Fri, 27 Jun 2008
I'm not sure I should admit to this, but my PC has been running a much less than
full speed for some time. I noticed that my dnet
client was running a lot slower than it used to. I hadn't noticed other stuff being
particularly slow, so didn't give much thought to it.
I did some investigation today and found, via /proc/cpuinfo, that my CPU cores
were running at 1GHz instead of 2.4GHz. I did some searching around and posted to
a thread on < a href=http://ubuntuforums.org/>Ubuntu Forums that seemed to relate to
it. Within minutes I had a response suggesting I add an applet that let you control
CPU frequency scaling. That particular applet was for Gnome, but I found
KPowersave for KDE. This lets me
select various modes, but I just set it to Performance and all is well again.
I guess that I may have been using a little less electricity whilst the CPU was
throttled down, but I don't think it's a large part of my usage.
What I wonder is how this came about. My PC was running Ubuntu for some time at
full speed, but someting changed to switch it to low speed. I don't have the logs to
prove exactly when this happened, so can't relate it to anything I did.
I was thinking of writing a post titled 'Are RSS feeds killing commenting on blogs?'.
If you only read sites via their feeds then you probably won't even see the comment
part of each page. I've had comments on my site for some time, but get very few.
I know that a few friends read the site via the feed. I don't know how many strangers
visit. I think that comments are valuable as they make the whole thing interactive.
I often click through to posts on feeds to see the comments. So if you want to say
something to me about a post please add a comment. It may be useful to others.
Sat, 21 Jun 2008
CU See Me?
I had been thinking for a while of getting a new webcam. I have owned a couple, but none
of them seemed to work on Linux. One may have died altogether. I mainly wanted it to use with
Skype, so consulted the list on the Ubuntu wiki.
Various Logitech units seemed to do well so I checked them out in PC World. I don't buy much there,
but I was passing and had a voucher. I found a
Quickcam Communicate STX Plus (what
a mouthfull) for 20 quid. It even came with a headset, but that is less useful given my non-working
On plugging it into my PC I expected to have to do some configuration, but it worked straight away
in Skype, including the microphone. I was also able to stream it through VLC.
It gives a nice picture even in low-light conditions. I'm very happy with it so far. The base of the camera
is designed to sit on top of an LCD, so I thought it might not work so well on my CRT, but then discovered
that it is flexable and so can be bent to the required shape.
My other 'hardware' upgrade this week was to get a new computer chair. My old one was found in a skip at
work and was never that great. I was finding that the lack of proper back support was causing me pain.
So I picked up a Nominell in Ikea. I got a
green one just because it was in the sale and saved me a bit. Mind you, we bought a load of other stuff in
there as we generally do. This one is totally adjustable for tilt so that I can make myself sit upright
With reference to my previous post on carbon footprints there is a great
article on the Register about
what would be required to actually make this country independent of oil. It would require major changes to
how we get and use our energy. Taking the TV off standby and getting a little wind generator on your roof
is not going to make a real difference.
Wed, 18 Jun 2008
Even before fuel prices started going mad I was trying to drive economically. My commute
is about 30 miles of motorway and 10 of London dual-carriageways. That generally takes anything from 60
to 90 minutes with odd exception of much longer when the traffic gets totally messed up. So at best I
am averaging 40mph. I drive a 2004 Vauxhall Zafira 1.9 Turbodiesel. The official fuel consumption figures
are Urban: 37.2mpg, Extra Urban 55.4mpg, Combined 47.1mpg. The only way I have to check mine is by
calculating from how many miles I get from a full tank to when I when I next fill it and I was getting
around 47mpg. I try to keep a light right foot with minimal braking and gentle acceleration. I was doing
65-70mpg on the motorway and keeping to limits in town.
Recently I have been trying to improve on that. The main change is going down to 60-65mph. I still go
over that if I need to overtake and not hold up the rest of the traffic too much. Going up hills I may
slow a bit more. The result has been figures of 50 and 51mpg on the last two tanks. That is saving me
nearly a penny per mile. The thing is that it probably doesn't make much difference to my journey time.
For a fair bit of the motorway travel I can't even get up to 60mph. Those who do overtake me will just reach
one of the several pinch points a bit sooner. So they may save a couple of minutes, but that's no big deal.
I find driving a bit slower less stressful. I don't have to do too much overtaking. I try to go slightly
quicker than the trucks so as not to slow them up, but also pass a few cars.
I would like to do even better, but that may require more radical methods. The so-called
hypermilers go to extremes like coasting with the
engine off and making major modifications to their cars. I would be prepared to invest some money
on car parts if the payback time was reasonable. What I could really do with is a computer as featured on
many cars that tells you the mpg at any given time so that I could adjust my speed, but I'm not sure I
want to go much slower. I could try removing the roof bars that serve no real purpose, but I don't know
if it would make a measurable difference. Any suggestions?
Another aspect of my driving is trying to help the general traffic flow. The first rule is good lane
discipline. Often I see the overtaking lane full and the middle empty. Then someone will take a chance on
speeding up there. I try to keep things moving at junctions. When it's busy then any dawdling can mean
many people missing a change of the lights and spending more time burning fuel whilst getting nowhere.
When the traffic starts speeding up after a slow patch I try to get away as quick as I safely can. Others
leave huge gaps and so don't help the jam to clear. I'll often move into a slower lane where there is a big
gap and let others get past me. I doubt that I make much difference, but if more people drove a bit less
selfishly then it could.
The biggest difference I can make is by driving less. I am trying to do this by working from home more.
In my line of work that is easy to do and saves me 2.5 hours of daily travelling. My employer is being fairly
accommodating about this.
We hear a lot about carbon footprints and there are various sites that will calculate yours.
The Carbon Account uses details of your mileage, meter readings
and flight details to give a visual impression of how you are doing in certain aspects. I've just started
using it. It's scary how big a contribution even a flight within Europe can make. I've done a lot of flights for
work in the last few years, but not so much lately. We might do one a year for family holidays, but will look
at other options such as the train. We recently took the train to Edinburgh and it was very convenient apart
from a bit of waiting around. It was quicker than driving and no more expensive. Flying would have involved getting
to and from the airports and probably not saved much time.
Thu, 12 Jun 2008
Herts LUG 20080611
A good crowd in for this month's talk by Jason of UK Free Software Network,
an ISP who help fund free software projects. He was talking about Phorm,
a company who provide targeted on-line advertising by using equipment at an ISP to monitor your web
browsing. Everyone in advertising wants to gets the 'right' ads to people, but this is going a step
too far by intercepting data they have no right to see, ethically and legally. They say that they anonymise
the data, but that doesn't make it right. There are some reports that they have been up to some dirty tricks,
such as replacing other peoples' ads and using cookies under other names. I've not read much on this myself,
but there is plenty
information out there. It was interesting to get the perspective
of someone in the industry who wants to protect his customers. He's trying to make a living, but not at
the expense of selling out his customers.
My ISP, Virgin, are one of those trialling Phorm. I've not seen anything from them on it. There is supposed
to be an opt-out, but can we trust them?
A lot of us already sacrifice some privacy to get some benefit. I have a few loyalty cards that get me some
payback in exchange for giving away my shopping details, but it could be tracked to some extent anyway.
Sites like Gmail and Facebook target ads based on your communications and habits, but you accept that when you
sign up. You mean you didn't read all the terms and conditions? Phorm is different because they look at
everything. There are technical options, such as working via a proxy, but these are not available to everyone.
With the government wanting to track our on-line habits too, to prevent terrorism (allegedly), using encryption
may just draw attention to you and cause you more grief. If too many people do it, then would they ban it?
It's happened before in some European countries. France had restrictions on encryption for years. I would like to
see more people using encryption for everyday communication. We could do with easy ways to encrypt traffic
to mail servers, so that the spooks cannot even see who we communicate with. If anyone wants to do some
keysigning I'm always interested. I did some a couple
of years back, but not much recently. My key details are here.
We need to fight to protect our right to privacy or the terrorists will have won.
Tue, 10 Jun 2008
Beat Camp 2
Sunday was spent in the glorious sunshine over at Malc's for the second of his
Beat Camp workshops.
This time their were more people I didn't know from other drum circles. We were learning
some new tunes by master drummer Mamady Keita.
We did three songs. I did a fair bit of kenkeni playing. I enjoy coordinating different
patterns with each hand, but also played all the djembe parts and breaks. It will take a
while to learn them properly, but this was a great introduction. Malc has written up his
on the day.
I took along my Zoom H4 to record some of it. Someone else already had his H2 set up on a
fancy tripod. I was using a mini Gorillapod after managing
to break the tripod that came with my H4. The results sound pretty good. I was having some
battery issues, but I think that may be due to my rechargables getting on a bit. I ought to
get some new ones and a decent charger as I use them a lot. I was going to edit and post one
of them, but I'm having some issues with Audacity playback and don't have another working
audio editor installed.
Wed, 04 Jun 2008
Mixed Music at Darbucka
As mentioned before I've been following
the antics of bassist Steve Lawson and enjoying his music. When I heard that
he was playing at a convenient bar in central London I was eager to get to the gig. He even offered free or reduced
entry to those who contacted him beforehand. Darbucka is not far from Kings
Cross Station, which suits me nicely. When I arrived Steve greeted me by name, having recognised me from my
on-line avatars. He was setting up, along with drummer Roy Dodds. I noticed that the drum kit included a
Hang. I'd not had a close look at one before and
he was nice enough to let me have a play with it.
I got myself a beer and some food then settled into an armchair to await the music. I soon got chatting
with Wulf and Jane who introduced me to a few other
people. It seemed that half the audience were bass players. Steve opened the evening with a new piece, but
had some issues with his Looperlative cutting out. I think he may just have
hit the wrong switch. Next up was ukulele player Lloyd Davis. He
did some good versions of some classic old songs. He was followed by Steve and his new wife
Lobelia. She's a stunning singer and Steve works magic with his bass and
loops. They performed some originals and covers. Their Love is a Battlefield can be heard and seen
here. The originals were great too and I bought their
live CD. Finally, for me, was
Another stunning voice, she sang some nice folk-tinged songs.
The final set was Steve's trio, but I had to leave in order to catch a train home. A shame, but I had still
enjoyed a great evening of music. I didn't get to hear the Hang in action.
There are some pictures on the last.fm event page. I'm amazed how
well they turned out as it was very dimly lit in there.
There were a lot of Twitter users at the gig and they have been Tweeting madly about it. I have already connected
with several of them. It means more when you have actually met the people. Unfortunately Twitter is being abused by
a few people. They seem to follow thousands of people in the hope that some will follow them and see whatever
spam they are posting. In some cases they just seem to be on an ego trip of collecting names. I tend to block these
people as I can see no purpose in them following me.
Sat, 24 May 2008
I've been lacking a practical way to do any audio recording for a while. I have an iRiver
audio player that can record, but it's a chore to use. A while back I read about the
Zoom H2. This looked like a great
device for recording via its multiple microphones. Then I saw the
H4 that can also have instruments
plugged into it. It also includes four track recording with built-in effects. That looked
like the gadget for me. After my usual dithering over buying a new gadget I ordered mine last week.
I've had a bit of a play so far and it's looking good. I've recorded some acoustic guitar using the
microphones. That shows up my lousy playing. Also recorded the kids doing their stuff. I've been wanting to
do that for a while. I've also had a brief play with the multi-tracking. The preset effect settings tend
to be a bit extreme. I need to work out what I need, but have never gained much experience of that
sort of thing.
One thing I was not totally sure about was how well it would work with Linux. The answer is, pretty
good. You get to select whether it should be a USB storage device, to let you read the SD card, or as
a USB audio interface. Both work, but the former is a slow way to download data. For audio I was able
to select it as an input in Skype, Audacity and Jokosher. This means I have been able to do speech on
Skype for the first time in ages. I have issues with the recording apps. I somehow have Audacity set
up so that it will not play back and Jokosher is very unstable. I ought to look at getting Jack and
Ardour working, but that seems more complex than it should be.
Now I have this gadget I have more incentive to work on my playing and actually work out some
pieces to record. I also want to do some recording of my drumming, including our group sessions.
When I have something I'm happy with I will upload it somewhere, probably to my Multiply site as that
allows for limitless uploads.
For help with using this device I am using several on-line forums:
- 2060.org is dedicated to Zoom devices.
- Studio-Central is a general recording forum. Lots of
knowledgeable people there
- LinuxMusicians. Fairly new and I only found it this week. Not a lot of activity,
but it's one of the few sites covering music on Linux. Linux crops up on some of the others, but not much.
I've updated my music page to reflect the current
state of my collection. Nothing very flashy, but I'm sure I should be able to do something interesting with
Sun, 18 May 2008
I generally like to play with new versions of software, but had not got around to looking at the
latest version of KDE. Version 3 has been slowly evolving for a while, but
this is quite different. It adds some new features such as 'widgets' that you can rotate, but I'm not sure
why you would. I installed it and was given the choice when logging in as to which version I wanted to use.
KDE4 seemed to ignore my settings for what applications run at startup. I also had to configure the new
Kopete. The K menu is different. You have to click through different levels
to get to most applications. It certainly looks like it could offer some nice visual tricks, but I'm not
sure how they would benefit me. I generally run things like my browser in full screen mode and so rarely
see the desktop. or any widgets that may lurk there. V4.1 is due fairly soon. Maybe that will make it
more usable and I can try it again then.
One feature I like to use on KDE/Linux and on Windows is to have applications that minimise to the
tool tray. This is especially useful for things like email and instant messaging clients as I will generally
only look at them when something happens, like receiving a message. I may sometimes open an IM window just
to see who is on-line. Then it is very useful if I can click the same icon in the tray again to make the
window close. None of the Windows seem to do that, but the Linux ones generally do. Unfortunately they are
a little inconsistent in their behaviour.
If I click the tray icon when the window is either closed or hidden then I expect it to come to the front.
Kmail closes if the window is open and hidden, but other KDE apps behave as above e.g. Amarok and Konversation.
I think that consistency is very important and hope that the KDE teams are looking at this sort of thing.
The other new thing I've been playing with is Firefox version 3. This was
included in Ubuntu 8.04, even though it is still a beta. The main obvious new feature is that the address bar is
more intelligent. I often used the history to start typing a URL to go to a page I often visit, but now you can
type any part of the page title to get it back. If you click to show recent history it does not show as many
pages as it used to. I miss that as I would often use that list to look check back at recent pages I had visited.
Unfortunately this version is less stable than version 2. It frequently crashes when I am entering text on pages.
This happens most often on Twitter. I'm still having fun with Twitter. It is more intimate than blogging and I have
had a few exchanges with strangers that would not have happened otherwise. So if you are not already Twittering,
Sun, 11 May 2008
Nothing much to report, but here are some cool sites I have found lately:
- Page2RSS - I run most of my web browsing via Google Reader, so it can be
a pain to keep up with sites that do not have feeds. This service will monitor those sites and give me a feed of
- AideRSS - Provides filtered versions of RSS feeds based on various factors.
Could be useful for some of the high traffic ones, but filtered too much on some I tried
- Ftrain - A literate blog. The author wrote a series of 6 word reviews for the SXSW
tracks I downloaded recently
- Twitterholics - Lots of cool Twitter stuff. I'm still enjoying micro-blogging. I've
had a few exchanges with strangers that would not have happened otherwise
- Spamusement - A series of cartoons inspired by spam mail subjects. Made me laugh
You can follow my bookmarks over on Del.icio.us. I'm interesting in
following others who share my interests.
Wed, 30 Apr 2008
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I may have mentioned that I was thinking of doing a fresh install of
Kubuntu Linux when the latest version,
8.04 (codename Hardy Heron), was released last week. That's okay in principle,
but it makes for a bigger job as I would have to do some fiddling to get all the
applications I use installed and working again. I thought I may as well try out
The upgrade process went very smoothly. It prompted me about whether I wanted to
overwrite some setup files. That was a bit confusing as I am not used to the way
it displayed the differences. I didn't think I had applied any special settings and
so accepted their versions. After an hour or so I was prompted to reboot. As I feared
I ended up at a console prompt rather than the graphical log in screen. This has happened
previously. I managed to get KDE working via startx by reverting to the free nvidia driver.
Eventually I worked out that I could use an older version of the X config file and got the
log in screen back. The second issue was a lack of sound. This was not a bug, but there
seems to be an extra fader in KMix that does not appear in my session and it was turned down.
So everything that was working before is more or less back. Improvements include being able
to set decent screen refresh rates for all users and having them stick next time. I have yet to
test sound recording.
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