Older blog entries for AlanHorkan (starting at number 347)

Sunshine on a frosty day

Climbing in Dalkey Quarry with Jack, Jenny, Luke, Colin, Ursula, and Alan.

Routes climbed: Paradise Lost, and F Route
(and an icy scramble down a corner of the quarry)

Jack was not attacked by a ravenous mountain goat but a gremlin did steal his crabs (aka carabiner).
Coly was hugged by all. Not because anyone likes him, just because his legendary blue jacket is so warm.
Luke went back and reclimbed Paradise Lost successfully completing his first outdoor lead climb.
Alan "milkbottle" got (more) sun burnt, in Ireland in February, with frost, snow, and ice, on the ground.

Luke, Colin, Ursula, went to 'casa de Alan' (as Coly put it) and enjoyed a meal of Chili con Carne.
Many laughs were had, good climbing, excellent day.

Syndicated 2007-02-07 23:51:08 from alanhorkan

Trinity Climbers in Glendalough

Summary:
Trinity Climbers trip to Glendalough, County Wicklow, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, February, 2007.
Another excellent trip, made especially pleasant by the blessing of fine weather.
Saturday: Acorn Buttress. Three routes. From right to left, Fascilis Descendus (HS 4b), Provo (VS 4c), and one other route (most likely Inferno).
Sunday: Expectancy. Two routes. An abseil route to the right us was also put to use by our group and several others passing by.



*** INCOMPLETE DRAFT ***

Glendalough is a popular location, so much so that it was unavailable for the second trip of the year which ended up going to the Mournes. An elite few had spent New Years in Glendo, but it was just a taste of things to come.
Rather than pedantically translate Gleann Dá Locha (Glendalough) or repeat what so many tourist brouchers have said already or a picture could more easily communicate, I would suggest instead that depending on your level of English fluency you might be able to take an educated guess at the meaning of the name Glendalough, especially if I were to point out the words
glen and lough/loch should be found in any good English dictionary and note "dhá rud" is Irish for two things (counting things but not people). In any case, we invariably shorten Glendalough to Glendo, and I will refer to it as such here after.

The trip began on Friday, a mountain of gear accumulating outside the Luce hall and people running round at the last minute trying to pick up a few extra bits and pieces. Jack had shrewdly exaggerated and told people to meet at 5:30 which nearly everyone had actually arrived by 6 o'clock and we wandered over to the fag on the crag (Oscar Wilde statue, Merrion Square) only to discover the bus driver would be at least another hour. The upside of this delay meant there was time for a pint and some food in the Pav although most of the group decided to stay with the bags and equipment. Captain Ger, Louisa, Casia, Harry, Alan (me), and possibly one or two others, took full advantage of the opportunity to share a quick meal and line our stomachs for the trip ahead.
Once we were on board the bus journey was stunningly short in comparison to other expeditions to places further afield than Wicklow. Stricter controls on the numbers meant we could all fit in a smaller twenty seater coach, there was room enough to drive in, turn around, and drop us right at the door of the IMC Hut. (The alternative in past years had been a long troublesome night hike, with large amounts of heavy gear, awkward loose groceries, and other odds and ends, which felt much longer than it actually was.) Former climbing club captain Liam Murray (who has since become a captain in the Irish Defense Forces) was in the hut to welcome us with a a roaring fire and an already empty bottle of red wine.
Beds were quickly claimed and the table and fridge filled with an abundance of food and kettles set to boil for dinner to cook. After a minor setback and the realisation the kettles were plugged in but the power strip they were attached to wasn't yet connected to the wall, we were able to cook up many different pasta or noodle based meals. Meanwhile drinking began, and several cars full of people swelled our numbers to almost thirty.

There were many things which made this trip remarkable but the Hookah pipe is pretty high on the list. Ari (our man from Finland) had gone to the trouble of bringing this rather large and complicated looking device, carefully reassembling it, filling the glass bowel with water, and lighting the charcoal burner. The combination of large group of students having a party and an elaborate smoking device might lead you to certian incorrect assumptions but flavoured tobacco was what was the only substance being smoked in the Hookah this weekend. The tobacco smelled a lot like raisins to me, as for how it tasted you will need to ask others, as my attention was devoted to some fine Belgian beers. Starting with a small bottle of Duvel, moving on to a more generously sized bottle of Leffe Blonde, after which resorted to generic beers not worth mentioning. The evening was finished off with a taste of tonic wine from the monks of Buckfast Abbey &ndash purely for medicinal purposes of course &ndash and the rest of the bottle safely stored for the next evening.

Musical entertainment was provided not only by Ger the reluctant banjo player, but also Luke on guitar and Deirdre on bodhrán. Deirdre can hardly be described as shy but turned out to be almost as reluctant to play in front of crowd as Ger (somewhat less reluctant when playing in a group). She was however willing to teach and many were happy to try their hand at the bodhrán, although in most cases not literally using their hand but rather the wooden tipper and using only one end. Ari was particularly capable, thanks to previous drumming experience and provided precussion for Ger and Luke on several tunes.


*** INCOMPLETE DRAFT ***
(Maybe another half or two thirds more to go.)

References:
Wicklow.com page for Glendalough
Wikipedia page for Glendalough
Wikipedia page explaining a bodhrán is a type of drum, and more.

Disposable Camera Photo Scans by Lena Doherty:
Photo gallery of Glendalough Trip February 2007
Photo gallery of
Glendalough New Year's Trip



Writers Note:
In the particular context of an online journal it may seem odd to explain Alan (me) is the author of the document but it would be poor writing style if a printed version of this article no longer made sense and this is a relatively easy way to achieve the required clarity.

Syndicated 2007-02-04 23:38:32 from alanhorkan

Rice - Suitable for vegetarians

Thank you captain obvious. Believe it, the packet of rice I cooked this evening really does explain rice is suitable for vegetarians. It begs the question is there rice that is unsuitable for vegetarians?

Cooked dinner for the parents this evening, Thai Green Chicken Curry. Nothing fancy, three chicken breasts, sauce from a jar, and a little bit of sweetcorn. Diluted the sauce a bit thin with the milk I used to rinse out the jar and the other cooking juices but after a long time simmering it thickened back up nicely, and the sweetcorn made a nice difference without changing the flavour too much.

Next on the list is cooking some biscuits (no not cookies, biscuits) from our childhood favourite the Mr. Men Cookbook. Haven't done much cooking in years and although I'm as capable as ever progress is much much slower.

Syndicated 2007-01-27 20:05:06 from alanhorkan

How could you not like Disney?

Some people might wonder why Disney gives me the creeps and why I am much slower to say favourable things about them or buy their products (including their takeover of Pixar, and aside even from the issue of the quality of their products). Sure dont they make cute cartoons and family films? Take a look at an example of them throwing their legal weight around in attempt to stifle freedom of expression and fair use so as to distract from hate speech. There are no shortage of examples of their litigiousness if you care to search, and their rabid protection of their copyrights is in stark contrast to their plundering of the Public Domain for inspiration.

Syndicated 2007-01-07 20:05:31 from alanhorkan

Software Development: Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Been taking some of free time to read through various mailing lists of projects which I am no longer involved (a project from which I was so rudely and unceremoniously and unilaterally banned). Not only are the same questions reoccurring but also the same condescending replies and complaints about the questions are reoccurring. Even if the people involved are not likely to read this I feel it is worth writing a little about the problems [and possibly make updates to this document in the future] so that others may learn from their all too obvious mistakes.


Question: Why do users keep asking the same questions?

Answer: Some users will always ask the same questions and never make any attempt to figure out the answer for themselves. It is easier and better to say nothing than respond rudely to these users, or failing that provide a short response that developers are aware of the issue. There are ways to reduce the number of questions asked but the sooner you accept the inevitable the better things will be for all involved.


Question: Why do developers keep asking why users keep asking the same questions?

Answer: Every question is an opportunity, questions often highlight various problems of some kind or another. Not all developers realise this. Many think they do but only understand it on a very superficial level.
If a project does not have good documentation and a clearly marked section for Frequently Asked Questions then developers should not be at all surprised when the same questions get asked over and over again. At the very least it is important to back link to previous discussions because it increases the chance of search engines leading users to the right answers.
If features of a program are difficult to find or understand then further testing and usability review may be needed. I know this sounds so obvious as to be patronising but all too often developers blame the user and fail to consider ways in which the software could be improved to make things even more obvious and questions avoided. If bug are known or features are missing long enough for the same questions to be asked frequently then once more it is worth expanding the list of Frequently Asked Questions or even creating a separate list of Known Bugs


Question: What to do? This isn't very encouraging!

Answer: Always try to create new contributors.

A collaborative system like a Wiki makes it easier to encourage users to help answer questions and write up the answers for future reference.
With more technical problems users should be encouraged to submit patches. Telling users to fork the project is not encouraging, not only that it is actively turning contributors away, and failing to instead of compromising and finding something mutually beneficial for them to work on.
Not all (not many in fact) users will be in a position to submit patches and even those who do may submit work that is more hassle than it is worth to maintain.
Expecting them to write patches with a very low chance of being accepted is not encouraging either. A project with clear goals where users get a sense of what is beyond the ordinary scope of the project can help reduce the number of unrealistic requests and proposals which would be too difficult to maintain.


I would hold up Inkscape and Abiword as projects which often do a good job of these tasks. Inkscape has been particularly successful in incrementally documenting problems, making it increasingly easier for the next brave soul to solve (case in point: better support for Macintosh users). Bullying unsuspecting users might amuse some but pointing people in the right direction is far more productive in the long run. There are far too many projects which fail to understand the need for maintainers to manage and guide as much as develop. Creating more contributors should create a self sustaining cycle and more active contributors should mean more time to work on the problems which really interest you.

Here's looking to the New Year and doing things a little differently, hopefully better.

Syndicated 2006-12-27 14:53:06 from alanhorkan

Dead Horse

American Pie was a crude but funny and fresh take on a tired genre, teen sex comedies. The franchise was stretched out to three whole films, although the third film was thankfully better than the second and we all thought it was finished off nicely. Then came along the unwanted direct-to-video fourth installment "American Pie Band Camp" which barely managed to get two of the original cast to put in an appearance, although it did feature the lovely Arielle Kebbel.

Little did I know the horse was in for another flogging, a fifth American Pie title "The Naked Mile". It seems American Pie is trying to become a franchise and be like National Lampoons and churn out endless barely related sequels. Speaking of which National Lampoons are releasing a sequel to Van Wilder, with the Indian guy set in England.

It could be worse, someone might decide to make a sequel to the awful film Tenacious D, The pick of Destiny. A terrible film which forces me to reevaluate how I ever found Jack Black amusing but still only the second worst film featuring Tenacious D. The prize of worst film featuring Tenacious D still goes to the Pauly Shore film Biodome, blink and you'll miss them but Tenacious D do make an appearance.

Syndicated 2006-12-06 15:22:26 from alanhorkan

Beer and Crisps

If you aren't Irish or have not lived in Ireland at least for a while the following entry may not make much sense.

Crisps

Tayto is synonymous with crisps in many part of Ireland and it seem strange how only now have the released the deceptively simple "ready salted" flavour. The package resembles an Argentinian Football player, light blue and white vertical stripes. The crisps themselves are fairly predictable, my only complaint is a more lightly salted crisps would make it easier to eat excessive quantities but in the long run that is probably for the best.
Not only have Tayto released this new flavour but they have released Podge and Rodge branded crisps for culchies. The crisps are rippled and seem suspiciously like existing varieties but I've only tried the Buffalo Breath flavour so far.

North Side Guinness
Guiness must have realised that any new product would cannibalise their existing market so for a little over a year now they have run the Guinness Brewhouse Series releasing variations on the traditional Guinness Stout. The most recent Northstar stout has been entirely underwhelming and for my money you may as well drink Beamish. The previous Toucan brew was nice enough, less heavy for the summer months. Still I'd much rather go to the Porter House and drink their various stouts. For such a nation of drinkers it is a shame we have such limited variety in our beers.

Syndicated 2006-12-03 01:33:23 from alanhorkan

IFI French Film Festival - Cyrano De Bergerac

Saw Cyrano De Bergerac at the IFI as part of the Cafe Noir French Film Festival. Classic.
Will probably go see Horseman on the Roof later in the week, maybe others too if I have the time.

Syndicated 2006-11-29 00:18:27 from alanhorkan

Climbing Photos: Irish Bouldering League - Galway 2006

A gallery of photos from the Irish Blouldering League (IBL) was posted on the Climbing.ie website. These things are always more fun with captions which unfortunately the site doesn't allow so instead I will add a few comments of my own and point out some of the photos which may be of more interest to Trinity climbers.

I will only link directly to one image, as it not polite to hot link other peoples images. I should also warn that because it is an outside link it could easily break or be changed and I cannot take any responsibility for any of the links breaking or images looking any more horrific than they already do. Other links will be normal links to the Climbing.ie website.


Call the Exorcist: Paddy Clarke Possesed
Call the Exorcist: Paddy Clarke Possesed
.
Paddy Clarke climbing in a snowstorm. Maybe it wasn't snowing indoors and there was just chalk everywhere but I like my explaination better. Paddy starts from sitting, watched by Brian and Tanja.

Watching and waiting. Crowds of climbers await there turn and puzzle out how to approach the problems. Hamish can be seen in his orange/red top with Brian standing beside him, and Heather on the right at the middle. Katriona can be seen back centre wearing her pink top and Tanja is on right wearing a blue top. Heather climbing problem 11 jamming foot hard in the corner. Hamish watches Heather scoring, I mean keeping score, clipboard in hand.
You can tell by the shirt it is Brian, if that is in fact his real name! Brian and Brian again.
Photos of peoples backs are not particularly interesting and it can be difficult to tell who is who, I only recognised my own photo by the hoodie I was wearing. Not the guy climbing, but on the left Alan (me) can be seen trying to figure out climbing problem 14, the one with the odd stickey outey bit. Got quite close and I know I could have done it on a good day but couldn't get it in the required three attempts.
Katriona climbing in her pink cardigan. Tanja stands up to start on problem 9. Looks like Leena.

Message scrawled on the grey masking tape on the wall instucts climbers to start from a seated position. It is not a suggestion to wear your own ass for a hat, easy misunderstanding to make. The climber reaches for the first bonus point on problem 9.

Syndicated 2006-11-20 01:26:14 from alanhorkan

GIMP developers in Copyright Violation scandal!

Now that I've got your attention I actually want to mention Google code search. Google code search was released a while back and people found various funny things to do with it. The obvious thing for any geek to do is an ego search, and amongst the results of the google code search for Alan Horkan the following comment jumped right out at me:

;; Alan Horkan 2004.  Copyright.
;; I'll fix it and license it differntly later if anyone cares to ask
The comment (spelling mistake and all) is from a gimp script to insert a guide by percent.

Okay so maybe not a huge copyright violation scandal but it gives you an idea of how little code review gets done. No wonder big corporations have serious concerns about where code comes from and SCO were able to create so much fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Be afraid, be very afraid.
Without explicitly asking first the developers committed code I had never intended to be included. Scripts were an easy fix for my own use and I had attached them to a bug report as a good way to show what I thought was needed. I had hoped for a better properly integrated solution written in C instead of several smaller scripts cluttering up the menus (see also Inkscape). Rather than argue it I took the easy out and decided to let them continue on, one less argument I didn't need. In truth I did argue the point, this was just one of several scripts, and I did repeatedly ask them to correct the copyright information on at least one of the other scripts (which they eventually did) but it seems this last one slipped by.
If I were a litigious person where would the responsibility lie, the developer who committed the code, the maintainers, or the distributors? Not only did the GIMP developers fail to adequately review the code but none of the distributors reviewed the code either, contributory infringement anyone?

Comparesoft (founded by Michael Robertson) also appear to have violated my copyrights by distributing two of my scripts. Mostly I am unimpressed by their failure to ask or inform me of their intention to use my scripts and distribute them to users. Not sure how to proceed or if I should do anything about it at all. My scripts were marked as copyright, not GPL and were not intended for redistribution beyond personal use and I had expected people to ask before doing anything with them. Irregardless it is common courtesy to ask and vigilant lawyers usually insist on their clients asking (as can been seen from frequent letters from magazine publishers requesting permission) even for software released under the GNU General Public License (GPL). Comparesoft are well within their rights to distribute rebranded open source software but I do hope their customers understand that they are really only being charged for the technical support and the same software is freely available from other sources.

The ego search reminded me of quite a few projects I had contributed to and where some of that copious spare time spent on Open Source software had gone to. It gave me a good feeling to realise quite how many different projects I have managed to have even a small influence on. A million monkeys on a million typewriters?

Syndicated 2006-11-05 23:34:25 from alanhorkan

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