Wulf's Webden

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Thursday 28 April 2016
by Wulf

Blissful Noise

Tomorrow night sees the first public gig from The String Project since January. We are playing at the Florence Park Community Centre on Cornwallis Road in Oxford (doors open 7:30pm, £5 OTD, more on the gigs page) supported by a couple of other acts.

The band seems to be growing. If I counted right, we were up to a dectet on stage at one point at our most recent rehearsal and that’s without the contributions of Ableton, software that lets us add extra keys, drums and FX but without the rigidity of playing to a fixed backing track. Young Abe is getting incorporated quite well although there are still the odd moments of jeopardy in crossing the tightrope!

The Project is now large enough to bring the party along even before the audience show up but, if you are anywhere near, it will be a good night. If you aren’t, watch out for us at Jamboree in East London on 14 May (also detailed on the gigs page).

Wednesday 27 April 2016
by Wulf

Blissful Silence

For sometime now my MacBook has been running noisy and hot. It is annoying and I think it is probably also the reason I’ve had some unplanned shutdowns recently. Unfortunately OS X doesn’t provide much in the way of built in tools to put numbers on the temperature and so I did some research last night and tracked down Tunabelly software’s TG Pro (Temperature Graph?), which I installed this morning.

Seeing the CPU core temperatures not far shy of 100°C and the fan speed near the top of its range, over 5,000 RPM, was what I’d feared. However, it also popped up a prompt to look for what was consuming CPU time and I spotted nessusd somehow grabbing over 300%. No, I didn’t understand that either but I did recognise the name as almost certainly being related to Nessus, a piece of software from Tenable Network Security. I had installed it as part of the Open University M811 Information Security course that I recently completed. I hadn’t been overly impressed with the results, which seemed quite a scattergun approach, coloured in nicely but potentially hiding important issues under too much information, but I hadn’t uninstalled it even though I hadn’t run another scan. I have colleagues who are using it for network wide scans and very happy with the results but actively using it from a server is a different scenario from having it needlessly grinding away in the background on a client machine.

Nothing was to be lost by removing Nessus although it took some digging around to figure out just how to do that as it installs a System Preferences icon rather than acting as a regular program. However, a little browsing round the Tenable site did lead me to the relevant documentation. As soon as I stopped the service, the fan noise started dropping along with the temperature. Removing the software entirely was easy although I say that as an experienced geek. You are poking around in the beating heart of the Operating System so proceed with care and make sure you only remove the files and directories suggested – their neighbours keep your computer alive.

I think I’m going to buy TG Pro. I’ve got all this from the free trial but, not only am I a sucker for information about what is happening inside the machine, I think the blissful silence I am enjoying (and the expected benefit for the life and health of my primary computer) are worth it.

Tuesday 26 April 2016
by Wulf

A Break in Delivery

For the past couple of years we have been signed up to Tesco’s Delivery Saver service. By paying a fixed fee, we could have as many ‘free’ deliveries as we wanted from their online service as long as we met the minimum spend. There have been many positives to the experience: the people driving the trucks have been punctual, helpful and courteous; we have got almost everything we ordered and, when necessary, substitutes have been sensible; orders can be tweaked over a period of time as you spot gaps in the store cupboard or think of a recipe you would like to try. However, coming to the end of year two, we have decided to take a break.

One significant change since we started using the service is the increase of the minimum spend from £25 to £40. The former wasn’t too hard to hit even through we get a separate weekly veg box and chose to buy the majority of our meat from a local butcher. Milk and fruit and a few tins, along with things like toilet rolls or washing up liquid that are needed less often, got a good way towards £25 and was easily rounded off if we wanted a bottle of wine for the weekend. £40 was pulling us more into the territory of buying things we didn’t need just to make up the required amount and thus the effective cost of delivery becomes less of a bargain.

For the next little while, I think we’ll experiment with the novel idea of going shopping! We might also look at less frequent online shopping – for example, a monthly online shop for non-perishables, picking a cheap delivery slot, will work out less expensive than paying for the yearly pass. Right, where’s that shopping list…

Monday 25 April 2016
by Wulf

Someone will die

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has commented that the junior doctors’ strike due this Tuesday and Wednesday is an “extreme” action that will be “deeply worrying for patients” (source: BBC). He’s right; many will be seriously inconvenienced by cancelled operations and there is every chance that people may die as either a direct or indirect result. Sorry, did I just make it sound like I agreed with him? Allow me a subordinate clause or two: Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who recklessly seeks to undermine the viability of the National Health Service and who refuses all suggestions of a middle ground, has commented, pretending to be concerned, that the junior doctors’ strike due this Tuesday and Wednesday is an “extreme” action that will be “deeply worrying for patients”.

He could be seen as devious, looking to dismantle the NHS, or merely incapable of projecting outcomes over a longer term. Either symptom suggests a diagnosis of someone who shouldn’t be entrusted with such a significant and worthwhile part of the national fabric. If he were to go ahead, many good doctors would leave the NHS to work elsewhere, in other sectors or other countries. Potentially good doctors would be discouraged from embarking on training for that course. People might suffer now as the junior doctors dig their heels in but they are trying to stop us from sliding off a cliff and, hippocratically, that is going to outweigh cuts and bruises suffered in the process.

In case Mr Hunt hasn’t noticed, our present NHS still offers excellent care at weekends even though the whole service has been overstretched for over a decade now. I wonder if he really does want to privatise the NHS and how on earth he thinks that will help? Also in the news this morning is another HS – BHS (British Home Stores) – that is filing for administration. Not an encouraging omen for those who believe in the beneficent hand of the free market.

Sunday 24 April 2016
by Wulf

Spruce Beer

I read an interesting post recently on spruce beer. There were variants that were brewed using parts of spruce trees and others that may have drawn on different meanings of ‘spruce’ – well-dressed beer where the wort was boiled for ten hours or so until very concentrated (OG > 1000!) and the result after fermentation was thick, black and sweet.

The penny dropped and I realised this was the black beer I had discovered when I was a student – used mixed with other drinks (often just soft ones) or in cooking. Unfortunately it also turns out that the last UK manufacturer, Mathers, ended production just a few years ago. Ah well… at least I know what it was now!

Saturday 23 April 2016
by Wulf

Bard or Bible

It isn’t only in 2016 that famous people have been dying. Four hundred years ago today, William Shakespeare shuffled off his mortal coil. I’m not sure that artists as influential as Prince or Bowie – or as loud as Lemmy – will prove to have such a lasting cultural impact.

Over breakfast, I tried the ‘Bard or Bible‘ quiz on the BBC website. Both Shakespeare and the King James Bible (1611) have made a significant contribution to the English language contributing numerous well-known phrases. The challenge was to pick which of the two sources each of nine different quotes came from.

“Vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Bible – Ecclesiastes 1:1 and throughout that book) wasn’t one of them but I was delighted at managing to get all of them correct. I have to confess that this success relied on a degree of luck and another measure of informed guesswork alongside the ones that I was certain of; there was every chance that my pride could have fallen with my fortunes (Bard – As You Like It 1.2.242).

Give it a try – even if you don’t get the top score, for fluent English speakers, are there any of those phrases you’ve never heard before? That’s lasting influence.

Friday 22 April 2016
by Wulf

Four Seasons

Apparently bookies have reduced the odds that it might snow on Sunday’s London Marathon. No, I’m not taking part but it caught my year. The comment from the Met Office was “extremely unlikely” but we’re certainly back into a cold wet patch compared to the spring, almost summery weather enjoyed earlier this week.

I think my tender young plants will get a bit more time in the polytunnel to bulk up and a gradual programme of hardening off, although space is getting a bit tight in there.