Niall's virtual diary archives - October 2008

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Sunday 12th October 2008: 5.31pm. Gee, what a few months. This weekend I "finished" the book in the sense that every chapter has been written and contains more or less what will end up in the final book. Of course, some chapters are missing small sections, plus I definitely need some extra graphs and pictures to illustrate myself - then comes the weeks of copy editing when you run through lots of other people's notes on where you're not making sense. However, we are on course for a Christmas dissemination to people from St. Andrews - maybe by the time the printers get back to me with sample copies it may be early 2009. Shortly thereafter it goes to agents for publishing.

On that note, I have finally got round to investing in my own server - though it'll be a VPS (Virtual Private Server) for the time being because dedicated ones are horrifyingly out of my budget for the time being. You can get a European based quality one from a quality provider if you search around - I got a deal on a UK based one with 256Mb of RAM, 20Gb of disc space and 300Gb of bandwidth a month for just £5/month. Unlike the cheap & unpredictable OpenVZ VPS's, this is a proper Xen based one where you get total control over absolutely everything. I shall be putting onto it as well as and redirecting all email sent to through it. The current hoster for nedprod is and they finally told me I could no longer do spam processing on their box as I was shafting everyone elses website from the load. That was fair enough - they have been more than tolerant - but it does mean that I didn't get any email for a week so I now have a nice backlog awaiting me.

Having my own server makes a tremendous difference to what I can do. Freeing Growth will need a collaborative cooperative system which allows multiple people to contribute and work upon ideas, code and other stuff. Think of it rather like Wikipedia except that there is a sort of 'peer review' process which occurs before new ideas get incorporated into the whole: one can submit comments & musings a bit like a scratch pad using your mobile phone which you then can coalesce together into suggestions for amendments and/or proposals. In fact, the book proposes precisely the same system except for all creative content & ideas in an entire economy - and from who scratched what & when can it be derived who is most responsible for the genesis of the new idea, and therefore who gets the royalty payments. I can glue together bits of other open source software to achieve this - though it is a shame as it would be an ideal project for my MBS in BIS in UCC, but I would strongly doubt if I could sell it as a viable tool for business. For them, if it can't generate revenue in cold hard immediate cash, it's not a venture.

My Purple MicraI bought my first car and I am learning how to drive it. It is a one litre purple 1998 Nissan Micra GX with all the fancy trimmings such as alloy wheels, power steering, central locking and super stereo system. Most of the fancy facilities still work - windscreen wipers can't do intermittent properly and the booming stereo has a loose connection for the left speaker which is annoying. It runs off almost nothing: €10 will take you the ninety miles we do in and out of Cork each week (which works out at about 45mpg). It cost only €1100, though its insurance nearly cost as much as I am a provisional driver.

Other than all that, life is okay. I am very tired and very run down, not least because myself & Megan have been arguing fairly heavily since we got here. She is not happy here - and I am sure we can move away back to Britain or further afield after the course is done. As I said to her, she can always leave much sooner than that if she wishes - she hasn't paid her fees yet, so not much money is lost. In the end, I do not know how to do more than I am - I agree that there are too many things tugging on my time such that she feels lonely, but money to feed us has to come from somewhere especially as the stockmarkets are doing so badly. Anyway, time to ring Johanna and talk to her for the first time in many, many weeks - I never have time to talk to anyone much anymore. Be happy!

Thursday 30th October 2008: 12.53pm. I have taken today off seeing as Megan is away in Scotland and I don't have to drive her in and besides, I was becoming very exhausted again. I don't know what it is about me but for some reason I just don't handle sixty hour plus weeks well despite that plenty of other people seem to - I am at the edge of my capacity at present, and this is despite that my load is far less than it was in St. Andrews, especially second year there. I am quite sure that it has something to do with freedom of choice - in St. Andrews, I could choose my day to a much greater extent than at present even if I couldn't choose the hours. Here, one is basically stuck inside a prison of a sort for a set of given hours per day, and worst of all much of it is deadly boring.

Now I disliked the set hours badly enough when working for EuroFighter - I was never on time in the mornings, and some mornings I rolled in very late indeed of which they were very tolerant (it's not like I was out partying, it's rather that I wake up at random times and if I must always rise at the same hour then I get irritated). However, I find it very interesting that I could handle the stress in that environment well enough but found when we moved the work to Britain insufferable - almost certainly because now my hours were being dictated to me and I no longer had the choice. My blood pressure rose, I became fat and the doctors started to warn strongly that my bloodwork and systolic pressure were pointing at the early signs of heart disease.

Six months after quitting the job I returned to the same doctor and he was quite literally astonished to find the same bloodwork and indicators now showing me in the peak of physical health - considerably better than good. All those heart disease issues had utterly disappeared. I took that as an extremely valuable lesson for the future.

I very much enjoyed that year after EuroFighter - I had enough money to not work and I made it eleven months before I had to leave Spain. I worked upon what I wanted to when I wanted to, my health vastly improved and I produced a great deal of output indeed. Thanks to the generosity of my father, a much slimmer variant of that lifestyle persisted for the eighteen months preceding going to St. Andrews which allowed me to plan for what I wanted to achieve there all of which came out pretty well actually (I hardly did it alone, but equally what happened there was irrevocably coloured by my actions, approach and presence there). And now I have a book summarising the entire lot of it - whether it is readable or intelligible or not is of course another matter.

It feels now very much like the end of EuroFighter - just like the point when I said that I would quit in six months and no later. I now had a clock to watch counting down ... just like this course whose main portion basically ends in April. Just six months to go. And I see myself watching that clock ticking down and praying it would speed up. I want to be free, not couped up by all this bullshit. It is making me ill - last Tuesday I was in the hospital so they could examine a mouth ulcer which won't heal and their urgings that I must stop soon reminded me of those doctors during EuroFighter. As I said on Tuesday just like I did almost exactly six years ago, it's not like I plan to keep doing this for much longer. To be honest, I don't think that I could because I hate & despise this lifestyle. It sickens me in every way possible and I only do it because I have to.

Just like most people I guess - how many people want to work dead end jobs? Few if none. They do it because they have to do it because they have little choice. I have been extraordinarily lucky to have had a realistic choice, though relative to my peers I have nothing like the material wealth so in a sort of sense I have been punished for my refusal to play ball. Of course, I am standing so close to the top of the mountain relative to everyone else on the planet that it's a bit silly for me to consider myself relatively poor, but well we compare ourselves to that which we perceive relative to us. And even if we ourselves don't, then our peers certainly do so for us.

The book is as done as it could be - I currently sneak in copy editing whenever a free hour pops up and at some stage soon it will reach final draft, whereupon I will run off lots of copies and post them to lots of various people. I will be travelling to the US during Christmas break (only my third time outside Western Europe) to meet Megan's family and hopefully get a lead into the New York publishing scene - apparently John Brockman is the literary agent to get, and of course he is next to impossible to access. More hoops & hurdles to come, but by God if all this expensive education has been worth anything at all then I will find some route to him via some method. Failing that, surely there is a parallel movement based around Europe though God only knows how to find them - that said, the US is where you make money if you write in English, and it makes sense to go straight to the top if you can.

My VPS is working - though I had to wipe it and completely reinstall it from scratch two days ago, and I'm still working on reinstalling everything plus choosing a suitable CMS given that we are now in the 21st century and nedprod's technique of still using semi-static content is very 1990s (there is no database backend on this site, I copy around everything manually and munge the lot through a Python script before uploading). I have learned a very great deal indeed about setting up and configuring your own server and I have written up my experiences here.

Also, MSI released a v1.09 BIOS for my mini-laptop which reenables overclocking which has made a tremendous difference in the one single area which really annoyed me: using Microsoft Expression Web to type into this website. Expression Web is horrendously slow and typing used to lag significantly behind my keypresses, sometimes so much so it was unusable on some pages so I had to type into an empty page and copy & paste into my destination, often waiting up to a minute for the paste to complete. When overclocked by 24%, the entire system (memory, northbridge, CPU, the lot) just leaps ahead and now Expression Web is quite usable. I don't need the extra horsepower for any other application though I daresay compiling C++ is likely to be much improved too, rare though it is that I do that on this laptop (just for Apple Mac OS X actually). BTW, if you also have a MSI Wind PC, if you upgraded the memory then you need the 667Mhz stuff rather than 533Mhz - a lot of people have found the overclock won't work and it's because they bought the 533Mhz RAM. MSI's 24% overclock actually just sets your system to run at its proper 667Mhz spec rather than underclocked as is default.

So I guess that's about it for now. It's the first time in a very, very long time that I have had the freedom to just sit down and potter out a diary entry - normally, I am so harried by everyone & everything that having this break of today and maybe tomorrow is just plain fantastic. I actually have the freedom to think and take my time ... ah, if only it could last! Next I am going to cook myself a decent hot lunch - nice as sandwiches are, one of the things I really hate about being imprisoned in UCC is how by the time the 6-8pm lectures start I am too weak from hunger to make much sense of what is going on. Getting old I guess. Anyway, be happy everyone!

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