Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Broadband fun

My monthly Telstra broadband quota is 10GB, which isn't hard to use up if I get carried away with downloading documentaries or comedy shows. The other problem with BitTorrent is that you are an uploader as well as a downloader, and it is easy to forget that you have a download running, because they can take half a day. If the download finishes and you forget about it, your client software goes on happily uploading to the world. Fair enough, that's how it works, it's called peer-to-peer file sharing after all.

This is last month's usage bar chart.
You can drill down to a daily chart; this shows that I did a big download (downloads shown in red, uploads in orange) on the first day, and another at the end of the month. I received an email on the 28th, warning me that I was up to 80% of the quota.
Finally, using the "Select date" drop-down menu, here is last Saturday.
We had visitors staying last weekend, so there was much talking and eating (and even a little drinking), which meant I didn't notice that the download ended at 6pm on Saturday, while I was carving the roast and opening the wine. It was around 11am on Sunday that I turned off the BitTorrent client. Because I have throttled down the upload speed to 16kbps it didn't blow out the quota, and we ended the month with more than a gig to spare.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Grumbling on, in a non-Microsoft kind of way

Actually I'm less grumbly today, thanks to the magic ministrations of Lindsay the physiotherapist. He got me to do a few movements and tell him how each one felt, then said "That's a clue, lie on your side" and proceeded to haul me to a foetal position.

He placed a fist in the small of my back, said "Hold on!" and gave my spine an abrupt shove. When I finished yelping, I felt quite a lot better, and was able to bend to do up my shoes without wincing. That is definitely an improvement. I've been a bit stiff and sore today, but I'm not nearly as bad as I've been for the last 3 weeks.

I noticed tonight how my computing habits have changed over the last three years. Instead of a PC, I'm sitting in the dining room with a Mac laptop, running Firefox. The web browser has three tabs open; first is my default page, iGoogle, then this Blogger editing screen, and third is Gmail. In other words, I'm using an open source web browser, with three Google applications running. Are you listening, Bill Gates?

Friday, 26 October 2007

Another tough day at the office

Today's diary
0800 - Physio. Made my leg feel good till I got back in the car and had to keep it bent. Getting more worried about this "spot of nerve damage".
1000 - Morning tea, downstairs outside in the sun. Very pleasant.
1200 - Over to IT to do the Last Turn Off for Cantwt, the faithful old WebCT 4 server that began life in 2001. I played the Last Post on the thumb trumpet, while Jess and Paul Arnold stood at attention.
1230 - Staff Club for lunch. Long wait for food, had to have second pint of very nice pale ale. Had the ploughmans, a great deal for $8.
1500 - Over to the Dovedale Campus (used to be the Teachers College, now where the College/Faculty of Education live, with lots of nice buildings) to accompany Jess, who was going to demonstrate clickers. I had nothing better to do so I invited myself along - but apart from Lindsey Conner, who organised the session, no-one showed up. So we chatted, then left.
1600 - Email from our "support" rep in Sydney, telling us how to fix a problem. Didn't work - I wonder if he even tested it.
1615 - Wrote a Perl script to read a huge log file and output the last field of each server access and its total. Worked after 3-4 minor debugs (about average, mostly punctuation errors) proving that we owe IT for 37GB of internet traffic. Oops.
1645 - Drove (painfully) to pub, talked about bloke stuff, went home. Reheated pasta and salad left by Heather - she and Nicky Sarson are at the movies.
2000 - Wrote blog post, finished little (187ml) bottle of merlot, made single plunger of coffee, listened to funky compilation CD of country rock music from the US Gulf Coast. Nice.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Some good, some bad

Work is, as always, full of fascinating stuff. Today we did a video conference with some staff developers at Victoria University in Wellington, using the Access Grid - a multi-screen bidirectional high speed experience. Even allowing for the cruddy "lowest common codec" protocol, we got a pretty fair simulation of a face to face meeting. And Air New Zealand didn't get a cent!

I was filmed for a short video presentation this morning, too - I was interviewed about my job, what I do, good and bad parts, etc. I look forward to seeing the edited result.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Sailing - almost!

We checked the Lyttelton Port weather station frequently this morning, and agreed that the SW wind would fade as predicted and the easterly would arrive soon after. We went to the yacht club, but we were about 5 hours out; the day's trace shows that the change came at 4.30pm, not 11.30am as we'd hoped.

We didn't sail, as the prospect of 20 knot south westerlies and being blown against the jetty while launching put us off - but we fitted another winch-handle holder and did quite a lot of touch up painting.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

In the steps of McGonagall

I arrived at the pub, bought a $7 jug of Speights, waited for Schroeder, and informed him that no-one had shown any interest in verse, (just like McGonagall visiting Balmoral) so we had another drink and left. Sailing tomorrow, we hope.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Homage to McGonagall - and Speights

In homage to the great tragedian, William Topaz McGonagall of Dundee, I penned the following today;

The Great Floating Alehouse of the River Thames
by Gregor McRonagall

Oh wonder of the modern age,
An alehouse floats
Upon a boat.
All the way from the Antipodes
To London, with much speed.
Where everyone agrees it’s great,
To drink fine ale from a man named Speight.

Oh alehouse on the river Thame
Your name is sure to bring much fame
And give renown to the Kiwi name
Without any blame.
And people say it’s really excellent
To drink Speights in London without dissent
And take some home, as a present.

What's it for? Speights beer are putting on a promotional event tomorrow, somehow associated with the opening of a Speights Ale House in London (which has been carried on a boat crewed by Kiwis, if you believe the TV ads), and there are prizes for songs and poems incorporating the product. Schroeder will declaim my words in the grand style. Should be worth a t-shirt, I reckon.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007


Observant people with very little to do will see that this blog changes its template a lot. This is testament to Blogger's ease of customisation and my inability to leave well alone. Sometimes it means I've got nothing to say.

Today, however, I have some wisdom to impart.
  • Postal voting is a big mistake.
  • Bike helmet straps really do need to be done up.
  • Educationalists possess a well demonstrated inability to utilise miniscule verbal utterances.
  • Christchurch drivers are the laziest, greediest, pushiest, bunch of drongos I've ever been subjected to.
  • Speights IS great.
  • Getting older is less fun than it used to be.
There, that feels better.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

What a lovely day!

There might be terrorists in Happy Valley and the Ureweras (read Russell Brown's take on the fuss), but all is happiness filled here in Christchurch today. There's a warm NW wind, spring blossom and leaves on the trees, and the students are about to have their last lectures. As always with the last week before exams, lectures are full up, and so are the carparks. This is a snap of the 2 o'clock park-hunters circling in front the Law building.

Meanwhile, up on the 4th floor, we are relaxing after having lunch in the sunshine. Derek snapped me sitting at my desk, so I thought I'd add it to this post.

Computers visible (just) are an Apple //e (sentimental interest only), a side view of an Intel iMac, and the two LCD screens of my main workhorse, a two year old Cyclone PC.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Sunday night report

A rather ordinary weekend weather-wise; Saturday was OK but developed a very gloomy northwest arch, and Sunday was rainy and cold till after lunch. Our old buddy Peter King from Wanaka stayed for Saturday and left early on Sunday morning, so I was able to introduce him to my local pub and a few of my reprobate mates. We followed that with roast chicken and a big chat.

My leg is slowly getting better, but the physio advised me not to sail on Saturday. Since he crews on a boat that we race against, it would be a bit hard to defy him... Actually, the one thing that would really cause it to play up is the action of supporting my body on the side deck by pressing against the cockpit strakes, so logic tells me he's right. I'm sorry to let Schroeds and Stu down, though - maybe we'll get some practice time in over Labour Weekend.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Wet week

It's been a good week to be stuck indoors with a sore leg - it's rained pretty much every day, and today's even wetter and colder than the others. I've had one session of physio for my leg, and it's helped a bit, but it's still a bit worrying - especially the numbness on the outside of my left foot. I have another session this morning. Isn't aging wonderful?

Work has gone very quiet on the Blackboard support side, allowing us to do lots of jobs we've deferred, such as planning end of year course resets, collaborating on a final newsletter (using Google Docs, which is a great way to work), and tidying up the mountain of documentation we've accumulated over the last two years. We're planning for the possibility of implementing a second web server in a two-node cluster, but the improvements in the system's back end may have made this unnecessary - still, we need to do the costings just in case.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Things that make me cross

First today was the All Blacks' loss in the World Cup quarter final. I won't say any more, thousands of words are probably pouring onto the internet from people who care more about it than I do.

Then came this error message; who wants to visit a web site in order to be told off for not using a Microsoft browser? Has the dickhead who designed this site thought about what the "inter" part of "internet" means? I suspect that what this message really means is "I don't know how to design sites that work with all browsers", or "The marketing department wouldn't let us finish the cross-browser stuff and insisted that we go live before we were ready".

My leg is still very stiff and painful, so I'm off to the doctor first thing in the morning. Grump, grumble, moan...

Saturday, 6 October 2007

The trouble with bodies

I've had an odd thing happen; on Friday I woke suddenly with cramp in my left calf muscle, and since then I've had a lot of pain in the calf and thigh. Heather blames my cycling on Tuesday and Thursday, but I'm not so sure. I spent Friday squirming in my office chair, trying to get comfortable, and by the end of the day it was getting better. It didn't hurt while I slept, but once I got up this morning the pain returned - more in the calf than the thigh. It's put the damper on going sailing, darn it.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Back in the saddle

Corny but true, fans. Today I biked to work and back, and felt great. I have a bit of stiffness - in my bionic left hip, let's not think too deeply about this - but otherwise it was great. Riding through Hagley Park in the morning mist was nice, and I felt really ready to go when I got to the office.

On the way home I parked the bike behind a fence at the local working mens club and went to a nearby bar for a couple of wines and conversation with some mates. When I got back to the bike, there was a note on it - "See Bex in the restaurant, some crim tried stealing your bags through the fence so we took the bags inside."

I went inside and said Hi to Bex the cook, a nice lady around 40, who told me they'd been outside for a cuppa and ciggy when they saw this Maori guy trying to reach through the fence and go through the handlebar bag and pannier. They yelled and chased him off, then grabbed the bags and took them inside till I got there. It's really nice to know that there are people who are prepared to look out for others' interests, it restored my faith in our sense of community.

So that's my first day back on the bike. I've revised my bag scheme now - I'll use my roomy Kathmandu bag on the carrier or over my shoulder, then it's easy to just get off the bike and take all my stuff with me. I can fit the fluoro nylon jacket and the bike lights in the bag, so I'm self contained. Urban warrior me - as if it wasn't hard enough avoiding cars, now I have to out-think the Stanmore Rd druggies...