Some time ago, I set myself a few programming challenges. One was to create wordsearches and the other was to solve “Boogle” or “Wordbubble” type puzzles. The wordsearch tool has lain dormant for a while but, as we’re all in #covid19 #lockdown, it’s seen a bit of a resurgence in use!

As today is Easter Sunday, I’ve created a pair of wordsearches (simple and hard) as an example of what it can do.

The generator tool is online at: https://bombadil.mafoo.org.uk/wordsearch/

Links into the examples are:

Hopefully this will be of use to teachers, parents and anyone else who fancies setting themselves a challenge ๐Ÿ™‚

Speed up Squeezebox serverโ€ฆ

SQLite3 databases get messy over time (especially if there’s churn on the database).

I’ve noticed that “vacuuming” them from time to time can speed up searching in Squeezebox Centerโ€ฆ so I have the following cron job (as root):

file /var/lib/squeezeboxserver/cache/*.db | grep SQLite | cut -d: -f 1 | xargs -I % sqlite3 % vacuum

Hope that helps ๐Ÿ™‚

Combining two PDFs from top-bottom then bottom-top scanning

We have a scanner with a document feeder (Officejet Pro 8500 A910), which is really useful, but it can’t deal with double sided documentsโ€ฆ which is annoying ๐Ÿ™‚

This perl script takes two PDF files created by first scanning the front pages (odd) in the correct order and then the back pages (even) in reverse order. This means that you don’t need to re-order the real pages, you just scan them face up then, when they’re done, turn the whole stack over and scan them again.

Seems to work a treat ๐Ÿ™‚
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Twitter Wordle for 2011

This morning I published (two) Wordles based on the content of my Twitter timeline for 2011 which I’ve been archiving to a SQLite database since July 2010.

Basic method:

  1. Export tweets
  2. Process into words
  3. Count word frequency
  4. Upload to Wordle

Wordle accepts data input in the form:


First output was:

Raw Wordle for 2011

This was a little skewed towards the various travel and weather related feeds I follow (@SEtrafficnews, @nationalrailenq, @NRE_SEastern, @SEplaying, @KentWeatherObs) so I then excluded them…

Much better...

And finally… a Wordle of my TwitteringsRamblings:


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Twitter and some statistics

Two and a bit months ago, I started archiving my friends timeline on Twitter into a SQLite database for posterity (I didn’t really like the idea that it just vanishes after a while).

It then occurred to me earlier that I didn’t actually know how many tweets I read in two months… the answer appears to be over 40,000.

Posting this fact on twitter, the first reply I got was “how many are about sandwiches?” to which the answer is 39. Wow. What wonders ๐Ÿ™‚

I thought about the only useful thing I could probably do in the short term was make a pretty graph of the rate of tweet flying past my friends timeline per day… so here it is:

Raw data

Other interesting facts:

  • @TelegraphNews accounts for 6% of the throughput
  • 62 tweets contain the word “argh”
  • 350 mentioned “facebook”

I may get around to thinking up new and more interesting stuff to do with this data later… maybe ๐Ÿ™‚


tweet word cloud

Ubuntu 9.10 on G4 Cube

A while ago, I acquired a G4 Cube off Canterbury Freecycle. Having tried to install Tiger and Leopard on it (all the PPC media I could find) and neither working, I decided to try Ubuntu.

As it’s rather old (2001) and doesn’t have much memory in it (128M) and is only a 450MHz G4 (slow!) I thought I’d try the “alternate” XUbuntu. After some effort, I got this installed (trying off a USB stick cos the 9.10 installer is just over 700M and wouldn’t fit on my CD-Rs just didn’t work) so I went for the 9.04 xUbuntu installer which was only 650M… much nicer.

This installed ok, but then I couldn’t log in. Bummer.

Broke into the system (init=/bin/bash saves the day once more) and tried resetting root’s password… failed.

Turned out (after a lot of anger and two reinstalls with various extra flags to the installer) that PAM doesn’t like having a date set before the epoch … 1904. It looks like the PowerPC had reset the system clock before to time began.

Then X … needed some extra hand-holding as I was just getting a blank black screen… http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=772808 worked for me.

Having forced the time to be correct (2010 — over a hundred years in the future!) it all worked fine.

Dist-upgrading to 9.10 then “just worked”. Well, I say, “just worked” — it thought I was using ATI rather than the Rage 128 driver for X.

So now I have a reasonably nice looking (it’s Apple, after all) system, albeit old, but still useful ๐Ÿ˜€


When will they learn? :-(

They’re at it again. When will they learn that people (well, some people) will not roll over and let their civil liberties in a “free nation” be eroded away?

Sent to my MP today:

Dear Julian Brazier,

My apologies for taking up yet more of your time, however our
Government seem to be leaving me little choice but to do so. I wish to
draw your attention to a story breaking in the Daily Telegraph today
(Saturday 14th March, 2009) regarding so called “e-borders”.


This would seem to be, if accurate (and I can find no cited references
to active or pending legislation), a HUGE step into the surveillance
culture which campaigns such as NO2ID are opposing and trying to publicise.

I don’t know if it is “too late” to do anything about this but, even if
it is, I would ask why this is necessary (to fight international
terrorism?!) and how it will help… surely the checking of persons on
“watch lists” can be done without the need for such a tracking database
of the general public at point of entry/exit.

What will be next? Will travelling outside your county (or perhaps into
London on a “sensitive” day) require written permission from a
bureaucrat before you’re allowed on a train?

This yet another appalling regime being apparently pushed in sideways
hoping law abiding citizens will roll-over and take it without any
question. I don’t have anything to hide about my whereabouts, but I
find the whole idea of registering my movements with an agency and
having that retained for a decade disgusting.

Once again, I’m sorry to have taken up your time but this is an issue
which is often overlooked and needs more attention.

Yours sincerely,

He’s usually quite good about replying to emails so I will await the response…