Monday, September 17, 2007

Oops, three months since my last post. I've been twittering a lot though! In fact, I will put a twitter box on this page so it shows up-to-date stuff. What's twitter? According to their site (excuse the quote): "A global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question: What are you doing? Answer on your phone, IM, or right here on the web!".


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Fantastic Four: Silver Surfer

I was lucky enough to win tickets to the new Fantastic Four film premiere last week, and the show was tonight. So I got to see it 3 days before anyone else, and to experience a premiere from the inside out.

It's an odd feeling, walking down between the barriers instead of being the 'public' side of either of them. Cameras held out everywhere as you walk past Jessica Alba busy signing autographs and chatting to fans, mainly with a view of the back of her head. Seriously, the biggest sea of cameras I've seen in a while, all seemingly stuck a foot or two above heads and with people attached to them below all trying to get a good shot. I've been to one premiere before, for Evita back in 96/97, also in Leicester Square. That gave me an idea what to expect with the fans crowded round the entrance, but how things worked inside the cinema was a complete mystery.

They'd taken over the whole cinema as far as I could see, I presume the celebs had their own screen so they could be away from the public and not getting hassled; we were in screen 4. There weren't any trailers, and there was free popcorn and a bottle of water in every seat. It was at least a half-hour late for starting and we wondered if we should have waited outside for longer to see who would go past. But we did see Jessica and Chris (I think I got the right name?).

I don't remember seeing the first Fantastic Four movie, or if I did it was on DVD a while after it came out; it's been easy to confuse it with the X-men universe though. So what was the film like? You might have seen the trailers for it on TV, with the Silver Surfer dude looking very cool on his shiny surfboard.

I wasn't expecting much, after the first film got rather panned by critics, and with the general rule of sequels being worse; but from what my mate said, it was better than the first one. He also knew more about the non-movie history of the characters and had a few things to say about the differences, but most movies converted from comics or books always end up changing more than the keen fans would like, to fit it into the time or make it work in a much more dynamic visual medium, and to keep it simple enough for the common denominator general public to enjoy (which can be insulting sometimes if it's badly done).

So I wasn't expecting much, but I also didn't get much - in the way of character development or emotional draw, or surprises, so yes, it is basically a hollywood blockbuster with fancy effects, a cute girl, and heroes saving the world.
If I put my analyses hat on I could rip it apart without trying all that hard, artistically it does the job being a film with a story. Graphically, the special effects are pretty good and provide for some decent action scenes when the CGI's working hard, and it doesn't make itself obvious to you (unlike The Matrix 2/3). There's a cool ship, good use of scenery including the London Eye (they did a publicity stunt today involving sticking a model of the silver surfer to the middle of the Eye like he was flying through it), and it's got some fun moments in, but overall not one I'm going to bother purchasing or making effort to watch again.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

After the quiet

Yes, it's been ages. I went through the migration from the old style blogger account to the new google-associated one (I have a google email address already, and it was dead simple, not really much to do) not that long after my last post. For some reason I didn't find anything I got round to posting after that - maybe I got lazy, or it was that I forgot I'd done it and tried to log in with the old details, or a quiet patch had stopped the regular visits.

But I'm back for a stretch, so expect to see the odd article come out again.

I think I'll be trying out bloggers labelling system too.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

subversion hooks: notify

For anyone who knows me really well, no I'm not finally mentioning a club. It's a boring geeky techy post about the subversion revision control system, aka svn. We recently moved over to svn from cvs at work, and I'm loving it. In some areas it's missing a couple of features that were handy about cvs, but the overall design and implementation is much cleaner, not based on an old system that's been kludged to make it work in a multi-user environment. If you're still on cvs, seriously consider moving. There are other potential replacements round without moving to Windows, but I'm not sure how many are ready for the same level of stability yet. Plus subversion's command-line interface is almost exactly the same, except where it's been clarified and improved (eg. merging changes is done with svn merge not the update command with unusual options). It also has things like "svn switch" when you'd have been rather stuck before, or left hacking CVS/Root files in your working-copy or performing complex diff/patch commands; and easier offline working.

I was pretty much an expert on cvs, down to everything but the source code level (I've hacked repository ",v" files before to fix revisions, clearing lock files wasn't a problem back in the earlier versions of 1.9 or so when it was needed every now and then, and got to know rcs before we used cvs). So moving to svn made me feel a little like I was flying without a licence. I still don't know lots about the internals but I have an idea and I've read a tonne of stuff about it from their tech docs.

At previous companies we've used the cvs hook scripts to do things like send out email on commits, and keep an up-to-date central checkout of the modules. Svn also has a way of running scripts when things change the repository and it was becoming worthwhile to at least parse-check our files to avoid any stupid commits (yes, it's happened a couple of times and caused problems before we had a better release protocol).

So I looked into it and wrote a parse-checker for php file commits. That didn't take much, there's the rather useful svnlook command to examine the changes made. I just needed to process all the files in the list, and remember to ignore files that were being deleted, and any directory or non-content changes. Oh, it also enforced the non-empty log message rules that are disliked by subversion but not prohibited.

The next topic that came up in a casual conversation was certain developers wanting to know when files they cared about, or core parts of the system, were updated; so other related code can be checked. Of course you find out when you run svn update, but wouldn't it be nice to know the instant it happens (when it's fresh in the author's head), and not be scrolling back to the update command and checking every file you care about's log/diffs, a rather time-consuming and laborious task?

So the idea of a notify script arrived; I had a look round the web and subversion already has a contributed script for sending commit emails, but you'd quickly lose the wheat among the chaff if you saw every single commit (email filters are handy, but still).
Existing scripts all use a server-managed list of files/changes to notify on and to who, but subversion has these great things called properties that you can use to set arbitrary version-controlled properties on any file or directory; they're used to implement the equivalent of cvs's .ignore files and with revision-specific properties to store the log message and author etc.

What a great idea to use a property on each file you want to be notified on! That way it gets moved if the file is moved, can be edited by users (and any existing authentication scheme), could be checked by a pre-commit script for validity, and it already knows the file to be checked is the right file if it's a property of that file! Rather than regex match on filenames. Groups of files can be done with the same property on their common parent directory or individually.


Friday, January 12, 2007

I'm Gaiming

I use Gaim, the cross-protocol Instant-Messenger client, everywhere: My Ubuntu Linux install at home, during the day, and now even when I occasionally boot into Windows at home. I thought I'd give their Windows release a try, so downloaded the latest released beta - version 2.0.0beta5.

I downloaded the release including the gtk library, but it refused to start up on my Windows (seriously old 98SE install - but why would I buy 2k or XP? I have Ubuntu!). Until I found an upgraded version download of the gtk library on the site, that is. Before that tt was complaining of "Error 31. A device attached to the system is not functioning" then another message box before bailing out.

Now I have working msn, yahoo, icq, jabber, and gtalk chat from one program instead of 4 or 5 filling up memory and the task bar. Happy bunny.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Ice bar

The Ice bar is a very cool bar just off Regent Street's in London's west end. I'd heard of the ice hotel in Sweden (Stockholm) before, but didn't know we had our own ice bar in London.

A friend had booked a slot there to take her mum to as a Christmas treat after a posh restaurant dinner out, I'd volunteered to drive them to and from the restaurant and she suggested if I wanted to go to the ice bar after.

In the end, their meal went on longer than planned, and because you have to book a particular slot for the bar (40mins at a time), I went on my own. It was still a great experience, and definitely a cool talking point with friends after!

The actual ice bar is attached to the side of an ordinary bar, sealed off except for the small entrance draped with bearskin to keep the cold air in. It's usually the other way round! They keep it at -5 degrees C, and everything inside - the walls, bar, glasses, decorative sculptures, are all made of ice.

The ice bar and drink

There were some nice sculptures there too - a female bust, a man sitting on a chair with a hi-fi next to him, an urn within an urn within an urn (being clear ice, you could see the inner one and how they were supported inside each other), and this large block like a kissing-arch with the inside hollowed out so you could stand inside it, almost like when David whasisname stood on a pole inside some ice for a long time. This was a good place to take photos, so I got someone to take one of me. There were a few cute girls there, but it was mainly couples and groups unfortunately - would have been an awesome place to get a date!

It's not cheap at £15 for the 40minute slot, and you do need to book in advance (days? weeks?), but you can hang around in the non-freezing bar before and after and just pay normal drinks prices, and the entry cost gets you a free drink (or two, if you're not drinking alcohol). The drinks mixers do look very cool with the brightly coloured juice sitting in the middle of this hole-in-the-block that is your glass. Saves on washing up!

The bar staff must get freezing. I spoke to one of them, he said they swap every hour and a half and although they don't wear the same full cover clothing we were given, they have gloves (the most useful when you're handling frozen blocks of ice all the time) and hats.

New blogger

Ooh, tag-like things appear to be built in to the new blogger! Wonder if they'll be better than the ones at that I was using? I suppose I should synchronise them for older articles. Maybe...

I haven't written anything for ages. I've been meaning to, but other things have been more important or fun! Hopefully I won't forget to post one every now and then, at least. Got a few I should write from the last month or two.

PS: Happy new year, hope you all had a good Christmas!