I had to get some stuff from Ikea, and the closest one that had what I wanted in stock was Wembley. So on my way back, I took a look at the area I spent a very formative year or two: where I transitioned from a self-righteous, tee-total christian, to the drunken, atheist scamp you've all come to know and love.

That Hirst Research Center has been torn down and converted to flats (with shops on the ground floor and thankfully no gardens(*)) was already known. But the Dog and Duck hasn't just been renamed - it's been converted into a Tesco Express!

(*) you wouldn't want to touch anything that had grown in the ground where HRC had been. Over a century of dubious chemicals poured away, many years before Health and Safety (or even the knowledge of how toxic some of them were) existed.

Screen resolutions

Back in the 90s, my home computer's monitor happily supported a resolution of 1600 × 1200 (*). Then LCDs arrived and for 20-odd years 1920 x 1080 was about as high a resolution as you could hope for without spending a fortune. Finally 4k screens are common enough that it's economical to buy a monitor supporting a better resolution than I had in my 20s... and my eyesight is no longer good enough to benefit :-)

(*) for desktop and work apps. GPUs didn't exist, and CPUs were too slow to run games or video at anything like that spec.

Interesting times in open source

So the idea of open source is that you write some code you need/want. You then release the code so that other people can use it as well. They add features, fix bugs and extend it to work on other systems. They benefit from the original code you wrote, you benefit from the new features and fixed bugs. And if you need to use it on Arm, or a Mac or whatever in later years, then someone's probably already done the porting work for you. Win-win.

There's a relatively new language out there called Rust. It's about as fast and powerful as C++, but has a bunch of clever features that make various nasty bugs build-time errors. It's an awesome language with only a few drawbacks
1) it's fairly hard to learn
2) build times are a little slow
3) it's not supported on as many platforms as more mature languages
4) it's new enough that there aren't many jobs out there asking for it

But the benefits are large enough that it's becoming increasingly popular. And some open-source projects are starting to use it. One of which is a python cryptography library. They've decided to write some new features in Rust, first being some ASN.1 parsing code. ASN.1 is what happened if JSON/.XML was written by two guys who spent their time arguing over whether saving every possible bit of storage was more important than saving every possible CPU cycle, while standing on the dismembered remains of anyone who suggested keeping things simple. ASN.1 parsing is an ideal job for Rust: it should be quick and efficient to run, while ensuring that malformed input sequences can't cause buffer overruns.

Unforttunately the users of the library are being bitten by drawback 3). It turns out that there are quite a few platforms out there that can happily run python, but not code written in Rust. This is causing some upset.
 - The writers of the cryptography library are of the opinion that 99% of their users (including themselves) will benefit from fast, secure ASN.1 parsing, and don't see why those users should miss out on that, due to the remaining 1%
 - The writers of Rust say that they'd love to support more platforms, but they don't have enough developers or, in some cases, access to the actual hardware
 - The current users of the library on about-to-be-unsupported platforms argue that the existing library works fine for them, and if authors want Rust-based libraries, why can't they write a new library rather than screwing over users of the existing library.

It turns out that the majority of complaints from from users on
 - the Amiga
 - an obsolete IBM mainframe system

Which rather reduces my sympathy for the final group. If you can afford to buy and run an IBM mainframe (even an obsolete one), you can afford to pay someone to write some damn code for you, and you certainly can't expect the Rust developers to track down and buy a mainframe to develop on. And as for Amiga users: I have a very soft spot for my beloved A500, but I owned that in the *80s* It's time has passed. Suck it up and join the 21st century.

More info here:

It all went a bit wobbly there for a bit

So our Christmas plans took a bit of a hit with everything being more contagious and locked down than expected. Fortunately we had a turkey roast in the freezer in case of emergency. Then on Friday, Faye fell ill with a fever. And complained that things "tasted funny". She'd fully recovered by Sunday, but her symptoms ticked enough covid boxes that we ordered a testing kit. Not sure if you've tried shoving a small brush down a 7 year old's tonsils while avoiding their tongue: I advise avoiding the experience if possible. We utterly failed, so had to go to a testing center to get a grown up to do it.

Except that's not how it works. I had to shove a small brush down a 7 year old's tonsils while in a car, without another grown-up to help me. Two brush thingies later and we finally got there.

Then it was just a small matter of going into self isolation with an understocked larder and what we could get from the milkman and deliveroo. Fortunately we got the all clear today, and thus were able to hit Sainsburys for enough food to supply us with a somewhat more elaborate christmas feast.

You know, I'm fairly sure that they do.

Overheard a conversation yesterday where a man was going on about an idiot friend of his. Said friend apprently had a cunning plan to make money -  fly between countries and smuggle drugs. "They never check for that kind of thing".

It's a miracle!

Just filled in my tax return, and the basic PAYE stuff is already prefilled with the information from the P60 and P11D files that my employer had sent the tax man months ago!

How did it take this long?

Frantic trip to the co-op

- So Faye: what are you most looking forward to tomorrow?
- an orange. Santa always puts an orange in my stocking
- <Ah. So sweet. So innocent... Hang on a second...>
 - Jacki! I'm just popping out to the co-op for something...

Where are all the cool kids hanging out these days?

Well poop! G+ is shutting down :-(

- LJ had even fewer of my chums posting than G+
- I'm not touching facebook with a bargepole
- Tweets are too short to be interesting 99% of the time, or allow for nuance 99.999% of the time.
- LinkedIn isn't really a great place to be posting amusing stories about my children, or status updates on the house

Anyone on Dreamwidth? Diaspora? Or should I just investigate this "Phone" app thing I've seen in the stock android image?

One last flickering hope

There's still a slim hope. The referendum wasn't legally binding: the House of Commons still need to vote to exit the EU.

Please write to your MP (e.g. with ), especially if
a) your area voted to remain (use to find out), in which case your could argue that your MP should prioritise the views of their constituents, over the views of the country and/or
b) your MP is pro-EU (use to find out) in which case they might be persuaded to vote with their conscience.

All these unwanted Windows 10 installations...

Our two reamining windows 7 hold out machines have nothing except a little notification in the system tray. There's never been any nag screens while presenting weather on TV, or forced installations while livestreaming a computer game over the internet (although to be fair, there been no weather presenting or livestreaming at all).

Have I somehow gained the respect of Microsoft itself or... no. Please no. Please tell me that people aren't still regularly using admin user accounts on windows?