Thursday, March 23, 2006


The man suing the Free Software Foundation using anti-trust legislation has lost. Turns out that RMS isn't an exploiting monopolist after all. Who'd a thunk. Speaking of RMS, is he going soft on his previously tough stand against natalism?

There are 99 days until the new EU directive on poisonous materials in computer equipment come into force. That's the good news. The bad news is that it looks like flat screens are still going to be exempt. So those lovely, slick power-saving monitors are probably going to be filled with poison for a while yet. Still, there are screens coming on the market that comply with RoHC, and there are developments that suggest that the exemption won't be needed for long. Lets hope it doesn't last any longer than the manufacturers need to switch to more environmentally friendly materials and get rid of their stocks of heavy-metal-laced flat screens.

And while we are at The Inq I might as well mention that they have had yet another of their rumours confimed. It seems that the PS3 will be region free for games. Now if the film industry would get a clue and get rid of regions for DVDs too, they'd be doing themselves and their customers a favour. It's a poor advert for DRM when the main currently known use of it is so arbitrary, pointless, ineffective and annoying.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Well, the free digital video recorder software, MythTV has a reputation for being difficult to set up, and in my opinion it's justified! But with a bit of perl script modification, some changes to the MySQL database and other jiggery-pokery it now works. And I must say it's great! Just the fact that the kids can watch their obligatory half hour of Danish kids TV at any time starting at 6pm rather than having to see it at exactly 6pm each day is worth the price in itself. We already time shifted Bowling for Columbine which DR found fit to send at some ungodly hour, so we're giddy with the possibilities of new technology.

Clicking on the on-screen TV guide to record a programme is so much simpler than the old find-a-blank-tape-and-make-sure-the-video-is-powered-at-the-right-time-and-program-with-the-remote palaver, it's a pleasure to use. And watching the start of a programme while the end of it is recording is great too.

So I'm loving it, but I'm not exactly recommending it. The MVPMC software isn't quite done yet, though the developers seem active. LiveTV isn't working for me (but I can watch things I am recording while they record) and there are some problems with getting the aspect ratio right, so we now suffer from the fat head syndrome despite the fact that our TV is not a wide screen. On the plus side, playback is smooth, the MediaMVP is silent and low power (< 10W when running, and we just switch it off when it's not in use) and image quality is fine. Call me easily satisfied, but I'm happy!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

GM lost some losses

(now they found them again)

It seems the bigger you are the more sloppy you can be about your accounts. The world's largest vehicle manufacturer discovered this week that they lost $2bn more last year than they had thought. I suppose they think it better to submit wrong accounts than not to submit any accounts at all as seems to be the current state of affairs at Fannie Mae, the largest (non-bank) financial services company in the world. Good to know the President and CEO Daniel Mudd feels "good about the position that we occupy" though it would be more reassuring if he were able to describe that position in more detail. But since there is no annual report for Fannie Mae since 2001 apart from the ones that by their own admission should no longer be relied upon that seems unlikely.

And is it just me, or is "Fannie Mae" a very silly name for a company?

Slimserver not schlimm at all

I got a new Hauppauge! MediaMVP now, this time with power supply. Right now it just works with mclient, which is their SlimServer client. Since I had SlimServer installed already, it turned my TV into a dukebox for all my music and an array of podcasts and Internet radio stations. Excellent stuff. I'm going to install AlienBBC so I can listen to Danish and UK radio stations - looks very nice.

Now to get the MythTV server working...

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Today I bought a Hauppauge! MediaMVP. It's basically a tiny Linux computer with an Mpeg2 decoder, a Scart output and an Ethernet port. It boots diskless from any Windows machine, but of course that's not what I want it for. It can also boot from a Linux server thanks to some dedicated programmers at SourceForge. It then runs their software instead of the standard Hauppauge! stuff and that means it's a front end to MythTV. Now! that! sounds! good!

Except that mine can't do any of those things due to the absence of a power supply in the box. Now, like most people who don't like throwing away stuff, I have a huge collection of wall warts from deceased or obsolete electronic knick knacks. Some of them are even 6V, which is what Google tells me the Hauppauge! needs. But none of them can deliver 1300mA. The one that got closest delivered 700mA, so I tried that (I was desperate), but all I got out of that was the nasty smell of hot sodium borate. At least that's what I assume it is, since it smells like the disinfectants they use in hospitals.

Whatever the chemical composition of the smell it didn't smell like a breakthrough for time-shift TV viewing.

It's probably not significant that "The new Hauppauge! MediaMVP" is an anagram of "Eva the puma humped a pig!".

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Using schmoozing

My colleague's blog, ostensibly about legume-based foodstuffs and the macroscopic effects of quantum mechanical spin has another post on our current work project, the Neptune Language. I was going to anonymously add a contribution to his latest missive in the comments section (it needs livening up), but Blogspot won't let me use the <pre> tag in comments so I'll have to throw away any pretence at being an interested but disinterested bystander and use my own brand new blog to snipe kibbitz provide feedback.

He describes the suggestion as a straw man, but there's no point in having a straw man if no one is prepared to beat it up, so let me don the boxing gloves. From his blog entry:

File my_file = ...;
using (InputStream in : my_file) {
// read file

This is all very well if the only thing you ever want to do to the file is read it, but what if you want to write to it or even lock it?

Clearly a more general mechanism is needed. I suggest that in addition to the using keyword, any construction of the form:

xxx(type y : obj) {

is simply syntactic sugar for { ... });

This way we can get rid of the 'nasty' special case syntax of 'for' on collections and several other constucts :-).

Now that's what I call a straw man :-).

Sunday, March 12, 2006


Welcome to my blog. I haven't decided what it's going to be about yet, but some of the themes might be programming, peak oil, passwords, pet peeves and photography. Perhaps I should have called it the 'P' blog...