Is that a word? Well, it’s what this blog has turned into – a diary of family IT woes. However, some good news – I finally place an order BT Infinity! Virgin put their price up by £10 / month, or to be more precise my “special” discount ran out after I threatened to leave the last time.

£35 / month for just a broadband service which dips every evening and particularly at the weekend is too much. Let’s see what BT is like and at the same time I can get them to put the master socket in a location near the end of all my wired ethernet connectors.

In other news, we bought a new colour printer, an Epson Ecotank 2550 which so far has been fine. Supposedly has a 2 year supply of ink, and re-fills are cheap. One fly in the ink is that it fails to register with Epson Connect – got a call logged about that but it’s not a big problem at the moment.


Holiday Programming

I’ve always enjoyed the combined creative and logical process of programming. But like so many other things, it’s not a priority over other, more necessary daily tasks.

So a summer holiday, with very little else to do is an ideal opportunity to create a tool I had an idea for last year. In my current role, I need to take into consideration operational hours of services (applications) and maintenance windows of the infrastructure on which they run. The sounds relatively easy but is complicated by the hours being specified in multiple timezones – as the users are typically global – and the maintenance window being in yet another timezone.

To determine if a global application will fit in a given maintenance window involves converting all the times to a single zone (not forgetting daylight savings) and interpreting the table to see if there is any overlap. This is time consuming and error prone.

So much better to display the data graphically, on a clock face. One segment can represent the operational hours, another segment the maintenance window and if the two overlap, then there is an issue, which you can see in a blink.

I was unable to find an existing tool to do this so I have written it (using C, Cairo graphics on Centos).

At the moment, the program prompts for a single range of hours, but an obvious enhancement is to read these from a file – and perform the necessary timezone conversion. However, the output will look the same and a couple of examples are shown below.

Example 1

Example 1



Example 2

Example 2

Example 1 shows an application which has operational hours from 15:00 to 20:00 and a supporting system maintenance window of 23:00 to 02:00.

Example 2 shows a slightly more realistic application which runs from 07:00 until 05:00 but relies on a database which is unavailable from 04:00 to 06:00.  The overlap shows the problem straight away.

It works for me, but whether it will survive in the wild is another question! Do doubt there will be feedback which will lead to enhancements, although maybe I’d need another holiday to make them.

BTW, the trickiest part of this was positioning the text around the outside of the clock face. The text reference point has to be moved as the angle (and characters) change. This still needs some tweaking and perhaps I need to look carefully at a variety of clock faces.

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 🙂