Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Guardian newspaper ceases paper edition, moves exclusively to Twitter

Just to show that it's now the first day of April over in the UK, this story from the Guardian about their move to Twitter. At least their legendary typos are less prominent in Twitter.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Boston Latin School "not overrun by vampires"

Boston Latin School's headmistress issues a notice that the school is not overrun with vampires.

Reminds me of when my old boarding school in rural Ireland had to run an exorcism in its chapel, although that was not publicised at the time. That was in a pre-Twilight and pre-Harry Potter time, so the marketing opportunities were not realised at the time.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Handy map of Dublin's statues

This is a nice map of the various statues around Dublin. I'm pretty sure it must be missing some, but I can't think of any right now...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sam Beckett on Dublin

"This tired, abstract anger – inarticulate passive opposition – always the same thing in Dublin."

Quoted in yesterday's Irish Times

He nails a certain quality of Dublin, if you can call it that. I can't see Tourism Ireland using that quote anytime soon, however much it likes to make use of the Great Irish Writers.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Miriam O'Callaghan on the Today Show

Good interview with Miriam O'Callaghan on the Today Show - two minutes and forty seconds into the clip below. She comes across very well on US TV, talking about the Irish economy, but wow I didn't realise she is so tall:

Des Bishop on the Today Show

Everybody's favourite Ireland-based American comedian is on the Today Show today, which is being broadcast from Enniskerry in County Wicklow in Ireland.

Des Bishop is wearing an Irish language "Yes we can" t-shirt, though it only says "We can" because, famously, the Irish language has no words for "Yes" or "No". I think it's already been pointed out that it's fitting that Ireland went thousands of years without a need for the words "Yes" or "No" - everything is shades of grey in Ireland.

Check out Des Bishop's hilarious comedy routines on YouTube.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Online newspaper strategy from Ireland's Sunday Business Post

I read Ireland's Sunday Business Post online each week. The content is smart and interesting, especially David McWilliam's column, but equally interesting is the fact that the Sunday Business Post uploads its online content at 6pm on Sunday evening. That means that up until that time, a reader has to buy the paper newspaper if they want to read the content.

Now, it may be that this delay is just because the Sunday Business Post team takes that long to put the content online, and they would prefer to have it online from Sunday morning. But, my own personal experience is that when I can read a newspaper online on my Blackberry in the morning, I am very unlikely to buy that newspaper. So this may be deliberate.

Is the Sunday Business Post on to something here?

Friday, March 13, 2009

South Boston St Patrick's Day Parade

This parade seems to be most well known for its banning of gay people from marching. Boston's Mayor has avoided marching in it for this reason, but in moves which would make an Irish politician proud, he does attend the breakfast before the parade, and do interviews at the front of the parade before it starts, but then does not walk in the actual parade itself.

The parade itself it like the Dublin St Patrick's Day Parade circa 1985, all fire engines and people on flat-bed trucks waving, except that it is not in the city center (it's in the Irish enclave of South Boston), and it includes a lot of military content.

Last year I skipped this parade, and spent St Patrick's Day in Ireland - in Oldcastle, County Meath, watching the local town parade there. Much warmer than Boston, and without any discrimination about who could march in the parade. Although it was in a small town in Ireland, it was also more multicultural than the South Boston parade, including Eastern Europeans and Brazilians. I was also pleased not to have to deal with the crush at the Broadway T station, or the biting winds.

This year I'll also be skipping the South Boston parade, but I won't be in Ireland. It's a pity there is no other St Patrick's Day parade in Boston to compete with it...

[ Added: Here are some photos from the 2008 Oldcastle St Patrick's Day Parade, which I think capture some of the spirit of a rural Irish St Patrick's Day parade:


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

How I installed the GCompris kids games/educational package on Puppy Linux

As I mentioned yesterday, I put Puppy Linux onto a PC which was thrown out by a neighbour who abandoned his house (due to foreclosure I think).

The PC is quite old - it had Windows 98 on it, and just 96MB of memory and 4GB of hard drive. I tried to put Xubuntu on it, since I like Ubuntu. It would not run on the PC. So that is what led me to Puppy Linux. I burnt a CD of Puppy Linux, put it into the PC, and then installed it onto the hard drive in place of Windows 98. I could have simply run it off the CD, but it seemed better to run it off the hard drive, in case I lost the CD and since I had no need for Windows 98.

I then put GCompris on it. It's a suite of young kids educational and games software. Screenshot below:

Here are the steps I took to install GCompris. I feel that many non-technical people would have a hard time putting GCompris and Puppy Linux onto an old PC, which is a shame because it's a great use for a machine which would otherwise be thrown out.

The prerequisite is Puppy Linux on a PC. As I mentioned, I chose Puppy Linux because it runs well on old hardware. Download Puppy Linux, put it onto a bootable CD, put the CD into the tray of the old PC, and reboot it. As I mentioned, I went a step further and put Puppy Linux onto the hard drive of the PC and scrubbed the old slow Windows installation which was there.

- You have to compile and build Gcompris. So, for that, you need a compiler. Follow the instructions in the "Appendix" section of this page: http://www.puppylinux.org/wiki/how-tos/general/compiling .

Since I installed it onto the hard drive, after I downloaded devx_412.sfs (from here), I had to do these steps:

mkdir /mnt/devx
mount -o loop /devx_213.sfs /mnt/devx
cp -a /mnt/devx/* /
umount /mnt/devx

[ as shown here: http://www.murga-linux.com/puppy/viewtopic.php?t=16780 ]

- OK now I had a compiler. Next, I had to download a bunch of "PETs", which are redistributable files which enable things like the Python environment on Puppy Linux.

To download these, I downloaded them via the browser (SeaMonkey) on Puppy Linux, saved them to the file system, then clicked on them to load them up.

I had to get:
GNU Chess: http://www.puppylinux.ca/tpp/bugs/gnuchess-5.0.7.pet

And I had to pull down a bunch of PETs from here: http://www.puppylinux.ca/tpp/big_bass/
These were: pycairo-1.4.12.pet , pygobject-2.14.1.pet , TclTk-patched4py-8.4.pet, libdb4-4.pet, pygtk-2.12.pet, and python-2.5.2.pet .

- Finally of course I needed Gcompris itself. You can get it from http://gcompris.net/. Download gcompris-8.4.tar.gz [or a newer version].

Follow these instructions then, which should be familiar to anyone who has had to build software on Linux before:

- tar -xvf gcompris-8.4.tar.gz
- cd gcompris-8.4
- sh configure
- make
- make install

The "make" step literally took hours to run on my slow PC. But it did run, and it worked. Gcompris now runs happily on my salvaged PC.

Note that I don't have sound working. I'm going to get that working next and post the instructions for that. Good luck with Gcompris!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Scenes from a Recession - Resurrecting an abandoned computer using Puppy Linux, and scrubbing boot-loader security

One of my neighbours was quickly packing some of his belongings into a moving van and leaving his house empty, and was throwing out many items, including a couple of old computers. One of the computers was an old eMachines box running Windows 98. He was happy to give it to me, as he'd left it out as rubbish to be picked up (along with beds, couches, a stereo unit, etc).

I scrubbed off Windows 98 and put on Puppy Linux. It runs a lot faster than Windows 98 did on it, the Seamonkey browser runs great, it prints fine from my Brother printer (using CUPS). It also meant that I had to sort through old cables and keyboards, and bring an old ten-year-old flatscreen monitor up from the basement, which was good because they are now being used again.

If anyone out there sees an old computer being abandoned, consider Puppy Linux. My six-year-old son was happily using it yesterday, it's that easy. Give me an email if you have questions about it. It's a lot better than throwing a perfectly good computer out in the trash.

In other recession-related IT news, I had to scrub some boot-loader security off a laptop for another neighbour whose company had gone out of business. This was quite tricky, but it also meant that the laptop was usable again and did not have to be thrown out.