I've decided to retire this blog — I don't really see myself updating it any time soon, and haven't for over two years anyway. I intend to leave the content on-line for the forseeable future, but have converted it to a static site. As a result, dynamic things like search and comments aren't really going to work.

You can find me on Twitter or on Google+ if you like. Alternatively, I'm usually on IRC as LawnGnome on Freenode.

Thanks for reading!

Archive for August, 2009


Monday, August 24th, 2009

Well, I’m back from the right hand side of the country. More on that if and when I can be bothered typing up my journal notes. It was fun.

I now have to deal with a giant backlog of e-mail, feeds and university work, so naturally I’m procrastinating and reading Slashdot instead. This story about parking meters in Chicago made me… do something that’s somewhere between raging and laughing. We’ve had those meters in Perth for years, and for all the many, many complaints Perth residents tend to have about City of Perth parking (and particularly their grey ghosts parking inspectors), the horror of having to walk a hundred metres or so to a ticket machine isn’t generally one of them.

It did remind me of working in the city last year, though. I usually parked at the Royal Street car park — even though it was a decent walk to iiNet’s offices on the Terrace, the day rate was cheap and there was usually parking still available at the hour I was getting there. In their infinite wisdom, the City of Perth decided to install new ticket machines last year which had apparently not gone through any sort of QC at all; the credit card functionality almost never worked, coin slots didn’t have enough clearance and kept getting jammed by 20 cent pieces, and it was generally a giant screw-up. As a result, you’d fairly often end up calling the City of Perth’s parking hotline, having a whinge at the completely disinterested person at the other end who’d promise someone would look at it someday (clearly not always the same day, since the same machines were often broken for several days at a time), and being given a reference number to write down and put on your dashboard to tell the parking inspectors that you’d at least tried to pay and that they should be merciful and not fine you. (That worked most of the time.)

Depressingly, the one time I got a decent response out of the City of Perth was when I got given $30 in change from a machine in the Goderich Street car park. (I was expecting about $2, from memory.) I called the hotline after a brief moral dilemma and got told by a rather surprised City of Perth staffer (after confirming not once but twice that yes, I really did want to give the money back) to wait there and one of the City’s contracted security people would be there shortly.

They arrived in two minutes flat. Amazing what happens to parking response times when money is involved.

Eee PC 701 and Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.04

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

I bought an Eee PC 701 a little while ago, when Catch of the Day had them as their daily special. Since I bought it mainly as a travel computer, rather than one I intended to use day-to-day, I’ve hardly touched it since it arrived and I dropped Ubuntu Netbook Remix onto it. At the time, I noticed some slowness to do with Wi-Fi and the special GUI, but since I flicked it over to the standard GNOME desktop almost straightaway anyway, I didn’t think much of it.

Fast forward to today, and I’m quickly setting up a guest account for my friends to use while we’re away on our Melbourne-Sydney road trip (since I’m apparently the designated laptop carrier for some reason). The slowness of both the GUI and Wi-Fi annoyed me, so I went and had a look around for solutions. For the benefit of anyone else having the same issues, here’s what I found:

Wireless: The 701 includes an Atheros chipset. Long-time Macbook users like myself will probably have to suppress an instinctive shudder at that. Launchpad bug 378156 is there to deal with this and, although it’s still open, hints at the best way to deal with this: installing the relevant linux-backports-modules package provides a newer version of the ath9k driver that resolves the flakiness and packet loss that the default version suffers from.

Netbook Launcher GUI: The main selling point of the Netbook Remix is its impressively slick launcher GUI, which wraps around GNOME to provide a better small-screen environment. It looks terrific and would work really well but for Launchpad bug 349314, which details a problem with the tiling support in the graphics chipset driver that makes the launcher unusably slow. The workaround for this is to enable the /apps/netbook-launcher/force_low_graphics option in GConf, but the real fix is in the pipeline, which is a new kernel version (2.6.28-15-generic) which is currently in the jaunty-proposed repository and makes everything work smoothly, just as your chosen deity or non-deity would have intended.

The Ubuntu Wiki has a useful page detailing these and other problems that affect the 701, but with those fixes above, I’m now very happy with Ubuntu Netbook Remix on the 701.

Strange days

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

It has been a long, strange day full of sleep deprivation, coincidence, opportunity, drama and mostly self-inflicted angst. I might see if I can distill it into a blog post tomorrow.

At any rate, I’m off on a holiday as of tomorrow evening, and looking forward to my first real break since last July. (Conferences and uni trips are fun, but not exactly relaxing a lot of the time, and the Foundation Day long weekend I spent in Albany just wasn’t long enough.) The plan is for five of us to go to Melbourne for a few days (including taking in the battle for the priority draft picks, aka the Fremantle-Melbourne AFL game; and no, I’m not a Dockers or Demons supporter, so that’s going to hurt), drive very slowly through the snowfields in the general direction of Sydney, then catch a Bledisloe Cup game the weekend after next and return triumphant. And hopefully relaxed.

Obviously if you have open DB bugs, are breathlessly waiting for long-overdue action on the Dubnium front, or really want a new feature in wp-gopher, you may be waiting a bit longer.

I’d apologise for the above, but I’d be lying through my back teeth as I did it. I’ve been looking forward to this for months.

wp-gopher ₀.₂.₁

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Every time I release a version of wp-gopher I assume I’m done with it, since it’s a trivial little bit of Python that does one thing and does it well barely adequately. Neverthless, I got annoyed with the lack of character set support in it, so I’ve quickly hacked up a rudimentary fix — you can now define the character set in the configuration file and wp-gopher will insert an appropriate <meta> Content-Type tag to enforce it within blog posts (supporting non-Latin-1 text in the index would require character set support within the Gopher protocol, which doesn’t exist, as far as I know). The default is UTF-8, unsurprisingly.

To prove that it works, you can view this very blog post via Gopher (possibly even IPv6 Gopher, if you have IPv6 connectivity) and marvel at the following string of UTF-8 encoded Arabic, which Wikipedia claims is the Arabic name for Perth: بيرث.

A tarball is available: wp-gopher-0.2.1.tar.gz (SHA-1 sum: b9f9f1ced88464a1ff52cef5d088f2d046d7a20d), or you can git clone http://www.adamharvey.name/git/wp-gopher for the latest trunk.

Undesirable content

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

Tried to access my home server from university (the same university that blocks access to everything except HTTP(S) via a proxy — not even outbound port 22, requires all wireless connections to go over an unsecured network then uses a PPTP VPN over that, rather than the more obvious 802.1x authentication, and other bits of IT bizarreness) and got this wonderful screen (URL and user name blanked out to protected the guilty):

ContentKeeper Fail

I’m not quite sure what’s malicious about a Mythweb interface, but hey, who am I to argue with the sensible people in university ITS.