Monthly Archives: May 2012

Veni Creator Spiritus

I’m becoming quite a laggard in my blogging.  Must do better.

I spent the last weekend in Exeter, in the first of three weekend workshops, to prepare for a performance in September of Mahler’s 8th symphony, the “symphony of a thousand“.  As a choral singer, this is one of those works one really must perform at least once in a lifetime, but one where the logistics of mounting a performance present such a challenge that opportunity doesn’t often arise.  Hence when I heard that the EMG Symphony Orchestra were organising a performance and recruiting singers from further afield than Exeter, I was happy to enroll.

This first weekend for the chorus was dedicated to the first movement, setting the latin hymn Veni Creator Spiritus.  For this work I seem to have ended up on the bottom bass line of Choir 1, based on identifying where there seemed to be the fewest others on the line (of any line compatible with my voice).

I think I’m going to enjoy this.  But having stayed Saturday night at the Holiday Inn (the nearest hotel to the rehearsal venue), I shall definitely be looking for an alternative next time.  I’d probably get a more comfortable stay in student halls if I book them for the next workshop in July.  Or I might upgrade to the Premier Inn, though that’s a longer walk to the venue.

The Wrath of God?

France’s new president Hollande hit by lightning on his first day in office!

I hope he’s a good atheist.  The world will come to terms with his politics and vice versa, but a paranoid president would be bad news indeed!

Online banking failure

I’ve been banking online for quite a few years with generally good results.  But I’ve just run up against the limits to it when I tried to access the information to transfer my cash ISA to another provider.  The account number is not available online, for bogus “security” reasons!  And when one thing fails, it seems everything falls apart.

Well, not quite everything: I was able to use an online messaging facility to get an answer after 48 hours.  But with lots of gratuitous hurdles on the way.  The followup online message I just sent them should be self-explanatory (it was slightly shortened to get within their 1000-character limit, so I had to lose things like the initial Thank You).

I regard a paper trail as a high risk, so I welcome paperless banking.

Paperless banking fails when I cannot access essential information online.  Doubly so when [bank] has closed our local agency so I have no branch access as backup!  Even if you blank out numbers in the overview, some means of accessing them is clearly essential!

Your phone service proved worse than useless.  I gave up at the point where it required me to enter the very account number I was trying to find out (surely a far bigger security risk than anything online, since that would have disclosed the number in an ultra-easy-to-read form over an unencrypted medium)!  In the absence of an option to speak to a human and identify myself using other information (such as my [current] account), this online message facility was my only option within your system.

Finally, this message service is defective.  I composed a reply only to lose it when the system erroneously logged me out.  It presented me a dialogue box from which I selected the option to stay logged in, but that led to the worst kind of failure: when I hit “send” it invited me to log back in and my message was lost without warning.

Grrrr ….

Whither FTP?

I recently installed an update of a software package running on an Amazon EC2 host.

In the configure step I found there was an unsatisfied dependency: it wanted ossp-uuid, which was not available on the system.  Neither was yum able to find it: there was an alternative uuid, but no hint of anything from ossp.  Turned up some problems with yum too (a hung security-update process from weeks ago and a corrupted database), but that’s another story.  Checking my box at home, the reason I hadn’t stumbled on the dependency is that ossp-uuid is installed as a standard package here.  A case of different distros having different packages in their standard repos.

In the absence of a package, installing from source seemed the obvious thing to do.  So I made my way to, from where navigation to an ossp-uuid source download is easy.  Reassuringly I see Ralf Engelschall is in charge (whois lists him too), but worryingly none of the packages are signed.  A summary look at the source package reassures me it looks fine, though I don’t have time for exhaustive review.  In the unlikely event of a trojan package having found its way to the site, I expect some reader of my blog will alert me to the story!

Anyway, that’s getting ahead of myself.  The unexpected problem I faced was actually downloading the package, which is available only through FTP.  Firefox from home timed out; lynx or perl GET from the ec2 machine returned an unhelpful error.  Looks like a firewall in the way of FTP building its data connection.  Installing an old-fashioned commandline ftp I found neither active nor passive mode would work, meaning neither the client nor the server could initiate the data connection.

Before going into an exhaustive investigation of those firewall components over which I have control (my router being #1 suspect at home), I decided to try other routes.  The problem was resolved when I was able to access the FTP server from my own (webthing) web server, then make the package available over HTTP from there to the ec2 box.

In the Good Old Days before the coming of web browsers and bittorrent, FTP was THE protocol for transferring files.  In 1990s web browsers it shared equal status with HTTP and others, and even into this century it was widely seen as a superior protocol to HTTP for data, particularly bigger files.

Now by contrast, the widespread use of blind firewalls requires me to jump through hoops just to use the protocol.  The rant I once published about everything-over-HTTP is coming to pass, and is not a good thing.