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 —

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: 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.


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.