Damn, out of books to read on the train again. Recently I've been reading The Cassini Division and The Stone Road (Ken MacCloud), A Clockwork Orange (I also finally watched the film, which is tame compared to the book), War of the Worlds (H.G. Wells), The Code Book, Stupid White Men and Fast Food Nation.
I am reading A Short History of Almost Everything (Bill Bryson) at the moment at home, but it's a hefty hardback book which I don't fancy lugging around London. It is very good though -- Bill's amusing rambling writing style suits the subject matter very well, as he explains why the oceans are salty, why they don't get more salty, what a proton is made from, how geology was invented and just how far a parsec is. He throws in lots of interesting annecdotes which wouldn't have been in a more technical book, such as how a certain professor would practise fossil-hunting in full academic wear instead of something a little more practical.
However, I need books for my holiday. We're off to a in a week or so, and I'm going to need something to read. So far I've got Stand On Zanzibar, which is supposed to be very good and is, more importantly, long. Any suggestions for good long books? I don't fancy War and Peace though, and have just finished reading LotR.
So a comedian managed to break into Prince William's (next but one to the throne I believe) birthday party a few days ago (dressed as Osama Bin Ladin in a dress). The news following this was amusing in a way. The police did the sensible thing of apologising and promising never to do it again; the tabloids called the comedian a nut, a lunatic, a dangerous fool. It was pointed out that if this person was carrying a bomb, he could have potentially killed the next six people in line for the throne, passing it onto Prince Andrew who was in Canada I believe.
Apparently this is not good. Now, I totally agree that someone breaking into a "secure" party and killing six people is not a good thing, and am not advocating the assassination of the monarchy. I am a peaceful person, against killing in general.
However, this touches a nerve I have regarding the monarchy. People discuss whether Prince Charles is fit to be the next King, if maybe we should skip him and go straight to his son Prince William (who started out being a relatively normal person, thanks to his mother Diana, but has turned into another fox hunting Barbour jacket wearing upper-class royal over time). Like we have a choice. England is a monarchy. The people don't pick the succession. A select group of advisers doesn't pick. The government doesn't pick. God picks. The succession of a monarchy is not based on the next King or Queen being a particularly brave, strong, clever, cunning or insightful person, but that He picked them. Of course, He is infallible so is always right in the long run, even if He appears to make strange moves. He is never wrong.
If the comedian did turn out to be a terrorist and killed the next six people in line to the thrown, then that is what He wanted. A disease could kill the immediate royal family and leave a distant young child as the King, and that is what He wanted (something similar has happened in the past). This is screwing around with the idea of free will, as whatever happens was meant to happen. Extrapolate this up to the entire nation, and suddenly our lives are just small parts of the grand plan, decided in advance. I don't agree with this, and from the polls in the tabloids (I'm looking mainly at The Sun here), neither does the majority of the nation. So why do we still have this ancient system?
Well, in England at the moment the Royal family's roles consist of:
- Doing a speech at Christmas which nobody watches
- Attracting tourists
- Being rich
They don't really serve a good purpose any more, as the running of the country has been delegated to the elected government. Your comments: so why does England still have a monarchy?
GU4DEC is Over
Okay, I admit it. After the last GUADEC entry I got just a little bit drunk, then had a little hang over, and was a little busy for the next few days. I'll summarise.
Day III of GUADEC. Alan Cox's speech on DRM, IP, Copyright et al was very interesting. That was followed by the final talk in which Glynn was given a small prize (via email, but was told then) and a thunderous applause for arranging the conference, and Luis was awarded the Pants Of Thanks (don't worry, they were trousers) for being Bug Meister through the GNOME 2.0 development. Finally there was a futile effort at a quiz, as Telsa had lots of questions sorted. In a pub situation it would have been great fun, but in a room with WiFi... let's just say some of the questions were slightly easier than intended. Still good fun though.
Then a rush back to the room, quick change, and wandering for food. It ended up being a Debian and GStreamer team dinner, which suited me just fine. After a lovely piece of salmon and not enough wine, we paid up and wandered towards Msrs. Maguires for drinks. That was a damn nice pub, summarised by Matthrew Garrett very well: They gave me good beer and then played obnoxious loud music at me. They had a local micro-brewery, I can recommend the Weiss and (dear God my head) the Rusty, a rather poor band, and a very large speaker on the stairs aimed at the punters. We moved upstairs after a while, where it was hotter, busier, but importantly, not as loud.
Found Murray Cumming upstairs, chatted about GTKMM and the GNOME Release Team. Had more to drink. Tried to say more than Hello to Telsa again, failed. Drunk more. Avoided becoming the gnome-media maintainer, thank god. Drunk still more, Dan and Helen went home. Became the new co-maintainer of DevHelp. Still more drinks. At this point I noticed that every night I've been out drinking, its always Debian developers and Swedes left at the end, propping up the bar. The GStreamer crew don't drink too badly either.
At this point I'll skip straight to the morning after. This photo should be more than enough to explain how I felt (thats Matthew Garret, Thom May and myself btw).
I'll skip past flying from Dublin "Boring" Airport, the highlight of which was watching iTunes rip a CD, giving me ideas for future Sound Juicer developments.
Johan Dahlin was staying over at ours for a couple of nights for his connecting flight to Sweden. Thank god he was hanging around just outside arrivals, I had nightmarish images of running around the airport trying to find him. Back to my place, introduce V to Johan, nice cup of tea (with milk, the Swedes don't do this either) and wandered down the road to test a new Indian restaurant which looked good. Johan has never had Indian so we kept it simple and suggested a biyriani, which luckily he (claimed to) like. He managed to eat all of it, which was more than I could manage, so it can't have been too bad. The Indian restaurant on Apton Road, Bishop's Stortford, gets 8/10. Back to our place, have another nice cup of tea (no biscuits, sadly), Simpson's and then bed.
Friday should have been a good day. It was nice and warm, a little windy maybe, but the day was long and we had nothing to do. For lunch we popped into the Host cafe, but my eye was itching and watering, which was a pain. On the way down to another cafe for food V noticed my eye and said, "oh god its really bad, like it was that Summer". Oh joy. A dive into Boots confirmed this would be another A&E visit, my eye was very sore, inflamed and a fetching orange/red colour -- not white any more. After sitting in A&E for only 30 minutes -- far better than last time -- Allergic Conjunctivitis was diagnosed, again. Whilst I was there I also had an eye pressure test (I haven't got glaucoma yet, but my Dad has), and discovered that the last time I had this identical problem was four years ago to the day. Spooky. Now I've got to take bloody eye drops for the next two weeks.
I got back home late that afternoon to discover than V had been an excellent host to Johan, they'd been shopping for dinner, sorted out a package he needed to sent, picked up my Red Dwarf Series 1 and Best Of Monty Python DVDs and lazed in the sun. We also discovered that we can't pronounce Johan's name correctly. The closest I can come is "Ewan" in a Welsh accent...
That evening we went down our local pub, pulling Allen and Dave along for a drink. Allen has been sacked for turning up to work 2 minutes late -- The Joy of Temping. As last orders were called I made the mistake of asking Johan if he wanted another drink...
...and he nearly fell over on the way out of the pub. To be fair, he only started drinking beer a few months ago and he was mixing a little that night, trying out John Smiths before going back to Carling. I tried the Guinness but it seemed inferior to the good stuff served back in Dublin...
On the way back home we knocked on Elliot's (my sister's partner) door to see if they were -- they were! This was cool, I hadn't seen them for a few weeks as they were doing the trekking thing in Morocco. Had a good look at photos, chatted to my sister about her career changes (not teaching any more), photography courses (£100 for an evening class apparently), the conference and other random stuff. All this time Johan discovered that Elliot's taste in music and his own match quite well -- this led to Johan jumping around with alcoholic enthusiasm, switching CDs after a few minutes. Elliot and Wiz loved this, shouting "We need more Swedes here!". Johan calmed down. People ate dodgy kebabs. I got cold sitting outside. Time to go home, Dave walked back to his place whilst Allen slept on our sofa.
At seven the next morning I pulled myself up to say farewell to Johan, and went straight back to bed. The rest of the weekend was uneventful -- a little shopping, changing the fish water, cleaning, wedding planning. Quality time with V mainly, which was nice after 4 days in Dublin and 2 with Johan and Allen around.
Summary: GU4DEC rocked. I hope to go to GVADEC ("GUADEC 5" is so boring). Johan is a great person in reality as well as in IRC. Guinness is better in Dublin. Planning weddings is a lot of work. Sun pens rule.
In other news I'm off to Kefalonia in two weeks, which will be nice. I really must keep to my schedule at work...
Sound Juicer 0.4.1
Sound Juicer "Imperial Buttload" 0.4.1 is out -- download the tarball here. Debian packages Coming Real Soon. This is a brown paper bag release.
- Removed the quality slider from the preferences dialog
- Added a Rip Completed dialog box
Sound Juicer 0.4
Sound Juicer "Metric Buttload" 0.4 is out -- download the tarball here. Debian packages Coming Real Soon.
- Metadata code re-arranged
- Deselect All disabled as appropriate
- Check if file exist before overwriting them
- libbacon updates
- Finally fix a stupid typo which broke multiple artist albums
- Disable the extract button when ripping
- Zero-pad track numbers so they sort correctly
- Strip : from file names to avoid confusing Windows machines
- Use lame if its available instead of mpegaudio
- Progress bar fixes
- Added CD->Eject
Damn my head hurt this morning. I managed to crawl out of bed, avoiding Helen's knocking on the door and ringing the bell. Had a loong shower and battled with Natwest Card Services (international call on a mobile, lots of pressing # and 1 and 4) to find out that my credit card has been locked. Arse. I can't get money out of the machines, but at least I can get a cash advance in person. Going two days with 30 euros is hard...
I met up with Thom in the hacker room, and we read email and tried to hack. Tried being the operative word. Bastien joined us and around mid-day we just had to eat -- the copious Guinness the night before was making itself known far too much. Bastien claimed to know a place which does an all-day breakfast, which was the best idea. Temple Bar is cool, its Dublin's version of Leicester Square or Soho, depending on where you are. In a way, its better than London, as its more compact, and appears to be of a higher quality -- plenty of bars, restaurants and small music shops. Oh, and the best all day Irish breakfast I've ever had.
Suitably recharged, we wandered around the corporate exhibits. The HP pens are sucky, they are nice looking but feel cheap, and just nothing can come close to the joy of the Sun pens, which rule. HP however do have mints in little Tux cases, which is better. However, Sun totally kicked arse with the Sun Ray demo, two thin clients (one embedded into the display, á la the old iMac, and one seperate box and a TFT). You "login" by inserting a smartcard (JavaCard of course), which actually just connects the display to your session on the server. Removing the card instantly locks your session and the display goes back to the login prompt. The magic trick is when you put your smartcard in another thin client, and get your session back instantly. All of this is continually running on the server, so nothing has to load -- the Rays don't even have hard disks -- and its very fast. Apparently they are even working on server switching, so a user in the States can connect from a Europe office, and get all of their applications transfered to the local server to avoid X across the Atlantic. The only problem is the theme... it's better than Metal, but still a little clunky for my liking.
Back to the hacking room to try and work on Sound Juicer for a bit. Bastien is playing with the new Helix (aka Real) SDK, there are plans to get Totem as the front end for the new Real player. And I finally met Murray Cumming of GTKMM fame, who is very softly spoken. Doesn't seem to fit with his irc/email image, which can be... forward.
End of Day 2
Really the end. As I start writing this its five past three in the morning, after the Ximian Party.
It started innocently enough, Thom and myself wandering to the venue, to meet Bastien walking away from the pub. He confirmed where the pub was, but said he was off to get food. Turns out the group of people he was with included The Alan Cox and The Jim Gettys.
After a good, reasonably priced, and very large meal, we went back to the pub for the Ximian Party. We were supposed to get vouchers for a free beer, but we only got one of those, and then decided that the reserved bar upstairs was far too crowded and busy for us, there being nowhere to sit, so we trekked back downstairs to the "normal" bar, which was far more civilised and had seats. As we chatted about the usuals: GStreamer, Totem, licensing, Real, GNOME, work, Coupling, Spaced, and rugby; random hackers from upstairs appeared and joined us, left us, and on the whole contributed to a good evening.
That night started at eight thirtyish, and its now ten past three. I need to drink something which isn't a stout.
Later that night (probably around half eleven) we moved upstairs as we thought that sufficient people had left so we might be able to get a seat. En route I finally met Telsa, and chatted with Glynn Foster, Jeff Waugh, Nat Friedman, Johan Dahlin, Thomas Vander Stichele and Dave "Printman" Camp. Glynn got a cheer for arranging the conference, and was forced to make a speech, which consided solely of: In the importal words of Jeff Waugh: Pants Off!
What a great conference. I'm off to bed. Sod breakfast. I can find a sandwich.
Day 2, Part II
Just about to dive out to the Ximian PARRRTAY after a quick change and wash. I'm tired, I've gone to a talk in every slot, and for some reason listening to someone turns out to be quite tiring.
Some quick observations:
- Miguel de Icaza types as fast as he speaks, and he gesticulates heavily. This man must be scary drunk. He is also a good public speaker.
- Glynn Foster needs sleep. I hope he manages to get some time off from work for arranging GU4DEC, he deserves it.
- Jeff Waugh is a fun man to be around -- he is as loud as his IRC persona, which is a good trick.
- The flashing LED pens from Sun Microsystems (Desktop Group) are possibly the coolest conference giveaway, tying with the ASCII table mug from the Embedded Systems Show.
- Wifi cards eat battery power. A 4 hour charge is now lasting 2 hours.
- Wifi truly rocks.
People still to meet: telsa, fcrozat, havoc.
Now it's the first break on Day Two. I've just come out of Anders' D-BUS talk, which was good. D-BUS really does look like fun. Met Mikael Hallendal, who has kindly made me a small sign... :) Annoyingly just missed Ross Golder, he was in the hacking room, I went to the hacking room, and...
<ross_> Burrito: seen ninja -Burrito/#gnome- I last saw ninja (~firstname.lastname@example.org) 0d 0h 3m ago [quit: (Client exiting)]
Just went to James's talk on PyORBit, which looks very elegant. After looking at the Java ORBit APIs I was scared by CORBA and stayed away, but this looks very nice. Hopefully I'll be able to play with Evolution 1.4 via CORBA now... Now I'm in Alex's Nautilus talk, which promises to be interesting. I've tried to hack Nautilus in the past but ended up running out of disk space... its not a small module. Maybe if I know something about the code I'll have another attempt.
First Night Over
Well, I'm in bed writing this before I got to sleep. After the afternoon talks were over I went down to the machine room with Thom, meeting Matthew Garret (of Dasher fame) en route, and hung around there for a while, finding Edd Dumbill and heckling Jeff and Glynn as they totally failed to make a "It Just Works" MacOS X laptop talk to a projector and play a QuickTime movie.
After a quick change, we tried to go Out On The Town. Unfortunately my current account is seriously overdrawn (oh bugger) and none of the machines would accept my credit card. This is not funny. I have to survive a week until I get paid on no money for some reason (probably too much shopping), but I can't even use my credit cards here!
In the end we found a really good pizzeria, where I had the best pizza I've had since Rome (Le Chef, peppers, pepperoni, onion and cheese I believe). Afterwards a quick call to my better half as they say, and a pint (or three) of Guiness in a local pub. Now this is service -- I go to the bar and ask for three pints and a whiskey, he tells me to sit back down and he will bring them too me. Excellent. I must educate my local pub in this habit.
Tomorrow's talks look on the whole better than todays -- Thomas's GStreamer talk was excellent, but Soren's Performance talk needed more practise and over-ran quite a lot. At the very least, tomorrow Thom and myself can heckle Edd as he gives his Bluetooth talk...
People still to see: andersca, alex, ninja, telsa walters, oskuro and docpi. I'm sure you are out there, find me! :)
Last not least, congratulations to Glynn Foster for arranging a great conference. It may have been absolute hell to arrange, but it appears to be going well. Nice work. Now can I have one of those flashing Sun pens?
Things I Miss (in accending order):
- A book to read in bed/on the toilet/anywhere else I fancy reading.
Thomas's GStreamer Talk
I'm currently sitting in Thomas's GStreamer talk, as it's interesting but non-techie I can write thiss at the same time.
After finding Thom (due to train pissups he missed the flight), we chatted a bit, met Bastien Nocera, Jeff Waugh, Luis Villa, Johan Dahlin, Edd Dumbill and James Hensbridge. Sorted out the accomodation -- the room's are quite good for the price, and managed to loose Thom again! I've totally forgotten his room number, and his phone isn't roaming. Balls.
Thomas's talk is good -- he is a good talker, and it's funny.
Just got off the phone from Vicks -- she has a job interview at one of the colleges at Cambridge Uni next week! Cool! It's when I'm at GUADEC so I'll have to be supporting via proxy, but I have a good feeling about it.
It's nearly time...
...for GU4DEC! People have started arriving in Dublin already, and I want to be there now! Sadly, I'm turning up first thing Monday morning, so it looks like I'll miss the majority of the partying.
Dublin being Dublin, I best get out my wooly jumpers, warm coats, waterproof jackets, trekking boots...
Now I have 17 packages in Sid, as I just uploaded gnome-vfs-sftp. Scary.
gnome-vfs-sftp for gives you sane access to remote machines via SSH/SFTP. "Traditional" ssh:/// uses a shell on the remote machine and parsing command output, which is fairly evil and buggy.
 Also see this URL for more packages from my non-Debian email address, which need to be updated.
Dad's 60th Birthday
My Dad finally reached the ripe old age of 60 yesterday, so we went out to the Red White and Blue pub in Bishop's Stortford. They advertise "large portions" outside, and they are not joking! After a large potato wedges with sour cream and chive dip starter, I had cajun chicken with chips, onion rings, salad, fried tomatoes and mushrooms. Good old-fashioned onion rings made with real rings of onion, well fried large but crispy chips, it was all good. And very large. A good evening was had by all present, which didn't include my sister as she is swanning around in Morocco at the moment. Missing our father's 60th, disgusting :)
Present wise, Dad is buying himself a new camera (Canon EOS-300V with 28-105mm and something-300mm lenses), and we (my sister and myself) got him a set of power tools -- a rechargable drill and a huge manly power drill.