Longest Move StreakI’m into the second half of my thirties now, and for the last decade or so, my weight had been slowly creeping up. When you’re a teenager, your body seems to be able to burn off enough calories to make up for a bad diet. But, as you get further into your twenties, something happens, and you start to put on weight instead of burning off all those bad-food calories. Eating is something I tend to be very habitual about, so while I made a conscious decision to eat better and exercise more, that never seemed to change anything. I would just continue to eat like I did before, almost as if I was on auto-pilot. I’d find myself eating a Mars bar at 3pm in the afternoon, not because I wanted one, or even because I’d chosen to have one, but because that’s what I’d always done at 3pm, and my body would just move towards the vending machine a that time without any conscious thought at all!

I’d been meaning to tackle my weight for years, but this year, after many false starts, I’m finally succeeding, and the difference with previous failed attempts is technology.

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Juul BusschotsMy Grandfather had a big influence on my life, and all for the better. Unfortunately, he passed on Saturday night after a short illness. I took the time to mark Steve Jobs’ passing on this blog, even though I never met the man, so I want to do the same for my Grandfather. This is not a definitive history of the man, just three important ways in which he has, and will continue to, influence my life.

Firstly, computers are kinda my thing. Everything on this site I do for fun, and you’ll see that almost all of it involves computers. I also make my living as a sysadmin, so yet more computers! Well, all that started when my Grandfather became the first person in my life to get a personal computer (an Amstrad 8086). Granddad taught me how to use DOS, and later Windows, and our first family computer at home was a hand-me-down from Granddad – a Comodore 368 clone with a 16MHz CPU, 4MB of RAM, and a 40MB HDD. The first computer that was all mine was also a hand-me-down from Granddad – a 75MHz Pentium with 16MB of RAM, and two (then) massive 500MB HDDs.

Myself and Granddad were the only computer nerds in the family – sure, others use computers, but only as a means to an end. When any of the rest of my family start a conversation with me about computers it’s because something is not working, or about to be purchased. Granddad on the other hand would start conversations about computers just to tell me about some cool new thing he bought, downloaded, or read about. A lot of people are intimidated by the relentless march of technology, but Granddad revelled in it – as do I.

Being an octogenarian computer nerd is pretty forward-thinking I think you’ll agree, but my grandfather was forward thinking in other ways too. Simply put, a gay grandson could not have asked for a more accepting grandfather.

Finally, something myself and all my brothers agree on is that when it comes to marriage, we could not have asked for better role models than my grandmother and grandfather. They were together for almost 65 years, and they were inseparable. They did just about everything together, and pretty much always walked arm-in-arm where ever they went. Literally, in sickness and in health, they were always there for each other. I hope I can be as good a husband to my beloved as he was to my grandmother – I know it’s gonna take a lot of hard work to live up to his example!

L in Semaphore Quite a few months ago I was joking with Guy Serle of the My Mac Podcast, and the topic somehow turned to flag semaphore. I think I’d sent the guy an iTunes review in mores code for a joke, and then Guy challenged me to do it in flag semaphore. I figured it would be easy to find a converter on the net, but, for the first time in a long time, the internet let me down! When I couldn’t find a converter I registered the domain www.semaphorify.info with every intention of getting a converter up and running in a few days. Then, real life got in the way, and the domain sat there for months, until yesterday, when I unexpectedly had a free afternoon, and I finally got my converter written!

You can now go to the site and convert text to flag semaphore, play a crude animation of the signal, and even share a link to the signal. E.g. this link takes you straight to the conversion of “I love semaphores” to semaphore.


I regularly find myself navigating to a folder in the Finder and then wanting to quickly get a Terminal window in the same location. In the past I would open a Terminal window, type cd and a space, then drag and drop the folder in question from the Finder into the Terminal and hit enter. Thanks to OS X’s great drag-and-drop support that works, and while it is easier than typing out the whole path (even with tab-complete), it’s still quite cumbersome.

Today inspiration hit me – the open command should let me open a folder with the Terminal, so I tested it, and it does. Armed with this simple command line solution I opened up Automator and threw together a simple OS X service that takes a folder as input. The service has only one action, a Run Shell Script action with the shell set to bash, the input passed as arguments, and the following content:

for f in “$@”
/usr/bin/open “$f” -a /Applications/Utilities/Terminal.app/

Screenshot of Service
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It will only take seconds to re-create this service yourself, but for convenience, I’ve zipped up my copy of the service and am attaching it to this post. Install it by unzipping and adding to either ~/Library/Services/ (for just yourself) or /Library/Services/ (for all users).


Once the service is installed it will show up in the Services menu in the Finder when ever you have one or more folders selected:

Terminal Here Service In Action
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You can also get to the service by right-clicking on any folder in the Finder:

Terminal Here Service In Action - Right Click
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Finally – if you keep the optional Path Bar shown in the Finder you can also right-click on a Folder there to access the service (including the folder you are in):

Terminal Here Service in Action - Path Bar
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This all started with a really childish and really stupid comment on Flickr by a young American rail fan:

Probably because the cabs on American locomotives aren’t ugly as the atrocious things that pass for locomotives in Europe.

The sheer childishness of it all put me off replying, but it did start me thinking, apart from the very obvious difference in style, what are the real differences between our locomotives?

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Yesterday I posted about using Perl to solve the question “what’s the longest word I can type with just half a keyboard?”. My self an Connor were joking that it would be a lot more difficult with Java, first to write the code, then to run.

I literally used the identical algorithm for the Java program, even using the same variable names, and printed the results out identically (I verified this with the Unix diff command). I also did my best to use the various built-in Java functionality and java.util classes to minimise the amount of heavy lifting my code had to do.

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As some of you may know, I’ve been ill for the past few weeks now, and hence not working or podcasting. I spend a lot of my time doing nothing because I have no energy and often a headache, but when my head is clear I have a lot of thinking time since doing physical things is not possible. I even need to be careful not to type too much or my arms get very sore!

Anyhow – yesterday Bren Finan was chatting with me when he noticed that ‘yesterday’ uses only keys from one half of the keyboard. Which got him, and hence me, wondering if there was a longer word that can be written with just half a keyboard. (The quick-witted among you will probably spot that ‘Yesterday’ doesn’t actually count because the ‘y’ is on the wrong side of the divide on ergonomic keyboards.)

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This is just a quick test post from a friend’s EeePC to see what they’re really like to type on and browse with. My very first impression, I think I have found something worse to type on than a virtual keyboard – a shrunken one! Since it has no smart helper-features like the iPhone, it is actually more tedious than the iPhone. You spend more time correcting mistakes because none of them are auto-corrected. Although you do get better at it as you keep typing, the location of the shift keys in particular really strain your hands. I’ve just typed this much and I can feel the strain already, this is very very far from ergonomic! I’m starting to see Tim Cook’s point, this is not a good experience, and I wouldn’t want Apple to clone this experience. I do want Apple to do something in this space, but it has to be something more human-friendly than this! This feels like miniaturisation for the sake of miniaturisation. I’m not sure what creatures the EeePC was designed for ergonomically, but it was most certainly not adult Homo sapiens! The one good thing I’ll say is that the screen is better than I was expecting, sure the resolution is small by real laptop or desktop standards, it’s positively roomy by iPhone standards. I think this would make it a usable web browser, but the keyboard is a waste of space, you can’t useit for serious typing. Take the screen from an EeePC, rotate it to portrail, make it multi-touch, add OS X iPhone, and make thinner, then you’d be on to a winner IMO! For ultimate p0wnage, add support for a bluetooth keyboad … oh … and sell it for the price of an EeePC 🙂

I’m a huge fan of the BBC, they make some of the very best TV programming in the world, and they’re record on April Fooling is also top-notch. Probably the best known BBC April Fool dates back to 1957, when a report on the bumper Swiss Spaghetti harvest hit unsuspecting Briton’s screens:

1957 is a long time ago, but last year they showed they hadn’t lost their touch yet, this time, we get to see Pengiuns fly!

If you think that looked like a lot of hard work went into making it, you’d be right!

Hopefully they managed to best even flying Penguins this year!

Since the weather was good and I really needed some fresh air I took my proper camera down to NUI Maynooth to take some descent pictures of the devastation caused by last Friday’s Fire. It’s probably no surprise but there were a lot of people doing the same! I also met one of the dinner ladies who was on duty when the fire started, she’d come to have a look with her partner. She explained how it had started at the back of the building, apparently where workmen were felting the roof, and spread rapidly though the whole building.

I’ve added the best of my images from today to the Flickr gallery I started on Friday.

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