Blogging TITGIG

Malware removal

Google notified me that my site has apparently contained malware for a few days. And indeed it has – at some point after publishing Summer Calendar some miscreant apparently gained access to the WordPress admin account and inserted an iframe to some dodgy site hosted on

I have now deleted the admin account and removed the iframe (obviously) and requested that Google reindex my site to check that everything is good now.

Might be worth checking your own WordPress site for unexpected iframes.


New computer speakers

I love the sound of my Harman Kardon Soundsticks II, but I’ve been planning on getting rid of them for a while now. They have two major flaws.

1. The UI is terrible. There’s a knob on the subwoofer for controlling the level of the bass, which is fine, but the only other controls are two touch-sensitive buttons on the right satellite speaker, labelled + and -. These control the volume, and if you tap them at the same time, it mutes the signal. There’s no off switch, and no visual indication whether they are muted, or what volume they are set to. It’s also quite time-consuming to set your desired volume using + and – buttons, when a good old fashioned knob does the job so much better.

2. Since there’s no off switch, and the subwoofer sits there emanating a glow from its blue LED all night, I felt that I had no choice but to switch everything off at the wall whenever I turn the computer off. It’s a hassle, and I want to be able to switch the speakers properly off when not in use.

I had my eye on the Logitech Z-4 or Z-2300 which are 2.1 speakers with a nifty satellite unit that has a volume control, on-off switch, headphone socket and bass control on it.

Logitech LS21

Today in town I spotted a set of Logitech LS21 speakers at an attractive price. They have the same satellite unit (except that the bass control is on the subwoofer, but that’s no big loss) so I bought them.

I’ve discovered that this particular model is fairly quiet. I *think* they’re going to be loud enough for my needs, but I’m not completely certain. Also, the volume control on the LS21 is a scroll-wheel, whereas the more expensive models have a knob which gives you a visual cue as to what it is set at.

So maybe I’ll trade up in the future, maybe I won’t.


Error while opening sound device in Audacity

I’m running Audacity 1.3.4-beta in Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron). Every time I try to record, I get the following error:

> Error while opening sound device. Please check the input device settings and the project sample rate.

To fix this (and allow me to record) I open the System Monitor, locate the `jackd` process and end it (don’t kill it, otherwise you’ll kill Audacity too). Recording will then work.

You’ll need to do this each time you start Audacity.

Alternatively, you can install 1.3.6 from getdeb which seemed to work for me.

Computing IAMOWIM Music

Sore throat blocked nose blah blah blah

Last night I was lying in bed, unable to sleep, trying to make as little noise as possible so that I wouldn’t prevent Karen from sleeping. Eventually I thought better of it, and decamped downstairs and flopped out the sofa bed.

For over an hour I lay there, my brain whirring and bouncing, constantly providing me with stimuli and imaginary matters to keep me awake. This often happens when I am a bit poorly. On more than one occasion, I remember seeing that there were new replies to a post of mine on an internet forum, so I had to check to see what they’d said. All of this was in my imagination, of course, but it was highly disruptive.

Eventually I took a short break, went to the toilet, had a glass of water, and told my brain to behave itself. I went back to bed and made a conscious effort to stop thinking. Apparently this worked.

But the reason why I put fingertips to keyboard is this: at some point during my ceaseless thrashing, my brain came up with an awesome band name. Or maybe it would be an album name. Either way, at the time it seemed like the best band name ever, and I would have switched the light on and written it down, but I felt that it would be counter-productive in the whole “getting to sleep” project.

This morning, I managed to remember the band name without too much head-scratching, which came as something of a surprise. Even more surprising, it still seems half-decent in the cold light of morning.

And what is this band name that you are teasingly withholding from us? I hear you say.

No Bears At All

Now I just have to figure out what it means.

*UPDATE: Google tells me that this phrase exists in a book called The Bears on Hemlock Mountain – maybe I picked it up subconsciously at some point? More likely, it’s just a coincidence.*



The oldest version of this site on is from January 2003, more than five and a half years ago. Of the 42 sites on my “blogroll” back then, 15 of them are still active. And a further 4 of them were written by people whom I happen to know are still blogging, albeit at a different location.

This is a higher percentage than I was expecting.



Perhaps you are familiar with Cuil, the search engine that was announced on Monday to the accompaniment of a lot of fanfare. People flocked to the site to find out more about this search engine that was designed by ex-Google employees and was going to knock Google off of the top spot. The site, naturally, collapsed.

When it finally did come back up, it was catastrophically bad. Searches for terms such as “rabbit” and “porcupine” returned zero results. It had other problems too (not safe for work).

We’ve all had a nice laugh about it during the last couple of days, but only this morning have I finally realised the truth.

Cuil was not designed by ex-Google employees. It was designed by current Google employees. It’s a covert operation that has been concocted to send out the following message to would-be competitors: “Do not try to beat us. You will lose.”

Computing Daily

Creating a GUI using PyGTK and Glade

Computing Daily Music

Quod Libet

  • My new favourite music player on Linux. It keeps track of my library, yet is not a nausea-inducing eyesore like Rhythmbox and most other iTunes-inspired players. It’s written in Python for GTK+, so it doesn’t need 100MB of KDE libs to run it (hi, Amarok!). As always, installation is just sudo apt-get install quodlibet
Blogging Computing Guidance Useful Information

My bookmarklets

I used the Complete extension to assist me in posting to I could right-click a page, choose “Post this to” and a handy dialog came up, prepopulated with the URL, title, and description (populated from whatever text was selected on the page at the time). This was perfect for my needs.

Since upgrading to Firefox 3.0, it seems that the only compatible extensions are the ones that “integrate” your bookmarks in an intrusive fashion. I don’t want integration. I want the exact opposite. I want total disintegration. So I’ve gone back to using bookmarklets.

I basically use for two things. Firstly, I use it as a todo list. I post links with the “do not share this” flag set, and tagged “todo”, so that I can look at them later. This is the bookmarklet that I now use for this task:

Bookmarklet #1

I got it here. It’s not perfect though. It doesn’t seem to work the first time you use it in a session. I guess this is related to the fact that it uses https. It also pops up an alert at the end that says “OK, tagged as todo” whether it actually succeeded or not. I tried removing this alert, and the bookmarklet stopped working. Can’t fathom why.

On to the second bookmarklet:

Bookmarklet #2

This one is much more straightforward. It just opens a window containing a small “post” dialog, prepopulated in the same way as the old Complete extension. It doesn’t use https, so it never asks me for my login details. The window closes when you post it.

I just thought that I’d post these bookmarklets here, partly for my own reference, and maybe because someone else might find them useful at some point.

Hardy Heron

I upgraded to the brand new version of Ubuntu, Hardy Heron, on Saturday. I didn’t upgrade in the usual sense – I actually took a backup of my data and did a complete reinstall. This seemed like a sensible decision, as it’s now three years since I installed Ubuntu, and my hard drive probably bore the evidence of my learning curve, much as a learner driver tends to cause a degree of damage to the clutch of the car that they learn to drive in.

Why I did a full reinstallation

There were a couple of other advantages to doing a complete reinstallation. Firstly, it allowed me to set up my partition table so that `/home` is stored on a separate partition. You can also do this with an existing installation, but it’s easier when you’re doing a fresh one because resizing partitions is quite slow, whereas deleting and recreating them is very quick. Having `/home` on a separate partition then makes it even easier to do complete reinstallations in the future.

Secondly, upgrading Ubuntu tends to take quite a few hours. If you have changed any configuration files (eg `smb.conf`) then you will be prompted whether you want to keep your version, discard all changes, or attempt to merge the two. However, these prompts come up while you are performing the upgrade, rather than all in one batch at the start or end, so you have to sit in front of the computer (or, at least, keep checking up on it) during the upgrade process. However, installing Ubuntu from scratch is remarkably fast. You download the ISO image (700MB), burn it to a CD, and then run the installation from that disc. The installation took about 15 minutes on my computer, and after filling in the initial configuration screens, the main portion of the installation program ran without needing my interference.

The downside

The downside to performing a complete reinstallation is that you lose all of your customisations. Application-specific settings are stored in your home folder, so those are easy to import. For most applications, I am taking this opportunity to start with a fresh profile – exceptions so far being Mozilla Thunderbird (with its hundreds of megabytes of archived mail) and Deluge, my Bit Torrent client (with all my RSS feeds). However, you will invariably lose system-wide settings.

But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When I first installed Ubuntu, I had to go through a number of hoops to enable the thumb-button on my mouse, and the multimedia keys on my keyboard. It seems that sometime in the last three years, this functionality was neatly integrated into the base distribution, and I discovered to my joy when reinstalling that it was all detected and configured in a totally fuss-free fashion. So instead of having all sorts of redundant hacks and tweaks to make my hardware work, it should now be handled in the simplest and most reliable way possible. It also gives me the opportunity to see how far things have come.

Configuration files

The only configuration file that I’ve had to modify has been `xorg.conf` (of course). For some reason, Ubuntu still can’t detect my 19″ Sony SDM-HS95P (I blame it on a poorly-supported video chipset) so it sets me up at 800×600. I expected nothing less, which is why I held onto a backup of my `xorg.conf` so that I could paste in the relevant lines. Maybe `displayconfig-gtk` could have done the job, but I didn’t bother to check. Incidentally, as far as I can see, there’s no way to run `displayconfig-gtk` from the Main Menu (unless you use the Menu Editor to make it visible in the “Other” submenu as “Screen and Graphics”).

Any trouble?

When I tried setting a static IP, the network connection disappeared altogether. This was fixed by manually restarting the networking daemon with `sudo /etc/init.d/networking restart` but I felt that this should have been done automatically.

I also found that trying to set a workgroup caused the `/etc/hosts` file to be broken in such a way that sudo would no longer work (I’d get the error `unable to resolve host`). Here’s a thread on that contains a solution, but for now I have just left the workgroup blank.


I have to admit, there aren’t any particular features in the new version of Ubuntu that I’ve been waiting for with baited breath (except perhaps Firefox 3), but I like to be using the latest and most well-supported version (assuming that it’s stable, of course). I also think that the new Wubi program (which allows you to install Ubuntu within your Windows partition) is an incredibly cool concept, though it doesn’t affect me personally.