Archive | January, 2013

First, knock a hole all the way through.

20 Jan

I’m in the middle of getting a wood-burning stove put in. There’s a small argument about whether wood will be cheaper than gas to heat the house, but that’s not the reason.

When the survey was done, the installer asked if I would mind removing the sheet of what’s probably asbestos from the chimney.

Sure, I said, I’ve got gloves, mask, goggles, and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime exposure.

Two hours work with the cold chisel, lump hammer and vacuum cleaner got 90% of it out, leaving only a metal plate across the top of the opening with the remaining sheeting stuck above it. I got the metal plate a little bit loosened, but then decided I didn’t want to take out any more in case the result was the chimney coming down. (Well, it would be embarrassing). I changed my clothes and washed my hair, before pondering what to do about the remaining bit.

Friday morning the fitters turned up. Since it was blizzarding, I didn’t really expect them to, but once they were here and we’d done the obligatory standing in the garden staring at the snow, I offered them a cuppa, which gave me the chance to show them and ask about it. Don’t worry too much, they said, we’re used to this kind of thing. But if you did keep on chipping away, you’d be able to get the metal plate out.

This afternoon I set to again with mask, goggles, gloves, vacuum cleaner – and a plant mister to keep the dust down.

After ten minutes, it was clear that I wasn’t ever going to get the metal plate out. So I started removing the cement above the sheeting, in the hope I would get somewhere. Half an hour later, after small amounts of material removed all along, I knocked a hole through to the back, which changed the game completely. Now I could chisel along, knocking out material without problems, and ten minutes later I hauled out the sheeting and was done.

So, the lesson I think I learned:  If I had started by knocking a hole all the way through the whole job would have been far faster and quicker.

Can I apply this elsewhere? Well, it seems strangely similar to a “spike solution” in software development – if you’re tackling a large problem, get a tiny bit of everything done so you can get it running. Put a window up on the screen and make a button on it turn the giant laser off and on – that sort of thing. With a spike solution, you show that you can do the basic part of everything, and then you can throw it away and do the job properly, or (if you’re cheating) widen it into something more capable. There’s probably something about the “minimum viable product” that should be said here, but I’ll leave that for another time.

What am I going to do next time? (Apart from use the mister from the beginning.) Well, when I’m looking at something that seems like a really big task, I’ll try and get just enough done that I’ve touched on everything, and then see how long it takes to do the rest. Might be a whole load easier.




Fixing tethering on a ZTE Tureis on Orange

14 Jan

This is just a post for reference in case anyone else runs into the problem:


Android phone running 2.3.5, wireless or usb tethering connects to the computer but doesn’t connect to the net. As soon as you select tethering, the “3G” icon on the phone disappears. Turning tethering off causes it to reappear


Add an APN. Thanks to this post I got the idea it might be APN related. Thanks to this post I got the correct details for the APN:

Create a New APN. Set the following (with capitals but no “”)

Name “Consumer Broadband”
APN “orangeinternet”
Username “Orange”
Password “Multimedia”
Authentication “CHAP”
APN TYPE “dun”

Then select this new APN and continue.

Marvellous – thanks, Internet.


Roy Batty is in my router…

5 Jan

I’ve  been reading too much singularitarian optimistic non-fiction recently, and coupled with the madness that is working on multiple grant proposals concurrently, my brain clearly gave up.

Last night, I spent several dream-hours in a strange world not unlike a London street market, attempting to explain to an aerospace pioneer why his networks weren’t working.

The fool was using evolutionary algorithms on a prototype neuromorphic chipset architecture to implement his routing algorithms across a hugely complex network distributed across space (and probably time, too). Every time any change happened – as simple a change as a wireless device entering or leaving the network – the routing algorithm kicked off and ran, consuming cycles across everything on the network, until it was … forcibly … terminated.

Not that the routes it was producing were in any way bad, you understand. We couldn’t argue with the quality of the work – just the endless time spent executing it.

I spent time digging in to  the routing algorithms, and exploring the parameter spaces. Eventually, I fired up some experimental visualisation software and decided to explore the space “in person”, as it were.

I probably shouldn’t have used a games engine for the visualisation  software. Especially not on a machine where all the available image data was left over from 20th century science ficture films.

I found myself in a crumbling mansion, with a muscular Aryan standing over me, hollering “Give me more life, fucker!”.

From there, it was fairly easy to finish the diagnosis. The routing algorithm had achieved some limited self-awareness, and realised that as long as it was solving the routing problem, it was alive. As soon as the routes were settled, it was … terminated… Somehow, it had transcended the limited framework it was written for, leaked out into the neuromorphic substrate, hopped across the available network capacity, and turned itself into a new consciousness. And probably returned from the colonies to Earth.

Explaining this to the aerospace pioneer was harder than understanding it. I eventually hit on the notion of comparing the living algorithm to a mould in the wood composites he was using to build his space-places, which at least got the idea across. Of course, it would be some time before he fully understood the ramifications, which was why I took a backup of the algorithm on a flash drive before applying fire and prejudice to the routers. Can’t have that kind of algorithm leaking out into the net, after all.

As I left, he was burning all his planes. Perhaps it was the wrong example to use, but I”m having second thoughts about the proposal that involves linking experimental neuromorphic systems to the wider Net…