Moving on (again)

April 11, 2012

I first started blogging on Blogger many years ago. Once I was convinced blogging was here to stay, I set up my own blogging service on a computer under the stairs at home (literally) using WordPress software. After four years of that, I decided I didn’t really want to be in the web hosting business, and moved the blog to a virtual server. Now, in a further retreat from geekiness, I’ve decided I don’t really want to be in the software maintenance business either, and have moved the lot to WordPress.com. Someone else has the hassle of making sure all the latest security fixes etc are installed, and it’s actually a lot cheaper. So it’s altogether a better deal.

Or maybe I’m just getting old :-)


The process of peace

May 21, 2011

Unless you’re well versed in Irish history, it’s hard to appreciate the significance of the Queen’s visit to Ireland that ended yesterday. The history of Britain’s occupation of Ireland goes back four centuries, with many of the familiar elements of colonial domination: the seizure of land by settlers with an alien language and religion; callous disregard – sometimes approaching genocide – of the native population, viewed by the occupiers as a lower form of humanity; mass emigration; an armed struggle with atrocities on both sides leading to partition and a two state solution; and eventual peaceful coexistence.

Palestine has been much on my mind over the past few months, and it is tempting to try and see a parallel between the situation there today and the situation in Ireland a century ago. Will we ever see Shimon Peres or one of his successors bowing his head in respectful memory of Palestinian fighters killed during the intifadas? yet that is equivalent to what the Queen did this week in Dublin.

I have a small piece of family history tied up in this. My Irish grandfather was shot dead by the Black and Tans, possibly the greatest scoundrels ever to wear a British uniform. He was completely innocent, just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It would have been tempting for my grandmother, widowed with a small baby (my mother) to seek some consolation in her grief by honouring her late husband as a martyr to the cause, and pledging never to forget. Fortunately for my mother, she didn’t – she got on with her life, remarried, had another five children, and brought all six up to stay well clear of the paramilitaries and all their hangers-on. She didn’t live to see one of her grandchildren have a successful career in the Royal Ulster Constabulary – a highly dangerous career choice for a Catholic – but I suspect she would have understood.

I found Palestine full of memorials to ‘martyrs’ for the cause – everywhere from market squares to living rooms. I don’t consider my grandfather a martyr, a hero in the struggle for Irish independence. He was just an ordinary guy on his way to do another day’s work blending tea for the people of Sligo. However, I do consider my grandmother, in her own small way, a heroine in the struggle for peace. Peace in Ireland came when the heroes and heroines for peace finally overcame those seeking martyrdom and victory through the armed struggle. I trust and pray it will not be another century before the same victory happens in the Middle East. May what has happened in Ireland be a small beacon of hope for the world.


A day in the Old City

March 4, 2011

Our Palestinian guide Mohammad Barakat was waiting for us in reception at 8.30 as promised. We will be staying in this hotel for another night, with another three walkers joining us tonight and another en route on Saturday. It’s been a beautiful spring day in Jerusalem – non-stop sunshine and temperatures I guess in the low twenties.

The siren is now sounding across the city to announce the start of shabat – the sabbath day, when Jewish Jerusalem comes to a halt and Muslim Jerusalem continues regardless. On our way back to the hotel we were amazed to see a market had sprung up along the streets round the Damascus Gate. Mohammed explained that municipal inspectors don’t work on Friday afternoons, so traders take to the streets. The overflowing fruit and veg stalls were full of bargains – Israeli wholesalers wouldn’t be able to shift stocks until Monday, so the canny Palestinians scooped up the surplus and sold it in these impromptu markets.

We had spent the day weaving in and out of the various quarters of the Old City. It’s staggering to see so much history heaped up (literally) within a square kilometre or so, with each new era building on top of the last. I also can’t think of another city that has ended uo with so many foreign countries owning slices of real estate within its city walls. The most depressing sight was the recent Israeli settlers who have managed to stake a claim to property within the Muslim quarter and flaunt their presence with large Israeli flags and ugly security measures.

The Old City is a complete warren of ancient streets and buildings. Mohammed grew up within its walls and was a faultless guide to the area and a fount of knowledge on its history, both ancient and modern. As we did the rounds of the sights from the Via Dolorosa to the Wailing Wall, we learned a lot about the troubles of the city past and present. Having been brought upon Bible stories and then the Holocaust, it’s hard not to have sympathy for Jews wanting to make a home in Israel. However, once in Israel, they do seem to be doing their best to exhaust that stock of western goodwill by their treatment of their Palestinian neighbours.

Much to talk about over dinner tonight.


For beta or worse

December 6, 2009

Playing with beta software is a good (if slightly risky) way to find out what’s coming round the corner. OpenOffice.org 3.2 is due for release early in the new year, and I’ve been using a beta version to investigate the new features.

The good news is that the software has proved to be perfectly stable in use. I had one little glitch when I first loaded the software, but this was due to some stuff left behind from an old beta of a previous version. Once that was out of the way, everything worked ok.

First impressions:

  • it’s faster to get going. When we launched 3.0, there were complaints that the new version took longer to load. The complaints were justified :( , but the developers have worked hard since them to identify and eliminate the delays, so 3.2 is faster than ever.
  • the Calc developers have excelled themselves with a whole raft of new stuff, from sorting to new functions to filters … the list just goes on and on
  • the Chart team have also been busy, adding a couple of nice new charts, but also tidying up the menus and making the whole thing more obvious in use. And you’re right, there isn’t am OpenOffice.org Chart, like there is a Calc and a Writer – it’s a set of common tools that are available in the other applications.

So, it’s a shame the final version won’t be available in time for Santa to put in your Christmas stocking, but it will make a nice New Year prezzie :). If you’d like to download the beta, head off to the download page, click on Get OpenOffice.org Developer Snapshots, then click on Developer Build – Download the most recent OOo-Dev 3.2.0 build.


Watch OOoCon!

November 4, 2009

Stop Press


The importance of friends

December 21, 2008

I just had a quick flick through the latest results from the OpenOffice.org user survey, covering November/December.

The OpenOffice.org Marketing Project is always interested to know how people find out about OpenOffice.org?

How did you find out about OpenOffice.org?

So the answer is overwhelmingly “by personal recommendation” – 41.2%. Who is making these recommendations??

Who recommended OpenOffice.org to you?

A clear winner – “a friend” – 22.7%. But the importance of friends to OpenOffice.org doesn’t stop here.

How do you usually get help or answers to your questions?

“Colleagues or friends” are also an important source of help – 28.4%, with the “on-line help” system a very close second – 28%.

And in their turn:

Would you recommend OpenOffice.org to close friends?

almost everyone – 97.3% – is happy to recommend OpenOffice.org.

Did you include a CD of OpenOffice.org in all your Christmas cards and gifts this year?


Thank you for the music

September 21, 2008

Up at 05.30 to find a calm and windless morning, so the Flying Cat was able to set off from Skopelos, and we were saved the dash round the coast to Agnonta. The weather deteriorated steadily during the crossing, so by the time we found ourselves back in Volos we were in the rain, waiting in a queue for taxis to take us round to a typically depressing coach station.

The 200km drive in the coach was slower, but considerably less stressful than our taxi journey in the opposite direction at the start of the week. The idea of killing over twelve hours in a damp Thessaloniki before the flight departed was pretty dreadful. Andy’s Rough Guide (courtesy Glasgow Public Libraries) suggested a city centre hotel where we could rent a room to dump luggage and possibly let the more exhausted have a kip. At 75 € it must be a record price for a left luggage facility.

However, everyone brightened up considerably during an amazingly good and cheap lunch/dinner. Robert and Andy finally abandoned the attempt to herd the cats and the party split up as people went off to do movies, sightseeing, or Starbucks, using the hotel as a base. By midnight the sewers in the Hotel Atlas had collapsed under the collective volume of British excrement and a series of taxis hurriedly ferried everyone out the airport.

Not much more to say really: 04:04 from Thessaloniki to Zurich; 07:10 from Zurich to Manchester – an opportunity to catch up on some sleep. Good old Northern Rail did their best to round off the week by replacing the Manchester Airport trains with a bus service, but by 14:20 the last of the party dragged themselves off the train at Waverley.

Robert and Rachel, it was an amazing week: your families are great and your friends are wonderful; and we wouldn’t have missed it for anything. Just don’t do it again :)