Friday Jan 27, 2006

A hastily-assembled web event camera

I'm attending TAM 4, as I mentioned in a previous blog. As an extremely last-minute thing, I put up a web cam for the event, which you can view here. Given the time constraints, I'm quite pleased that it works at all, however it really is not very good. This quick blog entry is just for people to see the camera while it is "live". I will make a more extensive post about how this was implemented, and the lessons learned, at a later date.

Thursday Jan 19, 2006

Product of the week

This product of the week is only available by prescription. It is the Medrol dose-pack. I have been having a bad time with eczema the last few months, and I finally got referred to a dermatologist. He prescribed the aforementioned oral steroids, and they cleared the problem up in a matter of days. Now this is a powerful drug, and should of course only be used under a doctor's supervision. But I am stunned at how effective it was. So if you are offered Medrol for bad eczema, I suggest you consider accepting it.

I am not a physician, and this is not medical advice

Thursday Jan 12, 2006

Lava ™ lamps

Today I got a USB-powered toy similar to a Lava ™ lamp. This inspired me to get my real Lava lamp and move it from the living room to my office. I find these to be fascinating, and I'm always thinking about how difficult that flow would be to model. When the lamp is starting up, you have a mixed-phase flow with state transitions. I mentioned this to a friend online, who pointed me at this which is okay as far as it goes. But I think it is an over-simplification. One question I'd like answered is whether state transitions (from liquid to solid or vice versa) are important in the functioning of the lamp once it is up to temperature. It is hard to tell whether the wax globules truly have a "skin" or whether what appears to be a skin is just the boundary between two imiscible liquids. I've seen a Lava lamp screen saver - I suppose I could look at the source for that to see whether it is an actual fluid model, and what the parameters are.

Monday Jan 09, 2006

First Galileo bird operational

New Scientist is reporting that the first satellite in the Galileo constellation is now communicating with its ground station and appears nominial, following its December 28th launch. Galileo is a European system similar to the USA's GPS, but will be dedicated to civilian use.

Thursday Jan 05, 2006

My birthday present

This year, for my birthday I'm getting a trip to Las Vegas for TAM 4. This is a critical-thinking conference, and they have a bunch of great guests. I'm expecting to have a wonderful time, and will almost certainly post a trip report at a later date. Almost all the spaces have been sold, so if you'd like to go, hurry up and register!

Wednesday Jan 04, 2006


I'm about half-way through reading the ten-volume run of Transmetropolitan. I'm really enjoying this comic. It is a darkly-humerous and satirical take on the near future. The writing is excellent, and the art is attractive. However, the subject matter is adult-themed, and the language is uncensored, so it is most suited to mature audiences. My verdict: 9/10 at the moment, and I'm interested to see how the story develops in the second half.

Transmetropolitan, Warren Ellis et al, pub DC Comics.

Monday Jan 02, 2006

Happy new year

Happy new year everybody, even though it is completely arbitrary. I don't do resolutions, but I'm hoping this year to get back to some good daily habits that slipped a bit during the last three months of 2005. Blogging, for instance. We'll see how that goes.

Wednesday Nov 30, 2005

A known bug with the Sun Studio 11 compilers and tools installer

Due to a dependency that wasn't noticed in time, there is a small problem with the Sun Studio 11 installer on Solaris platforms. The installer is supposed to work with any Java 2 JVM. Unfortunately it will not in fact work with any JVM that is pre 1.4. One of two symptoms may occur. Either an exception during deserialisation, or an exception stating that the class com.sun.install.products.Product was not found.

If you experience this issue, and you have a 1.4 or later JVM available on your machine, simply set your PATH so that that version of java is first. If you do not have a 1.4 or later JVM, then you will need to install one. You should install the full JDK, since the installer will then not offer to reinstall it.

I believe this problem was introduced when I added support for Zones to the installer. I switched to a later release of the Installer SDK, which introduced the dependency on a 1.4-only class.

Tuesday Nov 01, 2005

More stuff to fix

Apparently our "other" car needs a new battery. It hadn't been driven for a while, and when we went to start it, there was not enough "juice" in the battery to turn it over. Putting it on charge for several hours didn't help either. Sigh.

Monday Oct 31, 2005

Bad news from my alma mater

Apparently there was a big fire at Southampton University. It wasn't in a building I used to hang out in, but still, it is not a nice thing to hear.

Friday Oct 28, 2005

Le Tour 2006

So the 2006 route has been announced. It looks interesting. I just wonder how much coverage there will be here in the USA, now that Lance has retired. They already took my Vuelta, please let them let me keep my Giro and Tour...

Thursday Oct 27, 2005

Fixing my Sony

This evening's fun and excitement was fixing my Sony Z1 notebook. I had to put a new hard drive in, as the old one just upped and died. In my experience, Sony notebooks are stylish to look at, but hard to work on. There were several hairy moments during the disassembly and reassembly, and I would never have got it done without's help. I'm not hugely fluent in French, although I seemed to make a better job of it than Babelfish. But the pictures are 90% of the battle here.

I'm currently reinstalling system software, so I'm not completely sure that everything is working. But at least it sees the new hard drive and the mouse and keyboard, so it hasn't been turned into a paperweight.

Wednesday Oct 26, 2005

Things I wish I could do, #4

I wish I could do cryptic crossword puzzles

All the pieces are there. I have a reasonably large vocabulary, I enjoy wordplay, puns, silly humor. I understand the various types of clues, having read several books about how cryptic puzzles work. But I still can't do the darn things, no matter how much I practice.

Tuesday Oct 25, 2005

The other half of the picture

Excuse the mess in the background! Here's the other half of my music setup.


On the top is the output mixer, which sends sound from the piano, computer, external MIDI devices and so on to the monitor speakers or headphones. Next shelf down, we have a PSA-1 modelling guitar preamp, a TX-7 (rack version of a DX-7), and a drum machine. In the bottom, we have the computer which runs the soft synths and does the recording, and a mini-mixer connected to the input side of the sound card. The mixer allows me to have the preamp and a microphone plugged in, and select between them without juggling cables.

Thursday Oct 20, 2005

More music toys.

I got a dedicated USB music keyboard to use with my virtual instruments. It has a classic "synthesizer" touch, rather than the weighted piano-style touch of my P-200. I have it on top of the piano, with the monitor for the computer behind. That works okay, but I have to figure out something ergonomic to do with the mouse. Here's a picture of the setup.





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