Simon Huggins's blog

Tue, 20 Jan 2009

Get Involved

Holger, you don't seem to allow commenting on your blog but the Debian versions to tell people to get involved seem to be How can you help Debian? and How can you join?. There are probably more.

Tue, 08 Jan 2008

Books (part 2)

[ Apologies for Debian planet readers expecting something pithy and Debian related. This isn't. But then pkg-xfce packaging just continues. We get more bugs, we fix some of them (if you have a dual-headed setup and want to help us fix or reproduce more we'd love to hear from you). Corsac became a DD at last and has made me more or less redundant in a good way. I should probably investigate libburnia again and prod George Danchev about #450873 since basically it seems to just need the ubuntu packaging brought across into Debian to replace libburn etc. But anyway, on with the irrelevant stuff... ]

Books part 1 was back in April and I've since found myself with some time on my hands before I get a new job so here we go again.

Making Money - Terry Pratchett
This was a Christmas present and I quite enjoyed it and enjoyed the character but didn't really think it lived up to the laugh a minute Pratchett books that I remembered from the good old days.
The Lovely Bones - Alice Seebold
This is quite a weird concept for a book given that it's from the point of view of a dead girl in heaven but it seems to work. It's very well done and I enjoyed it.
Alex Rider series - Anthony Horowitz
I had seen Stormbreaker and wanted to read some more of these as light holiday reading. They work well for that. There's enough plot to keep me interested but not enough to make them at all hard to read. I read a couple of them in French when I was in France (in between traipsing between different bits of Paris since the métro workers were on strike). I wish they'd been around when I was younger.
My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult
Ooh this is a really, really good book. I loved it except perhaps for the very end but I can forgive it that. The idea is that she's suing her parents for the rights to her own body because she was conceived as a donor for her sister to fight off her sister's leukaemia. It's a very thought provoking read with several interesting characters with their own stories woven together.
The Language Instinct - Steven Pinker
This book is fascinating to me. It takes ideas mainly from linguistics, evolution and psychology and explains a theory that seems to hold together and is well illustrated and explained. The central point is that we all are born with the ability to develop a universal grammar from an early age which can be adapted to any human language and which sticks around in the young child and then disappears. If you have any interest in language at all read this book.
A Spot of Bother - Mark Haddon
I found this a bit hard to get into as essentially it's about the normal lives of a family (albeit quite a special family). It doesn't really grab you. Towards the end though I was interested to find out how it would all unravel and was pleased with it.
The Mephisto Club - Tess Gerritsen
This is a nice, honest thriller that does what you expect. It keeps you flicking the pages wanting to know what happens next.
The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
I quite enjoyed this and did find new arguments against religion but I don't think he's going to convert anyone with this book. Of course I'd recommend anyone read it because it raises lots of interesting points but it's polemic essentially.
The Blind Watchmaker - Richard Dawkins
I enjoyed this though it builds on previous work I'd read. I guess if you're just interested in evolution then read this and not the God Delusion.
The Raw Shark Texts - Steven Hall
I was recommended this by a friend. It's very surreal possibly a bit too surreal for me but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K Dick
I hadn't read the book and saw it at a friend's and borrowed it. You probably all know what it's like. I'm glad I read it because of the references to it but it's not my normal reading material.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J K Rowling
I had to read this of course to finish off the series but I thought it was a lot better than some of the others. I think I enjoyed the first, the one with the tri-wizarding championship and this one the most.
Love in Idleness - Charlotte Mendelson
This is well written and you really get into the character that's painted for you. I really liked some of the descriptions of justifying things to yourself and coping with boredom.
Blood, Sweat & Tea - Tom Reynolds
This was an interesting look at the life of a paramedic and if you don't already read Random acts of reality then read the book first and start reading the blog.
Telling Lies - Paul Ekman
This came from my Blink/Tipping Point reading and I found it hard going. It was interesting but quite detailed and not really a book for late night reading. The theories in it are very interesting though and explain why you probably aren't as good at detecting things as you think you might be and how to look for factors that will help you.
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat - Oliver Sacks
I read this ages ago and it was fascinating. It's about a number of different cases of problems with the brain. Often physical defects in various areas of the brain that cause odd problems and how it sheds light on how things relate. I really enjoyed it.

As always, do please punt your own recommendations at me.

Sun, 07 Oct 2007

My stomach and me

I'm sure I am only have legs and a brain so that I can keep my stomach happy. Food rules my life. I don't understand people that can miss breakfast; my stomach would be moaning at me if I did. It does have a good side though as it means I really enjoy food and I enjoy cooking it too.

Since I have some more time on my hands these days, I've been experimenting a little more and trying some more things out so I thought I should post about them.

Bread maker

I asked for a bread maker for my birthday. I worked from home and ate bread all the time for lunch but it always went off quickly and supermarket bread isn't always amazing. The machine has been great. The even rapid bake loaves it churns out in just two hours are great. It has a timer so you can put a loaf on over night and come down to lovely fresh bread smells. The dry ingredients are easy to keep around and you just bung them all in the pan, hit a few buttons and later on a loaf appears as if by magic.

I especially like the granary loaves especially if I add a little rye flour but all the standard recipes seem good. The French bread one seems to give the right texture and taste but it's odd eating it in a loaf shape so I might have to make that one as dough and then shape and bake it separately one day.

I didn't like the olive and passata loaf; it came out an interesting orange colour flecked with the chopped olives but didn't really taste of tomatoes or olives. There's a tomato foccacia that uses sundried tomatoes that I might try out though.

There's a croissant recipe which seems to be a quantity of French dough that you put butter in, wrap around butter, and then more butter. How can it possibly go wrong? I need a free morning to try it but I think I will soon.

Basically if you don't have a bread machine you probably want one.


I watched a series of cooking programmes on BBC (Kitchen Criminals) and they seemed to be making pasta from scratch every two minutes so I was intrigued to try it. I mentioned it to my Mum and she had a machine that she'd never used that I borrowed. Sadly it's not quite as easy as it looks after TV editing.

Basically the first bit is really easy: whizzing flour, olive oil, an egg and some salt in a food processor, kneading it a bit and making it into a ball. Bung it in the fridge to rest and then the fun begins of trying to make it into a flat sheet. Lots more flour (in fact my kitchen was covered with it) and lots of patience and many attempts got me something that was vaguely what I wanted. Every time I got close it would stick together or it would rip or it would go in at an angle and I didn't have enough hands to fix all these problems at once. Even using smaller amounts of the dough is tricky. I was making ravioli the first time and it was nice but took lots of time and I didn't feel it was entirely worth the effort. I tried just simple tagliatelle last night but again it took a long time and you end up thinking that you could have just bought fresh pasta in a bag and be grabbing a handful of it instead of spending 40 minutes faffing just to get some strands.

It might be worth it if you had some amazing idea for ravioli filling but I think I'll give Mum her machine back and not buy one.


I've always really loved Pizza Express's cheesecake but never really understood how they did it especially with the texture at the edges. I'd always thought cheesecakes were just an assembly job really; my standard one is lime and mascarpone and icing sugar and it is tasty but not the same. Chatting to various people it seems the Pizza Express one is baked so I tried a recipe from a book Mum had lying around that I was flicking through.

It was a chocolate baked cheesecake and it sort of worked but was almost a little too chocolately and didn't have enough other interest. It probably wants some zest or some stem ginger or something through it. It's a terrible hardship but I think I might have to make another one to perfect it.


Like I said, I want to try croissants and I've always been looking for a good recipe for gingerbread; I really love ginger as a flavour. I never really cook with pastry much so I should perhaps try some pies or similar whilst I'm not working and have time to do these things. Any other suggestions welcome.

Thu, 26 Jul 2007

Debian Maintainers vs New Maintainer process

Sorry Bastian, but your "Why don't we aim for something simple, like improving our New Maintainer process." seems a little naïve. People have tried to improve (read, mostly speed up) NM for years and I don't believe the blockers are particularly simple to solve. We want a rigourous NM process adn we're a volunteer project so it's hard to do quickly. I know some talented people who have to be sponsored which means waiting on others being available. I know I've failed them at times when my life has been busy and I've not dedicated as much time to Debian.

The DM proposal is a great way to get valuable contributions into Debian sooner without people losing interest in the project all together.

The other issue anyone considering voting against the DM proposal should bear in mind is that it's going to be easy to remove people from this keyring if you have a decent reason. I really can't see any downsides.

Tue, 03 Jul 2007

X considered harmful!

No, not that sort of X. Rather a look at the origins of considered harmful as a phrase.

The Language Log is well worth a read if that interests you.

Sun, 01 Jul 2007


My courgette plants started taking over the world a while back and covered the raised bed I made in green.

I had some of the courgettes a week or two ago and went out today and found more.

Some have been rotting slightly on the plants so I removed those too but I'm really excited that the tiny, tiny plants I put in ages ago have turned into giant courgette plants and now have started producing things I can eat! Obvious but satisfying.

Thu, 07 Jun 2007

The problem with being a morning person...

When you're tired in the morning you know things aren't really going to improve through the day.

I haven't blogged for ages. I bought a dSLR and put some photos up, Xfce got some bugs cleared out with a spate of uploads (and some hard work by Corsac, ema and myself) after etch was released and I now have a raised vegetable patch with courgette plants, tomatoes, mange tout and chillis.

Wed, 14 Mar 2007


You pronounce "power cuts" as "ups" (like "ups and downs") mako?

You Americans are ke-ray-zee!

Tue, 13 Feb 2007

Use a redirect, Luke.

Ingo, why don't you just redirect people to the new location redirecting feeds to their new location. That way on some aggregators like rawdog you'll just get the updated URLs all set with no manual adjustments at all.

This post is also a hint that after deliberations I moved from planet to rawdog. It's neat and in Debian. Might have to try to write a plugin so I can read friend's livejournal posts with it too soon.

Wed, 03 Jan 2007

Best feed readers

I think I need to change the way I read RSS/ATOM feeds. At the moment I run a local planet partly because I'm a control freak and it meant that when Planet Debian was down I could still read those feeds and partly because I want to add other people's feeds to it and want to read them all in the same place. This is mostly fine apart from planet's "feature" of ignoring the dates in feeds and occasional either broken feeds or broken parsing causing me to see literal HTML in the generated page.

Until recently I didn't have any further problems but a while back I added a very verbose machine generated feed which it would be nice to be able to look at separately. Planet doesn't cope well with this; this feed's entries tend to push interesting ones off so either I have to tell planet to generate a huge page (including much stuff I've already read) or setup separate planet configs. It also just feels inefficient for me to have all the stuff I've already read at the bottom of the page and to be loading any linked images (well ok, getting a 304 Not Modified hopefully) every time I want to look at my planet page.

So I think I want a standalone reader or possibly to use an independent service like the google reader or bloglines. Though am I still a control freak so the former sounds better for me.

I just tried liferea (from unstable, 1.0.27) and was clicking around and it segfaulted. Not exactly a glowing recommendation.

It'd be neat if there was one that presented posts a bit like planet does - all expanded ready for reading one after the other in date order - so all I have to do is read and scroll and things get marked as read. It'd be really neat if I could then mark things as unread or file them some how.

Dear lazyweb, does something like this exist? love and kisses, huggie

Fri, 07 Jul 2006

Lack of interest in SPI

So Mako blogged about a lack of interest in SPI and says:

SPI still suffers from a lack of interest and activity by participants in its member projects. SPI handles Debian's money and every Debian developer should be interested and involved in SPI; yet only a relatively small percentage are. I've run SPI sessions, talks, and BOFs at three of the last four Debian conferences but haven't been able to make a satisfactory dent in either the Debian community or SPI.

However it seems to me that, for Debian, SPI just handle donations and our trademark. That's great and and I'm really glad someone is doing it. I'm sure it's relevant for people trying to sort out hosting or new buildds that need funding but for a lowly developer I don't really see that this is very relevant nor why I should become a contributing member of SPI and vote.

Mako goes on to say "SPI has continued to be mired in a number of bureaucratic issues." but if I wanted bureaucracy and pointless pedantry then I would actually read the posts on -legal instead of just skimming the subject lines.

I went and read the SPI website (no new news since April 2005 despite the upcoming election?) and Mako's old talk on SPI and the accompanying notes but I still don't quite get its relevance yet.

Perhaps someone can enlighten me.

Fri, 23 Jun 2006

9300i Putty UTF-8 Trick

I can't claim any credit on this one; James Rice told me about having met the author of Putty Simon Tatham in the pub. Anyway, if you want to switch the version of putty into utf-8 mode when you run it from your phone you can (simply?!) use:

echo -ne '\e%G\e[?47h\e%G\e[?47l'

I tried to work out what this means and in the end asked some chiark users who pointed me at a list of terminal escape codes which explains that ESC % G means switch to UTF-8.

For reference there is also a UTF-8 bug on sourceforge for s2putty but for me at least with the above fix mutt redraws happily.

Fri, 19 May 2006

Everything old is NEW again

So it's been 16 days and counting since I posted about our uploads for the new beta of xfce4. During that time I've had four users file bugs asking why it's uninstallable and why apt is keeping packages back. I've had many users pop by #debian-xfce or #xfce and ask what the status is. I have to just tell them to be patient but it's a bit dull now.

NEW processing has been so good for such a long time that to be honest I'd forgotten what waiting was like. Last time the xfce team did a soname change for a library it took 2 days (March 2005), the last times we uploaded an entirely new source it took 1 day (October 2005), 1 week (November 2005), 1 day (December 2005), 1 week (end of December 2005), 2 days (January 2006), even just 2 days to split the -mixer package.

For entirely new packages I don't really care how long it takes them to enter the archive. But for just a simple soname change it seems a shame that it takes so long. I spoke briefly to Joerg on IRC and offered my help. After all, obviously I have the best taste in the world and it can't be too hard to spot the soname changes and just accept them, spot the people with claimed licenses that don't match the headers in the source and reject them and defer anything hard to Joerg can it? But he didn't comment on that bit just said he was at debconf (and debcamp before). Everyone in Debian is a volunteer and everyone deserves a holiday but it's frustrating when there are bottlenecks down to there only being one person doing one job. I'd suggest that the queue be split into entirely new never seen before sources and the rest but I guess that would mean changing dak. Given the list isn't processed in order I don't see why adding more people with good taste would be a bad idea.

I looked at prodding helena (from dak) to give me more information but will look more this weekend - setting up the test environment is going to be the hardest part of patching it I think.

Oh yeah, apologies to ER for the title of this post but I bought the box set and am going back through season 1-3 (i.e. when it was still good ;)). Also hello Planet Debian. I've been vaguely blogging elsewhere but hopefully if I got the feed right you'll just see the bits tagged for you.

Wed, 03 May 2006

Xfce 4.4beta1

So we all know that xfce is the best desktop environment in the world but did you know that its 4.4beta1 is going to hit Debian unstable soon? Well probably not unless you've been hanging out on #debian-xfce lately but it is. I just uploaded it at last.

It was done as an amd64 upload, some bits need to go through NEW and there are bound to be some bugs in it but other than that hopefully soon we'll have the beta in unstable for some real testing. There are still some new goodies (panel plugins and other 3rd party apps) that are NEW and need to be uploaded at some point but I need to do some more careful checking of those first.

Thanks to all the Debian xfce team maintainers who've helped out on this release especially Corsac (Yves-Alexis Perez) and all the users who have been testing and moaning about it not being in Debian yet.