Unless there’s a big solar flare!

I was just listening to The Angry Atheist episode 37 interview with The Godless Bastard and i was highly amused by this exchange.

Somehow they got talking about the internet and our reliance upon it.

– It’s almost like a drug … my world comes to a screeching halt without the internet … we just become so dependent on the technology, i mean, how the hell do we get by without it? That’s what i want to know.

– We don’t have to. We’re never gonna have to. It’s always gonna be there!

– Yep, i know, i know!

– Unless there’s a big solar flare!

– That’s right, that’s right, it’ll take everything out!

I have heard the sun is getting more active at the moment, and solar flares are becoming more common and more powerful. Part of me really wants to see what would happen if a big solar flare takes down all our telephones, television and internet. How will we behave when cut off from the wider world? Would we turn to our local communities for support? I like to hope we would.

I have a few close friends locally, but i always think that i could have many more friends in my neighbourhood if it didn’t just seem so weird to go and introduce myself. I think it might take something drastic like a solar flare to get us off our computers, out of our safe little houses and connect with the people around us.

"It All Comes Tumbling Down" lyrics

Oh, wow, Right Said Fred, great song you made here – an election anthem for the Lib Dems! I love the lyrics and the tune is so catchy!

Watch the video here: “It All Comes Tumbling Down” by Right Said Fred

Here are the lyrics:

Does Brown look elected to you?
He was just next in the queue.
Give us a shot, cos we’re sick of this lot!
Does Brown look elected to you?

Are you all tired of the norm?
Well now is the time for reform
There’s nothing strange about fairness and change
It’s just that you’ve never had it before

It’s been a party of two, well change is long overdue
And now it all comes tumbling down
Vinny and Nick – you know they won’t miss a trick
Because they’re clean and sound as a pound

It’s been a party of two, just the reds and the blues
But now it all comes tumbling down
Cameron, Brown, take a look at them now
We’re gonna run those cats out of town!

So gird up your loins and prepare
There’s an almighty change in the air
Just put a cross in the bright yellow box
There ain’t nothing else to compare

It’s been a party of two, well change is long overdue
And now it all comes tumbling down
Vinny and Nick – you know they won’t miss a trick
They’re clean and sound as a pound

It’s been a party of two, well change is long overdue
And they won’t leave you with a bill
We’re the Lib Dems – we’re your family of friends
We can and you know we will!

It’s been a party of two, just the reds and the blues
Now it all comes tumbling down
Cameron and Brown, take a look at them now
We’re gonna run those cats out of town!

I love it so much!

We’re the Lib Dems – we’re your family of friends! So totally awesome! :D

don't you just love an awesomesauce #tupperwarebox

This weekend the world went mad for Tupperware Boxes.

Key output:

Some rather bizarre songs:

My dog’s favourite thing is my #tupperwarebox, it’s full of treats and nom, she behaves so well when it’s around, I think I’ll tie it on.

I’ve got a massive #tupperwarebox it’s got a special lid that clicks and locks

Come on and let’s rock! Everybody let’s rock! Everybody in the whole cell block was dancing to the #tupperwarebox!

How I love my little #tupperwarebox! You can a-store my cheese, you can a-sit on my knees, feels like a picnic right here at home…

A quiz: “Which #tupperwarebox would you be?”

A twitter retweeter bot: @tupperwarebot – the cool thing about this was i learnt how to use Yahoo Pipes and made a pipe that finds relevant tweets and manipulates the stream to become retweets with the hashtag #tupperwarebox

A Justin Bieber in a #tupperwarebox which gained the @tupperwarebot a lot of Justin Bieber fans!

Justin Bieber in a #tupperwarebox on Twitpic

This is actually quite disturbing when i found there is a rumour that Justin Bieber got stuck in a toy box at age 7 and suffers from claustrophobia. But anyway, the fans seem to like it. They appreciate the randomness of it and came up with the hashtag #justininatupperwarebox!

Finally, there is a Facebook group: Tupperware Box! If you are a fan of Tupperware and/or pure random nonsense, please don’t hesitate to join! :D


Tupperware Box on Facebook

The Lord's Prayer, for coders

The following comes from a funny (and slightly weird) conversation i had on a walk with a colleague this afternoon. This is literally the way we often talk when we go out for our walks around the fields of Barton Farm! One day we’re probably going to have a day when we only speak in Ruby!

@heaven = Heaven.instance
@father = God.trinity[0]
@earth = Universe.galaxies.find_by_name("Milky Way").solar_system.planets[2]

@father.open_connection do
  @father.current_location.should == @heaven
  @father.name.should be_hallowed

  kingdom = mock_model(Kingdom)
  @earth.should be_like(@heaven)

  @earth.current_population.each do |person|
    @father.should_forgive(person) && person.should_forgive(:others)
    @father.should_not lead(person).into(:temptation)
    @father.should deliver(person).from(:evil)

  while true do
    [Kingdom, Power, Glory].collect do |klass|
      klass.all.should be_attributed_to(@father)

Shame i haven’t updated for such a long time. I was unable to log into my blog for a while, and even when i fixed it i couldn’t think of anything to write to make a suitable come-back! Hopefully this satisfies! :)

the best free entertainment i’ve seen all year

This last week i’ve been enjoying watching A Very Potter Musical on youtube. It’s a most hilarious Harry Potter parody with fantastic acting and delightfully catchy songs!

The star of the show has to be Lauren Lopez who plays Draco Malfoy and spends most of the time rolling around seductively on the floor/bench/harry/hermione! Lauren’s sense of comic timing is incredible, and the voice and facial expressions are just adorable!

Lauren Lopez as Draco Malfoy

Voldemort and Quirrel are beautifully played with some very touching moments together. Snape is hilarious, like all the characters, much exaggerated!

I think the best songs are near the end. “Not Alone” (Act 2 Scene 5) is a beautifully composed piece of music, and “Voldemort Is Goin’ Down” (Act 2 Scene 8) is magnificently performed by the cast.

I’ve enjoyed it so much that i’m making myself a dvd to take to show friends and family. I love it that the whole thing is freely available. By the fans, for the fans, and yep, the fans are loving it!

I also love how linux gives me free tools to be able to create a dvd. This morning i did not know how to do it, but using todisc and tovid i’ve been able to combine all the scenes into a sequence, with a menu. I used mplayer to extract the audio of one song, and audacity to split out the song that i wanted to use as an introduction when the menu is shown. I used kino to look at the frames one by one and export a frame to use as the background for the menu. I used the gimp to darken the image and reduce the contrast.

The menu for my dvd is hopefully going to look something like this:

A Very Potter Musical dvd menu

I’ll update again if it works! Currently it is encoding each of the scenes into dvd format, which seems to take a very long time … and creates files 5 times bigger than the originals!

Update: it worked!! From youtube to my television!!

A Very Potter Musical

Potter Musical on my television!

A Very Potter Musical

Thank you to StarKidPotter, youtube, keepvid.com and to free open source software and the ubuntu community! Now i can take A Very Potter Musical with me to show anyone who has a dvd player! :D

What’s going on in aimee’s life?

I’m back! I have been away from the Internet for a week – a self-enforced leave of absence to try to avoid getting RSI. Happily to say, it seems to have worked – just typing as much as i need to at work, and having a rest in the evenings. I love programming and i love my job, so i really don’t want to injure myself.

I have been trying out another keyboard layout: Colemak. It has similar aims to Dvorak but, unlike Dvorak, they actually used a computer to help generate the layout! Also, unlike Dvorak, Colemak layout is fairly similar to Qwerty, possibly making it easier for Qwerty users to switch. It keeps Z, X, C and V in the same place, useful for the obvious keyboard shortcuts.

colemak.com – the website for the layout.
Colemak on a TypeMatrix EZ-Reach keyboard – made for my own reference, but i imagine others may come looking for it too. If you want it as a PDF, let me know.

Work has been fun lately – we’ve been trying out pair programming and i’m really enjoying it. I took a while to believe that it really is beneficial for two people to program together, but i’m coming round to the idea now. Especially when trouble-shooting – there is almost no break in the flow because the combination of two brains focussed on a problem means that we come up with the solution pretty quickly. Plus it’s also really good fun! :D I think the key is to have a separate pairing station set up with two keyboards and two mice plugged in. That gives a feeling of equality. With a little perseverance it soon starts to feel very natural to program together.

Social life has been fun too. The Spring weather is making me very happy. Church has been great, really enjoying it. In my week-of-no-internet i became totally hooked on Life On Mars – can’t wait to see the second series!

I leave you with something that i saw in a bookshop in Southampton yesterday – made me LOL ;-)


Nice lazy Caturday

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

I’m in serious need of a lazy caturday! Vim has been taking up all my brain energy all week, and i’ve had several late nights this week. Now i need a day to relax and just do as little as possible.

It’s a lovely sunny day, i’ve done a bit of spring cleaning, and will probably do some more! I plan to go into town for a bit of shopping later on.

Have a nice weekend, everybody! :)

Apache tricks on Linux

Most of my life is spent coding Ruby on Rails, but occasionally i venture into the world of PHP. When i do, i sometimes need to configure Apache because, unlike Rails, it does not happen automagically! To save myself always looking things up on the Internet, here is a little summary of the things i have learnt.

Don’t do this!

When i very first started using Linux, i discovered that you could put files into /var/www and access them through http://localhost. This is a very bad idea because you don’t have permissions to the /var directory (for good reason!) so i used to end up chmodding everything. Also, keeping anything outside your home directory is bad news because you’re liable to forget to back it up before you do an upgrade! WHOOPS!

A perfectly good solution

The next thing i learnt was symlinking, or creating shortcuts. So you can set up a shortcut from the /var/www directory to an appropriate place in your home directory. For example:

sudo ln -s /home/aimee/websites /var/www/html

Now if i have a directory called mac2 under my websites directory i can go to http://localhost/html/mac2/index.php. Nice!

More advanced: VirtualHosts

Later on i started experimenting with Apache’s RewriteRule and RewriteBase for nice ‘pretty’ URLs. You’ll soon find out that the symlink method is no longer suitable because you’re not using relative URLs anymore. It’s time to learn about VirtualHosts, so that i can access my local files with a URL like http://mac2.aimee.

Apache2 keeps a list of available configurations under /etc/apache2/sites-available. I have one called aimee.conf because i am egotistical like that!

sudo vim /etc/apache2/sites-available/aimee.conf

It must start with this line:


Then, for each site that i want, i add a VirtualHost like this:

  ServerName mac2.aimee
  DocumentRoot /home/aimee/websites/mac2
  CustomLog /var/log/apache2/mac2.log combined
  DirectoryIndex index.php

It really just needs to know where to find the source files. The log and directory index are not especially important. It’s probably fairly obvious why i added them. There are plenty of other options you could use if you wanted to, but this is about all i use.

Next we need to enable the configuration. It’s as simple as symlinking the file from the sites-available directory. You only need to do this once per .conf file (and i only use one for simplicity).

cd /etc/apache2/sites-enabled
sudo ln -s /etc/apache2/sites-available/aimee.conf .

The next step is to configure the hosts file such that when i type http://mac2.aimee into a browser it knows to look on my actual computer rather than on the Internet.

sudo vim /etc/hosts

I enter a line like this:       mac2.aimee

Finally, restart Apache and all should be very well!

sudo /etc/init.d/apache2 restart

The best of both worlds

If you want it both ways (and hey, why shouldn’t you?!) it is quite simple to set up another VirtualHost for localhost. Just add it in like this:

  ServerName localhost
  DocumentRoot /home/aimee/websites

Restart Apache again and now the same site is accessible at both http://mac2.aimee and http://localhost/mac2/index.php.

Happy day! :)


This is how i made it work on Ubuntu Linux in a development environment. Other operating systems may behave differently. I have no idea about setting up production servers!

If Apache is in a different place on your computer, you can find it like this:

whereis apache2

To find your hosts file:

locate hosts

I am not an Apache expert, so if you have any questions, chances are i can’t answer them! Scroogle is your friend! :)

New Week's Resolution

I don’t do new year’s resolutions. For me, a year is too long a time. I do, however, always try to do something for Lent, and occasionally i make new week’s resolutions, which usually last just from Monday to Friday.

This week i am following a resolution that i was inspired to make after reading Nye’s Top tips for a tidy home. It is full of many excellent tips, but the part i really liked was this:

You’ve had a really hard day at work and you’re tired. Wait! Don’t sit down on the sofa, no matter how tempting it is. Do a couple of chores first and then sit down. Give yourself a pat on the back!

It is true, when i come home from work i am only mentally tired. It seems to work really well to balance that with some physical exercise that doesn’t require much brain power. This week i have aimed to do two chores, but ended up doing more because i found i actually had quite a lot of energy to use up.

Contrast that with my previous technique which was to put things off until after washing up, forgetting that i often don’t get round to washing up until 10pm, and if there is a lot of washing up to do, i don’t feel like doing chores afterwards at all. Meaning that i ended up doing most of my chores on a Sunday afternoon!

So thank you, Nye, your advice really seems to work well, and i hope that this will become a habit that lasts for more than just a week! :)

In other news, i just lol’d at this picture found on urban dictionary … what’s the opposite of ‘pro’?

What's the opposite of 'pro'? Clearly 'n00b'!

The teacher is a total n00b not to know that the opposite of ‘pro’ is blatantly ‘n00b’!