March 25, 2017

Roger Bell-West

HMS Ulysses, Alistair MacLean

1955 thriller/war story, MacLean's first novel. Ulysses, a heavily-modified Dido-class cruiser, has been worked nearly to death on the Arctic convoys, but in spite of that, and of an arguable mutiny among the men, she's sent out for one more run.

March 25, 2017 09:04 AM

March 24, 2017

Roger Bell-West

Dear 3D print customers, please just use OpenSCAD

My customers on 3dhubs use a variety of software packages to build the models they send me; in theory, anything that produces files in obj or stl format will work. Some are definitely better than others.

March 24, 2017 09:04 AM

March 23, 2017

Neil McGovern

GNOME ED Update – Week 12

New release!

In case you haven’t seen it yet, there’s a new GNOME release – 3.24! The release is the result of 6 months’ work by the GNOME community.

The new release is a major step forward for us, with new features and improvements, and some exciting developments in how we build applications. You can read more about it in the announcement and release notes.

As always, this release was made possible partially thanks to the Friends of GNOME project. In particular, it helped us provide a Core apps hackfest in Berlin last November, which had a direct impact on this release.


GTK+ hackfest

I’ve just come back from the GTK+ hackfest in London – thanks to RedHat and Endless for sponsoring the venues! It was great to meet a load of people who are involved with GNOME and GTK, and some great discussions were had about Flatpak and the creation of a “FlatHub” – somewhere that people can get all their latest Flatpaks from.


As I’m writing this, I’m sitting on a train going to Heathrow, for my flight to LibrePlanet 2017! If you’re going to be there, come and say hi. I’ve a load of new stickers that have been produced as well so these can brighten up your laptop.

by Neil McGovern at March 23, 2017 11:43 AM

Roger Bell-West

Pyramid 100: Pyramid Secrets

Pyramid, edited by Steven Marsh, is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's a celebration of 100 issues of Pyramid, and various articles that wouldn't fit well elsewhere.

March 23, 2017 09:04 AM

March 22, 2017

Ian Christian

Purition – natural wholefood protein shake review

I’ve previously spent a week consuming nothing but Soylent Life (a food replacement shake), and have become a big fan of Huel in the past – however I wanted to see what else was out on the market.

I got my hands on a sample pack of Purition and was pleasantly surprised. The sample pack comes with 6 flavours, all of which I personally enjoyed, with Macadamia and Vanilla being my own favorite.

The best part of Purition in my opinion is that the flavours are real – that’s such an important point to make.  Often when you try a protein shake you can taste the flavour is due to chemicals – however when drinking Purition it’s clear that flavours are coming form real food.  There are small chunks of nuts in some, and all of them have a subtle and pleasant taste of coconut.

I am not great at recognising flavours, so I thought I’d test someone to see how well they could identify the tastes.  I offered a Macadamia and Vanilla flavour to her, and instantly she could tell there as vanilla, and fatty nuts present.

To quote Purition’s own website:


That’s simple – REAL FOOD. Much more than just a meal replacement, it’s a real food meal in a glass. There is a big difference. Traditional “meal replacements” contain lots of sugar, water, milk powder, thickeners and flavourings and some cheap chemically synthesized vitamins and minerals. They contain very few calories and the reason for this is because they contain no real food.

As you can see on the right, Purition is very low on carbs, and high in fat and protein. Depending on your goals this could be seen as a great thing. Using Purition in a recipe for over night oats (as below) will of course add plenty of carbohydrates to the mix if that’s what you’re after. I personally prefer this for pre-workout meals.

Nutritional profile: Macadamia and Vanilla

NUTRIENTS – Typical values
Energy 2082 kj
Energy 495 kcal
Fat 35 g
 saturates 8.2 g
 monounsaturated 13.5 g
 polyunsaturated 13.3 g
 trans 0 g
Carbohydrates 8.6 g
 sugars 2.6 g
Fibre 15.6 g
Protein 39.1 g
Salt 0.30 g


Purition is incredibly tasty, but comes at a higher price tag than some meal-replacement shakes.  This is justified by the use of quality real, wholefood ingredients – you can certainly taste the difference.

Personally due to the low carb content I wouldn’t advise living off Purition 24/7, but that is not a goal of the product.  It’s meant to replace just one or two meals a day as part of a balanced diet.

Overnight Oats Recipe Using Purition

Overnight oats make a fantastic breakfast, largely due to how quickly you can make them and how little mess it makes!  You can prepare a weeks worth in advance, and simply add the milk the night before and throw it into the fridge!


  • 40g Purition
  • 100g oats
  • 2 teaspoons of chia seeds
  • 300ml milk


Weight out your oats.  I use a a jar, it fits easily in the fridge and is a pleasure to eat out of, it sure beats eating out of a plastic container.

Then simply add chia seeds, and 40g of purition.

Add milk – I use whole milk but any milk or milk substitute will work just fine.

Put in the fridge over night.  It’s fine for at least 12 hours, probably longer.

The quantities above make plenty to snack on all morning, and keep you feeling full for ages!





The post Purition – natural wholefood protein shake review appeared first on Ian P. Christian's Health Blog.

by Ian P. Christian at March 22, 2017 01:08 PM

Roger Bell-West

Ringworld, Larry Niven

1970 Hugo- and Nebula-award-winning science fiction. A motley crew of explorers travels to an immense, star-girdling ring.

March 22, 2017 09:01 AM

March 21, 2017

Roger Bell-West

Bones season 11

2015-2016, 22 episodes. Police procedural in the CSI mould: a team of forensic experts at the "Jeffersonian" consults for the FBI.

March 21, 2017 09:04 AM

March 20, 2017

Roger Bell-West

Asking for Trouble, Ann Granger

1997 mystery; first of Granger's novels of Fran Varady. Fran is unemployed, broke, and about to be turfed out of her London squat along with her three housemates. But one of those housemates is soon going to turn up dead.

March 20, 2017 09:02 AM

March 19, 2017

Roger Bell-West

Marlow Tabletop and Board Games 6 February 2017

This Meetup-based boardgames group continues to meet at the Marlow Donkey.

March 19, 2017 09:02 AM

March 18, 2017

Roger Bell-West

Henry Martyn, L. Neil Smith

1989 swashbuckling science fiction. Against the background of the thousand-years' war between the Hanoverian Monopolity and the Jendyne Empery-Cirot, Arran Islay fights for freedom and revenge.

March 18, 2017 09:01 AM

March 17, 2017

Roger Bell-West

Koutetsujou no Kabaneri

2016 steampunk action, 12 episodes, anime original: AniDB, vt "Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress". With the shogunate ravaged by zombies (kabane), civilisation survives in great walled "stations" and the armoured steam "fortresses" that travel between them.

March 17, 2017 09:04 AM

March 16, 2017

Roger Bell-West

This Rough Magic, Mary Stewart

1964 mystery/thriller or romantic suspense. After the play that was to be her Big Break closed in disgrace, Lucy Waring goes to visit her married sister in Corfu. But why would anyone shoot at the dolphin that comes into their bay?

March 16, 2017 09:03 AM

Jess Rowbottom

The World Swoons Again

Now the immediate post-album launch haze has died down and I’ve got the bug back, I’ve returned to the studio for a couple of projects.

First-off, I’ve been continuing my work with poet Ralph Dartford on our project Swoon! Telling the story of Waterloo Sunset‘s Terry and Julie, it’s a project which explores love, addiction, escape and reconciliation through spoken word and music to ‘dance, reflect, laugh and fall in love with’.

I’ve worked with Ralph before – he’s part of the Ossett crowd behind Flock To Ossett, 1000 Snowflakes, and various other arts-scene things which I photographed over the years. More recently his was the voice on my Bleeding Obvious track I, Human on the debut album. Ralph presented me with 16 pieces of spoken word, pieces he’d performed solo for some time and which fans felt invested in – dangerous territory, maybe. I worked for a couple of months illustrating them with music, soundtracking them; at some points it felt like I was painting the pictures he’d sketched out, but to my interpretation of the colours. I think we’ve come up with something special as a result.

(Yeah I’m being artsy wanky, I’ll stop that now.)

So anyway, that’s Swoon! and we’ve been performing it live at spoken word nights and in support of other artists, which has been tremendous fun to do.

The teardrop’s back, at least for the moment.

The other thing is my followup album – you know, the tricky second one. I did promise my son that I’d write a happy album next and got a few songs into it before discovering… well, everything was so bloody vacuous. So I took the songs which I’d thrown to the wayside and they’ve become a new work provisionally titled Rainbow Heart. It’s a celebration of diversity encompassing the whole LGBTQ spectrum, and I’ve already signed up quite a few collaborations for it. If you want to listen to something in progress, I’ve made public a demo of Gender Babylon which I performed live at a gig the other weekend and went down reasonably well – it’s a true story, y’know.

So, I’m performing live quite frequently – trying new things, doing everything from the occasional open mic to a full gig with a big rig, swallowing my pride when things don’t go according to plan, and hauling flightcases all over the shop. Oh also, I did an interview with SnT mag. You need to scroll down for it past the blurb but they’ve not done a bad job. Read it here. G’wan.

One final honourable mention goes to my new stage piano, an ex-demo Korg SV1-88 affectionately known as Stevie (Wonder or Nicks? Nobody knows) and which has to be the best thing I’ve played in years – bit of a bugger to haul around though. And it’s got a valve – and as everyone knows, valves are cool.



by Jess at March 16, 2017 07:04 AM

March 15, 2017

Mark Goodge

Happy Ides of March!

Today is the 15th of March, the nearest equivalent in our calendar to the Roman Ides of March, the date on which – as we all know from our Shakespeare – Julius Caesar was assassinated. Everybody knows to beware the Ides of March. It’s even been reported that one of the reasons for not sending Britain’s Article 50 letter to the EU today is to avoid any association with the Ides of March.

The thing is, Shakespeare emphasised the Ides of March as the date Caesar was assassinated deliberately for the sake of contrast, because to the Romans that was a joyous day – it was a day of new year celebrations and religious festivals. It would be like a contemporary book setting an assassination of a president on Christmas or Easter day. Or even some other date that has a generally positive feeling about it – “Beware the Spring Bank Holiday”.

I think we should start a campaign to rehabilitate the Ides of March. I’ve just been out in the garden, where the birds are singing, the sun is shining, the Magnolia and ornamental cherry are beginning to blossom and the leaves are returning to deciduous trees. I think the Romans had it right when they made March the first month of the year. Early spring is when the year feels new, it’s when optimism starts to return after the dark days of winter. We should celebrate it, just as the Romans did.

Happy Ides of March, and a happy new circle of the seasons!

by Mark at March 15, 2017 10:30 AM

Roger Bell-West

March 14, 2017

Roger Bell-West

They Found Him Dead, Georgette Heyer

1937 detective fiction; third of Heyer's novels of Detective Inspector, later Superintendent, Hannasyde and Sergeant Hemingway. Silas Kane is found at the foot of a cliff on the morning after his sixtieth birthday party; obviously he slipped. But then his heir is quite blatantly shot, and attempts are made on the life of the next heir.

March 14, 2017 09:04 AM

March 13, 2017

Roger Bell-West

February-March 2017 Trailers

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube. Opinions are thoroughly personal.)

March 13, 2017 09:02 AM

March 12, 2017

Roger Bell-West

12 Monkeys season 2

2016 SF, 13 episodes. The plague that wiped out human civilisation is still a problem for the post-apocalyptic time travellers to solve, but other time travellers are a greater threat.

March 12, 2017 09:04 AM

March 11, 2017

Roger Bell-West

Thirsty Meeples February 2017

Back to the boardgame café, which was calming down a bit after Christmas. With images; cc-by-sa on everything.

March 11, 2017 09:02 AM

March 10, 2017

Roger Bell-West

Night Ducks

I was out late one evening posting a 3D-printed part, and saw some ducks out on the Wye.

March 10, 2017 09:00 AM

March 09, 2017

Steve Kennedy

KERV minor update

Use code ETN10 for a 10% discount until the end of March at KERV

by Steve Karmeinsky ( at March 09, 2017 11:25 PM

There's been a few curve balls, but KERV has arrived

KERV is a ring with an NFC chip embedded so it can be used for contactless payments. Well it's actually more than just a ring as there's a whole payment eco-system behind it.

KERV actually started life on Kickstarter - quite a while back - and there's been a few issues moving the project forward. But it's now possible to actually go on-line and order a ring in a variety of colours (white or black exteriors with varying interior colours).

The ring can be used anywhere that a MasterCard contactless card can be used as it behaves a an M/Chip contactless payment device.

The ring is made from a ceramic called Zirconia, so it's pretty tough (the only things that should be able to scratch it are sapphire and diamond) so it should last a while. When using the ring it needs to be held parallel to the reader (not placed on top with your finger flat i.e. bend your finger and the top of the ring should be parallel with the reader).

The website is available to users which allows activating the ring (a unique 'visual' code is distributed with the ring which is then used to activate it on the site). Users can also activate a virtual MasterCard (you get to print out a copy) which can be used for on-line/over the phone purchases. It's actually pre-paid MasterCard so it needs to be topped up. The ring can then be linked to the card too so only one top up is needed for both.Top-ups can be done using another card or by transferring money into the Kerv bank account with a unique reference generated by Kerv.

Being contactless it also means it can be used on the London Underground just by putting your finger near the reader and 'tapping in'.

The ring currently costs £99.99 from the KERV store if you use code ETN10 you'll get a 10% discount until the end of March.

It should be worn as below: -

by Steve Karmeinsky ( at March 09, 2017 11:23 PM

Roger Bell-West

A Closed and Common Orbit, Becky Chambers

2016 science fiction, stand-alone sequel to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. A new AI in an illegal human-shaped body, and the human who's getting it out of a bad situation, work together to build new lives.

March 09, 2017 09:04 AM

March 08, 2017

Neil McGovern

GNOME ED update – Week 10


After quite a bit of work, we finally have the sponsorship brochure produced for GUADEC and GNOME.Asia. Huge thanks to everyone who helped, I’m really pleased with the result. Again, if you or your company are interested in sponsoring us, please drop a mail to!

Food and Games

I like food, and I like games. So this week there was a couple of awesome sneak previews on the upcoming GNOME 3.24 release. Matthias Clasen posted about GNOME Recipes the 1.0 release – tasty snacks are now available directly on the desktop, which means I can also view them when I’m at the back of the house in the kitchen, where the wifi connection is somewhat spotty. Adrien Plazas also posted about GNOME Games – now I can get my retro gaming fix easily.

Signing thingswpid-file1488981981482.jpg

I was sent a package in the post, with lots of blank stickers and a couple of pens. I’ve now signed a load of stickers, and my hand hurts. More details about exactly what this is about soon :)

by Neil McGovern at March 08, 2017 09:02 PM

March 07, 2017

Roger Bell-West

Suddenly at His Residence, Christianna Brand

1946 detective fiction; third of Brand's novels of Inspector Cockrill. Sir Richard's grandchildren visit his country house in the summer of 1944 as flying-bombs descend on London; he decides to disinherit them all, goes to spend the night in the lodge dedicated to the memory of his deceased first wife, and is found dead in the morning. US vt The Crooked Wreath.

March 07, 2017 09:00 AM

March 06, 2017

Liam Proven


My previous post was an improvised and unplanned comment. I could have structured it better, and it caused some confusion on

Dave Cutler did not write OS/2. AFAIK he never worked on OS/2 at all in the days of the MS-IBM pact -- he was still at DEC then.

Many sources focus on only one side of the story -- the DEC side, This is important but only half the tale.

IBM and MS got very rich working together on x86 PCs and MS-DOS. They carefully planned its successor: OS/2. IBM placed restrictions on this which crippled it, but it wasn't apparent at the time just how bad this would turn out to be.

In the early-to-mid 1980s, it seemed apparent to everyone that the most important next step in microcomputers would be multitasking.

Even small players like Sinclair thought so -- the QL was designed as the first cheap 68000-based home computer. No GUI, but multitasking.

I discussed this a bit in a blog post a while ago:

Apple's Lisa was a sideline: too expensive. Nobody picked up on its true significance.

Then, 2 weeks after the QL, came the Mac. Everything clever but expensive in the Lisa stripped out: no multitasking, little RAM, no hard disk, no slots or expansion. All that was left was the GUI. But that was the most important bit, as Steve Jobs saw and nobody much else did.

So, a year later, the ST had a DOS-like OS but a bolted-on GUI. No shell, just a GUI. Fast-for-the-time CPU, no fancy chips, and it did great. It had the original, uncrippled version of DR GEM. Apple's lawsuit meant that PC GEM was crippled: no overlapping windows, no desktop drive icons or trashcan, etc.

Microsoft was also playing around with GUIs. Windows 1 was, like PC GEM, crippled. Windows 2 was better, and some successful apps used it -- Pagemaker, Excel, the Omnis database, and so on. But it mainly sold as a runtime environment. Nobody -- including MS -- took it very seriously.

OS/2 was the future. Multitasking. That was the big deal. OS/2 1.0 shipped -- RTM, media, launch party, OEM bundling the works -- without the GUI because it wasn't finished! That is how little importance IBM and MS attached to GUIs. You could leave that bit until later. It didn't really matter.

OS/2 1 bombed. V1.1 added the GUI, v1.2 improved it, v1.3 was half decent, but it was poor at running DOS apps. Both MS and IBM underestimated the importance of that legacy code.

But Windows 2 wasn't a product. It was 3 products. Windows 2, for the 8086, just a GUI, and not a very good one. Windows 2/286, a DOS extender (kinda sorta), enabling apps to access 16MB of RAM.

16MB was a very large amount in 1988 or so. And Windows 2/386, which could do all that _and_ access the 80386's Virtual 86 mode to efficiently multitask DOS apps.

Windows 3 was a skunkworks project. OS/2 was dying in the market. MS didn't know where to go next. There was no Plan B. Bear in mind that MS wasn't always wedded to DOS and the PC -- it offered Xenix, a Unix clone, in its early days. Xenix even ran on the Apple Lisa, while MS products ran on Apples and Commodores and Ataris and Tandys and Dragons.

With the failure of OS/2, IBM and MS started to squabble and fall out.

Meantime, in the background, a bunch of MS engineers had found a way to cleverly bolt together the 3 different editions of Windows 3 into 1 project, and give the tired UI a facelift using tech from Presentation Manager, the OS/2 GUI -- proportional fonts, fake-3D window widgets, a 2-level-hierarchical Program Manager.

On an 8086 (or a machine with only 640 kB of RAM) it ran in Real Mode, as a DOS app, and was mainly just a GUI.

On a 286 with over 1MB of RAM, it could run in Standard Mode, and you got all that plus Windows apps that could access a meg or more of continuous RAM -- something almost impossible on DOS.

And on a 386 with 2MB of RAM, you got 386 Enhanced Mode: all of Standard Mode, plus fast reliable hardware-assisted multitasking of DOS apps, in scalable windows (!).

It was useful even to people who didn't want Windows apps. It was a pretty good DOS multitasker -- a small but important market segment, one that standalone products like DESQview (as I mentioned before) sold just by catering for.

If the OEM bundled Windows, a power user buying a fast PC got a DOS multitasker with a friendly GUI for free. This was a pretty good deal and it meant that Windows 3 became desirable even for stalwart DOS holdouts, of which there were quite a few.

Result? Suddenly, Windows, a tired old product line, whose version 1.0, 2.0 & 3 different editions of 2.1 had all flopped, was a best-seller.

Suddenly, Microsoft turned on a dime. It pivoted, in industry parlance. Forget OS/2, now Windows was the future. IBM got OS/2.

This left MS with a skeleton of a potential future product -- Portable OS/2, AKA OS/2 3 -- and no clear plan what to do with it, because IBM had the rights to the 386 version -- the obvious direction.

Aside: one of the problems with OS/2 2, IBM's 386-mode OS, was that as it was derived from a 286 product, it had a number of 286 (16-bit) elements. Yes, the kernel was 386 code, but the filesystem (HPFS) was 16-bit, the GUI (PM) was initially mostly 16-bit, and all apps shared a single (I believe 16-bit) input queue, so if that crashed or froze, although your OS was still running and apps updating, you could not interact with the OS any more. Not even in order to shut it down cleanly.

This is where Dave Cutler comes on the scene: into the middle of a complex story involving several industry giants -- IBM and Microsoft and the whole of the PC industry. DEC is almost peripheral to this.

Cutler is hailed as the architect of VMS, but it was not his only OS project. He also did RSX-11 and VAXELN before that, and worked on others.

So when Cutler came on board, with some of his core team and a plan in his head for a portable successor to VMS, he got handed the existing Portable OS/2 project. There wasn't a lot of code in it, and Microsoft wanted to distance it from OS/2.

As per VMS did not have multiple OS personalities. Neither did OS/2. It had its own API, as did its subcomponents Presentation Manager, LAN Manager, Communications Manager, Database Manager etc. It also has a DOS mode for running DOS apps -- a single DOS app in OS/2 1, multiple ones in OS/2 2 _et seq._

Windows NT is different. It has its own kernel API, but that is private and not officially documented outside MS, AFAIK. It supports personalities: at launch, it offered OS/2, (complete with HPFS, but *not* Presentation Manager), Win32, POSIX and a bundled DOS emulator.

It's an oversimplification to say that NT is a 386 version of VMS. It isn't. It is a portable OS -- it has in its history run on Intel i860, SUN SPARC, IBM/Apple PowerPC, SGI MIPS, DEC Alpha, Intel x86-32, x86-64 and Itanium, and most recent addition, ARM.

It has 2 parents: OS/2 and VMS. It inherited some code in the early days from OS/2, because MS co-owns OS/2. That's why IBM can't open-source OS/2. It doesn't inherit code from VMS, because VMS was DEC property, later Compaq, later HP, and now VMS Software Inc. However, as the Windows IT Pro article makes plain, it inherits a lot of concepts and terminology and even filenames -- but VMS was not conceived as a portable OS. VMS was co-designed with the DEC VAX minicomputer. Later it was ported to DEC's Alpha RISC CPU, and later again to Intel Itanium. VMS Software is currently working on porting it to x86-64 and apparently this is not a trivial job.

March 06, 2017 01:37 PM

March 05, 2017

Roger Bell-West

Queen of the Flowers, Kerry Greenwood

2004 historical detection, fourteenth in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). Phryne investigates a disappeared "fast" girl, and one of her adopted daughters tries to find her original father. But will Phryne manage to appear as Queen of the Flowers at the St Kilda Festival? Of course she will.

March 05, 2017 09:03 AM

March 04, 2017

Liam Proven


Windows NT was allegedly partly developed on OS/2. Many MSers loved OS/2 at the time -- they had co-developed it, after all. But there was more to it than that.

Windows NT was partly based on OS/2. There were 3 branches of the OS/2 codebase:

[a] OS/2 1.x – at IBM’s insistence, for the 80286. The mistake that doomed OS/2 and IBM’s presence in the PC industry, the industry it had created.

[b] OS/2 2.x – IBM went it alone with the 80386-specific version.

[c] OS/2 3.x – Portable OS/2, planned to be ported to multiple different CPUs.

After the “divorce”, MS inherited Portable OS/2. It was a skeleton and a plan. Dave Cutler was hired from DEC, which refused to allow him to pursue his PRISM project for a modern CPU and successor to VMS. Cutler got the Portable OS/2 project to complete. He did, fleshing it out with concepts and plans derived from his experience with VMS and plans for PRISM.

It was developed on the Intel i860 CPU, codenamed N-Ten, on in-house made MS motherboards. Obviously MS wasn’t going to call it OS/2 anything – that was the failed IBM project, the future was Windows.

So it became Windows for N-Ten. “Windows NT,” later retconned “New Technology”.

The first version, NT 3.1, appeared in 1993 – the number derived from the then-current DOS-based version, and also due, I think, to a licensing deal with Novell allowing MS to use Novell developer info (e.g. to develop a Netware client) but only in Windows up to 3.1.

But until NT, OS/2 2.x was the most advanced PC OS for 386s. No mucking around with upper memory blocks, XMS, EMS and all that nonsense. DOS apps, Windows 3 apps, and a native 32-bit OS with no memory constraints. A new filesystem with long filenames (derived straight from OS/2 1.x and therefore 16-bit code). An advanced, if clunky, “object oriented” GUI.

OS/2 2 was impressive stuff. Linux was skeletal, pre-alpha, back then. PC versions of BSD was a bit better but the vaguely usable versions were commercial. Commercial Unix was either horribly expensive (e.g. Interactive) or horribly limited (e.g. Coherent). And by and large there wasn’t anything else at all.

Oddly, what made me move from OS/2 wasn’t NT. NT was lovely, but expensive and required expensive high-end kit, with a small Hardware Compatibility List. Forget using it on an old “bitsa” PC built from scrap.

OS/2 2 worked on that, with effort. Stacker, bodged-on SCSI storage, PC speaker sound or crappy parallel-port sound cards, crazy mice with numeric keypads: they worked.

Not on NT, they didn’t.

But on the beta of Windows 95, they did, like a dream, easier, faster, and with a better UI. Less stable, but better DOS and Win32 compatibility. You could run NT apps! (All right, yes, both of them.)

OS/2 was great. NT 3.x was theoretically better, if you had a £5000 PC. But Windows 95, while conceptually worse in design terms, actually did what you needed, was easier to get working, had a better UI and let you use the apps you needed and your legacy stuff too.

Sad but true. I switched.

I did look back. OS/2 Warp 3 didn’t work well on my old PC – it needed new drivers for various bits. (And you had to buy OS/2 device drivers for some kit.) It really needed higher-end kit. Windows 95B brought improvements I actually benefited from, like FAT32, and ones I could see being useful in future, like USB support. At work, NT 3.51 looked ugly but it worked well. The hardware had caught up and there were 32-bit apps.

OS/2 Warp 4 caught up in some ways, but it was too late. NT 4 came out the same year.

NT4 was far preferable to OS/2 Warp 4. No 1000+ line CONFIG.SYS files, decent driver support, a more modern filesystem. No USB, true. Lousy power management, lousy plug-and-play. Good for a work desktop with unchanging hardware. Poor on a laptop. But if you wanted toys or games, Win98 followed soon after.

And NT Server made a great server for Win9x, as well as NT desktops. It had some great, rarely-considered features: roaming profiles, for instance. Proxy servers were very easy, far easier than on Netware. (Novell was off chasing big-business multi-site multi-server networks with Netware 4, and took its eyes off the ball: small business with a shared Internet connection.)

A bundled email client on the client end, and cheap off-the-shelf email servers for the server (before the behemoth Exchange crushed them all). IBM didn’t bother stuff like that, because it had Lotus Notes.

OS/2 was good in its day. If IBM hadn’t insisted on 80286 support, it would have triumphed. But then we wouldn’t have got Win9x or NT, both honestly really good products which advanced the state of the PC art.

By the same token, if GNU had embraced the BSD kernel in 1988 or so, we might never have got Linux, and there would have been a good free PC Unix at the beginning of the 1990s, maybe significantly changing the perspective of the whole industry. It nearly happened.

Or if Quarterdeck had released DESQview/X earlier, before Windows 3.0, there would have been an alternative, bridging the worlds of MS-DOS and Unix: DOS with multitasking, TCP/IP and an X.11 GUI. It nearly happened, too.

March 04, 2017 03:20 PM

Roger Bell-West

March 03, 2017

Roger Bell-West

Farnborough Air Sciences Trust

On a slightly warm February day, to Farnborough to visit the museum on the former site of the Royal Aeronautical Establishment at Farnborough. Images follow: cc-by-sa on everything.

March 03, 2017 09:02 AM

March 02, 2017

Jonathan McDowell

Rational thoughts on the GitHub ToS change

I woke this morning to Thorsten claiming the new GitHub Terms of Service could require the removal of Free software projects from it. This was followed by joeyh removing everything from github. I hadn’t actually been paying attention, so I went looking for some sort of summary of whether I should be worried and ended up reading the actual ToS instead. TL;DR version: No, I’m not worried and I don’t think you should be either.

First, a disclaimer. I’m not a lawyer. I have some legal training, but none of what I’m about to say is legal advice. If you’re really worried about the changes then you should engage the services of a professional.

The gist of the concerns around GitHub’s changes are that they potentially circumvent any license you have applied to your code, either converting GPL licensed software to BSD style (and thus permitting redistribution of binary forms without source) or making it illegal to host software under certain Free software licenses on GitHub due to being unable to meet the requirements of those licenses as a result of GitHub’s ToS.

My reading of the GitHub changes is that they are driven by a desire to ensure that GitHub are legally covered for the things they need to do with your code in order to run their service. There are sadly too many people who upload code there without a license, meaning that technically no one can do anything with it. Don’t do this people; make sure that any project you put on GitHub has some sort of license attached to it (don’t write your own - it’s highly likely one of Apache/BSD/GPL will suit your needs) so people know whether they can make use of it or not. “I don’t care” is not a valid reason not to do this.

Section D, relating to user generated content, is the one causing the problems. It’s possibly easiest to walk through each subsection in order.

D1 says GitHub don’t take any responsibility for your content; you make it, you’re responsible for it, they’re not accepting any blame for harm your content does nor for anything any member of the public might do with content you’ve put on GitHub. This seems uncontentious.

D2 reaffirms your ownership of any content you create, and requires you to only post 3rd party content to GitHub that you have appropriate rights to. So I can’t, for example, upload a copy of ‘Friday’ by Rebecca Black.

Thorsten has some problems with D3, where GitHub reserve the right to remove content that violates their terms or policies. He argues this could cause issues with licenses that require unmodified source code. This seems to be alarmist, and also applies to any random software mirror. The intent of such licenses is in general to ensure that the pristine source code is clearly separate from 3rd party modifications. Removal of content that infringes GitHub’s T&Cs is not going to cause an issue.

D4 is a license grant to GitHub, and I think forms part of joeyh’s problems with the changes. It affirms the content belongs to the user, but grants rights to GitHub to store and display the content, as well as make copies such as necessary to provide the GitHub service. They explicitly state that no right is granted to sell the content at all or to distribute the content outside of providing the GitHub service.

This term would seem to be the minimum necessary for GitHub to ensure they are allowed to provide code uploaded to them for download, and provide their web interface. If you’ve actually put a Free license on your code then this isn’t necessary, but from GitHub’s point of view I can understand wanting to make it explicit that they need these rights to be granted. I don’t believe it provides a method of subverting the licensing intent of Free software authors.

D5 provides more concern to Thorsten. It seems he believes that the ability to fork code on GitHub provides a mechanism to circumvent copyleft licenses. I don’t agree. The second paragraph of this subsection limits the license granted to the user to be the ability to reproduce the content on GitHub - it does not grant them additional rights to reproduce outside of GitHub. These rights, to my eye, enable the forking and viewing of content within GitHub but say nothing about my rights to check code out and ignore the author’s upstream license.

D6 clarifies that if you submit content to a GitHub repo that features a license you are licensing your contribution under these terms, assuming you have no other agreement in place. This looks to be something that benefits projects on GitHub receiving contributions from users there; it’s an explicit statement that such contributions are under the project license.

D7 confirms the retention of moral rights by the content owner, but states they are waived purely for the purposes of enabling GitHub to provide service, as stated under D4. In particular this right is revocable so in the event they do something you don’t like you can instantly remove all of their rights. Thorsten is more worried about the ability to remove attribution and thus breach CC-BY or some BSD licenses, but GitHub’s whole model is providing attribution for changesets and tracking such changes over time, so it’s hard to understand exactly where the service falls down on ensuring the provenance of content is clear.

There are reasons to be wary of GitHub (they’ve taken a decentralised revision control system and made a business model around being a centralised implementation of it, and they store additional metadata such as PRs that aren’t as easily extracted), but I don’t see any indication that the most recent changes to their Terms of Service are something to worry about. The intent is clearly to provide GitHub with the legal basis they need to provide their service, rather than to provide a means for them to subvert the license intent of any Free software uploaded.

March 02, 2017 06:13 PM

Roger Bell-West

Top Gear season 2.23 and The Grand Tour season 1

Top Gear: 2015, 6 episodes; The Grand Tour: 2015-2016, 13 episodes. In both cases, these are comedy shows lightly disguised as motoring programmes.

March 02, 2017 09:00 AM

March 01, 2017

Neil McGovern

GNOME ED update – Week 9

As mentioned in my previous post, I’ll be posting regularly with an update on what I’ve been up to as the GNOME Executive Director, and highlighting some cool stuff around the project!

If you find this dull, they’re tagged with [update-post] so hopefully, you can filter them out. And dear folk – if this annoys you too much I can turn the feed category to turn this off it’s not interesting enough :) However, if you like these or have any suggestions for things you’d like to see here, let me know.


One of the areas we’ve been working on is the sponsorship brochure for GUADEC and GNOME.Asia. Big thanks to Allan Day and the Engagement team for helping out here – and I’m pleased to say it’s almost finished! In the meantime, if you or your company are interested in sponsoring us, please drop a mail to!


A fairly lengthy and wide-ranging interview with myself has been published at It covers a bit of my background (although mistakenly says I worked for Collabora Productivity, rather than Collabora Limited!), and looks at a few different areas on where I see GNOME and how it sits within the greater GNU/Linux movement – I cover “some uncomfortable subjects around desktop Linux”. It’s well worth a read.

Release update

The GNOME 3.24 release is happening soon! As such, the release team announced the string freeze. If you want to help out with how much has been translated into your language, then is a good place to start. I’d like to give a shout out to the translation teams in particular too. Sometimes people don’t realise how much work goes into this, and it’s fantastic that we’re able to reach so many more users with our software.

Google Summer of Code

GNOME is now announced as a mentoring organisation for Google Summer of Code! There are some great ideas for Summer (Well, in the Northern hemisphere anyway) projects, so if you want to spend your time coding on Free Software, and get paid for it, why not sign up as a student?

by Neil McGovern at March 01, 2017 06:38 PM

Liam Proven


When was the last time you saw a critic write a play, compose a symphony, carve a statue?

I've seen a couple of attempts. I thought they were dire, myself. I won't name names (or media), as these are friends of friends.

Some concrete examples. I have given dozens on, but I wonder if I can summarise.


Abstractions. Some of our current core conceptual models are poor. Bits, bytes, directly accessing and managing memory.

If the programmer needs to know whether they are on a 32-bit or 64-bit processor, or whether it's big-endian or little-endian, the design is broken.

Higher-level abstractions have been implemented and sold. This is not a pipedream.

One that seems to work is atoms and lists. That model has withstood nearly 50Y of competition and it still thrives in its niche. It's underneath Lisp and Scheme, but also several languages far less arcane, and more recently, Urbit with Nock and Hoon. There is room for research here: work out a minimal abstraction set based on list manipulation and tagged memory, and find an efficient way to implement it, perhaps at microcode or firmware level.


Vita Nuova's Inferno and Tao Group's Taos/Intent showed, in 2 quite separate and independent ways, how an OS can deliver processor-independence at the binary level. This is quite separate from point #1, but it's doable. Java and the JVM is a horrid kludge, for all that it works well enough. This should be at kernel level.

Never mind users needing to know if they have a 32-bit or 64-bit OS, which is *disastrous*. They should not need to know if they have an ARM or an Intel x86 or anything more exotic. It's doable, it's been done and shipped in real products, and it doesn't mean a big performance hit. Any anyway, we accept performance hits all over the place -- virtualisation is bad for it.

However, clearly, there is possible synergy between this and point #1.


We depend on unsafe programming languages. Our OSes are built in them. Now, on top, we have layered *slightly* safer ones -- usually built in the unsafe ones, of course. Or we have isolated ones running in glorified interpreters with very poor performance.

This is accepted. C is the history, only kernel programmers use it. Application programmers have moved on and work in C++, D, Rust, Go or something, or in scripting languages. We have a diversity of choices. It's all good.

Yeah, no, it isn't. If you need different languages for different levels of the problem, and if you have whole-deployed-system issues caused by implementation details of the underlying programming language, then you have a big problem.

This is addressable.

There have been whole rich Internet-capable GUI-driven systems built from the metal up in the Pascal family, in the Smalltalk family, in the Lisp family. It's doable.

But [a] there is a belief that you need to have a language close to the metal for real performance -- this is untrue, easily falsified, historically often refuted, but strongly, fervently believed nonetheless. And [b] the C family is now so very pervasive it's all that most people know.

So I think one key question is:

If a putative "safe" replacement for unsafe low-level languages takes away control from programmers, that will make them unhappy. Can we come up with something that gives visible benefits in exchange, to balance the deal?

Surely it is possible to make something that delivers such benefits in other areas that people will consider switching away from curly braces, pointers and malloc()/free().

Various languages have delivered powerful benefits.

Lisp is one, but sadly, its power springs from its lack of syntax, and that makes it look unreadable. Initiates find it beautiful; outsiders find it hideous. Lisp is not the answer. There is a type of mind it suits, but that type of mind is rare.

We need to accept that not all programmers are created equal. But does there need to be a distinction between languages for the skilled élite versus ones for the scantly-trained workaday coder who just has a job to do?

There have been efforts to make things with some of Lisp's strength, but readable by mortals. They merit investigation. Dylan, CGOL, PLOT, etc.

We also need to look at bringing fundamentally different programming models closer together, both at the OS level and at the UI level. Imperative, functional, array-processing, logic/predicate based, graphical, whatever.

I suspect that there are places where functional programming or logic programming can deliver huge benefits. Not everywhere, though. So a way to host such tools in a cooperative environment bear consideration.

I think that the possible synergy between this and points #1 & #2 are obvious.


"You can't get there from here."

OSes are today expected to be huge and all-embracing, able to drive a £5 embedded controller, a massive server, a graphical workstation, whatever.

It didn't used to be so. We should probably break away from that idea. The ideal OS for a server isn't the same one for a phone or for a workstation. The fact that one can do all of it is very impressive, but it's not necessarily a goal.

But now we have pervasive virtualisation.

What I am outlining involves new OSes, new languages, new designs. They are not going to spring fully-formed from anyone's brow, able to take on all the duties of the incumbents with decades of investments.

So they need to target little niches. Education is one. Kids and undergrads. And there are still 2Bn people not online. Aiming at them is one alley. Forget taking on business -- it's too conservative.

Something that takes massively less admin and training and maintenance and support for schools. Schools don't make money, so they never have enough. There's an option.

But it has to start with current kit and infrastructure. No lab-prototype CPU is going to compete with a box full of 64-bit octocore chips.

It has to start out on what we have today, but it doesn't have to start on the bare metal. Provide something with some unique strengths and target it at Xen or something at first.

There are plenty of stories of the extreme productivity possible with some tools in the past. Let's look into those, subject them to critical study and investigation and try to find if there is any truth to it.

I think there are enough such stories that there probably is truth there. Reproducing that is a primary goal. Ease of deployment is another -- something which enables a room full of coders to implement business logic faster, with fewer errors, with better productivity and cheaper deployment.

In time, that could sell, sure, yes.

Something that could be one component of a distributed microservices system and just be very good at one thing -- such as a federated key:value store or something -- could be a toe in the door.

Kaspersky are launching their own OS for routers. That's a niche. Think small. The simplest fastest DNS server or something. Room at the bottom.



Big changes are coming. Hell, they're already here. Moore's Law is over and CPUs haven't doubled in speed for the last decade. They're only getting 10% faster every 18 months, if that; we've been in the 3GHz range since 2006-2007. Spinning drives are fast becoming obsolete; optical drives are disappearing fast. More cores, less power, just memory and no other storage.

What's coming? Non-volatile RAM. Lots of CPU cores, but not very fast ones, using less and less power.

The future is distributed mesh computing, millions of processes, running on unknown numbers of cores. Adaptive software that can scale itself out to more cores. Storage drives will only be on big storage servers. Most machines will have a reasonable lump of non-volatile processor-local RAM, and a couple of layers of cache, and nothing else. The idea of "filesystems" will be as archaic as tape streamers are now. Everything will be in-memory all the time, put there at manufacture and probably never replaced for the lifetime of the machine. They will never boot, never shut down. They'll stop and restart where they were.

This stuff *requires* OSes to be fundamentally re-designed, so we might as well get on with it. Embrace change, not fight it. Try to move on to ideas based on the best ones of the 1980s, because currently, we're using upgraded 1960s technology.

March 01, 2017 04:15 PM

Roger Bell-West

Sakamoto Desu ga

2016 contemporary comedy, 12 episodes, manga adaptation: AniDB, vt "Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto". Sakamoto is the coolest student in the high school, perfect at everything.

March 01, 2017 09:03 AM

February 28, 2017

Roger Bell-West

The Weight Of The Evidence, Michael Innes

1943 mystery, ninth in Innes' John Appleby series. At Nestfield University, Professor Pluckrose is found dead in his deck-chair on the Green, crushed by a meteorite; surely not an accident, and Appleby investigates.

February 28, 2017 09:00 AM

February 27, 2017

Roger Bell-West

The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. LeGuin

1969 Hugo- and Nebula-award-winning science fiction. Genly Ai is a human emissary to the world of Winter, sent to bring it into star-travelling civilisation. The natives change gender as part of their life cycle. And this is a problem for him.

February 27, 2017 09:01 AM

February 26, 2017

Roger Bell-West

Castle Rouge, Carole Nelson Douglas

2002 historical mystery, sixth of Douglas's novels about Irene Adler. Following the events of Chapel Noir, our protagonists variously head east to put an end to the Ripper mystery.

February 26, 2017 09:02 AM

February 25, 2017

Roger Bell-West

February 2017 Trailers

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube. Opinions are thoroughly personal. These trailer posts are now not on a strict monthly rotation any more, but are being mixed into the automatic post scheduler that runs the rest of the blog.)

February 25, 2017 09:00 AM

February 24, 2017

Roger Bell-West

Firefly at BBG, January 2017

I don't usually get to the Bucks Boardgame Group because I'm normally busy of a Tuesday evening, but this time the other thing fell through, and I got in an unusual game of Firefly. Images follow: cc-by-sa on everything.

February 24, 2017 09:04 AM

February 23, 2017

Roger Bell-West

Weapons of Choice, John Birmingham

2004 alternate-history science fiction war story. In the near future, an American-led multinational naval force is approaching an Indonesia turned muslim-fundamentalist, when it finds itself hurled through time to 1942, just before the Battle of Midway.

February 23, 2017 09:00 AM

February 22, 2017

Neil McGovern

A new journey – GNOME Foundation Executive Director

IMG_0726For those who haven’t heard, I’ve been appointed as the new Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation, and I started last week on the 15th February.

It’s been an interesting week so far, mainly meeting lots of people and trying to get up to speed with what looks like an enormous job! However, I’m thoroughly excited by the opportunity and am very grateful for everyone’s warm words of welcome so far.

One of the main things I’m here to do is to try and help. GNOME is strong because of its community. It’s because of all of you that GNOME can produce world leading technologies and a desktop that is intuitive, clean and functional. So, if you’re stuck with something, or if there’s a way that either myself or the Foundation can help, then please speak up!

Additionally, I intend on making this blog a much more frequently updated one – letting people know what I’m doing, and highlighting cool things that are happening around the project. In that vein, this week I’ve also started contacting all our fantastic Advisory Board members. I’m also looking at finding sponsors for GUADEC and GNOME.Asia, so if you know of anyone, let me know! I also booked my travel to the GTK+ hackfest and to LibrePlanet – if you’re going to either of those, make sure you come and introduce yourself :)

Finally, a small advertisement for Friends of GNOME. Your generosity really does help the Foundation support development of GNOME. Join up today!

by Neil McGovern at February 22, 2017 04:50 PM

Roger Bell-West

Large spool mount

I've been printing a fair bit for 3dhubs lately: the user uploads a model and chooses a material and colour, I print and post it, I get paid. Since most people opt for black, silver-grey or white, I've started buying larger spools of those, since they're about 20% cheaper per length.

February 22, 2017 09:00 AM

February 21, 2017

Roger Bell-West

Stitchers season 2

2016 science fiction, 10 episodes. Kirsten Clark continues to have her consciousness inserted into the minds of the recently-dead, while hunting for more information about her father.

February 21, 2017 09:04 AM

February 20, 2017

Roger Bell-West

Died in the Wool, Ngaio Marsh

1945 classic English detective fiction; thirteenth of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. Florence Rubrick, sheep station owner and local MP, vanished one night from her home; her body was found some weeks later, packed into a bale of wool. Eighteen months later, Alleyn is hunting for spies in New Zealand, and informally takes on the case.

February 20, 2017 09:04 AM

February 19, 2017

Roger Bell-West

Teaching Grifters

Today I'll introduce Grifters. Anything in square brackets is to be thought about rather than read aloud.

February 19, 2017 09:01 AM

February 18, 2017

Roger Bell-West

Pyramid 98: Welcome to Dungeon Fantasy

Pyramid, edited by Steven Marsh, is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time, to support the forthcoming Dungeon Fantasy RPG, it's all about dungeon-bashing.

February 18, 2017 09:01 AM

February 17, 2017

Roger Bell-West

The Thirty-Nine Steps, John Buchan

1915 thriller; first of Buchan's books about Richard Hannay. Bored in London, Hannay invites his worried neighbour into his flat, and soon finds both the authorities and a cunning group of terrorists against him.

February 17, 2017 09:02 AM

February 16, 2017

Roger Bell-West

Boardgaming At Home, January 2017

A seven-, then five-player games session with some larger games that don't come out often enough. Images follow: cc-by-sa on everything.

February 16, 2017 09:04 AM

February 15, 2017

Roger Bell-West

Joker Game

2016 historical espionage, adaptation of a novel series, 12 episodes: AniDB. In the years just before the Second World War, a maverick Japanese spymaster establishes a new intelligence agency.

February 15, 2017 09:01 AM

February 14, 2017

Roger Bell-West

Teaching Coup Rebellion G54

Today I'll introduce Coup: Rebellion G54. Anything in square brackets is to be thought about rather than read aloud.

February 14, 2017 09:04 AM

February 13, 2017

Liam Proven

USB C. Everyone's complaining. I can't wait. I still hope for cable nirvana.

Things have been getting better for a while now. For smaller gadgets, micro-USB is now the standard charging connector. Cables are becoming
a consumable for me, but they're cheap and easy to find.

But it only goes in one way and it's hard to see and to tell. And not all my gadgets want it the same way round, meaning I have to either remember or peer at a tiny socket and try to guess.

So conditions were right for an either-way-round USB connector.

Apple led the way with its symmetrical Lightning connector:

This introduced millions of customers to a USB-sized single plug for data, audio & power that could go into its socket either way. That
"primed the pump".

Then a design student published a, well, um, a design for a USB plug that could go in either way:

This was widely admired and discussed, or as they say now, "went viral". I think some companies implemented it but it violates the USB formal spec.

(Not that that bothers the cheapo vendors -- e.g. I have both external hard disks and a laptop cooling stand that both take a USB A to A cable. I.e. the computer-end connector on both ends. This is highly illegal -- you could connect 2 computers directly and blow at least one of them up thereby -- but nobody enforces the rules.)

The bi-directional plug and Lightning both demonstrated that this was desirable, possible, and that there was demand.

Also, there were the bodges of USB 3 extensions to the micro-USB spec such as this:

... and this...

And commentary such as this:

Sort of Siamese-twin double connectors -- big and ugly and a very visible kludge.

Something Had To Be Done.

USB C is the result.

And although owners and prospective owners of the new MacBook Pro laptops are complaining widely that they *only* have USB-C ports, it's actually a good thing, IMHO.

As this eloquently explains:

The higher-end MacBook Pro has 4 of them -- *and nothing else*.

You can plug the power cable into any of them. Doesn't matter. Plug a display in to any of them. Doesn't matter. Phone, memory stick, wired network cable, docking station. Any port. Doesn't matter.

Plug the power supply into the MacBook, the MacBook charges. Plug the same cable into your phone, the phone charges. Plug the phone into the MacBook -- same cable -- the phone charges and syncs.

I really like the idea of a small silent computer that's got a bunch of ports and anything plugs into anything. 2 or 3 screens? Just works. Sync several phones? Just works. Where's the power socket? There isn't one. Plug it in anywhere. If it fits, it works, either way round.

February 13, 2017 06:51 PM

Roger Bell-West

Elementary season 4

2015-2016, 24 episodes. In modern New York, (a completely different) Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson continue to consult for the police.

February 13, 2017 09:02 AM

February 12, 2017

Roger Bell-West

Handycon 2017

This new convention happened just on the other side of High Wycombe from me, at a hotel that has some conference space. (Why would you choose to have a conference there? I suppose if you applied some sort of travel-time-minimising algorithm and worked out that you got the least total driving that way…)

With images; cc-by-sa on everything.

February 12, 2017 09:03 AM

February 11, 2017

Roger Bell-West

The Three Body Problem, Catherine Shaw

2004 historical epistolary mystery. In Cambridge in 1888, a young schoolmistress tries to solve the murders of three mathematicians before her beau is convicted of them.

February 11, 2017 09:01 AM

February 10, 2017

Roger Bell-West

Teaching One Night Revolution

I've had a certain amount of practice teaching board games, so I'm going to post some of my introductions to them here. These are all put together from multiple sessions, generally at Essen. As a general principle, I have components lying on the table, and point to them and/or pick them up as they are mentioned.

Today I'll introduce One Night Revolution. Anything in square brackets is to be thought about rather than necessarily read aloud.

February 10, 2017 09:03 AM

February 09, 2017

Roger Bell-West

Kirkaldy Testing Museum

Just off Southwark Street in London is an unexpected piece of industrial history. Images follow: cc-by-sa on everything.

February 09, 2017 09:01 AM

February 08, 2017

Roger Bell-West

Flash Point solo: Let's Try That Again

Another run of Flash Point, on the two-door map from the base game. This time I decided to go with six firefighters, to give me some leeway for using the non-firefighting roles, in Veteran mode as usual. Photos are taken at the end of each round, six turns.

February 08, 2017 09:01 AM

February 07, 2017

Jonathan McDowell

GnuK on the Maple Mini

Last weekend, as a result of my addiction to buying random microcontrollers to play with, I received some Maple Minis. I bought the Baite clone direct from AliExpress - so just under £3 each including delivery. Not bad for something that’s USB capable, is based on an ARM and has plenty of IO pins.

I’m not entirely sure what my plan is for the devices, but as a first step I thought I’d look at getting GnuK up and running on it. Only to discover that chopstx already has support for the Maple Mini and it was just a matter of doing a ./configure --vidpid=234b:0000 --target=MAPLE_MINI --enable-factory-reset ; make. I’d hoped to install via the DFU bootloader already on the Mini but ended up making it unhappy so used SWD by following the same steps with OpenOCD as for the FST-01/BusPirate. (SWCLK is D21 and SWDIO is D22 on the Mini). Reset after flashing and the device is detected just fine:

usb 1-1.1: new full-speed USB device number 73 using xhci_hcd
usb 1-1.1: New USB device found, idVendor=234b, idProduct=0000
usb 1-1.1: New USB device strings: Mfr=1, Product=2, SerialNumber=3
usb 1-1.1: Product: Gnuk Token
usb 1-1.1: Manufacturer: Free Software Initiative of Japan
usb 1-1.1: SerialNumber: FSIJ-1.2.3-87155426

And GPG is happy:

$ gpg --card-status
Reader ...........: 234B:0000:FSIJ-1.2.3-87155426:0
Application ID ...: D276000124010200FFFE871554260000
Version ..........: 2.0
Manufacturer .....: unmanaged S/N range
Serial number ....: 87155426
Name of cardholder: [not set]
Language prefs ...: [not set]
Sex ..............: unspecified
URL of public key : [not set]
Login data .......: [not set]
Signature PIN ....: forced
Key attributes ...: rsa2048 rsa2048 rsa2048
Max. PIN lengths .: 127 127 127
PIN retry counter : 3 3 3
Signature counter : 0
Signature key ....: [none]
Encryption key....: [none]
Authentication key: [none]
General key info..: [none]

While GnuK isn’t the fastest OpenPGP smart card implementation this certainly seems to be one of the cheapest ways to get it up and running. (Plus the fact that chopstx already runs on the Mini provides me with a useful basis for other experimentation.)

February 07, 2017 06:34 PM

Roger Bell-West

Chapel Noir, Carole Nelson Douglas

2001 historical mystery, fifth of Douglas's novels about Irene Adler. In Paris in 1889, the Exposition Universelle is in full swing… but a notorious killer seems to have come over from London.

February 07, 2017 09:00 AM