London wander 2011 photos #1

I’ve finally downloaded all the photos I took whilst wanding around london for half a day. The majority are rubbish, but a few are quite interesting.

Let’s start with a couple of street scenes. I’ll hopefully post some more sooner or later 🙂

Street scene, laptop, pub, walking
Just need to finish this...
Please don't ticket me! Man, I really hate wardens. I only stopped for a minute to get an ice cream!

Eaccelerator mirror / downloads

Eaccelerator is insanely useful in my line of work. However, their main downloads are down right now, so I’m mirroring the latest version here:

You can see the files sha1sums here:

Alternatively, if you’re scripting (we are), you can use the following to get my (‘up-to-date’) version:

bz2.. because that’s the version we use here 😉


USB Key reminder script

Here’s something for all you windows network admins out there.
(I apologize in advance to Johnathon’s linux followers)

Here’s a little script I wrote to be used as a group policy logoff script to remind users to remove their USB memory sticks/keys when logging off.

I wrote it while working in IT Support for a High School, to help out our IT teachers and ourselves as we were weekly gathering a collection of various USB Memory Sticks and memory keys (and since i was the one trying to reunite them with their owners each week.)

It’s written in VBS so it’s perfect for using as a group policy in active directory on say a Windows 2003 server/XP network. I haven’t tried it on Vista, Windows 7, or Server 2008 because I wasn’t using those technologies at the time, but it will most likely work with Vista and Windows 7 when deployed from a 2k3 or 2k8 server.

It detects removable drives (the type it looks for can be modified) that are connected and won’t pop-up without a drive detected.

If a USB drive is connected, it pops up a dialog reminding the user to take their memory stick with them and then auto-closes after a few seconds (as not to hang the logoff procedure).

I hope this is usefull to someone. If you use it, please leave me a comment.
[LICENCE GPL? NC-SA?]Also, feel free to modify and redistribute this script, but please don’t remove my details, as I’d like to know if it gets used and of any usefull additions others can think of.


‘ Script to display a list of drives connected to this machine
‘ MODIFIED to detect only removable drive. GTinsley 2008 @ Wallington County Grammar School.
‘  May cause false positives on some SATA ‘puters.
‘  Tested working on ‘puters with card readers.

Set FileSystemObject = CreateObject(“Scripting.FileSystemObject”) ‘Create a filesystem object
Set Drives = FileSystemObject.Drives ‘Create a drives collection

‘ Step through the drive collection, and get both the drive letter and the drive type.
‘ There are 6 distinct types of drive:
‘Select Case DriveType
‘   Case “0” DriveType = “Unknown type of drive”
‘   Case “1” DriveType = “Removable drive”
‘   Case “2” DriveType = “Fixed drive”
‘   Case “3” DriveType = “Network drive”
‘   Case “4” DriveType = “CD-ROM drive”
‘   Case “5” DriveType = “RAM Disk”
‘End Select

For Each DiskDrive in Drives

DriveLetter = DiskDrive.DriveLetter
DriveType = DiskDrive.DriveType

‘ Check for a removable drive connected that:
‘     Is not the drive letter A B or C
‘    Folder exists (proves the drive exists)
IF Drivetype = “1” and not driveletter = “C” and not driveletter = “A” and not driveletter = “B” and FileSystemObject.FolderExists(driveletter & “:\”) then

‘ Old method. Waits until user has clicked OK before logoff completes.
‘WScript.Echo “The removable disk drive ” & DriveLetter & ” is a still connected. Don’t forget your USB drive!”

‘ New method waits 5 seconds then logs off.

time_out = 5      ‘ wait max. 5 seconds
title = “Forgetting something?”
button = vbOKonly  ‘ vbOKOnly
message = “The Removable Disk (” & DriveLetter & “:\) is a still connected. Don’t forget your USB drive!”

Set objWSH = WScript.CreateObject(“Wscript.Shell”)     ‘ create object
objWSH.Popup message, time_out, title, buttons     ‘ popup
end if

‘ Clear objects and collections
Set Drives = nothing
Set FileSystemObject = nothing


Book Review – Hornet’s Nest, Patricia Cornwell & others

It’s probably about time I got around to tapping out another book review post. So, here goes.

Hornets Nest – Patricia Cornwell

I’ve just finished this one. It’s an interesting book, although slightly confused. It starts off with a serial murder, introducing the main antagonists slowly. The murders, however, are not the books real aim, you know ‘who-dun-it’ by 75% of the way through. It’s more a social/character discourse, with elements of romance mixed in.

The book does start slow, because of the focus on inital character building. However, it doesn’t grab me as similar books have, I assume because I have already become too used to that world, so am not being introduced to much I’ve no experience of.

The book did annoy me though, for one abuse of technology-speak. Yes, techy-speak may be confusing for those not used to it, but email is not passed through more than two UAs, and normally no more than 2 MTAs; a UA is a User Agent, i.e. your email client, so Outlook, Thunderbird, or your web-mail. MTA stands for Mail Transfer Agent, and is one of the computer programs email is passed through as it transits the internet. Specific abuse stems from trying to fill out a 1-dimensional computer tech character.

The book finishes on a slightly strange note, murders solved, good guys slightly victorious (with requisite battering), but the relationships we’ve been following throughout not yet tied off or stable. I assume this is leading to a possible follow up book, but it just annoys me. It’s one reason I like Elizabeth Moon’s work, she does tie up immediate stuff, and leaves characters stable, whilst allowing the greater narrative to hang for the next book.

It’s a good enough read, though not one I’d particularly recommend or lambast.

Killashandra – Anne Macaffrey

This is the second in a trilogy from one of the masters of sci-fi/fantasy. It’s basically a sci-fi romance, but the story is enthralling. One in my permanent collection, this would have been a third re-read. Follows Killashandra as she leaves Ballybran to save a lover’s life, gets caught up in planetary political wrangles, and finds a love she’ll never forget. If you’ve not read this series, and are into Sci-Fi, I’d recommend picking it up. First in the series is ‘Crystal Singer’, Killashandra is followed by the finale, ‘Crystal Line’.

Devil May Care – Sebastian Faulks (As Ian Flemming)

Meh. I finished this book in a day. It’s not a hard read. I saw one of the major twists coming too early, and it’s a pointless boring twist. I can think of at least 3 different better ways to finish this plot.

Basically, read if you want another bond story, but don’t expect it to be a particularly challenging or rewarding read. Of course, the good guys win, but I do like in when they win in a bit more style!

That’s the books I’ve read this week. Now I’m starting to run out of fresh ones. I’m going to be mainly re-reading stuff I guess. Any suggestions in what to look out for gratefully received. Sci-Fi/Fantasy is my preference, but I’ll read almost anything apart from horror. (And mills and boon types.)

Web 3.0

Web 3.0 is coming soon…

IMHO the Web 3.0 revolution will consist of websites and web apps from the 2.0 era becoming closer.
I think that it will become easier to link together content across web sites to create new forms of content.

In the Web 2.0 revolution was helped by blogs with authors linking together information in posts. (This I might add has been very useful to combat the slew of dodgy sites that  sit high in Google’s results but just spit back the search terms as results, nullifying your search. Nowadays I find use ‘blog’ in search terms, especially when looking for reviews.)

I can’t wait until someone puts together a really good way of visualizing all this data. As the internet grows the importance of being able to sift through the available data and collate it into collections on particular topics is becoming paramount.

I have been looking out for a system to visualize my internet links in some kind of subject oriented way with a timeline / time axis. So far the only thing that comes close is Basket Notes for KDE (screenshots). If only that were a web app! (if i had the motivation and focus, I’d turn my meagre php programming skills to that task myself, but alas like my sketched design for a social networking site written in my design book pre the advent of facebook, I think I’ll leave it to someone else!)

I guess the closest web based similar system (I’m aware of) currently in operation is Wikipedia!

Look at the useful plugin Ubiquity, and the fantastically useful cross platform application and search launcher, Launchy for example. Both of  these are designed to give us quicker access to and search abilities for our data.

Making computers integrate seamlessley to our lives rather than inturpting them.
Today the focus of computing is shifting from _ to the workflow -how we get things done. I think this is essential because your average end user doesn’t care how things get done, just as long as they can get done.

Digital Photographers often use a prescribed workflow when working on digital photos – ‘developing them’ as it were to bring out the best. PCPro Magazine suggests 1. Levels and Curves then 2. Colour adjustment followed by Sharpening. But I’m talking more than just the best sequence of events to achieve the best quality output. I’m talking about the process itself.

Our brains think sequentially, each action is broken down step by step and steps performed one after another. A break in our concentration, or ‘flow’ impacts our effectiveness. This is especially true for people with ADHD (like me). Reducing the need for context switching.

“Consider that it takes 15 minutes for a developer to enter a state of flow.  If you were to interrupt a developer to ask a question and it takes five minutes for them to answer, it will take a further 15 minutes for them to regain that state of flow, resulting in a 20 minute loss of productivity. Clearly, if a developer is prevented from flowing several times during the day their work rate declines substantially. “

(Retrieved from

For example, downloading pictures from your digital camera and uploading them to facebook. Recently I’ve been using ‘Windows Live Photo Gallery’. Ugh, I know, but the point is it that Vista offered it to me, and it was an easy to find and add plugin that allows me to upload direct to facebook, where most of my photos end up these days.

To download the pictures I simply flip out the SD card from my camera, and insert it into my laptop (useful laptop buying advice)’s SD card slot

And that’s the point, people will take the path of least resistance/effort.

Path of least effort Principle
According to my observations
like people walking down the high street striving to avoid collision with other pedestrians, my observation leads me to believe that everybody is operating on the principle of least effort, where the person you are approaching will attempt to take a path that will need the least amount of diversion from their original path in order to avoid collision, while you yourself will attempt to do the same thing.

how does this come back to web 3.0?

How many clicks does it take while searching for some long forgotten but relevant piece of information before a user will get bored and move on? [research advertising, google hotspots, number of clicks] Could it be as low as 3, and as high as 8?

Unified User Interface
Facebook for example. I was trying to find my note on laptops to include a link in this article, but alas my click on Notes from the home page only brought up a ‘feed’ of Notes. Where I ask is the Filter options that preside on everyone’s profiles? Why can’t I select ‘Just Garreth’ here too?

If something like that is useful, it should also be Unified, that is available everywhere!

In the time it took me to discover the ‘workflow’ to access my notes in this ‘fast/bitesize/information obsessed’ age my poor overloaded ADHD (video: ADHD impact on life) brain might easily have become bored frustrated and more importantly distracted and moved on…

Cloud computing and Rich Web Applications (Blog: Google and Rich Web Application)

Organisation of Data

It’s an inverse law – As our attention spans decrease, so the conciseness of the data we consume must increase ceterus paribus.

Why do my spidey senses tell me facebook, not google may be the winner in the Web 3.0 revolution?

  1. Reduce the need for context switching
  2. Make data transfer between devices, programs and operating systems simpler and more unified
  3. Make data easier to locate and retrieve
  4. Make locating an open program/context switching easier and more natural – in doing so reducing the impact on flow by automatically knowing how to get back to the other program/where it is.
  5. Design and create more natural interfaces – e.g the Apple’s iPhone and iTouch.
  6. Consider how context switching works in our heads and apply this to UI.
  7. Work on unified User Interfaces as not to interupt flow

What do you think? Leave some comments of your vision, and what you think of my ideas.

Linux Beep Music

Just a silly short post about a beep song i was making while waiting for a partition resize to go through.

This should run on pretty much any linux system, just copy and paste 😉

beep -f 1000 -n -f 1500 -n -f 600 -n -f 500 -n -f 100 -r 2 -l 10 -n -f 50 -r 2 -l 200 -n -f 40 -r 2 -l 300 -n -f 60 -r 3 -n -f 50 -r 3

Thanks gparted and Sytem Rescue Cd (Linux)

Please continue my little ditty in the comments!

Ps modern computers may need speakers plugged in and on to make the magic happen, but shouldn’t need sound drivers.



Edit: check out the followup post here:

Windows Command Line Ping Replacement

So the windows version of ping is really stupid.

I was writing a batch script to mount up a network share that involved checking to ensure my NAS unit was turned on. The script is scheduled to run after the computer resumes.

What I found out is that the built in version of Ping.exe is terrible at telling you whether the ping has returned successfully or not. I was checking the ERRORLEVEL – %ERRORLEVEL% variable to find out what ping was returning. It should be 0 for success and 1 or higher for a failure.

What I found was, i was getting replies from the local pc (dunno why, leave me a comment if you know) and ping was reporting a success even though the correct pc failed to reply. The solution?
Replace the Windows ping.exe with Fping. It has a lot more options and appears – from some initial quick tests – to correctly report the errorlevel.

Kudos to Wouter Dhondt for developing it. I’ll update this post with any more news!


image Fping vs Ping errorlevel return values

PC Gamer Rips off Rock Paper Shotgun

Back in June of this year, PC Gamer launched a new website. This website design appears to be a rip-off of that used by Rock Paper Shotgun. With all the images that follow, click through for a larger version.

But, let’s roll back shall we? Rock Paper Shotgun launched September 2007, though their first post goes back to July 2007. They were a novel pc gaming blog site, trying to do something different in the gaming scene. They concentrated on PC games and only PC games, with running jokes. They have a small enough set of writers, that you can pick up the personality of each. (Kieron takes the weird ones, VERY NSFW: example.)

Back in 2007, redirected to a sub-site of Since then, they haven’t altered the design at all. Now, it redirects to Looking at the two  reveals this:


As an ex-web-developer, it looks to me like someone decided that they quite liked the RPS type website and went ‘make me a website like that, but in this style’. And tweaked the mock ups (and site designs) a few times, till what they had looks remarkably like what we see now.

Saying that, of course, this is quite a standard design style. It comes quite often easily when you use WordPress as your back-end engine, as this blog does, and as RPS does. However, they’ve not just used the site layout of wordpress as a base, they’ve decided to publish all of their posts in the same sort of format as RPS, with the same aim at getting discussions around their posts via the commenting.

A little birdie 1 tells me that someone at future (the company behind PC gamer) really might hate Rock Paper Shotgun. Would rather they disappear. It’s almost like, they’ve finally decided to fight this sphere of influence, with money, and lots of people, finally decided that maybe their website is worth working on and taking care of.

What annoys me, is that the big guy is trying to kill the little guy 🙁

Here are a whole load of screenshots, save you finding them. Some are from Wayback machine, some are from the website directly.

The old website, up till June. This image was recovered with a lot of hard work from webpigeon, of, (thanks!) since PC gamer used some really horrible website coding, which broke the waybackmachine copy. This has to be one of the ugliest websites I’ve seen, though not the worst. You could switch the big image, and below it was a list of recent stories.

how looked like till June.

And, if you scroll down a bit..:

Old PC gamer site in wayback, scrolled down.

They seem to be trying to throw links at you, lots and lots and lots of them, in a really small space. Check it out for yourself.

Rock Paper Shotgun’s footer:

PC Gamer’s footer:

OOo… don’t they look similar? Apart from the ‘we must keep up with the cool kids’  twitter panels and lots and lots of post links (which RPS doesn’t force on you, or puts in the right hand panel). This mess could also be due to Search Engine Optimization, that dark art in which you try to trick search engines into putting you higher up on their listings than your arch rivals.

Now, I work for the company that keeps RPS online. I like the guys that work there, I think they do a good job, especially considering they’re not getting paid much from it.

Also interesting, is the fact that PC Gamer seem to have thrown money at this venture. I work with some high-load wordpress-powered sites, and there is some very obvious things you do to make them work fast. Very fast. PC Gamer isn’t doing at least one of the most obvious, which suggests that instead they’ve thrown cash at keeping it online, with a cluster of computers working on it. Don’t know how a website works? Find out here 2

  1. Source, not related to RPS
  2. All images are Fair Use under the DMCA.