Meet the Bloggers

Blogging seems to be taking off in a big way, so much so that the recent Greenbelt Christian festival hosted a session on the Spirituality of blogging. Both Ian over at Youthblog and Sarah at Deep Thought have blogged about the Greenbelt sessions, with Ian even starting a sideline with the I-Spy book of Bloggers.

In a strange coincidence, Robert Scoble, the well known Microsoft evangelist was talking Christian Blogging today too. On a visit to their Dallas Church, (he claims to get evangelism ideas from a pro) he managed to persuade his friend Brain Bailey of the power of having a blog, so much so that Bill is now writing a book called The Blogging Church, backed by a website offering advice on using blogs in a local church. Incidentally, Scobles upcoming book, Blog or Die: Why Businesses Should Blog and How to Do It Effectively is now available to preorder on Amazon.

Traffic Chaos Gets Worse

Things got a whole load worse this week with the closure of the A327 that I blogged about last week. Whilst we had a nice break over the Bank Holiday, with the road being reopened from late Friday afternoon until Tuesday morning, the barriers were back up on Tuesday night. However another of the badly timed local roadworks made it’s presence felt today, with three way traffic lights in the middle of Finchampstead for water main renewal – Finchampstead being the unofficial way most people have been going rather than the official diversion which goes via Reading and Hook. (As an aside, it is worth noting that the New Mill has officially published directions to it’s customers telling them to ignore the diversions and come through Finchampstead – is anyone actually following the official diversion?)

Interestingly, Finchampstead Parish Council spotted that there may be a problem and have the following statement on their site:

From Tuesday 2nd August, the 12 and 15 inch water main through Finchampstead will be relined by SE Water’s contractors Pipeway, … this task will take 5-6 weeks. Inevitably, temporary traffic lights will be in use at times.

To compound the potential traffic disruption, from Monday 15 August the A327 at Eversley Street (southwards from Bluebeckers), is to be completely closed (by Hampshire County Council) for up to 8 weeks to allow for major road repairs. Although some HGV traffic will be diverted, we can expect significant volumes of extra traffic to use Fleet Hill/The Village and also Longwater Road (and hence other Finchampstead routes), in their attempts to find alternative routes past the closure. This closure will be featured on TV news programs to alert drivers.

Clearly, there will be 4 weeks where these works overlap. WDC will closely monitor the situation.

For those who are wondering, WDC is Wokingham District Council, and from previous experience when complaining about badly timed roadworks, will take the tough luck, can’t be that bad attitude, when of course the staff involved, as with those at Hampshire County Council who planned the A327 closure, don’t actually have to sit in the road works every day.

Of course as anybody with children will know, the real problems will start next week, when with the two sets of road works in full swing, all the schools go back, so in addition to the extra school run traffic there will be a number of school buses, and parents parking dropping their kids outside Finchampstead School on the route that everybody is taking anyway. Quite frankly it will be absolute chaos, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there is an accident somewhere in Finchampstead as a result.

If anyone feels the need to complain about this chaos, the two people responsible for the A327 are James Holt and Martin Milner of the Hampshire County Council Highways office, whose phone number is 01256 764444, and e-mail (thanks to Swallowfield Parish council) is [email protected]. Whilst, as I’ve said, I fully accept that these things need to be done, it surely doesn’t take much to realise that if you close a major road, you should minimise any other disruption in the area.

Getting Hooked on Sudoku

Since the sad death of Richard Whiteley back in June, Mum and Dad have been without their daily dose of brain exercising, as a result, Mum has been doing the daily Sudoku puzzles in the Times.

Anyway, when we went up to visit Mum and Dad at the weekend, Beth got interested, and bought a book of puzzles, and challenged me to try one too. Suffice to say that we are all hooked!

Anyway, in true geek fashion, I had a look for an electronic version, so that rather than trying to decode my handwriting, and spending loads on puzzle books, I had a clean electronic version to work with. My little Dell Axim seemed the perfect host.

Looking at the options, there seemed to be two distinct leaders, Spiral Mile’s Sudoku Rules! and Mastersoft Sudoku. I’ve seen rave reviews for both. One direct comparison came down on the side of Sudoku Rules!, and one of the comments against a download of Mastersoft Sudoku highlighted a number of issues in comparison with Sudoku Rules!, so I’ve downloaded trials of both and given them a try.

The first big difference between the two is implementation. Mastersoft Sudoku has gone a .Net compact framework route, whereas Sudoku Rules! is C++. Mastersoft has a pretty regular Windows Mobile style interface, whereas Sudoku Rules! have a rather more unique interface. Mastersoft plays nice with the system, whereas Sudoku Rules! uses as much power as it can get to drive the game engine.

Looking beyond the basic differences, although Mastersoft devotes more screen to the Sudoku board, and has some pretty graphical gimmicks to play the game with colours or icons, in use, I find the smaller board offered by Sudoku Rules! is actually easier to use. The pop-up method offered by Mastersoft is decidedly clunky, especially when making pencil notes of possible numbers, which involves clicking a toggle rather than the quick twin panel method offered by Sudoku Rules!. Looking at the various hints, Sudoku Rules! scores again in my opinion, offering a variety right from a nudge towards the next cell to work out, to a full blown solution, complete with graphical indication of the relationship between this cell and the others.

In terms of features that Mastersoft have that Sudoku Rules! lacks, the main item is the timer and scoring, neither of which really appeals, in fact I tend to find the continuously changing numbers across the bottom of the screen just plain annoying. Even more annoyingly if you run out of points, so do the help and hints – a real pain when learning the game!

The final difference is the price, Sudoku Rules! comes in at $12, Mastersoft at $14.95, so with a cheaper price, and being the one I prefer, it looks like Spiral Mile get my cash!

Fixing Tiger Upgrade Issues

After the failure to get the Tiger upgrade to work yesterday, I’ve been looking at sorting out the issues that caused the upgrade problems.

Firstly, the local mail server gave me a lot of hassles, although that proved to be pretty easy to solve thanks to Howard. At this point it is worth looking back at why I was running a mail server anyway.

For many years my main ISP was Demon, who have always allowed infinite multiple mailboxes on a single account. Until Beth and I got married, I hadn’t needed the feature, however after Beth managed to download a virus from her web based e-mail, whilst all the incoming mail from Demon was virus checked I decided that it would probably be better if we found a way to allow Beth to have an address on the Demon account. Without getting overly technical, Demon cheats a bit to provide the infinite multiple mailboxes, whilst still providing POP3 support, effectively dumping all the e-mail together into one account, and then relying on the user to split it. They do provide ways to do the split, but it is a hassle to set up and either provides one user to get everything, or individual users, no intermediate stage with single users and a catch all address to sweep up the rest. Therefore the most straightforward way to deal with it is just to dump all the Demon e-mail into a local mail server, and use that. Since the Mac includes a built in mail server, that seemed the easiest option.

Things remained like that until Arborfield exchange got broadband, when thanks to their increasing ineptitude, and generally poor product offering, ultimately Zen got my business for my broadband connection. The main negative with Zen was limited e-mail, so at that point I registered a domain name, and hosted this up with gradwell.com. At this point I only had their basic E-Mail Forwarding account that only rewrote the addresses on e-mails, but still needed my local e-mail server to do the sorting behind. Although I’ve subsequently upgraded the gradwell package, I’ve still stuck with the same basic e-mail setup.

Talking over the e-mail issue with Howard, he pointed out that my current gradwell package provided e-mail hosting, and with their superb management system I could easily match the setup I had locally, without needing any local server. One of those occasions where since other circumstances have changed, a different solution is now a lot more straightforward. As a result, I now have a similar e-mail setup configured through the gradwell servers to what I had before, however it should upgrade with a lot less hassle to Tiger, and won’t need any fudges to work either.

The next issue to be addressed, that of Norton Internet Security Mac, was looking like running without a virus checker for a while, as currently only Norton Antivirus had been fixed (for a £26.99 upgrade fee), but a fixed Norton Internet Security was coming, but again that would be a paid for upgrade. However the MacDevCenter.com newsletter turned up this morning, complete with an article about an open source virus checker for the Mac called ClamXav. To be frank, the underlying anti-virus software ClamAV is actually responding as quick, if not quicker to new threats than the majors, pretty ironic for open source, and certainly quicker than the update frequency of the Mac version of Norton! Quite apart from that, it works on Tiger for free (although I’ll probably give the developer a donation), whilst I’ll need to pay to get a working version of Norton.

In fact the only outstanding issue is updating Missing Sync – roll on Tiger!

Back to Panther

After going to bed generally positive over the upgrade to Tiger last night, I’ve encountered several problems with the install, that mean that I am now going back to my backed up Panther installation so we have a usable computer again.

When I booted up this morning, and opened e-mail, all the e-mail downloaded, but for some inexplicable reason, a couple of the messages were duplicated. I assumed there was something up with my configuration of the e-mail server so took a look, and discovered that nothing had been added to either the system.log or mail.log files since 8pm yesterday night. I tried to track down what was causing the lack of logs, but to no avail, so decided to try reinstalling the operating system files.

Having done the reinstall, aside from having accidentally lost all of the e-mail downloaded that morning, everything seemed to work ok, until the Software Update system upgraded to version 10.4.2, at which point I was getting an error whenever fetchmail tried to start. As I noted yesterday it was a bit of fudge, so it’s not surprising that it wasn’t totally robust!

In amongst all of this I still can’t get rid of all of the incompatible Norton. Although I’ve removed all of the applications, somewhere buried deep in the startup are bits of Norton, which are even causing the backup software to be unable to do a backup of the Tiger drive ready to roll back.

Anyway, at this point, ensuring that we have a stable machine for day to day usage is the first priority – the problems with Tiger seem to be related to bits of incompatible code that come across, specifically everything seems to start going screwy when the remains of Norton try to do something. I’ll probably try setting up a clean install of Tiger on another disk partition, and then play about with it on there, whilst leaving the current Panther install as our normal setup. Other options to consider might be to move the mail server off onto a separate box, removing one element of complexity from the upgrade.

Having said that, boy am I glad I took a complete backup of my Panther install before I started. Although it will take a couple of hours to shuffle the data around, at least I have a fully working Mac back up and running.