Saturday, 30 July 2011

"Internet explorer users are as dumb as a bag of hammers"

It must be true - I read it on teh intarwebs.


If anyone remembers the awfulness that was IE6 (and it was terrible in 2007, let alone 2011) then it's almost unthinkable that anyone would still be using it unless they weren't capable of installing a different browser. I take a certain pleasure in knowing that a large company I used to work for had IE6 as their standard corporate browser, and would not permit use of any other (Firefox would run 'live' off a USB stick!).

Ever use a new operating system and go "WOW"

I've just run AV Linux from a live CD.


It's Debian 5 (so old) but with the latest Linux Kernel and LDXE as a desktop manager. I've never known a live CD seem fast, but if this was a proper install you'd think it felt snappy, let alone as a live CD. The browser (Ice Weasel) was REALlY fast, but overall it seems quick regardless.

The other wow factor is that it looks nice (apart from the crappy quality wallpaper image) with a very clean interface and sharp fonts.

Best of all, the sheer quantity of audio visual tools bundled. Some faves are missing, like DigiKam, but there's a lot to like here, especially for recording. I think I've discovered what my dual-boot machine is going to look like soon. This might even replace Sabayon.

It almost feels like I'm on holiday.

The last 3 weeks have been really hard going, with me staying up until 4am to write a report required for the following day, plus several evenings and doing work for my 'other' job at Heyford when I should be doing my own stuff. I've also been losing sleep over the 'other job', and on Wednesday was on that site from 5.50am until 5.15am with about 1 1/2 hours driving in each direction to get there.

For the last couple of weeks I've had someone working with me: a lovely lass who has completed her first year of biochemistry at Durham uni. The trade off is that I get her work free and she learns key skills (cell culture and ELISA assay techniques, plus real-world basic laboratory skills - university definitely doesn't teach those) while she's with me. This is significant because having her around means that I can't blast through my own work (or ignore it) in order to do stuff for the 'other job', and this has caused something of a crisis on Wednesday when things that I'd committed to do simply couldn't be done.

I've been increasingly aware that there was too much going on with both jobs, and pretty much since taking on the second job I've been neglecting aspects of my own company. However since Christmas this year it's escalated to the point where either company was getting a good job done, and with that comes stress, distress and more worry, leading in turn to an even worse job being done. Discussing this with a friend who has been in a very similar situation, he talked about all the time he'd spent writing lousy reports at 2am, knowing they were bad, but having to submit them anyway. Being unable to produce work of a high standard due to pressures and conflicts of interest hit his confidence, and I know, given time, this would hit mine too.

So I've taken a decision, talked it through with Chris and we're happy with that, even though it's going to potentially cause stress in other areas. But I think I can do this in faith. Where I've prayed for things to change and business to come in then God has provided, and with much greater effect than any mailshot I've ever put out.

So it feels a little like I'm on holiday, partly because the early morning men's group is also having a holiday, and I could get 8 hours in bed, getting up gradually with my sleepy wife instead of dashing out at 6.55am. But also because, although there's a huge amount of work to get through and sort out, I feel like an area of pressure and stress that I have been decreasingly in control of will now be resolved.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Just finished a backing track

playing in St. James Somerton for the King James 400th celebration. Guitar, bass and strings all jostling away robustly in the same audio file. I hope it sound's 'live' enough, because my timing is highly flexible!

I just hope no-one is *really* listening - the more I play it, the more I with I'd had A) Drums B) a better sense of rhythm and less sense of wanting to impart 'feeling'. Still, I've managed to marry Joe Bonamassa and Pachelbel, so it can't all be bad?

Friday, 22 July 2011

Fuduntu! Eh? What?

Have a look at this youtube video.

Actually have a look at the videos linked off that page, if you have a passing curiosity about various linux distros in general. It was enough to convince me to download Fuduntu today (partly out of curiosity to see if their version of the dock was better than Apple's) and partly because it just looked funky.

I know I'm being a bit of an OS trollop, but I'd really like to have 5 or 6 different OSs all available and ready to roll at any given time, just to sate my curiosity. Also really looking forward to Gnome 3 being refined a little more (you should take a look at his Fedora 15 review too). When I was running it briefly here (before that Seagate drive went belly-up - now replaced with a 'repaired' one) it actually seemed pretty good to use.

Talking of whoring OSs, has anyone out there tried Lion yet? After my experience with Snow Leper I'm reluctant to upgrade, but also sense obsolescence creeping up on my (increasingly tardy despite the high speed HDD and 4Gb RAM) Macbook. I'd be interested to hear if your system worked properly and completely after the install.

Most of us feel fundamentally fatherless.

Now if you saw that question, what would you think?

Would you think, like me, here is an American trying to sell a book that over-thinks a whole bunch of things that are not normally issues?

As a men's group, we've worked our way through John Eldredge's Fathered by God which had some good parts (the section on spiritual warfare was particularly good, and I benefited much from it). However it starts from the premise of the title above, and frequently goes downhill from there.

We are now working our way through the companion book - the 'personal and small group map for your masculine journey' - and I'm finding it harder and harder to take it seriously.

We also come from a different perspective on reality. For JE, it's as if the struggles, failures and frustrations of life are fundamentally wrong, and would disappear if we were really fathered by God. For me, many of them are there BECAUSE I'm fathered by God, and they are for my strengthening and training. I suppose as much as anything, the mixture of hand-wringing 'I want my daddy' and references to Hollywood kitsch just don't mean anything and have really got on my nerves.

Tomorrow I'm leading the group through this for the last time before we break for summer. I'll miss the guys a little (love Saturday mornings in bed with my wife!) but not the book.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Who would have thought it?

We had to stop playing at a music practice because we were laughing too much.

Guitar synth + horn section riffing away on a song when it's not expected is really funny. Or at least highly unbelievable. The guys have got use to Sax, strings, piano and flute, but a horn section caught them by surprise.

Don't know if it's naff or not, but I'd happily use this sound live.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

This isn't Canada.

I watched Ironman 2 on DVD last night, for the second time. During the 'congressional hearing' there's a little section where they mention personal security, and the character says something along the lines of "I'd like to leave my front door unlocked, but this isn't Canada".

It is an interesting perception and comment on several levels.

It also makes me wonder if there was a Canadian writer/producer involved somewhere.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Back online again!

After 13 days the PC is back. Sabayon include a facility to recover the bootloader on the live CD, and I've just had the privilege to see it work first hand.

Turns out the fault was with Nvidia drivers - a number of people across different distros suffers being locked out. Now I just need to edit one file before I can put the Nvidia card back in (and I really want to do that before i get blown away by this ATI card near my ankles). It's as noisy as the noisiest DVD drive you can imagine!

I was recently given a computer.

It had been bought for someone to use as their office machine, and because they wanted something that would run easily and quietly they sourced a nice machine with highish spec.


What they got was an over-pumped games machine, high spec MoBo + Intel CPU + colossal heat sink/fan, modular power supply, HUGE graphics card, expensive memory, 1TB HDD (this was 2 years back when that was higher end) and a nice coolermaster case. It was too noisy to use in the office because of all the fans and cooling needed, so it was bunged in the lab to run a couple of instruments.

Fine, until the air con was turned off over a hot weekend while the computer was still running.

One Monday it wouldn't wake up, so after some fiddling it was 'dumped' with a dead MoBo.

And it truly is dead. The power supply obviously 'works' because the LEDs on the board light up, but it won't post - Ben's not had time yet to pop the processor into his (socket 775) MoBo, but while the bits were sat around I thought it would be handy to use them. The DVD drive is a nice LG SATA unit, but distinctly dodgy, sometimes refusing to recognise the presence of a disc. I got 7 days out of the HDD before it refused to initialise.

But THAT isn't so bad.

A quick check on Seagate's website show it was still in warranty. So for £3 postage I should shortly get a brand new 1TB drive, which is VERY welcome news. Hope it's one of their more recent designs and not like-for-like.

As for me, I'm just about to go delete some files on a spare hard drive to create enough space to install another OS in order to try to rescue my data from the upgrade/crash of 2 weeks ago.

Just popped the graphics card - an ASUS ATI 4850 - in there. THAT was the source of all the noise, as the huge fan runs flat out all the time, creating an absolute storm in the case. Quite quite ridiculous. My old Nvidia 7900 isn't a great deal less powerful, and is silent by comparison.

One more thing - there's every chance that I'll be able to recover my Sabayon drive, thanks to a handy facility for restoring the bootloader that comes on the live DVD.

Now I understand

how people must have felt the first time they heard heavy rock.

Widor's Tocata for organ (the last movement of his 5th symphony).

It was being discussed on radio 4 this evening. As soon as I heard it I knew it immediately - it's the piece they play to clear function buildings and make people leave quickly.

I'm serious.

It's as repetitive as an piece of 'dance' music, and while it shares the same glory as a large stack of amplifiers being driven flat out, the textures can't make up for lack of tune just like a guitarist repeatedly hitting a huge overdriven A chord while stomping on different effects pedals. It does have a kind of joyousness, but it's like trying to 'hit the spot' and keep hitting it again and again without sensitivity or subtlety.

The piece comes and goes in tonal surges that, for all the world, make me think of a large drunken man lurching and falling around while trying to have a shouted conversation. I really want to like it, but somehow can't.

If you must find out for yourself, listen here (youtube content).

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Curious how some people use words

Thinking this morning about voices I've heard recently: those who use words to transmit meaning for understanding, and those who wrap meaning in words so that it's difficult to find, let alone perceive. Jargon, buzz-words, implications that all hide the intent behind the conversation. It might be that they didn't have enough time to think stuff through, or it might be that they don't want to talk about reality plainly and out front. And having written this out, it occurs to me that sometimes we don't really understand a situation for ourselves until we've had to articulate it - talking (and listening) are powerful tools.

I have the slightly un-enviable reputation of presenting all the shortcomings of a situation while taking the good things for granted - in a work context. Things would be less complex (though also a little less up-beat) of others would do the same, and in all walks of life.

For me, there's a battle to make sure I speak reality, and make it as understandable and accessible as possible. One of my constant prayers is not to mis-represent either God or truth in what I say, and I feel shame when I know I've spun something.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

I know Ben is my son

He's always been good at the coordination of speed, personal trajectory and handling the vectors of other objects. Put him on ice skates, skis, a bike etc and he acquits himself well.

But that wasn't what I meant.

When he started to learn to drive he'd already been beating me at the driving games on computer. He knew how cars worked, what the clutch did and how to change gear. At least, in his head. However when we went for our first 'driving lesson' it wasn't quite like that, and at the end of it he admitted it was harder than he'd expected.

And it seems this is the case for me with preaching.

I've had presentation skills courses, spoken occasionally at scientific meetings, presented research findings at director level, yet actually preaching - standing in front of a church and speaking - is different from these.

Back in the dima nd distant past I remember as a new Christian at 16, freshly baptised in the Holy Spirit talking about prophesy with the pastor of the baptist church we went to. He didn't deny that prophesy still happened, but suggested it came through preaching and sermons 'these days'. Of course all I 'heard' from the pulpit was safe, sound and uninspiring stuff from a gentle older man trying to bring encouragement to a difficult, disparate and increasingly fractious congregation.

On Saturday we went to see one of our God daughter's graduate after a year in bible school (KBCTC Oxford) and one of their number spoke. She had a reputation for always bursting into tears when talking publicly, and this piqued my curiosity because I've been finding increasingly the same thing. The point for me is that speaking has become a fairly intense spiritual experience, with emotions often flapping in the breeze, simply from the sheer power of the words I'm reading from scripure.

On Sunday I was talking about Satan's treatment of Job, and the sheer brutality almost completely choked me up. In fact there were several points where it became difficult to speak, and I've found this previously too. It isn't just the hard times either - sometimes the amazing grace of God is almost overwhelming to the point where it's hard to talk over the top of the incredible emotions that want to burst out.

The thing that makes this funny is that when preparing and thinking about what to say, I can hear my voice coolly delivering various lines, nicely under control and with just the right inflection to carry the point. Reality is a little more ragged.

Ben has turned into a highly skilled driver, although he overcooks it a little often for comfort: but that's all part of being young. I wonder if my progress in preaching will be like that - I certainly hope so, and that I'll not keep bumping along the bottom.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Just heard the husband of a friend

the husband of a friend, who is also Chris's optician, was killed in an accident on Saturday. Praying for his family: the wife and children left behind.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Having worked with robots

humans are interesting in the way they continually self-calibrate.

Just spent the morning setting up some tests on the robotic system here, and was considering the way internal movements are calibrated and can drift. Living things are changing constantly as they grow, age, wear and damage. Yet almost everyone could touch a finger to the tip of their nose first go, or shovel food into their mouths without difficulty. Based on my experience with robotics, you wouldn't want to be pushing sharply pointed objects toward a small opening of uncertain size and location.

Quite remarkable really.


To people with blog comments that require one to not only have to log in with their google account to post, but also to then require a capcha type word recognition to complete the post. Blog commented on, logged in, hit submit, then instinctively closed page after it refreshed, just as I saw the 'word' appear. Undoing close did not bring back the original text.

If you're that paranoid about what might be written then you probably don't need comments anyway. :p

Sunday, 3 July 2011

A long, busy week has gone by since the last post.

I've had a headache all day, the PC bricked this morning when I went down to sort out the worship songs on it first thing (big update last night) and I've not managed a bike ride this W/E either.

Bluegh, really.

May just go, see if I can put another 'pooter together with bits laying around + a donation from the generous Mike Z.