Category: Uncategorised

Inferno, or the art of burning books

Whenever I’m travelling, either abroad or simply on a bus, I love to read. My ereader follows me everywhere (almost). I’m also a fan of Dan Brown, and while Digital Fortress wasn’t my favourite, I loved the others, especially Inferno. Slight spoiler alert.

The end of Inferno is one of the things that made people call Dan Brown a literary genius. I never saw it coming, not even close. The end was fantastic. Since Angels and Demons and The Davinci Code were fairly well adapted to the large screen, I ordered Inferno on VOD. We sat down, and watched it (Anne-Laure has also read the book, and loved it just as much as I did). And we were really, really disappointed.

Tom Hanks is a great author, and we both really love his films. The Professor Langdon is well portrayed, and the character is almost as rich as what you read in the books. The beginning keeps you on edge, but about half way through, we weren’t comfortable. There were a few parts missing, things that we had read in the books that just weren’t there. Not everything can be adapted, but still. And at the end, that was it, we were disappointed, and actually pretty annoyed. The entire end had been changed; one of the characters was completely out of play, and the Dan Brown masterpiece had been transformed into something that was about as bland as Hollywood can create. He saves the day. That’s nice, but we really are missing out on the exceptional conclusion, where you know you are going to be late for work, but you really have to read the last 30 pages, to understand how, to understand why, and to try and wrap that around your brain, while silently mouthing the word “wow”. Nope, bland. It was only afterwards that we had a look on the comments on different sites, and people who had read the book had written reviews that went from disappointed to irate.

It is still a pretty good film, but you have a choice. Read the book, or watch the film. Don’t do both.

Ultramobility

I’ve loved small factor computers for some time now. I have a large desktop at home, an old 2nd generation i7 with 32 gigabytes of ram, and a more modern laptop with a 4th generation i7. We’re talking power here; a 4-core, 8 thread processor, all in a heavy 17″ chassis with about 50 minutes of battery life. The battery life doesn’t bother me, if I take it anywhere, it is to use it as a second desk, plugged into the wall.

A long time ago, I used to work for a company that made SaaS products for auditing. Since the software was designed to be used anywhere, they had subscription plans that included a netbook. They then hired me to create a lightweight Linux distribution to go on them. The best way to get to know a machine is to use it, so I did most of my work on the 10″ screen. Of course, in the office, I would connect it to an external monitor and keyboard, and I had a fast computer on the side for kernel compilations (ever tried to install Gentoo on a netbook? Don’t.) but I made myself use the Intel Atom based laptop. If I started complaining that something was too slow, then it was up to me to accelerate it.

A few years have passed since then, and the screen size has increased slightly. I prefer 11.6″ screens now. I have huge and heavy systems, but I still like ultrabooks that can fit between two shirts in a suitcase and go unnoticed. I had a Sony Vaio Pro, but it has Wi-Fi issues, and it also had something that I find really, really annoying. The fan would kick in for just about anything. A simple email would sometimes get the fan going, and while it wasn’t the noisiest, it did bother me. The laptop wasn’t only for the desk, it came with me on trains, planes, in libraries, schools and on holidays. Writing in bed at midnight while others are sleeping is fun, but when the fan kicks in, it becomes a nightmare.

Enter the Intel Core M. It’s fanless design has made quite a bit of noise recently (pun intended). If you have seen the new Macbook, then you will know what I’m talking about. Thin, and silent. I almost bought one, but I couldn’t live with that keyboard, it wasn’t possible. Time to change computers.

A long, long time ago, well before working with the netbook company, I worked for NEC. I was really excited about the new Tablet PCs that were coming out, and I wanted one. I never did manage to get one, though. I loved the idea of a computer that was something like a sheet of paper, with a stylus. So I had a closer look at the more recent 2-in-1 machines that are coming out.

So I have a Core-M, and people are sorry for me. I get comments like “Oh, quick, send it back before it is too late”, or “you’ll never get any performance from it”. In a way, they are right, I suppose, I won’t. But then again, I don’t need performance. I run most of my work inside a virtual machine, where I can have compilers, profilers and other CPU hungry applications. For the machine that I use to write with, I just need it to be comfortable. Then I tell people the real story, the fact that I actually went out of my way to get a Core M. Yes, I spent days looking for the right machine, and I think I’ve found it. I looked at the Microsoft Surface Pro, but I didn’t like the lack of memory or hard disk space; 4Gb and 128Gb respectively. The Samsung Tablet Pro had the same sort of issue, and a few other problems due to viewing angles. In the end, I went with a Lenovo Ideapad Miix 700. It comes with a Core-M5, and has 8 gigabytes of RAM, coupled with a 256Gb SSD. And no, it doesn’t have a fan. You can push it as far as it will go, and while the CPU may well start thermal throttling, it won’t make a sound. It gets warm on the outside, but not hot. I can hold it in my hands without a problem.

So I finally have the perfect machine for writing, let’s hope that I can actually get some writing done! This blog (and indeed the entire site) need some love.

Hello world!

“Hello world!”. It’s amazing how often that phrase has been used. As a developer, I’ve seen it often as a way to show that a program works, and even in embedded systems, “Hello world!” is still a great way of showing that everything works. So yes, I’ll leave the default WordPress title of “Hello world!”, it does suit the situation.

Yesterday, a friend contacted me, and asked me what was wrong with my site. I wasn’t worried, since he made a mistake with the URL, but when he sent me a screenshot, I got worried. It wasn’t a DNS problem, it had the logo of my provider, and an interesting “Welcome to your default website” on the same page. I fired up a new tab, entered the Packetfury URL, and I was welcomed with the same screen. Not a great start to the day.

Long story short, I installed an Exchange server a few days ago, and to do that, I needed to change my DNS settings. I still don’t know what went wrong, but everything was pointing to the wrong place. So, why didn’t I just reset the server settings, and reinstall what I had? I could have, and I almost did, but I have been having problems with Packetfury for some time now. It used to run on a previous version of Joomla, and was no longer supported. The irony is that I had just updated from version 1 to version 2, and a few months later, version 2 was end of life. Attempts to update to version 3 crashed everything, forcing me to reinstall. I figured that the problem came from the multi-language component of Joomla, but I didn’t have time to look further. Now that I have a chance to redo everything, I looked, and Joomla 3 even comes with a multi-lingual component, simplifying things.

Okay, so that’s all about Joomla, but what about WordPress? Well, Joomla never did what I wanted it to do as far as blogging was concerned, so now I have the best of both worlds. WordPress will be used for the blog, on a separate domain, and the original Packetfury will still be there as a collection of notes and development documents.

So yes, I can now say, “Hello world!”.

Merry Christmas!

Elena ChristmasMerry Christmas! The presents are under the tree, the family has arrived (or at least one side of it has), and Eléna is all set to open her presents. Let the unwrapping begin! Time flies… This time last year, same place, but Eléna was 8-9 months old. The year before that, I was stuck in Charles de Gaulle airport watching the snow fall to the ground, which also grounded my flight.

Eléna seems to understand presents, and can’t wait to open hers. I already know what some of them are, and I think she’ll love them! As for me? Well, I’m a bad parent. I’ve already opened mine, a new laptop!

Eléna and myself wish you all a very merry Christmas, wherever you are!

… and it’s over

Air France A319 nose… and it’s over. Oh well. End of my “holidays”, a quick 4-day trip to a small town next to Marseille. In my 4 days, I made the most of it; swimming, relaxing, getting a ridiculously small tan, but a tan nevertheless. I leave behind me Lolo and Eléna, who are still on holidays, and will be for another week.

During the 4 days, I’ve been blasted by heat (something Nantes didn’t have before I left), a quiet and calm surrounding, where only the crickets could be heard. There weren’t that many campers, so swimming wasn’t really a problem, and yes, I managed to “swim” with my daughter, even if that meant gaving her on my shoulders, or on my chest while she used me as a surf board. She is too small to really have the swim reflex, but she did enjoy the water, even if she was cautious.

The flight back was nice, and even if I’m not really known for my luck (aviation has never really been that nice to me), it was a very pleasant flight. I managed to take some photos on the way, but it wasn’t really possible on the return flight. Still, I had a window seat both ways, so I made the most of it, looking down on the Nantes cityscape on our final approach. Sooner or later the airport will be moved, but I’m not looking forward to that, the airport is going to be further away. Right now I’m about 15 minutes away, in a nce calm sector. Very calm. Too calm. I’m on my own. Tomorrow I start work, again. I need to sleep.