Thursday, April 26, 2007

And then the rains came down

Today was wet, cold and generally miserable - a typical Cape Town winter's day. Of course, due the ongoing saga of my car's water pump, I had to take the bike in too work, which is not ideal in this sort of weather, especially as the Suzuki seems to have picked up a slight allergy to water somewhere, and tends to get grumpy and difficult after about 15 kms. The whole experience is vastly enlivened by the usual gormless stupidity that passes for Capetonian driving in the wet.

Still, the major rant I have is about Windows XP. On Monday, I had a very distressed email from one of the students saying that she couldn't get WinXP to boot without a blue screen. After explaining that, due to other commitments (watching 2 world cup semi-finals count of commitments, no?) I couldn't look at it before today, I felt I was obliged to pop across in the evening to look. And indeed, the machine complained of an "unmountable volume" (or something like that) fairly soon after kicking into WinXP. I spent some frustrating minutes trying to convince windows to boot into something that would run chkdsk, before giving up and booting into Linux. From there, it was easy to check that, according to smartmon, the actual hard disk, while starting to show signs of aging, was still basically OK. Linux could mount the NTFS filesystem though, so I ran ntfsfix on it to force a chkdsk run the next boot, and voila, chkdsk ran, and Windows was happy. Now, why windows couldn't do this for itself, without my basically hammering home the message with a sledgehammer, is a mystery to me, and, considering how common and annoying such mysteries are with windows, merely more fuel for my loathing of an OS that tries so hard to protect you from the details that it becomes absolutely opaque. And, while I would very much like to understand exactly what happened, the truth is that, due to the vagueness of the error message, the apparent randomness of the fix and the tendency of most windows forums to lack comments from people with a deep understanding of the system, the amount of cruft Google kicks up on my searches has totally put me off the idea of trying. Anyway, at least the problem appears to be solved, which is some gain from the whole affair.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Cape Town Ubuntu-ZA Meetup

So Saturday was the Ubuntu ZA Meetup in Cape Town. Despite not being that awake (Simon and the shared LoB boosters being at least partly to blame), I did make it across (wearing a Debian T-shirt, which was not that delibrate a statement, but I'll pretend otherwise). It was good to finally meet a number of people I've interacted with online for some time, and generally quite an enjoyable way to waste an afternoon.

The event then kind of continued on into a dinner, where I spent too much (on a very good ostrich steak though), and definitely had far too much wine. The company was good though, and the one advantage of using the bike as transport is one sobers up quite fast in the cool air this time of year, so the ride home was not too bad.

Photos up at on my homepage here

That Armchair Theatre thing

So, what did I do on Friday?

Apart from the usual things (vision group meeting, etc), and getting involved in a personally amusing, if not exactly edifying brief flame war on clug-tech, I went across to attend the bring-n-braai at the armchair theatre.

I met up with Simon Cross and the crowd he was with at Divas, where I'd cunningly arranged to have dinner pre-ordered. This cunning plan, however, took a complicated turn as 8, when we were meant to be getting inside the theatre, approached with no sign of dinner, which resulted in some confusion as we turned our sit-down order into something take-away.

Form there, we hopped across the street to the theatre, and happily walked in. The major speakers I was interested in, Lawrence Lessig and Jimmy Wales, both gave short, but reasonably entertaining talks.

The rest of the evening mainly involved socialising with the other people attending the event, mainly people I knew via the local free software community. There was some interesting music played and so on and so forth, but a spent a large portion standing in the courtyard talking to people, which partly is a reflection on the general crowded-and-smokiness of the actual venue.

Still, an enjoyable evening.

photos, such as they are here

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The obligatory first post

Yeah, so I've got a blog now, so to start off, the obligatory first post, the ever popular (NS)FAQ.


Me, myself & I. Neil Muller, PhD, Applied Mathematics, currently Computer Vision Specialist at iThemba LABS, and odd job sysadmin/academic at Maties. An occasionally pleasant, if not terribly sociable, bloke.


Very good question.


We'll see as this develops



Can you spell at all?


Do you think you're funny?

Sometimes. At other times I think I'm flipping hilarous. YMMV, but it's my blog, so you'll have to put up with this if you bother to read.