So, what have I been up to?

Well, last weekend my parents came up from Cornwall. My Mum’s definitely getting worse and spent a great deal of the time wandering out to sit in my Dad’s car and back in again. It got so much of a problem on Monday that we locked the front door to stop her.

Also, after having BT problems with my ADSL on Saturday and finding that if I plug the Draytek into the test socket I get a hugely faster connection than if I plug it into the face plate. Since then I’ve tried everything such as disconnecting all the extensions, re-plunching the cables etc. but nothing has made a difference. Basically, if I plug the Draytek into the test socket (underneath the face plate on the master line socket) I get ~4MB/s and if I plug into the face plate I get ~2.5-3Mb/s. Hmmm.

On other matters.. I’ve got a social life! OK, it’s just the Oxford University Geology Society annual dinner last night. much debauchary happened, as usual. Tomorrow evening is the Polar Society AGM and annual dinner, with very much less debauchary as there will be fewer geologists.

I’ve also jumped and ordered a refurbished iBook G4 12″ from the Apple store. It’s the only way to get one at a price similar to the old educational price and not at the stupidly high prices at Dixons/Currys/PC World etc. It should arrive by the end of the week, as should my lenses back from Sigma (fingers crossed).

It seems that after my problems with my Draytek router buffering packets being passed to the switched ports from the router part (when using recent firmware), Draytek want a look at it. This, of course, means that my ADSL connection would be unavailble while the router is away.. not acceptable. So, either I put up with the annoyance or get a replacement of some kind, which sort of makes sending the Draktek off a bit pointless. :-/

Earthquake diagnosis.

The earthquake in Java is a tragedy. The loss of so much life it terrible, but it’s not so much of a natural disaster as a man-made one. Here’s why I think that…

Java is in a region where there are quite a few earthquakes, many of them with a magnitude of around 6 (which is moderately strong but very common, at least a couple a week globally). Admittedly, most of the earthquakes in the region where this one took place are quite a bit deeper than this one which, at 10km, is pretty shallow.

If you look at the USGS’s summary page on the earthquake you can get some idea of the background. If you can also understand the moment tensor solution for the earthquake you will see that it’s almost a completely vertical fault plane with a horizontal slip, which is unusual for the area but would mean that the ground motion would be almost purely horizontal.

Anyway, normally, in an area with many earthquakes it would be considered that the degree of damage caused by such a moderate earthquake would be relatively small. After all, the buildings should be built with such quakes in mind. But this is obviously not the case here. From what I’ve seen, the area is built on reasonably stable ash deposits so it’s unlikely that ground motion amplification due to sediment basin resonance and liquifaction would be a key factor. No, it’s probably down to poor building design.

Reports from the area say that when driving through the more affluent areas in the region you can drive for miles without seeing much damage at all and then you’ll hit a group of houses which have totally failed and that the majority of the casualties have happened in the outlying villages.

Surely, in such an earthquake rich area the local authorities should have would have made sure that the buildings were at least resistant in their design? It doesn’t really mean that the buildings would have to be more expensive to build even.. just make sure that there’s cross-bracing even in shacks.

Maybe it’s just the mind set of the local population which is the problem. There have been quotes from people from that area after volcanic eruptions where large numbers of people have been killed asking them why they have re-populated the area of known high risk where they say that it’s not a problem as that’s the future and it my not happen in their lifetime. It sounds like they’d make excellent politicians.

O.K. I just had to! (Thanks Grim)

You scored as 5th Doctor. Always a little confused and vunrable you never always help. All the same you are good at Cricket!

4th Doctor


5th Doctor


2nd doctor


3rd doctor


1st Doctor


7th Doctor


10th Doctor


9th Doctor


a Dalek




8th Doctor


6th doctor


What Doctor Who character are You?
created with

Apple MacBook.. a step in the wrong direction.

There’s a review of the new Apple MacBook notebook (not laptop as Apple now say that you shouldn’t use it on your lap) over at Ars Technica [via Slashdot]. I’m not at all impressed.

From the review the new machine is bigger than the old iBook G4 12″ and has a shorter battery life. Not only this but it has a keyboard, which looks as though it was developed by Casio, and a horrid glossy screen (similar to the current generation of Sony Vaio). Oh, and it costs about £100 more as well.

Yes, it’s faster than the old iBook, but for me that’s the least of the features I’d want for such a machine. The old machine was compact, ran cool and had a decent enough screen which could be used outdoors even in the sunshine to some degree.

The new glossy screen, if it’s anything like a Vaio’s, is a very poor replacement. In the lab where I had to help a user with the Vaio there are large windows on three sides and flourescent lights, this made it almost impossible to read the display due to the multiple light sources at or near head height. If you took this machine outside you’d probably get a very good view of your face and what’s behind you but very little of what you actually want to look at.

The new machine also runs hot.. it’s reported that the CPU runs at over 80C and it will roast your thighs if you try to use it on your lap. This is just nasty.

It’s a very great pity that my inheritance didn’t come through sooner as then I could have bought a properly configured iBook from the Apple HE store which would have been ideal for my trip to Norway in September. Now I’ll have to start thinking again.

I knew the keyboard reminded me of something.. it’s the old Newbrain.

If Oxford were the setting for a MUD…

Broad Street Centre

You are in the middle of a very wide road with car parking spaces to the east, a large, mustard coloured limestone college to the north and small shops to the south. A woman keeps shouting in your ear about walking tours in a sing-song voice so loud that it would be able to battle a roaring jet engine.

Exits: South, East, West.

You see:

You go East.

Broad Street East

You stand outside a distinguished old book shop with a tiny pub nestled within its clutches. Across the rapidly narrowing street you see a rotund building and a rather strange georgian facade with steps leading up to its entrance.

Exits: South, East, West.

You see:

You go South.

Museum of the History of Science

You are in a tall room containing many glass cases stuffed with old, brass instruments.

Exits: North, Up, Down.

You see: astrolade, astrolade, astrolade, microscope, astrolade


Livejournal problems

It seems that there’s something blocking access to Livejournal from my home machine. I’m currently typing this (slowly) using a remotely running Firefox at work displaying over an ssh tunnel.

The traceroute stops pretty soon after Zen, e.g.

% traceroute -I
traceroute to (, 30 hops max, 38 byte packets
1 router ( 0.397 ms 0.376 ms 0.372 ms
2 ( 24.763 ms 23.616 ms 24.914 ms
3 ( 24.446 ms 36.281 ms 23.645 ms
4 ( 30.122 ms 35.757 ms 31.886 ms
5 ( 32.550 ms 31.993 ms 31.517 ms
6 * *

I wonder if someone’s put Zen into an IP block list somewhere.

New building. New disaster.

At work planning is under way to design a new building to house the department and it’s brewing up to be a disaster of managerial proportions. Here’s the history so far, names changed to protect the guilty:

Just over a year ago it was announced that the department wasn’t going to have the current buildings refurbished but instead that we would be moving into a new building during the summer of 2008. This building would be on the site of an existing 1960s concrete, glass and steel monstrosity on South Parks Road.

The University’s Estates Directorate (previously known as the University Surveyors but obviously this wasn’t a grand enough title), the Head of Disaster and a committee of academics (one of which expressed their surprise at being chosen because they knew nothing about buildings) chose the architect after a brief competition. From the start of the whole process I’d talked to the Head of Disaster and told him that it was imperative that I talked to the architects at the very beginning of the project as architects generally think about 2 generations of computing behind the current one and that there have already been a number of complete disasters with computing rooms in the University in the last couple of years because of this. I was assured that I’d be asked as soon as any firm plans were being drawn up.

I’ve been making this view clear now every few weeks or so and asking in meetings for updates on the state of play.

On Monday, Prof. Brian Roadblock, the chairman of the IT Committee, asked me to find the floor area we currently have in our machine room “because the architects haven’t given us enough floor area in the initial design.” This sent the “Red Alert” lights and klaxons screaming in my head. As well as the current floor area I gave him the ball park figures for floor loading, heat output and minimum air through-put per rack for any cluster system which may happen within the near future and stated that it would be important that the architects know this for structural reasons.

In the IT Committee meeting yesterday Prof. Brian Roadblock, who is the only conduit for information exchange between myself and the architects it turns out, dismissed all this as “things the architects don’t need to know” and “I don’t want to get bogged down in detail at the moment” he also stated that “the architects will tell us what they need to know.”

Basically, the whole project is already stuffed. The technical people are either out of the loop or their recommendations will be corrupted by chinese whispers. It’s already about 6 months too late to avert a complete white elephant.

Of Em, Jerry, Laura, Amy and Custard.

Friday, after a hard day at work working on lots of red tape I drove up to Bolton to visit Em and Jerry, finally arriving at 9:30pm.

Saturday started with breakfast, crumpets with honey, yum.. and mayhem from Laura and Amy out on the patio in the sunshine. Soon it was time to go off to Lyme House estate so after a quick packing of a picnic it was in the car and a zoom along M and A roads. And amazingly it was still sunny by the time we reached the estate.

It was out with the picnic.. which was wonderfully organised by Em, and a fun time was had by all.

After the food we climbed the steps up to the house and had the full tour. Unfortunately, by the time we got out to view the gardens it had clouded over. Fun was still had with the girls and Jerry rolling down the slopes before the rain started and it was time to go home.

It was a pleasant evening nattering and watching Em get ready for organising the church’s toddler group before bedtime.

Sunday started with getting the girls ready to go to Twinkles and the kids’ group at church. After dropping Em and the girls off it was back to the house where Jerry began the preparations for his hallmark roast chicken.

I don’t know where the rest of the day went, but after lunch, which, most importantly, included custard (though Laura prefered sprinkles to custard!!!) it was almost time to drive home.

And so, after leaving at 3:10pm, I got home exactly 3 hours later feeling shattered.

It was a lovely weekend and I want to public thank Em and Jerry (and of course Laura and Amy) for their hospitality.

Lindsey’s “Hag” weekend

This weekend I travelled up to Liverpool to attend Lindsey (and her fiancee’s) combined stag and hen party.

The drive up there was a bit of a pain as the M6 from junction 14 to 19 was, well, intermittent is probably the best word to use. Sometimes it was a road at others it was merely a car park. Anyway, I finally arrived at about 3pm on Saturday.

It was a fun evening, mostly due to Lindsey’s friend Janey who made a great effort with fun and games, though nothing debauched. We all finally got to bed by 3am.

Sunday morning started around 9am with a trip down to a park for “whiskey and doughnuts” where we got thoroughly chilled by the brisk breeze.

Following more natter in the basement and a visit to a local Subway sandwich shop it was time to come home again.

Today I’ve been recovering from all the driving and the lack of sleep. I managed to make it through the morning, driving to Banbury to buy some replacement ADSL line filters and visiting Sainsbury’s, but this afternoon instead of attacking the garden I just crashed on my bed and slept for a couple of hours straight.

Anyway, I think I’ll start attacking the garden tomorrow evening instead and have an early night tonight.