I enjoy watching the features on DVDs, and if they are good the commentaries. Recently I've watched quite a bit of Babylon 5 now that it's available on DVD at a decent price. One thing that is striking about it and Red Dwarf is how dirty and dysfunctional their view of the future is, when compared to the squeaky clean world of Start Trek: The Next Generation.
For a long time my favourite of the new Star Treks was Deep Space 9, which is clearly a copy of Babylon 5, a space station with a number, a purposeful long term story, war, destruction, and a much grittier and in many respects realistic view of the future.
When you watch the features on both Babylon 5 and Red Dwarf, both are striking in their creator's desire to not have a "cute teenager" or "aspirational robot".
We have a separate Sony DVB terrestrial TV tuner, as our TV is too old to have one built in, and has only an old fashioned analogue tuner in.
When I got it, I set it up, and have pretty much ignored the configuration since then. However I forgot that they update themselves automatically over the DVB system from time to time. Mostly the updates are to add extra channels and such, nothing revolutionary at all. Yesterday I noticed that a new feature had need added, the ability to re-order the channel list - something I had wanted to do for a long while!
Digital TV has a bad reputation in the UK, because it was over-hyped at launch, and didn't deliver anything really new, but since the terrestrial service was taken away from ITV and given to the BBC it's made steady progress.
I know enough about Linux/Unix to know that I don't know that much. I'm not a naive newbie, but I'm not yet a guru, however I'm now sufficiently paranoid to worry about rootkits and other such nasties.
On a Debian system like mine, installing protection is simplicity it's self. At work we use Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which has less built in than Debian, however as all good things are open source, it's simply a case of downloading and compiling them.
In the scheme of things I'm a nobody, and my systems are irrelevant, however a script kiddie with an automated toolkit could be a pain, so it wise to take precautions. A serious cracker could probably get into any of my systems given time, but I'm not worried about that - just like a professional criminal could easily defeat the door lock on my house. However, unlike petty criminals who can only perform one opportunistic crime at a time, a script kiddie can do quite a lot in one go.
We are a bit short staffed in the SAP department at work. After dropping a few heavy hints, it looks like work is going to send me on official SAP training. At best it should be interesting and in the worst case senario it's useful to have on my CV.
If you haven't tried the new Google Suggest tool from the Google Labs then I would suggest you investigate. You get the normal Google search which is as good as ever, but now you get real-time feedback which makes searching a lot more efficient.
For the past year or so I've been reading new stories on various web sites*. After a while, every story reinforces my own perception that Microsoft Windows is a pile of useless poo, and that Unix in particular Linux is the only logical way forward.
There are days that I worry that if you only listen to the voices that agree with your own opinion, that you will come horribly unstuck. Then I remember that I am forced to run Windows at work and it is a pile of steaming poo.
* These sites:
This weekend I added a search this site with Google page to my site. It took a while to add, owing to a typo, and a great deal of confusion about HTML::TreeBuilder. Anyhow it's all fixed up now, and I must remember that dyslexia is usually the cause of my code not working, and not a bug in someone else's code...
As 2005 starts, more and more organisations are moving tentatively towards free and open source software.There are the well publicised deployments in Munich, Paris and Bergen, and it now looks like the French Gendarmerie Nationale could be getting up to 80 thousand copies of OO.o. If you are a Swiss citizen in Geneve then your tax software CD comes with a free copy of WinLibre an TheOpenCD like package of OpenOffice, Firefox, CDex, Zinf et al.
Meanwhile in the UK, our government seems to be very keen to give as much money as possible to a convicted foreign monopolists noted for poor security, high prices and generally poor software. Even generally pro Microsoft publications like ZD Net are now reporting that UK is falling behind.
It's time for our performance reviews at work. So for the whole coming week everyone is going to be wasting time making up something to please the PHBs and bean counters. It's very silly, and a significant drain on company performance...
In a recent UK Linux magazine, there is an article to find the best Linux distribution. They covered the more popular distributions, and discussed the top few in depth. They came down in favour of Mandrake, which while a fine distribution, isn't I think the best overall, and is not the best in many situations.
The main problem with this study is that there is no target use, so you have no idea what they are deciding are factors that make distribution X the best at. If they at least said X is best at role 1, and Y is best at role 2, then it would make some sense.
Personally I think the best distribution is "your favourite one" - it's the one you know and the one you can use to the best. Another distribution may be better for you in theory, but you don't know it as well, so you won't get the best out of it if you were switch.
If you are new to Linux, then while there are some newbie optimised distributions available, I think the best distribution in this case is the one used by the person you are using as your local expert.
It's really nice to think that someone is actually using my module. Having seen the code, they'd be better just cutting out the bits of my module they want. My module is a wrapper around other big modules, and in this case Urchin is yet another wrapper.
In the January sales I got a few boxed sets of TV programmes on DVD. I've not seen the programmes since they were transmitted a number of years ago, and it's amazing how little I remember.
What is highly annoying is the constant fade to black. Without the advert breaks the episodes are being constantly being broken by irritating fades to black. While this may be helpful on commercial TV with breaks for adverts, on civilised public TV with no adverts, or on DVD it's a royal pain in the posterior!
My current favourite song is "Boom, Like That", a Mark Knopfler song from his new album "Shangri-La", about the founding of the McDonald's Restaurant (sic.) empire. When you realise how evil the founding father was, and how nasty he was to the original McDonald's, it's no surprise how the company turned out. Thier web site even today claims that Ray Kroc created the company...
Apple have launched a new small Macintosh computer, the Mac mini. Though, widely talked about in the press, the new small and cheap Mac is still surprisingly cute, and a decent spec for the price. For people who already own a nice monitor, it's a fine addition, or as I'm sure Apple expect, it's the ideal Mac to put in the living room.
I want one. Though to be honest I don't actually need one...
I bought some CDs and DVDs in the new year sales. I refuse to buy corrupted disks that don't play predictably, and I buy only genuine CD and DVD media.
I don't endorse unlicensed duplication, but the aggressive attitude of big media companies is trampling over my fair use rights - "guilty until proven innocent" attitudes, and wasting money of copy protection schemes that interfere with genuine users and have no effect on counterfeiters is no way to gain public support.
Yet another batch of extremely critical security defects have been discovered in Microsoft's Internet Explorer web browser. The so called safer IE6/SP2 version, is turning out to be the same old unsafe code we have come to love and expect from Microsoft. Secunia advise people to "Use another product"
This comes in the same week that Microsoft admitted that it can't fix the security problems in Windows, and instead will now provide free anti-virus/anti-spyware software. It's like selling a bucket with a hole in, and providing a free hole repair kit...
I really should try and fix the build/test problems with XML::RSS:Tools. I know the problem really is with XML::LibXML, some versions of it have broken catalog (sic.) support, there is even an open bug listed on RT now.
I've put it off while lots of things have changed, but now I'm happily stabilised with Linux desktop systems, I've run out of excuses...
Yesterday I enabled Apache2's mod_deflate for this site. As my outgoing ADSL is quite narrow this should benefit most visitors. In Apache 1.3.x you had to download and install mod_gzip manually, with 2.0.x The Apache Software Foundation have provided it all in the core, and the nice Debian people have made it very simple to enable, if you want.
I've uploaded some pages from this site onto my production site this weekend. Just after performing the upload I decided to add a section on using local style sheets to control adverts. It's nothing new I've seen it described before, but I've never actually used the technique myself. A colleague at work tried it with Firefox and reported good results, so I've added it to my Blocking Adverts page, and it will go up to my production site next.
On the last day of 2004, I took a production Linux server off-line for 15 minutes while I rebooted after installing a new kernel. Pretty much no body was about, and so nobody noticed. As they say at Red Hat, "rebooting is a sign of weakness", but with a kernel, there isn't much you can do about it, the box had to be rebooted. The box has never had to be rebooted since it went live a year ago, and only went off-line once when the power failed for longer than the UPS could cope.
Once it was done, and all the right things came back during the re-boot I had completed my system upgrade. All the systems are now patched with zero defects, and the HP Insight Manager tool is now working properly on all the machines. During the upgrade cycle I also took the opportunity to strip down a lot of unnecessary services, which should make the boxes safer and faster - less is more.
I still prefer Debian to Red Hat, but at least know I understand Red Hat, it's much easier to work with than before. Either way both are far superior to Microsoft Windows, and thankfully I don't have to work with a Windows server most of the time.
Some friends got us a goat for Christmas. As we don't really need a goat, they asked Oxfam to give it to someone more deserving in the developing world.
I know that charities are notorious for their waste and inefficiency, but I like to think that the money spent on our goat will help someone more than billions spent on more typical Christmas gifts.
It's a new year, the old one didn't seem to last long enough. Now I'll have to get use to writing a new date on forms...!