River Cam gauge

In a break from my usual plan9ing here’s the gauge for the lock just upstream of us on the River Cam from Shoothill River Gauge map. I had the boat turned around facing downstream as I was cleaning it last week. The back of the boat with its rudders and props is much more vunerable to damage from debris. With the biblical rain yesterday I saw the river had risen and dropped overnight (mud was deposited). Generally when that happens then 24 hours later the river rises again as rain from upstream reaches us. The river did not look to be running that fast, so I decided to turn the boat around by ropes in anticipation of the stronger flows to come. Whoops. The river flow was quite deceptive. It was a real struggle to spin the boat around. All done safely now.

So here’s a gauge for the river flows.

This is the code.

<iframe frameborder="0" width="300" height="446" src="https://gaugemap.blob.core.windows.net/gaugemapwidgets/1769-1909-3-300x446.html"></iframe>

The EA/.gov site says the level is normal albeit still rising:

River Cam level at Cambridge Baits Bite

Plan9 continues

So Plan9 is becoming a very large time sink! After playing with a VM/QEMU I decided to buy a cheap minipc and install on some real hardware (Lenovo ThinkCentre with 16GB Ram and an i5 – £70 from eBay).

Installing the 9front fork of Plan9 is really easy. I did decide to complicate matters and use two drives so I had to manually partition them as the install script is quite simplistic (but really does make life easier!). Plan9 is a distributed OS. It needs a CPU server a file server, and auth(entication) server and then clients. Due to it’s quite ancient heritage the file system (CWFS) uses a cache and a WORM (write once read many) partition. Which in times gone by could have been an optical drive jukebox. As the name suggests this partition is read from, but writes are instead done to the fscache drive.

Other partitions are:

  • 9fat (DOS partition where the boot parameters are stored in a file called plan9.ini)
  • other
  • nvram (used to simulate a real NVRAM storage where authentication stuff is stored).

Drive/partition naming is very similar to linux


So for some inane reason I put the WORM partition on one largish SATA spinning drive and the rest on a different drive. Of course I made life harder for myself. plan9 prides itself on a simple filesystem. It does not really have command completion as the philosophy is that files should not be squirrelled away in hard to remember locations (you do have simple filename completion with CTRL – f). Not sure I quite agree with that, but what it does is automatically find portions and mount then (no stab needed here). But of course since my main partitions are on a separate drive which I went and attached to the second SATA port, then it cannot find them so I do have to specify them in plan9.ini

9fs 9fat
cd /n/9fat
acme /n/9fat/plan9.ini

(More on acme later. A quick to learn but wacky text editor).

Of course I found this out the hard way with an unbootable system in configuring the system to allow remote connections (see next section). But a quick reboot from the install USB stick. I mounted the 9fat partition. Unfortunately without a graphical environment none of the text editors worked. But sed does. A quick reboot later and all was well. But now I do create backups when I edit plan9.ini!

Now how do I connect to this headless plan9 server. With Drawterm of course! Drawterm is an emulated plan9 client. Calling it emulated is not really accurate as it runs natively on whatever OS you install on (for me that was Linux) and it brings the 9p protocol to connect.

But to do this you need to configure the authentication server and allow remote connections

Anyway with the networked OS model I got Drawterm working on Linux and the CPU, file and auth servers are all running on the ThinkCentre.

So after quite a few hours I find myself with this!

Drawterm on the right, Plan9 under QEMU on the left

Plan9 running under QEMU, with Drawterm on the right connected to a real Plan9 server.

Spot the difference?

No, me neither!

Taking procrastination further – Installing Plan9 under QEMU

So instead of doing something useful and needed (like gardening!) during a few hours off last week I decided that what I really needed to do was install plan9!

A few months back I got various Windows NT VMs and OS/2 VMs running. Then Haiku (a port of BeOs) the other week and now this….!

I started with the last “official” build of Plan 9. This was difficult and I had to abandon it as I just could not get it sufficiently configured to launch Rio (the window manager). However, further googling shows that there is a port of plan9 called 9front. This is under continual development and the build I installed was just a few months old. Under QEMU (using libvirtd) it was a pretty hassle free install.

Once installed I found that there is also a recent port of NetSurf, as the two existing browsers are a few decades behind. Downloading the sources from Git, compiling and installing was quite straightforward. The only hurdle was that text does not auto scroll in terminals. Not a significant hurdle you may think. But I guess due to “everything is a file” when the text reaches the end of the terminal then the process stops working. Here as soon as the build script got to the bottom of the terminal it just stopped compiling. Luckily there is an auto scroll option.

  • Middle click and choose SCROLL/NOSCROLL
  • Incidentally you really need a three button mouse. For example to open a new terminal:

  • Choose NEW
  • The cursor changes to a cross. With the RIGHT MOUSE BUTTON draw where you need the new terminal to be.
  • Screenshot from 2023 09 08 14 18 18

    Screenshot from 2023 09 11 12 31 52

    I have no idea what I will do with it. But that goes for more or less all the VMs I have. Install, fire up a few times, then never again.


    Wagyu entrecôte steak

    So on the way back from holiday and staying with relatives for a night in Brittany. We ordered a properly indulgent Wagyu entrecôte. Was very tasty and the meat just melted in your mouth. But the price did make me think I prefer a tougher and tastier cut.

    First lot of summer cabbages.

    I planted twelve savoy and twelve red cabbages back in March. These were plug plants as I’m too lazy to grow from seed.

    I kept them under mesh and did some weeding (although not a lot).

    Well it’s time to cook them.

    IMG 8861

    trouble is by the time I’ve taken all those half eaten outer leaves the heads are quite small! Hopefully also tasty!

    IMG 8862

    Here’s it cooking. Smothered Cabbage. A New Orleans staple that I’ve never tried before.

    IMG 8863

    Sinead O’Connor RIP

    I’m not generally one to publicly mourn the deaths of celebrities. I generally never knew them and so whereas I will miss their art/science/whatever, I cannot really feel grief (I’m talking for myself here). But there’s a few celebrities that perhaps I can grieve. John Peel, Mark E Smith, Bowie and now Sinead O’Connor.
    She’s the same age as me but it’s not that. It’s that her music, her bravery, her crazy comments and never, ever giving a fuck was just so right. From Mandinka to Queen of Denmark, from ripping up a photo of the Pope (apparently her mother’s photo that was hung in their home) to telling Prince to fuck off.
    She had a “lively” period on Twitter a few years ago. Sometimes poignant, but generally funny and always personal.
    She did a hell of a lot more than that Prince cover. I can appreciate that song, and the video was wonderful, but, and this may sound quite petty but I would think Sinead would never have replace “you” with “U” in a song. Her songs were far better than that.
    My favourite and the first song of Sinead’s I ever heard was Mandinka. It still sounds good even though it’s almost forty years ago since she recorded it (I think!). But her albums always stayed fresh. “How about I be Me (and you be you) (2012)” is a wonderful album and “Queen of Denmark” from that album is so full of emotion and brilliance.
    Her third album “Am I not your Girl?” is also superb. The one she was supposed to be promoting on Saturday Night Live when she instead tore up the photo of the pope. I listened to that album over and over again for quite a few years. Which as a covers album I would generally never do. I listened to it twice through last night. Still as good.

    old operating systems

    So despite gorgeous weather and a load of gardening jobs that I really need to get on top of, I spent quite a bit of Sunday playing about with libvirt, QEMU and a bunch of old operating system ISOs.

    I’d played with some downloaded OS/2 VMs before, but could never got them running under KVM/QEMU. They were all either VMWare VDI/VMDK images or Virtualbox ones. QEMU can convert these into QCOW2 (QEMU’s native format) but whereas I got OS/2 Warp 3.0 running fine. Warp 4.0, 4.52 eComstation VMs all failed to run. However, it turns out that the ISO of OS/2 Warp 4.5.2 is bootable and an installation (I never bothered with 4.0) was surprisingly easy.

    I even got OS/2 2.0 running fine.

    OS2Warp3 0 Warp4 52 runningQEMU

    I also tried with Windows NT 3.5 and 4.0. Both installed nicely.

    WinNT3 51 NT4 0 runningQEMU

    There are many instructions online so I will not bore you with them anymore (although I should add some links).

    I moved from DOS/Windows 3.1 straight to OS/2 Warp 3.0. When I left work and went to college in 1998 at the Freshers Fair there was a goodie bag that included a free licensed CD of OS/2 Warp 3.0. I installed it and never went back. I was even a founder member of WarpUK, a group of enthusiasts. I’d link to them but no trace exists online. Although I do have a few of our CDs. I went to Warp 4.0, then eventually gave up on OS/2 and moved to Linux (Ydraggasil, then Debian and onto Gentoo which I still run now).

    I used Windows NT 3.5 quite a bit. I think I had a dual boot system with OS/2 although to be honest I cannot really remember. I installed but never really used NT 4.0.

    I’m not sure I miss the joys of downloading 20 odd 1.4MB floppy fixpack images, “burning” to actual floppy discs and updating the OS…! But I do miss OS/2 sometimes! A great OS.

    Sanding down an old oak table

    When we were given a lovely dinner table and chairs, our old round oak table was moved to the veranda for almost alfresco dining. Even though it’s protected from direct rain it has deteriorated over the years and so it was time for a refresh.

    So I sanded down and oiled.


    I used a belt sander, starting with 40 grit, then 80, 120 and 240. A belt sander is not ideal for furniture but it’s all I have.

    For the legs I just used a 1/3 sheet sander and went from 80 to 120 then 240.

    the legs of a table freshly sanded

    The top was finished with five coats of Tung oil, starting with 10% oil to 90% white spirit and finishing with pure Tung oil.

    Tung oil is the main ingredient of many other oil products. It’s from the Tung nut and is food safe (unless mixed with solvents) and is ideal for finishing work surfaces in kitchens. The main disadvantage is that is takes a looong time to dry (the 5th coat of pure oil took four days to become touch dry and probably much longer to fully cure!). In fact it does not dry and instead cures. It needs oxygen to do so and will fully polymerize unlike other furniture oils, so is pretty much waterproof. One of its other advantages is that the end result is matt and if you need to repair a scratch or damage, then you can just wire wool a section and re-treat. The end result is generally a seamless repair. Which is pretty much impossible with other oils or varnishes without a lot of sanding work! I use tung oil mixed with solvents, to aid the initial soaking in of the oil.

    a freshly sanded oak table partly oiled.

    a freshly oiled oak table

    The legs just had two coats.

    The final result.

    An oak table that has been sanded and oiled on a dust sheet over terracotta tiles.

    Here’s to lots of drinks and food over the summer (wait where’s the sun?).

    Bye bye Facebook

    So My Facebook Account Was Suspended Yesterday as It Did Not Follow “Community Standards”. I’m guessing it’s because I put a guillotine as my profile photo and made a number of anti royalty posts over the coronation (all quite mild!).
    I’ve had this account since 2006ish but I do not think I will miss it. Saying that though it is inconvenient:
    – I used to sell bits and bobs using Facebook Marketplace. It far easier to sell something locally than other sites.
    – I was the sole admin of a Facebook Page for my job. That page is likely now orphaned and will never be updated again.
    – I ran a few FaceBook ads for that company too.
    – I created and was admin for my village’s Facebook group. That is the one I will miss the most. I posted the village newsletter and many other village events (including the church even though I am an atheist!)*. There is one other admin so the few hundred users will still get some use out of it.
    – I setup a Facebook page for a [local campaign](https://savehoneyhill.org) to prevent a sewage works being relocated to greenbelt just outside the village.
    All those are now gone.
    I do have a Quest II headset. However, Meta did split off that into a separate account some months back. I guess it’s still working OK.
    Still all in all Facebook is not a force for good.
    Despite my misgivings I’m still on [Twitter](https://twitter.com/fergycool), but [Mastodon](https://mastodon.social/@fergycool) is where I will publish stuff.
    *I did help setup the streaming of the Coronation in the church, thus showing I’m a multi layered hypocrite.

    Holiday journal : Corralejo, Fuerteventura, Easter 2023

    So I’ve never done one of these before, but on our recent holiday I took a quick note of the day’s events. I doubt I’ll do this again, but it was interesting with my renewed enthusiasm for blogging. Everything below was written on the day, apart from some editing and an expansion of the volcano section. I also only just added photos as I wrote it in Markdown using Drafts on iOS. Just now I pasted the Markdown text into Marsedit and added the photos.


    Arrive at Airport.

    Bit of a mix up with getting picked up, but eventually decent journey to Corralejo by somebody who used to live in Featherstone (near where I am from). Notable that there’s now a new section to the motorway that had been opened a few days ago. So now the airport to Corralejo is quicker. Less scenic but in the dark does that matter.


    ..is as nice as we expected. We compromised with being further from the front but with a pool. Of course if we had been organised, and booked earlier, then we could have had both….!
    Host was great. He asked before if we needed anything on arrival. I asked for a baguette, ham and cheese. We got some homemade mozzarella made by a mate of his, some Jamon Serrano, some Canarian goat’s cheese and more. Cracking!

    IMG 0394

    IMG 0397## Tuesday
    Quick shop for a few bits and pieces. There’s a little corner shop just around the corner.


    Longer shop in the supermarket (Hiperdino)in El Campanerio shopping centre.

    Longer shop


    Went rock pooling with my daughter on the closest beach (rocks) near the popcorn beach. Spotted many small fish in the pools. Watched a surf class with many beginners stand up. We cheered.

    IMG 0411

    Last beach before the walkway. Sea nice. Stopped at an outside bar on Waikiki for cocktails (Negroni)and ended up eating tapas. Not the nicest, but when you are sat facing the sea on a beach all food tastes yummy.

    IMG 7933

    Good Friday

    Walk to the harbour. Lovely pork chops and chips in the restaurant just next to town beach. Seemed to be full of locals having a nice family dinner as it was a public holiday
    IMG 8020

    Dinner was the first BBQ, with a chuleton steak that I got extremely stressed purchasing at the counter in Hiperdino. All my spanish escaped and was replaced by badly spoke french. Still the guy was very friendly and patient! Steak was lovely (about 3 mins either side, then lifted up higher and left to warm. Slightly overcooked.
    IMG 8013


    Bad night’s sleep. Stupidly left window open and bins (just outside) were picked up at 3am!

    Easter Sunday

    Full beach day


    Water park


    Volcano Express around Lanzarote with Linear Romero. The Timanfaya national park. Started off badly as we thought we were going on a large ferry but went on their own ferry. I felt very sea sick. Took all my concentration not to be sick. Not only that but once off the 30 min ferry I had the coach trip to look forward to. So more concentration required.

    IMG 0699

    The trip was super touristy, it was better than expected. The guide was brilliant. We went on the French/English coach and he spoke both languages brilliantly and NOT read from a script. We visited the volcanoes, with a view demos (burning straw and pouring water down tubes that instantly, then a tour around the park on the coach with some impressive driving around the tight bends.They even had a restaurant that cooked chicken with the heat of the volcano underneath.

    IMG 7981

    IMG 7983

    Then to the ubiquitous wine shop (picnic with a baguette and jamon), the Aloe Vera shop (I saw under a tree). Then to a lagoon (bit boring). Then back on the ferry. I was quite resigned at this point to being sick. But the journey back was fairly flat. Plus I saw on the side of the boat. I am wondering if the centre is worse than the side. Certainly the motion must be better. Up and down on the side, with side to side in the centre? So no nausea.
    Stopped for ice-cream for my daughter (Vrobo) then a bar for a Jarra for me. Finally supermarket for another large slice of Chuleton (rib roast or T- bone) which I did 2 min either side right above the coals, then 10 mins far from the flame. Was gorgeous!


    Very lazy day. In fact I cannot even remember what we did apart from eat out in the restaurant just above Town Beach.


    Again very lazy. Morning reading. Lunch on a beach mediocre restaurant. All afternoon in the pool then evening meal at home.


    Day around pool. Ate out again at restaurant in front of town beach.


    Mini golf, escooters and takeaway pizza.

    IMG 8031


    Flight home. Uneventful and the border control guard even smiled.