My Christmas Day Adventure

Today was a Christmas Day my family won’t forget for a long time! We had a great time today, heard some amazing news, and then had a bit of an adventure on the way home. The weather has been pretty cold for the last while, the county was covered in a sheet of ice but this afternoon temperatures rose slightly which was great because we were due to visit family for Christmas dinner.

My brother Donal and his wife had ice problems this morning when their car slid out of his estate. Two hours later they got underway when the roads thawed out a bit. That had worried me because there’s a hill into our estate too.

After a great day with family, a delicious dinner made by my brother-in-law Chris and a visit to my own family we returned home, sharing the road with nervous drivers and reckless drivers. The journey home was uneventful but the hill into our estate proved to be troublesome. The road was covered in ice and slush and as we rounded the bend a car slid down backwards and eventually braked and turned back down. I tried to drive us up there too but the car only got so far before wheels started to spin, the car shuddered and we weren’t going forward any more. Kinda scary!

I had to turn back of course, we parked further up the road where I spotted a break in the ditch. In the freezing dark I managed to get up there, and to make what is turning into a long story shorter enlisted the help of our neighbours who were in the same boat. Between us we managed to get the essential bags out of the car, I carried Adam up the road, and we took a short cut through Rosy and Con’s house knocking a good 100m off our journey.

I used the light of my Nokia 5800 in video mode to light the way so I have a record of all that happened, even if it’s more audio than anything else! Must have a listen tomorrow.

Anyway, I’m glad to be home, safe and sound. We’ll get the car tomorrow. Thanks neighbours for your help. Nollaig Shona dhaoibh go leir!

Christmas Day Ten Years Ago

I’ll always remember Christmas Day 1998. Ten years ago on the night of Christmas Eve we returned from the Regional Hospital without our mother and my father without his wife.
I was in Kerry 2 weeks before when my father rang with the news my mother had collapsed. A massive aneurysm in her brain had burst. She spent the next 15 days in hospital, sometimes awake and able to talk, but most of the time drowsy or asleep. The day before Christmas Eve she suffered another hemorrhage. An emergency operation was carried out to insert a stint in the blood vessel and stop the bleeding but unfortunately the operation was not a success and the stint failed. Machines whirred and beeped by her bedside. She had aged so much overnight. We all said our final goodbyes.

The last conversation I remember having with her was telling her that we had decided on the Christmas gift we were going to get her. Despite her drowsy questioning I didn’t tell her, because it would be a surprise for when she came home. I hold on to that memory of sitting by her bedside. I don’t want to forget it.

We’ll visit her grave later today. Today is a sad day for my family and I but it’s also a celebration and a chance for my family to get together. We have so much to be thankful for. I know my mother would have adored Adam. Have a great day today!

I used to …

Looking around the shopping center this afternoon I remembered how I used to wonder why parents had a dull lifeless haggard look about them. This was when I was single. Now I’m a parent and I know why.

I used to think that people who had their credit cards stolen probably used them on a dodgy site or entered their details on a non secure server. Then my credit card details were skimmed somehow.

I used to spell Windows Windoze, but then I graduated from college.

I used to think I was invincible, I’d climb trees, climb the local quarry, go caving, do slightly mad stuff. Life experience taught me otherwise.

I used to look for gratification in material things but then I got married and my son was born. Wow.

I’ve never been happier. What about you?

10 years of me

I’ve been writing online for 10 years. Well, strictly speaking it’s longer than that because my Geocities site was last modified in 1997 and it’s still alive. I might yet import that site into this blog at some stage. Thankfully I had enough of HTML frames after that. I created a simple site on indigo.ie in late 1997 but then moved everything to http://members.xoom.com/xeer/ which later became members.nbci.com and is now long gone. xoom.com is now quite a different site!

I called the site DemoNix. It never had permalinks, but I did update it with a Perl script that built static html pages with a basic theme and then FTPed them to xoom.com. That script and the build files are long gone but thanks to the Wayback Machine I recovered a fair portion of it. All the original content I could scrape together is now in the Demonix category on this blog. I generally wrote about Linux demoscene news, code tutorials, gossip and my first 2 GPLed projects: “Time Sheets for Networks” and “Install Sendmail”. TSN as I fondly called it doesn’t exist any more but it was my 4th year college project. It was terrible. Buy me a pint some day and I’ll reveal just how bad it was. I wrote Install Sendmail because Sendmail was such a bitch to configure in those days. It was wildly popular, even being linked from the Fetchmail homepage. It still exists although the download link is now broken. It’s a sign of the times that nobody has complained about that.

Dave Polaschek recently reminded me that the web was a much smaller place back then. It was much easier to be noticed and get to the top of the pile if you posted consistently and well. My DemoNix site was read by many and even linked from a Slashdot story about Bladeenc in 1998. I’m sure it’s a simple coincidence that members.xoom.com went offline around the same time for a day or so ..

I could write more, but it’s all contained in the archives of this site. Everything from enthusiastic exclamations about the latest demos or code snippets to the short announcement of my mother’s death in December 1998. I still remember the email Mark sent me after I made that post. There were no comments in those days.

Awareness of Reality As this is a self indulgent look into the past, grab a Commodore 64 emulator and download donnchac64.zip. It’s a collection of demos and bits and bobs I wrote (or co-wrote) on that machine from early 1992 to late 1993.
Emulating a Commodore 64 is not without it’s problems. “Awareness of Reality” doesn’t seem to load properly in Vice. The speed loader I used doesn’t like the emulator and I have yet to figure out what the “left arrow key” is on a PC keyboard. That key is used in AOR and “Ionsai on Gealach”, my award winning Galaxians mod! It’s great to hear those old tunes again though.

10 years down, many more to come I hope. I’m now a dad, married to my beautiful Jacinta and work at the cutting edge of blogging with the WordPress folks. Great times.

AOR disk listing

Life after Text Link Ads

Hi, my name is Donncha and I used to have text-link-ads on my blog. They’re gone now but only after Google slapped me into submission and reduced my page rank to 4. Initially I felt angry and shocked that this happened but I have no excuse, I heard it from the horses mouth, I knew it was coming. I was one of those evil unscrupulous demons who manipulated the pagerank of other sites for money. My guilty conscience is somewhat alleviated by the fact that I refused to show a text link ad for a Viagra spammer yesterday morning. Oh well.
Google’s own advertising, Adsense, is still running here, as is Kontera, (leave a comment and you’ll never see them, isn’t that nice?) and the competitive ad filter advice I gave out a few days ago really makes a difference to your bottom line. Just ask Justin!

What’s in store for the future? Keep an eye on this blog. WordPress MU 1.3 is coming real soon now. There are going to be lots more free and GPLed WordPress plugins, including a pretty cool digg proof cache that also works in WordPress MU. Think of it as WP-Cache on afterburner! A couple of sites are already testing it with positive results. I’m watching the access_log roll by on a server as a digg is happening now. Load average is hovering around 1 and the page loads quickly. Sweet.

When is an Alfa Romeo really a Maserati?

When it’s the new Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione. This is the first rear wheel drive car from Alfa Romeo since 1992 and there are only going to be 500 made in the first production run, with 500 made in the second in 2009. Don’t bother going to your dealer, they’re all sold out! As you may know I’m a bit of a fan of the Alfa Romeo 147 having owned one a couple of years ago. Such beautiful cars, and just about within the reach of a single, non-mortgage-paying software developer like myself. Times change however, but I wonder if I’ll ever be able to afford the €159,000 asking price of the Competizione.

alphamainorig_222019a.jpg

Jeremy Clarkson has quite a breathless review of the car, although he does finish by saying the steering isn’t up to scratch. Who wants to let me drive theirs to find out for myself? :)

Climb aboard the new Alfa 8C and you’re immediately aware that it feels “just right”. It’s a fairly intangible quality, but it means the cabin makes a Porsche’s interior feel almost dowdy by comparison. And as your eyes rove around, they avidly consume acres of leather, plentiful carbon fibre and generous milled aluminium before settling on the slightly swollen front wings that are visible through the little windscreen. It has to be said that the aroma of leather with the 8C truly reeks of promise.

What makes it a Maserati?

The only real question is whether it’s an Alfa Romeo at all. It was designed by Fiat’s in-house styling centre, and uses a Maserati platform as its basis. The engine is a development of one already in use by Maserati, and just to make matters a little more complex, the whole is assembled by Ferrari.

The gearbox and suspension are also derived from systems used on the Maserati Quattroporte and the car is built, not by Alfa Romeo in Turin, but instead by Maserati in Modena. And when those lucky 41 British buyers need their beautiful new vehicles serviced, they will drive them to Maserati dealerships rather than to Alfa garages.

There are a few promo videos on Youtube, and a boring spy camera video too, but this promo seemed to be the best. Just turn down the volume please!

Stop sending me junk mail Chorus

The previous owners of my home had a Chorus box and never cancelled their account properly, or told them they were moving so for the past three years they have been sending me brochures every few weeks or months. At least I presume they didn’t, but all the brochures are addressed to “The Resident”. This blog post is a reminder to myself that I finally rang them on 1890 940 940, pressed 1 for sales, pressed 1 because I really wanted to buy lots of channels and told Sarah that I didn’t want to be contacted again.

Within moments it was sorted and hopefully I’ll get no more junk mail from Chorus.

If you’re getting unsolicited email this document from the Data Protection Commissioner might come in handy but here’s what it warns about those anonymous “The Resident” mail that so frequently litters our doorsteps.

This is the traditional and oldest form of direct marketing. For mail received through your letter box to be considered to be direct marketing it must be addressed to a named person and must be promoting a product or service. Unaddressed mail put into your letter box or mail addressed to “the occupant”, “the resident” or “the householder” does not necessarily involve the use of personal data and consequently data protection legislation does not apply.

You can also opt to be removed from company mailing lists by contacting the IDMA.

Apart from contacting organisations individually, you may also wish to avail of a service run by the Irish Direct Marketing Association (IDMA). Under the Mail Preference Service, if you supply your contact details to the IDMA, it will circulate these details amongst its members. This will result in most of the main direct marketing companies removing your details from their mailing lists.

If only those fake charities respected the law too, we might stamp out all the rubbish flyers that drop through the letter box. Reminder: I really must set up clothingcollection.org soon!

I love this story from boards.ie:

Apparently the postman in my hometown was removing all the spam and advertising from people’s post, putting it in a bag and dumping it in a bog outside the town. Had been successfully un-spamming people for years before he was found out and fired.