Monthly Archives: September 2008

Recent Links, 20080926

» YouTube – Doctor Who: What are you doing here? Lots of people saying, “What are you doing here?”. Amazing, hypnotic and long.

» Britain will make foreigners carry RFID identity cards and will put us in a huge, Orwellian database: the rest of Britain will be next – Boing Boing Oh boy. I’m very upset about Labour letting us all down. I hate the Tories. What to do?

» Mark Millar on Sarah Palin: “Terrifying” This interview chimes with me on McCain, Palin and Obama. The fact it’s with a Scottish comic book artist just makes it better. But then! He goes and blows it…

» Wanted: An End To Science: Hollywood’s New Player Declares War On Science Mark Millar loses cred in a major way by calling the LHC scientists “French F*cks”. Nice one, dickhead.

» The Simple Dollar » How to Safely Build Your Credit History I’m currently in the interesting position of being a well-paid adult with a UK mortgage, but without a credit history. This is a good common-sense guide to follow. It’s aimed at new graduates, but can apply to me too.

» BFI Screenonline: Why Don’t You… (1973-94) The word “mainstay” is applicable here. Reading this I can say that Russell T Davies ruined Why Don’t You. It was fine when it was just the gangs doing their thing. But you had to turn it into a sitcom. Git.

» “Raiders Of The Lost Ark”: 12 Year Olds Remake A Classic – Retro Thing Yes, that was it. As I mentioned the other day. Acyually NO! The one I was thinking of was a British kid, I’m sure.

» Free Our Data: Make taxpayers’ data available to them About time I found out more about this lot. UK taxpayers paid for mapping of their country. That data should be freely available, instead of locked away and released for a fee.

Analysing Satan

Now that Xmas 2008 is approaching, maybe I’ll post this review. For Xmas 2007 (which was spent in LA and San Francisco, and was blissful), Cassie bought me (amongst many other things) Satan: His Psychotherapy and Cure by the Unfortunate Dr. Kassler, J.S.P.S. by Jeremy C Leven.

It took me a long time to get to reading it, due to my only reading in bed and then slowly, but when I did I was glad it was reprinted by after being out of print for years. It’s the tragic but funny story of a psychiatrist who suffers misfortune after misfortune at the hands of his wife, his colleagues and his patients. His (ex-)wife tears his kids away from him, his boss is trying to drive him mad, and his patients are a challenging bunch. In the end he is brought before a machine which claims to be the physical embodiment of Satan himself. And Satan is unhappy and wants to be treated for his neuroses. It’s not surprising, what with being blamed for everything.

The book manages to be very funny despite the waves of torment crashing over the hero’s head almost every other page. It’s very much a work of it’s time, originally published in 1980, so bang in the middle of the introspection of the 70’s and the selfishness of the 80’s.

I don’t know what relevance it has these days. It seems that psychotherapy had a real ‘cult of personality’ angle in those days, where the practitioner mattered more than the treatment. I would hope that has reduced. Of course, we have radio pundit psychiatrists now as then, such as the plagiarist Dr Raj Persaud who I’m reliably told was far too busy appearing on the radio to attend to his patients.

Give me CBT any day. You go in, you get sorted over a few sessions, you leave. At least that has some form of scientific behavioral basis (AKAIK). Going to a therapist for years is like getting into an abusive relationship with a mechanic, who keeps telling you your car is going to need more work.

Now that I live in California, perhaps I should consider getting myself a therapist of some kind. That would be a big step for me. It’s bad enough that I have a personal trainer, albeit a guy I talk to at the gym where I’m a member, rather than a guy who comes to my Hollywood Hills mansion. Or maybe I could become a Scientologist, or join the some form of Large Group Awareness Training Program. Or I could join a theatre group. Ony joking!

Ubuntu Eee – Installation Problems

I have an Asus EeePC 701 4G. It’s now being overtaken by many other “netbooks“, but it still does me fine (despite Cassie saying it for children or girls – sexist eh? Go sister.). It came with a special Xandros Linux distro, but it was a bit haphazard, and didn’t really make best use of the small screen. I fiddled around, used the full KDE interface, installed various tools, but I’ve become tired of the Eee-specific versions of packages like Amarok and Firefox.

My desktop PC runs Ubuntu, and I’ve been happy with that, so I was intrigued to hear about the Ubuntu Netbook Remix, a version of Ubuntu tweaked for use on small-screen portable devices. I was even more intrugued to find out about Ubuntu-eee, a distro based on Ubuntu, including the Netbook Remix bits, aimed specifically at the Asus EeePC range.

So I went along to the page and have since been struggling to install it. I did post a question to the designated Launchpad site here: Ubuntu Eee question #45698: “Unetbootin segmentation fault”. But to date noone has answered, so I’m throwing the net wider. Here’s what I’ve done so far, to lay it out in case anyone fancies helping me (hint, hint).

  1. Went along to the Ubuntu-eee download page here:
  2. First thing was to download the current version’s ISO file via Bittorrent from here: Done, copied to a USB stick for backup.
  3. Then I downloaded current eeepc build of UNetbootin from Sourceforge here: Done, copied to a USB stick for backup.
  4. Ran “sudo apt-get install syslinux p7zip-full” to download required packages. Done.
  5. Ran unetbootin and nothing happened. Ran it from a terminal and saw it was getting a segmentation fault. I don’t know what that is, but I gather it is bad, so I was stuck.

At this point I was a bit miffed. I didn’t really know what to do, but I thought perhaps a clean slate would help. I had backed up everything from the machine in readiness for the OS upgrade, so I used the EeePC backup feature. The EeePC comes with a special “restore partition” which allows you to wipe the machine back to it’s factory state by getting into a boot menu by repeatedly pressing F9 during boot, and selecting “Factory Restore”. This completely replaces the OS with the factory-supplied Xandros setup.

I did the restore, and everything was back to how it was late last year when I first switched the machine on. Nice and friendly and simple. Luckily the web worked straightaway, as I was connected by Ethernet cable. Back to the installation process.

  1. Went to the download page as above.
  2. Already had the ISO on the USB backup.
  3. Already had Unetbootin on the USB backup.
  4. Ran “sudo apt-get install syslinux p7zip-full” to download required packages. No luck – it says it can’t find the packages.
  5. Ran “sudo apt-get update” to update the packages list. Tried again – no luck.

Question – what respository are these packages in?

Update 1:

  1. I added the catch-all repositories listed here:
  2. I was then able to install syslinux, but p7zip-full still showed up “not found”
  3. Searched around, and found p7zip-full at A good source!
  4. Downloaded a deb file for p7zip-full
  5. Installed fine.
  6. Ran unetbootin, it complains that it needs GLIBC, whatever that is.
  7. Back to linuxappfinder, find LIBC6 which is very important apparently.
  8. Downloaded the “sarge” deb file, wouldn’t install.
  9. Downloaded the “etch” deb file, CRASHED LAPTOP.
  10. Even ps -e gives a segmentation fault.
  11. Had to hold down power button to shut down.
  12. Upon restart, fatal error regarding GLIBC. And again on reboot. Godammit.
  13. Restore EeePC from special partition. Again.

This is getting annoying.

  1. OK. Fresh new install.
  2. Straight to linuxappfinder.
  3. Installed deb file of “etch” version of syslinux.
  4. Installed deb file of “etch” version of p7zip-full.
  5. Downloaded “etch” version of libc6. Won’t install.
  6. Checked error message from unetbootin – it says “/lib/tls/ version ‘GLIBC_2.4’ not found”. Version 2.4?
  7. Found and downloaded an Ubuntu “edgy” version of the libc6 deb that says it’s 2.4.
  8. Guess what? It won’t install. Bugger.

Questions: What is libc? Do I already have it? Why can’t I install it? Why can’t anything be simple? Why won’t anyone from the Ubuntu-eee launchpad site help me? (that last one sounded a bit whiney)

Update 2 

  1. I asked a twitter contact for help, he responded later in the comments, and I’ll address them in a minute. Here’s what I did before going to bed.
  2. Back into the fray. I got the idea from various sites that installing build-essential may have what I need.
  3. “sudo apt-get install build-essential” – can’t find build-essential.
  4. Do I already have libc6 installed?Ran “dpkg -l | grep libc | more”. This tells me I have libc6 v2.3.6.ds1-13 installed. Unetbootin asks for 2.4.
  5. Quick search suggests changing the version of libc6 installed is a bad idea.

CURRENT SITUATION: Unetbootin needs GLIBC 2.4. I have GLIBC 2.3, and I’ve been advised against trying to change that. Another person I asked for help recommended not using Unetbootin at all, but I have no idea how else to do it. I’m just following a list of instructions after all.

Recent Links, 20080923

» Drinking Skepchickally, San Diego TOMORROW! Going along to this to meet geeky types.

» Homemade Hollywood – Fans Behind the Camera – Retro Thing Review of a book about homemade fan films, a phenomenon dating back to 1922! I remember a segment on ‘Why Don’t You?’ about a kid remaking Raiders of the Lost Ark with himself as the star. I wonder what happened to him?

» Ofsted opens a department of the bleeding obvious » Drink-soaked Trotskyite Popinjays for WAR Very angry. I’m not involved in education, but obviously I care, and it’s nice to see someone writing how I often feel about Fatcher and so on.

» Open public markup system for US Law. See the text of proposals and add your comments. Congress then see what people think and maybe – just maybe – respond.

» Die Luft der Freiheit weht This is a motto from Stanford University, where a colleague just did a course. I wanted to confirm what “weht” meant, and ended up reading this essay about the true meaning. “The Wind Of Freedom Blows” – hehe.

» KIOSK – Interesting things from interesting countries I’m sure I bookmarked this years ago. Maybe they changed their URL. Shop with stuff from many different countries.

» Danny O’Brien’s Oblomovka » what to make of the american election: a guide to the brit-perplexed This clarifies a few things. It’s nice to have a fellow ex-pat explaining these things to me.

» They’re Made Out Of Meat Just reading this little story again after being reminded of it. There was a theatrical adaptation – that would have been fun.

» A declaration – draft 1 » Drink-soaked Trotskyite Popinjays for WAR A nice statement to be printed and framed and gifted to those most deserving.

Blosxom to WordPress – The Glacial Saga Continues

A long time ago, I ditched the tiny elegant Blosxom for the slicker, more user-friendly WordPress. Installation of the new system was a breeze. Importing my entries from Blosxom to WordPress was not so much of a breeze, and it continues to this day.

The method I used to export from Blosxom was to create a new “flavor” (a display template) which would display ALL entries in one long (looooong) list, without paging, and with the dates and times and so on displayed in a specific way. Then I could save the entire page as a single text file, do some minor edits, topping and tailing, and then use the WordPress import tool to import the text file and split it automatically into many individual posts. This seemed to work fine at first glance. But then I looked closer and realised there were a few problems which would require quite a lot of work.

The import did not preserve the categories of the posts, which is fair enough when you consider the mechanism Blosxom uses for posts – it uses the file directory e.g. “blog/travel/europe/berlin”. As a result I have to go through all the posts and re-categorise them manually. This is a chore, but it also means I have been reorganising the posts more logically and with hindsight.

The handy Batch Categories plugin has been very useful, and would be even more so if it were not for one thing. All imported entries are marked as “Uncategorized”, but when you filter your posts in the post management tool, this category shows up as having zero entries. This is apparently impossible, which is not comforting when it’s happening in front of your eyes.  It means you have no way to see at a glance how many posts are left to categorize, and you can’t grab them and fix them in a batch with the plugin.

I even tried to edit the WordPress MySQL database directly using my hosts PHPAdmin system. Each entry is given a category number, and the number for “Uncategorized” is 0  (zero) (I think, working from memory). But the phantom uncategorized posts have the number 0, so they should show up as proper Uncategorized rather than phantom Uncategorized. But they don’t.

Another big PITA is the fact that many of my old posts had a link in them which said “now read on” which linked to a full version of the post. The imported version only had the “now read on” link, and not the full post – many entries were truncated. I’ve had to go through each entry in the old Blosxom, finding the “now read on” links, and copying the remaining text into the equivalent imported entry. This was my fault.

Existing links to old entries in Blosxom have also had to be changed, so they link to the new URLs. I’ve had to use searchable holders like [LINK] to mark where I need to come back later and put in a link to a post which has not been properly imported and categorized yet.

I’m sure there could have been some easier ways of doing all this, but once you’re engaged on a particular soul-destroying course, it’s sometimes better to just see it through. I hope there wasn’t an easier way.

They Call Me Loathsome

Cassie and I have been to a few movies recently, and we’ve been horrified to be forced to sit through this song and advert for the National Guard, sung by the UK number one artiste Kid Rock. It’s a full-length song, with an accompanying video showing what heroes the US National Guard are. The song is one of these Team America-style crowdpleasers, with the gravel-voiced Mr Rock crooning about how great it is to be a hero, with just a hint of sadness about why we need heroes at all, then kicking into a shouted chorus:

and they call me Warrior! They call me Loyalty!

That’s cheesy enough, but not insulting. The insults come when Mr Rock looks into the camera, mouth right up to the mic, stage lights shining through his whiskers, and sings

I’m giving all of myself, how about you?

Now I’m sure real National Guards are great chaps, but this seems to say, “What are you doing for your country? Elementary school teacher? Pah! You worthless lazy pinko“. This is all the more insulting coming from Mr Rock, with his hat pulled down to his eyebrows.

The video has the usual Army advert images, reminding me of the newspaper advert for the Army in The Young Ones – “Join the professionals its graet you can have a gun if you want”. Attack helicopters overhead, heavliy armed soldiers covered in cool electronics walking alongside bristling Humvees. The advert shows them doing their thing in the streets of what appears to be a Middle-eastern country. I thought this was strange – aren’t the National Guard only used at home, to suppress student demonstrations and the like? I was told the other day that the NG have been shipped out to the warzone, which must suck for them.

At one point in the ad, while the gang are cruising through the dusty downtown, a football (a round one, which proves we’re in some backward foreign country) bounces out in front of a Humvee. The nearest guard raises his hand, the entire convoy stops on a dime, he picks up the ball, stopping short of holding it up to his ear and shaking it. A kid steps up, wearing a a robe and kufi, and the NG gives him his ball back. No shots are fired.

The song and video also feature Dale Earnhardt, who is a Nascar racing driver. Don’t know much about him. The video shows him in a clearly computer-generated race, narrowly avoiding a spectacular crash with superhuman skill. He endorses this message.

But what is the message? Join the National Guard. OK fine. But making it look like being in the National Guard is a combination of rock star fame and race car driver excitement is a little bit patronising. And being forced to sit through the whole damn thing every time I see a movie is excruciating.

Recent Links, 20080922

» Japanese custom scooters ::: Pink Tentacle Amazing outlandish Japanese custom scooters.

» Heroes Cooking up a storm | The Sun As part of their “Go Green” week, The Sun says there is apparently a “fight against climate change alarmists”.

» Bad Science » Don’t let the facts spoil a good story Climate scientist has his work “grossly and crassly” distorted by the UK press, after cherrypicking just the bits they want. This is why people still think climate change isn’t man-made.

» What BERR want from Phorm – and what ORG think they’re missing Phorm is a targeted system of web advertising which has caused all sorts of hiccups just because of the simple honest desire to bombard website visitors with tailored ads. ORG have stuff to say. Go ORG.

» Sur le tracteur de mon papa. on Flickr – Photo Sharing! The title makes it.

» EFF Sues NSA, President Bush, and VP Cheney to Stop Illegal Surveillance Go Electronic Frontier Foundation! This sort of thing is why I’m a tshirt-wearing member of this noble organization.

» Unsupported Browser | BillShrink Oh, GROW UP. I use Firefox at home, OK? At work I’m stuck. Most major Web 2.0 sites work with IE6. Why can’t you? Laziness, that’s why.

» Yes on 1A – Californians for High Speed Trains Campaign to support the adoption of Proposition 1A in the November Ballot here in California.

Links Of The Day, 20080918

» New Hitchhiker’s author announced What? Why? And the Artemis Fowl bloke? At least it’s not Terry F**KING Pratchett.

» – This non-profit is buying the US Code of Federal Regulations and making it open-source (which it already should be). Would literally make my job easier.

» The Asylum This is great. These guys make clear ripoffs of big movies. Straight to DVD, low budget, can’ be all that good. But the combinations of influences are quite ingenious. E.g. ‘Death Racers’ is ‘Death Race’ but with the ‘Speed Racers’ logo! Lots of weasel words like “based on the story that inspired ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark'”.

» Snickers the Adoptable Puppy | Daily Puppy Nice idea. I look at the cute puppies most days, and now they are have a featured adoptable puppy. I enjoy the OTT comments – “OMG he’s sooooooooo cuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuute! 100 million billion biscuits!!!”

Nick Cave, 4th & B, San Diego, 16 September 2008

This was the first gig I’ve been to in San Diego, at 4th & B, an old bank turned into a trendy wine bargig and club venue just a block away from my office on the way to the car park. So convenient, which is what matters the most when it comes to rock’n’roll, don’t you think?

I’ve seen Nick Cave play live once before, as part of a live soundtrack for some silent Japanese movie set in a lunatic asylum. He played a piano ballad at the start and finish, and in between Barry Adamson conducted the Mute Records All-Stars. Pan Sonic, Add N To X, and others created a cacophony which rose and fell through out the film, climaxing with a scene where the inmates have a big benny in the prison. Adamson kept the noise rising and rising. At one point in the impenetrable proceedings, a member of the audience called out, “what’s going on”, to which Adamson turned round and shrugged. The song that Cave played had a lyric that sounded to Friend Robin and I like, “,…”, when in fact it was, “Sweetheart come, sweetheart come…back to me”. Silly boys.

Before the film, we were shown a documentary about Can, from the hairy wig-out period, to found-sound pioneers, to the aren’t-we-wacky time, and finally to the modern inspirational veterans period. I have a copy of Finitribe’s great cover of I Want More, but that wasn’t mentioned here. Then as a nice little interlude we had the charming video for Add N To X Metal Fingers In My Body. So when was that? Quite a while ago.

Anyway, I’ve been getting more into Nick Cave recently. I’ve always been into him and the Bad Seeds in a kind of background way. Friend Robin and I have a running joke about Blixa Bargeld complaining about the venue in that tour film, “If you have a piece with two flutes, and one cello…”.

My username on various sites is ‘muteboy’, which I chose in a very vague way because I like the music from many Mute Records artists. I have an old Mute Records compilation from 1991 which had ‘The Train Song’ on it, amongst some rather less melodic stuff from ver ‘Bauten and others. I’m a fan of Laibach, Nitzer Ebb, Add N To X, Richard Hawley, Cabaret Voltaire, Inspiral Carpets, Plastikman, Renegade Soundwave, and I feel I should like more. And what are website usernames if not an aspirational and pretentious affectation?

Anyway, just last year Cave came out with his eponymous “solo” album Grinderman, which was a harsh and refreshing slice of organ-driven garage rock that sounds a bit like some of the old Birthday Party stuff. I saw them do Honey Bee (Let’s Fly To Mars) on Jools Holland, and it was fantastic, adding that song to my “Songs I Would Like To Cover In That Parallel Universe Where I Cover Songs” list. I particularly enjoyed the lyric, “BZZZZ BZZZZ BZZZZ BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ”.

Last night was the first show of a tour of US and Canada. This was a small(ish) gig before tonight’s Hollywood Bowl show, with Spiritualized. Cassie’s going to that, and I would have liked to go, and see Jason Pierce and the gang. Although I prefer their old stuff (of course), the last couple of albums being a bit too soully and gospelly for me.

Support in San Diego was from Red Sparowes. I don’t know if their name is a take on Black Crowes – they don’t sound like them, being more along the lines of instrumental prog/art-rock with a slightly melodic edge, and an underused steel guitar. They had the usual back-projection of Chairman Mao and some Manchurian corpses, as well as some clips from the wowee-zowee transformation scene at the end of Phase IV (I think). Is there a shop you get meaningful back projections from? Maybe the same catalogue pubs get selected vintage junk, and David Byrne got his metal buildings from. I started out liking the music from Red Sparowes, but I’m not sure about it now. I like that kind of noodly stuff, especially with a bit of weight behind it, but this didn’t grab me.

The Bad Seeds came on to a roar of applause, and started playing so that Mr Cave could come out to a fanfare and hysteria. The crowd loved him. The whole band looked great, suits and shirts with the necks open wide and low. Warren Ellis is looking more like he’s regressing like the guy in Altered States. He’s not at the lumpy amorphous stage yet, just hairy and mad-looking, strumming his electric violin.

They started with some rabble-rousing number, then did a few numbers from the current album, like the title track, and also some oldies and goodies. At one stage half the band left, leaving Cave, the bass player and the drummer to play ‘Into My Arms’ which one member of the audience near me had been crying out for. Someone actually held up a lighter. It’s a lovely song, but it really changed the pace to the detriment of the set. I wonder if it feels like an albatross to Cave. He certainly had trouble getting the words right, making the first verse a few extra bars long. Perhaps he was glad of the sit down and rest.

Nick Cave is a very intense and charismatic performer, with lots of energy and a clear camaraderie with the band, especially Warren Ellis, to whom he kept trying to give a dead leg. The techs kept having to run on and plug something back in, or stand something up. It was a fantastic gig, sweaty, very loud, varied, and a great start to the tour.

Rough unconfirmed incomplete set list in wrong order, don’t blame me.

  • Dig Lazarus Dig
  • Hard On For Love
  • The Lyre Of Orpheus
  • Red Right Hand
  • Let Love In
  • Into My Arms
  • We Call Upon The Author
  • Today’s Lesson
  • The Mercy Seat

I’m not a huge gig-goer, which is something I’ve been trying to remedy in the past few months. This was the first large gig I’ve been to in the US (having seen Brian play last year at a costume party and a local band play in Silver Lake) and I was curious to see if the usual stereotypes and characters come out. They do. You had your achingly hip guy with the (possibly fake) trackmarks in his vintage The Birthday Party tshirt. The guy closing his eyes and screwing his face up while he sang along. All cool.

One of the annoying ones was the guy in the toilet loudly complaining about the support band, saying “I don’t like this band I’ve never heard of. When’s the main group we all came to see coming on?”. He was complaining about the lack of “hooks”. I told him the J Geils Band were unavailable. He said (not to me, just to the world) that this band were “shoegaze” and that “shoegaze ended with Jesus and the Mary Chain” (sic), which is wrong on at least 23 levels, especially if you saw him. Nob.

There’s one of these guys at every gig. I saw Pulp in Brixton Academy in 1994, and Stereolab were supporting, which I enjoyed a great deal. It didn’t stop the twat in front of me shouting out “what’s this crap?” during Stereolab’s ‘Super Electric’ (one of my favourites) and that they should “get that fat cow off the stage”. This gentleman also didn’t enjoy “Warm Leatherette” being played between bands, thus proving his innate inferiority. Or the time I saw Inspiral Carpets at the same venue in 1990, and a guy with a northern accent loudly complained about all the southerners coming to see a northern band. In South London.

UPDATE: This was the setlist. Thanks Daniel!

  • Night of the Lotus Eaters
  • Dig Lazarus Dig
  • Tupelo
  • Today’s Lesson
  • Red Right Hand
  • I Let Love In
  • Midnight Man
  • The Mercy Seat
  • Deanna
  • Get Ready for Love
  • Moonland
  • The Ship Song
  • We Call Upon the Author
  • Papa Won’t Leave You Henry
  • More News From Nowhere
  • [then I think this was the encore] Into my Arms
  • Stagger Lee

Links Of The Day 20080917

» Ubuntu Eee Ubuntu Netbook Remix for the Asus EeePC. I might give this a go. I wonder if it replaces the reset partition?

» Metropolis Mag on the possibility of a Maglev train LA-Las Vegas This maglev thing still keeps cropping up. Hasn’t worked on a large scale anywhere. Even moving block signalling (such as ERTMS Level 3) hasn’t worked on a large scale anywhere. California High Speed Rail needs proven technology, not high-risk experiments. Vote Yes on Prop 1a.

» Secret Counterfeiting Treaty Must be Made Public | Electronic Frontier … “we believe the treaty could require Internet service providers to monitor all consumers’ Internet communications, interfere with fair use of copyrighted materials, and criminalize peer-to-peer electronic file sharing. However, the full text of the treaty and other relevant documents remain secret”

» John McCain: literally antiscience “Planetariums” (sic) are “foolishness”