Music the transporter

As usual, I had queued up my entire music collection and set Winamp to random play. Though there was an unusual sequence of tracks, none of which were related, none of which were particularly amazing except for one thing; each and every one triggered an old memory from where I first heard, or most associated the music.

I shut my eyes and just listened as I was transported to parents front room, where my dad was proudly showing me his record collection (Deep Purple, Black night); to Cyprus with my mum, driving around the Troodos mountains (Roxy Music, Slave to love); to the school trip to Thorpe Park (Oasis, Hey Now!); to the bus stop outside my flat in Walthamstow on my way to work (Papa Roach, Last resort); to walking to Tessa’s house when we’d first started going out (Electric Soft Parade, There’s a silence); to touring around the UK with The Attic Project (The Ziggens, Fat Charlie)

It never ceases to amaze me how music has the power to do that. It seems so vivid as you don’t just get a few flashing images in your mind, you get a full sensory reminder as if you were actually there. You can remember events and thoughts that were occurring at that time. It helps you remember things about a time in your life, places or people that had completely evaded you previously.

If you listen to music all the time, then any deep and buried memory of your life could be just a song a way

BOINC – volunteer grid computing

After discovering that running my computers (modestly used as they are) cost over half of what I pay for electricity every year, I started thinking about how my computers could be put to better use.

I remembered a little known yet well established concept; volunteer computing, which I used to partake in years ago (I can’t think why I actually stopped being involved before). Which basically involves installing a program on your PC which uses your space cpu cycles to work on scientific projects. A central server for a project hands out small chunks to each volunteered computer over the internet and collates the results.

It would appear that this technology has come along in leaps and bounds since I last looked into it, as there are now dozens upon dozens of these projects, all of which have settled on a common framework known as BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing).

I have a very powerful desktop machine (quad-core Phenom 2.5Ghz) which means during daily use I barely scratch the surface of my computers ability.

With BOINC installed however I am constantly using nearly 100%, though despite this I do not notice any loss in performance while running applications.

This is because all other processes take priority over the BOINC client, it simply uses up whatever CPU power you have spare.

It makes me wonder how much quicker, big scientific problems could be solved if every computer in the world was running this software.

The BOINC client is available on most standard platforms and operating systems and is open source so can be modified to run on potentially any system.

Most linux distributions have the software available from their repositories via package management tools such as Yum and Aptitude. If you have a powerful computer that does not use 100% of it cpu time, can you justify not having this software installed?

Full details and install instructions can be found at

For *beep* sake!

I often wonder how and why this sort of thing happens to me. I’m sure it must happen to other people but sometimes it just does feel like the world is out to get me in the most subtle yet soul destroying ways.

A few days ago when I woke up I could hear a smoke alarm going off next door. Nothing unusual there, smoke alarms do go off and it was breakfast time. Probably just someone burning their toast. True to form the alarm kept stopping and then going off again a moment later (like all good smoke alarms do when toast is burning near by) however, I started to doubt this after it was still doing this 2 hours later. Who burns toast for 2 hours?

It soon became apparent that something was wrong and so I tried to contact the owners of the house next door [Samara Properties]. Their maintenance office was closed for the bank holiday, though strangely their sales office was open. Either way their was no-one able to help until the next day, after which it still took them another day or so to get the right keys and get into the flat where the dodgy smoke alarm was chirping away all day and night.

It was a minor thing but it drove me absolutely insane. I can’t get over how happy I still feel about the fact that it has stopped. Does this happen a lot or was I just extremely unlucky?

Make some noise for BT

Now I could go off onto a rant about how terrible BT are, and I’m sure there are many who would concur with their negative experiences. I would certainly be fair to say that things did not go smoothly when we first signed up, but it certainly was better then some.

We have had our line less than two months now and I have already had to call BT regarding a fault. I noticed it last Friday, though it probably happened at least a week earlier. Like many people I don’t actually use my landline, I just have it for my internet connection. It was only when I tried to call an 0800 number that I realised there was a loud buzzing. No wonder my router was only syncing at 5mbps for the past week! There as me thinking it was because I downgraded the firmware. Turns out it was some loose wiring somewhere.

Anyway, I reported this to BT who informed me they’d aim to get the problem resolved within 48 hours. Naturally, it being bank holiday weekend, I expected that to mean Wednesday or Thursday. Turns out they were serious, I got a call on Sunday morning, asking me to check the line again. Everything was fixed, hurrah!

So despite their general bad rep, they’re doing something right somewhere; working through the bank holiday!

The Cost of Computing

Owing to the soaring cost of energy, I decided to invest in a plug in power meter. That is a handy little device that monitors how many volts/amps/watts and most importantly watts/hour is being drawn from a power socket. I decided to plug this into the socket which supplies my entire computer rig to see what my computing is costing me.

I had running my desktop PC, my file server, LCD monitor and speakers. One hour later and the meter was reading 0.34kWh which means that to keep this running for 24 hours would use 8.16kWh. It doesn’t look like much but lets do the maths!

Putting these figures into pounds and pennies is a convoluted process, and different for everyone, but here is how I worked it out. I assumed that the more expensive units (first 182 kWh per quarter) were used up by general household usage leaving just the daily and night time rates (17 hours @ 12.75p/kWh and 7 hours @ 5.4p/kWh). This means if my usual setup uses 0.34kWh every hour it will use (5.78kWh @ 12.75p + 2.38kWh @ 5.4p) meaning the cost per 24 hours is (73.695p+12.852p) = 86.547p, which is £315.90 over a whole year.

Now that is a LOT! Even though I do not run my computers 24/7 any more, the meter still read 5.14kWh after 24 hours. By the same calculations, that is still £200.18 per year that I spend just on running my computers.

The fridge/freezer has often been cited as the most wasteful and costly home appliance, however mine uses just 1kWh every day, which is just £38.72 per year. This means that my computers are over five times more expensive to run. I consider my own setup and usage modest among my peers. I know people who run several home servers 24/7. I wonder what sort of bills they are racking up. Furthermore, what must it cost to run a warehouse-sized data centre these days?!

The cost of computing? Very expensive indeed

Back to “normal”

I noticed today, for the first time since the chaos of July 1st that everything seemed “normal” again.

Nothing has felt normal since long before the move. Back then, normal was sitting in my room, two floors up watching planes land into Leeds Bradford Airport while smoking big fat doobies. Normal was waking up to the sounds of Kieran’s music (or Half Life deathmatch). Normal was spending almost every hour in front of my computer achieving absolutely nothing while smoking big fat doobies. Normal was feeding Charlie at 3’oclock in the afternoon.

Now everything is different, yet it seems strangely the same. Now normal is waking up to the sound of CJ coming home from or going to work (that boy works such odd hours). Normal is getting at least one undesired phone call every day. Normal is spending at least half of my time in front of my computer, achieving something at least 50% of the time (the other half of my time is spent eating). Normal is thinking of Charlie, but not missing the white hair that gets everywhere.

I guess it’s because all the ever present “normal” things have come around. We have had phone and electricity bills; we have direct debits; our stuff now lives in cupboards and drawers and not boxes; we have the internet; we have a parking permit; we’ve met the neighbours; we have had our house warming partay. Yes we are truly settled, and everything is normal.

The smoking ban

After I moved out of my old house on Royal Park Grove (good bye and good riddance! though I will miss the views of the sunset) and into our new flat on Kelso Road I decided to give up smoking. I am now living with my cousin, Cj who doesn’t like smoking at all and to be honest it is an all round good idea.

I thought at first it might be hard, but it turns out that moving house is an excellent strategy for giving up! As I found myself in a new environment, with my computers in bits and all my stuff piled around me in boxes, I really didn’t feel like lighting up. This is the first and most important step, breaking the routine and replacing it with a new one. I took up eating instead!

So now, even when I have my computers, my music, my movies and my lighter at my finger tips I do not want to smoke. I gave up on 1st July, over six weeks ago. Since then I have been much more happy, motivated, coherent and generally with it. Perfect timing for the year ahead where I will need every brain cell and every muscle working flat out to finish my degree!

Return of the Matt

Those with keen eyes will have noticed that all my old blog posts have disappeared, except the old welcome announcement. I have decided to revive my blog, and to change the theme of its content (but not the graphical theme; I am too lazy and I happen to like it as it is :p)

[Edit: OK, so I found a new theme I liked even more]

After reading over all my old posts it occurred to me that most of them had a very negative tone. I cannot guarantee that I will not continue posting the odd rant but I intend to keep the the tone as light as possible. This generally means less politics and world affairs which tend to depress me totally and utterly, though if I can find a light hearted way to comment, I will!

As I am about to re-enter my final year at uni, I have computers and technology on the brain so expect a lot more computing related posts (I know Kieran would be proud!). I have also decided to import my blog into Facebook, bringing it to a wider audience.

So on that note, welcome back to my blog!