Niall’s virtual diary archives – Sunday 22nd April 2007

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Sunday 22nd April 2007: 5.10pm. After some amount of mucking around, I now have this front page on nedprod fully compliant with XHTML v1.0 Transitional and nearly fully compliant with XHTML v1.1 - the only three problems are the use of the HTML instead of XHTML MIME type, <a name> and <a href target> all of which I have to keep in order to maintain compatibility with older HTML browsers. I'm going to keep all the older pages on nedprod in HTML v4.0, but new pages will also be in XHTML v1.1. I have to admit that I have no interest in ever upgrading past v1.1 as it looks like XHTML v2.x will fully break backward compatibility with older browsers - and let's face it, none of the current browsers can even fully do XHTML v1.0 yet!

This change has been made possible by my moving from Microsoft Frontpage to Microsoft Expression Web which occurred as part of installing stuff onto the new computer. Expression Web produces leaner code than Frontpage and it's also entirely standards conformant - the validation tool inside Expression Web actually matches exactly the official W3 one, and Expression Web handles UTF-8 files perfectly despite putting the non-standard BOM at the start. Even better, despite having nothing in common with Frontpage, it's still backwards compatible with Frontpage extensions so my navigation bar on the left which Frontpage automatically keeps updated as an insert in every page on nedprod still works. In fact, I really have to say that my experience with Expression Web so far has been almost perfect - my only issue has been the lack of a tool to fully automate upgrading old HTML into XHTML (it does a lot automatically, but it could do more) and it also annoyingly lacks showing what you type as you type by a few centiseconds, but that's still better than Frontpage which used up 100% of your CPU as your web page got longer. Oh - there is one other niggle - like Internet Explorer, it doesn't understand the .xhtml file extension which is required to get Apache to give the correct MIME type to web browsers.

One of the advantages of this web format upgrade is that I can now do this:

ِسْمِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٟنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ The beginning of the Quran in Arabic
अग्नमीळे पुरोतं यज्ञस्य दवं त्वीजम The beginning of the Rig Veda in Sanskrit
‏בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ׃ The beginning of the Torah in Hebrew (note it goes right to left)
Βίβλος γενέσεως Ἰησοῦ Χριτοῦ υἱοῦ Δαυὶδ υἱοῦ Ἀβραάμ The beginning of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament in Greek

Sadly not all of the above will show correctly on all web browsers - you'll likely see some of the characters missing with boxes in their place. As web browser and operating system support for Unicode improve, those boxes will vanish.

Ok, so what's been happening in my life recently? Well as it always is after Easter in St. Andrews, things have been changing very quickly indeed. Obviously I now have my new computer, I ended up overclocking it from 1.8Ghz to 3.4Ghz by a straight increase of the FSB and memory from their default of 800/400 to 1512/756 which only required a modest increase in voltage to maintain stability. I also managed to reduce memory timings at that speed from 5-5-5-18-23-2T to 4-4-4-12-16-1T which is amazing for the cheapest & nastiest 800Mhz memory I could find. I was able to take the system to a stable 3.6Ghz with the memory at its proper 800Mhz but this required a hefty voltage increase, an extra 90W of power consumption and therefore much increased heat output so I have settled for 3.4Ghz. At this speed, the system only consumes 115W when idle and 225W when busy - almost exactly the same as the old machine did when idle. I am therefore expecting to save nearly half my electricity bill as the old computer made up a large part of the total bill. The new computer also has a wide variety of operating systems installed on it - apart from the lack of SATA support in Apple Mac OS X, they all work very well indeed. It should make an excellent & powerful development workstation this summer break which is only a few weeks away now. Now if only I could sell the old motherboard and parts for a reasonable price ...

My personal life has been difficult recently. I did something very bad to a close friend during the Easter break which was three weeks ago now, and while we are currently estranged I'd doubt we shall be in a week's time. The last few weeks I have been very much questioning my ethics and motives, most especially as everything else running parallel to it has continued without pause (as is usual this time of year). I have begun to spend much more time with the friend that failed me last October with a view to burying the hatchet and moving on, and despite that so far we have had much fun, there can be little doubt that I and she will get hurt once again - nevertheless, the lesson in all of this is what you do about it when it happens - friends embrace the bad as well as the good, and without both one has a lopsided and ultimately doomed friendship.

On the work front, as is also usual this time of year, I have not been able to invest as much effort as is possible earlier in the year, and the marks do show it. As is also normal, I have about one major piece of coursework due each week and I have been juggling that with the interpersonal demands required of me this time of year. This is not to say that I don't willingly do this - I find this time of year to be very alive, as everyone grows so much and so quickly and I certainly am enjoying myself as well as growing myself a lot too. This is worth a few percentage points drop in coursework, and I don't think I'll regret this choice if it caused the difference between a first and 2.1 in a year's time.

One thing of particular concern recently has been my finances. I have had a surplus of money for most of my time here, but I went £380 over budget in January and February and I have been trying to restrain myself since then. So far despite trying to pay back £100 a month I have actually only broken even - so at least I am no worse off. But I do feel worse off - constantly having to not spend money unnecessarily means you lose a lot of spontaneity and feel guilt when others buy you drinks. With the purchase of the new computer at £515 I should be sitting at -£990 in my bank account at the end of this month when the rent comes out - so I am relying on lean summer spending to reduce that by £750 by summer's end. It should be possible to save £250 per month - that's the amount which goes on non-food and credit card expenditures after all ordinary costs - but we shall see.

Shortly we'll be having the Sir Crispin Tickell lecture - I'll be able to move on this this coming Wednesday when we get the funding situation confirmed. I have an essay due for Wednesday I'll be starting shortly, then another for the following Wednesday. No doubt I have plenty more coming for me on the personal front as well - it's all going to be very, very busy - what fun! Be happy!

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