Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Toastie question

Just what is a toastie? Some debate has arisen here at the flat as to the actual composition of a toastie, not including fillings, which is a whole sub-genre of conunderum altogether and beyond the scope of my expertise. Bonus question: What is the fundamental difference between a toastie and a toasted sandwich? There are two main camps:
  1. The stance held by my esteemed flatmate J.H. who purports that a toastie is a single slice of toasted bread with a topping (usually Colby* cheese and Marmite** in his case), and that a toasted sandwich is similar, but involves another slice of toasted bread on top to make a sandwich. Logical, yes, but correct?
  2. The position taken by myself whereby I suggest that a toasted sandwich and a toastie are one and the same, and that the open-topped single slice with topping (just Tasty cheddar*** cheese, in my case, although I have been known to frivolously throw some diced onion into the fray), is known as Roasted Cheese. Technically I admit it really should be called Grilled Cheese as per the method of preparation, but (in my family at least) it has always been known as Roasted Cheese.

*Read:tasteless yellow plastic cheese.
**This is allegedly a yeast extract, whatever that means, but I know that it's really tar residue scraped from the boots of roadside maintainence crews.
***The only true cheese. You know it makes sense!

What say you, good and noble citizens?

Saturday, August 20, 2005

A new leaf

For too long I have drifted along without a clear direction in my life. I still don't know what exactly I am meant to do. Maybe jotting down some things I'd like to achieve, some goals, will help. In no particular order:
  • Lighten up. (I am know to my family as 'Frazier', after Kelsey Grammar's brilliant but neurotic character.)
  • Learn to program in C, the lingua franca of Linux and embedded systems.
  • Finish learning German and travel (and maybe work) in Germany.
  • Run a small business.
  • Improve my guitar playing, and gain a wider appreciacion for jazz. Write more music.
  • Learn more about gardening and self-sufficiency.
  • Write a book. I don't know what subject. I used to write poetry. My English teacher thought I should be a poet.
  • Get more exercise. I have a bike. Guess I could cycle to Polytech.
  • Get a house in the country, with E. . Like Neil Young said, "I'm thankful for my country home/ It gives me peace of mind"
  • Help Scotland gain back her independence and identity.
  • Help my brother make a film.
I can check items off the list as and when I get there.
Ready! Set! GO!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

In the eye of the beholder

Okay, so maybe I'm no style guru myself, but I have some observations:
  1. Ladies: Perfume is all about sensuality and sublety. Perfume != deodorant. Please spare a thought for those who have to share public spaces with you.

  2. Midriff: If your gut/arse is bulging out between your top and the jeans or skirt you are wearing, you may want to re-evaluate your daily exercise quota. Or your wardrobe.

  3. Bling: If I'm correct (and I might not be) then 'bling' is all about showing off how much money you have. But the people most likely to want to be 'bling' are the ones who can least afford to waste money on all the tacky crap that would make them look 'bling'. Hmmm...

  4. Guys: Pull your freakin' pants up! What the hell is the low-riding thing about? As a technical observation, wearing your pants normally may help you evade the cops should the need arise - not only because you will be able to run, but you'll also blend in with the non-boy-racer element.

There. I said it. Further issues relate to the wearing of thongs. Again, sensuality and sublety are the aim. Tight jeans + visible brightly-coloured thong = teen pregnancy candidate. It says something about you, something in the region of "I'm a low-rent desperate bar-slut".

Oh well, there's no accounting for taste. Or if there is, then the accountants must be on holiday. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, maybe it's a good thing my vision is getting worse.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Give it a bash

The Bourne Again Shell, that is.
As a Linux user, it's really quite handy to know how to do some basic shell scripting. These are little combinations of shell commands that you can save in a file, and have the computer run them just like a program. Anyone who remembers DOS batch (*.bat) files will know what I mean, except that in comparison, shell scripts are like supercharged, steroid-pumped batch files.
Shell scripts are an extension of the power of the command line to chain together commands.
Take for instance this little number:

[user@linuxbox home]$ lsmod | grep snd > sound_modules.txt

This lists all the modules loaded by the Linux Kernel, searches ('greps') through the list for any module having 'snd' as part of its name and outputs the results to a new text file named 'sound_modules.txt' in the current directory. All done in one line.

A shell script is a sequence of such commands, grouped together in a file that can be run just like a program.

Imagine, then, being able to automatically generate HTML pages with system information in it. Or being able to compile a log of users' accesses to certain directories, then sort them by user group, saving the results to a remote location automatically at a certain time of day, every day except Sundays. Or batch renaming of thousands of your automatically generated reports. All this and more can be yours.

If this kind of thing gets you salivating, check out William Shotts Jr's Linux Command website. It has a fantastic, easy-to-digest, gentle, but actually useful introduction to shell scripting.

There are probably two or three shells hidden away in a corner of your Unix-like Operating System - even Apple owners can join in, since OsX is of pedigree Unix lineage.

"Do not underestimate the power of the bash script."
- D. Vader

A shell is the text-based interface between a user and the operating system, sometimes called the Command Line Interface or Command Line. Think 'DOS prompt' or 'cmd.exe', but imagine them having useful features like Tab-completion, command history, and colour!