Just before I went to the Sydney Moodle Conference I set up a sourceforge project for the Really Simple CalDAV Store. This is good because it disassociates the project from Catalyst to some degree as well as providing me with space for forums, bug tracker and so forth.
It's interesting to look at Sourceforge from this viewpoint though, because I wonder how lively sourceforge really is. According to their home page they have "Registered Projects: 132,439 Registered Users: 1,421,324", but after a few days activity with my RSCDS project I have managed to surpass 132,319 of those projects to be at number 120!
Is it really that easy to be more active than those 132,000 projects? It would seem so. Penny, Martyn and Nigel have also set up a project last week for the Mahara ePortfolio which they are working on, and at this point there is almost nothing there at all. Even so, that project is ranked at number 18,000 or so, suggesting that there are around 110,000 projects on there which are basically dead.
Still, it seems that it might be something to do with their weighting algorithm. I took a look at the statistics for Project #121 (Sahi at the moment) and it seems to have a noticeably greater number of web hits, downloads, and so forth, so I can only conclude that my secret weapon has been my mirroring of my Git repository into the Sourceforge CVS and Subversion repositories.
Well, to be strictly correct, I guess only the mirroring to the Subversion repository counts, since there are no statistics available for the CVS repositories it seems unlikely that they enter the mix in this way. So with that in mind I feel I should level the playing field and publish my mirroring scripts.
So here they are, for mirroring from Git into a CVS repository use cvs-mirror-git-init first and then use cvs-mirror-git whenever you want the mirror to be brought up to date. Hopefully the 'usage' information is sufficient to describe the care and feeding of the CVS mirroring scripts.
For mirroring from Git into a Subversion repository use svn-mirror-git to bring the repository up to date. Before using it you need to do something like:
svn add newproject
svn propset svn:ignore .git .
to create yourself a new empty directory for the project to exist in.
I'm currently at the Sydney Moodle Conference, which has (of course) been a great event. Everyone who knows me knows how much I enjoy going to these open source conferences such as the various Moodle "Moots", Debconf and the Linux.conf.au annual Australian Linux conference. I think that the people at these conferences must crave these occasional face to face meetings with all of the people they interact with on-line.
All credit to Julian Ridden and the Monte St Angelo College here in North Sydney for making it so enjoyable. The college is a very nice and photogenic old school within the commercial part of North Sydney and one of the highlights for me has been today's keynote by Diane Brook (who is the ICT head of department at Monte St Angelo) about Teaching the Net Generation. Hearing her talk of the challenges of keeping up with today's school children really brought back to me my personal experience of finding something missing from Wikipedia, adding it, and seeing it turn into a whole fleshed out article over the next few months.
Last night's dinner (sponsored by Catalyst IT of course :-) was a lot of fun, but it's amazing how no matter how many wonderful people I manage to talk to there are still many more who I have not yet met, and I probably won't get to, since the conference ends in a couple more hours, and I'm here writing this blog about it.
So I think I'll leave it at that, and run off and find some more people to chat with!
My Really Simple CalDAV Store moves on apace. I have rewritten several of the libraries to use a more consistent structure, and have now implemented a fair subset of the PROPFIND command - to the extent that Mulberry now works with it as well as Sunbird/Lightning and Evolution.
I've also started developing a regression testing framework, and I believe that the database structures around the calendar resource data are now basically correct. From this point I will provide patch scripts to allow upgrade of resources.
It is interesting to see the different approaches that client software has taken to dealing with CalDAV, and I have to think that this has something to do with the long process of evolving the specification. It will be nice when it is complete, and people can develop against something that isn't moving. I believe that the CalDAV specification is actually quite good and straightforward, but I don't feel nearly as happy about the iCalendar spec.
The iCalendar definitions of timezones, on the other hand, have to be one of the best examples of overachievement out there! It is not surprising that none of the software I have come across actually includes more than the most recent timezone definition information within events. The full definition of the New Zealand timezone comes to around 15k, and it would be ridiculous to include that with every event! In an even more bizarre twist, there is no field within the VTIMEZONE which references the timezone with a standard name! No doubt that is not problematic when most people are arranging things within a timezone, but for global events it really is a significant flaw. Evolution uses an X-LIC-LOCATION property to reference the Olson timezone name, which seems to be an industry standard of sorts, but the standard should define such a thing. Even better, having defined a standard way of referencing the timezone name there would be no need to schlepp the full timezone redundantly along with every event.
Well, enough ranting :-) Improvements in this version of RSCDS include:
- Fix some bugs in caldav-REPORT, which was not working with Lightning.
- Complete work on PROPFIND so that Mulberry now works.
- Add MKCOL, which is based on MKCALENDAR, to support hierarchies of collections better.
- Rewrite REPORT to use the new XML libraries.
- Commence support of relationships and permissions.
- Write new ics.php which allows export of the full repository (for an admin), or a subset of the repository.
- That new ics.php allows webcal presentation of the calendars also, so that even if evolution can't support tasks as CalDAV, it can at least refer to tasks someone else puts there with (e.g.) Sunbird.
- Started development of a regression testing framework.
I think I'm now at a reasonable stage to have a Debian package repository for this project. Anyone interested can browse the Git RSCDS repository or Andrew's Web Libraries repository to see my progress in more detail, it's still better to provide a place where it can all be downloaded from, so you can now add this to your sources.list:
deb http://debian.mcmillan.net.nz/debian unstable awm
For those unenlightened folks running on systems that aren't based around the Debian packaging system I've provided some .tar.gz files for RSCDS and AWL that you can download as well.
I wonder if Windows Genuine Advantage will be used to ill effect by the next round of viruses affecting people who pay their Microsoft tax. That would be bad. I sure do hope that their anti-malware-ware is up to that sort of thing.
Of course viruses have been rewriting registry values and updating bits and pieces of the various Microsoft operating systems for some time now in efforts to disable antivirus software. Surely they will leap at this straightforward opportunity to deny Microsoft customers those updates that might remove the very vulnerabilities the viruses need for their survival.
I know that I gave a list of goals for my "Really Simple CalDAV Store" (RSCDS), but of course I did something completely different...
Well, maybe not completely different. One of my goals was to "find some non-Evolution CalDAV clients", and I found Thunderbird + Lightning in the form of a nightly build which worked in many ways. What it definitely did do was point up some of the over-simplification I had taken in my first cut, so I went right back to basics and redesigned tables, renamed columns and rewrote objects.
Another thing that I did, which provided a good bunch of background information was to add CalDAV support to WRMS. This was an incredibly useful thing, because it familiarised me further with the structure of iCalendar entries and so forth, and although the implementation is not really usable, it shows me the real value of storing the iCalendar entries natively and keeping the parsed values separately. That's the way that RSCDS does it, and it seems to work very reliably.
I also did at least start to develop the admin interface, and to improve the database setup scripts. I just didn't get incredibly far down this path, although I probably will now that I've got what I consider a releasable starting point.
The first of the files below is a Debian package of my standard web libraries, libawl-php, which is a bunch of useful routines I've developed over the years. The other file is, of course, the RSCDS application itself.
Updated 2006-12-19: these files have been removed as they are out of date!
arewere some files for you to play around with:
Here are some really basic Really Simple CalDAV Store instructions.
While watching the Test The Nation hosting all go swimmingly I decided to add CalDAV support to WRMS and after wrestling with it for a few hours, I now have rudimentary support for entering timesheets into WRMS using a CalDAV calendar.
Rudimentary means "all of the existing timesheets show up" but also "I successfully inserted a timesheet event by entering something into a CalDAV calendar in Evolution". It doesn't mean it's stable, and particularly it's not stable when editing pre-existing timesheet entries. It also doesn't implement permissions much yet, other than ensuring you can only muck with your own timesheet.
So it isn't quite ready for real time, but it's given me enough clues that I know what it will look like when I rewrite it tomorrow, or so.
I really hope that entering timesheets through a calendar application will make this easier. I do know that at present the timesheet form has all sorts of issues, and I really hope this should solve most of them.
Some possibly useful features will come for free too. E.g. in Evolution it is possible to move/copy appointments from one calendar to another, so that could also be a useful trick for scheduled events. Perhaps having a shared calendar will mean that (e.g.) a meeting event can be copied into your timesheet.
Well, as long as the meeting summary matches
/^wr[^1-9]*([1-9][0-9]*)[ \/-]*(.*)$/im it should work fine anyway... :-)
But now it's time for bed.
I like my music, although I find that I can't stand sticking headphones over (or in) my ears in the normal course of events. When I buy a CD I carefully rip the music off it so I can then put the CD in a cupboard. This has saved quite a number of them from the never-to-be-underestimated destructive power of an absent-minded child.
Over the years I have had a kind of low-key desire to find some decent software to allow me to find, categorise, playlist and free-associate all this music. It's been a "low-key" desire because I wrote my own software to do this some time ago, but it's kind of crude (browse artists / albums, find artists / albums containing tracks matching a regex, enqueue / pause / stop). This is mostly OK for me because I wrote the software and know how to work it, and it provides some ability to stumble over tracks that had been forgotten, but I think the UI really must suck quite a lot since Heather generally prefers to use the CD player directly.
What makes my requirements so hard to meet is that the PC I play my music from is in a cupboard and it doesn't have a keyboard, mouse or screen. I guess most people wanting to set up a "multimedia PC" actually want more than one media on it. We don't have a television in our house, so the cupboard is just fine. Everything is on the LAN, so we can use the keyboard / mouse / screen of our local PCs.
That's all well and good, but playing music is kind of fickle. I don't want us fighting over what stream is playing at the moment, or (possibly even worse) just mixing them all together. Also, the music is on the computer, and the soundcard is on that computer - so there shouldn't be a need for the files to be transferred across the network twice to play them. Sometimes I like the music to still be playing when I'm rebooting my laptop too.
So on Friday night, Brenda pointed me at Amarok, suggesting that it does evrything that anyone could possibly want in their music player, pointing out that it even had these plugin scripts that it could run, which would allow for a web interface and everything...
On Saturday I installed it, and I must say that it is the most sophisticated music player I have come across, and it really did help me find and categorise my music through a very well thought out interface. Unfortunately that well thought out interface only applies to the GUI, meaning that I still need to be SSH'd into my music server to control it fully. The web interface scripts are unfortunately fairly simple and still require substantial mucking around.
I love New Zealand music in particular, and one of the things I thought Amarok did particularly well was handling podcasts. The ease with which I was able to add an RSS feed and play episodes from it immediately encouraged me to catch up on Liz Barry's NZ Music show which has always wanted to play on my laptop when I use my normal RSS reader. Now that I've done this through Amarok I can see that whatever I switch to will need to support this sort of thing in a straightforward manner.
It all looks pretty hopeful though so I might look to taking some client/server model music player, tying it into the Amarok database, and making a front-end work with that. I'll probably pick over my existing code and see if something could be done with that, or take a look at Music Player Daemon (mpd) which seems to start with many of the ideas about remote control that are right for me, albeit without the database support that I like in my own setup, and which Amarok seems to do very well.
I've done all my interface coding for my existing setup as a web front-end. The Music Player Daemon doesn't rely on a web interface though - it is a more traditional client-server model, and this is undoubtedly a good way to be for something where the action happens at both ends in an asynchronous manner. There certainly seem to be a good set of clients for mpd.
In any case the time has definitely come to reexamine my options for playing music. It's probably five years since I set this up and wrote my crude player and the world has moved on.
My previous efforts to purchase a Nokia N770 finally came to fruition this morning when two of them were waiting on my desk when I arrived at work. I was very happy, although if these do the job we'll have to go through that all over again to buy the next 20 or so...
For the curious, these were ordered through the Nokia UK website, delivered to the relative of a workmate passing through England for a conference who then collected them and posted them to us. We might have to find a simpler way for the next lot...
Can it really do what I want it to do? Is it usable? Although I've played with these before (in Helsinki before they were released, and in Mexico earlier this year) I have not had one in my hands long enough to really get to grips with the user interface.
Now I have one that I can play on without restriction, I can see that it is all really well-designed for the form factor. Nokia do seem to do this sort of thing very well, and the software all integrates very nicely, and be very stable. So far I've only managed to crash one application (the browser) when trying to resize the screen while viewing the UI from Hell. Hardly unexpected - that particular bit of Flash (Crash ?Trash?) seems to break most browsers in this household.
To try and gauge the battery life I handed it over to Heather for the evening. She found it fascinating and didn't put it down for about five hours - with the battery icon still indicating a full charge. The battery icon did suprise me, in that you can't click on it, or mouse over it to get more information. In fact the oddest thing I have found so far is that there was no 'Power' item in the control panel and the only control over power seems to be under "Display" where you can set screen dim / blank timeouts. No separate adjustment for when you have it plugged in, or for how long before the WLAN chip times out, but perhaps the battery life is such that I won't find myself doing it regularly and my desire to fiddle with such settings is foolish.
Hacking In ...
Well, I didn't manage to stave off my desire to fiddle for very long at all... maybe an hour after I got the device I had downloaded a backup image, in case I have to reflash it back to a known state! First up was the need to install an XTerm, which proved relatively straightforward after adding an APT source pointing at http://maemo-hackers.org/apt/ (although you do this through an Application Manager of course :-).
Once I had the XTerm installed I can get into the Linux installation, but to get root I need to do something more complicated. The Wiki suggestion was that I install an SSH server and ssh in as root so I downloaded the Dropbear from my laptop and saved it directly onto reduced size MMC in the N770, mounted as USB storage on my laptop - very easy. The installation of a downloaded version of Dropbear failed though, and unfortunately the "Application Manager" didn't display the error messages. So I proceeded to use the "flasher" tool to "enable R&D mode" which eventually succeeded after many unsuccessful attempts. I seemed to need to:
- power the N770 off
- hold down the "Home" button
- press the power button
- insert the USB cable as soon as the screen lit up
It seemed that it wasn't possible to power on the device while the USB cable was inserted.
Reading the documentation further, it seems that it should be trivial to create a Debian package which could be installed to replace (or edit) the "gainroot" script so that it doesn't check for R&D mode, and I think I will do that if we are going to be getting a bunch more of these.
Anyway, now I had root access I could see that the Dropbear packages wouldn't install because they were the wrong architecture. It seems that I must have a slightly newer model than the documentation (and many of the packages, I guess) apply to, and that the architecture is 'armel' rather than 'arm'.
I suppose this means that next up I will need to download scratchbox and set up a build environment so I can build that SSH server, and probably so we can build all sorts of other things to go on there.
I'm looking forward to it, although it has somewhat distracted me from my CalDAV investigations, which were really starting to get somewhere useful.
It seems I was fooled into thinking that Evolution/CalDAV was working against Apple's Calendar Server because of some bad configuration I had in Evolution.
A little more investigation shows that everything appears to work fine until I try and add an event to a CalDAV calendar, at which point Evolution crashes pretty hard.
Debian evolution is currently at version 2.6.3 but it's hard to see from Gnome CVS if there have been many patches to this since it went in.
Sniffing the traffic to the Calendar Server suggests that the Calendar Server is doing the right thing. There is an OPTIONS request from Evolution, and an appropriate response from Calendar Server. Then there is a REPORT request from Evolution and what appears to me to be an appropriate response from Calendar Server that lists the relative URL for the event I have created, but evolution crashes at that point and doesn't seem to request the .ics file for the event. It may be that Evolution wants the event to be reported in-line, rather than as a URL to be further retrieved, although both approaches seem reasonable within the CalDAV spec.
Supposedly Evolution is built to operate agains the Hula CalDAV backend, but last time I checked that out there was no sign of the hoped-for CalDAV support. Probably I was optimistic to use the Debian packages, but it's hard to see release numbers of anything from the Hula website. I think I might have a go at fetching the latest from Subversion or using the Hula packages from moo tang clan.
Meanwhile, my CalDAV in evolution is again turned off.
I must admit, I am proud to have gotten a free ride from a London Cabbie.
My first visit to London, or indeed anywhere in Europe, was in July 2005 when I got to spend a day there on my way to Helsinki. Just time for once round the Eye, a quick glance around Piccadilly and a half-day meeting with the good people from the Open University.
I was in a hurry, of course, and I fully believed that I was arriving in a developed nation where things would be fairly normal. I was even prepared for them to be more advanced than we are here, in some ways. What I was completely unprepared for was the generally low level of acceptance of credit cards.
I first encountered a credit card in 1979, when my parents used their new VISA to buy me a bunch of furniture to get me into my first flat. I think I got my own card a couple of years later, and these days I use it for pretty much everything from buying the weekly groceries to buying those air tickets to Helsinki.
So when I got off the plane at Heathrow, I immediately headed for the cabs. That's what I've done every time I arrived anywhere in Asia-Pacific, and it's worked just fine. Several times I've been to Australia for a week without handling any cash at all.
Then I got in a London Cab, assuming these guys would take credit cards. You can't choose a cab at Heathrow - you have to take the assigned one - and the whole procedure appears to be so much trouble that you don't want to inconvenience them by requesting one that takes credit cards. Not that the though of doing so even entered my mind. Surely they're supposed to be the most with-it cabbies in the world aren't they? If the propaganda is to be believed they practically need a degree to be allowed to drive, so surely they'll be doing it all with the latest technology! Well no. These 'famous' London Cabbies aren't a patch on Corporate Cabs for quality of service, although they no doubt exceed them on price.
Once I got into the cab, we started to negotiate the destination, but the cabbie appeared never to have heard of Teddington and at about that point I also noticed the distinct lack of credit card company logos and tendered the question about credit cards.
Since he appeared never to have heard of these things either, and he wanted not a bean of any of the other currencies that I did have floating about in my wallet, this was clearly not a match made in heaven. He dropped me off near an ATM a few minutes drive away, possibly wondering if all New Zealanders were barmy, wanting to use a plastic card instead of carting fuckwads of mugger bait around with them. How odd.
I have been reminded of this strange cultural difference in the UK recently a couple of times. Firstly because I went to the UK Moodle Moot in Milton Keynes recently and was once more forced to fill my wallet with more cash than I normally see in a year.
More recently though, I've been trying to buy a Nokia 770. Apparently Nokia think that "New Zealand" is somewhere in Europe, because that link definitely redirects to europe.nokia.com. On the other hand they must be pretty sure it isn't, because it's not one of the countries listed when I click on the "Buy Online" button - that only shows a bunch of countries that really are in Europe. And the US of A, of course.
None of those sites will let me ship the darned thing to New Zealand though. Of course I knew this, and I thought I'd try and buy one in Los Angeles when I went through there earlier in the year. I was only there for seven hours though, which is barely enough time to get through customs and check your baggage in for the next flight in these paranoid times.
My next chance was a trip to London. This time I even planned ahead a little! I found a retailer in the UK who was selling the Nokia 770 over the web. I worked out their physical address and plotted myself a little map so I would know how to get there and then I e-mailed them to ask if I could buy one and pick it up while I was there?
Well sure I could. I just had to fax them a copy of my grandmother's birth certificate or something first. They accept credit cards, but it seems that somewhere in their office they make the paper that they turn into credit card slips, each one lovingly hand-inked and beautifully crafted in gold leaf. They couldn't accept credit cards, even if I visited in person and signed the slip in front of them. Those US of A paranoids have got nothing on these guys. They're so distrustful that I find myself starting to distrust them! Clearly they also don't have computers, or dial-up connections to the bank, or they would be able to validate all of the credit card can-the-bastard-pay stuff while I was there, and before I ducked out the door with the merchandise.
OK, I'm stupid. I should have ordered them the day before I left, to arrive at my hotel. Duh. I've never actually got something shipped to a hotel and I must confess to being somewhat disorganised from time to time (if you've read this far you are probably wondering how I ever manage to get out of bed in the mornings). Of course once I thought of this it was too late - I wasn't going to be at the hotel for long enough for that to work.
And anyway: I was going to be in London. Surely there would be some shop in London that would have one on a shelf somewhere that I could just pick up and carry out? Well, no, actually. It seems that these devices are so well marketed by Nokia that nobody has actually heard of them. Nobody (barring wierdos like me) wants to own one, and nobody in their right mind would be seen dead trying to purchase one in the Nokia store in London. Or in one of those electronics places down Tottenham Court Road.
So, I returned to New Zealand Nokia-less again.
We still want one of these things though. In fact we want four of them, so I return to my original website where they will sell them on-line. Albeit, to people from third world countries like New Zealand they will only sell them one at a time on credit card. I no longer trust these guys, because they don't trust me, but I decide to have another attempt to get them to ship the thing to me directly. So far my first order has been screwed up because my shipping address has to match my credit card address, which has to be the credit card billing address, and their website forced me to choose a different credit card at the end, from what it had said was acceptable at the beginning. It took a few days to work that one out.
Who knows, maybe my second order will work? In a couple more days, when they've had a cuppa or two and telephoned the bloke at the bank to find out if my card is real, maybe they'll get back to me and ask me to send them an autographed picture of myself or something.
Meanwhile, I just realised while writing this that we have someone visiting England for a conference at the moment. I realised it because I was chatting with him on IRC, so I can order them through the Nokia website, so long as the credit card address of "New Zealand, England, NewZealand, United Kingdom" is valid enough to scrape by.
So now we have MPhone:1, Nokia:2. I'll be disappointed if the ones ordered through the Nokia website get to me first though because that conference hasn't even started yet. Maybe I should find a non-paranoid USAian and see if I can get one shipped from there as well.
I'll give the London chaps another day to run their atomic force microscope over my credit card details, I think, and if I don't get any action from them I'll get my auntie onto the job from Pennsylvania.
Hopefully they'll take AMEX on the Nokia on-line store in the US of A.
Updated 2007-04-10: This post was written in August, 2006 and has been superseded. Here are some pre-built eAccelerator packages for Ubuntu, you could also build your own from my Debian source for eAccelerator or you could use my pre-built eAccelerator packages for Debian Etch.
... back to the original post...
PHP script caching has been flavour of the week for me here. First I tried out APC (the APC docs are here), because it seems it is The Coming Thingtm (somewhat belying it's name as the "Alternative PHP Cache"). Unfortunately at present APC does not cope with Gallery2 although it is just fine and dandy with Drupal.
No doubt that will be fixed in due course, and I will probably switch to it, but in the meantime I am using eAccelerator which works just fine with both Drupal, Gallery2 and as much of my own code as I have tried. I'm now running it on my development environment, so I guess everything will work with it eventually, even if it doesn't at the moment :-)
As a result, I now have packages of eAccelerator for i386 / PHP5 / Apache2 / Ubuntu Dapper and for i386 / PHP5 / Apache2 / Debian Sid, and it is time to share the love.
While these aren't exactly raw packages (e.g. they add the line to your php.ini file) they aren't polished either. At this point they don't build php4-eaccelerator packages, and I haven't tried to build them against apache 1.3.
The Deb for Sid should verify thusly:
-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE----- Hash: SHA1 Format: 1.0 Source: eaccelerator Version: 0.9.5-rc1-1 Binary: eaccelerator Maintainer: root
Architecture: any Standards-Version: 3.7.2 Build-Depends: debhelper (>= 5) Files: 6234c7a3f463c9a982e89a038841a04f 154119 eaccelerator_0.9.5-rc1.orig.tar.gz a472af17d7992012c5eee077579c858a 3807 eaccelerator_0.9.5-rc1-1.diff.gz -----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE----- Version: GnuPG v1.4.5 (GNU/Linux) iD8DBQFE4vQgjJA0f48GgBIRAjp1AKCWwOTgQKZZ2cxqAuBRWFmU5I9yBACePDbW gslWRtUeasGAhu1YmLgoUxg= =OFZL -----END PGP SIGNATURE-----
Assuming you munge the name the way I have.
If you want more, send me a request and I'll see if I can build them in other environments (like Sarge, AMD64, PHP4 with Apache 1.3), or add stuff to them to support that. Unfortunately I believe there are licensing issues somewhere in the dark past of eAccelerator, so I probably can't upload them to Debian.
Attachments removed since they are no longer current
This weekend we visited Karori Cemetery. It was a beautiful morning, and a most enjoyable walk around a park, trying to compose photos to give some idea of the beauty and scale of the place. With so much vegetation around it was often difficult to get an appropriate vantage point, but I think it worked.
I was so reminded of Dave Dobbyn's lyrics about having "a father buried on the hill, with the best view in town" (Shaky Island). I don't have any relatives buried there, but I find it a much nicer place than the considerably more famous cemetery "La Recoleta" which I visited in Buenos Aires. It seemed quite a lot larger too, although possibly less populous - apparently 80,000 people have been interred within the nearly 40 hectares.
All this peace and beauty must really be for the living though. A dead person is, surely, dead, and doesn't really need a mausoleum, a tree-lined path. Surely a peaceful nonexistence means nothing to them. We call it "respect for the dead", but the only people who visit are very much alive, and the place is clearly a park. It is a shame that the pressure on space is making them less and less interesting. When once you could have an imposing mausoleum to remind everyone of your antecedent's existence, nowadays it seems you often have to settle for the more budget burial. Of course even burying your predecessors on a budget will cost you a bundle. At Karori Cemetery you can apparently be interred in an existing grave (with appropriate consent), but it will set you back a good few thousand to do so and if I have to recommend burial then Makara Cemetery is cheaper, although a lot less parklike. A mass-produced interment, rather than a craftsman-produced one - following an ongoing trend we all see in everyday life.
I like the park, I think, but not so much the concrete and marble. When I die, if my own feelings are to be considered relevant to the matter (and they probably should not be), I would prefer my mortal remains to be more usefully disposed of. While turning them to ash is less waste of space (and money!) it still seems a gross waste of good biological material. Perhaps I could be ground up into a good sack of blood and bone and sold off for a small sum at the local garden centre.
No doubt such a non-standard approach would be more expensive, and the cheapest useful way to 'get rid of the body' would be to 'donate' it for medical purposes. In which case, science it should be!
So, after finding free wifi in Melbourne International terminal, Sydney was a complete downer. I knew that already because I seem to go through there every month or two: $17/hour from Optus or $18/hour from Telstra. Fortunately we were able to (ab)use the wired connections to the machines in the business area of the Qantas Club and get some real connectivity.
Singapore was the same as on previous visits, with basically no useful Wifi that I could get. My phone also didn't work (unsurprisingly there is no CDMA network in Singapore). A similar solution to Sydney worked, however, so we managed to get on the net there too.
At Milton Keynes the hotel charged a ridiculous price for Wifi (£16/day) but they charged a ridiculous price for everything, so that was to be expected. We used the Wifi at the Open University, once we got user IDs and passwords issued, although they blocked UDP port 1194, so my VPN wouldn't work.
In London we had good luck at a "Costa" cafe in Edgeware Road, although possibly that was a neighbour, rather than a cafe-supported network... :-) The hotel we were at there also wanted £16/day, so we didn't bother with that.
Unfortunately we didn't get any time in Heathrow to see if the situation had changed, but last year there was nothing there at a reasonable price.
Things were much nicer at Bangkok, however, with a free open AP called 'QANTAS' available in the Qantas Club lounge, and probably for some distance around it. Excellent. That is the way things should be, and I guess that is the way that things will be eventually.
After that lightning review, I think I would now like to set up some sort of captive portal on my home connection so that I can offer friendly people the opportunity to use my connectivity without abusing it. I know I would appreciate that sort of thing when I am travelling, so I think I should try and offer it unilaterally. Of course I'm not in the sort of location that will be very useful to people, but there may be some, and at the very least it will make it available to our own visitors and our neighbours, in a limited form.
Well, for starters, they have a free wireless LAN in their international terminal...
Coming through Melbourne from Adelaide last night I opened my laptop up and replied to an e-mail and then I thought "hang on, I just sent that, and didn't get anything to say I couldn't...". So I checked the logs, and it had all connected and sent just fine.
I looked further, and for once my scripts had worked perfectly. I was connected to a public, open WLAN called "MH LOUNGE", and my VPN to the office was up and running. At this point Heather must have seen my eyes light up because she suddenly remembered she needed to do some on-line banking. And check her latest strip was up. And check her webmail...
Well, eventually I got my laptop back anyway :-)
But for the future, I am probably going to book more flights through Melbourne. Wireless in Sydney costs a fortune, and in Wellington / Auckland it appears almost non-existent (although I can at least use my 3G card there). It would be nice if my 3G card worked in those places where my phone worked too. Is that too much to ask?
Why can't telecommunications companies facilitate telecommunications, rather than getting in it's way. Trying to provide 'services' and 'features' when all I want is 'please move these bytes from here to there'.
As it is, the consumer loses.
What the telecommunications company doesn't seem to realise is that in the long term they also lose, through slower uptake of broadband applications and (consequently) of broadband itself. Of course in the short term they appear to do better because they are being more successful measured against their unable-to-be competitors.
Anyway, it's nice to be back in Wellington for a couple of days.
And so, of course, my next flights are through Sydney, but maybe Bangkok or Hong Kong have free wireless too - I guess I'll be finding out this week :-)
Tonight, in the process of setting up this blog, I've had some very different software experiences...
Firstly, I used an internally developed application, written in PHP against a PostgreSQL database. It looked OK, and it worked sort of OK (I filed a couple of bugs) but one particular feature of it's operation really pissed me off: it went all bouncy and redirect-ish on me whenever I submitted a page.
I think that the point of the redirect was to be able to display something to the user before returning them to the page they originally came from. While that may be a noble objective there are a couple of flaws with doing it that way:
- It's too slow
- It's too fast
It's too fast because you can't go back and see what it said if you slipped into that momentary zone that I often do when I click submit, and I think I know what's going to happen. Or any of the million or so distractions around me do happen.
It's too slow because when you are awake and watching you know what it's going to say and you want the next page so you can click on. Now. Dammit!
It is bad usability design and I also think it would be very bad from an accessibility viewpoint.
How would a screen reader cope with that? I don't know. I suspect it would sometimes catch them out, but to be honest this sort of crap is all over "teh intarwebs" and they've probably written them to cope.
So tonight I was installing some software so I could write a blog because someone at work decided that work blogs would be a good idea. I wasn't originally going to blog about why redirects suck, but that application miscue got me riled.
I then had to install Drupal. People have been mentioning Drupal to me a lot recently, so I downloaded it and installed it. Disappointingly the Debian package is version 4.5.8, but the only apparently stable versions of Drupal are 4.6.2 and 4.7.2, and 4.5.8 wanted me to uninstall PHP5. Oh well, I can rip open .tar.gz files with my bare hands, fly faster than an RFC1149 packet and so forth, so I downloaded 4.7.2 and installed it.
This is a beautiful install experience. The bits that aren't working are very quietly and clearly presented as not working. When something needs to be tested to see if it works, the option is greyed out until I test it and prove it does work. Slick. Very slick.
And when I change a setting and submit the page, I get a nice box near the top of my page that is bordered in green when it all worked, and in red when it failed.
Super slick. And way better than a redirect.