Install mwparserfromhell on Linux

Here’s how to install mwparserfromhell on Linux:

sudo apt-get install python-dev
sudo apt-get install python-pip
git clone
cd mwparserfromhell
python install

After which, wikitools by MrZ-man is nice for power-users:
svn co
cd wikitools/trunk
sudo python install

Installing Pygal into Cygwin

Pygal is a python library for emitting SVG charts. It might do PNGs too; the documentation is… sparse. Okay, there’s no documentation, but they show you several ways to make bar charts, and figure you can follow on from there.  Anyways, the installation instructions don’t work, not under cygwin.

Here’s what you should do:

  1. ensure cygwin has the libs libxml2-devel and libxslt-devel installed
  2. issue the command
    cygwin$ pip install pygal

and you’re done. Getting pip into cygwin is a whole world of hurt, but you will need to go looking for a http (not https) source to download setuptools, then download and run, followed by using pip to upgrade setuptools. Have fun with that; I know I did.

Nvidia 8800GT nvlddmkm.sys blue screen of death

I’ve got two old Mac Pros, and on one of them, the Nvidia 8800GT video card suddenly started causing weird errors in Windows.

Nvidia crash

Then it started doing the blue screen of death repeatedly, a crash in nvlddmkm.sys.

Nvidia blue screen

I have no idea why it started happening now — the Nvidia drivers don’t appear to have been updated for months, and Windows Update hasn’t installed anything for almost a week.

Oh well.

Boot into Safe Mode With Networking

Download the latest drivers

Install with Clean Option on


Seems now to work, touch wood.

Update 2013-11-19 18:45 — No such luck. It seemed fine this morning, but later on started crashing like before. Investigations continue.

Update 2013-11-19 21:00 — After playing around disabling various things, and puzzling over what might have updated itself (since there was nothing recently installed or patched listed by Windows), I think I may have found the culprit: the Steam client beta (which I’m using to get the family sharing trial). Have disabled this, and Windows seems to be stable again. Will try it for a bit longer, then report findings to Steam.

Update 2013-11-20 — It couldn’t be that easy, of course. And I have dissed Steam without justification. The video card is still playing up — now so much so that:

  • a lovely speckly pattern appears when booting
  • Windows proclaims the video card isn’t working, and automatically puts us into Base Video (640×480) mode
  • OS X won’t boot at all — the GUI presumably tries to come up, then it reboots

Oh dear. Trouble in video card land.

The card is an NVidia GeForce 8800 GT, quite a nicely specced card. I suspect it’ll need replacing, dammit.

Update 28/11/2013: As per the comments I found another spare PCIe card (an ATI Radeon 3870) which works… in Windows. Not in OS X. Even the broken card partially works in Windows, but not at all in OS X.

A workmate pointed me to the Tony Mac x86 web site, where I found a good list of graphics cards compatible with OS X.

Thankfully however this specific machine is mostly used for Windows-only, so there’s no tearing rush. In fact Windows performance index thingy rates the ATI card slightly higher than the nVidia one.

One option is to buy the official Apple-supported Mac Pro video upgrade kit, an ATI Radeon HD5770, which is A$299. Despite the Apple site claiming it requires a post-2010 Mac Pro, plenty of sources indicate it’s fine with a 2008.

Update 2014-04-08: New video card bought and successfully installed

Allow more JavaScript, maintain privacy

I’ve long regarded JavaScript in the browser to be one of the biggest security holes in web-browsing, and at the same time the Internet works less and less well without it. In 2008 Joel Spolsky made the observation that for some people the Internet is just broken:

Spolsky:   Does anybody really turn off JavaScript nowadays, and like successfully surf the Internets?

Atwood:   Yeah, I was going through my blog…

Spolsky:   It seems like half of all sites would be broken.

Which is not wrong.  Things have changed in the last five years, and now the Internet is even more broken if you’re not willing to do whatever random things the site you’re looking at tells you to, and whatever other random sites that site links off to tell you to, plus whatever their JavaScript in turn tells you to. This bugs me because it marginalizes the vulnerable (the visually impaired, specifically), and is also a gaping security hole.  And the performance drain!

Normally I rock with JavaScript disabling tools and part of my tin-foil-hat approach to the Internet, but I’m now seeing that the Internet is increasingly dependent on fat clients. I’ve seen blogging sites that come up empty, because they can’t lay out their content without client-side scripting and refuse to fall back gracefully.

So, I need finer granularity of control.  Part one is RequestPolicy for FireFox, similar to which (but not as fine-grained) is Cross-Domain Request Filter for Chrome.

The extensive tracking performed by Google, Facebook, Twitter et al gives me the willys. These particular organisations can be blocked by ShareMeNot, but the galling thing is that the ShareMeNot download page demands JavaScript to display a screenshot and a clickable graphical button – which could easily been implemented as an image with a href. What the hell is wrong with kids these days?

Anyway, here’s the base configuration for my browsers these days:

FireFox Chrome Reason
HTTPSEverywhere HTTPSEverywhere Avoid inadvertent privacy leakage
Self Destructing Cookies “Third party cookies and site data” is blocked via the browser’s Settings, manual approval of individual third party cookies. Avoid tracking; StackOverflow (for example) completely breaks without cookies
RequestPolicy Cross-Domain Request Filter for Chrome Browser security and performance, avoid tracking
NoScript NotScripts Browser security and performance, avoid tracking
AdBlock Edge Adblock Plus Ad blocking
DoNotTrackMe DoNotTrackMe Avoid tracking – use social media when you want, not all the time
Firegloves (no longer available), could replace with Blender or Blend In I’ve have had layout issues when using Firegloves and couldn’t turn it off site-by-site

Subtitling tries to make me dumber

I was watching Todd Sampson‘s Redesign My brain S1E1 Make Me Smarter and noticed the subtitling was annoyingly wrong. FMRI was subtitled as MRI. Baseline became based on – and there was more errors. My hearing’s not super-great, but even I could tell that these weren’t right.

Twice I’ve seen subtitling so bad that I’ve been prompted to find out who did it. Last time it was Jacqui Mapoon at CSI.

This time it was Jacqui Mapoon at CSI. Either Jacqui does a lot of work for CSI and sometimes has bad days, or she does a little work and often screws it up. What are the odds that on the two occasions I notice very bad subtitling, the same person’s behind it?  Subtitling is a very specialized field, so there can’t be that many people doing it, but at the same time a lot of TV is subtitled. I know from personal experience that subtitling takes at least 5 minutes per minute of show, and can take more if it’s particularly speech-heavy. There are a few hours of TV a night requiring subtitles, and it’d take one person one day to subtitle one hour of TV, so there’s probably a few dozen people in Australia doing it; live subtitling is a different specialty. Perhaps work processes need to be changed; I know I proof my subtitling after having done it, and spot errors. Perhaps someone other than the original subtitler ought to do the final proofing? Proof-reading error rates would show whose work needed more attention.

Most of the subtitles that I’ve seen are great – precisely timed transcriptions of the spoken dialogue, either exact reproductions or well thought through précis, contracted just enough to be faithful to the words and the intent whilst also fitting on the screen. For some reason American stuff is all caps unless the character is off-screen. Given so many in this industry can get it transparently right, why does one person’s work repeatedly poke me in the eye? Somebody give Jacqui some training, stat!

Please make it okay for KITT to drive itself around

Driverless vehicles are coming. A clear legal framework will make them come all the sooner, and there’s an opportunity to make autonomous vehicles as safe as passenger aircraft.

Don't drive a car like a smuck, get the car to drive you!

Don’t drive a car like a smuck, get the car to drive you!

Make the manufacturer(1) solely responsible for all liabilities incurred by the vehicle, driverless or not. Transfer this liability to anyone who modifies the vehicle without manufacturer approval(2) – covering up sensors, adding systems, modifying software etc. While autonomous, fines for driving infractions are the responsibility of the manufacturer; demerit points are treated as unidentified and the fine for failing to identify the driver is payable by the manufacturer. Annual vehicle registration fees(3) remain payable by the vehicle owner, but third party insurance costs – personal and property – are remitted to the manufacturer, who could be expected to pay you to… not drive the car – if you drive the car, that creates an uncontrollable liability, but if the car drives itself then the risks are only those that are those due to the product, which presumably would lead to product improvement to decrease crashes and injury.

How would you force owners of cars that are the liability of someone else to properly maintain them? Simple; you make the manufacturer cover maintenance costs too – tyres, servicing etc. So now we’re getting to the point where we ask: what are people paying for cars that they only have to cover the running expenses for? How does the manufacturer recoup the cost of maintenance? Doesn’t really matter, but I think you’ll see that driverless cars will only be able to be leased, or hired, or rented, or some other such model. They’d basically be taxis – paid for by time and distance.

Every driverless crash will be investigated by a federal body – the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. To aid investigations, vehicles will be required to detect crashes and refuse to function after them; extensive data logging like on aircraft will be mandated. Because of the lack of humans involved, crashes come down to systems failure and the crash rate should be highly controllable.


Fly, KITT, fly

(1) Autonomous vehicle manufacturers might baulk at these plans to make them directly fiscally responsible for their products. Fine; they could instead put an insurance/finance company in as the responsible entity, but whomever is responsible would have to prove to the government their capability to meet their contingent liabilities.

(2) That is, you can hack your car if you want. But if you do, you wear the (potentially quite substantial) risks associated with having done so. Find an insurance company that’s willing to cover you (ha!).

Have you played thePopulation: Tire game? If not, you haven't lived.

Have you played thePopulation: Tire game? If not, you haven’t lived.

(3) Why do we charge registration fees? Owning a car doesn’t impose any costs on society. Driving it does; parking it does. There ought to be taxes on… tyres. The consumption of tyres by a vehicle is roughly correlated to the wear and tear on infrastructure and other externalities. Motorbikes, two tyres; semis eighteen or more. There are already taxes on fuel, again because of externalities – and presumably, because they’re easy-to-levy taxes that are hard to avoid. But infrastructure wear is not a function of fuel consumption, but it is a function of using tyres. The problem with a tyre tax is that people will naturally buy tyres that last a long time, rather than other considerations – for example braking efficiency; to address this some wear factor ought to be applied too.

Australian electoral fraud

An undamaged security cable tie

If the security cable tie isn’t pulled tight engaging the teeth, it can be pulled right off. If it was secured, it would have been damaged while being removed (with scissors).

I did scrutineering at the last Victorian state election, and apart from the shocking level of informal voting and above-the-line voting, there was another shock.

Electoral fraud – or the possibility of it.

The nice thing about living in Australia is that we take our democracy seriously, and we balance being able to prove that what the outcome was with ballot secrecy. Nobody, no level of government or industry, no individual, will know how you voted without you telling them. Yet at the same time we can have confidence that our electoral system is not being rorted; our governments change back and forth, and each time it does representatives of both sides keep a close watch on the activities of the employees of the AEC and VEC, eyeballing each individual vote and knowing that they are all distinctly different from the others in spite of being a collection of handwritten marks on a slip of paper.

To minimize the risks of ballot box tampering, at the start of voting the ballot boxes (just big cardboard boxes here in Australia) are sealed shut with serialized cable-ties. An independent somebody witnesses this when an Electoral Commission employee does this (typically the first voters who wandered into the polling station), and their details are recorded (by details, I think that means signature, but it could be actually enough to track the person down afterwards) and they sign the form that records the sealing of those particular ballot boxes.

So how come they use cable ties that can be “done up” and yet the teeth don’t engage – thus leading to an unsealed ballot box? Is it too much to ask for a cable tie with teeth on both sides?

I should have kicked up a fuss, but it was a safe booth in a safe seat, and who needs the hassle?

Anyways, the reason I relate this story is that I’ve been seeing comments along the lines of “this is the 21st century, why they hell are we using pencil and paper?”  Because, dickwads, computers don’t leave a fucking audit trail.  There’s no scrutineering of electrons.  How the hell are you meant to verify that Clive Palmer didn’t in fact get 98% of the vote?  You can’t.  Interesting that Clive Palmer owns the company that supplied all of the (suspiciously cheap) voting machines to the AEC, but that hasn’t got anything to do with it. And the cost! Pencils are 10c each, paper is about a cent a sheet.  A shitty computer is $500, and requires a bunch of electricity. “Do it on the Internet, or use smart phones!” I hear you say. No, because while nearly everyone can move a pencil around, significantly fewer can use their computer to vote. And there’s no connection between how you voted, and the counting of votes. The announced result could be anything, and there’d be absolutely no way of proving it wrong.  So, yes, computers are shiny and clearly the best way of implementing a voting system, if you want an electoral system you can’t actually trust.

Low spec notebooks can’t handle large amounts of RAM

Cathy and I are seeing increasing contention for the grunty computer in the house not dedicated to playing computer games. It’s used for a combination of recreational programming, web surfing and media encoding tasks. We decided to acquire a second, and after comparing the costs decided that the premium for laptop portability wasn’t too great (about $100; in fact that seems to be about the price of the OS we were forced to buy with the hardware). In out usage profile, “grunty” isn’t defined by CPU, but responsiveness which really comes down to how often an arm has to venture out across a spinning sheet of rust. Unfortunately, bottom-end systems (i3 class CPUs) can’t handle our base-level RAM requirement of 16Gb, so yet again a portable computer is the most powerful thing in the house – the new system’s specs are:

Processor: AMD Quad-Core Processor A6-5200 (2.0GHz, 2MB L2 Cache)

25W of power consumption right there. Existing grunty computer pegs its CPU for about ten hours a year, in sustained encoding runs. We weren’t CPU bound, and yet the only way to get that RAM in an i3 lappy was to spend an extra $100 on a Toshiba with worse specs – so we got a quad core.

Memory: 4GB DDR3 1600MHz (max support 16GB)

That 4GB came straight out and was replaced by the most RAM that could be stuffed in there. Existing grunty machine had 8Gb and was paging a lot. Why are web browsers so memory hungry? This upgrade cost $160.

Storage: 500GB (5400RPM) Hard Drive

This came straight out before the machine was even powered up once. It was replaced by a Plextor M5-Pro 128GB SSD; this unit was selected for its fast random write speed, and the common-for-all-SSDs 0.1ms seek time. Back in the day (about ten years ago) I advocated that when building a machine, you should get drives with the fastest seek times and screw everything else, plus all the RAM you could afford – to use as disk cache. How little things change. This upgrade cost $129.

After Linux Mint 12.04 Maya (LTS) was installed (consuming 6Gb) there was 110Gb free on the replacement device. Paging has been disabled due to the SSD write limitations, and tmpfs is used for various directories to further minimise our impact on the longevity of the drive.

Graphics Card: Onboard (Integrated)

The contention for the memory bus is troubling, but at least there’s no extra juice being sucked down to power a fancy-pants GPU. This is not a gaming machine, 2D acceleration is useful, 3D not.

Operating System: Windows 8 64 Bit

That went with the rotating media. We’re going to see if we can boot a desktop machine off of it and still have the OS believe everything is okay. The laptop didn’t like the new OS, saying “Selected boot image did not Authenticate. Press Enter to Continue”, but the solution was to disable Secure Boot.

Screen: 15.6-inch diagonal HD BrightView LED-backlit Display (1366×768)

It took some fiddling for Cathy to figure out how to dim the damn thing under Mint. Turned out the answer was to install the proprietary AMD drivers.

Audio: Dual Speakers Stereo DTS Sound+

If you’re using a laptop for A/V reproduction, you’re doing it wrong.

Connectivity: Gigabit LAN (RJ-45 connector), 802.11b/g/n WLAN, Bluetooth

The Toshiba only had 100Mb, in this day and age! The Ralink wireless adapator wasn’t picked up automatically by the installer, so Cathy got down and followed the instructions off AskUbuntu

Built-In Devices: 1x USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.0, HDMI, RJ45 Ethernet, Headphone-out/microphone-in combo jack, SD/SDHC/SDxC Card reader

USB3 was important in picking the unit, as I’ve seem just how much faster it is. HDMI is necessary for twin-monitor development; MSY had a 21.5″ Full HD IPS on sale for $118.

Webcam: HP TrueVision HD Webcam with integrated dual array digital microphone

I’d just paint over it, but there’s a chance that we’ll have a use for videoconferencing. It stays, but it better mind it’s Ps and Qs or else it’s black electrical tape for it.

Optical Drive: DVD Burner

Yeah, like that’s ever getting used.

Weight: 2.33 Kg

I’m more used to computers that weigh 1Kg, not two and a half.

Dimensions: 56cm (L) x 13cm (W) x 34.5cm (D)

This thing has a widescreen display, it’s freaky big compared by my 10” netbook.

Other observations: the keyboard sucks balls, with the trackpad positioned such that you physically can’t touch-type on it because doing so places your palms on the trackpad, moving the mouse and screwing up your input (I think this is happening because gestures have been turned on; they might find themselves getting turned off again). For some messed up reason they’ve included a numeric keypad, so touch-typing is doubly hard – again with the palms. This thing’s going to find itself plugged into a USB hub with a real keyboard and mouse quite a lot I think.

Anyways, the HP Pavilion 15-E001AU was purchased from MLN for the low, low price of $500. Total system cost was $907, and at the end we had a 4GB lappy stick and a 500GB lappy drive laying around.

Grumpy Duck has a nothing

There was some massacre in the US (again) and the pundits are trying to explain why the perp did it. Closest they got is “well, he did like violent video games. Said it was like he was actually there, doing it”. I predict calls to ban violent video games. I’ve reached the point where I’ve given up caring about massacres in the USA; I’ve researched why they can’t make laws controlling gun ownership and it turns out the Supreme Court has taken a very pro-gun interpretation of the US Constitution in some recent key cases. The decisions made have cast gun availability in stone, so to alter that in any way now it’s a simple matter of changing the constitution if they want safety. Which they’re not going to do, so screw ‘em. Massacres are the price the USA pays for having those laws of its land.

If you’re not going to change your laws, quit whining.  Either you love gun massacres and stay in The Greatest Country On Earth, or you sod off to a proper country. Why not celebrate these massacres as a beacon to the rest of the world, a sign that your country loves freedom – and that the occasional mass killing is just a timely reminder of how valuable those freedoms are?  Besides which, those shot in mass killings deserved it – they failed to exercise their constitutional right to bear arms. Increase your personal safety and that of those around you – go buy a gun, right now!  Buy two: one for each hand.

Kids in the USA get Grumpy Duck has a gun.

Aussie kids get Grumpy Duck has a nothing.

The Roast can be seen on ABC2 at 19:30 three weeks out of four.

“Microsoft account”. One product, 6 names.

Hahaha, what a classic:

Microsoft account (previously Microsoft Wallet,[1] Microsoft Passport,[2] .NET Passport, Microsoft Passport Network, and most recently Windows Live ID) is a single sign-on web service developed and provided by Microsoft that allows users to log into many websites using one account.


So over the years it’s had 6 names!

Nice work, Microsoft.