Friday, July 24, 2015

My new post code

Until recently Ireland was one of the few countries not to have post codes. The only exception to this is Dublin which was divided up into 23 postal districts and my postcode used to be D15 (which I shared with about 50,000 people). Recently the government has launched a system called eircode which provides each address in Ireland with a unique post code. I thought this was good news until I found out the detail of how the new codes work.

My new Eircode is D15NY1* (I obscured the final character to avoid publishing my address). The D15 portion is the same as before and shows roughly where I live, but the NY1* portion is simply a random sequence of characters with no meaning. For example my next door neighbours' post codes are D15KD9* and D15WN8* so they share nothing in common apart from the D15.

For some bizarre reason the postal service think it would be a privacy issue if your  post code were to reveal where you live (is this not the whole point of a post code?). A more likely explanation for the choice of random characters is the fact that the promoters of this system are selling a database which maps between post codes and geographic coordinates. I guess commercial users might want to buy the database, for casual use there is a web site to do lookups.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Whether to use MapMyRide or Strava

One of the ways to make exercise more fun is to share records of your activity with your friends so that they can like and/or comment on it. I used to record my activity regularly with MyTracks, but as my phone got older and less powerful I got out of the habit.

Recently I got a new more powerful phone and decided to start recording again. It seems that the most popular apps currently used by cyclists are MapMyRide and Strava, but I heard conflicting reports about which was best. I decided to use each of them for a month and then use my experiences to decide which is best.

Just as I was ready to write up my review, I found an existing review which summarised almost exactly what I found myself. The only additional points I would make were:

  • Strava now has support for saving routes which was one of the main features missing when the previous reviews was written.
  • MapMyRide now has support for segments which was previously a big advantage for Strava
  • There is a better social vibe on MapMyRide since it seems to have a wider range of people I know using it. Strava in contrast seems to be only used by more serious athletes whose main form of socialisation is to race each other up hills.
Overall the two applications are very close, but I decided to stick with Strava as my main app. The main deciding factor for me was the amount of annoying advertisements which appear in the MapMyRide app - they can seriously interfere with the usability.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Copying text to and from remote servers

When working with a remote server it is very useful to be able to copy text from the local machine to the remote server or visa-versa. Normally this can be done via the clipboard commands of ctrl-C/ctrl-V. However, this feature sometimes stops working for no clear reason which is very frustrating.

Luckily I have found out that there is a relatively easy way to fix this. There is a program which runs on the remote server that looks after synchronising the contents of the clipboard on the local and remote computers.  The problem is that it sometimes stops working and needs to be restarted.

The VNC protocol is normally used to connect to Linux type systems and in this case the program in question is called vncconfig. It can be restarted by launching a terminal window on the remote system and typing the command:

   killall vncconfig ; vncconfig -nowin &

The RDP protocol is normally used to connect to Windows type servers. In this case the program which does the synchronisation is called rdpclip.exe and the procedure to restart it is only slightly more complex.

Open a command window on the remote system and type taskmgr.exe - the following dialog should appear and you need to click on the processes tab and locate a process with an image named rdpclip.exe. If you have problems spotting it, click on the "Image Name" column header to sort processes by image name. Once you find the process right-click on it and select "end process". This will ask you for confirmation. Once you confirm you can go back to your command prompt and type rdpclip.exe then cut and paste should be working again.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Run-a-muck challlenge

My first event of 2015 season is going to be the run-a-muck challenge in March. This is a fun event where contestants take on an obstacle course which involves lots of muck. Hopefully the weather won't be too cold.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

When and where to check-in

Location based social networks like Foursquare are quite controversial. They seem to be gaining in popularity, but at the same time many people avoid them as being a form of submitting to surveillance.

I think that the key attraction is that it forms a game. For example, the Foursquare user who checks-in somewhere most frequently in a 3 month period is elected as the mayor of that location. One time, I was very proud to be declared mayor of my local gym - even though I am sure many people went more frequently but just didn't check in on Foursquare. On the other hand, I was less thrilled to find out that I had become mayor of my local dentists.

Another key factor to remember is that checking in is voluntary. It requires a few clicks on your smartphone to check-in to somewhere and this is not something that I could do accidentally and reveal that I was somewhere that I ought not be.

One dangerous feature introduced by the new Swarm appp is called neighbourhood sharing. If you enable this feature it automatically reveals to your friends the neighbourhood that you are in. This is not quite as bad as revealing your actual location - for example if I revealed that I was in Castleknock I could be either working from home or dropping into my local pub for a quick pint during the work day. Nevertheless I recommend that you shouldn't enable this feature if you have concerns about your privacy.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What is the Strange Weather Hackathon?

The Science Gallery is currently hosting a weather themed hackathon in conjunction with their Strange Weather exhibition. The general idea is that teams will spend two days trying to do their best to answer a challenge related to how we deal with climate change.

For example, I am part of the "Woodville" team and we are trying to answer the challenge "What should I plant so that it will be suited to the expected future climate in my part of the world?". We are leveraging predictions for the likely effects of global warming which means that people will need to plant different crops than were traditionally planted in their area. Our team discussion document is hosted on hackpad. You can click here to see the latest version of the app on our web site (hopefully it will be working by tomorrow evening)..

Saturday, August 30, 2014

My Weather Station comes back on-line

My old weather station equipment suffered damage and so no data has been reported for the last few months. Luckily I got a birthday present of a new weather station and so my weather site is back online again. Unfortunately the twitter feed is not being updated, but I will fix that soon.

As I was setting up the new station I realised that the clock on my Tonido plug was seriously wrong. For some reason the date skipped forward from 2nd of December 2013 to 16th of April  2030. This means that the forecast data I have been collecting was incorrectly dated. When I get a chance I will write a script to fix up all of the data.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

KDE Remote Desktop Client (KRDC)

I recently switched my work laptop from Ubuntu to RedHat. Since Remmina is not in the default repositories that came with my new client I decided to use KRDC instead.

Overall I must say I am quite impressed with KRDC, it is easy and intutive to use. Its tabbed UI and storing of bookmarked sessions remind me very much of Remmina.

The one problem I have with KRDC is that it refuses to remember the passwords for each of my saved sessions. A dialog comes up prompting for the password with a check-box "remember this password" - I select this check-box but I still get prompted for a password the next time I connect. I assume this is a bug which will be fixed soon, but it is only a minor nuisance (I have a lot of passwords to remember).

A feature from Remmina I miss is the ability to automatically configure sharing between the local and remote machine, but again this is a feature I can live without for now.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Race to Truth

The most recent book I read about cycling is The Race to Truth by Emma O'Reilly. It tells the story of how Lance Armstrong's soigneur changed from being a big Lance fan into a Lance hater and finally back to a balanced view of him. In the last chapter she outlines how she made peace with Lance and she even argues that his lifetime ban from sport is too severe. Overall I think it is a very interesting and well written book (apparently she had no ghost writer).

It is an interesting contrast to Seven Deadly Sins by David Walshe which I read earlier this year. David Walshe clearly views Lance Armstrong as cycling's enemy number one and he shows no sympathy with the view that Lance was simply part of a cycling culture which almost required doping.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

New cycle route beside Royal Canal

The towpath of the Royal Canal between Castleknock and Finglas has recently been upgraded to form a beautiful cycling route. I cycled along there one day recently and was delighted to see four separate families of swans with cygnets. All credit is due to whoever was behind this project.