2002 2004 2006 2008 Imported From Epistula Personal

A decade of geek codes

Traditions are fun. Every two years for the past ten I’ve run though Robert Hayden’s Geek Code test (which hasn’t changed in that time). The rules are simple: I run it without looking at previous years tests. That’s it. I haven’t put it in this entry, because it’s slightly clearer as a text file

See my brief flirtation with Babylon 5 and X files! Watch as my dream of owning a mac comes true! Watch the ebb and flow of my housing situation! it’s like ten years of history in condensed form.

It’s a little scary.

2006 2007 Imported From Epistula

Aquarion and the Legal System

So, I failed to pay my council tax.

(Council Tax, Americans and other aliens, is a local authority tax for paying for things like police, roads and county swimming pools. There is no way around it, no way though it, and they can charge basically what they like, hiking way above the rate of inflation and then saying that any less would mean fewer policemen on the streets, which ranks alongside “taking your liberties solves terrorism” and “This is a magical hat that protects me from tigers when in London” in undefendable statements. Anyway.)

I do this every so often. Bedford CC don’t let you pay by bank transfer, which is my money-management drug of choice (I had a bad experience with an authenticated random-amount DD going batshit-insane a few years ago), so I have to do it manually over the phone/counter/something, and what with Amsterdam, and leaving Bedford, and quiting EM, and general arsehattery on my part, I entirely failed to do so. And, being the fourth time this year I was late…

…The weekend after I started living in E17 (Where I now live) my smallest little brother – who has a car – kindly helped me transfer essentials (such as bedding, bed cushions and tea) to London. This was the point when I opened my mailbox to discover a court summons from the county council.

Of course, sending out a little piece of paper summoning me to appear before the court of the land is not an inexpensive process. Just that little A4 sheet and accompanying letter cost them £60. It wasn’t even very good quality paper, to be honest, and I do worry how much of the budget goes on paper if it costs them quite that much.

£40 underpayment plus £60 muppetry tax = £100. Quite a chunk in a month where I’ve moved house.

I said a number of unprintable words at this point, distinctly unimpressed. At this point I still believed – as is apparently engraved on my heart never to be forgotten – that Council Tax runs from March to December, skipping January and February. Also, my my council tax is a bit more than £40/month, so the £40 made no sense for a missed payment.

So I forgot about it for a while (Hearing wasn’t until March) before sending an email. “I have”, I said in my email,
“now moved house. I now live [HERE], if you could cancel my ‘accounty thing’ with you, that would be handy. Incidentally, I’ve recieved a court summons. If you could also give me a breakdown of where I missed the payment that would be useful”.

They got back within a couple of hours.

Like many things engraved as mentioned above, it is no longer true. KV doesn’t heart DC 4evar, we will forget what happens when war is declared, and council tax runs from April to January. However, being a muppet, I can never remember how much the payment is, and so over the course of 2006 I had almost – but not quite – overpaid enough to cater for the missed month. I owed £40.

But, since I was moving out, I didn’t need to pay for March. They would recalculate, and they would send me a letter.

They did.

Because the calculation was wrong, the summons was invalid and I don’t need to pay the £60. Because I didn’t need to pay for March, I get some money taken off my bill. This entirely wipes out the £40. Because I overpaid, Bedford Council now owe me £23.

Which is a decent result from a court summons.

2006 Christmas Imported From Epistula

Christmas Mashup

(More content next year, I promise)

2006 Current Affairs Imported From Epistula

No2ID and Godwin

Do you know why Godwin’s law exists?

You don’t know what Godwin’s law is, do you? Ah well, kids of today, et cetera.

Godwin’s law states that “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” (via Wikipedia). On Usenet, this is traditionally taken to mean that the person who starts referring to their opposition, their arguments or their mother as Hitler, a Nazi, or worse than both or either has in doing so automatically lost the argument. Godwin on why:

But the Nazi-comparison meme popped up elsewhere as well – in general discussions of law in, for example, or in the EFF conference on the Well. Stone libertarians were ready to label any government regulation as incipient Nazism. And, invariably, the comparisons trivialized the horror of the Holocaust and the social pathology of the Nazis. It was a trivialization I found both illogical (Michael Dukakis as a Nazi? Please!) and offensive (the millions of concentration-camp victims did not die to give some net.blowhard a handy trope). (‘Meme, Counter-meme’ – Wired Oct 1994 – Mike Godwin)

As far as bad people go, Hitler was a monumental fuckhead, as many wise historians (and Eddie Izzard) have said. He is responsible for the deaths of an unimaginable number of people across a broad swathe of cultures and groupings. He is going, will go, has gone down in history as being one of the single worst people ever to lead a country.

And so we get to the point. No2ID, a lobbying organisation set up to oppose the government’s plan for a national ID database, published an advert in national newspapers (I know it went in the Guardian, but am not sure where else), basically comparing Tony Blair to Hitler, and this annoys me.

It annoys me because there are a great number of problems with the proposed ID cards bill, starting with the fact that no large government computer project in the last decade has actually worked, working though the right to privacy aspect, pointing out that the bill states we are responsible for the information being correct but cannot change it and a thousand other good, logical reasons why this braindead piece of cobbled together attack upon our personal liberties needs to be – at the very least – put on hold until the problems are fixed, and possibly even scrapped altogether.

The advert as published makes the people objecting to ID cards look like rabid, mouth frothing lunatics. Blair is, for all his faults, not as bad as Hitler. Of all the ways that Blair and Hitler can be compared, in fact, ID cards are one of the least effective (Yes, the National Socialists implemented an ID card system. We had one too. Implementing an ID card system does not make you the bad guys, it’s the reasons why you’re doing it and what you will use it for that do that.

The public in general are under reacting, true. They either don’t see the problem, don’t believe there’s anything we can do, or have swallowed the “it’ll stop terrorists” line.

But the effect of the advert is to make our side retreat to the same safe ground of hyperbole that the anti-terrorist stuff inhabits, a place where we can safely be sidelined as a collection of over dramatic, overreacting freaks.

2006 Imported From Epistula


Your clocks are wrong

2006 Imported From Epistula

Moving Swiftly On

So, the game is up, the announcement is made, the paper handed in. As of 4th November 2006 I am no longer an employee of Those Who Evolve (I am not allowed to mention their name, because whenever I do AqCom comes as second match for it. I get in trouble for that).

Hire This Geek.

I am a sysadmin, I develop, I research, I slice! I dice! I can save your company making expensive mistakes, whilst keeping you doing things – like WAI, XHTML, CSS and UJS – The Right Way. I speak PHP, Python, Perl and other things beginning with P, do Linux, Mac OS X and Windows, and am capable of explaining anything to anyone, providing I understand it myself. I understand how the Internet works.

I have a CV over here, should you want such.

I live in Bedford, but am planning to move to Cambridge, and will commute to London if I need to.

2006 Imported From Epistula Moving to Beford Personal

Waste of Energy

So, I’m going to rant about people. In this case, I’m going to rant about a company I’m going to enigmatically refer to as “n”, because naming them as “that collection of morons at npower” would be bad for my image.

For the last ten months or so I have had a pleasant relationship with “n”. They gave me gas, I gave them money. We were both happy. My electricity company, however, who I shall likewise refer to by an initial – in this case “p” – have constantly referred to me as “new Powergen customer” even when they were threatening to kill me for maliciously paying my bills on time.

So I got a flyer from “n”, about how wonderful my life would be if I used them for all my energy fuel requirements. I was sceptical, as often I am, until they mentioned that it would save me money – which I am in favour of – and give me free plush toys – which I am also in favour of. So I phoned them up, confirmed the free toys thing, and signed over.

A couple of months later I got two bills. In two envelopes. One was for electricity, and was excessive, and the other was for gas, and was also excessive. By this method I knew I was in 2006. And I paid one, and forgot about the other.

Then, a little while later, I got a reminder from “n”, with “n”’s logo at the top, reminding me to pay “n” the value of the other bill. So I went to my computer, loaded up my bank’s website, and paid the bill.

Today, I got another letter from “n”. “There the wuck” said the letter, which I am paraphrasing, “is our mucking foney? Phone us now on this freephone number, you deadbeat, or we’ll send the boys ‘round with an axe”.

So I telephoned them at 8am on a Monday morning. “Due to an unexpected number of calls, i.e. any, on this bloody horrible time of the week, we reserve the right to pacify you with yet another bloody recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Or, if you like, the wonders of modern technology allow us to continue ignoring your call without you even being here and phone you back when we’re done killing kittens. How’d you like that? Press 1 if you’d like that”

I pressed 1.

The machine played Vivaldi at me.

I waited a little while.

“Due to […] bloody […] technology[…] we’re […] killing kittens. […] Press 1 if you’d like that”.

I pressed 1.

“Hello person who is on a phone that we are going to phone back, yet who is already on the phone to us, what is your phone number?”

[Phone number]

“And your name?”

[My name]

“Okay. Soon as we’re done, we’ll call you. Kthxbye”

So they waited. And I left for work. And I passed though quiet residental streets, and they waited. And I wandered down silent roads, and they waited. And I crossed a busy roundabout, and they phoned.

“Hello. This is ‘n’, who are you?”

“I’m me. These are my details”

And we had a Conversation. And it came apparent in this Conversation that despite the fact that I am one person, I am – to them – two people. I am the Aquarion who pays twice for gas, and I am the Aquarion who fails to pay for electricity, and there is no possible way the two can ever meet, or give each other money, or interact in any way. In this, it’s a bit like LARP.

So I went over my details a bit, and realised that whilst the bills I had got had said “Gas” and such helpful things, neither letter about non-payment had no such helpful crib notes.

So, I have two remaining questions. One, what is the point of having all my energy needs supplied by one company if I still have to treat them as entirely separate companies without the useful visual reminder of them being two entirely separate companies?

Two, and far more important, why the hell haven’t I got my plush gas flame yet?

2006 Imported From Epistula

Talk Like A Pirates Day

As if you didn’t already know.

(There is an MP3 (and a redesign) attached to this post, RSS and Planet People should visit the (gasp) actual site.)

2006 Imported From Epistula linux LUGRadio LUGRadio Live social

LUGRadio Live 2006

Okay, third time lucky…

Last weekend I went to LUGRadio Live 2006. I had a blast from the moment I got to the initial Friday lunch meet to the moment I left, annoyed I couldn’t stay for the after show party (Damn hotel bills).

Good Things


I didn’t go to very many talks, mostly because I was too busy shooting the breeze with people and playing computer games. In fact the only two actual talks I went to were Sara Ewen’s talk on PlayStation 2 Linux (Though I missed the bit on PS3 Linux) and Simon’s talk on Django (Which has lead to the rebuilding of the “Storyville” and “PFD4-2” projects in it. Watch this space). I also went to Bruno Bord’s talk on how much they swear in LR, and bits of the Women in Open Source talk (I caught the last twenty minutes) (Actually, I’d quite like to know what Jen, Kat & Phated – who hosted the talk – think about the recently announced Fedora Women project and others of its ilk. They may have discussed that, I wasn’t there.

Oh, and Dotwaffle’s talk on the Linux Demo scene (including a demonstration of a 64k demo called Origami, which I highly recommend you watch. It’s beautiful.

I went to more talks than I realised.


I met and remet some wonderful people. I made them wince at bad jokes and I took the piss out of their beards. Some of the people had corsets, some had full tuxedos, most had jeans and T-Shirts. They were all wonderful.

LAN Gaming

We played Enemy Territory. I shot Aquarius. He shot me. Repeat. This would have been better had we not been on the same team.

The Party.

About more later.

The Low Tech Wiki

They set up a Low Tech WikiAKA, A black board – upon which notes were made about stuff that was changing.

But it got spammed, and used for random crap, and because we had no revision history we couldn’t revert the changes.

Simon Willison and I started a discussion page on the back of the board on the Saturday night and by the end of Sunday that was still going strong.

What went not so right

Don’t get me wrong, the entire event was a blast, but in order to help them do even better next time:

The Hotel

I stayed at a hotel universally referred to as the Quality Chin. As hotels go it was reasonably priced (Heh. Our prices were something like 33% of their normal rates. At full price I’d have been… disappointed). The breakfast was fine but nothing stellar.

The hotel’s heating broke down. Or, rather, broke up. It apparently – on one of the hottest days of the year – decided to put everything up to full whack until they ripped the fuses out. The hotel was hot.

My room’s bathroom had black bits.

The bedroom was definitely a single. The bathroom could have held the encampment for napoleon’s entire army. I found this odd.

None of this is the LUGRadio team’s fault or responsibility, obviously.

Too Many Things

As Aq mentioned I’m not entirely sure how you can resolve this. There were effectively seven things happening at any one time. One main stage, two smaller stages, three community group gathering events and just shooting the breeze. I suppose the only way around it is to see which talks people want to go, see if you can group them so that those things don’t clash, and hope it all works. So if you found that the people interested in Linux on PS2 tended to also want to go to see Matthew Garrett’s talk about “Linux and Laptops” but not the more ethereal talks such as “The Zen Of Free”, arrange that Zen clashes with PS2, for example. It’s the kind of system that requires a lot more organisation and a certain amount of living with the consequences, but since it’s not me who will have to do the organising, I can suggest things as I please.

The Party DJ

Of which more later.

The weather

Winter. LRL2007 needs to be in winter or at least autumn. If nothing else, flights are cheaper.


This year by the end of LR, there were significantly fewer beards, and this is a Good Thing.

The Party

So, upon the Saturday evening it was decided that there should be a Party. So there was a Party. Some people dressed up properly for it (well, two people did). Some dressed up a bit (wave) most didn’t bother. There were cakes, and the cakes were very fine indeed. There was Guinness, and that was very fine also (I haven’t drunk Guinness since I was at university, and since we were back in a student bar I decided to revert to form and sit in the dark with a pint of the black watching the social butterflies dance in the bright lights.

Watching the dancing was interesting. (No, of course I didn’t dance. If you say you saw me, you are wrong. I have a twin brother. His dancing is worse than mine). Mostly because the DJ was more of a club-style than disco-style, as he claimed. The result of this was he was playing lots of loud thumpy tracks at deafening volume and complaining that nobody was kickin’ it on the dance floor. Then he started playing cheesy stuff (The Time Warp – albeit a disco remix; Madness – which got Jono on the dance floor; and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. This brought a core of hard-core dancers onto the floor, where they danced as if nobody was watching. Natalie was intent on getting people to dance, but had to leave early, so it is for her benefit I mention the first person to start dancing was at 23:10.

Anyway, after a few cheesy tracks people could dance to, the DJ went back to the heavy thumpy stuff that drove them away. After that it turned into a tide effect: The DJ would play a few cheesy tracks to lure people into his domain, and then as he thought he had them in the groove would switch to something loud and thumpy, clearing the floor in seconds.

There was a MAME cabinet (Which played 4 player Gauntlet, which is something everyone should so at least twice), at one stage I counted 8 people around it with nobody on the dance floor at all.

Somewhere in this country there is a facility designed to get around the laws stopping them from cloning people. This facility is running a scientific study into how many times you can create an absolutely generic DJ, identical to all the others. Every so often one fails and is forced to become a fairground announcer (“If you’d like to ride, if you’d like to ride… scream if you want to faster…”) but the rest go out into the world of professional party DJing, and nobody can tell the difference…

…also, I notice that if you want to find out how many long haired people are in your audience, simply start playing “The Ace Of Spades” and they’ll all be in one place. Moshing like their hair was on fire.

The Macs

I can’t let this one go. At Linux User Group Radio Live 2006: the plasma announce boards, the recording software and – for a while – the Enemy Territory server were all PPC Macs running OS X, because they Just Worked when they needed to.

Nothing much I can add to that.

The final bit

It was great. Same time next month?

2006 Imported From Epistula Moving to Beford


So, Yesterday I got a phone call for Miss McKever on my mobile.

After a little fighting with what the person on the other end was and was not allowed to tell me, and she eventually came to the conclusion that since my name was also on the ticket, she was allowed to talk to me.

The gist of the conversation was as follows:

  • I moved out of Letchworth six months ago now.
  • I didn’t close the British Gas account properly.
  • British Gas continued to send me bills
  • Royal Mail didn’t forward them on to my house as requested, possibly because LoneCat’s name came first
  • British Gas sent me ever more threatening letters
  • British Gas gave up and sent it on for legal action
  • The Legal People started sending threatening letters to the wrong address
  • Two weeks later, six months after the original problem, someone thinks of using the phone number on the account.

    Net result? I am apparently not going to be able to afford anything this mornth either. Made even more annoying by the fact that I’m almost positive I phoned British Gas and asked for them to close the account, but since I did it by phone I have no proof this ever happened.

    I’m annoyed