Monthly Archives: September 2011

You know it’s hot when …

… the sheep on the edge of the moors are all clustered in the areas of shade.

… the heating on the bus apparently can’t be turned off!

This year’s Indian Summer is particularly striking, coming as it does not just after the equinox, but also after autumn seemed to have set in in earnest with some fairly serious wind and rain.

(For international readers, we Brits use the phrase Indian Summer to describe a spell of hot, sunny weather coming after summer is supposed to have ended.  Just about late September it’s pretty usual).

Comment spam

Back in May I mused idly about hair in a very brief blog post.  For months now I’ve been plagued with a torrent of comment spam on that particular post, and I’m now disabling comments on it altogether.

This is the most unsubtle form of spam, full of utterly blatant keywords and phrases like “nude teens”, “pre-teen sex”, “lolitas”, “hairy pussy”, “nymphet incest” linking to the spammer’s sites.  So surely it should be trivial for a spam filter like akismet to deal with them?

Akismet can tend to be over-zealous with legitimate comments, and regularly tends to caution when posts contain links.  For example, Andrew’s recent comment on my Mac troubles includes helpful links which caused Akismet to send it to me for moderation.  Most regular spam just gets automatically binned without my ever knowing about it unless I actively take the trouble to check.  So how the heck does this particular crap get past it?  If Akismet were human, I’d have to suppose (s)he was either being blackmailed or taking backhanders!

It’s not even as if links from here have obvious spam value: wordpress automatically inserts rel=nofollow to tell the ‘bots to ignore them.  And my blog is actively managed: I welcome comments but remove spam, including the traditional innocent-looking stuff that just says something bland like “nice blog”, or even spam compliments like a “thank you for saying that” where they wrap a link.  My criterion is not what someone links to, but whether the ‘comment’ contributes to discussion or is a ‘bot that’s just posting at random or at best has latched onto some key word or phrase in a post.

Talking of which, I wonder why that particular post attracted so much crap?  Is it perhaps the phrase “Long luxuriant hair” appearing in a legitimate comment?  Or maybe the title of the blog entry means something different in the spambot’s world?

Let’s see if this entry attracts similar crap.  If it does, I might (reluctantly) have to close comments here too.

Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern will die tonight

A NASA satellite is crashing to earth, out of control.  Noone knows where it will land, but the chattering classes have been speculating on the risk of humans getting hit by it.

I just heard Prof. David Spiegelhalter on the wireless telling us the risk of getting hit was similar to the chance of 44 consecutive Heads on tossing a fair coin.

The Stoppard fans among us know that 44 times is nothing.  Do we need to resort to an Infinite Improbability Drive?

Bootstrapping development on mac

I don’t have any strong memory of bootstrapping gcc on the old mac laptop.  It’s something I just did, and I think it was by installing fink.

That’s not working on the new laptop: I’m getting an error message about needing version 10.7 or later of MacOS.  Apple’s own xcode gives exactly the same.  So it looks as if I’m going to have to get my hands dirty just to bootstrap a development environment.

MacOS on the machine identifies itself as version 10.8 (uname -a), so I infer that’s a misleading error message and may have nothing to do with the real reason the installers refuse to run.  But of course in the absence of a compiler, I’m at the mercy of binary packages like these installers.

Googling hasn’t helped: all the results just tell me to install xcode.  I have yet to try adding the specific error message (which I don’t have in front of me ‘cos I’m on a different machine right now), but I thought I’d try blogging just in case someone recognises the problem and can point me to an easy fix.

How do I bootstrap development on a new Mac?


I’m sure I can’t be the only one to be heartily fed up with the sheer volume of media coverage of late!

After all the crap we’ve been subjected to, it’ll be practically an anticlimax if nothing happens today!  Bah, Humbug.

Mac trouble

Dear Lazyweb, how can I stiffen a laptop hinge, or prop it open?

I have a new laptop, from my new Lord and Master.  Arrived today.  It’s a 15″ MacBook Pro, which makes it not unlike a bigger, quieter, and updated version of my old macbook.

On the plus side are the reasons for getting a macbook: hardware that Just Works a whole lot better than other laptops I’ve encountered, and a unix-family operating system without having to install it over what the company supplied.  On the minus side, several niggles, and one unexpected problem I’m scratching my head over.

The least of the niggles is that it’s US-oriented, with a US keyboard, and adapted for US power points: the latter makes it a pain to use here, though fortunately I do have a ‘universal’ adapter.  Slightly more bothersome: the metal finish is rather unpleasantly cold to the touch while using it.

The big and unexpected problem is that the screen’s hinge is too loose.  Not a problem when it’s resting on a flat surface, but it means I can’t hold it up vertically while lying on my back, a position I use quite a lot because it’s one I can sustain without back or neck pain.  That’s going to make it particularly hard to travel with when I go to places that don’t have a desk and chair I can sit at for sustained periods.

Any suggestions for how I can get it to stay open appreciated.