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Alternative Android Apps [Apr. 25th, 2013|12:17 pm]
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I don't like Android. It's too much like Windows.

The operating system I'm most used to, Debian GNU/Linux, is a collection of almost-exclusively free software. One of the many upsides of this is that the applications therein tend to work well, do the job they're designed for with minimal fuss, and generally not get in the way. This is because doing anything else would be considered a bug, and with free software anyone can fix the bugs.

Android is very much like Windows - in order to accomplish a task, I have to select between several applications of unknown provenance, which are generally written with the intention of profiting the author rather than helping the user. Even if they're zero-cost, they may be full of adverts, or they may want far more access to my phone's systems than is required for the job they purportedly do. This makes installing Android apps inherently risky for my privacy, quite apart from the overarching panopticon of the Google Account tracking my every install in the first place!

On the other hand, the Android platform is considerably more open than say Apple or Windows phones. So it occurs to me that there may be an alternative source of apps which are free software, or in some other way more trustworthy than those currently available. Does anybody know of such a thing? Preferably one that isn't tied to a Google Account while I'm at it.
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CiviCRM 4.2.8 on Drupal 7.20 Multisite [Feb. 26th, 2013|12:51 am]
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I've finally fixed a problem with installing CiviCRM 4.2.8 with Drupal 7.20.

I have a standard multisite Drupal setup, with the settings.php in sites/mydomain/. I untarred the Civi module into sites/all/modules/, ran the Civi installer and entered the database details for Drupal and Civi. The installer ran, and failed with this error:

You need to define CIVICRM_DSN in civicrm.settings.php

The other weirdness I noticed is that the Civi installer wanted write access to sites/default/ rather than sites/mydomain/. After a few blind alleys, I learned that the Civi installer was writing the civicrm.settings.php file to sites/default/ and then failing to read it from sites/mydomain/. The workaround was to create a symlink from sites/mydomain/civicrm.settings.php to sites/default/civicrm.settings.php - this would be a broken symlink at first but the target would exist by the time the installer came to read it. Once the install is complete, you can move the Civi settings file out of default/ with no problems.

I'm told that if I'd put the Civi install in the mydomain-specific modules directory, this wouldn't have been a problem - but I might want other Civi sites under the same Drupal install, so it made sense put it under all/. I haven't tested that either way. I'll look for ways to submit this as a proper bug and workaround to CiviCRM eventually, but wanted to throw it up here in the hope it picks up search engine traction for others searching for that error message, as there was very little that helped me!

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Government Consultation on Equal Civil Marriages [Mar. 15th, 2012|01:52 pm]
Originally posted by strange_complex at Government Consultation on Equal Civil Marriages
In favour of equal civil marriages? Then it's ACTION TIME! The government's consultation on introducing them opens today, and it's very important for positive voices to be heard. This is not a foregone conclusion, and if we want it, we need to say so loudly and clearly.

It's About Time gives information on the consultation, tips on what sorts of things supporters might say, and a link to where to go to say them (click on 'Take Part'). Please take the time to speak up if you support this proposal. This is not just another online petition, but a direct government consultation where you can really have an influence.

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Rammstein - "Stripped" [Feb. 13th, 2012|08:36 pm]
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[mood |surprisedsurprised]
[music |Rammstein - "Stripped"]

I cannot believe that greyeyedeve had never heard Rammstein, one of her favorite bands, covering Depeche Mode's "Stripped". In case anybody else out there has missed out on this, have a video:



(video is "privacy enhanced" - Google won't set any cookies in your browser unless you hit play. Also works without Flash with WebM-enabled browsers)

Update: Not working as an LJ embed for me. Stupid newfangled Internet fail. Have an old-fashioned link.
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BBC: No Change on Internet Streaming Fail [Jan. 8th, 2012|07:03 pm]
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[mood |cynicalcynical]

In June 2010 the BBC published a consultation on streaming technologies. For people like me who support open formats and eschew proprietary software such as Windows and Flash, this was a good opportunity to propose a model in which the BBC does not attempt to develop and deploy proprietary software to a necessarily limited range of devices, but instead provides open interfaces to its content using open formats, which could be used under certain license terms (such as not allowing the content to be manipulated in ways that didn't make it clear it was BBC content).

The original consultation result was supposed to be published in "early 2011" IIRC; the website for it is broken so I can't double-check that. I noticed recently that it was published in November 2011, after the provisional findings came out in January. And of course, it's grim reading. The BBC will go on developing shitty in-house software for a fraction of available platforms (seriously, have you tried using the PS3 iPlayer application? Appalling.) rather than letting the ingenuity of the Internet provide great interfaces to appropriately-denoted BBC content. There would be uproar if the BBC restricted broadcast of its content to BBC-brand single-vendor TVs that only worked in some houses but not others, but streaming to BBC-brand single-vendor proprietary software which only works on some computers but not others is apparently OK.

Along with the news that Lovefilm are switching from Flash to Silverlight, with Windows-specific DRM which excludes even GNU/Linux users able and willing to use proprietary Flash, it's a grim time for freedom lovers and Windows-eschewers to access content legitimately.

I'd love to pay content creators for the film, TV and music I consume. Not out of any legal obligation, just because I think it's the right thing to do. But there's increasingly less point in me having a TV license (since I can't watch broadcast TV), or a LoveFilm subscription (since greyeyedeve can't watch films on her laptop where she's most comfortable, particularly when her CFS is bad).

For shows that aren't broadcast in the UK at all, I've taken to torrenting them at broadcast time and just buying the DVDs when the region 2 box sets come out. Piracy doesn't just beat legal acquisition of content on price, it beats it on convenience too. Given the dearth of practical options for UK TV and movies, I may adopt this model for BBC content and movies - though then I'll end up with a bunch of DVD boxes that I need to keep somewhere!
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New Commenting System [Dec. 23rd, 2011|03:12 pm]
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Why are both the people left on LiveJournal complaining about the new comment system? It looks literally identical to me - subject lines, preview button and everything.
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Manchester Clock Tower Tours [Dec. 19th, 2011|10:21 am]
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I'm intending to tour Manchester Town Hall's clock tower at 7pm on Wednesday with some Perl people. The tour is £7.50, lasts about an hour, and presumably involves climbing lots of stairs. Anybody else interested? I want to book tickets soon...
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Paid Account [Dec. 11th, 2011|07:18 pm]
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I've just started having a paid LJ account again. Not because I'm bothered by the features, more a show of solidarity for a service I still use, and hopefully cash they can invest in more DDoS protection.
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Geek Advice: Desktop Build System [Dec. 11th, 2011|06:49 pm]
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I'm sending the below mail to Aria; anything I've forgotten? I'm basically looking for a desktop-format box with plenty of RAM and CPU to run VMs and use for word processing, DTP etc. I'd like it to be quiet most of the time, but be able to deal with multiple VMs when the occasion calls for it.


I'm wondering if you can help me. I am looking to buy a new desktop system. I have particular requirements which don't seem to be met by your pre-built systems, but I'm not confident about trying to match components for a working system. Basically, I'm looking for a desktop machine which I will be using as a sort of home server. I won't be using it for gaming. I'm a network admin and will be using virtual machines to experiment with different setups.
  • Mininum quad core CPU (or 2 dual-core) with hardware-accelerated virtualisation (VT)
  • Min. 8GB RAM, upgradeable to 16 or 32GB
  • No hard disks (I have these already)
  • Intelligent power-saving including PSU
  • Multiple on-board SATA 2 connectors
  • On-board ethernet
  • Intel on-board graphics
  • 22" or 24" 1920x1080 monitor
  • Ergonomic keyboard (wired)
  • Mouse (wired)

Can you recommend a system or set of components that would meet these requirements?

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Summerisle [Nov. 7th, 2011|08:34 am]
Weekend less busy or productive than expected. Friday night currybeer was awesome fun. Managed to get a new friend along, who had a lovely time and said he'd return. Had more beer than usual, didn't get home until gone 1am and promptly slept for much of Saturday. greyeyedeve wasn't well enough to go out to fireworks, but we did take a trip out late-night shopping at a supermarket, such is our rock and roll lifestyle.

Spent Sunday feeling a bit crap, playing Ratchet & Clank on the PS3, and cooking tasty dinner food. I booked plane tickets to go and see wehmuth in a fortnight, and the weekend ended with Half-A-Pig, the latest addition to our household, singing songs from the Wicker Man in his reedy demi-porcine voice. Frankly I'm quite glad it's Monday...

Update: My faint dread at Half-A-Pig seems to have overshadowed this entry. I actually had quite a nice weekend. Not as busy or productive as anticipated, but still pleasant, relaxing and enjoyable.
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