Great review of Chinese Democracy

The best review I have read for a long time… Chinese Democracy reviewed by Chuck Klosterman. The following section (the intro) is hilarious. Comparing the review with the hero of Grizzly man….

Reviewing Chinese Democracy is not like reviewing music. It’s more like reviewing a unicorn. Should I primarily be blown away that it exists at all? Am I supposed to compare it to conventional horses? To a rhinoceros? Does its pre-existing mythology impact its actual value, or must it be examined inside a cultural vacuum, as if this creature is no more (or less) special than the remainder of the animal kingdom? I’ve been thinking about this record for 15 years; during that span, I’ve thought about this record more than I’ve thought about China, and maybe as much as I’ve thought about the principles of democracy. This is a little like when that grizzly bear finally ate Timothy Treadwell: Intellectually, he always knew it was coming. He had to. His very existence was built around that conclusion. But you still can’t psychologically prepare for the bear who eats you alive, particularly if the bear wears cornrows.

I wonder, should I buy this album? Appetite for Destruction is one of my favourite albums, but the rest are garbage……

Apple’s new MacBooks prevent home-cinema viewing

Inevitable, but still so sad.

Apple’s new MacBooks prevent home-cinema viewing: “Anti-piracy measures block viewing on large monitors and projectors

Apple’s new line of MacBooks include built-in digital copy protection that will prevent protected media, such as DRM-protected iTunes films, from playing back on devices that aren’t compliant. The software, the Intel-developed High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP), prevents content being played on devices such as large TV monitors and projectors.

(Via Macworld UK.)

OS X and the frustrations of not being Open Source

It’s now being about 22 months since my job sortof forced me into sharing my main OS from being 90% Linux (with a Gnome desktop usually) to 50:50 Linux:OS X. In that time I’ve grown to really like it. Prior to that I’ve used a Mac for about 10% of the time for a number of years. Probably coinciding with the introduction of OS X I guess, although I’ve also used OS 9 and OS 7 at earlier times in my computing life. I love the ease of use. When I want something to work it just does. I really enjoy messing, but sometimes the effort of setting something up surpasses the need for that task. For example although I spend a large amount of time hacking and reconfiguring my Mythtv box, I’ve never had the motivation to get my scanner working with Linux, as I know it’s just going to be a drag! This whole ease of setup is only possible due to a unified platform controlled by a dictator.

However, the enforced integration also has a downside. That is when I want to do something that is not prescribed by the Apple user guidelines. Having a Linux ‘if it does not do what you want and how you want to do it’ attitude, it gradually becomes a frustration when I need to do something in a different way to the majority of the OS X user base. Admittedly this frustration is way lower than whenever I have to use Windows. Steve Jobs and his crew have got most things correct, so that it does do things properly, and of course you always have the option of dipping into the CLI and doing things how you want to do them. However, that is not always an option when you have a third party application that is frustrating you, rather than the OS.

Consequently there’s always a list of trivial things that do well annoy me that would have had solutions quickly developed if they existed on an ‘open source’ platform.

Actually while we’re on this topic here’s two annoyances that just would not survive in the open source world

–’s rubbish behaviour (see this post) when used with a low bandwidth connection. IMAP is just not great. It’s got better with Leopard, but it still does not behave as well as Evolution.

– itunes and Ogg Vorbis. Come on even most Windows mp3 jobbies wil also deal with Ogg files. Why does iTunes just do not do so? AAC is good, but larger and not that good. If my MBP had a 1Tb disc then FLAC would be good, but it does not have the space and let’s be honest, you do not always need FLAC quality.

I also suppose it’s ironic that the Linux desktop I use the most (Gnome) seems to be heading down the road of reducing user configurability. I’ve never had a problem with that though.

Latest MEME bookish

Here’s a MEME that’s making the rounds

* Grab the nearest book.
* Open it to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
* Don’t dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST.

Here’s mine!

“Prestel compatible software built on its own sideways ROM.”

Use of Backup in Anger!

I lost my entire RAID10 array yesterday. In a fit of “too much noise in office” I removed the hot swap SCSI array box from my workstation box, attached it to a wooden platform, and suspended it in a large plastic box using an old inner tube from my bike. This really reduced the noise, however, like a moron, I did not attach the scsi cable properly and 2 drives got kicked from the array. That was not a problem. However, what was, is when I tried to re-assemble the array without checking the cable. I ended up wiping one of the raid partitions. Still not a major issue, except I subsequently zeroed out the superblock of the missing drive in order to add it back in. Anyway, that was my array lost!

As a main backup strategy I use an homebrewed incremental Rsync script to back up my Linux workstation everynight to a 2Tb ReadyNas+ box (Macs are backed up with a combination of Time Machine and Super Duper). So now I had a chance to test it out. So after recreating the array and copying the data across the network I was back up and running!

mdadm --create /dev/md1 --chunk=256 -R  -l 10 -n 4 -p f2 /dev/sd[abcd]3 
echo 300000 >> /sys/block/md1/md/sync_speed_max 
watch cat /proc/mdstat 
mkfs.xfs /dev/md1
mount /home
rsync -avP /mnt/backup/SCOTGATEHome/current/ /home/

It took about 1 hour to sync, and then 3 hours to copy across the 156Gb of files over the network.

It all worked great, and I’m very pleased to know that my backup strategy is working!

Now back to complete the “silent and suspended hard drive array!”

My cactus lives!!

In my first week of coming to Cambridge, or rather the first week of living in my flat, I spent a good deal of time in Garden centres buying enough greenery to hide the fact I had no furniture. One little purchase was a silly cactus in a small Glass pot with coloured sand. Well this little plant survived very well. It outgrow the very small pot it came in, and about 4 months ago I decided it really deserved a proper pot. This proved more difficult than I initially thought as first I had to literally smash the glass pot to remove the plant, and the sand inside was so hard, that I needed a chisel to remove most of it. I replanted it with a layer of gravel, pure soil with a bit of compost (from the garden composter), a 50:50 mix of sand and soil, and finally a layer of sand.

So far so good, except following this pretty rough treatment the cactus did not fair well at all. Initially it was in the kitchen, but I eventually moved it into my office which gets more sun. However, it continued to deteriorate. The stems drooped enough to hit the floor, and were were covered in brown rot. Ouch, the poor thing. I finally moved it downstairs into the warmest spot in the house, and then went away for three weeks. Well I’m happy to say that it’s recovered, and is looking the best it’s ever done.


The stems are very upright, and there’s a lot of new growth! Excellent. Let’s hope it lives for another five years!