Archive for August, 2007


August 21st, 2007

For those of you that are familiar with ubuntu, you may have heard of a small program called Automatix.  Touted as being the one-stop-shop to get your PC up and running, it’s advertised as a ‘must have’ to get your ubuntu system working with all the codecs and ‘some’ staple applications needed to enjoy your new linux desktop to the full.

I first came across automatix just after the release of Dapper Drake – and ignoring the health warnings I decided to install it.  To be perfectly honest, I haven’t had any ‘obvious’ problems with it – but I was shocked to learn today exactly how bad the software was.

That link gives a number of reasons why automatix is bad – and now that ubuntu itselg has easy ways of install the packages that automatix covers there really is no need.

I thanks the guys on the #ubuntu-uk IRC channel for bringing this to my attention.

For those of you that think installing automatix is a good idea – DON’T!  Even if it’s your first linux experience – installing things like mp3 codecs and dvd capabilities can be done without skirting away from learning linux.  It’s a new experience so submerge yourself in it.

Excuses, Excuses

August 20th, 2007

First off I need to make a big apology to Zeth and other people at SBLUG.  I had said I was going to be coming to the meeting last Thursday, without recalling it was the A level results day and my Sister was getting her results.

I ended up celebrating with her instead of coming out to the meet.  However, I now have a neo1973 – and to all intents and purposes I will be bringing it to Septembers meeting for people to take a look at.

Hopefully will see you guys then!

Collecting my neo1973 openmoko phone.

August 20th, 2007

Well it had been quite an exciting day the day before with the AA experience so I arranged to be up to Manchester before my mates 8.29 train to Whaley Bridge from Piccadilly.  He was on his way to work there, so I told him to bring the phone and I’d meet him at the station.

Due to the previous days events I managed to sneak in an extra 20 minutes in bed and headed up to Manchester at 7.  I was giving myself 1hr20 to get there from Birmingham.. a 100 mile trip… wishful thinking.

My first strategic decision was to take the M6 toll.. for the sake of £4 it could get me my moko a few hours faster.. and as I was denied it for the last two weeks (having been in France) I was itching to get hold of it.

I took the M6toll and managed to get to the top of it by 7.23  This was good time so far so I relaxed a bit.  Traffic was fine until after Jct. 17 on the M6 (Sandbach).  There the traffic was dead stop-start and I almost had a chav in a Blue Rover 216Si come up the back of me.  Instead all I witnessed was a spotty faced teen shouting and swearing at me as much as he could.  Fantastic.  I was still doing ok for time though.

I got onto the M56 into Manchester and my heart sank as I hit a queue.  I got onto Pricess Road (spine road into Manchester) at 20 past 8, with about 10 minutes to get to Piccadilly.  I phoned Andy to ask what other stops the train stopped at – he replied with just Stockport.  No way was I getting there.

So no moko.

*ring ring*  “Hi, it’s Andy – the train stops at Levenshulme too.”

That I could make – I turned the car around and headed through fallowfield at a fair rate of knots to reach Levenshulme station.  I pulled the car up on the side of the road (on cobbles) and raced up onto the platform to see the train approaching).  I then got a huge smile as the box was passed out of the door of the train safely into my waiting hands.

I am now a true geek.

If in trouble, you can call the AA team.

August 20th, 2007

We were travelling back from Dover on the last leg home from the holiday in France in two cars.  In the Lexus were Me, Simon, Richard and Charlie – and Dad, Mum, John and Steph were in the Land Rover.  As we came into Canterbury we decided to stop for lunch, as Dad attempted to park the power steering went on the Land Rover.  With nearly a tonne of wine in the back of it (all for personal consumption) and a lot of clothing it was nearly impossible to drive.  Thus, we called the AA team.

The first guy to come out was lovely.  I’d checked over all the electronics and looked for anything obvious under the bonnet.  The reservoir was still full (one the Power Steering shares with the Active Corner Enhancement) so there didn’t look to be much of a problem.  When the AA guy arrived he confirmed everything that I’d said, and just said it was likely that the pump had a fault in that a valve had blocked.  It was probably best to get it checked out once we’d got home – but driving the car up the motorway should be fine as there weren’t too many turns and Power Steering isn’t so much an issue when travelling in a straight line.

After Lunch (at a fanstatic place in Canterbury whose name I shall look up and post in the comments) we decided to Shuffle the cars around so that five people went home in the Lexus and I went with Dad and Simon in the Landy.  All was going well (despite the difficulty in getting the car out of the car park) until we hit junction 2 of the M2 – when all the warning lights came on and the engine cut out.

We pulled over to the hard shoulder and called the AA team again.  They were out to us within the hour, took us across to the M25 services near the M26 – and then swapped over onto another truck for the journey up to Guy Salmon Land Rover in Stratford-upon-Avon (our local garage).

The journey home was really good with the topics of conversation starting with cars and then heading onto computing and music.  The driver was really friendly and couldn’t do enough for us.  I even got to have a look at the diagnosis machines that the AA drivers use to diagnose faults with the cars.

Anyhow, I managed to get home at about 11pm – and was up at 6 the next day for work – and to collect my openmoko from Manchester.

Nontron Knife Festival (Freedom)

August 20th, 2007

The other place of note I visited was the Festival of Knives at Nontron. This was a festival where many of the big knife makers in France gather to display their works and to demonstrate the art of knife making. I went there with my Dad and elder brother and took a look around at their wares. It was a nominal €5 entrace fee each (about £3) and we paid an elderly French lady at the entrace (a simple table) in order to enter the heart of the festival (a marquee with knives laid out over the table, and with more tressle tables around it). The thing that stuck me the most was the lack of any security in the place. There were people picking up 12″ machetes and examining them at their own will – it was a very surreal experience. It was lovely to see the mutual respect that people had regarding these weapons, that rather than have to place a barrier between the weapons and the consumers, the consumers were given the responsibility to do what they want with the weapons. There were no reported stabbings at the festival.

After writing this bit of the blog post (originally part of my holiday blog) I noted that theres a massive parallel here in what we are trying to do in the open source world.  The big proprietary vendors are trying to guide us into believing that we can’t have freedom – someone with do something silly with it and people are going to get hurt.  It’s exactly the same as the British/American attitude to hosting a similar event as the Nontron Knife Festival.  Were that to be held in the UK there would be hundreds of police questioning innocent people and blocking people from entering if they looked a bit dodgy.  In France, the responsibility is with the individual, and unless the responsibility is believed to be with the individual then the individual will not take responsibility themselves.

Free Software and Open Source provides exactly the same challenges.  Use it and sure, there’s the potential to get stabbed – but it is very very unlikely that hackers would put code in their source that would have the capability of stabbing someone.  In my years in Open Source I’ve not heard of a single vendor who has tried that (though have seen it with stuff like the old BonziBuddy and Gator).  Give the individual back the responsibility and the freedom and the users will all end up being happier.

The Holiday

August 20th, 2007

Well it’s been a really interesting week since I’ve got back off holiday, with so many things I wanted to write about that I’ve not actually got round to writing any off.

For those of you that don’t want to trail through my previous posts, I returned to England on Monday from a nice relaxing two week holiday with my close family, — Mum, Dad, John (23), Lorna (18), Simon (15), Richard (6), and Charlie (5) –. Also on the holiday were my brother’s girlfriend Steph (21) and my Aunt and Uncle, and two cousins — Rob (18) and Suzie (14).

We normally go away with a more elderly member of the family (last year both Dad’s parents, and my Mum’s Dad came out, along with a different uncle) but this year we decided to keep it to the younger generation, and hired Chateau Martini in Segonzac, Perigord, France. It was a really big place (can sleep 17) with a panoramic view over the valley and a private swimming pool. The only downside was that it was rather basic – and due to its size it rarely gets a complete occupancy, thus some rooms smelt a bit ‘musty’ on our arrival. It was a lovely place though, built in the early 14th Century and with really thick stone walls. It didn’t have any creature comforts, and the kitchen was about half the size of the one in my student flat last year – but with BBQs being my speciality and the order of the day, we spent little time in the kitchen.

We celebrated my brother’s 23rd birthday when we were out there and I celebrated my break from uni/work with the purchase of a fishing rod. I spent most evenings of the holiday heading down to the river (Dronne) in order to go and spend about 2 hours dipping my rod into the stream. I’m unaware if a rod-license is needed in France (as it is in England) so I made sure I didn’t fish in open spaces (most of the places I fished began with a rather enjoyab le 4×4 ride in the Land Rover to reach the riverbank). However, I think it’s pretty much safe to say that a fishing license would have been a waste of money, as I managed to catch a total of ZERO fish in the 10 nights I spent by the river. Fish 10 Andrew 0.

It’s very relaxing though, and having the time to sit by a river and literally do nothing is now something I realise to be only permissible on holiday – there’s too much to do at home in order to justify spending any time doing nothing.

We also went Canoeing on holiday, down a route that we frequented about 10 years ago with one of my best mate’s family. Unfortunately the river was a little more empty this time and I managed to lose my flip flops after getting out to pull my cousin’s boat over the weird. I was not a happy bunny. It’s nice to swim with the fish though (even if you don’t catch anything). Working in IT does push one away from spending time with nature and being so close to it is something I have always enjoyed – I need to make sure I get enough time out of the office now I am back.

I also visited the Nontron Knife Festival and the car broke down on the way home, but I’ve stuck them in different blog posts.