Gordon Browns Legacy

Darren Foreman was kind enough to point out an article detailing Gordon Browns Legacy on the BBC today:


If you click on the image you will be able to see the full positive legacy that Gordon Brown has had on our country.

On a serious note Gordon was the Chancellor of the exchequer that allowed Tony Blair to basically spend spend spend his way to popularity. He sold the gold reserves for a quarter of what they where worth a few years later. But, to top it all off he has managed to increase total tax as a percentage of GDP from 39.3% in 1997 to 42.4% in 2006, going to a higher level than Germany. So the nation is now within 8% of actually working for the governement. How sad is that. I will soon be an employee of the state who happens to go to work for less than 50% of what I actually earn. No matter how you butter it, Big (read Natzi or Communist) government is just around the corner. When a government needs 42% of it’s national output to fund what it does the nation being run by that governement is in serious trouble.

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Superstition is Rife among developers

I was reading John Stuart Mill’s on Liberty and came across the following passage:

There is a class of persons (happily not quite so numerous as
formerly) who think it enough if a person assents undoubtingly to what they think true, though he has no knowledge whatever of the grounds of the opinion, and could not make a tenable defense of it against the most superficial objections. Such persons, if they can once get their creed taught from authority, naturally think that no good, and some harm, comes of its being allowed to be questioned. Where their influence prevails, they make it nearly impossible for the received opinion to be rejected wisely and considerately, though it may still be rejected rashly and ignorantly; for to shut out discussion entirely is seldom possible, and when it once gets in, beliefs not grounded on conviction are apt to give way before the slightest semblance of an argument. Waving, however, this possibility assuming that the true opinion abides in the mind, but abides as a prejudice, a belief independent of, and proof against, argument this is not the way in which truth ought to be held by a rational being. This is not knowing
the truth. Truth, thus held, is but one superstition the more,
accidentally clinging to the words which enunciate a truth.


Have you ever heard Perl and PHP fans get stuck into each other, or Java vs C++, or Vim vs Emacs (there can be only one). It’s crazy! Most of the noise is created by people who have no real understanding of the technology they are arguing against and some of them don’t even understand the tech they’re arguing for. Wikipedia has an entry on Editor Wars.

Basically Mr Mill is stating that if you’re arguing against something with little real understanding about what that something is then your just another superstitious idiot.

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Mental Masturbation

My definition of Mental Wanking reads like a medical affliction.

Main Entry:
men·tal mas·tur·ba·tion

stimulation, especially of one’s own mind commonly resulting
in time wasting. Can be achieved by missing the point or an
acute lack of realism. More prevalent in certain fields, critics ( in
particular literature ), software engineers, tv buffs etc. Can
occasionally be accompanied by
mental fantasies, arrogance, bad temper and or delusions.

For those looking for individual definitions of the word I took the following from Websters.

Main Entry:
: erotic
stimulation especially of one’s own genital organs commonly resulting
in orgasm and achieved by manual or other bodily contact exclusive of
sexual intercourse, by instrumental manipulation, occasionally by
sexual fantasies, or by various combinations of these agencies

And the following entry for Mental:

Main Entry:

1 a: of or relating to the mind; specifically : of or relating to the total emotional and intellectual response of an individual to external reality <mental health> b: of or relating to intellectual as contrasted with emotional activity

Continue reading “Mental Masturbation”

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Exim4 Unrouteable Address

I have no idea when or why this started happening for me but I started getting Unrouteable address appearing for any external address.

I’m a huge fan of Debian but there are some things that really piss me off. One is the way they have completely screwed the exim4 configuration. Exim4, if you are not an administrator or mail guru is not the simplest thing in the world to configure, it’s config file is fairly involved and you can do anything in it. Add DEBCONF variables to this and you have a complete nightmare configuration.I spent two days tracking this error down to the following:


That was all I had to add to /etc/exim4/exim4.conf.template

Why this changed I have no idea. The setting I am using in /etc/exim4/update-exim4.conf.conf is


I really cannot make head nor tail out of this at all. I sometimes wish I had started learning Postfix instead of Exim but part of me thinks that it’s not Exim but rather the way it has been packaged up thats compicated.

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Gaming Performance and Hardware

After my Gaming Hardware post I decided to have a look at what the gaming field is up to i.e. do ping times still dominate the conversation. Is everyone still as infatuated with performance as they were several years ago. I used to do some gaming and I would still like to
but I get too sucked into it and lose weeks of my life so I made
a conscious decision to stop. I backslide every once in a while when a killer game comes out or if I play something somewhere and get hooked.

chp_chess_game.jpgCaveat: I am not addressing game enjoyment in this post its game performance i.e. do you want to be the last man standing. High performance hardware does lead to more “fun” etc but not necessarily better gaming performance. When I say mid-range hardware I am also not talking about moms word processor or 3 year old hardware. It needs to be reasonably decent hardware to run the game properly.

From a casual glance around the net it would appear that hardware performance and hardware issues seem to dominate the message boards. I always found the perpetual hardware performance chasing and worrying about hardware to be a distraction.

I remember playing games on mid range hardware, for the time, and dealing out my fair share of mayhem. In general the people who were trouncing everyone were also running mid range hardware. Don’t get me wrong I’m not talking PC world hardware, that’s what I would call bottom of the range. The machines were mostly hand built based on bang for buck at computer fairs on Tottenham Court Road. The biggest factor I found in action games was ping times not hardware. Above a certain level of performance it seemed to matter very little what hardware you were running.

I’m not sure if this still holds but I believe ping times and player performance still dominate overall gaming performance. Slight digression… It annoys me to see how much emphasis there is on the hardware performance but it’s in the interests of the manufacturers to make sure that performance is seen as a big advantage in gaming or anything. The following is a question I have heard more than once.

My PC is slow on the internet, what sort of PC would you recommend to speed it up?

The PC is most likely not the problem in this case, its the connection. You can browse the quite happily on 5 year old hardware if the connection is good. Shop owners are also selling PC’s that people don’t need its a bit like going looking for a Mondeo and coming out with a Ferrari.

Anyway, back to the main point. Lets assume all ping times are equal. If this is the case then player performance really matters. To get good at something involves practice and lots of it so it pays to watch how sports teams or the military train, its drill, drill, drill. The military make you go through the motions so often you are sick of it but can do it blindfolded. There’s not a huge amount of fun in this and it involves a lot of effort and mental stamina, it’s also why not everyone is cut out for the military or sport. My brother played Super Mario Bros to the point where he would reset it if he lost a life and was able to easily complete the entire game with one life. It was when I seen him do this that I knew I would never be a great gamer. To be great at any sport involves this level of dedication and yes I consider gaming to be a sport.

So if you’re serious about gaming stop focusing on hardware etc and start focusing on yourself. Are you fit, well rested? Do you respond faster to sound than light? Do you drink alcohol, take too much caffeine, how much caffeine is too much? What time of day are you at your best? What’s your resting heart rate? How often do you practice, are your opponents as good or better than you? Drill Drill Drill….

My personal opinion is that most of us don’t need to focus on hardware that much. Ping times possibly but I don’t believe hardware would give me that much of an edge. It may make the game more fun or a better overall experience but this does not necessarily mean I would perform better.

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High Performance PC for Gaming

I need a fast desktop for development and was at the dell website when I came across the following link.
alienware.jpg These guys do “high performance PC’s”. I clicked on the fastest looking offering they had and the total price for the basic package is £3008 (I kid you not). For that price I get an odd looking case (see pic on right). The case looks like it was designed as a bottle for mens aftershave (pimp my pc). You also get the following.

Alien Case (see pic on right)
Intel® Core™ i7-940 Performance 2.93GHz 8MB Cache
1GB NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 280
1000 Watt Alienware® Approved Multi-GPU Power Supply
3GB DDR3 SDRAM at 1600MHz – 3 x 1024MB
Alienware® Approved Intel® X-58 Chipset Motherboard- Socket 1366 Core i7 Ready, Triple Channel DDR3 Memory
Windows Vista® Home Premium 64-bit with Service Pack 1
1.0 TB SATA 3Gb/s 7200 RPM (2 x 500GB)
20X Dual Layer DVD±RW/CD-RW Writer
High-Definition 7.1 Performance Audio – Standard
Logitech® Classic Keyboard UK – Space Black
Standard Optical 3-Button Mouse with Scroll Wheel

To say I am woefully unimpressed with the above is a bit of an understatement. I have not looked overly hard at the rest of the details but those are the main parts.

I decided to put my old hat on and go shopping to see how much it would cost me if I was prepared to build it and this is what I was able to ruffle up in a few minutes.

Case 100
Intel® Coreâ„¢ i7-940 Performance 2.93GHz 8MB Cache  440
1GB NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 280 300
1000 Watt Power Supply (multi GPU) 150
3GB DDR3 SDRAM at 1600MHz – 3 x 1024MB (Corsair) 91
Intel® X-58 Chipset Motherboard- Socket 1366 Core i7 Ready, Triple Channel DDR3 Memory  270
Windows Vista® Home Premium 64-bit with Service Pack 1   100
1.0 TB SATA 3Gb/s 7200 RPM (2 x 500GB)  100
20X Dual Layer DVD±RW/CD-RW Writer  50
High-Definition 7.1 Performance Audio 85
Classic Keyboard UK 12
Standard Optical 3-Button Mouse with Scroll Wheel  12

I’ll add another £400 in case I have missed something or made an obvious mistake. So we can save £1000, I don”t know about you but thats a lot of money. I probably get some warranty with the Alien machine and it comes packaged etc but it’s not worth £1000. Seasoned Gamers can knock a machine up in a morning so I’d be surprised if many seasoned gamers are using these machines. I bet I could build a significantly faster machine for £3000 than the one above. It might look like shit but it’d be fast as hell.

The following paragraph is most likely way off the mark on what would constitute a good gaming machine. There are various reasons for this, for instance, ensuring the graphics cards work with server hardware, could the game take advantage of 4 CPU’s with a total of 16 Cores, does the vista license allow us to have 4 sockets.

I could fit a rack in the attic or if I was close enough to the garage I could run a monitor cable etc through the roof, floor or wall to the PC. Add a power switch and a mini itx server with shared peripherals and then you can start looking at 4/5U machines with multiple CPU’s with multiple cores. You can pick up some serious hardware on ebay with SCSI and hardware raid built in. Have a look on ebay.com for v40z or Add some decent graphics cards and things would be looking quite fast.

If I was gaming in the states from the UK I would also look at tunneling my traffic to the states from the UK over a compressed line. You can get dedicated servers in the states very cheaply that would make excellent end points for the tunnel. The closer you can get to the server in the states that you are playing your games on the better.

I’m off to look at desktops now.

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Don’t publish with IEEE!

Please see DJB’s article on this topic.
IEEE large.jpg
Quite often while searching on Google I find something that looks interesting and I am led to the IEEE where I am presented with a short synopsis and a link to a pdf. To get access to the pdf I have to join IEEE or pay a fee.

There are numerous organizations that do this and they’re making good money at it. What I’m worried about is that for the less fortunate that don’t have group access or who can’t afford membership then we will never be able to access this knowledge. If we want to increase our body of knowledge globally then closing access to papers stands in the way of this.

The IEEE are asking people to sign away their copyright. The only reason for doing this is so they can profiteer from it by denying access to the papers. Because they’re big and have thousands of papers means they can get away with  it.

I took a look at their home page and their logo has the following sound bite.

The world’s leading professional association
for the advancement of technology

I think this needs to be changed to

The world’s leading professional association
for the advancement of technology among the wealthy

To be published somewhere like the IEEE can impact your career. Signing away copyright to the IEEE to get a paper published may mean a budding scientist gets noticed and this is the problem. Until either the IEEE carries less weight or there is another way for people to get their work noticed then people will continue to sign their copyright over to the IEEE. Of course the IEEE could also decided to accept public domain papers and publish them for free.

I believe in free access to knowledge for everyone and this is why I am opposed to these kind of tactics. Google has the right idea! (the first line)

Google’s mission is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

I just wish they’d hurry up 😉

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Lockhart’s Lament

spiral.jpgI have to thank Philip Wadler for spotting the Lockharts Lament article!

If you are worried about how mathematics is being taught today then read the following article Lockharts Lament. The first few pages describe the problem perfectly. Our education system is being designed by people who have little or no understanding of the task at hand.

Perhaps mathematicians are being arrogant and calling what they do an art. I personally think it’s as much an art as painting, sculpture or poetry. Its quite sad that Wikipedia doesn’t have mathematics listed as an art. Surely there is nothing more expressive than mathematics. Have a look at some of the images here. Anyone with a little mathematics and a lot of people with no mathematics will find these images beautiful.

If art has anything to do with expression then for some there can be nothing more expressive than an equation. Mathematics is fundamentally about describing the world around us and more besides. Physicists use mathematics to as a tool to understand the world around us. This practical applications does not mean that it’s not an art. Ask a physicists if they consider mathematics to be an art and I would bet that most think it is. The E=mc2.jpgmost famous equation today is E=MC^2. The beauty in this is astonishing but its not the most beautiful equations to some, F=MA may be more beautiful depending on your point of view. The fact that these equations are of huge practical importance seems to make some think that mathematics is not an art but merely a tool. Mr Lockhart’s article puts it well

“Music can lead armies into battle, but that’s not why people     write symphonies.”

The sooner we start treating mathematics more like an art and making it interesting the better, until that day almost every student being churned through our education system will hate the watered down shadow of a system our educators deem to call mathematics.

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DMOZ Corruption

Having tried for several years to get into DMOZ and getting rejected every time I always wondered why. There are literally dozens of sites doing exactly the same thing as me, indeed.com, simplyhired.com etc and they are listed. These site have a lot of clout and a lot of money whereas I am a one man band with little cash.

Imagine my surprise when I came across Corrupt DMOZ Editor. I may just have been a bit naive when I assumed that DMOZ was the real deal but this blog has given me food for thought.

Google and various other large sites use DMOZ for seeding their search or for their own directories etc. So If there is any truth in this and DMOZ is rife with corruption then anyone using the data is perpetuating the problem. Putting on my cynical head I can see how DMOZ could be easily corrupted. What I would like to know is if there is any truth in it or not. If so I can forget about DMOZ.

I actually admire what DMOZ is trying to do. I am not sure if it as relevant as it was but I do believe that there is a place online for a human edited directory. DMOZ needs to change though. It is becoming less relevant as time goes by and it would be a shame to see it all go to waste.

The more I dig into this topic on Google the more I feel dismayed. It looks like a lot of the top editors are corrupt and are disabling account of the lower editors that are not. To paraphrase Charles Adams “Bad Editors drive out the Good”,

Here are a few more interesting entries on the topic of DMOZ.

This guys site got banned after he refused to pay a bribe!

Removed from DMOZ for not paying Bribe

The following DMOZ editor’s account was disabled when he tried to do something about the guys website above.

Editor Banned for doing the right thing

Time for ODP to Close (Danny Sullivan)

ODP Founder Coments (Danny Sullivan)

Lords of ODP

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Debian alternatives and Java

The alternaitives system in Debian is a pain in the arse! It’s one of those things that when you need to use it you spend twenty minutes trying to figure out why various paths etc have changed and then you need to figure out the syntax to change to the path that was working before you installed Tomcat or some other related system that downloads a bunch of stuff and sets itself up as default for the rest of the system. It’s a tad irritating.

I am not saying I know a better way to do it but it still pisses me off. Anyway to use a sane version of java I had to run the following command to get eclipse working again.

$:~# update-alternatives –install /usr/bin/java java /usr/local/sdk-5_05/jdk 1
$:~# update-alternatives –list java
$:~# update-alternatives –remove java /usr/lib/jvm/java-gcj/jre/bin/java

I now have eclipse working again and tomcat installed. I was going to use jetty6 over tomcat but because Debian comes bundled with a binary tomcat distribution I have decided  to use it. This decision may cost me dearly later.

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