Monday, December 31, 2007

Last Post for 2007

My birthday was a great day, thanks to every-one who sent well wishes and participated, the birthday elves were very kind to me and organised all sorts of dinners and treats. My reading list now includes Robert Kiyosaki's Before You Quit Your Job and Terry Pratchett's Making Money as well as Why We Want You To Be Rich by Donald Trump and Robert Kiyosaki not sure how the finance theme managed to overtake my "pleasure" reading list as well but lets hope it's a good sign for the new year :-)

On Saturday a group of us went up to the Quiet Cone in Parkerville. The quiet cone is a kind of Tipi shaped structure made out of metal and lined with something with acoustic properties. You lay down and relax whilst the "Gong Master" plays several large gongs and some other resonant instruments. The whole process takes around an hour inside the cone. I'm sure people go all metaphysical about it but I found it a very relaxing and uplifting experience. Worth a revisit.

My New Years resolutions are tonights job I suppose and just as well because nothing brand new leaps out for me right now except to continue the work of this year in terms of health and wealth. I've lost a few kilo's and I'm looking and feeling much better but there is still a way to go. Financially I'm still making other people more wealthy than myself and trading off lifestyle (or just literally life, mine!) for it, this coming year is the time to turn that around. This is the year of the baby though and as a first time going-to-be Dad I'm clear that I don't know what to expect, so long as Mum and bub are healthy I'm sure we will muddle our way through the rest.

We are seeing in 2008 quietly, or at least that's the plan right now at 3:35pm! Where-ever you are and what-ever you are doing be safe. I hope that in 2008 you are kind to the earth and all beings and that the year brings you peace, joy and fulfillment.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Birthday Wishes

Seeing as Linus Torvalds and I have our birthday today I thought I would send out best wishes to every-one and especially to all you mad Capricorns that I love so much: Lisa, Sandra, Penny, Glenn, David, Janet. Whenever yours is I hope you have a beautiful day for your birthday and a great year!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

National Treasure: Book of Secrets

We went and saw National Treasure: Book of Secrets last night. It was the hottest December day on record here in Perth and with the air-con out of order in our lounge the cinema was the next best place to be. Book of Secrets continues the treasure hunting and defence of the Gates family name themes from the original National Treasure in a sort of a Indiana Jones meets the Da Vinci Code way which, fortunately, doesn't take itself too seriously. Nothing high brow here just good clean fun, if you like the genre you won't be disappointed.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Activity

A few days off over Christmas and I've completed or made a valiant start on a couple of projects that have been requiring attention for some time. My desktop is now running Fedora 8. (I still keep wanting to say "Fedora Core 8"). Fedora 8 comes with no surprises, so far everything has just worked, but nothing has leapt out as being new and exciting either.

I also transferred a (substantial) chunk of the data from Insubstantial over to here. Insubstantial was supposed to be a website not a blog but most (all?) of what I wrote over there was more journal type stuff than anything else, or maybe living with blogs for so long now has changed how I think about stuff. I've done my best not to change history and leave everything as close to how it was as possible- some editing has been inevitable though, mostly to go from Kwiki formatting to what Blogger uses. Lessons learnt; Kwiki is a fine wiki but made an ordinary blog. Data transfer is important. Wiki's don't necessarily lend themselves to ease of data transfer, formatting shortcuts differ between wiki's and is useless outside of a wiki, I dumped and transferred mostly as html but I would be somewhat cautious about using wiki syntax again.

Sometime in the next few days I will redirect Insubstantial to here and enable custom domain in Blogger settings and the transition will be done.

We had christmas dinner 3 times- christmas eve with Lisa's mum and family, christmas day lunch with Lisa's dad and family and then boxing day lunch with my lot. Favourite dish from the three meals: Lisa's mums nut roast is the only thing that really leaps out. Will have to get the recipe. Lisa made a pretty damn fine bruschetta one night too. I made a bean salad to take to my parents, my own recipe and it is great.

Lisa bought me an 8G thumb drive which she thought was a pretty ordinary gift but which I loved. I bought her some diamond ear studs and the reverse was true :-)

Gift I didn't get that I hope comes for my birthday: Making Money by PTerry :)

What did the jolly fat redman bring for you?


I finally saw Beowulf the other day. It's an animated(ish), drinking, fighting, carousing, jumpy out and get you kind of a story. Imagine crossing Shrek with Aliens with The Three Muskateers and you would be in the right realm. It's a good fun movie though the Aliens aspects mean it's probably not safe for the kiddies- "intense sequences of violence including disturbing images, some sexual material and nudity " just about covers it; yes you get to see Angelina Jolie with her gear off, or at least a digitally rendered version of her. It's a much brighter production than the 1999 Beowulf though for my money Christopher Lambert was a better Beowulf. If you've got them then pack the kids of to the baby sitter and enjoy.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Desktops and applications

I tend to be more of a GNOME fanboy than KDE. (This stems from right back when Qt was proprietary). I've tried KDE every year or two and most notably the last time I stuck it out for a good few weeks before going back to GNOME. Over the years I've watched configuration options disappear from GNOME (sorry can't think of a single one of them though) and generally lamented their disappearance at the time and then forgotten I could ever tweak "that" after a few weeks; whilst of course remaining indignant at the design philosophy that took it away from me. But for reasons I can't really express (and it could be just familiarity) I like GNOME. Because of that I also tend to favour the GNOMEish applications (AbiWord and Gnumeric are my word processor and spreadsheet of choice). So when a KDE application stands out as simply better then to me it really stands out. The two KDE applications I turn to first at the moment are K3b for CD/DVD burning and KTorrent for downloading all those BitTorrent goodies, unlike their GNOME (and other) equivalents in both cases they just work and in just the way I expect.

Backing up Veritas configurations

Over at Symantec they recommend you backup your Veritas configurations for disaster recovery but then say "What is not a good idea is to set up a cron job to back them up often." Well why not? Because you could be backing up a dodgy configuration is their reasoning I suppose. Sounds like we need to keep a few copies if there have been changes then. Perl is my usual weapon of choice but this seemed like a good fit with shell. Use the code at your own risk but it seems to work OK for the environment I'm currently working in...

# backup veritas configurations
# as specified at
# saves the last x differing copies of your veritas config, a config is only saved
# if it is different to what has already been saved

NUM_OF_BACKUPS=5 # we keep the newest this many...

device_to_os_native () {
# use vxdisk -e list as vxdisk path doesn't work for all versions
os_native=`vxdisk -e list | grep "^$device" | awk '{print $NF}'`
echo $os_native

if [ ! -f "/etc/vx/volboot" ]; then
[ -t 1 ] && echo "Veritas not running here, exiting"

if [ `/usr/bin/id | grep -c "^uid=0(root)"` -ne 1 ]; then
[ -t 1 ] && echo "$0 can only be run as root"

HOST=`uname -n`
DATE=`date +"%Y%m%d-%H%M%S"`



vxdisk list >>$vxdisk_list
vxdisk -q list | awk '{print $1}' | xargs vxdisk list >>$vxdisk_list_detail

for disk in `vxdisk -q list | awk '{ if ($2 != "simple") print $1 }'` ; do
if [ `echo $disk | grep -c 'c.*t.*d.*s.*'` -ge 1 ]; then
os_native=`device_to_os_native $disk`
prtvtoc $disk >>$prtvtoc_all_disk

for vxdg in `vxdg -q list | awk '{print $1}'`; do
vxprint -g $vxdg -rhmvps >>$vxdg_detail

for file in vxdisk_list vxdisk_list_detail prtvtoc_all_disk vxdg_detail ; do
# get the second last file (last file is the one we just created)
last=`ls -1tr ${DIR}/${HOST}_${file}.* 2>/dev/null | tail -2 | head -1`

eval "current=\${$file}"
# if $last == $current then it's then we have no previous data
# for this host
if [ "$last" != "$current" ]; then

# if current has the same contents as last then delete current
# diff exits 0 if the files are the same...
/usr/bin/diff $current $last >/dev/null 2>&1
if [ $? -eq 0 ]; then
# files are the same
[ -t 1 ] && echo "Configuration unchanged removing $current"
rm -f $current

# if there are more than 5 copies of file
# delete the oldest copies down to 5

files=`ls -1tr ${DIR}/${HOST}_${file}.* 2>/dev/null`
num_of_files=`echo "$files" | wc -l | sed -e "s/ //g"`
if [ $num_of_files -gt $NUM_OF_BACKUPS ]; then
num_to_del=$(($num_of_files - $NUM_OF_BACKUPS))
for file in $files ; do
[ $count -eq $num_to_del ] && break
[ -t 1 ] && echo "Removing older version of $file"
rm -f $file
count=$(($count + 1))


Friday, October 5, 2007

How to mount a USB drive with exec on

Normally when you plug a USB drive in HAL/Gnome mounts it up with the noexec option set. This might be want you want but I have a bunch of scripts that I want to be able to run straight from the thumb drive and I'm also confident that I won't run anything that will break things so I want my thumb drive to mount with exec on. Herewith is the fix.

Open gconf-editor (Applications->System Tools->Configuration Editor) and navigate your way to /system/storage/default_options/vfat/ double click on "mount_options" and add "exec" to the list. Remount the USB drive and you are done.

FWIW I'm in the old style Unix camp on this and would prefer to see the option configured from a flat file somewhere in /etc, the stuff configurable by gconf-editor is baroque enough that GUI-only type users probably shouldn't be touching it any-way and having the option buried in a database somewhere meant that I couldn't find it with find/grep and had to resort to Google. Life is tough at the command line :)

Daylight Savings, A Minor Rant

We are about to start daylight savings here in WA for the second summer of our three year government forced trial. This in spite of the fact that we have had three previous trials followed by referendums and each time the response has been no. Democracy any-one? But that's an aside and not my biggest objection to daylight savings.

We have very hot summer temperatures here typically being in the high 30's to low 40's (that's degrees Celsius) for months. During the day I'm at the office where it's air conditioned and the outside temperature doesn't effect me, but when I get home after work it's different. As the summer progresses the house takes longer and longer to cool down in the evening which then results in getting to sleep later and later- if you wander around any office in Perth during the hottest periods you can pick plenty of people who are looking warn from the degraded summer sleep cycle. What daylight savings means is that I lose another hour of sleeping time: I don't get to sleep until the house cools down (which doesn't care what time the clock says) and then I have to get up an hour earlier, when it *is* nice and cool for sleeping. So unlike the cooler Northern Hemisphere climes where it originated in this climate daylight savings is completely counter intuitive. The typical rebuff to this argument against is to be told to buy air-conditioning... isn't one of the stated benefits of daylight savings that it saves power by reducing the need for domestic lighting? For those who want it I thoroughly recommend they get up an hour earlier and leave the rest of us to our very sensible sleep.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


"Narrator: A philosopher once asked, "Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human?" Pointless, really...”Do the stars gaze back?" Now *that's* a question."- Neil Gaiman
Lisa and I saw Stardust over the weekend. Trips to the movies will be harder to come by once the baby arrives so we are trying to fit a few in whilst we can, next trip out it is likely to be the other Neil Gaiman title, Beowulf. It's a while since I read the novel so I can't compare in minutiae with the book (who goes to the movies expecting a "book experience" any-way?). The casting was great, I especially enjoyed Robert de Niro as Captain Shakespeare, and Neil Gaimans story more than survived the adaptation. It's a genre I enjoy and Stardust is up there with the best, not so quirky as The Princess Bride but more risque than Willow. Overall, a double thumbs up, go see it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Health Kick

In January of this year I visited my very good friend Andrew in Singapore and he royally berated me (and justifiably so) for my physical condition. It wasn't news to me that I wasn't in great shape but no one had approached the subject so directly as Andrew and to be honest I had been mostly avoiding it up until then.

Fast forward six months and my diet has improved no end (thanks mostly to Lisa), but exercise is still on the low side and my job has me sitting all day. There's two things to do if you want to lose weight- eat less and exercise more and I've not been doing enough of either. I've also been having some lower back problems. Last week I went to see an osteopath to get my back fixed and they said that they could sort me out in three visits (and they did!) but that if I don't start doing exercise to build the supporting muscles I will just be back every other week. They recommended to me a personal trainer who I saw last night.

Andrew Budge from Trysport started me off on the scales and I discovered that I'm not the "around 10kgs" higher than my optimal weight that I thought I was but a whopping 25kgs. He told me that I'm at a crossroads and that I can do something about my weight now and live long and happily or I can do nothing and in around 10 years take out a mortgage on a cardiologists new Mercedes (don't you just love dealing with people who will tell you how it is straight up?). He further promised that if I did nothing other than lose that weight my lower back problems would disappear. So it's exercise time. The game is to lose 25kgs by March 2008 (yep around the due date!). To start off with I will mostly be walking and then once I have upgraded my broken down mountain bike I will throw in come cycling (commuting to work) and in a couple of months when my current commitments to the Team Management & Leadership Program finish I will get into the gym as well.

Why am I telling the world? Because I want your partnership. Cheer from the sidelines, hold me to account if I slip up or come join me and do something positive for your health and well being.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Coco Lounge - Glen Waverley Victoria

I was in Melbourne for the weekend as part of my participation in Landmark Educations Team, Management and Leadership Program and I stopped for a couple of extra days to visit with friends and family who live there. Once we had caught up on all the news from East and West the obvious question was "where shall we go for breakfast?". And the answer was the Coco Lounge. It's a licensed cafe/restaurant and to be honest it's nothing particularly special to look at, they saved all the effort for what's most important to any diner, the food. I love to visit Melbourne for the sheer range and diversity of top notch eating places, Perth Restraunters could learn a lot from spending a couple of weeks in Melbourne experiencing the pride and detail that goes into making a meal extra special. Coco Lounge is one of those places you could visit again and again, which in fact we did eating there for three meals in two days; one dinner and two breakfasts. For breakfast both days I had the mushrooms on rye, just delicious. Of an evening they serve cocktails and the dinner menu is scrumptious with plenty of choices even for a vegetarian like me. Add to that prompt friendly service and welcome to a foodies heaven.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Only Truth

Melbourne poet Peter Bakowski was recently on Poetica. I was lucky enough to spend some time with Peter and his family when he was doing a residency at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers' Centre a few years ago and he has become one of my favourite poets. His poetry speaks for itself, he is very readable. Go listen to it or get yourself some google action or even better still track down his books.

The title refers to a line in his poem "Some beliefs of mine", "Only truth can make a poem last longer than a candle".

Unfortunately ABC didn't provide a podcast for this one so no mp3 format, if you want to save it for later you are going to have to jump through some hoops, I'm still working out how from my Linux box here :)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Brekky at The Globe

Breaking free from the constraints of downtown Subiaco the breakfast crew gathered for a bite of brekky goodness at "The Globe", the restaurant attached to the Parmelia Hilton in Perth. The buffet, like the menu, was comprehensive but daunting- a future outing is being contemplated just to road-test it, the buffet that is, alternate uses for the poster sized menu's were proposed but on this outing we stuck to just ordering from them. The Globe is not the place to head if you are looking for value for money but the food was good and the service good too. Unfortunately the coffee was cold and ordinary.

Following up on a hot lead we went to Ristretto in the Paragon arcade for a second coffee, if you are in the city check out Ristretto, the coffee is indeed good.

Breakfast, it gets in your bones.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

First Post

Every Blog has to have a first post and this is mine. I set out to do this blogging thing once before but being a full time unix head I got sidetracked playing with software on my own web host and as a result spent more time fiddling and twiddling than I did writing. Since I get plenty of time to fiddle and twiddle in my regular job I decided this time to leave it to the proffesionals and concentrate on just writing.

What can you expect me to write about? Just about anything that interests me but I'm sure there will be some recurring themes; technology, politics, poetry, gardening, motor bikes, the human condition and food. Oh and my girlfriend is pregnant with our first child so you can probably expect a few posts on being a new dad.

The title of the Blog is a reference to the Dire Straits song Communique
But in the communique you know he's gonna come clean
Think what he say, say what he mean

I always thought Uncle Mark (he's not really my Uncle but he feels like part of the family) was singing "incommunique" not "in the communique" but since "communique" and "incommunicado" were already taken as Blogger titles Incommunique it is and I'll be, in communication.