bletchley park

many people have asked me how my recent trip to bletchley park went.

i went up there on my motorbike, met with bart and went round the site, finishing up having the bizzare experience of bart and me helping some geeks in the park’s computer conservation museum who were wiring an ASR33 teletype up to a linux box for public demonstration.

for the record: seven bit even parity, two stop bits, 110 baud, but we had terrible problems getting simulate lowercase input to work properly.

maybe, if we go back, they’ll let us in free. we could be the bletchley park field support engineers.


i make no guarantees as to the veracity of information enclosed in this webpage nor to my ability to spell correctly or get grammar right.

this is all a bit ad-hoc, fast and loose and meant to be no more than 90% right at any one time.


ok, so, what is this?

this is a weblog, or ‘blog – a web diary – and it is also an unusual and innovative experiment in intra-business communications.

the idea is that i have a tool with which i can easily update a well-known website with any little trivial snippets of security information, so as to make the issues known to a wider audience.

these blogs are very popular nowadays; examples such as: and are extremely well-known, and provide an important path of communication in the Linux world.

i aspire to do something similar, for the security community, within sun.

don’t take it too seriously – my enthusiasm might not last.

i wonder how long it will be before ian discovers and posts and/or a review of him on radio4 broadcasting house, sunday morning. sweepstake, anyone? 😎

It’s been…

An interesting long weekend, soon to be over. We in the UK have had friday thru monday off in commemoration of nailing people to trees in order to bring about world peace. In that span, I have had two nice days out, two nice days in, done an exceptional bit of bike-riding, had one of my two semi-detatched next-door neighbours die, learned two friends-of-friends committed suicide, and saw HM the Queen Mother pop her cork – or the results of same – an event which (my friends in the Metropolitan Police assure me) they have been practicing for assiduously, once a month, since the 1980s.

It is regrettable about George next door, he seemed a nice enough chap – very old and so delicate that a breeze might blow him away, and sunlight almost shone right through him – though I rarely got to meet him due to emphysema on his part, but he kept a nice garden. I feel for his wife Dot, who I saw more often, is in hospital herself, and is not at all well.

I am happy.

Friday was going to be my day out on the motorbike, but I woke in the morning and decided that I needed to be a couch potato in order to break with norms of behaviour.

That Sky1 had on some 6hrs of Buffy, did not help my biker-commitment.

This lack-of-biking caused me some anguish until I realised that my appointment on saturday – meeting a colleague at Bletchley – could be mentally reorganised to be a motorcycle-day-out, thereby solving two concerns at once, and making me look forwards even moreso to the trip.

So: TV, Tea, Houseclean, Garden. Repeat until sundown.

Saturday dawned and I was up, bright and early, self-scrubbed in the shower ’til tea-tree awake, leaping onto my bike to pootle the sun-blessed, breeze-blown, aromatic and winding 70 miles to Bletchley Park.

The car-park attendant seemed flummoxed but let me park safe by the kiosk – evidently they have few two-wheeled visitors – and Bart arrived on time; tea, coffee, cake, and we took in the tour, cursing the well-dressed but vacuous woman who wheeled her burbling and bawling blasted child from one room to the next, loud so that you could not hear the guide speaking.

We arrived at the Computer Conservation Society exhibit, and after an amusing ten minutes trying to hack their Venix and VMS machines, fell to talking with a exhibit curator. Learning for whom we worked, he asked if we could help: they have an ASR33 (iirc) Teletype connected to a Linux box at 110 baud, 2 stop bits, even parity, and were having horrendous problems logging in.

Discovering a lack of strace or strings on the box, we were forced to improvise and discovered that the version of agetty they were using seemed to take no notice of the particular configuration file they were editing.

We left the problem partially solved, and will help them further – it will be nice to be able to tell colleagues that I was hacking on a teletype only a few days ago.

The ride home was – if anything – even nicer than the one up, with warm roads that permitted laying the bike over and cornering at buttock-clenching speeds that would be obscene for a small racebike, let alone a 125cc trailie. Nice thing about biking: you rapidly end up with “buns of steel”. I stopped-in Chez Rillie for tea, car, and home-improvement chat, and went home and crashed out.

Sunday, Jane came round for lunch.

It was a pleasant, social day, full of food, drink, gossip about friends, TV, country walks, birdwatching, the revelation of true gothdom (real goths wear Barbour jackets and hang out in graveyards even in inclement weather) – plus unexpected horse mushrooms which are either terribly early or terribly late, but are in any case themselves terribly confused.

Monday, final veg-out day.

Had a late lie-in (to counter the clock-shifting) then attacked the garden, weeding the rockery, potting up plants, removing chickenwire from the fencing (which otherwise clogs with bindweed) and vigourously pruning the grapevine. Tea with Pete and Eileen, washing up, cooking, and reading.

Funny how some people think I have time to be bored at weekends. I’ve not had to use the car for four days, although I’ve hit the limit now ho how long I can go without bulk-carrying capability of a car. A shopping trip to restock is sorely needed.

So – did you have a good break? Sleep well? Sleep often? Ride anywhere interesting?

dear, dear, dear diary…

so, what have i been up to for the past few days?

well, i’ve been ill again – but unlike my mate steve, who persists in gleefully describing his symptoms in lurid detail, i shall spare you, dear reader – though it’s not been pleasant.

i am hoping that the current kick to my immune system – which has been necessary to eradicate it – will serve to take out the lingering discomforts that i have been suffering all winter.

friday i felt crummy, so stayed at home, mostly in bed; i woke-up early, and killed a pleasant hour or so, tuning through the amateur bands on my shortwave, listening to ukranians talking to the cubans and venezuelans, celebrating international women’s day on the 41m band.

i placed an joint order for a selection of interesting single-malt whisky from the scotch malt whisky society, so should be well-equipped with drams for the rest of the year.

saturday rose, and i was robust enough to deliver on a promise i made to my elderley neighbours; we went to the town of odiham, thence to a bmw motorbike store to talk bikes new and old – them to reminisce about old bikes, and me to drool over the r1150gs stock – and thence to gilbert white’s house in selbourne, incorporating the oates family museum (he of the “i may be some time” scott-of-the-antarctic expedition). interesting house, nice gardens with nooks ripe for explotarion, pleasant tea, and stuff that reminded me much of my post-colonial childhood – which i shaln’t explain in depth here because no-one else’s family i know had a real lionskin on the carpet when growing up, and you’re unlikely to understand.

(yes, it was a rogue man-eater female. yes my dad shot it. really. in colonial nigeria. up the arse with a .303 from 100 yds. as a toddler, i used to use its head as a seat. got a problem with that?)

sunday i went stir-crazy and went out on the bike, exploring 40 miles of backlanes in 2hrs; the experience was good for me – not merely the fresh air which i craved – but also the investment in learning my local countryside and knowing more about my area… trying to “become a local”.

three years down, seventeen to go.

monday work, tuesday work-at-home creating a presentation, wednesday work, thursday london presentation-dummy-run-through. friday – who knows?

this weekend was meant to be at a bird sanctuary with friends, but that got deferred due to “life”; it’ll probably be turned over to domestic planning for the soiree party i am having, the following week.

sunday – possibly going to help a colleague be pit-lane at a race track in leicestershire.

so – how have you been?

happy now?


Just got back from my dad’s 81st birthday party in herefordshire – a nice pub/restaurant called “The Stagg” in Titley. The place has a Michelin star, and was worth the trip, even if I did do 300 miles today. My Uncle Arthur (95) and Aunt Pat were there, and they worked out their combined age to be 256, which is impressive for a trio, one generation removed from myself. Alas the other three Muffetts of their generation are dead. Arthur is still sharp as a pin – last I hear he was still doing insurance assessments on the side. There were the usual complaints about recent crosswords, and friendly banter about whether using dictionaries was cheating. All in all it was jolly fun. Now planning for tomorrow – stuff to do, people to see, docs to write. Might get on my bike – I am feeling rusty. Thought for the day: I never realised that a gun and concealment permit were essential motorbike camping equipment:


and to think that i wrote a perl-program to do this, when it was built-in all the time:

thursday. i could never get the hang of thursdays.

Let’s see, what’s happened since last week?


I have got my guitar back and it badly needs restringing, which is something else to do. I’ve borrowed a rather nifty tuner off my mate Grum, but there’s been too many chores and nuisances to get stuck into life to attack this yet. Maybe this weekend I can do it, and then several months of embarrassing weekends relearning the appallingy little technique that I once knew.

Saturday briefly went birding and to a garden centre visiting Jane, then to my sister, further to my parents, doing a long round. It was a pleasant day for socialising, and then I spent the next day scanning old negatives at Ian’s and putting them up at home

I am – later today – going to be spending an hour being interviewed on the phone, on a sort of computer security phone-in chat show which apparenly gets a couple of hundred people attending. Originally it was going to be a straight one-on-one interview, but I heard a recording of the last one they did and thought it sounded terribly plastic and rehearsed, so I told them that I’d only do it if there wasn’t a script. They turned this concept into a sort of unplugged free-for-all, which I’m much happier with, and invited various other colleagues to the party.

My job promotion has finally been nailed down, about which I am pleased and marginally more comfy than before, certainly in terms of knowing where I stand, how much money I have, whether I can afford to redecorate, double-glaze, buy a car, etc.

Somehow I feel there ought to be more that I should write about, but it escapes my mind at the moment. Holidays are being planned, a tent arrived in the post by gift from my brother-in-law, about half my colleagues are off at t team meeting and I ought really to get some paperwork out of the way.

a valentine’s day gift

some years ago i work up to find that some bastard had stolen the windscreen wipers off my car. i mention this because valentines day morning i wake up to find that someone – presumably the same person – has tried it again with my new model car, and finding them unstealable, decided to tie them in a knot for me, doubtless in some fit of testosterone-driven frustrated pique at their own failed attempt at petty larceny. how lovely. i spent much of the rest of the day sorting out the repair. two bills and half a tent turned up, but no hugs, no kisses, no comfort, no cards – however, i shall survive. there’s no percentage in not doing so. fya: culled from NTK: – well worth a read.