Tuesday, August 31, 2004


I read somewhere a little while ago that people sleep more while on holiday.

Then why is it that I was up bright and ready to face the day before 06:30 while cycling last week, but was hardly awake at all this morning as work recommences?

Perhaps it's that we're now at the stage where the sun rises over the house opposite sometime after 06:30, so as I drink my morning coffee, I watch the shadow move across the bedroom curtains. Dark mornings soon. Ugh!

Saturday, August 28, 2004

More on XP SP2

At home, both machines had the ZoneAlarm Personal Edition firewalls recognised, but not the Norton AntiVirus. And on my dev machine, the 1600x1200x32-bit display was knocked down to 16-bit depth without my say-so. Easily fixed, when spotted, but annoying.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Sick, sick, sick!

After watching the latest disk (episodes 24-26) of Shoujo Kakumei Utena, Karen remarked "Where are the Ministry of Education in all this?" I made the flip reply "They're too busy dealing with Hogwarts" - that being the obvious other odd school around in the media at the moment. I shouldn't've made that juxtaposition. It led to formulating the concept of HP & the Rose Crest Duellists. Something like this:

Harry finds a secret path in the forest behind Hogwarts, that leads him to a hidden arena, where he fights a duel. Now there are people with increasingly strange hair colours challenging him to further duels. Is the new young, pink haired Defense against the Dark Arts teacher involved with any of this? Who is the asian girl who says she is now engaged to him? Is this an arranged marriage sprung upon him by the Dursleys? Find out next time on Shounen Kakumei Harii!

[Later - a bit of morbid curiousity Googling shows that as expected, this is not a new idea, but one that (fortunately) seems never to have been taken anywhere.]

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Holiday - Woodbridge to Needham Market and home.

Only a short run in good weather, so late breakfast, potter about, take detours and still get back to base by 13:00. Fortunately, luggage is there too, so can head straight off. Stop in at my parents in Subdury to unsnarl their network. The "helpful" network setup wizard bridged the firewire and ethernet on one box by default, which squelched TCP/IP; and on the other, the connection sharing didn't proxy DNS, so I had to install Privoxy on the modem machine. But it all seemed to work. Then home to mow the lawn and shred more stuff to finish filling the green bin.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Holiday - Aldeburgh to Woodbridge.

Bright clear start, but again rain promised for later. I'm on the road before 09:00. Just south of Snape I hit a WTF!? moment - with the news full or reports about how the weather has washed out much of the grain harvest, I see someone is irrigating (big industrial sprinkler) a field of carrots. Farmers are never satisfied!

Following the river/coast along, the countryside is pleasant, but there are again sudden curve-and-climbs, and plenty of agricultural vehicles to have to get off and wait to go past. There is a pretty looking thatched church on the headland at Iken, and at Shingle Street, another Martello tower, and a view down the coast of two more. Carry on through Alderton, but skip the detour to the Ramsholt Arms, as there has been the first sprinkle, and the anvils are building up. By Sutton, I need food and drink, so stop at the Plough for a sausage bap and a pint. And the rain arrives, so I have another couple of pints and watch the Women's Triathlon on the pub TV.

Then it's a dash in a brief lull the last few miles, and arrive with the rain just following. Freshen up and wait for it to stop. Then look for somewhere to have supper later, and take in the place. To kill time, I stop at the Red Lion, which is a friendly little pub, and have a pint. Then it comes down in stair-rods, so I nurse another. They're only doing steak and chips that night, so when the rain finally stops, I amble along to Prezzo, a modern Italian pizza/pasta place for deep fried mozzarella and a quattro stagione pizza.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Holiday - Southwold to Aldeburgh

I'm woken early to noises off - but fortunately this is not more weather. My early order of coffee arrives as tea (yuk!), but at least there's the real thing with breakfast. There is plain yoghurt for my muesli and an alternative to the usual fry-up in the form of bacon maple flapjacks.

The forecast is for torrential showers arriving later, so I start early, in the first brief glimpse of sun. It clouds over almost at once, and I can see rain out to sea, and a rainbow inland as I take the path to Walberswick. The track from Walberswick is noted as being soft sand and gravel. Actually it's many puddles across its whole width, and some a foot or more deep. This means lots of portage, and having to wade through nettles while in lycra shorts. Ouch.

The weather continues to threaten, so I speed through Dunwich, down to the Heath - which, despite this summer's weather is plastered with fire risk signs. Plenty of purple heather, and the sky is all heavy dark cloud, with a downpour towards Sizewell. I get onto the bridleway to Minsmere, and after passing through trees, emerge into bright sun - most of the cloud has just vanished! Minsmere is closed for the day, so I only stop there to re-seat and re-grease the chain. By Thorpeness, I see evidence of the weather, but it's brightening up, with only one anvil cloud visible, and that out to sea. Cruise into Aldeburgh, being buzzed by sandmartins. The Britten sculpture on the beach is a rusted (landward side only, shiny on seaward), part splintered scallop shell, maybe 5m tall. I don't see what the fuss was about - the view inland is bleak, and to the north is dominated by Sizewell.

Beanburger and chips for lunch at the Captains's Cabin (chatting with diners at next table, who seem to be local to the region, they don't understand how I manged to avoid the A12 on the journey - I had to tell them about the footbridge across the Blyth to Walberswick), then check in and freshen up. Serious re-hydration now required so I go out to shop. There is a sprinkle of rain, but it brightens, and I sit out in the sun and drink 1.5l of water, before ambling south out to the Martello tower, and then north back up to Thorpeness. Approaching the latter, I hear what I think is distant thunder. Certainly the anvil that was inland has drifted closer; and as I head back, the sky behind me is extremely dark grey. This was probably the cloud that brought a little tornado through to tear down the circus tent I'd passsed that morning at Southwold.

Eat at Benson-Blakes Bistro, spiced beef salad, then spaghetti with crayfish, in garlic and chilli butter. It rains while I'm there.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Holiday - Framlingham to Southwold

I wake to rain, so just sit scribbling in the lounge until it stops around midday. The lounge is also a local coffee bar from breakfast time, so I end up passing the time of day, talking about cycling and holidays, with a woman who is minding her little granddaughter. When the rain stopped at last, and there was even an occasional glimpse of sun, I picked up some fruit and water, and set off on the basic 26 mile route. After the rain it was cool and damp - OK to cycle in, but I wouldn't choose to cycle to work in those sort of conditions. Today there are lots of sudden gradients, roads covered in alluvial deposits, and fords - one even signed as such. I get to the Swan Hotel by just after 15:00. My room is a real single - just the one single bed. It's also part of the fire exit, with a "smash glass to open" on the door. I'm just settled in the bath, and then thunder starts, and the power keeps going up and down, switching the emergency lighting on. The rain is torrential until almost 18:00, when I can finally get out for a stretch of the legs. There are plenty of plucky British holidaymakers in their waterproofs and shorts, and some hardy souls wading knee deep into the angry surf (and even a couple of surfers by the pier who have just enough reach to be able to stand on the board before getting to the shore). Along the dunes, there are rainmarks in the sand.

Dinner booked at the Swan - Anglo-French cooking. I have a bean soup, steak, and cheese. Not terribly exciting, not helped by disliking fish

Roadsign of the day - one sign indicating Brewery, Methodist Church, Wine Cellar.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Holiday - Claydon to Framlingham

Tucked into the standard sort of hotel breakfast, then checked out. Had to point them at the tour organiser for payment. Stopped at the Co-op for lunch stuff, water and biscuits. The selection of fruit was miserable, though.

Weather cool but bright, more April than August. Plenty of fair weather clouds, with the sun warm, and the air cool. The route takes me over lots of single-track roads, most recently gravelled. Having done holiday cycling so much in France, I have actually to remember on these deserted roads to keep to the left. The harvest is being busily gathered in in this brief respite from the rain as I take the long route - 40 miles or so - gently meandering to Framlingham by about 14:00, even with a lunch break and a beer break (the White Hart at Stradbroke - which has three very yappy white scottie dogs).

The Crown Hotel is easy to spot in the market place, and the Midland cash machine just up the road dispenses £5 and £10 notes, not £10 and £20! I have a bright airy room over courtyard. After freshening up, I go for a wander - too hot to sit in the sun, but I find a shady seat in churchyard to blog, then have a long wander around the town before having a curry (Chicken Rizella - a jalfrezi with added keema) at the Prince of India just outside the hotel.

Weirdest sight of the day - a semi-recumbent tandem (recumbent in front, upright rear).

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Holiday — home to Claydon via Needham Market

Driving down, I realise that there is just one problem with a car CD player - it's a lot more fiddly than tape when it comes to changing a disk. So for journeys longer than one CD, best to have one that stands instant repeats.

After finding the Suffolk Cycle Breaks place OK, I start to get acquainted with the new bike. It has Shimano gears, but thumb and forefinger levers, which mean I have to read the labels to figure out which to manipulate to do the shift. And there's a lot of fiddling before I get the saddle to a comfortable height for pedalling (i.e. legs extended on the down-stroke) - even if it is a bit precarious dismounting.

The pretty way to the hotel is only 8 miles. The first bit is supposedly a busy road - which really isn't, this Saturday late afternoon, and even though the supposedly short first hill actually keeps on giving (not helped by this being during the adjust saddle and learn gears phase), it's only 45 minutes to the hotel, so I loop back along the short route to the pub the chap recommended, the Sorrel Horse "a bit of a hike" he said. About a mile, I guess.

The hotel in Claydon is supposedly quieter on a Saturday than the usual one in Needham Market, but they have wedding party. The room is hell hot - it takes several seconds for the cold tap to run cold! After a bath, I stroll over to the Sorrel Horse for supper - steak & ale pud, and a couple of Spitfires. It's now 19:15, so I continue strolling away from the hotel, cross the main road at a footpath, and loop back eventually to Claydon by about 21:00. As I get into the centre, I hear a loud thumping of amplified music. No, neither of the pubs, but the hotel. So have another pint at the pub across the road.

Channel surf to near midnight to cover the noise, and discover that forensics seems to be the new fashion in US imports. Even when the disco dies away, there are motorbikes on the main road just outside, and it's still too hot. Sleep on the bed, not in, and still feel sticky.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Acid flashback, man!

Parking my car this evening, on the way to the cinema, I was startled to noticed, stuck in the rear window of the car parked in front, some hand drawn - in coloured pencil - Donny Osmond paraphernalia, small pictures stuck onto pastel A4 sheets, and large, uneven, hand lettering.

The author is boggled

Film — Memories of Murder

A Korean film, one that I didn't manage to fit in when it showed at the Film Festival this year, based on a true life case of a serial killer, still presumably at large, in provincial South Korea in the late 1980s. The old hand from the local station is happy to have confessions beaten out of the suspects that emerge, but the newcomer from the capital keeps on digging up patterns that lead to further suspects. But each pattern, each lead, dissolves, and the killings come closer to home.

Bleak and poignant.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

It's a jungle out there

The mild wet weather this year has allowed prolific crops of fruit - the cherries are just about done, and the plums coming on stream. But it means that the garden generates a lot of waste. Far more than will fit into the handy green recycling bins for compostables, collected fortnightly, even when shredded to allow it to pack more densely, and dried to further reduce volume. It means that when I've been able to garden, like this evening, I come to a halt with the bin full, and have to let it settle a bit before being able to carry on.

Monday, August 16, 2004

The Internet — A global source of practical uses

As Pete Abrams put it on the very first panel of Sluggy Freelance; at least as far as it is a repository of species memory. In these heady days before we regard Google as the new Microsoft, the ability to type in an error message and get a how-to-fix in moments is just amazing.

Like at the weekend, having acquired an old HP workstation with a pre-wiped disk to use as a server, I though I'd be daring and run up Mandrake 10 with a 2.6 kernel. And having installed, got a kernel panic during boot, trying to mount the file system. Yep, known problem, trying to mount a filesystem while the disk drivers are still on the unmounted filesystem. You can fix it with an intermediate RAM-disk stage, but I took the simple route and just backed off to a 2.4 kernel instead.

Friday, August 13, 2004


This is not being a good year for windscreens. Back at the start of June, driving down to Salisbury, just leaving Wing on the way to Aylesbury, there was a loud impact as another car passed, leaving a 2cm or so gouge in the screen, that within 30 seconds had become a 10cm crack; and despite contacting Autoglass straight off, we couldn't get a replacement fitted until after we'd returned home after 3 nights away. Then it happened again on Tuesday, a far less impressive impact that turned into a 25cm crack at once. This time I got an appointment on Thursday, but the guy was off sick, so it wasn't until this morning the repair happened.

In a way, the delay was convenient, as Thursday it rained very hard a lot; today was dry. It's bad enough just leaving a window open a crack or the sunroof ajar when the heavens open. With the whole windscreen missing, it wouldn't have borne thinking about.

Home network

With a bit of sustained wireless use, sitting in the conservatory (roughly diagonally opposite the base-station and through the central chimney stack and rear wall) I did observe a few drop-outs, where I needed to manually force a re-acquisition; and depending how I sat, the bandwidth varied between 1 and 11Mb/s. This is with a Netgear DG834G "everything in a box" as the base station, and a basic Linksys WPC11 PCMCIA wireless card, running 128-bit WEP.

The recent weather has also been affecting the line - the ADSL modem logging at the DG834G showed a number of seamless reconnects of the ADSL circuit.

The logs also show that every few hours there are a couple of handle-rattling incidents on ports 139 (Netbios i.e. file shares) and 3127 (officially, according to the IANA, this is the registered port for CTX Bridge Port, but IRL, part of the port range that the MyDoom virus family accepts on) from different IP addresses in the same Class A block, which the firewall component has dropped. I'm still running ZoneAlarm on all the connected machines as well, so in effect treating the internal network infrastructure as DMZ, which it certainly would be if I do the geeky thing of running an externally visible web-server.


Applying the 275Mb monster to a couple of machines yesterday, I noted a few quirks. On one, it failed to detect the virus scanner; on the other, with exactly the same one, it found it OK; but failed to detect ZoneAlarm, and put the XP firewall on as well (leading to potential network issues). So in each case I had to shut the security centre up manually. So it's probably good for folks who don't have any security at all up, but is a nuisance in cases where you do.

Apart from that, the main thing that changed was on a Tablet PC, where the on-screen keyboard has changed from the pearlescent XP-silver look to something in a flat, dark blue-grey (both the password entry keyboard and the in-session one). There's also a new letter-cell input for pen input as well as the previous two choices. And it re-set the "do you want a tour of the tablet features" pop-up on each user account.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Blog on the map - ICBM URL

Following the entry on Clagnut, I've now put up a rough map link, containing home and work locations, but vague enough that you'd need a phonebook to home in on me. That's just the most significant half of the post-code (the full one puts a circle within 30 meters of where I'm sitting now). There's nothing given away here that various postings about my journeys will have given away.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Blog al fresco

Well, now I have ADSL - and with a wireless hub, I'm able to sit at the picnic table halfway down the garden, with hands still grubby from doing some weeding, and sip a beer while updating the blog. How decadent. I thought back in the late 90s that putting in Cat-5 wiring about the house was geeky enough - and now it looks so quaint and old-fashioned.

And thinking about relics of earlier years, back in 90 or 91, we had some work done on the eaves - replacing everything exterior with uPVC, and renewing the end-most structural beams. While removing some of the unwanted greenery from the drive - not helped by having the house sharing the driveway occupied by an old lady who's had a stroke, so the place is getting a bit wild - I just found another two roofing nails left over from the renovations.

[Later] Uh - interrupted in mid flow - rain (and then bad light) stops play... That's novel.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Javascript, Konqueror/Safari and Enkoder

I use the old Windows command-line version of the hivelogic.com Enkoder. As it stands, it generates a bunch of document.write() vomit. This of course doesn't work if you want to serve a page as XHTML. You need to use the DOM.

My first take was to replace each string extraction as

which works in IE and Gecko. But that generates a mess in Konqueror. This works well there as well:

Which is odd, since they should be equivalent.

Alas the current Enkoder version is not only not available as a free-standing .exe except on Mac, its output is not at all amenable to rephrasing as DOM manipulation, being a blob that expands (somehow) in situ.

What a difference a year makes

A year back I was at Conjuration, the latest instance of the RPG convention, and the temperatures were just down from their record-breaking levels. There I got inspired by Heroquest - and I would have expected to have been in Leicester this or one of the last couple of weekends for the alternate year biennial, more Glorantha oriented, con; and I'd expected to have been blogging more about it. But as noted earlier, anime has managed to win out.

It also makes a year since the temperatures finally goaded me into getting a cropped haircut, rather than the non-descript, parting on the left, style I'd maintained at various lengths — up off the ears for the previous decade or so; very shaggy while in the 6th form and at university— for as far back as I remember (at least back to '63). And it's so much more comfortable and convenient - it's not really a noticeable loss of insulation in the winter, but it is better when it dries quickly after a shower in cold weather.

It did mean adjusting the fit of my cycle helmet :-)

Friday, August 06, 2004

2002 - a work oddessy

The car went over the 2000 mile mark today, reading 2002 as I parked it.

More on signatures on root…

If you have a file that contains the <?xml> processing instruction, IE is in tag soup quirks mode anyway, so for IE5 and up you lose nothing by hiding the extended DOCTYPE within the appropriate conditional comments. And IE3 people will already be seeing the <?xml>. But there's not a one-size fits-all solution for Firefox with the same data being served as application/xhtml+xml and as text/html, let alone other browsers.

Another nice idea, not quite ready for prime time. *sigh*

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Styling the body element in XHTML

body {position: absolute; top: 0px; width: 100%} does nothing for pages served as HTML. But this style is useful for Firefox and pages served as XHTML, as it makes the body element in XHTML behave just as it does in HTML and fill the entire viewport - no need to use a html-level id attribute to hang a style from on the base site.

Alas, it doesn't fix the doctype closure problem from the previous post.

Signatures on root i.e. <html id="">

They would be a good idea. You do need a tag at this level to apply different styles to the whole viewport if you're using XHTML served properly as application/xhtml+xml from the one style-sheet, and it's a useful way to identify your site for site-based user defined styles. It just isn't valid in XHTML 1.1 - unless you make the legitimate change as per Anne vanKesteren and extend the DTD thus

at which point a page containing

<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en" id="www-stevegilham-com-grey">

will validate against (at least) my Java based validator using Xerces, and even against the w3c validator!

Alas, in both Firefox 0.9.2 and IE6 (so probably all browsers) it shows up the characters " ] >" at the start of the page - a premature closing of the DOCTYPE - when presented as text/html. It is clean when presented as application/xhtml+xml to Firefox. This makes it more awkward for static pages served from somewhere you don't control. In Firefox, adding margin-top: -1.2em; to the body element pushes it out of the way, but not in IE - there you need to put a non-semantic div inside the body to hold everything it does, and move and style that instead (but only for IE). And you don't want to do either for proper XHTML. *sigh*

The stray characters are affected by some *-level styles (font-size, line-height, display), but those usually nuke the page - and body level styles don't override that.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

I love CSS

Having just spotted that my lower left site-map button was adrift, it was just a matter of editing my separately hosted style-sheet, rather than having to republish the blog - and then adding a few extra styles to tart up the archives list to be rollover buttons. Even with a bit of html>body hacking to hide rules from IE.

Film — Last Life in the Universe

One of the films I didn't manage to see at the festival - a suicidal Japanese librarian working in Thailand, on the run from the yakuza, falls in with a "waitress", tidies her house up, escapes violent death due to a convenient attack of diarrhoea, and then somehow ends up in police custody. An odd little piece, with dialogue in Thai, Japanese, and broken English as the common language between the two.

Not more than "mostly harmless", but more off-beat than much of the other festival stuff.

Slow start

Weekend was busy setting up the new home network - a shiny new router/modem/firewall/802.11g access point now that broadband has finally made it to the village. Not that the service will go live until next week...

Meanwhile it's just too darn hot and humid to do anything much, other than in small bursts. Which includes making the excuse that I can stop in the garden when I've filled up the green wheelie-bin with shredded bits of tree pruning.