Monthly Archives: January 2007

Debt Free Day

Hmm well this is a novel feeling indeed. It’s payday today, and as it drops into my account (always so much more pleasant the January paycheck) and I cast an eye over my finances I have come to the conclusion that this is Debt Free Day.

I started trying to clear my debts (3 maxed out credit cards, hefty loan, large overdraft) about 4 years ago. The concept of “Debt Free Day” is something I picked up from the Motley Fool message board ‘Dealing with Debt’. Whilst I never posted extensively on these boards, the people there have been a constant source of inspiration. There are people there dealing with debt in orders of magnitude greater than mine, some very much less. I think debt worries different people different amounts.

Over the last four years I’ve gone from the ‘ostrich eye’ view of debt (refusing to open bank statements, paying bills when they’re red, paying other bills when the baliffs letter arrives) to being paranoid about going £10 over my self imposed weekly limits. I’m sure this is a source of much amusement to those around me who assume that because I’m relatively well paid I am rolling in mounds of cash. Rather sickeningly at the end of the month my net worth will be about £52 – which is all the savings I have in the world. My sister (my model of probity and financial prudence) has tens of thousands in the bank. She’s younger than me too.

I’m still learning about managing debt too. I’ve learned so much over the last 4 years: Snowballing my credit cards, making the most of 0% transfer deals on balances, the evils of consolidation loans (oh how I wish I’d never done that), the importance of ‘living below your means’, shopping from a list and not ‘freestyle shopping’, the joy of supermarket own brands and certain items from the Tesco Value range. But as I said still learning. I’ve been with Orange since.. ooh about 1997, and my contract hasn’t changed much. Recently my bills have been climbing as high as £90 a month. On coming out of contract last week I called them up, threatened to leave and now I have 500 minutes free calls, unlimited texts for £25 a month. And a Nokia N73 into the bargain. Another £65 a month saved, and one I should have spotted years ago.

But anyway I have no debt, none at all. I owe the bank nothing, I owe the credit cards nothing, I owe my parents nothing. If you think I have an outstanding debt to you please feel free to ruin my day by letting me know about it ;) The nice thing is, that at the end of February the £700 a month I plough into debt repayment suddenly becomes mine.

So yes Debt Free Day is today. But the commencement of my ‘retire at 50’ plan starts in earnest with February’s paycheck!

Nothing, but nothing can spoil my day now.

Nerdy nostalgia

Email from my old pal Tim today:

Thought you might find this funny. Stewart just cleaned up the Exim
configuration on Envgen, gave it a bit of a shake and a load of your old
test e-mails fell out - eg.

Thu Jan 25 15:17:11 2007 - Ticket created

Subject: 1 2 1 2 this is just a test
Date: Fri, 25 Jun 2004 13:40:43 +0100
To: helpdesk@localhost
From: Dan Swan


From the email I got from Dave Hancock this suggests these old test messages fed straight back into the RT helpdesk system.


It was also quite weird today watching Simon install possibly the first PHP/MySQL app I ever installed as a bioinformatician. Called MRBS (meeting room booking system) it lets you book rooms, or equipment.
I was able to point to my 2001 posts on the mrbs-general mailing lists as proof I had installed it.

My setup at the time is even included in the mail:

Solaris 8, php4, MRBS 0.9.1, MYSQL 3.23, Apache 1.3.9

Those were the days :) The days when my work email signature was “There are no stupid questions, but there are plenty of inquisistive idiots.” and I could get away with it…

New Site Design

Yes, well as you may have noticed the old site design has gone. I hope this is a little cleaner and more readable and generally more pleasant. I will have a customised banner up after the weekend, rather than the (nice) stock photo that is currently there.

I’ve also upgraded the CMS backend, so if you notice that anything is broken please let me know!

Pilgrims Progress

Ahh a good week for football too – after finally winning a Championship game last weekend to drag us back to 12th in the league, we managed to dispose of Peterborough in the FA Cup replay tonight. Can’t wait to read the match report – that’s 2 games in a row we’ve come from behind to win decisively!

We rarely get past the 3rd round, the last time we had any real FA Cup excitement was getting to the semi’s in ’84 (when we were in the 3rd division no less!). It also means we get Barnet in the 4th round – another League 2 side, but who have already put out one Championship team. Hope it’s at home…

Just waiting for that Arsenal vs Argyle fixture now :D

Good news everybody!

It seems that one of my favourite columns in one of my favourite papers (the Grauniad “Bad Science” column) has a blog.

I’m sure this is plugged in the newspaper itself, but being my usual unobservant self, I have never noticed this, and only tripped over the website from a Slashdot comment about Braniac fixing some of their experiments…

Back to the Tuesday night hoovering. Got a young ‘un in the house tomorrow, and don’t want her investigating my floor too closely without some kind of cleaning going on…

2 years old today

Well, I reach something of a milestone today in a number of ways. Firstly it’s my 2 year anniversary of starting work at Newcastle. Those people who have known me for a number of years will be surprised that I haven’t handed in my resignation, as for my last 3 posts I’ve bailed in 2 years or less in order to ‘progress my career’ (or ‘hold out for some more money’ as I like to think of it). The last time I spent more than 2 years in one place I was doing my PhD.

However I’m not really interested in leaving Newcastle, and I’m looking at the next 2 years of my working life being spent here, and potentially more than that. This is quite a nice feeling. To not have exhausted the challenge or interest of a job is something that I’ve always sought. I like to think I’m more competent now than I was 2 years ago, certainly when I came in to the post the gulf between what I had to know and what I actually knew was wide to say the least. I really enjoy the microarray side of the work now, rather than being utterly petrified of it, and I like to think the Unit really does have an impact on some of the science that is done around here.

Intellectually, the fact that I can still walk into meetings weekly and still be learning stuff is fantastic. The systems biology aspects of the work with CISBAN, the neuroinformatics work with CARMEN and the weekly lab meetings with a bunch of very smart people means that I have to reach for a dictionary, paper, or Wikipedia all the time to keep up – and that’s nice.

There are other challenges too. Simon and I our pretty much in charge of our own destinies here, and that is the thought that most often keeps me awake at nights. As I pointed out in my ‘resolutions’ post, we effectively run a small business. I think most of the learning over the next couple of years is how to make this a real business, and make sure that our futures are as secure as can be. This is an exciting new challenge really, and now that we are ‘established’ it is the right time to be tackling it. Having a partner in crime has made a huge difference to the work we can offer in terms of scope and quantity, but most importantly to me I have a friend who can share the stresses, strains, pleasures and successes of working life.

Here’s to the next 2 years of striving towards retirement! Need to find something non-alcoholic to celebrate with tonight ;)

How to trash an OS X NFS partition in 4 easy steps

Just in from the bioclusters list – this doesn’t make pleasant reading!

In order to completely destroy the contents of an NFS export by this method, one must do four questionable, but not totally unreasonable, things all at the same time:

1) The directory must be NFS exported with root=root, rather than with root "squashed"
2) The client machine must use the automounter to access the directory.
3) The client machine must use the NFS SystemStarter script to stop and start NFS (note, not AutoFS ... but NFS on the client).
4) The client machine must have had the NFS lockfile manually removed.

If you do all of those things, then the following code from the NFS SystemStarter script will run (/System/Library/StartupItems/NFS/NFS):


StartService ()
if [ "${NETWORKUP}" = "-NO-" ]; then exit; fi
lockfile -r 0 /var/run/NFS.StartupItem || exit 0

# Set up NFS client.
echo "Starting network file system"

if [ -d ${AUTOMOUNTDIR} ]; then
chflags -R nouchg ${AUTOMOUNTDIR}

If the lock file is present, you get this message:

node001:~ root# SystemStarter start NFS
lockfile: Sorry, giving up on "/var/run/NFS.StartupItem"

If the lockfile has been removed but the NFS export directory is still mounted under AUTMOUNTDIR then when the SystemStarter script runs again the "rm -rf" as root will systematically destroy all the data in the mounted directory.

Whoever wrote that SystemStarter script should be brought in for a quiet chat by Apple…