Wednesday, 26 May 2004

I've got my Linux distros!

The copies of Knoppix and Fedora I ordered through Linux Central last week arrived yesterday. I tried Knoppix on my old IBM ThinkPad 390X and it worked a treat! So now, I have to install Fedora on that machine. It will be a step forward compared to Win2k.

Guantanamo Bay Theatre

I just found this article on the BBC's news site about this play currently showing at the Tricycle Theatre. The play centres on the controversial detension of prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay facilities in Cuba and attempts to get people interested in this issue. Just in time as well, as the US have just been condemned over rights abuses by a report from Amnesty International. I definitely want to go and see this play. It's a shame it's only playing for 3 weeks though (20th May to 12th June).

Going to space

You might have heard of the X Prize foundation. To quote them, "The purpose of the ANSARI X PRIZE is to promote the development and flight of spaceships able to provide low-cost commercial transport of humans into space." They will award $10 million to the first private team who fly the same ship to the edge of space twice in 14 days. The ship also has to carry at least one person to prove that the technology is viable to transport people. Some of the most interesting contenders include Scaled Composites and JP Aerospace. Two completely different technologies, both extremely interesting. And in the process, Mojave Airport is likely to become the first non-governmental spaceport in the world.

Tuesday, 25 May 2004


I found about Geekcorps today. To quote them: "A US-based, non-profit organization, we place international technical volunteers in developing nations. We contribute to local IT projects while transferring the technical skills needed to keep projects moving after our volunteers have returned home." So if you are a geek, you have at least a month to spare, you want to see the world and contribute to a developing community while doing it, then go and register. It sounds like a great idea for at least part of my sabatical this year!

UNIX History

Following a link on Slashdot, I came accross this (simplified!) history of UNIX. The time line includes all major variants and can be downloaded as a PDF that prints on 17 sides of A4. The interesting thing on this graph is that the number of different variants seems to be going down rather than up. Could it mean that some expensive proprietary variants are being phased out in favour of Linux? As if further proof was needed, Solaris has been moving towards Linux compatibility for some time and IBM has been seriously pushing Linux, to the point where it is now easier to find references to Linux than AIX on their own site and they are spending millions on it! Even Apple's Mac OS X is now a variant of UNIX. The battle against Windows is only just beginning.

Monday, 24 May 2004


A week ago, I met in the pub some instructors from the London School of Diving and discovered they were within walking distance from where I live. I've been wanting to dive since I did a couple of dives in Cozumel, Mexico. So on Saturday I went to LSD and got my PADI Open Water Diver learning pack. So I'm now reading through it and should do the practice bit in two weeks time. So hopefully, I'll soon be in the water!

Friday, 21 May 2004

Picture test

Reflection of the Taj Mahal in one of the pools, at sunset

Reflection of the Taj Mahal in one of the pools, at sunset Posted by Hello

I just found this great little piece of software, called Hello. It allows you to publish images on, whether your blog is actually hosted on or on your own server. Very nifty! So I just tried with an image I took of the Taj Mahal during a trip to India last month. And as you can see, it works great. Even better, Hello is free of charge. It is developed by a company called Picasa and you might want to also check out their main software, also called Picasa: it is a rather nice tool to sort your pictures, albeit not free.

Working from home

I've been working from home today, which is nice. As my job requires me to communicate with the rest of the team a lot, it is usually easier to be in the office. But occasionally when, like today, I've got something to do that I can do in isolation, then I can take the laptop home and work form here. It means no commuting so an extra hour in bed in the morning!

No Croatia

Ok, the trip to Croatia looks like it's not going to happen after all. There are no boats available the 2 weeks we wanted. The other possibility is to go to Greece but I'm not really interested on the groungs that I have been there before. Ah well, maybe next year! In the meantime, I have to find out what I will do in august. I might still go to Croatia but not sailing. Or maybe somewhere completely different altogether.

Thursday, 20 May 2004

Mighty Quill

If you aspire to become an author or are interested in reading prospective author's work, go to the Mighty Quill. Excellent idea and has the potential to become a great tool for new authors.

Wednesday, 19 May 2004

I want one of those!

If you're looking for the ultimate fun and mostly useless gadgets, go to Amongst the useless favourites, the swearing punch bag, the aspirin cufflinks and a whole flotilla of remote controlled planes, cars, bikes and even submarines!

Tuesday, 18 May 2004

They are not evil

If you're into your music and you haven't tried Magnatune before, I suggest you do so. It is an independant web-based label. So the deal is you go onto their web site, browse artits, listen to some of their music online and if you like it buy the album. You pay whatever you think is fair for the album ($5 is the minimum) and you can use PayPal or any major credit card network. Once you've paid, you can download the album in a variety of formats depending on the quality you want, from 128kbps MP3 to perfect quality WAV files. You can also license the music for playing in public. As they say on the web site: they are not evil.

Monday, 17 May 2004

Everything but the most important

Right, as mentioned yesterday, I went to Selfridges tonight to see what was all the fuss about their Brasil 40° event, hoping I'd find some information on how to visit Brazil. They had absolutely everything: artwork from Brazil, a bar that served Brazilian drinks, books on Brazil, you name it. The only thing they didn't have was what I was looking for: a travel section on Brazil... Apart from travel guides that you can find in any bookshop... Considering Selfridges alledgedly partnered with British Airways and Varig, amongst others, to organise this event, I find it a bit stupid not to have a special section on travelling to and around the country. And it's not as if the resident British Airways Travel Shop could have helped: they had all their brochures on display except the South American one. I will not try to understand, I will just go to a travel agent.


Ananova is a cool news web site. In particular, I love their Quirkies section that tells unlikely stories from around the world. Top of the list today are stories about bikinis and pay rises, the most expensive omelette ever and a sneezing injury.

Sunday, 16 May 2004


I just found how to activate comments on Blogger so don't hesitate to comment on what I post, I've configured it so that anybody could do so.

Brasil, Croatia and Brittany

Because I'm entitled to a sabatical holiday this year, I've got lots of holidays to take: the normal 5 weeks plus an extra 8 weeks. So, I was planning to go to Brasil for the whole month of October and go to Salvador, Rio, Sao Paulo, the Iguaçu falls and possibly a few other places like Manaus. And yesterday, going past Selfridges, I realise that they have a special feature on Brasil at the moment, with a reproduction of Rio's Christ the Redeemer statue that covers the façade of the store. So I'll have to go to Selfridges this week. I want to go to Brasil because I have a few friends living there and also because I find it one of the most appealing countries to visit. And also, the superb book called Unforgettable places to see before you die includes Rio and the Iguaçu Falls. This book simply lists and describes 40 places that the author, Steve Davey, thinks are places you will remember for the rest of your life, either because of their beauty, their atmosphere or any other reason. They are also destinations the average tourist could easily see on a short holiday, so nothing obscure or unreachable. So there you go, that's October sorted.

Now, for August, I mean you have to go on holidays in August. And a friend of mine recently got me in contact with friends who are organising a 2 weeks sailing trip along the coast of Croatia. Now, I've wanted to go to Croatia for a few months, I've even bought the Bradt Travel Guide on Croatia. In particular, I want to go to Dubrovnik on the Dalmatian coast. One of the most beautiful towns on one of the most beautiful coasts in the world, it has to be good. So when someone asks me if I want to go sailing there, the answer has to be yes, yes, yes, and YES!!! Oh, and Dubrovnik is also listed in Unforgettable places... And that's August sorted.

In the meantime, I am also getting organised to go back to my home town, Brest, at the West end of Brittany in Northern France. Every 4 years my home town hosts a huge tall ship meeting in July so I'm going to the 2004 edition between the 10th and 16th of July. If you like traditional sailing ships, this is the place to go. 2000+ ships in the harbour, from the smallest ones to the largest ones, like Sedov or Sørlandet. And because the town of Brest is very good at throwing a party, it should be great fun. So that's July's holidays sorted.

Now, don't get me wrong, I also have a day job that I love but when your company gives you 13 weeks paid holidays in a year, to thank you for being in your 5th year with them, you've got to make the most of it. Some people go skiing, I'd rather travel the world. And now that I have 7 of those 13 weeks booked, I just have to think about the other 6.

Saturday, 15 May 2004

Distributed computing

Everybody knows SETI@home, which is basically a piece of software that you download on your machine and everytime you're not doing anything, it computes stuff to contribute data to the SETI project which is all to do with finding extra-terrestrial life. Other have re-used the same idea for more earthly matters, such as Folding@home that calculates stuff around protein folding, which could eventually be the key to curring some diseases such as Alzheimer's. In both case, you had to download a piece of software on your machine, install it, configure it and run it as a screen saver. Now that's all good and well but the time a machine spends in its screen saver is only a fraction of the time it spends doing nothing. Most users never use 100% of the resources on their machines. Surfing the net or writing email is typically something that takes all the attention of the user but very little machine resources. So, to make use of all those spare cycles, enters Google. They've just come up with Google Compute which works as an add-on for Google Toolbar and uses all those spare cycles that you don't use when browsing the net, in order to contribute to some distributed computing projects, for the moment only Folding@home. The add-on runs as a background task with the lowest priority. As a result, it has no visible effect on the performance of the machine when you use it but it can take advantage of every spare cycle making sure the CPU is always used at 100%. So, download it and contribute your spare cyces to science.

Coping with Windows

This week, I found this article on how to cope with Windows. I've applied most of what it says onto my flatmate's laptop and it makes such a difference! In particular, installing Spybot and running it several times cleaned up so many things that were making the machine a nightmare to work with. Of course, there is always the solution to install Linux instead so I bought CDs of Fedora and Knoppix from Linux Central. At $6.95 and $2.95 a shot respectively, you can't go wrong! Nothing like a good UNIX/Linux variant to have a secure and stable machine. Once I've installed Linux on my machine, it will be time to convince my flatmate that she should install it on her laptop. Now that's a challenge :-)

Amsterdam, Moscow, pictures and a sunny week-end

Is it 2 weeks since my last post? Terrible! Well, Queen's day in Amsterdam was absolutely fantastic! People all over the city centre, markets, music, dancing in the street, you name it. And the weather was just great! One of the best street parties on the planet. Next year, 30th April is a Saturday so no excuse not to go! Oh and I also visited Utrecht that same week-end: very nice little town, great market near the train station.

Since then, I've been back to Amsterdam for a day last Tuesday but for work this time. I will probably end up back there for a day again next week or the week after. There are also talks of sending me to Moscow 2 days beginning of June. That would be great, I've never been! We'll see.

Great news 2 days ago: someone in Brasil is interested in using one of my pictures from Damon's gallery for a project that they have. I always find it very gratifying when someone finds one of my pictures good enough to be used in their work. If you haven't visited the gallery, have a look: it's got more than 10,000 pictures, sounds, videos, etc. free to download. Some of the stuff there is really fantastic (and I'm not saying this because I am one of the many contributors).

But for now, it's the week-end! Yipee! And the weather is fantastic here in London. Methinks, I'm going to go out, to Kew Gardens for a nice relaxing walk. If you've never been to Kew Gardens and you're in London, you don't know what you're missing: go there!