Monthly Archives: May 2011

ROCK \m/

Had great fun doing this remix for Sacha’s Morbid Atrophy project. Hopefully I managed to get this somewhere between metal and drill n bass!

A Porter Too (Remix for Sacha, bounce 2) by Tom Blench

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Getting data off a Holux GPSport 245 (Mac OS X/Linux)

The problem: I have a Holux GPSport, which although it’s a nice device, requires me to use their fairly nasty Windows software to get the data off it.

The solution? Well there seems to be lots of software out there for this sort of thing, but getting it to work is tricky. In the end I went for GPSBabel, which is GPL and works on the Mac. It also appeared to support my device.

But I couldn’t get it to work. Maybe there is something in the documentation that I haven’t found, but the solution is to install these USB to UART Bridge Drivers from Silicon Labs. Basically the GPS device is serial, and the Silicon Labs chip bridges this across USB.

Thanks to this blogger who came to a similar conclusion with a different device.

The Mac driver seems pretty solid, and once installed you can use the



An example of using this with GPSBabel would be

gpsbabel -t -i m241 -f /dev/cu.SLAB_USBtoUART -o kml,lines,points,floating,track,trackdata,labels -F out.kml

Or you can use the GUI front end to do the same thing.

Note that if invoked from the command line, the current directory has to be writable so it can write its “data.bin” file – this seems like a bit of a failing as this should really be written to /tmp.

Other current issues include:
– It’s slow. There seems to be some baud rate setting going on in mtk_logger.c, and I guess they haven’t chosen a higher one because it isn’t supported by the chipset used in the GPSport.
– I can’t get useful KML out of it. It just comes out as one massive track, but this might be user error.

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bash: how to retain history across multiple shells

I like to have lots of shells open, some inside emacs and some in stand-alone terminals. With the default settings, it seems that the last shell to exit saves its history to the file:

If the histappend shell option is enabled (see the description of shopt under SHELL BUILTIN COMMANDS below), the lines are appended to the history file, otherwise the history file is overwritten

(from the bash man page)

It’s nice to be able to dig out some obscure shell command issued ages ago when you need it.

So stick the following lines in your .profile at amend this:

shopt -s histappend
export HISTFILESIZE=1000000

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Japan – Days 12 and 13: Tokyo (again)


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Japan – Day 11: Hakone

Fuji poking out

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Japan – Days 8, 9, 10: Kyoto


To the ancient capital of Japan, full of temples and Geisha.

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Japan – Day 7: Hiroshima

Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotional Hall

Sadly some place names are synonymous with their disastrous events to such a degree that the evocation of the place name fails to suggest any other images.

Whilst the urge “to remember” (as often seen in connection with the Holocaust) is important, this is a shame as Hiroshima was such an enjoyable city in the spring sunshine.

The picture is the remains of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotional Hall, one of the closest buildings to the “hypocenter” of the explosion.

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Japan – Day 6: Himeji Castle


This is the garden adjacent to the ground of Himeji castle. The castle is “by far the most impressive” of “Japan’s twelve surviving feudal-era fortresses”, according to our guide.

Also famous as a backdrop for the films You Only Live Twice and The Last Samurai, it is an impressive castle. Unfortunately for us, the main fortress building is covered in scaffolding whilst various conservation work takes place, and it won’t be a few years until it’s complete. Cleverly they have turned the scaffolding into a feature, serving as a vantage point to see the building close up (several stories above ground level). Despite these efforts, I didn’t think the sight was as impressive as it will be once the scaffolding comes down.

Once in the gardens pictured above, we attend a traditional tea ceremony. This is a great experience but fraught with opportunities for cross-cultural faux pas. The tea is thick and green and unlike any I have encountered before, but tastes pleasant.

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Japan – Days 4 and 5: Kobe

First chance to get the Shinkansen (often translated as “Bullet Train”, but it actually means “New Trunk Line” according to my guide book).

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Japan – Day 3: Tokyo

Our last day in Tokyo for now.


We go to Asakusa and see some amazing temples and a good deal of stalls selling tourist tat. We bring bento boxes with us for lunch, which I can highly recommend and are usually found in the basement of most department stores. Whilst eating our lunch an old man approaches us and engages us in English conversation, asking where we are from. He reminds me of a character related in Niall Murtagh’s account of living in Japan, The Blue-Eyed Salaryman, and spends part of his time reminiscing about the time after the war. This is slightly surprising, but the sentiment is similar to the character in Murtagh’s book. Perhaps now that the Japanese economy has stalled, some prefer to look back to “the good old days”.

He also laments the “youth of today” – something more universal and likely to be echoed by grumpy old men across the world – blaming technology and computer games specifically for what he perceives to be the parlous state of Japanese family life. More surprisingly, he seemed to think that the Japanese worked too hard and also praised the British empire for its legacy of multi-culturalism*, which he compared to his own culture which he declared was still “too closed”. Of course, it’s not really possible to extrapolate from talking to one old man, but this perspective was interesting nonetheless.

More prosaically, he also told us that he thought everyone wore face masks due to high pollen counts, so at least we knew the reason for that.

* I don’t really want to get into that discussion. It seems like the currency of that particular word has been de-valued, but I can’t think of a better alternative.

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