tenpastmidnight blog

Making hay while the sun shines

Google Groups 2 beta

While having a poke around in the experimental area of Google today I noticed they have an update to Google Groups: Groups 2 beta. If you have a Gmail account you can log straight in to Groups 2 (I haven't tried with standard Google Groups yet, but I'll bet it will work as well.)

They've updated the interface a bit, matching it more to how Gmail looks. You can 'star' topics, as you can messages with Gmail, then returning to the home page you can see all the active topics you've marked rather than trying to find them again. That's pretty neat.

If you decide to 'Join' a newsgroup, you can have all messages in it e-mailed to you, immediately or as a digest, just as if it was a mailing list. This is very handy for groups which I forget to check and I'm trying it with one of the Volkswagen ones that interests me.

You can add a new Group very easily, by the look of it. This seems to be a competitor to Yahoo Groups. While I like this, I feel it goes against the Usenet side of Google Groups - it's generally tricky to create a new Usenet newsgroup, at least in a section people will look at. However, I can understand why Google want to do more with their groups than just provide a usenet archive / posting system, especially if they're going to compete with all the services Yahoo provides.

As I've now posted in to a newsgroup from my Gmail account, which doesn't let me obscure my e-mail address, I'll soon be able to test out how good the spam filtering is. Old newsgroup posts are the main reason two of my old e-mail addresses still get a ton of spam every month.

Mac update

I phoned Apple on Monday and after a half hour on the phone checking things out (including some very odd key combinations to press when the iBook was turned on) they agreed it was a problem and that they would send a box to send it back in. The box arrived earlier than expected (next day rather than 2-3 as suggested) and UPS have now picked it up and taken it away.

It's stupid to say, but I'm missing it, and have been for a few days while it hasn't been working. It's not that it's a Mac, particularly, it's that it's easy to use, has loads of my stuff on it, and is portable. Still, hopefully it won't be away for long.

Looks like iBook logic board problem

It looks like the problem with my iBook is probably the 'logic board,' which Apple had a lot of problems with in my era of laptop. This is both good and bad. Bad is it's a big fix and has to be sent away, good is lots of other people have had the problem (OK, not very good) and have hassled Apple in to doing free fixes for it.

I've sent a mail to the people I bought it from as a refurbished unit to ask who I should contact. If they don't get back to me, I'll have to go to Apple direct. As long as the machine has a serial number in a certain range they'll fix it for free.

Apple page about iBook logic board failure

iBook problems and connecting OS X to Windows 2000 share

On the way home from Leamington tonight I discovered my iBook has a problem - it wouldn't unlock from it's screensaver, so I had to reboot it by holding down the power button for several seconds. First it wouldn't boot, having some slight distortions on the screen whilst in the boot process, which it never seemed to finish.

Various attempts at booting, it starts fine and runs great for twenty minutes or so, then crashes, the screen giving a distorted image and freezing.

Hmm, put it back in my bag, get home and turn it on, it's OK. Get my PC and router set up and try to find out how to connect them together so I can back up the Mac in case it is going wrong.

This turns out to be easy. Both computers are connected by the same router. I create a new folder on my Windows computer and use Properties -> Sharing to open it up to everyone (which is just me on the network, otherwise that wouldn't be too secure.)

On the Mac I click on the desktop to get Finder to be active, then go to the 'Go' menu, 'Connect to Server', I've found out the IP address of my Windows PC but it finds it after a few seconds searching. I choose the PC to connect to it and get asked for my Windows username and password. OS X then asks me which share I want to connect to and I choose the folder I made. After a moment I have an icon for the folder on my desktop.

I'm copying over as much as possible. The iBook has crashed once since I started doing this but it was out of the room, I think it had finished copying the stuff I'd started before it froze. One annoying thing I keep getting is 'The operation cannot be completed because one or more required items cannot be found. (Error code -43)' which is very annoying. Apparently it's something to do with Samba which handles the code connecting up to my Windows machine. This doesn't make it less annoying, especially as it stops copying any more files.

This is like the error you get when copying files around in Windows - one error and it stops everything, and you have to look through everything and find out where it stopped so you can restart manually - why not offer to skip the file and keep going? That would be a much nicer error to get, and a list of skipped files at the end of it, along with a more helpful error message.

Hmm, another error, and more copying to do. Hopefully done soon and I can finally get to bed.

Bins on train stations

[Written a couple of weeks ago and found in my paper notebook.]

During my first week in Leamington Spa there were bins on the platforms. These weren't proper bins, just lidded hoops with a bag swinging underneath, but at least it was a bin. Now, there is nothing.

I've seen this happen before, the bins disappear off Brighton station regularly, and they are gone so often I'm now surprised to see a bin rather than that there are none. I'm guessing the event that prompted their most recent disappearance was the attacks on the trains in Spain. Somehow the British railway stations think a group of people organised enough to place a set of multiple bombs on multiple trains will be foiled by the lack of a thin pocket of plastic on Leamington Spa station.

I can understand how the habit of removing rubbish bins started. When I was a child the IRA hid many bombs in bins, killing and hurting many people. However, does removing bins actually stop bombs being planted? From where I sit, on a bench in a waiting room, I can see half a dozen hiding places - under one of the benches, up the chimney via the fireplace. Outside there are drinks machines, on top of which something could be left, or in a plant pot, on top of one of the lights. Even a bad dropped off the edge of the platform would likely go unnoticed for quite a while.

Removing the bins falls in that awful category of being seen to be doing something. This isn't really actually helping security, it's just a large company doing something very small to show they are trying to be security conscious. What is really does is create much more litter and generally degrade the quality of where we live.

Surely we could have transparent bins with transparent bin bags, allowing simple visual inspections without old cigarette packets and sandwich cartons being strewn across the platform? And surely us degrading out own environment, in however small a way, is dancing to the tune of those who want to attack us, and is not helping in any way.


I have a spiral bound notebook that has been travelling around with me for the past several weeks. It has different sections, colour coded with stripes down the sides and different coloured lines on the pages. The blue section has the details of the company I'm currently freelancing for and various copies of the different train times for my various journeys up here. The yellow section has notes for a couple of the websites I'm trying to start, and there are various things in the other sections.

All very unremarkable, and without note (excuse the poor pun.)

Except the notebook represents to me the changing fortunes you get as a freelancer. When I bought it, from the everything-is-one-pound 'Wizard' store on North Street in Brighton, I also bought a drawing pad, something I don't even remember, then I went to the Starbucks in the East Lanes and bought one of their ridiculously priced Frappacino milkshake-like things.

Somewhere among those two transactions I spent the last of my actual money.

While I have an overdraft and some credit, going in to debt was quite a scary process, as I wasn't sure what was going to get me out again. A client payment from overseas was pending but not expected for several weeks, the work from my local clients had temporarily dried up, my car needs welding up and I knew I was going to have to move soon. It's not pleasant when you hit these sorts of cashflow problems as a freelancer, and this was the first time it had happened to since I'd lost my full time job.

Now, the notebook half full, much thinner than it started out, I've been in work for over six weeks, the bank balance is healthy, if not ecstatic, and I can quite happily ponce about in Starbucks as much as I like.

What is this leading to? Not much, a reminder to myself for when I need it that things can swing around quickly, that work can appear much quicker than it peters out, and that when all else fails, the willingness to take the job wherever it comes up can be a great help when finding work, and potential new long-term clients.

Dial up settings

I have my laptop with me in Leamington Spa for the few days I'm here
this week. I did have my old Virgin
dial up settings programmed in to it for use with my Bluetooth
adaptor and mobile phone, but somewhere in the last few weeks with all
the messing around with my network settings, they've gone missing.

Fortunately, I had most of them in my Palm and remembered my password,
but it turns out Virgin have changed their SMTP server address since I
last checked, it's now smtp.virgin.net instead of mail.virgin.net.
Simple enough, but a bit confusing when it was refusing the messages
after I'd sorted the rest of the problems.

Hopefully this blog-update-by-e-mail will work OK, part of the new
changes by Blogger, which will make updating from my Palm much easier
(indeed, possible) for when I don't have my laptop with me.


I'm working on the train on the way up to Leamington Spa. I have the
latest copy of Wired magazine, an iBook and a bottle of water. Either
I'm becoming the norm for busy IT freelancers, or I'm one small step
away from becoming Nathan Barley.


Moving flat means moving launderette, although I rather liked the one I used to use, I'm not up to dragging my dirty washing across town to use it, at least not while I don't have my car :-)

The Seven Dials area in Brighton is heavily catered for in the laundry-washing area, with at least four launderette's that I've noticed (though none with internet connections that I've noticed.)

I ended up using one on Dyke Road that had an air of old future about it. This was the future as it was seen in the seventies: completely self-service machines and an anonymous locked doorway. No space for an attendant to serve from, although a seam along the extruded formica and chipboard block near one set of machines hints that it might fold open in to a counter.

The place is stuffy and post-apocalyptic feeling until someone else arrives, then it just feels standardly depressing. A place to go to get something done, robotically, by robot cleaning machines.

Tiredness + release stress = migraine

I had various things to write about yesterday, but ended up having a migraine in the late afternoon that wiped me out for the evening. As I was out and about in Hove, I had to find a chemist and buy some Migraleve Duo to try and tackle it. Not perfect, but stopped it getting too bad.

I should have expected something to happen, working lots of hours away from home and not being able to get enough sleep on top of moving flat meant the jump to relaxing for a few days was too much and my brain decided to revolt. Very annoying.


One wide of my family has a thing about moving house. My parents moved about seven times between my birth and tenth birthday, the last being mainly due to my sister's growing problem with arthritis, whcih, coupled with the fact that no-one else wanted to buy the place, has pretty much kept them in the same spot ever since. My grandmother on my Dad's side has moved five times that I can remember, and from what I can tell has racked up houses well in to the twenties, if not thirties. Still, as she's in her 90s, this is at most an average of three years in each home, which is much better than I'm getting.

In five-and-a-half years in Brighton I'm now on my fifth flat. I've been in the Albion Hill area, Hove (two flats, one next door to the other), Hanover and now Seven Dials. Whilst all very interesting in that I'm sampling different parts of Brighton (and Hove) none of these moves have been my decision, all have been driven by the housing market, which in the South East of England and pretty much the whole of the UK has now reach ludicrous proportions. The basement flat where I've moved to is on the market for £149,000. That's for a one bedroom flat in a basement, i.e. with less light and harder to insure! The first flat I had to leave, three-and-a-half years ago, was about £85,000 and had two bedrooms and a balcony with a good view. I wish I'd had then the job I have now, I would have been able to buy it and probably sell it now for twice the price.

I can understand why I keep having to move - the owners of the flats I've been in are taking advantage of the highly inflated property market and selling their flats for a profit. Unfortunately I've been surfing the wave of landlords who are just about to get nervous enough to sell up before they think the market will go down. The last place was owned by a firm in Gibraltar, so they must really be sure the market has peaked. I do hope it has, at the current prices I'm never going to be able to buy somewhere to live, and I can't imagine there are many first time buyers out there that can, without resorting to the sort of mortgage you never actually pay back.

Anyway, the moving itself, on a practical level. Here's the recipe for my last move:

  • Give yourself slightly less time than you should have to prepare by accepting work for part of the week you'd put by to prepare. Make sure this work is a long way away so you can't do anything in the evenings.

  • Hire a van

  • Rope in a couple of mates (thanks Alex & Alex.) Preferrably with good Tetris skills to help with the packing.

  • Fill van, drive to new flat, placate traffic warden (thanks again Alex,) empty van.

  • Repeat until original flat empty, or van due back at the hire firm.

  • Have smattering of stuff still at old flat, and enough cleaning to do to take up the rest of the weekend.

Both Alexes were an enormous help with the move, and a special mention goes to Mr Farran, who cycled over from Lewes at the start of the day and back out at the end. His level of fitness really put myself and Mr Morris to shame.

Painted picture

Onionboy has taken one of my pictures and done something rather nice with it, and he asked permission before posting it - good man!

Original pic: Old and new buildings in Toronto

Onionboy's conversion

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