Below are the five most recent posts in my weblog. You can also see a chronological list of all posts, dating back to 2003.

Mac

Tue 15 Jul 2014 08:16:44 PM BST

My job exposes me to a large variety of computing systems and I regularly use Mac, Windows and Linux desktops. My main desktop environment at home and work has been Debian GNU/Linux for over 10 years. However every now and then I take a little "holiday" and use something else for a few weeks. Often I'm spurred on by some niggle or other on the GNOME desktop, or burn-out with whatever the current contentious issue of the moment is in Debian. Usually I switched to Windows and I used it as an excuse to play some computer games.

Last November I had just such an excuse to take a holiday but this time I opted to go for Mac. I had a back-log of Mac issues to investigate at work anyway.

I haven't looked back.

It appears I have switched for good. I've been meaning to write about this for some time, but I couldn't quite get the words right. I doubted I could express my frustrations in a constructive, helpful way, even if I think that my experiences are useful and my discoveries valuable, perhaps I would put them across in a way that seemed inciteful rather than insightful. I wasn't sure anyone cared. Certainly the GNOME community doesn't seem interested in feedback.

I turns out that one person that doesn't care is me: I didn't realise just how broken the F/OSS desktop is. The straw that broke the camel's back was the file manager replacing type-ahead find with a search but (to seemlessly switch metaphor) it turns out I'd been cut a thousand times already. I'm not just on the other side of the fence, I'm several fields away.

Sometimes community people write about their concerns with whether they're going in the right direction, or how to tell the difference between legitimate complaints, trolls and whiners. When I look at conferences now, the sea of Thinkpads was replaced with a sea of Apple Macs a long time ago now, and the Thinkpads haven't come back. I'd suggest: don't worry about the whiners. Worry about the leavers.

What does this mean for my Debian involvement? Well, you can't help but have noticed that I've done very little this year. I've written nearly exclusively about music so far. the good news is: I still regularly use Debian, and I still intend to stay involved, just not on the desktop. I'm essentially only maintaining two packages now, lhasa and squishyball. I might pick up a few more (possibly archivemail if the situation doesn't improve) but I'm happy with a low package load; I'd like to make sure the ones I do maintain are maintained well. The sum of all my Debian efforts this year have been to get these two (or three) ship-shape. I have a bunch of other things I'd like to achieve in Debian which are not packages, and a larger package load would just distract from them. (We really are too package-oriented in Debian).

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Sun 29 Jun 2014 07:40:11 PM BST

record photo

translucent red pressing

Vangelis' soundtrack for the movie Blade Runner is one of my favourite film soundtracks. Its troubled history is reasonably well documented on Wikipedia . At the time of writing, that article doesn't mention the recent 2013 reissue which was remastered and released on Vinyl, and possibly SACD too.

Last year I spotted this record and bought it for a friend's birthday. In the year since I've eventually gave into temptation and bought another copy for myself.

This was a little unfortunate in terms of timing as my record player has been packed away for two months pending a house move. I did manage to test it out on a Numark PT-01 but it really needs a proper setup to do it justice.

In the mean time, one can watch a video of someone else's copy playing:

In related news, I've recently enjoyed the BBC's adaptation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, as part of their "Dangerous Visions" series. Much like the film, the play elides a lot of material from the book; including Deckard's wife and (more sadly) the entire Buster Friendly / Mercer side-story. However it retains the second police station, which (to me) was the key, classic Dick "What-the..." moment in the novel.

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Thu 12 Jun 2014 12:02:31 PM BST

March Of The Pigs

March Of The Pigs

I stumbled across this whilst packing up my 7" records. It's one of my favourite 'features' on a blank side.

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Mon 26 May 2014 07:58:50 PM BST

I spent the bank holiday weekend mostly in Manchester with my brother and a couple of friends, mostly to see Nine Inch Nails perform, but also to enjoy the pleasures of the city.

the Marble Arch's ceiling

the Marble Arch's ceiling

We arrived on the Sunday and after checking in headed out to get some food. I'd booked us a table at the historic Marble Arch - the pub which gives its name to the parent company Marble Beers - and produce my most favourite ales. Whenever a Marble beer ends up as a guest at one of the Newcastle real ale pubs a friend of mine (who is much more on top of this stuff than I am) lets me know and we stop off for a few. Invariably there's a crowd of a dozen or so Manchester expats in bar when we do. I reserved our table over twitter, which is a bit of a novelty for me. My two friends are ale skeptics but - due to lack of choice - we all ended up sampling the Chocolate Marble and the Ginger 5.1, which went down a storm. They are possibly converts now. There was an Earl Grey IPA too, which was nice but a bit on the strong side for sessioning.

copyright © Jonathan Dowland 2014, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

click for the animated version

The gig was great - I prefer club gigs to arena gigs but the sound techs for NIN know what they are doing and the mix was great. The visuals were stunning too. Highlights for me were "The Great Destroyer" - in particular the extended, improvised 5 minute glitch-meltdown coda; the slow build of "Eraser" and "The Day The World Went Away" - played faithfully to the CD mix rather than the traditional extended live arrangement. I miss the former live arrangement, which includes a drawn out drum-backed finish, but this arrangement had a lot of force, with all four of the band bashing guitars into a pummelling wall of sound. I've heard that at least one person has taped the show and it turns out recordings have just recently surfaced for the two club gigs my brother and I attended back in 2005 and 2007 - meaning there are now widely available, high quality ROIO copies for every NIN gig I've ever been to.

Afterwards we tried to find a decent club. Manchester is a lot larger than my native city and there's plenty of places to go, if you know where they are. We had originally planned to visit The Factory on Charles Street, but we didn't believe it was open on the Sunday. The Factory is Peter Hook's (formerly of Joy Division/New Order) club - occupying the former office spaces of Factory records. I've chanced in there once before as it's right across the road from the Lass O' Gowrie pub, which is the haunt of choice for HE/tech people whenever we're in Manchester for conferences.

cheesy cocktail names

cheesy cocktail names

Instead we gravitated towards Dry Bar on Oldham street. By coincidence this place also has historic ties to Factory Records. However the doormen wouldn't let us in! Finally we landed at a place which had one name on the door and a different name on the inside (Jack's). Like the aformentioned Lass O' Gowrie and perhaps half of all pubs and clubs in Manchester, the place is decked out as a shrine to the former musical giants of the City, with framed pictures of Mark E Smith, the Haçienda again, the Stone Roses in their boy-band-looks hay day, John Peel (champion of many of them) and of course Tony Wilson. I can't help but wonder whether people who live here get royally sick of that.

This place served some delicious albeit cliché-titled Cocktails and played a pretty good set - the obligatory Madchester throwback interlude was followed by a chunk of Northern Soul and a couple of early Rap classics. Setlist wise it was pretty much identical to that of Foundation in Newcastle, 12 years ago, no doubt because Foundation was cribbing heavily from the Haçienda in the first place.

Record haul

Record haul

Monday was dedicated to exploring and shopping. Top of my list of places to go was my pilgrimage venue Vinyl Exchange. Whilst waiting for it to open we rolled around in Affleck's Palace, which turned out to have a small record stall within. After Vinyl Exchange we chanced across another record store right across the road - Picadilly Records - which happens to be larger and focuses more on new releases. It didn't take long before we found another small, DIY record shop, then another. We tried out the Fopp branch here - more Vinyl; then Urban Outfitters - more; then an Oxfam branch - even more. I actually got Vinyl snow blind at this point. I've been controlling myself admirably and only picked up a couple of bits and pieces. My best find was Fad Gadget's sophmore album "Incontinent".

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Fri 28 Feb 2014 09:29:27 PM GMT

New format IZ

New format IZ

I've written before of how much I liked the British SF magazine Interzone. Sadly I decided not to renew my subscription last year, as the focus of my reading has been changing and I've not had enough time to keep on top of it. (This is a consequence of my experiment with goodreads, and I'll write more about that sometime.)

Back in October 2012 TTA Press reformatted both Interzone and its sister publication Black Static into a half-size, semi-hard backed shape. The size is similar to the US stalwards Analog and Asimov's, but the cover is harder and glossier and it has a flat spine. I really like the new look, and it's a bit of a shame I didn't complete at least a calendar year's worth of them.

I will probably pick up the odd issue now and then, when a name I recognise catches my eye. Perhaps one day I'll have the time and inclination to read short fiction regularly again. I'd still wholeheartedly recommend it (and Black Static) if short fiction is your thing.

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