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I really need to get a good notepad. I mean a real notepad – small pad of paper that will fit im my pocket. I had a few things that I was thinking about blogging – I thought of them this morning, but I’ve been out all day, and now they aren’t really coming to me.

I guess I could write some of the stuff down, but its about anarchy, and I want to read through all my older posts. (Which I cba doing now).

This whole things also make me wonder about my blog style, about whether anyone regularly reads my blog. About whether I should blog more – about how I should write down those things I want for my self. WordPress has a private post button but I don’t really like it. I have a private wiki I’ve used for a bit, but now its just notes and toedeo lists. Maybe I could do with a twitter, or a private copy of wordpress. Or maybe I should be more open – privacy is a funny thing on the interent. Anyone can read this. And, its going to hang around, already I know theres some stuff on my blog that I might mind people in the future seeing. Nothing too serious though, you just wonder.

Talking about privacy, (hmm im actually starting on the topic I had on my head), I’ve been listening to little brother. Its scary. On one level because of the terrible interogation procedures used on a kid my age. The most chilling thing though is the realness of it – I can quite imagine similar events happening – if they have not already!… most kids would be too scared to speak of it.

And, of course, it could happen to me, it could happen to anyone. I’m a criminal with dangerous views on anarchy. I know its not likely – I’m not that paranoid – but something needs to be done to stop the ever marching trampling of our rights. Whether the right way to do that is anarcy, I’m not sure, and will explore in a later post. But, one thing I know for sure – something must be done.

I’m helping push forward one fight for freedom, that on the digital frontier. But, I feel like doing that is not enough. I need to get involved in the amnesty group when it starts again after exams. Mind you, saying that, our amnesty group seems to be centered around stopping abuses by non-trusted groups – e.g. trafficing. Whilst such work is of course important, it doesn’t mean as much to me personally as work to stop the governments marching in directions that are harmful to us all.

I’m really beginning to dislike forced authority. Although, I’ve always really disliked it. I’ve never like being told what to do. I’m happy to co-operate with someone if they suggest something and it makes sense to me to do it, but something about straightforward order following really pisses me off. This is why I tried the CCF (combined cadet force at my school and hating it). I don’t like to be told what to do in that way. This isn’t to say I’m against people joining such organisations – that’s fine if they want to – just as long as I can stay away.

So, where was I? Oh, I hate authority, I really do. Not structered rules in themselves, but being forced to do them. For example, I am fine with rules at sixth form, because I have an option not to obey them, that is by quitting the xisth form. Consequently I am happy to obey rules because I know I am doing it out of my choice in return for betterment to me. I guess this is what kevin on #libervis was on about when he was talking about being personally free and yet paying taxes. I hadn’t realised that I’d felt it myself.

Oh, lost my place again. I was supposed to mention the culture of ownership blog – another example of how governments are conspiring against the “citizens” that they are supposed to protect. I had a breif glance at UK copright law. Goodness, law is confusing – but I’d really like to know what rights I actually have.

There’s a point. Surely a government is supposed to serve the people of that country. Pay taxes in return for services and a say in how stuff work. Not that I have much trust in modern democracies. All the main parties always seem to be heading the same way. Also, if this is some sort of mutual agreement, how do you get out of it!?! I’m still not convinced that an-cap can work, but I really wish there was somewhere without a government that all the people who wanted freedom could go, and the rest of the world could watch and see what happens. (Yes, I am partially stealing this idea from someone in #teenlug)

So basically, I want freedom. I want privacy. And I want to stop people trying to take that away. I really ought to do more about it, think more, act more, be more.

So, I have myself a little list of things I want to do:

  • Get a notebook
  • Read back through old blog posts (and wiki) for ideas and things I have not done yet
  • Learn what my “rights” under UK law are with regard to copyright, and also in other areas. Maybe also look at human rights

Whoah, now that was one spontaneous blog post. I feel like I lost my thread completely at the end. Nevermind. Hopefully I’ll be able to read through all my stuff, pull my thoughts together, and decide what I really think of stuff – and what I should do about it. I like that little phrase I coined (its probably based subconciously on something else):

Think more. Act more. Be more.

Sounds like doubleplushuman, I wonder how that is progreesing. (Omg, I got so lazy I’m asking people questions throught my blog).

I end, 1000 words. (Edit: fail at that, gedit disagrees and I aciddently deleted the leading I; so much for trying to be poetic, I think that I wil leave that to Joe. Speaking of poetry…., no I must save that for later.)

Me and my friend Joe have been wondering about lucid dreaming recently. He recently livejournaled one of his dreams. Now, I don’t really want to share my dreams, they are either too private or too weird, and I should imagine too uninteresting to post here. Also, some of them are written on a real notepad, and I cba typing them up. However, for about a week, I did make an effort to write my dreams down.

I gave up with it in the end, it was too much hassle. However, I did find that my dream recal increased dramatically. I now remember a dream most nights, wheras before I could go for over a week without remembering any. This, and this alone makes me think that lucid dreaming may be attainable for me.

The only other thing I’ve been doing, so far, to work toward lucidity is looking at my watch twice. Now, I hadn’t been doing this very seriously, and didn’t expect much of it, but a couple of nights ago, I did it in a dream. In the dream the time went funny the second time, and in the dream I eralised I was lucid. I promptly ran backwards and forwards very quickly, flew up into the air, before trying to edit a door with blender. However, frustratingly, I am not sure that this was really lucid, or if it was just a non-lucid dream about being lucid. *sigh*

Either way, its interesting. Even if I don’t get any further, at least I now remember my dreams.

Whilst my friend Joe has been having fun taking apart his TV, I’ve been trying to make a rather brocken laptop useful in some way. I took it off someone thinking that just the screen was broke and I could use my monitor to make it quite a useful stationary machine. No such luck! The hard drive was also brocken.

Now, here’s the interesting bit, you would expect my live cds to work fine, even though the hard drive is broke. No, my ubuntu cd fails, so does DSL, but a gparted disk and a puppy disk boot into X fine. It would seem that the live cds panic if they see a disk, but it doesn’t work properly. Actually removing the hard disk seems to have solved that problem, l and Ubuntu boots.

But, we’re not sorted yet. My main use for any machine is the internet. Ubuntu live CD gets the internet fine over ethernet, but i have no wired access upstairs (where I want to use the machine) and the wireless is being a pain. I guess I could mess with the wireles a bit, but it needs yucky proprietary drivers and any changes I make won’t we saved.

So, I want some way to have a persistent system. I’ve tried using a usb stick, but to no avail. It doesn’t help that parted freaks out when it sees my disks and refusing to deal with it properly. (It sees no filesystem, even when there is one, and says my disk is a quarter of its actual size).

Lastly, I attempted using pxe – I was quite surprised to find that the laptop supports this out of the box. After finally getting to grips with how pxe linux works, I managed to get a kernel booted. However, the filesystem is supposed to be carried over nfs, but it just would not happen. It might help if I had a direct ethernet connection between the two machines, but I need a new ethernet card for that.

So, I’ve put the project to one side for now. Hopefully, sometime this week I’ll be able to get hold of Joes old pc (before he obliterates it like his TV) and then I’ll have more hardware to work with.

Well, its starting to look like the way that ADFA is officially launched and starts campaigning is going to be radically different to what I though. As I’ve talked about before, I’ve discovered that my school IT guy is a free software fan, and we will have debain gnu/linux dual booting on 5 of the computers in theΒ  sixth form common room, before ADFA even starts up properly!

This is the good part of what I was not expecting, the not so good thing that I overheard is that the school seems to be considering Apple Macs. Now, I don’t know what it is, but I really do not like the thought of this. True, macs run propreitary software by default, but this is no worse than the Windows machines we’ve already got. I just really don’t like the prospect of this happening. On a logical, and less gut-feeling level, if the school is considering Macs, it can swing two ways:

  1. They’re less likely to go for gnu because mac is the was they want to go instead.
    OR
  2. They are more open to technologies other than Windows, so will be slightly more receptive to the idea of gnu/linux

The tricky thing is that the higher school managment does not yet know that dual booting of gnu is going to happen, as, for my IT guy it is only a small scale experiment. Hopefully having a handful of machines in place will help demonstate that greater gnu/linux use is a realistic choice for the school to make.

A final note on the interesting-things-to-do-with-free-software-groups-for-young-people front – I might be helping to set up a group for the North West for free software for teenagers. It was Tim Dobson’s idea, see his mailing list post (I’ve linked to pastebin, because the mailing list archive isn’t updating).

Anyway, like I say, things are interesting, and ADFAs not even properly begun.

Watch this space.

Well, OCR (uk exam board) has just gone and shown how useful copyright acknowledgment can be πŸ˜€ In a GCSE music exam they contained the answers to the questions!

Now, I can just about understand how that error went unnoticed – it just proves that everyone ignores copyright ;). But, what about obvious errors in the wording of the question? Simplified a bit, we had something like this in our physics exam.

Write down the wavelength and speed:

Wavelength ………………..
Wavelength ………………..

I mean surely anyone with half a brain cell could spot that. Okay, one person might make a mistake, but how could it pass through the chain of people involved in this and still come out wrong? Unless this error came near the end of the process (like I imagine the copyright printing would have), then there must be something going wrong with the chain! Either that or everyone at OCR is retarded! Yeah, I know calling an exam board isn’t nice, but at least I don’t do it in an exam!

Seriously though, exams do seem a bit broken. We go to school to pass exams, instead of to learn. Its difficult to learn stuff outside of exams and outside of the normal school system. More and more people are getting As, so universities have to discriminate much harder on other things.

</rant>

So, I had a very pleasant surpirse recently. I had to speak to my schools IT admin, about some unimportant (in the scope of this blog) issue. I found that he used ubuntu on one of the computers in his office, but more importantly, was on the local Linux and free software mailing lists and, as a result of this mailing list post, has actually read my blog (so hi if you’re reading :D) and has seen the stuff I’ve been putting together on adfa.co.nr

So, I have since e-mailed him, and it turns out some of the things I want to see happening at school (a few demonstartion gnu machines) are already being worked on. He seems quite pleased with what I am trying to do, and seems supportive, which is a great bonus for the group. If he manages to install the machines as planned, ADFA should be able to kick in right after the exams.

Yay!

Hey everybody, its rant time!

So, firstly theres the annoying issue with wordpress. Yes, thats you you annoying blog site. Eating up my cojmments and putting them in the wrong places. It only seems to do it occasionally, so its hard to diagnose, and I cba doing anything about it – but an irritance none the less.

Then, theres firefox, good old Mozilla Firefox 3 beta 5. No-one quite knows why its the default in hardy, considering it is supposed to be an LTS. Maybe it makes sense to work towards having firefox 3, but the thing its ITS SO DARN CRASHY. Yes, and (afaict) this is not Ubuntus fault. Its you firefox!
CRASH. Reload. Do something. CRASH. Reload. Try something else. CRASH.
And you may think I’m exagguariting when I describe it like that, but I’m not! It seems to have got worse, to the point where I can have 4 crashes in under one minute – I’m serious! I mean what on earth is going on? I guess it must be something to do with my particular setup. However, I’ve tried running in safemode and removing all plugins, but just the same: CRASH CRASH CRASH.

Well, at least I have a clue whats causing it. Its when I close a tab of a complicated page (thing Google Reader or Google Mail) in a particular way, either whilst a different tab is active (middle click) or when there are only two tabs open. So I know what to avoid, its less annoying. But all the same, a crash every 10 minutes, it takes the p*ss.

I tried talking to a #firefox guy about it, but it seems difficult to get debug information from my version of firefox. He said to try the official builds, so maybe I will when I get the chance. Maybe see if has been fixed in the nightlies. Weirdest thing is, I had no trouble before beta 5 (other people have been noticing this too). But, the annoying thing is, Mr Crash Crash Crash is in a long term support release!!!?!?!?!??!?!?!

Okay, enough of that rant, and onto another Docuemnt Formats, an absolute pita. My brother did a document at home, using OpenOffice on Windows (we’ve never bothered buying Word, and OpenOffice is so much better than Works; also, fwiw, its my printer and not my brother that is the freedom hater). Anyway, he takes it to school, and happily it opens. A vast improvement over a few months ago. However, here’s the wonderful thing – the reason it works is because of a filter designed to add .docx support – yes! that wonderful lie of an open standard and pile of mess OOOXML makes an appearance. However, as if the irony was painful enough, Word and its plugin, in their infinite wisodm decide to save the document, after my brother has made some changes, in .docx. Yes, thats write! It steals a .odf, rapes it and leaves it as a .docx!!!!!!!!

So, now my brother comes home and complains to me about the fact he can’t open his work! So, I endure the 20 minute wait to get OOo beta 3 running, only to find, the document is NOT OPENED PROPERLY!!!!! And, of course, I know this is not Open Offices fault, its god damn OOXML. Open standard with multiple implementations my foot:

  1. Its not open, because no-one can understand the mess of a “specification” that they have put out (oh, im sorry, theres a newer one, but that ones just imaginary isn’t it). Which is why Open Office have a hard time writing import filters.
  2. Microsoft Word does not implement it! The files it produces differ from the spec!!!!!!!! No wonder its not compatible!

Btw, the point about multiple implementations is that OpenOffice is not an implementation of the Open Shamdard! No, its just for compatiblity with the non-OOXML files that Word produces. And as you can see, that format is lovely and clear, and OpenOffice are finding it easy to implement….. NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And, that brings me onto one last annoyance, lack of ext2/3 support in Windows. (My brother wanted a look at one of my old documents). I have to install this rubishy freeware. Actually, the freeware itself is okay (its not freedomware, but seeing as you’re running windows anyway, who really cares), but if Windows crashes, as is its favorite pastime, every mounted ext3 must be checked at next Linux boot. Maybe I need to find something that can easily be turned off when not in use.

</rant>

So, I’ve done a couple of interesting code related thing recently. I’ve created a reaction tester which someone was asking for on the schoolforge mailing list. You can try it, or if you really want to download it. If anyone else finds it useful, uses it for anything, can think of any (not too difficult) improvements then I would love to know.

In other news, I tried to slim down my mediawiki installation (used mainly for ADFA wiki) by removing language files, but seemed to get an error:

Warning: preg_match() [function.preg-match]: Empty regular expression in /path/to/wiki/includes/Linker.php on line 1259

Turns out the error was unrealted, and I got rid of it simply by clearing the cache DOH (add &cached=no to the end of the url). I’m not sure what was causing that though. Its supprising though, after actually deleting the unwanted language files, I managed to free up 19M of disk space. Quite a bonus when my account only has 50M of space! The moral of the story is, check something is working before trying to improve it.

Note: If you just want to look at my bash script and related text files (without packages), you can download them here.

Following from my last post, I decided that the best way to try and solve this issue would be to create a free-multiverse repositroy. To do this, I hacked together a bash script that would compare sid-main with ubuntu-multiverse (using packages lists I downloaded manually and removed the headers from) and pull any of the packages that overlapped between the two. I also got it to read an extras file, for packages that are in multiverse but not sid main, but yet are still free.

So, I now have a demonstration free-multiverse (which I call multistanza). This is currently hosted on my own pc, so will dissapear at night. If you are interested, try this link. compare.sh is the main script and the repo an be added as “deb http://bjwebb.homelinux.com:81/multistanza/ binary-i386/”. I will look for some off site hosting if I decide to pursue this further. If anyone does use my repo, I suggest using it in conjunction with medibuntu (see below).

But, the question is. Is this the best way to pursue this? What I’ve done so far has been no loss to me, because I’ve learnt some more bash scripting; but it is only worth continuing if my new repositry will be of use to other people. Thus, it would be a good idea to know if this has been done already. As far as I know, it hasn’t quite been done the way I want it. However, there is medibuntu, which contains packages not allowed in ubuntu, and is separated nicely into free and non-free. In fact, since I have the repo added, some of the apps get pulled from medibuntu instead of my repo. Unfortunately, not all the packages in medibuntu are as new as the ubuntu ones (hence why my repo and medibuntu could be complimentary) and some are not there at all (vlc for example).

So, I think that the best and most consitent way of having a free “extras” repo, and to avoid duplication of effort, would be for medibuntu to offer all of the free packages in multiverse in their free repository. I think this would fit in with their goal, but I’m not sure if they’d agree. I will contact them about this issue, and see where to go from there.

As anyone who has read other posts on this blog will know I feel quite strongly about software freedom. I try to use exclusively free software as far as I possibly can. However, unfortunately I do still use some propreitary software, for various reasons.

Nonetheless, I wish to strive to become better in this respect. Recently, I took a look at the 100% free software distribution gnewsense. Thing is, I’m still rather undecided about whether non-free firmware is a problem (topic for a future blogpost maybe) and gnewsense breaks the network cards on both my pcs, rendering it useless for me, until I buy new network cards of course πŸ˜€ (It also means that I have no compiz, due to graphics card firmware, and the fact that glx has been stripped out (this annoys me, no truly free 3D acceleration yet :S), but I can live without this. The internet, I basically can not).

And, there is also the fact that my belief in the importance of free software has been wavering a bit (I know it is important, I’ve just been wondering how important – I’ll elaborate more in athoer blog post). But, I decided I was at a point where I wanted to try to remove all the tradiotional non-free software. By this I mean software that is regared by everyone by non-free, is not GPL’d etc. In fact most distributions have this content in a separate repository.

On Ubuntu (which I use on my main PC), this software is put into the multiverse. I decided today that I would cut myself off from this repository completely. It should be no harm for me, as I do not use any of these apps, flash and java were installed, but only for other people (gnash and icedtea ftw). However, the thing that is really annoying me is that by disabling multiverse, it is not only non-free software that I can not download, it is also perfectly free software with some sort of legal problem (patents, DMCA). The two groups of software are not the same thing for me (being a freedom lover and patent and DMCA hater), so it is a great inconvenience if the two are just lumped together!!!!!!

I want to be able to have all free software enabled (including that with patent issues etc.) but no non-free software. With ubuntu, I can’t do this – all I can do is pick debs out of multiverse by hand! For this reason, I’m thinking of switching to a distro that does not lump non-free and possibly troublesome together, the obvious choice, I think would be Debian (Sid, I think). Already, I had realised I would be comfortable with debian (I use it on another machine), but given that ubuntu is considered more user friendly and will do anything Debian will do, I had no incentive to switch. Now I do!

I wonder if I can update my current hardy installation to Sid. Its probably not advisable, but given that I have a fallback Kubuntu partion, I might just give it a go, for the hell of it.

Another thing I was wondering, is that I do decide to go freedom crazy (and hate non-free firmware). Then what distro would I choose? Not gnewsense I don’t think, because that doesn’t ship the free software that ubuntu lumps in multiverse. Annoyingly, there doesn’t seem to be a freefree distro based on pure debian. Maybe gnewsense could be tweaked to be based on debian (project for the summer holdiays maybe).

Okay, I just spoke to the gnewsense guys, and it would probably be easier to create a “free multiverse repo”. So, I might not switch to Debian afterall. Then again I might. And everything could change if I manage to buy a new ethernet card. Watch this space πŸ™‚

Self referencial note: This blog is almost like a conversation with myself. I either leave too long before writing or am still making up my mind whilst I’m writing. The latter is definitely better though.