Colin's Journal: A place for thoughts about politics, software, and daily life.
There’s an interesting article in the FT by the prime minister of Belgium, Guy Verhofstadt. In it he tackles two different, but interrelated subjects: the current transatlantic gap and the future of NATO. The opinion provided on the first subject is not a surprise, and essentially comes down to lack of evidence to justify a war:
As long as we Europeans feel threatened, the use of war and weapons can more or less be justified. However, without this sentiment, a transatlantic gulf has opened up.
The second part of the article is more interesting however, it tries to explain how a European defence force would help rather than hurt NATO. The argument seems to come down to the current lack of balance in NATO: one country with a huge armed forces, and 18 with small ineffective armed forces. This certainly distorts decision making in the organisation, and reduces the effectiveness of NATO as a mutual defence organisation.
That the armed forces of Europe and north America should be able to work together, and that they should be made available to each other in times of crisis seems like a self evident good. The defence of Europe should, however, be in the hands of Europeans. It simply doesn’t make sense for Europe, a group of countries that can easily afford the required armed forces, to be dependent on a single other country for it’s defence. The development of a European defence force should not lead to any less co-operation between Europe and north America, our mutual security is still of paramount importance to both peoples. It will however make NATO more effective in that the forces provided by Europe would be properly equipped and trained, something that is certainly lacking today.
There have been tentative steps toward a European defence force, and with the recent agreement by Blair and Chirac, it’s possible that we may even see a mutual defence clause in the EU constitution. Despite the difficult politics of the situation I’m hopeful that over time we will continue to see further moves in this direction.
An update to my last post: someone has put together a more serious and useful guide to surviving nuclear blasts. In fact they have good, practical advise on all of the least-likely to happen types of attacks a country could suffer from. Two of my favourites:
If deadly radiation knocks on your door, do not answer.
Don’t get so preoccupied with biological weapons that you forget to put on deodorant.
It looks like Live Journal is having some difficulties with a distributed denial of service attack. We can’t hit any of the LJ servers, except the status page which explains what is going on.
Now for something completely different (I couldn’t think of a better way of introducing this): How to survive a nuclear blast. I’m not entirely sure how anyone could have put up this site and kept a straight face while doing it. It even looks like it really is a genuine US government website, so some poor sod takes this seriously.
For the click impaired, here’s a quick summary:
(via Matthew Yglesias)
There is now a back-port of Gnome 2.2 for Woody. The first challenge of this post is going to be explaining the first sentence, before going on to describe my experience of using this back-port.
Gnome is my desktop of choice for Linux, simply because my experience with KDE was long ago when KDE crashed rather more than I cared for. Woody is the name of the current stable release of Debian, a completely free distribution of Linux. For Debian stable tends to mean no new features, and there only tends to be a stable release once every decade (OK so more like every 2 years, but it feels like it’s a decade if you’re waiting for the next release). To help people who would like to run the stable version of Debian, with all the security updates that go with it, but would also like to use a more updated version of the Gnome desktop, a back-port from an unstable version of Debian has been produced.
I went ahead and installed it, following the instructions for once. The result was that when I tried to bring the desktop back to life, it failed with GDM presenting me with a perpetually blinking dialogue box. I found that there were lots of packages waiting to be upgraded that hadn’t been, so I tried running “apt-get upgrade” a few times, which downloaded and installed a load more stuff. Still the blinking dialogue box though. I tried installing extra packages that are included in the back-port, but which are not strictly required, and still the blinking dialogue. Having read the background “how the port was done” notes I tried a hunch – maybe I needed a newer version of X?
So I added the back-port of XFree86 4.2.1 to my sources and upgraded X. The first attempt only upgraded the server its self and the fonts, not the supporting libraries. A round of “apt-get install” on the held back packages brought in the rest of the libraries, and suddenly the blinking dialogue blinked no more! I’m still not entirely convinced that it was the version of X that was the problem, but I can’t think of what else I changed that would have resolved the problem like that.
A word of warning to anyone trying to move to Gnome 2 for the first time from 1.4: it’s very different. Expect to loose all your favourite panel applets, all your cunning key combos, and some tear off menus. When first logging in you will be offered the option of discarding your existing configuration, or trying to convert it. Just discard it, there is so little kept that it’s not worth the effort. If you do try and convert your configuration expect everything to be screwed up and much fiddling to have to be done.
Apparently the “Lords of the Rhymes” has been around for a few months, but it’s only recently that they’ve added a video. To give you an idea of just what you’re letting yourself in for if you follow the links, I quote:
The video, directed by famed hip-hop director Curufin the Crafty (aka Morgan Barnard)
features a bevy of Middle-Earthian characters, including hobbits, dwarves, ents, elves,
Nazgul, and even a cameo appearance by the Dark Lord Sauron himself.
” There was no half-steppin’ on this one,” said Quickbeam in a statement released yesterday,
” We knew we had to turn it out large and we did.”
I have to thank, once again, Why Do They Call Me Mr Happy for this one. I’ve no idea where Iain finds this stuff, but it’s truly a wonderful way to waist a few moments of the day.
So everyone (or a fairly close approximation to that number) knows that Google bought Pyra, the makers of blogger. On numerous different weblogs you can read educated, and otherwise, guesses as to what the future holds and why Google though it was a good idea. You can even read the initial reaction, in a weblog of course, of the guy who started the company and sealed the deal.
Despite all this however, no one seems to have yet commented on the fact that the news made the front page of the BBC this morning (EST morning that is). Consider that:
Surely this should warrant some kind of record. The challenge now must be for someone to get a company news worthy enough it gets (however briefly) the front page, but with only 5 employees.
The BBC news site is my main source of mainstream news, and I happened to be trying (and failing) to locate a page on it during the roll-out of their new look. It’s nice and clean looking, with plenty of white space around things.
Of course the ” [an error occurred while processing this directive] ” message on most of the pages spoils the effect, but I’m sure that’s a temporary glitch…
Robin suggested that I should add the archives link section to each of the monthly archive pages, so making the task of reading through all the posts that much easier. It’s an easy change, so I’ve done it. I’ve also tweaked the CSS sheets, as I thought I might have to, so that the archive link section should now render in IE reasonably well. The gods of syndication are obviously smiling on me this week, because the LJ feed didn’t screw up as I had feared it might when changing the number of articles in the RSS feed.
I’ve implemented a few changes to my weblog, if anyone has any opinions on them the feedback would be helpful. I’ve extended the main index, and the RSS feed, to have 7 days worth of posts rather than 5. LiveJournal seems to be using a particularly brain-dead RSS aggregator, so I’m sure this change, like all others I’ve done, will screw-up the friends pages again. There’s nothing I can do about it execpt hope that they’ve made some changes, like really parsing the XML and keeping hashes of the posts to work out which entries are new.
The other major change I’ve made is to make monthly archives of the weblog available. I’ve always had perma-links to the individual days worth of posts, but no way of getting to them beyond the index page. My initial plan was to have the archive pages contain just the title of each post, along with an excerpt, and then links to the perma-link page. Instead I’ve made the archive pages hold the full post, with perma-links available in the same way as the index page. The layout may change as I re-think my templates, and I need to check to see whether any of the new pages work in IE.
As you can see from the links, my posting over the years has been somewhat sporadic. It’s only with November 2002 that I’ve really been posting anything worth reading (at least IMHO), but I’m keeping the old stuff around, at least for now.
It’s that time of week again, Monday, so it must be time for yet another release of SimpleTAL! I’ve just uploaded release 2.3 which, this time, addresses just a single defect.
In previous releases there was a problem with using ‘tal:repeat’ over empty lists, namely an exception would be thrown during template expansion. I’ve changed it so that if the list is empty, it will behave in the same way as Zope, and tal:repeat will treat the expression as though it had evaluated to nothing.
Thanks to Barry Pederson for finding and reporting this.
Email: colin at owlfish.com