Monthly Archives: August 2007

True fairy-tale romance

The original Savitri was famous for her encounter with Death, when she persuaded him to return her husband to her.

Now her present-day namesake name has starred in another fine romantic tale, when she was dramatically rescued from captivity. In true fairytale tradition, her rescuer was a fine young hero she’d never met before. But he instantly won her heart, and eloped with her to a new lovenest.

Holst’s short opera tells the story of the original Savitri. Now we almost have another plot 🙂

Read the story here or here.

YouTube + Royalties = Spam

El Reg Reports that youtube has struck its first deal with a performing rights society, presumably involving royalties. So every youtube entry becomes a numbers game with potential money.

I expect that means we’ll see a great new wave of spam involving YouTube URLs, making another one for the spam filters. The only hint of good news is that google may be well-equipped to penalise spammers, if its deal(s) allow that. But from an end-user point of view, that doesn’t mean less spam, just another long battle.

Bah, Humbug.

“Shared Ownership” housing

The folks who contacted me a couple of weeks ago about shared ownership houses had an open day today. A small apartment block (six flats), and several separate houses. All on one of the two huge new estates being built in Tavistock.

From the details, the most interesting-looking options were two 2-bed houses, at a respectable-looking 76 square metres plus garage (for the bikes, of course) and postage-stamp garden. But the houses themselves were disappointing: they’d wasted much of that space, leaving horribly cramped kitchen-diners, slightly pokey lounges, and barely adequate bedrooms. Plus the general flimsiness of new houses, and a lot of rather uninspired fittings. Bah.

On the end was a slightly different house. The total area of 81 sq m is only fractionally more, but what a difference! The lounge felt much more comfortable, the kitchen-diner was hugely better (apart from the horrible fitted oven, which was the same as in all the houses). The staircase was efficiently placed off the lounge, so the effective difference was well above the nominal 5 sq m. But upstairs, they’d spoilt it by splitting the space into three small rather than two decent bedrooms. Bah.

On the end, what they call a “coach house”: a one-storey house above a block of garages. At 54 sq m it’s small, but there’s the garage for storage. Nice lounge-diner with kitchenette off: better than the 2-bed places. And one decent bedroom. But the other bed was more a cupboard, without even a real window (a high skylight let in little light, and would tend to let in more rain than air if opened). Bah.

The flats were a non-starter. Of course they all had parking spaces, but for bikes, they’d just provided a row of wheelbenders under a bus shelter. Nothing secure, nor any possibility of indoor space. So that’ll be another case of “look, we provided bike facilities, but noone uses them”. Bah.

The lady in charge confirmed the general terms: no surprises there. What you gain: half the value at 2.7%, and the opportunity to buy out more. What you lose: you accept their valuation (potentially more than once – if you buy out), and you have to ask their permission to make changes (the example I asked about was “if I want to install a solar panel”). She also confirmed the taxpayer funding that gets poured into such schemes, driving up the general prices of housing.

Conclusion: as expected, it’s financially somewhat attractive, but the houses are horrible. And the taxpayer money going into this helps inflate the price of anything nice, by lifting the market in general.

DBD comes of age

My name is commonly associated with the Apache DBD framework, and yes I was primarily responsible for the initial development.  But that was long ago.  Well, long-ish.

On the APR side, the API and the drivers have long since moved on from that initial work.  And as from now, the connection pooling and management module mod_dbd has also moved on.  Chris Darroch’s substantial reworking, which addresses a number of issues with the module, has now been assimilated and will feature in the forthcoming 2.2.6 release.

Apache DBD  is coming of age!

Power-hungry devices

Why do some devices make it so unnecessarily hard or annoying to save power?

It’s a trivial amount, but that shiny new mouse has no usable on/off switch, and declines to stop using power when out of use. Inserting (as for travel) the USB gubbins that connects it to the ‘puter seems to work, but is only a little less OTT than taking the battery out. That wasn’t a consideration with any of the old ball+cord mice.

On a slightly bigger scale, many of the routers I’ve encountered lack an off switch. And they use hugely more power than a mouse when not in use. And don’t get me started on the big blue lights some modern computer gear flash at you, even when supposedly asleep: power use may be minimal, but annoyance isn’t. That goes for standby lights of all kinds too, from the macbook’s to the fire alarm’s.

Grrr …

A day of food

Got up early this morning.  The valley and hillsides were wreathed in a heavy morning mist.  Went out to pick blackberries.  We’re more-or-less into peak season for them now, and I didn’t have to go far to get a good pick.  Going out so early (unusual for me), I was in competition not only with insects, but quite a lot of snails that seem to like them.

Late morning was the first tasting, as I went to the cheese fair, an event organised by our superb local cheese shop and featuring a lot of their suppliers.  This year some wine, beer and cider producers were also exhibiting.  Combine that with the hot summer weather we’ve had so little of this year, and I should just about be ready to zonk out for the afternoon.

But there’s more.  This evening it’s a meal for Alan’s birthday, at the Royal Inn, one of our best local pubs.  *burp*

Reviews of the modules book

Yesterday, El Reg posted a review of my book. They seemed to like it. And perhaps more importantly, they may have reached a wider audience than previous reviewers, at least judging by the feedback that’s come my way. Though that could also be ‘cos it’s a Brit publication, and I naturally know lots of Brits.

Anyway, I do occasionally check for published reviews (using google of course). Maybe time to summarise what I’ve seen in the past?

If you know of any other independent reviews, please add them in a comment.

To complement the list of third-party reviews, here are my companion site for the book, and the book’s safari page from the publisher.

The modern mouse

I have bad memories of optical mice, from using them on Sun hardware in the 1990s.  Special mouse-mats (uncomfortable on the hand), and far less fine-control than a ball mouse.  So hitherto I’ve stuck with ball mice, and resolutely ignored the new generation of optical beasties.

But ball mice invariably deteriorate over time, even when the fluff is carefully removed.  These days their lifetimes seem way shorter than of old, too.  So I periodically have to replace them.  I took the opportunity of a few days in the big city to buy a new mouse from a high-street store.  Having experienced modern optical mice on other people’s machines, this time I got one myself.  It’s from Microsoft, and calls itself Optical Mouse 3000.

It’s a little smaller than my ideal rodent, but comfortable to use, and so far seems to work well, on a conventional mouse mat.  A clear improvement on a knackered ball mouse, though not on a pristine rodent.

The difference between Apache and qmail

… is that qmail’s license places restrictions on redistributing versions of the program other than officially-sanctioned releases.

Please let’s not forget that. Nor that it’s precisely why Apache satisfies all the usual criteria for FOSS, while qmail does not.

Beware of the sheep

The seafront at Brighton today. Red flags flying everywhere, to say no bathing.

Once upon a time, I used to walk on designated routes in the UK. I mostly gave that up when I lived in Sheffield and witnessed the devastation of the southern end of the Pennine Way, which I then made a point of avoiding. Well, except in about October, when I’d inevitably get caught out by rapidly approaching darkness and run to the trail for a descent into Edale that would be safe and easy in the dark.

For example, I recollect forest walks in Rothbury in Northumberland: we took the longest route, marked as 5 hours, and it was about 40 minutes leisurely walking (including throwing stick for dog). That’s fairly typical in England, so it came as a bit of a shock a few months later in Jotunheim (Norway), when I found myself taking significantly longer than the advertised times on some of the mountain routes. Maybe I could’ve traversed Glittertind in the advertised time if I hadn’t been carrying full camping gear, but it illustrates the contrast between UK bubblewrap and the real world.

Another recollection is a photo I really should scan. I was recently back from enjoying nature at its grandest in Iceland, and was now taking a week’s cycling in southwest England. This was on a touring bike, with road wheels, drop handlebars, etc, and loaded with camping gear. But I still ride it on not-too-challenging offroad trails. As I emerged from a section of the southwest coast path back onto the paved road, there was a sign saying “dangerous path” pointing the way I’d just come (on the bike ferchrissake), and another “alternative route”. I was sufficiently amused by it to photograph the absurd sign.

So today at the beach, what do I make of the flags?

Well, there was a strong wind blowing, and the waves were breaking vigorously. But nothing exceptional: certainly not like the proper autumn gales of about October. It was high tide, which means the gradient at the waterline is reasonably steep, which makes it much easier to get in and out in rough conditions than at low tide. I’ve been in from the same stretch of beach in far worse, notably back in 1998 when I lived about 3 months in Brighton after returning from Italy, and went swimming every day.

What are the risks? Big waves? Surfers love ’em. Currents? There’s usually a slight current along this beach, but I’ve never encountered one that pulls you out to sea, nor one that any confident swimmer would have trouble making headway against. And that wind was blowing from sea to land, making a doddle of bodysurfing back from anywhere to the beach.

What simple phrase summarises UK attitudes to allowing people into the Great Outdoors? “Beware of the sheep” seems like a great executive summary.