Bog Roll ::

It's Not Magic, It's Work!

31 Jul 2006

The Debian System

The Debian System -- 608 pages pure Debian

Some books are a good read. Some books are useful. Many books are awful to read and useless. Now and then I read a book and wish I'd bought it earlier.

For the past few nights I've been reading my way through Martin Kraft's excellent "The Debian System: Concepts and Techniques". This is one of the most fascinating and useful books I've bought in a very long time.

30 Jul 2006

Geek Test

My computer geek score is greater than 100% of all people who have take the test so far

I took one of the silly "Internet" tests. Apparently I got the higest score to date. It's not hard, so I'm not surprised. Interestingly Unix users have a higher average than Linux users, who have a higher average than Mac users, with Windows users coming bottom...

A marginally funny process, but the questions are a bit predictable. Okay for a Sunday afternoon before dinner when you can't think of anything better to do.

Desktop Wallpaper

Even though it's a frivolous waste of system resources I like to have a nice picture as my desktop wallpaper. At the moment I have a shot from the The Hubble Site on my work machine, and a friend's picture of Ullswater on my home machine. Today I decided to have another look round Yann Arthus Bertrand's site - as there are some new pictures on their.

Though I don't have a fancy computer monitor - I can't afford a decent high resolution LCD display - it does limp along at 1280x1024 which is higher resolution that Yann Arthus Bertrand's images - which is a shame. Since I last looked there are quite a few new pictures to choose from, he's been to Corsica by the look of it...

29 Jul 2006


Support the Open Rights Group

This week I bought what I thought was CD from an online retailer. When I got it home the Sony*BMG disk didn't have the "Compact Disc" logo or word mark on it anywhere. It didn't have any warnings about DRM either, but looking at the underside of the disc did suggest that there was something odd about it.

I'm not foolish enough to use Windows, so I ripped the discs with cdparanoia on Linux and all is well - not a glitch. I dread to think what would happen on a Windows PC...

23 Jul 2006

Red Currant Jelly (2)

Last year I made redcurrant jelly. It was so good that we made it again this year.

Again we went to the PYO farm, and we collected just under 4Kg of fruit. Yesterday we boiled up about 3Kg if fruit and extracted about 2Kg of currant juice. As before you add sugar in a ratio of 1:1 with the juice and boil to the jamming point, potting before it sets. This year 2Kg of juice made enough jelly to fill 10x370g jars, plus three tiny 15g "taster jars".

Red currants are fairly productive plants that are easy to pick, always seem to be free of disease & pests and the fruit travels well. In the UK though, no one ever seems to want to eat the fruit, and I can't give the jelly away. People here seem to be obsessed with strawberries (Fragaria), which are normally flavourless, a nuisance to pick, and don't travel well...

21 Jul 2006


Today was the fifth and last day of my SAP ABAP course. Today we did the bits I was actually interested in and some object-oriented ABAP, which like Perl was bolted on as an afterthought to an already well established procedural language.

Interestingly both Perl and ABAP use the -> operator when going from the referenced object to a method (ABAP/Perl):



20 Jul 2006

ABAP Day 4

Getting mostly there now. It's been quite a slow class, and it really does feel like I've actually learnt very little. I suppose there just is not that much too ABAP, it's no where nearly as rich as Perl or any other modern high level-language.

Tomorrow is the last day, and I think that with all the extra travelling about by train I'll be very glad it's over. I just hope I can put it all to good use.

19 Jul 2006

ABAP Day 3

Hot and slow going. The instructor is okay, but SAP's official notes are dreadful. ABAPs a bit primitive when compared with anything modern but it's easy to learn, so I shouldn't complain!

18 Jul 2006

SAP's ABAP (Day 2)

Had no luck the the trains today, one at Clapham needed re-booting twice, before it was declared dead. The unusual heat apparently meant there were speed restrictions on my way home. I'm not sure which scares me most, the though that they tried to reboot the train, or that today's not so hot weather was cause for speed restrictions...

However I learnt a lot more about ABAP (think COBOL + SQL) today. It's verbose, simple, and missing all the syntactic sugar that I'm use to in Perl. On the upside, or downside depending upon how you see these things, it does do TMTOWTDI. In fact there are often many ways of doing things, some only work with the newer versions of SAP, some only with the old, and confusingly there aren't any idioms to follow...

17 Jul 2006

Learning a Language Older Than Me

Today I've started to learn SAP's ABAP programming language. It's basically COBOL with in-line SQL. Compared with a modern high level language like Perl, it's antique and primitive. BUT if you know ABAP, it's currently the only way to program SAP, and that makes it a very useful skill to have on your CV.

As with my previous SAP course the notes are rubbish, and again the instructor seems very good. Today he almost ignored the course notes all together, rather than just deviate a little as my previous SAP instructor.

14 Jul 2006

Being Forced to Use IE...

The Guardian, a normally tame Microsoft apologist, is running a nice short piece at the moment: Using Internet Explorer at work can be a nasty shock if you use Firefox at home. For anyone who uses any other browser than IE, being forced to use IE is a nasty shock to the system, IE is so primitive, slow, and you can't browse anywhere without being swamped by adverts and pop-ups.


Today I took the bike to work rather than the train. I've not ridden my bike to work for a few years since we moved house. It was marginally faster than my normal walk/train/walk route, and a lot more physical. The only problem with using the bike is all the arse-holes on the road in their four wheel drivers, thundering about county lanes as if they own the place...

13 Jul 2006

CD Rot

A friend came back from a long trip to the US. Because she was there several weeks, she had copied her digital pictures to CD so that she could put fresh pictures onto her camera's memory chip.

On returning home, she found that her Windows PC refused to read any of the CDs. Her husband was able to see some images on a Linux box, but hoping that the rest could be salvaged she dropped them off for me to see what I could do.

I've seen CD-ROMs refuse to read CDs that have not been closed properly, and I was hoping that by putting the offending discs on my DVD-RW drive I'd be able to read the CD.

When I took the Memorex CD-Rs out of the jewel case I saw at once what the problem was, the pen used to write on the upper surface of the CD had attacked the reflective layer on the CD, and from the underside it looked like someone had attacked the CD with a knife. Alas she had written close enough to the centre of the disc to damage the data at the end of the data write. I salvaged what I could, but about 10% of the images have been lost.

12 Jul 2006

Not a Good Week For The Vole...

Microsoft is not having a good week or two.

They have been forced to withdraw support for Windows 98/Me and Windows 2000 because they are unfixable, even though they committed to support Windows 2000 for a short while longer.

The EU has enforced a €280m fine for failing to comply with an anti-competition ruling.

Chairman Bill Gates said that Windows Vista - the much over due, over budget, under feature, replacement for Windows XP - may not ship in January 2007 afterall.

Five more critical defects have been found in Windows systems and need urgent patching.

10 Jul 2006

Behavioural Separation

There is a nice article on A List Apart discussing Behavioural Separation. I'm not a fan of ECMA-Script-262 (JavaScript/J-Script/call it what you like), but this is a nice article that allows you to cleanly separate scripting from markup, just as cascading style sheets allow you to separate style from markup.

06 Jul 2006

Essential Firefox Plug-ins

Earlier this week I spotted an article about a long time Mac user switching to Linux. I've nothing against Apple per se, but it seems a lot of hackers that have switched from Unix/Linux to Macs are now starting to switch back.

In the process I came across a nice list of "Essential Software" by XML/Python guru Mark Pilgrim. Most of it is what you would expect, but I did find the list of Firefox plug-ins interesting. I'm always looking for useful Firefox plug-ins, and one I did like was: Menu Editor, which allows you to edit your Firefox menus, removing unused entries, and grouping various scattered plug-in menu items more logically.

01 Jul 2006

I Don't Hate Windows

This week I spotted a column where a Linux/Unix user claimed they "Loved Windows". Actually as you read the column you find he has given up hating Windows - it just takes too much effort, but it's clear he doesn't like it either.

In my case I don't hate Windows anymore, I only use Windows these-days as a dumb client to run PuTTY/Cygwin on, it serves no other purpose - useful or otherwise. I still find aspects of the design annoying and limiting, especially when compared with a superior desktop system such as KDE, but I've stopped hating it now too.

Windows is like some senile old relative. It may be cantankerous, nasty, and smell of wee, but you do feel sorry for it - or for the poor people forced to deal with it...