The more accurate diary. Really.

Warning: These are old.

August 2004

September 1st

LUG in the evening. This is the wrong way round: I go to it, and Alan stays behind. Who is the hacker here? Why am I going, and he staying?

Bumped into Yon, whom I haven't seen for about ten years, in the place where the LUG meetings are held. Cool.

Discover that library has been holding a book for me for three weeks. Oops. Collect it. Read on train on way to Cardiff and then on return home. Finish it by midnight. That can go back, then.

August 31st

Overheard in Waterstones: someone answering his mobile phone and saying I have to be quiet. I'm in the library. Waterstones is a book shop. I know people treat book shops as libraries, but this was a new one on me.

August 30th

Waah. Now everyone gone.

August 29th

Sister stands over Alan instructing him to throw things out or otherwise dispose of them. He complies. I like my sister. She can come again.

More arrivals. Now a full house of six people and one dog.

August 28th

Over to Morriston to wedding. Alan in suit! Friends appropriately awed. Bride beautiful, bridegroom not totally paralysed by nerves, best man produces ring at right moment, speeches moderately safe despite a passing reference by best man which has bride visibly mystified for rest of speech. Catch up with lots of friends. Lovely.

Alan attempts to assist with the directions back. We take the scenic route.

August 27th

Text message from Alan at quarter to nine: At Swansea station. Home soon. Refuse to believe this. If he was at Swansea station now, he would have had to catch the 0730 from Bristol. This is just not possible. He doesn't do hours in the morning with only one digit in them. (He's not too happy about 11.something either.)

Alan promptly arrives home at twenty past nine. I am in shock. He is in a stupor. I make a large breakfast. Alan suddenly decides he won't go to sleep after all.

Deb starts on rest of IKEA bits. Alan decides to help and starts to offer advice. Deb says stern words to Alan. Alan subsides. I wish I knew how she does this.

Leave the men behind watching rugby and speculate on their reaction when they find little food to eat left in the house, and head out to hen night. Manage not to get bride-to-be into trouble.

August 26th

Descended upon by sister and brother-in-law. Sister notices flat-pack boxes and demands she open them up and build them all. Within three hours of arriving I have two cupboard things. Look around checking for cameras again. Too surreal.

Out to eat in the evening. Alan is not yet back so we go to newly-taken-over Italian by the guildhall which approves strongly of garlic: you can see it scattered over the vegetables. Alan does not like garlic so I do not get to go there much. Deb and Dom do like garlic. Muahaha. It's a very nice restaurant. And it is almost possible to get drunk off the tiramusu, which is always worth knowing :)

August 25th

Mr Burglar Alarm Man comes to give Mr Burglar Alarm a hard stare after it goes off again. I have given up cringing at the thought of a posse of cross neighbours: it just can't get any worse.

Decorating looks finished to me. Sharon spends hours improving bits. Coo. Now I don't want to cover it up. I draw little scale pictures of furniture and potential furniture and move them above a little scale picture of the walls. Hours of fun. No, really. Much more fun than moving the furniture itself. I feel I have achieved something, and then remember that this was just a picture.

I have lights in there again now, too.

I keep looking around in case there are hidden cameras and this is all for yet another TV series of decorating (this country seems obsessed with houses, gardens, decorating and reality shows, so I do not feel this paranoia is entirely unjustified). Still don't want to take all the clutter back up, so continue sorting and getting rid of stuff. I swear I have already thrown some of this out. Alan has most certainly salvaged it and put it back. This time, it is going before he returns.

Are you reading this, Alan? Too late!

In the meantime, I seem to have acquired another Gnome app to (re-)document, despite not having finished the first one. Well done me.

August 24th

More decorating. Ran out of paint. I can see my back of the envelope calculations have failed badly somewhere. More painting. Change my mind about colour. Try to escape wrath of Sharon.

Decide that all this beautiful wall should not be covered up by rubbish and start going through accumulated detritus. Yes. Again. Where does it all come from? I suspect Alan of going through the boxes which are still waiting to go to the second-hand shop from last time and retrieving things just to make the place look cluttered.

Alan decides now is a good time to leave for Amsterdam. I knew he was going, but suddenly he will not be available to carry everything back into the decorated room. His trip seems to have grown. What remarkable timing.

Extremely frustrating timing as it happens: the burglar alarm batteries die, and it assumes it has been tampered with. And goes off at 11.30pm just as I am heading to bed. Ring alarm company and press buttons and mess with fuses as instructed. To no avail. It is being weird. Eventually it shuts up, and I set it again to see what happens.

August 23rd

Finally. Rain arrives. Just as it becomes important to leave the window open. I should have known. See, this weekend, all this was happening:

Sharon thinks decorating is fun. Telsa says Ho ho ho, come and do mine for me. Sharon claims that nothing would give her greater pleasure. Sharon sends Justin shopping with Telsa to buy exciting decorating things (what on earth is sugar solution? Can't I just throw sugar cubes around the walls?). Alan sleeps.

Telsa carries far far too many books out of room. Alan sleeps. Telsa ruthlessly depopulates the cuddly toy pile. There is only room for so many penguins in any one house. Alan wakes. Telsa throws cuddly toys down the stairwell. Alan is struck by a blinding flash of penguin.

And so on. Which brings us to today and a large bare room. Well, not that bare. I am not carrying the futon anywhere, and boxing the books up was a mistake: they are welded to the floor through the power of gravity. Sharon turns up at the door with a roller and more masking tape and so on. Here I am! Sharon declares decorating to start with preparation. Waah.

Sharon is a perfectionist. Telsa hides.

To get rid of the plaster dust before the smoke alarm gets confused, we need the window open. Which is why I should have known it would rain.

August 22nd

Alan is very tired after all that shopping.

I went shopping again.

Bad weather still hasn't shown up. Bright sun instead, until the evening.

August 21st

Went shopping for more storage solutions. This actually means more bits from IKEA. Ugh. I have learnt my lesson about that place. Instead of trying to work out what might fit, I drew a little scale plan of the room in question, and cut out little scale pieces of paper to represent different pieces of that IVAR stuff (big wooden struts and poles you stick shelves and cupboards in) and some pieces of furniture we already have. And spent a merry five minutes shuffling my little models around the paper. Alan thinks it is much simpler to just work it out with maths, but when I asked him to add 42 and 42 and 83 and 83 together and tell me whether they would fit into a row 252 long or whether I would have to dispense with one of the 42s, he told me he had forgotten his calculator.

Inevitably IKEA were out of exactly the things we needed. Again. I have worked out their tactic now. They are permanently out of parts so that we will go back. (There is no web or phone or mail order: you have to go there to buy it.) And then we will see new things, decide to have that, too, and find that they don't have the last part of the new one either. And have to go back.

Apparently we are supposed to be having storms and rain and wind. We aren't.

August 20th

Daniel Veillard thinks that last entry was geeky. And then suggested I read some gigantic draft standard which has made my head hurt. Ow.

August 19th

After upgrading (finally) main computer to FC2 (yes, I know FC3 is on the way..) went hunting for the Xnest rpm. I had forgotten what it would be called now that Fedora is using XOrg and so headed to my favourite mirror site to find the list of rpms. I thought this would be faster than going upstairs to find the CDs. I had forgotten that a good half of the useful stuff on the old UK mirror service (no more) was no longer there. (Actually, the Fedora stuff is there, but all the paths have changed.) Happily, much of the original stuff now seems to reside at the UK mirror service (new URL) and the long chain back through HENSA and Lancs PDSoft continues. This makes me happy. I remember using it when it was or some such, in order to download a free Pascal compiler for the Amiga. Which I broke.

Found Xnest (should have used yum search in the first place), which is the most fabulous program, started up a locally-built Gnome on the superfast box displaying over on my box, and.. erm. Where'd it go? Cannot connect to server. Damn, name has changed and isn't in the DNS yet because Alan is redoing all the DNS again, so add it back in. (Email address hasn't changed, but locally, aloss is now again, which I thought was rather good.) Try again. It starts! It hangs! It was working last time. Is it the firewall, after switching machines? There are tonnes of firewalls around here. I am amazed anything gets through anywhere. Muddle my way through iptables (note to Rusty: please stop changing the names of these things: I had enough with the change from ip-whatever to ipchains.) Start things up again. It starts! It.. hangs. Head to top. Ugh. Kill lots. Summon Alan. Start it again with strace. Ugh. How.. helpful. Start it again with strace with all manner of bizarre options to catch new processes and watch them too. How does he know these things? It still doesn't help. Kill some more processes for fun. Delete anything in tmp. Move all of ~/.gnome* and friends to ~/.gnome-gone-bang*. Smack Alan for laughing at me. Realise it helps to have path set up. Start it from within jhbuild. It starts! It looks different! It.. hangs.

Start again, from within jhbuild, with lots of stupid options to strace (the advantage of running over a network here is that strace output becomes slow enough that you can actually read it). It hangs. Suspend strace. Kill things. Long pause. Gnome actually continues. Woo-hoo. Great. Hang on. Killing those processes off is apparently (says Alan) completely unrelated. Worse yet, it is showing my saved desktop according to session management. How has it achieved this? Recall, we moved all of ~/.gnome* and friends away. Did we miss something?

The hangs are two minutes long in every case. (Working this out is incredibly boring.) Something smells of network errors.

All I wanted to do was to document some more of gnome-nettool. Now I want to go to bed. Alan, however, is determined to make weather forecasts work for UK locations in gnome-weather before the freeze, and has been using my checkout to build things. So now he wants to test it properly, and so we need Xnest to work. Alan takes over the keyboard. How does this jhbuild thing work, then? Get to tell Alan what to type. Hee! This isn't usual. Enjoy myself. Alan then meets the bug with horrible slowdown in gnome-terminals when accessibility is on for the first time (huge compile output jerks up the screen) and says rude words.

Alan's patch works, but is over-literal about displaying the forecast. It displays the word Forecast and nothing more. I try not to laugh.

An hour later, he has a working forecast and now wants to know where to send the patch. I supply name, forget email, and instead of googling recall a screenshot of evolution on Davyd's weblog on Planet Gnome.

Alan thinks I have a peculiar way of finding information out.

I depart to read a book, leaving Alan to investigate the network hang. Apparently replicable examples are hard to find, and he now has his own personal test case to play with. I don't see why it has to be on my computer. He would like the hang, and I am the one with it. This seems the wrong way round, somehow.

Sometimes I wonder however I got involved in this stuff. More usually, though, I wonder why I stay involved.

I think it's for the entertainment value.

August 18th

Hooray. My Preparing for emergencies leaflet has arrived. The last time I can remember such a mass leafleting campaign was for HIV and AIDS in the eighties: be very afraid of icebergs. (No joke: the campaign was about icebergs. It's even less funny if you believe some of the accounts in a book I read about HIV and AIDS in Britain and how health promotion in public policy was set in the eighties. I have lent the book out now, and can't remember its name, but if I could, I would recommend it.)

I am not quite sure what I am now to be afraid of. Everything, nothing, or black-rimmed colourful circles with logos in them. My favourite piece of advice is that If a bomb goes off in the building, look for the safest way out. I would never have thought of that.

The booklet is bilingual, so now I have some more useful Welsh words. But go in, stay in, tune in isn't half as catchy in Welsh. Alas.

August 17th

It has suddenly turned very very wet. Not quite as wet as at Boscastle, fortunately. (A month's worth of rain in a few hours and a flash flood: ugh.)

LUG in the evening.

August 16th

I knew there was something I forgot over the weekend. We finally moved the last of my stuff off the aloss box, which Alan wants back. Realised there was a pile of stuff in /var/spool/mail/ to move to the box where my mail lives now. Tagged the lot and hit bounce. Half has arrived. The other half is missing somewhere. All this mail was still in my inbox because I need or intend to reply to it. Some of it has been there since February. Last year. Blush. Not quite sure what sendmail thought it was doing, but will have to go and compare what got sent and what got lost. Perhaps I should have just scp'd the mailbox in the first place. Grr.

In other mail news (how exciting) I realised that I have been using mutt for over five years. Five years, and barely a bug. (Unless mutt lost all that mail, of course...)

Because of mutt, I have: learned how to use procmail; learned how to apply patches before compiling; learned how to edit rpm spec files; been able to read far, far, too much email; been able to ssh on dodgy links and get vital (well, semi-vital) information on other boxes because you don't need X running to read your email; got tons on hits on one of my web pages; come to believe that reporting bugs is worth it; and met some great people via the mutt-users list. I think I sent a mutt bug just before I sent my first Gnome bugs. It was due to the speedy replies to the mutt and Gnome bugs that I came to think that bug-reporting was a worthwhile thing to do. A long time down that line came giving a talk on the other side of the world about bugs..

So thank you, mutt developers, mutt-users denizens, ftp maintainers who made it available (particularly those outside the US who were able to supply the patches to turn mutt-0.9x-us into mutt-0.9x-i during the time that crypto support was troublesome -- much appreciated, that was), and mutt website people. After five years, it's about time I mentioned that.

Sharon came round with paint colour charts. What started as a simple this room needs painting discussion turned into and then if we move the television into that room, and.. major new plan for the house. I think we'd better start with just the painting.

August 15th

More fireworks, but at half-past nine this time. Clearly the park is busy this weekend.

August 14th

Fireworks at 11pm were the first time I realised Escape into the Park was on. Ahem. It happens every year. You'd think I'd remember by now.

August 13th

Friday the thirteenth. Wouldn't you just know it involved a dentist appointment? It all went fine, but oh, the omens were not good.

The omens were not good for something else. Months and months ago, we (well, Sharon) booked tickets for an outdoor play at one of the local castles (yes, we have lots of castles). We have been before (here is last year's trip (the Tempest) and the performance of the Taming of the Shrew in 2002) so are old hands at this. I received email from someone (Sharon) suggesting that we should bring the cheeses, Steve should bring the dessert, Dick should bring the wine glasses and so on. Nothing about who should bring the groundsheets. Or, given the recent downpour of rain, the umbrellas. Fortunately, we didn't get rain in the performance itself. And yes, the play was great. Castles and cheese and wine (no-one was sure who was bringing that, so we all did. Ahem) and twilight and a play go well together.

The problem is: we are all going to be eating the remnants for weeks.

August 12th

Alan got a new toy today. It contains, according to the blurb, the perfect singe chip solution. I am not sure he should be installing anything which is going to singe chips.

Even better, Google finds over one hundred other singe chips, and one of them is in a US patent.

Grr. If you're getting hits in your referer/referrer (I can spell) logs from some site which look like some thread is discussing something on your site: forget it. It is a bot lying in its referer header. I had to register to read the damned thread (I should have remembered about bugmenot) and apparently root@localhost is not a valid email address (it seems to work here..). Had I only asked Google first, I would have found a nice clear explanation of the referers from

Someone came to interview me as part of a study on websites. It was fascinating (of course, anyone listening to your opinions for two hours automatically becomes a fascinating conversation) but since you're only allowed to find out after what exactly he's looking for and there are other people to be interviewed first, I'm not sure how much I can say about it.

August 11th

Everything I ever thought I knew about networking is wrong, I think. Latest discovery is that traceroute is not a little packet going Reached here, reached here, reached here! at all. traceroute plays with TTL and deliberately tries to generate error responses. How can I have played with this program for so many years and yet not have known this?

To keep Jordi happy, I shall mention the rain, too. I haven't mentioned the weather in ... oh, hours,

August 10th

Finally back into DocBook and stumbing over the same old problems: how to mark up protocols? Shaun mailed the DocBook list to ask. I discovered that the first hit when you ask Google about Docbook and marking up protocols is my email to the same place asking the same thing four and a half years ago. Has it really been five years since I got involved in Gnome and documentation? Five years of Gnome, even? Good grief.

This made everyone laugh (although I maintain it's true) so I shall include it here. How to explain X to people not used to Unix and Linux: X is a networking system. It just happens to draw pictures.

I have been playing with X and ssh and Xnest a lot recently, to run stuff from one machine on this one without wrecking it. I can't imagine what I would do without it.

August 9th

Last night was apparently record-breaking: some of the highest night-time temperatures ever in Britain. I can believe it. Oof. Around 20°C in some parts. Everyone who lives nearer the equator can now laugh, yes, but it is not usual for us at all.

August 7th

It is a cliché that things happen in threes, but I begin to believe it. Walking down the arcade, I am hailed by a cry from ahead and bump into an old friend. Five minutes later we say goodbye and I walk further down the arcade and bump into two more friends. And half an hour later I bump into two more whilst shopping. I haven't seen any of them in town for ages. And now, all of them at once.

August 6th

Xnest died overnight. I suspect it was the fault of a screensaver.

Whilst checking in po files from Dafydd Tomos, did cvs update somewhere in my CVS directory. I thought I was doing it in the module I was going to update. Left it running and did other things on other screens. Somewhat later, did a du -sh and it took about 30s to run. Boggled. Went back to other things. Finally went to do the CVS stuff and wailed in horror as I realised it was still checking out. I had done cvs update in the top directory, and it had decided to update everything I have ever checked out from Gnome CVS. Suddenly realised why du had reported such a colossal size earlier. Tried again. $HOME had grown by another gig (gig!) since I last looked.

I did this once before, years ago. On a 28.8 modem. Which drowned under the pressure and started responding more and more slowly. At least on a 28.8 modem, you don't end up with a gig of extra files. Not unless you leave it running for a lot longer.

Alan has been playing some game over the network involving tanks and flags. I hate such games. Apart from anything else, they make me seasick. After we split a bottle of wine over tea, he decided he needed to find out whether this would make him better or worse at it, because It used to work for asteroids When was that? Oh, about twenty years ago...

He was still investigating the effects at 5.30am. Then the sun came up and reminded him to sleep.

August 5th

My house is now cleared of orcs and trolls and bad knights, courtesy of a visit from a friend who brought her 4-year-old along. Armed with a sword and shield, he proceeded to discover trolls in the hall, bad knights in the living room, and orcs (orcs? This is a four-year-old here...) all over the place and save us from them. Loudly.

Alan hid upstairs. He said it was because he was supposed to be working, but I am not so sure. I think he feared being identified as a Bad Knight.

I have a shiny new Gnome from CVS running over the network in xnest now. It is all pretty and fluffy, but every time I press certain buttons in the application I am trying to document, it crashes. Started up bug-buddy to get a trace. It started trying to attach gdb to PID 1. Not good.

I fear I must finally learn about IPv6 too. And send some bug reports. I had forgotten how much documentation leads to bug reports.

August 4th

Back to the Eisteddfod again, on a bus from the local Welsh centre. Still blazingly hot, but I remembered my fan this time. Hah. Bumped into several friends there, which was fun. Managed not to buy too much. Ahem. Was shattered when we got back.

Sits came round in the evening to get network cards off Alan. Hooray. More things gone.

August 2nd

Whilst trying to make some headway in the mess that is this house, which is still full of things to sort out, take to the second-hand shop, put away and so on, I came across some wooden hooks for the wall. Decided just to stick them by the shower, so that clothes no longer live on the floor. They have some very powerful sticky goo on the back. Stuck the first one up. Then Alan came by.

Have you measured that? No. Are you going to? I wasn't planning to, no. Let me get the measure.

So everything stopped whilst he looked for the tape measure and I found it. He added the spirit level and a pencil to the list of necessary ingredients. Then he started measuring. It took ages, especially when he discovered that the tiles do not align with what the spirit level claims is vertical and horizontal, and nor do the walls.

I got bored and held the remaining hooks against the wall and marked their proposed position in pencil, ignoring all this rulers and spirit level rubbish. Ten minutes later, he had finally finished measuring, dividing by three, remembering to subtract the width of the first hook, and all the other nonsense, and had decided the correct positions to put them.

We compared his perfect measured marks with my marks done without any of these aids. I was dead on on the heights and out by a milimetre with one of the widths.

I feel smug now.

August 1st

Alan declined my suggestion that it was time to get up and go. Go away. I'm asleep. Train to Newport with Daf. Then, according to Daf's bus timetable, buses from the station would take us to the Eisteddfod. According to the nice man at the bus stop, they actually go from the bus station. The bus station is some distance away. Wander lonely as clouds through Newport hunting bus stations. The thoughtfully-provided maps do not say You are here on them, and are all placed where you can't see a street name in order to orient yourself.

Found the bus station, found the bus, found it was right-change-only. Whoops.

It was a roasting hot day there. There are fortunately quite a few trees in Tredegar Park so you could find shade. Lots of the stands were closed, presumably because it was a Sunday. Clearly I shall have to go back. Interestingly, one stand which was not closed was the Patent Office, who are our bestest friends and in fact fighting the effort to introduce US-style granting of patenting just about everything in the EU including software, apparently, so clearly I have been totally misinformed for the entirety of last year.

Canolfan Bedwyr had live CDs of Knoppix in Welsh, which was cool. And OpenOffice in Welsh with a spell-checker, which would be cool if it was for Linux :)

Back home, jhbuild has finished building me a Gnome. Whee. Now I have to figure out how to start it and run it over a network with way too many hops on it. I love X's ability to do this, but I invariably mess it up about three times before I get it right.

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.)