My Stuff Of The Year

Yes, it's a pointless end of year list! In no particular order.
Much of this stuff is by no means new in 2008, but it's all new to me in 2008.

Sailor Jerry's

Old news to most by now but the popularity of combining this vanilla-flavoured rum with coke and ice has yet to wane.


Imported via a visit to Helsinki earlier in the year, Fisherman's Friend Vodka (both its name, and its recipe) took the world* by storm, and continues to delight.

Helsinki Travel Theodolites

Jim Beam's, Disaronno, Coke, Ice and a slice of lime.

David Thomas Broughton versus 7 Hertz

"Can't afford a pasty from Gregg's bakery". Still loving this album. His singing voice is an acquired taste, but I acquired it. I also admire anyone who doesn't let their equipment blowing up stop them putting the song onto the CD.

Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - Dig Lazarus Dig

Reminded me that I do actually really like Nick Cave.

Cut Copy - In Colours

Uncomplicated but enjoyable electro. A New Order I like.

Primal Scream - Swastika Eyes (live)

Entire audience hated it, but it was the only good bit in the whole gig. Still think they're crap.

Trentemoller @ The Big Chill

I knew he'd be astonishing, because all his productions, and all his remixes, are astonishing. He was.

Leonard Cohen @ The Big Chill

The world is thanking his bent accountant for this tour.

There Will Be Blood

It's not exactly a stretch for me to like a Paul Anderson film, but still...


To my shame, I saw the film before the book, but I thought both were brilliant. Yes, even Keira Knightley.

No Country For Old Men

I was expecting to be bored crapless by this but was mesmerised instead.

The Shield Season 7

This final season knocked this back up to seriously rival The Wire for best thing ever. The entire season exulted in reminding you that Vic Mackey was a truly horrible person.

Sons Of Anarchy

A drama about gun-running Californian bikers sounds dumb, but this was brilliantly done. For some reason I kept being reminded of Cher though - that is never good.


Very, very, good restaurant 2 minutes from my flat == yay.

Try Thai

Very good value, with excellent battered scallops, in Chinatown (if you can call a single square a town (which you can't, Manchester - sorry)).

The Deaf Institute

Well done for opening, Trof 3!

Sam Smith's Organic Ale

I drank way too much of this.

Allgates Shining Light

And nowhere near enough of this.


BBC News

They're using the phrase "a sense of" even more than they used to. They refer to "the sense of jubilation" in the Democrat camp, or "a sense of taking stock" amongst Republicans. Practically every other sentence uses this moronic phrase. There's a real sense of lazy journalism at the BBC.

On the "moronic phrase" note: "Yes We Can" is just about the stupidest campaign slogan ever.

Also, the election coverage on the BBC was surprisingly biased. Way too many left-leaning talking heads, very
little positive coverage of the McCain campaign. It wasn't Fox News, of course, but it was bad: I expected better from the BBC. It was almost worth it to see John Bolton nearly explode with anger though.

You did it...

Dear America: well done.


Christian Voice kooks on the atheist bus

"People don't like being preached at."
"But in a twist which will have Christians in gales of laughter, the advertising campaign...is to be stuck on bendy-buses."
May I suggest first that said Christians perhaps need to get out more, and second that "gales of laughter" doesn't seem like a very Christian response?
"fellow humanists, not known for their generosity, wouldn't stump up the cash."
Aren't you guys looking a little silly now?

Press release.


More Broccoli News

I'm not sure why this loathsome stuff is so much in the news these days.
You might not think it loathsome. Think again.

Programmatic VNC password setting

I had this problem recently: I was generating automatic VNC passwords via /dev/urandom, and needed to obfuscate them. Stupidly, vncpasswd is only interactive, and I wasn't in any kind of mood for hacking up the sources. A co-worker kindly pointed me to the solution:

printf "%s\n%s\n" "$PASSWD" "$PASSWD" | vncpasswd /tmp/vncpasswd

In my head, the use of getpass() means this couldn't work, but it does. It doesn't appear to be on Google, so I thought I'd mention it. Of course, as all know, the obfuscation done by vncpasswd is entirely pointless, but Xvnc at least will only take such "encrypted" password files.

McCain understands small business growth - he was one

Since I can't vote, I may as well trivialise the election by laughing at McCain say things like "Obama's supporters are saying some pretty nasty things about Western Pennsylvania lately. And you know, I couldn't agree with them more. I couldn't disagree with you. I couldn't agree with you more..."

Doddery old fool.




Vote obstruction may yet decide the outcome of the US election. Scary.


Ha ha ha ... ha?

Why aren't there any headache tablets in the jungle? Because of the continuing policy of price-fixing cartels within the pharmaceutical industry, making it nigh on impossible for decent standards of helathcare to operate in the developing world.


Vinyl space again!

After Habitat stupidly stopped selling the storage I was using for my records, I finally found
something suitable for the size of my flat:

These are i-cubes. Not the most beautiful storage in the world, but I have expansion room again!

Following the US elections from the UK

I've never paid anything like this kind of attention to US politics before, and I'm most certainly not alone. Everyone here in the UK is talking about it. It's not just the hatred engendered across the world as a result of the Bush years that's causing this though. I think it's mostly a combination of the huge gulf between the presidential candidates this time around, plus the pantomime nature of the Palin-McCain campaign.

Last time the UK faced a choice as stark as the US faces, I was a toddler, and not quite precocious enough to have an opinion. I'm sure I don't need to mention that everyone in the UK are Obama supporters - we've decided already to vote for Obama come November, and technicalities be damned.

Watching the debates and news clips of the candidates has been completely unreal, from both sides. It's bizarre seeing Obama talking about "crushing" and "killing" terrorists as if it's perfectly normal liberal terminology. Over here that kind of language belongs to the far right. Compare it with Blair (who need I remind you is rather hawkish): "There is no meeting of minds, no point of understanding with such terror. Just a choice: Defeat it or be defeated by it. And defeat it we must."

It's also been entertaining watching Palin stumble along in her attempt to pretend she has any idea what's going on. "First Dude" is an amusing phrase, but it's still amazing she actually uses it herself. Her "expertise" on energy appears to amount to saying "drill baby drill" a lot. Somehow her ridiculous attempt to debate via the language of winking is considered a success. Whuh?

God knows the level of debate in UK politics is woeful, but you'd never get anything like this kind of pantomime. You'd never get ridiculous smears like the Ayers thing, Brown's wife's speech or not.

The UK did elect a London mayor entirely on the basis of his hair, though. Maybe that's the real problem with the US election at the moment: it really can't be decided easily on haircut.


For shame

I finally conceded and set up mutt at work to be able to read HTML email. Perhaps it's time to move into management.


Turning off Offensive YouTube popups

What the hell are they thinking? These awful popups have actually genuinely achieved
a new low: even pop-unders and nefarious crap like that have an obvious way to dismiss the advert.
Apparently it's also OK to just plaster them all over the content so you can't even see it.

You go to the arrow at the bottom right and click "Turn Off Annotations". These are Annotations
in the "Ministry Of Love" sense. Oh, you have to do that for every video by the way. Unlike the
volume control, which of course persists across all videos.

Obviously, YouTube want you to hate them.


Dear clever types

Can you please hurry up and actually release a decent A4 e-book reader? You guys are so close... I will pay stupid money.


Greg Kroah and Canonical

I can't quite get over how arrogant his talk was. If you're not sending in kernel patches, that means you're bad and all your developers should get jobs elsewhere, apparently. Things like HAL aren't "Linux plumbing", and if you contribute to that, or GNOME in general, tough luck, since other operating systems can use it. GCC, binutils, and X.org are OK though, because, well ... just because.


What new horror

As I just noticed on the TV advert:

Universal Pictures will release a special sing-along edition of the hit movie musical Mamma Mia! in selected theaters nationwide
I've thought of a worse thing than this though: a "wit-a-long" version of Sex And The City.


Awful, awful music

Dave Stewart's American Prayer makes we wish I was a Republican[1]. And I don't even live in the US.
Whittaker: stop it. George from Seinfeld: stop it. Stewart: I told you a long time ago.

This is almost as bad as Roger Taylor's Nazis (at the very least, read the lyrics, if you haven't - awesome).

[1] a little bit


At last some honesty

Things I never expected to read in a prominent Intelligent Design blog:

Sorry if I’m offending anyone but these people disgust me. They’re all like “I believe in rational inquiry, science, and bearded thunderers who live in the sky and worry about my immortal soul”. Please. Choose one or the other but not both.

So there you have it. If you're a Christian you'd better not be an ID proponent, and vice versa. Or, of course,
ID has nothing to do with rational enquiry. I'm not sure they really realised they were saying that.


Raymond Chen: It's not Christmas

In March of this year, a customer wrote, "I have attached a Word document that describes the problem." (Hey, here's an idea: Why not describe the problem in your email message?)

The Word document contained a screenshot.

The screenshot was of an email message.

The email message contained a screenshot.

Bonus remark from the customer liaison: "Once you open the document, you may need to zoom it further to read it."



PulseAudio and volume controls

For those wondering how on earth to access an underlying real device when PulseAudio is enabled (yes, both alsamixer and pavucontrol only show one mixer control - brilliant!), you can do this:

alsamixer -c 0

Of course, this behaviour isn't documented anywhere. I don't know how people are supposed to discover this.


Unwrap Mosaics

This work at Microsoft Research is super-cool. Watch the video at the bottom of the page.


Hitler liked some good music, you know?

In case you needed another fatuous reason for supporting Obama, here it is: Obama's Top Ten tunes versus
McCain's. Apart from the U2 stumble, not bad at all, Barack, not bad.


Ticketline RSS feed

Ticketline, my favourite less-evil-than-Ticketmaster online ticket agency, have finally got added some RSS
feeds. Though, they do seem rather flaky. In fact, the website is currently refusing to return any data at all
to me. Hmm.


Showers onboard Emirates' A380

Almost makes flying civilised.

This will be dreadful

In addition to Gerardis, who produced "I, Robot," Jeff Vintar, who penned the screenplay to that film, was attached to pen the "Foundation" screenplay.

I, Robot was at best an awful film. The Foundation film will most likely be worse.


Orson Scott Card is a dick

The first and greatest threat from court decisions in California and Massachusetts, giving legal recognition to "gay marriage," is that it marks the end of democracy in America.

So says Orson Scott Card. Shame; I enjoyed the "Ender" books.


Another victory for superstition

Sikh girl wins bangle law battle

I'm sure there's some legal argument that makes banning all
jewelry, religious or not, "discrimination", but I doubt it's a sensible one.
I wonder if they could add a watch face to it instead.


This one for the doubters (you know who you are): Likelihood of me being MALE is 100%


Writing Python Properly

What are people's approaches to writing Python correctly? The library documentation basically doesn't document the set of exceptions the routines can throw, which makes it very difficult to catch the right things, and do the right thing[1] (for example). What do people do to deal with this problem?

[1] on that note, if you're writing a command line tool in Python, please catch KeyboardInterrupt and exit quietly. Drives me crazy!




Mercurial corruption (again)

It's somewhat disappoint that Mercurial is still corrupting repositories when you interrupt MQ operations.

Relatively easily recoverable for me this time, thankfully. I'd still like to see hg backup from the OpenSolaris SCM project get merged upstream though :)


Pure Python Plugins

After some searching and asking around I didn't find any good explanation of the simplest way to implement plugins in Python. So, for posterity's sake, here's my solution. I'm sure there's a better way: I'd love to hear your suggestions.

First, the requirements. The code cannot have knowledge of how the plugins are named (.so files, .py, package dirs, etc.). I don't want to hard-code the list of plugins, as this defeats its dynamic nature altogether. I have to be able to iterate across all plugins. Any user should be able to use the module without knowing that it's got plugins. Finally, it's got to be as simple as possible.

First up, we have whatever/__init__.py:

import pkgutil
import imp
import os

plugin_path = [os.path.join(__path__[0], "plugins/")]

for loader, name, ispkg in pkgutil.iter_modules(plugin_path):
file, pathname, desc = imp.find_module(name, plugin_path)
imp.load_module(name, file, pathname, desc)

This basically uses Python's module search to find all contents of the plugins sub-directory and load them. Now we have some more scaffolding in the same directory, as whatever/whatever.py:

plugins = []

class plugin(object):
"""Abstract plugin base class."""

def register_plugin(plugin)
global plugins
plugins += [ plugin ]

# utility functions to iterate across and use plugins...

Finally, each plugin looks something like this, in plugins/foo.py:

from whatever/whatever import *

class fooplugin(plugin):
"""Concrete class for foo plugin."""


Simple enough, but it took a while to work it out. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem possible to merge whatever.py into __init__.py as we have a recursive import problem.



Amusing prank

An amusing prank. I love how they get back in, as if that'll somehow help.


Getting decent stack traces

Reading through this bug is seriously depressing to read (until Michael Matz steps in).
It was always complete madness to strip symbols from shipping binaries; it was always
madness to disable the frame pointer too. (The debuginfo trick is an excellent solution
to the problems of source-level debugging, by the way, it's just taken way, way, too far).

This is why you have to install a 1Gb debuginfo RPM in order to run OProfile on the kernel. Crazy.

It's a good read if you like to see certain people behaving like asshats to their fellow community
members too.


I Am Neurotic

My favourite quote from I Am Neurotic: "Everyday, at 7:47 am or pm, I always say Boeing, after the Airplane, and I don't know why. I've gotten into a lot of trouble, and I even say it in my sleep."



It's already extremely difficult to watch US TV, with adverts every 7 minutes, and massive animated
station idents taking up half the screen, but this is particularly obnoxious:

It's as if they want you not to watch.


Weezer and YouTube

I only got most of the videos in this music video:

but it's still good. The song's not up to much though.


The NEW Underground

Is CHRISTIAN electronic music the new underground?

"It used to be that all of the good new music was in the rave scene and then would trickle out into the internet and store shelves. Now when I look for traditional electronic music anywhere, I find that the music seems generally boring or has too much of a political or sinful feel."

I hate that traditional electronic boring, political, or sinful music too.


Nintendo and undersupply

I'm getting more than a little bit tired of Nintendo playing its bloody games. Yes,
we get it Nintendo, your stuff is popular. Now, please make enough copies of
Mario Kart and Wii Fit to sell them. It's not even Christmas.

Mario Kart isn't even in shop charts. I've been past several shops selling Wii
stuff recently (Game, supermarkets, etc.) and most of them don't even have any
*mention* of Mario Kart. This is insane.




Smirking cat murdered

This is a weird story already, but that illustrative photo, and especially its caption, are just plain bizarre.


gnome-terminal titles

This finally annoyed me enough to find a solution.

If I set a title on a gnome-terminal tab, then it gets forgotten next time I log in. Aside from the GNOME default to not save your session (whuh?), the problem is this: on Fedora, /etc/bashrc forces PROMPT_COMMAND to set the xterm title.

This wouldn't really be a problem, if I could disable setting of dynamic titles in gnome-terminal preferences. However, gnome-terminal thinks that a manually-set (Terminal->Set Title) title is somehow "dynamic", so if you do that, you can never set the title to anything else.

Seeing as I use the tab titles to work what machine I'm on, that's quite annoying.

The "solution" was to just edit /etc/bashrc so it doesn't force a PROMPT_COMMAND I don't want.


Dear Software Authors

Another request for sanity please. If I'm running a Linux distribution less than 6 months old, it should be feasible to install your software without installing random -svn versions of your dependencies.

If it's not, I'm not going to bother trying out your software. That means I definitely won't be fixing any of your bugs, and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone. That means you lose out.

Yes, this means you, Review Board. Is it really so essential that you use a version of Django that isn't released anywhere?



I really don't understand why, but AMD's current problems are upsetting me. It really does make me feel bad. I have no idea why I care.

Kraken Botnet Infiltration

If you had the ability to cleanse 25,000 infected zombie home computers, would you?



Google have released rietveld, inspired by their internal code-review tool. The video
about Mondrian made it look pretty (i.e. incredibly) useful for code review. The released
version already looks pretty nifty. webrev works great for my day job, but it would be
awfully nice to be able to store comments too. I'd love to see rietveld get adopted, though
there's some tweaks I'd like to see...



Skynet is cute


A tale of 3 consoles

The big three consoles, scaled according to how much hardware oomph they pack:

And now in terms of 2007 sales:

Yays for Nintendo.


Brazen broccoli bandit

This guy is an urban hero. If he's destroying it, that is. If he's just eating it, he's a bit weird.


"Our Ecosystem Rocks!"

Awesomely bad from Microsoft:

If that's really supposed to be Bruce Springsteen ... well ... no.

It makes my overlord's song, "The Power Of Sun", seem really, really good.


Rumour has it

That Haddaway is making a comeback. With a single. Featuring Dr. Alban.

That's right.


Zaitcev, you can.

zaitcev: I know you're not entirely serious, but I don't know why Ted's post has put the dampers on anything. Fact is, it's still open source, you can still fix things, and you can still get them into the main codebase. Or fork. Even better, you've been through SMI code review, so you'd be super familiar :)

Ted's post is wrong in many ways of course. It didn't take 3 years to get a distributed SCM for the sources out there. I don't believe for an instant he's stupid enough to think that getting external committers set up is as simple as "setting up a Mercurial server" (I can assume you remember Teamware). The low rate of contributions is not primarily a result of the cumbersome request sponsor process.

You can't call something astroturfing when it's actually doing useful work, just because that rate is fairly low. Especially when you look at how DTrace and ZFS have been ported everywhere (except Linux).

(Update: I would have preferred to reply as a comment, but you have anonymous comments disabled, and LiveJournal is still broken when it comes to openid. I didn't use my work blog as that's for content not chit-chat.)

Facebook grew a stupid bar at the bottom

No, Facebook, I'm not going to use Facebook Chat. Piss off.

Life Imitates Art; Stuff Of Nightmares

Compare and contrast:


Time Warner Delivers Modem Cockroaches.

It's weird enough when the imaginary becomes real. When it's Chris Morris, it's genuinely terrifying.


The Most Unwanted Song

The Most Unwanted Song. I'm in the office, so haven't actually heard it yet. I'm sure it's awesome though.


Play distance diagram

Via Bruce Schnier's blog:

Says it all I think.



Towards a Practical Theology of Peer Review - it's good to finally see some rigour in theology.

Centaur Technology

Via davej: "There are no managers at Centaur. Instead, employees report to Centaur founder and President, Glenn Henry".

There are 85 employees there according to Google. It sounds like living hell to me. Maybe all of those people are both really competent and really nice, but I find it a bit difficult to believe.



Diana fan

What I find most surprising about this guy:

is not that he spent 6 months of his life listening in on the Diana inquest with stuff scrawled over his face, but that he's not a Diana conspiracist!

Open source Windows like Open source Solaris?

etbe: I'm confused by your comments in that opinion article - were you misquoted? How did "advised by your lawyer not to look at code" become "OpenSolaris isn't FOSS" ? BTW, whenever you ask a lawyer a can-I question, they'll always tell you no :) I'm presuming you're not willing to share the details of this legal opinion.

Three-Armed Beyonce

Three-Armed Beyonce Is Not Amused.


Lazy Ad Exec Scum

OK, maybe scum is a little over the top, but I really do hate how lazy advertisers are.
Current bone of contention being this advert:

Now, whilst I don't think the Mighty Boosh crimping thing is at all funny, it's still really annoying they would blatantly rip it off like this. Just as bad is the Berocca ad. Their player doesn't seem to work, but it totally rips off the infamous OK Go video:

(I was also going to moan about the Crusha advert, but turns out Joel actually did that one, so fair enough.)

Dear Television

Probably the best short programme there is: Dear Television. I love the natural eccentricity of
the type of person who would not only write to the BBC about some minor thing about a TV
programme, but choose as their bone of contention the parking practices of fictional police drivers.

Annoyingly it's not on iPlayer, or even anywhere else. Bah.


Stupid dogs

Occasionally, people try to tell me that dogs aren't stupid. They are.



Rick-rolling: Finally, Rick Astley speaks.

Oh my

"The fact that you can use Control-click to open URLs in Gnome Terminal is not very discoverable."

dgh, I think you might have revolutionalarised my life!


Self-knitting lamp

I'm not that bothered about lamps in general, but lamps that can knit themselves are quite good:


How Not To Benchmark

No, I'm afraid it's not sensible to attempt to benchmark OS performance by running it as a VM. Please don't (unless you're damn sure what you're doing).


Armageddon Technik

This video will most likely give you terrifying nightmares, but at least they'll be really cool nightmares.


Fujiya & Miyagi

For some reason only just now getting around to listening to Fujiya & Miyagi album, though I've got a couple of their 10"s. They're on Tirk, which obviously means they're great by default. If you like LCD Soundsystem or !!!, or whatever, and that, go get the album. I liked it so much I bought it twice. Admittedly by accident, but still.


New Portishead video.

New Portishead video: Machine Gun. Sounds like a ghost DJing dubstep.


My musical inbox is getting a little out of hand:

The pile of CDs in the background is especially daunting.


How To Create A Running Gag

How To Create A Running Gag, courtesy of one of the few webcomics I like,
Basic Instructions. I feel like I know the characters in it personally.

When Things Explode

When Things Explode is a new site about Manchester music, although it's currently only a blog.
Looks like it'll be good.


And I'm lost in confusion...

I've moved my blog to blogspot.com, so I can add pictures and the like without having to bugger about too much as I did on Advogato.

Just back from the US. Somehow I spent 3 weeks there last time without noticing my hotel was practically next to Rasputin Music. Anyway, I finally did this time on Saturday morning and thankfully had time to do some shopping. At the exchange rate, the 2-disc 12" of Underworld's Jumbo was a particularly good buy, though I was most excited over this:

That's the 12" of Trash. Yes, I went all the way to the US to get a record by a local Manchester band. I missed it first time around, and they're all bought up over here, so I think that's why I didn't own it yet. But it's a great tune.