Table Quiz, in aid of MDI, Wednesday 11 July

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Fancy yourself as a smartypants who knows everything there is to know about everything? Could you name all the cities who have had two or more soccer teams win a European club tournament? Or name the artist and song that kept “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” off the number one spot in the UK in 1967? Can you name the flower found on the Hong Kong flag? Will you be in Lyon on July 11th?

I’m organising a table quiz next week, Wednesday 11 July, to raise funds for Muscular dystrophy Ireland in advance of running the 6000D in three weeks time (eek!). So far, mostly because of my injury, work and training commitments, fundraising has been slow – but with the race approaching we’re heading full steam ahead, and I’m once again asking for your support and donations.

For those of you who are not in Lyon next week, you are cordially invited to Johnny’s Kitchen, 48 rue Saint Georges, in Vieux Lyon, for a quiz in aid of this cause. There will be a raffle on the night, and the owner is donating €1 for any drinks sold to quiz attendees. Doors open at 8pm, and we’ll kick off the quiz around 8.30. Entry is €3 per person, and all proceed go directly to MDI.

For those of you who can’t be there next week, you can also donate online! We’ve collected almost €700 to date, and I’m hoping to reach €1500 by the time of the race.

Thanks everyone for your support!

Line-up pour Ignite Lyon finalisé

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Je viens de finaliser aujourd’hui les présentateurs pour l’inauguration de Ignite Lyon. Les sujets sont assez diverses, du vache à lait à l’informatique bio en passant par la course à pied et l’art libre. Pour ceux qui sont plus du tendance entrepreneur, nous avons également des présentations sur la démarche commerciale ou créer sa première boîte jeune.

Voici la liste des présentateurs pour ce premier Ignite Lyon en order alphabétique, sauf modifications de dernier minute:

Avec une salle qui prendrai autour de 100 personnes, les places risquent d’être chères, même si l’entrée est libre!

Je vous suggére vivement d’être à votre place dans la salle D101 de l’Université Lyon 2, Quai Claude Bernard, à l’ouverture des portes à 18h30 jeudi prochain le 4. Les festivités commenceront vers 19h, jusqu’à 20h30 à peu près, avec une pause pipi au millieu.

Vous pouvez également vous inscrire pour manger un bout après l’événement au Chevreuil, ou nous allons nous retrouver quor quelques boissons raffraichissantes à partir de 20h30.

Vous pouvez trouver plus d’informations sur le site Ignite Lyon. A la semaine prochaine!

Ignite Lyon: A new adventure

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I’m a big fan of short-form presentations, and I like to give one whenever I get a chance. I also like to encourage others to do them for other conferences I’ve organised or run, like  GUADEC, the Maemo Summit or Fostel (site seems to be down now – shame).

I’ve been an admirer from afar of Ignite for years, for the variety and quality of the presentations that you find at their events, and seeing Global Ignite Week announced a few months ago, around the same time that PLOSS Rhone-Alpes started coming together gave me an excuse to do what I’ve wanted to for a while, and host an Ignite Lyon event! The inaugural Ignite Lyon will be held on March 4th in Université Lyon 2 on the quais.

For those unfamiliar with the Ignite talk format, you get 5 minutes for your talk – 20 slides, which advance automatically every 15 seconds. There are lots of Ignite videos on the site.

Once again I’m teaming up with Vincent Mabillot from Colibre, with whom I co-organised Richard Stallman’s recent stop in Lyon last month, and François Aubriot from PLOSS R-A and DotRiver, as well as all of the members of ALDIL and PLOSS R-A who have time to give in this busy month (in addition to school holidays, ALDIL and Colibre are once again participating in the conference Primevere and the week-long “Libre en fête” festival of free software).

I’m looking for presenters! I want to hear cool stuff – personal passions, unusual hobbies or projects, complete with pitfalls and tiny successes that led to a fun conclusion, advice on how to handle difficult problems we all meet, tips on reducing your carbon footprint, how your non-profit group made a difference in your neighbourhood, cries of passion for people to stop doing something you care about *wrong*. Ignite is not just IT, and that’s what I love about it. I will be giving a presentation myself called “hacking your body”, talking about running as performance testing for real life. Of course, it’s also IT, so the geekier and cooler your project, the better :-) If you’re into soldering your own chopper bicycles, I want to hear about it.

As you’ve figured out, I want to hear from you if you have something interesting to say. We’re expecing 100 people from a range of backgrounds, including entrepreneurs, hackers, makers, DIY fans and general geeks & freaks (in the nicest sense). If you want to submit a talk, please use the online form I set up.

Running advice

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Coincidentally, I was running a 10km race this weekend in Vénissieux, and Chris Blizzard replied to an email about running I sent him months ago. At the time, I gave him a few tips on getting started in running without getting injured, and reading back, I think they are worth sharing.

Advice from a recent beginner

When you start running regularly, take it very easy before you start upping the distance. Your heart & muscles will tell you to go further & faster before your joints are ready for it. Trainers say that you can up your total weekly distance no more than 10% per week. And running more regularly is worth more than running long in fewer sessions. Four three mile runs is better than two six mile runs.

When you do decide to start running further, start doing it in fractions – run 1 mile, walk 1 minute, run 1 mile, walk 1 minute. If you’re on 10 minute per mile pace, that’ll drop you to 11 minutes per mile, but you’ll be able to run 7 or 8 miles easily.

Vary fast & long runs. If you’re starting to stretch out runs & regularly going more than 5 miles in a run, try swapping out one of those 5 mile runs for something like:

  • Warm up 2 miles
  • 4x800m at a faster pace (if you jog 10 minute miles, then try to run your half-mile split in 4 minutes) with 2 minutes  break between splits.
  • Warm down 1 mile

If you always run long & slow, you’ll stay a slow runner. If you start training your body to run a little faster, you’ll improve the entire system – cardio & muscular. And you sweat more too.

To lose weight, do that 5 or 6 mile run on a Saturday morning – don’t starve yourself the night before, and drink water or tea  before your run by all means, but running in the morning on an empty stomach will help you drop those pounds. Once you go over about 30 to 40 minutes running time, you’re eating fat. If you’re diabetic, this might not be advised.

And don’t forget that every body is different, no one scheme or training plan works for everyone. Your body’s a machine, and it’s one which can be made very efficient with maintenance.

Once you get to the stage where you’re running that speed work, you might consider adding some shorter sprints & really start getting faster ;-)

Christmas baking

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I made what is shaping up to be a yummy Christmas cake this weekend – it’s just out of the oven & smells gorgeous!

Christmas cake

Ingredients (all weights approximate, mix & match to taste & availability for fruits & nuts, total quantities are what’s important):

  • 300g currants
  • 100g raisins
  • 75g sultanas
  • 75g prunes (can try dates or dried apricots also)
  • 75g cherries (halved & stoned)
  • 75g mixed peel
  • Grated rind of 1 orange & 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons port
  • 1 tablespoon brandy
  • 1.5 teaspoons mixed spice (I used cinnamon, cloves, muscat)
  • 200g plain flour
  • 2 – 3g baking powder (if you don’t have any, use half-in-half self-raising & plain flour)
  • 175g butter
  • 175g sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 50g chopped or ground almonds
  • 100g mixed chopped nuts (to taste – walnuts, hazelnuts, and my personal favourite: pine nut kernels)
  • 1 tablespoon Golden Syrup (I didn’t have any, so used 2 tablespoons Maple syrup + 1 tablespoon honey, seems to work OK)

Preparation (night before cooking):

In a big bowl, put all the dried fruit, and soak it in boiling water (15 minutes). Empty water and repeat. This softens the fruit and lets the alcohol work more effectively. After emptying the water the 2nd time, add in the grated rind, the port and brandy (enough to moisten the fruit), and stir the fruit well so that the alcohol gets on everything uniformly. Also, take the eggs and butter out of the fridge to let them come up to room temperature. Leave overnight.

Grease a 20cm baking tin with butter, line it with greaseproof paper (or, as I did, tinfoil if you don’t have any), and grease the lining. Heat up your oven to a low heat – I put it at 120 degrees Celsuis (equiv. gas mark 1). Beware fan assisted ovens – they’ll dry out the cake too quickly. Use the mode with no fan.

Chop the nuts, and put them and the mixed spices in the flour. Mix well.

Ingredients (after preparation)

Ingredients (after preparation)

Break the four eggs into a bowl and beat lightly. Cream the butter and sugar together in a big mixing bowl (must be able to comfortably hold all the ingredients). Slowly add and mix the eggs (one spoon at a time) into the creamed sugar & butter. You don’t want the mixture to curdle, so make sure that each spoon of egg is well mixed in and you get something like a paste. Once all the egg is in, add the golden syrup (or, in my case, maple syrup & honey), and stir it in.

Fold in the spiced flour, mixing well. There’s no rush, add in the flour bit by bit to ensure a regular paste.

Then add in the soaked fruit (which should have grown nicely plump overnight). Mix until you have a nice regular consistency.

Spoon the mixture into your baking tin, flatten the top, and then bang the bottom & sides a bit to ensure there are no air bubbles inside. You can even drop the cake tin from about 20 – 30cm high to get them all out.

Bake the cake for at least 3 hours. Mine cooked for 5 hours (the oven could have been a little hotter). For the teetotalers in the audience, don’t worry, the alcohol burns off in the oven.

The final cake (before being eaten)

The final cake (before being eaten)

Ideally, bake your cake in November, and take it out of the tin every week, poke some holes in it with a skewer, and regularly feed it a drop of brandy, port, rum or whisky. The fruit will soak it up & be lovely & tender (but slightly alcoholic) by Christmas. In my case, we’re just going to eat it :-)

Busy December…

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I’m going to have a busy busy month of December.

La Fête des Lumières

I’ve written about the Festival of Light in Lyon before, and it’s coming around again. I’m going to bring the boys into Lyon with over 1 million other people to walk around cold streets looking at light shows on some of Lyon’s best known landmarks. This year will be bigger than ever, with a €2 000 000 budget, and I have had a sneak preview of some of the installations from training runs on the riverbanks of the Rhône and in Parc de la Tête d’Or. The light shows are always interesting, sometimes a little arty, often spectacular. This year, I would like to bring everyone up to the top of Fourvière to have a view of the entire city.


First up, next week I’ll be in London to give a presentation at MAPOS (nothing to do with cartography), the Mobile Application Platforms in Open Source conference. My presentation is titled “Increasing Ecosystem Cooperation”, and will be at 15:30 on Tuesday afternoon.

I will talk about the need for companies building on free software to make mobile application platforms to work actively to develop that platform. I hope to get the message across that building on free software is not a client-supplier relationship, but is more like a research grant or R&D function.

Companies in this space are used to surveying the market, choosing the best solution, and then paying for it, so that some third party will keep improving it. The integrator model which many distributions use, of modifying the basic building blocks according to your needs, and sending changes up-stream after they have been developed, is an intermediate model, which has both positive and negative sides. But what we really need is an active co-development, with companies building on our platform investing R&D dollars into targeted co-operation across multiple companies, to address coherently a problem space (such as the needs of mobile platforms).

GNOME Foundation members are entitled to a 15% discount on registration, for those thinking of going.

Bibliothèque Municipal de Lyon

On the evening of the 12th, I will be participating with a panel including some people from Handicap International’s Centre icom which I visited a few weeks ago. I will be presenting GNOME’s accessibility capabilities to a seminar on Information Technology and Handicap both to show its power and also to advertise its freedom (philosophical and financial) compared to proprietary programs like Jaws.

Christmas run

On the 14th, I’ll be in Aix les Bains, running in the Corrida des Lumières with a bunch of my club-mates from the AAAL – since running 39’10 last month in a 10k, I’ve been hyped about running another competition. I’ve been training well, and Christmas runs are always fun with mulled wine & dinner afterwards.

GUADEC co-ordination

Along with Vincent Untz, I’ll be flying out to Las Palmas on the 15th (oh how life is hard) to meet with Alberto Ruiz (for GNOME), the Gran Canaria Cabildo (the local government), and the KDE eV board members co-ordinating the conference from their end. We’ll be testing out the cheaper hotel accommodation option for the conference (I hope there will also be a “very low budget” option like a youth hostel or a campsite), meeting with local volunteers, and resolving the major issues we need to work out before we ramp up the next phase of the organisation – gathering and scheduling conference content.


Thomas started Judo this year, and he loves it. I have stayed around after bringing him a couple of times, and the warm-up they do is certainly fun, but challenging. On the 17th of December, Thomas will be having his end-of-year competition, the first time he’ll be in a Judo competition. It’s a bit of fun, really – and yet I hope that introducing an aspect of competition into the activity doesn’t in some way ruin it for him.

Christmas skiing

As usual, Christmas will be on the 25th of December this year. Last year we were in Ireland, but this year we’re going to celebrate with just the family, and the kids will get to wake up in their own beds.  On the 27th, Anne, the kids and myself are going to go into the Alps to meet up with the rest of her family for a week. We’re hopefully going to get in some skiing, go walking in the woods, eat too much, drink too much, and be very merry indeed. It’ll be my second time celebrating the new year in the mountains, and with the cold & the snow it feels like Christmas in the films. I love it.


When Lefty wrote about trying to get a particular type of brush in Japan,the intricacy of the detail of the story made me think of Go. Go is an ancient game with a small number of simple rules, which result in a game of deep complexity and beauty, and a handicap system which allows unevenly matched players to play competitive games.

It is a game steeped in the kind of tradition that Lefty talks about – professional Go tournaments are played on goban cut from a particular type of rare wood, with white stones made from the carved and polished shells of a specific type of clam, gathered on a single beach in Japan, and the black stones being made from slate mined in a single mine. The Go board is elongated, just enough to make it appear square when you are sitting in front of it, and the size of the black and white stones are slightly different, to compensate the visual impression of white stones appearing larger.

I’m back playing regularly (mostly, unfortunately, with GNU Go, who is more than a match for me on bigger boards) and have taught Thomas the basics. He’s caught on surprisingly rapidly – he’s up to the stage where he can beat me in a 9×9 game with 4 stones. Go is a very intuitive, rather than analytical, game, and some of the key concepts like influence, “good shape”, life and death are quite abstract, making it a game that children can “get” quicker than adults.

I’ve also found parallels between the ebb and flow of a Go game and free market economics. The core principle that the goal is not to kill your enemy, but simply to reduce his territory while protecting yours through strategically placing your stones to create influence and strength, matches closely my ideas of how markets work.

Phew! That’s a lot of “stuff”.

24 hours, 181km

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This is what a man who has run 181km in 24 hours looks like.

My friend, Stéphane Viossat, with whom I run in our club the AAAL, participated in the “24 heures de Saint Fons” this weekend, along with several other members of the club. Stéphane set himself a target of 180km, and with 20 minutes left he got there. He walked another lap just to be sure, and at 181.131km, sat down to savour the last couple of minutes of the day.

Stephane Viossat

He had to go to the hospital afterwards to have two toe-nails removed and some nasty blisters disinfected.

I had the honour of running 5km with him between 101 and 106km around 11pm, after 13 hours running, when muscles started to tense and tiredness starts to set in. I hope I helped him through a tough moment.

I am in awe of achievements like this.

Sean Daniel, 4.1kg, 54cm, born 21:06 CEST 24/07/2007

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Just after…

Just after…

A little later

A little later

I’m delighted to share that Sean Daniel Neary, the newest member of the Neary family, was born at 21:06 French time today, a healthy 4.1 kg (that’s just over 9lb for you imperialists out there) and 54 cm tall. Mother and child are well.

Easy personal back-ups

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I’m looking for a back-up solution which is easy to use. Ideally, I don’t want to have to decide what I need to back up and what I don’t – disk space is not an issue.

My dream app would be a graphical application which has back-up profiles – system configuration, personal data, application settings, media files, and maybe user-installed applications.

Ideally, I would be able to do incremental back-ups (à la rsync) where the weekly back-up will only be saving the new email, files and pr0n, and not the 30GB that was backed up first time round.

Also, a restore facility would be nice. In the past, when I have backed up files and had to restore, I have had issues because the user files were backed up for uid 501, and the corresponding account after installing the system anew was 502 (or something like that). I don’t want to have to think about user rights – I want to, as root, restore the system, and have user accounts, files, configuration all recreated as they were at the last back-up.

Anyone know of an easy one-click solution for Linux for the man who wants back-ups, but doesn’t want to have to think about them?

Update: I should probably mention that the back-ups will be to an external USB disk, and will be on-demand. I don’t want to leave the disk plugged in all the time, and I don’t want to have to think about plugging it in on Thursday evening to have the back-up done on Friday morning. Also, I’ll be backing up 3 different systems – including 2 on one double-boot machine. So ssh + rsync via a cron job is probably not the idel solution (but many thanks for the many people proposing it).

Balloon animals

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Back at Christmas, one of the presents that Thomas got was a box of balloons and a pump, and a small book explaining how to make balloon animals.

Being a good father, I decided to have a go :)

It took me a while to get things right – a lot of balloons ended up getting burst, but I finally got some reasonable results.

I also had a few disasters – this is a mouse in progress that lost an ear, but didn’t completely burst:

And I practiced ear twists and lock twists on this one, about which Anne commented “Looks like haemerrhoids”:

But in the end, the parrot, the crocodile, the centipede, the hummingbird and the giraffe were my pride & joy.

The family

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