Top 10 Dog complaints about humans...

  1. Blaming your farts on me...... not funny.. not funny at all!
  2. Yelling at me for barking........ I'M A DOG YOU IDIOT!
  3. Taking me for a walk, then not letting me check stuff out. Exactly whose walk is this anyway?
  4. Any trick that involves balancing food on my nose... stop it!
  5. Any haircut that involves bows or ribbons. Now you know why we chew your stuff up when you're not home.
  6. The sleight of hand, fake fetch throw. You fooled a dog! WhooooHoooooooo what a proud moment for the top of the food chain.
  7. Taking me to the vet for "the big snip", then acting surprised when I freak out every time we go back!
  8. Getting upset when I sniff the crotches of your guests. Sorry, but I haven't quite mastered that handshake thing yet.
  9. Dog sweaters..... Hello?? Haven't you noticed the fur?
  10. How you act disgusted when I lick myself. Look, we both know the truth, you're just jealous.

Compiz + Emerald in Kubuntu (Hardy 8.04)

I've seen a lot of posts about how to get Compiz and Emerald working together in Kubuntu that involves a lot of poking around and creating scripts etc. However, there is a "better" way that is from what I can see, the K/Ubuntu preferred method. First some background. Like may others, I wanted to get Compiz and Emerald all singing and dancing on my desktop system at work but was frustrated by the lack of integration with GUI management tools - specifically with regard to getting Emerald to start at login. The general sequence of events goes like this:

  1. Install restricted drivers and "nvidia-glx-new" package (or the closed ATi driver package).
  2. Install every compiz package available (including ccsm)
  3. Install every emerald package available.
  4. Turn on desktop effects in KDE and specify to use a 3rd party config tool.
  5. Configure Compiz to your taste with "ccsm"
  6. Run "emerald --replace" to get rid of kwin/metacity

Lovely! Kudos to the package maintainers for making it this easy :) However, when you log out (reboot etc) and back in again, the compiz compositing manager starts, but not emerald! Why? Well the simple answer is that Emerald was never ASKED to start. So the better question is; why wasn't emerald asked to start? The answer to which is buried in a wrapper at /usr/bin/compiz-decorator. Basically this script is called by compiz when it starts to start your preferred window decorator (have a look in the "Window Decorations" configuration in CompizConfig Settings Manager, ie, "ccsm"). A few posts I've seen have suggested replacing this "compiz-decorator" with "emerald --replace" but this removes some of the fall-back/redundancy provided by the bundled script. This got me thinking - there must be a way to tell "compiz-decorator" to use Emerald...and there is!

If you open /usr/bin/compiz-decorator (it's a shell script, so any old text editor will do) and scroll down a little, you will find this block:

# start a decorator
if [ -x ${COMPIZ_BIN_PATH}emerald ] && [ "$USE_EMERALD" = "yes" ]; then
elif [ -x ${COMPIZ_BIN_PATH}gtk-window-decorator ] && [ -n "$GNOME_DESKTOP_SESSION_ID" ]; then
elif [ -x ${COMPIZ_BIN_PATH}kde-window-decorator ] && [ -n "$KDE_FULL_SESSION" ]; then
elif [ -x ${COMPIZ_BIN_PATH}kde4-window-decorator ] && [ x$KDE_SESSION_VERSION = x"4" ]; then

Notice the check to see if "USE_EMERALD" is set to "yes"? Well, scrolling back you will find a section like this:

if [ -z "$XDG_CONFIG_HOME" ]; then
    test -f $HOME/.config/compiz/compiz-manager && . $HOME/.config/compiz/compiz-manager

Ok - so now we have the two pieces of the puzzle; firstly why Emerald isn't being to start and what files are read to get the instructions in the first place. So the final resolution is dead simple. All we need to do is create a file "$HOME/.config/compiz/compiz-manager" and populate it with "USE_EMERALD=yes" like this:

echo "USE_EMERALD=yes" >> ~/.config/compiz/compiz-manager

Voila. Log out and back in again and you'll see Emerald start :) Best bit is this modification will make the start-up consistent across upgrades of K/Ubuntu, and will work regardless of your choice of Gnome/KDE/XFCE etc. In other words, it's desktop environment neutral which is what makes this approach a little different to most of the others I've read online that seem specifically geared to one window manager/desktop environment or another. Also note, you can over-ride any of the variables in "/usr/bin/compiz-decorator" using additional declarations in the local ~/.config/compiz/compiz-manager file. This could be handy if you want to play with development versions of Emerald.

Up and running on the new server!

Some people may be aware that my old ISP decided to increase my monthly access from $120/mth (paid quarterly in advance) to $500/mth!! Consequently I told them to shove it and went with the only real alternative in my area...Telstra Wireless 3G. It's expensive at $130/mth for 10GB but it's fast and reliable (surprisingly fast actually)...which is a LOT more than I can say for my old ISP. As anyone who had mail hosting on my old server knows, if my link was down for 2-3 days a month then it was good month. If the speed was anything over 2-3Mbps, it was fast for a change (they promised me 12Mbps...but it never happened). Compared to the new link which is routinely over 3Mbps and never goes makes me wonder how the heck Fish Internet are going to survive with their price gouging, poor service, next-to-no-customer-support, service offering. Couple that with the dragon who answers their phones (yeh, good luck getting past her!) I hope they go the way of other $#!t-house ISP's - down the proverbial gurgler. Good bye, and good riddence to them; they'll never get another cent out me and I'll make sure to tell everyone who can't get ADSL in our area to give them a wide berth.

So seeing as I no longer have a static IP (can't get them on Wireless 3G) and the small bandwidth quota, I decided to move all my hosting off-site and use the same provider my employer uses. Actually, I'm piggy-backing off their hosting account (with the boss' blessing). So this site is now on a faster server sitting in a data centre somewhere and I don't have to monkey around with it to keep all the lights blinking...that's someone else's job! Yay!! Everything is back up and running, including the galleries, but the weather stuff will take me a little longer to sort out. The problem with the weather is that the weather station is sitting on my desk at home (with the sensors outside) and the server is sitting in Sydney somewhere. Consequently I've got to figure out a sensible way to get not only data but the graphs (which are generated on my server) onto the hosted server. Real-time updates aren't going to workable but I'm thinking sensor data every 3 minutes and graphs every 15 minutes. We'll wait and see :)

The CPU - where to from here?

Modern computers have at their heart a piece of equipment commonly referred to as the "Central Processing Unit" (CPU). This is common knowledge and regularly used as the final determinant factor in a computer's performance. The reality of a machine's performance, however, is a much more complicated equation. Like many devices, the overall performance is a measure of the sum of parts that compose the system. Similarly, a single poorly performing component can undermine, or even negate, the performance of the other components. Using blindingly fast CPU's in a system with very slow memory will result in a computer that is well below accepted standards. However, fast components are becoming very cheap and offer other advantages beyond the initial design goals of the component in question.

Read more…

My First Church Address

A few people have asked for me to provide a copy of my address I did at church recently. In case you missed it, the minister (Ken Bond) is doing a series on "Living by Faith" and drawing from the life of Abraham as the base for the series. The first of these was on the 13th of April this year and covered the call made upon Abraham to leave his life as he knew it, move somewhere completely foreign, and unknown, and do it all "on faith". We all know the story, but have any of us actually lived it ? Ken thought that my experience of having to leave the aviation industry and head off without a clue of where I or Natalie were going has a striking number of parallels to Abraham's experience.

So Ken asked me if I would like to have an informal "interview" on stage for the first of these "living by Faith" sermons where I could relay my experience. Of course I jumped at the opportunity! Ever since I learned of my hearing problem and realised my dream of an aviation career was over, I vowed that the very least I wanted from the whole saga was for other people to see God in the middle of it. As it turns out, I think I achieved that both in how I dealt with that loss, and secondly how I relayed my experience in church a few weeks ago. Certainly, the feed back I have received has been overwhelming and people are genuinely surprised that I have come through this without being bitter and twisted. My only response to those sort of comments has been to point people to the source of my strength:

Isaiah 40:31 (New International Version) but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Feel free to listen to whole sermon (9.8MB / 36 minutes). ( Apologies for all the "arrrr"'s in my was the first time I've relayed this story in public and I was very nervous...the second service that morning was a LOT better, but I don't have that recording :( Edit 2015: recording unavailable - hunting it down, stay tuned

ISP Troubles

Yesterday from about 2pm to 8pm Aust EST, my ISP had some serious routing problems. This, unfortunately, isolated my network from vast tracts of the Internet for the duration. Some people could get to my site, whereas others could not. As far as I know, locally TPG, Internode and iiNet subscribers would have been unable to reach my site, but Optus and Bigpond subscribers could NOT. International ISP's seemed to be very hit-and-miss. I have no idea what went pop for my ISP, but it was intensely frustrating! Apologies to anyone who had mail problems with my site or couldn't access the web site.

The Grays go Gigabit!

It's taken a while but the cost for gigabit ethernet is finally down to a point that I considered justifiable. So I lashed out (sic) and bought a 5 port Dlink gigabit switch. This then connects to my 8 port 10/100Mbps switch/router and ultimately the Internet. The machines on the Gbit switch are simply my home server, Nat's desktop, and my Mac Mini. I've also run a patch cable for my Macbook Pro for the odd occasion I need better-than-wifi speeds. The wireless access point hangs off the 8 port 10/100 switch as it will never do better than 54Mbps, so there's no reason to waste a gigbit port on wifi!

All in all it's been a relatively straight-forward transition except for Nat's desktop. Her machine would only sync at 100Mbps on the 5 metre CAT5e cable between her and the new switch. So I went out today and bought 6 metres of CAT6 from Dick Smith Electronics (AUD$10 all up) and crimped the ends myself. For a similar pre-made CAT6 cable, they were asking around double what I paid (thieves!).

The results have been what I expected. Loading photos and large files from the file server is now a LOT faster. I especially noticed the difference when browsing the file server in "thumbnail" mode; it was as fast as it would be if running locally. The Time Machine backups for my Mac Mini are now super fast to the file server too which is great as the system (the Mac Mini) bogs down a little while it does the backup. Basically, with the consumer-grade hard drives in my server, I am now limited by the speed of those drives and the CPU power in the clients far more than the network fabric. It's nice to know that as I develop this network any gains in the server speed will pay off for the clients on my LAN.