This week, I had a computer problem. It was acting strangely, a few times it booted onto my Windows drive, and one day I turned it on to see this scary BIOS message.

BIOS problem

Uh oh.

I dutifully went to the BIOS screen, re-arranged the boot priority to put my Ubuntu drive first, then it booted as normal. Huh. Well, problem solved, right? Nope.

A few days later, I felt my computer getting extremely sluggish. Opened up the system monitor and immediately saw the problem.

system monitor

I’m supposed to have 8GB of RAM (two 4GB sticks), but here I only have 4GB. One of those sticks isn’t working.

So, I opened it up, took out both sticks, blew on the conectors, put them back in again. No success. I haven’t diagnosed which one of these sticks is the faulty one. Regardless, I’m probably going to have to order another one, another £30 just to get my computer back to a normal working state. That’s unfortunate, I’ve had this computer for almost two years now, and would have expected the RAM to last longer.

I wonder whether I have airflow or heating issues. It’s a mini-ITX board in a small case, everything is very snugly-fitted, and I’ve noticed the CPU fan roaring with all its might whenever I ask it to do something difficult.

PC interior

For a while I’ve been thinking about putting everything in a full tower case, and maybe a larger motherboard to go with it, but that only kicks off a version of the ‘ship of Theseus’ problem: for every component you replace, the closer you get to simply building a whole new PC. One way out of this is to replace the RAM, hand the little computer over to my parents my brother, and build a new PC from scratch. I’ve even drawn up a component list, just in case.

I’ve also been wanting to buy an Xbone, for about a year, but never been able to justify dropping £400+ just because I really really want to play Halo again. Plus, the mouse/keyboard on my laptop occasionally freezes. It stopped working halfway through writing this post! Maybe I could forego the desktop entirely? Get a fancy laptop, and a (last-gen) console for gaming/films? Or maybe wait for the next wave of increasingly capable single-board computers.

I wrote out a reading summary this week. This article didn’t make it in, but I feel it deserves special mention.


Since last monday was bonfire night, here are some quite impressive fireworks going off in the vicinity of Knighton Lane.

And here are some more, which I could see from my room.

One of my geologist colleagues kindly showed me his rock collection. This one looks like a cereal bar topped off with chunks of chocolate.


Check out my extremely wrinkly hand.

sparkly rock

I spent most of yesterday setting up an Amazon EC2 instance, and manually installing an online feed reader (Tiny Tiny RSS) on it. The purpose of this not to actually read my feeds online, but to sync my reading across devices. When I mark an item as read in the feed reader installed on my latop, I want that action to copy over to my desktop.

Tiny Tiny RSS login page

However, after using it for about fifteen seconds, I couldn’t find a way of making folders, and I don’t know what kind of updating behaviour I should give it. Should I set it to update every hour? Every day? This isn’t a problem on my laptop: I open my feed reader, bash the update button, it takes about 5 seconds, and then I get to read whatever is new. When the process is running on a server, I need to ssh into it and run a command to get it to update manually. That sounds like a lot of hassle, I’m not going to do that.

Tiny Tiny RSS reader page

Also, the automatic update daemon is not working. So, it’s likely I’ll go back to just reading my feeds locally.

This is the point where I get to bemoan the decline of feed readers. It seems like five years ago the whole world just gave up and moved on after Google Reader shut down. There’s this whole conversation going on about problems of filtering and discovery of content on social media, and these problems were all mostly solved by RSS feeds.

Nowadays the argument is that RSS is ‘too technical’, as if scrolling through your feeds is some kind of ancient wizardry, too obscure and out-of-date. Or it’s not social enough, as if the whole infrastructure of comment threads under blog posts doesn’t exist (I know it doesn’t exist here - if you have a comment, please email me). I think it’s more a case of controlling the flow of information, the social media giants are quite happy that you now rely on them for news updates. Meanwhile traditional media outlets seem keen to get you installing their own very special app, which itself often amounts to little more than… a custom feed reader, with a few extra features tacked on, and adverts.

If you want to see what I’m reading, here’s my current feed list.

I also fixed some small quirks with the domain; now when you visit the bare domain it redirects to ‘www’, and always redirects to https. That was probably the most useful work I did all day.