We have at least one copy of everything Sir Pterry ever wrote. At least one, because both Tanya and I were fans long before we met, and the libraries merged.

I discovered Discworld when The Colour of Magic hit paperback, back in ’85 or so. Been hooked since. Re-read the whole thing recently, it’s so obvious that while the author really wants to write parody, the Discworld keeps forcing him back into Being Serious.  And that’s the thing. While Discworld is light-hearted, the issues are serious. You can read right over all of that without skipping a beat, or you can take your time and realise that real issues are being addressed.

*Sigh* I guess we sort of expected him to be Cohen the Barbarian, so adept at surviving that nothing can kill him.

Alas.





12
Mar
'15

In 1982, Spider Robinson wrote a short story about copyright law in the future.

Copyright ceases to exist fifty years after the death of the copyright holder.   But the size of the human race has increased drastically since the l900s–and so has the average human lifespan.   Most people in developed nations now expect to live to be a hundred and twenty; you yourself are considerably older.   And so, naturally, S. ‘896 now seeks to extend copyright into perpetuity.”

But

“There are eighty-eight notes.   One hundred and seventy-six, if your ear is good enough to pick out quarter tones.   Add in rests and so forth, different time signatures.   Pick a figure for maximum number of notes a melody can contain.

And one has to conclude that

“Artists have been deluding themselves for centuries with the notion that they create.   In fact they do nothing of the sort.   They discover.   Inherent in the nature of reality are a number of combinations of musical tones that will be perceived as pleasing by a human central nervous system.   For millennia we have been discovering them, implicit in the universe–and telling ourselves that we ‘created’ them.   To create implies infinite possibility, to discover implies finite possibility.

Have you ever seen a cheerful elephant?

 

 





11
Mar
'15

Trust the military to call a Morse key a “Key and Plug Assembly No. 19”.

It goes with the Wireless Set No. 62, which was vehicle mounted. You strap the key to your leg so that you have one hand free to hold on for dear life while presumably frantically tapping out code with your other hand.

 

 





 

 

 





Is there an echo here?

The one in front was my brother’s car, when he decided to sell it I persuaded my boss to buy it for me. Nice car. Leather interior, just over 300 000 km on the odo. Goes not unlike the proverbial raped ape.

The one at the back belonged to a friend of my brother’s, when she decided to sell it I pounced. Cloth interior (which Tanya prefers), about 380 000 km on the odo, and for some reason doesn’t haul ass as nicely as my one does.

Both are 1.9 TDI, chassis numbers differ by about a thousand or so. They get around eighteen kilos on the litre, or a thousand kilos on a tank, whichever way you slice it that’s pretty damn good.

When I bought #2 I took it down to Barons in Claremont, got them to do the 5 gazillion point check. Mostly because I wanted to make sure the timing belt is OK but you know, it’s a good thing to get an expert under the hood, make sure there are no latent problems.

Yea right.

Fast forward a couple of months and Tanya complains that some dinky little car carrying four farmers and a pig passed her going up Constantia hill, and could I please Do Something.

So I googled it. And then I had a look.

Hmmm. That doesn’t look kosher. Lemme zoom in  a bit.

That’s what almost 400 000 km’s worth of wear and tear looks like. All the vacuum is escaping, leaving nothing for the N75 boost control solenoid, which means you’re now driving a non-turbo diesel.

So new pipe was acquired (from Nesco) and installed and things are back they way they were. Not great, but adequate.

I sure hope they paid more attention to the state of the timing belt.





21
Jan
'15
[root@mort ~]# uname -a
Linux mort 2.6.6 #1 Mon May 31 12:28:13 SAST 2004 i686 unknown
[root@mort ~]# uptime
 08:21:51 up 900 days,  2:10,  2 users,  load average: 0.21, 0.08, 0.03
[root@mort ~]#

Try that with Windows.

But they’re moving the datacentre today so that’s as high as it’s going to get for the next couple of years.





Ah yes, New Years’ resolutions. Gotta love ’em.

However, I have too much stuff. There. I said it. I mean, I firmly believe in the William Morris quote,  however, times have changed.

This collection of Elektor magazines I grew up with — obsolete.
A collection of GE Ham News that someone spent money on to have nicely bound — obsolete.

Byte magazines? Obsolete.

Creative Computing? Not quite yet obsolete.

And even if I can’t find it online, scanning and dumping* is better than storing the originals until my container is auctioned off one day.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m still keeping mountains of stuff. Just not… this stuff.

 

* Yes, Jason doesn’t like dumping. I’m not dumping anything that’s even slightly rare, so chill.





I suppose the URL of this blog gives it away, so nobody will be shocked to hear that I’m often slow to adopt technology.

So I only recently moved to Windows 7 from Windows 2000. You see, there’s nothing really wrong with Windows 2000.

What is wrong is that the latest ChromeFoxEra doesn’t run on Windows 2000 any more, and the latest Flash plugins don’t plug into the earlier versions of ChromeFoxEra, and the older Flash plugins won’t play Youtube movies any more because of a completely misguided opinion that one can make it impossible to download movies off the ‘net if you use the latest greatest features of Flash.

Or something like that.

And with both my home PC and my work PC now running Windows 7 (Classic desktop theme, animations and special effects very much “off”) it was time to upgrade the Mini 9 from XP to 7.

Google gives many hits on how to do this. But those websites / blogs don’t exist any more.

Fortunately we have the Wayback Machine, which saved a copy of multimolti‘s blog which is OK and a copy of Rick White’s blog which is excellent.

So I followed that, except that I used the very excellent Rufus to make a bootable USB stick.

Peeve: vlite is a nifty tool, but it needs the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK). Download vlite, 1.4 megabytes. Download WAIK, 1.4 gigabytes. Microsoft needs to take some lessons from Steve Gibson.

 

Vendor 197B, Device 2382 / 2383 : Card Reader from JMicron, download drivers here.

ACPI\CPL0002: Battery meter, install R192569.EXE.

Touchpad driver: From Synaptics. Yes, you have to download the 118 megabyte file for Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8, 32 and 64 bit. I guess it’s more convenient for them that way. And you then have to go to Device Settings / Settings to turn off tapping (which is the only reason I needed this driver anyway).

(http://www.mydellmini.com/forum/dell-mini-9-guides/2707-drivers-dell-inspiron-mini-9-910-a.html)





4
Sep
'14

In 1961, Frank Drake helped organise the first Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) conference. In preparation for his speech, he came up with the Drake Equation, which effectively multiplies a whole lot of unknown probabilities together to come up with a figure which may or may not tell us how many real live aliens there might be out there trying to communicate with us.

Drake’s Equation is little more than an interesting thought experiment, since every single variable is a SWAG. Still, people use it to come up with a figure that motivates them to aid the search. Nothing wrong with that.

But even if Drake’s Equation convinces you that there are many many civilisations out there, there’s reason to believe that the Earth is unique, or at least very rare, in one way. From where we stand, the sun and the moon both occupy about 30 arc seconds, or to put it differently, the sun is 400 times bigger than the moon and also 400 times further away.

Where the unique becomes sublime is when we have a total eclipse of the sun. If the moon were bigger, we wouldn’t see a halo. If the moon were smaller, it wouldn’t be a total eclipse.

Which is why Iain Banks, in his novel Transition, suggests that instead of watching the great American eclipse of 2017, you should rather be looking around. Many of the spectators might have hitch hiked a number of lightyears to observe the phenomenon.





So you have a hard drive encrypted using Truecrypt. A very good solution to keeping data secure, but it does make your data more fragile. When* the drive goes TU, you can’t just run a recovery program on it, because encryption.

And of course so it came to pass. My hard drive developed read errors.

First thing, make a backup copy. For this you need a Linux box and ddrescue. And a large drive to recover to.

# ddrescue /dev/hdb /mnt/large-disk/diskimage /mnt/large-disk/logfile.log

(This takes a while, but when it’s done you can unplug your faulty disk, save it as much trauma as possible)

You now have an image of the whole disk. You want an image of the partition.

# fdisk -lu diskimage

Disk diskimage: 0 MB, 0 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 0 cylinders, total 0 sectors
Units = sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x2fa13928

Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
diskimage              63   976768064   488384001    7  HPFS/NTFS

Your partition starts at “Start” x “Units”, which would be 63 x 512 = 32256 in this case.

# losetup -o 32256 /dev/loop0 diskimage

You can now attempt to recover /dev/loop0. I found this easier in Windows, so

# dd if=/dev/loop0 of=/mnt/nfs-volume/diskimage.tc

And then back in the Windows world, you can use truecrypt to mount diskimage.tc and if you’re very lucky your files will be there. If you’re unlucky, truecrypt won’t recognise the image as a truecrypt volume, and you’re in more shit than I can help you with today.

In my case, truecrypt mounted the volume but Windows did not recognise it as a drive (i.e. a corrupted file system). There are tools for this. Unfortunately most of them work on physical disks, not virtual ones. Thank Finagle for google, who told me about GetDataBack. Specifically, GetDataBack 4.25. Pointed it at the virtual disk (G:) and it recovered all my files with absolutely no worries.

 

* Not if.

 





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