Blog entries from September, 2005

Moving back to campus for two months

Friday, September 30th, 2005 at 11:28pm

The implementation of the office plan that we were shown a while ago will begin next Tuesday and is supposed to be complete by the start of December. The good part of this is that it will finally get done but the bad part is that nine of us (myself included) will be moving back to where we used to be (not the exact same rooms but next door) for the duration in order to give the builders space to work.

This does not bode well for performance as it will now be significantly more difficult to communicate with the remainder of the team who are staying behind…

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It’s alive!

Friday, September 30th, 2005 at 09:09pm

This afternoon the server that hosts this site suffered a drive failure and it wasn’t until around twenty minutes ago that the faulty hardware was replaced and all data restored by the hosting people. What it did make me realise is that while the canonical version of most of this site (computer collection, Wallace and Gromit, and photos) is on one of my boxes at home (and incrementally backed up daily) all of these blog entries are in a database that is on a box in the US.

Every so often I perform an export/import so that I have a copy at home but today I realised that the last time I did that was back in July… Thanks to Google‘s cache I would have been able to manually recover the posts I had made since then but that is not a robust solution. I need to set it up so that I automatically grab a dump of the database at regular intervals like I do with my bookmarks…

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It’s a cracking film…

Wednesday, September 28th, 2005 at 11:36pm

Although it has been out for a few weeks now it was only tonight that I got around to seeing the new Wallace and Gromit movie: Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. It was cracking. Unfortunately I doubt I will have the time to see it again at a cinema but I will be buying the DVD as soon at it is available…

On a related note it is interesting to see how much the traffic to my Wallace and Gromit site has increased over the past few months even though I haven’t updated it for well over two years now, and that was to say I wasn’t going to update it anymore. Maybe I should update it a bit…

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Four more items…

Tuesday, September 27th, 2005 at 09:37pm

In the past twenty four hours I have added four more items to my collection:

  • A Powerbook Duo 210 which included a MiniDock, external floppy drive and a Portable StyleWriter;
  • A set of AppleDesign Powered Speakers (possibly faulty);
  • A set of AppleDesign Powered Speakers II (dark grey) that will go nicely with my PowerCD;
  • and another Apple IIc system that includes the fairly rare Disk IIc external floppy drive.

I am still waiting for one more package to arrive and this one contains an Apple IIc+ system…

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Damian on dead languages

Wednesday, September 14th, 2005 at 11:43pm

At perl mongers tonight Damian gave a talk on dead languages with the following examples:

This was the largest attendance at a perl mongers that I have ever seen with some people missing out on a seat…

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A barcode scanner goes *beep*

Monday, September 12th, 2005 at 07:54pm

The barcode scanner that I was inspired to purchase almost two weeks ago arrived today. I spent a bit more that I needed to in order to get one that was laser based (instead of ccd) and one that came with a USB cable to make plugging it into my laptop a lot easier and neater.

In my playing around with it for the past hour I have realised that my assumption that the ISBN of a book was completely included in the barcode is actually incorrect. I found an excellent page that explains that there is actually something called a Bookland EAN barcode. This is an EAN-13 barcode that contains the digits 978, the ISBN excluding the check digit (ie nine digits instead of ten), and finally an EAN-13 check digit.

Looking through the configuration manual that I received with the barcode scanner I found that there is actually an option to have the scanner automatically convert from Bookland EAN to ISBN. However I will not turn that option on as books are only a part of what I plan to catalogue and I will build the conversion into my application…

(Just one of the functions of the perl module Business::ISBN is to do this conversion and there is another module called WWW::Scraper::ISBN that attempts to look up ISBN’s and I should be able to write a new driver for that that searches the Dymocks online catalogue)

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Damian makes my head hurt…

Monday, September 12th, 2005 at 06:23pm

… but in a good way.

Today was my first of four days with Damian Conway. Today was the first day of Advanced Module Interface Techniques and so far he as led us through the design and some of the implementation of ‘magic’ (aka sufficiently advanced technology) modules such as Perl6::Say (stunningly simple) and Contextual::Return (simple to use, mind bending to understand the implementation).

Tomorrow will be the second day of this course which is then followed by The Productive Programmer and Advanced Technical Presentation Techniques (one day each).

Damian will also be giving his “Fun with Dead Languages” talk at Melbourne Perl Mongers this Wednesday…

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Webpages that automatically refresh are bad for download limits

Monday, September 12th, 2005 at 05:55pm

As soon as I got up this morning I checked the radar image of the rain around Melbourne courtesy of the Bureau of Meteorology in order to determine if I was going to ride my bike or catch the bus to work today. As I wanted to know how it was changing I checked the looped version which led me to the decision to catch the bus.

I did this on one of my Linux boxes which is on 24/7 and did not close the window which has been ok in the past as it only downloads new images every 15 minutes. Unfortunately around half an hour after I did this something went wrong and it started to fetch the images multiple times a second and I did not notice this until I arrived home. An average of 40 kilobytes a second for almost nine hours is over a gigabyte that needlessly comes out of my 12 gigabyte (on-peak) per month cap :(

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Hardware hacking

Thursday, September 1st, 2005 at 11:33pm

Tonights Open Source Developer’s Club meeting was very interesting. Up first was Paul with his talk on mind control which was excellent.

However the second talk by Jon Oxer was more interersing as it reminded me of the plans I had for various projects. Much of Jon’s talk was about how simple it is to control other devices from the parallel port. One example he gave was how he could recieve an SMS on his phone whenever mail was put in his mailbox at home…

Some of the hardware projects that I have been thinking about for a while now are:

  • Getting a barcode scanner to make it easy to inventory all my books, dvds and even computers. (and if they don’t have barcodes then I could possibly print some out…)
  • Finish wiring up the LCD displays I bought about five years ago to the parallel port.
  • Then use the LCD displays for something useful
  • SMS gateway. This could be done by interfacing with an actual mobile phone and one possible use to to query my book database to see if I already have a particular book.
  • Temperature monitoring using the 1-wire sensors I have had for about 2 years now

However these are unlikely to move until the following move:

  • Sort out my computer collection. (this could actually benefit from the barcode scanner)
  • Consolidate my linux boxes which includes using an off the shelf router for the routing.

I just have to find the time…

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