Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Wii News

Friday, January 26th, 2007

When I see headlines like “The Wii News Channel to go live this Saturday” I usually have to allow for it being an American press-release and hence it means “Sunday New Zealand time”. Pleasantly enough this time it actually means “Friday Evening”.

What can I say after ten minutes playing with it? Coolest text zoom ever. The globe from the weather channel is back – there is no news from the South Pole, I checked. The slide show is clean and almost useful. There is a “Regional News” classification between the “National” and “International” categories – unfortunately this just means I can read Australian news. They can’t format cricket score-cards properly, but it doesn’t really matter since Australia were making England look like idiots again and its probably best if you don’t look too closely. The help cat makes a brief appearance on the update screen – unfortunately it only seems to update when you start up.

Wings over Wairarapa

Sunday, January 21st, 2007

I spent yesterday at the wings of Wairarapa airshow. Unfortunately none of my photos of the Polikarpov I-153 came out well, but here are some of the photos that did:

A De Havilland Vampire T11 warming up its engine.

It is virtually impossible to photograph a Corsair when it is flying 100 feet above the ground past the crowd, so you get a photo of it parked.

WWI biplanes are somewhat slower and easier to photograph. At top is a Sopwith Camel, to the left is a Nieuport 24 bis and to the right is a Fokker which I can’t identify.

The airforce did it’s thing with a C-130. Apparently one of their pilots is current with a Fokker Triplane! That about sums up the New Zealand airforce.

The least aerobatic plane of the show: a PBY-5A Catalina flying-boat.

Comet McNaught

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

Comet McNaught. Wow.

Merry Christmas

Monday, December 25th, 2006

The Christmas Squid guards the pressies.

GNOME Spyware – now using smaps

Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

There is a new version of my memory logging script available. I haven’t changed it a lot yet and I certainly haven’t addressed all the feedback I was sent. The major change is that it now uses /proc//smaps for the top-ten process list. There is also minimal documentation available in perl pod format. Use pod2text to view it.

Interestingly, the change from using RSS to using the sum of private dirty memory to determine the worst memory offenders barely made any difference to the ordering on my machine: Xorg swapped with epiphany for first place and that was about it. Xorg illustrates another way in which RSS lies; the RSS value for Xorg includes mappings of /dev/mem – things like the VGA frame buffer and the video ROM. i.e. hardware specific memory that no other process could use anyway.

The main reason the script hasn’t progressed further is the time I’ve spent trying to figure out how memory is divided up on a Linux system and what it all means (e.g. what is the vdso page – this page gives a fairly decent summary).

If you’re still reading this, you might also be interested in this post from Tomas Frydrych.

Porcupine Training

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

We were fortunate enough on Sunday to see the porcupines being trained at the zoo. This is referred to as “medical training”. The theory appears to be that you can either wrestle a grumpy porcupine onto a set of scales when it gets ill, or train it to get onto a set of scales (represented here by the pallet) of its own free will. It is also great entertainment for the visitors (and the lions in the enclosure opposite). Porcupines like kumara.

KDE vs. GNOME: Memory Use

Tuesday, December 5th, 2006

About a week ago Quim put out a href="">call for
better profiling of whole-desktop resource use. This isn’t it, but it is
a start. Consider it more of an update of Lubos Lunak’s href="">comparison from GNOME
2.14 vs. KDE 3.5.2. In that comparison KDE won by tens of megabytes.

I have cooked up a perl href="">script
that wakes up every 30 seconds, takes a look at what is going on and
writes it out to a log file. The most interesting parameters it
currently records are the total memory use (equivalent to what
free returns on the -/+ buffers line). Be warned
that the script is currently completely undocumented and you will have
to read the source to find out where the default log file goes and how
to change that. It is also completely Linux specific. I am also deeply
suspicious of some of the data it returns. Most definitely a work in
progress, but I couldn’t give the results below and keep it hidden.

I am far from certain that everything is being done in the best
possible way. For example look at Lubos’ href="">comparison for a
discussion for reasons why free isn’t necessarily a good measure of
memory use; this script uses the same approach as free. On top of this
I have no real indication of the uncertainty in these
results. Finally, I did things a bit differently from Lubos so direct
comparison with his numbers is impossible.

My method was to burn live CDs for Ubuntu, Kubuntu and
Xubunutu. This gives an identical base system. The KDE version is
3.5.5 and the GNOME version is 2.16. Xubuntu uses Xfce 4.4 beta 2. Once
booted into a CD the script was launched on a USB memory stick and
left to run. I then started a series of applications (the generic ones
from each desktop):

  • Web Browser
  • Terminal
  • Mail
  • Text Editor
  • File Browser
  • Movie Player

All applications were launched “empty”. If any configuration was
needed (e.g. mail addresses) it was done minimally. There was no
network connection. The exception to the “empty” rule was the movie
player which in each case played “Experience Ubuntu.ogg” in the
Examples folder. Once done, the applications were closed in reverse

As representative measurements, I have chosen the initial memory use and
the peak memory use. I will also give a list of the top five
applications during peak memory use (based on RSS). So, is KDE still
beating GNOME hands down, or has a surprise reversal occurred?

Xfce 4.4 beta 2
159024 158672 134060
Peak (kB) 228016 230492 210740

KDE and GNOME identical to within a few MB!? How can we
start a flame war with that? A very big congratulations to everyone
working on the optimisation of GNOME! Now you just have to worry about
what surprises KDE 4 will pull.

Top five processes by RSS memory use:

Rank GNOME 2.16 KDE
Xfce 4.4 beta 2
1 totem kaffeine gxine
2 firefox-bin kontact mozilla-thunderbird
3 Xorg konqueror firefox-bin
4 nautilus kate Xorg
5 evolution Xorg xfce4-terminal

Note how the movie players top the list in every case, this is
almost certainly due to the fact that it is the only program with any
data loaded. For comparison, long term use on my normal (GNOME 2.16)
desktop gives the following list of processes over 20 MB:

  1. epiphany
  2. Xorg
  3. evolution
  4. beagled
  5. nautilus
  6. beagled-helper

My long-term use of this script is limited. It hasn’t been run on
an in-use desktop from log-in. I currently have five days of data from
a heavily loaded desktop (the window list doesn’t fit on the
screen). The good news is that GNOME does not appear to have major
memory leaks. The bad news is that once I get more data the
gedit guys might be in for a bit of a shock (hint: memory use
shouldn’t go up when I close a file – you’ll get a bug report once
I’ve tested 2.17).

A few technical notes:

  • The GNOME browser was Firefox, not Epiphany, since that is what
    Ubuntu defaults to. Lubos’ work suggests that Epiphany saves between 2
    and 6 Mb over Firefox.

  • The XFce figures don’t include a text editor. I might be blind,
    but I couldn’t find a graphical one in Xubuntu’s menus. I didn’t want
    to skew the memory use by doing some sort of search or launching applications
    I wasn’t sure about. I’d be surprised if this made any significant
    difference. Xfce was always going to win a memory-use battle.

  • I recorded the top ten processes, but only noted the top five
    above. Some results in places 6-10 concern me so I excluded them (e.g. the Xfce list has
    perl at number eight and it could quite easily be the
    monitoring script itself).

  • Xubuntu obviously suffers because of the reliance on Firefox and
    Thunderbird, neither of which subscribes to the lightweight Xfce

  • Curiously, Xubuntu seemed to be the most sluggish to launch applications. I was
    watching DVDs while doing this so it might just have been a boring bit
    and I wasn’t distracted enough while waiting.

So that’s it, the two major desktops look to be almost equivalent in
their memory use. I’ll sign off with the caveat that errors in my
method might show up, so be careful citing this article as some sort
of authority. Feedback is welcome, mail me at

Best. Headline. Ever.

Friday, December 1st, 2006

From the New Zealand Herald website about mid afternoon:

Fiji coup delayed for rugby match

SUVA - The Army will not seize power in Fiji this afternoon because of a
rugby match with the police. A midday deadline (1.00pm NZT) imposed by
Army Commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama,...

As a workmate said, “Rugby was the winner on the day”.

Baby Manufacturing Status Report

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

Most people who care about this will have already asked about the details, so this is for the mildly interested. The first cycle of treatment has been called off because the response from Cushla’s ovaries was too great (triplets are bad). The lab worker’s strike didn’t help either. The next cycle will start in February and it will include the option of going to IVF if the problem recurs. That way the number of eggs that are fertilised can be controlled.

Work Stuff

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006

It’s been a good week for work so far. This weeks major project – which I’d budgeted all week for – was finished by just before lunchtime. Despite the fact that I’d slacked off most of yesterday. Then, after an argument at lunchtime about whether my MRST project goal for December 31st could be done on time or not, I managed to finish it during the afternoon. The first bit is probably bad estimation on my part. The second is luck – I suddenly realised how to combine the last two failed schemes into one that worked.

So I’m happy for the moment, it’s a pity morale in the rest of the company is so low. Closing a major division and not giving any pay rise to the rest of the staff doesn’t help that.