15 Dec 2007

Woe woe and thrice woe

Some dolt has jiggered the Blogger 'Minima Stretch' template. The header image and text now align and resize inconsistently, and right column widgets now fail to 'clear' below floated images. Apologies for the scrappy workrounds. In other news, my phone line has an attack of the crackles. On a Saturday. Natch.

8 Dec 2007

Urbex, piracy and school meals

This morning's copious rain has now turned to the winter's first sleet. Let's ruminate.

One hugely important point against the evil of copyright maximalism is the habitual negligence of self-described 'rights holders'. So much 'long tail' material wrongly considered worthless gets lost forever, with only a fraction preserved through the enthusiasm of so-called pirates. One need only cite what happened at the BBC in the sixties and seventies to prove this point, or the recent reconstruction of a Colossus.

But this point also holds good for other forms of heritage. Consider the case of Wapping Road School in Bradford, an astonishingly well appointed 'Board School' built in 1877 under Bradford's own W.E. Forster's Education Act of 1870. It was here in 1887 that a headmaster used his own money to feed children fainting from starvation. This led to Bradford instituting the first school meals service in 1902 - which like all great reforms was of course promptly outlawed [1]. The above picture of kids at Wapping Road dates from around this time [2]. This school marks a significant step on man's long ascent from the mud to the stars.

What has become of this place? Well, it's now a Grade II Listed empty vandalised wreck, as is the adjoining house. It'll most probably be vandalised even more until there's nothing left to turn into yet more bloody flats (which is the bubble economy's current form of shoe shop).

And that's where the urbex enthusiasts come in. Throughout the nation these unsung heroes are risking life, limb and the wrath of the authorities to document our built heritage before it gets destroyed (though they probably aren't thinking in those terms).

With that in mind, please have a look at Converse1's report on 28dayslater.

In a hundred years' time these photos will be treasured - if they survive. But that puts us right back at square one. Who will preserve the contents of such websites? Most probably the so-called 'pirates'.

Contrast Converse1's photographs with the official write-up [3]:

Board School. 1877, with additions and alterations 1882, 1897 and C20. rock-faced stone, with ashlar dressings and Welsh slate roofs. Renaissance Revival style. 2 major blocks on steeply sloping site. Left block, single storey plus basement, 7x3 bays, has chamfered plinth, sill band, string course and eaves detail. Hipped and gabled roofs with coped gables and 2 coped ridge stacks. Windows are mainly cross-mullioned, with stone mullions and transoms, some reglazed late C20. Basement has central double door and glazing bar overlight in plain chamfered surround. Above, central 5-light window with sidelights. On each side, a projecting bay with blank basement and shouldered coped gable with finial. Round arched recess with hood mould, flanked by pilasters, containing a cross-mullioned window. Beyond, single similar windows. At each end, a projecting bay with hipped roof and a 4-light window. Left return has to right 2 pairs of cross casements with stepped heads. To left, a single light, then 2 cross casements. At the rear, 5 gabled ranges, single storey, each with cross-mullioned windows. At the left end, a similar range, 1x3 windows, with gabled and hipped ends and cross casements. Attached at the rear, a play-shed and entrance bay, in 2 units, 1 and 2 bays. Right block, single storey plus basement, 6x3 bays, has similar detailing. Gabled and hipped roofs with 3 ridge stacks, 2 with paired flues. In the centre, 4 round-arched basement openings, glazed-in. Above, 4 cross-casements. Projecting end bays have coped gables with finials. Left wing has single round arched window and C20 lean-to porch; right wing has 2 round arched windows. Above, each has a round arched recess with hood mould, containing a 3-light window. To right, gabled wing, set back, with cross-casement to left and 4-light window to right. Rear has gabled wings at each end, that to left larger and with a hipped projection in the return angle. INTERIOR: Left block has hall divided by folding panelled screen, with arch braced roof, ceiled C20, and matched dado. Smaller hall has similar details plus round-arched stone fireplace with keystone. Classrooms plain, with glazing bar windows to the hall. Right block has large classrooms, formerly separated by glazed screens, and 2 large roll-moulded stone fireplaces. Swimming pool has original tile lining and glazed brick wall panels. OUTSIDE: Between the main blocks, a stone staircase with intermediate landing, and balustrade walls with chamfered coping. To right, a similar curving staircase. Rock-faced stone boundary wall encloses the site, with chamfered coping and renewed railing between piers to the front. Gabled stone coping to sides and rear.
[1] http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/letters-to-the-editor/Health-and-Safety-call-for.3463875.jp?articlepage=2
[2] http://www2.newsquest.co.uk/bradford__district/bradford/news/jim69.html - yes, I snarfed their precious photo. It's clearly well out of copyright.
[3] http://www.bradford.gov.uk/NR/blah blah yadda yadda GradeIIListedBuildingsinBradford_UPDATED060607.pdf (pdf, 960k)

6 Dec 2007

Wiki diddlers

In which many celebrities appear, twisting and flailing for our decadent and perverted delight, even Slime Virgin (but sadly not Jeffro Q Merkustitty - well, not yet, anyway). This is classic Hamilton v Fayed stuff: you find yourself wishing there's a way all of them could lose.

It's been too long; I really really must get back to the struggle against SCO.

23 Nov 2007

What's 'Eureka' in Hindi?

Thanks to a short chain of indirection from John Peel Everyday I've stumbled across quite a blast from the past. Years ago Peelie made his way through an album of Abba songs vastly improved by being rendered in Hindi. Today's crucial rediscovery is that the artistes were named Salma & Sabina, and Mister Google (who knows *everything*) tells me there are mp3z to be had from part way down http://www.aprilwinchell.com/audio/

So here is Super Trooper in Hindi

And some of the other treasures therein:
Hey Mr Tamborine Man by The Chipmunks -*love* those high notes
Blue Suede Shoes by Eilert Pilarm the Swedish Elvis (another Peel featured artiste)
Smells Like Teen Spirit as Gregorian chant (spoilt a bit by American accent)

22 Nov 2007


Why didn't I know about these until now?!!
and torrents at
This may be the tipping point to get me off 512/256...

16 Nov 2007

The joy of eBay

The eBay marketplace for N gauge model railway rolling stock is quite vigorous, and getting a bargain isn't easy. Even when a listing isn't optimally described, people usually manage to spot it, and they bide their time, and up up up goes the price in a last-second sniping orgy. And then there are the bloody newbies who come in and spill silly money indiscriminately on both the good stuff I'm after and utter crap alike, and I snoop into what else they've been buying (can't help meself), and it turns out to be stereotypical GWR tripe and Thomas the bloody Tank and Cliff Richard albums. Pah!

So I wasn't too optimistic when I saw six Dapol Dogfish wagons described as hoppers, ending at a time when I had to be out of the house. But the bid history was a bit of a giggle. Bidder One (we'll call this mug with 85 feedback "Rotherham Tuesday") had started it off a couple of days ago at £9.99. Considering these things go for upwards of eight quid *each*, this was never going to be the last word, and sure enough Bidder Two (let's call him or her "Blackadder") popped in a more realistic bid the day after; exposing that Rotherham had bid *exactly* the starting £9.99.

Sure enough, three hours and a conjectural outbid notice later, back comes Rotherham Tuesday. Idiot bonce proceeds to pop in *ten* more bids in six minutes progressively trying to top Blackadder in one or two quid increments. His last bid - after a thirty-three second pause for reflection - was £24.99 and it had pushed Blackadder's original bid all the way to £25.01. Anyone with eBay nous will realise that Blackadder's bid had just topped out and Tuesday had missed out by three pee. And they were still looking cheap... so...

As it panned out, neither of them came back, and nobody sniped me. Blimey! Result!

How does someone get to 85 feedback without learning how to bid? Oh well, I've just written a cheque for six unboxed Dogfish at £4.83 apiece including postage. That'll do.

(Epilogue: there's enough information in this entry for an astute cyberstalker to work out what car I drive. In Scott McNealy's words, "You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.")

14 Nov 2007

Multics source available

Looks like the news I recently alluded to has now broken: El Reg, Slashdot

As usual the Slashchildren are parroting complete and utter bollocks. One writes:

UNIX can in fact be considered to be a 'simplified' successor to MULTICS.
Which is precisely why Unix matters and MULTICS doesn't. The simplifications in Unix are its most important contribution to the art of OS design. For example, we now take it for granted that the OS should implement a disk file as a simple byte stream, with bigger structures, such as records or indexes, being implemented on the application level. But when Unix appeared, that idea was novel and controversial."


Score 5 Insightful, my arse.

Another writes:

It is not yet known if it will be possible to emulate the required hardware to run the OS.

Surely it's possible, it just may not be much fun or very practical. Unless perhaps that old hardware has some black boxes that talk to spirits or do other magic things.

This child, from the depths of its ignorance about Multics' interdependency with undocumented long-lost intelligent peripherals such as the FNP (front-end network processor) and IOM (I/O Multiplexer), by some fluke actually managed to state the exact problem. I will henceforth refer to such a process as 'aleatoric wisdom'.

The ongoing disevolution of computer science would appear to be some sort of immersive spinoff from The History of the World Backwards.

11 Nov 2007

I know something you don't know!

Just seen some momentous (fsvo) news on Usenet, the people involved don't intend it to be public for a few days yet, so no blurting here, but it's something I thought we would never see. Huge, huge thanks to Tom Van Vleck and Groupe Bull for finally making it happen. I just wish I was competent enough to make some use of it...

In other news from the same thread, apparently there is one site somewhere out there still running George 3!

10 Nov 2007

Lochnagar crater, Thiepval, Vimy - May 2007

Lochnagar Crater
(panoramic image assembled using Hugin)

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing

Thiepval memorial - interior

Thiepval memorial - interior detail

Thiepval memorial and British section of cemetery

French section of Thiepval cemetery - 'Inconnu'

Canadian National Vimy Memorial

Trenches at Vimy Ridge

Trenches at Vimy Ridge - the barren concrete reconstruction is antithetical to the original reality, but feels entirely appropriate

9 Nov 2007

Pozieres Cemetery and Mametz Wood, May 2007

Pozieres Cemetery

Pozieres Cemetery

Pozieres Cemetery

38th (Welsh) Division memorial, Mametz Wood. On the day of our visit, the valley resounded to the calls of song thrushes from the wood.

38th (Welsh) Division memorial, Mametz Wood - detail

Flatiron Copse Cemetery

Flatiron Copse Cemetery

Flatiron Copse Cemetery - for detail of the headstones below the trees top centre, see next photo

Flatiron Copse Cemetery - the inscription on the pillar reads: "To the memory of these nine soldiers of the British Empire killed in action in 1916 and buried at the time in Mametz Wood Cemetery whose graves were destroyed in later battles. Their glory shall not be blotted out"

8 Nov 2007

Photos from Ypres, May 2007

Over the next couple of days I'll be posting a selection of photos from a trip to Ypres and the Somme back in May.

The 49th (West Riding) Division memorial, at Essex Farm Cemetery

Tyne Cot Cemetery (1)

Tyne Cot Cemetery (2)

Preserved trenches at the Sanctuary Wood Museum with illustrative mud

An aircraft engine at the rather ramshackle Sanctuary Wood Museum

Island of Ireland Peace Park, Messines - Peace Pledge

The Menin Gate (1)

The Menin Gate (2)

Ramparts Cemetery, Ypres. The closely spaced headstones denote men who fell together.

Modern street view in Ypres

Moving in

Welcome one and all to the Blogspot branch of this growing media empire. We'll kick off by mirroring the existing Livejournal posts. Edit: Oooh look, you can give them appropriate dates and times. Nice!

5 Nov 2007

In memoriam: Lance Hahn

I missed the sad (but not entirely unexpected) news that Lance Hahn (of J Church) died two weeks ago. I was once lucky enough to catch them - on (it says here) 21 November 2000, with The Urchin and Travis Cut and (iirc) Southport. It's horrible to read of his struggles to get the healthcare he needed in the aftermath of comments from that lying piece of shit Giuliani.


1 Nov 2007

Newbie hardware hacking

Spent the last two days taking my first steps hacking N gauge hardware. So far I've replaced split gears on and cleaned up an old Poole Farish Class 37, cleaned up an old Poole Farish Class 25 which will need four split idlers replacing, mopped up the factory gunge on a new Bachfar Deltic, and cleaned up and lubricated a Farish Class 101 (chassis type, photo below). The 101 now runs in the right direction :-). And just about worked out how to DCC them all. I've also knocked up my first two DG couplings. Must get some smaller pliers...

Burn baby burn

The joys of Lithium Ion batteries are, by now, well known. They famously go boom. They deteriorate irreversably over time, and this is accelerated by higher temperatures and repeated deep discharge. You really wouldn't want one in your lappy, if only there was an alternative, and ideally you wouldn't let them on a plane.

But now someone's put a ton of Li-Ion batteries into an Inter City 125.


30 Oct 2007

Click click

So there's incoherent rumbling amongst the Slashchildren and elsewhere about how overenthusiastic power saving on 2.5in drives can kill them pretty damn quick. This was known about already but not explained very well. The problem isn't spindown/spinup cycles, but park/unpark cycles, which are apparently referred to as Load Cycles.

Anyway, my crappy old lappy (a Dell Latitude CP450) has a nice big new disk (Western Digital WDC WD1000UE) that has been making irritating clicks that I hadn't quite got round to investigating. So a look at smartctl tells me that this disk has notched up 32642 load cycles in four months, which isn't as bad as the Hitachis, but isn't good either. And four reallocated sectors. Tsk.

So I just changed /etc/laptop-mode/laptop-mode.conf setting CONTROL_HD_POWERMGMT to 1 (was 0) and BATT_HD_POWERMGMT to 255 (was 1). This completely disables the disk's own power management, but that's not highly significant in the overall power budget. Easy peasy. What was all the fuss about? If I ever finish doing laptop-mode-tools for slackbuilds.org I'll patch it.

28 Oct 2007

Time Flies By

Time Flies By
When you're the driver of a train
Steaming out of Trumpton
With a cargo of cocaine

The test layout is complete!

(Footnote: there's a HMHB Kershaw session from last year newly up at http://cobweb.businesscollaborator.com/hmhb/audio/index.htm)

26 Oct 2007

More breakage

Seatbelt anchor. Spring gone in buckle, yellow tag popped, need to fit grotesquely expensive new "pretensioner" assembly, forthcoming trip to Wales in jeopardy.

DSL filter. So there is now only one usable phone, its inconvenient location bringing extra piquance to yesterday's two (2) silent calls with CLI unavailable.

kspread. No, 2-6-4 is not a date, it's a steam loco wheel arrangement, and it's TEXT. No, 40022 is not forty-thousand-and-a-bit with a sodding PHB friendly comma, it's a diesel loco and it too is TEXT. Similar problems in every other spreddie I've tried, because of course they all positively *aspire* to identical brokenness.

On the upside, found 3p walking to Morrisons. (For avoidance of doubt it was me walking, not the 3p.)

This blog is subject to Meldrewness until the 2008 Vernal Equinox -- The Mgmt

23 Oct 2007

Everything Is Broken

Kettle failed this morning. Just about thirty years old, a relic from Waveney Terrace. Now defunct. On the way home this afternoon, the car's seatbelt buckle wouldn't reliably sneck. And this evening a block of keys on the notebook's keyboard wouldn't produce anything. In a failure mode I hadn't anticipated, that included one of the characters of the /home partition's LUKS passphrase. Damn.

As Dylan put it, Everything Is Broken.

So out came the screwdriver, and nestling by the keyboard ribbon's ZIF socket was a tiny tiny screw shorting out a couple of the connections. If the service manual's to be believed, that size of screw must have come from the processor shield, though no consequentially empty hole is evident. Anyway, the keyboard is apparently working now; my mother has a new kettle; I have her old kettle; and the seatbelt buckle can damn well stay bust until tomorrow.

Meme of the day number one: IBM has applied for a business method patent on patent-trolling. Seeing as this exact idea has frequently come up in anti-software-patent circles, it just has to be someone in IBM having a larf and trolling the USPTO and spitting in the face of Acacia and sending a message to the community. It is surely a sign of the impending apocalypse that IBM Legal has developed a sense of humour.

Meme of the day number two: urban camouflage.