2012 archive

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This is the full archive for 2012

Piccadilly Jim, by P. G. Wodehouse

<img src="http://samwilson.id.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/piccadilly-jim-1024x116.png" alt="The spine of the book" style="width:100%" class="aligncenter wp-image-1011" srcset="http://localhost/~sam/wp-samwilson.id.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/piccadilly-jim-1024x116.png 1024w, http://localhost/~sam/wp-samwilson.id.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/piccadilly-jim-150x17.png 150w, http://localhost/~sam/wp-samwilson.id.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/piccadilly-jim-500x57.png 500w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" />

Rules for Making

Yanagi Sōetsu’s call to arms tools

That the crafted item be

  1. produced by anonymous crafts people;
  2. made by hand, and in quantity;
  3. inexpensive;
  4. used by the masses;
  5. functional in daily life;
  6. representative of the region in which it was produced.

George Steiner, a certain idea of knowledge

Trees have roots; I have legs. And believe me, that is a huge advantage. […] Is it possible to read Plato while wearing a Walkman? […] Books are a great bulwark for private life. […] Imagine a world where neuro-chemistry could explain Mozart… It is conceivable, and I find it frightening.

From Telerama, via Presseurop (local archive).

How Proust Can Change Your Life, by Alain de Botton (1997)

<img src="http://samwilson.id.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/proust-1024x76.png" alt="Spine of the book." style="width:100%" class="aligncenter wp-image-1036" srcset="http://localhost/~sam/wp-samwilson.id.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/proust-1024x76.png 1024w, http://localhost/~sam/wp-samwilson.id.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/proust-150x11.png 150w, http://localhost/~sam/wp-samwilson.id.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/proust-500x37.png 500w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" />

p.41, on reading the ‘news-in-brief’ section of the daily paper:

* Tragic end for Verona lovebirds: after mistakenly thinking his sweetheart dead, a young man took his life. Having discovered the fate of her lover, the woman killed herself in turn.

  • A young mother threw herself under a train and died in Russia after domenstic problems.
  • A young mother took arsenic and died in a French provincial town after domestic problems.

Unfortunately, the very artistry of Shakespeare, Tolstoy, and Flaubert has the tendency to suggest that it would have been apparent even from a news-in-brief that there was something significant about Romeo, Anna, and Emma, something which would have led any right-thinking person to see that these were characters fit for great literature or a show at the Globe, whereas of course there would have been nothing to distinguish them [from the everyday items that make it into news-in-brief.]


There would come a moment with every book when we would feel that something was incongruous, misunderstood, or constraining, and it would give us a responsibility to leave our guide behind and continue our thoughts alone.


…there is nothing inherently three-star about a town Proust grew up in or inherently no-star about an Elf petrol station neaer Courville where Proust never had a chance to fill his Renault — but where if he had, he might easily have found something to appreciate…


It should not be Illiers-Combray that we visit: a genuine homage to Proust would be to look at our world through his eyes, not to look at his world through our eyes.

Brewster Kahle on the Internet Archive

We offered unlimited storage, unlimited bandwidth, for ever, for free — to anybody who has something to share that belongs in a library. —Brewster Kahle, Entertainment Gathering Conference 2007 (republished as a TED Talk). The above quote is at 14:19.

The crux of it is of course “something that belongs in a library”. If one has something that could conceivably be held in a library, then there should be a library in which it can be held; the Internet Archive is one possibility.

Wikisource now exports

Wikisource has begun, at long last, to be able to produce export formats for its books. PDF and Epub have been made available in the last week or so, the first via the WMF-wide book creator tool (which has just started supporting the <pages /> markup that is used on Wikisource to assemble transcribed books) and the second thanks to a script from Italy.

Sitting near a fence

Chained gate
I am sitting on hot concrete near a fence and a sing that reads “NO THOROUGHFARE”. The concrete is a path (leading to the sign), the fence is pretty normal, and the sign doesn’t tell anyone anything that the locked gate doesn’t. I don’t suppose this gate is ever open; I’ve certainly never seen it so. It leads from a road to a carpark, and the carpark is accessed from a different road. I’m not sure who’s meant to walk from one to the other.
"No Thoroughfare" sign
The sign, though: let me look at that. Why is it fixed to the steel pipe? That would’ve been put in for it specifically, wouldn’t it? No, on a second look, it does have a bracing function — the two parallel bars where there was no room for an angled brace down to the ground. But did they really need to put ten rivets in the thing?! And cut its corners away like that — it’s a nice touch, letting the tin lie flat on the pipes, but it seems like a lot of extra work for such a thing as this. No council did this, I think! And, once whoever it was had cut the corners and was about to drill all those holes — why didn’t they bother putting the blasted thin in the centre?! surely that’s not much extra work?

Still, some people — not that long ago — put a lot of work into a big concrete path, fence, gate, and the sign, all so that no one can go through here.

Sorry, Apple Inc., I’ve met something I like more than you

I first used a Mac in about 1993 — a Quadra I think it might’ve been, or a Performa. I’d come from DOS and Amiga and didn’t really know anything about anything — I didn’t even know there was anything to be known. I remember hearing someone talking about Windows, and assuming they just meant those rectangles one could drag about on the screen. A computer to me was a fun sort of thing which could usually be made to do (boring… but strangely compelling) things with textual input and output, thanks to variants of a ‘basic‘ language (AmigaBasic, QBasic, etc.). When I found AppleScript — and when I started using it for CGI programs (don’t ask!) — it seemed that all that one needed was an idea and some time, and the machines could be made to do anything!

Anyway, it was on System 7 that I spent most of my time (and its successors), thanks to my stepfather’s loyalty to Apples — and I loved it. I loved the whole Apple thing, really — this odd feeling that somehow, just by choosing this particular OS, one could be calmer, more focussed, write better (code or prose), and still spend one’s spare time rock climbing (as I did). That couldn’t be the case with those horrid business machines running Windows, that was for sure! I even got a reply from Douglas Adams himself once (a Mac person, as if you didn’t know), to my pedantic email with the subject “Macs are PCs too, you know” (he said, no, they’re not, that argument has been won, and Macs are something more than Personal Computers). I remember sitting in a bookshop reading the Apple Human Interface Guidelines, and thinking how much amazingly careful thought had gone in to everything — the distance between buttons in a dialog window, for example, or the algorithm for changing the length of the ‘thumb’ in a scroll bar as the content length changed.

<img src="http://samwilson.id.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/P1040965-150x112.jpg" alt="" title="Beer and Apple? See what I mean?! Beer and *Ubuntu* is more like it!" width="150" height="112" class="alignright size-thumbnail wp-image-1073" srcset="http://localhost/~sam/wp-samwilson.id.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/P1040965-150x112.jpg 150w, http://localhost/~sam/wp-samwilson.id.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/P1040965-500x375.jpg 500w, http://localhost/~sam/wp-samwilson.id.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/P1040965-1024x768.jpg 1024w" sizes="(max-width: 150px) 100vw, 150px" />Why on Earth was there such an element of personal identification with these computers?! I was an ‘Apple person’; otherwise known these days, more appropriately, as a fanboi! Which has lasted nearly twenty years… but I can’t keep it up. I’ve been through five or six Macs in that time — I’m typing this on my MacBook5,1 — but it’s time to move on. I’ve enjoyed them all, especially the feeling that they are reliable: physically solid and unlikely to break in my backpack. But I won’t be buying another. I’m losing faith.

No, I’ve lost my faith. I lost my faith as Apple wanted to control everything more and more — the whole ‘ecosystem’, as they say, of OS and programs and data and sources — and as my awareness of the value of open standards grew. Obviously, I’m not saying that one can’t work perfectly well with open standards on Mac OS, because I have been doing so for years and years. It’s just that the OS as a whole is not geared to helping people do that. I shudder to think of people who know no better and are tying up their entire digital archives in formats that offer no security for future access! (But don’t let me get sidetracked into that discussion…)

I’ll no longer align my computing life (which is a rather large part of my life, for better or worse) with a corporation who’s aims are less than honourable: so I’ve bought a Lenovo X220, and shall be running Ubuntu exclusively. (I would’ve done this years ago, except for the fact that my current hardware has been running well since 2008, and I hate the idea of discarding a useful machine. Also, I do most of my computing on Linux anyway; the local machine is just a gateway, really.)

Goodbye Mac OS! I’ve enjoyed the ride and learnt lots, but ultimately have been thwarted in learning on too many occasions. It’s time for a system that, should I come up against its limitations, can be changed to suit my needs.

So long and thanks for all the fish. ;-)

Bike paths should be as good as roads

I rode again this afternoon and evening on the bike path that runs down from Hampton Road to South Terrace, and was reminded of the poorly-laid new surface that has been installed on the lower part of it. It’s rough and bumpy and looks like an amature job. Why does this happen to such a important bike route?! It’s not like whoever builds these things doesn’t know how to make beautifully smooth and well-curved paths — they managed to do it over at the northern end of the South Beach car park with that new S-curve bit, which was done at about the same time (although I’m not sure why it had to be an S-curve).

But it’s not like this bit of crap path really matters. And there’s probably some advantage in having the bottom of that nice hill a bit bumpy, so that over-enthusiastic cyclists (or just well-greased-bearing bearers) don’t feel like swooshing on into the pedestrian crossroads at the end, or onto the road.

What is most annoying is that such shoddy work would never be accepted on a motor-vehicle road!! Why must bicycle traffic be always considered second-class?! Why not build a network of bike paths with a view to people actually using them to get around (and not just for Saturday-morning pootling down to a cafe?). Why not take this stuff seriously?


This looks great. A community Linux host for email accounts, shell access, and a pile of other uses. They stand for “free access to computers; always yield to the hands-on imperative; freedom of information; decentralization; mistrust of bogus judgement criteria, such as degrees, age, race or position; world improvement”. They seem to be keeping things personal, and human. Hoorah for ninthfloor.org.

Update (2022): Ninthfloor is closing.

Printable WeRelate.org

I’ve just put up a little script I’ve been playing with that creates family trees from werelate.org data, using GraphViz. Here’s what my tree is currently looking like (click for a clickable SVG, if you’re using a good browser):

<img src="http://static.samwilson.id.au/2012/werelate/ts/tree/Family_Tree_2012-05-07.sm.png" alt="Family tree" style="width:100%" />

Contributing to Github-hosted projects

Some projects provide information about how people should fork and contribute to them. This is my general approach (included here, obviously, for my own edification):

  1. Fork a project: Github clickity-click
  2. Clone it locally:
    git clone git@github.com:username/project.git
  3. Add the upstream project:
    git remote add upstream git@github.com:upstream/project.git
  4. Do not commit to the master branch; it is to be kept up-to-date with upstream master:
    git pull upstream master
  5. Create branches that solve one feature or issue each, named whatever:
    git branch new-branch-name master
  6. Create a ‘personal master’ named with your username:
    git branch username master
  7. Do not merge master into feature branches, rather rebase these on top of master:
    git rebase new-branch-name
  8. Merge all personal feature branches into your personal master branch, so you’ve got a branch that represents all your development.

My main goal is to create discrete branches, based on the upstream master, for features that I want to push back upstream.

(No doubt I’m missing obvious things, and any git-geek will see instantly the gaps in my knowledge.)


To combine the last three commits (and write a new commit message):<a title="Kudos Chris Johnsen" href="http://stackoverflow.com/a/5201642">*</a>

git reset --soft HEAD~3
git commit

Hami Hill to get a real café?!

Probably not worth getting excited about yet, but it’s heartening to see that something might be done with the shops on Winterfold Road one of these days! They’ll have at least one grateful customer, here.

<img src="http://samwilson.id.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Fremantle-Herald-2012-06-16-page-2-Hamilton-Hill-article.png" alt="" title="Fremantle Herald 2012-06-16, page 2, Hamilton Hill article" width="777" height="865" class="aligncenter" />

(From the <a href="http://www.fremantleherald.com/cockburn/" title="Yes, tomorrow's edition">Cockburn City Herald</a>, Saturday June 16th 2012, page 2.)



· Programming · Backing up · Cloud storage · Linux · Offsite · Rsync.net · Subversion ·

I signed up for an rsync.net account a bit over a month ago. They’re a reasonably-priced off-site filesystem provider, seemingly run by people who care about security and doing things normally. By ‘normally’, I mean rsync for starters (oddly enough, given their name) but also the whole gammut of *nix-y ways of doing things; one can interact with them with the usual tools. So they provide a proper, old-fashioned filesystem, and protect it well (there’s even a warrent canary). There’s a choice of datacentre — I chose the Zurich one — and plans ranging from 7GB (80c/GB/month) to 10TB (8c/GB/month). They even correspond via email, of all things! It really is odd that a company that behaves so normally is so uncommon…. I don’t care about pretty graphics, boring and unused extra features, or ‘enterprise-readiness’ (whatever the flip that is), I just want a share of some disk in a big strong building somewhere, one that’s going to be protected and maintained properly and simply. All I can say so far is three cheers for rsync.net. (I’ll be sure to report back if my opinion changes.)

So that’s all well and good, and I’ve got my big disk in the sky, but how am I going to use it? I am going to host a Subversion repository there, to serve as an everything-bucket. That is all. How well will svn handle a huge (multi-gigabyte) repository? I’ve heard varying reports, but most seem to think it’ll be fine. Certainly it’s data-copying system will work well, as far as resuming aborted connections goes (it’ll only copy what’s not yet been copied; much as rsync.net does (although I don’t think it does it at any smaller unit than that of the whole file)). Questions remain about how much overhead diskspace I’ll waste by doing this, but as most of the binary files will only be modified at most once or twice, and generally not at all once they’re checked-in, I don’t think it’ll matter too much.

I’ll see how things go.

Where did the road go?

Hamilton Hill

Screenshot from JOSM, showing GPS traces where Hamtilton Road used to be.
Ah! Just there. :-)

The Openstreetmap has just undergone a major change, in the form of the removal of all contributions by people who did not agree to the new licence (or the change of the licence; or something like that). I’ve been tinkering around my area, replacing missing bits. Very often, it’s quite easy to put the roads back thanks to all the GPS traces — as at left, with Hamilton Road.

Archiving a password-protected site with wget

The combination of <a href="http://man.cx/wget%22 title="wget's man page">wget</a> and the Export Cookies add-on for Firefox is useful for creating offline, complete, static archives of websites that are only accessible with a password:

  1. First log in to the site and export cookies.txt,
  2. Then run
    wget \
    --recursive \
    --no-clobber \
    --page-requisites \
    --html-extension \
    --convert-links \
    --restrict-file-names=windows \
    --domains example.com \
    --no-parent \
    --load-cookies cookies.txt \
    --reject logout,admin* \

The rejection of logout URLs is especially useful, because otherwise one will probably be logged out by wget accessing the logout link.

Digital Permanence

Manton Reece<a href="http://www.webcitation.org/69MbpxFrb" title="Archived on webcitation.org">cited</a> wrote some sensible words about the permanence of material on the Internet, and Dave Winer<a href="http://www.webcitation.org/69MfRmURM" title="Archived on webcitation.org">cited</a> followed suit shortly after (and then again<a href="http://www.webcitation.org/69Saa4Z82" title="Archived on webcitation.org">cited</a>). It’s an important topic.

We need places — secure, digital, permanent places — to store things. It’s not a particularly difficult problem, at least to attempt to solve. (Of course, we won’t really know if we’ve succeded for another few hundred years.) So we should try!

A couple of ideas that I’m using as a baseline these days:

  1. Store things in open formats, so we can continue to read them.
  2. Store things in a small number of large (and non-esoteric!) repositories (i.e. filesystems, or drives, or websites, or whatever), so they’re easy to migrate to other places.

The latter is, I think, important: it means that the data can be easily handed over to someone else.

WebDB updated

Yesterday I added a little fix to WebDB for a bug that prevented filtering on column names that occur in both the table being filtered and any of the tables referred to by foreign keys. This most often applied to id columns.

[Update:] And today I’ve (hopefully) fixed the problem with foreign-key fields in edit forms not being able to be emptied. How did that live this long?! Sorry.

Wiki Wednesday


Because I never make the time elsewhere to get anything done, I have decided to schedule in an hour or so — just a tiny bit of time, but regular (and here I am, for the second time) — every Wednesday afternoon at the local library, to focus on Wikimedia stuff. Not that I’m very active, and who knows if I’ll succeed in getting anything done; but I’d like to. There’s a whole number of things I want to work on. This plan for QR codes in Freo is spurning me on for one, but today it’s just Geffrard that I want to focus on…

The Geffrard was a ship that sunk south of here in 1875, and my great-great-great-uncle was her master at the time. We (my mum and me, that is; she’s become rather a dedicated genealogist in the last year!) are gathering more and more sources, and soon there will be enough to write something up (whether notable or not, I dunno). Right now, we’re transcribing the inquiry into the shipwreck on Wikisource. So I’ll get cracking on with that…

Power point in the Freo library with a sign hanging over it prohibiting use for personal equipment.
Except! :-( Except that the library’s wifi seems to be failing me, and (worse) my battery is flat and this place doesn’t provide a single power point for laptops. I think that’s a shame. I mean, I know there’s some arguments around about libraries being places for books, and quiet reading, and whatnot… but really, I’d far rather they were places of general learning and exploration and intellectual inquiry and… well, y’know… all that. It seems that a library full of laptops (and this one, tonight, is just that; I counted eight just now when I went looking for power) is a pretty great thing; certainly on a par with a library full of noisy children (and this one is also that). So, are they just looked on as ‘distractions’? Or we don’t want the place filled up for twelve hours a day with pauper uni students looking for free wifi and some warmth? Or is there some OH&S ruling lurking somewhere? If I had my power cable tested and tagged, would that let me in?! Surely, nerding it up in libraries should be encouraged — it’s far cheaper, if nothing else, than the library service supplying all of these computers itself.

Anyway, don’t let me rant on about that. I’ll get back to preparing some scans of our captain’s Masters Certificate for upload to Commons, and I’ll be back next week with a full battery!

QRpedia generator


I’ve been tinkering with a QRpedia ‘plaque generator’ (freo.org.au/qrpedia) that takes a list of Wikipedia page names as input and spits out a printable set of QRpedia codes with ‘Wikipedia’ written across the top, and the article name below the QR code. The printing is a bit wonky, perhaps, but works good for me in Firefox: prints four to a page when scaled to 70% or thereabouts. (Why I’m trying to use HTML for this I do not know… at least it was quick to build… if it doesn’t work, let me know. There was a problem earlier this morning with the formatting of the links, that’s fixed now.)

The generator has come out of an idea to install QRpedia plaques around Fremantle, for the interest of tourists and — more importantly, I reckon — locals. It’s good to know a bit about one’s home, I think, and if anyone gets even more interested, they can get involved and add more info and articles. Today, the (other) local rag ran a story (see below) about this idea. They didn’t quite understand the bit about how these codes will link to Wikipedia, unfortunately.

Bookpress, free to a good home

<img src="http://samwilson.id.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/bookpress-430x500.jpg" alt="Bookpress" width="430" height="500" class="aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1285" srcset="http://localhost/~sam/wp-samwilson.id.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/bookpress-430x500.jpg 430w, http://localhost/~sam/wp-samwilson.id.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/bookpress-129x150.jpg 129w, http://localhost/~sam/wp-samwilson.id.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/bookpress-881x1024.jpg 881w" sizes="(max-width: 430px) 100vw, 430px" />

I built this press in 2003 out of pine salvaged from bed frames that were being thrown out by University House at the ANU. I’ve barely used it since, and the time has come to admit that I’m never going to be the small-time bookbinder fellow that I perhaps at some point thought I might be.

So, hopefully, this will end up being of some use to the WA Craft Bookbinders Guild.

Getting a proper DATE variable in batch files

Windows batch files are hideous things, if one is used to *nix shell scripting. Everything feels wrong! Of course, that’s mostly just because they have a different syntax… but sometimes it’s because they are wrong.

Date formatting, for instance.

There’s an environment variable, %DATE%, that holds the current date, but it’s formatted to the current locale’s ‘short date’ definition, and so does not produce a consistent output from system to system.

Something as simple as naming files becomes a hideous contortion of detecting formats, splitting strings apart, and hopefully re-joining them in the right order. Too annoying for me, today, so I’ve taken a leap out of cmd and into java:

Firstly, compile the following Java class.

import java.text.SimpleDateFormat;
import java.util.Date;

public class date {

    public static void main(String[] args) {
        Date date = new Date();
        String out = new SimpleDateFormat("yyyy-MM-dd").format(date);
$ javac thedate.java

Then, call it from a batch file with something like this:

echo off
java date > thedate.txt
set /p THEDATE= < thedate.txt
del thedate.txt
echo The date is %THEDATE%

This is ridiculous, yes, but it does at least work.

On What Gets Kept, and Changing How Over Time

“Make things that can be archived (databases cannot be, not if you don’t also store the application that reads them). Make it possible to change one’s data structures (the ways in which things are stored — not the file formats, so much), and leave old data alone. To update, copy and morph; don’t try to force everything into the new system. Files are good for this; their formats should be standardised though, of course.”

Silas Marner, by George Eliiot (1860)

Open Library catalogue entry.

Deleting files with special characters in their names, in Windows

A couple of directories in Windows couldn’t be deleted by Windows Explorer, because they had unprintable characters (I’m assuming) in their names.

 Volume in drive D is Data
 Volume Serial Number is 8C47-34BD

 Directory of D:\tmp
28/09/2012  11:34 AM    <DIR> .
28/09/2012  11:34 AM    <DIR> ..
26/10/2010  01:51 PM    <DIR> 954321.
0 File(s)              0 bytes
3 Dir(s)  89,164,262,548 bytes free

On on hitting Delete it replied "Could not find this item. This is no longer located in D:\tmp". I tried on the command line, a similar error:

D:>rd 954321.
The system cannot find the file specified.

The security properties of the folder looked weird, saying "The requested security information is either unavailable or can't be displayed.":

A screenshot of the top part of the properties dialog, showing the Security tab.

So I faffed around trying to change ownership, filenames, etc. all with no luck. Nothing seemed to see these files as existing except for Windows Explorer and ls -force.

In the end Superuser came to the rescue as it often does, with the suggestion of referring to the file by its shortname, which can be got via dir /x.

D:>rd /s 954321~1
Are you sure (Y/N)? y

Agh. Why are the simple things so hard to remember sometimes?&#8230;


I hate it when my bug turns out to be somebody else’s! Hours gone! Still, it’s a relief… :-)

‘Behind the Lines’ podcast, only 2,976 days late

I was digging through some old files, and found an episode of Behind the Lines, a political radio programme from the Canberra station 2XXFM, hosted by Theo Coulthard. It’s from 2004. I think at the time I was meant to do something with it, so I’ve uploaded it to the Internet Archive: <a href="http://archive.org/details/2XXFM_Behind_the_Lines_2004-08-13%22>2XXFM_Behind_the_Lines_2004-08-13</a>.

Backup Rotation Calendar

A little tool for printing schedules for tape (or other backup media) rotations:


Setting up USB drives for backup

I use USB hard drives for backing up one of my machines, swapping them regularly but leaving everything else up to the backup script that runs daily. This means that I want to mount them at the same place every time, regardless of which drive I plug in or what device it is registered as. This isn’t very difficult because fstab can use UUIDs or labels to identify disks:

UUID=6B70-A309    /media/sw_backup vfat user 0 0
LABEL="<strong style="color:#060">SW_BACKUP</strong>" /media/sw_backup vfat user 0 0

(Note: these backup drives are formatted with FAT filesystems so that I can if need be restore on any system if required.)

To avoid having to manually add the disk every time I put a new one into rotation, I go with the label method.

To use this, each disk must be given the same label (and then not plugged in at the same time!). To set the label, first find the device:

sw@swbackup:~/backups$ sudo blkid
/dev/sda3: UUID="f31d1291-9d6f-441d-9f8d-fa34e9f569d5" TYPE="swap"
/dev/sda4: UUID="8a0b99a2-8a2e-4eae-7666-d607fbc44de5" TYPE="ext4"
<strong style="color:#060">/dev/sdb1</strong>: LABEL="NONAME" UUID="4A39-C8E7" TYPE="vfat"

Then sudoedit /etc/mtools.conf to add the following, where the device name is the same as above:

drive s: file="<strong style="color:#060">/dev/sdb1</strong>"

Now mtools can change the label:

sw@swbackup:~/backups$ sudo mlabel -s s:
 Volume label is NONAME
sw@swbackup:~/backups$ sudo mlabel s:<strong style="color:#060">SW_BACKUP</strong>
sw@swbackup:~/backups$ sudo mlabel -s s:
 Volume label is SW_BACKUP

Wiki Tuesday

<img src="http://samwilson.id.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/2012-11-05-Freopedia-geonotice.png" alt="Screenshot of 2012-11-05 Freopedia geonotice." style="width:100%;display:block;margin:auto" />

The first of the November wiki-Tuesdays this evening. Four of us, and a few new articles created. No power points! But perhaps that’ll be recified by next week.

Don’t Write Code (write descriptions of things)

I wish I didn’t know how to code.

For a programmer, the solution to every problem is to write more code.

But sometimes, all that is needed is to write proper words. To explain things and explore them through prose.

Not to remove oneself to the meta-realm of trying to understand the general structure of the problem and model it accordingly. (And then build something that resembles that model, and hope that the people using it see through the layers back to what the buggery’s trying to be done!)

Just write some nice, verbose, rambling blather about what it is and how it works and where we’re trying to go from here. Nothing too technical, and hopefully actually interesting to read. At least, linear, in that old-fashioned way of real writing. Interesting is probably too much to aim for… just words, then.

I was reading Phoebe Ayers recent post about the task of archiving the Wikimedia Foundation’s material. My first thought was “what sort of database/catalogue would be useful for this sort of thing?” Which is quite the wrong question, of course. There’s a whole world of wikis (both instances and engines) out there, perfect for this sort of variably-structured data. (If there’s one thing that constantly amazes me about Wikipedia it’s the fact that so much structure and repeated data is contained in what is basically an immense flat list of lone text files, and that it does rather work! The database geek in me shudders.)

I think a basic tennent for archiving physical and digital resources is that each object, and each grouping of objects, needs to have its own web page. In most cases, I use this both as a catalogue entry for the object or group, and as a printable coversheet to store along with the physical objects (or, in the case of digital-only objects, to be a physical placeholder or archive copy, if they warrant it).

The other thing I try to stick to is that a fonds and its catalogue (i.e. a pile of folders/boxes and the website that indexes them and adds whatever other digital material to the mix) should be able to be shifted off to someone else to maintain! That not everything should live in the same system, nor require particularly technical skills to maintain.

I know that there’s a dozen formalised ways of doing this stuff, and I wish I knew the details of them more thoroughly! For now, I’ll hope that a non-structured catalogue can work, and continue to write little printable English-language wiki pages to collate in amongst my folders of polypropylene document sleeves. And I’ll keep checking back to en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Subject:Library_and_Information_Science for instructions on how to do it better…

Freopedia advertising

<img src="http://samwilson.id.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/gazette.png" alt="Screenshot of the announcement in the Gazette, with fuzzy borders." width="538" height="517" class="alignleft" />

This week’s Gazette has an announcement about Freopedia and the editing sessions we’re holding at the Fremantle Library.

(That QR code, by the way, goes to http://www.fremantle.wa.gov.au/home/List_of_News_and_Media/November_2012/Help_promote_your_city; the code illustrating that article is for ‘Nastco stock photos’.)

Relatedly, here’s an interesting article from the Smithsonian Institute about why it’s nice to edit Wikipedia with friends, and in libraries.