid mimed their performance too!

From the coming weekend's Sunday broadsheets: In-depth expose interviews historian who claims to have evidence that the archer-lights-cauldron scene at the Los Angeles olympics was faked too!!!!!

News just in from 2012: All theatrics deemed fake by IOC. Opening ceremony in London to consist of a reading of selected DNA sequences by Richard Dawkins, and the sotto voce proving of theorems from "Principia Mathematica" by the Froncysyllte Male Voice Choir, followed by some sport.

Thursday Aug 07, 2008

PGP: Signing policy update / Please sign my photo UID

Couple of PGP things:

  • I've updated my signing policy.

    It's not terribly consistent though, and I'm still not quite sure where I stand on signing keys on nothing more than a cursory examination of governmental ID (i.e. people at key-signing events whom I don't know personally), so I'm not very happy with it. I'm much more comfortable signing keys of people I've known and interacted with over a period of time, and even more so when I know others who've done same - even if I've not seen an ID.

    Some may wonder why I would sign keys on the basis of my level-1/Low policy, but the concept of "web of trust" implies additive trust (potential for at least), so even a "not much confidence" signature ought to be of value to the WoT.

  • I've added a photographic UID to my public key (yeah, horrible photo ;) ).

    If you can attest to that being a good likeness of me and have good reason to believe it's my key, please do sign that new UID. (Also, what's with people who sign only one UID on a key? I've no control over the order of UIDs, I think, so its always a less favoured UID that gets signed in such cases - arg! :) ).

Wednesday Jul 02, 2008 double plus good

Recipe for discovering new music:

  • Go to and sign-up for an account
  • Configure your MP3 player's plugin with your account details (you may need to download and install a plugin if your player does not already provide one - I use rhythmbox's).
  • Listen to your own, favourite music for a while (e.g. a few weeks), to "scrobble" tracks to and seed your profile.
  • Use your plugin's playlist features, such as "My Neighbourhood", "Artist Similar to" and/or "Tagged with" to discover new music.
How come I'd never heard of before up until recently?

Sunday May 11, 2008

The single-loop exception

Found myself having to act on a set of things, in some specific order. Certain items are exceptional and if present then processing stops there. The common idioms for this, that I've seen in C, are:

  1. Tangled spaghetti-jungle of if/else with long conditionals
  2. Goto break out

The former is common enough (though, not in your code nor mine, of course ;) ) to make this blog posting worthwhile.

The latter is the neater approach, and possibly the only remaining legitimate use of goto today. However, it requires placing labels - which isn't error-proof - and maintaining discipline to not abuse (those labels are so tempting!). Some languages have dedicated syntax exception handling (try/throw/catch/finally), but these can feel a tad over-wrought for simple, localised exception handling.

There's another possibility though, generic to all C-like-syntax languages even, using a single-loop:

do {
  if (foo)
     do_stuff (foo);
  if (bar)
  if (acme)
     do_stuff (acme);
} while (0);


The do {} while (0); pattern is of course already widely used in C, to encapsulate function-like macros. However, I've not personally seen it used in code bodies for such light-weight exception handling.

Another variant, that allows for some basic exception processing:

do {
  if (foo)
     do_stuff (foo);
  if (bar)
  if (acme)
     do_stuff (acme);
} while (0);


Thursday Jan 24, 2008

When all you've got is a spade..

You have to wonder if, on news that the Bush administration intends to spend the US out of a bad-debt-driven slump, the economists advising on this were cut off after ".. should work. Course, it just adds to our deficit, and encourages further spending on imports, so in the long term.."

Tuesday Dec 18, 2007

Wing-Suit Skydiving Videos

Disturbingly mad: Wing-suit mountain-road flyby. They seem to have really good aerodynamic control though - quite controlled, precise turns at least.

Apparently some in the skydiving community are hoping to eventually be able to land using just wing-suits (e.g. by landing on a slope, like a ski-jumper). To get an idea of the glide-ratio (and just how apparently insane these people are), have a look at this extremely low chute opening (again, note the precise turn-in to the landing zone).

There's a lot more of that stuff on Youtube. Completely nuts.

Friday May 11, 2007

Article on Iraqi Oil

Venturing ever so slightly towards politics, but anyone with any interest in events in the middle-east, of whatever political persuasion, should read "The Prize of Iraqi Oil".

Tuesday Jan 16, 2007

TV Age

Quite strange how watching old Monty Python's Flying Circus episodes can take one back. The fashions, interior decoration1, electrical goods, etc. all brought me back to when we would visit my maternal grandmother in Ireland, where I would often watch BBC and ITV, which was so completely different to what I was used to. Strange how TV can evoke memories. E.g., do you remember:

  • When Moira Stuart became a newscaster on the BBC News?
  • When BBC introduced that sliced-circle logo for the BBC News? (I can't remember when, but I'm pretty sure it was before the Falklands war. I wish I could remember what BBC News looked like before then, I do remember thinking the new sliced-circle theme wasn't as good in comparison.).
  • The rotoscoped BBC globe logo?
  • The Morecambe and Wise Show? (My granny loved it)
  • The clock that would count-down the time between children's educational programming on BBC in the mornings (oh that wait used to annoy me!)
  • The Falklands war? (I had a fascination with war and military as a little boy, and it annoyed me greatly I wasn't allowed to stay up to watch the coverage on the 9 O'Clock BBC News, being past my bedtime. I used to watch through the keyhole of the living room door anyway).
  • What WDYJSOYTSAGADSLBI means, near immediately?
  • Figuring out, between MCMLXXXI, MCMLXXXIV and British television how Roman numerals worked? ('s how I learned, visiting Ireland couple of times per year)
  • When television sets used to take a a minute or two to warm-up, and it was normal?
  • When it was normal practice to call TVs "television sets"?
  • Blake's 7? (hated it, it used to be on in some slot that usually had a programme I liked better when was on holidays at other times of the year)
  • Sapphire and Steel (great, loved it!)
  • Tony Hart / "Take Hart"
  • Juliet Bravo (though, I only remember the second actress)

If your TV age is roughly the same as mine: congratulations, you're now starting to get old! What do you remember?

1. Remember padded vinyl wallpaper? Not quite sure when my grandparents had last redecorated, but the interior deco featured in Monty Python, which was filmed from '69 to '74, made theirs look quite modern in comparison. Hence why Monty Python seems so modern to me ;).

Thursday Mar 09, 2006

Book recommendation

A must read on an often overlooked danger in modern life: "How to Avoid Large Ships".

Friday Feb 17, 2006

Linux boots on Niagara

Linux port to Sun4v makes progress. All we need is a BSD port and the hypervisor firmware updates and I'm going to be begging for one as a test box to replace my power-hungry dual Xeon Xen and Qemu machine. ;)

Monday Feb 13, 2006

paper on the topology of conflict

Reasonably interesting report on "The topology of covert conflict" showing through simulation what various resistance groups and terrorist organisations have known for long while, cells are the best way to organise your members. (Found via the Scheier on Security blog.)


Stuff about Quagga, networking and motorbikes. With the occasional rant thrown in for good measure. I am currently on indefinite leave of absence from Sun.


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