Wednesday, March 31, 2004


Apart from the occasional exception (like Gunsmith Cats), I find that girls'n'guns always makes for a harmless bit of lads' entertainment. And this can span quite a range - say from the cerebral anime Noir, to harmless action movies like Underworld. A recent acquisition in that line was Najica - Blitz tactics Vol.1.

Now, I could tell from the trailer on other DVDs that this did have its own little fetish - but expected that the clips had possibly been chosen to make the point, as a come on. But rather than being the compiled collection of gratuitous panty-flashes, the trailer was, if anything, less intensive than the actual thing. Like Burn-Up/Excess came with jiggle counters, this could have come with a strobe rating. If it had, I think the flash rate would have exceeded 1Hz for most of the time. Otherwise, harmless generic g'n'g fare, but nor one I'm inclined to follow any further.

Spring forwards

And given the asymmetry of the transition, there's an immediate bonus - today, the first fend-for-myself evening after the clocks went, sunset being well after 19:00, it was of course possible to leave work at 17:00, cycle into town, have a quick Thai meal at the Sala Thong (dim sum, lentil curry and rice), and get home before I needed lights - I've not been able to do since September.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Summer Time…

Or at least, Daylight Savings, at last.

#include <obligatory rant about the asymmetry of transitions - a month after autumn equinox, but a week after the spring one, rather than a month before>

The weather may not be summery, but at least it was dry enough for part of the weekend to get out and start fighting the creeping chaos in the garden. In previous years, I've been able to get started in late Feb, but with work, late winter and wet weather, not so this year. So the weeds are everywhere. Made a first stab with the hoe, and a rudimentary bit of hands and knees work to deal with the worst of the goose-grass (cleavers). Also found one of the goldfish in the pond had had a big chunk taken out of its back, leaving it paralysed - presumably a narrow escape from a heron.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Celestial Matters

Stepping out of the Old Orleans tonight (memo to self - perhaps not the black and blue burger next time), looking down towards the river, a marvellous sight. A 4-day crescent Moon, alive with Earthshine in the deep blue sky, conjuct with Venus, both blazing brightly in a sky now clear after all day's heavy showers. It was a beautiful, tranquil sight.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Film — Infernal Affairs and Zatoichi

Two recommendations from the Orient this time.

Last weekend I saw Infernal Affairs - a slick modern Hong Kong police vs. Triads actioner, involving deep cover agents and much betrayal. Oh, and large caliber handguns and mobile phones.

This weekend, Zatoichi, the new "Beat" Takeshi movie, not the older films of the same title, concerning the iconic blind masseur. Half of the time it's an updated version of something like Yojimbo - and the other half is something like Kill Bill, with blood and body-parts sailing to all corners.


Spring is here, as evidenced by equinoctial gales, bringing squally rain and hail showers. Thus it was filthy weather when I picked up my new car, and nursed it gingerly along the A428 to work. A colleague commiserated on my having to cycle in in such weather, but I was able to disabuse him of the notion that I was quite that masochistic. The gusty windy weather - with Met Office warnings - continues, and as the Smart is rather tall for its short wheelbase, I was not at all inclined to show it off when we went out last night.

Meanwhile in the garden, the early tulips, the glory of the snows, the kingcups, hyacinths (all varieties) and forsythia are taking over from the earlier bulbs and winter flowers like winter jasmine and viburnum. The pond is showing its first lumps of frog-spawn after all the froggy activiy over recent weeks. And this afternoon between the showers it was nice just to sit out in the sun near Hobbs' Pavilion on Parker's Piece, which is a good sign of the turning of the seasons.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Catching up

What a week. I managed to get the new car organised - and it will be an 04 reg Smart (even with metallic paint thrown in gratis for a quick sale).

At work, a number of false alarms with misconfigured servers have caused a few palpitations in the last hours before release (tomorrow, I hope), but the continuing good weather and the chance to cycle, has helped work off the stress. And I did have the pleasure of dragging one of my Antipodean colleagues out to the office at 11pm local time to verify that his server was indeed incorrectly set up.

In the garden - the irises are long blown, the snowdrops are looking very tattered, the croci are still going and the forsythia is about to burst into flower. The pond is seething with froggy activity, but no spawn as yet.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004


Well, half-way through a week of enforced cycling to work - including in light snow-fall today. Not exactly the weather I would have chosen to cycle in, but at least the weather is generally been not too wet, not too windy, and the endorphin boost after the winter and several stressful weeks at work have has managed to lift the spirits somewhat.

It's been educational, though - it's amazing what one finds when one lifts up a rock and sees what squirms away, and looking at the networking undersides of web browsers is a similar experience.

Meanwhile on the vehicle front, I've just about settled on getting a Smart City-coupé Pure - it'll be a 53 reg rather than the 04 reg I'd been planning on before recent events, but will be the lowest impact commute-mobile for nasty weather.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Painfully learned lessons

or, for this, I wrote my car off.

As I noted a while back, for the last few months I've been busy on a project that's actually intended to be released. It was getting home from another Saturday at work (the 13th consecutive working day for all those trisdekaphobes out there) when I skidded in the sudden snow and slush and bent the car gently against a telegraph pole. The obvious damage was confined to the headlight, wing and wheel, but - given that it was over 10 years old, and a rear-ending back in '96 - just after the 3 year old mark - came close to being a write-off - I wasn't surprised when the garage told me it was a total loss.

What I'd been working on was a report of a memory leak detected in log-on stress tests. And there were a couple of obvious ones - stateless objects in .asp files that weren't being nulled, and would be better as globals anyway.

Next round, running the most significant COM object directly, I learned that CComBSTR is the invention of the very Devil. If you expect it to behave like std::string or even CString, you'll almost certainly leak memory. Better to write your own wrapper and count all the SysAllocStrings out and all the SysFreeStrings in again, with SysReallocStrings and any widening of data to append done under your own control. Run the direct test harness again - after starting transients, from 2000 uses to 25000 uses, memory and handles steady as a rock.

So I ran the program I'd coded using WinInet to drive a dumb web client, coded to match the test harness script (that used some test software I didn't have) to drive scripts plus COM objects. Steady as she goes. Hand over to test.

Leaking like a sieve, they say. At this point I went home, tired, perplexed and annoyed, to have the unexpected detour into a ditch.

Next lesson, Monday morning. My test harness was looping forever doing create an HINTERNET, create a session, use a number of HTTP requests, tear it all down, and repeat; theirs was using scripting to do the same set of GETs and POSTs. WTF!? I thought. Then I looked at a network trace.

If you use Connection: Keep-Alive in your requests, even if you destroy every HINTERNET and create then all anew, starting with a whole new Internet Session, the same TCP connection is held underfoot. (I'd probably have had to unload and re-load wininet.dll to force a connection close). So it was all within one ASP session, even though I was running what I thought were many. So remove the for(;;) and loop in a script. Suddenly the leak shows.

The guy who wrote the scripts looks over my shoulder at this point and asks "why are you calling this page with that argument?" - so I show him the test script. "Are you sure?" he says. So I do the obvious - capture a network trace with a real browser exercising the real server. And find that the script does indeed depart from what a browser does - it misses out the final crucially important GET-after-redirect to the page that winds up the session.

Adapt my test harness to match reality. Run it again. Steady as a rock. At this point it is probably just as well that the test team are 70 miles away, as I swear if one of them had been in the room, I would have bludgeoned them to death with my chair. But as the Ash Wednesday Chopping Block says, there are, alas, things that one can't validly give up for Lent.


Through force majeur, my first day of cycling for the year. As ever, despite the iffy weather - grey - and having to head home with a departure around sunset a prospect, it was so good to be able to get some real exercise again. Tops up the old endorphins.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Light Dawns

The start of March marks the season where the sun rises, and, on a clear bright morning, does naturally what my alarm clock has been doing during the winter, making the room light by half past six. Sunlight is streaming into the bedroom well before 7:00 now.