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Archives for 2009

An alternative application of xcowsay

October 31st, 2009

Recently I had a flirtation with removing all the non-free software from my Debian installs. This didn’t last very long: I got annoyed that I couldn’t watch iplayer with gnash, and blodgett reminded me that I had a copy of Vista running in VirtualBox. Ooops.

However, upon reinstating the non-free repository I installed the vrms package to remind me of my failings. Blodgett suggested vrms might be better implemented as a popup character like clippy. But wait! Doesn’t xcowsay do something very similar?!

Well, xcowsay has a --cow-size option that lets you select from small, medium, and large cow images. This actually just looks for a cow_*.png file, so if we created a cow_rms.png


Here we see Richard Stallman arising from the Humber like some terrible sea monster about to wreak destruction on the propriety software industry of Hull.

If you want to use this yourself just install xcowsay, vrms, and grab these files:

  • cow_rms.png – save this in /usr/share/xcowsay or wherever xcowsay is installed.
  • vrms-xcowsay – a script to invoke xcowsay with the output of vrms. Don’t forget to chmod +x it!

The script is very simple and looks like this:

(printf "I SEE UR USIN NON-FREE SOFTWARES :-(;\n\n"; vrms) \
   | xcowsay --font=monospace --cow-size=rms $*

I’m thinking of adding a --image option to xcowsay 1.2 to make things like this easier.


UPDATE: xcowsay 1.2 now supports this via the --image option.

Minor xcowsay update

October 23rd, 2009

I’ve just uploaded a minor update to xcowsay: xcowsay-1.1.1. This version removes the debian/ package directory as I will no longer be distributed Debian/Ubuntu packages for future versions. This is because xcowsay will hopefully soon be packaged in Debian, and therefore Ubuntu, and they don’t like the debian/ directory in upstream packages. I don’t distribute RPMs either, but you can get these from Mandriva or Fedora if you weren’t aware. Thanks to everyone who’s packaged xcowsay so far!

I can’t believe it’s been over a year since the last xcowsay release! I’m planning to release a 1.2 version sometime in the next few months. This will contain some bug fixes (such as the multi-monitored cow splitting problem), and a few new features (such as word-wrapping text so the speech bubble fits on the screen). Any suggestions for minor improvements appreciated!

UPDATE: Now in OpenBSD too!


October 20th, 2009

Somewhere in the Norwegian interior there is actually a place called Grue. Don’t go there in the dark!


October 19th, 2009

The company I work for are Norwegian in origin, therefore I was dispatched to Norway for their “new hire” training/brainwashing. After three days of learning corporate mantras I was feeling slightly frazzled to say the least.

Some of us stayed in Oslo for the weekend to do some sightseeing which was rather enjoyable. I’ve collected some pictures of things I saw below.

Norway is very nice but incredibly expensive – I managed to spend £100 over the weekend excluding accommodation :o.

Sunsets from planes

October 18th, 2009

Continuing the Nick-attempts-sunset-photos series, here are a few pictures I took from the plane back from Oslo this evening. (More blogging of this to follow.)


This is a cropped but otherwise unmodified picture from the window. The glass was a bit dirty unfortunately.


This was taken slightly later, but I’ve used the “auto levels” tool in Digikam. I don’t think it really looked like this, but I like the effect.


This one’s using a red filter (option on the camera). Looks nice but unrealistic.

I really like the way the clouds look blurry like a painting. Was very pretty to watch.

My mechanical keyboard

October 11th, 2009

For a while I have been quite dissatisfied with my keyboard – one of the MS split-in-half ones. While the typing angle is nice, I don’t like the feel of the keys. Actually, I’m not so keen on the feel of the keys of any keyboard I’ve had or ever tried. However, when I was home in the summer I dug out our old c.1993 IBM PC complete with it’s original model M keyboard and fell in love with its clickiness and springy keys. Have been searching around for a modern equivalent.

It turns out there’s whole forums devoted to these mechanical keyboards – of which Das Keyboard is probably the best known example. However, I didn’t really want to spend ~£100 at current exchange rates for a blank keyboard, but I found out that the Das Keyboard II is actually a re-branded (and tarted up) version of a keyboard made by Cherry – the G80-3000 in fact. So a few weeks ago I bought one for £60 from Cherry Keyboards ‘R’ Us. It is well nice.

It’s difficult to describe just how much fun it is to type on: the clicking sound it makes is so incredibly pleasing – it’s fun just to sit and tap the keys. The keys also have just the right amount of resistance. It’s solidly built and looks quite nice as well.

Here are some sexy shots of someone else’s. Here someone has posted the sound of them typing on one.

I’m incredibly pleased with mine, and don’t think I’ll ever be going back to a regular keyboard. If you spend at lot of time typing you should get one too!

I am not a salesman.

Some pictures of Slough

October 11th, 2009

An eleven year old girl from Slough has written a new poem to replace the old miserable one! It begins like this:

Horrible bombs don’t fall on Slough,
Because it’s fit for humans now,

To celebrate here are a few photos I took in wonderful Slough yesterday. As you can see, it is fit for humans now!


Ominous looking clouds. How did I get such a fantastic view of Slough? I’ve gone up to the roof of the car park in the Brunel bus station.


Slough Trading Estate in the background: this is the world’s oldest, and still one of the largest, private business parks. It even has its own power station! The large red building is the Horlicks factory which was formerly a major local employer: find out more in Slough museum!


Here’s the top of the car park. All the spaces are reserved for O2 employees which explains why it’s deserted. I travelled up by the famous (in some circles) lift. Here is a video if you haven’t experienced this yourself.


Not Slough of course, this is Windsor. I met Nash in the afternoon but couldn’t convince him of Slough’s charms so we spent the evening here. So bourgeois.

Mashed potato success

September 30th, 2009

Today I made my best mashed potato yet, so I thought I should document it here. Unfortunately, for the first time I think I made too little. Maybe this had something to do with it.

Anyway, I used Tesco organic white potatoes (on offer at 75p per kg). I used vast quantities of butter: a much larger ratio of butter to potato than normal, but only a small amount of milk. Healthy amounts of salt and pepper were also added. Spudski kartoffelstampfer was the mashing implement. Can’t be sure whether it was the excess butter or different potatoes that made the difference; but large butter quantities have been extensively explored before, usually when the blodgett is present…

Further experimentation required.

Sunset photos attempt 2

September 28th, 2009

Tried again to take photo of sunset. Found a low-light mode on the camera and fiddle with some settings. Much better this time!

Maidenhead sunset

Admittedly I cheated a bit and used the GIMP to remove a few artefacts from the foreground.