Bog Roll ::

It's Not Magic, It's Work!

28 Jan 2009

Working From Home

Tomorrow I'm working from home so that I can let the plumber into the house to do plumber things to the bath, without having to sacrifice a holiday. In many respects it will be much more efficient than working at work: less travel time; less noise; no distractions (other than the plumber) and better IT infrastructure. There are downsides, I'll miss my colleagues and my work notebook isn't ergonomically as good as my work desktop system - but over all it's an acceptable arrangement.

I've even remembered to bring home some paperwork so I know what I'm doing and my mobile is fully charged. The downside is I've got some nasty SAP Forms to work on, which are awkward at the best of times and some really evil Windows stuff to do.

I know I said I was going to be positive, but I draw the line at Windows APIs. It's as if somewhere in a Bond-Villain bunker, Microsoft engineers devised the inner workings of Windows to be as awkward, annoying, overly complex and Byzantine as possible, as a game to amuse their Master. Somewhere Bill is sitting with a white cat, laughing melodramatically at all the poor souls unfortunate enough to have to work with Windows...


21 Jan 2009

Virtual Menagerie

Linux has a rich selection of virtualisation solutions available. It is therefore trivial to have many other operating systems running under a Linux system. Over the past few days I've been playing with Qemu again after a long period of using VirtualBox.

I've now quite a few systems running inside VMs: Windows98 on Qemu; Windows NT4 on Qemu or Virtualbox; Windows 2K and XP on VirtualBox; Free-BSD; a selection of Debian, CentOS, and Red Hat Linuxes; Open Solaris and a smattering of smaller oddities on VirtualBox. All the Windows systems are running on licences of older systems, since upgraded to Linux and are used to run legacy software or for browser testing. The Linux VM are for code testing and a bit of learning and experimenting.


18 Jan 2009

Qemu

There are plenty of nice things about open-source living, there are alas a few not so nice things.

For a few years I've used virtualisation systems to run legacy and test systems. I started with Qemu which ran legacy Windows systems well enough where WINE wouldn't do.

When I was planning my new home server I was planning to use Xen to host several virtual systems on it so I could partition them up from each other. Alas Xen didn't work on AMD64 in Debian Lenny at the time so I never got round to using it.

As I'd use Qemu/kqemu for a while I thought I'd try that out. I set the system up quickly enough but there wasn't and easy way to NAT the machine, so I gave up.

I then had a go with Sun's VirtualBox tool which has a really slick GUI interface and is easy to NAT. I've run a virtual SSH server now for a few months. Instead of SSHing to my home server, I SSH into a virtual machine which makes me feel a little safer.

Recently a bug in VirtualBox has driven me mad, the container starts but as the virtual machine starts running the container explodes and it locks the machine up. Not so good.

I've had fresh look at Qemu to find that it now has an easy way to NAT, so I'm going back to that for a while. At the same time Xen is now available for Lenny/AMD64.

It's annoying at times to have bugs, but at least they do actually get fixed without being forced to pay the original vendor extra money. I've also got at least three pretty mature alternatives to do pretty much the same thing - each has their own advantage and disadvantage but the differences give options. Unlike closed source solutions they even share code, while competing.


14 Jan 2009

Zavvi

Over the past decade I've probably bought 90% of my books, CDs and DVDs from Amazon. Of the rest about 9% were bought from HMV/Waterstones and about 1% from Virgin/Zavvi. Amazon get most of my money because they have a far better selection than the high street alternatives and on the whole they have been a lot cheaper. HMV/Waterstones have picked up some browse/impulse buys and stuff on special but Virgin never did.

It's always sad when people lose their jobs but is the closure of my local Zavvi a loss? No, they were pretty useless and awfully expensive. It was a failing business when Branson sold it to the managers and they were probably very foolish in thinking they could turn around a moribund business given the current state of the economy.


07 Jan 2009

Worms for Windows

For the last few days we have been having problems at work, after a worm attacked an exposed Windows server, then worked it's way round the rest of the Windows infrastructure. The admins have been running round patching and rebooting boxes in a vain attempt to keep systems up and usable.

It's very annoying to find things not working that are important. It's made worse by the fact that quite a few things don't work on reboot, the service needs to be manually restarted before it actually starts to work... and don't get me started on the insanity of continuing to use core machines that have compromised by some external agent without restoring from known clean backup...


04 Jan 2009

The Earth from Oxford

Yesterday we went to Oxford with friends to view the Earth From Above exhibition at Oxford Castle. It's a fantastic exhibition and well worth visiting if it comes near by - it's usually held outside so in winter best wrap up well!

After a hour or so in the freezing Oxford winter sun we walked across town to Science Oxford where they had the 2007 BBC Wildlife Photographer of the year photographs on display.

An excellent day was had by all.


02 Jan 2009

Web Site Statistics

Now and then I pay attention to my web sites statistics. Mostly I'm only interested it looking if there is any strange behaviour going on, I don't look at any other details mostly. Today I've updated my reports for 2009 and took the opportunity to collate simple descriptive statistics for the past few years.

Browser Engine 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
MS IE 80.5 76.4 86.8 83.8 81.5 74.1 65.6 72.3 66.4
Mozilla Gecko 1.0 2.6 4.3 11.0 9.5 18.6 28.3 22.7 30.2
Netscape (classic) 18.6 20.0 7.2 2.9 3.8 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Opera 0.0 1.1 1.7 1.5 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.0 1.5
khtml/web-kit 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.8 3.3 5.1 4.0 3.0 2.0

It's pretty clear to see that IE is the dominant browser over the past 8 years, though it's actual share fluctuates quite a bit and is an over estimate because it's a highly spoofed browser. The Mozilla Gecko family is clearly becoming more popular - of which the vast majority are Firefox browsers. Netscape (including Gecko based versions) have vanished altogether. Opera (a nice browser) seems to be stuck on not a lot. The various khtml/web-kit browsers (Konqeror, Safari and Chrome) are now more popular that Opera but the mix is across all three, no one browser is popular as with Firefox/Gecko.

Operating System 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Windows 97.4 96.1 91.5 95.0 81.0 83.2 83.2 83.4 76.6
Macintosh 1.8 2.4 2.1 1.6 1.6 1.6 1.6 2.3 1.5
Unix/Linux 0.9 1.5 6.4 3.7 17.5 15.2 15.2 14.4 21.8

Again it's no surprise that the Microsoft Windows family is by far the most common visitor. It's also clear that the percentage of Windows visitors has fallen quite considerably over the past four years. The number of Mac (legacy and modern) visitors is pitiful small and hardly changes - it's a much smaller percentage than would be expected based on estimated Mac numbers. The Unix numbers (almost all Linux) are much higher than expected based on known market make up.

This server hosts my work (mostly Unix/Web/Perl focused) and a small general site, the statistics are mostly as one would expect: higher Linux and Firefox usage than a randomly selected web site. The very poor Macintosh figures are a puzzle: modern Unix based Macs are popular with both Perl/Web users which should fall in the same demographic category as Linux users.


01 Jan 2009

2009 Predictions

I didn't do predictions for 2008 but I did for 2007: Linux and Microsoft. Looking at them know it looks like I was on the money - indeed you could say I was actually more optimistic about Microsoft that reality proved for them.

Here are some predictions for the year(s) ahead. Two positive ones and two negative ones (depending on your point of view:

  1. The Mac will continue to grow in market share - even during a recession (point 3). Macs are UNIX based, with lower hardware complexity than Windows and Linux and so mostly just work. While Apple don't compete at the bottom of the market sector they are clearly the best options in the middle and upper end where a modern Mac can run OS X, Windows and Linux at the same time.
  2. Linux will continue to devour UNIX in the server space and eat into the Windows space as the recession drives people to systems with a total lower cost of ownership. Linux will emerge as the king of the server space because it's like UNIX but cheaper, runs on the same cheap hardware as Windows and is good at virtualisation. Linux will also do well everywhere else - except the desktop where it will continue to grow but still slowly and from a small base.
  3. The world will go into one almighty recession. Countries like the UK with no real economy and a mountain range of debt will suffer especially badly as the great deleveraging continues. One bright point will be the fall in house prices back towards a more sustainable level, i.e. three times gross salary and no more than an 80% mortgage.
  4. Microsoft will continue to writhe around making stupid decisions and lashing out at competitors and allies alike. Thankfully for Microsoft shareholders' they didn't buy Yahoo! but more stupid and self-destructive plans will hatch this year. Windows Vista will continue to be hated and Windows 7 will be rushed and just as unpopular. Microsoft may eventually get with it and stop being stupid but I somehow fear not...

2009

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I started last year with a list of aims. I managed a few and failed on the rest.

  • I know have a new home server. The old Compaq was recycled too
  • Home server is running Debian Lenny as is my father's new system
  • Backup solution in place using rsnapshot to local disks and external disks
  • My web sites redesigned and my intranet moved over to ikwiki. No new blogging solution in place though
  • I scanned in about 10 slide before I gave up - not good...
  • I've not won a million on the Premium Bonds - in fact with falling interest rates I've not won much at all!

2009

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I started last year with a list of aims. I managed a few and failed on the rest.

  • I know have a new home server. The old Compaq was recycled too
  • Home server is running Debian Lenny as is my father's new system
  • Backup solution in place using rsnapshot to local disks and external disks
  • My web sites redesigned and my intranet moved over to ikwiki. No new blogging solution in place though
  • I scanned in about 10 slide before I gave up - not good...
  • I've not won a million on the Premium Bonds - in fact with falling interest rates I've not won much at all!