Daily Archives: Monday, 11th Feb 2008

Ashes to Ashes

You might recall me wittering about Life on Mars, which was one of the best things to happen to TV drama in a very long time. It was so successful that the Powers of the BBC wanted more, which presented a bit of a problem. How do you follow up a show where all the characters and events were figments of the imagination of a man who ended up leaping to his death in the last episode?

Well, if you’re these guys, you do it with style. In that final episode, there was a brief scene in which Sam Tyler left a record of his “experiences” for the benefit of a Police psychologist. In Ashes to Ashes, we catch up with that psychologist – Detective Inspector Alex Drake, played by Keeley Hawes. After a wee bit of scene-setting (she’s fascinated by Sam Tyler’s experiences, she’s got a daughter, she does the negotiation with dangerous people thing), we’re dropped into some serious action.

A man with a gun is holding a busker hostage, and he’s demanding to see Alex. After the usual tense stand-off in which her daughter Molly is briefly grabbed, everything seems fine. Until the gunman turns up in the back of her car and forces her to take him to a tatty old boat on the Thames. He seems to know a lot about Alex, and plans to tell her the truth about how her parents died. Except he doesn’t. He shoots her, and when she “wakes up”, it’s 1981, and things are very different…

Soon enough, she encounters Gene Hunt. Gene and his sidekicks have been seconded to London. Unlike Sam, Alex knows that Gene and co are figments of her imagination, but she’s overwhelmed by how real everything seems. Lots of fun and friction follow, with Gene being the Gene we all know and, err, know, lots of good music on the soundtrack, a scary clown, Zippy and George from Rainbow[1], and much more.

I’ll spare you the plot summaries and other such things – but I will say that any scepticism I had about a sequel to the best thing on TV that wasn’t actually Doctor Who has been thoroughly blown away. Dialogue that crackles, enough oddness, fun, and action to keep me happy, and that soundtrack. They even did I Fought the Law. What more could you ask for?

Oh yeah, in case you’re wondering – Sam Tyler isn’t around any more. It seems he died a year earlier, which led to a lovely logical flaw. On learning that Sam had lived for seven years in his imaginary world after jumping off that roof, Alex expresses amazement about the different rate that time passes when you’re in a coma/dying/whatever. But, err, didn’t she just imagine learning that? Eh? Eh?

But aside from such nitpicking, Ashes to Ashes made a strong start, and I’ll be watching the rest of the series with great interest…

[1] Voices by Roy Skelton, who also did some Dalek voices way back when


Now I’ve got the Mac all nicely settled down and running nicely, and I’ve even powered down the Windows PC[1], it’s time to actually do some stuff rather than just generally fiddling around. One of the things I need to do from time to time is make modifications to the template files that make this site the delightful thing it is[2]. These being PHP and CSS files, the thing I need is a good plain text editor.

Before I mumble about my chosen Mac text editor, a bit of history is in order. When I started making web pages, once I’d gained enough of a clue to realise that the tool known as F****P*** was an evil abomination, I started using a nifty tool called HomeSite, which was a nice editor with syntax highlighting and much more. A few years later, I moved on to Dreamweaver, though this was overkill, really – I used it as a code editor rather than a code generator. But I did use the template feature, which made it easier to make changes to loads of pages in one go, so it was quite handy. I also liked the built-in FTP client, which made it easy to edit a page and uplaod it without having to fire up another program.

Then I made the big switch to WordPress. And after a while, I realised that the best thing to use was indeed a text editor, and I settled on the quite lovely TextPad, which handles all manner of files, has loads of clever features that I never used, and some that I did. No built in FTP, though. But TextPad is a Windows-only application, so I needed something similar for the Mac. There is an editor provided with the OS, but it’s pretty basic…

A bit of the usual reading and searching led me to TextWranger, which does all the things I liked in TextPad – nice little sidebar showing all open files, syntax highlighting, easy display of line numbers. It also does nice things like “matching” – when I type a closing bracket, it quickly shows me the matching opening one, which is a great typo avoidance feature. And, oh joy, it has the ability to save to FTP. And that works very nicely indeed on my WordPress theme files. Great stuff.

And the best feature? TextWrangler is free. The same people make a more professional tool with more features[3] – BBEdit does more than I need, and costs $125, which is more than I’d be inclined to spend on a tool I wouldn’t make that much use of. I think the plan is that a moderate proportion of people who start with the free tool go on to buy the serious one, which I hope is the case. Anyway, I’m happy with a nice and simple editor that cost me less than I would have been prepared to pay – I did pay to register TextPad, many years ago…

[1] :dizzy: :eek2:
[2] Or isn’t
[3] Feature comparison

Weight Report – 11 February 2008

Humph. Another of those upward random fluctuation thingies today.

Today’s excuse for not walking to work was having to get to the station for the 8:24 train, which is a bit early for a Monday. Today’s excuse for not walking home was carrying my new hard drive and other assorted bits with me, so there.

This may take a while

I was so impressed with the Iomega MiniMax 750GB drive that I decided that I might as well get another one for my backups. Mac OS X comes with the quite lovely Time Machine, which very nicely and automagically does backups to a suitable external hard drive. I started off by using the 250GB drive that I salvaged from November’s Great Unpleasantness, suitably encased and fitted with a Firewire interface. The only trouble with this is that 250GB isn’t really all that big if I want to have backups going back a while. Time Machine starts off with a full backup, then does hourly backups of changed files. The hourly backups are kept all day, then daily backups are kept for a month, and monthly backups are kept until you run out of disk space. So after a while, you start to fill your backup disk. Actually, there’s another potential trouble – the disk in question is over two years old, had moderately heavy use, and its twin died horribly. Not quite what I want to entrust my data to…

So, I’ve added another of the Iomega beasties, which is now sitting at the bottom of a little stack. First order of business is to get those Time Machine backups on to the new disk. While this can (I’m told) be done manually, subject to uttering the appropriate incantations[1], but a bit of reading suggested that I’d really be better off if I invested in a neat utility called SuperDuper!. Before Time Machine, this was (I’m told) the best way to back up a Mac, and now it’s been updated so that it will play nicely on the latest Mac OS X alongside Time Machine. What SuperDuper! can do that Time Machine can’t is produce a bootable backup of your system drive, which will sit happily on an external drive[3]. And it will keep that backup up to date automagically, if you so wish. Nice. It can also allow you to take a quick “safety copy” of your system before you install software that might cause problems. And much more, all for $27.95, which came out at £17.86 with the dreaded VAT. Not a bad price at all, really.

Aaaaand wait....

Aaaaand wait....

Anyway, moving over 200GB is going to take a while, but it’s not actually stopping me from doing anything else, so it’s not a problem. Once I’ve got Time Machine working on the new drive, and I’ve removed the old one, I’ll have a proper play with SuperDuper! I may or may not report how I get on with it…

[1] I’ve a long way to go before my Mac incantation ability approaches my Microsoft incantation[2] ability
[2] Otherwise known as hitting with a big stick :grin:
[3] A Mac can boot from any suitable drive if you perform the correct incantation while starting. This is great if your main boot drive goes, and is a major scoring point over Windows PCs, where much more effort is required…