Eat, Drink and talk LinuxEvent Date and Time: Wed, 20/03/2013 - 19:30 - 23:00
Having a Guinness with @mfifield in honour of Sunday.
Saint Patrick’s Day. sdrv.ms/144DNES
Can you tell what it is yet? sdrv.ms/ZyhUIv
Back in 2007, my Mum and I got a pair of Internet-connected Nabaztag bunnies. Aside from all the online content we could subscribe to using the bunnies, the most fun thing for me was that we could ‘pair’ our bunnies so that they would talk to each other. If I moved the ears on my bunny, the ears on my Mum’s bunny would move to match, and vice versa. The 250 physical miles disappear for a few seconds when you see the ears move and know that it’s because Mum is physically moving the ears of her bunny. I know exactly what she’s doing at that particular pointing in time, as if we’re briefly in the same room. The technical term for this is, apparently, ambient awareness.
The bunny ears experience of ambient awareness inspired my first (and, so far, only) Arduino project: Monitoring electricity using Christmas lights. The red/orange lights indicated the current electricity usage of my house and the blue/green lights indicated the current electricity usage of Mum and Dad’s house. The more electricity currently being used, the faster the lights flashed. Again, it was just that tiny tiny insight into what was happening 250 miles away. Just the mundanity of everyday life shared.
So I was curious about the Kickstarter project for the Good Night Lamp. The Good Night Lamp is a really nice and simple concept. One person has a Big Lamp (shaped like a house) and they give Little Lamps, associated with the Big Lamp, to friends and/or family anywhere in the world. When the owner switches off the Big Lamp (when they go out or go to bed), the associated Little Lamps also switch off. An appealing part of it is that you can collect a Little Lamp from each of your family or group of friends and arrange them on a shelf so that before you go to bed at night, you can see each of them ‘say goodnight’ as their respective lights go out.
The problem I see with the Good Night Lamp is similar to the one with the Nabaztag. While I think it’s great having simple devices that do just one thing well, it doesn’t half clutter up the place. These kinds of devices need shelf-space. And it has to be shelf-space you can see easily in a place you’ll often be or they don’t work. Maybe as people replace all their books with the more easily stored ebooks, living-room bookcases will become filled with ambient devices instead. I got to chatting with Ambient Orb fan Andy Stanford-Clark about it.
While my and my Mum’s’ Nabaztags have now died or gone into hibernation and the Christmas lights never made it as far as the tree, our more lasting providers of ambient awareness don’t even have their own physical forms. Instead, they’re software on our smartphones and tablets, devices that we have around anyway, wherever we are. In particular, SMS updates of my Mum and Dad’s Tweets.
Every morning, my Mum wakes up, has a coffee with my Dad, and reads interesting articles on her iPad. I know this from when I’ve visited them and because when she reads an interesting article, she tweets or retweets it and I receive about half-a-dozen txts in quick succession. Later in the afternoon, after they’ve got home from wherever they’ve been that day (or have found free wifi somewhere while they’re out) and are drinking another cup of coffee or tea, I receive another half-a-dozen txts pointing to interesting articles online. Just receiving the txts gives me an awareness of them waking up or sitting down to read the paper. Clicking the links to the articles gives me an insight into what they’re reading and how they’re probably feeling about the topics of the articles. The fairly mundane, everyday things that we wouldn’t remember, or bother, to talk about on the phone a week or so later.
As drinking coffee or tea seems to play a regular, if side, part in the activities I’m notified about, Andy and I came up with the idea of the Ambient Kettle. In my house, we have a whole house Current Cost monitor that is connected to a server out on the Internet. It was the feed from this server that we used in my Christmas Lights project. Since then, though, I’ve added individual appliance monitors (IAMs) to a few of the appliances around the house, including the kettle. The feeds from these IAMs also go to the server and so can be used by applications that know which data to request.
So Andy hacked up a (private) Twitter account, @ambientkettle, which my Mum follows. Each time the kettle boils in my house, the @ambientkettle account tweets to my Mum:
Without being physically present or explicitly letting her know that I am making a cup of tea, she can get a sense of what I’m doing. The messages in the tweets that @ambientkettle sends are pre-canned and chosen at random but made to be chatty enough that it seems a bit like the start of a conversation. Indeed, Mum sometimes tweets back to it to say that she and Dad are also having a cup of tea or are looking forward to one when they get home, or whatever. As I say, it’s mundane but it’s those kinds of mundane things that make everyday life.
I’ll be interested to see how the Good Night Lamp gets taken up. It was featured in the very mainstream Daily Mail yesterday and its founding team has a good record of startups, product design, interaction design, and Internet of Things creativeness. And there’s something very appealing about having ambient awareness of friends and family when we’re geographically spread apart.
Shopping in Blackheath. sdrv.ms/15SeljV
Back in the day, when I grew up on my Liverpool council estate every member of Liverpool City council was Conservative. The city had eight Conservative MPs.
This is Nadine Dorries writing on Conservative Home a couple of days ago. She should really learn that if she doesn’t check her facts, then someone else will. You’ll be shocked, I suspect, to hear that this information is less than completely true. To me, it looks like Liverpool never had more than six Tory MPs while Dorries was growing up there.
Dorries was born in 1957. So let’s look at the 1955 general election and see which MPs were elected in Liverpool then. Liverpool has nine MPs, six of which are Tory. None of the seats changed hands in 1959. In 1964, however, the Tories lost four seats, taking their total down to two. This number remained constant in 1966 and 1970. The Tories lost another seat in February 1974 and remained steady on only one seat in October. Finally, in 1979 (when Dorries is 22 – so I’m not sure it still counts as while she was growing up) the Tories doubled their number of seats to a rather unimpressive two.
So Liverpool never had more than six Tory MPs – al least not while Dorries was growing up there. But she thinks that she can just throw a fact into an article like that and people will just accept it’s true.
You should never trust a word that Dorries writes. She has frequently been proven wrong on details like this.
p.s. Tim Fenton has run this analysis too and has reached similar conclusions. And, surprise surprise, he finds that her claims about the council are nonsense too.Related Posts:
Lewisham town centre: German sausages! sdrv.ms/YfBDhr
It’s always been possible, but clumsy, to access Network Block Device (NBD) disks from libguestfs, but starting in libguestfs 1.22 we hope to make this (and Gluster, Ceph and Sheepdog access) much simpler.
To show this using guestfish, I’ll start an NBD server. This could be started on another machine, but to make things simple I’ll start this server on the same machine:$ qemu-nbd f18x64.img -t
f18x64.img is the disk image that I want to export. The -t option makes the qemu-nbd server persistent (ie. it doesn’t just exit after serving the first client).
Now we can connect to this server using guestfish as follows:$ guestfish Welcome to guestfish, the libguestfs filesystem interactive shell for editing virtual machine filesystems. Type: 'help' for help on commands 'man' to read the manual 'quit' to quit the shell ><fs> add-drive "" format:raw protocol:nbd server:localhost ><fs> run
The empty "" (quotes) are the export name. Since qemu-nbd doesn’t support export names, we can leave this empty. The main change is to specify the protocol (nbd) and the server that libguestfs should connect to (localhost, but a remote host would also work). I haven’t specified a port number here because both the client and server are using the standard NBD port (10809), but you could use server:localhost:NNN to use a different port number if needed.
Ordinary guestfish commands just work:><fs> list-filesystems /dev/sda1: ext4 /dev/fedora/root: ext4 /dev/fedora/swap: swap ><fs> inspect-os /dev/fedora/root ><fs> inspect-get-product-name /dev/fedora/root Fedora release 18 (Spherical Cow)
The next steps are to:
The obvious [but not yet implemented] way to change the -a option is to allow a URI to be specified. For example:$ guestfish -a nbd://localhost/exportname
where the elements of the URI like protocol, transport, server, port number and export name translate naturally into parameters of the add-drive API.
I've a collection of about 500 bookmarks which I've barely touched for a few years. I started organizing them late the other night, because I'd been off work sick for two days and that was about the most I felt up for doing with a computer.
The intention was to "tidy" them, and then setup some way of syncing them across browsers/computers. In the end I didn't like any of the syncing plugins I could find - xmarks, etc - so I decided to take a step backwards.
I'd exported my bookmarks to HTML page, via firefox, before I started, and then later in a fit of pique I deleted the whole damn lot of them.
So now a few years worth of bookmarks are stored in a single HTML file. But wait, we can use revision control can't we? We can host that file on github/similar. We can rely upon merges to deal with conflicts - simple if we just add lines to the end, or delete lines.
Maybe that's the best way to store bookmarks? I updated the bookmark file to read:<ul> <li tags="debian, personal"><a href="http://www.debian-administration.org/">Debian Admin</a></li> .. </ul>
Adding "tags" to the LI-container and then some simple jQuery code gave me the ability to search/filter the bookmarks and auto-populate tags.
A small example placed online here:
I went for a walk in the park with my family a couple of weeks ago; my beloved mp3 player was in my coat pocket. The next day, I put my coat on and noticed that the mp3 player was gone! (Tiredness is making me forgetful and not notice things very quickly). Now, after a couple more days, I'd accepted that I'd very likely dropped it while walking and would never see it again and went back to using my old mp3 player.
When I got home today, while opening the door to the back passage [not a euphemism], I happened to glance at the ground near my front door and there, just under the gas meter box right by the front door, was my mp3 player!
Two possibilities occur:
The player dropped out of my pocket either on the way in or out of my house.
I had dropped it somewhere near my house and some kind neighbour (or passerby), picked it up and put it under the gas meter box.
Either possibility has mysteries. If I dropped it near my front door, the chances of it happening to have found the very small gap necessary to nestle right under the gas meter box - conveniently sheltered from the elements - seem very small.
If it was put there for safe-keeping by another person who had noticed it dropped near my house, why not leave a note to let me know?!
Either way, I'm most pleased :)
And if option 2 is the one... thank you very much whoever it was!
Revelation: noise-cancelling headphones are awesome for working from home, as well as for flying on a plane.
ARGH. Just seen the floppy disk “save” icon in Windows Azure. img.ly/tqCv
Why, Microsoft, why?!
It started off by being a place that everyone could chat and talk about things that were happening in the QA cycles inside CentOS. But things have changed quite a lot - our QA cycles are a lot shorter, there is a lot more automation and there is almost no real security exposure to users.
And I think we can do this better. We can create a better end user experience that gives them direct access, easily, to the state of play within the testing. And we should be able to automate more to get better coverage.
To that aim, qaweb.dev.centos.org is now going away. And we are working on some alternatives. Starting with having a nightly QA cycle, that considers point releases and all updates upto that point. And adding more external tests as well, like the ltp content ( http://ltp.sourceforge.net/ ). If you wish to join in that effort, drop in on the centos-devel list ( http://lists.centos.org/ ) and jump right in. Ref threads: http://lists.centos.org/pipermail/centos-devel/2013-March/009098.html and http://lists.centos.org/pipermail/centos-devel/2013-March/009099.html
Here is a link to the official announcement that just went out : http://lists.centos.org/pipermail/centos-announce/2013-March/019649.html
See you there,
Notes made on the 22:30 from Euston to Birmingham, whilst returning home to the provinces after treating myself to an evening of presentations and discussion with Dan Hill, Jeremy Till and Wouter Vanstiphout under the title Institutionalised…
Housed in the Black Maria installation at St Martin’s by Richard Wentworth/GRUPPE we were split into eager registrants who’d secured a ‘seat’ and lazy laggards who just turned up to freeload by taking a chair outside the installation and behind the projection screen. Proceedings get underway with the barrier between us raised and the talk show hosts/guests in the middle, then at the appointed moment when sufficient teasing has taken place, the screen falls (to the sound of a jet aircraft landing) and we become the privileged few allowed sole rights to the speaker’s attention and slides that are the right way round, whilst the rest get only sound piped through speakers and reversed images and text. It’s a privilege that is later slightly sullied by the numbness of our arses as they complain about the unforgiving plywood steps we’re sitting on. The fact that Richard Wentworth himself chose to sit on the chairs outside should have told us something perhaps.
It’s a beautiful thing though, and perhaps the very embodiment of what would during the evening be discussed as the conflict between the teaching of craft and ethics. Carefully crafted as it is to disrupt the usual ethics of oratory; thereby straddling both concepts perfectly.
The evening is introduced by Shumi Bose and the speakers are described as one qualified architect (Till) and two people who inhabit the ‘extended field of architecture’ (Hill and Vanstiphout). It’s this extended field that is of course the primary focus for the evening and a topic ripe for exploration in the UK at the moment given the widely discussed/lamented state of the profession and it’s utter lack of direction or worth. How does a mindful awareness of this extended field allow architecture to work within, against or for institutions?
Here are some (crudely paraphrased) sound bites and notes from each:
Jeremy Till – institutional irritant
1) provides a short intro and begins by reading the founding definition of the RIBA (quoted in his book Architecture Depends), part of which can be paraphrased thus: ‘architects are to be the arbiters of taste’ and he then states that this institute’s position is only legitimised by the support of other institutes i.e. universities.
2) he criticises architecture for becoming a spatial projection of imagination (or does he? see footnote)
3) acknowledging his position in the large institute of St Martin’s he describes himself as the institutional irritant that seeks to disrupts from within, but acknowledges that the more effective position may be on the outside
Wouter Vanstiphout – architect as figurehead
4) describing background and past work Wouter talks of his Design as Politics course
5) which leads to later studies on the politics of urban riots and the question of whether the fabric of the city itself is an accessory to the violence with the architect ultimately to blame
6) he proposes that the reason for this is in fact because architecture has merely become the visible garnish/figurehead/tip of the iceberg for the (massive) process of (brutal) urban renewal
beneath or behind it driven by institutions such as the state or the market.
7) underlining the power of the market he shows a picture of a city skyline filled with large buildings by internationally renowned architects, highlighting that their existence/creation is/was
dependent not on the people who inhabit them but the market that requires investment objects
Dan Hill – boundary operator
8) Dan starts by reflecting Wouter’s iceberg by showing Papenek’s triangular diagram with the designer’s share taking only a small proportion of the real problem beneath
9) he questions the ability of yesterday’s institutions to produce the necessary outcome for tomorrow
10) showing examples of projects from his time at Sitra and HDL he explores various examples of the networked city
11) suggesting that activity undertaken by a city’s inhabitants are less important for the actions themselves rather than the ability to make networked decisions about what to do
12) in turn suggesting that the culture of public decision making is the design challenge
13) and that in this networked city the government now has competition
14) thus returning to the question of whether 19th century institutions are capable of facing 21st century problems
15) Dan suggests that the experience he’s had in three different organisations of different roles and scales could be described as inside, outside and (during his time at Sitra) at the boundary of key institutions
16) in summary the goal should be to design the conditions that allow institutions to address meaningful public issues
Each had touched on a question of position relative to the institution or institutions that determine one’s role. Jeremy began by questioning whether it’s better to disrupt from within or beyond, Wouter described the dangers of unwittingly becoming a figurehead for the institution behind you and Dan demonstrated what might be possible at the boundary between the two. I think these positions were further contextualised by comments during the discussion at the end of the evening when Wouter (expanding on his comments about market driven investment objects) questioned the possible conflict of loyalties between the direct source of funding from a client vs. the city in which the work is carried out. How do you maintain the balance between civic responsibility and client loyalty? Following that a question from a planner in the audience about the panel’s view on how the UK’s NPPF and debate on localism might impact the institution brought an acknowledgement of the value of the neighbourhood forum. In there somewhere there were also comments about the market of supply and demand that suggested that the profession concerns itself too much with the supply side, when in fact it should work harder to raise and support the demand.
Neighbourhoods – the demand market – are the boundaries to institutions in which an architect’s loyalties must be invested.
It’s fitting then that the following 24 hours of media coverage in the UK built environment has provided much coverage of a growing interest in the power of self build and co-housing ideas and it’s certainly helping me form ideas about which direction I’d like to head in future with my practice.
Finally, I’d like to end by recording a wonderfully succinct and compelling description of the perils of what Wouter described as the neo-liberal myth of the benefits of rolling back the state. Rather than the space left over being filled by the common man, it’s simply claimed by the private market instead.
* Note: I appear to have heard Jeremy’s comment on the projection of spatial imagination entirely differently to the fellow on my left, Charles Holland off of FAT who wrote it down properly:
I am having to fill in a questionaire designed by SecurityMetrics to conform to PCI Compliance standards and am painfully getting fined for non-compliance. I told them I was running Ubuntu Linex and that the ports are closed. They still said I have to complete the questionare to obtain complaince.
The questions I am not sure how to answer are to do with firewall software and the configeration is to the standard they require; whether I need to install anti-virus software: and on what criticial security patches I have.