Happy Birthday

Posted on 29th February 2008

LUGRadio was 4 years old this week, and to celebrate the guys are having a few drinks in the Varsity in Wolverhampton to celebrate. JJ and I will be along to help them :)

I've listened to LUGRadio from the very start, and have had the pleasure of being a guest presenter. I've known the lads for about 5 or 6 years now and it was quite odd to begin with hearing them on a radio show. Since then it seems more odd that I know them as friends at LUGRadio Live events!

The guys have created something that is a part of history, whether they like or not, and have made Wolverhampton internationally famous. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if they get the keys to the city soon ;)

Happy Birthday LUGRadio, and I look forward to all the parties in the future. Although I wonder whether I'll be able to cope with the teenage years :)

File Under: lugradio / wolverhampton

Cry Wolf

Posted on 28th February 2008

In a recent BBC news article, Microsoft set to open up software, it is reported that Microsoft plan to release the technology to some of their software in order to provide better interoperability with other rival products. It also states that they promise "not to sue open source developers for making that software available for non-commercial use."

Now some may be extremely dubious, as that just doesn't seem to fit Microsoft's business model. There has to be something unusual here for them to feel they can release something to the world for free. It wouldn't surprise me if they released their back catalogue of software that is now 10 years+ out of date. As this software is now end of life, it does make sense to release restrictions on the old file formats, so that those who have to support Win95 and Win98 machines have a chance of getting some support from the Open Source community. It benefits Microsoft in that they will likely still require credit for any software that uses their file formats, but also allows them to virtually forget about support for older formats in their newer products.

If the second statement holds true, then it will hopefully mean less of the table thumbing and general smoke clouds of threats, which never amounted to anything anyway. It might also mean older Microsoft products might get their own special Open Source security release with all the holes repaired ;)

I'll be intrigued to hear what software/technology they are releasing, but I suspect that there will be an overwhelming wave of derision from some of the more out-spoken Open Source protagonists. Pity really, as to my mind, it may well add value to the many Open Source projects. Open Source is no longer a hobby. Serious investment is made by the likes of Sun, Red Hat, Novell and many others. The future for Linux as a reliable alternative desktop is getting better and better. No doubt there will still be plenty of FUD about, but consumers are becoming more and more educated about the choices they have available to them, and Microsoft is slowly waking up to the fact that they can use the Open Source community to their advantage, and still keep their name on every desktop, just not necessarily in one of their own product releases.

File Under: opensource / technology

I Feel The Earth Move

Posted on 27th February 2008

Last night, just before at about 1AM, an earthquake hit the UK. At the time, Nicole woke me up and was a little worried that something had happened to the house, as she heard the wardrobe bumping against the wall. Unfortunately, possibly because I was tired, I didn't hear or see anything. After checking on the kids and checking outside, everything seemed fine and we went back to sleep. This morning on the news we discovered that there had been an earthquake just south of Hull, that had been felt in London, Newcastle and across the midlands.

Last time there was such a major earthquake in the UK, the other side of Dudley (about 15 miles from my house) in September 2002, I was out of the country, having just attended YAPC::Europe in Munich, so only got to hear about. This time around I was half-asleep and too tired to notice. Not that I want to experience the full effects of a devastating earthquake, but next time I hope I'm a bit more with it!

File Under: birmingham / life

Spotlight Kid

Posted on 27th February 2008

Dan & Jack

Dan & Jack

Dan's match on Sunday was an interesting one. Playing against Marston Green, both teams had a ten-man strong team. However, in the warm up prior to the match, Ross took a bad knock on his leg, which meant that not only were Callowbrook Swifts down to nine men. Not only that we were down a goalkeeper. Dan stepped up and got to wear Number 1 for the whole match. He did himself proud too, as during the match he got to save a few goals. He's also got a good kick on him, and has done since he was about 3, and taking one particular drop kick, got the ball all the way over the halfway line and at the feet of his own players. A couple of touches between Sharpy and Joel and Callowbrook were 2-0 up.

We saw this score at halftime against Cadbury's earlier in the year, so it was only too easy to lose the match. Marston Green took on the challenge and pushed as much as they could. despite Dan, Jack and Zak getting in the way several times, unfortunately Marston scored first from a very good shot on goal. There was nothinhg Dan could have done to stop it. Callowbrook continued their attack on goal, but despite several shots, the ball never hit the back of the net. Marston got lucky following a shot on goal. Dan managed to save the initial shot, but let it get away from him. Had he have been quick enough and dive on top of the ball he may have stopped the follow up. The final score 2-2.

Man of the Match

Man of the Match

Dan did himself pround and earned himself Man Of The Match. He's been hoping to do well enough to win the trophy for the week, and now it sits in our front room for all to see ;)

I've really enjoyed taking the action shots during the matches, but it's a shame I get so wrapped up in the game though, as I've yet to catch any of the goals on film, or the saves. I'm going to have to get better at just taking shots any time the ball even thinks about going near the goal line.

I've managed to capture a few decent pictures of the players themselves, but I think I still need a lot of practice. I've been trying to see what works between the zoom and long shot, but the closeups without zoom seem to work best. Unfortunately that does mean I either have to continually run up and down the touchline or hope one of the teams manages to stick near the opponents goal area, preferably Callowbrook obviously. I'll just to see how well I do over the coming weeks.

File Under: callowbrook / dandan / football

I'm in Love with a German Film Star

Posted on 26th February 2008

Elephants Dream

Elephants Dream

Back last year I heard, through LUGRadio, about a animation film entitled Elephants Dream. I downloaded it, but for various reasons, I never got around to watching it. That is until this weekend. The reason I was reminded of it I'll come onto in a moment. However, Elephants Dream is a stunning piece of work. 6 people created this film and the results are a testament to their skill, dedication and movitation to make it. The film was the first to make real used of the Open Source video editing tool, Blender. In keeping with the Open Source ideals, the team also released the complete film, the making of and all the DVD extras all as Open Source, and indeed you can still download them for yourself and watch them on your own computer for free. Which is also how I'm also able to include their images here too, (c) copyright 2006, Blender Foundation / Netherlands Media Art Institute / www.elephantsdream.org. However, credit where credit is due, as I have no desire to let this effort go unrewarded, and so I plan to order the Blu-Ray disk (sometimes it pays to wait a while ;)). Mind you they seem to be out of stock at the moment :( I don't have a Blu-ray player yet, but I will eventually. If you've ever seen Tim Burton's The Night Before Christmas or The Corpse Bride, you'll have a good ideal of the animation style, but Elephants Dream has a bit more of a humoruos storyline to it. It's not a Pixar like film, and younger kids might get a bit scared, but certainly it's a real treat to watch. Personally, I would highly recommend buying a copy, it's well worth €15.

Big Buck Bunny

Big Buck Bunny

So what caused me to revisit Elephants Dream? Well the Blender Institute, who helped to produce it, are helping to producing a second film using the Blender software. This time Peach Open Movie have been creating a film for the past six months, that is due to see the light of day at the end of next month. So how did I hear about this? Well LUGRadio once again prove they are on the pulse and had Sacha "Sago" Goedegebure on the show for an interview in a recent episode. The interview itself is well worth a listen (although does contain swearing), and prompted me to go and check out the website. Based purely on Elephant's Dream, I've pre-ordered a DVD of "Big Buck Bunny". The original working title, "A Rabbit's Revenge" having been deemed not really suitable. Looking at the gallery and some of the videos, you can see this is a very professional, high quality production. Like Elephants Dream, thanks to their Creative Commons License, I've been able to include an image here too, (c) copyright Blender Foundation | peach.blender.org

Like Elephant's Dream, Big Buck Bunny will also be released as Open Source and everything that will be available on the DVD will be available for download. This is really cool. But in order to help them out, and partly to save myself the hassle of downloading, I've pre-ordered a copy. Hopefully, you'll think it's worth buying too, and help to contribute to the project, thus helping to fund future projects and films. I'll post a review of the film once it's released.

File Under: films / lugradio / opensource

Sing Blue Silver

Posted on 25th February 2008

The battle is over. For some time now there has been a competition, reminiscent of the VHS/Betamax video format war, in the high definition market for video disk encodings, between Blu-ray pioneered by Sony (pun intended) and HD DVD championed by Toshiba. As of last week, "Toshiba drops out of HD DVD war". As a consequence the HD DVD players and recorders, as well as the HD DVD disks themselves are to disappear from our shelves. I have no preference for a particular high definition format, but I am glad that an early decision has been made. Perhaps not early enough for some, but I suspect the vast majority now discovering the improved formats, will be able to buy players and disks with more security that they are going to be able to play them on equipment in the future.

I remember the war back in the 70s and 80s with the VHS and Betamax formats for videos cassette formats, and although the Betamax format was widely regarded as the better format, Philips domineered the market so much, that regular consumers were hardly given the choice between the two. In this current change of heart, it appears that Toshiba have re-evaluated their format, and with the majority film studios electing to use the Blu-ray format, have admitted it was going to be a difficult race to win. They've gracefully conceded, and allowed consumers to win.

I've only recently bought a HD Ready TV, and thankfully it has all the proposed format connection sockets. I hadn't quite got so far as thinking about the player/recorder to go with it, but now I don't have to worry about making the wrong choice ... at least not with the format.

File Under: technology


Posted on 22nd February 2008

On 24th January, Sheila Stevens (nee Dymock), lost her long battle against cancer. Sheila was my mum's elder sister, and when I was younger we would often travel over to see her, my uncle Wally and my cousins Roy and Sue, when visiting my Gran and my uncle Ivor. Thankfully she passed away peacefully in her sleep, with her family around her. Unfortunately I hadn't seen my aunt in quite some time, and even longer for my cousins. We've stayed in touch through my mum mostly, and we always get to see photos of the grandchilden, and likewise we've sent pictures of DanDan and Ethne. Sue commented how our Christmas cards always stood out, as Nicole always makes the cards and puts DanDan and Ethne on the front. It adds that personal touch. Aside from Wally, Roy and Sue, I also got to meet Roy's wife, Andrea, and son, Sebastian, as well as Sue's son, Joshua, for the first time. It was also the first time in just over 29 years that I met my uncle Peter and about 18 years since I met my cousin Nigel. It was also the first time in a long while I'd seen my cousin James too, as I think I've seen his kids more than him in the last few years :)

My Mum & Aunty Sheila, 1983

My Mum & Aunty Sheila, 1983

It really is a shame that we don't get to meet unless there is a dramatic family event. Andrea did suggest organising a family get together every year, which personally I would love, as Nicole, DanDan and Ethne have only met my cousin David, uncle Ivor and aunty Gaye. We now have quite a big family on my mum's side and it was staggering to realise that there are now I think 10 great grandchildren and 9 grandchildren descended from Nanny and Grandad Dymock. Not staggering in terms of numbers, but the fact that us grandchildren have grown old enough to have kids, and even grandchildren of own. Although as far as I known none of us are grandparents yet, as only Heather, Sue and Jane have kids who are teenagers, and the rest of us all started late, or have yet to start.

The funeral itself went well and the day, although a little chilly, was bright. The sun was just starting to set, looking very picturesque, when we came out to pay our respects by the flower tributes. It was strange driving over to the house for the wake, as I didn't remember any of the route until we pulled into the road, and even then I couldn't remember which house it was. It wasn't that it had changed that much, it was just so strange to see it all as a grown up. I commented to Roy that I always looked up to him when I was a kid and now I'm taller than him. Walking into the house brought back a lot of memories. Sheila's voice greeting us and offering to make us a cup of tea. The cats. And all the family get togethers we had there. I also remember Wally telling Roy off when he started playing his Derek And Clive records to me :)

A few people commented how much my mum looks like Sheila, although she never used to. It's only as she's got older that you can see more of the similarities. It was also very odd seeing Roy and Sue, as even though I know how old they are, I still see them pretty much as they were 20 years ago. Perhaps that's just me wishfully thinking I still look like I'm in my early 20s too ;) Sheila's passing has certainly made me think a little more about my own family. I think we get into the habit of thinking your family are just always going to be there. But it always feels such a shock when they're not. There was a lot of laughter and reminiscing at the wake and although there were definitely touches of sadness, it wasn't there for long. I think Sheila would liked that. I would certainly like to remember my aunt as the way she was when I was a youngster, and I'd rather not dwell on the pain she must have gone through in more recent times.

Floss & Eddy in the 1940s

Floss & Eddy in the 1940s

Just before Christmas, I attended another funeral, for Florence Ess or "Floss" as we all knew her. She was originally engaged to marry my Nana's brother Eddy, but before they could arrange anything, the war came and took him off to the front line. He died before he could return and marry Floss. My Nana (Christine) and Floss had remained good friends, as they were before, right up until Floss died. Floss was 99 and my Nana is 97. Like my aunty Sheila, I hadn't seen Floss in quite sometime, but she always sent birthday cards to us all, including DanDan and Ethne, and we always made sure we sent her one too. I did hope to arrange to call in last year, but we never got to make a trip up to Manchester last year. We had talked about going this year, but alas now she won't get to see DanDan and Ethne in person.

Jacky, 1968

Jacky, 1968

The service at the Macclesfield crematorium was quite an emotional one for my family, as my sister Jacqueline was cremated here in 1968, when I was just 2, and it was the first time I had been back there since. I took some time to walk around the grounds afterwards and I couldn't help but reflect on what might have been. She would have been 40 last year. My younger sister, Lisa, my mum and dad and my Nana attended the church service for Floss, and it was quite warming to see so many people come to pay their respects. The only relative left in the family, was her husband's niece, who was there, everybody else were friends. I hope I have as many friends attend my own funeral when the time comes.

As I was walking around the crematorium gardens, it did cross my mind that this was also where Ian Curtis, singer with Joy Divison, had been cremated. Three people who had all touched my life in different ways were all here in some shape or form. It might sound morbid, but I think I like it to be my final resting place too.

Farewell Sheila, and Floss. Thank you for being a part of my life.

File Under: family

Dancing with the Moonlit Knight

Posted on 21st February 2008

This week it seems eBay are changing their policies to a number of things, one of them being Feedback. My mother told me she had read about it in the paper, but seeing as I hadn't noticed anything in my inbox from them, and it wasn't obvious from any of the general announcements, I assumed that either the paper had put the wrong spin on it to generate "news" (typical of the paper in question), or my mother had misunderstood the actual news article. I suspected the paper to be at fault. However, after a quick search I found this blog post, which picked up on the feedback issue, and after a bit of digging through all the recent announcements, I finally found the announcement specific to feedback. Why they had to hide it away I don't know. With such a big change I would have expected to see this in a "news" or "update" box on the front page.

Anyway, the point of the feedback changes seems to be to protect buyers from poor sellers. They believe that "buyers will be more honest when they leave Feedback since they will not fear retaliatory negative Feedback." Sorry but I don't buy that. I've had several buyers who have failed to follow through and left me with a bill for the final value fees (FVFs) from eBay. eBay DO NOT make it easy to get those fees back. Thankfully, I've not been given bad feedback. I have also been caught out by bad sellers trying to sell conterfeit products, but having contacted both sellers in my case I was able to get a refund. Now admittedly not everyone may be as successful, and could quite easily be ripped by quite a considerable amount, but I do believe the negative feedback does have it's place. If there is ever any issue with retaliatory negative feedback, then there should be a mechanism where either party can alert eBay to the situation and for it to be handled more appropriately. From my experience eBay make it very difficult to contact them, and when you do try and contact them it falls on deaf ears.

eBay also state "When buyers receive negative Feedback, they reduce their activity in the marketplace, which, in turn, harms all sellers". Ever thought that sometimes there are buyers for whom that is a good thing? At the moment a seller has a difficult time to do anything about a bad buyer, and in some cases the only way to alert other sellers is by leaving reasonable negative feedback. How are eBay going to better protect the seller from continually bad buyers? Some sellers refuse to deal with anyone who has less than 100 points, and I can see that getting worse, as having to pay eBay what amounts to a fine for being an honest seller, is not good enough. And please don't tell me about their Unpaid Item system, as I was told my window of opportunity had passed (or words to that effect), after I had waited a couple of weeks, sending private emails and mails via eBay itself, after the end of the auction. Any experience of trying to deal with eBay themselves, for me personally, has never been a good experience. I always end up feeling that they are only interested in taking my money, never willing to sort things out when things go wrong.

Thankfully my actual auction experience with eBay has been good, and I've been very happy with both buyers and sellers in nearly all my transactions. I wouldn't stop using eBay because of these changes, but it will make me more wary of the feedback mechanism, both as a seller and a buyer, as I'm not sure the changes are favourable to anyone. Except maybe eBay themselves as it will mean less data storage.

I'm not convinced by some of the changes they propose, although some do have merit, but I shall wait and see what the outcome is for me. I may not sell high volumes, but if I find myself getting messed around because I'm not able to spot bad buyers, then I may find alternative places to sell my CDs and music memorabillia. If others follow suit then buyers have less choice and prices get higher, thus eBay wins more from FVFs. I think I see the pattern here. Or maybe I'm just cynical ;)

File Under: commerce / ebay / rant / website

Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio?

Posted on 20th February 2008

LUGRadio Live 2007

LUGRadio Live 2007

LUGRadio Live UK dates have been announced as the weekend of 19th/20th July.

At the moment the guys are busy preparing for LUGRadio Live USA, so expect more details for the UK event after next month. The US event will be the first time the LUGRadio experience will have been seen on such a major scale outside of the UK. The guys seem suitably excited and I'll be keen to discover if the American event has the same manic and mayhem feel as the UK event. The UK event is very definitely about getting the Linux and Open Source communities together, to hopefully provide an opportunity to meet and greet with fellow developers or just people you meet on IRC or the forums. It doesn't have that corporate feel is much more laid back, thus having a much more social nature about it than many traditional conferences. Not to diminish the value of the talks and presentations, but the atmosphere is much more conducive to discussion, questions and feedback than more formal events. For me that has perhaps more value as I like to get feedback and ideas from others and some more corporate events often don't encourage that atmosphere.

In the meantime, if you're in the US and can make it to the West Coast over the weekend on 12th/13th April, checkout LUGRadio Live USA2008 and try and get along to The Metreon, San Francisco. As a tempter, watch the video trailer created by Tony Whitmore, AV coordinator for the UK event.

I shall be at LUGRadio Live UK, although whether that's as a speaker, attendee or member of the crew remains to be seen. I'm thinking of submitting my Understanding Malware talk, but seeing as it's about an hour long, and I definitely DON'T want to be on the main stage, I'm hoping the guys will agree to hiding me in a smaller room. They guys always manage to put me up against big names (Mark Shuttleworth and Chris Di Bona for the last two years), so this might be my chance to steal some of the audience back for the little guy ;)

As I don't specifically talk about Linux stuff, but more general Open Source stuff, I've often felt a bit of an outsider as a speaker. The Malware talk is again not about Linux specifically, and some aspects are not Open Source (for justifiable reasons), but the content, particularly for anyone interested in understanding what malware is and eager to gain some very basic hints and tips to protect your inbox, it's ideal. Seeing as most of the attendance for LUGRadio are knowledgeable Linux people, I'm hoping the talk will be of interest to a wide variety of people. I've now done the talk twice, for Leicester LUG last week and Coventry LUG last night. Both presentation went down very well and generated lots of interesting discussion afterwards. Seeing as some of these guys are very clueful sysadmins and developers, as a benchmark, I think the LUGRadio audience will love it. We'll see ;)

The UK event will be returning to Wolverhampton University Student's Union, the venue for the 2006 event. Personally I liked the Lighthouse, the venue for 2007, but I know the guys got heavily criticised for a variety of issues, that meant they had to reconsider the venue for the 2008 event. The SU venue is smaller than the Lighhouse too, which might cause some problems, as I can see the event getting a bigger attendance this year. For the past 3 years the attendance appears to have been increasing anyway, but in the last year, I am noticing more and more articles, blogs and posts about LUGRadio. I just hope there is enough space for everyone.

BTW if you're attending LUGRadio Live USA2008, please take a camera and post your photos publically. My site always gets a lot of hits for LUGRadio, and I'm sure the thirst for photos for the US event will be just as popular.

File Under: conference / linux / lugradio / opensource / security / spam

Don't Bring Me Down

Posted on 19th February 2008

Over the weekend I got spammed. I don't get that much spam into my inbox usually, as most gets caught by my own very aggressive detection rules, with SpamAssassin generally picking up everything else for me. However, this spammer seems to have got through because their spam was music related. Mr. Robert J. Johnson and Ms. Mary M. Dharma (Assistant to Mr. R. Johnson) under the guise of "www.eloformermembers.com", a website that seems only to exist to track real email addresses, appear to be working for a new band called The Orchestra, made up of former band members from ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) and ELO Part II. Now although I did used to like ELO, I have no real desire to see a half hearted attempt to see what almost amounts to a covers band, and especially when they employ a spammer to get me to listen to them or see them on tour.

However, what got me most about the spam, and the band's use of them, was that I got sent the request 3 times (or should I say 3 got through ... there maybe more), all different messages, and all 3 were requesting me to hit a link to obtain the tour dates for the forthcoming UK tour. But the best bit is the mails all started with "Dear Classic Rock Fan, Can I have your permission to send you info on the upcoming [UK tour]". Maybe the band don't see the stupidity of that statement, or are so ignorant of the actions of spammer that they don't care that their potential fans could become victims to a stream of rubbish in their inboxes. If you're going to advertise your tour dates doesn't it make sense to tell people about them in the mail, rather than request permission to send them? I might (note I said might) have had a bit of respect for them if they had done that and maybe had a link along the lines of "if you would like to receive further mails...", but as it is they have now been added to my blacklist.

Admittedly I wouldn't have wanted to see the band anyway, but possibly this might serve as a warning to other bands thinking about using spammers to get their name about. Don't. There is never a good reason to use a spammer. Ever. In this day and age there are plenty of ways to get your presence known, most venues have weekly or monthly updates on gigs, ents24 does the same, and there are many internet news sites these days (including the tradional hard copy magazines such as NME, Kerrang and Rolling Stone) that cater for a variety of musical tastes. It's alot easier to get your band's name known these days, and resorting to spammers just screams of desperation. If things are really that bad, maybe you really should just call it a day.

I've purposefully avoided adding any active links in this post, as don't want to promote the band or the spammers, but anyone getting a mail like this and being a bit dubious does a search, hopefully they'll find this post and avoid any further involvement with the band. Either that or bands read this and think of better ways to promote themselves.

File Under: music / spam

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