Friday, 27 January 2012

Complimentary Wifi at the Bolton Hotel, Wellington

We are staying at the Bolton in Wellington at the moment. I was pleasantly surprised to find they now provide complimentary wifi.  A nice touch.  Unfortunately its so slow, for us at least, that I have reverted back to using my phone tether and Camille is using her T-Stick.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Book Depository III

In December I ordered two books from the Book Depository a UK based online bookstore which sells books far cheaper than you buy them in New Zealand and which also ships them at no cost.


These were  Made in Italy By Giorgio Locatelli and  The Art of French Baking
By Ginette Mathiot.  

Both were shipped on the 12th/13th of December.  Unfortunately, only the Made in Italy book has actually arrived.   I contacted the Book Despository about this and they promptly refunded the cost of the undelivered item.  

This is very good service and I will be re-ordering the book as soon as the funds show up in my account.  

If you are in the market for paper based books and don't mind waiting around a fortnight for delivery, I very much recommend the Book Despository.

Other BP Posts:
http://blog.thrashcardiom.com/2010/05/price-of-books.html

http://blog.thrashcardiom.com/2010/06/price-of-books-ii.html

http://blog.thrashcardiom.com/2010/06/book-depository.html


Thursday, 3 November 2011

Locking Down IE9 and Network Browsing

Locking Down IE9 and Network Browsing

I have been setting up a couple of computers to act as kiosks for a particular site and naturally have had to lock them down as much as possible. I am doing this through a GPO policy via Active Directory. I have the computer and IE locked down pretty tightly except for one thing:

When in IE, if you hit Ctrl-J the View Downloads window pops up. Click on the Options button at the bottom left and the Download Options dialogue opens. Click on the Browse button and a window pops up that says,

“This operation has been cancelled due to restrictions in effect on this computer. Please contact your system administrator”.

All well and good except when you click the OK button you are given a window which has two panes. On the left hand pane are options for “Favorites”, “Libraries”, and “Network”. Clicking on the Network option gives you a list of every computer on the network that is visible along with any public shares they have.

Not so good.

I went through every option in the GP and did a lot of Google searching but could not find any way of turning off this behaviour. However Google did turn up a registry setting change that stops it.

If you modify this key:

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{F02C1A0D-BE21-4350-88B0-7367FC96EF3C}\ShellFolder\Attributes

from b0040064 to b0940064, you will remove the Network icon from the Windows 7 Navigation Pane. No more network browsing!

Be aware this option affects everyone who uses the computer.

You can set this registry key in the GPO when editing it in Windows Server 2008. To do this, navigate to

  • Computer Configuration → Preferences → Windows Settings → Registry
  • Right click on Registry and select New → Registry Item.
  • Select the HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT hive and browse to the correct keypath.
  • Type Attributes into the Value Name
  • Set the value type to REG_DWORD
  • Enter B0940064 in the Value Data
  • Set the Base to Hexadecimal.


    Note re previous post:  Not updating the blog 'much' doesn't mean 'never'!

Monday, 31 October 2011

This blog -> Google+

I don't think I'll be updating this blog much in the future.  I'm finding Google+ to be a far better platform. 

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Centos on VMWare II

Cloning a Centos 6 guest under VMWare Workstation 8 produces a network problem.  When the clone boots only the lo device will be active.   Running
service network status
will show that both lo and eth0 are configured but only the lo device is actually active.  The fix is to delete the file  /etc/udev/rules.d/70-persistent-net.rules and then reboot the guest.  When it comes back up the file you deleted will be automatically re-created and the network will be up and running as it should.

Edit: 21/10/2011

Sometimes this isn't enough.  When you reboot the server the network may not be running. If this this the case, login via the VMWare console and open these files in an editor:

/etc/udev/rules.d/70-persistent-net.rules

/etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth0

Replace the "eth0" part of the ifcfg-eth0 with whatever the name of your network adaptor is. 

In the 70-persistent-net.rules  file there will be a line like this:

SUBSYSTEM=="net", ACTION=="add", DRIVERS=="?*", ATTR{address}=="00:0c:29:dc:25:e7", ATTR{type}=="1", KERNEL=="eth*", NAME="eth1"

You may need to edit the part of the line that says "NAME="eth1" to reflect the name of your network adaptor.  Mine is eth0 but after I initially delete the 70-persistent-net.rules file the adapter name is changed to eth1 so I have to change it back again.

The second thing to do is ensure the ifcfg-eth0 file has the correct MAC address for the adapter.  It should be the same as the MAC address in the 70-persistent-net.rules file which is, in the example above "00:0c:29:dc:25:e7".

If the line
HWADDR=<Some MAC Address>
in your ifcfg-eth0 file  has a different MAC address, replace it with the one from the 0-persistent-net.rules file. 

Reboot and everything should be working this time.


Saturday, 8 October 2011

Centos on VMWare

I have purchased VMWare Workstation 8 recently so I can work on setting up a series of servers prior to buying some new server hardware.  This is an excellent product as long as you have enough RAM to run things which having now upgraded the RAM in my desktop, I do.


My server OS of choice is Centos 6.  There is a wee bug in the system when it gets installed under VMWare.  The network adapter is set to not be enabled on boot.  The fix is to edit the device file in /etc/sysconfig/networking/devices.  On my system I have eth0 as my NIC so therefore the file I edit is /etc/sysconfig/networking/devices/ifcfg-eth0.

Change the line that reads ONBOOT = no to ONBOOT = yes and reboot your system. 

Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Velvet Underground - live

The Velvet Underground playing in Boston, 1969. Some one put a mic inside Lou Reed's amplifier. This is the result. Listen to Lou and watch Godzilla. Play this loud!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Beef Wellington

I had a whole fillet which I bought cheaply because it was 'damaged'.  It had been badly butchered and had bad cuts in all the wrong places.  I decided to make a Beef Wellington out of it as I hadn't made one for over a year and I had an experiment I wanted to try.

The fillet  had a classic taper down to a very thin point at one end so I folded it under itself to provide an even shape.   The fillet ended up being 35- 40cm long after being folded and compressed slightly in length.

This fold and the damage to the fillet made it impossible to sear as if I had seared the meat, it would never have held its shape.  Instead I wrapped it very tightly in tinfoil and roasted in a 230 degree oven for around 15 - 20 minutes.  It was then cooled and chilled in a fridge until required.  The tinfoil used during the roasting and chilling process helps the fillet hold its shape after it is unwrapped which makes for easier handling during assembly.

The fillet after roasting and chilling.
The next step was to make duxelles - finely chopped mushrooms, shallots/onion, herbs etc. sauteed and then cooked down to a paste.  This involved chopping a lot of mushrooms.  A LOT of mushrooms! Don't ask me how many or the weight of them.  I just kept chopping until it looked like I had enough.  I'm a very casual cook when it comes to these things.

I threw a bit of sherry in to the mix as well and added my experimental ingredient - about 200 grams of very finely chopped Harrington's Black Pudding - near the end of cooking.

Camille loathes black pudding.  She can't stand the texture of it and isn't overly fond of the flavour either.  I'm astounded by this and have a (mild) mission now.  My aim is to introduce her to black pudding in other ways which disguise the texture and blend its flavour so it enhances other ingredients. 

Once the duxelles were cool I mixed them with a bit of pate which helps bind the mixture.  This was then chilled.

The next step was to spread my shop bought pastry sheets out and size them.  I know I should make my own pastry but pastry is an unknown thing to me.  I have never mastered making pastry and break into a sweat at the thought of it.  

The chilled duxelle/pate mix was spread over the pastry in a roughly even layer.  Some was kept aside to place on top of the fillet to ensure it was properly covered.  The fillet was placed on the duxelles and the reminder of the mixture was spread over the top.



After being further trimmed to size, the pastry was folded over the top of the fillet and sealed - edges brushed with milk and pinched together.  This gets a bit tricky as you don't want to disturb the look of the dish too much.  Thick, lumpy pastry seams aren't attractive.   Once the Wellington was sealed I rolled it onto a flat roasting pan.  Rolling is a very good option as attempting to lift a large Wellington is likely to end in disaster - at least if I'm doing it.  More proficient people may be able to do this sort of thing.  I am not going to go there though.

My photographer completely failed to get a shot of the dish prior to it going in the oven!

I had the oven pre-heated to between 210 and 220 degrees.  The fillet was given a quick brush with an egg beaten with a little water and then placed in the oven.  Ideally it should stay in the oven until the pastry is golden brown all over.  However, I was a little worried about the state of the fillet as I felt I had left it in the oven a bit too long earlier and didn't want to over do it.  This is where chilling the meat before wrapping it in pastry helps as it slows the cooking process.  As you can see, the pastry is slightly underdone.


Note the mad decorative bits made from left over pastry.  Not the best decorations but it is a tradition in this household that any meaty pastry dish must be decorated.  In the past Beef Wellingtons (and pies) have come out of the oven covered in flowers, names, hearts (on Camille's birthday), odd geometric shapes, city scapes, vast scenic bas reliefs of well known mountain ranges and so on.  My brother helped with the decoration and because we were hurrying a bit at this stage we limited ourselves to just throwing thin pastry strips topped with a pastry pile.

Unfortunately one of the seams leaked slightly during the time in the oven and so the Wellington was stuck to the at one end.  I wasn't game to attempt remove it from the pan and onto a platter so it was sliced where it sat.

The first cut:  The fillet is just right (in my opinion) - just off rare.  If I had left the dish in the oven any longer the beef would have been over done.  The duxelles have slumped slightly so there is a bit of thick layer on the side of the beef.  This is because I didn't fold the pastry over quite tightly enough.  It also probably wasn't helped my rolling the fillet into the pan.  Smaller fillets are much easier to manage!

The black pudding gave the duxelles an extra depth.  The dish had a much more 'earthy' flavour than it usually does. Spike (my brother) says it was great improvement as he finds the usual duxelle/pate paste to be a bit cloying, almost sweet in some peoples' Beef Wellingtons. All who ate it enjoyed it, including Camille who exclaimed she couldn't taste the black pudding.  Blended flavours that enhance each other!  That's a success!






Monday, 29 August 2011

Well, that's a surprise!

Hike in prison violence after no-smoke rule

 A Wanganui woman with contacts in Whanganui Prison says that since the facility went non-smoking there has been an increase in standover tactics, tension and violence.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10748188&ref=rss

Friday, 22 July 2011

Lost in Translation

Here is one of the best examples I have seen recently of instructions translated into English. I particularly like the note at the end.  Click the image to make it readable.


Saturday, 16 July 2011

Harrington's Black Pudding II

I received another order of Harrington's black pudding on Friday afternoon.  It would appear that Harrington's are inconsistent with their black pudding recipe. The puddings in this order are firmer than the last one and the flavour is not as spicy.  They are still very edible but I definitely prefer the flavour of the last lot.

Cooking is a little different.  Because of the firmer texture, grilling rounds on top of mushrooms was not as successful.  The rounds began to dry out before the mushrooms were done.  I think this will be fixed by being a little less gluttonous and slicing the rounds a bit thinner.  They were quite thick and possibly served to insulate the mushroom from the heat.

This batch can also be fried though they still stick a bit.  However, they can be removed from the base of the pan in one piece.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Google+

My Google+ invite arrived yesterday courtesy of a friend.  First thoughts:  It's good.  It has the separation of people that Facebook is so lacking in and this pleases me.

When I first logged in I was given a grid layout of people (names and avatars) I may or may not know and I could drag and drop them into "Circles".  Unsurprisingly it had picked up my friends and family. It had also picked up people I have interacted with through other mediums such as Twitter.  I spent a couple of minutes going through the list placing people into circles.  Some people were placed into more than one circle as there is some overlap of course.

When making a post, you can either make it public or limit it to one or more circles.  How public is a public post?.  Can they be viewed by anyone viewing your profile or is it limited to only people in your circles?  Will they appear on your Google Profile page?   The answer is that they are very public.  They will appear on your google profile page.  This system is way more open the Facebook is.  However, as you also have the ability to limit your posts to particular circles, thereby making them private, this is not a bad thing.  You don't have to post anything publicly if you don't wish to.

When checking my Google Profile, I noticed that it was showing everyone who was in my circles and also those who have me in their circles.  This is public by default.  You can edit this and change it so that only people in your circles can see this information or you can turn it off entirely.

So far, so good for privacy aspects.   I'm sure that other privacy aspects will arise as I get to know the system better but I'm fairly happy with it at the moment.

The interface is a typical social network layout but with a typically sparse Google look to it. All Google apps are now looking very much like each other.  Even the blogger interface has suddenly changed as of this morning. Google do the AJAX thing very well which makes it very responsive.  It's a lot snappier to use than Facebook is. 

"Sparks" are basically a news feed on subjects you are interested in.  Only you can see these.  It's a nice touch but limited compared to using Google Reader or some other RSS agregator.

I had a bit of a play with the "Hangout" feature.  This is a video hangout - turn your camera and mic on and anyone you have allowed to view your video will be able to chat with you live.  It was a fairly lonely place for me though as I was the only person online out of those in my circles.

In fact, it's a fairly lonely place altogether at the moment but I think this will rapidly change.  I can't see Google doing a slow introduction with Google+.  They need to achieve critical mass with it quite quickly or it will become another failed Google social networking experiment; a place where tumbleweeds roll down empty streets etc.

I like it so far.  I'll be encouraging people to use it.  If Google can get a critical mass into it fast enough, I can see it rivalling Facebook very quickly. 


Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Diaspora and Google

When I last wrote about DIaspora, the open source social network which I contributed to the development of, I said:

So far Diaspora looks quite promising.  I don't see it as being the "Facebook Killer" that some have touted it as but it will provide people like me who have a greater sense of privacy something to use.  In addition, it's existence may push Facebook and others to provide the separation they currently lack. 
Google has announced their return to the social network game with Google+.  Google+ apparently includes the separation I mention above:

Unveiling Google+, Gundotra stressed the ability it gives users to separate online friends and family into different "circles," or networks, and to share information only with members of a particular circle.
At the moment access is invitation only (as all new Google projects seem to be).  I have applied for my invitation.  If I get one soon, I'll post my thoughts on the new platform.

Link to original NZ Herald article

Link to the Google+ Page



Thursday, 23 June 2011

Black Pudding


Black pudding for breakfast! 

I have been a fan of black pudding for as long as I can remember and enjoy it as a breakfast food, usually accompanied by a fried egg. 

The traditional way of cooking it is to slice it into rounds and fry it.  As it cooks, it turns from a deep red to solid black with the occasional white bits  though Eric Olthwaite's mother used to make black pudding so dark "even the white bits were black".

My favourite black pudding was the Blackball Salami Company's product.  Thanks to a work colleague I have a new favourite which is made by Harringtons.  Jock (for that is his name) says it is the best black pudding he has had since he arrived from Scotland 20 years ago. 

It's flavour is quite different - more peppery/spicy than the Blackball pudding.   It's texture is very different.  It is, in the words of my Scottish colleague, "looser".  It doesn't hold together in the same way as other black puddings I have eaten and is pretty much impossible to fry.

I have tried frying it in a number of different pans and it sticks like an incredibly sticky thing to every pan I have used.  In the end I resorted to grilling it on Vogel toast or toasted ciabatta which was successful and provided a good breakfast.  As it grills, it loosens further and in the end can actually be spread very easily with a knife.

I mentioned the problem of cooking it to Jock and he confessed he had the same problems with frying it and that it even stuck to a non-stick pan.  His solution was to place it on large flat mushrooms and then grill it.  I gave this a go this morning and the result was perfect.  An excellent combination of flavours.

Harringtons will take orders on the internet but don't appear to have an online payment facility.  They also supply a wide range of pork, bacon, ham, sausages, speciality products and lamb products. 

Highly recommended.


Monday, 20 June 2011

Pork Hocks

Our local New World started selling pork hocks a month or two ago.  They are similar to lamb shanks in that they are basically a bit of meat with plenty of connective tissue running through it wrapped around a bone.  They also come with the skin on which is a bonus given the possibilities of crackling.

Our New World sells them for $3.07 each which makes them a very cheap meal.  As they are a bit larger than a lamb shank, Camille and I tend to share one between us so the meal cost is minimal.  At the moment they aren't popular but if people start to like them, I'm betting they will go the way of lamb shanks which started out a few years ago being one of the cheapest cuts but now are around $10.00 each.

How to cook them?   Slowly of course.  However, they have that skin which makes a beautiful crackling if treated right.  They don't come scored though so you'll need to use a very sharp knife or follow Al Brown's advice and use a stanley knife and score the skin yourself.  The skin is very loose though so it can be quite difficult to score. I tend to buy the hocks in bulk and freeze them.  Scoring them when they are partially thawed is way easier and safer.  Yes, I have scored myself once or twice when doing an unfrozen hock, fortunately not badly but I'm now very aware of that loose skin!

Once scored, rub a bit of olive oil over the hock and then salt the skin ensuring it is rubbed  well into the scoring.  Be generous!  Don't skimp on the salt!  Grind a bit of pepper over it as well.  Heat your oven up to 220 degrees or so.  Place the hock into a roasting pan and put it into the oven for 20 minutes or so.  You want the skin to start to blister.  Once this starts to happen, reduce the heat to around 150 and cook until the meat is very tender and pulling away from the bone.  This will take a couple of hours.   Some people like to cover the hock at this point to ensure they stay moist.  I prefer to provide extra moisture.

Roast pork hock with onion and pear with a red wine finish

This is for one or two pork hocks.

Prepare hocks as above and cook until the skin begins to blister.

Peel and slice 2 onions and 3 pears thinly. This will be enough for one or two hocks. Remove the hock(s) from the oven and leave the oven to cool to 150 degrees.  Remove the hocks from the roasting pan and layer the onion and pear slices in it.  Layer them so they cover about the same amount of space the hock(s) will take up.  You are making a bed for the hocks to lie in.

Drizzle a little oil over the bedding and sprinkle a little salt and pepper over it.  Place the hocks on top of the onion and pear bedding.  Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the hocks and return them to the oven.

Cook them until the meat is tender and pulling away from the bone. Remove them from the oven. At this point the skin may not be fully crackled. Boost the oven heat and remove the skin from the hocks and put it on a baking tray and return it to the oven. Remove the hocks from the roasting pan and cover them with foil to keep their heat in.

Place the roasting pan on an element and bring up to heat until the pear/onion/fat begins to bubble. Pour in about half a cup of a reasonable red wine and stir in ensuring you mash down at least some of the caramelised onion and pear so it blends into the wine. Add more wine as you see fit and reduce until it is slightly thickened. The onion and pear won't fully break down but this doesn't matter. In fact, I think I prefer it.

At this point you can either remove the meat from the hocks or serve them whole. If whole, spoon some of the pear/onion/wine finish over them and then place the crackling over the top. Serve the rest of the finish on the side.


Friday, 17 June 2011

National and Youth Rates

National are considering bringing in youth rates again.  It appears they may be thinking about making the new youth rate apply to people up to the age of 24.  If true, this is absolutely appalling.

One of the arguments for youth rates is below:
“If you've got somebody who is 16 who is wanting a job and someone who is 30 at the same price, then who is the employer going to employ?” asked Minister of Labour Kate Wilkinson.
Obviously Kate thinks the answer is the 30 year old and the youth will be left to go  on the dole which National are gnashing their teeth over.  However, if we have youth rates, what happens to the 30 year old?  Obviously they are left on the dole instead.  This isn't, in my opinion, an improvement.  In fact, as many 30 year olds have families and financial responsibilities that youths (under 20 in my definition) do not, this leaves the 30 year old far worse off.

A youth rate penalises people for being under a particular age regardless of how well they work or the type of work they do.  It's age related discrimination, something that is against the NZ Bill of Rights.

It also contributes to New Zealand remaining a low wage economy - something I thought the National Government was aiming to change.



Monday, 13 June 2011

Telecom Mobile Broadband

Camille and I are currently in Lower Hutt.    Telecom's mobile broadband service is appalling.  We are experiencing slow connections and continuous dropouts.  It's making the service barely usable.  At one point I was getting 12000 ms ping times.

Ridiculous!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Mad bastards on the road

There are some right mad bastards on the roads.  This morning on my way to work I was following a couple of cars and two long trucks.  I had a silver falcon come racing up behind me at high speed.  As we reached a passing lane, one truck decided to pass the other followed by both cars ahead of me.  I decided against passing as I didn't think the lane would be long enough and I was only a couple of kilometres away from work so there wasn't any real advantage.

However, the silver falcon decided to pass and it shot passed me like a rocket and then started swerving into my lane, back into the passing lane, over the double yellow line into oncoming traffic, back into the passing lane and back into my lane.  Very scary behaviour particularly as it looked as though it was only semi in control and was almost sliding into my lane.  I backed off very quickly and let all the traffic get way ahead of me.

Last I saw of the silver falcon it had reached the end of the passing lane, was on the wrong side of the road (still with a yellow line) going up towards a rise in the face of oncoming traffic.  I lost sight of it after that.

Completely mad bastard. 

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Morepork / Ruru

I heard a Morepork (or Ruru in Maori) a couple of mornings ago. The time was between 5 - 5:30am and it was the first bird of the morning. It sounded close enough to be on our property.   I can't recall having heard a Morepork in this district before.  It's definitely the first time I have heard one while living on this property and we've been here for 9 years.  But then this district doesn't have a lot of bush left.  There are only a few isolated pockets around the place.

When I was a child and living in Akatarawa we used to hear them all the time as we were surrounded by bush.  We used to try track them down by their call to see if we could see them.  Occasionally we succeeded.  Usually they would be silhouetted against the sky half way up a Black Beech tree or something similar.

You can listen to the Morepork's distinctive call here. 

The image on the right has been shamelessly linked from the Forest and Bird Weblog.   The call comes courtesy of Kiwi Wildlife Tours.