Filed under: Editorial — iain @ 08:19:07

Looks like I managed to kill my blog for a while. I’m not entirely sure how it happened; probably something to do with the fact that my WordPress installation is stored in a GIt submodule underneath my main web tree. Somehow I ended up blowing it away. That happened yesterday and unfortunately I didn’t notice until today. Luckily with Git managing the files on disk, the files being backed up daily and Git being backed up too, I was spoilt for choice regarding the method of repairing the damage.


NSSM 2.3

Filed under: Geekiness — iain @ 23:15:42

I’m running final tests on, and will soon release, NSSM 2.3. NSSM – the Non-Sucking Service Manager – was originally written as a replacement for the venerable srvany, a tool which allows you to install any application as a Windows NT service.



xorg-x11-drv-wacom deferred pain

Filed under: Geekiness — iain @ 18:44:36

Some weeks ago Fedora 12 obsoleted linuxwacom and replaced it with xorg-x11-drv-wacom which apparently is a brand new XInput-based driver for Wacom tablets.

Immediately this caused me great pain and suffering as TPCButton mode, ie the thing where you hold a side button and tap the pen to do a click, stopped working and my side buttons were swapped round.

Rather than take the time to figure out what had happened I simply removed the xorg-x11-drv-wacom RPM and force installed the old linuxwacom to restore the status quo.

Last week, however, I forgot to exclude xorg-x11-drv-wacom from the list of packages NOT to be updated by YUM and lo and behold the RPM was installed again. This time I decided to get it working properly by reading the documentation about the transition.

Ha! Only kidding. There isn’t any documentation. So by trial and error – which is usually how these thing work – I managed to figure out what was going on.

With the old driver you added InputDevice sections to xorg.conf to declare the tablet devices and map them to /dev/input entries in the filesystem. You could then add options to these sections or use xsetwacom to set them on the fly.

Turns out you can still use xsetwacom. It’s just that the device names in your xorg.conf aren’t used any longer. I used xinput --list to enumerate the XInput devices on my display and found that four Wacom devices were present of which the most important was Wacom Intuos3 6×11. Since xsetwacom still works I was able to get my button swapping back by doing

    xsetwacom --set 'Wacom Intuos3 6x11' Button2 3
    xsetwacom --set 'Wacom Intuos3 6x11' Button3 2

The "correct" way to do so, however, is to run xinput --get-button-map 'Wacom Intuos3 6x11' and note that the buttons are interpreted as 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 and, since I wanted to swap 2 and 3, do

    xinput --set-button-map 'Wacom Intuos3 6x11' 1 3 2

TPCButton mode was previously set by doing xsetwacom --set <device> TPCButton on and at first I thought this was broken as I ran xsetwacom --set 'Wacom Intuos3 6x11' TPCButton on and nothing happened. A bit more digging (with xinput --list-props 'Wacom Intuos3 6x11') revealed why: the property has been renamed Wacom Hover Click and defaults to on. In other words when hover click is on you don’t need to tap in order to do a click with the side buttons. So to get the mode I wanted I could do either of the following:

    xsetwacom --set 'Wacom Intuos3 6x11' TPCButton off
    xinput --set-prop 'Wacom Intuos3 6x11' 'Wacom Hover Click' 0

Running xinput --list-props 'Wacom Intuos3 6x11' reveals the other editable properties, some of which have also been renamed.

If you’re following along from home remember that your device won’t be called Wacom Intuos3 6×11 unless it is, in fact, a Wacom Intuos3 6×11 (and maybe not even then).

Happy tabletting.


Another failed swag run

Filed under: Work — iain @ 17:46:09

Though I’ve travelled a lot on my own dime and previous employers have occasionally sent me on business trips, CSR are the first to send me to visit the offices of companies they’ve acquired. I’ve made it something of a habit to try to pick up some kind of memorabilia while visiting these acquisitions. I’ve made it another habit to fail badly in this task.



Xiao Ningbo Seafood City

Filed under: Restaurants — iain @ 16:35:18

I’ve been in Shanghai for three days now and a combination of tiredness (on Monday) and laziness (yesterday) has led to the wholly unacceptable situation whereby I have eaten dinner exclusively at the hotel. If this were not bad enough, the hotel restaurant leaves much to be desired. Things had to change.

So it was that I strode out of the lobby and resolved to keep on going until I found a place I wanted to eat at, which in this thoroughly depressing foreigner ghetto part of Pudong wasn’t necessarily going to be easy.



On the wearing of baseball caps

Filed under: US tour 2009 — iain @ 16:37:18

I’ve always believed that I was physically incapable of wearing a baseball cap. I was never really sure why but I knew that somehow, somewhere, something was preventing me from donning that particular type of headgear.

Maybe it was because my head was the wrong shape. Maybe it was because I wasn’t American. Maybe it was because deep down I believed that baseball caps weren’t real hats. Maybe it was solar flares. Whatever the reason, I could never get one of the accursed things to fit properly.



Wrapping up the tour

Filed under: US tour 2009 — iain @ 23:37:07

The next stage of my tour was … the 1970s. Or so it appeared as I landed at Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport, the airport that took a raincheck on the last thirty years.


On the second stage of my tour

Filed under: US tour 2009 — iain @ 21:21:35

The original plan was for me to spend a week working in Phoenix then return home. As I had forgotten that I was no longer a contractor but a permanent employee who could take time off work and still get paid I had saved up a whole load of annual leave days and so decided to stick around in the US and go on a bit of a tour. I’d contacted some people I know from the internet and despite the short notice (ie "hey guys I’m in the States next week, who wants to hang out?") a few of them were keen to meet up and do … I dunno … stuff … we’ll figure something out … it’ll be fun … and not in any way weird to hook up with people you only know from hanging out online, no sir.


Some local beers

Filed under: US tour 2009 — iain @ 18:30:58

On arrival at the bar I began what would become an ongoing quest to find some local beer. There’s no point going all the way to Phoenix and drinking the same beer that you can find in a Cambridge supermarket, I reasoned. Stella and Budweiser were out. As were the beers I might drink in Cambridge. "What have you got that’s local?" I asked the barmaid. She seemed confused by the question. With hindsight I can see why that might be. After all I was in the bar at a hotel. People go there to fight jet lag by getting drunk, or to watch those curious American sports on TV. They don’t go there to sample local brews.

Once she understood where I was coming from she was able to offer some suggestions from the beer list. Since I didn’t know and hadn’t tried any of them I decided the sensible thing would be to start from the top. The Shock Top.

I found Shock Top to be – not to put too fine a point on it – awful. It looked and tasted more like fizzy orange than beer, and I struggled to finish it. Indeed, had I not been jet lagged, tired and parched I may not have been able to. But finish it I did, whereupon I asked what was next.

Landshark, I was informed, is "just like Corona." As far as I could see the similarity began and ended with the fact that it was served with a slice of lime. This beer was even worse than the first one. It had almost no taste at all. Drinking it served no purpose other than to fill the bladder. Next.

The next beer was a big improvement in more ways than one. A product of the really, actually local Four Peaks microbrewery, Kiltlifter claimed to be a Scottish-style ale. If they say so. In any case it was markedly better than the first two.

Four Peaks is very popular in these parts. In fact I was later informed that they brew and sell so much beer that they shouldn’t technically be called a microbrewery at all, and had to apply for special dispensation to carry on operating as such. Pleasantly surprised by the Kiltlifter, I decided to try an 8th Street, billed as an English-style beer. This too was perfectly drinkable if not particularly English-style.

Four beers down … and only one to go really, because I sloped off to get some sleep at that point and the next day I discovered Widmer which was to become my staple for the rest of the week. Indeed on Wednesday I got talking to a chap from Jacksonville whom I convinced of the merits of my new-found favourite and who was so grateful at being introduced to it that he bought me three more in addition to the two I’d already had. And some Cognac, when I’d managed to explain to the barmaid what it was. And some more. I remember being the last to leave the bar. I remember prodding at breakfast the next morning. What happened between those two events is a mystery which may remain unsolved forever.

Arrival in Phoenix, being the first stage of my US tour

Filed under: US tour 2009 — iain @ 18:28:00

Phoenix Sky Harbor claims to be the world’s friendliest airport. I don’t know if that is true, though I suspect it is the world’s best-named airport. I do know that it’s a decent and efficient airport to fly into. I found that out on October 19th. Later I would learn that it’s a thoroughly depressing place to fly out of. Three weeks later, in fact. For a moment, as I descended the stairs to Immigration, I worried that I might discover more about the outbound facilities much sooner than planned.

The very first words I heard spoken on my very first trip to the US were "wrong way boss" as a security guard indicated to one of the arriving passengers that rather than head towards all the desks with the immigration officers waiting to fingerprint you and ask you if the purpose of your visit was to commit a terrorist act, she had indeed chosen to go the wrong way.

At that moment I was suddenly terrified that I wouldn’t even make it through to the next room. Surely I would be deported for making some smartarse comment while getting my fingerprints done.

Maybe sooner.


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