BBC iPlayer

The BBC are testing a new service whereby it’ll be possible to download TV content from the previous seven days over the internet. This is a great idea. Unfortunately they are currently committed to using a broken, DRM-based system that only works on Windows XP. There are a whole host of reasons why this is a bad idea (some of which are outlined and linked to from this brief report at the Open Rights Group site). The main reason I object is the fact that it locks out license payers who do not use or have access to this particular expensive and proprietary operating system, or choose not to use it for security, ideological or other reasons.

So, if you are a British citizen and BBC license fee payer, please consider signing the iPlayer petition at

Posted in Uncategorized

Now this looks pretty cool, although I haven’t got a proper handle on it yet. It’s totally passed me by until today – I don’t remember even noticing it mentioned anywhere, which surprises me as it’s the sort of site I’d expect to have picked up on, but then I suppose there are a lot of new sites and neat ideas out there.

I may not have much time to mess around with it properly but it might at the very least scratch my personal itch of creating a unified feed containing my own disparate feeds (this blog, flickr,, etc). I was comtemplating coding something up myself to do just that only earlier today but wasn’t sure when I’d get the time – this might save me the bother. More anon.

Posted in Uncategorized

Sustainable Blogging

I’ve been itching to start blogging again for months and I’m glad that I have even if I have no readers right now. Previously I ground to a halt not only because I had far less time to do it, but because I had slowly started making posting into a big deal and would spend hours tweaking drafts and then not posting stuff because it had come to seem trivial. I never had a massive readership and that’s never really bothered me – I wouldn’t keep coming back to it if it did – so it always frustrated me that I let this happen.

Then I read something today which solidified my feelings on this, funnily enough on the blog of a chap who had also recently taken up blogging again after a hiatus. His name’s Russell Beattie, he’s got a lot of interesting stuff to say and his last blog was quite widely read in some parts of the tech blogosphere, but on blogging he had this to say earlier this month:

One of the pieces of advice that I give to new bloggers regularly is post, post, post. Get a routine and stick with it, because if you don’t, you’ll start to build up what a blog is in your mind, and eventually you’ll just stop posting because it seems like this massive hurdle to overcome. My advice is always the same, post when you think about posting, and if you’ve got nothing to say, just say that just to keep in the rhythm. Most people don’t bother listening to me, but that’s okay, it works for me.

I read that and it clicked. He’s right, and this is what happened to me, hence this evening’s two posts. Both stuff I’d been turning over in my mind and thinking of writing about while also wondering whether it was worth it. Of course it’s worth it – I enjoyed banging these posts out and it’s left me feeling satisfied; so thanks, Russ, for helping crystalise my own thoughts on the matter and giving me a prod in the right direction. Maybe I’ll even take your advice and keep it up over the coming days and weeks.

Posted in Uncategorized

Google Reader and IE 7

I’ve started to use Google Reader recently and when doing a bit of lunchtime feedreading at the office noticed that IE 7 on XP doesn’t honour the
<pre> tags in post bodies. FireFox does. I can’t believe that I’m the only person to have noticed this, but a cursory google around the subject didn’t come up with much – a few list and forum posts without much followup. Do so few of the tech-minded feed-reading public use IE 7? Maybe it’s just a reflection of my poor googling skills or lack of patience. And while I’m on IE 7 vs. FF, I’ve also noticed that some of Microsoft’s own websites render far better in FF – parts of the revamped Technet pages for example. Try increaing the font size in IE 7 and watch what happens.

I wouldn’t really care except that we don’t support FF on the office network and as a senior admin I feel that I should follow policy on this. I do have FF installed for testing purposes (sorry, Brian) but I sort of feel I should stick to IE under most circumstances. Also, Google Reader is the only way I can see my own blog from work – we use a fairly fierce filtering system that currently bans personal websites amoung other things and it seems that the whole of is unavailable.

Actually this leads me on to the delicate subject of blogging and the workplace. I’m not sure if many people at Renishaw really “get” blogging, so as a rule I’m going to avoid talking about work here. I certainly won’t be blogging from work. Every so often I’ll no doubt touch upon things like today, but I’m going to draw a line for the time being. This still leaves me with plenty to talk about though, as there’s far more to my profession that what I currently do on a day-to-day basis. Plus there’s the interweb, and all the other trivia I like to think and blather on about, so hopefully my self-imposed restrictions won’t grate to much.

Luckily, I have a backup

A brief power cut early this evening seems to have knocked out at least two partitions on a big hard drive on my home server/workstation that holds my entire mp3 collection, photos and MySQL backup dumps. Luckily, I have a backup, and the one partition I’ve added data to since the last backup (my photos) appears to be readable, thank fsck.

It is so worth having a backup strategy for home use, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to outline mine. I have three machines – a house server/workstation, a scratch box, and a laptop. I back up the laptop to the house server, ignore the scratch box, and back up the house server to a Seagate USB hard disk. I’ve been thinking about sorting out a NAS of some kind but right now a couple of big-ish disks are adequate.

The reason I’m comtemplating NAS is because right now my backups rely on self discipline – hence the fact that there are a few photos missing from the most recent one. I have to attach the USB hard disk and run a script manually. It would be better to have a NAS appliance sitting in a cupboard and a cron job. Then all I’d have to worry about would be off-site backups. And you think I’m joking.

As for the script/backup method, well if you’re on any kind of *nixen it’s just got to be rsync. There really is not competition here. If you’re stuck in the world of Windows NT then I suppose that you can use the supplied NT Backup software, not a patch on rysnc but functions well enough if you can be arsed with the clunky GUI. Last time I looked the Win32 port of rsync wasn’t doing much.

Anyway, here’s my current crude-but-effective rsync script. The Seagate drive is labelled SEAGATE and formatted ext3. GNOMEs volume manager widget just detects and mounts it on power up. I like to keep things as simple as possible, so the script doesn’t have as much error handling as I might put in normally, but I run a few checks before kicking it off. Comments and queries more than welcome, and if you use this code then not only do I pity you I also disavow all responsibility for any damage you might end up doing to your data.


# $Id: seagate-backup,v 1.4 2007/07/26 21:33:30 sam Exp $

# Array containing list of directories to back up:
"/home" \
"/media/music" \
"/media/photos" \
"/var/spool/mail" \
"/var/www" \

# Mount point for the USB hard disk:

# check we're running as root:
if [ $UID != 0 ]; then
    echo "Script must be run as root! Aborting."
    exit 1

# check mount point:
if [ ! -d $SEAGATE ]; then
    echo "$SEAGATE not found! Check backup medium."
    exit 1

# Set up arguments to use with rsync.
if [ -n "$1" ]; then
    if [ $1 == "--delete" ]; then
	ARGS="-avz --delete"
	echo "bad argument: ${1}, exiting."
	exit 1

# locate rsync and basename
RSYNC=`which rsync`
BASENAME=`which basename`

# go through $BACKUPDIRS doing checks and backing up:
for i in "${BACKUPDIRS[@]}"; do
    if [ ! -d $i ]; then
	echo "Skipping ${i}: not found!"
    elif [ `ls -la ${i}/ | wc -l` = 3 ]; then
	echo "Skipping ${i}: appears to be empty!"
	echo "Backing up ${i}, please wait..."

# bye...
exit 0

Posted in Uncategorized

Long time no blogging

Well hello world! It’s been a while, and there’s plenty been happening. I’m father again, and now have two lovely daughters. That should go at least some of the way to explaining why there have been no posts for a while. I do still post photos to my Flickr pages and even some bookmarks to my bookmarks. If you know me and have a Flickr account do mark me as a contact and I’ll do likewise, friends and family get to see more family stuff.

Anyway, there’s lots been happening and I struggle to keep up these days, whether it be politics or tech or scifi or any of the other things I’m interested in. I ain’t got a lot of content for this post I’m afraid, it’s more of a placeholder to show I’m still dropping by the site from time to time. In fact, I think that this is my first post of 2007… considering I’ve been blogging on and off in some form since late 2002 that’s the longest gap.

I suppose that after such a long quiet period it’s fairly safe to bet I don’t have much of a readership. Maybe if I start posting some more, set up a commenting system, and participate in some other fora I might get that sorted. I reckon I could contribute a few things to one discussion or another out there.

Now I’ve said that, I bet I don’t post again for months. One last thing, if there’s anyone subscribing to my feeds, please consider taking the time to drop me an email and let me know, the logs are so full of noise it’s difficult to tell if there are people on the end of any of the GETs.

Posted in Uncategorized