Monthly Archives: March 2007

Munster Out of The Heineken Cup

The dream for this year is over after Munster suffered a heavy defeat to Llanelli Scarlets in the Heineken Cup. The final scoreline of 24-15 doesn’t adequately reflect the gulf between the two teams – 12 of Munster’s 15 points came in the last 13 minutes. Munster just weren’t good enough, and they were completely outclassed by the Scarlets.

We were penned back in our own half for much of the game, and the scoreline of 17-0 at half time was just too much to claw back. The second half did see an improvement, but it was too little, too late.

Congratulations to Llanelli, well done and best of luck in the Semi’s, and to Munster, there’s always next year.

The Rise of Mammals

The BBC are running an article on a paper just published in Nature regarding the role the death of the dinosaurs played in the rise of our mammalian ancestors.

By examining the family tree for mammals, scientists have created a “supertree” which shows how todays different mammals are related and when they diverged. By examining the data, they can show that mammals were diversifying long before the dinosaurs died out.

Prior to this it was thought that because the dinosaurs had effectively occupied the most beneficial environmental niches, mammals were restricted to side roles in the ecosystem. Once the dinosaurs had died out, they left a huge gap in the biosphere. Mammals were then uniquely positioned to fill the newly available “gaps”. Now it seems that this may not have been the case.

According to scientists responsible for the study, mammals evolved into different orders almost 30 million years before the space impact which ruined the dinosaurs day. Once this initial diversification had taken place, mammalian orders remained pretty static for another 40 million years, until there was another upsurge in the number of orders 55 million years ago.

The full mammal family tree is available from the BBC website here. [PDF]

CR vs LF vs CRLF

If the above title seems cryptic, it’s supposed to be. It’s representative of a problem that I came across today when I was editing one of the plugins on this site. When I went to check the plugin status, I was shocked to see that instead of the normal options to activate/ deactivate the plugin, all I got was a mish-mash of PHP code.

I couldn’t think why this had happened, then it hit me. I had done the editing on my MacBook. The Mac, just like every other platform has built-in text editors. These editors treat text in much the same way as editors on other platforms, although there is one crucial difference. When you hit the enter key on a Mac, a special character is inserted to signal that a new line should be started. On a Mac, this is called the Carriage Return, or CR, character. On a Windows editor, the enter key inserts a Carriage Return – Line Feed, (CR-LF), character, and on a Linux machine, it’s a Line Feed, (LF), character.

So each of the major platforms treat a new line in a different manner. The upshot is that if you write a text document on a Windows machine, the new line will be interpreted correctly on both a Linux and Mac, as it uses characters common to both. However, if you write a text document on a Mac, then it won’t be interpreted correctly on a Linux machine, and vice versa.

So here was my problem, I had edited the PHP files on my Mac and uploaded the changed files to a Linux server. Using EditPad Lite for Windows, I was able to easily convert the newline characters from CR to CR-LF, and re-upload the file. Problem solved. The only thing that I can’t figure out is that if Linux has a problem with the CR-only newline character, how come the plugin worked OK?

How Do You De-Frost a Half Tonne Squid?

Scientists have spent years searching for one of the planets most elusive creatures. Scientists at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, have finally gotten their hands on a specimen on the Colossus Squid, only to discover that it’s frozen solid.

Fisherman caught the specimen off the coast Antarctica in February, at which time it was frozen in the ships hold. The problem now is that at room temperature, the squid will take a couple of days to defrost. In that time, the outer layers will have rotted before the core of this beast has defrosted. So what to do? One of the solutions being considered is to use a large microwave to defrost the entire squid in one go.

Despite the fact that the Colossus Squid weighs nearly 500kg and is 10 meters long, scientists are confident that they can locate a microwave big enough for the job.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tasted Calamari, but I can’t imagine that microwaving is going to help the taste.

Reinstalling Windows on a Dell Dimension 2400 Part II

I eventually got around to installing XP on my friends Dimension 2400. As he did not have any restore CD’s, I had to use a copy of XP that I had myself. The install itself went fine, and after about an hour or so I had a working install. The only problem was that XP wanted to be activated. As the product key was an OEM one, it’s not going to activate. So now I’m stuck. I can either use a crack to bypass the activation, or I can try to get a copy of the restore cd’s.

As this is a perfectly legal install, I’d prefer not to resort to have to use a crack. On the other hand, there doesn’t seem to be any way to order restore CD’s from the Dell website.

I have created an image of the hard-drive, so I can restore that back if I need to, but that isn’t going to do a whole lot except get me back to square one.

I’ll have to think about this one a bit, and see if there is anyway that I can get the original Dell OS back onto the system.

Using a Screensaver as Desktop Background

I found this on a Mac OS site. It allows you to use your screensaver as your desktop background:

  • Open the Terminal app.
  • Type (all on one line): /System/Library/Frameworks/Screensaver.framework/
    Resources/ScreenSaverEngine.app/Contents/MacOS/ScreenSaverEngine -background &
  • Hit enter.
  • Terminal will return with the process ID
  • If you want to stop the screensaver background, in the Terminal, type kill followed by the proces ID.

45 Seconds

That’s how far we were from winning the 6 Nations. Today was a day of IF’s.

If we had put the ball out when the 80 minutes were up, the Italians wouldn’t have scored that try, and we would have been champions.

If the TMO hadn’t have given the French a dubious try, we would have been champions.

If the referee hadn’t missed all the forward passes in our game, then we wouldn’t have been given at least 2 tries, and we wouldn’t even have been in with a shout.

If we hadn’t lost our concentration in the last 2 minutes against the French, we would have won that game, and todays scores wouldn’t have mattered so much.

That’s the funny thing about IF’s, they can go both ways. In fairness, the team did their best. It wasn’t good enough today, but if today is to have any meaning, we have to learn from it and carry it into the World Cup. If only.

Reinstalling Windows on a Dell Dimension 2400

A friend asked me to have a look at his PC last week because he was having a problem starting the computer. More specifically he was getting a blue screen with “STOP 0X000006B PROCESS1_INITIALIZATION_FAILED”. As far as I can make out, this type of error occurs because there is a required system file missing. No information on which file is missing or damaged. But what else can you expect from a blue screen of death?

Apparently he was doing a Windows Update and the system stopped responding so he turned it off. Now this type of error doesn’t bug me so much. After working with Windows for so long, it’s pretty much expected that whenever anything goes wrong it will result with an unrecoverable blue screen error that will prevent you from being able to even attempt to fix the problem.

No the blue screen doesn’t bother me. What does bother me is Dell’s restore process. Especially the part where the manual says to tap CTRL+F11 when booting to start the restore process. Expect for this particular model it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because it was never installed. This wouldn’t be too bad, but these days Dell don’t ship restore CD’s with their PC’s. They have to be ordered. Now there might be a restore program accessible from Windows, but a fat lot of good that will do when Windows won’t even start in Safe Mode.

So it looks like I’ll have to install Windows into a different location on the hard drive and then see if I can locate the restore program. If not, I’ll have to do a vanilla install of Windows and install the various applications separately. And that’s going to be a real pain.

Protecting Your PC

As anyone who uses Windows on a regular basis will tell you, security is a problem. It’s a problem because Windows is the biggest target out there, and every script-kiddie, virus-writer with half a brain can write software to exploit it.

It takes time and effort to lock down a computer. More than time and effort than most end users are willing to dedicate to the issue. Securing your computer is more than preventing unauthorised access, it’s about protecting your private data, and ensuring that your computer continues to work the way you want it to. So here’s my basic guide to securing your home PC.

Continue reading