Long weekend

Well, it’s been a terribly long weekend with much achived. Not much sleep though. Sunday consisted of a two hour train journey to London followed by my first meeting of the trip with Matt in order to catch up with his job and life on general. I made sure that we treked to the Australia shop for some goodies.

Following this the rest of the Birmingham entourage turned up, and after unsuccessfully trying to check into the hotel we went for our first meeting at Kings College (with all our luggage). Hot topic was search based software engineering and how to apply it to almost any problem. And as would be expected from a room full of searchers the puns got in everywhere. Kings were very hospitable with refreshments and cakes and biscuits.

In the evening we went to a Chineese rearurant to enjoy a variety of things that I struggled to pick up with chopsticks, but I refused to give in. Variety for none fish eaters was rather small, but sufficient. The plan was to meet up with Matt again, but this went on til 9:30, and since he had work in the morning he went to bed.

In the end about 10 of us went to The Hops! bar since we had a 25% voucher for the first round. This made a whole round under £20, very good for London. Bill and I decided to buy, Bill being of the very nice guys resident in CREST.

After one pint we got kicked out, it was late on a Sunday. I’d taken some DVDs and mine and Vivek’s phones were dead so we went to charge them at Ben’s room while watching Bill Baileys Tinselworm. My phone charger wasn’t working and after trying it on many phones and sockets this was confirmed, so we used a data cable. This didn’t work either, so I tried on my laptop and it was fine. I decided it was a driver issue on Vista, and it was. Apparently Vista won’t supply power to a USB device without a driver installed, or at least not enough to charge the phone. On the other hand Ubuntu did.

After enough charge to last the night and the first half of Tinselworm we retired to our rooms. I had to sneak my chair back which I’d borrowed since we didn’t have enough. I then enjoyed a very good shower and browsed the TV ending up watching the end of the first Austin Powers movie. Then I enjoyed the comfort of the Strand Palace Hotel beds.

I’d set my alarm for 7:30 in order for breakfast, but the hotel comes to life in the morning and I woke at 7:10, amazing as I’m a heavy sleeper. We met up and had a very nice breakfast, if only the couassants were warm.

Following this we had another SEBASE meeting, a full day. This had the same wonderful resfreshments and muffins, and was interrupted by a buffet lunch in the luxurious River Room, the food was comprable to Staff House at Birmingham.

Following this meeting I had arranged dinner with another Vodafone PhD student from Imperial. He is Itallian so we went to a very nice Italian in South Kensington. This meeting was quite useful in understanding how our work links, he was also a very interesting guy.

Finally I headed home, I managed to finish watching the Royal Institution Christmas lectures on my iPod. These are aimed at children but Chris is a very good lecturer and manage to explain very complex things like key exchange in simple terms.

After a little sleep I’m back at Uni and in meetings again, followed by the tediom of VIVAs, sorry Demonstrations.

Start of the week

So, the new president is taking up office today, I wonder if he will make a difference, and a positive one at that. No doubt any speeches will be gaff-free, but will the head figure change everyone else. One thing’s for sure, he won’t be anywhere near as funny. Who doesn’t like a good laugh at an American hic.

Last night I played C&C3 online with Matt, we were totally whooped by NOD, more practice required I think.

In other news I had brilliant fun registering a domain before another Matt at Uni. Apparently they don’t lock them until you’ve paid. I decided to transfer it back to him because I’m kind and it’s free to do so on ukreg between users. We later found changing the registrant is £10 + VAT so I’m keeping it in my name on the documents. I think it’s hilarious, as does everyone else, but it burns Matt up inside to read the Whois data. This however just makes it funnier.

Research Status – how do you know?

Well, it’s another cold morning waiting at the train station. I’ve read the poems on the windows in the waiting room many times, but they are still interesting. Does that define good poetry or boredem?

I’ve made some progress as far as research goes. It seems my novel auction idea for advertising isn’t so novel as Google have two paper regarding it. They are using linear techniques and are not privacy preserving, so I still have something. Whether I can improve speed, privacy or both is the question.

My visit to Vodafone is on Wednesday and therefore I may know what they are interested in. It took them quite a while to invite me down, but now they have paid me it seems I’ve caught their attention.

Also, I’ve emailed one of the researchers at Google for their input, I hope they get round to replying.

Finally, I have a presentation to a software engineering group (SEBASE) on Monday, I’ve something of a talk for them, but after Wednesday or the talks I attend on Sunday it may need some revision.

Lack of time last night prevented me from finishing an interesting auction paper from Google (mentioned a lot today aren’t they). Hopefully I can finish this and write my Vodafone paper today.

Blog Origins

I thought I might mention the origins of this blog and how it became to be published. This is not my reasoning for creating a blog (those are that I was copying Kat and Vivek, my friends who are also first year PhDs at Birmingham), but for what I did to put it on the internet.

Choosing my software

So I decided that I ought to do this first, as it might change my implementation specifics. Where do you start? Google seemed the obvious answer, so I decided to Google for the best blogs around. There doesn’t seem to be a comparison of these, or at least my search for one was inadequate. Therefore I decided that the one that just looked quite good would suffice. I found beeblog, which is now not under development and then I found Serendipity. I like PHP and the ability to add plugins from a large repository sounds good.


I’ve got a virtual server out there in the world somewhere, I don’t care where… it just works. Currently this just forwards email around so I decided to use it for hosting my blog rather than keeping it on my home based server, I don’t want you all to use up my bandwidth. I had Apache, PHP and MySQL installed already so all I needed was Imagemagik and GDLib. My distribution of choice is Ubuntu so an “apt-get install imagemagik php5-gd” quickly solved those dependancies. Then I loaded the index page, this asked me a few simple configuration questions which weren’t too hard, although I did have to SSH in and “CREATE DATABASE serendipity” and “GRANT ALL on serendipity.* to [email protected] IDENTIFIED BY “wouldn’t you like to know””.


How should I publish my blog (I thought)? I considered registering a domain, and nothing really came to mind, then I remembered I had a few domains that weren’t doing anything. There’s negativezero.co.uk, I like this name, but I have some stuff on there already. Next I had cyntopic.com, this sounds a bit like sin-topic which would kind of describe the page. In the end I just opted for christaite.com as it is me and therefore the easiest to tell people, also it’s just a blog about me so it’s best I think.


There are lots of plugins as I mentioned earlier. I installed a few, notably one for mobile viewing (Markup: Mobile Output). I have an iPod Touch and it specifically mentioned it on the description. After installation the site worked fine, but I tried to view the page on my iPod and was confronted with a PHP error message: “Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in serendipity_event_mobile_output.php on line 308”. Being a keen PHP programmer I have attempted to solve this bug myself (while I’m writing this post).

The problem is that I don’t have any categories defined on my site as yet. This was easily solved by adding if (is_array($categories)) before the foreach on line 308. But it still does not seem to work at all, I think this may have something to do with setting the style template, but I’m not sure… I’ll report back if I ever find out any more.

Start of a blog

Right, well this is the first post. I should have started one of these a long time a go to keep track of progress and details which I would have otherwise forgotten and have done so.

The main aim of this blog is to keep a record of all my work performed while I am learning how to research (i.e. take a PhD), but no doubt I will go off on rants about all sorts of other things which I have read in the Metro. My mind tends to wander a lot, and as such I think it’s about time I wrote much of it down so that I can refer back to it. There will also be some how-to’s posted for Linux based things (projects I’m hacking away at) so when the machines die I have a way of recovering the data. This seems a very good idea, but the machine that I’m writing this blog on is not backed up in any form and therefore is just as likely to die as any other.

Today I have been in a healthy mindset with my lunch, this is mainly due to the lack of bread in the fridge, so I spent a whole half and hour cooking and cooling pasta before mixing Tesco own tomato pasta sauce, and this time for a little variation I added cheese with a half price Muller (cherry) yoghurt for desert. Also, Dairylea Dunkers are on special offer again and therefore I’ve had one of those for breakfast.

While shopping I came across an offer 3 chocolate fondant filled eggs for £1.09, with Mars, Galaxy Caramel and Dairy Milk Caramel next to each other. Being a huge fan of caramel I had to get one of each. My findings so far are as follows: the Mars eggs have the nougat and caramel as with the bar, but both are significantly more viscous and do not taste the same at all, still enjoyable. The Galaxy Caramel is almost identical to that of the bar, but the chocolate is not as smooth. The dairy milk I have not eaten yet, but if it is like last years they will not be able to contend with the taste of the chocolate-mixed caramel in the Galaxy egg, but wins points for being the original.

So far as work goes, I am making little progress today since I have been setting up this. I have updated my timetable and organised my trip to London to visit SEBASE. This is a bit of an organisational nightmare as people keep on coming up with different ideas about when we are leaving and how long we are staying for, eventually we have been granted the money to stay in a Hotel on Sunday night for the meeting on Monday morning. I have to prepare a five minute presentation and try not to make a complete arse of myself in front of people who actually know what they are talking about. Rami has given me some pointers as to some papers on Search Based Software Engineering (“The Current State and Future of Search Based Software Engineering” by Mark Harman), the author of which will be attending the meeting. There has been a whole papers worth of jottings about how I can adapt search based techniques towards contextual based advertising.

My visit to Vodafone is all arranged for Wednesday now, driving down to Newbury in the morning and back in the afternoon. It seems a long way to go for a few hours, but the previous conference call was a complete waste of time so hopefully I will be able to get some interesting information from them. I’m looking to find out what Vodafone actually want from me, since they are paying for some of my time. I hope to gain insight into what kinds of information they currently gather and whether my ideas of offsetting user privacy for reward will be of any interest to them what-so-ever.

Later you may look forward to my how-to make a postfix mailserver with all the trimmings.