Raspberry Pi - Some thoughts

So after all the hype and the frankly farcical initial supply rush, I have sat here on my desk a Raspberry Pi computer. I can't imagine there's anyone reading this who doesn't know what that is, but just in case, it's a $35 computer the size of a credit card. Built to provide low cost computing to up and coming geeky children who in today's world of complex computers are apparently being denied the opportunity to mess round with programming the way we did on Spectrums, Amigas and so on 20 years ago. It's built round an Arm-based system on chip originally developed for PVRs and along with the typical ports featured on a home computer, has 26 general purpose Input / Output pins for controlling external systems, a camera input and an output for flat screens.

A taste of PiCollapse )
So what are your thoughts? Have you managed to get one in the rush, and if so what are you doing with it? Am I missing something? Have you great ideas of what I should be doing with mine?

*tap* *tap* *tap* Is this still on?

OK, I'll confess that I've hugely neglected LJ over the past couple of years. Part of the problem is that I'm not sure where it fits into my life any more. I have a new site which details my freelance development work, which contains a blog for many of the more technical things I want to write. And the inevitable exodus to Facebook means that this is less and less a place to plan a social event and catch up with friends' thoughts and actions.

Seeing as I've had a couple of really good weekends catching up with people, this seems a good point to get typing and add something here, for my own memory if nothing else.
Last WeekendCollapse )

This WeekendCollapse )
  • Current Music
    The Troggs - Wild Thing

Why LulzSec may not be as bad as many people think they are...

I wrote this a while ago and never got round to polishing it off before. It seems a little dated now, as it was mostly in reference to the PSN attacks etc., but I feel I should probably put it up rather than delete it.

When you find a security vulnerability in real life, you have a fairly basic choice. You can take advantage of it, or you can alert the person it affects. This is pretty simple, you see someone drop their wallet, you can either take it or hand it back to them, if you see someone leaving a car without shutting the boot properly you can either dive in and rootle about to see if there's anything worth having, or you can call after them and tell them. It's a pretty clear cut choice. Likewise, if someone tells your you've left your boot open or dropped your wallet, you'll probably say thank you, correct your mistake and carry on. You're most unlikely to turn round and shout at them "DON'T YOU DARE TELL ANYONE MY WALLET IS ON THE FLOOR, IF YOU DO I'LL SUE YOU!" However this is frequently what happens when people report security vulnerabilities to large firms. It's happening right now with people trying to silence those who wish to discuss the problems. It's flawed thinking, if you silence the person pointing to your wallet on the floor or your unlocked door, do you really think noone else will notice?

What LulzSec are doing is not having a quiet word hoping they will be well received, they're standing in the middle of the street shouting "Ha ha, look at that idiot, he can't even lock his doors properly!" Sure they're pissing off a lot of people doing it, and they're breaking a lot of laws. However the anger shouldn't be directed at them, it should be directed at the people who have been responsible for the data that's now been lost. The people who have tried to hush up and cover over the warnings in the past. Hopefully if this becomes commonplace enough, the large corporations won't try and cover up their vulnerabilities. They will regard unlocked doors as a technical problem to get them locked, not a PR problem to stop anyone finding out they're unlocked.

Film Review: Paranormal Activity

I've been feeling the urge to write more recently, and a review seems a good choice to get back to posting...

I sat down to watch this late on Saturday evening, and I wasn't sure quite what to expect. Having just been watching Most Haunted, I think I was expecting more of the same, rather twee and fake spookiness. What I got instead was probably the most disturbing film I've seen for a long time, if not ever.cut for spoilers...Collapse )


Hello once more dear readers, it's been a while, hasn't it? Things have been rather busy, but alas without very much of world changing interest to report I'm afraid. However last week I managed to go on a long anticipated Holiday :). The main reason for the trip was so that obsidian_dawn and I could go to the Hebridean Celtic Festival and also to get some R and R at last. The trip up was pleasant, I managed to catch up with an old friend from UMIST who seems to be doing very well for herself in Sheffield, happily enjoying married life. With a delayed crossing out to the Islands, which was one of the roughest I've been on, we ended up getting to the campsite about 4am, thoughts of putting up the tent were abandoned in favour of sleeping in the car (thank goodness for estate cars, but I think I need to have a word with the designers about the step in the floor that led to a corresponding step in my spine). The tactical error of having packed with thoughts of Kent in 30° heat soon became apparent and a shopping trip into Stornaway to raid charity shops for jumpers and fleeces, while a quick trip to Crofters sorted out some warmer sleeping arrangements. And so it was that we headed to the festival.

The FestivalCollapse )

After the festival we spent a few more days relaxing on the Islands, meeting up with pointyhairedone and exploring the scenery. We found a bothy on the very edge of a cliff which was breathtaking and went poking around some cold war ruins, along with some of the more traditional historic sights. Sailing home was a treat, as in a calm sea there were two separate schools of Dolphins around the ferry, and then with the intention of stopping at a services we set off home, taking turns to drive we were quite happy carrying on until suddenly we found that it was 5am and we were home. All in all a thoroughly enjoyed trip and a great time.

Stuff and things...

Things continue to be busy, managed to work all night Thursday, got in at quarter to six, five hours sleep then back in the car to finish job off on Friday. Far from requiring sympathy, I felt great, and strangely really enjoyed getting things done and beating the odds to finish on time.

Birthday weekend was good fun, in a low-key way. Highlight has to be sitting on the beach with a beer with Gary Numan playing Cars behind me :). But got to see a nice lot of people and chill out. Oh and ate a lot of sausages! :)

Recently I've had a couple of moments that have demonstrated the best and the worst of the Linux world to me: Click for geek angst and prideCollapse )

Having had a chance to draw breath and catch up on things for the first time far too long, I've woken up this morning feeling spectacularly rough, and spent most of the day bimbling round the flat failing to be productive, which is rather frustrating to say the least. Still at least I have clean clothes now :).
  • Current Music
    Battleska Galactica - Stinkin' Linkin

Life in bullet points.

Hello, dear public! How are we today? Having got my first moment to actually sit down and gather thoughts for I don't know how long, I thought it time to give you privilidged few a glimpse into my fabulous existance...[1] However as I'm tired/lazy/busy I figure it's acceptable to speed the process by using bullet points.

  • I don't seem to have stopped reloading computers for longer than I can remember. First my webserver needed reloading with something more up-to-date, then upgrading my desktop led to a complete reload and just when I thought I'd sorted that...

  • My laptop died. An ill-thought-out attempt to improve my failing LCD led to complete failure the next day of the screen. After a bit of poking around, I found a rather nice Dell Latitude 810 surpless in my handly local IT department. It's about four years old, but has been looked after (read: doesn't look like it's been used) and has quite the nicest screen I've ever seen on a laptop. With a Centrino based setup, I dread to think what it cost new. Not bad for less than the price of an Eee...

  • As a result of all this loading, I've been using Windows 7 RC in anger. I've got to say I'm rather liking it. It's probably actually the fist time I've been looking forward to what I felt was actually an improvement in Redmond's output since 3.1.

  • Life is crazy-busy, seem to have too much work, and too many appointments as it is. Appologies if I've been neglecting anyone, it's not through lack of desire, I'm just a bit frantic at the moment.

  • It's the MicroIrish's birthday this weekend, there will be frivolities on Saturday night. Anyone not already invited and wishing to join in should make some sort of contact.

  • I'm off in the morning to be trained on Vertical Lift Power Access Platforms (Scissor lifts to you and me). I think it's the first formal qualification since my A-Levels, which is a little surprising.

  • There are vague plans for my birthday to find somewhere overlooking the Hevy Festival which will alow us to enjoy the music while at the same time having the freedom to leave, walk about or indeed wander to an off-licence. Anyone interested in joining in should again make some sort of contact.

I think that's about all I've really got to report of much interest. I leave you with an interesting proposition that was triggered by something I read concerning ATI dropping support of a lot of their old (and some not-so-old) product range following their aquisition by AMD... Commercial entities should forfit their right to {patents/copywrite/keep their designs secret on some other level} on a product when they cease to support the product. Discuss.

[1] lets face it, LJ is mostly a thinly veiled egowank, so why not do it properly?
  • Current Music
    Gary Numan - Cars


Something that has been bubbling round in my mind for a while now has been brought to my attention by sightings of the evil privacy-invading car, namely the slightly uneasy feeling I get having my photograph taken. The impact of being photographed has changed dramaticly in recent times, five years ago, digital cameras were relatively rare, all that was likely to happen was that your picture would sit in someone's album, seen by a few family and friends; a couple of years ago someone may email a photo of me to a dozen contacts. Now, however, photo sharing websites are common, technology can and does recognise you. Trawling large numbers of photos for your face (or even easier, number plate) is trivial for those with the resources, with most pictures posted with some details about where they were taken, or indeed GPS coordinates, along with a date taken, a remarkably large amount of information is suddenly potentially available. I must confess I find this unease very hard to reconcile with my desire to take photographs (other than the fact that I rarely put photos of people in my Flickr photostream). How do you feel about having your photograph taken? Do you find it hard to balance that with a desire to take photos?

I suppose I should mention *why* this bothers me. I'm not entirely sure. After all, it's all very well to complain that photos were published of me carrying out some wrong-doing, but rather like speed cameras you have to have been doing something "wrong" to be caught. I suppose sloppy policing is what frightens me the most, a friend of mine was a prime suspect in a serious police investigation when he happened to drive his van (which matched the description of the van in which the crime took place) to the wrong town at the wrong time.

Having said that, the risk of being spotted on Flickr is probably trivial compared to being recorded on one of the countless CCTV cameras that pepper every town these days.

[update] I mentioned this in passing to a friend and recieved this rather valid point...

> i think the state was the biggest culprit and now they've figured a clever way to manipulate people into monitoring one another even further for them
> what annoys me most about these things is that even if one chooses to opt out of them and is careful not to appear in the background of shots, etc., the fragile semblance of "community" that we have treats said individual as a non-entity.. we become unperson, to use the Orwellian parlance
> wow i used some dodgy vocab there, sorry!

I tend to agree that the pressure to opt-into the social networking norm does rather perpetuate this situation.

Thoughts? Tell me I'm a paranoid nutter? Tell me you've been thinking this for years?

Dear Lazyweb...

Does anyone out there have experience of how RAM speed vs quantity affects overall system speed? I'm thinking of updating my desktop PC. At the moment it has 512MB of reasonably fast (CL2) RAM in it. Looking around at the intertubes, I see that for roughly the same ammount I can buy 2GB of fast memory (for example this) or 3GB of cheap memory (e.g. this). While I realise that a limited amount of tasks will actually take advantage of 3GB of RAM, running KDE4, using a Java IDE and editing photos out my SLR seem to eat ram quite happily.
background system informationCollapse )
So my question is: Neglecting reliability issues for the moment, in the real world, which is a better investment for my PC?

[Update] Further investigation of the market of computer components reveals the fact that I could just about get 4GB of DDR2 memory, a new motherboard and a 3GHz Celeron for the price of 4GB of the older DDR memory... I think that it could well be a bit of a hopeless task trying to upgrade my current system...

Easter Whinge

Happy Easter, everyone, hooray for four-day weekends!

Life seems to be a bit up and down at the moment, so in an attempt to feel better with some cathartic venting and due to it being about time for a proper update, I think I'll witter about some of what I've been up to.

I seem to have a lot of trouble recently achieving a balance between all the things I really ought to be doing. To name a few, I've got things to do maintaining cars, progressing my flat, paying work, domestic chores, general geeking and helping my parents with some of their DIY. That's before I get onto the things that I would really like to do, but all too often get shelved, like getting out on my bike and cooking something that requires more effort than "Stick it in the oven". In order to try and sort this out, along with catching up on some of the things that have got rather neglected, I've decided to call off my every-other-week contracting onsite for April. Having done this, so that I could catch up on a number of things, and spread my efforts more evenly, I promptly spent a week and a half concentrating exclusively on one thing. Ooops. Still I have achieved something and have managed to polish off the bodywork, servicing and general MoT preparation to get my small car back on the road. Hooray! I can now drive round with the roof down and enjoy the sunshine. Yay. Unfortunately, two days after I finished all this work, some bastard has put a damn great dent in it while parked outside my flat D:.

I've got some more interesting work on at the moment, with some PCB layouts to do, some embedded coding and the web front-end for a system to finish off, which is good, however I've not managed to sit down and concentrate mostly due to being in a pretty constant rush, seemingly only ever thinking about trying to pick something I can do in the half hour before I need to leave to get somewhere else leading to things getting left half-done and spending far too long before I can get back to them. Hopefully now Easter is out the way and obsidian_dawn should have a bit less pressure on her, things will calm down and I can concentrate on things a bit more.

Red car has at last been fitted with a handsfree kit, which includes a USB connection, so now all I need to do is clear my USB hard-drive and sort out carrying round my music collection, which is rather groovy.

My flat is at least creeping forward. Some organization is however required to sort out the next few things to do.

I'm off to Ireland again in a week, which should be good, time for some R&R at least. Plan before then mostly involves getting red car serviced, hopefully polishing off some of the things that are nagging at me, and being sent to Manchester to do some contracting. I might manage to have a go at the dent in small-car, in which case it would be a relief to mentally put that back on the "done" pile.

Must take more photos!
  • Current Mood
    busy busy