Monthly Archives: June 2010

Recycling by word of mouth

I’ve finally disposed of my old bike.

This is, or rather was, the mountain bike I bought in Italy, about 15 years ago.  It served me well for a number of years, including commuting, leisure cycling, shopping, and (not least) house-hunting when I found my current place.  But a while back (at least three years, I think a little more), it died.  That is to say, the frame developed a big rusty hole at the point of the bar where I’d drip sweat on the uphills, and seemed more than a little unsafe to use 😮 .

With the frame gone and the other parts in a range of states, I didn’t hasten to fix it.  But with some decent-quality parts still in good nick (wheels, rack, brakes, cranks, possibly other parts of the drive chain), it seemed too good to take to the tip.  And since I don’t have a new mountain bike, I’m not likely to use them for spares myself in the foreseeable future[1].  If I wasn’t such a procrastinator it would’ve gone to something like freecycle or ebay, but I never got around to it.

Fast-forward to a couple of weeks ago, when I met a chap in town with a not-quite-a bike.  We got chatting, and it turned out he was returning from the tip, where he’d been reclaiming serviceable parts from discarded bikes.  So I told him about the bike and asked if he was interested.  This week he came and took a look, agreed there were parts worth reclaiming, and took it away!

Happy to have it off my hands, and I hope he finds a good use for the parts!

[1] I don’t have space to keep multiple bikes I care about, but fortunately my touring bike is a decent all-rounder and serves both on and off-road.  The dead bike wasn’t a drain on my space ‘cos it lived out in the yard.

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Authentication cache for Apache

It’s been a while since I blogged about Apache.  But today I’ve committed a new module mod_authn_socache to cache authentication credentials.  This could provide a big performance boost for some users: for example those who authenticate their visitors from a database and have suffered the performance hit of an SQL query for every HTTP request.

The new module uses apache’s shared object cache infrastructure provided by mod_socache, and will work in HTTPD’s trunk and 2.3/2.4 versions only.  Users of version 2.2 (the current stable version) requiring comparable functionality can use Paul Querna’s old mod_authn_cache from sourceforge, as detailed in this thread.

Next step: document it!

A budget for …. recovery?

Today’s budget seems to have some limited good news.

First, if there’s to be a real economic recovery, it needs to be generated by productive business.  Reductions in corporation tax and jobs tax are the best things a budget can offer, and it has done exactly that.  If the chancellor’s colleagues can match it with reductions in red tape, we’ll have an improvement.  On the other hand, it introduces new perverse incentives, such as the substantial concession to new businesses vs equivalent existing ones.

The other slightly-good news is the signal on housing benefit.  If they can gradually bring it down, it’ll help rents fall for the priced out, who struggle to compete and often have to make do with homes unfit for ‘social housing’.  That in turn will reduce yields for property pimps.  On the other hand (and it’s a big one), he’s done nothing to discourage hoarders, and encourage owners of empty properties to bring them onto the market either for sale or to let.

VAT up in January, timed for the anniversary of the last rise so it won’t make a sudden difference to published inflation rates.  No change to the absurd policy of tying bank interest rates to a meaningless price index, though that could itself prove interesting as China – whose cheap manufacturing has been perhaps the single biggest influence for a decade – changes.

What else?  Oh, right, a climbdown on CGT, to hand freebies to the idle rich – albeit moderated by the reduction in the public housing trough.  And a dual rate that might encourage some working rich to take a reduced income for a year in which they take big capital gains.  New complexity, new loopholes, new perverse incentives.

A disappointing lack of ‘green’ measures, though the hint of a change in airline tax might be a small positive.

Now we await the spending review ….

Sporting prowess

Ever since they announced the London Olympics, I’ve vaguely wished I had the artistic prowess to draw a simple cartoon.  It would’ve encapsulated the spirit of the event.  Specifically, a couple of enormously fat people in front of the telly, surrounded by discarded lager cans and pizza boxes.

I’m happy to see our local co-op has picked up on the same theme.  They’re offering a “World Cup Special“: buy a six-pack of lager, and get a free pizza.  Seems I’m not the only one to comprehend the true meaning of that branch of the entertainment industry known[1] as professional sport. 😉

On a related note, lots of retailers and service providers are offering high-value things “free if England win”.  I understand they’re backed by insurance, meaning some underwriters could stand to make huge losses if England were to win.  If they had had any fear of that happening, they might’ve been keen to slip a few millions to anyone with the power to ensure it doesn’t.

[1] Or, in the case of the Olympics, supposedly not.

Summer Concert

Our next concert is Saturday week, June 26th.  This one is, unusually, at Plymouth Cathedral.  The programme is something of a pot-pourri, with works ranging from Haydn through to Walton.  Should be an enjoyable evening if you’re in the area.

Worth noting from this programme is Elgar’s choral song cycle From the Bavarian Highlands, which is something of a little gem.  I’m not always the greatest Elgar fan, but this is lots of fun, and evocative of its subject.  Lovely music for a summer evening.

Phone spam

Dear Lazyweb, can anyone help?

Despite having long ago registered NOT to get spam phone calls, I get more of them than I do real calls.  It’s annoying enough when I’m sitting by the ‘phone (as I am when at the ‘puter – with which it shares a desk), but makes me positively angry when I run in from another room for it.  I’m getting to the point where I don’t bother to try with landline calls, except when I’m expecting them.

I tried asking BT about blocking spam numbers a while ago, but they say they can’t, or won’t.  SO I wonder, is there a ‘phone or other bit of kit I can buy, that’ll screen out incoming calls from any 08xx number (as well as withheld numbers – so I don’t have to trouble BT with them)?  I avoid answering those already, as they are reliably some-call-centre.

Peace and quiet

After two days of works became more than three months (with notice given half-way through), we finally seem to have some peace and quiet.  The wall opposite is looking complete(!), and the workmen haven’t returned this week (though I thought they were back this morning, when a lorry stopped outside to load/unload, but it turns out that was just someone moving).  On the other hand, part of the building site is still fenced off, so maybe there’s more to do.

Most intriguing: how are they going to remove the scaffolding from the far side of the wall?  Normally you’d take scaffolding down starting at the top, and load it onto a vehicle at the bottom.  But there’s no access to the bottom of this wall.  They erected the scaffolding by lowering it from above, and I guess they’re going to need to bring a big crane to take it down.  That’ll be … erm … interesting, in our narrow little road.

In other local news, summer has reached the point where I’m hotter than comfortable while working.  The river is warmer than I recollect from recent summers, and also lower: after about four weeks of summer weather with very little rain, I was unable to swim on-the-spot against the current for exercise, as I have done many times in the past.

Happy event

A happy event is only truly complete when it is universally shared and celebrated.  So when your friend and colleague announces a happy event, it is vital not just to congratulate him/her/them, but also to share your joy as widely as you can.

Firstly, be sure to select the right means of communication.  Congratulations expressed in such an ephemeral medium as IRC, or (heaven forbid) the human voice, are lost so quickly, and anyone who is not present is denied the opportunity to share.  Likewise an old-fashioned card or private email, text message or similar is a selfish act of not sharing.  A message on the principal’s blog is almost as bad: it’s so rude and impersonal to make people come to your comment, when you could be sending it to them (and besides, some people might have already read the blog and forget to return to see your congratulations).

The right thing to do of course is to post your congratulations to big and busy mailinglists.  The medium is suitably personal, with every happy subscriber getting an individual copy of your joy.  These days of course everyone has unlimited storage and bandwidth, so be generous.  And don’t forget that even in a techie community, not everyone will read your message on a ‘phone or even a laptop.  It takes quite a lot of “Re: Happy Event” messages to fill a big screen with joy, and it’s not a truly happy community if there are so few messages as to leave other topics visible on someone’s mailer!

Oh, and congrats to DrB.

Who is at the door?

For today, I had arranged a walk and a pub lunch with a few friends.  I was expecting the first at about ten in the morning.  So when the doorbell rang at about ten past, naturally I knew who to expect and just opened it.

Imagine my horror when it turned out not to be my friend, but two Jehovahs Witnesses.  Aaargh!!!  YOUR WIFE IS A BIG HIPPO!  Fortunately they only got into the building, not my flat – I spotted my mistake while they were on the stairs, and got rid of them.

It was only afterwards it occurred to me that it really could have been worse.  At least I hadn’t let in some mad gunman, like the one who killed several people in Cumbria just a couple of days ago!

Is this the kind of thought process that leads to mass hysteria about the barbarian at the gates?  Today’s moslems, yesterday’s jews.  Today’s holocaust deniers, yesterday’s heretics.  Today’s pedophiles, yesterday’s homosexuals.  Today’s immigrants, yesterday’s immigrants (oops)!

p.s. nice walk, nice lunch, marred only by one of our friends being unable to join us.