Richard Jones' Log Richard Jones' Log: Noise

Wed, 20 Aug 2008
Timezone fun

Just setting up some convenience aliases so I can deal better with timezones, I discovered this ...

rjones@l-rjones:$ TZ=BST date
Wed Aug 20 05:13:00 UTC 2008
rjones@l-rjones:~$ TZ=GB date
Wed Aug 20 06:13:40 BST 2008

So it doesn't recognise the timezone TZ=BST but it displays the Great Britain time as "BST" :)

The convenience aliases, BTW, are:

alias edate="TZ=US/Eastern date"
alias wdate="TZ=US/Western date"
alias ukdate="TZ=GB date"

'cos I'm sick of trying to do this in my head (and getting it wrong) and because the few GUI programs out there suck.

Mon, 21 Jan 2008
Terminators and Cloverfield

Rachel and I saw Cloverfield on Friday. I liked it (I'm not alone) but Rachel really didn't like it (she's not alone either).

We also watched the first two episodes of the new Terminator TV show. Before seeing it I was dubious about the premise (oh, it's another teen high-school drama but with Terminators ... wow) but I'm less dubious now that I've seen it. I am very, very frustrated with the sloppy writing though. They took great pains to explain the Terminator universe (the war, Cyberdyne, how time travel doesn't let machines or even clothes through) and then bam, at the start of the second episode they break one of the fundamental rules of time travel that they'd just explained to us.

Spoiler: the bad terminator's head is sent through time with the Connors with no living flesh covering. The Connors (and terminator pal Cameron) arrive all nekkid and sans "not quite nuclear" gun (and also healed up of serious wounds!?) but so does the bad terminator's head -- apparently intact! And why the hell was the terminator's body in a scrapyard?? After all that fuss about the arm in the second movie?

Sat, 13 Jan 2007
Thanks, Aleecia

Thanks, Aleecia, what a pleasant surprise!

category: Noise | permanent link
Wed, 03 Jan 2007
Heroes fans, rejoice!

Greg Beeman has a weblog. He's one of the two director/producers on the show and is blogging about the creation of each episode as it airs. There's an incredible insight into the processes and people behind the shows in each blog entry. I can't wait for the DVDs :)

category: Noise | permanent link
Tue, 31 Oct 2006
Thanks, Philip Crawford

Sorry, couldn't find your email address anywhere :)

category: Noise | permanent link
Sun, 22 Oct 2006
The Color Project

This is a fascinating experiment mapping 33,000 English nouns to the colours they are represented by in online image searches.

You'll need to run it in Firefox to have any luck (doesn't work in Konq, even though they use the same Java VM in Linux and also no show in Safari), and sadly you'll need IE to use the advanced "click" feature and context menus. The word search still works in FF though.

link via Nat :)

Fri, 18 Aug 2006
Why Linux isn't ready for the masses (part two bazillion)

So the sound stopped working in the HTPC yesterday. Usually I just go through a relatively arcane interface to set the unfathomably-named "IEC958 Playback AC97-SPSA" setting to "0". This does something. And it usually makes the sound work.

Last night it didn't. I spent 40 minutes fiddling with the alsamixer interface trying to make sound come out of the computer.

In the end, I found a complete "asound.state" file online that I compared against my "/var/lib/alsa/asound.state" file. The culprit? A setting called "IEC958 Playback Default" which had the value:


In the working configuration, the value is:


Fixing that "2" made sound work again. I have not a single clue what that "2" might switch. It's certainly not controlled by any of the alsa user interfaces.

I swear, if it wasn't for losing he ability to avoid DRM, I'd be all over using Microsoft products for this...

Sat, 20 May 2006
Wasting time at an airport

My plane to Iceland (via London) is late leaving Melbourne. To compensate, I'm waiting in a hotel listening to Björk and coding some random CPython stuff :). I've tried to spend the time productively, but these thoughts have briefly interrupted:

  • The newest wiki on the block, the Game Innovation Database (GIDb) is way cool and deserves further attention.
  • I downloaded and played EVE-online yesterday since I'll be meeting some of the developers in the next week and should know what it is they've done. And it's a very cool game that I'll be looking into some more. Grab the amazing video EVE Never Fades for an idea of the game set a great song -- I'm now looking into junkiexl for more music.
  • It just occurred to me that these are potential creatures for spore. The spore site's flash anim made me chuckle too.

This list may get longer...

category: Noise | permanent link
Thu, 02 Feb 2006
Three unrelated observations
  1. Ian Bicking is a smart cookie, and his roll your own web framework tutorial opened my eyes.
  2. Microsoft Word's macro "security" policy is just f***ing stupid. We use Macs but are still spreading macro viruses and pissing off people. In what universe is a default (and apparently unchangeable) policy of allowing automatic macro replication a good thing? And we can't get rid of the viruses, not even on Windows (we're still looking, and if anyone has any hints, I'd appeciate it.)
  3. Commercial TV. I watched some last night, on a whim, for the first time in months (it just so happened that it was tuned to The Simpsons followed by Futurama). Slightly less than an hour, with maybe 1/3 of that devoted to ads and promos, and I'd had enough. How do people put up with it?
Tue, 24 Jan 2006
2006 reading list

Rachel's kept a reading list for a few years now. Out of curiosity I've started one myself this year.

Mon, 15 Aug 2005
Spoilt for choice

Just a sampling of what I've read in the last few weeks:

  • Orb issue 6. A collection of Australian short speculative fiction. Some pretty cool stuff in there, some so-so. Dance schools were already weird enough, thankyou :)
  • Marvel 1602 -- Neil Gaiman, Andy Kubert and Richard Isanove. A very cool adaptation of the characters from Marvel's super-hero universe, transposing them into England in 1602.
  • Ministry Of Space -- Warren Ellis, Chris Weston, Laura Martin. What if the Brits had gotten to space first? What needed to happen for Dan Dare to be real?
  • Assassin's Apprentice -- Robin Hobb. Dark and interesting fantasy story. Starts out a bit awkward, but builds up steam and is ultimately quite satisfying in the end.

Currently I'm reading The Algebraist and Marvels, with the first trade issue of Alias sitting off to the side. And another compilation of Aussie speculative fiction. And then there's a bunch of other books on the shelves that are on my list to read...

What's quite cool is that 1602 and Marvels both came from the local library. Both are hard-cover and 1602 in particular is printed on beautiful paper which really shows off the artwork. I really hope this doesn't happen to our libraries.

category: Noise | permanent link
Wed, 11 May 2005
Melbourne train system...

This will probably only make sense to Melbournians. I was riding home last night in one of the ancient Hitachi trains. 13 degrees (Celcius for foreigners ;) outside, but we had to have the windows open anyway to get some fresh air in. On the window is one of those stickers "Fare Evasion Is Stealing". Someone had scribbled under it "Making us pay to ride in this crappy train is robbery."

Fri, 15 Apr 2005
"Organic" water

I've just noticed a 10-liter container of water in our kitchen that is proudly labelled "organic". I presume they're trying to convince purchasers that "organic" water is somehow good for them. Well, I guess they convinced someone, though no-one here is actuall owning up to it. I for one fondly recall (mostly because I wasn't there ;) Sydney's last experiments in "organic" water supply.

Thu, 07 Apr 2005

Why the *^@#$* does Skype's Linux client insist on stealing the keyboard focus? Any random message that comes in will pop up a new IM window, and suddely you're typing into it. This is especially annoying when you've got half a dozen people IM'ing you randomly. You're responding to one, and blam, you're typing into a new window. Damn that gets annoying after a while.

Thu, 17 Mar 2005
Oh yeah...

I have a camera phone now ;)

category: Noise | permanent link
Fri, 04 Mar 2005
Recycling mobile phones...

Just ordered myself a new phone (old one was getting crappier and crappier, and new one can take photos). Guy signing me up asked if I'd like a new SIM sent out for the old phone. I don't. I countered by asking whether they offer a recycling service. He was quite surprised - he said he'd not been asked that question in 2 years. Yes, they do have a service. What does it involve? I hand my old phone over to the courier delivering the new one. That's it! I asked him why they don't mention the service. He actually sounded puzzled. Maybe he might ask someone. There's always hope.

Wed, 23 Feb 2005
Shiny new hardware, obpystone

The old (at least 5 years old dual P3 860MHz):

$ python
Python 1.5.2 ...
$ python /usr/local/lib/python2.3/test/
Pystone(1.1) time for 50000 passes = 5.16
This machine benchmarks at 9689.92 pystones/second


$ /usr/local/bin/python -V 
Python 2.3.4
$ /usr/local/bin/python /usr/local/lib/python2.3/test/
Pystone(1.1) time for 50000 passes = 3.87
This machine benchmarks at 12919.9 pystones/second

The new (both machines have dual Opterons at 1.8GHz):

ellis:~$ python -V
Python 2.3.5
ellis:~$ python /usr/lib/python2.3/test/
Pystone(1.1) time for 50000 passes = 1.17
This machine benchmarks at 42735 pystones/second
gaiman:~$ python -V
Python 2.3.5
gaiman:~$ python /usr/lib/python2.3/test/
Pystone(1.1) time for 50000 passes = 1.16
This machine benchmarks at 43103.4 pystones/second

Oh, and:

gaiman:~$ python -c 'import sys;print sys.maxint' 

Cooool.... :)

Updated to correct speed of new CPUs

Wed, 09 Feb 2005
Recent reading / listening

I don't usually post about what I've been reading, but there's been a mixed bag recently, and some of it was inspired by other weblogs' posts.

Fables Vol. 1: Legends in Exile (Bill Willingham)
Not as enamored of this as some other people. I found the dialogue to be quite unnatural and even jarring in places. Also, I felt the overall story wasted the opportunities at hand.
Y: The Last Man Vol. 1: Unmanned (Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, Jr. Jose Marzan)
Wow. I read this on the train coming in to work and then again on the way home. I'll be reading it again too. Excellent use of the medium. Great artwork, great dialogue. I can't wait to read more.
Going Postal & The Gods Trilogy (Terry Pratchett)
I hadn't read Pratchett for ages until this Christmas when my brother bought me Going Postal. I really liked it. In the post-Christmas sales Rachel picked up the Gods Trilogy. Perfect reading material for just picking up and reading a chapter before nodding off at night.

Finally, Rachel got me '64-'95 by Lemon Jelly yesterday, and I love it :)

Update: I'm such a geek, Rachel corrected my spelling of dialog dialogue.

category: Noise | permanent link
Tue, 08 Feb 2005
Kids these days

Me: Waiting for my coffee this morning, I saw a couple of guys sitting at one of the café tables with a spread of mobile phone contracts on the table - guy A obviously setting guy B some wonderful new 3G phone.

C: In my day, the kids were ruining their lives over drugs and alcohol. Now it's mobiles.

G: Yeah, now we've got all these fresh-faced, clean kids in debt to their mobile phones instead.

C: So now instead of seeing the drug dealers at the train station, it's mobile phone dealers.

*: it should be pointed out that C is originally from Sydney :)

category: Noise | permanent link
Wed, 02 Feb 2005
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't

Booklet for first conference's 245 presentations exported, copy edited, fed back into online system and typeset in two days, off to the printers tomorrow. On the other hand, Zope-onna-OSX-laptop (mark 2) is floundering, big time. Bob Ippolito has been amazing with his support, but I'm really fighting to make Zope work in a py2app world. I need some sleep now. Via watching some classic season 2 Buffy.

category: Noise | permanent link