About Duncan Baillie

Technologist. Product of the ZX81 generation.

AWS Summit London 2016

I went to the AWS Summit at Excel today, along with a few other Solutions Architects. The talks from companies (of all sizes) who have used AWS were a lot more interesting than Werner this year. The session on Supercomputing on Demand was the best for me.

Overall, the sheer size (5,000 people) meant it lacked the atmosphere of smaller event, such as the Blueprism partner day I attended recently. It was more like IT Expo with the partners stands trying to sell their solutions.

There’s certainly some new features I need to brush up on though.

Quantum Computing

I’m really just writing a post so I don’t forget how to do it. However, I have been getting interested in quantum computing (how does that work???) and consequently reading a beginners book on quantum theory, which isn’t much help to be honest.

So far, I think it has something to do with the principle of least action, reversible logic and goodness knows what else.

If I get work out anything useful, I will be sure to write it down. Don’t hold your breath though.

All quiet

All quiet on the domestic computing front at the moment. Everything pretty stable (I don’t use the Mac any more). Bought a Kingston 120GB SSD for about £35 – incredible price. I think I paid a few hundred for a 30M hard drive for my Amiga!

Next investment might be a colour printer, thinking of the Epson Ecotank range.


Centos 7 pain

I suppose it had to happen. I did a major update of Centos 7 last week which downloaded megabytes of package updates. Since then, software updater disappeared, software disappeared, sound in Firefox stops after 12s.

For the record I am in 7.2.1511 and Gnome 3.14. I don’t know what they were before.  After some searching I found a package to put back the gui for software updates. More searching and I yum installed gnome-software. Re-downloaded Firefox which says it is 44.0 but still complains it is out of date.

I mean, come on. How hard can it be to actually maintain a working home system???? After I ditched Apple, Centos was doing so well, meeting all my needs and now it’s broken or at best will take hours of fixing. What a crock of shit.

You Can’t Change History

But, if anyone could change history, it would probably be Apple. They’re probably working on it right now. In fact they already have a Time Machine.

The reason I mention this is that in the latest update to iWork, I just noticed that it can now, finally, open documents from previous versions. Well I guess they did listen to feedback but it’s taken them years and it was still an amazingly stupid move in the first place to bring out an upgrade which couldn’t open previous versions of documents (see previous posts).

Ever since then I will gladly harp on about software, data and protocol short-sightedness, built in redundancy and the ability to open documents throughout one’s lifetime.

In fact, I would really like to open my dad’s documents which were written in Clarisworks.

A quick Google just now led me to http://www.macworld.com/article/2848770/how-to-open-your-clarisworks-documents-for-a-stroll-down-memory-lane.html which looks interesting and skimming it reveals that LibreOffice can do the job!

Well that is something I will have to try (with LibreOffice on my Centos 7 machine of course).


I bought “Bitcoin: The Future of Money?” by Dominic Frisby to learn more about how it all works. I have had some Bitcoin since 2014 as an experiment (still have it) and it still seems to be growing.

The book however leaves me none the wiser about the technology. It is written in a journalistic way and the author is much more interested in the people and the culture behind Bitcoin than the technology. He also seems to be what might be called “left wing” and possibly even anti-capitalist but it’s safer to say “Libertarian” – something I have learned about from the book.

I certainly don’t agree with many of his conclusions, particularly how coming off the gold standard was bad and allowed governments too much monetary control – as a result being able to fund bigger wars(!) That is looking at history through rose-tinted spectacles. We all have a higher standard of living and wealth, which in a historical perspective is much more evenly spread over society. That is largely due to wealth creators, such as banks and a robust legal framework. If you want bread you go to a bakery, beer to a brewery, wealth to a bank.

“The Ascent of Money” by Niall Ferguson is a much better read and something I will be re-reading after Bitcoin.

Secure “Mail”

Mail. I seem to have written a number of blogs about it. Here’s another. I was interested in the TED talk by Andy Yen and ProtonMail https://www.ted.com/talks/andy_yen_think_your_email_s_private_think_again?language=en and the subsequent news story about how their servers were brought down by a DDoS attack.  It got me thinking…secure communications, using a third party? However secure the pieces might be, you’ve still got servers to store and forward your message. Well why not cut the middle-man out for added security? Why not the digital equivalent of hand delivery, without the post office? If you want to send a secure message from your machine to your friend, don’t try until you are both online then use peer-to-peer with public/private cryptography. This is probably not within the definition of “email” but it could be made to interface with users just like email. If you know your own machine is secure you don’t need to worry about third parties as the communication goes direct to your peer when they come online.

Of course, there are third party network providers and the packets go through their equipment but seems like a big improvement to me even though you’ve sacrificed the store  and forward functionality for better security.

Of course, if I looked, I’d no doubt find a bunch of products which did this but there’s nothing wrong with re-inventing the wheel, if it’s just an idea 🙂

MacMail – Get Back to Simple.

To carry on the last post, and yes another Mac bashing post, my scanner worked quickly and easily on Centos, another win for Centos! I then ran into a nasty Mail problem, the one where it uses up all memory because it tries to load gargantuan debug enabled log files on startup and zip them. This is described copiously on forums. In my case the log files are created by one IMAP mail account which constantly tries to update the mailbox into the 100,000s of messages, thus producing a 20G debug log file.

I thought initially this poblem was caused by GPGSuite (which did not initially work with El Capitan) so I removed it after copying that set of tools to Centos. However, it turned out not to be the problem so I put the latest GPGSuite back on the Mac.

In the meantime I had spent an hour or so with first line Apple Support who had no idea about the problem and simply ran through the standard troubleshooting steps.

As I’ve said before, the system has become so complex, I don’t think anyone understands it. Get back to simple!