Showing posts from 2005


Yesterday I submitted my thesis - brilliant! Just in time for Christmas, which is great because I can try and relax. All feels very strange ... but good. Bring on the viva!

PhD progress

As you may have guessed from the sudden numerous amount of postings, I think I am finally nearly finished with my thesis. I have got the approval of two of my supervisors and I am meeting my maths supervisor tomorrow to get some more corrections. If they are not too substantial I should have it done by the end of Saturday!!! Fingers crossed eh! Hopefully the 6 long working day week will soon be over and I can get myself a life again. For the last few days I have been kicking my heals waiting for my supervisor to finish reading the thesis. Not that I haven't been busy, I have been catching up on all the little things I should have done and that has been taking up all my time.

House hunting

As you may have gathered, Alice and I are planning to move out of London. I will be sorry to see it go, but we plan to move to a place such that we can still come into town during the week. The two hour commute is really killing Alice and so we are now on the case. This weekend we had a good drive around looking at the areas and getting a good feel for them. There seems to be lots of possibilities which is very encouraging and we will start looking in earnest after Christmas. Now that I know where I will be placed it makes life a lot easier too.

Thanks to Alice's work a lot of the financial burden of moving has been lifted and they have a deal such that you can bye a house before you have sold yours, breaking the chain. So last week we had two surveyors round to value the property.

New job!

Today I accepted a post at the Institute of Cancer Research at Sutton. It was the first interview I had so that does make me feel positive about myself. Took a bit of time to make up my mind to take it though! It seems like a very interesting and good position. It should allow me to develop some new skills especially in stats and database management. It is also in a very convenient location. I should start mid-January. Bo!

Search down those house prices

Are you actively searching for areas where there is the remote possibility that you can afford a house? or just curious of what your neighbour paid for his house? If so the check out this website. Not only does it link in with the land registry database but it links in with google maps to provide a colour coded guide to the average prices of each road.

Very handy for us now that we are actively searching for property.

Trunk monkey

Gotta love those trunk monkeys! Where do I get one of those.

Relaxing sky

If you need to relax, set your browser to full screen and head over to the sky simulation. The speed can be altered by holding down the mouse and moving it up or down.


Peace Dove

This is absolutely brilliant. Check it out!

Sensible soccer

Ahhhhh yes, you have to love sensible soccer. It is a game that I played almost constently when I was a teenager, with Nic and Dave being my main opponents. I had forgotten almost everything about it until about a month ago my brother found a little box that emulated a SEGA Megadrive and let you play the sensible games on your TV. I swiftly brought it for his birthday and got addicted to it. It is just simply excellant. The graphics aren't up to much by todays standard but the gameplay is simply marvellous. Do they make games like that these days ... I don't think so.

In the last couple of weeks I have managed to get an Amiga emulator working on linux and of course Sensible world of soccer works too. This has provided me with a welcome brief rest from my thesis writing which is great.

The world truly has come to the end

Not only is the The Guardian changing their format to "berliner", a strange cross-breed between tabloid size and broadsheet size, but they have decided to get rid of LIFE, the science supplement that comes out on Thursdays. They are replacing it with a daily science page which I feel is a considerable weakening of it.

They did the same with "The Editor" a few years ago which was an excellent summary of the weeks news looking at lots of different newspapers. That hurt when they changed that to a page a day too, I think they have gotten rid of that completely now. I do not know whey they have to keep mucking around with everything. I still refuse to buy it everyday.

The bad

Also a lot of crappy stuff has happened in the last week too, but I am surviving and I will fight my way through. So here is the bad stuff:

  • The grant that I was a part of has been rejected. This was to the EPSRC and both reviewers and the board liked the proposal but we were just below the cut off point. I learnt about this last Wednesday and I was completely gutted. It would have given me the prospect of a well paid postdoc. I was not sure whether to take it or not anyway, but I think the way I reacted to it being rejected means that I would have taken it with open arms. Ah well. Looks like staying as an academic might not happen. At least I did not have to make a decision whilst writing up.

  • The groups paper has got rejected for the second time, this time from PLOS Biology. It is really annoying as it is really great stuff but some of the reviewers just do not seem to be able to get it. I feel sorry for Martino and Mike who have to look through it again.

  • England losing to Northern Ireland in the football. The team were so lackluster it was unbelievable. I couldn't believe that the team was made up of so many great players. I think Sven has to go now.

  • My thesis write up is going incredibly slower and is starting to do my head in. Things that should take a day take a week, but I have to get there. If I don't get a first draft done by the end of September I will be really gutted. I do not think I can work until 8pm for 6 days a week for much longer. Arrrgggghhhh

The good

Life is very hard work at the moment but there has been a few good things in the last week:

  • I have had a letter published in The Guardian. Only in the Online supplement but still pleasing.

    Shared mail

    Both your article by Peter Judge (Small talk, September 1) and the letter by Paul May (Feedback, Septmeber 1) seem to find a major failing in Google Talk to be the difficulty in getting a Gmail account. In fact, it is very easy, as there are many sites that give out Gmail invites free, relying on others to donate them to the shared pool. One example is
    Daniel Brewer

    Note the misspelling of September!!

  • Some very good friends of mine have told me that they are having a baby. Whoop Whoop. I am incredible excited about it and cannot wait to see the little blighter once it pops out.

  • The MRes students took me out for a curry and drinks to thank me for the help I have given them this year. That was great and made me all warm and fluffy inside. The thing is I love to help out, but it is nice that someone appreciates it.

So despite writing up being completely soul destroying there is still some good bits coming along to brighten my day.

Lovely picture

Here is a picture from my research that I rather like. Good old gnuplot

A water-skiing squirrel

Ahhhhh the joys of animal entertainment.

See the movie here.

Bank sorry for 'insult' cash card

Ho ho

A high street bank has said sorry to a customer after sending him a debit card containing the words 'Dick Head'.

NatWest said it had launched an inquiry after Chris Lancaster, 18, of Tiptree, Essex, received a cash card with the wording: 'Mr C Lancaster Dick Head'.

A NatWest spokesperson said on Wednesday: 'We have apologised unreservedly to Mr Lancaster.'

The spokesperson added: 'This is completely unacceptable and we have launched an investigation.'


Just found this really useful utility in OS X. Worth remembering.

fstat [-fnv] [-M core] [-N system] [-p pid] [-u user] [filename...]

"Fstat identifies open files. A file is considered open by a process if
it was explicitly opened, is the working directory, root directory, ac-
tive pure text, or kernel trace file for that process. If no options are
specified, fstat reports on all open files in the system."

Whoop whoop

Alice has got a job! So she has finally made it as a medicinal chemist, so that is great. Not sure on the details yet, but it is down in Horsham (map). We will have to move at some point, which is a bit scary, but it is great we are moving forward.

Friday bloody Friday

Well its Friday and I must say that I am completely distracted and have only got a very insignificant amount of work done. Where has my motivation gone? Who knows. I have managed to get completely distracted by the prospect of buying a USB headset so that I can use Skype. I would just use a normal mic but unfortunately Macs do not have a mic-in! As good as Macs are they do tend to think you have a large amount of cash. It is like with webcams, they do not support USB ones but expect you to have a firewire/DV one, arrrggghhhh. The USB headsets are pretty pricey though, so I have been sucked into the evil ebay, lets hope I do not end up with 3 headsets!

It is Nic's wedding this weekend which I am looking forward to hugely. Later on this afternoon I have to nip down to Thanet and grab the car and Kay. I will be then driving to Alice's parents in Oxford so that it is only a short hop up to Birmingham the following morning. I have the honour of being chief usher, but it is unclear what that involves apart from getting kitted up in tails.

Recieved my first "hoax" email today about last weeks bombing. Apparently a friend of a friend that works in the police has said that Bluewater should be avoided this weekend as it is a security risk. Well I am completely sceptical about these things and wish that they wouldn't get sent around.

My walk home

So I decided to walk home today (not that I had much choice, even though there was a few buses from aldwych) and it was great. There was 1000s of people walking to their nearest train station and hardly any traffic (Less than Sundays actually). It seemed like pedestrians had reclaimed the streets. Maybe a car-less London would work. So at least something good has come out of today - a few people getting exercise. Interstingly people still didn't use the rickshaws!!

There was a very large police presence around, it was obvious that all the policemen had been mobilised to walk the beat. Chaps probably relieved to walk the streets I expect.

It took just over an hour to get home which isn't bad at all, but I must say that my feet have died. This is all down to my crappy "No fear" shoes that are falling apart. I should really replace them but we can't really afford it at the moment.

Bus blown up

This is the bus that got blown up. It is one of the buses that I take home! [EDIT: It might not be a bus I use, as the BBC is saying it is No. 30, but that bus should not go down there, it should go along Euston Road]

Check this out: You have to love wikipedia.

London Hit

Well it has finally happened London has been hit by terrorists. It appears to be a well coordinated attack. Shut down the tube, get people on the buses, strike the buses.

I work very close to Euston and thought something weird was going on when I was walking from UCL unnion to my building. When I was crossing Euston Road, police cars and fire engines were going both east (I suppose to Kings Cross) and west (Edgeware Road). I thought that was odd, but thought nothing further. At work though, the sirens kept coming and coming and then we are in the situation now ... there is still not a lot of information coming out.

It was strange that they blamed it on power surges initially.

It was always going to happen at some point, but it sounds like the London public dealt with it calmly and were mainly annoyed about the delay. Eye Witness:
"People didn't really know what was going on, they were just huffing and puffing and saying how annoying it was," she said. "People don't seem to be panicked, but there's so many police and ambulances coming into the areas. People are just concerned, and some are just annoyed at the delay."

Anyway lets hope too many people are not killed but unfortunately it looks like some people will be. I did not think that they would hit the buses.

Photo blogging test

Well blogger has finally pulled its finger out and allow access to blogger photos without using that stupid HELLO client (which is not available on Mac anyway). This means that you can upload photos to blogger while writing a blogger rather than using flickr (or ImageShack). Apparently they give 300MB which should be enough - See here for more details.

I had some problems with firefox when I first tried it, but it seems to be working ok now (maybe too many tabs open or something).

Now all Blogger needs to do is produce a way so that you can delete already uploaded files.

Talk about weird

Click link. Very weird. Women bouncing on cats!

Hair Off!

Well thats it! My hair has been shawn off. My experiment in hair growing is over after about 6 months and now it has gone to another extreme ... grade two all over. After last weeks hot spell I just couldn't stand it, it probably will be in a decent state for Nic and Jill's wedding too. All I can say is that my head feels a lot smaller and lighter and when I see myself in the mirror I have to look twice before I recognise myself!


SSH to create a SOCKS proxy

Recently I have found this great way to use SSH to set up a SOCKS proxy. This is useful because it allows me to create an encrypted tunnel from my laptop at home to my computer at college, and so any external service thinks I am sitting at my desk at college. This is very useful as it allows me to access electronic journals at home (they are normally restricted to computers on the Uni network).

So how do you do it? Really simply, just SSH to a machine as normal but add -D and a non-prioveledge port. For example,

ssh -D 10022

After that you simply set the proxy settings of your browser to SOCKS with the port you defined above.

Very handy

No dole for Alice

Alice does not have a job at the moment and so she tried to sign on for the dole today. Unfortunately, because she is married it has to be a joint claim and I earn too much to get any benefits. How a PhD grant can be considered too high I really do not know. So much for being at an advantage with the government from being married. Ah well.

icalsync not working

Just found out that my script to sync ical files between computers is not working with Tiger. Boo hiss. It is because Apple in there wisdom have decided to confuse things by 1) moving the files and 2) putting each calendar in a folder with a cryptic hash. Oh well, no time to fix it now.

Mac on Intel

Just been reading the live feed of the keynote at WWDC and it is true, Apple is moving over to Intel! I think that is a mistake, but I suspect that IBM managed to annoy Apple just a bit too much with their slowness. I would have like Apple to go on to use the CELL processor, but never mind. Will this be the end of Apple?

I wonder if some clever hacker will make it easier to run OS X on a beige box, and what about AMD, I would say their 64-bit processors are a lot more tempting. Hmmmmm.

Harry Potter and the missing gun

Saturday June 4, 2005
The Guardian

The curious case of Harry Potter, the tabloid newspaper and the disappearing gun. Another dramatic chapter in the life of the world's most famous boy wizard unfolded yesterday when armed police were called to a reported shootout over an attempt to sell a stolen copy of the new JK Rowling novel.

This is Harry Potter madness gone insane.

Dr. Alice and exhausting weekend

So after 2 hours and 45 minutes she came out and she has passed with corrections. It sounds like they were pretty mean to her but she doesn't have to have another viva or anything like that, so thats great.

This has been the first time I have had a break since she passed. Celebrating all Friday, then on Saturday straight to Kew to spend time with both our families, then back to Christain's birthday party. Then on Sunday we had lots of people round for Sunday lunch. Phew, I am so tired, not sure how work will go tomorrow. That is the most hectic weekend I have had in eons, but it was good fun all the same. Strangely I saw Dave for four days in a row and ate nachos four days in a row ... is Dave the nacho king?

Holiday starts on Friday whoop, so only until then to survive.

Anyway, off to have a bath and relax.

Waiting waiting waiting

Alice has got her PhD viva at this very second. It staeted at 10:30, really hope it goes ok. I am feeling really nervous and a bit sick about it all. I am at work but not getting anything done because I am so distracted. Heading off to Imperial at 12 to wait around until she come out. Arrrrrrrggggghhhhhh ... what a horrible feeling and it isn't even my viva.


Test email post from mobile


I have been looking around for a way to get a list of recent tunes that I have been playing up on a website. There are a few on OS X, but nothing really satsfactory. I few days ago I came across audioscrobbler. This is an external site that stores the information about what you are playing, and gives you weekly and all time charts of who you have been playing most. All you have to do is sign up, which is pretty anonymous not requiring an email address or anything, download a plugin for your media player and off you go. I have had much success with it. Here is my page.

What I particularly like about it is that after it has stored over 100 tracks, it matches you with people that have similiar tastes and then recommends new bands you should listen to - nice! It actually works reasonably well.

On the output side, it has quite a few options, but I haven't worked out how to get it on my blog yet which doesn't have php or anything. Also got to work out how to get it on my webpage with album art!

Crazy Frog!

I can't believe it. For months now crazy frog has been doing my head in appearing in every single advert break on every TV channel, but now ... now ... it has managed to get to number one in the charts. Man, I knew that the people that brought singles had no joke, but this is beyond a joke. I blame the kids ... where is your soul.

Lilina News Aggregator - Planet Thanet

It is Friday and once again I have managed to get completely distracted. The fruits of my wasteful behaviour can be seen here. This is a news aggregrator that I have set up on my webserver using a php program called lilina. It was extremely simple to do. It came out of a conversation I had with Gav about how blogs might be a good way to keep up with people that have moved away from Thanet i.e. Planet Thanet. For those not in the know "Planet *" is a aggregator of blogs that are about *, for example Planet Mozilla. Anyway enough wasted time, back to work.

I love the Guardian!

The Guardian is indeed a friend to the student. Not only can you get it for 20p from the student shop but today you got a free book as well. It is not a bad book either - H.G. Wells's The War of the Worlds. I hearby pledge loyalty to that mighty tome once I am making a decent wage. Actually, to be honest, I am not that commited, I only buy it on Thursdays and Fridays - Thursdays is great as it has the science and IT sections and Saturday would not be Saturday without The Guardian!

Protein Data!

Bah humbug! The world is collapsing around my head. If you hadn't guessed I am in my final year of PhD and so my money runs out in September. I am going something along the lines of computational biology. I am part of a project where I do all the maths and computing stuff but I am reliant on others produce decent data. For three years I have been trying to get decent protein data for the 4-5 key proteins of the network I am looking at. I found out today that basically the postdoc doing all the experiments will not have time to do my protein data. Boo hiss. So it will be very difficult to get far with the comparison between my models and real life. :(

It is a great shame, as the new method that the experimentalists have come up with seemed ideal to produce sharp quantifiable protein data. I have some Western blot data, but that is not great to quantify as large errors seem unavoidable. I do not blame my supervisor as I am sure he has tried his hardest to get the postdoc to do the work, but this postdoc is difficult and I have a feeling she never liked doing the protein stuff. Finally I am only a very minor part in the project so a lot of time there were bigger fish to fry. Just extremely frustrating that the only bit of data I needed will not be forth coming. BIG RANT OVER.

Liverpool European champions

I do not use this blog to normally talk about football, but I just had to mention yesterdays match. What a brilliant game, what a brilliant result. I am not a Liverpool fan but I always support English teams in Europe, even if it is the likes of Man U (boo hiss). Even for the neutral this game was marvellous. AC Milan were up by 3 goals by half time, but Liverpool managed to pull it level and then win on penalties. Brilliant! We even got some Grobelar knee bending in the goal mouth.


My fight against OS X continues. Arrrrrrrrggggggghhhhhh. I have tried a fresh new user account and still it destroys itself. I have currently turned off my SSH and Web server and I have survived for two hours now. Lets hpe and pray that it is something to do with one of those two. My hot favourite at the moment is that it is because I have "HostnameLookups" in in apache. The reason I suspect this is that the breakdown always starts with the network seeming to go down. Maybe it is the lookupd daemon being over used. If this is the problem I will either turn off "HostnameLookups" or set up my own nameserver.

OS X takes a dive

Bah Humbug!

OS X Tiger keeps freezing on me. It seems that if I do too much activity at once then it just gets the spinning ball of death. I have checked everything but still the problems persist. I have now removed everything from startup and only run the bare minimum of activities, so far so good today. Maybe it has something to do with the Growl notification system ... that is my current suspect. The problem is it is a serious distraction from my work and time is ticking in a big big way on that front.

Here are some useful Mac trouble shooting sites:

MacOSXHints Forum

Well lets hope the problem has gone away and I can start reintroducing apps!

Postfix problems

So guess what, surprise surprise, there was problems with the new OS X install (actually upgrade would be a more accurate term). On the positive side, I sorted out Apache and OpenSSH simply by seeing the changes between the configuration files and then reimplementing the changes.

My mail server, postfix, though was a completely different matter. It took an almighty task to get it sorted. I used a combination of the following pages:


MacOSXHints Forum

In the end, I had to change the launchd postfix configuration file, remove the postfix user, run the CreateSystemUsers script, run "sudo /etc/postfix/post-install set-permissions" and finally "sudo launchctl load /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/org.postfix.master.plist". Phew! I think it is working now though. I think the problem with the postfix user was that it was left over from some fink install, not sure how it got there though.

Fink, DarwinPorts and Mac Gentoo

OS X has a Unix underbelly, which means that with a bit of effort you can get most unix programs to run. This is essential to me and work. To make it easier there is a variety of package managers that sort everything out for you. Up until recently I had been using fink but I was growing frustrated at the number of programs that I wanted that were either in the unstable repository or not there at all. Because of this and the fact that I would have to start from scratch with OS X Tiger, I decided to have a look at the main contenders fink, DarwinPorts and Gentoo for Mac OS X.

Gentoo is a source based linux distribution that has an excellent package mangement system called portage. I use this on my computer at home and love it. Recently they have ported portage to Mac OS X.

DarwinPorts is based on the package systems used in the opensource BSDs. It has recently reached version 1.0.

Fink is based around the debian package system.

If the amount of packages were the same I would choose to use gentoo as it is a system that I know and like. Unfortunately, the amount of packages currently available are very few and a few important ones like imagemagick, aquaterm and urlview that I need are missing. It must be remembered that this is still a young project and so I will definitely be keeping my eye on this one.

DarwinPorts has about the same number of packages that I require as fink but they are different packages. So I have come to the conclusion that I will stick with fink despite its floors, but I will look into running DarwinPorts concurrently and keep an eye on Gentoo. In a way I would like to help with the Gentoo project but I just do not have time at the moment :(.

New News Blog

Just a quickie to say that Alice and I have set up a new blog over at blogger to contain news and stuff rather than comment and computer stuff!

Here it is.

I must say that it took bloody ages to sort out the header, getting the picture on the right and the text on the left ... phew! In the end a bit of floating CSS sorted it out. Lets hope it looks ok in Microsoft Explorer.

Here is the code:

#blog-header {
margin: 0;
padding: 0;
font-family: "Lucida Grande", "Trebuchet MS";
background: #e0e0e0 url( no-repeat top left;

#blog-header h1 {
margin: 0;
padding: 20px 60px 80px 160px;
font-size: 200%;
color: #a04;
text-shadow: #81A75B 2px 2px 2px;
background: url( no-repeat bottom left;

<!-- Blog Header -->
<div id="blog-header">
<div style="position:relative; padding: 10px; float:right;">
<img src= "" height= 150px />
<div style="padding: 50px 0px 0px 0px;">
<a href="<$BlogURL$>">

The above is a bit of a mess at the moment, but I will sort it out later when I can work out how to print html code verbatim.

[Edit] Sorted it out thanks to Gentoo Forums

Installing Tiger

I am installing Mac OS X tiger on my desktop machine at work. Hopefully this will go without a hitch but these things rarely do. I have backed up my website, home directory and the /etc so I should be able to recover everything.

More later ...

Exam Forms

After a week of tinkering I have finally got my PhD examination entry forms in. This has to be done about 4-6 months before you submit, so the clock is really ticking now. Must be motivated, must be motivated. The only other form to go in is the "Nomination of examiners" form which I releant on Mike for, lets hope he gets that done quick as a flash.

Another Quote

"People like Greenpeace should look at the ruddy facts instead of looking for stunts ... You get a good boiler, you get central heating, you get decent changes. It helps the environment. It certainly helps individuals and that's why we've been able to save something like 1m tonnes of carbon, which is good for the environment." - John Prescott is unimpressed by yesterday's gift of two solar panels for his roof.

Oh dear Mr. Prescott

Man, it is Sunday night and I have been work hard all weekend on college stuff. This was to make up for my slackness last week, but I still did not get what I wanted done. Now I just feel exhausted arrggghhh.

On a lighter note, here is a conversation between John Prescott and a local reporter that was shown in the Guardian:

On the campaign trail: John Prescott chats with a local reporter

Thursday April 21, 2005
The Guardian

Mark Choueke (South Wales Argus): How did you react to Peter Law's decision to quit the party after 35 years service to Blaenau Gwent as a Labour politician?

John Prescott : It didn't even register with us. The voters just have one choice, vote Labour otherwise they'll end up with a Tory government. It's unfortunate that some of our decisions upset some people.

MC : But this isn't about upsetting Peter Law, it's about upsetting many thousands of Labour voters in Blaenau Gwent who helped you form a strong government - they feel alienated.

JP : Why are you asking me about this, I don't care, it's a Welsh situation, I'm a national politician.

MC : Are you too big to care about the Labour voters in Blaenau Gwent? Do you think there may be something in your party's methods of working that require a rethink when a politician chooses to stand against you after 35 years service to Labour?

JP : (walking away) Where do they get these amateurs from? You're an amateur mate, go get on your bus, go home.

MC : Are you too big for the regional press now John?

JP : Bugger off. Get on your bus you amateur.

MC : Is my interview over John? Because if that's all you've got to say, that's what will go in the paper.

JP : (turns aggressively back to reporter) Ooohh, I'm scared, go ahead, put it in your paper.

Labour candidate for Monmouth, Huw Edwards: I could answer this question for you Mark.

MC : I hoped to hear what the deputy prime minister had to say about it.

JP : (ignoring reporter) I've never seen a school in such a lovely setting.

And to think if Tony died he would be in charge - what a brute!

Scripts, scripts and more scripts

Today I decided to collate the scripts that I have produced over the last few years and stick them on the web. There is actually some quite interesting stuff that I had forgotten I had written. It is all very simple and pretty poor programming but hey someone somewhere might find it useful. I decided to put the GPL licence on all of them, I am not sure if that is the right thing to do, but I felt that I should put some sort of licence on it if it is out in the wild on the net!


Synergy is quite simply a marvelous app. As the site explains,

Synergy lets you easily share a single mouse and keyboard between
multiple computers with different operating systems, each with its
own display, without special hardware. It's intended for users
with multiple computers on their desk since each system uses its
own monitor(s).

The thing is, it is so simple, yet very useful for me.  I use it
at work when I have my laptop and my computer on the desk. 
Setting up my desktop as the server and the laptop as the client, it means that I can use my use my desktop mouse and keyboard on the laptop simply by moving the mouse pointer off the left hand edge of my desktop monitor onto my laptop screen. This is surprisingly useful, more so than I can describe here.

Other features that are particularly neat are that it works on different operating systems and between them (Linux, MS Windows and Mac OS X). I must admit that I have only tried it between two Macs, but it works very well even though the OS X version is the least developed. Additionally, you can copy text from one computer, move onto the screen of another and paste the text. Handy. Apparently you can also copy and paste with files and images on the Windows and Linux versions but this is not currently possible with OS X. Finally, it is a opensource program, what more could you want.

No special privileges are required, so I simply run synergys on my desktop, create a ssh tunnel forwarding the relevant port and then run synergyc on the client. This is all without becoming a root user.

Monkey dust!

Star Wars - the final twist

Check out this beauty (link).

How is that the star wars trailers always look so juicy and brilliant but the end results are, to put it mildly, a bit of a disappointment. The thing is, I have to give the makers the benefit of the doubt until I see it. It has got to be pretty dark this one so hopefully it will be more intelligent and impressive.

Actually, even George Lucas himself has said that this last Star Wars is not suitable for children. The BBC has a good summary of this. This has got to be a good thing. Roll on 19 May!


Well spring looks like it has finally arrived. It is joyous to get the windows open and enjoy a bit of sun and fresh air. Makes me even less inclined to do work though!
I really need to sort myself out. Another Friday of wasted time, bah! Spent quite a bit of it trying to get geant4 to work on OS X for Lewis. Geant4 is a high energy physics modelling thingy. What a pain these things are. In the end I had to resort to fink, which has only got an older version, but hopefully will work. It is chugging away at the moment. Why, oh why, do these scientists not use the standard tools like autoconf, I don't know. Anyway lets hope it will work.

It was to play on a nice new powerbook though, even though Lewis seems to have managed to get a big dent on the corner already.
Just to say that I helped atomicyoghurt set up her blog a few days ago over at blogger. Here is the link. I have still not decided whether or not to stick with livejournal or head over to blogger. I put a poll about it over at Gentoo forums ( At the moment 11 out of 13 prefer blogger. Hmmmm.
Guardian Unlimited | Guardian daily comment | Are you a man or a mouse?

The dilemma about my sea monkeys

Last year I got some sea monkeys that were great fun to have. Fast forward to the present day and there are unfortunately only two sea monkeys left. Not only that the brilliant spherical bottle is infested with slime (the bottle is from Alice's work!). The sea monkeys are in a zombified state. I keep feeding them but I was wondering whether it would be more humane to kill them. Not sure.
In a book review in the "New Statesman" this week there was some interesting quotes. The review was of a book called "Happiness: lessons from a new science" by Richard Layard. Apparently a major source of discontent is the habit of comparing ourselves with others. Layard urges us to give it up by telling the following joke,

A Russian peasant has no cow but his neighbour does. "How can I help?" asks God, and the peasant replies: "Kill the cow."

Gore Vidal expresses the idea more succinctly,

Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies.

Sounds pretty pessimistic of human nature to me, but there is some truth in it.
On Friday, in the metro there was a small piece on a website called Basically, it is a database that is based on the Land Registry of England and Wales and Registers of Scotland. It allows you to search the price that houses were sold on any street on the country since 2000, and best of all it is free of charge!

I tried it out on Monday and it was great. It managed to successfully find my flat and it was interesting to check out the prices elsewhere. Apparently no-one has sold a flat since we brought ours in 2001 which maybe because we live on a council estate and most people are council tenants. I did think though, that our next door neighbours had brought there flat off the council in the last year, but that did not appear.

The only negative thing I have to say about this site is that every time you want to see a price or more details about a record you have to type in this code that is shown in a picture. This is to stop bots harvesting the information but it is a bit annoying. I think you might be able to get round this by registering. Good free resource though.
Here is an interesting fact that I read in the "New Statesman" last week in an article titled "The New Statesman Bling Bling List",

Taking into account council tax (which is graded but not in line with wealth) and VAT and other indirect taxes paid at a flat rate, the top fifth in the income scale pay a smaller proportion in tax (34 per cent) than the bottom fifth (42 per cent).

I think that is disgusting and makes me think that the Liberal Democrats plan to have a 50% income tax on income over £100,000 seem an even better idea than I originally thought. Shame they are unlikely to get into power.

First macosxhints post

The problem I had was that I wanted to be able to access and edit my ical calendars on multiple computers without having to sign up to .Mac (being a cheap skate and all). Currently in iCal if you publish from two different computers to one calendar file the changes made by one will not be shown in the other.

These steps should be made on all computers.

  1. Backup your ~/Library/Calendars directory.

  2. Publish your calendars on the web. This can either be hosted on your own computer (follow the excellent guide here) or an external website such as iCal exchange which is free. Make sure that the calendars you wish to share are published in iCal.

  3. Download and install Sunbird. Sunbird is the stand alone mozilla calendar and the clever thing about it is that it allows one to both subscribe to and publish to the same calendar to webdav (iCal only allows you to do one or the other). It uses the same format as iCal. The reason that I do not use it instead of iCal is that I think it looks ugly at the moment. Warning! Sunbird is beta software at the moment but seems stable enough to me.

  4. For each of your iCal calendars set up a corresponding calendar in Sunbird:

    1. Goto File -> New Calendar file.
    2. Enter the file location. Browse to ~/Library/Calendars and pick the corresponding calendar file used in iCal. It will ask you whether you want to overwrite the file, just say yes (remember it is stored on the web).
    3. Enter the remote server URL. This is the URL that you have published your calendar to e.g. It is important that this step is followed or it will not work!
    4. I also allow automatic publishing and pick a colour but these are not essential.

  5. Now every time you switch computer BEFORE you start ical, simply load Sunbird, press apple-R to reload the calendars from the web and quit. This basically overwrites the ical calendars with the up-to-date copy that is on the web.

So basically Sunbird is used to sync the web copy with the local copy. Note that you should not run the two programs at once as both are using the same files so the programs could get confused.

I know this is pretty clunky so as an alternative here is a BASH script that can be run instead of opening iCal (wget needs to be installed but Sunbird is not needed):



#Put your calendar names here
for i in Home Work Birthdays
wget --http-user=$USER --http-passwd=$PASSWORD $URL$i.ics -O ~/Library/Calendars/$i.ics

open -a


I am going to be more commited

Now that the end of my PhD is starting to loom, I have decided that I am going to try and be more committed to this blog thing. Just to keep my mind on other items. I think that it will have two streams to it:

1) Random rants about PhDs and writing up etc.

2) Technology stuff i.e. programs I am mucking around with and other random stuff.

I might also stick in some personal stuff but that will probably be very much in the background.