Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Annoying but probably necessary

Registration web pages seem to have this new thing - "Please confirm email address". Ah, I think you mean shift-tab to go back to the previous field, command-c (or control-c as appropriate) to copy the email address I already put in, tab to go to the next field, and command-v to paste. And don't even think about trying to disallow copy and paste.

Mind you, I regularly get emails which are meant for other people. I had one the other day from Dell for a David Stuart (or is it Stuart David?) about returning a defective part: I get some from a pseudonym where I know the real address so I forward it to the real Sue Donym: and I received this cracker the other day:

Hi all,

Eric and I looked and determined the porn URL's began w/post #145 dated 12/29/07.



Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Oh noes!

I linked to a Clay Shirky article in 2003. It's a sign of the times, I suppose, that now I'm embedding a video of him speaking - "Gin, Television, and Social Surplus". Well worth watching. Turn the TV off first :)

I thought this was a fascinating speech (there's a transcript here), but as I was copying the code to embed it I thought - massively increasing participation in media? What about comments on blogs and articles? If we're looking at a 10000% increase in the mindless drivel, opinionated rubbish, bigoted nonsense and space-wasting by air-wasters we all see every day - please, turn the TV back on. (You know I don't mean you, gentle reader(s)..)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

All the pieces mattered

Just watched the last episode of The Wire - don't panic, no spoilers here.

We'll not see it's like again - except, unlike of every other TV drama I have ever watched, I'm prepared to watch it again, in fact I'm looking forward to watching it again: I want to see how it fits together in retrospect. It's a testament to the quality of the writing of The Wire that alone amoung TV drama it could make repeated viewings worthwhile, like a good book rewards repeated readings.

David Simon, the creator and writer thanks us for watching. No, Mr Simon, thank you: I hope you can do something half as good as this for your next project, because that will still be twice as good as anything else on TV.

Plus, I can do a halfway passable Baltmore accent now: Yearr, like dat. Fill me?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Just bought a server

Dell are selling their SC440 servers for £105 with free shipping. I couldn't resist.. upgraded to a 250GB hard disk and it came to £125 all in including VAT.

The offer expires today, or when stocks run out. If you want one:

Go to the Dell site, Small Business Section --> Server Solutions --> Tower Servers --> PowerEdge SC440

So my old box is up for grabs. It makes a fine XP or Linux machine, as it's limited to 512 MB of RAM: Pentium 4 1.5 Ghz. Ping me or comment if you want it.

Edit: nobody wants my old PC, but I reckon I can get £50 for it in the Friday Ad which makes my new server - with it's Intel Dual-Core E2160 1.8GHz, 1MB L2 cache, 800MHz FSB - a net cost of £75. I like those numbers! That processor is by no means stellar, but it's way good enough for me. OK, I'll need to add some memory - hello Crucial Brew - and a SATA disk or three, but mmm.

Another edit: the offer seems to be really finished. You can get a T105 with a Dual Core AMD Opteron 2.2GHz for £99 but shipping is extra, and Dell shipping is ~£50 + VAT so that's £183 with the 250GB hard disk update.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Rule Brittanica

I signed up for this Encyclopedia Britannica web stuff and to my surprise they let me in. This is a test post to see how it works: Britannica on Britannica.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Camino 1.6 has been released: if you're sick of how hideously ugly FireFox looks on OSX and you want an alternative to Safari, you could do a lot worse than give it a go. Me, I like to live on the edge and use trunk builds, and I discovered a new feature yesterday which is due to land in Camino 2 - Tabsposé! This gives you a page full of thumbnail pictures of all the tabs you have open.

Unfortunately, there's no text explaining what has happened, and no indication that to switch to a tab you click it's picture, and then the tab bar will be restored. I'm sure something will be included in the final version for those poor souls you click Command-Control-T by accident (which is what I did). It didn't help that I had 30 tabs open at the time..

My Yahoo! The buttons do nothing

I don't know where this My Yahoo popup came from - I never use Yahoo as such - it appeared on my desktop last night and it won't go away: the buttons don't do anything, I can't move it, I've relaunched Finder and closed all applications but it persists. Hopefully a reboot will get rid of it.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Multiple row bookmark toolbar in Firefox 3.0 - 3.5

Note: this doesn't work in Firefox 3.6 - for now I've installed the Multirow Toolbar Extension which is working fine so far.

If you have Firefox 3.5 though, put this in your userchrome.css file: unfortunately you have to hard code the height of the bookmark bar though, so adjust that if it isn't right. Thanks and kudos to knc2007 on the Mozillazine forums.

(Note that you can't drag and drop on rows other than the first: drop a bookmark on the very right hand side of the top row and it will put it on the right hand side of the bottom row)

@namespace url("");

/* Multi-row bookmarks toolbar for Firefox 3*/
{display:block !important;}
{display:block !important;
height: 50px !important;
overflow-y:auto !important;}
#bookmarksBarContent toolbarseparator
{display:inline !important;}
#bookmarksBarContent .bookmark-item
{visibility: visible !important;}
.chevron {height: 0px !important;}

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Visual Studio 2008 Crash And Burn

I upgraded my app to Visual Studio 2008 - not for any particular immediate reason except wanting to see what's new and different, and I could easily enough revert to the VS2005 format.

Oh dear - crash crash crash. Crash crash crash. Constant, reproducible crashing - and one thing I could say for VS2005 was that it was extremely stable. Then I noticed ugly artifacts (badly drawn lines, 'scratches' and other digital noise) on the border of a form, which if it was the current document would cause Visual Studio to crash. Aha! Video drivers. I got the latest driver for the PC's card (an ATI Radeon x600) and voila, everything seems much more stable, and I managed to work in it for a few hours with no crashing at all. Time will tell though.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Windows Server 2008 for free

You can get Windows Server 2008 evaluation for 240 days for free - see (you have to re-arm (shouldn't that be "re-disarm?") the activation period each 60 days, but I'm sure Windows will remind you :)

That's about eight months for free. You can always zap your partition and reinstall again when it expires.


There came a point long ago in The Simpsons - a popular TV show about yellow people with missing fingers - where the father figure Homer became less morally sympathetic than Frank Gallagher, the feckless alcoholic unemployed drug addict father figure from Shameless. Admittedly Frank has had only five seasons to deteriorate (*), and it took Homer nine or ten years to morph from a man who tries in a spectacularly inept way to do his best for his family into a wholly unsympathetic arsehole. (If only Fox had told the voice characters to fuck off and cancelled the show when they struck for more money, there would be a canon of the highest quality instead of champagne diluted with piss.)

Anyway, I've talked about this shit before and to no avail, but I wanted to say something else anyway - if you haven't watched Shameless,you should: start from series one with Fiona and Steve, and see it all the way through to Stella. It dips a bit in the middle series maybe, but when you find your hackles rising when you hear the piano theme tickling in towards the end you know you're hooked like a fish. Make poverty history indeed!

(*) In honesty, I think Frank's character has improved a bit.

Hot cold summer night

I've noticed driving home from work that the rooks are roosting high in the trees, a harbinger of a hot summer. Boo! It's all right for you people with pigment - I've already got sunburned this week.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Windows Server 2008, Boot Camp and a Macbook

Well, it works. Here's some notes for anyone wanting to do it:

1) The 64 bit versions of Windows Server 2008 will only work properly on a Macbook Pro or Mac Pro and not on a MacBook. It all goes OK until you try to install the drivers from the Leopard disc: the KeyAgent and MacHAL drivers simply refuse to load, so none of the hardware really works (OK, if you can do without any kind of right click and put with deranged mouse movement then maybe you'll be able to get away with it but I wouldn't bother. There are several forum posts from people with the same problem but no answers.)

2) The Windows Server 2008 ISOs you get from MSDN will not boot into Boot Camp without a good bit of tweaking. Fortunately, the required software is free and the instructions are good. (The reason is, sigh, failing to follow the standards)

Incidentally, if you try with a DVD burnt straight from a MSDN ISO you get this cryptic menu:

Select CD-ROM Boot Type:

(Pressing the 1 or 2 key does nothing)

3) Windows Server 2008 is designed for a minimalist install, to reduce the "attack surface" as the jargon goes. So the wireless network capability is not installed by default: it needs to be added in the "Add Features" part of 'Server Manager' (which starts up by default anyway). That's also where you can turn on the Desktop Experience, which gets you the Aero desktop and Media Player etc, though you still have to start the Themes service to get Aero. There are lots of other options available. Incidentally, the Windows Audio service isn't set to start automatically either. Did I say minimalist? After only an hour or so I am really starting to like this OS. Funny how Vista went in the opposite direction - more on that later maybe.

This still is not enough to connect to your wireless network though - even after rebooting it won't find it by default, I think because the Wireless service doesn't start by default (I chose that option from 'Diagnose and Repair' from the network icon and it worked, but as I didn't start it myself I can't be sure)

4) One more thing to do: go into System Properties (sorry, 'Advanced System Settings') then the Advanced tab (presumably super-advanced!) and choose Settings\Advanced (TRIPLE Advanced!) and change 'Adjust for best performance of' from 'Background Services' to 'Programs'.

Why install Windows Server 2008 instead of Vista? See point 3: minimalist = good, fast and less likely to go wrong, and on a MacBook I have no hardware compatibility problems to worry about. Also no UAC bothering me as it doesn't mind you logging on as the Administrator account (if you're administering a server then you're presumed to know what you're doing. I think I do, so I like that.)

Problems? I have three unknown devices in Device Manager. Looking at the Hardware IDs in the Details tab, they all look like Bluetooth, which I don't use anyway.

If you do this and you haven't used Windows Server 2003, watch out for Internet Explorer Enhanced Security Configuration: it will block any site not in it's whitelist (i.e basically all of them), which can make downloading Firefox a bit troublesome: you need to add to see the site and then the download location to get the installer file. It works better than the previous version, though, and it's easy enough to get FF. Or Opera, or Safari, whichever. Or if you must you can turn off Enhanced Security Configuration, it used to be in what is now called "Windows Features" but I'm not even going to look: now Windows Update is in Control Panel there's no need for me to use IE at all. (Edit: it's now in Server Manager and it's easy to turn off: just as well as Visual Studio help goes berserk when it's on..)

Other than that, It's just like Vista in Boot Camp: two finger scrolling works, but tap-to-click doesn't, you can get a context menu by pressing two fingers on the trackpad and clicking.

Here's a list of some more links I found useful but haven't mentioned yet:

Windows 2008 Server on my Macbook Pro

Turning a Mac Mini into a virtual windows hpc server 2008 compute cluster

Installing Windows Server on a Macbook Pro

For server geeks: The 'Book Of Longhorn' - Changes in Functionality from Windows Server 2003 with SP1 to Windows Server 200

How to make Windows Server 2008 just like Vista

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Mark Lawson Talks To Me

There's a series on BBC4 called "Mark Lawson talks to.." which I hugely recommend if a) you're old enough to have heard of George Cole or Barry Cryer or David Renwick (creator of One Foot in the Grave) and b) you can stand to watch a program which is an hour long and consists of two people talking. OK, c) you're over 40 years old.

BBC4 has I suppose become my default TV station now, as Radio 4 is my default radio station: FIP reception is a bit sketchy in our house and I can't get it on the telly. It's great to be old!

Saturday, April 05, 2008


Oh, but not as angry as me. My installation of Vista Ultimate on my MacBook is FUCKED. Microsoft's 'Frankenbuild' update (kb929391) seems to be the culprit: the Software Licensing Service won't start (error 0xc004d103), so the Control Panel is empty (reduced functionality?) as in my previous post. I have enabled all services - even the obviously stupid ones like "Tablet PC" (yes, Windows can't tell if it's running on a tablet and start the service itself manually) - and rebooted. Nothing, nada, nil.

This isn't so bad, I can still get to the Control Panel applets by expanding the dropdown in My Computer, but after a few times you can tell when things are going bad in Windows. Incidentally, a Google search for 'empty control panel vista' (without the quotes) gets 1,680,000 results so it's not just me.

The only thing I have done recently was to try to start Vista via "My Boot Camp" in Parallels (which lets you run Windows as a virtual machine in OSX). It failed (it always fails for me) and the next time I booted into Vista it installed "something" and demanded an immediate reboot. Maybe it was KB929391, maybe it was a Parallels something, maybe Parallels messed with Windows and made Vista angry. Parallels asked for Admin permissions before trying to start Vista, which I thought was odd, but hey, I'm just a user, why tell me what's going on.

Still, I was thinking about sticking the Windows Server 2008 64 bit version on it anyway, like this guy has. Bearing in mind that my copy of Vista is from my MSDN subscription and my employer pays a couple of thousand pounds per year for it, I think I will raise a support incident with Microsoft about it first, as I really don't want to have to spend the time reinstalling when I could be working. (Edit: I can't be arsed to call Microsoft, they make it very hard to do deliberately)

I tried to like Vista, I really did. My new app looks great in it, I like some of the things they have done 'under the hood' like ASLR - but for sure it doesn't like me. It's fast and super-slick on my MacBook, and up till now everything worked. Well, that's Windows for you: fine until it goes wrong, then you're in a world of pain..

Edit: Now Windows Update fails with error code 80070426. Apple Software Update (for Windows) fails with a "Out Of Memory" error.

I'm downloading WS2008 x64 (via Virtual PC on my G4 as ever.) - nothing to lose if it doesn't work right (except my time) as Vista obviously needs reinstalling, unless my commenter Richard can save the day :)

This isn't right

Vista has misplaced it's Control Panel! Time for yet another reboot..

Friday, April 04, 2008

Lydia oh Lydia, oh have you met Lydia..

I came across this website on a blog entry and I think it deserves more publicity, especially as the owner has it up for sale: - so that's Modest Apparel Christian Clothing Lydia Of Purple Dresses Custom Have a poke about, there's lots to see.

Lydia of Purple specializes in custom sewn garments for homeschooling mothers that homeschool their young ladies and girls in modest dress.

Somehow I think 'homeschooling' has a subtext here.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The War On Stupidity

The Wire is a US drama series: if you haven't seen it, I envy you, you have a treat in store. If you have you'll know it's about the drug trade in Baltimore, seen from both sides.

Anyway, there's a quote from it which for me perfectly encapsulates the War On Drugs even though it's apparently about a turf war between two drug gangs: the quality of the writing of the series is so high that I wouldn't be at all surprised if that was exactly the effect they wanted to achieve.

It don't matter who did what to whom: we went to war, and now there ain't no turning back.

I mean, shit, that's what war is, you know - once you in it, you in it. If it's a lie, then we fight on that lie, but we gotta fight" (Hear it)

Oh, there's this quote as well:

Detective Greggs: "Fighting the war on drugs, one brutality case at a time"
Detective Carver: "You can't even call this shit a war."
Detective Hauk: "Why not?"
Detective Carver: "Wars end.."

Edit: This applies just as well to the War On Terrorism. Hopefully not the second bit..

Another edit: apparently, The Wire is Barack Obama's favourite TV show..

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

New Mismatism

New coin designs have been announced by the Royal Mint. Nice.

Incidentaly, on their faq page, they link to an email enquiry form. Unfortunately the URL is (which doesn't exist) instead of Obviously this needs repairing and "if any of my circuits or gears will help, I'll gladly donate them".. (found the correct quote thanks to Wookiepedia (groan))

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Two leads are better than one

I bought a little 250GB USB hard disk. It comes with a strange thing I've never seen before: a split USB lead which goes into 2 USB sockets at once. Just as well I haven't got a MacBook Air with it's single USB socket!

Presumably this allows it to read from both or write to both or read from one and write to the other, or power through one and data through the other - who knows, Seagate certainly don't say.

Edit: Canadian Rob tells Robin it's for power, but you don't have to use both.


I used to use a bunch of methods of starting applications in OSX Tiger: spotlight, the recent apps menu, fire up a finder instance, but now in Leopard I only ever use my Application stack from the dock. I've created aliases for the most useful programs that aren't directly in the Applications folder (ie they are in subfolders or /Developer) and turned on the highlight effect. I've even started to develop mouse-memory for where they are in the stack.

Try it, you might like it.. here's a pic of mine.

So true...

My favourite aphorism of the moment is:

Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement.

There's some confusion about who to attribute it to though.

All right, we don't really know why we recommended it..

Bit of a WTF from Amazon:

Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots

I finally went out and bought a disk big enough to back up all the disks and data on my poor old PowerMac G4 with Time Machine. Bit surprised to find there are 939,685 items on it: I deleted fink and all sorts of other stuff after the Leopard upgrade. Maybe I need to start a new user account and dump this one. Maybe I need to do a clean install after all - I have had a few Colonel Panics (i.e. crashes), though fewer since 10.5.2 came out.

Nothing, nada, nil

I watched The English Surgeon on Sunday night, a superb documentary about an English neurosurgeon called Henry Marsh who goes to the Ukraine every year to hew out brain tumours with Homebase drills and a Ukraninan doctor called (of course) Igor. I wasn't watching at first, just left it on after MOTD2, but by the end there wasn't a dry eye in the room.

The last line (spoken by Henry) was:

"What are we if we don't try to help others? We're nothing, nothing at all"