Bog Roll ::

It's Not Magic, It's Work!

30 Jul 2009

Bad News

House prices are up again. Somehow people think rising house prices are good, yet when petrol or food goes up they are up in arms claiming that it's the end of the world...

There are three possibilities:

  1. We are at the bottom of the recession and things are looking up.
  2. We are not yet at the bottom and it's all hype from the vested interests in government and the media who desperately need things to be on the up to dig themselves out of their debt prisons.
  3. It's just the predicted "dead cat" bounce and prices will continue to fall once reality bites.

With house sale volumes so low, mortgage expensive and rare and unemployment relentlessly rising I think we are just in the middle of a predictable fool's rally. Next year the new government (of whatever shade of blue) is going to be forced to cut expenditure, raise taxes and allow the Bank of England to raise interest rates (as they are currently way too low). That will force house prices down again and the house price correction will continue.

23 Jul 2009

Dead PC

At the start of the is week my Dell Optiplex PC at work died. Well it actually refused to boot, Windows XP got so far but no further. I've been given a new PC to work with instead.

On one hand it's nice to have a new PC, it's marginally faster and the new keyboard is much nicer, on the other I've lost two days to setting it back up again to be useful. The new PC is on the companies new build, so even though I'm still local admin there are things I can't do on this PC that I use to be able to do on the old one.

It's a shame I can't have Linux and I'm forced to have an obsolete Windows system but nothing is perfect...

11 Jul 2009

I Was (partially) Wrong

Some time ago I had a discussion with a colleague about weather Google would release their own OS to complete with Microsoft Windows. I felt and still feel that it's a lot of effort for Google and the pay back isn't worth it.

Evidently Google think that there is some money to be made from their own OS and this week announced that they will be releasing their own Linux distro called "Chrome OS" for ARM and x86 netbooks in 2H 2010.

The media (as usual) failed to realise it's just another Linux distro and like all previous distros it will be based on something existing plus it will have something new to bring to the party. Google are known to be a Debian/Ubuntu fan so it will probably be based on Debian but with a very light-weight Google front end and be designed for a Web 2.0 world.

The good news is that it will probably drag some hardware vendors to the table with hardware specs, as even Google can't tinker with the Linux kernel without sharing their tinkering. As it's being primarily targeted at the ARM processor it will also eliminate the normal Wintel inertia problem that often harms people's migration away from Windows - most netbooks started out on Linux only, but it was easy for Microsoft to push people back to the BSOD that they were use to with little effort.

We live in interesting times...

05 Jul 2009

Kernel-based Virtual Machine

I've long used Fabrice Bellard's excellent QEMU system emulator. It's slow but complete, so you can emulate a SPARC system on an AMD64 for example. As long as your host system is fast you can emulate a wide range of other systems acceptably.

Fabrice also released a QEMU accelerator called KQEMU, basically a kernel plug-in that allows QEMU to drop all none guest-kernel calls through to the host CPU unemulated. The upshot is that if you have an x86 CPU host system you can run a x86 guest system on top with nearly real time performance. The rest of the system is still emulated, so graphics isn't fast but it's great for servers.

On the desktop I've been using Sun's VirtualBox which I find faster when running graphical guest systems than QEMU/KQEMU. It also has a nice GUI so it's easier to play with - QEMU is all command line, which is fine once you have it configured but not as easy for dabbling.

This week I thought I try out KVM, which is a mainline Linux kernel plug-in that works with newer AMD/Intel CPUs only. Basically it creates a generic interface that other user-land virtualisation systems can take advantage off. In practice you install KVM into your kernel then basically use QEMU for the rest of the virtual host system. In theory KVM+QEMU should be marginally faster than KQEMU+QEMU on compatible hardware, however you can't use it older CPUs so you need to use KQEMU on them.

It took a few goes to get it working, but so far on my server which has the right hardware, it looks pretty good, marginally faster than KQEMU with lower CPU load on the host system. It's another interesting technology to have to play with.

QEMU is really good stuff, not only is it usable on it's own, but it's the extendible with both KQEMU or KVM and even VirtualBox uses large chunks of it! Open source is great!

01 Jul 2009

Mr Miot's Rhubarb Jam

Yesterday I made a batch of jam using Mr Miot's method. It's based on his standard method which is different from the method I've used myself previously.

  • 1 Kg Rhubarb (frozen then defrosted)
  • 0.8 Kg Sugar
  • ½ a lemon (frozen then defrosted)
  • 200 ml rhubarb juice (from the defrosted 1 Kg)
  • 250 g crystallised ginger (my addition, not in the French original)

First you freeze the lemon and the chopped and cleaned rhubarb. Freezing and defrosting the lemon should ease the extraction of pectin for setting the jam. Freezing and defrosting the rhubarb should extract water juices from it, keep just 200 ml.

Heat the sugar, juice from the lemon and the lemon along with the rhubarb juice up to boiling point (121°C). Once it's rolling along add the chopped rhubarb and return to the boiling point. Boil hard for a further 15 minutes (give or take) and then add the ginger. After removing any scum and a a few more minutes it should be ready to pot.

I jammed 2.2 Kg of rhubarb with 1.76 Kg sugar, two small lemons and 0.5 Kg of chopped crystalised ginger. Tasted okay on the night, but rhubarb and ginger takes a few days to reach full flavour.