Wednesday, 31 August 2011

I now pronounce you GNU

I'm struggling with a pronunciation... how to pronounce GNU?  Their website tries to explain, but it has only left me more confused:

"The name “GNU” is a recursive acronym for “GNU's Not Unix!”; it is pronounced g-noo, as one syllable with no vowel sound between the g and the n."

I've always (since about 1996) pronounced GNU as "GaNoo", the involuntary vowel after the 'G' being natural for me as a native English speaker.  The involuntary vowel makes the strange contrast of the consonants there work in English.

I've hard some people pronounce it as "GæNew", "Ger~Noo" and heard them give up totally and call it "G.N.U".  I have always known what they're talking about, and they've always known what I've been talking about.  After all accents are so varied in Britain you never can be sure what accent, or language, you'll get out of someone so we accept a certain amount of variance to get the job done.

So it pains me to see from the site of GNU that I've been saying it wrong all these years... "one syllable"... I've definitely been using two... and no vowel sound between g and n.... gah, I can't do that, I simply can't... I'm not a linguist, and my English brain says "stick an 'a' sound in there it'll be fine".

There's a great British tradition of co-opting a phrase to suit our tongue, it drives other lingual structures to distraction... Ever been to France and tried to order a coffee in perfect French but with a rich Lancashire accent?  I've seen someone try and get stared at like a they were trying to show a dog a card trick, that involuntary head twist from the French as you accidentally drop the feminine instead of the masculine for some object or other... I drive the French mad, I once had a woman scream at me (in French) about my pronunciation of "5".. not Five... Cinq... "Sank... Sanque... Sink... Five love, five" (hold up the digits of one hand.... much quicker).

So, with GNU I'm going to stick with GaNoo.  Lets hope you still pronounce Hurd, Hurd...

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Nox Knik High Technology Silent Fan

So, a fair few months ago I upgraded my 120mm case fans in my Cosmos 1000 case to a set of four silent fans, here's my fitting and review information.

Don't worry about the dog bed, he wasn't in the room at the time, the moment he saw me getting the PC out he was off to the sofa downstairs.

My first step was to actually get my case out from under my desk, this is the best PC case I've ever had (and I've had a lot of them) I was an early adopter of the Cosmos 1000, when the case was around £220 and it was money well spent then, they're about £100 now a days.  The case comes with four 120mm fans, one at the base drawing air in through two grill covered shafts, one pulling air horizontally out of the rear at CPU level and two in the top taking air directly up and out.

The fans which come with the unit are not overly loud themselves, so long as you have them connected to the motherboard and it regulates their power to ensure low RPM.  Remember, the higher the RPM then the louder they get.

When the Cosmos housed my Intel Core 2 Quad based machine the fans hardly had to work at all, however, this year's upgrade was to an Intel Core i7 950.  This alone instantly rose the case ambient temperature from 35 degrees idle to 42 degrees idle, adding the SLi array of graphics cards, adding the Corsair Triple channel RAM cooler only went one step towards adding more ambient heat.  And soon the sock case fans could be heard.

Now, let me preface the rest of this information with this statement: I was looking at minimising the case fan noise as a first step towards silent running my system. The RAM Cooler and CPU coolers are not considered in my quieting process.  However, at the start of this journey, the case fans (all four of them) far exceeded the noise level of the other cooling fans, even in idle.

Yes the black box to the upper right is my PS2... Yes, mine runs Linux, ain't that schweet.
So, here are the three fans I'm starting off with.  I'm going from four case fans to three, this is because I have gotten hold of a couple of smoke tracer pens (they let of smoke for wind tunnel experiments) and I've decided that the two top fans actually don't cause a straight chimney effect, between the two is a near static vortex of hot air.  With the Triple channel RAM and cooling fins being stationed right below this static vortex, meaning an overheat spot.

Removing one of the upper case fans resulted in the air flow over the RAM flowing out and into the pressure differential of the rear and one remaining upper fan.  Always check whether you need a case fan like this... one less fan means less noise, and better performance.

So now we've gotten an idea of what we need in the case, lets just take a close up look at the new fans.

They look just like regular fans... they little baggy contains the rubber retaining clips... these rubber clips are better than using screws, they dampen vibration from the unit whilst in operation and alone make a decent reduction in case noise levels.

The power cord is around 500mm in length, but they do vary between the fans I received, being approximately able to wrap around the fan itself they are I presume meant to be four sides of 120mm (480mm) but they have a little tolerance.

The cable is nylon shielded and very manoeuvrable, making it look nice in a modded case situation, but also discrete.  The nylon surround also helps reduce vibration sound, if the cable were to sit against a case wall and vibrate in the flow of air, the rattle would be deadened by the shielding.

Now, lets take a look at the rubber fittings, they seem very bendy and stretchable, they are meant to be pushed (by hand) through the case screw holes, then into the fan, where you then pull the long end to stretch the rubber thin, slipping the fan over, and release... voila the fan is held in place and is dampened.

However, with the sharp metal of the cosmos lining I did find that the rubber domes were susceptible to simply coming off in ones hand.

However, I soon had all the fans fitted, and was ready for a test run.

This is a shot from below of the one remaining top venting fan (notes the absent sister to the left) the small fan you can see in the lower left of the frame is the top most of the corsair RAM cooler fans, the static vortex of air sat to the left of the  120mm case fan and above the RAM cooler fan, a little negative heat spot right there against the case side.


Oh my word, it worked, the machine on the whole is so much quieter, now on booting the fans come on full speed (a boot time precaution) but as the BIOS completes its POST the fans quieten down immensely, it really is like they go silent.

The case fans now contribute next to none of the sound from my machine.  An excellent purchase.

And so far they have performed 6 months hard work with no interference, no hindrance and no problems.

If you have to sit and listen to the hum of your computer all day, and you know most of that noise is the case fan (or many Dell built computers do not have dedicated CPU cooling, they make do with case fans drawing external air past heat sinks & spreaders) you may do very well to invest the few pounds one of these babies cost.

There are more expensive, technological, coated bladed fans out there, but if you're looking for a fan which looks just like a fan should (black plastic and boring) then these are the babies for you.

Friday, 26 August 2011

One Embedd

That's all I'm going to say today...

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Gedling Colliery (14th June 1986)

So, what were you doing on the 14th June 1986?  Don't you know?  Well I was eight years old and I was going to work with my Dad... and my Mum... and my little brother... weird...No, not really it was an open day at the Colliery my Dad worked at.  He was a Coal Prep plant Foreman.

I remember a few things about the day, I remember my Dad being quite excited to show us around his work place, somewhere that you'd not normally ever be allowed to go, and I also remember the sheer magnitude of the noise of the machinery giving me a really splitting headache and ending up in the infirmary... but I also remember in the infirmary there was one of the first proper database driven "Expert Systems", it was used to diagnose simple aliments in a series of questions to help the on staff first aiders sort out problems... Probably not the lesson my Dad wanted to teach me, but I was fascinated with information and technology even then...

But, that colliery is long since gone, lost to the destruction of the mining industry and the site itself is flattened, the shafts filled in, possibly even capped, and the area is slowly (very slowly) being regenerated and they are possibly building houses on the site soon.  A sad loss, as my Dad did tell me once there were over 100 years worth of coal still down below that mine (and there are a lot of mines in Britain)... so why now I'm all grown up are we paying through the nose for electricity generated with (mostly) imported coal beggars belief.

Anyway, on that open day my brother and I received a booklet, with a little bit of history and some current information about the colliery, as well as a plan of the site.  During my recent decorating I spotted them still tucked inside a book... from 1986 to now, they had been scribbled on a little, they had a sticker or two on them, they had been... moved from my parents home, to my university digs, to a flat I had in Warwickshire, to a house I rented in Long Eaton and finally to my new home here in Brinsley (another ex-mining village)... so with two copies I've been able to scan them in, clean up the childish scribbles, edit off some of the mess and sticky finger prints we left on them as kids and I've got them for you all to enjoy here.

Please click on the images to enlarge them, and be patient these are high resolution scans.  Some of the pictures given on the pamphlet (all the pictures actually) are printed as grey dots (news paper style) so they scanned in as grey scale, if they look really grainy or granular then just zoom in/out the image (with most internet browsers you can do this with CTRL and + or CTRL and - respectively) to get the right "height" and you'll see the nice images.

The images are indeed nice, they show workings from far below Gedling, workings which will probably never be seen by a human again... least not until we've paid for all the foreign coal and some bright spark realises as all the lights go out, we can still power our power stations from the reserves below our feet.  But until then, lets pay a pretty penny for my running this computer to show you these pictures.

If you right click you can open the image in a new browser, new tab or download it...

For posterity.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Film the Book

When you buy an audio book you have choices... you either buy the abridged, or the unabridged version...

When you go to see a feature film you get to pick from the theatrical release... or wait for the director's cut...

When you buy a film on DVD you can choose different formats and from different cuts, like the director's cut, the editors cut etcetera.

How long before a company starts to make the unabridged version of films from their books?

A film which faithfully follows the books layout and plot... Peter Jackson and his editorial team, as well as his technical team at Weta, are quite good at this, but even they had to cut and chop and splice LOTR together...

So how long before a director/writer/editor team dare to use their budget to make a film as it was written?

How many times have you heard someone say "Oh the book was better"... there's a reason for this, the book (usually) contains a better narrative, more plot rounding (not jarring cuts) and we don't chop and change focus of the readers mind's eye... that is called "grip" in the filmmakers vocabulary... and many films really lose their grip.

All this comes to me because last night I watched Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows part 2... now having read the books, and watched the films, it's obvious they cut thousands of pages from the books out of the films.  The films are, at times, nothing but mere shadowy approximations of the books and in some cases you could even call the official franchised film non-canon in comparison with the book it is trying to illustrate.

So, it got me thinking, firstly could anyone ever film a book to the letter?  Probably not, time constraints and the limited appeal of such a mammoth length film would never allow it to reach the audience, let alone get past the ever budget mindful studio boss... But, would such a filming titan have an audience... in today's always connected digital fingertip world... I think it would very definitely have an audience... would it be a money maker, probably not with current filmography budgets and revenue streams.  But alternative revenue streams for such an endeavour exist... with a large enough film franchise - like the Potter series you could almost rely on the promise of a faithful film edition to fund itself through advertising on the support material or pre-orders alone...

 But, let's just assume it will get past all the people & cost red tape... could it be physically achieved?  I think it could, in fact I think the precedence was set nearly 90 years ago.  The film "Greed" of 1924 aimed to be over ten hours long, it was originally a faithful reproduction of the 1899 novel by Frank Norris... but ultimately this mammoth production was cut to just under two and a half hours... but the full ten were filmed!

Maybe before 2024 someone needs to take the same spirit from that production and film the lot, like for like, one for one... there are no limits to filming... digital costs so little... The question really is, what will be the first franchise to try this task then?  Something old? Something new? Something clearly which has the gravitas... Maybe Harry Potter could have had that gravitas, certainly the later more mature films... But now Harry will forever be Mr Radcliff... and he's too old to play his childhood self once more...

Friday, 12 August 2011

SaveFileDialog bug under Mono .NET in KDE

Found a bug... in Mono combined with KDE.  So, today I released a little internal tool on Windows, some of our department run Linux, and the application is writtein in C#, so I figured I'd just cross check it on Mono and release it as a Mono flavour executable too.

All seemed fine until the very last step, where the generated output is saved.  The application pops up a "SaveFileDialog" a very simple, standard System.Windows.Forms dialog, the code shows this and used the resulting Filename to save some data.

Under Windows on Microsoft .net Framework 3.5 it was fine, Under Mono within Gnome it was fine.  However, under Mono on KDE I was getting a really strange result, it kept crashing in a routine (wholly unrelated to the actual issue I found) because the file name being returned under KDE was not lead with a directory separator character (as required in Linux).

So, the path under windows might come back as "C:\Data\File.txt" in Ubuntu it comes back as "/home/data/file.txt" but under KDE it was coming back as "home/data/file.txt".  Meaning that the data files were being placed in the wrong location, they were going into a path relative to the applications runtime path.

Meaning the next time I ran the application, from a different root directory or as a different user, or from a folder which did not allow file creation, I could not find my data, I got undefined program behaviour and basically data-wise everything went pear shaped.

I solved this with a simple check:

private void SaveFile (string psFilename)
// Save the file

private void PathExample(string psThePath)
string lsPath = psThePath;
#ifndef WIN32
if ( !lsPath.StartsWith ("" + Path.DirectorySeparatorChar) )
lsPath = Path.DirectorySeparatorChar + lsPath;
SaveFile (lsPath);

public void SaveDataAs ()
SaveFileDialog lsfdDialog = new SaveFileDialog();
if ( lsfd.ShowDialog() == DialogResult.OK )

So, this is a problem with the current (as of writing) Mono on KDE, under Kubuntu 11.04, don't fall foul of it.

Friday, 5 August 2011

The Dying Art of E-mail

I've been e-mailing people for very many years, and I always prefer it for arrangements, not least because you have a record of the conversation and information within, people can't stretch or move the goal posts and you have a record of what's going on.

But, in the last week I've seen a distinct shift in peoples usage and expectations of communication channels, leading to the ultimate "e-mails are shit, no-one reads them"... this is my misses opinion...

So I have to ask, is the art of the e-mail falling in prevalence?  Is the smart phone, the facebook wall, the tweet, the SMS taking over from the e-mail?