My Hand Hurts!

I don’t send many Christmas cards. In that regard (as in many others) I’m a typical bloke, and I don’t keep in touch with friends and family nearly as well as I might. And even in those cards that I do write, I tend to be terse to the point of rudeness.

And yet, my writing muscles are so atrophied, that even this pathetically small amount of writing leaves my arm aching and my handwriting degrading till it resembles the drunken outpourings of a spider that has fallen in an inkwell!

My only defence is that the majority of the writing that I do now is on a keyboard. And when I say the majority I mean 90+%.

This is a bit of a shame as I like the artisan nature of writing (just like I like the artisan nature of knitting and home baking). Maybe I should make an effort to do more written work, even if only for my own amusement.

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Running Out of Space on CyanogenMod Modded Samsung Galaxy SII.

I have an Android phone which I recently flashed so that it now runs the CyanogenMod version. In most ways this is a marvellous, though installing it was a bit fraught!

But in the last couple of weeks my lovely little phone has had a little indicator in the status bar saying it was running out of space. I really couldn’t understand why. The storage indicators showed that there was plenty of space.

A bit of research this evening indicated a quick fix:

Open the Terminal Emulator

Become 'super user' (type su return)

change directory to /data/log (cd /data/log)

rm *

This freed up a huge chunk of space which meant all of the apps that had stopped updating have been able to sort themselves out.

Bosh!

Kudos needs to go to the forum member rhlee at StackOverFlow. The post appears on the discussion here:

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/16818049/insufficient-storage-available-even-there-is-lot-of-free-space-in-device-memor

The majority of the discussion regards using the standard dialler to do a similar job to the above process, but this method doesn’t work on a CyanogenMod modded phone.

Just One of The Reasons Windows is So Dangerous.

I was reminded recently of one of the obscure reasons that Windows can so often be a dangerous operating system in a world where the bad guys are so frequent.

The latest reminder came from a number of colleagues who received an email claiming to be from Royal Mail, regarding a lost or misdirected parcel. The email had an attachment which was zipped. Unzipping the file produced a file with the ‘extension’ to its name of .pdf.exe.

And in this simple fact lies the danger. Windows uses file extensions in a number of ways. For a start, it uses the file extension to choose what type of icon to use. But it also uses the file extension to choose what to do if the file is ‘opened’. In the case of the rogue email, Windows glibly uses the pdf file type icon. To most users this is a familiar file type and is often safe, and they may feel ready to click on the file. But at this point the system will use the second part of the extension to select what to do with the file, in this case running the rogue program.

Fortunately most users are already running an anti-virus program and the bad guys have been thwarted.

This time!

2013 Book Report 19: Getting Started With Raspberry Pi – Matt Richardson and Shawn Wallace

For most geeks the Raspberry Pi (from now on the RPi) needs no introduction. Originally designed to enthuse children by providing a small, easy to understand computer, the RPi has taken the geek world by storm, and has sold more than a million units.

It isn’t clear how many of these units have found their way into the hands of youngsters… I suspect most have gone to adults enticed by the low cost computer that bucks the trend for more and more powerful processors.

This book then, is a sort of manual for getting to grips with the RPi. Most users will, I suspect have started their RPi journey using resources that they found on the internet, so a perfectly valid question to ask might well be what advantage a book, static and unchanging can have in the fast moving world of open source.

This seems to me to be the biggest weakness of what is otherwise an excellent resource. The world of computing changes quickly, and this is especially the case at the fringes, and items like the RPi are definitely on the fringe.

The book covers useful territory such as what the various components on the RPi’s board are (surely part of the demystifying of this small computer), how to obtain and install a suitable operating system (one of the areas that has changed most rapidly) and what to expect when you first boot the system.

These are all great tools for beginners, and I would suggest that the thing that you are getting in a book, rather than a random collection of web pages is the expectation that the writing is well done, clear and easy to follow. In my opinion that is exactly what the reader gets here.

The rest of the book is a quick trip through some of the things that you can do with a RPi. This is a useful section in that when I first got one the question I got most often was ‘what is it for’. The really interesting thing with a device like the RPi is that it has connectors which can be used in software to do a whole range of things. These connectors offer a range of ways of interacting with the world. One day I may even build something from the suggestions (or I may try and find something useful to do online).

In summary, this book is both an easy to read and and easy to follow book. It is well written, and doesn’t come over as being dry (well, not to me, less geek orientated readers may disagree). While it is in danger of being rapidly superceded by the changes in the systems that it describes, the quality of the writing compensates for this danger. I would probably recommend just checking for any updates online before undertaking any particular projects.

 

Fiddling While Rome Goes ‘Meh’!

Today the General Synod of the Church of England announced that it had decided that it would begin the move towards having women bishops.

This was, of course, a cause for celebration amongst those who felt the church had to move forward (the nose dive in attendance was being linked to issues such as women priests being a demonstration of the church being out of touch). The same news was greeted by more traditionalist members as a bad thing.

By the vast majority of people the whole thing was met with a supreme chorus of ‘Meh’… Essentially we don’t care because it doesn’t matter.

The traditionalists demonstrate one of the many things wrong with religion. The rules they feel they need to abide by are a minor comment in the Bible. 1 Timothy 2:12 states ‘I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.’. This is pretty clear, and unambiguous. In terms of following what the Bible says the church should definitely not be considering changes.

But the realists in the church appear to have realised that this particular rule sticks in the craw of many congregations. Labelling women as never being able to take on the role of church leader feels unacceptable in a world where CEOs, Prime Ministers and Presidents can all be, and have all been women.

And this is one of the central problems with religions. The rules of religions are codified in some book, or collection of rules. But they brook no consideration. And given the age of most of these writings the rules that are listed are either weird or laughable. Some claim that the ten commandments are the basis for most western legal systems, but most of the commandments are about sucking up to god. No god before me, no worshipping false idols and keeping the sabbath day. Murder and adultery are forbidden in the commandments, but the owning, buying and selling of slaves is not forbidden, neither is rape. The rules are not fit for purpose, but there is no method available for updating them. This fact is especially the case in populations where the book in question considers the books as the word of god. Such beliefs are, of course, untenable when you consider the number of translations that each book goes through, and what known translation errors there are (Mary being a virgin? Please… the correct term would be young girl, but then that would undermine the Madonna worship central to Catholicism at a stroke).

Bill Hicks said it most eloquently.

“People ask me what I think about that woman priest thing. What, a woman priest? Women priests. Great, great. Now there’s priests of both sexes I don’t listen to.”

I don’t believe religions are on the verge of dying, but in a time of mass access to mass information, they must know they are looking into the abyss, and a period when they can only expect a stream of kickings.

How To Blow £14k in a morning.

We have a new group of researchers joining our department in the next month. They do work that involves large data sets and fairly big number crunching jobs, so they all need new, well specified computers. So this morning I had to order ten i7 PCs with SSD system drives, Raid drives for data storage etc. 10 of ’em at £1200 each (not including VAT).

Glad its not coming out of my budget…

But also looking forward to unwrapping ten brand new computers.

2013 Book Report 18: Safe House – Chris Ewan.

Read in the Kindle format, available here

A gripping espionage thriller set mainly on the Isle of Man. The story begins with Rob, the central character recovering from a bad motorcycle accident. He has only fleeting memories of what happened in the immediate aftermath of the crash, including the memory of a pretty young woman. However, the ambulance crew that rescued him have found no evidence of another person, and quickly write off his memory as false.

As he gets out of the hospital, Rob tries to piece together what has happened, going back to the house that he knows he had been at before the accident. Off the main road, and in a wood, the house appears abandoned, and the mystery deepens.

The story is taut and fast moving throughout. As characters are added into the mix it is difficult to know who might be telling the truth, and who might be lying. The information drip fed to the reader keeps them guessing as to who is to be believed and who should not be trusted.

As the book moves towards its conclusion, and as the story gets more frenetic the author manages to keep on top of the story, and it never gets confused or overwhelmed, and the ending is believable and understandable.

An extremely enjoyable read. I will certainly look to read more by Chris Ewan in the future.