UKNOT Planet

May 01, 2017

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

Swing Brother Swing, Ngaio Marsh

1949 classic English detective fiction; fifteenth of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. Lord Pastern and Bagott, sitting in on the drums in a jazz band, has set up a bit of business where he "shoots" the piano-accordionist, Carlos Rivera, who falls down and is carried off stage. But Rivera's made himself offensive to everyone, and he's not going to be getting up again. US vt A Wreath for Rivera.

May 01, 2017 08:00 AM

April 30, 2017

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

Dark Matter season 2

2016 science fiction, 13 episodes. The motley crew of the Raza continues to try to stay alive, and maybe even do something worthwhile.

April 30, 2017 08:00 AM

April 29, 2017

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

The Red: First Light, Linda Nagata

2013 military SF, first of a trilogy. In the near future, Lieutenant James Shelley commands a Linked Combat Squad of tech-enhanced soldiers in a desert war everyone knows is pointless, but profitable to the right people. Lately he seems to have developed a reliable sense of imminent danger. (vt The Red in 2015 revised release.)

April 29, 2017 08:04 AM

April 28, 2017

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

Flash Point variant solo: it burns, it burns

I tried a quick Flash Point solo run to try out a new variant I'm working on. With images (cc-by-sa).

April 28, 2017 08:00 AM

April 27, 2017

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

Kyoukai no Rinne season 2

2016 modern fantasy, shounen manga adaptation in 25 episodes: AniDB, vt "Circle of Reincarnation". High school student Mamiya Sakura, and Rokudō Rinne the shinigami, continue to have wacky adventures dealing with the spirit world.

April 27, 2017 08:04 AM

April 26, 2017

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

Death of Jezebel, Christianna Brand

1949 detective fiction; fourth of Brand's novels of Inspector Cockrill. Isabel Drew is domineering, vain, and thoughtless, but beautiful enough to get away with it. Today her chickens will be coming home to roost.

April 26, 2017 08:01 AM

April 25, 2017

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts


2016 political science fiction, 13 episodes. Alien insects are taking over American politicians. This causes surprisingly little disruption.

April 25, 2017 08:00 AM

April 24, 2017

First all-grain brew – Dirty Daemon II

TLDR; I had a number of disasters, but it turned out ok in the end! Read on… 🙂

I’ve finally got everything together to make my first all-grain brew on my new equipment!  As it turned out really well, I’ve decided to make the all-grain version of the Dirty Daemon extract-based beer I made last November.  It’s a really nice amber-coloured American Pale Ale with lots of Citra hops and should turn out at around 6.5% vol.

On Friday evening I set about preparing a yeast starter, using the Brewers Friends pitching calculator.

On Saturday evening, I measured out my mash strike & sparge water and following the advice in Bru’n Water, I gave them measured doses of CRS, Gypsum and Calcium Chloride.

So, Sunday afternoon soon rolled around and it was time to start!  I brought the strike water in my kettle up to the temperature recommended in Beersmith, 73C, and then transferred it into my mash tun.  I mixed in my grains and hit upon the first of many snags!

As this is my first brew on this equipment, many of the volume & temperature targets were based on presumptions and tests using water.

Disaster #1 struck!  After adding the grains, my mash temperature was meant to be around 66.5C, but in fact was just under 63.  A quick Goggle confirmed that whilst this would increase the fermentable sugars available in the beer, it would also negatively affect the body & “mouth feel”.  I made a quick dash to the kitchen and boiled a couple of kettle fulls of water and added it to the mash 1 litre at a time.  I’d eventually added 6 litres of boiling water when I’d got it to just over 65C.  I left it there for an hour, started heating the sparge water to 75.6C and giving the mash a stir every 15 mins or so.

Vorlaufing was up next – Draining 1 litre of wort at a time and gently adding it back to the mash tun until the wort ran clear.  This took around 7 litres worth of wort until it looks pretty clear and it tasted gorgeous 🙂

I transferred the first runnings into the kettle and turned on the induction plate to start heating the wort up to boiling temperature.

Meanwhile, I drained off 6 litres from the sparge water due to the boiling water additions I made earlier, and then prepared to pump the remaining water into the mash tun.

Disaster #2 struck!  I got an airlock in my pump and in my frustration trying to clear it, I cocked up and opened the tap on the HLT without the pipe attached.  75C water poured out over my hand and across the garage whilst I struggled to get the tap closed.  There’s an annoying catch that drops when the tap is over or closed to stop it being moved accidentally – Unfortunately, it totally gets in the way when you’re trying to close the tap in an emergency – That’ll be getting removed soon.  I’ve no idea how much sparge water was lost – Probably a couple of litres.

After picking up the HLT and pouring the sparge water into the mash tun, I gave the mash a gentle stir and left it for another 15 mins.

I vorlaufed the sparge water then transferred the second runnings into the kettle and whacked the heat on full blast to bring it up to the boil.  At this point I noted that I had more wort than was estimated – around 3 litres extra!

Disaster #3 struck!  I wanted to take a hydrometer reading of the “pre-boil” gravity but no matter how hard I looked, I couldn’t find my trial jar!  After turning the garage and kitchen upside down, I almost resigned to the fact I wasn’t going to be able to take any gravity readings.  At least until I found a tall 1 litre milk bottle – I thorough clean with Oxi & the bottle brush, plus some StarSan later, I managed to get some wort into the bottle and take a reading!

Pre-boil gravity came out at 1.034, which seemed really disappointingly low until I remembered I needed to adjust for temperature.  After adjustment I estimated the pre-boil gravity at 1.052.

During the boil, I had my pump attached and recirculating wort through the whirlpool attachment.  Mainly to ensure the pump & pipes were in contact with as much boiling liquid as possible and to try and keep the trub in the centre of the kettle.  At the end of the boil, I noticed I still had around 3 litres more wort than I should have but decided to press on anyway.  I connected up the immersion cooler and started bringing the wort down to yeast pitching temperature.

Disaster #4 struck!  Just after whirlpooling started, my pump stopped working!  I’m not sure if this was due to overheating or a blockage, but I gave up on it for a while and disconnected it all.  I got my paddle out and kept stirring the wort to keep the hot wort moving over the cooler.  I managed to drop the temperature by 50C in the first ten minutes, but the last 30 seemed to take forever.  After about 20 minutes of stirring, my arm was aching and I decided to check the pump again – The flipping thing was working again!  I hooked it all up and got it whirlpooling again, and eventually reached pitching temperature after an hour total.

After getting down to around 20C, I pumped the wort into my fermenting bucket ready to add the yeast and pop it into the fermenting fridge.  Final gravity came out at 1.062 which is a few points lower than the target of 1.066, but considering I had to leave a couple of litres in the kettle, isn’t too bad overall!

by Sean at April 24, 2017 09:28 AM

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

I Feel Old

Last Friday I was travelling on the London Underground when someone offered me his seat.

April 24, 2017 08:00 AM

April 23, 2017

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

March-April 2017 Trailers

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

April 23, 2017 08:00 AM

April 22, 2017

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

The Sacred Art of Stealing, Christopher Brookmyre

2002 tartan noir. Angelique de Xavia, police detective burning out after the events of A Big Boy Did It and Ran Away, comes up against a gang of Situationist bank robbers.

April 22, 2017 08:00 AM

April 21, 2017

Euro Tech News

Fitbit Alta HR - a pretty little fitness tracker

Fitbit are the leading manufacturer of fitness trackers (and foraging into the smart watch market with the purchase of Pebble assets last year). The Alta was released a while back and it was the prettiest of Fitbit's offerings. Now comes the Alta HR which is the name suggests, supports heart rate monitoring. Fitbit have managed to squeeze the LED system into the base of the unit (next to the skin) and still keep the same size as the original Alta.

There are various modes and the Alta HR can be set to record heart rate automatically or manually and to background sync etc. The different options will affect battery life, which is about 7 days on a full charge.

The Alta HR will track steps (and a run if you're inclined that way), distance travelled (but it's calculated as there's no GPS), calories and sleep (if you wear it to bed). If you do wear it to bed it will also calculate your resting heart rate as well as show your type of sleep (light, deep, REM and awake).

Though splash proof, it's not waterproof so no swimming or showering. When you remove the unit it should stop trying to read your heart rate, but sometimes it seems to continue to try to read it (the LEDs flicker) for quite some time.

The smarts is in the Fitbit companion app (Apple Health compatible on iOS) and that where most of the information is displayed.

There are a variety of standard bands that can be bought in different colours. They're made of a fairly chunky silicon that 'feels' pretty solid and use a standard pin/hole clasp to close so can easily be adjusted for size.

Fitbit are now selling premium leather bands and even metal bands which turn the Alta HR into bracelet, though they're pretty expensive and as they're solid, heart rate tracking may not work (as the unit may not be snug on your skin).

Fitbit make other trackers that are more functional, but the Alta HR is definitely the prettiest, but it's reasonably expensive at £129 or more for the premium versions. It's a lot compared to something like the Mi Band2 which can be had for about £16 (it's not as pretty) for almost identical functionality and the battery life on the Mi is over a month.

by Steve Karmeinsky ( at April 21, 2017 05:21 PM

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

Marlow Tabletop and Board Games 3 April 2017

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

April 21, 2017 08:01 AM

April 20, 2017

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

Death by Water, Kerry Greenwood

2005 historical detection, fifteenth in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). After a series of jewel thefts aboard the SS Hinemoa, Phryne is employed by P&O as both detective and bait.

April 20, 2017 08:02 AM

April 19, 2017

Liam on Linux

The state of the Linux desktop

A summary of where were are and where we might be going next.

Culled from a couple of very lengthy CIX posts.

A "desktop" means a whole rich GUI with an actual desktop -- a background you can put things on, which can hold folders and icons. It also includes an app launcher, a file manager, generally a wastebin or something, accessory apps such as a text editor, calculator, archive manager, etc. It can mount media and show their contents. It can unmount them again. It can burn rewritable media such as CDs and DVDs.

The whole schmole.

Some people don't want this and use something more basic, such as a plain window manager. No file manager, or they use the command line, or they pick their own, along with their own text editor etc., which are not integrated into a single GUI.

This is still a GUI, still a graphical UI, but may include little or nothing more than window management. Many Unix users want a bunch of terminals and nothing else.

A desktop is an integrated suite, with all the extras, like you get with Windows or a Mac, or back in the day with OS/2 or something.

The Unix GUI stack is as follows:

[1] kernel etc. The bottom layer.
[2] a display server. This draws windows & allows multiple programs to share the screen.

X.11 is by far the most common. The de facto FOSS implementation is called and was forked from XFree86. Some elements are also used in *BSD.

The GNOME project has a new one, called Wayland. This has just shipped in Fedora 25, the first desktop distro to use it.

Ubuntu had its own, called Mir. This is now dead.

Android has its own, SurfaceFlinger, as does Mac OS X (part of Quartz.)

[3] a window manager. This draws windows and lets you move them around.

For some users this is enough. In the early days it's all Linux had, e.g. twm and FVWM (allegedly, the Feeble Virtual Window Manager).

Red Hat offered FVWM95. FVWM plus a taskbar and start menu, making it look superficially like Win95 (thus the name). Nothing else. Very crude but a small step forwards.

[4] a desktop.

This draws a desktop which can hold icons and folders. It manages removable media, mounting, unmounting, burning etc. It manages background tasks, e.g. network connections. It includes a ton of accessories such as file managers, text editors, image viewers, archive managers, email clients, chat clients, etc.

Some people don't want all that and just use a bare window manager and some virtual terminals. That's a valid choice. I, like most users, prefer something a bit richer and friendlier. I didn't start using Linux on the desktop until KDE 1 came out.

There were desktops before KDE -- proprietary ones, like OpenLook (Sun), Irix Magic (SGI), CDE (the Open Group), etc. They were primitive but sort of worked. There were some attempts to do commercial ones for Linux in the early days (e.g. IXI x.desktop) but they were niche.

KDE was the start of FOSS desktop environments.

Now there are lots. Many simple window managers also survive as standalone projects.

There have been a number of somewhat Mac-like desktops, but back in the early days, Apple was very litigious. Now, not quite so much. Nobody's directly trying to be Mac-like any more. My impression is that Unity is, but more or less by accident.

Almost everyone copies Windows. The only big exception is GNOME 3. It does its own weird thing. Some like it. I don't.

But great changes are afoot. Ubuntu is abandoning its in-house Unity desktop, both the mature desktop version (Unity 7) and the still-in-development phone/tablet version (Unity 8), along with its display server Mir. As of next year, Ubuntu will switch to GNOME 3, the distant descendant of the GNOME 2 desktop it shipped with for its first seven years.

Very big deal for Ubuntu, and for the GNOME Project.

But big in the history of Linux desktops? Not so much.

Unix has had GUIs for 3+ decades. Most were very rudimentary, proprietary, and a bit crap. Some still like them anyway.

For its first decade, Linux only had simple window managers, such as Window Maker. They give you multiple terminals with shells in -- or graphical apps. Nothing else.

Red Hat included FVWM95 which included a taskbar and a start menu, but nothing more.

The first FOSS desktop for Linux was KDE (July 1998).

KDE used the Qt programming toolkit (proprietary), worked like Win95, and favoured C++ programmers.

The GNU Project didn't like this, partly because it favoured C and partly because KDE wasn't all-FOSS.

So, GNU created GNOME. GNOME was more open, based on C and the CORBA object system, and used the Gtk toolkit created for the GIMP. As GNU is primarily American, so is GNOME. The big American distro is Red Hat, so most of the GNOME programmers worked for Red Hat. Red Hat Linux only offered GNOME by default. At first, nobody else did.

KDE 1 was pretty good, if plain. It was a German project, so most of the programmers worked for SUSE, the German distro maker.

GNOME 1 was released in March 1999. It was a bit of a clunky mess. Nobody took it seriously except RH.

At this time, KDE was the serious, capable desktop which everyone offered. Some vendors, e.g. SUSE and Mandriva, centered on KDE and offered customisations and enhancements.

The first Linux with graphical screen-mode setting and other niceties, Corel Linux OS, offered only a heavily-customised KDE to make it look like Win XP.

At this time, there was a joke that KDE was made with German efficiency, with a sensible if boring design team, timed releases, and a businesslike attitude. GNOME was a bunch of crazed teen hackers who occasionally screamed and threw something at the wall. If it stuck, they called it a release.

KDE 2 (March 2000) added a lot more customisability. Also, by now, KDE's in-house web browser (and file manager and much else), Konqueror, was the leading pure-FOSS web renderer. KDE 2 was getting pretty complex with a lot of tweakable options.

Because of pressure from Microsoft, Corel killed all its Linux projects. Corel Linux OS was spun off as Xandros, with a heavily customised KDE 2 -- IMHO by far the best Linux desktop of its time.

Trolltech, the vendors of Qt, the proprietary toolkit used to build KDE, released it under dual licences -- prorietary/commercial and FOSS. So now KDE was arguably all-FOSS.

KDE now was the Linux desktop of choice.

GNOME 2 followed in June 2002. It was actually pretty good. Not as customisable as KDE, but good enough. It started to catch on. Soon all major distros offered it at least as an option, alongside KDE and some minor ones.

Ubuntu launched in 2004, defaulting to GNOME 2. Indeed Ubuntu releases were synched with GNOME releases, so Ubuntu always included the latest.

Within a few years, Ubuntu had a stable release, a graphical installer, graphical partitioning etc. and basically reached parity with the best commercial Linux distros.

By now (2006ish) GNOME 2 was the leading desktop. Everyone offered it. Some (Mandriva, SUSE) still offered KDE but the desktop wars were over and GNOME 2 won.

So, Microsoft stuck its oar in and threatened lawsuits everywhere to everyone with Windows-like desktops.

(N.B. this is my personal interpretation. Many disagree but nobody has ever managed to refute it.)

The resulting explosion took some years. It's still not over.

SUSE promptly signed a non-aggression pact with MS. Thus, KDE is safe and stayed Windows-like. Mandriva ditto.

Red Hat and Ubuntu refused to sign.

The GNOME project promptly announced GNOME 3, a major new release, including a new release of GTK, Gtk 3. GNOME 3 looks radically different and cannot readily be customised to even resemble Windows. It draws inspiration from the Maemo phone Linux, with some Nokia input, and other systems. It is nothing like anything else.

RH & GNOME maintain to this day that this is a total coincidence.

Ubuntu shortly afterwards also announced a new desktop: Unity.

This strongly resembles Mac OS X's desktop, IMHO because Ubuntu didn't want to get sued by MS. Unity span off from Ubuntu's netbook launcher. It uses GNOME accessories, runs on X.11 and is keyboard/mouse driven. It requires hardware OpenGL and if this is not available it emulates it in software using LLVM, which means it's slow in VMs or on machines with very low-end display hardware.

(GNOME 3 also requires hardware OpenGL and fakes it if not available, killing perfomance.)

Early on, there was a separate version, Unity-2D, written in Qt instead of Gtk, for device without hardware OpenGL.

Once the software OpenGL rendering worked well enough, after a few releases, Unity-2D was killed.

However, the long-term plan was that Unity would also run on phones and tablets. This finally appeared after the desktop version of Unity reached v7.

So, the phone/tablet version is called Unity 8, running on a specialised version of Ubuntu containing some Android technology, called Ubuntu Touch.

Unity 8 is also written in Qt.

This has just been abandoned, but the FOSS community is continuing development.

So, GNOME 3 and Unity both were announced, by TOTAL coincidence, after MS' legal threats in 2006 or so.

Both shipped in 2011. Both were pretty unpopular.

This did KDE some good. Still copying Windows somewhat, KDE 4 switched to system based around desktop gadgets -- like those in Win 7, formerly in a sidebar on Vista. This was not universally popular. It takes several mouse clicks -- and expert knowledge how -- to simply turn KDE 4's desktop back into a flat folder with icons, for instance.

Also, Apple took the KDE web rendering engine, KHTML, forked it to create WebKit and used WebKit as the basis of Apple's own browser, Safari. Chrome was based on WebKit too, as is Opera from v13 on. (Chrome has now forked WebKit to create Blink.)

KDE 4 thus had a new file manager, Dolphin. Also, Firefox is way more popular as a FOSS browser so Konqueror is not front and centre any more.

So KDE 4 is quite different to KDE 3. This led to KDE 3 being forked to create the Trinity desktop. This is now largely moribund, but it's still around.

The decline of GNOME 2, once it was in maintenance mode and its successors were clearly the future, meant that several less-popular desktops have risen in prominence.

XFCE started out as a clone of CDE built on the XForms toolkit. However, there is also a direct clone of CDE, and now CDE itself is FOSS. So XFCE has gone in a different direction, switching to Gtk 2 and becoming more Windows-like. It's very flexible and can look like GNOME 2 and Windows 9x, but it also has a dock -- although it is not a Mac work-alike and the resemblance is a superficial cosmetic one.

It's slow-moving, stable, not very innovative, but that's by design.

XFCE has been based on Gtk 2 for many years but it's switched to Gtk 3 in the latest release. Otherwise it looks identical to before.

It's my X desktop of choice when Unity is not available.

LXDE is a newish project, to make a Light X Desktop Environment. It's Windows-like and not as customisable as GNOME 2 or XFCE. It uses Gtk 2 but it is in the process of being ported to Qt and merging with the Razor-Qt environment to create a new one, LXQT. This will look the same and still be lightweight and fast but be based on Qt instead of Gtk. Distros still have the old Gtk based version, mostly.

Many people loved GNOME 2 and so when GNOME 3 came out and was radically different, GNOME 2 was forked to create Maté. (The fork is Argentinian. The name doesn't stand for anything and it does not sound like the English "mate". It's named after the tea-like drink known as yerba mate. "Mate" is the Spanish spelling: mah-TAY. In English the tea is spelled maté to distinguish it from the word mate.)

Maté is also switching to Gtk 3.

The Mint distro adopted Maté early on. There's also an official Ubuntu remix now which came along several years later.

When GNOME 3 launched it included a "fallback mode" in case you didn't have hardware OpenGL. Fallback mode looked just like GNOME 2, but wasn't customisable -- you couldn't easily move panels, add or remove or move widgets, etc. Once software OpenGL emulation worked, this was killed off, just like Unity-2D.

GNOME 3 Fallback Mode was forked as Consort by the Solus OS distro. This has now died and Solus OS has its own, very slightly more traditional, GNOME 3 derivative called Budgie.

Mint is downstream of Ubuntu but it never adopted Unity. Instead, Mint created a Windows-like desktop called Cinnamon derived from GNOME 3. This looks and works much like Fallback Mode used to. It can be configured to look much like Windows or like GNOME 2, but like Fallback Mode, it is a lot less customisable.

Like GNOME 3 itself, therefore, Cinnamon is based on Gtk 3, needs hardware OpenGL and simulates it in software if this is not available.

Notably, GNOME has been simplifying its apps -- removing menu bars, customisable toolbars, and deleting program features and so on in the quest for smartphone/tablet-like simplicity. Many people don't like this. Ubuntu did a slight fork of GNOME 3 Nautilus to keep the menu bar. Mint did a much bigger fork of the same codebase to keep all the old features (2 panes, status bar, tree in sidebar, etc.) and add more. This is called Nemo. I use it on Unity -- it integrates quite well.

So GNOME 3, Cinnamon and Unity 7 are all based on Gtk 3, need hardware 3D and so run very poorly in VMs or on ancient kit or servers with 2D-only graphics cards.

XFCE and Maté were based on Gtk 2 but are rapidly moving to Gtk 3.

This means that, with some further work, they will be usable on Wayland as well as on traditional X.11.

Given that Maté and Cinnamon are both based on GNOME and (now) Gtk 3, and both are sponsored by Mint, this means that they share very similar accessories. They have different file managers, forked from different versions of GNOME Nautilus, and all the other bits are near-identical.

This may lead to a partial merge between them once both desktops are based on Gtk 3. That would be a good thing IMHO.

They might become 2 different desktops with shared apps -- one customisable like GNOME 2, one fixed in a more Windows-like mode with 3D accelation and compositing. However, if this occurs, there won't be a lot of differentiation and a total merge or something might occur.

XFCE is somewhat vulnerable to this too.

All focus on traditional Win95-like taskbar-and-start-menu interfaces.

Unity 7 was meant to be transitional. It's based on a clunky hoary old compositor called Compiz. It was always intended to die. It will. But it's been stable for 2-3 years now. It's by far my favourite Linux desktop, mainly because I like Macs and OS X.

Unity 8 has been forked already... twice. I'm on the mailing lists and Telegram groups and am watching with interest. YUnit is focussing on the desktop version. UBPorts is focussing on the whole OS stack, and is in discussions with the groups behind Jolla, Maemo/Mer and some other smartphone-sector players. They are trying to work out if they can merge their OSes into a single unified Linux-for-Android-smartphones platform.

This would be a very good thing.

As ARM devices have no firmware, no standard bootloader, nothing, and all need their own unique drivers, Ubuntu had come up with a very interesting hack in Ubuntu Touch: it runs a container with a very cut-down Android system inside, just for the drivers and hardware initialisation. The others could share this and so support much more kit. Then the differentiator would be the UI layer on top.

Unity 8 is a good UI. It's on shipping kit. Users like it. The plan was sound: if you are on a touchscreen, be phonelike. Apps run fullscreen, but phone apps can run unmodified in a tall thin tiled portion -- either several alongside or 1 next to a bit tablet app.

Plug in a keyboard and mouse, it instantly switches to being a windowing interface. Remove them again, blam, back to a touch interface.

All plan to discard Mir though. They will probably go to Wayland.

There are some minority ones too.

Deepin is Chinese and has a GNOME 3 based UI, modified to be more Windows-like. It's slow but looks quite nice.

Elementary OS has its own desktop, with some GNOME 3 components, modified to be more Mac-like. They have built a lot of their own apps. It looks good but it's very ambitious and they're having problems with funding.

Bodhi Linux is an unauthorised Ubuntu remix with the Enlightenment desktop.

Enlightenment is old but current. It aims for shiny -- lots of graphical chrome. It predates OpenGL and 3D graphics although it supports them now. It has its own toolkit, EFL. It was a 1-man project by a genius-level graphics programmer, Carsten Haizler, known as Rasterman. Others are involved now. It never made it to v1.0 so he redefined the pre-1.0 build number as a version number, e.g. E16. After 12Y of work the stable version finally got to E17. Bodhi built this on an Ubuntu base.

However, Rasterman is still working on it. E19, E20 and E21 followed. Bodhi has forked E17 to maintain its own Moksha desktop. (I think this was a mistake myself.) So Enlightenment lives on, largely ignored. EFL is used in some embedded and consumer devices.

KDE is alive and well. It's bigger, more complicated and messier than ever. Now, the KDE object system introduced in KDE 4, Plasma, is at v5, although the desktop itself hasn't changed radically since v4. So it's not even 100% clear if the current version is KDE 4 with Plasma 5, or KDE 5. I'll just call it KDE 5.

It's very customisable but things the developers didn't anticipate, like vertical panels, do not work well. So basically it's another Windows-like desktop, like GNOME 2/Maté/XFCE. It has its own versions of everything -- not only all the little accessories, but a full IDE, paint and draw packages, web browser, office suite, everything.

Most distros ignore most of this and ship the most popular FOSS offerings -- LibreOffice, Firefox, etc. -- with a partly stripped-down KDE desktop.

IMHO it's been ugly since KDE 2 and getting worse every release. KDE 4 almost hurt my eyes and I can't use it.

KDE 5 has gone for the trendy flat look, and now, it doesn't look so bad. I still find it almost unusable myself. Standard in SUSE and the several forks of the now-bankrupt Mandriva. (Mandriva is the result of the merger of France's Mandrake and Brazil's Connectiva. Mandrake was basically Red Hat Linux with bundled KDE. The company's gone broke but splinters survive -- PCLinuxOS, Mageia, OpenMandriva, Rosa Linux, etc.

The Future

Ubuntu is trying to become a standalone profit-making company. It has some odd projects: its own display engine, Mir. Its own desktop, Unity, with 3 branches: Unity 7, Unity 8, and the long-dead Unity-2D. Its own container/hypervisor, LXD. It's the only distro to bundle Sun/Oracle ZFS. Its own phone/tablet OS, Ubuntu Touch. Its own server-automatic scripting system, Juju. Etc, etc.

Too much for a small outfit backed by one man.

One of the guys behind the container system, Dustin Kirkland, who I've spoken with before, posted on Hacker News (now the tech/geek website) to ask what they wanted to see from Ubuntu.

Overwhelmingly, the HN posters said kill Unity + Mir + Ubuntu Touch and focus on the desktop and server. A few days later, that's what the founder Mark Shuttleworth did.

Unity is a nice, Mac-like desktop.

But Ubuntu started out as a GNOME distro and it's going back to being one. It's already got an official GNOME 3 remix. The mainline desktop is switching back to it too, next year. This means Wayland too.

I don't like GNOME 3 at all. Many don't. But many PC types dislike Macs and similarly many dislike Unity too. So I will probably switch desktops. I don't know what to yet. XFCE feels old-fashioned and clunky. Cinnamon doesn't work well with vertical panels, the way I like them. I have no idea where to go.

But Unity 7 will be supported for years to come. I'll stay with it for at least another year.

With the switches to Gtk 3, XFCE and Maté might up their games. Cinnamon only just introduced a vertical panel. It might get better. There's even the outside possibility of some kind of technological merger between some or all of these 3.

Shuttleworth has announced that Ubuntu will ship GNOME 3 "as its designers intended". So, they won't customise it to look a bit like Unity. I'm appalled by this. I think Ubuntu is going to become less relevant as a desktop distro. This might even doom it.

Mint will get stronger, that's a safe bet.

I think GNOME's rivals will do well out of this. Short term, XFCE and Maté will get better, more modern. Maté and Cinnamon might share some more code and that would free up manpower to develop faster.

Possibly, even, Unity 8 might re-emerge as a community project and gain marketshare. Maté did -- one of the most successful desktop forks ever.

If GNOME gets a lot more users, it might learn some humility and actually listen to what people want -- but I was at last year's GUADEC conference; I have met the dev team now. I wouldn't bet on that.

KDE will continue to go its own way.

There's still a need for a 2D-centric lightweight desktop for VMs, bootable USB keys, servers and so on. LXQt has real potential there.

Executive summary

There are 2 sides of the fence, according to programming toolkit.

Qt: KDE, LXQT (when it's finished), Unity 8, Trinity

Gtk: almost everyone else.
Gtk 3: Unity 7, GNOME 3, Cinnamon
Gtk 2 but moving to Gtk 3: XFCE, Maté
Ex Gtk 2: LXDE, moving to Qt instead

EFL: Enlightenment E21, Bodhi

Unity 7, GNOME 3 and Cinnamon need OpenGL and run badly without hardware acceleration.

XFCE, Maté, KDE, LXDE/LXQT can use hardware acceleration if it's available but run fine without.

Some of the standalone window managers are doing just fine and are still popular: OpenBox, WindowMaker & others.

Some people favour tiling window managers that don't need a mouse at all: AwesomeWM, Ratpoison, i3, StumpWM, many more. These seem to be gaining favour with the sorts of people who don't like full desktops.

Some desktops are dead or dying or never got bundled with an OS so nobody noticed.

Consort seems to be dead. Trinity is nearly dead. Nobody other than Ubuntu adopted Unity, so Unity 7 is definitely dead, but Unity 8 is getting some love and might survive. The GNUstep project is cloning Apple's NextStep programming libraries as FOSS and as a byproduct has produced a complete NeXT desktop environment. Moves are afoot to make a distro out of this.

There used to be some niche ones that cloned existing desktops. There was Sparta, which cloned classic MacOS. AmiWM cloned the Amiga desktop. ROX cloned the Acorn RISC OS desktop. I personally like RISC OS so I liked ROX. Guess which desktop XPde copied.

None of these have been updated in years.

My choices:

Unity is IMHO the best. Fast, stable, pretty, efficient. Community fork might thrive.

Cinnamon: works well but needs 3D & I don't care for the Windows look-and-feel.

Maté, XFCE, LXDE: ditto, but fast on 2D systems.

KDE will continue to plow its own weird lonely idiosyncratic path. Some people love it.

GNOME 3 will continue to slowly gain more users but the glory heyday of GNOME 2 is gone, never to return.

I am considering trying to build my own GNUstep-based remix of Ubuntu, but the stable packages aren't in Debian yet. Maybe next release. I have something running in a VM that's all right.

I'm also interested in seeing if I can get ROX working on modern Ubuntu.

April 19, 2017 08:12 PM


“That would be an ecumenical matter”

There has been some fuss recently about Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat party leader, and his views on sin. I am finding I am having to answer the same questions and rebut the same half-truths over and over again, so I put together a quick handy guide. The progression of points in here is typically how the debate unfolds but my style tends to be quite dry. Those who want a slightly more emotional response to the issue, which can best be summarised by “FFS, not this again”, should read Jennie Rigg’s post. Jennie is also chair of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats.

For those new to this blog, I should clarify that I’m a bisexual transwoman in a polyamourous relationship.

I have avoided criticism of other politicians in this post, but I would like to note that there is more than enough of the brown stuff to go around if we want to get into a mud slinging contest. Some people might want to go there, but that’s not something I’m doing in this post.

Edit: Since I wrote this post, Tim has answered a direct question on this in parliament. His reply to “Do you believe that homosexuality is a sin” was “I do not”. You can see the clip on BBC iPlayer at about 13:46. It remains to be seen if he has opened Pandora’s Box or not…

But why won’t Tim Farron say gay sex is not a sin?
I don’t think he can, because the question is a trap. It’s not a new trap, and back in 2003 Tony Blair was stopped from answering questions on religion by his spin doctors with the now-infamous line “We don’t do God“.

For political leaders, religion is a Pandora’s Box and should stay closed. Cathy Newman, when she asked him the question, no doubt had followup questions for him to try to back him into a corner – she’s an accomplished political journalist and anyone of that calibre will not ask a question without follow up questions in mind. With enough questioning, any politician is going to find themselves forced either into a row with religious leaders (Just look at what happened with Cadbury’s and the National Trust) or with their own party. Neither of those are vote-winning choices.

Unfortunately, Tim did fluff a 2015 interview with Cathy Newman on Channel 4 by starting to talk about theology before he had realising it was a bad idea in his new role as party leader. This original error is why the issue has become a story. For those who might have missed the initial interview, what he actually said was “We’re all sinners”. Yes, it is theologically accurat, but it is unhelpful for a party leader to say. Nevertheless, he has definitely never said he thinks gay sex is a sin.

I do recognise that some people won’t be happy unless he says “No” to the question, and that not everyone will agree with me here, but I believe that Tim’s statement that he is not going to make theological pronouncements is probably the right approach. Although Cathy Newman has so far failed to ask any other political leadership figures the same question, you can bet that the likes of May, Khan and so on now all have their own soundbite-sized version of “We don’t do God” prepared.

But he abstained on Same-Sex Marriage!
There were six votes, and Tim abstained on one of those due to issues surrounding the spousal veto. “They Work For You” have more on this, just click the linked image on the right to see the detail. If you think that trying to fix the spousal veto during the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act was a bad thing, then that’s far from evidence that Tim is homophobic and I must respectfully disagree with you on parliamentary tactics. One of my regrets that is that trans politicians didn’t rock the boat more at the time and try to persuade people to vote against the bill due to it’s transphobic content. Sadly, we did not as a group have the influence then that we have now.

Gay frogs!
Seriously? That wasn’t even close to Tim’s usual tweeting style and he’s hardly likely to wade into random twitter debates on LGBT issues with the British Humanists Association. He’s not the only party leader to have his twitter hacked either.

He’s only suddenly become LGBT+ friendly since he became party leader!
This is where I get to point out that Tim has a long track record of positive action on LGBT+ issues. Tim doesn’t – or didn’t, I suspect the school of hard knocks may affect this – do vapid soundbite politics. Those of us in bi/queer/trans circles often get marginalised by soundbite politics, with “Equal Marriage” being a prime example. (Top tip: We do not have Equal Marriage in the UK. We have Same-Sex Marriage, and you only have to look at the injustices perpetrated by the spousal veto, pension laws and so on to realise this) What he had done is learnt about the detail and spoken in favour of many positive Liberal Democrat policies that are often overlooked.

There’s plenty more press coverage since he became leader, and Pink News have a pretty good list of his pro-LGBT work once you scroll past the headline and attacks on him. Most recently, Tim was front of the queue condemning the homophobic atrocities in Chechnya, when I don’t think we’ve heard anything at all from Corbyn or May. However there are whole host of other things linked to from that article. Please do go and have a look.

The older stuff has less coverage as party presidents don’t usually get the limelight, but the photo at the top of this article was at an LGBT+ Liberal Democrats event he spoke at in 2012. From memory, that was the event where several of us spoke to him on the concerns trans people had about accreditation at party conference and which he helped us lobby on in his role as party president. The photo on the right was taken in February 2015, when Nick Clegg was still leader and Tim was out campaigning in my ward. Anyone local to Cambridge may recognise this as being outside the primary school on Coronation Street. Apologies for the poor photo, we didn’t realise this was going to be a “thing” at the time.

You’re only defending him because you’re a Liberal Democrat!
Hardly, and I was quite willing to be critical of Clegg when he messed up.

There are a number of loud bisexual/poly/queer/trans voices in the party defending Tim – Jennie Rigg, whose blog post I linked to above for example. A number of us get Righteously Annoyed when people attack Tim on LGBT+ issues, because he has been solid on the BT+ parts of the debate for many years when other political leaders have left us out in the cold for not being vote-worthy enough. Seeing people, and sometimes even the same people who sold us down the river over Same-Sex Marriage, attack him for not being word-perfect and repeating the same damaging soundbites as other leaders (“Equal” Marriage) is predictably going to rile us up.

As I said on Twitter, we’re the Awkward Squad. We don’t DO “Loyal party drone”. But I do have a nice photo of two of us with Tim Farron in Bournemouth that I’d like to share.

by Zoe O'Connell at April 19, 2017 12:30 PM

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

Where are my 3d-printing customers?

I've been selling 3d prints via 3dhubs and directly for several months now. Where are my users?

April 19, 2017 08:04 AM

April 18, 2017


Trans politicians standing for election: May 2017

Having run through the history of trans politicians in the UK in three parts – pre-2000, 2001-2009 and post-2010, it’s back to the usual routine and time to report who is standing in next month’s elections.

As a recap, we currently have four openly trans people elected to local government – many people will be aware of the first three, and news emerged last year of a fourth councillor, for UKIP, in Thanet. This is, as far as we are aware, a record high in trans representation in local government – but to put it into context, there are 20,830 seats on principal councils in the UK so the four of us represent just 0.02% of the total number of councillors. For comparison, figures for the number of trans people in the UK usually result in a number an order of magnitude higher, at around 0.1-0.2%.

Here’s the current, complete, list:

Liberal Democrats Zoë O’Connell
Cambridge City Council, Trumpington Ward

Elected 2015 with 29.9% of the vote, 2.6% majority.
Conservatives Zoë Kirk-Robinson
Bolton City Council, Westhoughton North and Chew Moor Ward
Elected 2015 with 41.3% of the vote, 2.7% majority.
Sarah Larkins
Thanet District Council, Eastcliff Ward
Elected 2015 with 33.5% of the vote, 4.3% majority.
Labour Anwen Muston
Wolverhampton, East Park Ward
Elected 2016 with 43.4% of the vote, 12.8% majority.

There is also one election result to report – Ellen Murry stood again as the Green Party’s candidate in the sudden Northern Ireland Assembly election earlier this year:

Green Party Northern Ireland Ellen Murray
West Belfast (Party list)
Not elected. Round one result: 0.6%, change: -0.3%

And now onto the main feature: candidates in 2017. It is slim pickings this year, with only twothree candidates known of so far. I often receive news of more after the initial list is posted and anyone I hear of will be added here. At this point in the four-year local council electoral cycle, it is mostly county councils up for grabs. The job of a county councillor is typically more time consuming than at city/district level, and although I have not seen any evidence on the topic it does seem to favour those who are retired, self-employed and doing well or otherwise better off – which will tend to work against trans people in general. With an increasing number of trans people also holding office and Helen Belcher being the LibDem Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Chippenham, there is also a smaller pool of people willing to stand for election!

Labour Sam Feeney
Cambridgeshire, St Ives North & Wyton
Mridul Wadhwa
Edinburgh, Craigentinny/Duddingston
Alex Bear
Derbyshire, Ripley East and Codnor

And finally, one honorary mention. Lily, co-founder of Britain Elects, should have been the candidate for Uplands, Swansea next month. Sadly, she died late last year.

Labour Lily Summers
Swansea, Uplands

by Zoe O'Connell at April 18, 2017 08:30 AM

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

Pyramid 101: Humor

Pyramid, edited by Steven Marsh, is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's humour, something I've always found tricky in RPGs.

April 18, 2017 08:00 AM

April 17, 2017

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

The Last Ship season 3

2016 science fiction, 13 episodes. As the world starts to rebuild after the megaplague, some people decide they prefer it the way it is.

April 17, 2017 08:00 AM

April 16, 2017

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

Flowers Stained With Moonlight, Catherine Shaw

2005 historical epistolary mystery, second of Shaw's series. In 1892, a young woman's much older husband has been murdered; her mother brings in Vanessa Duncan to try to get the answers and avoid scandal before the police arrest the widow.

April 16, 2017 08:00 AM

April 15, 2017

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

New Game!

2016 slice of life, 4-koma manga adaptation in 12 episodes: AniDB. Suzukaze Aoba joins the studio that's making the third game in a series she loved growing up.

April 15, 2017 08:02 AM

April 14, 2017

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

South by Java Head, Alistair MacLean

1958 thriller/war story. In February 1942, Singapore is about to fall to the Japanese; one last ship makes it out, but those who made it aboard won't have an easy trip to safety.

April 14, 2017 08:03 AM

April 13, 2017

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

TringCon 1 April 2017

This small one-day boardgaming event happens twice a year in a village hall in Deepest Buckinghamshire, and has been going for quite a few years. This was my fifth visit.

April 13, 2017 08:01 AM

April 12, 2017

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

A Big Boy Did It and Ran Away, Christopher Brookmyre

2001 tartan noir. What's the connection between new teacher and new father Ray Ash, and international terrorist-for-hire The Black Spirit? Rather more than one might suspect.

April 12, 2017 08:02 AM

April 11, 2017

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

Rizzoli & Isles season 7

2016, 13 episodes: the final season of odd-couple crimefighting from Detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles.

April 11, 2017 08:04 AM

April 10, 2017

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

Dagashi Kashi

2016 contemporary comedy, 12 episodes, manga adaptation: AniDB. Kokonotsu works at his father's old-fashioned sweet shop, but wants to draw manga. A strange girl appears to try to recruit his father, but first she needs to persuade Kokonotsu to take over the shop.

April 10, 2017 08:01 AM

April 09, 2017

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

More Work for the Undertaker, Margery Allingham

1948 classic English detective fiction; thirteenth of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. The decaying Palinodes are lodging in what used to be the family house, but one of them seems to have been poisoned; what is the neighbouring undertaker up to; and why is a delirious crook terrified of "going up Apron Street"?

April 09, 2017 08:03 AM

April 08, 2017

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

Wynonna Earp season 1

2016 urban fantasy/horror, 13 episodes. Wynonna Earp, distant descendant of Wyatt, comes back to her home town to learn that her job in life is to send back to hell the revenants of the men who died by Earp's gun "Peacemaker".

April 08, 2017 08:00 AM

April 07, 2017

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

The Gods Themselves, Isaac Asimov

1972 Hugo- and Nebula-award-winning science fiction. The Electron Pump has brought limitless free energy to Earth, by exchanging matter with a parallel universe where the physical laws differ. But one or two people think there might be a worm in this apple.

April 07, 2017 08:02 AM

April 06, 2017

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

Firefly at home, March 2017

With some of the weekend-games regulars not wanting to play more Firefly, we got together on a weekday evening, again with a time limit.

April 06, 2017 08:04 AM

April 05, 2017

The Weblog

UKNOF37 (20 April 2017, Manchester)

Early Bird Registration ends today at 23:59 BST

 Home, UK          5 April, 2017          15.30pm BST


UKNOF37 takes place in just 2 weeks on Thursday 20 April at Manchester Central Convention Centre. The agenda will be coming soon, however we are pleased to announce a full programme with the full set of submitted presentations now approved.

Confirmed speakers and their presentations are listed at:

Although we webcast and record the presentations, we do sometimes receive requests not to record or webcast a particular presentation. If you are interested in all the presentations at UKNOF37, then please attend in person.


We currently have 226 delegates from seven different countries registered to attend, so if you would like to join them, please register early. Today (until 11.59pm BST) is the final day to register for free under Early Bird.

All registrations after Early Bird are on a paid basis.

If any of your colleagues/customers would be interested in attending UKNOF37, please refer them to this article.


UKNOF meetings are generally free to attend, thanks mainly to our sponsors.

For UKNOF37, we would like to thank the following current sponsors:

Meeting sponsors

Premium: Corero, ThousandEyes, Zen Internet

Associate: Laser 2000, ProLabs, The Loop

Contributor: Pulsant, RIPE NCC

Pints n’ Packets Networking Event sponsors

Exhibitor: Corero

Supporter: Huber + Suhner Cube Optics


Bogons, Portfast

We are still seeking much needed sponsors for UKNOF37, and future meetings in 2017 (UKNOF38). If you are interested in supporting us, please take a look at the Sponsor Document at the link below and email to discuss.


This sponsorship shows your support of UKNOF over a period of a calendar year and enables UKNOF to be more effective in being able to offer it’s unique service to the community.

The amount you wish to sponsor is up to you and you may sign up as an Individual Patron or Organisation Patron at:


UKNOF is all about collaboration and we are pleased to mention the following event taking place in Manchester before UKNOF37

IX Manchester 8 – LINX Regional Meeting

Takes place on Wednesday 19 April, 2017 at the same venue as UKNOF37 – Manchester Central Convention Centre. Further details and registration at:


You may subscribe to our low volume discussion mailing list and various social media channels.


UKNOF38 - September 2017. Date and venue to be confirmed.

UKNOF39 - Thursday 18 January 2018, etc Venues 155 Bishopsgate, London

UKNOF40 - Friday 27 April 2018, Manchester Central Convention Centre, Manchester

Looking forward to seeing you in Manchester at UKNOF37 in two weeks from now.


by Admin at April 05, 2017 02:35 PM

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

The Book of the Dead, Elizabeth Daly

1944 mystery; eighth of Daly's books of Henry Gamadge, book expert and amateur investigator. Mr Crenshaw arrived in New York, settled his affairs and died of leukemia, with no relatives to be informed; but a casual acquaintance didn't like the look of his servant, and asks Gamadge to dig into the matter.

April 05, 2017 08:01 AM

April 04, 2017

Euro Tech News

Engie helping people with sick cars

There are quite a few devices out there which connect to your car's OBD port (all modern cars have one, they're usually under the dashboard and provide access to diagnostics about the car).

Engie comes in 2 parts, an app that can be downloaded from an App Store (both iOS and Android versions are available) and the device that plugs into the OBD port (the Android and iOS devices differ). It's possible to download the app for free and set-up an account and order a device through the app (which sends you to the website) or just order the device from the site directly.

Once the device is plugged into the OBD port and the engine turned on, launch the app, search for the device and then connect. The app will then show how the car is performing. There's various modes which can show things like engine temperature, actual trip costs (using real petrol pricing that you have entered), however the real USP of the app is that if there is a fault, Engie will tell you what it is and can then send you to a local garage - the app knows where you are and has a large garage database.

The only downside is that if your car doesn't have any faults, then there's no real advantage to using Engie compared to other OBD devices and other free software that's out there.

The Android device is £14.99 and the iOS device is £19.99 available directly from Engie (it arrives quickly once ordered).

by Steve Karmeinsky ( at April 04, 2017 02:37 PM

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

Killjoys season 2

2016, 10 episodes. Space bounty hunters fight what looks at first like political oppression, but which turns out to have more behind it.

April 04, 2017 08:02 AM


Trans politicians, part 3 (2010-2016)

Happy Local Election Nomination Deadline Day! If you are planning on standing for election on May 4th, you have until 4pm today to get your nomination papers in. As I expect to be posting the 2017 candidate list in the next few days, it is an appropriate day to post the final part of the series on openly trans politicians in the UK, which started as part of LGBT History Month. (For earlier years, see part one covering 1986-1999 and part two, 2000-2010) LGBT History Month is now long past, but as a result of the first two parts I received a number of new leads to chase down on candidates who stood – most turned out to be people who didn’t come out until after they had left office, but many thanks to those who sent them in.

2010 was, in mainstream political terms, when it all kicked off for openly trans representation in the UK – going from one elected councillor in May 2010 up to a record three elected councillors and 9 other candidates in May 2016. It’s notable enough that a trans person standing for election might warrant a short and usually positive human interest piece in the local press, but at least for local election candidates it no longer generates the kind of mock-outrage by tabloid commentators that was previously common. The sheer number of people standing makes it difficult to write a biography for everyone, so only brief details are given on those elected.

The emphasis above is on “openly” above, as there are a number of trans politicians in the UK at local election level who are not out. At least some of the recent increase in numbers can be attributed not just to the increased number of trans candidates standing, but also the increased likelihood of people being out. Records prior to about 2010 are also sketchy, and it is likely some earlier candidates have been missed.

There are two known out Candidates who are now out, but are not listed below as it has not been able to confirm were out at the time of election: Sarah Larkins (UKIP, 2015) and Lee-Anne Lawrance. (Green, 2016)

If you have not been included in this list and believe you should be, please drop me a line. If I know you and have not included you here, it is because I believe you are not out.


Sarah Brown (Liberal Democrats)
2010-2014: Cambridge, Petersfield

Appeared on the Independent on Sunday “Pink List” (later called the “Rainbow List”) of top 100 most influential LGBT people in the UK from 2011 to 2015. Cambridge City Council’s Executive Councillor for Community Services 2013-2014.

Herbert, Ian. The IoS Pink List 2011 Independent on Sunday. 22nd October 2011
Barkham, Patrick. ‘Why three in a bed isn’t a crowd’ – the polyamorous trio The Guardian. 20th April 2013
Cambridge Local Elections – Candidates A – B
Sarah Brown (politician) Wikipedia
Councillor details – Councillor Sarah Brown Cambridge City Council


Unsuccessful City/Borough Council Candidates: Zoe O’Connell (Liberal Democrats)


Unsuccessful City/Borough Council Candidates: Zoe O’Connell (Liberal Democrats)

No known candidates

2014 candidates list
2014 results list

Unsuccessful European Parliament Candidates: Nikki Sinclaire (We Demand a Referendum)
Unsuccessful City/Borough Council Candidates: Anna May Booth (Labour), Sarah Brown (Liberal Democrats), Alice Chapman (Liberal Democrats), Zoe Kirk-Robinson (Conservatives), Charlie Kiss (Green), Anwen Muston (Labour), Zoe O’Connell (Liberal Democrats)

2015 candidates/results list

Zoë O’Connell (Liberal Democrats)
Cambridge, Trumpington (Term expires 2019)

Deputy Leader of the opposition on Cambridge City Council since 2016, Vice-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Federal Conference Committee and the author of this blog.

Barkham, Patrick. ‘Why three in a bed isn’t a crowd’ – the polyamorous trio The Guardian. 20th April 2013
Cambridge Local Elections – Candidates L – O
Councillor details – Councillor Zoe O’Connell Cambridge City Council

Zoe Kirk-Robinson (Conservatives)
Bolton, Westhoughton North and Chew Moor (Term expires 2019)

Councillor details – Zoe Kirk-Robinson

Unsuccessful Westminster Candidates: Emily Brothers (Labour), Stella Gardiner (Green), Charlie Kiss (Green), Zoe O’Connell (Liberal Democrats)
Unsuccessful City/Borough Council Candidates: Kirsten Ruth Bayes (Liberal Democrats), Anna May Booth (Labour), Alice Chapman (Liberal Democrats), Rachel Lawson (Green), Anwen Muston (Labour)

2016 candidates list
2016 results list

Anwen Muston (Labour)
Wolverhampton, Eask Park (Term expires 2020)
Councillor details – Anwen Muston

Unsuccessful Regional/Metro Assembly Candidates: Brothers (Labour, London Assembly), Crow (Green, Scottish Parliament), Murray (Green, NI Assembly)
Unsuccessful City/Borough Council Candidates: Kirsten Ruth Bayes (Liberal Democrats), Helen Belcher (Liberal Democrats), Aimee Challenor (Green), Jane Fae (Liberal Democrats), Henry Foulds (Liberal Democrats), Jennifer Kirk (Conservatives), Maria Munir (Liberal Democrats)

by Zoe O'Connell at April 04, 2017 07:30 AM

April 03, 2017

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

Airecon IV

After the crew mentioned this fast-growing convention on Cthulhu Breakfast Club, I thought I'd give it a go even though it was in North. (Harrogate, to be precise.) With images; cc-by-sa on everything.

April 03, 2017 08:04 AM

April 02, 2017

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

Into the Storm, Taylor Anderson

2008 alternate-history science fiction war story. During the Battle of the Java Sea in 1942, two antiquated four-stacker destroyers sail into a squall… and come out somewhere else.

April 02, 2017 08:03 AM

April 01, 2017

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

Arslan Senki (2015) season 2

2016 pseudo-historical fantasy, novel series adaptation in 8 episodes: AniDB, vtt "Arslan Senki Fuujin Ranbu" and "Heroic Legend of Arslan: Dust Storm Dance".

April 01, 2017 08:01 AM

March 31, 2017

Liam on Linux

The art of Sinclair -- in Agile terms, making computers that are "just barely good enough"

So in a thread on CIX, someone was saying that the Sinclair computers were irritating and annoying, cut down too far, cheap and slow and unreliable.

That sort of comment still kinda burns after all these decades.

I was a Sinclair owner. I loved my Spectrums, spent a lot of time and money on them, and still have 2 working ones today.

Yes, they had their faults, but for all those who sneered and snarked at their cheapness and perceived nastiness, *that was their selling point*.

They were working, usable, useful home computers that were affordable.

They were transformative machines, transforming people, lives, economies.

I had a Spectrum not because I massively wanted a Spectrum -- I would have rather had a BBC Micro, for instance -- but because I could afford a Spectrum. Well, my parents could, just barely. A used one.

My 2nd, 3rd and 4th ones were used, as well, because I could just about afford them.

If all that had been available were proper, serious, real computers -- Apples, Acorns, even early Commodores -- I might never have got one. My entire career would never have happened.

A BBC Micro was pushing £350. My used 48K Spectrum was £80.

One of those is doable for what parents probably worried was a kid's toy that might never be used for anything productive. The other was the cost of a car.

I wouldn't have wanted something like a VIC-20 because it was so crippled, with its poor 22 column screen and poor BASIC. The C64 was blatantly a games machine, with the same poor BASIC, but the R&D money spent on fancy graphics and sound which you could only access by PEEK and POKE commands.

The BBC looked lovely but was too expensive even for my (expensive, private) school; I never touched one until they were old and past-it, driving lab equipment.

The ZX-81, with no true graphics, no sound, no colour, looked very boring to a pubescent boy. I wanted some bling and dazzle. Who doesn't at 13 or so?

The Spectrum hit a sweet spot: decent BASIC, decent amount of RAM, but still tons of 3rd party extras, both hardware and software. All for a price I could afford as an impoverished student.

Later, I had an Amstrad PCW 9512, another underrated machine, and then after that, an Acorn Archimedes. The late lamented Guy Kewney called trying an IBM PC-AT as "my first experience of Raw Computer Power." (A 6MHz 286!) But for me, it was the Archie. Again, 2nd hand -- but £800 for a machine with a whole megabyte of RAM, a hard disk, and amazing CPU power and graphics with a multitasking GUI.

But that was when I was 21 and in my first job. (It took a year or so to pay off my debts.) Not a chance when I was 14 or so. Then, I got a used Speccy. Rubber keys and all. And it was great.

If you folk were the wealthy elite who could afford £500 - £1000 computers, good for you. The Provens couldn't. We needed sub-£100 computers.

They were not cut down too far. They were cut down just far enough. Still having what made computers interesting, but just about affordable albeit expensive.

The QL was cut down too far, yes, *for its time*. Everyone forgets that it predated the Mac. When the QL was designed, a GUI personal computer meant an Apple Lisa, $10,000.

By the time it was shipping, it meant a Mac, $2,500 or so.

A year later, it meant an Amiga or an ST, for $500 or so.

In *that* context, yes, the QL was too cut down.

But compared to the BBC Micro, the C64, or the $1000+ machines like the Apple II or Atari range, no, it was just right. Don't knock it.

March 31, 2017 12:58 PM

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

Final Curtain, Ngaio Marsh

1947 classic English detective fiction; fourteenth of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. Agatha Troy is commissioned to paint a portrait of Sir Henry Ancred, famed Shakespearian actor; the house is full of his variously ghastly family, including the chorus-girl he's taken up with.

March 31, 2017 08:00 AM

March 30, 2017

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

Angie Tribeca, season 2

2016 police parody, 10 episodes. Detective Angie Tribeca solves crimes in the RHCU, the Really Heinous Crimes Unit.

March 30, 2017 08:04 AM

March 29, 2017

Euro Tech News

Mi Band2 - a lot of band for not much

Xiaomi are a Chinese company that make stuff - a lot of stuff and they tend to make it well and very cheap. The Mi Band2 is no exception. It's a fitness tracker with a heart rate sensor.

The actual tracker unit is about 4cm long (a bit like a flat capsule) and it fits into a silicon strap. The top is a monochrome OLED display with a single capacitive button on it which allows various modes to be displayed. Underneath is the optical heart rate sensor. Once removed form the strap, it can be charged using the supplied USB charging cable which it pushes into.

There's an accompanying app (both iOS and Android) that sets the Band up (and upgrades the firmware if necessary). The app isn't the best in the world but it shows the number of steps etc. The band is also configured through the app i.e. what's displayed on the band and what notifications it gets. The app can also record activities (running).

The band will autodetect and track sleep, though there are two modes - one uses more battery life and is more accurate as it measures heart rate more often though the basic mode seems to work well too and battery life is very good, so far the band is on 82% charge after a week and a half of wearing so should get a month out of a charge.

Though not recommended for swimming it is IP67 splash resistant so can be used in the shower.

Considering the competition the price should be over £100, however it's available off Alibaba for around £16 including shipping to the UK.

by Steve Karmeinsky ( at March 29, 2017 07:36 PM

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

The Guns of Navarone, Alistair MacLean

1957 thriller/war story. The island of Navarone, off the Turkish coast, contains a set of naval guns in a rock fortress that can't be effectively bombed, surrounded by a massive occupation force. Two sabotage missions have failed, one by boat, one by parachute. It's time for the third.

March 29, 2017 08:01 AM

March 28, 2017

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

March 2017 Trailers

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

March 28, 2017 08:04 AM

March 27, 2017

Liam on Linux

The successors to the Z80-based micros of the early 1980s which never happened. Or did they?

Although we almost never saw any of them in Europe, there were later models in the Z80 family.

The first successors, the Z8000 (1985, 16-bit) and its later successor the Z80000 (1986, 32-bit) were not Z80-compatible. They did not do well.

Zilog did learn, though, and the contemporaneous Z800, which was Z80 compatible, was renamed the Z280 and relaunched in 1987. 16-bit, onboard cache, very complex instruction set, could handle 16MB RAM.

Hitachi did the HD64180 (1985), a faster Z80 with an onboard MMU that could handle 512 kB of RAM. This was licensed back to Zilog as the Z61480.

Then Zilog did the Z180, an enhancement of that, which could handle 1MB RAM & up to 33MHz.

That was enhanced into the Z380 (1994) -- 16/32-bit, 20MHz, but not derived from and incompatible with the Z280.

Then came the EZ80, at up to 50MHz. No MMU but 24-bit registers for 16MB of RAM.

Probably the most logical successor was the ASCII Corp R800 (1990), an extended 16-bit Z800-based design, mostly Z80 compatible but double-clocked on a ~8MHz bus for ~16MHz operation.

So, yes, lots of successor models -- but the problem is, too many, too much confusion, and no clear successors. Zilog, in other words, had the same failure as its licensees: it didn't trade on the advantages of its previous products. It did realise this and re-align itself, and it's still around today, but it did so too late.

The 68000 wasn't powerful enough to emulate previous-generation 8-bit processors. Possibly one reason why Acorn went its own way with the ARM, which was fast enough to do so -- the Acorn ARM machines came equipped with an emulator to run 6502 code. It emulated a 6502 "Tube" processor -- i.e. in an expansion box, with no I/O of its own. If your code was clean enough to run on that, you could run it on RISC OS out of the box.

Atari, Commodore, Sinclair and Acorn all abandoned their 8-bit heritage and did all-new, proprietary machines. Acorn even did its own CPU, giving it way more CPU power than its rivals, allowing emulation of the old machines -- not an option for the others, who bought in their CPUs.

Amstrad threw in the towel and switched to PC compatibles. A wise move, in the long view.

The only line that sort of transitioned was MSX.

MSX 1 machines (1983) were so-so, decent but unremarkable 8-bits.

MSX 2 (1985) were very nice 8-bitters indeed, with bank-switching for up to 4MB RAM, a primitive GPU for good graphics by Z80 standards. Floppy drives and 128 kB RAM were common as standard.

MSX 2+ (1988) were gorgeous. Some could handle ~6MHz, and the GPU has at least 128 kB VRAM, so they had serious video capabilities for 8-bit machines -- e.g. 19K colours.

MSX Turbo R (1990) were remarkable. Effectively a ~30MHz 16-bit CPU, 96 kB ROM, 256 kB RAM (some battery-backed), a GPU with its own 128 kB RAM, and stereo sound via multiple sound chips plus MIDI.

As a former Sinclair fan, I'd love to see what a Spectrum built using MSX Turbo R technology could do.


Two 6502 lines did transition, kinda sortof.

Apple did the Apple ][GS (1986), with a WD65C816 16-bit processor. Its speed was tragically throttled and the machine was killed off very young so as not to compete with the still-new Macintosh line.

Acorn's Communicator (1985) also had a 65C816, with a ported 16-bit version of Acorn's MOS operating system, BBC BASIC, the View wordprocessor, ViewSheet spreadsheet, Prestel terminal emulator and other components. Also a dead end.

The 65C816 was also available as an add-on for several models in the Commodore 64 family, and there was the GEOS GUI-based desktop to run on it, complete with various apps. Commodore itself never used the chip, though.

March 27, 2017 10:40 PM

Mark's Musings

Necessary hashtags and the art of detecting media bias

Twitter (or, at least, my particular Twitter bubble) has been busy this last 24 hours pouring scorn on the Home Secretary’s apparent admission in the Andrew Marr show on BBC1 (and later, in conversation with Sophy Ridge on Sky News) that she would consider legislating to force communication suppliers, such as WhatsApp, to break their encryption systems so as to permit governments to access messages.

I’m not going to rehash all the reasons why breaking or weakening encryption is wrong. Plenty of people more knowledgeable about it than me have already done that. I’m more interested in how she ended up making such a statement in the first place.

First, some background. The idea of forcing communication suppliers to add “backdoors” into their systems has been floating around for a long time, particularly in policing circles, as it would clearly be beneficial in some cases to be able to get at the content of every electronic message. So this is a proposal that tends to bubble up every time there is a major terrorist or criminal incident.

Such proposals have never actually come to anything, though, partly because they don’t stand up to technical scrutiny but also because they would be firmly resisted by many large and influential corporations – like banks and other financial institutions – as well as other government agencies which themselves rely on encrypted communications.

So, how did it crop up again this time, and why was the Home Secretary so willing to countenance it?

It’s important here to see the whole thing in context. If you haven’t already watched the full interview with Andrew Marr, then do so now on iPlayer before it expires. Because it’s clear that the first person to say something stupid in that exchange wasn’t Amber Rudd, but Marr. He introduced the topic of end to end encryption, made a complete hash of explaining it, and then invited Rudd to agree with him that it is “completely unacceptable” that the government can’t access terrorists’ messages on it.

This is intellectually unsustainable, but political dynamite. Rudd could not, realistically, disagree with him – imagine the tabloid headlines if she had dared to suggest that it is acceptable for criminals to be able to communicate in secret – but neither could she agree without falling straight into the trap that Marr had laid for her.

It was clear from that exchange that Rudd is not only uninformed about how encryption works, but was uncomfortable discussing it. It’s easy to mock her misguided use of terminology, but when she tried to divert the conversation into an area of safer ground, Marr dragged it back. It was, essentially, two people talking about something neither of them really understands, but both agree that it’s a bad thing.

Having fallen headlong into Marr’s elephant trap, though, Rudd couldn’t easily crawl out of it. This was more of an issue later on Sky News, on Ridge on Sunday. Unlike Marr, Sophy Ridge had done her homework, and was able to point out the glaring inconsistency between Rudd’s assertion that she fully backed strong encryption with the threat to legislate against it. But it was too late for Rudd to row back on the statements she had made to Marr, so instead she had to resort to the usual political trick of speaking firmly, keeping a straight face and refusing to acknowledge the contradiction in the hope that viewers would hear what they wanted to hear.

The real question this raises is: why was Rudd so poorly briefed in the first place? Given that it had already been publicised that Adrian Elms had used WhatsApp shortly before murdering four people, why was it not anticipated that the question of accessing it would crop up? Why couldn’t Rudd have defused Marr’s line of questioning by pointing out to him that he didn’t understand how it worked?

I can only speculate here, but it seems to me that this is an issue with the Home Office which goes back a long way – it was clearly visible during Theresa May’s time as Home Secretary, and even before before that under the last Labour administration. The hiving off of Home Office functions into the newly created Ministry of Justice was one attempt to deal with a department that former Home Secretary John Reid once described as “Not fit for purpose”. But this has seemingly resulted in not one, but two dysfunctional ministries.

The particular problem with the Home Office has been a long standing disregard of personal liberty, combined with an ill-concealed contempt for the tech sector. Apart from legislation drafted by the Home Office which combines illiberality with technical infeasibility, this has repeatedly manifested itself in a lack of desire to engage with reasonable and informed criticism. Ministers are left unbriefed, and in danger of looking stupid (as both Rudd, May and their Labour predecessors did, regularly, when talking about Internet-related issues), because there is a perception that the general public, and the tabloid media, doesn’t care about the details. Only nerds care, and nerds don’t matter.

I don’t believe that the government will legislate to force companies to break encryption. There would be too much opposition, both internally and from industry, for that to happen. But we will carry on getting these kites being flown every time there is a terrorist incident, until this anti-tech and anti-freedom factor within the Home Office is rooted out. Ministers could make a start by insisting on being properly briefed in future, and hiring a few SpAds who understand the issue and can offer unbiased advice.

While I’m on the subject (and apologies if this is turning into too much of a long read), consider for a moment why WhatsApp is in the news. As I said at the top of this article, it is known that Adrian Elms used WhatsApp only a few minutes before embarking on his murderous spree. But how do we know that?

Given that WhatsApp is end to end encrypted, and only the sender and recipients of a message can read it – or even know that it is sent – the only way to know this is to have access to either the sender or recipient’s phone.

In this case, media reports say that the police know Elms used WhatsApp because they found a message from him on a phone seized from a known acquaintance in Birmingham. But they don’t know who else he may have communicated with, because his phone is locked and they are unable to access it.

But if they can get that, though, then they have a history of the WhatsApp messages that Elms sent and received. They were not secret to him, and neither are they to anyone who successfully accesses his phone. End to end encryption protects messages from being viewed in transit by third parties; it doesn’t protect them from being viewed on either of the devices they were sent from or to.

In fact, if you read the media reports carefully, the idea that the police are being stymied by lack of access to WhatsApp isn’t coming from the police. They may be happy with that particular misbelief being spread around, because it may help minimise the prospect of accomplices deliberately deleting messages that may be relevant (although, in practice, it does now seem that Elms really was a “lone wolf” and had no accomplices). But the idea that WhatsApp is deliberately hindering the investigation is a suggestion that’s being fed by the media, supported by off the record comments from Home Office insiders (again, not explicitly, but with hints dropped in headlines that aren’t borne out in the text of the article).

The police’s problem is simply that they can’t unlock Elms’s phone. Or, at least, aren’t admitting to being able to, at least not yet. And if they do get into it, there are probably far more interesting things they can discover from it than who he was messaging.

There’s a subtext here that’s worth exploring. Google, Facebook, Twitter and other tech companies are in the firing line at the moment because of their seeming reluctance to remove extremist material. Some of these criticisms are justified, others less so – the tech companies do actually have a good record of addressing explicitly illegal material, as indeed Amber Rudd tried to point out before being interrupted by Andrew Marr; the real issue comes with the stuff that isn’t necessarily illegal but may be offensive or inappropriate. The fact that adverts from well known brands have been appearing on YouTube videos posted by Daesh and their sympathisers has been in the news a lot recently, particularly in the context that these adverts earn money for the videos’ creators.

This is a valid concern, and Google et al could certainly do more to ensure that advertisers have more control over the material that their adverts appear alongside. There are also perfectly legitimate concerns about where the line is drawn regarding offensive, rather than specifically illegal, content.

However, there’s an undercurrent to this which needs to be borne in mind. Google and Facebook, in particular, are very much in the business of attracting advertising expenditure away from the traditional media. The newspapers which complain about Google showing ads on jihadist videos are not neutral; they have skin in the game.

The traditional media also resent the way that search engines and social media have become the gatekeepers to their own content. There is a strong perception in the media that the tech industry is leeching away their traditional source of revenue, and offering nothing in return.

To some extent, that perception is true, although it’s also arguable that it’s not a problem – changes in technology and society’s behaviour always benefits some and not others. Airlines put the ocean liners out of business, steamships spelled the end for the tea clippers and the printing press rendered scribes redundant. The traditional print media can’t really complain if they are now on the downward slope of a hill they were once ascending.

What this means, though, is that there has, for some weeks, been a media campaign in progress against Google, Twitter and Facebook – a campaign driven as much by self-interest as any real public concern. This wasn’t helped by a particularly inept response by Facebook to an investigation by the BBC into sexualised images of children. The Westminster attack has simply played into this narrative, by allowing the media to say “I told you so”. It also gives impetus to their anti-Google and anti-Facebook campaign (and remember that WhatsApp is owned by Facebook).

The traditional print media and broadcast media would love nothing more than to see the tech giants taken down a peg or two. And their reporting reflects that. It is not unbiased. Andrew Marr’s carefully laid trap for the Home Secretary has to be seen in that context, too.

Edited to reflect media reports that the police know about Elms’s WhatsApp use from one of his acquaintances, rather than his own phone.

by Mark at March 27, 2017 10:40 AM

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

March 26, 2017

RogerBW's Blog: Latest posts

Teaching Splendor

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

March 26, 2017 08:00 AM

March 23, 2017

Liberal Murmurs

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

March 22, 2017

Building A New Brewery – Part 3: SS Brewtech Kettle

Maybe this blog post should have an alternative title…  “NPT thread? BSP thread? ARGH!” or maybe “Why can’t I stop that bl**dy leak?!?”.

So, I’ve got this brand new 15 (US) Gallon SS Brewtech Kettle, from The Malt Miller.  It’s very shiny…

Installing the supplied ball valve, bulkhead & the recirculation plugs are a doddle – You just need to grab some PTFE tape and follow the nice little instruction guide that comes with the kettle.

Next up was the installation of the optional Whirlpool fittings, additional ball valve tap and the camlocks.  This is where my problems started…  As this kettle is designed by Americans, the default thread on the fittings is NTP.  The default thread type in the UK is BSP, they’re almost but not quite the same.  In my quest to get everything “perfect” and right first time, I was determined get hold of some NPT thread camlock fittings & ball valve.  This proved harder than expected!  I eventually found a Chinese supplier of both on Amazon & eBay and waited a couple of weeks for them to arrive.

Then the “fun” started…

Attempt 1:  I fitted the camlocks to the ball valves, the new ball valve & whirlpool fittings.  An initial leak test looked promising, until after about 15 minutes water started leaking from the body of the new ball valve!  Ok, it was a very slow leak, I could probably take the ball valve apart, reseat everything and seal it all back up.  So, I decided to do a quick test of the pump connected to the new camlocks and get the whirlpool going.  Except, the NPT camlocks I bought wouldn’t fit inside the camlock coupler on the pipes.  The not-so-cheap Chinese camlocks were a few mm too long!  ARGH!

Armed with some forum posts that reassured me that 1/2″ NPT & BSP fittings will screw into each other and seal ok, I grabbed a new BSP ball valve & camlocks fittings from BrewBuilder

Attempt 2: New ball valve & fittings hooked up, but now the kettle leaks from where the ball valve meets the kettle.  It appears either the internal plastic washer or the external silicone o-ring is warping under pressure.  Multiple attempts to adjust & retry fail…

Attempt 3: From a seller on eBay I grabbed some silicone washers to replace the existing washer & o-ring and tried again.  SUCCESS!  No leaks!

And now, a video! 🙂

by Sean at March 22, 2017 10:02 PM

Ian P. Christian's Health Blog

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

March 16, 2017

What Jessie Did Next…

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's Musings

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

March 11, 2017

Building A New Brewery – Part 2: Buffalo Tap Fitting

I’ve got a new 40L Buffalo hot water boiler to use as a HLT in my new setup.  I need to remove the plastic tap and replace it with new 1/2″ Ball Valve, nipple, lock nut, washer and Camlock fittings.

Remove the tap and save the plastic washer to use with the new fittings.  You’ll notice the tap hole isnt round, so you’ll need to round it out and slightly enlarge it for the 1/2 nipple to fit.

At this point I got carried away and forgot to take photos!  Wrap PFTE tape around the nipple and fit it into the ball valve.  Wrap more PFTE tape around the nipple where the back nut will attach.  Put the original plastic washer onto the nipple and insert it into the boiler.  Stick the rubber washer onto the nipple and then the back nut.  Tighten!  Lots!

Fill with water, heat it up and check for leaks.  I was lucky, no leaks at all on the first attempt!

by Sean at March 11, 2017 07:32 PM

March 10, 2017

Jonathan Dowland's Weblog

Nintendo NES Classic Mini

After months of trying, I've finally got my hands on a Nintendo NES Classic Mini. It's everything I wish retropie was: simple, reliable, plug-and-play gaming. I didn't have a NES at the time, so the games are all mostly new to me (although I'm familiar with things like Super Mario Brothers).

NES classic and 8bitdo peripherals

NES classic and 8bitdo peripherals

The two main complaints about the NES classic are the very short controller cable and the need to press the "reset" button on the main unit to dip in and out of games. Both are addressed by the excellent 8bitdo Retro Receiver for NES Classic bundle. You get a bluetooth dongle that plugs into the classic and a separate wireless controller. The controller is a replica of the original NES controller. However, they've added another two buttons on the right-hand side alongside the original "A" and "B", and two discrete shoulder buttons which serve as turbo-repeat versions of "A" and "B". The extra red buttons make it look less authentic which is a bit of a shame, and are not immediately useful on the NES classic (but more on that in a minute).

With the 8bitdo controller, you can remotely activate the Reset button by pressing "Down" and "Select" at the same time. Therefore the whole thing can be played from the comfort of my sofa.

That's basically enough for me, for now, but in the future if I want to expand the functionality of the classic, it's possible to mod it. A hack called "Hakchi2" lets you install additional NES ROMs; install retroarch-based emulator cores and thus play SNES, Megadrive, N64 (etc. etc.) games; as well as other hacks like adding "down+select" Reset support to the wired controller. If you were playing non-NES games on the classic, then the extra buttons on the 8bitdo become useful.

March 10, 2017 11:45 AM

March 09, 2017

Euro Tech News

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

March 08, 2017

Liberal Murmurs

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 06, 2017

Liam on Linux

Follow-up: the family links between DOS, OS/2, NT and VMS

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