A new Amiga — better late than never?

A review of the new Amiga hardware and software: The Micro-AmigaOne and Amiga OS4 Developer Prerelease via [MeFi]

My first computer was an Amiga 500, and what a fantastic machine it was — although snail-like in terms of raw number of MHz by today’s standards, it felt quick and responsive, and while many people remember it for its awesome gaming credentials, the OS was also powerful and easy to use.

Reading the article about the new Amiga, I experienced a pleasant feeling of nostalgia for my Amiga using days. Interestingly the article highlights that one of the problems with the new machine is the one application area where I always thought the Amiga to be weak, word processing software. Of course these days, provided there was a decent LaTeX implementation I wouldn’t need a word processor, but for many people it remains one of their most frequently used applications.

So is there a future for the Amiga? Given that I bought my first PC ten years ago this summer, I suspect that this new product comes at least 10 years too late. However, in his conclusion the author remarks how well the system works on what is practically PDA-level hardware. Could the Amiga find itself another profitable niche in the PDA/mobile phone market? The story of BeOS suggests there is little room for another player in the desktop market, but I’m sure there are plenty of former Amiga-owners who would love to be able to dual boot into a new version of AmigaOS if there was a inexpensive x86 port.

Anti-Comment-Spam and Other WordPress Plugins

Over the Christmas vacation this blog was spammed repeatedly, particularly annoying since I was on a dial-up connection that made downloading all the comment notification emails annoying if nothing else! It seems this is quite a common problem and as usual Google provided an excellent resource for tackling the problem. Read on for a detailed description of what solutions I have employed, but like all anti-spam methods there is always the possibility of false positives, please do let me know if your comment appears to get lost in the ether.

Continue reading “Anti-Comment-Spam and Other WordPress Plugins”

Installing Debian Sarge onto a Dell Inspiron 8100

A while ago I reported that I had experienced a hard drive failure on my laptop which necessitated purchasing a new one and re-installing the operating system (Debian). I had been hearing some very good things about the new Debian Installer and so gave it a whirl.

The reputation is well deserved as the new installer is excellent: easy to use, yet with plenty of “expert” options when I needed them — for example both 2.4 and 2.6 kernels were offered as options. I was also impressed as the install was considerably smoother than my previous one. There are still issues with the PCMCIA detection on my Dell, and I had to disable apic and lapic probing to prevent the machine hanging while it was unpacking files. The command I booted with was:
expert26 acpi=off noapic nolapic
although in hindsight the acpi=off was probably unnecessary as ACPI worked fine “out of the box” when I subsequently rebooted.

One problem that I did encounter was that by default both the OSS and ALSA sound drivers were loaded, which prevented me from hearing anything properly. I’m not sure what the correct solution to this problem is, but a fairly simple hack was to add the line:
alias maestro3 snd-maestro3
to /etc/modprobe.d/sound. I also needed to delete the file /etc/modprobe.conf as, if it exists, it takes precedence over the modprobe.d directory.

WordPress 1.2 and the SRCF

Using the letter “é” in my previous post caused considerable problems for my blogging setup. Firstly I noticed that while I’ve configured WordPress to use UTF-8, pages were still being sent as iso-8859-1. This is a known problem with the majority of apache configurations.

Unfortunately the two suggested solutions in the bug report will not work for me. AddDefaultCharset utf-8 only works for text/html pages, not php and php_value default_charset "utf-8" doesn’t get passed through the srcf-cgi-handler, a known bug with this otherwise rather useful setup.


Although I can’t see where this is documented, copying /etc/php4/cgi/php.ini to your wordpress directory allows you to locally change the php4 settings for php files in that directory. Sadly this mechanism is not as flexible as .htaccess so you also need to copy (or symlink) the file into the wordpress/wp-admin directory to make the changes apply to the admin interface too. Once you have done this it is then possible to set: default_charset = "utf-8" and all your php pages will now use utf-8 encoding.

RSS Feeds

At this point my feed reader no longer gave errors for my RSS feed but Feed Validator still complained that my feeds weren’t 100% proper. This was fixed with some very minor editing of the wp-rss2.php and wp-rss.php files, changing the line:
header('Content-type: text/xml', true);
header('Content-type: text/xml; charset=utf-8', true);

While hacking this file I noticed another problem with RSS feeds which is specific to the srcf-cgi-handler. Often when the feed hadn’t changed I was getting a “500: Internal Server Error” instead of the expected “304: Not Changed”. This turned out to be because PHP is running in “CGI mode” and sending raw HTTP headers is not permitted. Further hacking of wp-rss2.php as described in the SRCF FAQ seems to have solved the problem. Fortunately this is only a problem with the version of PHP4 in Debian woody so will go away once sarge is released.

“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.

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.

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.

Another reason to switch to Firefox

From the ucam-webmasters mailing list — yet another reason to switch to Firefox:

After application of SP2 to Windows XP there seems to be an interaction that we haven’t yet managed to isolate, which causes html files sent from IE to the validator at validator.w3.org (by either method) to be given the mime type of text. This causes validation to fail. To get round this difficulty, we suggest that you use another browser, such as Mozilla/Firefox or Opera. If you are producing web pages, the web developers toolbar for Mozilla/Firefox allows you to validate directly, as well as all sorts of other useful functionality.

The e-mail goes on to say that Mozilla is now available on the Cambridge Public Workstation Facility (PWF) — although my housemate said he couldn’t find it when he looked last week! No mention of firefox though, but they do have Opera which I have heard many people rave about.

12:15pm: Another e-mail on the same list. Apparently the problem only effects file-uploads — submitting the URI into the webform works fine.

What is the JCN?

Someone should rewrite the About JCN page to be:

“I was at the JCN BBQ. Incredible experience… I think they must be the only set of people who would have a barbeque with three computers, a webcam, a network connection and hub, and no means of lighting the barbeque… 🙂 So they all clustered round the computer trying to persuade it to install OS2 Warp (don’t ask), whilst one eminently practical person went off to Odbins to buy matches.” — rpc25

Rhythmbox and Debian… Finally!

After what seems like months of waiting, a usable version of rhythmbox is finally in Debian sarge. 🙂

Rhythmbox screenshot

One problem I did have with it is that it uses gstreamer0.8 which at present can only be configured via gconf-editor — confusingly the gstreamer-properties command would only configure version 0.6 as I now appear to have two versions of gstreamer installed on my system. Anyway, I fired up gconf-editor, went to system / gstreamer / 0.8 / default, changed the value for audiosink to esdsink and all now works nicely.

Bad Borg Jokes

So while I was reviewing my old website content I (re)discovered this collection of very bad borg jokes. Some of them are still quite funny so I thought I would post them again. Note: I take no credit (or perhaps, blame!) for these as they were all collected from the web many, many moons ago.

  • Yoda of Borg are we: Futile is resistance. Assimilate you, we will.
  • I am Rachel of BORG, I will drive you away to be assimiliated by some other borg’ette and make you feel like it was YOUR fault.
  • We are Pentium of Borg: Division is fultile. You will be approximated.
  • We are Homer of Borg. Resistance is futile. You will be assimmm… Mmmmmm Donuts.
  • New Starfleet – tough on assimilation, tough on the causes of assimilation.
  • We are Blue Peter of Borg. Here’s one we assimilated earlier.
  • Marvin the Robot: “Everything is futile, blah! Universe sucks”.
  • We are Scully of Borg. We are sure there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for your resistance…..
  • I am Blair of Borg. I’ll just check with Peter Mandelson to see our current policy regarding assimilation.
  • I am Obi Wan of Borg. Killing me is futile.
  • We are Billie of Borg. You will be assimilated because we want to, because we want to.
  • I am Emacs of Borg. You will be assimilated. :q is futile.