Friday, September 21, 2012

Shit Happens ...

So I was down at the Beer Tree enjoying a pleasant, and incidentally tax-deductible, lunch when up stroll two young Americans and plonk their arses at the table next to me, order two coffees and two beers and, with an accent that I can only qualify as execrable (but, in all fairness, probably no worse than ours when we first arrived over in Ole Yurrup all those years ago), ask if that magnificent chess set is still on the premises.

And as it happens it was, sadly, missing one of the horsey-things, but never fear, its place had been more than adequately filled by a particularly jolly specimen of miniature garden gnome. This did give rather an unfair advantage to white, because no-one seemed entirely sure as to the legal moves of a gnome on a chess-board: I can only say that it seemed able to go just about anywhere it wanted. Or maybe they don't actually move: just stay where they're put and piddle on the other pieces as they go past.

Hey, chess never was one of my specialties. Although I find that if I google me (there's probably a term for that, doubtless not a pretty one) one of the top items is credit for a variant of trapdoor chess. Must have had too many cheddar cheese sandwiches that day.

Anyway, I did make it off on that bike ride. Having better things to do I headed off to Stacey's instead of doing them (there's a word for that too), and she persuaded me to hop on this old bike in the garage which had functioning gears (although I must admit I'm not too good with those gears and such, I tend to just stay on the central plateau and chop up and down between the seven plateaux at the back: doubtless not optimal but it works for me - back when I was a kid gears on a bike were something of a luxury) and brakes and everything (with the possible exception of a comfortable saddle, it was apparently designed for people with concrete buttocks) and head off to lac St. André.

Now that is only about 7km from her place, and on top of it, it's all flat ... hah! What the French, in fact, call "faux-plat" because although, to the untrained eye, it may look flat, when you actually start riding across it it's actually all up and down and stuff. Nothing actually vertical, just ... rolling. Which is all very well if you're in shape and have legs like tree-trunks, but if, like me, you're somewhat unfit and anyway haven't done that sort of thing for some time, it can be a bit wearing.

Also, not only had I forgotten to take the precaution of stuffing something soft and yielding, like a good juicy steak, down the plumber's crack, but I couldn't help but notice that there was an awful lot of downhill going there, which by corollary means a surplus of uphill going back.

So when we finally arrived there and had applauded the keen fisherman with this high-tech, three-rod system that looked like some sort of spidery rocket-launcher as he pulled yet another 10kg carp from the foetid waters, I was almost tempted to stay where I was until night fell and I could sneak away unnoticed and hail a taxi, but pride was - once again - my downfall, and I did the return trip on the same bum-punisher.

Let's be generous and call it a 15km round trip, it felt like rather more. I suspect I'd maybe have got there just as quickly, and probably in better shape, had I walked. But maybe I should persevere, who knows, it might be good for me. (Which is probably a good reason to stop right there, but what the hell.) But after a couple of days most of the pain has gone, and I can sit normally again.

And I suppose I should point out what you doubtless know already: beware of preconceptions. Case in point: I was lounging out in front of the office the other day, just starting a cigar, when a delivery guy turned up - as it happened, with a present for Margo, the thermofax machine she ordered from her friend Günther.

Small, skinny, weedy redhead - the driver, not Günther - with a parcel about as big as he was (on later inspection, the enormous box contained a smaller box, in which was another smaller box, in which was Margo's new toy: the guy evidently believes in pre-emptive packaging) and I went inside and took delivery and, in a moment of weakness, offered him a coffee. (Not as evil as it may seem, the coffee machine isn't too bad these days.)

So as he rolled himself a thin fag he started reminiscing - about a Romeo y Julieta he'd had a few weeks back, and the box of Cuban Corona a friend from the douanes had given him (fell off the back of a lorry, didn't it, squire): the guy is an amateur of cigars, for heaven's sake. That'll teach me. Still, we're friends now.

And I headed off today to my appointment with the delegué du procureur de la République (the actual procureur being, I assume, too busy with other matters) to discover my fate. I was, let's admit it, rather pleasantly surprised.

Arrived at 9:45 and, ten minutes later, left again knowing that I was up for a €200 fine, three months suspension of licence (counting from 21/7) and six points off: could have been much worse.

(I have to admit, I don't actually mind using public transport to get up to the office and back. The train's a good place to nap for another 15 minutes before starting the day, and there's a bus every six minutes. Quite relaxing, really.)

Oh, today is Wednesday September 19: it's International Talk Like A Pirate Day! Arrh, me hearties!

OK, enough of that. Tonight, in this week's News For Geeks, I find myself the proud owner of a new, powerful, and rather ugly Asus laptop running Linux. Of course, it wasn't meant to be that way - it rarely is around here.

Up till now, you see, all my Linux development work I've done under various virtual machines on the poor old Dell N1700, which has worked well enough but a few days ago I finally had to do a rebuild of the kernel and, after a day or so getting to 68% done, it became obvious that this was not really going to be good enough. So, off to the local supermarket to pîck up a reasonably high-specced machine and, as I had better things to do, hand it over to young Lucas to install Fedora.

The original plan was to leave it a dual-boot machine: I would have Windoze in Frog as a last resort, and Linux on the side. That did not happen. At the end of the first iteration, after the lad had played about with partitions and other black magic, what I appeared to have was a large ugly brick that wouldn't recognise its own hard drive and would boot only from a DVD. Not, as they say, too promising. The Windows partition, recovery partition, and MBR had, apparently, gone the way of the dodo.

So, perhaps time to try installing a live version of Fedora 64-bit? "Hop to it, young Lucas" quoth I, "I have stuff to do. Let me know when it works." This is called "studied serene indifference", and hardly ever fools anyone. Whatever, no joy.

Time, sadly, to get one's hands dirty. Reboot with the DVD and try repairing the system: this installs a bootloader and lo! there is once again a hard drive at boot time. Which is an improvement. Unfortunately none of the install options I requested have been installed, and I can't even log on with either my own or the root password until going through the maintenance options. Not practical for everyday use.

So finally, that evening, discouraged at the absence of the development environment and everything else I'd wanted, I nuke the sod from orbit and do a total reinstall. Which works, flawlessly. Kind of alarming, I'd been expecting something worse.

End result is, I now have a powerful Linux laptop which I can - once I work out the arcane command-line options or, by dutiful googling, find the equivalent GUI tools - configure exactly as I wish, and I must admit I really love the convenience of being able to just get a needed package with sudo yum install packagename: maybe I should install VirtualBox and set up my Windows development environment as a virtual machine?

It's either that or schlep two 17" laptops around, and quite frankly those buggers are heavy. I should also invest in a backpack, and forget about the neat corporate leather carry-bags. Mind you, finding a decent padded backpack that'll take an 18" monster is not all that easy either.

And one other thing, before I go off to watch Bones: why is it that about half the visitors to this humble (and, let's not forget, definitely wholesome and family-oriented) blog, come from Russia + Ukraine? Have I done something to offend what used to be the KGB? Could it be that threadworms are either a popular delicacy, or a mistranslation of "Kate Middleton's tits"? I suppose they could just be trying to improve their English. Not that this is the ideal place for that sort of thing.

Still, it puzzles me somewhat. I mean, I just can't see the attraction. Whatever, it's not going to stop me sleeping.


  1. Overall, and asking purely for a friend, do you *recommend* installing Linux on a recently-acquired laptop, given that the alternative is Windoze?

  2. Depends on your requirements. I need to be able to use the Microsoft development tools so I do need to have a Windoze system: if your "friend" can do without then why not? On the other hand, unless you can get the purchase price of Windows refunded, then why bother?