BBC News: ISPs could face piracy sanctions

News Source:

I’m genuinely curious to see how they try to implement this. And the inevitable workarounds that will appear the next day.

Also, this comment:

“ISPs are in a unique position to make a difference and in doing so to reverse a culture of creation-without-reward that has proved so damaging to the whole music community over the last few years,” said John Kennedy, head of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).

Yeh, because the music industry’s on it’s arse… *sigh*

It really does get tiring hearing the same fat cats argue that the music industry has been damaged by so-called piracy. Apparently though, it’s not obvious enough, so people like the RIAA have to try and make it look like all media ‘pirates’ are up-and-coming terrorists.

Of course, what the various groups are avoiding from admitting in this sort of lobbying is that… wait for it… DRM does not work. But, of course, they can’t say that, because the other hand is still trying to push DRM.
For those not full aware, DRM is that little thing that means if you buy music through the iTunes store, you can’t play it on your Sony Walkman. Or if you buy music from nearly any other store* you can’t play it on your iPod. In some parts of the world, that would be considered an attempt at creating a monopoly, or at the very least, consumer lock-in. Apparently though, it’s not. It’s for national security… Erm, right.

* Full credit to who ahve recently opened their completely unrestricted digital downloads store, with quiet a healthy selection of music on there. My advice is, if you want to buy music online, buy it through Play. If you can’t find it there, buy the CD f(as long as it doesn’t have that super-smart copyright protection on it that doesn’t play on some CD Players, or under Linux boxes, usually, and only sometimes work with Macs., I salute you. And all that.

I have to be honest, I don’t endorse piracy. But I also like the right to at least have _some_ control over the items I have legally bought, whether it be making a copy so I don’t have to keep a £10 (minimum) CD Album in my car – where it’s at greater risk of being stolen – or putting a copy of a song on my PC or iPod (my PC runs Linux and my iPod runs Rockbox, so DRM is not an issue I can really consider, unless I want to use one of x number of limited CD burns I can make with it, or download it again from another PC after I’ve reached my limit for ‘Registered Computers’ etc etc grumble grumble. has some interesting views on the subject as well, and some useful links.

BBC NEWS: Saudi school ‘preached race hate’

Original Post:

Do we really need to have such articles on worthless news like this? Does it really go anyway to being helpful? I think you’ll find the answer is a categoric ‘no’.

Besides the fact that a Whitehall inquiry stated that the school provided ‘satisfactory education’, the headline is still chosen to be as it is.

Granted, the teacher in question, Mr Cheetham, may well have been dismissed unfairly – but that has fuck all to do with what the school teaches, seeing as, from the article, he claims he was sacked after ‘blowing the whistle on students cheating in public exams’. The school claim he was sacked for misconduct. The truth is though, under a headline like that, what he was or was not sacked for comes across as highly irrelevant. Feeding the fire and all that.

In fact, Mr Cheetham, by his own confession, states he was only ‘informed’ about the school ‘preaching race hate’ after his employment was terminated, and he can’t prove that the passages he was shown were ever actually used in lessons. Mr Cheetham said:

“Without any evidence to support it, it’s not worth a jot,”

No, it isn’t, you fucking moron. Because it’s not illegal to own a book. So why are you moaning about it? If a school dismissed you because you rattled on them for allowing cheating to occur, then bollock them for that – it’s bad enough and it’s what I’d rather hear about. I’d also want to hear about it _whatever_ the background of the school is. But that apparently isn’t very newsworthy these days.

‘What? A Muslim school accused without evidence of preaching race hate? Yeh, print that, they’ll fucking lap it up.’

It’s a shame as well, because I’ve always found the BBC site to be more or less ok in giving me the news I want to read in a fairly straight-forward manner. Of course, the actual text of the article was fine, it just proved that the headline was completely ridiculous tabloid-style stuff.

So, Mr Cheetham and the BBC – grow up.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Well, things don’t always turn out to be as simple as I might first have thought.

What I’m referring to, of course, is the new Desktop system I built for myself when I got back from Egypt, spec as follows:

Coolermaster CM Stacker 830 Case (2 x 120mm Fans)
Gigabyte P35C-DS3R Motherboard
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 CPU
2 x 2GB Crucial RAM
2 x 160GB Seagate ST3160815AS Hard Drives
2 x 500GB Seagate ST3500630AS Hard Drives
2 x NEC SATA DVD+/-RW Optical Drives
nVidia Geforce 8800GTX 768MB GPU (Dual DVI-out)
2 x Belinea 22″ TFT Widescreen Monitors (one VGA only, one DVI)

Since I read that the board had on-board RAID powered by Intel chips (Intel stuff, from what I’ve heard and read is generally well-supportedunder Linux), I pretty much had my heart set on setting this machine up in the following way:

  1. 2 x 160GB Drives setup RAID 0 for striping and to house the Operating Systems
    2 x 500GB Drives in a RAID 1 for storing files and keeping backups
  2. Small Windows XP install just big enough for running the one application I need in Windows well (multiple Eve Online clients running at the same time)
  3. Rest of the drive dedicated to Linux installs – one 64-Bit version to tryout and probably run virtualizations through, and one 32-bit version mainly for trying to troubleshooting if I couldn’t get the Eve Client running in 64-bit. Once the Eve client stablizes under Linux (to enable, for example, running multiple instances without dramatically affecting the gameplay) then I could see myself finally being able to kick Windows into touch all together.
  4. GPU utilizing the binary NVidia drivers and running in Dualview Mode in both Windows and Linux, at 1680×1050 resolution.

Let’s be clear though – as things are right now, I use my Desktop for one main purpose – accessing Eve Online. Sure, whilst I’m on it I use things such as the web browser, check my emails through IMAP accounts and listen to music, but I can do all of those things and more comfortably under Linux, and have been doing so exclusively on my laptop for well over a year (my IBM T41 just runs Kubuntu 7.10). And those things are easy to do. My music is all stored on a separate file server giving me the option of NFS or SMB shares depending on what OS I’m on. My browsing and email tasks are easily handled by Open Source apps on whichever platform I’m running. The only hurdle is Eve. Or so I thought.

When I first got the machine set up, the first thing I knew I’d have to do was install XP. So I went ahead, setup the RAID partitions from the BIOS, and set about installing XP. Got it up and running in rapid time and got Eve running on it. It runs pretty well. Perhaps not as well as I might have hoped, but then it is doing a hell of a lot of work and is stable enough.

After a few days I set about trying to install Ubuntu. The LiveCD started up nicely and everything seemed to just work going through to the installation. Solid.

However, going through the installation, the first major hurdle to my hopes and dreams appeared – Ubuntu detected every single drive independently, rather than as just 2 drives. Bugger.

A little bit of investigating revealed the reason – the on-board RAID on the board was, in fact, fancy software RAID, and as such, installing Linux on to it – whilst technically possible – was going to be a royal pain in the arse. Not to mention beyond what I reckon I could feasibly deal with if it ballsed up.

So, I came up with a workaround. It looked like FakeRAID could be used under Linux to at least get shared access to the RAID 1 Array setup for sharing files / backups between the systems. So that could work. I just needed to scrap the RAID 0.
Back into BIOS then, and deleting the RAID0 array, and reinstalling XP into a small partition on one of the now visibly separate 160GB drives. Reinstall all the drivers again. Happy days, it works.
Install Linux (Ubuntu 7.10 64-Bit version) and the LiveCD installer encounters difficulties. Download the Alternate install and stick it on. We’re good. it boots up (no splash screen during boot but that seems to be a resolution problem with the monitors) and after a few seconds black screen (booting) I get the GDM login. Login, everything’s fine.

Restricted Drivers Manager pops up and lets me know about the Nvidia updates that, whilst not free, could help my hardware work properly. Since I hate freedom, I whacked them on.

At this point my memory starts to fail me, as it could have been after this step or the next step, but on reboot I have no screen output, at all. However, if I reboot and unplug one of my monitors, the other monitor does work fine.

Whether it was because the above happened, or whether I was desperately seeking cutting edge, I then downloaded Envy in order to get the very latest Nvidia drivers, and set my desktop on its way to 3D Domination. Epic fail.

Rebooting with 2 monitors plugged in resulted in ZERO output again. ALT+F2 didn’t give me a terminal. It was just no output. But the GPU Fan was audibly spinning like crazy. And would continue to do so even with minimal load. Restarting with one monitor unplugged gave me the same GPU response, except this time I could see that it was hardly doing anything. Trying to plug the extra monitor in once things were warm and working and using autodetect also failed to help. In all senses of the word (well, one), I was buggered.

Nonetheless, with just one working monitor I decided to try to press on and install Eve, using WINE rather than the officially sanctioned ‘Eve Linux Client’ which I’ve heard mixed reports about. It installed fine and seemed to work (chance to test it was limited). The constantly whirring fan was pissing me off, so I uninstalled it and rebooted with the vanilla drivers. Boot up was fine, resolution was proper, and all was good. Restricted Drivers Manager pops up, so I install it again and reboot (still, one monitor). This time on reboot I get config errors detecting the monitor / GPU types and a default resolution 0f 800×600 – I don’t know how many of you have tried looking at a 22″ TFT Widescreen in 800×600 but it is pure ugly. Poking around in the config failed to find a workaround, even when I manually set the card and driver options.  I have since rebooted back into Windows XP, which is where I’m writing this from.

So, I’m at a loss.

Looking at Hardware RAID options, getting a dedicated card right now is simply not financially viable. I’m loathe to wipe everything and experiment with another Linux 64-Bit distro as the sole OS as I already know that in its current state Eve simply won’t run too efficiently with multiple instances open (through no fault of the Wine guys, who seem to be doing a stellar job on getting things working) but jsut because of the ‘Windows only’ style limitations that seem to be in place. Besides that, my so far limtied trials with getting Dual View to work on my 8800GTX under Linux also don’t fill me with confidence – even if I got Eve running satisfactorily on one monitor with multiple instances, I don’t want to have to put up with ALT-TABBING between windows all the bloody time whilst my perfectly good second monitor sits there shaking its head miserably and looking downright glum because it’s being left out of the action.

So what I’m left with is toying with biting the bullet, reassigning the software RAID to having a RAID 0 Array in place and installing XP and XP along on that for the time being, dealing with sticking Linux on there as and when it happens / is affordable.

It pains me to do it though, as I know that barring the Eve Online / Dual Monitor problems I’ve so far encountered with the limited 64-bit trials (probably due to it being a new card and the Linux drivers lagging a bit more than anything else) I can do everything I want my desktop to do under Linux, and would be much happier running things through there (it may sound like a crock of shit, but it’s just easier to actual do things and play with stuff under Linux), but I just can’t see how it’s going to be a realistic option right now. Which sucks.

I haven’t quite decided whether I’m going to go ahead and do it yet, but the way it’s looking, I might have to. It will be a waste of resources (there’s no bloody way I’m sticking Vista 64-bit on here) but hopefully it will only be temporary, at least until I can afford to splash out on a hardware RAID card.

If anyone has any possible suggestions to correct the difficulties I’ve found with the Linux experiments so far then, of course, they’d be greatly appreciated.

BBC News: MoD criticised for soldier deaths

.. This irritates me.

Yes, it’s a shame, yes they should have the right equipment for the task, but at the end of the day, two basic facts remain:

  1. They are soldiers… one of those risks you take when signing up for that shit is that you can get shot… and bullets kill.
  2. The solider in question, and his superior (who I believe testified in court that they had insufficient equipment) are human beings… if you don’t feel the equipment is dequate, don’t follow through with the task.
    Granted, this is the armed forces, but Afghanistan is highly unlikely to invade the UK. You denying the mission does _not_ (whatever your propagandha may tell you) endanger British lives. It’s the Ministry of (fucking) Defence for a reason. Given the modern age in regards legal matters, you would be hard pressed to be prosecuted for disobeying orders, except maybe by the Yanks who may take you to Guantanemo on terrorist charges ( 😉 ). *sighs*

Sorry, but I felt it had to be said. Yes, a soldier has died fighting ‘for his country’. Yes, it appears he had inadequate equipment (I haven’t read a full report that details exactly what he did or didn’t have – my guess is he had more than the Afghans). Yes, he should have been better equipped. Yes, he was a soldier. It’s one of those ‘Risks of the Trade’.

Shit happens. If you want to blame anyone, why not look to America, who claimed the war there was won 4 years ago.

I have various friends who have served in the forces, and I have the utmost respect for each and every one of them. But each and every one of them were plain about the risks they faced – and fair play to them. I wouldn’t have the balls to go out and serve as they did.

But if I did, I wouldn’t expect such a fucking hoo-hah when the possibility became reality.

Job Applications…

… suck.

That is all.

Seriously though, they do. It was bad enough having to try and write about myself for my CV, now I have to paraphrase that for individual applications. I go red just thinking about what to write.


Anyway, back to the grind.

LUGRadio Live UK 2008 Dates Announced!

On their respective blogs, both Jono and Aq have announced dates and a location for LUGRadio Live 2008 (UK):

19th and 20th July at the Wolverhampton University Student Union.

Have to admit, I’m pretty excited. I was all psyched to try and get to LUGRadio Live USA originally, but when it came to it I wouldn’t really have been able to make it, especially with still being without employment.

So, whilst the dates and location are the only things so far announced, I would recommend anyone with even a moderate interest in such matters keep an eye out for the release of tickets.

Haven’t quite worked how I’m getting down there yet, but I could well just drive, depending on ow tricky it looks to get there, so if anyone Lancaster-bound is heading down as well, let us know.

For those completely lost, I wrote a review of LUGRadio 2007 here.

3 Years in Egypt (3 Months On)

Note: I’ve been trying to write this for a good while now, so most of what you read was written just before I left, with the last bits added more recently. Guess I’m just lazy. Anyway, enough of that bollocks. Here it is.

– – – – – – – – 

Well, I was toying with not starting this until I was actually back in the UK, but seeing as I have some free time I figured I’d try and jot down a few things now and see where it gets to.

Basically, tomorrow night I will be getting on a plane in Cairo and flying back to Manchester, on a one-way ticket, effectively bringing to an end my working in Egypt for the past 3 years.
It’s a little bit weird. But at the same time I’m looking forward to being back.

Anyway, the next stretch of text doesn’t really have a structure as of yet, but I’ve got a feeling it could be fairly long-winded, so I’ll try to break it up as best I can.


I first arrived in Egypt in the late hours of 4th November 2004 completely and utterly confused.
I was being met by someone I’d never met before, jumping on a bus with him, and taking another 12 hour journey to Marsa Alam before I could consider ‘settling in’.
The night I arrived in Cairo coincided with a popular local football match that had just finished, leaving huge traffic jams, excessive car horn blaring, and people running around all excited with victory. I was just confused.
After finally getting to the bus station and getting sat on a crowded bus, we set off and I tried (ineffectively) to get some sleep.
6 hours later we got to Hurghada, spent an hour driving around in a taxi trying to find a hotel where we could get a few hours of sleep before meeting guests that were arriving that night… all in the first day.

Another interesting fact that came up here was that when I arrived in Egypt, unbeknown to me, the month of Ramadan was already under way. Not speaking any Arabic, and not knowing the place, and being with Yasser who was fasting, effectively left me without food until sunset. That’s not a complaint by the way, it just added to the overall surreal atmosphere of the first few hours in the country, away from everything I knew and understood. It was all outweighed by the fact that once the sun did go down, we had some cracking local grub just around the corner from the hotel. Lots of foul, falafels and all that good stuff. Yasser was good company and did his utmost to make sure I was alright.

The next phase was out of his control though – going to the airport to collect a group of Polish guests who were heading down to the Marsa Alam camp with us. We went to the airport after eating, then proceeded to wait for roughly 6 hours as their flight was delayed. Champion.

So, by the time they arrived and we were finally able to set off to the Deep South Diving Center and Camp where I was to be learning the local dive sites for the next few weeks, I passed out in the back of the taxi and woke up when we arrived at the camp around sunrise, at 0600, my internal body clock completely out of sync with having had little sleep, and the only sleep achieved being during daylight hours. However, we quickly got stuff sorted, met Karim and the staff there, unpacked my dive gear, and a couple of hours later I was in the water checking my weights and seeing the local dive sites. The tiredness and confusion soon passed.

The Deep South Experience

The location and layout of the camp at Marsa Um Tundoba is great. With a hilltop open-fronted chillout spot (now decorated as a bar) able to look over the sea and sunrise to the east and towards the hills, mountains and sunset in the west, it provides pretty dramatic landscapes at any time of the day.
Powered by generators running for a few hours each day, with a small number of two person huts, with shared bathrooms and one large restaurant area with floor seating and having similar views to the bar area at the top of the hill, the whole camp was completely different to anything I could have pictured or imagined, but in a good way.
In all honesty, settling in took longer than I thought it would, most probably due to it being so dramatically different. The people were cool, the place was cool, the diving was… cool, and the mosquitoes feasted on my skin every night – they loved it, but it took me a while to manage any real sleep. Having never really encountered mosquitoes before (that I could remember anyway) they took some getting used to, and I spent the first few weeks covered in little red blotches. No amount of repellent seemed to work and in the end it seemed to come down to just working out the most efficient way of sleeping, being covered up, but not cooking yourself in the process. In my own humble way, I like to think I did friggin’ excellently conjuring up that solution. Kinda.

To be honest, there’s really not that much more I can add on the Deep South experience for those first 6 weeks without going into even more mundane detail than is necessary. After about two weeks there I had a 2 day spell of shitting brown water during which I was unable to do very much except feel sorry for myself but – touch wood – that was the only time during my entire time here that I ever got sick, which I think is par for the course. Your body takes a battering adjusting at first, and then just deals with it.

As already mentioned, my initial spell at Deep South was for just 6 weeks, after which I came back to the UK for Christmas and New Year. The original plan at that point was to come back to a basically-ready MV Tala, although in the end that wasn’t quite what happened.

The ‘Gap’

Even when I was first leaving from Cairo, it was obvious the boat wasn’t going to be ready until I got back, and reasonably it was expected it would be a couple of months late. In the meantime I’d be back in Deep South continuing to learn the sites and generally get some diving in. Which is nice.

AG came down in January giving me a chance to video and listen in on Tech 1 classes – all good stuff – and myself and Faisal started doing some dives and managing to keep pushing myself bit by bit. There was a lot of good stuff to learn.
Various things continued to hold the boat up, and in turn my time at Deep South extended right until the end of May, when I came back for a little while before heading back out to join a finally finished Tala to have her first trips in late summer.

It’s fair to at least claim that this time was ‘wasted’ in terms of what I could have been earning. Whilst I probably earned more than most of the guys in the camp overall, it was still considerably less than I could have earned if I’d have stayed in the UK, even with the extra expenses involved with that.
And I don’t regret sticking it out at the camp at all, and would rather argue that the time really wasn’t wasted, if only from the standpoint of slowly getting used to the differences between being in Egypt and being in the UK (“Egyptian Time” is only a small part of this). Besides which, staying out allowed me to do plenty of diving, and get to know Karim and Faisal better, all of which have helped make the rest of my time out here much easier, and develop good friendships, as well as the other people I met through them.
No, I definitely wouldn’t take the different route if I had chance to choose again.

Other than that, there’s not much more to add to that intervening period. I was, of course, disappointed that the boat stuff hadn’t gone through as planned, but then I could hardly blame anyone for that, these things just happen, and it’s not as if I was the only person it not being ready would affect!

M/V Tala – The Early Phases

So, finally, towards the end of summer 2005, we started the first few trips with the newly finished boat, mainly with Russian guests.

At this point, it’s probably fair to say that our (Faisal’s and mine) collective liveaboard experiences didn’t really amount to much, my only previous trip being cut short by having to evacuate a guest to the chamber, and Faisal also being new to the game. We had on board an Egyptian guide who Faisal had had recommended and who seemed to talk the talk. In all honesty, he just failed to walk the walk. To me, in a purely personal opinion, I could never adapt to the guy. He seemed up himself, over-confident and nearly always wrong. He was difficult to get on with on a number of levels, although it’s probably fair to say that at least one of those levels I can take some of the blame for, in that I simply didn’t understand him as a person. He was nice enough, but it all seemed superficial. But I’m probably being harsh.

Anyway, we plodded on, spending most of the first year doing things my body really didn’t appreciate: diving our asses off, partying like crazy, sleeping minimally, and occasionally drinking excessively.

It was a lot of fun, but by the time it came for a rest, I think I actually heard my inner self subtly scream “Thank fuck for that!”. It was after that first season that I pretty much realized things needed to sharpen up in terms of doing things ‘properly’, as otherwise I simply wouldn’t be able to keep up with such a cycle – it makes it very easy to see how folk suffer burnout in that sort of environment.

The Latter Part

The remaining time there went remarkably quick, all things considered, and included some superb mini-projects and individual dives, and generally a lot of laughs. With the Egyptian guide gone from the boat, it was down to Faisal and I to run everything, pretty much off the top of our heads and, whilst it may not be too modest, I thing we finally did a pretty good job. We had difficulties, but managed to get round them (more credit to Faisal than me on that though), and plodded on through the season, still with a lot of merriment, but a little bit more toned down (overall) than the year before. Well, kinda…

Ironically, I also had during this time a couple of pissed off moments, as the blog will no doubt attest to but, looking back, I think they were more an example of me getting pissed off with myself than with whatever I’d choose to blame. Whatever the reason, it soon passed.

The season went well, and culminated in a fun week that was not only full of some great diving with a small, well qualified group, but also resulted in a small magazine article with my own text – that was quite cool to get.

Start of the next season had Mo come join us to work on the boat, meaning Faisal could take a bit more time off you, you know, be a boss. 🙂 Mo was a friend of Faisal’s from Beirut, and I think it’s fair to say the pair of us got on well right from the off, even if the first week was full of various problems. Having worked in diving in quite a few other places including Cypress and Beirut, Mo had plenty of experience and useful tips and was a lot of fun to have around. We also had a few great parties, and he did his best to educate me in some of the rules of The Game although, to be fair, I was shit.

That season passed, and Mo headed back to Lebanon for a while, putting myself and Faisal back on for the next season. In addition to that, we got a lot of help from Stijn, a Belgian dive guide who’d run the Belgian trips from Blue Paradise that we’d had on for a few weeks each season since the year before. Like with Mo, I found Stijn easy to get on with, and with a shed-load of experience running Belgian liveaboard trips in the Red Sea – whilst we didn’t always get the chance to party quite as hard with the Belgians as we did the Russians, we still got some insanely fun dives, usually making full use of the scooters and chasing sharks.

With that season ended, and my final one about to begin, Mo was back around for another fairly intensive season. In terms of things coming together and being more organized, I think it was clear by this season that it had been getting better all the time. The workload was heavy but we all seemed to gel properly and get things done. Nothing’s perfect, but as a comparison to where we had been and what we’d come to, I think it’s fair to say we’d done good.

Done and Dusted

And that was that. A quick(ish) run-down of my spending three years in Egypt. Although I finished this a lot later than when I originally started it, I’ve tried to skip through later things to keep from repeating myself – needless to say I could have gone on much longer with various little stories and anecdotes which, whilst they were funny to me, would probably not do much for any folks reading it.

I had a blast during my time there, and met some great people I’ll no doubt keep in touch with for a long time but, I guess, at the end of the day, three years was enough for me right now.

Do I have any regrets about doing it? None at all.

Did I give it up because I got bored of it? Not really. I’m still eager to dive and teach and enjoyed the work to the full while I was doing it.

Would I do it all again, given the chance? Damn right I would – I think I got plenty done in that time and got a lot out of it personally, not limited to life experience. I think the only difference if I was to do it again would be that I’d have to go ‘all out’ and actually live there, as opposed to the ‘Suitcase Living’ that I was doing recently.
Don’t misunderstand though, that was fun, but by the end of three years of doing it, it got tiresome. And I just don’t think I’m quite prepared to fully move away from the UK yet. Maybe I never will. We’ll see.