Colin's Journal

Colin's Journal: A place for thoughts about politics, software, and daily life.

November 15th, 2002

Harry Potter

It’s that time of year again: Harry Potter is back, and tomorrow I’ll be standing inline ready to see it.

My impression had been that the media blitz this year has been a lot lower key – and so I expected it not to do as well. So much for that thought, at least in the UK it’s picking up some serious attention.

I suppose the lack of stuff about it in the media shows that there is a point where advertising, in all it’s different forms, is not needed anymore. It’s going to sell – so there’s no point pushing it any harder!

November 14th, 2002

Plans for my website

It’s time to plan out changes to my website, especially now that it’s easier to maintain. Firstly I’m going to try and post more entries to my journal. I’ve built up a usable weblog program now, so I should use it. This also means that I will quickly learn what extra features I want, and so in this frame of mind here’s my current wish list:

  • Adding support for perma-links. I already have all the information required – I just need to make it available to the templates.
  • A more generic template/url mapping. Specifically I would like to be able to have the title and date of the last post (and possibly a few taster lines) on the front page of my website.
  • Support for images. This is a slightly difficult one – it means that the content of the weblog needs to either have expanding variables, or support TAL. That in turn means it would be better if all of the entries where written in XHTML rather than HTML so that the missing close tags don’t cause issues for the TAL parser.
  • Support for toggling between HTML and Structured text. Entering web posts in structured text would make life easier – but I would still need to be able to switch to HTML for those occasions where I need something more complex.

I doubt I’ll get the last two done any time soon – but I can probably do the first two easily.

November 12th, 2002

Work Visa

Some very good news, which justifies another post, is that my work visa for next year has come through! This is always a nervous time of year because although there is no reason why my visa should not be renewed, there is always that nagging worry until you have it in hand.

November 12th, 2002

Site news

It’s been a busy few days in the life of my website. We are now paying for web hosting with Spenix, which means that we can have a proper website, better control over our email, and access for updates more easily.

This has (so far) been a very painless move – I just setup the new server through a web-based console, and then switched nameservers. The results are propagating through the DNS system – and soon the old version can be taken down!

Another big change is to move my weblog to a new system. My old one was based on a custom Java app that uses XSLT to populate the templates, and had a custom Swing GUI as the front end.

I’ve now written a new one in Python which uses wxPython for the front end, and a template language called TAL. TAL is used in Zope, but the implementation I’m using is written from scratch (I don’t want any Zope dependencies).

I’ve converted all my old weblog to the new system using a mixture of XSLT, Shell scripting, macros, and python. The result is that the old posts all look like they were made at 8pm, because the old system didn’t allow multiple posts in one day.

The final thing I need to do now is to create a couple of real templates so that the new weblog integrates with the old site properly…

October 31st, 2002

Today I recieved a joint Halloween card. It’s the first time I think I’ve ever received a Halloween card – it’s just not an event that seems suitable for sending cards about.

In other news I’ve been updating some UML diagrams (I had the arrows the wrong way around!), and also making some changes to my WebLog editing system. It’s an incremental, behind the scenes, type change – but hopefully it’ll be a step in the right direction.

October 27th, 2002

Last night I went to a peculiar event called “The Night Of Dread”. Becky had been last year, and so asked if anyone would like to meet up for it, so I went along. It was fairly pleasant out given the time of year, we had an erratic breeze, but no rain and it was fairly warm. We went to Dufferin Grove Park where it is held as the last light of the evening began to die away.

As we got there we saw two small camp fires, and a larger bonfire surrounded by stakes driven into the ground. Each stake had a piece of card attached to it with a “dread” – for example there was “war”, “taxes”, among others. We sat around for a while on a bench next to one of the camp fires while people were busy milling around and organising things for when the parade got back to the park. The parade had set out prior to our arrival and was travelling around the local neighbour-hood.

When the parade entered the park we went to see it, and were met with a set of superb costumes, stilt walkers, and large puppets (twice the height of a person!). They formed a circle while drums where playing, and then danced around in the circle as they were called out. Each costume represented a dread, although there was no direct symbolism between the dread and the costume.

Once the dance was done we walked back with the puppets to the main bonfire, where a shaman character then picked up each stake in turn, and threw it on the fire. This was followed by a dance of the dead, with a group of people dressed all in white with faces hidden behind masks, dancing around to the music and with people that were watching.

After all this there was then a small parade around the circle of two whole pigs that had been roasted. These were then cut up, and soup was served from over the two smaller fires. I had a couple of cups of soup and one of the legs off the pig – there’s not much meat on pig leg!

October 23rd, 2002

I have recently taken the time to learn how to use GnuCash, and I have to say that it gives a satisfying sense of control over my finances. Of course it doesn’t actually change how much money you have – but it allows you to see what you have in one place. Additionally it handles multiple currencies in a fairly painless way (although it could be better still!), which is extremely useful to me.

In some other news – I’m taking another look at my content manager system and trying to see what I can do to enhance the current system. I’m thinking of a simplified version that defaults all of the options available in the full version, so making it easier to use.

October 12th, 2002

This is the first update on my weblog in a very long time. I think it’s about time I started updating this again, and maybe fix some of the bugs in my home-grown weblog system.

On to the major reason for this posting! I’ve finally managed to upgrade the memory of my home computer. It did have 128MB, and now it has 320. I wanted to add 256MB, but as the following tale will tell,I was unable to get that working.

I started off by getting a new processor (a P3 450) to make my machine feel a little snappier, and to max-out the current motherboard. My next upgrade will be a new machine – at least that’s the plan. As I was adding a new processor, and given how cheap memory is, I thought I’d pickup a 256MB DIMM as well. When I got home I found that the DIMM didn’t work – I got an error from my BIOS during the memory test.

I exchanged the memory for another module of the same type, but on getting home this didn’t work either – so my motherboard is not compatible with this type of memory. The next day I exchanged again, this time for a different brand but otherwise similar spec. This didn’t work either! Today I decided to instead get 2 128MB DIMMS, which means I had to remove a 64MB – but at least I now have a working memory upgrade!

I think that this machine is now as upgraded as it’s going to get. The only thing left is to get a quieter CPU fan, and then I can call it done and move to a new box!

May 22nd, 2002

Just a test posting. It’s not like I’ve updated this is such a long time that no-one would ever bother reading it anyway.

This is really much better than any of the other weblog solutions out there – honest. Unless you need spell checking of course. Of a GUI. Or other such little details.

March 17th, 2002

The conclusion to the Barcelona summit yesterday was a good demonstration of what is wrong with the UK’s approach to the EU. This BBC article on Tony Blair’s response to the summit included this paragraph: Mr Blair accepted many of the reforms agreed by EU leaders would be seen by the broader public as “nerdy” and only of interest to European “anoraks”.

So where are the spin doctors when you need them? It’s no wonder that Brits have no idea what Europe is for or why the EU is important with such statements coming from our own prime minister. Here’s a list of the points that Mr Blair should have made:

  • Agreement to open up the energy market for business consumers across the EU. This is important for the UK because it will open up whole new markets for our businesses, leading to job creation and wealth, while at the same time driving down the cost of doing business in the UK and other parts of the EU.
  • EU-wide health card. This will ensure that all Brits travelling in the EU and/or working there can be confident in the knowledge that they are covered if they fall ill.
  • The go-ahead for the Galileo system. This will provide many different industries with the opportunity to use a GPS system with a guaranteed level of service, and will also secure the EU’s (and therefore) the UK’s independence from the US for this ability.

With so many positive things coming out of this meeting, and several elements that voters in the UK can directly relate to, why was Tony Blair not more positive and forth coming with his pronouncements? Instead he seems to be confirm that no-one in Britain should care about what the EU is doing.

Copyright 2015 Colin Stewart

Email: colin at