Free/Open Source Government: part 2

On 31st March the British Standards Institute (BSI) submitted an updated vote of approval, on ISO 29500 (MS OOXML). The move surprised many, myself included. In September 2007 the BSI had voted ‘No - with comments’, attaching a long list of reasons. The response had been prepared in the open over the web, using the BSI OOXML Wiki. It was applauded by many, including members of other national standards bodies, a BSI report to the All Party Internet Group (APIG) stated:

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Author's profile picture Alex Willmer

Ubuntu Long Term Support and LugRadio Live

My first ever LugRadio Live was LRL 2006, which was the perfect opportunity to pickup CDs of the then newly released Ubuntu 6.06 LTS. My last ever LugRadio Live is LRL 2008, which will be the perfect opportunity to pickup CDs of the now newly released Ubuntu 8.04.1 LTS. See you there, July 19th - 20th.

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Author's profile picture Alex Willmer

@Programmers of web forum/blog software

Dear web 2.0 coolios, Please stop writing comment systems with half-assed threading. I understand you had to replace all those icky newsgroups on usenet, but you could have done a better job. Take a look at Google Groups, Gmane. See how all those conversations are nicely grouped together? See how nobody is writing @previous_author? Please sort it out, because the status quo doesn’t work.

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Author's profile picture Alex Willmer

"Unlimited"*

The term “unlimited” has been stretched in various ways over the last few years. Usually it’s been qualified, limited if you will, by some undefined fair use policy in the small print. Well now those hidden limits are getting aired. If you squint, Tiscali’s current TV ad admits a 3 GB limit for their headline price. T-Mobile are very up front on their Mobile Internet Access rates page, but it takes advanced double-think to state “unlimited” within 200 pixels of the limit.

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Author's profile picture Alex Willmer

Power consumption on Linux with the proprietary Nvidia driver

By default the proprietary driver for Nvidia cards on Linux fires an interrupt for every frame drawn on screen, whether it needs to or not. This increases power consumption. To avoid this use version 100.14.19 or later of the driver (the nvidia-glx-new package in Ubuntu 8.04 provides 169.12) and set OnDemandVBlankInterrupts to true in /etc/X11/xorg.conf. For example: Section “Device” Identifier “Configured Video Device” Driver “nvidia” Option “NoLogo” “True” Option “OnDemandVBlankInterrupts” “True” EndSection This will reduce the time your CPU spends on spurious interrupts. Your laptop should run cooler and longer as a result.

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Author's profile picture Alex Willmer

Free/Open Source Government: part 1

Several events for me in the last fortnight converged almost perfectly on a common theme

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Author's profile picture Alex Willmer

UKUUG spring 2008 and 1st PostgreSQL UK conference report

My first UK Unix User Group conference and the first ever Postgres UK conference ended on Wednesday. Both were successful, reactions I overheard were good. Dave Page has a posted a wrapup. My favorite talk of the conference has to be Software patents and open standards by Pieter Hintjens. His style was engaging and his words cleared my understanding and opinion of software patents and more. Expect a post on this matter soon. There were many more talks on the Wednesday I would have loved to attend. Audio was recorded for nearly all talks and should be uploaded soon. A close second is Explaining EXPLAIN by Greg Stark. He gave a concise & understandable talk on a deep subject in a short timeslot. The slides from all the postgres talks have been uploaded already. A The PostgreSQL conference closed with a discussion of features attendees missed in PostgreSQL and discussion of a conference goal - to increase the profile of the UK PostgreSQL User Group (ukpug). The ukpug mailing list takes a little tracking down, but please sign up if you’re in the UK and into PostgreSQL.

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Author's profile picture Alex Willmer

Notes on using sdelayer to mosaic data into ArcSDE

For those who aren’t familiar, ArcSDE is server software that sits atop a database to spatially enable it. The resulting geodatabase is able to store geographic features (e.g. roads, buildings, endangered habitats) along with more common SQL data types. ArcSDE can also store georeferenced rasters such as scanned plans/maps or satellite/aerial imagery. To load raster data as a continuous layer one typically mosaics many images, using ArcGIS Desktop or the sderaster command. ArcGIS Desktop is more flexible, it accepts many image formats and can resample images that don’t perfectly align, but it’s slow and struggles with large jobs. The sderaster command is faster and scriptable, but it accepts only tiffs and it’s very fussy about them. What follows are some notes that will remind me the next time and possibly help others.

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Author's profile picture Alex Willmer

UK Unix Users Group Spring & Postgresql UK Conferences

The UKUUG Spring 2008 and first ever PostgreSQL UK conference are soon. The UKUUG conference runs from Monday 31st March until Wednesday 2nd April, the Postgres event runs for 1 day on the Wednesday. They’re both in Birmingham, at the Conservatoire. That’s the same location that held the first PyCon UK, for those of you keeping track. I’ll be speaking on Extract Transform and Load (ETL) with Python and soaking up all I can about PostgreSQL. Officially early bird registration ends tonight (Monday 10 March). A little bird told me that that the website won’t be updated a night or two. So book now to get the whole 3 day conference for only £180, inc. UKUUG membership or £140 if you’re already a UKUUG member. See you there. Alex.

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Author's profile picture Alex Willmer

Review of the Candy Trio 503: a combination hob, oven & dishwasher

I joined the property ladder 2 years ago, a nice prefab steel-framed maisonette with only one problem - a minute builder-specified kitchen. There was too little storage, not enough worktop space and critically no room for a dishwasher. To the rescue comes the Candy Trio 503 - a free standing, all-electric 60 cm cooker with an integrated dishwasher. The top half is a small combination, fan assisted oven and grill. The bottom half is a single drawer dishwasher which can take 6 place settings. The hob has 3 ceramic rings and 1 halogen. Either the oven or the dishwasher can be run, but not both at once. Around the back it takes a single 32 ampere 240 V supply (or 120 V or 3-phase), a cold water feed and a drain feed. Yours for between £700 and £900 online. A gas model is also available I’ve been using the Trio for a couple of weeks now. I’ll start with the bad. When washing it’s quite noisy, tall plates are tricky to remove from the draw & it doesn’t have a timer function or any indicator of how much time a program has left. The Grill pan doesn’t have a grille, instead it hooks underneath the shelf - so every time you grill something you must wash the entire shelf. There are slots along the grill pan for a handle, but no handle was supplied, with mine at least. So far, on one occasion, the dials got so hot they were painful to touch. Speaking of the dials, they’re made of plastic with a cheap silver coating that’s already starting to rub off. Now the good. The ceramic hob heats up reasonably quickly, it fried some tuna steak well enough. The oven seems to maintain the right temperature and cooked several meals as expected. The dishwasher is like a Tardis, so much more than I expect fits in there - including my largest 6 litre pan. It gets glasses and cutlery sparkling & it’s the first I’ve ever seen that fits a mug stacked under that cup shelf. The glass plus stainless steel finish feels and looks good, the sides have what I can only describe as a mirror finish. So on the whole, not bad but not that great. Wrong, the Trio is a like a dog riding a unicycle. You don’t point out how clumsy it looks, you watch in amazement at the unique spectacle. The Trio is a unique convergence, there are better cookers and there are better dishwashers, but none are so amazingly compact. I love it. P.S. I’m not on commission or linked with Candy, honest. There weren’t any reviews online, that I could find when I made the purchase. If you have any questions, please post a comment.

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Author's profile picture Alex Willmer

On migrating between internet service providers

Apologies to anyone who got email to moreati.org.uk bounced or a 404 over the last week. I’ve been moving hosting provider, from Dreamhost to Webfaction and ironing out some finer points of DNS configuration - I’m a DBA Jim, not a network engineer. Thanks to standards and open source software information services are becoming interchangeable commodities, like electricity or water. Increasingly it doesn’t matter which provider one chooses, the differentiators are cost and bundled features. However we’re not totally there, one cannot export a complete domain from provider A and import it to provider B. We may never be there*, a gas service has very little state and very little choice in how the service is presented, everything is standardized. We in the ICT field still invent unique and wacky methods to reach a goal. Some areas are further behind then others in making a switch easy. In the UK Local Loop Unbundling is in full swing. The incumbent provider - BT - is required to allow competitors’ to provide telephone/broadband by installing equipment in local exchanges. The regulator requires that a transfer from BT to an LLU provider can happen in a matter of days, with minimal downtime. However in a curious limitation it is not possible to transfer from one LLU provider to another. One must return to BT, incurring a reconnection charge and (I believe) a 12 month contract, then migrate from BT to the other LLU provider. How quaint.

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Author's profile picture Alex Willmer

Tiscali: Cheap and crap

I’ll admit it, I’m cheap when it comes to telecommunication. I generally look for the line rental refund when renewing my mobile and I hate paying line rental to BT. Two years ago I moved house, outside the area cabled by Blueyonder, who were great. First I tried Orange broadband, which was free with my mobile phone. It was slow and the supplied router was a bit flaky. Last year I jumped ship to T-Mobile, £20/month covered line rental and 1 Mbit broadband - bargain! Setup was a hassle, they took several weeks to activate the line, but once it worked I was content. In October they started faking DNS results, to stick advertising in place of the browser’s error page. In January they ‘upgraded’ many users to ‘ADSL Max, upto 8 Mbit.’ Thats when the real trouble started, widespread throttling and intermittent connections have since been the norm. The tiscali support forum is flooded with faults and complaints. The 0870 support line is congested and useless, it’s just clueless Indians parroting their scripts: reboot, reset the router, retry, engineers are working on the problem, wait 24 hours etc. Meanwhile the tiscali status page reports all is well, 100% service. Time to jump ship again. Thank heck for Web n Walk. A useful post, to make up for this rant, will shortly follow.

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Author's profile picture Alex Willmer

How to make T-Mobile Web n Walk a real web connection

Thanks to a comment on the blog post Hacking T-Mobile, I’ve discovered that the T-Mobile Web n Walk transparent proxy can be bypassed neutered. Assuming you use Firefox, here are the steps:

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Author's profile picture Alex Willmer

The IBM compatible PC, catching the Amiga since 1992

Around 1992 my second computer was an Amiga 500+, a lovely machine. It beat the pants off any PC at the time, particularly for playing Lemmings. Many Amigas used a television for their display, as a result they could run at a super high interlaced resolution. This looked awful and induced headaches. Interlacing is a fairly good compromise for television shows and movies, it’s terrible for sharp graphics such as a computer desktop. Nevertheless, in 2008, I’m pleased to say that the latest Linux drivers v169.07 by Nvidia support an interlaced display. These drivers are in Ubuntu Gutsy. This has meant my mythical MythTV computer is finally displaying in HD, at the native resolution of 1920 x 1080 interlaced, aka 1080i. The interlacing causes a shimmering during fade effects or vertical motion, it’s distracting but bearable. This isn’t the big news though. Intel has released programming manuals for some of it’s graphics chipsets. This means Keith Packard can get some community assistance with the X.org intel driver and that bug 11220 has a better chance of getting fixed. Update: Dear Intel, Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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Author's profile picture Alex Willmer

Brought to you by the letters H, D, D and the sound tinkle

It is said there are 2 types of people:

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Author's profile picture Alex Willmer