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.

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.

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.

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 18, 2005

Back again.

I took a bit of a blog break. I was feeling somewhat negative, and the advice is to not post under those conditions, lest you say something you might regret. But the pressure is off, at least a little, so I'm back. Today, I was inspired by the most interesting blog in the world. So here it is: multi-colored chard with garlic and onions, over rice noodles.


Tuesday Oct 11, 2005

Kryptonite at the ready, folks...

This is a little worrying...

Friday Oct 07, 2005

Product of the week

Index cards. 5x3 index cards. I write tasks on them as I think of them, and then riffle through and pick a single one to work on. The system is, only work one card at a time. Somehow it keeps me more focused than writing a list on a sheet of paper.

Thursday Oct 06, 2005

Silly hardware problem

I was working on assembling a PC this evening, and I put in two SATA drives. The BIOS didn't see them, so I couldn't set up the RAID array I wanted. It turns out that the motherboard only supports SATA-150. So I had to physically jumper the drives down to SATA-150. I'd have thought in this day and age, they could negotiate the slower speed, but apparently not. This small factoid may be worth knowing if you're looking at a box that doesn't see its SATA drives. For what it's worth, the motherboard is an Albatron K8X800 Pro II and the drives are Western Digital 2500KS.

Wednesday Oct 05, 2005

Graphic novels I've read recently

I've been reading some Alan Moore stuff recently, and I am really liking it. First I read V for Vendetta (soon to be a movie totally disowned by Alan). Then I read book 2 of Top Ten and the two "spin-off" books Smax and Forty-niners. (Amazon were temporarily out of stock on Top Ten book one, but it's on its way now.) I particularly like the Top Ten world, which is a kind of Superhero ghetto. Everyone on Parallel Earth 10 is a Superhero, and the stories are about the cops on that world. Moore's stories are great, and he's chosen some good artists to work with. The little in-jokes in the backgrounds in Smax are priceless. So anyway, hooray for Alan, Northampton boy made good, and two thumbs up for Top Ten and Smax


Tuesday Sep 27, 2005

Worst episode ever

Smallville, season four. Spell. What were they thinking? Was there some kind of ratings war going on with Buffy? As the title says, and to quote Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons: worst episode ever.

Monday Sep 26, 2005

Getting the boss into trouble

Paul sent me an email suggesting that I should blog about some ancient piece of history from when we worked together, before we both joined Sun. But that would take research, and I can't be bothered today. Maybe another time. So instead, here's a story from back then that doesn't take any research.

Back in the days of SunOS 3.5, when the hot desktop was a Sun 3/50 diskless client, running at 16 MHz, with 4 megs of RAM, the default windowing system for Sun workstations was called SunTools or SunView. It was unrelated to X11, and at least partially implemented in the kernel. Anyway, we used to call it "ScumTools", not because there was anything wrong with it, but only because derisive nicknames were all the rage in the group at that time. So one time, the boss called up Sun tech support, and just automatically started talking about the problem he was having with "ScumTools". At which, the support person got quite offended, and the boss had to apologize profusely and blame the bad influence of the code monkeys.

I'm such a troublemaker...




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