Archive for the ‘Old’ Category


(Moved over from my Massey site.

Future entries will be separate, but in the Tools category).

These are the tools that I regularly use, and which I would obviously recommend:

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Universal Student Allowances: A Better Solution

Students’ Associations, like my own ASA and the NZUSA, are continually pushing for a “universal student allowance”. This is quite clearly an unworkable solution – not even the Labour Party is in favour of it – and nor is it a desirable one.

[Note that throughout this document, student refers to tertiary students. Secondary, primary, and pre-primary students have other support mechanisms.] Continue reading

After Hours Sign-in Books

A recent Massey Albany announcement:

As part of our Health & Safety requirement it has been necessary to provide after hour sign in books in all multi-storey buildings on campus.These have now been put in place and can be found either by the after hour entry doors or in the case of the Quad A and Atrium buildings close to the lift. Please make yourself familiar with the location of the books and ensure that all staff and visitors entering and leaving the building after hours sign the book.

Remember they are in place for your safety and in the unlikely event of an emergency they will assist security or emergency services in determining who is in the building.

How silly is this? Continue reading

Visiting Australia (Passport Requirements)

I’m visiting Australia (just for the day) next week, and realised last night that I foolishly have let my passport reach the stage where it expires in just over two months.  I know that many countries require the expiry to be a certain amount of time after arriving (e.g. six months) and wondered if I would have to speedily renew my passport (an extra $75 for the speed, and taking three days plus travel to and from the passports office, which would cut it close).

I googled for information about this for ages, and tried the sensible seeming sites (Australian tourism, New Zealand and Australian government departments that look after passports and immigration, travel websites.  Nothing helped.

Eventually my wife rang the New Zealand Ministry of Internal Affairs (who do the passports), who said that in their opinion (matching mine) the passport is valid until it expires.  They suggested ringing the Australian consolate.  They couldn’t do anything but play recorded messages, but one of those messages suggested a website to look at.

The website, which does have the information is  What a stupid choice of URL – how could I possibly be expected to guess that?  And why did google not find this? (They have a PageRank of 0, which explains much, so someone needs to do a better job of promoting the site!).

The answer, anyway, is that (for a New Zealander at least) you only need a valid passport for the duration of the stay (although obviously the length of the visa allocated will be effected).  So I can just renew my passport when I get back, and wait the 10 days, and save $75.

Stability of email addresses

Massey‘s ITS department have been at it again (see also the comments about their security blunder earlier this year – somewhat patched up now).

Ever since email began, it has been customary for an email address to take the form username@domain – for example, I have a username “ta-meyer” with which I log into Ihug, and so I have an email address Massey (staff) usernames typically come in the form initial(s)surname (e.g. my name is Tony Andrew Meyer, so my username is “tameyer”). As such, you would expect my Massey email address to be (just as you find my web page by putting Massey’s address, then a tilde (for ‘home’) then my username, to get

Until some time in the last week, you would have been right. You could also have used (note the dots), but it didn’t really make as much sense (“t.a.meyer” is no good as a username, anywhere at Massey), and is more difficult for people to remember. Just recently, however, mail to (e.g. has started to bounce with an “unknown user” error.

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Email Quoting

Like many people, I deal with a lot of email every day. Something that makes it much easier to deal with is when people quote properly. Here are some guidelines (originally prepared for 139.177 / 119.177) for effective email quoting.

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When I tried to build Python 2.4.1 on doublehelix I ran into two problems:

  • configure wouldn’t complete, saying that it couldn’t run compiled C programs.  I looked at the configure script and right before this it had something about not removing this section with autoconf 3.0:
# FIXME: These cross compiler hacks should be removed for Autoconf 3.0
# If not cross compiling, check that we can run a simple program.

So I went ahead and commented out that section and it ran.  I suspect that this was actually caused by the second problem.
  • make ran fine until it tried to use python to build the extension modules (or if I tried to run python manually once it was built).  I got “./python: error while loading shared libraries: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory”

There’s a lot of stuff online about this problem, and generally the solution is to either modify /etc/ to include a path to the library, or put the path on LD_LIBRARY_PATH.  I don’t have access to /etc/, so the second seemed like the best plan.  A simple ‘find / -name’ found three files with the right name, so I put the first one (/usr/local/lib) into LD_LIBRARY_PATH.

Unfortunately, this didn’t work – nothing seemed to change at all. I tried lots of other things, but nothing worked.

The problem turned out to be that although they all had the same name, the three files were not the same (I imagine that one is specific to 64 bit compiling).  If I put the one in /lib64/ssa on LD_LIBRARY_PATH, all worked nicely (what normally goes into /lib64/ssa, I do not know).

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The importance of priority

As part of my PhD research, I have to link together a lot of separate components, many of which are running on separate machines, as they’re too much for a single one. You’d think that this was relatively simple, given that a good non-blocking synchronous socket module is part of the standard Python library. Not so! Everything always runs too slowly, even when it’s the only thing running on the machine.

The first time I came across this problem, I was running the vision module and the speech module on the same machine, which communicated with the graphics module on a different one. The speech module just wouldn’t run nicely at all.

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Reply All

This is primarily intended for people corresponding with me via that have will have noticed my signature generally includes these lines:

Please always include the list (spambayes at in your replies
(reply-all), and please don't send me personal mail about SpamBayes. explains this.

Here is an explanation of what that means, why I am asking you to do this, and how you can do it. If you don’t understand a term here, please check the list at the end for a definition, or use Google‘s “define” facility to get a definition.

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