Saturday, 17 December 2011

Multiple copies of labels in OpenOffice

A relative does some volunteer work for the Parkinsons  Disease Society .

She needs  3 copies of each address label. Currently its a MSWord/Avery labels  document where an address is copied across the sheet.   Its alphabetical  so any changes mean a lot of work  in moving rows up and down . Can OpenOffice do better. ?

Things that I've looked at and not got very far  :
  • I've looked for a macro where the text in column  1 is copied across the other 2 columns.
  • The list could be printed out 3 times, but that could be wasteful with the last page of each run only having a few labels.  OK there are macros around that let you use bits of a sheet. but I want to make this as easy as possible
So I've done it by defining my own label size  containing the label text replicated 3 times.  I experimented with  some sheets  I bought from WHSmith that aren't exactly the same as the default 'industry standard' Avery

1.Create a new label sheet from OpenOffice File -> New ->labels.
Check the page is the correct size for A4  - 297 X 210 mm

and then create a custom label size. A4 is 297x 210 mm. I measured the margins on the label sheet (1.5cm each side)and created a label the remaining width of the document by the measured height of the label. The frame is  3.81cm X 19.0 cm ( width of the sheet minus margins)

In the top frame , drag the placemarkers to the correct place. I then added the conditional formatting for missing address fields as described here

2. I then measured the distance the 2nd and 3rd column text would be and set the tabs and tabbed across and copied the  database field labels to the new columns ( a bit tedious )

3.I saved the template layout file at this stage

4. the copy the filled frame down the page

5. Tell it where to start the next record 

5. And then did then run the  mailmerge from the Database (this was odb file , but I suppose it  could be anything ) containing the  Address details
  • No address block  (I wonder if it could be done with no text and just an address block ? ) 
  • No salutation
6. Run the mailmerge and do a test page .

If its not quite right then fiddle with the margins or tab spacing.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

I'm Spartacus !

I've come across the online spat between several bloggers and the the Burszynski clinic  about the  cancer treatments that they offer.
It started with a teenager, Rhys Morgan,  and has been picked up by the Guardian.
The clinic got a bit upaset about this and Rhys has posted the correspondence on line , in a post entitled 'threats from the  Burszynski clinic'.

a good summary of the whole treatment and why it has not been pursued more widely by the scientific community (from here)

Burzynski’s results have not been replicated by other researchers, and the cancer research community does not seem interested in his work. This is not because of any conspiracy – they just recognize crap when they see it

A few more internet references  :

Comprehensive list of internet references and other articles

Some history of antineoplastons and Dr Burszynski

A Summary of some technical details about antineoplastons from  quackwatch

I think the appropriate response would be to refer the Burszynski clinic to the case of Arkell vs Pressdram

Friday, 25 November 2011

Exim and multiple SMTP hosts

one of the charitable websites that  I do,  Woolsack  , has enrolled 380 people who want to receive the occasional  newsletter.  I set up a mailman mailing list courtesy of cpanel and the hosting, but after some problems, discovered that the hosting  limits emails to 150  in an hour. So of my 380 mailing list , under half were being delivered and the rest were being dumped, without warning. And there was no way to rate-limit the sending.
One suggestion from them was  to  have several lists , each of 150 , and to send them out an hour apart, but thats not practical.

So Ive written a  perl script that will send out emails , with a 30 second pause between them. But what about the  sending ? I think all ISP will  limit emails sent in some way. its difficult to find out what the  limit is.
In addition some spam filters will label as spam emails where the 'from' domain is different to the  server it is sent through.

For my hard-wired cable connection it is accepts emails on port 25 with no authentication, but the ISPs require authentication. Ive got exim as the software on my server .

Here's where I started.
 There is a difference between TLS and SSL , explained here

TLS is the easy one : 

Google  settings listed here  uses TLS/STARTTLS:
so my lookup file contains

$ less /etc/exim4/smtp_users
* smarthost=""  auth_name=""    auth_pass="xxxxxx"

and the router  in exim

debug_print ="T. auto_route remote_smtp for $local_part@$domain from $sender_address "
condition = ${extract{smarthost}{${lookup{$sender_address}wildlsearch{/etc/exim4/smtp_users}{$value}fail}}}
   driver = manualroute
   domains = ! +local_domains
   route_list = "* ${extract{smarthost}{${lookup{$sender_address}wildlsearch{/etc/exim4/smtp_users}{$value}fai
   transport = remote_smtp

 and the transport

hosts_require_tls =
hosts_require_auth =

Exim  versions <4.77 dont do SSL, and the suggestion  is to combine it with stunnel .I installed stunnel 

sudo apt-get install  stunnel

and configured stunnel

$ grep ^[A-Za-z] /etc/stunnel/stunnel.conf
sslVersion = SSLv3
chroot = /var/lib/stunnel4/
setuid = stunnel4
setgid = stunnel4
pid = /
socket = l:TCP_NODELAY=1
socket = r:TCP_NODELAY=1
debug = 3
output = /var/log/stunnel4/stunnel.log
client = yes
accept  = 26
connect =

and started it
( etc/init.d/stunnel start)

and then tested the connection 

~$ telnet localhost 26
Trying ::1...
Connected to localhost.
Escape character is '^]'. ESMTP Exim 4.69 #1 Tue, 29 Nov 2011 11:30:38 +0000
220-We do not authorize the use of this system to transport unsolicited,
220 and/or bulk e-mail.

and configure the smtp user 

 cat /etc/exim4/smtp_users | grep local
* smarthost="localhost::26" auth_name=""  auth_pass="xxxxx"

but one last step,  when it still asked for authentication, that I found here
and the transport becomes 

debug_print = "T: remote_smtp for $local_part@$domain"driver = smtp
hosts_require_tls =
hosts_require_auth =
tls_certificate = CONFDIR/exim.crt
tls_privatekey = CONFDIR/exim.key


Thursday, 24 November 2011


the quick answer

apt-get --reinstall  install l ice33-slice mumble-server

I've got round to upgrading my ubuntu server from lucid to natty.
off it went  -asking the usual questions. 45minutes later and everything seemed to be OK..

But apache didn't start -  no error message when started from the commandline . but this was in the log file

~# tail /var/log/apache2/error.log
<Ice/>1 error in preprocessor.
PHP Fatal error:  Unable to start ice module in Unknown on line 0
/usr/share/slice/ error: Can't open include file "Ice/"
1 error in preprocessor.
PHP Fatal error:  Unable to start ice module in Unknown on line 0

Google took me here  - I'm not alone .

The  symlinks were already in   place so that wasnt the answer, so I then went here.  Thankfully  my O-level french was up to it .
and the answer

apt-get --reinstall  install l ice33-slice mumble-server

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Beremeal - so close and yet

We visited the Barony Mill when in Orkney  in June, and came away with some Beremeal and the recipe book, which Ive been using (slowly) since. Orkney Bere Bannocks have been OK, as has shortbread , made with a proportion (3oz meal + 5 oz plain flour) of the beremeal, but getting it to work with in bread,made with the breadmaker has been much more troublesome.
The standard loaf in the breadmaker uses 500g flour, so I've been trying replacing some of that with beremeal.
This is all empirical. more than 100 grams of beremeal prevents the loaf from rising , with the standard amount (1 tbsp) of yeast. Increasing this to 1 1/2 tbsp doesn't help.
So the maximum beremeal  I use is 75 grams /loaf and the rest (425g ) plain flour. The loaf rises but not as much as a 100% plain flour loaf.  The loaf is also very very moist, and it doesn't have the nutty flavour they described at the Mill, which is there in the shortbread.

Im  not  sure what to try next - Ive got about 1kg of beremeal left. 


Saturday, 17 September 2011

Insulation part 1

We want to get the house insulated and energy-sorted.  Im discovering its not easy and straightforward to retrofit an 1860s victorian  terrace.

There are a number of different projects that need tackling.
This is one - sorting out an area at the back of the house - its a cold corner, I  think for several reasons - the solid wall is an external one - the neighbours' room stops short of our probably edwardian extension, there isn't a radiator really adjacent, and there is a very nice Velux window, which lets in a lot of light during daylight hours and is double glazed, but i bet there is some heat loss through it.

There has been damp coming through  - I think from a bush that was growing ito the brickwork, but the wall has been stripped for a while and  seems to be dry now.

Part of the wall has a cupboard along it , so its a relatively small area that is exposed. Ceiling to floor is approx 290 cm and the length of wall is approx 190cm. We thought studs and sheeps wool and then plasterboard is overkill. So its a board of some sort. And I've read that  damp can be a problem, as any moisture  condenses on the cold surface of the wall . So the  joins in the board etc are taped. But what about at the top and the bottom ? Does it mean that it will only really work well if its fully insulated and sealed at the top and the bottom to prevent ingress of water vapour laden air  -   Ive therefore got to remove the skirting board, and the original moulding ( it may eventually all be going - but that doesn't solve *this* problem.). The room isn't used a lot at the moment - so it shouldn't be a problem ( should it ? )

Ive  gone to google ( as you do ) . Heres a forum discussion that includes stuff  about  calculating the dew point of a wall. if I can calculate the dew point, I could show that it may not be a problem and another forum that highlights the problem of excessive condensation and it having nowhere to go

Ive not yet found the 2007  iso standard but there is this powerpoint about condensation (surface and interstitial) . its got 2 pictures -  this of internal insulation (which hasn't got vapour barrier)

and this of a timber-framed wall ( it looks like a stud with insulation between, and plasterboard on top ) - but this has got a vapour barrier .

I think what I need is the Glaser method of calculating the dewpoint.

Some of the insulation boards that you can buy come with  an integral vapour barrier. But will end up not letting  moisture out ?

or are we back to thinking  about studs and lambswool as the insulation , because that will breathe , or what i have seen listed as 10mm flexible liner  - it looks like its 'polystyrene wallpaper'

Friday, 9 September 2011

Javascript Associative Arrays

I've spent some time  looking into Javascript associative arrays.  But javascript doesn't have associative arrays. it has objects that can have values that can be accessed in a similar way to associative arrays in perl and PHP. Im no expert but heres how I created a multidimensional javascript array  from a PHP array .
The PHP  array has 4 levels  , that are read from a database .

So I've  read data from the database and  created a multidimensional PHP associative array


so the php writes some javascript

Thursday, 1 September 2011

backing up - or not.

ive got a good system running for backing up windows machines .
I thought Id sort out the backing up of my  linux machine as well.
So i thought id do the same thing
  • create a shared folder on the remote system
  • make it accessible to the computer I want to back up . 
  • run rsnapshot and Im done 
But Im not done  .Both systems run linux , so it would be a nfs share.

on the server
root@server:/home/backup/mars/hourly.0/mars# ls -la /home/backup/ | grep ma
drwxrwxrwx  4 mars    users     4096 2011-09-01 14:27 mar
 on the client
 mar@mar-desktop:/mnt$ mount | grep nfs on /mnt/marbackup type nfs 
 and i get this
 mars@mars-desktop:/mnt$ sudo rsnapshot  -c /etc/rsnapshot.conf  hourly
 require Lchown
 Lchown module loaded successfully
 Setting locale to POSIX "C"
 echo 6806 > /var/run/
 mkdir -m 0755 -p /mnt/marsbackup/hourly.0/
 /usr/bin/rsync -avx --delete --numeric-ids --relative --delete-excluded \
     --temp-dir=/tmp --exclude=*iso --exclude=Dropbox/* --exclude=Ubuntu* \
     --exclude=.* --exclude=Downloads/* /home/mars \
 sending incremental file list
 created directory /mnt/marbackup/hourly.0/mars
 rsync: chown "/mnt/marbackup/hourly.0/mar/home" failed: Remote I/O 
 error (121)
 rsync: chown "/mnt/marbackup/hourly.0/mar/home/mars" failed: Remote 
 I/O error (121)
 /home/mars/A4L Flyer (2up, 2x A5).ott
 /home/mars/Agenda_Committee Net Meeting_17_July_2011.pdf
 on the server its this
 root@server:/home/backup/mar/hourly.0/mars/home/mar# ls -la
 total 1956
 drwx------ 21 nobody nogroup   4096 2011-09-01 14:38 .
 drwx------  3 nobody nogroup   4096 2011-06-04 15:27 ..
 -rw-------  1 nobody nogroup 113146 2011-08-26 13:40 a4flyer.jpg
 -rw-------  1 nobody nogroup   9955 2011-08-26 12:16 A4L Flyer (2up, 2x  A5).ott
 -rw-------  1 nobody nogroup  71243 2011-07-17 20:10 Agenda_Committee 
 Net Meeting_17_July_2011.pdf
 I can access the backed up stuff from the server , as root .
 but when i come to run the backup again
 it fails
 mars@mars-desktop:/mnt$ sudo rsnapshot  -c /etc/rsnapshot.conf  hourly
 require Lchown
 Lchown module loaded successfully
 Setting locale to POSIX "C"
 echo 6918 > /var/run/
 native_cp_al("/mnt/marbackup/hourly.0", "/mnt/marbackup/hourly.1")
 mkdir("/mnt/marbackup/hourly.1", 0755)
 safe_chown(4294967294, 4294967294, "/mnt/marbackup/hourly.1")
 rsnapshot encountered an error! The program was invoked with these options:
 /usr/bin/rsnapshot -c /etc/rsnapshot.conf hourly
 ERROR: Warning! Could not safe_chown(4294967294, 4294967294, 
 ERROR: Error! cp_al("/mnt/marbackup/hourly.0/", 
 /usr/bin/logger -i -p user.err -t rsnapshot /usr/bin/rsnapshot -c \
     /etc/rsnapshot.conf hourly: ERROR: Error! \
     cp_al("/mnt/marbackup/hourly.0/", "/mnt/marbackup/hourly.1/")
 rm -f /var/run/
the problem is the root_squash option in nfs . The defautl is root_squash - ie  stuff transferred across is owned by nobody, rather thatn user that can do stuff. 
So i changed the mount options to 
rw,no_root_squash, and added the same user (mar) to the server . 
But still not fixed.I think the UIDs have to be the same as well 
And the ssh option in rsnapshot looks like its a pull backup option rather than push. 
Hmmm . I'l have to have think about this 


Tuesday, 30 August 2011

backups - part1

There are 2 sorts of people - those who keep backups and those who have never had a computer system failure  when it contained important stuff . Ive now got a backup system that works reasonably well .
I use rsnapshot and have written a bash script  that automatically updates the server backups of a windows machine. but I haven't got off-site backups. Ive recently been subscribed to the livedrive backup system - I have unlimited  backup space !
The  backups I have are done with rsync, which is very efficient. My backup system keeps incremental backups , but links files that have stayed the smae, thus minimizing  the amount of stuff that gets sent over the wires.

ive spent a while trying to get curlftpsfs and rsyn working , so far to no avail.  I then cam across lftp , described as  a 'poor mans' rsync', so i gave that a go. Ive got config script that includes the stuff i want to back up, including the multiple copies created by rsnaphot. But there are a  couple of serious problems.

file transfer to livedrive
heres one problem - upload speed of 20K/s .
So stuff takes ages. And because you cant link files on livedrive, it transfers duplicate copies. it is taking over 24 hours to do a copy of what I want to backup.
So this is clearly impracticable.  What I'll have to do is go back to rsync and see what i can do , i try  lftp  with just the option of sending newer files to livedrive. it wont keep incremental backups that can be easily restored, but if i set it to not delete, it may keep copies  , but not versions, of svey file i want to backup.

I'll have to see how I get on

Monday, 22 August 2011

Licensing again

 The cafe culture HMG thougth we'd get  after in 2003.  Didn't happen.  Instead we ended up with City centres as no-go areas.

Through the National Organisation of Residents' Associations,   I've been notified of more stuff from HMG about Licensing. there was a consultation process a while ago .  The latest document has  the snazzy title of

Impact Assessment for the alcohol measures in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill and has a fair bit of stuff in it.
Some things that I noticed
Local Authorities must promote licensing objectives
• the prevention of crime and disorder;
• public safety;
• the prevention of public nuisance; and
• the protection of children from harm.

So nothing about public health there then. 

A licensing application goes for consultations and the Authority can receive representations from interested parties . Interested parties are Responsible Authorities (police , Environmental Health etc ) , members of the public and businesses that may be affected by the new license.

Currently, if no representations are received, licensing authorities must grant the application. The proposal is for this to change so the Licensing Authority can refuse off their own bat  - they dont need to have 'representations' from anyone

Other proposed changes :
  • They can charge a Late Night Levy or late licences to cover the cost of policing.
  •  Early Morning Restriction Orders (ie banning alcohol sales) apply currently between 3am and 6 am . This will be extended to midnight to 6am 
Overall , a 'good thing' . Shame about the public health imperative though.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Vista , hide/unhide and read permissions

Ive just installed thunderbird as an email client. Straightforward, as these things go.

 The local folder location is buried deep in the thunderbird settings  its a subfolder of  the profile. I went looking for it - we have a network, and then offsite backup that runs regularly , and I wanted to sort out the backup whilst I was there. 
But the 'local folders' folder isn't visible by default. I assume windows will think that it will confuse you  by showing stuff you dont need.
How to make it visible , if you cant see it ?

I went to the root of the Users' folders , right clicked on the user and looked at properties -something like this

so I unchecked 'hidden'  and set it off - and the majority of the desktop icons ( well, all the important ones ) disappeared.  OK - id got something wrong . So how do you make it reappear when you cant see it.

Much clicking  and swearing and nothing I did restored it - not even the windows things of restarting the computer, and if that didnt work, switching it on and off at the wall.
I think I worked it out
To make the user folder visible again, it has to be set as read-only and then unhide. Once the computer has done its stuff , the desktop icons re-appear. But you get some really strange error messages because software need to write stuff to the disk when it start and if it cant do so , it will stumble.

  • OpenOffice - an unhelpful message about a run-time error
  • Dropbox - a mesage about a python error
  • Firefox - an error message about it not being able to write (ha ! a clue) security settings
so once the stuff is restored  you need to go through select folder removing the read-only
So far its been
  • Appdata
  • Documents
  • Downloads
  • Dropbox 
Im sure there will be others that i havent come across yet.
But sanity is restored, catastrophe averted,a s the system is up and running

Thank you , Bill Gates - NOT

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Hello Girls !

A few years ago we started with a 2 - hen  Eglu from Omlet (actually we had number 6 off the production line).

We have over the years upgraded to an Eglu Cube , capable of holding 10 hens. Easy disposal of kitchen waste and lots of eggs in return.  A hen can live up to four years. There is regular egg production in the early years but it tails off as they get older. Towards the end of their life, the egg production continues to fall.  But they are as much pets as egg production  machines , so they live on in graceful retirement until heart failure, kidney failure or somesuch calls them to the great henrun in the sky. We have in the past had a variety of breeds  - here's pollo and sybil from the early days.

More recently we've got our  hens from the Battery Hen Welfare Trust (BWHT) .The economics of  egg production is such that 100% production is 1 egg per hen per 24 hours. When production falls to 95% (12 eggs a fortnight) the battery becomes uneconomic. So all the hens are cleared out and a new, younger,  lot got in. But what happens to the hens that are now uneconomic ? . Well, many of them get trucked away and become dog and cat food, meat pies, etc etc. But the BHWT will try and re-house as many as they can.  they don't lay 1 egg per 24 hours, but they lay pretty close to that, and good enough for domestic use.  Our 'flock' of 6 had dwindled by natural causes to 3, so this weekend we got another 6 to bring the number up to 9. They have spent their first year of life with no access to daylight and no room to turn around. They aren't in good condition when they come out, and some aren't strong enough to survive  outside the battery.

They also don't know what to do . They lay eggs wherever they are , instead of a  in a nesting box, they dont know they can leave the henhouse in the morning ( so have to be lifted out , until they learn).

So heres our 6  - they  have all spontaneously gone and stood in the corner of the run , all together. They aren't too bad for ex-bats. They all have some feathers, and none have obvious scars from being pecked excessively . There is one who may not survive , though.

They do venture out a bit .Hers one having a look around

Watch this space as they settle in. 

And we know that we arent the only people in Jesmond who keep chickens in their back yard.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Geordie Bikes ? Toon Bikes ? Boris Bikes ?

Its a year since the Boris Bikes ( strictly speaking they are Barclays (the sponsor) bikes were introduced to London and there is an article in the Guardian about it . Ive also recently come across mashups and someone has analysed the first million bike journeys made on Boris bikes and produced some maps .
From my visits to London , I think the scheme has been a success - you see people on bikes within Zone 1 of the Underground  - the area covered by the bike scheme) almost all the time.

A hire scheme is coming  to Newcastle - not run by the Council . Its scratchbikes .
There is a launch on 22 July  at the Millenium Bridge. having cycled up from the Quayside a few times  , I'd be surprised if many make it up The Side to Dean Street.

Watch this space for more information !

Friday, 10 June 2011

Newcastle Bike Week

Its that time of the year .........

End of term is coming.

Lots of cans of various sorts littering the streets, pavements wall and gardens  ( like this - not sure what they hope  to acihieve by this )

Mindless damage to car mirror.

Goes with the time of the year and a good night out on friday.  About £60 to fix.

 Alleged to be a  'minor ' irritant to living in the vibrant area of Newcastle. 

its important that this sort of stuff is recorded somewhere. Many Council policies go on about 'cumulative impact' - you can probably live with one incident but when its regular it becomes a major irritant.  So I rang the Northumbria Police non urgent number 03456 043 043.  Must say , very helpful and friendly staff  on the phone. And they have to have a statement.  So they will send someone round. On Sunday . Between 9 and 10 am.

the statement :
"I locked my car and left it outside the house at 6pm. I came out at mid-day  the next day and saw it was broken. A quick inspection revealed it was un-repariable.   Its probable that the key-scratch I ve noticed today across the bonnet is  the work of the same f*$£*^%r. Nothing else is damaged and  nothing else has gone".

But they have to send someone round to talk to me, apparently. I'd be happier if they put the man-hours into stopping this sort of mindless vandalism, but there  may be something about them taking a statement in person that I don't realise. you go .

the phone call took 6 minutes. The intro to the online reporting form  has warning if it takes you more than 30 mins to fill in (!) .
We'll see what they have to say on Sunday.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

No No SpyNoMore, youve got it wrong

I had a phone call  from my sister who had somehow  picked up some malware called  PC Security Guardian on her Windows7 machine, and was stuck with the constant popups and warnings. So I resorted to Google, had a good look around to see what i could find out. The best information I could find  was this link  and the suggestion to download Malware Bytes anti-Malware.

This would  all have to be fixed by talking my sister ("whats windows safe mode?") through how to  sort it all out, so i tried some of the anti-malware  first. I've got  windows XP and windows 2000 running as virtual machines inside linux mint . Like this - i can run them both at the same time.

Some wouldn't run under wine (software that lets you run some windows programs, without actually having  the windows operating system,  on linux, (but there again , why would you need to run anti-malware as there isn't really any), but I thought id have a trial run first.  I could be very confident that this setup wouldn't contain any viruses, because I don't go onto the web with  any programs ( its just for windows stuff that i have to run for a course) .Some of them did run under wine on linux .  I downloaded SpyNoMore detection tool (demo version) 2.98.110604 ). I could run it in either of the virtual machines.... But ive also installed wine so i gave it a whirl.

Here's what it found
 But the first  file it found is the one that runs the windows little black box to do command line stuff - and not, as far as I'm aware, a trojan at all !

and dmusic32.dll is one of the files installed with wine , according to this list .

I thought Id contact SpyNoMore and tell them they have a false positive for a very common windows file, but i cant find any contact details on their website!

Friday, 3 June 2011

making more disk space on ASUS eee 901

I've  had an ASUS eee 901 since they were produced ( preceded by a 701). Initially running Linpus linux that it came with , that got replaced with Ubuntu NBR ( now Ubuntu NBR). And NBR works well. The screen height/width ratio is different and putting the menu along the side makes maximum use of the  available area.

I formatted the flash disks as ext2 - not journaled, decreases the read/write to the disk -  and installed the OS on the 4GB disk and used the 16 GB disk as /home.
This has worked well, except that space became a problem on the 4GB partition. For instance , I had to do updates in steps,  one application at a time.

So Google is your friend and I ended up here and moved /usr/share to the other disk.  As predicted , the firefox icon disappears. But there is a bigger problem. this machine is my travelling companion and I have LAMP installed on it. After moving /usr/share , MySQL didn't start and the log is filled with this , occuring every 10 seconds or so

May 29 07:55:42 littleCOOP kernel: [63907.078018] type=1505 audit(1306652142.849:6294):  operation="profile_replace" pid=6795 name="/usr/sbin/mysqld"
May 29 07:55:42 littleCOOP kernel: [63907.097842] type=1503 audit(1306652142.869:6295):  operation="open" pid=6799 parent=1 profile="/usr/sbin/mysqld" requested_mask="r::" denied_mask="r::" fsuid=0 ouid=0 name="/home/.fs-ext/usr/share/mysql/english/errmsg.sys"
May 29 07:55:42 littleCOOP kernel: [63907.103499] type=1503 audit(1306652142.873:6296):  operation="open" pid=6799 parent=1 profile="/usr/sbin/mysqld" requested_mask="r::" denied_mask="r::" fsuid=0 ouid=0 name="/home/.fs-ext/usr/share/mysql/charsets/Index.xml"

It wasn't a permissions problem. With the help of the Tyneside LUG, this was fixed . The files were moved, but instead of a symlink, it was mounted using /etc/fstab

/home/.fs-ext/usr/share    /usr/share    none    rw,bind  0 0

and everything now seems to work.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Charles Lamb - a response

 I replied to the scaremongering about house prices in Jesmond once the Council introduces Article 4 Directions.
What these guys don't realise is that houses, and the area has a value to residents that is not just monetary.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Bye Bye Bob, Farewell Ron, Hello Dave

 North Jesmond
Name Description Votes Polled %Ward Poll Majority
Peter Emil AndrasLiberal Democrats870 
Tim DowsonGreen Party273 
Rebecca Kate EarnshawThe Labour Party Candidate770 
William John HollowayThe Conservative Party Candidate419 

South Jesmond
Name Description Votes Polled %Ward Poll Majority
David Michael James HardmanThe Labour Party Candidate854 
Kevin O'NeillThe Conservative Party Candidate357 
Bob WalkerLiberal Democrats697 
Dr Tony WaterstonGreen Party266 

And the Council has changed from LibDem to Labour. There was also an article in the Guardian about the decline of the LibDems in Newcastle.

I went to the hustings organised by jesmondlocal , and, as a floating voter,  the labour pair were certainly the most fluent.
We will have to wait and see what the effect of this on this bit of Jesmond. We've got a new Councillor, so we'd better get his email address. 

One thing that cropped up at the hustings was the issue of controlling HMOs and all the candidates were in favour of controls. This was in spite of a letting agent  ( i suspect Charles lamb) who reiterated this, telling us that property values will fall by £ 50-60,000 because of restrictions. i think he's wrong ,  and I'll reply to his facebook post sometime.

I wonder what will happen to the Cycling Forum with the change from LibDem to Labour?

And farewell with thansk, to Ron, who has been a vocal advocate of the area for many years.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Light at end of the tunnel

There has been a survey done by Liverpool Victoria Insurance Company , picked up by the Newcastle Journal  as well as some of the National Newspapers (the Mirror) . Student numbers are going to fall, and Newcastle will be one of the most affected places, with student numbers falling by 50%. Many people think this is a bad thing because property values will fall.
A friend has recently sold a house in Larkspur Terrace. When Estate Agents were looking at it with a view to putting it on the market, they valued it solely as a price/bedroom. It is in an area with a large number of rented properties. The Estate Agents thought there was no point in marketing it to anyone other than as a property to be rented to students, just emphasising one of the problems of studentification - that houses become unattractive to non-students, thereby contributing to the further imbalance in the community.
Is the survey says nothing about the value of houses.  So what will happen ?

A house has a value other than financial ( which may be reflected in the price it can attract) - just look at housing and school catchment areas. What will  reducing the number of students in Newcastle do to Jesmond.

There could be an excess of properties to rent. Will students still pay a premium to live in Jesmond, or will they still live more peripherally and pay less rent?
For some students, parents have bought houses for their children to live in whilst students. As house prices continue to slowly decline, it cannot be a guaranteed investment for parents  who may have been looking to make a profit on the capital.
 The most promising part of this is that if  residents can expect no further studentification, the exodus of residents may slow.
If  houses aren't bought up as buy-to-let  by absentee landlords, they may be bought by year-round residents. As buy-to-let properties tend to be at the lower end of the price range, young families and your professionals could move back into the area, as they are no longer priced out.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Some are more equal than others

 An article appeared in the Guardian - Government denies celebrities get VIP NHS record treatment  - Celebrities will not automatically be opted out of the Summary Care Record, only those people that Big Brother decides are at risk' (undefined),if their location is known,  will be. Of course, anyone can opt out , for any reason.  Notherndoc linked to an article in the GP magazine, Pulse, which  does say that Celebrities will be opted out.

Those behind the SCR are just resorting to sophistry when all these articles are have a line about the rest of us bing able to opt out. Those deemed to be VIPs will no doubt receive a suggestion that they should opt out , but the rest of are left to find out for ourselves.
this whole thing is Tony Blairs' idea . To show his confidence in the  system and its security, Leo Blairs' MMR immunisation status should be uploaded. How long it remains a secret will be a good test of the security of the system that they are so keen to get us all to sign up to.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

They are on our side -really

 This is where I lived from the age of about 6 to 18. I and my friends used to play football here. And the tarmac strips across the street ( no humps) were the tennis net for a game of tennis.  No chance now - all given over to cars .

I  picked up on a RSS feed the blog posting about traffic engineering from the blog entry Confessions of a Recovering Engineer , on the Strong Towns website. A refreshing read.  That towns should exist for people. The first bit that struck me was :

An engineer designing a street or road prioritizes the world in this way, no matter how they are instructed: 
  1. Traffic speed
  2. Traffic volume
  3. Safety
  4. Cost
The rest of the world generally would prioritize things differently, as follows: 
  1. Safety
  2. Cost
  3. Traffic volume
  4. Traffic speed
I came across the article in the daily Mail - half of children never play in the street  .

 And then I had a look at Google Maps at the street where i grew up and used to play tennis, football, cricket and ride my bike from the age of about 8.

    And the comments thread (now closed) also has some interesting comments
    Much is US - inclined and centres around cheap petroleum for vehicles
    some random things that struck me from the article and comments

    • narrow streets = safe streets
    • Mobility is related to economic prosperity ( or is it the other way round) 
    • should the street ( public space) be the place were you can expect to leave  you private property  (your car )

    Friday, 1 April 2011

    Join the Opt Out

    The NHS have spent the last 8 years trying to develop a nationwide electronic medical record. Its a long , sorry , tortuous tale. All the usual suspects are present
     - politicians who want short term sound -good sound bites and unrealistic expectations
    - large companies seeking to make a lot of money at the publics' expense
    - ineptitude from a wide range of people.
    -the 'it will be alright on the night' attitude to problems 

    Many  of the problems that occurred along the way are highlighted in the NHS-23 wiki.

    Many people have had serious concerns about this whole enterprise.
    Some of the more general concerns are listed in the website of The Big Optout 

    and more specific concerns about privacy on the openrights website. A GP has made a comprehensive catalogue of potential problems

    There are frequent breaches of confidentiality relating to data held in government IT systems. And in spite of sincere words in the Care Records Guarantee , one of the fundamental problems in IT security ( the people who use the systems) are unchanged. So this system will be no more or less secure than others .

    Ive opted out . You should as well

    Friday, 25 March 2011

    Bye Bye Vipers, hello the new Warriors ?

    Ice Hockey doesn't usually get a lot of column inches  in the local  paper but it got a lot yesterday. 2 pages of linked articles

    In 1980 I was in Canada and followed the Calgary Flames on TV and also went a couple of times, getting tickets from a work colleague. When we came back to the UK in 1981, I went along and watched my local team - Whitley Warriors. I could take  the children as well, and it didn't cost the earth, even with programme and junk food included. Whilst the standard of hockey wasn't North  American, it was a good 3 hours of entertainment on a sunday night at a reasonable price.  And I went to the Warriors vs Durham Wasps derby games. Hillheads Rink would be packed out ( even though Whitley usually lost, as I recall).   The other thing is that the kids went to ice skating lessons on a saturday morning. So paying to go to  Whitley Warriors games kept the whole thing afloat.  We were frequent irregular attenders. If the team were awful (happened a few times) , you just shrugged your shoulders and went home. I'd still had a reasonable night out with the kids.
    Then along came  the ISL, a regional franchise arrangement with the intention  of modernising hockey and making it an attractive spectator sport in modern arenas. And in the North East Sir john Hall wanted ice hockey as part of the Sporting Club. Durham Wasps were bought and moved to Sunderland. Durham Ice rink subsequently closed (and a local sporting resource for kids and families closed).  In addition the Newcastle Arena was built , and Whitley Warriors senior team moved  there, with all the skating, junior and development teams still back at the Hillheads rink.  I went  to their first match in the Arena. A crowd of about 3000 as I recall . But after a few months, the SJH team , now Newcastle Cobras, replaced them and Whitley went back to Hillheads.
    All these shenanigans were a real problem for a minority sport trying to establish itself. Many Whitley supporters didn't/wouldn't put money into SJH's enterprise and removing a core of several hundred supporters from Whitley Warriors meant that setup ran into financial problems as well.
    So the hockey team in Newcastle struggled on going from owner to owner, and Whitley Warriors moved down the leagues to find. I've heard it described as  "if you don't pay the players, you don't have to charge the fans". The better players who can hold their own in UK hockey as professionals will move on and the team will be people playing for fun and individuals who need or want to stay in the Northeast.

    So if there are no Vipers, some fans may drift back to Whitley, the finances will improve, they can start paying the players a bit more, the team will go back up the leagues and Ice Hockey in the North East may end up back on a sound financial footing ? It would be nice if some of the money also went on upgrading the facilities both for players and for fans.

    Thursday, 3 March 2011

    a bit less treacly

    So I went to the cycling forum this evening. Billed to go on from 5.30 -6pm , looking at the plans/maps and then from 6pm to 8pm .In the end it finished at 830pm. Many new faces since the last time I went., although I did recognise someone from the Critical Mass ride on friday .

    The longest discussion over agenda items was over the draft Cycling strategy document. Im sure ive looked at it in the past. Ive probably read most of it. Ive got an opinion about some of it. But really, thirtyfive minutes ?

    And there is a bit of fuss about a road safety video produced by Newcastle Council, ghoststreet. There is a website with a video trailer . There is also a comment and some more information in the newcastle council cycling website.

    The positive bits of the meeting :

    • there are plans to redesign the junction at the north end of the Redheugh bridge Looks as good as they can get in the circumstances. And the interesting bit was chatting to the City traffic engineers. For 30 years the philosophy of road planning has been to get as many cars through junctions and on their way as quickly as possible, and now its starting to change and the needs of other road users becomes important. The plans are a start in rebalancing the priorities.  It gives cyclists several options when getting from Scotswood Road to the city centre.  It doesn’t solve the problem of getting bikes across the river on the Redheugh bridge and then into town . There is still the option to 'mix it' with the traffic coming on and off the bridge. I don't think even I am brave enough to do that! 

    • They are sorting out the link from the North end of the Tyne Bridge to Pilgrim Street.

    • They are going to sort out cycle parking at Central Station, and bring it outside the barriers (good ) . I bet they end up putting it at the far end of the station miles from anywhere (bad), so it wont get used,

    Tuesday, 8 February 2011

    Crime-ridden Jesmond ?

    like many other people Ive had a look at the local crime statistics for Jesmond. heres a screenshot of the relevant area.

    But of course there are lies,damn lies and statistics (much older quote than I thought it was). A couple of things occured to me
    • this is reported crime. A lot of the aggravating low-level stuff that goes on isn't reported , because the general public see no point in doing so. 
    • other  seems to be such a ragbag of things. What about white-collar crime ?
    Simon Jenkins in the Indy had a bit to say about it ( and even agrees with my concerns!). Incidents that are reported for a particular street are indicated in the middle of the street. So for Acorn Road, it appears that the shoe repair shop on te corner is the problem!

    Similarly for Osborne Road, its the middle of the street where the problems lie. So that means the Cricket Club should be closed down to make everyones life better. Or does it reflect problems associated with people walking along  Osborne Road


    Some will read all sorts of things into the figures - so there will be  some rubbish produced about them.

    But overall its a good thing : 
    • It will encourage people to report crime, so with time the figures will become more accurate and relevant.
    • It makes the police a bit more accountable 
    • What is needed next is a list of  crimes and  a recorde of the number solved

    Saturday, 22 January 2011

    MKC vs HMG Round 2

    Milton Keynes Council  lost the first round of the legal battle over this Governments' decision to reverse the HMO legislation introduced to give Local Council some control over HMOs reported here.

    However the battle is not lost.
    Permission to apply for Judicial Review has been granted by the High Court. The Judge (Mr Justice Lindblom) ordered that the Defendant must argue its case at a substantive JR hearing which will be before the end of this Court Term (i.e. by 20th April).The Secretary of State’s evidence should be available within the next 28 days.

    Someone is going to be writing furiously over the next month.

    Thursday, 20 January 2011

    slow,slow -quick(-ish),slow,slow

    We've been complaining for a while to Virgin Media. We are not alone, if you look at the VM fora .  Something is clearly amiss with the internet plumbing system.  We've been using regularly to measure our speeds. The good bit about this site is that it keeps  record of all your results and  you can download them. As part of the download speed problems , I've also changed my router. I did have a Linksys WRT54G , that had fallen over and so, instead of just re-installing the firmware , I installed gargoyle-router , which gave me a bit more opportunity to 'fiddle'. This has worked well for over a year. However  in trying to sort out our speeed issues I tried my spare - a Belkin. Under standard conditions and when the connection is was good, the Belkin gave a touch (~.5 MB) faster speed, so Ive stuck with that. So to get the speedtest results over the last 3 months or so , I will need to put the old router in the network.
    But here are the randomly timed speedtest results for the last week.

    Hopelessly inconsistent and hopelessly slow.

    The other frustrating bit of all this is that whenver you ring up , you just get put through to a call centre and the drone on the other end of the line just reads from the script. So you get no information bout what the problem is, what they ar doing about it, or when it will get fixed.