Form validation fail

Attempting to buy tickets for an exhibition at the V&A. Registration required, horrific web-form, multiple passwords change steps. But best of all, this:

In case it wasn’t obvious, it’s hard to distinguish ’11/4′ or ’11-4′ from ‘114’ when you can’t use punctuation. Fortunately this is not the first time this has happened.

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Les Turner, 14/11/1926-22/4/2011

Goodbye uncle Les, and thank-you.

(Taken a couple of Christmas-es ago – my uncle wasn’t in the habit of wearing gold foil hats in daily life)

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No gaps.

In case this helps the next unlucky code monkey: GStreamer playbin2‘s gapless support, which depends upon the ‘about-to-finish‘ signal, only works if you set the new URI on the playbin within that callback. Even though the callback is emitted from a different thread to the one you created / initialised the playbin on!

Also, blocking the callback for any appreciable time causes audio glitches. Hence, I conclude you need to have your next URL ready to go when about-to-finish fires, or hilarity will ensue.

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I’ve acquired an e-On ‘Energy Fit’ power consumption monitor, despite not being an e-On customer. The hardware is quite slick – a wireless data transmitter, which uses an inductive(?) clamp around the mains inlet to the fusebox, to record current and hence wattage.

This sends the data to a monitor unit, with a large LCD screen, three buttons and some information recording software, which shows the current and historical usage data. So far, pretty good – the monitor is a bit fiddly to use with just the three buttons, and the data-transmitter is massive due to being powered by two D cells, but everything worked pretty well.

Of course, a fixed-layout LCD is a poor piece of UI to view lots of data – what you really want is a way to use your computer to view this. And that’s what you can do – the monitor has a USB cable, and there’s a CD provided in the box. Unfortunately, the CD is Windows only (Mac users are given some confusing instructions about ‘adding Windows XP or Vista software’, aka ‘use a VM’). Running under my Windows VM, the installer presented the inevitable UAC dialog, followed by some deathly pauses, before giving up. Second attempt, it then has to install Flash 10 (even though it’s apparently a .NET app) with another UAC prompt, SQL Server 2005 (another UAC dialog), the Prolific USB-serial driver (another UAC dialog, followed by the usual new-hardware-detected -> installing drivers -> setting up your hardware dance) and the finally the software itself.

Which doesn’t start, due to ‘problems’. That’s the full extent of the information about what happened, at least with my Win7 VM – I’m sure when other apps crash, the report does contain a real stack-trace.

If I had a spare week, I’m sure the Mac Prolific driver and kermit would give a good start in reverse-engineering the serial protocol, and then knocking up some data-logging UI in Qt – perhaps I could sell it back to e-On – but their current attempt really reinforced the crappy state of deployment for some Windows apps, .Net or no. Especially if many users are disabling UAC due to continual pestering during installs – it’s a shame the UAC context doesn’t inherit (cascade?) for component installs.

Now I have to spend a tedious few minutes removing all this junk from my Win7 VM. Bah.

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Just Married

My brother got married to a very nice lady last weekend, down in deepest darkest Oxfordshire. This provided a good work-out for the new Nikon, although fortunately (for my brother) there was an official photographer, so he won’t be stuck exclusively with wide-angle shots of architecture to remember the occasion.

Cupcakes! Colours! Glitter!

My sister volunteered to produce wedding cupcakes, complete with luminescent icing and edible glitter, and the venue provided an excellent roast lamb for dinner – cooked to perfection and no further. Sadly both these culinary delights paled next to a roast pig, complete with piles of crackling, stuffed in to fresh rolls.

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Get in line

You know your marketing engine is working with horrible, horrible efficacy, when poor people from the council are spotted unloading crowd barriers outside your stores twenty-fours hours before a relatively minor product rev is launched.

Err, ‘revolutionary and magical’, I mean.

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After the usual six months of procrastination that accompanies any domestic purchase, I’ve finally acquired some new kitchen knives. (Having thrown out almost all the old knives at the end of last year, leading to some economical re-use of knives – raw chicken and cheesecake can be cut with the same knife, no problem at all)

Kai Wasabi Yangiba and DebaThese are single-edged traditional Japanese knives, the wide-bladed one being a ‘deba’ for general chopping, and the long thin murder-weapon-type-thing is called a ‘yangiba’. Apparently it’s good for sushi making, both working with the fish, and also slicing rolls. Obviously this will have to be tested!

I resisted the temptation to buy the various ‘pro’ Japanese knives, which are made from exotic steels, have HRC numbers approximately that of diamond, or have watered / Damascus blades, since they’re all punishingly expensive. So far I’m also holding off on the ‘nakiri’, which is rectangular cleaver-esque thing which is apparently the best for chopping up veg (and zombies, I suspect).

Now I have to buy a whetsone, and learn how to use it properly. (The previous, now discarded knives, taking an edge about as well as lead, or possibly even rye-bread)

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Things I learned yesterday: when every component in a network is a switch (as opposed to a hub), capturing packets at any particular point doesn’t give you everything – at least for unicast traffic. Of course that’s ‘obvious’ – it’s the whole point of switches – but it wasn’t so obvious when stepping through a Wireshark capture.

(It was seeing the broadcast ARP packets in the capture, but not the unicast UDP that led to them, that finally kicked my brain that I wasn’t seeing the full story)

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Selling well

Booked to see EDGAS’ production of the Mikado – unfortunately the only night with decent seats available is Tuesday – presumably good news for the society finances. I’m triply obliged to attend, since I know three of the principles. Geoff, Matt, Andrew – I shall be grinning at you from the second row of the stalls on the 22nd.

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Heller’s Kitchen

Finally got around to trying the closest non-regional restaurant to the flat, Heller’s Kitchen. It’s not the best location, and previous attempts in the same spot have generally only lasted a year or so, but hopefully they’ve got a good formula – essentially a fairly convention bar menu (burgers, wraps, brunches) but with a bid daily specials menu with a soup, a couple of starters, and some excellent main courses. Oh and deserts. Don’t forget the deserts.

Starter: scallops and black pudding with a cauliflower sauce – really intense flavours, the sauce was only a drizzle, but worked well. Main – excellent venison, rubbed with some spices prior to cooking, and served as small chunks, with the centre of each nicely pink. Served on mash with a dark gravy. Desert – vanilla cheesecake with a strawberry coulis; a really nice biscuit base, huge amounts of real vanilla in the cheese, and a thin layer of coulis on the very top. All the courses were well presented, but the food is the only aspect that feels fancy – a very relaxed environment and staff.

Need to go back and try the Sunday brunch fry-up, as a change from Toast.

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