A Farewell To Kings

Posted on 30th June 2008

The guys over at LUGRadio have just released the latest edition of the show. They also reveal a rather big announcement, in that LUGRadio Live Live & Unleashed will be the last ever show by the team. This also mean that LUGRadio Live in a few weeks time, will also be the last ever LRL. I'm gutted as the show and event has become a staple part of my life for the past 5 years. As I knew the guys before they started the show, I was fortunate enough to be a fan from the very first show. And from such humble beginnings it's been amazing to see what the team have created. It is a credit to everyone who has been involved in LUGRadio, and the whole community that has built up surrounding both the shows and the events, that they have played a notable part of promoting Linux and Open Source. The quality of guest, discussion and inspiration has been excellent. It has always been fun and entertaining, but it has also strived to educate and pass on their passion for the projects, and communities they have introduced us to.

I'm glad I had the opportunity to play even a small part of the experience, and it has always been a joy to listen to the shows. I shall miss them. I'm fortunate in that I live not too far from the guys, so hopefully I will stay in touch and see them at Wolves LUG events in the future. But I will miss the all the LUGRadio Live events, where I get to meet so many other Linux and Open Source enthusiasts from around the UK and the World. Thanks guys, it's been a blast.

File Under: community / conference / linux / lugradio / opensource / wolverhampton

Held Up Without A Gun

Posted on 29th June 2008

This weekend, DanDan and I went down to Bristol for an event, which I will cover later. On the way down, a friend of ours dropped us off in his recent purchased Bentley. It was certainly great driving down the M5 in style. Unfortunately the journey home wasn't anywhere near as enjoyable. In actual fact it felt felt like highway robbery.

Earlier last week I investigated getting DanDan and I return tickets to Bristol, Temple Meads from New Street, Birmingham. We were planning to get the bus in and out of town, as that just made things easier. It was quite a shock at the difference in prices. The best return I could find was £59.55, a "Saver" Return. However, the link at the bottom does helpfully suggest that you check two singles tickets as these can often be cheaper. They weren't kidding either. The Standard Advance Single was listed as £10.50 in each direction, that's £21.00 for a return for both DanDan and I. A difference of £38.55 ... nearly £40! So how exactly am I saving with a returning ticket?

Unfortunately, as I'd assumed that buying a ticket at the station on the day, seeing as we were getting a lift down to Bristol, might only be slightly more than the Standard Advanced Single, I decided not to buy one in advance. Alas I wasn't prepared for the shock I got when I was told by the ticket clerk, that it was £51.00 to get back to Birmingham. I was absolutely staggered. The ticket clerk did try hard to find if we could buy the ticket in alternative forms to try and reduce the cost, but to no avail. As it turned out he suggested that we buy a Family Rail Card, which although would end up reducing the cost of the ticket, both together would end up costing £52.90, the benefit being that we could actually use the Family Rail Card if we ever used the railways again over the next year. I should imagine we will, so hopefully we will get some benefit, but the cost of the fare has really disappointed me.

If I had chosen to drive my car down to Bristol, it would have cost about £20. The original idea to use the trains was partly to save some money, but also to just use public transport because for a change it was convenient. Doubt I'll do it again.

Once upon a time the cost of a return train ticket would be just less than a single, not nearly 3 times the price. And if you bought the ticket on the day of travel it might be a couple of pound more than in advance, but not 5 times the price! In fact it was rare to bother buying a ticket in advance, as it gave you more options to travel. When I've travelled in Europe by train, the prices have always seemed reasonable, here in the UK it is nothing short of daylight robbery. Anyone planning to travel the trains who arrives from abroad is going to get the shock of their life. I also have to travel down to London soon and I see the Standard Open Return has leapt up to £123.00. Even that used to be less than £20 just over 10 years ago.

National Rail in the UK is an absolute disgrace, not just in terms of the price, but also with timetables. The train back to Birmingham from Bristol got announced as being delayed several times and finally left the station over 40 minutes later than it should have done. Now we were lucky, I've know of other recent delays to be several hours later, or even cancelled.

The ONLY redeeming feature of the railway network these days is that much of the rolling stock is being replaced by trains that do have the passengers comfort and interest in mind. The newer carriages have much better seats, usually with a bit more space than I remember of old, they are much more appealing to be in, but most useful for me is that many carriages have sockets for mobile phones and laptops. I suspect some of the prices have been due to the upgrade of rolling stock, but with the amount of passengers that commute daily on the train, I can't help think that the rail companies are taking advantage of their customers.

However, the biggest culprit is still the lack of government investment. In other European countries it seems they take their railway infrastructure a bit more seriously. As a consequence there doesn't seem to be the same amount of traffic on the roads. At the moment with the rising cost of fuel, I can easily understand more people looking to the trains to reduce their travel costs, and then being amazed to discover that fuel costs would have to virtually triple before making it more cost effective. Madness.

As far as I can see the only means of public transport that actually has improved, both in rolling stock and price (especially price) are the buses. Maybe the bus companies ought to take over the rail companies and show them how it can be done.

File Under: commerce / environment / rant / trains

Sweet Home Chicago

Posted on 23rd June 2008

Last week I was in Chicago for YAPC::NA. It was great event and a great city. I was there 2 years ago for the conference, and got to see some of the city then, so this time around I opted to find some other places to discover. I've still left plenty to discover, so next time I return I plan to finally get to go up the Hancock Tower and do the Ganster Tour.

The conference itself was at the IIT, on the south side of Chicago, and a short walk from the L. On the first day I gave a talk entitled "Understanding Malware", during which David E Wheeler thankfully caught me on camera, so at least I have one photo of me speaking :) On the second day I gave my "How To Be A CPAN Tester" talk, which seemed to go down well. I'll write more about the conference on my use.perl blog, but over the next week I hope to get my photos up online. Unfortunately the quality of the photos hasn't been as good as previous efforts, as I seemed to struggle with focus and light most of the time. Looking at some of the guys taking pictures throughout the event, I dearly need a DSLR. Hopefully this time next year my wish will come true.

My thanks to Theory for allowing me to include the photo he took of me at the conference here.

File Under: chicago / conference / yapc

Mr. Self Destruct

Posted on 12th June 2008

Picked up a useful procmail tip the other day, and thought I'd help to promote it here. See Filtering mail with procmail for more details. As I hadn't done a cleanup of my backup mail files for some time, I was using up 1.5GB of disk space for messages that had already been processed. Most of the mails were spam, which have since been deleted. However, figuring out which files to delete is awkward as they all get named using the format of 'msg.XXXX', where XXXX is a random set of alphanumeric characters. This little tip, collates all the days mail into a single file, thus making it much easier to delete archives. I can now set up a cron job to delete month old archives once a month and keep my disk space at a more manageable level.

# Used for keeping a backup of each days mail.
TODAY=`date +%d-%m-%Y`

# Save a copy of each email received into a file of the form
# '~/Mail/backup/dd-mm-yyyy'.
:0 c:

File Under: backups / email / linux

The Last Sucker

Posted on 9th June 2008

Last Monday I finally got to see Ministry, as they took in Wolverhampton on their "C U LaTour" farewell tour. The gig was great, if a little unusual, and featured plenty of moshing. They played for just over 2 hours, and was the same set they've played elsewhere in the UK. The only difference between the UK set and the US set has been to replace the final encore of Under My Thumb (Rolling Stones cover) with What A Wonderful World (Louis Amstrong). I bought the covers album on the way out, and having heard the tracks, I think perhaps the UK set ended on a more upbeat note than the US one.

The main set consisted of 4 or 5 tracks from the last 3 albums, and as such was a very anti-Bush type of affair. Not that I mind the songs, but in the UK the sentiment behind the songs isn't perhaps as powerful as they are in the US. Seeing as it was the first time I had got to see them (I've missed the last 3 tours for a variety of reasons, all of which have been extremely frustrating), I was happy to hear anything. The first set of encores featured So What, NWO, Just One Fix and Thieves, all of which I was more than happy with. It would have been great to have heard others, but had I sorted myself out properly and got to earlier tours I would have.

The band played behind wire mesh, which gave the effect of The Blues Brothers playing Rawhide in that country bar from the film. It actually gave the whole stage a club feel, and the audience certainly reacted as if it was too. There was plenty of moshing going on, but as the venue wasn't completely sold out, there was still space to avoid the mosh if you wanted to. In fact it was probably one of the most polite mosh pits I've ever witnessed, which is possible due to the fact many of the moshers were punks and a couple of girls even got stuck in. Nobody got really hurt and there was very much a good shared riotous enjoyment about it all. I stood on the edge of the mosh pit, and had a great view of the stage. I haven't looked at the photos yet, but hopefully some of them came out.

It'll be a pity not to be able to see the band again, but Al feels his journey with Ministry has come to an end, and seeing as he has plenty of other projects still lined-up, it's unlikely it'll be the last we'll hear of him, and maybe a RevCo or Lard tour might happen. Well I can wish can't I ;)

File Under: gigs / ministry / music

Between The Wheels

Posted on 8th June 2008

A friend of mine, Arnaud, has been planning the trip of a lifetime for a couple of years. Earlier this year he began his sabbatical from work and prepared for his trek from France to China. Although based in Cheltenham, UK, he first headed over to France to stay with his parents and make final preparations for the trip. However, there have been a few issues regards getting into China, so at the moment he's unsure of whether he have to fly in, or will be able to ride in.

He has a website, Frog On A Bike, which he has been updating on a regular basis, with tales of his journey and plenty of photos and even a few videos of his trek. He's currently in Russia, heading for Astrakhan and Kazakhstan. Considering it's only been 6 weeks since he hit the road on 21st April for his World Tour, he's travelled a very impressive distance. It's been great reading of his travels, and looks to be a journey I would have loved to have done. Although, I think I would have had to drive rather than ride. I'm not that fit these days :)

The funniest sight he's seen so far has to be the Fake Police Car. I'm just hoping the UK police don't get ideas and start putting these around the country.

File Under: friends / life / sightseeing


Posted on 7th June 2008

Nicole commented the other day, after watching the latest ACT ON CO2 advert, that whoever coined the term 'Carbon Footprint' had come up with a really good idea to get people thinking about their contributions to global warming. While I don't think that global warming can ever be changed by individual effort, I do think that pressure on manufactures to reduce packaging, or to find and use alternative forms of energy, are much more likely to offset the emissions contributing to global warming.

However, it also had me thinking about who actually did coin the term. After a bit of research, it seems widely accepted that William Rees, a Canadian environmentalist and ecologist, first coined the term "Ecological Footprint" in 1992. Although not quite the same, The Carbon Footprint is seen as a subset of issues involved with the Ecological Footprint. Rees developed a method to calculate our ecological destruction based on our consumption, and appears to have been a catalyst for changing how we look at our consumption levels. The Carbon Footprint, in most definitions looks specifically at fossil fuels, but nowhere that I've seen, actually indicates who was first to actually reference the term for that type of measurement.

Having done a bit of reading, I'm much more intrigued to see if we can change attitudes to our Ecological Footprint, as the environmental damage we are doing, especially in terms of the completely useless amount of packaging we use these days, is possibly a bigger contributor not just to the resources we use, but the amount that gets dumped to landfill. Although alot of packaging these days can be recycled, too much is just being thrown away. I'm also alarmed by the amount of fossil fuel crops we are globally producing now. A news item recently highlighted that as food crop farming has become so much less profitible, we could soon find food becoming a luxury commodity.

But back to the original question. Who did coin the term Carbon Footprint? Any ideas?

File Under: environment

Last Of The Teenage Idols

Posted on 6th June 2008

Last weekend we took DanDan to the Grassroots Football Live event at the NEC in Birmingham. When we initially found out about the event we thought it would involve some dedicated training for his team, Callowbrook Swifts. We did think it was a bit odd that adults were charged more than children if the event was aimed at them. It wasn't until we got there we discovered it was actually more like a trade fair. As a trade fair it wasn't bad, and we did end up getting the usual compliment of freebies. DanDan was miffed that he didn't get a Mars football, but then he was the only one to get a England beanie hat.

There were several training sessions that you could sign up for, so in the afternoon, we did sign the boys up for a training session with some of the Leicester City coaches, and another later with a FIFA coach, but they were quite short sessions. Still the lads did seem to enjoy the day overall.

Nicole and I are not football fans really, so although many of the names I knew, I was mostly unphased by them. Graham Taylor, Harry Redknapp and Steve McClaren were there, together with several reportedly well know players, including a guy called Billy Wingrove. Now I have nothing against Billy, but all I could think of while I watched him was, well okay he can do some clever tricks, but is he any good on the field and can he score goals? I'd never heard of him, so figured he probably wasn't the next golden boy for England, however, on returning home I discovered that he doesn't play for any club, all he can do is tricks. As entertainment that's fine, but if you expect your opponent to sit there waiting for you to show off to the crowd, then I think you'll soon discover how useless your trick skills are worth. As such I found the attention put on him was largely misplaced.

For me there was one point that did interest me. I spotted that Dario Gradi was going to be presenting a train session, so went along to catch some of it. He was using the Alex youth team to highlight tactics, and was exactly the sort of thing that I was expecting from these sessions. After the session I did something I wouldn't normally do. I went and asked for his autograph. A couple of young lads had already asked him, as he stood on the sidelines afterwards, so I thought I'd take the opportunity too. I had a short chat with him, mentioning that I used to live near Crewe, and he was in good humour as we talk about how the place had changed. Funnily enough I moved away from Crewe the year Dario started his mangerial career at Crewe Alex.

All in all, an interesting day, and perhaps for older lads it would have been more beneficial, particularly the tactics and ball control training sessions. I'm not sure we'd go again, but I do think it was good for DanDan. Perhaps next year, we'll let his Nanny and Grandad take him as they're much more interested in football than we are :)

File Under: callowbrook / crewe / dandan / football

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