Tim Retout's www presence

Tue, 10 Aug 2010

Sunny Southampton

On my last night in New York, I didn't sleep much. At 6am, I said farewell to Central Park by running round the reservoir, which I hadn't yet done. There was a very nice red sunrise to be seen from the west side.

Unfortunately I didn't sleep much on the flight home either. The British accents sounded quite unusual when we landed in Heathrow, and it was quite confusing not being able to find a Starbucks.

Once I was back home, I crashed, and woke up at 10pm. I spent last night clearing the pkg-perl review queue - gregoa is taking a short break after DebConf.

Then I went running at sunrise again. This is quite a different experience to Central Park - first, you have to run 2.5km just to get to Southampton Common, and secondly it is raining quite heavily. I dug out some winter gear that had turned out to be completely inappropriate for New York.

Posted: 10 Aug 2010 08:06 | Tags: , ,

Tue, 03 Aug 2010


I was up early this morning for the 17km run with bubulle over the George Washington Bridge and back. We had an interesting diversion near the start, as we tried to go cross-country through a woodland path that slowly disappeared. I was quite happy to have finished at the same time as the "real" runners... and grabbed a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast.

During the day I attended a few talks from the Java track. I had afternoon tea with Safir, and then chatted to a few people before the Cheese & Wine party this evening. My kettle and teapot were commandeered to provide Taiwanese tea.

The US supplies electricity at about half the voltage of the UK. So my US kettle has a power rating of a mere 1500W (compared to 3kW for my UK one) and takes twice as long to boil water. Also, if I took it home, it would probably blow a fuse, I guess. This is probably why everyone uses stove-top kettles here.

While walking back from the hacklab to Carman, there were some fireflies glowing yellow on the corner near where the Columbia flag flies. They didn't seem to be there on the way back from the party - maybe they only shine at dusk.

Posted: 03 Aug 2010 04:47 | Tags: , ,

Sat, 31 Jul 2010


I'm going insane in this country - the accents, the jaywalking, the food, the money, the poverty in the heart of Manhatten... suddenly I appreciate the UK much more.

So I have purchased an electric kettle, and set it up in the Carman basement, for the moment. I have also splashed out on a teapot, and one mug. (So far I haven't found any other mugs in the place, so bear that in mind if you wish to join me - $2.49 from the homeware store across the street.) I have brought two boxes of Twinings tea from the UK, and in the unlikely event that it runs out there are some brand names I recognise in the Westfield Market.

In the spirit of US philanthropy, I intend to donate this equipment for the betterment of Columbia University when I leave.

Posted: 31 Jul 2010 20:16 | Tags: , ,

Thu, 29 Jul 2010

Reverse build-depends

I've started to build up to actually doing some development-related activities. Maybe. But first, we've got QR Codes dotted around the hacklab and on our namebadges if we're taking part in the keysigning - I persuaded zbarcam (from the zbar-tools package) to reveal their mysterious secrets.

I'm looking into packaging some Java libraries that use maven. Fun. I think I'll be attending some of the talks in the Java track, although I feel like I'm three years late to the party.

While trying to find a good example, I wanted to list all packages which reverse-build-depended on maven-debian-helper. This must be a common task? With some stuff stolen from lamby, I hacked together a shell alias:

rbuilddep() {
    grep-dctrl -sPackage -i -r -F Build-Depends,Build-Depends-Indep "\b$1\b" \
            /var/lib/apt/lists/*_Sources \
        | awk '{ print $2 }' \
        | sort \
        | uniq

But this surely can't be the last word on this. For one thing, it might also be useful to recursively find these reverse dependencies. I hope I've missed some obvious way of doing this.

[EDIT (2012-04-13): That would be build-rdeps(1) from the devscripts package.]

I reckon my attention span has got really poor over the last couple of years. More running tomorrow morning. But first, ice cream, I think.

Posted: 29 Jul 2010 03:19 | Tags: , ,

Tue, 27 Jul 2010

Running around

So apparently the route I took round Central Park is 9.7km, which explains a lot. This morning I checked out Morningside Park, but it's really too small for running - there's a loop of about 400m at one end, and you can go down the long bit to 123rd St, but it gets boring very quickly. Most of the park is taken up with a big hill and stairs. I'll try Riverside Park on Thursday, or find a shorter loop at this end of Central Park.

This morning I had breakfast at Nussbaum & Wu, because it seemed like a good name. Then I went to Duane Reade down the road (a pharmacy open 24 hours a day, which is quite impressive), and picked up some hand soap for a couple of dollars - none is provided in the bathrooms (and I didn't read the checklist about what to bring). And if anyone forgets/loses their wherever-to-US power socket adaptor, the Best Buy in Union Square has four left.

So far I've missed about three sponsored meals. In related news, if you ask for all the salad at Subway in the US, you seem to end up with something much hotter than in the UK.

Posted: 27 Jul 2010 21:01 | Tags: , ,

Mon, 26 Jul 2010

Arriving at DebCamp

Yesterday my brother and I checked out of the youth hostel - it was a nice place, but I think it would have been better if we'd had the time to focus on the youth hostelling experience. As it was, I felt like we were just interlopers peeking into a world where we didn't belong.

We headed across Central Park and visited the Met, which is huge - and noted with some satisfaction all the things that came from England. When we left, it was raining, and we walked down Fifth Avenue in the downpour. After so much heat, it was a great relief - but it'll probably be straight sunshine for a few days now.

After a visit to a Barnes & Noble (which was a novelty, since I don't think they have a UK presence - I bought a book on JQuery), we went up the Empire State Building on a whim. Quite a view, and a cheesy but informative audio guide. Then after fetching our luggage back from the youth hostel, we went our separate ways to our respective accommodation.

For me, this meant finding Columbia University. I don't have a great track record with the whole "taking a note of where I'm meant to turn up" thing, and this time saw me wandering around the campus asking directions of people who couldn't understand me. For anyone else with the same habits: you want to find the corner of Broadway and 114th St. (you might get off the #1 subway at Broadway and 116th and walk south), and then proceed down 114th and through the first set of gates on the left. There's a green sign on the gates saying something about "Tech Campus". The Carman building is the first entrance immediately on the left after that. Alternatively you could go through the main campus entrance on Broadway opposite 115th St, and follow the path round the large building on your right until you get to just before the gates.

So then stumbling into all the DebConf people, we went for dinner at a local restaurant; and later out to a bar. Now I need to haul my ass outta bed (it's almost 12pm local time) and find the hacklab, or maybe breakfast.

Posted: 26 Jul 2010 17:06 | Tags: , ,

Sun, 25 Jul 2010

New York

Well, I made it to New York, along with my brother. Yesterday we walked down most of Manhatten Island - we've been staying in the youth hostel on 103rd street, and made our way on foot as far as Battery Park. Along the way, we visited McDonalds (twice) and Starbucks (was that two or three times?), both featuring free wifi and air conditioning. We went up the Rockefeller Tower as well, and got a few photos out of that.

It's really quite warm here. It's shorts and sandals weather (just like last year in Spain), and I'm tired of walking in sandals.

Interesting differences from the UK: the New York Times crossword is quite different from what we call crosswords. I think Monday's one is meant to be easiest, so perhaps starting with Saturday's was not a good plan. There are water fountains dotted around the city, which is awesome.

This morning I went running around Central Park. Except it's tougher than it looks - I'm not sure whether it was the humidity, or the inclines, or not eating anything before setting out... I ended up walking most of the second half, and it took half an hour more than I thought it would. I ran counter(anti-)clockwise - I think it would be better to go clockwise, because there's a hill in the corner with a steep side that I'd prefer to run down rather than up.

Posted: 25 Jul 2010 15:46 | Tags: , ,

Wed, 29 Jul 2009


Well, I'm nearly at the end of DebConf - I'm missing the last day of talks, so travelling home tomorrow. It's been a really good experience - I mean, DebConf is always fun, but this time I feel like I'm getting more involved myself, and a bit closer to the heart of the community than I did before.

In practical terms, the two-week holiday has helped me feel more laid-back - I even got complimented on how I always look relaxed, which was amusing. I'm starting to get to know even more people, and that's helped me be more confident with contributing back. And it's given me some time to finish a few outstanding tasks, although my todo list remains perpetually long.

The time has also helped in less tangible ways - I've been able to brainstorm a few general ideas about what big problems I am trying to solve, and I've been able to look at my workflow and identify problem areas. I hope that I can take some solutions back to the rest of my life.

Posted: 29 Jul 2009 12:38 | Tags: , , , ,

Wed, 22 Jul 2009


This week, I've more or less finished my NM questions; I looked again at a problem in dak which turns out mainly to be caused by some edge cases in debconf (the package), so filed a bug there. Then looked at conglomerate, and came up with patches for a couple of bugs there as well. I'm quite looking forward to just being able to NMU these kind of things.

With all this hacking, I've stayed up until around 4:30 for the past few nights - I really didn't mean to, it just happened. I'm trying to fix that now (so that I can make it to breakfast).

Debian now has its own wine - there are 1800 bottles in total. Last night we tried some...

Also, there's a small cat here which seems quite friendly.

Posted: 22 Jul 2009 15:56 | Tags: , , , ,

Sun, 19 Jul 2009

DebConf9 continues

Yesterday I almost updated mdbtools. Then I went to a debian perl team meeting, and promptly spent 24 hours trying to improve the speed of working with 1300+ git repositories. It's a bit tricky.

This afternoon, I looked at some pkg-perl RC bugs... but they're tricky as well. I then updated the postgresql-autodoc man page, and sent it back upstream. Hopefully, next release the Debian package will not need any patches.

The vegetarians seem to have been having a rough time - apparently in Spanish-speaking countries, ham is not considered meat. Things picked up today for them, though, with some mushrooms at lunch and a nice-looking salad this evening.

Posted: 19 Jul 2009 21:40 | Tags: , , , ,

Sat, 18 Jul 2009


DebConf is in Spain this year, in Cáceres. Getting here involved a plane to Madrid, navigating the metro system, a 3.5 hour train journey and then a walk to the accommodation at 2am. This year I had actually looked at a map before arriving in the city, although hadn't bothered to bring one with me. Or note the exact address I was heading for...

At night, it is still pleasantly warm here. The streets were quiet except for the "pfft, pfft, pfft" of the sprinklers. Any directions I'd read which involved street names were useless - but I remembered enough of the map to get to where the buildings were, and then wandered around until I found the entrance.

I was greeted at the front desk by the security guard, who didn't speak much English... but I understood enough, and got shown where the room was. The student residences are not luxurious! It's quite a contrast to Mar del Plata (or even the hostels at Edinburgh), but not a lot of time is spent in the rooms anyway. The shower is worryingly powerful - think 'firehose'. Tomorrow I hope to find a way not to flood the whole room while using it.

The building seems designed to stay cool, fortunately. Meals are later in the day to avoid the worst of the heat, but I've still been feeling tired. People seem to buy large (1.5l) bottles of water. The weather's supposedly going to get even hotter - I did go out at 6pm to buy an ice cream, but I'm wondering whether my sunblock is going to last two weeks. I'm already in shorts and sandals - I might need to find more T-shirts.

Today has been fairly productive, actually - I updated postgresql-autodoc, fixed my blog, and updated my laptop. Since dinner I've been looking at the other packaging work I need to do; I'm hoping to get another few uploads out of the way first, and then work on NM questions and fixing bugs.

Posted: 18 Jul 2009 00:26 | Tags: , , , ,

Tue, 05 Aug 2008


For my first trivial bit of coding while I'm here, I patched the debconf IRC bot to announce nicknames as well as the real name of new arrivals (a feature request from madduck). I'm hoping to resist wasting time adding lots of features to it - the code is awful.

This morning I went running at 8:30 - in theory there are going to be group runs in the morning and afternoon sometime, but for now I went on my own. It was quite nice with the ocean views... the local runners seem to wear tracksuit tops at this time of year, though.

Posted: 05 Aug 2008 00:00 | Tags: , , ,

Mon, 04 Aug 2008


I arrived in Mar del Plata yesterday - DebConf this year is all in one hotel (with a nearby hotel for overflow accommodation next week), which makes everything very convenient. When they're not serving meals, they're usually serving coffee and cakes in the hacklab.

There were some teething troubles with the networking today, so I took a walk down the beach. Mar del Plata reminds me of Llandudno - it's a popular beach resort in the summer, but it's winter at the moment. Not that I've ever been to Llandudno in the winter, come to think of it... but imagine a cold summer day in North Wales. There's a run-down pier and everything. The big difference is that Mar del Plata is a huge city - I walked a couple of miles down the coast today, and the buildings were just stretching on. Oh, and everyone speaks Spanish.

When I got back, the network was fixed (yay), so I messed around getting SIP calls working. Outgoing works pretty well now, but I've yet to see whether my UK number is going to ring my mobile. I should have voicemail set up now, so people can leave a message instead of just not getting through to me.

At some point I'll stop settling in and do some packaging or something - but as a holiday, it's quite relaxing.

Posted: 04 Aug 2008 00:00 | Tags: , , ,

Thu, 03 Apr 2008

I'll be at DebConf8

Lamby reckoned I wouldn't be able to resist using the DebConf8 blog sticker thing. And he was right.

I'm going to DebConf8, edition 2008 of the annual Debian 
     developers meeting

My horrendously expensive plane tickets arrived last week.

Posted: 03 Apr 2008 00:00 | Tags: , , , ,


Tim Retout tim@retout.co.uk
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