A Change Of Coffee

Friday of last week I enjoyed my final Costa Cappuccino from the WHSmith at work.It is undergoing a two week refit. I like the taste of Costa coffee. Starbucks tastes awful. Other large coffee chains I can't say I have sampled enough to form an opinion on.

The news of a possible change of coffee (and two weeks without!!) left me troubled (and decaffeinated). Who would be providing my caffeine hit? Today I found out. Wandering past the construction site I noted the name on the sign outside. It would appear we are getting a Coffee House. This is the WHSmith brand of coffee as a little research found a recent article on the subject.

The plus side is that it is not a Starbucks. What will Coffee House coffee be like? I will get to find out in just over another week.

6.5 Years

It has been a long wait, a day that I never thought I would see. This week I was finally able to obtain a parking permit and actually park on-site at work during the week. 6.5 years I have had my name on the waiting list. For all those years I have had an additional commute to a off-site parking spot, walking from and to the car before and after work.

Early indications show that I am saving around 30 minutes a day. Not being stuck in as much queuing traffic is going to result in a slight fuel saving. None of this comes for free however. I get to pay for the privilege of saving myself some time. I suspect the real reason for finally getting a pass is the extra income generated by charging more people. I may have a permit but I am not guaranteed a space to park. So far I have not had a problem finding a place.

To all those people who find that I have taken their parking spot and now park off-site; enjoy the walk!

4AM

4am is a time of day I don't often experience and after this morning I know why. Note to self: When agreeing to take people to the airport make sure they have their travel times worked out.

Following the drop at the local airport I ventured into work for some overtime. Being at work on a Saturday isn't most people's idea of a weekend, but at 5:30am it was hardly the place I wanted to be either. Logging a few jobs I spent the rest of my day feeling shattered, even the odd snooze failed to restore my normal cognitive functions. At least the ironing got done. Tomorrow I can have some extra sleep and take it easy.

Pockets

The past few weeks have been troublesome. A constant scratching on my thigh as my keys pushed though the pocket wall of my work trousers. The temporary fix of micro-pore tape had worked for the last time as the fibres parted ways never to join again.

Today however things were different, a new pair of trousers that had been on standby were put into action. I slid my legs in and hoisted up the black cotton work-wear. Next the moment of truth as the attempt was made to locate button in hole, success the fabric had made it round my middle. I took a few seconds to enjoy the snug fit before selecting the days shirt from the hanger.

The morning routine was proceeding as normal when the time came to place my phone, keys and wallet in their usual pocket slots. I slid my wallet into my pocket as I felt the fabric tighten slightly, my phone and keys took up residence on the other side, their entry too resulting in a snugger fit than before. I looked down to realise what had been a nice fitting pair of trousers had suddenly grown ears bulging outwards. Unable to resolve the predicament I continued on to work in the knowledge that a passer by might quite easily think I was smuggling a Cornish pasty in each pocket.

I now reach the point of this post. Why on earth style a pair of men's trousers with pockets when they are absolutely no use at all to put things in? A few pence of fabric may have been saved increasing the profit margin for the manufacturer; fine do that, but let me pay the few pence extra to have working pockets instead of being one unzip away from an elephant impression.

Time To Relax

It has been a busy few weeks and plenty of overtime worked. This has lead to less time doing interesting development/research things and posting online. The good and bad news is that its end of overtime for a while. Those upon high who count beans have decided the stalk has been harvested too much and needs time to recover. So I will find myself with more time and my dream of sound insulation and carpets will move steadily into the distant future. I suppose I can't complain about being able to lie in an extra morning.

Portable Apps & Portable Python

So I wanted to do some programming in python whilst at work I could have used my netbook but its size can make it difficult to work on for serious code generation. So my decision was to use Portable Apps from a USB memory stick, Portable Apps does not include Python in its package listing. A quick scout about with a popular search engine showed Portable Python as a solution a current Python version bundled with some handy modules.

The easy bit is to use the Windows installer for each package to install them on the memory stick, Portable Apps installed first and then Portable Python into the root of the drive. Setting up the working environment is the next task. Portable Python includes a couple of Python Shells but what would be better is integrating them into the command line. Installing Command Prompt Portable is the answer, this is a command line on the USB stick to which the batch file it runs at startup can be altered to allow the Python Path to be set.

The batch file is located for me at M:/PortableApps/CommandPromptPortable/Data/Batch/commandprompt.bat.
This is my bat file.

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@echo off
set PYTHONHOME=%~d0\PortablePython_1.1_py2.6.1\App\
set PATH=%PATH%;%~d0\PortablePython_1.1_py2.6.1\App\;%~d0\PortablePython_1.1_py2.6.1\App\Scripts;%~d0\Documents
color 07
prompt $p$g
title My Command Prompt
cls
ver
cd\

Lines 2 & 3 are the ones I added, they add the path to Python on the USB stick. Note the "%~d0" this picks up the drive letter from the location of the bat file. As its on the memory stick it takes that drive letter. Coding it in this way means that no matter what drive letter the USB stick is given it will always set the correct paths. The paths have basically been set to allow Python access to the Python executable itself, its scripts directory and the Documents location for user scripts.

November Update

As usual it has taken me until the end of the month to get round to posting something. Normally this is just an update of the mail server saga or something about a site update. Not wanting to miss out such information that will follow. More interesting news is that I am changing my job, moving from a Field Engineer covering the entire country to something a little more localised. It should mean that I have a bit more of a life outside work; about time too.

Now the mail server is still working and I need to keep working on it to ensure stability and security but its mostly running itself. The website as a whole needs a few tweaks, the design is looking a little old. I am thinking of moving to a darker theme. Currently viewing the site in a darkened room on a 24" monitor is quite blinding. Something less intense and more readable is in order.

Since I am on holiday this week I may get some changes rolled out sooner rather than later.

May and Mailservers

May 2008 has been somewhat uneventful on the traveling front, work has mainly taken my to and from the office (3 miles a day). On the plus side being based at home I have invested some time into trying to setup a mail server. Now setting up a mail server was never going to be an easy task, the fact that I still don't have a working setup after several weeks of attempts is testament to this.

I did discover one solution that may be of use to somebody wishing to setup a headless server. ClarkConnect is a modular server and gateway operating system which can be setup for your needs. There are commercial and community editions available, I tried the community edition. What was obvious for the brief test installation is how polished ClarkConnect is; but you would expect this from an established commercial product. The fact that as a home user I can use this product for free is fantastic. ClarkConnect is linux based but its essentially a highly customised single purpose distribution. You can't for example install a gnome desktop on it, its a headless server and as such is a web interface for the server processes only. If I wasn't wanting to run non-server applications on the same machine as the mailserver then ClarkConnect would be my first choice for a simple and secure home server setup. Give it a try.

When I finally get a solution for my own mailserver setup I'll try to create an install guide, I've not found a good guide yet so I may as well try and create one.

Time for another update

It has been many weeks since my last post, as usual I have been busy with many things and often away from net access. So time for a little news. The site has been upgraded to the latest version of wordpress. Given that its taken me less than a week to apply an upgrade isn't bad for me.

The upgrade didn't go exactly to plan however. I decided I would investigate what was taking up about 35 Megs of server space. It turned out that all the email I recieve through this domain had correctly been forwarded to my other email account, but also had a copy sitting on the server. Over 4500 emails mainly spam needed to be deleted and here the problems started. Not content with being able to delete 20 items at a time i decided to try 999. It appeared to start well, then DN vanished. The server decided it wouldn't serve the site any more. Ok, 5 mins and it should be back up I thought; try more like 15-20. As you can imagine when something like this happens it is natural to have a slight panic, I was considering what to say to the hosting provider in the morning should things still be unresolved. In the end DN came back to life, I could relax and you could once again enjoy a site that might not get another post for the best part of a month. On the email removal front removing a smaller quantity at a time allowed me to clear the backlog.

Over the past few days I have been working on a little configuration guide for a Gentoo emerge logging feature. It's for my own reference really but I think I might add it as a page and share with you out there in internet land. Then there is also my iptables firewall script which may make it onto the site one day but needs more work first.

I don't have any major plans to overhaul the site at this time, its too time consuming to do that. If I can get into the right frame of mind I might make a few tweaks to a few areas, the links page could do with more than two links to Dilbert.

I Hate London

On Friday afternoon I needed to visit a surgery, walk in, pick up two items and walk out. Parking was not available so i stopped in a residents parking bay. I wasn't going to be there long and it was a quiet street. After being in there 5 minutes and returning to my car I had picked up a parking fine. I was not a happy bunny.

Imagine my delight when I open the post this morning and find another penalty charge notice. This time I've not been ticketed by a warden but caught on camera stopping in a yellow box whilst in a queue of traffic the Friday the week before (again in London). A slight misjudgement on my part leads me to another fine.

In my defence the roads around the capital are a joke. If they had been planned better or certainly reworked they wouldn't be in the mess they currently are. The parking situation is terrible, i can understand residents areas for use by the local people, but during the day those spaces can remain empty and business users who could use them for a while are not allowed and are forced to fight for meter spaces with a 4 hour limit. How am I supposed to do a 9-5 job in 4 hours? I end up having to find another meter far enough away that I don't get caught by the "no return within X hours" clause.

How many more fines are in the post? Hopefully none. I'm just pissed that for 3 and a bit months I've been on the road not getting any and on my last week before moving to spend more time in the office picking up 2.

The Before ShotThe After Shot