Everything Old is New Again.

Aug 22, 2006 / 0 comments

My laptop HDD was unhappy. SMART was complaining about 2 uncorrectable sector errors and they were in the middle of swap so resuming from suspend sometimes didn't work. I formatted round the problem to begin with, as I didn't really want to lose my laptop for the week I knew it would probably take. However the fear that it was an indication of impending doom made me finally ring Toshiba last week.

After lots of fun (trying to explain that smartctl was reporting a Read Failure from the drives own testing, that I was running Linux and asking if they had a diagnostic disk (it's a Toshiba drive, but people like Maxtor and Western Digital have boot iso images you can download to confirm a drive is faulty before RMAing it), being told that I'd have to reinstall Windows, pointing out that the machine had no removable drives and the Windows recovery disk was a DVD and I had no USB DVD drive, asking them to send me a USB DVD drive if they wanted me to reinstall Windows) they finally agreed to take the laptop back on the condition that if there was no fault I'd have to pay the default investigation fee of £35.25. This was better than having to spend time trying to figure out how to get Windows back on the thing, so I accepted.

Next day I get a phone call asking if they can replace the drive. Well, yes, that's what I expected you to do. Seems they have to check anyway.

I'm not quite sure what they did with it for the next 3 working days. Testing it perhaps. Anyway, I got it back yesterday with a new HDD (and they hadn't even bothered to install anything on it, which I wasn't complaining about).

When I first got the laptop I installed it in a slightly sick manner. This time I thought I'd be more traditional and try the recently released Etch Beta 3 Debian installer. It's based on a 2.6.16 kernel which has the appropriate sky2 driver for the ethernet, so installation was hassle free (modulo apt-cacher playing up and not being happy about serving up files that I think had expired the cache). I'd wanted to try the graphical install to see what it's like, but I believe that's only available on CD images so I couldn't.

On the apt-cacher thing, anyone seen a similar issue? I track unstable on my desktop which tends to mean it has the packages already when they migrate to testing. However I think it's hitting a problem when it's expired a package from the cache and then needs it again. I don't actually have any firm evidence for that yet; need to do some further investigation and file a bug report I suppose.

Bodies in the Attic

Aug 18, 2006 / 0 comments

Kathy and I have finally started stripping the wallpaper from our hall/stairs/landing (it's only been on our todo list since we moved in over 3 years ago). This includes removing it from the ceiling. Now, the ceiling above our stairs was parallel to the stairs (ie not horizontal, diagonal). Which left us wondering what was in the gap, which we had no access to. As we started to remove the wallpaper on it some hardboard was revealed. Which I eventually decided should come down, if only because it would be easier to cleanup and repaint that way. The result?

The Hidden Space

Obviously the last time someone wanted to repaint/paper they decided to cut down on the amount of work they had to do...

So, where did you two meet?

Aug 11, 2006 / 0 comments

I get asked this a lot about people. Most recently when visiting the Fat Cat with Simon and his work mates this week, but often about the other Simon (who's my business partner as well as a long time friend).

The truth is a lot of the people I know I met first online, be it Fidonet (hello Pads, Peter, Simon and several others), Usenet (hello Ox.Net), mailing lists (hello ALUG) or IRC (hello, er, lots of people). I don't think I'm in any way unique here, but it can sometimes be awkward explaining this to people who preconceive internet friendships to be something seedy involving 40 year old fat man and 15 year old naive children. Or at least that's what they seem to be thinking when you say "Oh, we met online".

Let's give some examples.

I met Simon on Fidonet, back when we were both 17 or so. We were in a couple of echoes together and we did netmail a bit. When I came to England for university one of the echoes we were in had a meet up and so I decided to go. I ended up staying at Simon's (making his mother worry a bit; even back in 1997 people thought meeting online was freaky!) and that was the first time I met him. We've kept in good touch ever since and even gone into business together. Is this a lot odder than a chance meeting at a pub or through friends? I don't think so, but some people do.

Or take when I moved to Norwich. I had some friends who could help me load up the van in Harpenden (where I was moving from), but didn't know anyone in Norwich to help unload. I'd already joined the ALUG list, so I thought I'd ask there if anyone was prepared to help in exchange for beer and food afterwards. Adam and Edward Betts both turned up to help, not knowing anything about me. And were very helpful and we got everything unloaded. I still see Adam reasonably often, both online and in person (last night, for example). I haven't really kept in touch with Edward since he left UEA though. :(

There are many more examples like this of people who I see a reasonable amount in real life and yet if you asked me I'd have to admit I first knew online, sometimes for several years before actually physically meeting. And lots of people understand it these days, but please tell me I'm not alone in getting the funny looks sometimes. Please?

Feeling virtuous

Aug 11, 2006 / 0 comments

After seeing the work Dave had done on Reynard City (site down at present, though I understand it's coming back at some point, honest) it got me thinking. I've been reading a handful of webcomics on an almost daily basis for several years, but never actually paid anything for them. And I probably should. So I've finally thrown some money at Userfriendly and am considering buying some Sinfest merchandise. Jerkcity don't seem to have a donation or merchandise option and to be honest I'm a bit scared about what they'd spend the money on. :)

usblauncher updated

Jul 21, 2006 / 0 comments

I've done a minor update and released a newer version of my usblauncher code for the USB missile launcher. You can grab it as usblauncher-0.0.2.tar.gz - it just adds some code to tell the kernel to release the device from the usbhid driver, meaning those with USB keyboard/mice can become armed and dangerous without loss of input functionality.

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