The Time Has Come (the Walrus said) Archives

HomeTrader

For about the last 3-4 years, each weekend the Financial Review has carried a large full page advertisement from HomeTrader, touting their courses on how to make a motza by trading shares.

About 3 weeks ago these stopped appearing. Instead, a small advertisement has been run. This is an apology, stating that the figures quoted in the advertisements were not actually obtained by people trading shares. Instead they were trading “Contracts for Difference” – a newer kind of derivative.

Derivatives like contracts for difference (and options) are highly leveraged and really only suitable for people with a sophisticated understanding of financial markets. They carry a very large potential downside…

Just remember for anything that seems too good to be true… it probably is.

————-

EDIT 16-Jan-06: In the interests of fairness:

Following an exchange of emails with the operators of HomeTrader, I have modified the above post to remove a statement of personal opinion.

The operators of HomeTrader have requested that I remove this post completely.

The operators have also pointed out that their full-page advertisements are now being run again (which is true because I have seen them in the Financial Review). This presumably means they have done whatever they needed to do to make ASIC happy.

My adding this statement does not represent my giving of investment advice. I am not licensed by ASIC or anybody else to provide such advice. I neither endorse or criticise HomeTrader, or any other share market advisory or trading systems or advisers.

Buy Nothing Christmas

I have to blatantly resurrect an idea from Graeme Sutherland…

The BUY NOTHING Christmas.

Read what Graeme had to say about it… I really like this idea, for two reasons:

1. Most of us living out of poverty have more than enough “stuff”, and adding more at Christmas because it is the done thing is just silly.

2. It is REALLY hard to find good, useful, meaningful gifts year in, year out. Gifts that are not useful and meaningful are, by definition, just more crap and clutter to carry through our lives, and that creates a terrible waste was well as imposing a burden on the recipient.

Partly in the spirit of buy-nothing Christmas, we are having an extended family get-together and week away… travelling vast distances (and spending a fortune on the travel and the experience) instead of buying junk.

It promises to be a great adventure….

Features in products

Another one from Kathy Sierra. Needs no further explanation, just read it here.

The most common-sense (and hopefully influential) writers about software and product design, in no particular order:

(classic authors)
Tom DeMarco
Tim Lister
Fred P Brooks

(more recent authors)
Joel Spolsky
Kathy Sierra

Sit up and pay attention folks, hunt these authors down and read what they have learnt from their own schools of hard knocks.

Death penalty

An Australian citizen, Van Nguyen has have been hanged in Singapore for breaking their laws about drug smuggling.

A few thoughts about the death penalty now that the noise about Mr Van Nguyen has settled:

- The death penalty for drug smuggling seems a bit extreme.

- The death penalty might be barbaric, but isn’t it justified for one crime (and one only)? That crime being murder. In that case, the person charged needs to either admit they did it, or be found so guilty that there is no doubt whatsoever – in other words, a standard of proof higher than applicable for a normal criminal trial.

- We have seen a huge public and political outpouring about the Van Nguyen hanging, but we have heard nothing at all about the deaths of the heroin addicts.

On this last point, the heroin addicts who die in public places (the parks, benches, streets, back alleys, etc) are cleared off by the family or various public officials. There is no public outpouring of emotion for their barbaric death – they are just written off as another hopeless case junkie who carked it.

Death from drug overdoses is all around us, never goes away, and claims a lot more lives than Singaporean hangings.

It also gets no attention, and has no serious commitment by Government to do anything about it.

We should compare the value of the life of Van Nguyen to the value of the lives of the addicts who die. Whose life was more valuable? Trouble is, who is qualified to judge? Certainly not I, and I suspect, not any of my readers.

One of these lives has received unprecedented media attention, the others get no attention at all. One was a smuggler who would have ruined many lives. The others just have lives in ruins.

This seems a little unjust.

——————–

For a little light reading, read “Go Ask Alice”, by Anonymous. It is the diary of an addict. You will never be the same again. Probably hard to get now – it must have been published in the early 1980’s. It is so graphic it has been banned in many libraries. Hunt it out, though.

Drug smugglers and dealers are evil, irrespective of their motivations.

——————–

Instead of political BULLSHIT from our Government with its pious messages about being TOUGH ON DRUGS, they could actually do something.

They don’t want to take a really tough stance to fix the problem, because any really effective process would be politically unpalatable.

The solution is actually fairly easy:

- Every dealer caught gets life in prison. No parole, no remissions.

- Every user of EVERY illegal drug (party drugs, soft drugs, hard drugs, etc) is removed from society and put through a mandatory cleaning out and detox process. For however long it takes. And only released when found to be medically clean. If they don’t like it, too bad. Pillar of society – too bad. No matter who you are, same treatment.

- Every Mr Big who gets caught is imprisoned, also for life, also no parole, no remissions. They also have ALL of their assets confiscated to help pay for the clean-up and detox programs.

- Create policemen for the policemen, and an established culture of dobbing in crooked cops, dealers, pushers, dodgy prison officers, etc. Big rewards follow convictions. To avoid frivolous lawsuits, the burden of proof needs to be high.

- Undercover operatives everywhere – sporting grounds, rave parties, you name it, they are there. Anybody caught dealing gets hauled off and thrown in prison, questions follow later.

Does all this sound a bit authoritarian? You bet!

Would it reduce the prevalence of drug deaths? You bet!

Would it outrage the civil libertarians? You bet!

Would it ever be done? Forget it!

Lindt chocolate

I’ve been doing some high-pressure work lately, and doing this from home.

Why work from home?

- I save about 1 hour 20 minutes in travel time each day, which I use for work instead (this means I work for about 9, 10 or up to 12 hours a day, instead of 8. I only get paid for 8… irrespective…)

- I can do everything I need from home, EXCEPT if I need to talk to or see or meet with or discuss with other people who are at the office… this means one or two days a week are sometimes OK for working from home

- I get a heck of a lot less interruptions, so I can focus on what I need to do and devote some real brain-power. Being interrupted (and open-plan offices) is totally destructive for brain-power and sustained thought about difficult problems.

So far so good…

The down side though, is that I can eat what I like, and I tend to hop into the 70% Lindt dark chocolate.

Last week I had 2 days working from home and went through a whole block of the stuff – and I thought I was being restrained and pacing myself!

Lindt dark chocolate is wonderful stuff… just break a small piece off, pop it in the mouth, and let it melt over 5 or 10 minutes.

Heaven!! (But for the waist… hell!!)

Biodiesel = BAD

We all thought biodiesel is a good thing, right?

Turns out… WRONG.

Biodiesel turns out to be extremely environmentally damaging.

It will only take you 5 minutes to read the article in the Guardian. Make sure you read it, then always question who is pushing what agenda when you hear a supposedly good-news story.

(With thanks to David for bringing this one to my attention.)

Hands off Coopers!!!

FINALLY, after the months of public posturing, press-releases, ranting, railing and chest-beating…

It looks like the hostile takeover attempt for Coopers Brewery by Lion Nathan may be off and over…

As I understand it, Coopers is an unlisted public company with only several hundred shareholders. The Cooper family appear to own a large slab of the shares but not enough to maintain complete control if everybody else sold (in other words, less than 51%).

Coopers also has a strange company constitution which places restrictions on who the shares can be owned by, and with first-right-of-refusal for the Cooper family to buy blocks of shares that come up for sale.

Lion Nathan and Coopers have been at each other, in and out of court for months.

FINALLY the big day arrived after many false starts and court-imposed extensions. The shareholders met and voted by 93% to remove Lion Nathans right to buy shares.

This should mean Lion is out of the running, and Coopers is safely in family hands to keep on making great South Australian beer.

David Hicks the Pom

After 4 years being held without trial (and about 2 or 3 YEARS without being charged), David Hicks might yet get released.

And no, he is not being held in the dank dirty prison of some tin-pot dictator, in some third-world country.

He is being held in the dank dirty prison of the tin-pot dictator of the richest and most powerful country in the world. The same dictator who prides himself on his love of “freedom”, so much so he inflicted it on another country, killing (by his own estimates) over 30,000 of it’s citizens in the process.

The country is the United States of America. The dictator is George W. Bush, and David Hicks is some stupid Australian out for a spot of adventure, possibily religious-inspired.

The governments of all other developed countries, who found they had citizens caught in Afghanistan or Iraq have managed to get them free from the US jail-without-trial system.

Except for Australia, that good friend, bosom buddy and deputy-sherriff of the USA.

For Australia, it’s OK for one its citizens to rot in a US jail for years without trial. If this happened to anybody else, anywhere else, our Government would not tolerate it.

But for a silly adventurer caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, our Government is uncaring, and more interested in sucking up to its buddy the Sherriff.

David Hicks may have outsmarted those incompetant, platitudinous, bumbling buffoons Ruddock, Downer and Howard.

By a lucky twist of fate he turns out to be eligible for British citizenship.

The UK Government was not going to stand for the US Military Commission trial process on the grounds that it does not grant a fair trial. A year or so ago the UK citizens were released to the UK Government, and then released!!!

David Hicks’ application for British citizenship was refused by the Blair government in the UK. That decision has just been overturned by the High Court. The UK Government may yet appeal…

Learning cop outs

Many universities now force the “content” (what used to be called course material, or a subject) to be “delivered” on-line.

Web-based, self-paced learning at any time of the day or night is the modern way.

What a great big lazy cop out.

A few salient facts:

- You only remember about 10% to 30% of everything you read.

- You remember about 70% of everything you do.

The very act of sitting in a lecture given by a real person, who WRITES as they go, and where you WRITE as you listen, means that you get a decent pace. Not too much information, and not too little, not too slow, and (usually) not too fast.

And furthermore, brain-friction means that the act of passing the information from the eye to the hand causes some of it to stick. There is a lot more DOING involved in writing than there is in reading.

What does web delivery do?

It is only reading, just like a textbook, only less convenient. It usually has lots more words (because it’s not in note form, it’s in prose form).

Web based delivery of higher education is fashionable because:

- everybody wants to be up with the latest technology, not because it is inherently a useful technology

- with cost pressures on universities, getting the content on-line means less preparation and effort by staff once the initial hump has been jumped over

This kind of technology was tried in very primitive form with teaching machines back in the 1950’s, and disappeared because it does not work.

Maybe one day our educators will see the light. Don’t bet on it happening soon.

UPDATE: I’ve just heard of one university in South Australia where one of the lectures has been recorded (ie video) and this is available as a web-based download. This has to be the ULTIMATE cop-out.

Shame UniSA, shame.

When clients (and bosses) go bad

Another one I found by accident:

Kathy Sierra (and the folks from Creating Passionate Users) have some very interesting things to say. So much so I think I’ll be putting a link on the home page…

READ THIS ONE… it’s all about who is in control – you, your boss, or your clients. And once you have that figured, who gets rewarded, and how are you treated?

Oh if only…

I’ve spent many hours working back late, sometimes by myself, sometimes with many others. Mostly the boss would spring for pizza because after all people working through the night need to be fed.

The ONLY gourmet meal I’ve ever been treated to was Thai takeaway one evening of working back when with a previous employer (About 10 years ago). And that raised questions from the powers-that-be.

Kathys’ article really does bring home an important point – if you treat people badly, they won’t suddenly be motivated and creative and work hard to solve your problems. Instead they become grumpy, morose, sullen and resentful. And when they get the chance they leave to try and find a more compassionate employer.

So boss fellas, a bit more thought, a bit more consideration, a bit more trust and a bit more empathy would go a long way. Really respecting your employees will go even further.

(Aside: Now that Little John is changing the IR system I fully expect things to get much WORSE before they get BETTER.)

Have a little fun at work

Matthew Moran has some good ideas on having fun at work.

A good read here.

Though I might give the whoopee cushion a miss…

But it does remind me of a little story…

Our manager at work was relocated overseas (still the boss, just in a different country now), and his former office was converted into a conference room. To protect the innocent, let’s call him Bill Williams for the sake of the story.

One day we had him on the phone and told him that we were putting a big sign up on the door: “The Bill Williams Memorial Conference Room”. He actually found this quite funny but objected… on the grounds that he’s not dead yet. His sense of humour is coming along…

Learning to read

Another blatant rip-off from Crikey – thanks to speech pathologist Alison Clarke.

Something I’d not thought about a lot, since I have two children who are voracious readers. Admittedly it was a bit of a struggle getting the oldest going (with come-backs like “I know everything, I don’t need to learn to read”, at age 5…). Since he really go going though, we have to encourage him to do things OTHER than read…

Anyway, quoted in its entirety, from Crikey:

If Mem Fox’s reaction to Dr Ken Rowe’s draft national literacy inquiry report is anything to go by, I eagerly await its final release on 1 December.

Fox is an “advocate” of reading aloud to children, though nobody opposes this. She claims in her book Reading Magic that, if every parent “read aloud a minimum of three stories a day to the children in their lives, we could probably wipe out illiteracy within one generation” (2005, Pan McMillan, p11).

She supports this assertion with multiple anecdotes of Chloe, Tiffy, Ben, Eamon and others who trembled with delight when the treasured autographed hardcopy picture books were brought out, eagerly awaited postcards from Daddy on work trips, and magically learnt to read without ever having to do any nasty, boring phonics.

There are three main things wrong with her assertion. Firstly, the plural of anecdote is not data. The scientific literacy research is absolutely unambiguous about which literacy programs work best for all children: those that include systematic, direct phonics instruction. Some children are able, without instruction, to ‘hear’ sounds in words (phonemic awareness) and thus make sense of letter-sound relationships. Many are not, and need to be taught.

Secondly, reading is only fun if you can do it. For every anecdote about a child who magically learnt to read, I can give you one of a child who didn’t, no matter how often their parents read to them, and no matter how hard they tried. The only thing that worked was intensive, focused work on hearing sounds in words, and understanding how sounds are represented by letters.

I’m not talking here about the sort of incidental, initial phonics taught in most primary schools: A is for apple, art, Australia, acorn, autumn, among and (well) anything. Each of these words starts with a completely different sound, but only one sound tends to be taught for each of the 26 letters, and that’s the end of phonics. Many children thus believe, as Fox does, that “English spelling doesn’t make sense” (Reading Magic p147).

Systematic, explicit phonics recognises that there are 44 sounds in our language, and that sounds occur right through words, not just at word beginnings. It shows that the sound ‘ay’ has multiple spellings, as in ‘play’, ‘sale’, ‘sail’, ‘they’ and ‘eight’. It explores the sound ‘k’ as written in mosque, cheque and boutique. It demonstrates that many sounds share a spelling, as in ‘sea’, ‘deaf’ and ‘break’. It reveals the patterns, and helps children organize their thinking about sounds and letters. It is not recognisable in Reading Magic’s chapter 16: Phokissing on Fonix’.

My final objection to Fox’s thesis is that not everybody is like her and her middle-class friends. Some 500,000 Australian kids are growing up in poverty, so a personal autographed treasure trove of children’s books is simply not possible. Many sole parents are hard-pressed even to get to the library. Some parents are off gambling at story time. Some kids attending Australian schools used to live in Somali refugee camps, and while their mothers might speak four languages, they can’t read in any of them.

Read more on the website.

The water slurpers

We are constantly exhorted to DRINK MORE WATER, but maybe this has gone too far.

Everywhere you go now, you see people and their damn water bottles.

Going for a 5 minute walk? TAKE WATER! You might die of dehyradation on the way. (A 2 hour walk! Shock horror, better take a LOT of water!)

Going to the theatre? TAKE WATER! You never know, sitting through 2 hours of something might cause (gasp) dehydration.

And my all time favorite that I see every week at the public pool where I go swimming:

Going swimming (in a pool)? TAKE WATER!!!! Make sure you swim for only 2 laps before stopping for a big slurp, because swimming is hard work and you might get dehydrated!!!

Isn’t it about time we stopped listening to the bull, and tried thinking for ourselves?

If you feel thirsty, drink. Preferably water. If you don’t, then get on and do what you need to do.

Last I knew, it was quite possible to do at least a 2 hour walk without stopping for a drink.

Similarly, everybody used to manage 2-3 hours at theatres and in movies for years without needing to stop the show for a slurp.

And swimming!! OK, you are in chlorinated muck, but even so, just get on and swim and stop fluffing about!

Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream

Oh dear… take a look at this…

You can make ice-cream quickly using liquid nitrogen and an electric drill!!!

(Via mykrocosm->Reject Reality)

The Might Capri Theatre Organ

Tonight we had a special deal – a talk and demonstration of the Capri Theatre Organ, followed by a screening of the latest Harry Potter.

The Capri was built in the Art-Deco style in 1941 and has had a marvellous restoration, right down to the furniture in the foyer areas.

Seeing as the theatre is owned by the Theatre Organ Society, goodness only knows where they get the money. Maybe showing movies, but I don’t know if it is that profitable. I guess using lots of volunteers means they don’t have very high overheads.

This theatre was not originally built with a Theatre Organ, it was bought to make a home for an organ bought by the Society. And what an organ… it is just an amazing piece of machinery, and doubly so considering that it was built for a different theatre, and when that was demolished the organ was transported to Darwin, and then to Adelaide where it was re-assembled.

These days the organ is linked to the console by a computer, and it can be remotely played without anybody at the console at all. This is all an astonishing achievement by a volunteer group.

It’s a terrible shame that with large theatres like this (seating over 800), it is just not possible to fill them any more. There are very few 1940’s (and earlier) big single-screen cinemas left. In Adelaide, it seems like there are only 2 – the Chelsea and the Capri. Both struggle.

So congratulations to the Theatre Organ Society – for doing a fantastic job of rebuild, modifying and modernising the organ, and also for preserving and restoring one of the few Art-Deco buildings still remaining in Adelaide.

S*** happens

I don’t know Kevin Shockley from a bar of soap, but I did find this by accident and I think I’ll have to use it next time I’m asked how long such and such a project / hardware / software development will take:

One time I was with a group of senior executives and we were talking about a deadline. They were very interested in hearing when I thought this task would be complete. I walked them through the steps to complete the task: “first this, then that, then some other stuff, ….” when I threw in “and then shit happens” and then finally it will be ready. There eyes bugged out and looked amongst themselves like “Oh no you didn’t!”

Of course what I meant, which I explained, was that something always goes wrong. When it does it will delay the task, but it will not be a “show stopper”. We’ll adapt to the situtation, work around, over, or through the temporary obstacle, and finally complete the task. It was a choice moment. The looks on their faces was pure gold. I just didn’t feel like getting into the gory details so I , uhum, papraphrased.

Thanks Kevin!

Cheap computer stuff

I’ve bought a few odds & ends for computers on eBay – removable USB hard drive cases, things like that.

Usually these are at amazingly low prices when compared to what you pay in the local computer shop.

I finally found that most of this stuff comes from The ShenZhen Penghong Technology Manufactory

Cheap stuff from China that a few people must be importing by the container load, and flogging off a little at a time…

Hermitage Premium Wines

I do love a bargain, especially when it involves quality…

We found an advert for Hermitage Premium Wines in The Adelaide Review.

The prices were very low, so I ordered some.

Last night we opened a bottle of the NV Sparkling Riesling Chardonnay Pinot Blend ($90 / dozen including delivery in the Adelaide area).

For a low price sparkling wine, this was very good, and is excellent value. It has a nice fine bead, good balance of acid and sweetness, a pleasant whiff of Chardonnay on the nose without tasting too strongly of it.

Hermitage seem to be a private label, they bottle up bargains they find and apply their own label, and re-sell by newspaper ad, on eBay, and so on.

They have a few other offerings which I have not tried yet, but they should be pretty good if anything like the Sparkler from the other night.

If you are in Adelaide, and want to buy, call Matthew Thomas on 8380 5657, or email to matthew@hermitagewines.com.au.

Their prices are for straight dozens only and all seem to include delivery in the Adelaide area. From the newspaper ads, nothing is over $96 / dozen, and some are MUCH lower than that.

More Napalm

My father read the piece about Napalm, and e-mailed me this:

Read your piece about Napalm. Have a look at ‘Greek Fire’ in Wikipedia or in Google.

There is nothing new under the sun, just slightly different ways or more efficient ways of doing terrible things to each other.

I first read about this in the book “Ben Hur” [I think] when I was in primary school and it was a terrible weapon against which there was no defence.

Then just a year or two later and before the end of WW2, one read about the use of ‘jellied petrol’ in flamethrowers by the US Marines. The main use reported seemed to be in getting Japs out of pillboxes and blockhouses or otherwise impregnable defence positions during the advancement through the Pacific Islands.

The word ‘Napalm’ only seemd to come into use several years after the end of WW2 but I may be wrong.
Dad

So there you go!

From Wikipedia:

During World War I both the Allies and Germany used gasoline (petrol) as a weapon in flamethrowers, but gasoline by itself burns too quickly to be an effective incendiary device. A substance was needed which would produce a powerful and persistent fuel but would not consume itself too quickly.

Though researchers had found ways to make jellied gasoline earlier, many of them required rubber as a principal component, which during wartime was a scarce commodity. In 1942, researchers at Harvard University (led by Dr. Louis Fieser) and the U.S. Army Chemical Corps found a rubber-less solution: mixing an aluminum soap powder of naphthalene and palmitate (naphthenic acid and palmitic acid, sodium palmitrate) with gasoline. This produced a substance which was highly flammable, yet slow burning. In World War II, incendiary bombs using napalm as their fuel were used against the German city of Dresden and during the firebombings of Japan.

After World War II, further refinement and development of napalm was undertaken in the United States by the government and its affiliated laboratories. It was then used in the Vietnam War. Modern “napalm” contains neither naphthenic nor palmitic acids (despite the name), but often uses a bevy of other chemicals (including benzene and polystyrene) to stabilize the gasoline base. This new substance was named ‘napalm B’ and is manufactured by Dow Chemical Company.

The name “Napalm” comes from the substances added to the petrol: NAphthalene and PAlmitate.

Backup your PC!!!

Earlier in the week I was doing some very demanding stuff on the home PC, so I went out and bought some more RAM for it. This would give me a 1 GB pig pen for all the software to play in.

BAD MOVE!

After fitting the new RAM I had a series of crashes, resulting in some pretty serious corruption of the hard drive.

After a fruitless night spent trying to get it working, I gave up and reverted to the backup.

My backup is a 100% image of the main disk, so out with the screwdriver and 3/4 hour spent swapping hard drives had me back in business, though with 6 weeks data lost.

Now I’m picking through the corrupted drive selectively trying to pull back that missing 6 weeks….

And later I have to try and find which module is busted, and then go fight with the shop I bought it from…

——————–

ADVICE ON BACKING UP A HOME PC

(Note: This advice is not good enough for a corporate PC)

ALWAYS HAVE A BACKUP!

Most backup programs and processes for home PC’s SUCK big time. They only do a portion of your disk – maybe your user files. Very few do your registry entries, and even fewer do all the installed programs. Even those that do, tend to do so badly or incompletely, or assume you do not suffer a total loss.

If you ever have to restore based on your hazy memory of all that stuff you’ve downloaded and installed over the years, you’d know how hit and miss this can be.

I STRONGLY recommend everybody do what I do:

Buy an external USB 2 drive case (about $50 to $100 – eBay can be a bit hit and miss). Do NOT buy one with a drive in it.

Next, buy an IDENTICAL drive (same manufacturer and model number) drive to what you run in your PC, and put that into your external drive case.

(At this step, you may not be able to buy what you already use if it is a bit on the old side. In that case you have a much more complex job requiring purchase of 2 new drives, and a complex migration process to get everything onto the new bigger drive, and to get that installed…)

Then, use software like Paragon Drive Copy (which I was able to get as a free download) to periodically make a 100% duplicate of your entire main drive to your USB drive.

Do this about every 4 weeks.

It will take a while – duplicating my 80 GB drive takes about 1.5 hours. Live with it.

AND ALSO:

Backup up important data (like digital photos, letters, important downloads, etc) to other media, like a rewritable CD or DVD.

Try and do this WEEKLY.

This backup won’t wave you from every ill… If you end up with data corruption of any kind you will just duplicate it – so check you main drive for errors now and again.

What this backup process does, though, is to save you from much pain and suffering in the event of a total loss.

———————

I’ve been doing this from paranoia on 2 PC’s for the last 12-18 months, and now it has literally saved me. Only trouble is, I was not paranoid enough and did not do the full backup frequently enough.

6 weeks of lost info includes a lot of digital photos, a whole stack of SWMBO’s study material, tax records, home budgeting, and more. It looks like I’ll be able to get about 95% of this back from the stuffed drive, so I have been lucky.

———————-

Paragon drive copy does not work for me because I have 4 main hard drive partitions with different file systems, for booting Windows XP as well as Linux. Paragon drive copy barfs for some reason when copying some of the Linux stuff (it is meant to work, but fails).

Here is the happy hackers way to do a 100% copy if you have Linux (ideal for a micro-linux booting off a Flash drive or separate hard drive partition):

1. Boot into Linux, in single user mode. Make sure your USB hot-plug support is running (it is by default on most). To boot in single user mode, you need to put the word “single” without the quotes onto your boot line. If using GRUB to boot, use the “e” key to edit the boot line.

2. ASSUMING your main hard drive is hda, and your usb drive is sda, then enter the command (change as appropriate if your devices are called different things):

dd if=/dev/hda of=/dev/sda bs=100M

3. Wait for this command to complete – it will take a while – bigger drives take longer – 80GB will be 1-2 hours.

4. Shutdown linux (use the halt command).

5. Unplug your USB hard drive and lock it up somewhere secure.

The “dd” command above is used to copy pretty much anything to anything. It’s been in unix for a long time (I don’t know what “dd” stands for – it seems awfully similar to the old IBM MVS JCL “DD” statement….)

The command copies from the input file (”if=”) which specifies the entire device “hda”, to the output file (”of=”), which is the entire target drive. The “bs” parameter tell it the block size to use, in this case 100 MB. This reduces the amount of IO needed and speeds up the copy process a bit. This number does not matter very much, just make sure it is less than about 1/2 the amount of physical RAM you have. On a modern PC I suggest this should be at least 1MB, and preferably quite a bit more. Don’t use really small numbers or the backup will take forever.

This copy does the entire drive, including boot sectors, partition tables, data, the lot. It is basically a raw copy, byte for byte.

Works a treat for me!

Protesting the IR law changes

I discovered StyleMaster by accident. It seems he normally writes about software, but here is a really good comment about how to protest about the IR law changes:

Read it here.

Hmm. My local member is the awful TRISH DRAPER. Perhaps it’s time I wrote a letter.

More b*&^$% Windows Software

I’m working from home, doing a very high priority job for work.

In doing so, I’m pushing the old home PC pretty hard… But it is a fairly new, flash one, so it should be up to the task.

It’s much the same spec as the one I use at work, but for some reason it seems to be much slower. I’ve just had serious BSOD crash, which the magic Microsoft crash analyser tells me was in “iomdisk.sys”.

This turns out to be a driver that is part of the IOMega Active Disk program. I don’t even know how Active Disk ended up being installed here.

But I have now uninstalled it, and guess what – EVERYTHING seems to be running a lot faster.

Email signatures

Something I get grumpy about:

Stupid trendy email signature blocks, specifically the way phone numbers are set out.

I can figure out:

t: 1234-5678
f: 9876-5432
e: fred@bloggs.com

The “t” is telephone, the “f” is fax, the “e” is email.

BUT WHY NOT JUST SAY SO INSTEAD OF MAKING ME DECODE IT?

It was really brought home when I got one the other day that looked like this:

d: 5647-2102
p: 6573-0458
f: 9476-9028

I sat and stared. What the hell? Does “d” mean direct? Does “p” mean phone, or private, or personal?

For crying out loud, spell it out in full.

When we need the information to contact somebody, we just want it. We don’t want to get degrees in psychology and cryptography in order to decode some self-indulgent trendy bullshit.

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