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osfameron (3135)

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Journal of osfameron (3135)

Wednesday May 10, 2006
02:39 AM

Montalbano ero

Yesterday, I discovered on the RAI website, that the Italian state TV was showing Montalbano on Tuesdays at 9pm. This was hugely exciting as I'm a big fan of the series of books on the Sicilian detective, and it was Tuesday at 9:15. Italian TV tends to run later than its trains - unlike the UK where only events of extreme national importance such as war breaking out or snooker will make the TV run late, the baffling game show that came before continued for another 15 minutes. Disappointingly, when it started, I realized it was one of the few adaptations I'd already seen. Worse, it looks like they've already been running the series for 2 months and that was the last one. This will teach me to not check the TV guides on the basis that there is never anything on apart from Lost and Chi Vuole Essere Milionario... Riccardo suggests a handy teletext emulator

The good news, should I ever be connected in a situation other than a) at work, or b) over the end of a phone, is that 8 of the 12 episodes are available on raiclick. (if I can work out the user interface, which seems to contain lots of non-clickable links, and pdf catalogues).

Sunday May 07, 2006
02:46 AM

Which J2ME phone

I've noticed a few people on freenode #j2me ask "Which phone should I use to start Java development on?". The question slightly surprised me - I became interested in J2ME the first time I got a sufficiently interesting phone (SE P800 with touch sensitive screen) rather than the other way round. I've been wondering about the criteria, and thought of the following.
  • reasonable JVM (stability / speed)
  • does it support MIDP 2.0 ?
  • what are the tools provided
    • PC suite to browse and exchange files between PC and phone
    • emulators
  • and do they work on your platform (Nokia's PC suite doesn't on Linux for example)
  • bluetooth to connect and upload your midlets to the phone (because that seems to work, more or less)
  • type of phone (smartphone / PIM-like phone / UIQ device etc?)

<obperl>I see that Jarkko's Perl for Symbian project is still on hold with just the core language and no support for the phone GUI and feature APIs...</obperl>

Thursday April 27, 2006
07:06 AM

110 volt eggs

My mum's Finnish family visited them recently, so in an Easter parcel I got sent some chocolate eggs, the classic Fazer Mignon in a special "110 V" edition. V for "vuotta" as, apparently, the eggs have been produced for 110 years in Finland. They take a chicken egg, remove the egg, then fill it with a tasty nougat chocolate, then plug the hole with sugar. This is to me so obviously a clever (and tasty) way of doing a chocolate egg, that I'm surprised that I haven't seen the concept in other countries. Perhaps it is patented? Or does this particular easter tradition exist in many other places in the world?
Thursday April 13, 2006
02:40 AM

Last night's social

We met at Rose's, a cafe and sushi bar. As well as the usual suspects,
larsen, me, Mattia, Piero, Simone (all from Dada), and dakkar (now working at, we were joined by some more dadaisti - Massimo, and Marco 2.0 - and some
others: student Claudio, and Leonardo of it.discussioni.misteri fame.

Apart from a major ENOTUNA error, food and drink were pleasant, with several
people trying sushi for the first time and a goodly number of shiny 2 litre cans of Asahi
consumed. We discussed (among other things)

        - how to cook sushi
        - the perils of sake on an empty stomach
        - how to get sysadmins to do things
        - INTERCAL
        - why kids these days don't study enough maths at Uni
        - Why (and whether) takes 2-20 minutes to open up
        - spending other people's money on overspecced servers
        - Jehovah's witnesses. In the rain.
        - ACT
        - How to get yourself on the banned words list of the Scientologists web
        - Why not all questions can be answered "Yes/No/Maybe".
        - Is that an African or a European "swallow" ?
        - Sharepoint
        - The Javascript sufferer's club
        - An unusual nervous tic on a table of great historic and cultural interest
        - Tuscany: it's all just hills and flood plains really.
        - Night shift
        - Do girls talk about politics on nights out?
        - Laws on database security
        - "Precarious" work
        - Daring maths
        - Tuscan dialect lesson: "Baccagliare" (Bajagliare)

Wednesday March 08, 2006
07:26 PM meet

Larsen, the evil overlord of compelled us (by an unholy mix of blackmail, bribery, and voodoo) to meet at James Pub, Florence, a Scottish-themed bar. We met Mattia "WxPerl" Barbon, Simone Piunno of Ferrara Lug, Piero of Firenze Lug, and, to prove that we are not just (No, not that dada, we had a special guest, dakkar, one of the masterminds of IPW. (Another, bepi was unable to come citing the hordes of women roaming the streets tonight).

We drank Belhaven Best and ate tasty foccacce, and chatted, as is customary of things other than Perl, such as haggis, svk, Irn Bru and the Scottish diet, the similarly fat-laden Modenese diet, Salama from Ferrara (take a raw salami, leave it 2 years. Er... profit!), the North/South divide in frying (Olive oil versus butter), why can't you milk a pig anyway?, Kikuya, Pisan studentesse, Firefly, ubuntu's silent sudo errors,, distributed hashtables, 20,000 Leagues under the sea and Nathan Never (in that order), Glaswegians Catalyst, wine, Wine, Italian publishers, DVI, and why it really is better than VGA, X11, lightning talks, Birmingham, a patch (literally) for last year's IPW Perl6 t-shirt, IGWiki, how to tell when it's stopped raining, how to be a cultural organization for fun and profit (case study: Sora Margherita), the O'Reilly user group program, is Italy going back to the Lira or should I be more wary of free newspapers?, il Vernacoliere and the eclectic reading habits of the patrons of Stratos in Castiglione. And of other plans for world domination so secret that if I were to write them here, I'd have to kill you. Sorry, them's the rules.

Saturday February 25, 2006
01:16 PM

Get things done

I have a problem getting things done. Over the last few years, I've progressed from a "paperwork is dull and hard, I'll leave it till the last possible moment to do it" to a progressive gnawing anxiety. Right now, I'm between 2 flats in different countries and I'm just not coping very well.

So I'm trying GTD. As the 3 English bookshops I tried didn't have it today, and it doesn't seem to have been translated into English, I've found a few resources online, and it doesn't seem overcomplicated. I still have to master what has become a fear of actually looking at paperwork - actually, the Mind Sweep going through everything is quite helpful. (It is possibly slightly unrepresentative, as I've been here for 4 months, and have another 8 or more years' accumulated crap to face when I get back to UK).

I don't have all the stationery, and the local Cartolerie close Saturday afternoon, so I don't even have the famous 43 folders for a tickler file (but I think that's probably something to add later). In fact I don't have any folders at all, just some multi-pocket folders, which seemed a bit inflexible for the task.
So I've been loosely stuffing things in labeled envelopes and placing the lot in a Moulinex box, which was the right size but opened the wrong way. After hacking a hole in the top, I realized that it wasn't stable enough. As I had no staples, I had to improvise with some cable ties threaded through a hole drilled in the two loose sides of the box with a pair of scissors. In fact, I'm not sure what kind of folders to get. In one of the articles on he mentions not to use a particular type of hanging folder, but I don't get what he's suggesting as the alternative. Document Wallets? Or the completely loose folded over piece of card ones (I don't even really get what those are for).

Friday February 24, 2006
08:11 AM


When I was studying in Bologna back in the heady days of 1997, I noticed an interesting fashion anomaly. Italians tend to be well turned out, even the students. But they had a blind spot for rucksacks from Invicta. They are large, shapeless, and come in hideous mismatches of colour that would be considered laughable in the UK, yet entire posses of students would sport them. Actually not just students, sometimes people in business dress too, looking like complete pratts as a consequence.
(I'm aware that my fashion sense is, er, not especially well developed, so take with the appropriate quantity of salt, but it is rather odd).

For well over a year I've had a smallish walking rucksack which just about fitted my laptop in its sleeve, cables, possibly a jumper and a diary and a bottle of water. Cramming this much crap into it often required taking everything out and rearranging it at annoying moments. blech pointed me in the direction of timbuk3 laptop bags, but I was too stingy to shell out for one. larsen finally took pity on me and suggested that his local department store had sold him his - a padded "sporty" rucksack with lots of compartments for laptop, documents, cables - for 30 Euros, and kindly brought one for me when he went home for the weekend. I'm calling it a late present from parents' Christmas money.

Monday February 20, 2006
03:33 AM


On the walk into work, about to cross the bridge (not the Ponte Vecchio, the far less exciting one just after) I saw what my brain, a moment later, processed as one of the saddest things I've seen. A bearded guy on a bike was also keeping another, smaller bike upright next to him. He seemed to speak to it, as if the child that used to ride it was still there.

As I turned onto the bridge, I turned back to check traffic before crossing, and noticed that he'd let the small bike fall over and was stumbling to pick it up.

Saturday February 18, 2006
06:42 AM

Pretty test results, pretty Petals.

I knocked together some shiny testing results thinking it might help evangelise Test driven development - what do you know, it seems to work! I was surprised to discover that the "developers" list includes the senior Project Manager, when he responded to my announcement of a test page by bounding over enthusiastically to say how great it was seeing all those green boxes.

The helpful chaps on had pointed me in the direction of Test::TAP::HTMLMatrix, originally developed for Pugs by the lambdacamels. It uses Test::TAP::Model, a module that reads "TAP" compliant testing output (i.e. what Perl testing modules do anyway) and turns it into something that not only humans, but also machines can read.

The HTML Matrix is lovely, but uses Petal... "Yet Another Templating Language" I groaned, and was only mollified when the installation via as non-root actually worked (C-code and all!). (Actually HTMLMatrix itself didn't install because of the syntax my __PACKAGE__ $self = shift; which I didn't realize was even valid yet (and more importantly, the version of Perl on dev box doesn't either... Anyway, should be patched, because a) this is a utility module, useful for everyone, even people on older perls, who maybe need to evangelise testing the most (so they can convince all($boss, @sysadmins) that the code will still work on an upgrade), and b) it really doesn't need to use bleeding edge code just 'coz it's trendy, the code works jus'wunnerful without it (though I haven't checked if any tests fail as a result - I'm editing in my own sandbox and still need to set up a working practise for submitting patches to vendor modules - any pointers?).

I wanted to edit the template and looked at the Petal source, first of all recoiling in horror at the fact that it uses XML-like tags (having recently developed an allergy to HTML::Template). But then I decided to refactor to allow pluggable templating engines (on the basis that if I ever get this installed as a non-skunkworks project, they'd probably rather I use the aforementioned so-called templating module as it's the in-house standard).

The first step after separating out Test::TAP::HtmlMatrix::Petal was to implement Test::TAP::HtmlMatrix::TT and convert the template. At which point I had to look more at the TAL syntax. Actually it seems rather sane: it uses XHTML so it can process it very efficiently, and in many cases the resulting source is much more compact and elegant than the TT version, which doesn't know anything about XML.

The only disadvantage for me (apart from the recent doubts about whether it's even worth serving XHTML at all until browsers catch up) is that I actually like the way the [% %] tags stand out against HTML code.

Plugging Test::TAP::Model into TT doesn't quite work unfortunately - when TT processes [% %] it's actually implicitly doing [% (stash) %], so for each dot operation it checks to see whether the left operand is the root (stash). Unfortunately it does this using eq, and T::TAP::HTMLM is an overloaded package (it stringifies to its HTML representation) but doesn't overload eq. I'm surprised this hasn't come up before (that or my minicpan is very out of date), but patched my copy of TT::Stash to eq the ref's instead of the objects. Again, this seems to work, but as I haven't run test suites for either module, who knows... the alternative would be, I guess, to patch T::TAP::HTMLM to overload eq.

Monday February 06, 2006
05:53 PM


I moved, temporarily, into a "monolocale", a studio flat, in the Oltrarno, only to be greeted by a complete lack of cutlery or crockery. Or, to be completely honest, some plastic cups and a steak knife. And the boiler didn't work. Though I was irked about the boiler, I wasn't even entirely sure whether I had the right to expect the place to be furnished with stoviglie, but when I spoke to the agenzia, the lady was disappointed on my behalf and chased the landord up. He called me later, and arrived, apologising profusely, and bearing a metric bucketload of plates, cups, glasses, graters, cafetieres, and decent pots and pans (actually, he didn't bear them, citing a problem with his arm, I got to lug them up the stairs). Now, the flat is better supplied than I'd expected, except that then we realised that the gas wasn't on at all.

When we found that the gas meter was sealed off, it emerged that the flat had stood empty for a year, and it was just possible that he'd forgotten to pay the bill. (The next day, he called to say that he has proof that he's paid the bill, but that Fiorentinagas must have cut it off because there was no gas usage). Finally, it emerges that his account with them is definitively closed, so they won't start the service the next day, but because he has a friend of a friend who works there, it will get sorted out on Tuesday... As he's offered a reasonable amount of money off the rent, I've been sticking out till then hoping that it's resolved then. We also discussed my getting a camping gas stove which he'd refund, but gf suggested that a kettle would make sense instead as we'll need one anyway. The Italians don't really go for electric kettles all that much, but I manage to get one for EUR 9.50.

Only it has the wrong sort of plug. I'm vaguely aware of some of the different sorts of plugs. There is a basic type which is either 2 or 3 pin - a 2 pin plug will go in a 3 pin socket (but not vice versa of course). Then there is a variant of that design but in a round recess. Apparently you should only put round plugs in the recessed sockets, and the non-rounded ones in the other sort, as they're hard to get out (e.g. they're accidentally compatible but they're actually subtly different sizes!) The kettle has 2 round prongs, thicker than the others. Cunningly, there are no plugs of this sort in the flat, but, 2 days later (cos I didn't get it together to find an open ironmongers on Sunday) I have an adaptor and hot water at last.