Tuesday, 31 October 2006

Ubuntu 6.06 --> 6.10 upgrade = not good...

Tried to upgrade my ubuntu virtual machine from 6.06 (Dapper Drake) to 6.10 (Edgy Eft), using the nice GUI thingy.

But... upgrade process bombed out a couple of times on some packages, but was able to continue, then totally bombed and failed. Then the package updater thing was in a bad state, asking for some commands to be run, tho that didn't help.

Couldn't be bothered trying to fix it, as I've heard a few other people have nightmares with this same upgrade, so just created a new 6.10 virtual machine from scratch and got rid of the 6.06/failed upgrade one - only takes about 30 mins to build a new virtual one, compared to 2 hrs to get a (failed) upgrade.

Shame really - never had trouble upgrading Ubuntu before. Lucky I hadn't done too much work on that virtual machine :-)

Friday, 27 October 2006

Good Samaritan

Did my good samaritan deed for the month (year?!) tonight. Was walking home from the pub earlier than everyone else, and came across a lady who'ld fallen over and hit her head (after a few too many drinks!). Other people just walked past, but I stopped and talked to her. Hailed a cab and tried to get her up, but couldn't get her off the ground... A few people asked if she was OK, but they were in almost as worse a state as she was! Typical thursday night in the city...

Few minutes later a City Police van went past and I managed to hail them down. Took two policemen to get her off the ground and they took her off home - well, more likely the drunk tank, but at least she's safe.

See that kind of thing a little in London where people won't stop to help others - quite often I can understand it, as some people don't appreciate help, or freak out and end up hurting those trying to help them. Glad this turned out OK.

Thursday, 26 October 2006

How to solve the Pigeon Problem

Get more pelicans to eat pigeons! The photo is priceless.

That's probably the highlight of my day right there (says a lot for how exciting my life is!).

Sunday, 22 October 2006

DIY Light Tent

For shooting products/macro shots of objects, there are tons of expensive 'home studio' kits available out there on ebay/amazon/camera stores.

I just built myself one, and it cost me just... £1.15! If I had to pay for the lights also, it may have topped £5 :-) --> Wine case box with cut out panels on top, left and right, covered with tissue paper (the £1.15 cost :-)).Had some A3 cartridge paper - using smooth side up.Two desk lamps (from Ikea - think they only cost a couple of pounds each).Tripod - el cheapo one bought for about $50 in NZ a few months ago (~ £20?)Shoot a custom whitebalance guide - just a shot in the lightbox with no objects in there. Shoving up exposure compensation by 1 stop. Then a quick white-point adjustment in Photoshop levels and not too shabby!

Followed this tutorial on the strobist blog [link], and I'm pretty pleased with the results. I have some test shots up on flickr [link] , and have submitted a series of various 'things' to shutterstock - will post them here if they get accepted.

Light Tent

[Edit] Here's a couple that were accepted on shutterstock:

go and buy them now :-)

[Edit] Also have some up on istockphoto here

Friday, 20 October 2006

Chuckle for the arvo

Was just searching for a book on www.foyles.co.uk, and found a funny error
- if the search term contains 'an', it breaks their search parser :-)

DOM error: could not parse source XML [DOM error: could not parse source XML]

I was looking for 'System Testing with an Attitude' - the search works
fine if you remove the 'an' - tried with every other combination of the
rest of the words and it works. Weird huh!

Anyone from foyles listening?? :-)

Thursday, 19 October 2006


Fit/Fitnesse (http://fitnesse.org/) has been adopted by some projects at my current job for 'automation' testing in the UAT process.

Now I can see automated testing is needed in UAT, esp useful for regression testing. However the Fit/Fitnesse framework only works for java based apps, and hooks in at the class level. A big problem with it, is it requires java developers to write the tests.... so there's stumbling block number one -- business users aren't java developers - so either grad students (who work a few days a month if we're lucky), or external consultancies are used to build these tests. How they are maintained, I have no idea!

IMHO (and in most of the software testing world!), UAT should be testing end-to-end business processes, not messin about with the java code. When using an automated tool, it should interact with the UI, as this is where the end user interacts with the software. Often a business process will jump into various different apps, or even paper/offline processes.

To me, this seems too much like low level testing that is done at unit/integration or system test phases. Note the 'U' in UAT stands for 'User'. If it's not simulating user interaction, it ain't a UAT test.

The Beast has been unleashed...

IE7 was released today...

Just waiting for the first security hole reports to come in! Guarenteed there'll be a few, from those anti-IE hackers. And it will probably cause some havoc with webapps who are trying to deal with all of IE6's css 'quirks'. Gotta go handle all IE7's 'quirks' in ya stylesheets too. Scary!

Tuesday, 17 October 2006

lowest tech possible

I bet pretty much nobody in the city could undercut my lowly tech situation at work:

I'm running:
- 15" lcd - max res 1024*768 (true color luckily!)
- ye old worldie clicky compaq keyboard and clicky clicky scroll wheel mouse (ball type, not optical)
- locked down Win XP pro - no command line, no mappin network drives, no installin anything without seven months of testing by the IT admins first
- telnet sessions on Unix servers (via some 1980's lookin windows telnet

mmmm lucky me :-)

Random software development

So we keep getting new versions of code to run in UAT. Only problem is -- no release notes. Nadda. Nothing. Just a list of code modules that need updating, which means nothing to me!

Who has a development contract that doesnt include the supplier sending release notes? Or at least a napkin with some scribbed bug numbers on it that's been left on a pub table for much too long..? It means UAT testing (which is the only testing actually carried out... don't get me started on that...) has to have a random guess at what might or might not be fixed, and no idea on any impact on the rest of the system. So bye bye to any regression testing. Rather frustrating for me attempting to manage the UAT process, no?

[Edit] Turns out I can't find requirements to match half the bugs logged. Hmm, so there's issues from both ends at not supplying what's needed for a good development project.. Requirements and release notes.

Am I mental?

Really struggling today with my fav app in the whole world, Lotus Notes... I can't work out how to get my meeting to remove one guy and swap him with the guy he's delegated (Notes has sent me an email to say this guy was delegated to the meeting)... Is it just me? Is it impossible? Do I just have to 'remember' that someone else is coming in his place?

Also can't get a printout which includes everyone in my meeting... really frustrating - have to print out the meeting, then write in all the names that are hidded in the textarea/scrolly box. Am I missing something again?! [Edit] Found it! Under Print Page Setup there is an option (off by default...) to expand the names field. Why oh why would this not be on by default?! And it's not easy to find...

Grrrr the Notes redesign can't happen soon enough for me! Tho it will probably be six to twelve months after release before it's implemented here...

Playground as art!

The latest installation in the Turbine Hall by Carsten Holler at the Tate Modern is a bit of a laugh - lots of tubular 'slides' (like a waterpark, but no water), and you can ride most of them for free.

Might be interesting to go take a look one day. Should really, as it's only a 15-20 min walk from our place.

Saturday, 14 October 2006

Automounting samba drives in Mac OS X

Almost impossible to find out how to do this! Finally with a mash up of a few articles, I found out how to automount samba drives. Yeeeah haa. Means i can mount //calculus/data and //nestor/data with different names (to stop confusing front row :-))

Samba automount

(NetInfo app --> found in ya utilities folder under applications)

The important bit is the path the mount is created under -- '/Network/calculus' will mount it with the name 'calculus' (if I had /Network/joebloggs, the drive would be called 'joeblogs'), ja?. This is doing a 'static' mount, which means it's mounted all the time (dynamic mounts unsuprisingly get turned on/off depending if they are in use). The drive is then in the finder under 'Network' --> drop an alias wherever ya want and bob's your uncle :-)

Not sure what will happen when someone else logs onto this box... do they still get mounted? And using my username/pass? hmm will have to try it out and see.

Edit: Found a post on macosxhints that may be even easier -- using an applescript and automator. Not sure if it will handle 'remounting' when an automount fails (as the netInfo way above only runs at boot - I haven't found a way of 'remounting' the netInfo mounts if it fails at boot). But one bonus is it's user specific, so doesn't set up those mounts for everyone.

Edit: I've done a followup on another method here: http://rachmobile.blogspot.com/2007/10/more-automounting-samba-drives-in-os-x.html

NOTE: this method only works on 10.4 (Tiger). Leopard has some other funky methods to get it up and running, and the NetInfo manager has ben removed. New methods include autofs which I must try out some day soon!

Thursday, 12 October 2006

Portable User Accounts

Leading on from this article on slashdot, that talks about a patent lodged by apple for storing/carrying user profiles on portable devices, I'ld like to see it go a step further --> portable licences attached to a person, rather than a PC.

Similar to the Steam platform (gaming), where you buy a steam account, associate any Steam game licences with it (half life, counterstrike yadda yadda), and wherever you install Steam you can log on with that user account and have the relevant games unlocked. Probably similar to the
Microsoft 'rent-an-app' thing they keep bandying about (cant be bothered reading up on it tho!). My idea would be that application (and possibly even OS) licences would be stored either on a portable device (usb key,ipod etc), or on a central server along with your identity, so no matter
where you are, you can get to your apps. Ideally, the app would 'install' automatically on trying to start it (from the internet somewhere I guess), and uninstall again on removing your authentication (unless it's chosen to be permanently installed on that PC).

Sound good? Flawed? Could be an extension to the current single 'Identity' protocols out there... however it could still work with multiple logons to different sites/vendors, as long as you had a single sign on mechanism of some form (ie a USB key which contained all the logons or something). Hmmmmm

Drives me mental that I can purchase some software (like say MS Office or Photostop), but not use it when I'm away from my PC - would mean internet cafes and even home PC's become more like bare bones 'terminals' - turn up and either drop your own profile/licences on them, or 'rent' a profile from the internet cafe.

Win XP on Parallels

Windows XP on Parallels
Running Win XP on Parallels (virtualisation software, similar to VMWare) in mac os x is pretty sweet. Windows seems to run pretty quick tho that may be the core duo cpus :-) Only giving it 256MB ram but it's still pretty speedy.

Tried to run counterstrike - mouse movements are a bit strange, mouse pointer doesnt 'hide', and will only run software video acceleration - guess the Parallels video driver doesnt support any 3d rendering. Might be worth giving boot camp a go instead for gaming I guess.

Handy hint --> second (or right) mouse button is shift+ctrl+click in Win XP/Parallels. Or cheat and use a 2 button USB mouse which works fine in both Mac OS X and Parallels/Win XP.

Lotus notes should be mothballed

I've forgotten about the joys of Lotus Notes until starting my latest contract. It's an absolute nightmare!

Here's a few of my favs:
- Shortcut for refresh view is F9 (the 'standard' refresh key of F5 is reserved to lock the lotus notes screen grrr)
- Printing support for meetings is horrendus - doesnt 'grow' any text areas that have scroll bars (ie more than 5 people at the meeting and it won't print them all out...)
- The calendar software is pretty ugly - never know what's gonna happen if you edit a meeting - might email everyone, might not email anyone of meeting changes. And occassionally drops one person and refuses to let me add them again...
- looks and feels like software from 1991.

I can't believe anyone is actually migrating TO notes rather than away anymore! As much as I hate outlook/exchange, it's a million times more user friendly than this.

Tuesday, 10 October 2006

Joined the ranks of the mac users!

Got myself a faaaaantastic new MacBook on the weekend... totally stoked with it, apart from a coupla niggly things...

rach finally got a macBought a mini-dvi (the video output) to video connector from the Apple shop tonight, sped home and plugged it into the TV (using both s-video and then composite video connectors --> the connector has both outputs). Sadly, the MB will only detect the TV as a generic 'display' - so I can't set the PAL settings or the right res/frame rate... end result is a black and white flicker on the TV :-( Looked everywhere on google with no success booo hoo.. have posted a question in the Apple support forum - fingers crossed someone has an answer, or I'll be tromping back to the Apple store to rant at the 'genius' (cough cough) bar, or return the cable for some ££ back.

If anyone can point me in the right direction, just scream. We've had other windows laptops (nvidia/s-video out) running fine on this TV with the same video cables.

Oh and the stupid problem where frontrow refuses to play sound using AC3 audio codec! Weird, as it's just quicktime running in a nice interface, and Quicktime running outside of frontrow is playing the AC3 codec stuff fine. Don't think anyone's solved this one yet.. c'mon Apple sort it out!

[Edit] mmm still lovin it! Forgot to burn a disk this morning for a work colleague, so dropped the MB in my backpack and walked to work... barely noticed it was in there! such an improvement over the HP.

[Edit] Sorted the AC3 sound prob in frontrow -- app called 'Perian' (thanks Lifehacker!) that contains nearly every video/audio codec ya could ever want. sweeeeet!

Not too promising...

Microsoft using 'users' as system testers again?! Quote about the state of Vista:
"More than half a million computer users have installed Vista test software, and 450,000 of the systems have sent crash data back to Microsoft"

From Slashdot: http://developers.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/10/09/066244&from=rss

Friday, 6 October 2006

An oldie but a goodie - Taming Lists

First published in 2002, 'Taming Lists' on A List Apart is still the best article on styling lists with css. Everytime I need to style a list I find myself referring to this article.


The strangest lasagne...

Just had a 'individual' lasagne from the staff cafe at my new work, and it was kinda bizzare...
No cheese, No bechamel sauce. So it was dry, and the top layer of pasta was cooked solid. More like greasy mince between solid pasta wafers... mmmmmm

Sunday, 1 October 2006

Westminster best seller

My westminster image on shutterstock is doing really well!
Ya know you want to buy it... go on!

If you don't have a shutterstock subscription, try some of these 'pay per image' sites instead:
istockphoto.com (single image download site - gotta buy min of 10 credits for around £6, but that will get you 10 small images, 5 medium images or 2 supersize images)