“Exposé” for Gnome/X11

Trying to locate a particular window that has got buried under all the other windows that invariably fill my desktop is always a pain in the neck, but the latest version of Mac OS X has a very cool feature called “exposé” which shows snapshots of all your current windows at one time, and allows you to switch between them.

Unfortunately I’m yet to be completely converted to the Mac world, but now there is skippy, an implementation of the feature for any Gnome or NetWM compliant X11 window manager. The author hasn’t released a .deb, but I found one at: http://www.debian.org.hk/~glee/deb/skippy/ — unfortunately currently down so I’ve mirrored it. It’s rather slow, especially when taking the initial snapshot of all your windows, but most definitely cool. Performance is rumoured to be much improved if you are using FreeDesktop.org‘s Xserver.

Funny goings-on in the world of print-media?

It’s been a bit of a funny weekend in the newspaper world. First is the shocking news that the venerable Times is going fully-tabloid from Monday!

While I’m hoping the content of The Times won’t make a similar shift from broadsheet to tabloid, this week’s NTK highlighted that The Guardian, of all newspapers, has recently been advocating the traditionally Neo-Conservative policy of regime change. Alas, the Americans seem less than keen on Guardian-style regime change.

Upcoming Seminars

I’ve grown rather sceptical about attending seminars lately as often about half way through I find myself thinking that the time might be better spent reading the associated paper instead! However I am rather tempted to attend the following:

Freshers’ Week in review

Another year, and another freshers’ week (well, fortnight for us grads 🙂 ) gone by… This was the first year I haven’t been involved in organising things — starting in January meant my first freshers’ week was also the first year I was on the GradSoc committee and seeing it from the other side was very interesting. Undoubtedly the best bit was that I got to enjoy it to the full — being able to just turn up and enjoy events without having to set up, clear up, serve drinks, etc was very nice!
Continue reading “Freshers’ Week in review”

GMail Atom Feed

This is cool — liferea (Linux Feed Reader) news says that Google provides Atom feeds with a list of new messages in your gmail account! https://gmail.google.com./gmail/feed/atom

Unfortunately https:// can’t be accessed directly by liferea, but you can use an external tool such as wget or curl to grab the feed — liferea supports this directly, or you could download it via a cronjob if your favourite feed reader does not.

“Ultimate” Hangover Cure

A lot of Jesus grads (me included!) were wandering around yesterday looking slightly…. “tired” after Friday night’s GradHall. While I’m normally quite a cynic when it comes to “miracle cures” Ed made me this fantastic drink which really did make me feel substantially better after a whole pint of it! Cheers, mate!

The rest of that site is pretty interesting too. Obviously this being the Internet one can’t take it as being 100% true and accurate, but the stuff on buying a computer isn’t bad (although quite dated now). And the drink was very good! 🙂

Open season on hard disks?

In the last month hard disks in three of the machines I use regularly have had hard disk failures — the SRCF, my lab machine and now my laptop. Whilst worrying from a data integrity point of view, it is interesting that all three machines are approximately 2.5 years old, and running pretty much 24 hours a day (even my laptop generally gets left on over night). An indication that hard drives with three year warranties are an excellent investment perhaps? It has also been a well-timed reminder of the importance of backups!

Round a about | Metafilter

A few days ago, MetaFilter carried a stroy about the incredibly bizarre “Magic Roundabout” in Swindon. Having driven around this a couple days a week a few summers ago (albeit, taking the first left exit each time!!) I can assure people it’s not nearly as bad as it looks!

A few of the comments on that story are about other slightly strange local-driving regulations. My own favourite was the roundabout just outside Halifax, Nova Scotia. (Google tells me its correct name is the Armdale Rotary.) The first problem is that the entrace to the roundabout is controlled by a traffic light which has both the red and green lights illuminated. Fortunately there are about a million signs telling you that this means, “yield and proceed”, although apparently making this clear came at the cost of having any navigational signs to tell the already confused driver which exit they want… Thankfully for me, there was already a car on the roundabout so I thought I would have at least a few seconds to solve this second puzzle, but no! I had failed to account for the incredible niceness of Canadians (and Haligonians in particular were incredibly friendly) and the car stopped to let me in.

I survived to tell the tale, but apparently this is quite usual behaviour for this bizarre traffic junction, as the Halifax Herald explains:

It’s not just the contradictory traffic signals – red light, green arrow – that will furrow your brow, but the driving habits of Haligonians. Motorists who are already on the traffic circle will actually stop to let you in. You don’t know if they are just being overly polite – further evidence of quaintness, perhaps? – or if they are ignorant of the rules of the road.

While on the subject of Swindon, I’ve recently been introduced to the excellent and very funny books by Jasper Fforde which are set in Swindon (well, sort-of… You’ll understand when you read them!).

New domain name — toobusyto.org.uk

It’s taken me quite a long time, but I have finally bitten the bullet and decided to part with some cash to secure myself a permanent home in cyberspace. So, from yesterday you can now access this site at: http://www.toobusyto.org.uk. All the old links should continue to work — many thanks to Kyle for helping me to debug the transition.

You can also send me mail using nathan at this domain (drop the leading www), although all my existing e-mail addresses will also continue to work.

September

From join-the-dots:

One of the lesser-known facts about academia is that the summer is far more conducive to research than any other time of year.

Related to this seems to be the fact that there are an awful lot of conference paper submission deadlines around September time. In my field of interest, PerCom and TRECK are this week, and ICDCS, where I am hoping to submit a paper, is the end of the month. I’m not sure if this is cause or effect, but aiming for one of these conferences has certainly been good motivation for me to do lots of work in the last few months!

What’s really worrying me is that it is September already!! Like Hanna, my summer so far has been fairly productive, but I still haven’t achieved as much as I would have liked and with the new term, and my self-imposed “start writing-up” deadline, only a month away, it seems unlikely I will have time to explore all the areas I really want to. 🙁 Such is life though, I guess…

PS: Hanna — I’d love to hear more about your research in your blog, maybe it will even inspire me to get my own done a little bit faster! 🙂

Why DRM means everyone loses

This talk about DRM by Cory Doctorow does a really good job of breaking down the various arguments for DRM systems and explaining not only why attempts to use DRM to prevent piracy are doomed to fail, but also why DRM is a bad idea for all the major players, not just the pirates it is supposed to foil.

The talk also makes reference to the Darknet paper which also provides a fascinating insight into the future of content distribution. Ironically this is written by four Microsoft employees, which just goes to show that MS really does have some smart people working for them.

Spam, spam, spam…

No, this isn’t a rant about the vast amounts of unsolicited junk I receive on a daily basis, it’s about two research papers I have recently written on anti-spam tools.

Last week I learnt that a paper I had written based on the work of one of my part II project students had been accepted for publication in ACM Crossroads magazine. The topic was using a peer-to-peer network to distribute spam “fingerprints” to allow the detection of junk e-mail — like Vipul’s Razor but using a DHT for distributing the information, and a reputation system based on SECURE.

The editors made some very helpful comments that I think really helped to improve the final version which was good, and while producing the requested XHTML mark-up for submission was an absolute pain compared to LaTeX, it does mean I have a pretty good idea of how the online version will look. The next step is the dreaded copy-editing… It probably won’t be too bad as I know the quality of my writing isn’t great, but the last two articles I’ve been involved with have had quite subtle but serious changes made to them by copy-editors and you have to be very sharp to make sure they don’t change the meaning of something.

The second article I worked on last week was a collaboration with Jm from TCD on raising the level of trust in legacy plain-text e-mail addresses. The techniques we use are quite interesting, and I think fairly novel, although there is an awful lot of literature on spam out there at the moment so it’s hard to keep on top of it all. We submitted to the Privacy, Security and Trust conference in New Brunswick, Canada, so fingers crossed for that one.

Anyway, after all this, I’m quite bored of spam now! Alas, there’s a project deliverable deadline coming up and since the consortium have chosen spam as one of our key applications, I guess my respite will be short lived… 🙁