The more accurate diary. Old stuff.

Warning: These are old.

January 1st
Alan seems to be playing "which comes first, the real release or the -ac patch?" games which result in many many late nights. I have been up late reading a book on the history of Europe in bed for several nights (um, me in bed, not Europe). And I still don't know what time he's coming to bed. It's a very good book, though, and I wish I'd saved it for the plane trip to Australia for instead. It would probably have kept me quiet.

Much washing and spinning at high speeds going on in a hare-brained "it will stop the mouse hiding under the washing machine" manner. This is proving more successful than seven years of nagging at getting Alan to bring his washing down.

December 31st
Not in Scotland with my sister for the new year. Boo. Hiss. Weather is warming slightly: the snow turned to water and the rain started again. Lots of it.

New year is always an anti-climax after the Australians have all arrived on IRC, shouted drunken happy new years, and departed, leaving the rest of the world thinking, "well, that was it then, was it?" This year, we had additional entertainment. A novel mouse problem.

No local parties, and anyway, Alan wanted to hack. Around 11pm, he spotted the 2.4.prerelease and scrambled to get the news onto before anyone else got it, and then to release an -ac version by midnight, which he didn't make. I had a fit of madness and decided to turn the semi-working potato box into a maybe-working woody box, and when faced with multiple debconf questions, ran away. We went out to watch the fireworks explode behind the clouds (success) and to hear the horns and sirens from the boats in the harbour (didn't hear them! Wah!). We left the front door open for a while whilst watching, too, which in retrospect may have been a mistake...

About 1am I was ready to sleep. Alan poked his head in to announce he needed my help. Goodness. DocBook? No. Spelling? No. Scratching a particularly tricky-to-reach bit of his back? No. "I think I saw a mouse scurry under the washing machine, and I need your help to catch it." So began the Great Mouse Chase, in which it is demonstrated that Alan can be outwitted by something with a brain the size of a pea.

It is of course our wonderful new kitchen with nice cupboards. Alas, some of the lower ones have holes in the back to allow access to stopcocks and other vital things. We had to take the nice panels fronting the base of the cupboards off, and with the aid of a long metal pole normally used as a hook for lanterns and a couple of powerful torches, we were completely unable to get at it. I wandered off, beginning to doubt Mr Mouse's existence.

Ten minutes later, Alan is back again. "It's under the fridge". Trying to rock fridges to flush the beastie out without killing it turns out to be easier than the same technique when applied to washing machines: but trying to slam the plastic bin on top of the fleeing rodent is not so easy. "There! Get out of the wa -- damn!" Back under the cupboards. After a war of wills between Alan and mousie ("I can see it: it's staring at me. It has lovely little brown eyes and a pink nose. It's not moving" was emerging in a muffled voice from the part of Alan squeezed under the cupboards), it eventually made a break for freedom and the back of the cupboards and hid again. Clanged pipes, groped around in the dark. No mouse. Became suspicious, opened the cupboards with accessible holes, and caught a glimpe of the thing diving back out of one. Argh!

Rearranged food from lower cupboards to those with no holes (thankfully, we have some). Eyed time. Regaled IRC with mouse tales ("I have a mouse problem" "Is it PS2 or USB?" "Um.") whilst plotting madness with a webcam, irda and bait in order to find out where it was hiding. Alan found a camera and decided this would help find the mouse. Half an hour later, the good news was that the mouse was no longer in the kitchen. The bad news was that Alan left the wrong kitchen door open and it is now at large in the rest of the ground floor (contents: wooden tables, wooden dresser, many cardboard boxes, and cables).

Left him to it and went to bed. I have never had such an entertaining first-footer for new year before, but all good things must come to an end, and the 'good' bit ended with its foray into the rest of the house. Alan is extremely irritated by the whole thing. Not because it's a cute fluffy beastie, but because he can't work out how he got in, despite investigations round the back of the house in the dark and rain with a torch. ("There's only a limited number of ways it could come in, and it can't have been through this wall." Ponder, ponder. "I don't understand." Sulk.)

Now collecting safe humane ways to remove mouse (ideally, alive) from house.. Happy new year.

December 30th
Someone mentioned removing bugs from bonobo. I had this wonderful image of going through a bonobo's hair, picking out bugs (the way young children in the story corner at school all play with each other's hair, just as if they're members of a troop of monkeys).

"Sorry I'm late, I got sidetracked grooming the bonobo" would be such a wonderful excuse.

December 29th
More snow! Alan thinks we don't have enough. He spent the day watching TV (lots of channels, all of a sudden). When asked what the two films were that he'd watched, he could only remember one, from which I conclude that TV really does rot your brain.

Attempted to discover where half my disk space had gone (perennial problem, this: I have loads, but my partitioning guesses were sane and of course my use of the machine has not been). Alan found me puzzling over df and proposed "leave that alone, move /usr/local into /usr, then remove all your stuff you moved from /home into /usr/local back into /home so it'll get back into the nfs backups, then get rid of /dev/hd8 and /dev/hd9 -- oh, wait, you need to move that to, hmm... yes, /usr for a bit, then recreate a new /dev/hd8, put /var back, and you can give /home four gigs not one."

I asked him to repeat that, slowly. I don't think I'll be doing that any time soon...

December 28th
Woke up to snow on the ground. This is not common in the centre of Swansea: it's urban and on the coast, and so warmer than the valleys outside. Normally what happens is that all the cars from the Gower, the surrounding towns, and the valleys drive into Swansea blanketed in snow, and we watch in surprise, having had no snow.

Alan ecstatic. He likes snow. I was less ecstatic: along with snow comes ice, and I don't like falling over. Time to wear in the new boots with several layers of socks. Also, the snow has hit the rest of the UK: the train line we used a day ago is now all messed up, and my plans to visit someone at the other end of Britain for the new year have been completely wrecked, leaving both us and the other person bereft of new year plans.

Alan is still producing very worrying commentary on the world with the fridge poetry. But when I commented that he must like it, he just shrugged. And added "you mad woman" in the top left, replacing "eat rust car" but alas, leaving the alarming images produced when he realised that "rock", "puppy", "red" and "mist" were in a nice row. Justin visited and reassured me that this is perfectly normal behaviour from anyone who sees words and a space on the fridge. Scary event: normally when Justin visits, he and Alan start talking computer stuff and I look lost. This time, I got into a disagreement with Alan about Gnome and it was Justin who was looking blank. This is not the way things are meant to be around here.

December 27th
More anticipated train chaos, but again, the reality was less than the expectation. Short of some silly person crying "Don't get on this train! No! It terminates here. It isn't going anywhere!" about the train that we were leaving on, and the fact that our non-smoking reservations were in the smoking carriage (I didn't care, but Alan definitely did), and the discovery by people looking for their reservations in coach C that the coaches were numbered A, B, D, E and H, and the twenty minutes late arrival time on a mere two-hour journey, anyway. (It didn't matter, because again the connection was late, too :))

Arrived back home, threw the clothes in the washing machine (preen, I can't get over the fact we have a working washing machine these days), Alan disappeared to hack, I wondered about unsubbing from all the lists I /dev/null'd in my "away-from-home" .procmailrc, all the usual...

...until some time after midnight when I developed a sudden yen for whisky. Alan had locked some of the internal doors and after five minutes of fruitless slamming into my top room hobbit-escape-hole, I realised he might have forgotten to unlock that one.

That's when we discovered the one-way lock and recalled that when originally viewing the house we had not been able to get into the room either. Matters deteriorated from there on. Eventually he opened it (it emerges two keys lock it and one key unlocks it -- sometimes) but by that time I had opened the last bottle of wine as the nearest unlocked source of anything remotely approaching whisky I could find. His favourite. Oh dear. I have to buy him some more now..

December 24th-26th
Christmas at Alan's parents. Alan was suspiciously quiet and non-fretty about the lack of email. I discovered why when I found the collection of electronics on the windowsill: apparently he was collecting email over mobile phone onto laptop...
December 23rd
Sallied forth to experience more train chaos. Train chaos actually no worse than anticipated and worked for us: we got an early connection because it had been delayed, and found seats next to each other (our seats reserved on the "proper" connection had had to be separate).
December 22nd
Left to his own devices, Alan wrapped presents for his family and delightedly brandished a triangular parcel at me with cries of "He'll never guess what this is now!" Responses about "and how are we packing that then?" were met first with disdain and then "that's not an interesting problem. You do it."
December 21st
Shortest day. Alan is lucky he saw any daylight at all.

Later discovered Alan playing with the magnetic fridge poetry. It's only the basic set, but he's still managed to create a rather improper set of images in his quest for the longest valid sentence. I also found "tiny ugly ed" neatly lined up, but he claims that was just co-incidence and he didn't do it. I would be dubious except that I strongly suspect he still uses it.

December 20th
Was surprised when the printer suddenly awoke and started printing. Even more surprised when it turned out to be a little diagram of the network in the house: with red lines there for "this bit not here until Telsa does the cable". Alan is such a sweetie. I am boggling a bit at it: it seems slightly out of control.

Parents visited, so I didn't do the cable: seems a perfectly valid excuse to me. I had forgotten they hadn't seen the place in a while: "Oh, you have a kitchen!"

December 19th
I found out what Alan was up to when I complained that reading email on one particular machine was slow. Apparently he is testing kernels and VM-tweaking, and "the tweaking isn't quite right if you have eight megs of RAM yet". No comment. Yes, tardy responses to emails to the address at the base of the page have something to do with this. And mutt has unaccountably stopped saving my mails from there, so I am sulking, and trying to blame Alan, who is trying to blame mutt. This is all much more fun than checking my muttrc to see what I did to it.

There's something very strange about the light you get at twilight when the street lights are going on but it's not yet dark. I don't know whether it's a benefit of living in a city, or a penalty. It's just.. odd.

I am still wondering about smuggling a sheep into the house. One from the sheep shop, not a real one. So long as it's not between bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and computer, it would take Alan a while to notice, I'm sure of it.

December 18th
Alan really does slow down in cold weather. (Okay, the Canadians and other further north types can laugh, but it's cold for here.) Conversely, I slow down in the heat. Did the bulk of the Christmas shopping that was left, bought train tickets -- rather to our surprise, given the news stories about the annual Christmas chaos, and the state of the station monitor screens, which were broken and plopping gently through lots of unreadable notices -- found time to buy Welsh cakes, and got the cable clips for the cables which I still haven't run. They tried to give me one bag, and looked a bit startled when I asked for ten. (Gulp.) Had to get another Yorkshire pudding tin, too, and exchanged pleasantries with the Swansea one-woman memory-service: the lady at this stall remembers not only everything you ever bought from her, but everything you ever tell her, too. It can be quite scary!

Got Alan into the Sheep Shop (it has a proper name but I always forget it: it's a crafts shop with a sideline in cuddly sheep things) and was saddened when Alan flatly vetoed buying a silly sheep rug, a silly sheep "tidy" (lots of pockets for putting things in), a "nodding sheep" (last time I was there I tried to make a sheep nod and its head fell off), and sundry other sheep things. Bah, I say. Baah.

Other interesting things happened, but that's enough for now. I don't know what Alan's been up to in detail, but it has involved lots of late nights, video CDs, xine, and Tuxracer. He has still not played Worms, after all this fuss about it. Oh, I expect some kernel stuff was involved somewhere, too. But that's boring.

December 17th
More messing about, interrupted by a comment on IRC about "Oooh. Scrapheap". Rushed off to watch and realised I didn't know how to work the new television. How can I install Linux onto a computer and still not know which of (at least) five remote controls changes the telly channel? Alan had explained it all, and I did exactly what he'd shown me, except for dropping the remote on the floor (he keeps doing this). Alan had seen the same IRC comment, luckily, and arrived in short order, to laugh at me and then discover his instructions were wrong.

Somehow Alan managed tea and two suppers tonight. I have no idea how.

December 16th
Sent my first Debian bug off. Bug-buddy ate it. Thank you, bug-buddy. I know three whole arguments to dpkg now, and am strongly tempted to alias dpgk to dpkg because that's what I keep typing. Stuck Helix on this machine, too.

Taught Alan how to use the drier and showed him how much powder the washing cycle needed. How long have we had it?

Met up with Daniel and his wife and declared a meal out the Red Hat Swansea outpost Christmas meal. Wonderful night.

Alan nearly came to bed on time, but then decided that 3am was a much more sensible time.

December 15th
Alan rearranged half the machines in the middle of the night, throwing my earlier quest to find out why my Debian box wouldn't talk to the net into total confusion. The reason turns out to be that I once ran gnome-lokkit on this machine. I blame the author.

I have found a bug already, but I now have to figure out how to use dpkg to get the information of which package it involves. I know it's the X-server, but I am lost with X, and apparently the X maintainer gets a _lot_ of mail.

Alan seems to think that no matter how late you get up, there is always time for four meals in a day. I am unconvinced.

Alan has bounced for days about his copy of Worms from Ebay, but he has done nothing with it and it is still sitting downstairs. I can't find the Amiga to play it on. It is possible to have too many computers.

December 14th
Installation day of a different kind: burglar alarm and different telly system. The telly man got sent to the wrong address, but showed up in the end. Some component we require for ten thousand channels also got sent to the wrong address and did not show up here. One of the alarm company people is the dead spit of Dave Mason of Red Hat. He has the same grin, too. I had to keep stopping myself trying to ask him DocBook questions.

Alan was fascinated by the whole burglar alarm thing and now appears to be contemplating an unholy mixture of burglar alarm, Linux, and his mobile phone. Cunningly, he set the magic code to be something different to what we'd agreed on, resulting in a few heart-stopping moments, but he has now relented and at least agreed to tell me what it is.

New monitor to replace broken one arrived. Back with the Debian-messing. Marginal success: I think the networking problems are related to the fact that Alan has been rearranging all the other machines too. Or at least, I hope that's the reason. Tried 'man networks', expecting nothing, and giggled at the "This has no manual page. Please feel free to write one" page.

December 13th
Appears there was a reason for the noise of the wind. We had a lot of it. And rain.

Lesson learned of the day: do not do a load of work in /tmp, leave it for two weeks, and go back to it expecting to find it still there. Worse yet, I had anticipated this pre-visitors, tar'd it up, and left the tarball, unaccountably, also sitting in /tmp. Which got cleaned away with everything else. Oh yes, I feel clever now. A week and a bit down the drain. I suppose it happens to everyone at some stage -- or at least, when I bewailed it, several people recounted similar "I hit return and then realised what I'd done" tales. But that really doesn't help getting the stuff back. Waah.

Pulled the original stuff back off the net and sat staring at it listlessly before investigating the new restaurant. I had a gorgeous but spicy meal, and then Alan pointed out that I would never be able to have it again unless I had a cold, as there was no way I'd be able to eat it normally.

To add insult to injury, he has found a new way to play with his phone. Now he can IRC over it. I don't think he actually uses it to talk to anyone at all. It's for doing silly things with, that's all. Primarily in restaurants.

December 12th
Came down with someone's cold and moped around a lot. Whinge. Got lots of sleep despite the wind whistling down the chimney only to be woken by Alan arriving to bed at 4am. Joy.
December 11th
Ran into town for shopping, had to get taxi back to be back in time for something, annoyed taxi driver immensely by the short nature of the ride. Whoops.

No idea what Alan did: I barely saw him, and he came to bed very late indeed.

December 10th
Sister departed. Waah. Computer still here as carrying a Compaq back on plane is probably tricky. Friend who didn't show up a while back showed up after all and we retrived the final detritus from the old house before it gets sold. Alan wandered around with one of those forms stating exactly what's in the sale. Apparently he couldn't remember whether there was a shower curtain and so on without going to check.

Visited Heather and Justin to assist in eating all the remaining sandwiches from the party they'd hosted the night before and watched the South Africans beat the Barbarians on the telly. Waah. I think they should have opened the roof and let the rain come down: it gives the British teams a better chance then because they're used to it :) Caught up on email before coming down with cold. Sulked about the cold. Reminded Alan to do diary.

December 8th
Took off with sister to visit family locally after eyeing all the new "You are here. The floods are here, too" maps the Environment Agency is putting on the web. High winds, high water, but made it there and back safely and even managed some Christmas shopping in Swansea. Alas, my favourite silly shop is not on the web. How quickly things change. It was only three years ago I was giggling in disbelief that all the second-hand book shops in Chapel Hill had "we are on the web" stickers. Now I'm mildly surprised when certain sorts of shop (anything local which sells to tourists :)) are not.

Stuck sister's birthday present computer onto a monitor and network and left her to doing the networking. She was not ecstatic, as she had not met Alan's "Oh. That looks wrong. Here, let me..." style of investigation before (it leaves him in possession of the facts and the computer still unfixed). I sympathised. So now she can use bugzilla and bug-buddy.

Ate out at favourite restaurant, where half of Neath Hospital had also converged for Christmas meal. Very loud, but excellent food. The latest Rough Guide for Wales says the best restaurant in Swansea is somewhere else and doesn't even mention my favourite. I am not going to amend this: it's only small and it's hard enough to get into as it is.

Reminded Alan to do diary.

December 7th
I knew we'd done something on Saturday I had forgotten to mention. We took my other (deceased) computer apart to make it work. This is the one with the monster hard drive I had plans to stuff lots of different Linuxes on. There was a reason at the time, but I am trying to remember it. Deceased computer (called trouble, and I am regretting that name now because it is trying to live up to it) is now resurrected with Debian on it from CDs that were just prior to potato release, in addition to the RH and half-a-Mandrake on there already (only half, because I got caught by a failure to detect the mouse and a lack of knowledge that keybindings existed when it told me to click on the partitions to use). Apparently there is some apt-get dist upgrade I now need to know about, but I decided to settle for getting things working first. Install wasn't that different from RH's text install. I managed to find three typos, one bug and one ... something which will probably end up as "notabug" if I complain :) (No obvious way to stop lilo being installed. I suspect the answer is going to be "this is a feature".) Matthew hovered, watching with an anxious "please don't find a way to destroy Debian" expression. I didn't then, but...

In the rearrangement last night, Alan brought down an extra monitor (and my sister pointed out a source of some splitter things which would have meant I didn't need it...) for trouble. So today I started Debian, discovered it was dropping straight into X, which I tend to avoid, started poking through /etc/rc-urr-wait, this is all different, and the monitor went blank. Assumed some really silly xscreensaver default, wiggled the mouse, frowned, hit the keyboard, waited for the picture to come back... waited... checked the power lead was still in... waited...


We're working on the theory that it was the monitor, since that's the first time it's been on. Luckily we still have the guarantee.

Alan's birthday present arrived. It turned out to be computer hardware. Conundrum now: I am stuck between bouncing because it was RAM for the Vaio and having everyone laugh, because of course I don't like computers and am not into this "get more memory, get a bigger HD, computers are cool" thing at all. Really. Or maintaining this facade at the expense of being truly ungrateful. Ouch.

Getting the thing into the Vaio was the fun bit. I had to go and buy yet more screwdrivers, which are not an item in short supply here typically. (When all else fails, get a smaller screwdriver??) At one stage, Alan was heard to be muttering that Sony must have made the screws a non-standard size and failed to document it because they do that to everything else. The mystery was resolved when we decided it was probably made in Japan and thus using metric sizes, and found the right screwdriver. After that, taking it apart was easy, putting it back worked, and there were no mysterious single screws left behind either.

Whilst in town hunting screwdrivers, discovered Swansea's Christmas Market has started. I used to love this. Lots of little booths in the main pedestrian streets with stuck varying from the gloriously tacky to "quite useful, really". Alas. Now I have seen Christmas markets in the rest of Europe and ours is looking a bit sad.

Reminded Alan to do diary.

December 6th
Matthew departed. I managed to get lost and end up in the bookshop on the way back from the bus station. It was my birthday, so no-one was allowed to laugh at me for this.

Finally got around to going to Staples (shop that does office stuff) to get a real computer desk and thus liberate the kitchen table so that we have something to eat off. Piled the bits into car (wince) and got very wet getting them into the house. Not so wet as Alan though: by the time we got all the bits into the car, there was no room for him and he was told to walk back. We are mean. Despite the rain, still managed to get some ice-cream from Joe's, a local ice-cream maker. Yummy. (If people can go surfing in December, I can eat ice-cream now, too.) Sister volunteered to put the bits together to turn them into a desk. I cheerfully let her. Alan volunteered to cook, and created more washing-up in a five-minute meal than I created with all my messing about yesterday. But we got to eat it on a real table, which was a nice change.

Discovered that the Swansea match which has kept being rearranged was actually a home game, not away, and I could have gone to watch it -- had I known somewhat earlier than five minutes before kick-off. Gah. Not fair.

There is something terribly Freudian about the instructions for putting this desk together, but I think I'll stop there.

Reminded Alan to do diary.

December 5th
Matthew justified his trip here by going to see some people at the university. We picked him up in the afternoon and headed out to the Gower before it got totally dark and made it to Rhossili in time to see the spray from the waves coming through the blowhole of Worm's Head. I don't know where all the wild ponies go for the winter, but the trip back was enlivened by Very Large Cows wandering across roads in the dark. We had wondered why there were headlights from a bunch of cars motionless up ahead, and when the cows started mooching at us, we found out.

Printed out a bunch of Grauniad crosswords in Mozilla. For some reason it -- or Junkbuster -- feels the urge to send the junkbuster banner to the printer and then start a new page. To my horror, I can no longer escape certain cartoon characters even in sane newspapers: here's one of the clues:
Eliminating odd characters from "Scooby Doo, the prairie" (six letters)
I think the answer is "coyote", largely because the letters fit :)

Finally got around to more yorkshire pudding experimentation with the new oven. Ate far, far, too much Yorkshire pudding as a result.

December 4th
Morning spent dinking with sister's Gnome settings. Or, more properly, watching her do it. ("My mouse! Gerroff!") Alan has so far refused to admit that anyone can have more garish backgrounds than me, but this changed today. "What's this them? Can I change that, too? Ooh." I am just thankful it wasn't connected to the net or she'd have collected most of by now.

She has started finding typos in the documentation already. Tomorrow is going to be "how to use bugzilla" day, I think.

When Matthew (who apparently thinks problems through by wandering around) wandered in, she'd just discovered Aisleriot and had a layout he'd added in front of her. Talk about timing.

Not sure how Matthew had never seen the Wicker Man before, but we remedied that.

December 3rd
The car-hiring attempt of the day before was to get out to Cardiff Airport (fifteen miles from anywhere) to pick up my sister. All the car hiring places there are closed on Sundays. However, one was open by accident, so she found a car and arrived early. She promptly rang to tell me she was lost in Swansea whilst parked in our back yard. Ho ho ho..

We got her a bunch of computer bits so she had a machine she could play with Linux on it for her birthday (very late) or Christmas (rather early) or something. We thought it would be funny to present her with the hardware and the CDs and say "Off you go, then". This did not have the expected effect: "So. Can I start now? See if it works? I want that pretty Gnome thing with the foot!" 11pm after several glasses of wine is probably the wrong time to do this for the first time, but it worked. Woo.

December 2nd
Attempted to hire a car but failed. Retired to pub for food. By the time it arrived, the rugby was starting on the televisions there, so we stayed to watch it. Wandered back. Alan and Matthew disappeared. I had forgotten Matthew was one of the HP port thing people, but Alan hadn't. Argh :)

The kettle has decided to work for Alan (who doesn't drink coffee) but not for me (I do). I am not impressed.

December 1st
Picked up Matthew Wilcox from the coach station, headed out for meal. Matthew says he now understands why I mention electronic gadgets so often when I refer to meals with certain people: we didn't work the bill out on them, but mobiles were much in evidence when trying to track down two pairs of people, and Alan started reading the news headlines off his phone whilst we were waiting for things.

We had to be out by nine pm to make way for another big party, so we came back here for ice-cream and hot chocolate and I am cleaned out of ice-cream now. We started with four cartons, and there were only seven of us. (Some of them were not full when we started, admittedly, but all the same..)

Matthew discovered the bandwidth here and did an apt-get dist upgrade or something. "Hmm. I should get Mozilla, too. And there's that CVS tree I could check out..." I left him and Alan to the joys of the computer room.

I've been asked for a more obvious feedback route. So there you are! But please note: This should be clear from the above, but: I am not a kernel hacker. I am not an anything hacker. "Is this diary true?" will get answered. (It is.) "I have a problem compiling the brainsplat module under the pre-sliced option terminator; I am using the mutability framewedger on the standard infernalisation build" will not. (Well, it might be answered in a similar vein, but for a real answer, look elsewhere. It's much safer.)