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Having popped back to my parent’s house for a week or so over the festive period, it struck me that we have terrible internet performance – latency isn’t too bad, but there’s a severe lack of bandwidth. The basic history of our connection is that we were ADSL enabled in 2001 or 2002 and haven’t changed anything since. In other words, we aren’t even on DSL MAX and our exchange won’t be ADSL2 enabled until the end of march at the earliest. I have subsequently changed our internet plan so we will be on the former within a week, and the latter when it arrives, but thats not the interesting thing here – getting our internet to be 3x faster without changing hardware or pricing plans is.
There are a variety of different phone setups in houses around the UK – most people whose phones have been connected since 1981 and before 2007 are using an NTE5 variant box. This looks like:
This is a master socket, and all your other phones are daisy chained off it. In networking terminology you have a bus network! Usually your connection on these phone networks is mainly dependant on the line between your exchange and the house. Our network however is a spurred connection. We have a small black box outside the house, from which wiring goes to different parts. There is a master socket, but it is a LJU2 Master socket, which looks like:
Ie, like a normal slave phone socket. Its still a master socket, however, since it has a capacitor in, but it doesn’t have any of the conveniences of the NTE5, such as the test socket. Our phone lines are connected like a star network, which has the positive that it doesn’t matter so much about plugging your router into the master socket, because you aren’t daisy chained off of it, but the downside that you are more likely to get local loop interference.
BT try to offer you the faster stable line connection that you can get, they do this by repeatedly reconnecting your DSL line at a lower speed until it stops throwing lots of errors. Once this process had finished for us, our connections speed was down to 640kb. Usually this took 4 reconnection attempts.
An interesting sidenote of the the rollout of telephones in the UK as opposed to other countries is that in addition to the two phone wires in your phone sockets there is also a ring wire. This is only used by pulse dial phones, rather than tone dial phones and is consequently useless if you are using any vaguely recent phone! The fact that this piece of copper wire is sitting there around your house and thats its potentially huge – my parent’s house isn’t particularly large but our telephone wire goes around the outside of the house and all over the place – means that it acts as a massive aerial! Your telephone line, especially if its a spurred design, is picking up a huge amount of interference. This essentially shits on the telephone connection. Its probably not that noticeable for voice calls, but it can cause a lot of errors for ADSL systems and consequently cause reconnection at a reduced speed.
The simple solution is to disconnect the ring wire from all your telephone sockets. If you have a spurred design then you need to do this at every connection, if you’re using an NTE5 then you only need to do it once. There are detailed instructions at the bottom of this page on rewiring.
For our internet it made a huge amount of difference. Having unwired all 4 ring wires our stable connection speed has gone from 640kbit to 1984kbit, more than 3 times faster. When you consider the maximum connection speed at the moment is still only 2mbit and we aren’t that close to our exchange thats pretty good. Because ADSL MAX and ADSL2 are both dependant on signal strength in order to get optimal performance, its likely that the benefit of this operation will be maintained after the changeover and I’ll probably measure this once its installed, I’m inclined to strongly recommend this approach to anyone using ADSL who has a star wiring setup.
Its official – Rage Against the Machine owned X-factor. Its an interesting campaign, one that I agree to in principle, but I chose not to buy a copy of Killing in the Name of. Why you ask? Well initially I didn’t expect it to have much success, and didn’t wish to be associated with the failure. As more details emerged I realised that there was a good chance of success, but unfortunately that one would still be giving money to Sony BMG, of whom Simon Cowell is a shareholder (well its technically Sony shares, but anyway). Further more Killing in the Name of is one of the world’s most overplayed songs. RATM have loads of great songs, especially surprising for a band with only 3 original albums, but its usually Killing that gets played.
Most fundamentally though – this battle has re-invigorated the singles charts – charts who I very disagree with the premise of. I don’t want to use popularity as an excuse to promote already popular songs. I generally don’t enjoy most of the music in them. By ‘beating them at their own game’ people have made a point, but its validated the idea of the christmas number one as being meaningful in the process. For all my dislike of Xfactor – they’ve made the Christmas number a really boring race – something I can avoid taking an interest in, something I can more easily dismiss. And this is before we get onto the inherent heresy that singles are. The best albums comprise no mere set of songs, they are interwoven thematically and sometimes musically.
Analysis aside, there’s quite a few pieces of music that I think in many ways are worthy of listening to, but don’t get enough discussion or playtime. Here we go …
1. Refused – The Shape of Punk to Come: A Chimerical Bombination in 12 Bursts
An innovative album from the late 90s, trying to maintain a fundamentally Punk ethos, whilst altering the audio aesthetic fundamentally. The band’s left wing ideology is espoused strongly, furthering the idea that this album is revolutionary, rather than evolutionary.
You could also listen to: The Shape of Jazz to Come by Ornette Coleman. An album that takes a similar approach and is an early exampel of the Free Jazz movement. Lonely Woman is a particular favourite of mine.
2. Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
Slightly overshadowed in many eyes by his other by 1959 release, the pretentiously titled, “The birth of the cool”, Kind of Blue represents a pinacle of jazz achievement to me. An attempt to move away from the more rigid rules of Bebop without moving into Coleman’s free jazz territory, Kind of Blue positions itself as the archetypal jazz album: bold, and still very smooth. To quote the Fast Show sketch: “niiiice!”
You could also listen to: The birth of the Cool by Miles Davis. Does what it says on the tin.
3. Henryk Gorecki – Symphony No. 3
This symphony has an interesting history – composed in the mid 70s and ignore by people outside of the Polish Avantgarde music circle (which is probably about 3 people), then re-recorded in the early 90s and going on to comparatively widespread success. Compositionally this is a transitional piece, coming from Gorecki’s earlier compositions which are highly dissonant, and his later compositions, that are slower and a lot easier to listen to. Thematically this piece of music is about the separation of mother and children during a time of war – something that particularly resonates with me at Christmas time, since it is nowadays the longest period of time when I see my immediate family.
You could also listen to: Different Trains by Steve Reich. This juxtaposes the train journeys that Steve Reich made visiting his seperated Mother and Father with those that Jews in Europe were making on their way to Concentration Camps. The thing I like to reflect on with this, especially during my journey is that the worst I have to contend with is the poor standard of public transport – whilst my grandparents generation had more important challenges to contend with. Perhaps this is less important to people without Jewish grandparents.
4. At The Gates – Terminal Spirit Disease
Everytime I listen to the “The Swarm” I become convinced its the BEST … melodic death metal track … EVAR. That aside I think this is a strong album, more focussed and simpler than some of At The Gates’ other work it really stands out to me as a straight to business metal album that really gets on with its task at hand.
You could also listen to: Ride the Lightning by Metallica – a classic from the thrash metal era, another straight to business album. And seriously – who doesn’t like Creeping Death?
5. Roy Ayers – Everybody loves the Sunshine
I really wanted something fun for this list – and this fits the bill perfectly. Whilst writing this blog post I’m stuck in the midlands, lying in bed wrapped in a douvet because its the only place warm enough for my liking, with snow outside. I do love the sunshine. I do love it!
You could also listen to: International Thief Thief and Everything Scatter by Fela Kuti. These are both short, so I chose 2 of them! Afrobeat is in a bit of a revival nowadays and why not? Even I want to dance to these rhythms, and I hate dancing. Combined with the jazz and funk infusion. Another one to warm the heart.
Honorable Mentions: Beethoven’s 6th Symphony – I love the first movement, it makes me so happy, Anything By Meshuggah – Polymetric face melting metal.
Nick Griffin’s Question Time appearance lived up to expectations, public passion, some good speeches against racism and the man himself couldn’t really defend his views. Having said that there’s a few key subtle points that differentiate Griffin from other politicians on the show – and his performance demonstrates exactly why politicians seem to have their own dialectic.
The fundamentally interesting conclusion of all this is that the discursive approach that members of the public always want more of from politicians, honesty, directness etc. is exactly what gets you in trouble on political discussion programs. This applies to mainstream politicians as much as to Griffin and the like.
Gordon Brown isn’t a subtle politician – but he is honest, straightforward, hard working and tries his best. These are qualities that are often described as missing from politicians – but in the modern age politicians don’t control the channels of communication in which their message gets to you. So it doesn’t matter if you are honest and straightforward – what you need to be is manipulative of the soundbites that come out of your debates.
Nick Griffin got caught out in terms of his media interaction, in a way that I haven’t seen happen to a politician since John Major called some of his cabinet colleagues bastards and that made for an interesting evening.
Its been nearly two months since I last blogged, far too long, but this Thursday evening Nick Griffin of the BNP will be appearing on Question Time. This appears to have caused considerable controversy that I shall not be addressing – but I will be proposing BNP Bingo Rules!
The aim of the game is to get 50 Points. Different events listed below are worth various points. If you are not watching question time at the time the event occurs, you are not allowed the point! I believe this could also be played as a drinking game, with 2-5 points worth a shot, depending on how much you normally drink.
I’ve split this blog post into a section about the conference, and another about Munich so people can read whatever is appropriate to their interests. Its a big one guys.
I’ve just got back from TPHOLs, and I really enjoyed it. I only submitted an ‘Emerging Trends’ Paper, which doesn’t really count for anything, but the feedback from talking to people seemed worth while and positive. I even talked to a guy who had the rest of a compiler verified, using the same semantics as I do, and really wanted my work done so there was an optimising phase. Sounds like an excellent idea to me! Probably better focus less on this crazy bug fixing idea after all, and get back to some proper verification.
There were some really interesting papers, Quite a bit of low level code verification and techniques that viably work in ‘real world’ situations. Top of the list were the L4.Verified guys who were presenting two papers – one on extending their framework to include a separation logic for C and the other on their actual C Verification framework. I was surprised when talking to Gerwin Klein how few restrictions there were in their C subset. Allegedly they even have function pointers now – though it sounds like only verifying simple properties about them is sane at the moment.
One of the annoying feature about C is the non-determinism within the reduction of their expression semantics. Notably that evaluating an expression with a binary operator doesn’t have to evaluate its left hand side or right hand side totally first. Norrish’s original semantics for C capture this by bagging up side effects and then unbagging them non-deterministically – their new framework captures this, but for practical verification, they discharge appropriate proof obligations for common syntactic forms – eg expressions without side effects, functions calls with no reduction required in the arguments. This sounds like a fairly simple and reliable approach.
The Verisoft guys had some fairly heavy duty C verification tasks that they were undertaking as well – its good to see people attempting these large projects. They seemed to believe that they could finish in a year – quite impressive in my opinion.
The other thing I was surprised at was people making an effort at verifying properties of continuous maths, as well as traditional Computer Science. It somehow seems obvious with hindsight to define real numbers as a co-inductive definition, and operate on them co-recursively but I would probably have never made that intuitional leap myself – probably a side effect of not really reading any papers in that area. I always wonder how hard it would be to prove implementations of floating point arithmetic correct against a real number spec correct – I’m tempted to see if anyone has considered this kind of thing before, seems highly ambitious.
The conference organisers really deserve some credit for their efficiency – the directions were excellent, the hotel well chosen, things generally ran according to plan. We went on an excursion to a lake, which I had the utmost belief would result in people getting lost, but I don’t think anyone was at all. This was a complete masterpiece that totally validates my stereotypical belief in german efficiency. At certain key points, eg when a train would turn up or when we had to turn a corner – Stephan would clap his hands, and then all the local organisers would clap, and people knew what to do. The lake was picturesque, the Buccheim Museum interesting and the banquet excellent. Though I still haven’t figured out whether Zander is the German name for a fish I’ve eaten before, or a new fish.
I managd to forget to bring my camera, so any pictures I recall to put in will be efficiently cribbed from the internets. I visited the Englishgarten, which is a park near central Munich, containing a some splendid nature and a few interesting buildings.
I also had a wander through central Munich, which contains a few old buildings of varying architectural interest.
I had decided not to visit the workshops on the Friday of the conference, since I have less interest in Coq and none in Computer Algebra. I consequently spent the day acting as a tourist. I walked slowly, accidentally bumped into people, mumbled under my breath about the length of time it took for the road crossing lights to change and I even saw some of Munich! In the morning I went to the Deutsche Museum – which is a technology and engineering museum with a bit of SCIENCE thrown in for shits and giggles. This is what we should have more of in the UK.
We used to take family trips to Techniquest as a child, which was ok since it provided ways to play around with a cool demonstration of basic scientific principles, but I found it somewhat simplistic even at my young age, and I can’t imagine particularly enjoying it today. This place on the other hand went into low level detail about all sorts of engineering stuff – and had cool things for kids to play around with! Things like water wheels, boat sails, planes, damns, bridges, railways. This is really cool, and even gave me an idea for a simple physics game where you build a bridge. I’m sure its been done before – but might be cool to write anyhow maybe I can finally get round to learning some proper physics.
In the afternoon I went through the Residenz Museum, which is based in the Palace where Bavarian Royalty used to live, The Residenz. Unfortunately we bombed it to hell during the war, and its still being slowly restored. For example the facade is painted on plaster in some places, rather than being the original ornate part. Fortunately some of the interiors, and most of the fine art and furniture survived by being moved into the country. Really nice in some places, and it tells a bit about the way the Bavarian Dukes lived back in the day.
Afterwards I visited the hofgarden, beside the Residenz, walked around for a while, then sat down in the sun to have a beer. At this point in time it decided to rain … awesome. I managed to migrate myself so I was protected by a parasol and then ate a rather awesome slice of cheesecake. It was larger than my face. Then I wandered back to hotel via another park. Managed to get off at the wrong station on the train to the airport, its platform was marked with the word ‘flughafen’ which is German for airport, and I noticed this – it seemed a bit weird but I rushed to get off. I then realised that the sigh was saying “Flughafen Glies” – which meant it was the platform for going to the airport, rather than Munich city. Thankfully I had plenty of time, and trains were every 20 minutes. Plane flight back was ok.
Here’s some typed up gig notes from this year’s WOMAD. Note ratings are entirely opinion, and I didn’t write notes for every gig I heard.
Music from the Penguin Cafe
Brief reformation of many of the Penguin Cafe musicians under Simon Jeffes’ son. Good set, especially since it was on the pre-programme. Really ought to listen to some of the original band’s stuff.
WOMAD really has a habbit of attracting aging pop musicians, but who are really competent with their instruments. Despite the name the band actually plays a mixture of Ska, Reggae and Rocksteady. Some really nice soloing here. Every year I consider listening to more Jamaican music, but end up getting put off by the pop/dance focussed reggae that seems to have been the overly popular product. Damn you Bob Marley.
Based on writeups I labelled this guy as some what of a wannabe Ali Farka Touré. Impressive soloing, somewhat more traditional compositionally, and I’m sure some of the lyrics would be blatant efforts at catches (what an outrage!) if I understood French. I also listened to his late night saturday set, that was much better – guitarist was showing off more and the audience were into it a bit more.
Fado + Flamenco outfit, nice acoustic sound for the mood I was in at the time, can’t really say they stood out for any reason though.
Soulful, Bluesey singer from Sahara. Nice, but meh.
Former Buena Vista Social Club member, included a few of their songs in his set list. Similar style musically – ought to check out some of his solo stuff.
How do well sell gypsy Jazz to the younger generation Brain? We do what we do every year Pinky – we put a hot singer on the front and a dj playing incredibly tedious dance beat behind. Crowd were really into it though, and good stae presence.
Does have a good voice, slightly meh otherwise. Allegedly collaboration with the Kronos Quartet, maybe I should listen to that.
The Black Arm Band
Collaboration of Australian musicians presenting a show hilighting aboriginal issues. If Billy Bragg were an australian – he would have been here. I was somewhat disappointed that a lot of the music itself felt very inspired by western protest movements. There were the ballads glorifying the common behaviour of the abused group, we had verses structured as lists of things that had a gone wrong. Pretty basic stuff. But they had a good didgeridoo player, so its all good right? Gave rise to much thought as to whether human rights and poverty issues within third world countries and 1st world countries demanded the same approaches, and the ethic of it all. Heartful performances by all the musicians that really came across live.
Excellent set. Womad used to run a lot of classical music, most notably Indian Sarod and Sitar players, in the evening performance slots – but the change of festival director 2 years ago seems to have purged them from the programme. This is a real tragedy since it used to be a real hilight of the festival for me. This is one of the few late evening slots that I’ve really felt has lived up to that quality of musicianship. The band themselves make a lot out of their use of the hang – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hang_(musical_instrument) – an instrument I’d come across before, but never really seen showcased rather than used occassionally during performances. Here it sets the soundscape and is interspersed with and juxtaposed against some avant-garde jazz sax and bass. I’ll definitely listen to their previous album, and their new one when it comes out in October.
Lively show, telling the story of a boy trying to avoid working in a mine by becoming a footballer.
Music itself was pretty boring djembe rythms – 4/10
Dancing and live show was excellent – back flips whilst skipping is quite pro – 8/10
Traditionalist singer. Audience not really into it at the start (it had rained a bit just before the gig) – but she whipped them up a bit and then everything got into full swing. Not really my type of thing but good vocalist. There aren’t enough purely instrumental sets at womad anymore.
Aging rockers always put on good live sets, think its because live sets used to be really important to a Band’s fanbase in the 70s and 80s. I blame MTV for everything. Weirdly Gabriel has now appeared twice in 3 years at WOMAD, previously to celebrate its silver anniversay, and this time round to support his charity .
Pro mongolian singer and horse fiddle player. Hilarious horse impressions on stage when trying to explain what his instrument’s strings were made from – awesome.
Combination of modern dance and minimalist jazz. Not really my kind of thing, but was an interesting set nonetheless.
Excellent progressive Kora player – really going in different direction to his contemporary Diabate. Occassionally picked up the talking drum during set as well, when he was singing. Good stuff.
Yeah, and its not the first time I’ve seen him either. Screw you!
Once you get past the pop crap (the sung the chorus to 7 seconds and thats all in this set) – you realise that he’s actually rather a good musician, and he’s surrounded by good musicians. Last time I heard Youssou N’Dour he was playing more traditional, griot oriented stuff – this set was more modern, mblax focussed stuff. He works the audience well to, just a shame it was raining. (Why do idiots bring umbrellas to festivals, rather than ponchos?)
AWESOME. Second time I’ve heard him live. Started off with minimal actual playing (I was unduly worried, though he barely touched the vibes during his opening number) and playing some of dance/funk/pop numbers that he’s famous for, including the obvious irony of ‘everyone loves the sunshire’ whilst it was raining heavily in wiltshire. My Dad and I had been singing the song all afternoon – I was ridiculously up for this gig. The gig then turned into a 20 minute cover of classic jazz standard ‘One night in tunisia’ by Dizzy Gillespie which was basically an excuse for some seriously epic jazz soloing.
Polling in the UK is far less reliable than the US, and for that matter national support for Labour, the Lib Dems and UKIP is incredibly erratic at the moment, but here goes. Percentages are for national voting average, and won’t directly correlate to number of MEPs.
You can’t criticize me for not being bold! UKIP are in second place on the back of their strong polling over the weekend, and Labour’s troubles this week. Lets hope Brown’s reshuffle works out for him, so the next election is in some way competitive. He was actually quite good in Prime Minister’s Question Time .
I find it rather saddening that european elections are always an implicit referendum on British involvement in Europe, and political parties current national status, rather than being related to the issues involved in Europe. Oh and …
DONT FORGET TO VOTE!
IRC generally has the useful /ignore command (this may be clients, but I don’t really care) that allows one to ignore people who are particularly annoying. Sometimes public bug trackers have the same basic issue – that you really need to ignore someone, in order to get on with more important issues.
The computing society website uses the trac system for bug tracking and wiki provision. We really just use it as a bug tracker, but its fine for that purpose on a small project. Trac allows custom reports to be written in a sql-like language, and the report of win is report #3 – which orders everything by milestone. In order to implement /ignore follow the following steps:
1. Create a new report, and call it something trolly like “Serious Tickets”, give it an appropriate description.
2. Copy the report query from report 3, and paste it into your query box.
3. Within the where clause of the report add the clause: “AND NOT reporter LIKE ‘silver’”
Hey presto – life is grand!