Archive for Musings

Mass exodus

It struck me on my way onto campus this morning at 8:40am that there were a huge number of students leaving the Hyde park area and heading in my direction. Now I know a lot of students live in that area, but do so many really have lectures at 9am such that there have to be so many people on the pavement that it impeeds my usually fast progress? I walk quickly, very quickly in fact, and a 5mph slow amble just won’t cut it. I’m contemplating researching another route just to ensure I’m not slowed down, after all if I try to overtake the slow folk by walking in the road I’m bound to meet my maker an awful lot sooner than I ever intended in the form of a speeding taxi driver.

Perhaps people are just extra keen given that its the start of the year and the numbers will drop off as the weeks roll by, but I have to face the possibility that it will take over 20 minutes to get into the School of Computing just because people have to walk on pavements in groups of 20 or more. Pre-school is over; crocodile formation is no longer needed folks.

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Washing issues

For a long time now we have had a washer dryer that washes fine but wouldn’t dry even if the world was at stake. Finally the engineer who had been supposed to come out and fix it for weeks did actually turn up and do so. Fantastic I thought; dry clothes in minutes rather than hours/days. The only problem is that in fixing the drying component of the machine the helpful chap managed to break the washing component. It never rains but it pours.

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Owen loses blog

One of the key developers of WordPress has lost his blog due to a catastrophic RAID array failure. Owen Winkler, author of Asymptomatic has posted a temporary message saying that all his blog postings have been lost because his backups were stored on the same array. You can read about the specifics on his temporary home page. Its sad to see someone lose precious content, especially a blog because they do almost become a part of you as an individual, but even more sad to see someone losing a blog because their backups were not on an entirely separate system.

I can’t stress this enough folks; if you have content you don’t want to lose, make sure you have at least one backup on a machine or medium that has nothing what-so-ever to do with the machine that normally holds the content, preferably in a different location. If you run your own site and use cPanel, please use my backup utility. It’s quick, painless, automated and FREE. It will also mean pain is restricted to just a few hours downtime in the event of catastrophic server failure. It sounds so simple, but people just don’t think until it happens to them.

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Facebook time errors

Ok, so I raved about the wonderful feature on facebook that allowed you to syndicate your blog into “note” form over on their site not so long ago. I have found a problem with this though; it time-stamps each syndicated note with the time at which it was syndicated not the time in the RSS feed and if you made more than one posting since it last checked the feed then it assumes they were made at the same time and makes you look like some kind of typing freak for managing to rattle out 1000 odd words in under 30 seconds.

The question I have is why do I take the trouble to provide fully time-stamped RSS feeds if facebook’s feed parser is just going to ignore them? I don’t send these packets to people for nothing you know. Seriously, a little reminder to all developers of great features out there; just because you wrote it, doesn’t mean you can re-write the standards of the systems you rely on for your idea. If your idea uses times and the feed you are parsing provides times then read those times. If I wanted you to ignore the times of my postings then I wouldn’t be sending them to you on the feed now would I *sigh*

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Dell computer fury

I setup a new Dell computer for my sister today and was driven so mad that I felt I had to write something here. On the face of it its a nice little machine, good spec, came fairly cheap, is well built and has a nice sharp 17″ flat screen. My gripe isn’t with the hardware at all though, its with what I was presented with on the hard drive.

The system came pre-loaded with Windows XP, which is fine and what my sister needs, but on top of that was a SHOCKING (and I mean shocking) number of needless programs. There were about 6 trial programs all setup to pop up registration/purchase reminders on start-up and on top of that there was an ugly set of internet trial programs loaded on as well. To get a “bare bones” windows install with just the dell drivers and a few other items my sister needed before putting her own programs on I had to remove about 18 applications and restart the machine 7 or so times in the process.

Then I found something that made my blood boil. A standard install leaves you with a C drive with all your data on it. You can then use an application of your choice to reduce the size of C and repartition the remaining space as you wish or leave it as is of course. This system however, because it came with a Norton Ghost trial was setup to have a “backup” partition, which as only a trial program was provided was completely useless and a rubbish size for anything other than taking a C drive image, which my sister wasn’t going to do. I had to use a 3rd party (paid for) application to fix this partitioning issue because Ghost wouldn’t do it either before or on uninstall. Given the number of trial programs I had already found I was shocked the machine wasn’t programmed to try and sell me a copy of partition magic as it sat smugly and watched my predicament.

Last but certainly not least on my list of gripes was the number of Windows updates that needed to be downloaded. I had to gobble up well over 250Mb of bandwidth just to bring the machine up to scratch, yet the machine had only been built a week earlier, and boasted it was SP2 ready. While it did have SP2, it didn’t have updates realeased at the same time as SP2. Go figure.

All in all I’m angry with Dell. Not because their hardware has gone downhill, it hasn’t – its still as good as it ever was, but for selling out to as many software companies as possible and serving their customers effectively ad infested machines rather than something that can be used out of the box. I used to recommend Dell as perfect for the novice to just get out of the box and use, but now you need a phd level education just to remove the trial pop-ups that insist on interrupting your work. Needless to say I shant be making such recommendations in the future.

I guess the small mercy is that automatic updates and the firewall came enabled by default. At least the newbies won’t be hacked while they enjoy their ads then.

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Insurance rip-off

It would appear that cheaper living in Leeds has it’s downsides. Insurance for students for the past few years for me has been cheap. Really cheap in fact, usually not exceeding £30 a year for complete cover for all my things in the house. This year it seems that they feel I deserve a price hike, by about 300% in fact. I was quoted a little over £120 for exactly the same cover I had for my last house in York. You can guess where I told them (them being Endsleigh) to shove it. Theres always a remote possibility of a well secured house being robbed, but it seems there is complete certainty of daylight robbery by the insurance company. I’ll take my chances thank you.

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Ok, I’ve just replaced my poll with something else, but recently there has been a interesting question up on the site “Does friendship exist anymore?”. Considering the ill thought-out nature of the question I was pleased to see that the majority of voters said yes. If I had worded it better however by saying “Does true friendship exist anymore?” I would have expected much more people selecting the “I want to debate this!” option.

Well, without everyone getting a downer on this and thinking friends are meaningless, allow me to explain. I believe that most of the people we call friends are more mates than friends. They are people we hang out with, drink with, joke with etc. While they are more than casual aquaintainces, do they really qualify as friends?

To try and answer this question I will take my favorite definition of a friend; “A friend is someone you can fully trust”. Think about that carefully. How many of your friends couldn’t keep that secret you keep without telling anyone? How many friends are you scared to tell about something personal you need advice about because you are not sure what they would think/say/do? The bottom line is that if you fully trust someone then you wouldn’t have a problem sharing these things with that person.

I don’t want to suddenly cause you to “downgrade” all your friends to something lesser than they are, because people we have an affinity with and enjoy spending time with should be valued and appreciated irrespective of anything else. What I’m saying though is do we have any special friends, best friends if you like, true friends who we fully trust? In my humble opinion to know a friend like this is to know the true meaning of friendship. So I guess what I was asking in my poll was not if people have friends, but if there exists the environment in this day and age where there is a place for true friendships – are we trusting enough of the people we should fully trust or has the culture of blame, mistrust and back-stabbing over-taken us to the extent where we have lost the ability to readily form true friendships.

Its not a question I can answer in the context of the world as a whole, but I feel for me that while it is more diffcicult to form true friendships than it might be were people more trusting it is most certainly still possible. Feel free to debate these rather incoherent ramblings using comments if you wish 😉

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I’m down south in St. Albans at the moment staying with my family for the next couple of weeks because a number of things I’m due to attend down here are happening all at once. When I pack I’m normally very careful to double check I’ve got everything, but this time because the taxi arrived literally 2 minutes after hanging up the phone to the cab control centre I didn’t have the time to give my bags the once over. As a result I forgot my Bluetooth dongle (meaning I can’t use my wireless mouse with my laptop for 2 weeks), my shaver (meaning I will have to use a blade razor for 2 weeks which I hate) and my jacket (which means I will have to borrow one from the house – luckily very doable).

I guess the moral of the story is to always check you have packed everything and if there is a taxi involved, do so before calling the cab company!

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System Admin Appreciation Day

I came accross a link to the System Administrator Appreciation Day website today and realised that I had just missed it by a few days, more to the point others have missed it by a few days and I didn’t get any appreciation as a result, still there is always next year and I’m not a big time sys admin at the best of times anyway.

Still, it is food for thought; these websites we spend hours on every day, or at least every week for those who use the net less, are maintained and run be people working tirelessly and without thanks to make sure you get the same high quality experience you expect 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Yes, if there is an error in the middle of the night they really do get woken up and the job never really comes to an end.

We really should appreciate our systems administrators, not just on one day a year, but all the time. After all, high on caffine they may be, but they keep us grounded by making sure our systems work in the best way possible so we have one less thing to worry about. A virtual beer and a pat on the back to all the sys admins I know.

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Length of jail terms

As an opening post for a new blog there couldn’t have been a better point for Paul to start a debate about than how long criminals should remain in jail for various crimes. The original post centres on a particular murderer who targeted young children, but the bottom line is that the decision about how long to put someone away for for any serious crime is one that causes serious debate and anguish for many of the victims and in the case of murder victims, their families.

One of the things that causes this strong controversy is the place for human emotion in law; there isn’t one. The law doesn’t take account of emotion, merely the facts. This will inevitably result in a large amount of upset and anguish in an emotive case that has its verdict decided purely on the facts. The problem is that emotions vary, and to pass a sentance on a variable that can change as often as the wind would be to destroy the concept of fair trial and justice on which we all rely to live our lives the way we do.

The problem is I don’t wish to make these comments without sympathy, because I have a lot of sympathy for victims and their families and I agree entirely with their view that the law doesn’t go far enough with dealing for the hurt and loss that these dangerous criminals cause. The issue in this though is who wants to take responsibility for them. In certain states of America they have the death penalty, but in those same states you get victims who feel upset about feeling like they have blood on their hands irrespective of the crime committed. Likewise you get early releases or short sentences that cause similar levels of upset for opposite reason; they feel justice hasn’t been served.

Based  on those points then the only solution is a true life sentence for these people. Unfortunately the costs involved with this are huge. Prisons take away from badly needed services such as schools, hostpitals and police. I guess the biggest question in all this is not what we want to happen to dangerous criminals but what we want to sacrifice in other areas of our lives in order to get justice served the way we want it.

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