I suppose that this is really a blog, though I hesitate to call it that. The real bloggers seem so much
more interesting. I cover stuff which I find interesting, and I hope that you will too.
If you really want, you can get an RSS feed of Chateau Gladstone news here:
For more information about what I'm interested in, see the Ponding pages.
The ice is really melting now and things are floating to the surface
6 Mar 2004
We have now had almost a week of reasonable weather, and the pond ice is melting quickly. However, this also means that 'things' are floating up to the surface.
This afternoon (Saturday), I found one of our two Golden Orfes floating on the surface. We have had them for about five years, and this one was around 10 inches long.
We will miss him (or her!).
28 Feb 2004
I had placed a sheet of insulating foam over the pond to try and protect it from the cold weather that we have been having. The bubbler was bubbling away quite nicely underneath it. Then we went away on vacation for a week, and then today I decided to look underneath the foam.
What I saw shocked me -- there were 14 fish in about half an inch of water that that accumulated under the foam and above the ice on the pond. Most of the fish were lying on their sides, half out of the water. At this point, panic set in.
It appeared that the bubbler had stopped, and that there was no way to get the fish back into the pond. One of the fish was dead, but the others looked salvageable. I grabbed a bucket and filled it with snow and then added tap water -- so I ended up with a few gallons of water at 32°F. We rescued 12 fish fairly easily, the thirteenth (a large Shubunkin) was partially frozen into the ice. After a bit of work with some cold tap water, we got him (her?) out of the ice and into the bucket.
A bit of work with boiling water opened up the hole back into the pond (we still have at least 10 inches of ice), and we transferred the fish back into the pond. We are hoping that they all survive.
Is this the year of Voice Over IP (VOIP)
14 Jan 2004
I've started to play with Asterisk PBX. This is an open source IP PBX. The hassle is getting a device that can talk to a phone. I suspect that the best route to go is with a device like the Cisco ATA (as used by Vonage and others). The Sipura 2000 seems to be rather cheaper and is used by some newer IP vendors. However, it is not clear that my IP service over my cable modem is really reliable enough. I probably need to start to monitor uptime.
My plan is to try and route all outgoing calls out over IP and use the landline for incoming and emergency outgoing. I feel that Free World Dialup features somewhere in the solution.
On a related note, I found UK-2-ME, which gave me a UK phone number that rings my phone in the US. For free. A UK person who calls this number pays the national rate -- i.e. regular long distance rates. A great deal -- especially at weekends.
Logs to Burn
30 Dec 2003
My grandmother -- Honor Goodhart -- wrote a poem in 1926 entitled "Logs to Burn" that describes the burning characteristics of many different types of wood. The context was a coal strike that (presumably) restricted the supply of coal, and hence boosted the use of wood for heating.
Most references to this poem do not have the correct attribution, and this note (may) start to set the record straight.
SPAM -- a modern scourge
22 Dec 2003
I have been playing around with SPF which adds a layer of verification on top of regular SMTP mail. The idea is prety simple -- mail coming from my domain should only be sent from a limited number of mail servers. A spammer or email worm who tries to forge the from address as me will get blocked.
To set this up, you just have to publish an SPF record for your domain in DNS. This record is a TXT record of a specific format, as described at the site above.
If you are also an MTA operator, then you can turn on SPF support in your MTA -- again, instructions at the site mentioned above.
Is this the solution to SPAM? Definitely not, but it is a piece of the puzzle.
You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org
and the daemon will return a recommendation for your SPF record. It will also tell you if your existing SPF record looks good.
Meatspace & GEOURL
25 Nov 2003
Somebody pointed me at geourl.org which is building a map of the physical locations that websites deal with. If you choose then you get to see who my virtual (physical?) neighours are.
At lot of them appear to be hosted on DeviantART -- which appears to be some sort of art site where you can submit your work and people comment on it. There is other weird stuff in this list as well. I found the Weather Pixie which gives you a small image that shows what the weather is like nearby. The bad news is that I can't see how to inject my own data......
Beta Testing the Prismiq
21 Oct 2003 (Updated 22 Oct 2003)
I've been beta testing the new software (3.2) for the Prismiq Media Player. The good news is that Prismiq seem open (check out their forums) and the box runs linux. It is supposed to be a music, slideshow, video player where the media is stored on some other computer.
The bad news is that it doesn't meet the requirements. The Rio Receiver with JReceiver is a much better solution for audio. There are all sorts of possibilities with the hardware platform, it is just a matter of software to improve things.
For example, searching a large music collection requires entering text strings with the numeric keys on the remote. Tracks are not sorted by anything obvious. The use cases seem to revolve around using your PC to create playlists and then play them on the Prismiq box. However, I want an appliance that can be used by naive users.
Another gripe was that the slide advance button has no audible or visual feedback. Given that the next slide takes several seconds to appear (why isn't it preloaded?) there is the temptation to press the button again -- which causes a double advance.
Update for final release: It seems that there is now a visual indication of the next picture coming. This is a significant improvement.
21 Oct 2003
I got fed up with adding water to the pond when it got low. I had a couple of close calls this summer when I had blockages and water flowed out over the side.
The solution was simple -- use a toilet fill valve from Home Depot for the princely sum of $6. With the addition of various bits of pipework and bent aluminium strip, I got it mounted in the pond and connected to the end of the soaker hose that waters the flower bed. The hose runs for an hour each night, and during this time it refills the pond. It appears to put in up to half an inch of water during hot weather.
Definitely a worthwhile addition!
The big bad bird came baaack!
10 May 2003
On Saturday morning at around 8 o'clock, we saw the Great Blue Heron (aka Big Bad Bird) standing by the fish pond. It flew off pretty quickly, but the fish were nowhere to be seen. We covered up the pond with a net (and regretted not having done it earlier) and went out for the morning.
After lunch, we put the net on properly, and while we were doing this, the heron came back and sat in a tree overlooking the pond. It didn't seem peturbed by us waving our arms and gesticulating wildly! Eventually it flew away to the pond in the Christmas Tree farm and stood gazing into the water.
By now, the fish have reappeared from their hiding places, and it is not clear how many we have lost.
Update: The BBB came back again and walked around the pond, looking nournfully at the unreachable fish. It then flew off into a tree and refused to leave. The kids banged on the gong and generally made a big noise, but it refused to leave!
The underwater camera sprang a leak
12 Apr 2003
I noticed on Friday that the picture seemed bad from the camera. I took a look at it this morning and the housing was half full of water! It is now out of the pond and hopefully will begin to dry out. I just hope that the water didn't cover the CCD -- otherwise I'll be left with a nasty residue on the surface when it dries out.
Before I put this module in the housing, I covered all the electronic bits with liquid electrical tape (though I got it at my local hardware store) to try and keep the water out! Foresight really does pay sometimes!
The Citizen Weather Observer Program is a loose collection of amateur weather station operators.
Open source audio/video streaming software -- this drives my pondcam
Information about SPF (Sender Permitted From)
Open source server for the Rio Receiver -- this is what I use.
Neat description of the Gunnera Manicata -- a truly monstrous plant!
The Doc Searls weblog -- he seems clueful and I read him.