Basically narcissistic pictures of me

I shoot my gun and Java be dancin’!

Picture postcards from scenic Cornwall

No, not a scary Easter Island statue like you thought, but just a mad sculpture at Cornwall’s maddest shop, Trago Mills. It is like Bluewater for country folk, you can buy carpets, ironmongery and sheep dip under one unexpectedly castellated roof. I like going there and buying unusual and bonkers things, like elasticated lederhosen, or a miniature saxophone for weasels.

A weird house! In Lostwithiel, probably Cornwall’s most exciting small rainy town composed largely of antique shops. And that is up against some stiff competition.

They even have a sign! Don’t sound so pleased about it!

This is a nanshunt bridge in the heart of sleepy, antiques-obsessed Lostwithiel, and judging by the rusty sign, even single traffic is not exactly intensive. In fact when I tried to cross the bridge, the way was barred by an angry troll. I had to pacify it with some beef flavour Hula Hoops, which is annoying as I like them.

I know it is perfectly sensible really, but this is just the type of book which you only find at Trago. Or if you go to a horse library.

More of the world’s weirdest books, not available in any shops! Except Trago. I am a bit worried about the headless dog owner, I think it is just the power of optical illusion though.

This is in the sleepy and equally antiques obsessed village of Lerryn, you can see what kind of desperation the locals have got into for entertainmint. I do not approve of racing seagulls in fact as it is a form of abuse.

Nerdvana

Well I am tecknically on holiday, but it is good to be able to do a bit of work as well, especially with Susan. I am starting to get the hang of TextMate for editing, and with the Subversion bundle I can work on a local checkout. I am also logged on to my machine at work via SSH, running screen so that I can access lots of servers at once. I could run that here of course but I am just showing off, plus it does not require updating lots of firewalls with my new IP here.

I found a good tip for iTunes, I have the impossibly superior iAudio 7 music player, which does not sync with iTunes (despite starting with ‘i’), but it would be nice to play tracks from it through the Mac. There is a preference setting in iTunes under ‘Advanced’ called ‘Copy Files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library’. If you turn it off, you can drag folders into the iTunes window and it does not actually copy the music files into the library, it just stores their location. (If you just want to do this as a one-off, Option-dragging the files has the same effect.) I use this to play my main music collecktion at home off a network hard drive.

Similarly, I can drag the music folder from the iAudio into iTunes and it will happily play the tracks over USB instead of trying to copy everything onto my hard drive. It is a bit confusing though when you are moving around and attaching to different drives, networks and players, and the songs still show up in your library (if you try and play them, iTunes says they are not available). So you can create different iTunes libraries eg one for your music player, one for local files, one for a remote disk, ekcetera. Just hold down Option when starting iTunes and it gives you the choice of creating a new library or selecting an existing one. Nifty!

I also bought a nice little laptop travel kit, it has various goodies in it eg a retractable LAN/phone cable, retractable USB cable, USB mini adapter, a tiny 4-port USB hub, and a darling little USB optical mouse with a scroll wheel! All at a price to fit your pocket, in a zip-up pouch with lots of places to put your own bonus gadgets in! It is like Verbatim invented a special nerd accessory kit just for me!

As much fun as I am having though I should turn the computer off and do something else, I have not even read any of the books I brought with me! Last time I read the whole of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, with hardly a pause except to get more wine and crisps. On the other hand I did not have Susan then.

Hello from mystick Cornwall

Hey hey! I am on holiday with Susan, and I am relaxing on the train while watching the Simpsons and composing my golden thoughts for Keith Lard’s Diary.


Picture of me taken by Susan!

It is amazing how quickly I have made the transition to smug Mac user. I am like Robert Webb out of those “Mac versus PC” adverts, only better looking obviously. The machine is just a joy to use and I have a sneaking suspicion it is smarter than I am. (It is. - Susan) I am worried that it might actually be editing my journal entries while I am distracted by crisps.

I have also become like a wi-fi vampire, roaming London to feed on the wireless internet of the living. Last night in the pub Matt and I were chatting away to Steve on Adium. It was like he was actually there, only in text form. I did not have to buy him any beer either as I just took a picture of a pint with the iSight camera and dragged it into the chat window. Cheap round!

So I am off to the miffic land of Cornwall, where romance and heroic legend mingle with delicious pasties. It is bad news for my weight loss campaign as in a week’s time I will actually look like a pasty. I think I am already starting to develop a knobbly ridge of crimped pastry down my spine.

The power of MacBook compels you!

Well it is my first entry powered by Susan which is my little MacBook. I am single so this is basically the most intense emotional relationship I have right now.

I really like Front Row which is a great media centre app, if you have some movies and TV shows burned on DVD or USB drives, or on your network, then you can play them nicely through Front Row using Perian and this hint. Pirate TV enjoymint ahoy! And it comes with a cute little remote so I need never leave the sofa again, except for emergency medical supplies of Twiglets, or posh beer.

The only problem I have is every time I try to actually do something, like work, or writing, or looking at web pages, I get completely distrackted by discovering some wizzo new feature or trying to figure out how to do something in OS X. I am happy but unproducktive.

And I keep forgetting to go to bed!

The rich, fulfilling sounds of keithlard

Well it is another internets single by me, that is bitfield, which you may be interested in. It is all right if not.

Anti-usability

Now let us not praise GnomeBaker, the Gnome CD writing application.

It actually seems to have been carefully designed for anti-usability. It doesn’t remember the things you want to it to remember; it remembers those things which are inconvenient and wrong for next time. Every action that you do has the opposite effect to that you expect; if it can do the wrong thing, or the right thing in the wrong situation, it will. This is not mere bad design; someone has sat down and done careful user studies of exactly how people use CD writing software, and then deliberately implemented a piece of software to frustrate them.

I’ve recently been suffering agonies because K3B is broken in debian-testing; I finally cracked today when I had to make a large and complicated data DVD and GnomeBaker persisted in getting things wrong at every possible opportunity. If you create a new folder in a folder that GB’s already seen, it won’t recognise that a new folder has appeared. If you force it to refresh the display, it shows the folder, but it can’t open it. If you write the DVD, it doesn’t give you any errors, but then you find the folder is empty on the DVD. If you go to another folder and come back, it doesn’t refresh the cache. If you exit the program and restart to force a cache refresh, you lose all the DVD project information you’ve already built up. There’s no way to save your project.

There’s more. If you select a bunch of folders with shift-click, and then try to drag them into the project area, GnomeBaker unselects everything but the file you clicked on. This is exactly the wrong behaviour, especially as Nautilus and every other Gnome app gets this right. It’s even in Gnome’s own usability standards. It doesn’t remember what size of disc you burnt last time and always defaults to a 700Mb CD. So if you drag a bunch of folders into the project, it tells you the disc is too small and throws all the folders away except the first few that fit. If you choose the right size disc and then re-drag the folders, it duplicates the folders you successfully dragged last time. You have to manually select them and remove them.

It also doesn’t cope with files with Unicode names or funny characters generally, and aborts the whole DVD until you fix it. Basically what I am saying is that the US intelligence agencies have been on the wrong track at Camp X-Ray and what they should actually be doing is forcing internees to create complicated DVD projects under time pressure using GnomeBaker. No-one can stand up to that kind of torture without breaking down and begging to confess. I found myself wanting to ring the American Embassy and turn myself in as an illegal combatant, just to make it stop.

What joy when I just bit the bullet and installed K3B from unstable. It did what I wanted straight away and worked. I have rarely felt such a sense of vengeful satisfaction as I did typing

keith@newman:~$ apt-get remove gnomebaker
keith@newman:~$ apt-get hunt down and destroy all those involved

The Doomsday algorithm

Pointless skills, number 218: calculating the day of the week for any given date. There are a lot of different ways to do it but I like this method, due to John Conway.

The trick involves knowing what day of the week the last day of February was for the year in question. If you know this day (which Conway calls Doomsday), you can get close to the required date by knowing that Doomsday always recurs on the same dates:

  • January 3 (normal years) or January 4 (leap years)
  • February 28 (normal years) or February 29 (leap years)
  • March 0 (in other words, March the Nth will be N days after Doomsday)
  • For the remaining even months, the same day as the month (April 4, June 6, August 8, etc.)
  • For the remaining odd months, use the mnemonic ‘I work 9-5 at the 7-11’. So the 9th day of the 5th month and vice versa, and the 7th day of the 11th month and vice versa.

So if Doomsday for a particular year is Wednesday, and you want the date of the 9th of April, then since Doomsday always recurs on the 4th of April, the 9th is a Monday.

It is a lot easier to do than to read about, try it with a couple of dates from this year and check it against the calendar.

Part 2 of the trick is how to find Doomsday for a given year. Divide the last two digits of the year by 12 (this is taking you back to tens and units at primary school if you remember that. We had little plastic blocks, anyway that is not germaine to the issue.) So 1938 would be 38 / 12 = 3, remainder 2. Now divide that remainder by 4, so 2 / 4 = 0 (ignore the remainder).

Add up the digits you just worked out ( 3 + 2 + 0 = 5 ). This tells you how far away Doomsday is from the ‘anchor day’ for that century, which for the 20th century was Wednesday. So Wednesday + 5 days = Monday. So Doomsday for 1938 was Monday.

Again that is a lot easier to do, after a little practice, than to try and follow someone telling you about it. What’s that? A hand up at the back? How do you know the anchor day for the century? Well that is easy, for this century it is Tuesday (“Y-Tue-K”), and Wednesday for the last century, when most of us were born (“We-in-dis-day”). For the other centuries lookitup boy lookitup lookitup.

Most of the time the only years you will need to remember is this one and next (Doomsday for 2010 is Sunday, and for 2011, Monday).

This is a good skill and once you have done it a few times it is super easy. Obviously once you know the Doomsday for this year and the next you can just remember it. Who is going to ask you what day something was in 1938 anyway, but if they do and you get it wrong, just claim their memory was addled by the 60s.

So have a go. Amaze your friends, if only with how much spare time you seem to have for memorising pointless things.

The world according to keithlard

A jackdaw’s treasury of doodads, nuggets, trinkets and gewgaws. Or more prosaickally it is some things I saw and took pictures of with my electric camera.


I wonder if any rubber suited frogmen saw this sign and got mixed up about where they were supposed to go. I expect they did not. But it would have been comical if they did.

I am frightened of children as it is, but these mannequins were Doctor Who scary.

Book your places now!

Everyone’s a winner when you learn more about road safety.” This is like a joke board game from The Simpsons, that the Flandererses might play. But it is terrifyingly real. According to the box it is as exciting for children as for adults, which I have no trouble believing.

Just don’t even think about it.

A cheerful pie! It seems almost a shame to eat it.

Almost.

Birthday card for k.s.

You and your goo better turn around, buddy. There’s nothing for you here.

"It's not you... it's me."

Excerpt of a letter from Npower:

We’ll break the news to your current supplier that you’re changing to npower. Please don’t stop your payments to them yet because they can stop your move if you owe them money. Of course they’ll be disappointed that you’re leaving, so please give us a call and check the facts if they try to persuade you to stay with them.”

It is almost like a romantic relationship with my energy supplier. I have to say I’ve never thought of them in those terms. I like Npower, but not in that way.

Dear Powergen,

This is the hardest letter I have ever had to write. I know I have been a little cold and distant lately, I am sorry. The fact is things are just not working out between us. I know I can be demanding, especially in bed, but you just haven’t been satisfying my need for warmth. You only seem interested in getting turned on between midnight and 7am, whereas I want you to be hot and ready all day long.

I have met someone else, on the internet. I know you will say she is cheap, but I’ve been seduced by her attractive tariffs and I feel an instant connection. Do not be upset as I am sure you will meet someone new and even better than me in the future. I think we have just both changed as people and there is not the same spark between us that there once was. I hope you can forgive me and I wish you all the best,

Keith