Older blog entries for jtjm (starting at number 8)

Grateful goodbye to a temperamental old friend, and "hello again" to a friendly poison

Interesting week. At times far too much like, variously, a play by Alan Ayckbourne, a novel by Trollope, or bits of an autiobiography of a certain well known professor of psychiatry.

Suffice it to say for now that I decided to take the week off work, and also to keep myself away from a keyboard as much as possible, to get some sleep and to ponder the general direction of life. All this made somewhat easier by going back on the lithium, and slowly coming down off a manic high which a mere two days after my previous diary entry had me convinced that sleep was an entirely optional luxury. Fortunately various friends noticed in time (it's often difficult to get a word in when I'm talking - if it's entirely impossible, ask me whether I've been taking the pills ;-)).

So, the experiment (conducted with knowledge and support of my GP, and initiated a few weeks ago) with coming off lithium after four years on it, is brought to a close, and I add it again to my list of vices. I shall miss the highs (there's some pleasant irony in an illness which allows you to go and dance amongst the stars anytime you want purely by /not/ taking any drugs). Not that I'd recommend it - this time I was fortunate to catch it early, thanks to those alert friends - if I'd carried on climbing for only a few days longer it might have taken weeks to recover. Whether there will be a price to pay (depression often follows episodes of mania) over the next few weeks remains to be seen - at the moment, I'm comfortable that there won't.

For now then, if you've emailed me, and I've not got back to you yet, I will be doing so over the next week.

Natalie Imbruglia CD

God clearly has a sense of humour. On Friday last week, whilst quite pleasantly high, waiting to pick up the lithium from Tesco's pharmacy, I bought a copy of Natalie Imbruglia's new CD "White Lilies Island", partially out of professional interest (it's the first copy-protected CD from a mainstream artist to be released in the UK), and partially because I'd enjoyed her last album. Drove down to London with it playing on the car CD player (at least one device on which it works), only to discover that Natalie seems to be 'one of us' - at least half the songs on the album describe aspects of both mania and depression too well to be accidental. "Beauty on the Fire", "Goodbye", "Hurricane", "Sunlight", "Butterflies" and "Come September" stand out in particular, though the threads of MD find their way into the other songs too.

So, if you want to know what this strange illness is like, buy "White Lilies Island", and stick it on your CD player while reading Kay Redfield Jamison's "Unquiet Mind". Fortunately, the experience won't be anywhere near as intense as the real thing, but if you're blessed not to be blessed with manic depression, it might make understanding those of us who are just that little bit easier.

8 Nov 2001 (updated 8 Nov 2001 at 13:32 UTC) »


Busy, busy, far too busy, get some discipline into this chap, Sergeant Major... (with apologies to Monty Python for the gratuitous misquote)

Just got back from London (after Lecture by Singh (Code Book) at Royal Institution, meeting with Caspar of the Foundation for Information Policy Research and Greg Taylor of Electronic Frontiers Australia(EFA).

Lecture entertaining/interesting - Singh brought along authentic Enigma machine - first time I've seen one 'in flesh'. Good speaker- nothing really new on Crypto front (except for some details of the Code Book competition had not heard before), as audience presumed not entirely crypto-savvy. Singh gave pretty reasonable response to question about government crypto policy in light of September 11th ("they could ban use of all encryption and still wouldn't stop those who want to hide their activities- they'll just use steganography"). Caspar stunned self, Singh and at least some of audience by revealing (during questions) knowledge of work on quantum crypto that appeared to be news to Singh (or at least different take on a paper he'd heard of). Have to get details for later diary entry.

Learnt much (of workings of Australian and British political systems) from listening to CB and GT's conversation in pub post lecture. Whether feeble excuse for a memory will remember much of it tomorrow remains to be seen.

Campaign for Digital Rights

Returned from London to find 70 KB of IRC logs from tonight's CDR meeting waiting for me. Have skimmed through, and seems owe the collected stalwarts apology for being apparently crap and not getting done (m)any of the things said would at last's week IRC. Basically, had hoped to have some time for CDR last weekend, however, had two days of NTL cable-modem outage whilst on holiday (much of which spent on hold to NTL listening to about 24 bars of 'On Every Street' on loop), which meant the machine I was prepping for FIPR didn't get prepped at all until the morning was supposed to be delivering it. Hoped to finish prepping once it was in place at FIPR's head office, only to lose another day (Friday) when FIPR's ADSL line went down until Saturday morning. Spent Saturday foolishly trying to get 2.4.12-ac6(IIRC) compiled using Woody's default 2.4.12 .config (wanted ext3 support on box), only to discover that the Debian package maintainer had decided the later 2.4.x kernels would use initrd and hadn't bothered to make this obvious. 45 min kernel recompile time eventually forced me to give up on ext3 temporarily (after 3 attempts, fixing what looked the obvious causes for kernel panics of diff. sorts on boot, and much time wasted trying to find convenient docs on how initrd, make-kpkg and cramfs all work together) - so now running default Debian 2.4.12 kernel which for some equally bizarre reason has support for ext3 disabled, despite having every module known to man, and several probably not known to any but the likes of Linus and Alan Cox enabled . Believe have since hit on solution, and will try again when next have hour or two to spare in London.

Then spent Sunday configuring same machine remotely having returned home and grabbed reasonable night's sleep, and got mod_virgule installed on box late Sunday evening as small community/collobaration project management tool designed to assist FIPR in getting its volunteers active and 'gelled' (yeuch! - soap already on way to mouth) quickly. (With thanks to Telsa for patiently showing me round Advogato some weeks ago, without which explanation would probably not have either turned up here or ever realised just how useful mod_virgule could be to any volunteer based org (jury still out on whether will actually take off as hope will with FIPR - there may yet be something special about those gathered here that makes Advogato work but isn't replicated along with code - will let people know what comes of this experiment.

Monday - back to work(Zeus), more configuring of FIPR machine in evening, after great fireworks party at friends house in Cambridge

Tuesday - more work, met v. impressive new volunteer for FIPR in evening. Got some sleep thankfully.

Today, - much work, drove down to London for meeting mentioned above, back late, now writing this instead of going to bed like sensible fellow

Things promised, not yet done, but not forgotten

Links to Andre Hedrick's anti-DRM advocacy on CDR website, page of website for AiboHack (to add Softman-Adobe and European Patent Office 'we don't care what you think, we've just issued EU Directive allowing patents on software, business process, algorithms, wheels and fire, after closed door meetings to which we forgot to invite any but ourselves' revoltingness. Not to mention 110 things for CDR, and almost as many for FIPR.

Anyway -> bed. Need sleep.

New Project: UK Campaign for Digital Rights

Working on...

Hope to get cable modem working again in next hour. Then back to websites for CDR and FIPR, aibohack stuff, etc, and installing new box.
Customer support is just as bad as everyone has said it is. Cable Modem worketh not, nor will it till tomorrow. Local Debian Mirror will have to wait.
30 Oct 2001 (updated 30 Oct 2001 at 20:31 UTC) »

Busy couple of days, slightly frustrating, as now have three very nearly completed mini-projects of varying sizes, none of which yet quite ready to show to their intended audiences.

Been working on an internal website for a non-profit I'm associated with- initially was just going to be a project document sent via email, but whole thing became so unwieldy that it would have been unmaintainable and a few web pages seemed more sensible. Now have basic structure, just filling it in. Hope to have that finished tonight.

While working on that yesterday, got called up for a quote for the New Scientist on the AiboHack nonsense from Sony. Have exchanged emails with author of AiboHack code. Part way through turning this into a brief opinion piece for the CDR website, but a few loose ends to tie up. Sony have him to rights on the basic distribution of modified software issue, but this still looks like a blatant attempt to prevent the creation of a compatible program, with " circumvention of a copy-protection mechanism" just a convenient excuse.

David Touretzky is on the case, and has mirrored one of the files concerned (copyprot.htm) on his DMCA Gallery page (linked off the bottom of the page). As David implies, a pretty clear case of the DMCA being used to censor free speech.

The author could have published his software as patches to the original Aiboware (instead of redistributing modified versions) - but won't do so since the tool necessary to apply the patches would have to break Sony's copy-protection in order to do its job (still leaving him open to prosecution under the DMCA). His email to me quoted in this post on the CDR mailing list.

And a key member of CDR who's been trying to get hold of me for a couple of days finally did, only to tell me he's going to be sent to Canada until Christmas. C'est la vie!

Sunday v. busy. Someone slashdotted an article from Silicon re. the European Copyright Directive, someone else skimmed the directive itself, and decided that it wasn't a threat at all, got moderated up, and in the meantime, Slashdot's moderation code broke again, so that I found myself unable to post a response. (still no word from the mysterious pater).
Therefore posted my response to the CDR website - see this for more details, including link to original thread.

Idea: page/section of site with links to informed commentary about threat posed by EUCD from prominent Open Source programmers (esp. Europeans) would be helpful to allow people to get up to speed quickly, and so that they don't just have to take our (CDR's) word for it.

Should anyone read this and already have written something I can link to, feel free to drop me an email at jtjm@xenoclast.org. I know alan already has something in draft form...

Rushed off to London later yesterday for FIPR meeting (from around 1700 to gone midnight). V. constructive, for once.

Doh! Massive embarassment. Updated frontpage of www.xenoclast.org yesterday with some cool, but entirely gratuitous DHMTL wizzy comets that a friend sent me (man with too much spare time on his hands), and somehow deleted the link to the actual content. Now corrected, and advogato home page links directly to latter instead of former.

27 Oct 2001 (updated 27 Oct 2001 at 17:27 UTC) »

Cable modem up and firewalled. NTL still confused by the fact that we didn't need to rent or buy a cable-modem from them, managed to print out internal notes to their own staff on the invoice for the connection "[name-deleted]-upsell" ;-) (This after housemate had had to explain no less than 5 times last week "no, we don't want to rent/buy cable-modem. Yes, that /is/ because we've got one already. Yes, we are sure it will work. Yes, we can install it ourselves. Why - the household comprises two Unix consultants/network engineers". Didn't stop NTL sending us a useless USB cable-modem anyway. Took 15 minutes for housemate to persuade them that they might want to take it back. He's still not convinced they'll ever get round to doing so, since script being followed by random phone operative clearly didn't cater for people who wanted to return unnecessary kit

Took opportunity to re-read Rusty's unreliable packet-filtering guides.

Much FIPR/CDR stuff todo tonight. Excellent stir-fry cooked by housemate for lunch.

Oh, for those in the UK reading this - steer well clear of all services related to Lloyds-TSB. Customer service non-existent, no-one I've spoken to or received letters from recently has had any authority to do anything the Lloyds computers don't allow them to. Needless to say, substantial evidence now exists that the computer systems are themselves hideously broken. Just don't go there, and if you're there already, get out soon.

First real day of holiday. Started catching up on two weeks worth of email and washing. Vaguely tidied house, had afternoon beers with Eddy, and got the search feature working on the UK CDR's website. Brain almost back in complete working order after hectic week.

Now need to spend couple of hours trawling mailing lists, the web, etc to get back up to speed on the EUCD, Sklyarov, CD issues, etc

Cable modem arrives tomorrow (NTL permitting) ;-)

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