Sitsofe's diary for February 2003

28 February, 2003

Ipaq diary - day 1

I took

24 February, 2003

A history and discussion of Powerpoint

  • Abosolute Powerpoint
  • Printed in the New Yorker
  • Origins, irritations and popularity of Powerpoint
  • Explanation of how Diffie's (of Diffe-Hellman fame) involvement
  • Originally found on Oblomovka

22 February, 2003


Ah there's an old bit of slang from your youth (if you are around your mid twenties) eh? You don't hear people saying that or "safe" any more... Anyhow today I bought a nice new swivel chair because Chris (and Jo) were going down to Staples (and I'd been meaning to get one because the existing chair is quite antiquated). Anyhow after I got it out of the box I found the instructions were for a different model which had different parts and surprisingly little in common with mine (apart from fitting the wheels).

The worst part was trying to fit the L-shaped metal into a plastic case. I ended up asking Chris for help because I wasn't entirely sure whether you were supposed to force the two together (I had tried but it got stuck). Five minutes and some slightly deformed plastic it was clear that this was exactly what you had to do.

Free channels

I have a feeling that all the cartoon channels are going to disappear in a few weeks time? I suspect that NTL chucks extra channels in for a month when you sign up for a new package to make you realise what you are missing. Sneaky.

21 February, 2003

Cold rooms and discoloured floors

For quite literrally months I have been wondering why the carpet nearest the window was a slightly different shade to that of the carpet in the rest of the room. This afternoon Robert (the personel manager of the company I work for) enlightened me about the cause.

Robert offered me a lift home and we set about chatting about various bits and pieces and how I was finding my place in Swansea. I mentioned that about the only drawback of the room I'm in is how cold my room was and how air seemed to be leaking through the floor (it sounds mad but it really does happen). He said he had seen a similar problem and explained how the discolouration was being caused by all the excess dirt and dust being pulled through the carpet. Apparently I could alieviate the problem by taking up the carpet (it doesn't appear to be nailed down rather stuck down at select points), laying some plastic down, poking some holes in the plastic (to let the carpet breathe) and relaying the carpet back down. Amazing.

DHCP woe

When I got back home I found that my computer was not connecting to the net. In fact neither was the router which was odd. The only indication that something might be wrong was the following in /var/log/daemon: Feb 18 21:10:42 cyclonus dhclient: DHCPACK from 172.27.x.x rejected due to bogus yiaddr of
It also looks like packets are ending up being stopped by the firewall: rule 14/0(match): block in on ep1: 172.27.x.x.67 > 80.5.x.x.68:
xid:0x270d2440 Y:80.5.x.x G:80.5.x.x ether 0:a0:24:99:66:15 [|bootp]
A google search suggests that it could be because the issuing server has been moved further away.

18 February, 2003

Drat. I meant to go to the SWLUG meeting today but it took a while to update the diary and eat some food...

I've finally seen an episode of the new Transformers series and I want to cry. They've butchered the Transformers universe and turned it into a Digimon in new clothing — even the voices sound similar to those on Digimon. Beast wars (by Mainframe) did a far better job of updating the franchise with robots that at least exhibited some character.

Via Slashdot: Gary Kasparov write a piece about the ramifications of the Deep Junior game. It is a pity that IBM dismantled Deep Blue so quickly and I agree with Kasparov that it is important to be able to analyse winning programs. Hopefully some of Fritz's algorithms will make their way into the public domain, ratching up knowledge for everyone.

After reading the article, I realised that IBM couldn't have been the creators of Deep Fritz. After a quick search I found out that Deep Fritz was created by two programmers working for Chessbase, so the relation to IBM is in name only...

17 February, 2003

Absolutely exhausted I came home and had a little snooze. By the time I woke up it was around 11pm.

Weapon's of mass destruction 404

I've got Jon Hyde to thank for tipping me off on to this gem — Weapon's of mass destruction error page.

16 February, 2003

This morning my land lady's parents turned up to check the place over. It is a little known fact that I will try to match the strength of the other person when I shake hands. However the Dad had an unexpected vice like grip and left my hand slightly cramped. I doubt I could have matched that even if I'd been prepared but her folks were pleasant people. I just hope the house wasn't too messy.

In the evening DaveB popped over for yet more poker. I managed to take the first game but promptly went out in the first round of the next game.

15 February, 2003

Should we continue doubling computer speed?

Via Hack the Planet: Why companies should stop trying to follow Moore's law. The doubling of computer power every eighteen months has certainly been handy but I don't feel overly compelled to throw away my three year old Athlon 850 and buy the latest thing. I suspect more consumers are thinking the same way. Rather I'm beginning to value things like a quieter machine and a nicer monitor over more speed. What I really would like to see is a PC box (with hard drive and RAM) for less than the £60 mark.

New house mate

Today Chris (and his girlfriend Jo) started moving his stuff in. Rearranging the room took the most time with wardrobes, tables and chests of drawers all shuffled around in an attempt to find the best use of space. At one point Chris wondered whether it would be better to move into the first floor room instead (but this was soon squashed by Jo). After an hour I wandered off to the kitchen for some refreshment and by the time I checked the room out I swear things were back as they started.

Dave's stair challenge

While chatting, Dave mentioned that you could get quite fit running up and down the stairs in our house and (I suspect jokingly) wondered how many times it could be done.

Dave now alleges that he said five times but I'm sure he said ten. Anyhow while I was eating breakfast Dave was off running up and down the three flights of steps in the house and managed six "runs". While exercise isn't my thing I reckoned it couldn't be too hard to get to ten but ended up managing eight before retiring due to nauseousness. For whatever reason it seems to be the last little set of ten stairs at the top that are the most difficult to climb...

When Chris and Jo came back in the afternoon I told them about the gruelling stair challenge and how wearing it was. Jo promptly set off up and down the stairs during and episode of the Power Puff Girls and fifteen minutes later had managed a colossal eleven runs.

Jo and Chris also went on to do rather well in the subsequent poker games with Jo winning the most "money" overall. I went bust twice, forced to buy my way back in with bars of Twix.

14 February, 2003

David (Little) is down to stay for three days. I'm not yet exactly sure how I can keep him entertained for so long...

The Animatrix

I was forced to download the recently released Animatrix film. I had burned it to CD earlier in the week but the CD mysteriously vanished between the SUCS room and home. I have checked the SUCS room several times and turned up nothing.

Anyhow the recently released video explains a little about the history of The Matrix universe, explaining about the original human and machine society. The animation style is Japanese and is well drawn and animated but the gore can be graphic in places.


Late night poker has something of a cult audience here and Dave has now got me hooked playing the thing. With all the practice we got in the evening I think Dave and I are reasonably well prepared for other novice players. Now if only we were playing for money...


Tonight was also the evening that I discovered that we have a large number of dedicated cartoon channels. As someone who grew up with only four regular stations that only periodically showed the odd cartoon I feel strangely overwhelmed by being able to watch cartoons non stop twenty-four hours a day. Current favourites are Dexter's Laboratory and the Power Puff Girls. CNX also seems to show a lot of Japanese cartoons which is kind of cool since other stations don't seems so keen to broadcast them.

I don't think I can ever be bored again.

13 February, 2003

Linux wireless LAN drivers

I have been trying to chase down the cause of a high (40-50%) CPU load (practically all in kernel space) when transferring files across the wireless LAN under Linux. I can reproduce the problem by using wget to transfer a file from an HTTP server on the local LAN (either direction) at a high speed for 802.11b (around 550Kb/s). I have tried all the different wireless drivers I could find:

mysterious hardware hangs when transferring data under load (all the drivers implement a watchdog to reset the hardware and recover in from this situation). The orinoco drivers appear to be the fastest at recovery, were by far and away the easiest drivers to set up and get working. The linux-wlan drivers are the second best but required a little bit more configuration to install (but the documentation was good). Finally the hostap drivers were very fiddly and seemed slow at recovering from the hardware lockups (I would only recommend them if you need hostap mode). I've currently settled on the orinoco drivers and I hope to be able to find a solution to the high CPU load.

Linux kernel profiling

After originally using the in-kernel profiling (with the profile=2 command line parameter) I posted some results to the orinoco list. Dave Gibson (the orinoco driver maintainer) asked for more details and I turned to OProfile. The results it gave were different to those of the in kernel profiler but also have a greater granularity (you can get OProfile to output an annotated listing of the code with comments containing the number of times things a particular statement was run). I need to find some time to post this information back the list...


My neighbour persists in playing his classical guitar in the small hours of the morning. What drives people to do this?

11 February, 2003

I wonder why I misspell wander

I really need to stick my plea for spelling corrections into the persistent bit in the top of this page. That way people will soon learn that I want spelling corrections! Apparently repeated (I counted 2 across the whole diary) abuse of "wonder" when I meant "wander" has driven DaveB "crazy".

In the interests of reader sanity please send spelling and grammar corrections in. Gaz has already done an outstanding job correcting the various guffaws and increased feedback will only lead to greater linguistic coherence for all!

Broken links

The web does not age well and many links eventually wind up broken. I'm writing this here while I remember. Gaz and Alfie your graduation pictures have disappeared so my links to them don't work. Is this intentional?

10 February, 2003


First up I'd like to say thank you to my Mum for Street Fighter Alpha 3 (on the GBA) and the money. Next up thank you Anne (my landlady) for all the chocolate. Thank you Gareth for the Underworld album. Thank you Carmel (my boss)/Huw/Ben for the food. Finally a "Cheers!" to Robert (who takes care of employee and equipment management for the company I work for) and finally: Jase you were right on the money this year - yes it is my birthday today (unrelated Jason's minefield achievement).

Building community

Via Scripting News: Robert Scoble talks about how he's heard that Microsoft wishes it had it's own Slashdot and Scripting News. It's a weird one that because there is a huge amount of fluff and general nonsense on Slashdot. However there is undeniably some twisted sense of community there and unlike any Microsoft site, I read it regularly.

6 February, 2003

I'm going home for the weekend so there won't be another posting until Monday the 10th.

5 February, 2003

The fool

Recently, I have been trying to track down the reason for high load (between 40-50% of CPU usage) when I transfer files across the wireless network at the fastest speed the network can manage.

I've been talking to the knowledgeable Steve Whitehouse (one of the authors of the Linux DECNet implementation among other things) for advice on where to look for problems and what part of the driver/kernel was to blame for the poor performance. His SUCS username is rohan.

Yesterday evening, I struck up a conversation with rohan but I became confused after rohan suggested that I switch to a 2.4.18 kernel because the Linux Kernel Mailing List had mentioned that profiling was broken in 2.4.19. Suspicious, I posted my profiling results anyway only to be told they looked wrong. Things weren't adding up. The profiling results were right and a quick Google of the Linux Kernel Mailing List did not turn up any mention of broken profiling (plus I read a digest of the mailing list and there had been no mention of such a big issue there). My suspicions were confirmed when a tipoff suggested that rohan wasn't who I thought he was. I checked the idle times. rohan's idle time ran into several hours suggesting someone had been faking the responses.

I slipped up sending a message back to the tipster and wondered who would be daft enough to think I hadn't worked out something was up. After asking a few crazy questions (should I enable the superverbose=3 option in the kernel?) it became clear the impersonator didn't have a clue what they (or I) were talking about so I upped the stakes to see what would happen:

sits: ro: I'll mail you the result logs to your chygwyn email address tomorrow. I'll make sure I split up the multi-meg attachments

The next day I had a quick chat with the real rohan to tell him about my ruse and I convinced him to pretend that he had received the email from me. I really didn't think it would work given the gibberish I had spouted last night. I talked to rohan about the "email" I had sent him in plain view of others who had been online the previous night. Later (after I had left), someone sent me the following:

TheRaven: ro> Sorry about the huge email.

It's difficult to know what to make of the above. Did TheRaven (David Chisnall) really think I had sent the huge email or was he still playing along? :) Later he was on hand later to dispense advice:

TheRaven: sits> By the way, have you read the dedication plaque on the department?
TheRaven: sits> The one that starts 'In all mennes workes...'
sits: tr: no. The robin milner one?
TheRaven: The Robert Recorde onw.
sits: oh no I don't think I have. What does it say?
sits: is it a quote or something?
TheRaven: Yes.
TheRaven: Basically it says you should listen to what people say, rather than the person who says it.
TheRaven: (i.e. don't do something silly, just because rohan suggested it)
sits: tr: yeah I've heard of it
TheRaven: Good good.
sits: I'm gullible me
TheRaven: So you installed a crippled version of an old kernel?
sits: Always pays to be careful. Thanks for the quote
sits: tr: ?
TheRaven: Last night.
sits: tr: last night?
sits: tr: oh come on
sits: don't tell me you fell for it?

A kernel downgrade was never on the cards — especially when I could find no mention of this profiling problem on the LKML. Dear reader I leave you with my own nugget of wisdom:

Beware the fool for he may be fooling you.

4 February, 2003

Go go Mono!

Today I tested one of my programs under Linux using Mono (Ximian's open source version of Microsoft's .NET programming environment). The surprising thing was that once installed correctly it connected to SQL Server databases surprisingly easily. The current catch is that it will not connect to instances of SQL Server so if you are using the defualt settings of SQL Server Desktop Engine Edition you will find Mono will refuse to under SERVER\VSdotNET.

What proved to be the showstopper in the end was the lack of proxy support — the University blocks port 80. I filed a bug so hopefully there will be some resolution (even if its someone telling me I'm not using the proxy object correctly).

3 February, 2003

I have hopefully squashed the last of the bugs in my my threaded program for work. It looks like if you are open a WebResponse object in C# it is necessary to hook up and close the stream otherwise resource starvation may occur. However the timeout problem I was seeing is so intermittent it's difficult to know for sure whether this will fix the problem.

Evening links

It's interesting to hear that banks are moving over to Linux but why are they so reticent to have their names publicised? Do they think it will cause consumer confidence to fail in them?

I've just finished reading Return of Indie Game Developer which I ended up at after reading how systrace can be used to restrict the system calls a program can make.

2 February, 2003

Via Hack the Planet: In Immortal Code Wired recounts the tale of how a piece of speech recognition software has survived several companies. I guess some code is so useful it refuses to fade away...

Another article found via HTP: Larry McVoy discusses BitKeeper. BitKeeper is an extremely advanced source-code management system which is currently used by some (including Linus Tovalds) to manage the Linux kernel but unlike Linux it is not Free/Open software. There is a bonus in the discussion attached to the article as Larry and Bruce Perens straighten out a long running argument.

1 February, 2003

The big freeze (continued)

After chatting with my landlady, I learned that there was another side to the tale. She had phoned the gas company the day after the note had been received and explaining how a letter had not been received and was told that she would be phoned back. When they did phone her back on Friday at work, she was told they didn't know when the work was taking place! When she phoned again on Saturday again she was told they did not know when the work was taking place.

It is not clear whether the gas would have been turned back on after the work had been done (if they are going to take the prerogative and poke about people's shed to turn the gas off, they should have the decency to turn it back on again when they are finished) — thankfully we didn't have to find out. The other problem is that the people manning the phones are clearly not informed about when the work is actually happening. Finally learned an important lesson, one should never cold showers during cold snaps in the weather.

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