The more accurate diary. Really

Warning: These are old.

October 2001

November 1st
Alas, my tricks with the alarm clock have finally failed and Alan took revenge by sleeping in until 1.30pm, after some late night hacking. Damn. Ah well, it was nice while it lasted.

No sign of builders yet. I want my nice desk back in place.

October 31st
The water people turned up to dig holes in next door's yard. Alan went out and watched and got to see spraying fountains and hear bubbling torrents beneath the ground. Apparently it is All Fixed Now (Again). The mention of again is not reassuring. It seems a previous repair had broken...

Hallowe'en party at Justin's, complete with lanterns (I swear we used to make them out of swedes, a much tougher vegetable than pumpkin, when I was young), toy bats, and (oh dear) games. Some drinking games and some not-a-drinking-game-honest games. Avoided both. Alas, had to leave early: we suspect we may have an outbreak of building in the morning. And Alan has cottoned onto my trick with the alarm clock and realised that he has been woken at 7am, not 9am, ever since the clocks went back. I am in disgrace.

October 30th
It was sunny today. I am confused. It rained later, though.

I am sulking because I cannot find anywhere local showing a film I wanted to see. It's looking like it would be simpler to buy it, watch it, and then sell it off on Ebay. It's also looking like it would be cheaper, and in a household of two that doesn't say a lot for cinema prices. (Swansea used to have a nice Odeon as well as a tacky and expensive UCI. Now it has only the latter.)

Link went down as I was about to order lots of shopping, so went shopping. Glasses got simultaneously covered with water and misted up until I walked into a tree. I'm sure it was never there before!

October 29th
Still waiting on water people to sort the water out next door. Still not got computer back. Boo.

Increasingly annoyed at the quantity of spam I am getting from a single place: I was getting a lot ages ago. Complaints had no effect, or even a response. And now I'm getting even more. Discovered that it's not just me; a good half of #gnome are getting it too. Grr!

October 28th
Bright sun. Eep. The electricity people were out in force fixing up the junction box or whatever it was that blew up: two vans and a lorry.

Local pub is changing its name. Again. It used to be the White Rose. It still has that on the tiling on the floor outside it. It was a fairly traditional pub then, and did two lunches for a fiver or something. Then it turned into Bar Oz and became decked out with surfboards as tables and pictures of kangaroos and roadsigns about beware wombats dotted around with notes alleging strange phrases were Real Australian Slang. (I have my doubts.) And, um, that's about it. It shows the rugby and does decent veggie burgers so we go quite a bit.

Thing is, the name-change is the subject of a competition. They want something which refers to both old names. I am living in fear of what they'll come up with now, because they seem a rather tricky combination.

October 27th
Going to town with Alan always an experience. He tries to stop me getting into the bookshop (and then starts reading books himself) and I try to stop him getting into computer and electronics shops (and then find cute things). No buskers now. Clearly the busking season is over. There was a gigantic catwalk erected near the square though, for some council-sponsored fashion thing. We got caught in the crowd and I am now convinced that it was for school uniforms because it was all about so-and-so in a grey jumper, nd such-and-such in a blue sweater.

The electronics shop had a sale. Disaster! Alan declared everything either rubbish or almost down to a sane price which was a bit of a relief.

Another meal out at the restaurant with the cool music. It also does take-out and we hit the peak hour for it and everything took ages, but it didn't matter. And they gave me a lassi on the house :) Someone arrived on his own, slumped into a chair, gave a rather confused order, then got up and walked out before the food arrived. Strange. Also bumped into Jules of More Music there, whom we haven't seen for years. Well, months, perhaps. Caught up with his account of the great May Day Monopoly escapade months ago and asked him whether he'd met copy-protected CDs yet. I foresee a trip down the shop with info shortly.

Back home, I discovered Jules also has a great guide to Swansea including pubs. It's a little out of date, so I think we may have to volunteer to go and check them all. What an effort that will be.

October 26th
More rain. Another Gnome release team phone call.

Meal out for no good reason other than it's almost impossible to cook in the mess at the moment, and beans on toast and pizza get boring.

October 25th
More rain. More crouching over little laptop wondering when I can have my proper computer back. Walking like a crab now.

Got bored and upgraded it to RH 7.2 and Mozilla 0.9.5 with the aid of some glasses of wine. I am fairly sure there was a time when I was far too paranoid (sensible?) to upgrade things whilst mostly reading a book and enjoying the wine. I am not sure this change argues for any more competence, merely familiarity. I have not unaliased rm just yet though. (For root, it's aliased to rm -i)

October 24th
Raining, raining, raining, in that no-longer-mucking-about way. The hole dug by the electricity people was six foot deep (I know because around midnight I went to find out what was happening) last night. It was brimming with water by lunchtime. The Giant Puddle that covers the road further down is back.

Went to meet a LUG friend at the station and get to the pub. Traffic simply incredible. Jammed solid. Rain came on worse, so took the bus (destroying the plan of showing friend the way to the place). Other members arrived variously delayed. It emerged that as well as the floods, a sewer had collapsed: hence the traffic chaos.

It seems that twelve or more people ordering food in a pub stretches the staff well beyond their normal limit. We ate them out of chocolate cake, cream, and vanilla ice-cream and the most remarkable objects were served in lieu of them.

October 23rd
Water man came and drew chalk lines on next door's yard telling digging men where to dig it up. Building seems to be in abeyance until this is all sorted out, and I still don't know whether I can move my computers back and switch them on. In light of later events, this is not entirely a bad thing. First the power was fluctuating and then it went altogether.

To clarify Alan's comments about hunting torches, I should point out that I knew where my pocket torch was (in my pocket) and where one of the big torches was (in the where to look in emergencies location), and where the candles and matches were (ditto). I just wanted my maglite, because I had put it down not half an hour before the lights went out. We found it in the end. It was cunningly disguised as a torch standing on its end and thus was the wrong shape. What I can't find is my lantern, which is much more annoying.

Alan turned down my challenge of a game of candlelight bagatelle. I think he thought I would cheat. I can't think why.

It came back on somewhere around one, and Alan promptly stayed up ages checking all the computers. The explanation (from the man who dug up my live cable last week and was out again on another rainy night) was, gesturing to the very large hole: Blown up, it has. Eep.

Food for thought: it's near bonfire night here and people keep test-driving the fireworks and rockets (sigh). Wandering around in flickering lights and hearing bangs overhead before the power goes altogether is not fun (spent rockets have to come down, after all: a friend was hurt by one a few years ago). If a few toys and a rare power cut are that uncomfortable, there is no way I can imagine what it's like to live in cities where the rockets are designed to blow up where they land.

October 22nd
Increasingly likely that I didn't have to move all the stuff from two downstairs rooms because the lintel can stay as it is after all. Hoorah for the lintel; boo hiss for the computer-moving. They're still off.

RH 7.2 came out and Alan had lots of fun watching the stats on the machine that should be replacing, which Bryce had been priming ready for the off. Much cackling (50 users... 100 users... Load average is still not reaching 1 Ooh, nfs daemon is eating lots 50% idle, it's the disk throughput that's the bottleneck) and pasting of stats to IRC where a bunch of mirror owners were engaging in my-mirror-is-better-than-your-mirror contests until the new box dropped out of the game with a complete lockup. Alan blames the disks. Bryce isn't convinced.

I hope I can have my nice monitor back again soon. The laptop is great, but hunching over it for too long is not clever. S-t-r-e-t-c-h.

October 21st
Alan spent most of the day dealing with email. I had forgotten this aspect of Alan being away. Dragged him out for about half an hour, after waiting an hour for him to tear himself away. Rearranged all the fridge poetry first. Alan promptly messed it up again.

Persuaded Alan to unpack at least some of his stuff, whereupon he performed a sort of Laurel and Hardy routine by trying to stuff things back into the case to move it. Every time he put something in, something else fell out. Silly man. He found a CD that originally sprang from LinuxTag: free music. The LinuxTag people had created some music licences and got people to release enough music for a CD under them. I stole the CD. He also brought me a present: a beermat. It says hacker on it. I am ... um... well, I am not quite sure what to say. Other than two years ago you brought me an empty bottle [this is true] and now you bring me a beermat? Ho hum.

We also opened the parcel that had arrived, It was a great big book on European law and the net or something equally impenetrable. I sighed; Alan looked delighted.

October 20th
No builders. Slept in to the unconscionably decadent hour of 9am. Toured pubs looking for one showing the rugby rather than the football. Finally realised the one down the road was doing so after a lot of traipsing around. So to the pub with Dick to watch Ireland destroy England. England still win the Six Nations, but for the third year running they have won every match except the final one and thus have still not collected the Grand Slam.

Alan arrived back, finally, delayed by trains and floods. Sang, danced, burbled, and repaired out for a meal, since house is hard to cook in at the moment. He fixed the mail. This time it was routing problems and nothing I could have fixed on my own, since it was another machine entirely.

Noticed that our skip (well, the builders' skip) has acquired a toilet. I've seen weird things in skips before (it is standard practice to dispose of large rubbish in Britain by dumping it in the nearest skip -- which someone else is paying for -- or beauty spot -- because no-one will see you -- rather than ringing the local council) but this is a new one on me. Even weirder was the discovery of a fridge and a microwave lying in the middle of the pavement about 400 yards down the road. My grandparents used to find pound notes in the hedge. I find fridges on the pavement.

October 19th
Builders started on the downstairs wall which is thought not to be load-bearing enough since the lintel can't possibly be big enough if it's wood. Wonderful news: it's not wood. It's metal. This may mean that it can stay where it is and cut a huge amount of heavy, messy work out. Whee! Summoned engineer to do sums.

It may also mean that I didn't have to turn off the computers or the television, and that the GNOME release team minutes referring to Telsa's doc waiting on her builders is going to embarrass me for evermore. The only machine I have is my laptop. I love my laptop this week, even if the battery now dies after ten minutes.

Mail died for some reason. Something always does when Alan is away. Checked mail link, checked exim and ppp running, checked everything I could think of. Grr. Oh well.

Disaster. No telly means no rugby tonight -- and the Six Nations final game is on Saturday. Tomorrow.

October 18th
One of the builders (builder-who-gets-the-dirty-work) managed to smack his head today and bled everywhere. I dug out the first aid kit, realised that a lot of it needs replacing or updating, and he saw the TCP (antiseptic liquid, not anything to do with IP) and decided that just pouring that on would do. I think this is the same principle as If it hurts, it must be doing you good.

Building raised huge amounts of dust which kept setting the fire alarm off. One benefit of living in an ex-multiple-occupancy house is that they have very strict fire regulations, so we got fire doors and a fire alarm thrown in. One disadvantage is that you can't stop the fire alarm. I was the sort of student who would cheerfully have turned a fire alarm off if it was annoying me, so I can see why not being able to turn them off is a good thing, but it was very annoying this time. Stuck plastic bags over all the detectors until the dust-raising finished.

Finished emptying rooms as much as I could expect for one very heavy monitor. Chief-builder then memorably announced Telse.. there's a problem and there isn't a problem. It seems that one of the builders had been getting the cellar tidy and had taken the old, unused, last-touched-twenty-years-ago electricity meter (we have a new one; this is a dead one) from the wall and given it a tug, whereupon there was a great bang. That was a live cable.

I was surprised as anyone to discover we had a spare live electricity feed; and would have been all for ringing up the electricity company had the builders not already done it. The builders left me with strict Don't go into the cellar abjurations in the best style of horror films and with instructions about how to open the hatch that they were using for external access to the cellar.

The electricity person arrived, admired my live cable, Yup, that's live... but why? and I realised you could have hacker-thoughts in the electricity company too. He called for a couple of guys to come and dig up some more concrete to trace the cable back. They arrived, dug and dug, had to borrow torches as it got dark, kept going, and found a cable. You'd think that would be it. But no. (Alan said later that people who work with high voltage tend to be very good at double-checking.) It's lying a funny way. Is that the right cable or is that the new supply? They dug some more. Just as I was thinking we might strike oil or fall through into an old mine before we struck cable, they found another, exposed a T-joint, and ran the same CAT thing that the water man had over the three ends to show which was connected to the thing that attacked my builder. They left, I retreated to send several messages to Alan on the phone (try compressing all the above into 160 characters!) and got his hotel number back in return. Rang back, managed to remember enough German to ask for the right room and was told all about how wonderful Munich was and who he'd met and what was happening. Just what I needed to hear: another gigantic German show with lots of beer I was missing.

Sometime either after 9pm or by seven the next morning, the first electricity man came back, cut the right cable, and capped the end off safely. From email I receive, I gather I give a bad impression of British trains, service, workmen and things. It's all true about our railways, but the electricity people really impressed me.

I should note I would not be making so light of this had anyone been hurt; but the builder was fine, if shaken to realise what had nearly happened if he'd been holding a different bit or had decided to cut through the thing first.

October 17th
Parcel for Alan, and bills for us both. Lucky me. Extremely noisy. Continued removing computer bits and books to safety and relative dust-free-lessness. Shrouded the (too heavy to move) telly in bin liners and parcel tape. Alan presumably flying today. Wondered what what go wrong now he was away. Last night the laptop lost its network connection until someone mentioned a command I should have thought of. Blush. Sent a number of text messages on mobile phone to Alan: even if he has no email, there is no escape!

When Alan is away, I have a much more sensible routine, but it does mean that friends who have become used to being able to ring late get caught out. I have vague memories that I answered the phone at 11pm whilst in bed and had an entire conversation whilst hovering on the edge of sleep. If you're reading this, Conrad: sorry!

October 16th
Rushed around doing the washing and drying for hackers who can't remember to do it in time themselves. Alan rushed around trying to pack for an afternoon departure. Man from the water company arrived to investigate water in cellar's source complete with CAT (cable avoidance tool: it beeps when placed over wires carrying current) and a less-than-high-tech wonderful tool for tracing underground pipes and leaks. It's a long hollow rigid pole with a flat plate affair at one end, You put the pole to the ground and your ear by the flat thing. And you can actually hear the water gushing through this. Naturally I had to ask to have a go. Now I know what water rushing through a pipe deep underground sounds like. I'm sure this will be very useful in life.

The upshot is that it's probably a leak in the supply from the water mains to this house and its two neighbours. We are very very lucky: it does not look like the leak is in any of the portions of the pipe which are underneath the extensions added to the back of these three. (Someone put extensions up without checking pipe routes. Groan.) It's probably under a narrow piece of yard which is not out property though. Alan played telephone tag with the absentee owner of that and then vanished on the train to London and then Germany.

Chief-builder (there seem to be several builders, from plasterer-builder to the-one-who-gets-the-'orrible-jobs) pointed out that they were supposed to work on an interior wall and that the adjacent rooms had to be cleared. That's my room (with computers and monitor) and the room with the television (and attached computer) in, sigh.

Spent much of the rest of the day attaching little sticky notes about Hub, fourth hole from left on back to wires before pulling them all out and starting to carry them into the one room which was habitable, cursing Alan for not mentioning this and for avoiding the carrying.

One benefit of builders: the crashing hunks of masonry on the outside have destroyed a pile of weeds. And the vacuum they use at the end of the day inside is making my carpets really really clean. So I can see all the stained bits. Okay, it's not a huge benefit, but..

October 15th
The gasman came to call. We now have hot water again.

Also paying visits were the builders, the double-glazing man, and the burglar alarm company.

The builders drained the cellar of water. O frabjous day, caloo, callay! They switched the pump off and half an hour later it was full again. Apparently it's getting in from next door. Civil engineer tomorrow...

Attempted to take Julian to favourite restaurant before he went. It's Monday. It was shut. Tried other favourite. Shut as well. Eventually found somewhere else before he departed for home, work and the Campaign for Digital Rights. (Europeans who don't know about the EUCD should find out before it gets passed as it is in their countries.)

Last thing at night, Alan announced he needed washing done before the end of the next day. He's such a sweetheart.

October 14th
A morning of mooching and then off to Gower in Julian's car. Visitors with cars here end up being taken to all the places I haven't seen for a while. Up to Arthur's Stone first and then out to Rhosili when the mist came down. You could only just see the Worm's Head as the mist lifted a little. Oh well.

Didn't see any surfers there this time, which is a first! Didn't see the Gower ponies either, alas. I begin to wonder where they've all gone. Alan took lots of pictures of mist.

Note to self: do not cook large complicated dishes when there is no hot water for washing up. Ended up filling all the used pans with water and heating them up in the optimistic belief this was less energy than five kettle refills, though with the number of computers on in the house I wonder why I bother. The new boiler arrives tomorrow, along with more builders and a man to deal with the burglar alarm. What fun.

October 13th
Alan got up just in time for the rugby. Which started at 3pm. Shame on him. Wales promptly lost miserably to Ireland. Boo-hoo. Then he got back to work playing with whatever he's doing to the poor television and interrupted me later to show off BBC News 24 with Nautilus sitting on top of it.

I spent the afternoon playing with CSS and stylesheets and nearly turned the diary bright blue until a friend told me what it looked like in Netscape. Argh. It looks beautiful in Mozilla and it works with Lynx. Surely this is cross-browser enough :) I am told it even works with IE. Silly Netscape.

I have gathered all the stuff in the <style> tags into one real live stylesheet now but early results are here for the diary and here for my homepage. Now I am playing with different colours and how to make these things actually cascade so that every page has wide margins and black-on-white, and then some pages have the colours. But I don't know what to do about Netscape not coping with them. I once had wild ideas about making the diary <buzzword>WAP-enhanced</buzzword> by having it generate a normal page and a WAP page from the same thing; but doing that and doing a works-with-Netscape version at the same time sounds too hard.

I really liked the pretty version, too. Oh well. Sniff.

Friend from Cambridge arrived at some unearthly hour. He would have been earlier but for several Now I'm in a car park looking at the sea phone calls in the last few miles. Julian and Alan stayed up talking for hours.

October 12th
More building (de-building?) work. I escaped early to go shopping and made the fatal mistake of visiting both the bookshop and the market. I returned to find I was in disgrace. Alan had had to sign for a parcel, which meant he had had to get up. Worse yet, it was for me and not for him at all. The fact that it contained yet more books didn't help much either. Oh well.

The builders took off most of the outside of the house by the end of the day. I should not have mentioned the burglar alarm yesterday. They set that off today.

Alan stayed up very late again playing with the television. He is currently trying to configure X on it. I am not sure sure what he is actually doing, but the deja vu is amazing: I feel like we're back in the eighties where in order to use the computer you had to co-opt the television into service.

October 11th
Someone arrived to start pulling the front of the house off. Much loud noise. Then he had to go again and all was quiet. Then someone else arrived and continued the effort to take the house apart. He plugged in some box to the electricity supply and suddenly all the computers and the monitor went dead in my room. I ran out, squawking, to find him peering at the fire alarm which was now beeping to say it was now running on battery power. It sounded far too like the burglar alarm for comfort.

Reset the trip switch, I started back in to shut the machines off properly, he plugged things in again, and all the machines died whilst booting. Argh. Whilst attempting to suggest he waited until I've just dealt with the electronics (translation: wait until the non-ext3'ified machines had finished a very slow fsck and then switch them all off), the phone rang, with an urgent question from my sister. Nice timing, dear one :)

Once the machines were quiet and all my mail had started bouncing, I listened to the sound of the drilling outside, eyed the water in my drink wobbling, stuck hands on top of the machines to feel vibrations and realised this is not the way to ensure long life for your computer. Ho hum. This is going to go on for another month. I foresee much moving of boxes (including the five Alan got from Ebay by accident and which also live in my room after all -- grr!) later.

Then the gasman arrived to deal with yet more boiler problems. (No hot water: we are washing up via water from the kettle.)

Today has thus not been the most productive day, although I did realise that physics lessons are very helpful for understanding boilers. All those If the hot tap is flowing at this rate and temperature and the cold tap at this rate and temperature and the plug is leaking at this rate... questions turn out to have a lot of relevance after all. It has only taken me fifteen years to realise this.

October 10th
Someone pointed out the bookmark from yesterday doesn't work. Maybe not, but the keyword works. (You put it in front in the location bar.) Anyway, it works for me.

The builders started today. A couple of guys showed up, erected scaffolding all over the front of the house, and vanished again.

October 9th
I have a new mozilla toy, thanks to Mike Shaver. I now have a bookmark called Validate this page with a keyword of validate which is a link to and when I hit it, it feeds the page I am looking at to the validator. If I upgrade to a very recent mozilla, I can apparently add a javascript version so this shows up in the toolbar. And the final mozilla trick for the day: about:config. Only I need to upgrade for that, too.

I just have to find out why the validator is whinging about character encodings on my pages now.

I have nearly finished the books that I got on Saturday. Drat. The latest adventures of Amelia Peabody in Lord of the Silent, a tale of being the American ambassador to Britain in Over Here and I am nearly through Montaillou, an account of life in a mediaeval French (well, ish) village obtained by looking through the records of the Inquisition since Catharism was rife in the place so they kept asking questions.

I wish I didn't read so fast. It makes book-buying altogether too expensive. I should start reviewing them or something; it would stop me moving onto the next one so quickly.

LUG in the evening, after completely failing to meet up with the person with the car so he had to collect us after all. It is getting more crowded. There must have been twenty people there. Prize for the longest journey: two hours, coming from Tenby.

October 8th
We are bombing Kabul. Damn.

Russell departed. An hour later the rain stopped and the sky was bright blue for some hours.

Found a 15M photo on the web which proved a splendid test of browsers, image viewers, X robustness and the Linux kernel VM. Ouch. All hail the Gimp, which apparently thinks Big detailed graphic? Artist only working on one part? No problem.

October 7th
Chucking it down with rain. All the leaves from the trees are a sodden mess on the pavement. It is clearly time to wear in my new boots, as otherwise I have only some light summer shoes.

Alan took my computer apart, demanding the motherboard back. I decided I didn't like him any more. He put a new one in and added more RAM as a surprise. I like him again now.

Pub in the evening with Russell, Dick and Justin, then to a Chinese restaurant. It's the restaurant which has water running down the windows. Tonight, you can't tell. Everywhere looked like that.

October 6th
Acquired lots of books. I am very happy now.

Fed Russell Welshcakes.

Russell has never seen the Princess Bride. Fixed that. He didn't want to watch the rugby, though. After watching the start, neither did I. Ouch.

October 5th
Lovely sun for lots of the day. Then pounded down with rain. I thought the drainpipes had come down at one stage. Shortly after, watched the rugby being played at Llanelli (which is a few miles away) and discovered we had it lucky: the rain was coming down sideways.
October 4th
Alan had to attend an 8am meeting before coming back. I did think of ringing him at 7.00 to say Wake up! but I refrained. Valiantly.

He was then supposed to get the 11am train back, meeting Russell King (all our visitors these days seem to be kernel hackers) at the station. He missed it, arriving on the train after Russell. Cunning. For once, this cannot be laid at the foot of the rail companies. Most disconcerting.

I don't know why, but whenever someone visits, we end up going shopping for food. Hauled Alan away from the gannet counter (my name for the counter where they put all the marked-down foods: everyone flocks around it as the shop assistant marks the prices down. Just like a flock of seabirds on the prom). Then discovered lots of interesting foods on the gannet counter and naturally decided that the time to create new and interesting combinations of food is the first night a guest stays with us.

Russell remained unpoisoned the following day, so clearly chicken in ginger, lime and fennel is a success. It didn't taste too bad either.

The Register had a story about the alpha release of the libraries which will make up GNOME 2. It was very funny.

October 3rd
Alan off to London again. To his disgust, this was definitely a suit-and-tie event. Just missed hearing the Lutine bell rung at Lloyds of London apparently, although given the connotations of that, it's possibly not an event you want to be present for.

No computers broke (that I know of) whilst he was away.

October 2nd
Realised that the reason I could not search on was nothing to do with junkbuster, proxies, mozilla or anything else. Their search icon is a picture provided from another machine. I had Only show images from this server set. Sigh.

Alan thinks this is hilarious.

October 1st
Alan announced that the new motherboard in my computer had only been there on loan and that he wanted it back. Sulked. Then said No on the grounds that almost everything works now, with the exception of xine. Alan was insistent that xine worked.

So broke xine for Alan some more. He sighed. I have not sent any bug reports yet because I do not know what is happening, which makes it rather hard to summarise.

September 30th
Autumn is here with a vengeance: there are leaves all over the pavement. There would be more had the council not been sawing trees down earlier in the week (boo!)

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.)