Andrew Channels Dexter Pinion

Wherein I write some stuff that you may like to read. Or not, its up to you really.

September 27, 2003

Instant Messaging

Last month it was MSN Messenger access being restricted, recently its Yahoo restricting which clients you use.

In the last couple of weeks I installed a Jabber server at work and its being used very successfully for all of our internal messaging.

So that's it. I'm giving up on MSN and Yahoo. You can find me on Jabber (as

Posted by Andy Todd at 04:00 PM | Comments (0)

September 25, 2003


I've just downloaded an ISO image of Knoppix 3.3 and burnt it to a CD. I put it in the drive on my work laptop and pressed the on button.

Bingo. I'm running a full GNU/Linux system with an X11 display and full access to my hard drive.

The people behind this are evil geniuses, and I can't thank them enough for spending the time to come up with something so good. Wherever I go now, I've got Debian in my pocket, regardless of the computer I'm using.

The only drawback seems to be that KDE is a bit heavy and doesn't work that well. I'm not sure if it's my machine or not, but IceWM works like a dream. I'm posting this entry through it.

Sadly, my other Debian woes continue. One of these days I'll figure out what on earth I'm doing. Then I'll be dangerous.

Posted by Andy Todd at 10:16 PM | Comments (2)

September 21, 2003

One More Thing

According to this piece the first version of Oracle was written in Fortran. Fortran? Blimey.

When do you think they will port the code base to Java?

Posted by Andy Todd at 11:37 PM | Comments (0)

Standards are a funny old thing

Fancy building an application using web standards and technologies? A recent Slashdot article contains an interesting discussion on the use of PHP. Particularly interesting is the first comment, where the poster compares it to Python, rather unfavourably for PHP.

As a contrast, Simon Willison is proposing that some PHP like features are added to Python's standard library to make building web applications easier.

Meanwhile, Syncato is announced. Its a weblogging software system that extensively uses XML, XSLT and XPath. Jon Udell is a fan. But Martin Fowler is giving up on XSLT as he says it leads to too much duplication and not enough modularisation.

What of J2EE? Well Philip Greenspun thinks it's bunk, and says so here. Well, actually he says that Java is over engineered and not really applicable everywhere it is used. V.S. Babu is the one who extends the argument to J2EE, rather correctly I think.

What does it all mean? I don't know because I broke my laptop this weekend and won't be developing any software, let alone web based, until I master the dark art of display drivers and X11 under the most politically correct of operating systems. Wish me luck.

Posted by Andy Todd at 10:10 PM | Comments (1)

September 16, 2003

Oracle 9i Goodies

I've started on working on yet another project at work, and this time we are using Oracle. Its been a while, and I thought it was about time I caught up with the state of the nation.

I then stumbled across Ask Tom, a question and answer session with one of the company's key technologists. They provide a variety of feeds and the recently updated one is now a feature of my Bloglines subscriptions list.

This morning I was glad that I did subscribe. This article filled in a gap in my knowledge about external tables and introduced me to a new SQL statement, the rather funky looking MERGE.

Its one of those things that you didn't know you needed until it arrived and will save an awful lot of coding in the future. Of course, if it was in DB2 it would lock the table whenever you execute it, but I'm sure that the Oracle implementation will be much more sensible.

<UPDATE>Its actually been around for a while, for a gentle introduction try this article.</UPDATE>

Posted by Andy Todd at 09:47 AM | Comments (3)

September 11, 2003

More Eclipse Plugins

Courtesy of a colleague, DBEdit is a plugin for Eclipse that allows you to browse the structure and contents of databases. All you need is a JDBC driver and you're away.

Posted by Andy Todd at 04:49 PM | Comments (0)

VNC and TightVNC

Courtesy of SourceForge's project of the month, yesterday I came across TightVNC. An extended and improved version of everyone's favourite remote access tool VNC.

I use VNC quite extensively at work, and noting that TightVNC is available as a Debian package I put it on my machine at home. So now I have access to the desktop of my home machine wherever I am, as long as I'm connected to the Internet.

On the way I discovered a feature that I didn't know about, mainly because I've studiously avoided reading the manual. It is possible specify the size of the virtual desktop you use. With the geometry parameter you can get something larger than the rather cramped default of 800x600. Through experimentation I've settled on a reasonable size of 1400x1050.

Posted by Andy Todd at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2003

PythonCard 0.7.2

PythonCard is a GUI construction kit for building cross-platform desktop applications on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

Release 0.7.2 includes over 40 sample applications and tools to help users build applications in Python, including codeEditor, findfiles, resourceEditor, and textEditor. A list of changes since release 0.7.1 is at the end of this message.

All the information you need about PythonCard can be found on the project web page at:

The installation instructions and walkthroughs are available on the main documentation page:

Posted by Andy Todd at 11:36 PM | Comments (2)

September 09, 2003

Regular Expressions? In Oracle? With Their Reputation? Apparently

This just in. Oracle 10g has just been announced. Lets skip over the "g" bit for the moment and concentrate on one part of the announcement;

Oracle 10 contains a regular expression engine.

Let me be the first (but undoubtedly the last) to invoke the wise words of jwz;

Some people, when confronted with a problem, think "I know, Iíll use regular expressions." Now they have two problems.

The definitive source of this quote is here I believe. Am I correct in thinking that citing this particular quote of Mr Zawinski's is becoming something akin to Godwin's Law?

Posted by Andy Todd at 11:22 PM | Comments (2)

September 08, 2003

Good Software vs Bad

I was talking to a colleague today about the general suspicion of open source software around these parts. We agreed that the open vs proprietary discussion is missing the point a little. What we want, we both agreed, is good software.

It doesn't matter if I've paid thousands of pounds/dollars/euros/etc for my database or very little indeed, what I want is something that works.

To criticise all open source software as badly documented is to forget that the documentation you get with pay for software usually artfully excludes mention of things that don't work - don't forget that they are features, not bugs - and that paid for support is measured primarily by the number of cases closed, quality of service often comes a very poor second.

Still, some documentation and support is better than none. Although thanks to newsgroups, mailing lists and, increasingly, blogs good quality information about almost any piece of software abounds on the internet.

We agreed that there is good software and there is bad software. Unsurprisingly we would rather work with the good and see the bad perish.

Posted by Andy Todd at 04:41 PM | Comments (0)

September 04, 2003

Laptop Sleeves

I recently asked if it was possible to buy laptop sleeves in the UK.

Well, now I have an answer. Today I took delivery of my Roadwired laptop sleeve. I purchased it from Proporta and will be using it to carry my work laptop home this evening.

Thanks to Boing Boing for the pointer.

Posted by Andy Todd at 04:30 PM | Comments (2)

September 03, 2003

Quixote Tutorials

Andrew Kuchling has announced a new Quixote site. The only things that is missing is a link to the home of the package, which is here.

The primary content is a couple of tutorials. They are up to his usual very high prose standard and are helping me to become more proficient in this most Pythonic of web applciation frameworks. Check it out if you are interested in Python and the web.

Posted by Andy Todd at 01:23 PM | Comments (0)