gg rockstar

So my brothers and I were having stupid multiplayer issues in Red Dead Redemption.  I can connect fine with Scott, Chris can connect fine with Scott, but when Chris and I connect we get multiplayer failures.  Not, apparently, a rare issue with the crappy buggy netcode in RDR.

We reported same to Rockstar and received a reply from their support.

Over a month later.

Which consisted of one sentence:

Are you still experiencing this issue after the latest Title Update?

Thanks for that R*.  Awesome customer service.  I don’t know if I’m still experiencing it, we gave up on RDR and now play Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket Powered Battle Cars instead, which is a budget title with rock-solid netcode and way more fun than RDR.

You got my money, well done.  You won’t get any more.

It’s up… and now I can forget about it

It seems the migration to WordPress went well.    I chose this blog as the test bunny, because I don’t really use it any more.  If you want to get in touch, use Facebook or Twitter.

It’s fun to read old posts sometimes, so here the blog will stay until I find a use for it again. o/

Du kannst dies nicht anfassen!

hammerzeit (33k image)

indy film

Cool site for indy filmmakers – doing things on the cheap. Check out the DIY samurai armour. For real.

travel woes

Everyones been telling me since my airborne commuting ramped up that Ill soon get tired of the flying. Well, as Im getting very close to being a platinum frequent flyer, I think Im at the point where I should be tired of it by now; but Im still as happy to board an aeroplane as I ever was (the occasional struggle with sciatica aside). What I am well and truly sick of is the other rubbish associated with travelling, namely: airports, taxis and hotels.

Take my current trip for example. Frankfurt Airport (or Fraport as they brand it in a way that strikes me as exceedingly lame) is the worst airport in the entire world, with the possible exception of a booby-trapped shed on a dirt strip in Sierra Leone. The whole place is a construction site with exposed wiring, temporary walls and signposts that point to nowhere (my particular favourite was one that pointed at a drywalled dead-end and read other directions). Far from being the rigidly organised epitome of German efficiency you would expect, it is largely devoid of staff, entirely devoid of any staff with the ability or desire to help and organised on one enormous straight line so that in order to get from your arrival gate at one end to your departure gate at, naturally, the other end, close to a two-mile walk is required. They have also never heard of travelators for long, straight stretches of hallway and there is a smoking stand every thirty meters (essentially a big metal box with a vacuum cleaner inside it) which almost but not entirely completely fail to ingest any of the smoke coming from the dozens of nicotine-crazed travel zombies that hunch over them, making the whole airport smell rancid.

So here was my arrival in Fraport: Got off the plane expecting uniformed staff who will assist with your connection. Assumed that the Turkish fellow with lime-green overalls and a mop was not in a position to help with connection, so followed other similarly bewildered passengers through maze of un-signposted corridors. Arrived in passport control zone where first clear signpost was sighted: baggage collection this way. As was not holding arrival card for Germany nor was planning to collect bags, wandered around until I found an out-of-the-way stairwell with a tiny sign stating transfers. Climbed stairwell to emerge in earlier described gigantic straight terminal. Given choice of left (not signposted) and right (not, unsurprisingly, signposted) I took off towards the only people I could see, about 500 meters away, hoping against hope to discover a flight board. Upon arrival at aforementioned congregation, discovered flight board that had a sum total of one hours worth of flights; not including, unsurprisingly, mine. Continued walking, hoping to find a sign pointing to Qantas, BA or Aer Lingus lounge.

Following 2-mile walk to other end of terminal, involving hastily re-evaluated detour to the inter-terminal shuttle train platform, several unmarked stairwells and a security checkpoint, discovered BA desk. Asked uniformed staff for a) gate for flight and b) location of BA/Qantas lounge. Answers: a) I dont know, thats Aer Lingus, Im BA (showing BA logo on badge as if I were painfully shortsighted) and b) back the way you came, half a mile and right at the entirely unmarked gate D8. Sigh. Eventually found BA lounge down a stairwell and then down an industrial lift. Receptionist unimpressed that I was a Sapphire OneWorld flier, had just spent 22 hours and 6 grand on business class flights with their OneWorld partner Qantas and that I was in dire need of a shower. Youre connecting to Aer Lingus, and theyre not OneWorld. Try the Cathay lounge. Sigh. Where is that? Not sure, maybe down near the entirely un-signposted gate E8. You mean back where I originally entered, right down the other end of the hellish hallway (or hellway as Ive contracted it in the Fraport spirit)?. I dont know, you could try there, excuse me I have to file my nails now.

Back to the Cathay lounge. At the other end of the hellway. You could try the BA lounge sir. I just came from there, they sent me here. Well, I could let you in, but youre not connecting to a OneWorld flight, so, actually, I cant. Try the Aer Lingus lounge. Wheres that?. Not sure, sir, check down the hall at the Emirates lounge. Sigh. Imagine my surprise when, on my way to the Emirates lounge, I passed the Aer Lingus lounge. Which was closed. It all, however, ended reasonably well when, after a not insignificant wait for the lounge to open and a similarly circuitous discourse with the sleepy-eyed Aer Lingus receptionist, I blagged my way into the Aer Lingus lounge. Whereupon I found that the lounge consisted of half a dozen armchairs, a coffee machine and a total of zero showers. And, when I shook myself out of a doze at 0950 realising with a start that my flight was due to board in ten minutes, I also found that the boarding gate was at the extreme other end of the hellway. Naturally.

So I think that covers airports. Taxis are next, and Ive found drivers fall into three camps: those that have been driving for their entire lives because they like driving cabs, those that have been driving cabs for their entire lives and hate every minute of it, and those that have been driving cabs for ten minutes and have only the vaguest idea of what a cab is or what it is for. Take for example my cabbie in Adelaide: Hi, Id like to go to the Saville Hotel on Hindley St. OK, is that in Adelaide? Oh for fuc… yes. Head towards the city. OK, city is right turn yes? Yes. [dramatic pause]. How you spell Hindley St? H… I… N… OH JESUS! WATCH OUT! Look would you mind looking at the road instead of the satnav? Ill direct you there. [dramatic pause whereupon I realise I dont actually know how to get there] Give me the damn satnav.

Hotels are on my list for much less dramatic reasons; they are simply lonely and anonymous. I miss my family, my space, my familiar things and my toys.

So the flying is really the easiest bit. The only time I really dislike the actual flying part is when every seat is full and theyve seen fit to jam three broad-shouldered gents side-by-side. And they read my laptop screen out of the corner of their eye. Yes Gigantor, Im talking to you.

self-help guru

I was having trouble getting my wireless network adapter working on my laptop, so I turned to Google. After about half an hour of fruitless searching, I chanced upon a six-month-old post in the Ubuntu forums from a helpful chap who pointed out as I am using shared-key WEP I should make my wireless-key string in /etc/network/interfaces read:
wireless-key restricted nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn
I tried it, it worked a charm. I then looked at the post again and noticed the poster’s nickname:
I kid you not. It was me.

nuking forums

I have a chip on my shoulder about some people who run forums.
More specifically – those who run forums and then shut them down.
Especially forums that a lot of people have put a lot of effort into contributing to.
Especially when it’s done without offering the forum community an option to take over the forum content.
Listen up forum owners: You may own the domain, the server, the software that runs the forum, but you don’t own the content. It is not yours to arbitrarily take offline.

technical support

My experiences from tonight. Unedited (except to anti-spam the email addresses). No judgements made, nothing inferred – just a factual transcript of what occurred.
[logged onto live support - hello, what seems to be the problem etc]
James: one of my email users (scott@[ domain]) was sent an email yesterday that didn’t arrive
James: it was sent from richard@[third party domain], it seems to have been dropped and the sender didn’t get a bounce message
James: wondering why it was not delivered
James: and why the sender didn’t get a bounce message
James: it’s worrying because now we’re not sure if other mail is being dropped with no notification to either sender or recipient
Kathy A.: Let me check your records.
Kathy A.: Is that the email sent to you was with an attachment of more than the available space?
James: it was yes
Kathy A.: I am sorry, you cannot send an receive an attachment of more than the available space.
James: ok, but why wasn’t the sender notified of the bounce?
Kathy A.: And for email accounts with 50 MB space, 10 MB is the size limit for attachments.
James: you can see why that would be an issue
James: I can accept that, but for it just to disappear with no notification is surely not standard
Kathy A.: James, you need to take care of this. If you are expecting bigger emails or emails with attachments, you need to have sufficient space in the email account.
Kathy A.: I suggest, you add the storage space or upgrade the email account.
Kathy A.: I am sorry for the inconvenience.
James: I understand that, really. However every email account I have ever had has sent a bounce message to the sender if an email is not delivered.
Kathy A.: That was the different case. In this case, your email account could have received the email if there was some space.
James: Upgrading doesn’t solve the problem. What if someone sends me an 11MB email? I don’t get it, they don’t get notified that it wasn’t delivered. Not acceptable for a business.
Kathy A.: Bounce back emails are sent if the email is not sent to the receipent at all.
James: I don’t think you’re understanding me
James: a bounce message was not sent, that is the whole issue
James: the message was not delivered, no bounce message was sent. problem for my business
Kathy A.: I understand. I am sorry but bounce back email messages are not sent if your email space is our of limit.
James: OK – great, now we’re getting somewhere. Why not?
James: No matter what the size limit of my account, or of my individual email limit, I can’t control other people. I can’t ensure that someone who isn’t particularly computer literate will try to attach a 60MB file to an email. However, if they do, I do expect them to be notified by the server that drops the mail. that is standard practice
James: hello…
Kathy A.: Okay. I am sorry for the delay.
James: no problem
Kathy A.: Any email that is sent will be received by the recipient and if not it should bounce back to the sender. If the sender did not receive a bounce back means that the email did not reach our mailservers at all. In such cases, the ISPs block the email and this what, it seems happened in your case.
James: Sorry Kathy, nice try. The email was delivered fine when sent to another email address. The problem is not with the senders’ ISP or SMTP.
James: Please look at it from my point of view. First you say that no bounce message will be sent if the email box is out of limit. Now you say it would have been sent, but it didn’t reach you because of the sender. It sounds like you’re trying to disown the problem.
Kathy A.: Okay. Now, it is not necessary that your ISP would block all mailservers or all the IP’s.
James: So please confirm for me: would a bounce message have been sent from or not? because I’m getting conflicting reports here
James: if I send an 60mb file to myself using my address, will I get a bounce?
Kathy A.: It is quite possible that the other mailserver was not blocked by that ISP and so the email was delivered.
Kathy A.: If at all, it reached’s mailservers and it could not be delivered to your email account, then the sender would surely get a bounce back message.
James: so what you said before was wrong?
James: [quoting]Kathy A.: I understand. I am sorry but bounce back email messages are not sent if your email space is our of limit.
James: you can understand why this looks like a backpedal from my perspective
Kathy A.: Yes, it seems I was not able to explain the things in a right way. The sentence should have been – I understand. I am sorry but bounce back email messages are sent if your email space is our of limit.
Kathy A.: I am sorry but bounce back email messages are sent if your email space is out of limit.
James: OK. so that I get this straight – your story is that the senders’ mailserver for some reason was blocking mailservers for delivery, but not blocking iinet mailservers. the mail never reached is that right?
James: (iinet being the provider of the address that did successfully receive the big message)
James: so by your reasoning, no mail from that sender should reach address, right?
James: so you’d be surprised to hear that many emails have been exchanged between those two addresses, just not this large one?
James: so the possibilities are: the senders’ server blocks attachments, but not regular mail, to servers, and allows mail with attachments to other servers. or – didn’t send a bounce. which is more likely?
Kathy A.: Yes, to the first Question. If the particular email server is blocked by the ISP, then ofcourse no one would be able to send emails to that email address. The ISPs also keep updating their policies and the list of blocked mailservers. So it is not necessary that always the email will not be delivered. The ISP would be in better position to explain these things.
Kathy A.: Is there anything else I can help you with today?
James: you could help me with this problem instead of trying to wriggle out of it
James: I’m sorry, but this sounds like you’re out of your depth and trying to shift the blame elsewhere
James: can I speak to your supervisor please
Kathy A.: Well, this is not the fact. Okay, let me have the Supervisor to assist you.
James: thank you
Kathy A.: Please wait for a few minutes while I transfer this Chat.
James: thank you
[long delay]
Transferred To Stacy S.
Stacy S.: Hi, James.
Stacy S.: Thank you for waiting.
James: Hi Stacy!
James: no problem
James: has Kathy brought you up to date?
Stacy S.: Yes, I am going through the chat transcript you had with her.
James: great
Stacy S.: If you want, you could brief me up on the issue.
James: well, basically a large email was sent from a client to one of my addresses. the email never arrived, and the sender never got a bounce message. I accept that emails that are too large are not delivered. what I don’t accept is that the sender is not notified.
James: I’m sure Kathy is doing her best to help, but the answer she has provided is clearly intended to shift the focus elsewhere and disown the problem.
James: I have had some experience with technical phone support, so I understand her dilemma, but I have conducted several experiments to verify her theories and none of them stand up.
James: I send a 6MB attachment from james@[ domain] (a address) via a SMTP to scott@[ domain] (also he did not receive the email, nor did I get a bounce. the only servers involved were the SMTP and the POP3. it is clearly a problem at
Stacy S.: In that case, let me have the technical department and myself look into the email account and work on it.
Stacy S.: I would need to follow the same with your email account and check that before I decide upon any resolution.
James: OK, I’ll go make dinner and check back here every 15 mins or so
Stacy S.: Will that be fine with you?
Stacy S.: I will send an email to you once we have found a solution to your problem.
Stacy S.: I cannot assure you that we would hit a solution in a few minutes or so.
James: when could I expect that Stacey?
Stacy S.: In another few hours, may be another couple or so.
James: OK, so how do I get in touch with you if I don’t hear from you?
Stacy S.: You can contact us through this Live Chat support or call us at any time to check the status of your inquiry.
Stacy S.: If I need any more time, I would email you and let you know about it.
James: OK – I believe you really want to help, so I’ll trust you not to just blow me off on this. It’s quite important and you know how word gets around the net when people have poor customer service experiences! Could I have a support ticket number please?
Stacy S.: Yes, I do understand what effects it could have on a company.
Stacy S.: You can make a note of the Reference number 061220-000539.
James: fantastic, thank you for being so helpful Stacy
Stacy S.: You are most welcome and I apologize for the inconvenience caused to you in this regard.
Stacy S.: I will do my best to provide any plausible explanation on this.
James: look forward to hearing from you soon – no need to apologise
Stacy S.: Is there anything else I can assist you with today?
James: solving this will be more than enough assistance, thanks!
James: gnight
Stacy S.: If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us again.
Stacy S.: Thank you for contacting
Stacy S.: Bye.

Stay tuned…

what’s stopping me moving to Ubuntu

I’m deperately trying to move to Linux full time. I want to, believe me. But I’m a software guy, I work for a big company and there are certain things I need that, as far as I can tell, I just can’t do under Linux. It’s largely not Linux’s fault, more that the vendors don’t have good support for Linux. Nonetheless, here are my biggest issues:
- VPN. I access my work network through a VPN, using NetScreen-Remote. Work won’t change their infrastructure to suit me, so I have to work with what they’ve got. I’m not a VPN expert, so I’m not sure how proprietary it is. If work is using VPN software from a specific vendor, must I use that vendor’s VPN software? No VPN, no Ubuntu. Simple as that.
- Rational Rose. Now, IBM list a Linux version of this, so it might be doable. Will see if I can get my hands on it, but without Rose I’m screwed as our software is model-driven and we’re currently tied to Rose. I could run it under QEMU, but it’s then sandboxed in its own little read-only image right? And the QEMU VM can’t access the host filesystem, right? What about WINE?
- Outlook/iPAQ: I’ve been using Outlook for years. Now with my work IMAP account it’s no problem moving to Evolution, but for my home POP3 accounts, I would need to convert my .PST files to something readable by Evolution. Apparently this can be done by going through Thunderbird in XP first, then exporting an Evolution-compatible file, but I’ll need to look more closely. Of greater concern is the iPAQ (Windows Mobile 5) synchronisation. The only open source project I’ve found is SynCE, but that looks like it’s no longer being maintained. If I can’t sync with my iPAQ, I have to keep Outlook. If I have to keep Outlook, I have to run XP. it’s a Ubuntu-killer for me. Some will say “dual-boot” or “install Linux on your iPAQ” but I organise my whole life in my PIM and I have it running all the time for reminders, task management etc. I’ll be buggered if I’m going to boot in and out of Linux just to check my calendar, and I bet I can’t sync the iPAQ to Outlook within a QEMU or WINE VM. (Worth a try though). To the second, as soon as TomTom release a Linux-compatible build, I might look at that. Until then, I need my satnav on my iPAQ.
- WoW. Maybe in WINE or Cedega. Will try it out.
- Premiere and 3dsMax. Not a real killer, as I’d be happy to dual-boot into XP to do my video editing and modelling. Is there a decent NLE or 3D package for Linux? I’m very used to these two though. No biggie.
- Webcams and Macromedia Breeze. Should be OK, as I think Breeze runs in the Flash player, which has been ported to Linux. We videoconference a lot.
- Is there a Linux version of EAGLE and MPLAB? No biggie I guess, can dual boot for my circuit and microprocessor design, but might be nice.
So that’s it. That’s pretty much all that’s standing in my way. Not much, but it’s serious enough to scuttle my move to Ubuntu if can’t be solved. What do you think?

free will

My last post has got me thinking about a lot of things.
Firstly on the issue of free will. If my logic is sound, then it follows that free will is simply an illusion created by the staggering complexity of the brain and the particle interactions that occur in it.
Unfortunately, the illusion of randomness – or free will – caused by enormous complexity is not true randomness or free will. Even if there is a true underlying randomness in the properties of the universe, that would not imply free will. It would simply imply unpredictability.
There is of course, another explanation – the theistic one. It cannot be disproven – though similarly cannot be proven – that our “free will” might exist outside the boundaries and limitations of the physical universe, but is somehow able to influence that physical universe. This grates with the scientists amongst us, but only the most dogmatic – and thus the least scientific – of them would totally discount the possiblity.
So that leaves us, simplistically, with two variables, each with two options. Either the evolution of the universe is entirely predictable, or there is some underlying true randomness in the laws of the universe. Either there is no free will, or free will exists outside the limitations of the physical universe.
Let’s look at the four resultant combinations in the context of human nature. The most “pessimistic” combination is that the universe is completely predictable and that we have no free will. We are on atomic railroad tracks. Forever. Kinda depressing eh? Importantly though: the fact that it is depressing does not make it false. I’ll get to this in a moment.
The most “positive” combination is that the universe is inherently random, and that we have a consciousness that exists outside of this true randomness which can influence the physical universe in which our bodies reside. This is the “aeroplane in a storm” analogy. Much more pleasing! But don’t fall into the trap that because this is more pleasing, it is more likely.
The other options are: free will in a predictable universe (in which life is the only factor that alters the streets of the passage of time – the “driving a car” analogy – also “pleasing”); and true randomness – the “feather in a hurricane” analogy, where we have no ability to influence the chaotic randomness of the future.
Now of course that raises an interesting point on the origin of theistic faith. Let us assume that the majority of people feel that having no free will is an unpleasant thought. I think that is a fair statement to make. Now let’s think back to our ancestors. When faced with the same dilemmas (though obviously more instinctive than reasoned) would they not lean towards the more pleasing conclusions? Would the natural instinctive desire to believe that we have free will not naturally lead to the human creation of deities, who also exist above and beyond the laws of the universe?
Some may see this as proof of the existence of their personal god, but this is a perversion of my argument. It is in fact strong evidence to the contrary; that deities are a human creation that came about through our natural desire to have a purpose. Whether or not we have a consciousness outside of the physical universe, human nature almost inevitably leads to the creation of supernatural theories of purpose.
Only those that can recognise that desire for a particular truth has no bearing on what is actually true – just as I recognise that I want to have free will but that does not necessarily mean I do – can transcend this human bias and be truly objective.
Of course all this, due to the impossibility of experimental validation, falls more into the area of philosophy than science.
Are we strapped, immobile, to the front of a train on infinite, straight tracks?
Are we driving a car on empty, predictable streets – taking the turns we wish?
Are we piloting a plane in an umpredictable storm?
Or are we a feather being tossed in a chaotic hurricane?
Philosophy, yes – but grounded in fundamental scientific issues nonetheless. How interesting!