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looking for some software

Filed under: General — Thomas @ 09:38


It's a slow Friday. I am looking for software that allows me to:

  • measure average download speed and variation in it for HTTP url's
  • save these measurements preferably in a central location, preferably using rrd
  • get some decent graphs out of them
  • be able to get an alert when there is an important "change" in these values
  • easy to deploy on various hosts around the globe, so I can build a network of hosts reporting achieved download speeds to me
  • work on downloads of 1-10 MB (not just a simple web page)
  • Ideally, have an upper limit settable on how much bytes or time to download (so I can use it on live streams)

This seems so obvious to me that I'm sure this must exist already, but I only find half-matching solutions.

Am I doomed to write something like this myself into something like cacti, or is someone out there already using something like this ?

Heureux qui, comme Ulysse, a fait

Filed under: General — Thomas @ 00:00


a nice trip. Or, at least, that was the plan.

The reality was somewhat different. To keep things simple, the story starts in the middle. I'll save the beginning for some later date.

Last Thursday and Friday, Kristien and Hans, a friend from her work, drove a big truck from Brussel to Barcelona. We spent all weekend packing things up, with some help of a friend. (For those who worry by now, don't - I'm only
moving, I'm not switching jobs or anything).

Hans' girlfriend, Elke, flew in on Friday, as this trip was her birthday present, as well as a surprise visit from her best friend who actually lives in Avignon.

Monday morning, we had a platform elevator to get our stuff out of our rooftop apartment and into the truck. Platform guy took an hour and a half to set up the platform, and then wasn't able to stay much later to make up for it. He also dropped a heavy desk plank on my big toe, which is now all purple.

Anyway, we ended up leaving a few hours late, but at least the truck was ready to go at a decent hour - it left around 15.30 We stayed a bit later to clean up the apartment and bring some of my stuff to my new room in the city. We left the city around six-ish, and drove on to Avignon, where both the truck and us two would stay for the night Elke's friend's place.

So far, so good - everything going more or less according to plan. Hans and Elke were in the truck, and Kristien and I in the car. Now, the trouble started when we drove past Lyon. At some point, we passed a police patrol, and a motorized cop started following our truck, then drove past the truck and indicated for it to pull over. We were pretty sure they didn't do anything
wrong but we followed anyway. We stopped off the highway at the exit to Macon (between Lyon and Dijon) past the toll booth,
and the cop explained to us that we were clearly overweight.

Apparently he was able to see this on the suspension of our truck as we drove past his checkpoint. Pretty impressive, all in all. We had to wait around for a patrol car to arrive with the movable scales to weigh us. Our license and truck only is allowed up to 3.5 tons (including the truck and its passengers), and we were at 4.35. Oops.

(In reality, I hadn't even checked up on the legal issues involved. I was assuming you just rent the largest truck your license allows. I'm not even sure what I would have done to weigh the truck or my stuff if I had known...)

Usually, this would mean a 700 euro fine for going over 4.2 tons. The cop was being nice to us, in the end, and let us off for 90 euros instead, which is what you get for being between 3.5 and 4.2 tons. (I decided not to go into a discussion over the fact that weighing the 4 wheels with an analog scale with 100 kg increments can easily lead to a 100 kg measuring mistake).

But of course, paying the fine is not the only thing to do. The other thing to do is to solve the problem of the truck being overweight, because they don't just let you take off without doing something about it.

Being told to find another truck to put half of your stuff in on the spot, while two people (Hans en Elke) really need to get going because they have to work the next day, is not very high on my list of Fun Things That Have Happened To Me.

I ran several possible scenarios through my mind, from "Kristien, you work at the radio, call into the studio and get them to ask for a Belgian trucking company having a truck in the area" (ie abusing the 'BV privilege') to calling all rental companies trying to find a vehicle that was available and where they let us drop off the truck either in Belgium, or as close in France
to the Belgian border as possible (Lille, Dunkerque, ...) The cop suggested we could even rent some storage area on the spot and they would escort us with our truck to the storage building.

As amusing as I'm sure being escorted by motor police would have been, we ended up opting for the safe-but-shitty way out - renting a truck in Macon that would have to get back to Macon two days later. Macon-Brussel is around 700 km, so driving it back would end up sucking, but we wanted to make sure our stuff got back safely to Belgium.

Drive around Macon during evening traffic, get new truck, drive it to police station, unload truck one and load truck two. Switch cars around, so Hans and Elke can drive our (fast) car to Belgium and get there in time, while Kristien
takes the big truck and I take the small one.

By this point we've spent three hours standing still, so Kristien and I grab dinner somewhere to calm down. I start calling around for people I know that might be interested in a city trip to Macon/Dijon/Lyon with expenses paid :)

We leave Macon around 20:00, with a good 7 hours of planned driving on the GPS. What else could go wrong ?

All the other problems left were minor. At the last toll gate, none of our credit cards were accepted. We had to drop off our ID cards, get out of the trucks, walk through the middle of every toll booth (which is actually quite tricky to do) and go to the main building to pay with our debit cards. Another twenty minute useless delay.

We pull into Brussel around 4 AM, park both trucks at Kristien's job, pick up the car that Hans parked there, and go home to Kristien's place, unload all the boxes that are meant to stay there for now and carry them 8 flights of stairs up to her place. We get into bed at 5, completely knackered, hoping for a good solid 8 hours of sleep for once.

The End.

But wait, you worry for the truck we rented in Macon, you say ?

I'll tell you later. First I'll tell you about the Phone Call at 9.30.

At 9.30, one of our workers calls. (Workers ? Yes, in our new apartment. That's part of the earlier story I'm saving for later.) They found a leak in the heating pipes, and we need to come over and get it fixed ASAP. All of the heating is communal in the building, and the building's full of old people worried about frostbite, so we need to get it fixed.

To cut a long story short, we spend most of the day getting the heating fixed again, unloading truck one in our new garage, loading debris from the works into the smaller truck to bring it to the waste disposal, unloading truck two, getting keys to the central heating system, copying said keys (even though that's probably not allowed) in case we have a similar problem in the future, phoning around trying to find someone who's willing to drive a truck back to Macon, all expenses paid, and carrying yet more boxes up to Kristien's current apartment.

The actual plan for that day was to check up on the electrical, UTP (450 m) and speaker (140 m) cable, before they close up the floors completely and prepare for the arrival of a kitchen. I guess I will have to trust the guys to have done everything correctly without checking much of it...

We end up home at midnight, knackered again, with me preparing for getting back, (since all the people that could drive it back for me can only do it a few days later, which would cost me yet more money renting the truck) ordering a plane ticket from Lyon to Barcelona, trying to find a train to take me from Macon to Lyon - curiously, there is no train available
for 3 hours between the regular Macon to Lyon stations, and the website refuses to schedule a trip between the respective TGV stations because it claims that there are more than three stop-overs.

So I get up at 7 in the morning again, and start driving my truck outside of Brussel and back to Macon. So here I am, behind the steering wheel of my truck, writing this blog entry with my cell phone (*). I'm making good progress and think I will be on time in Macon, but I'm still not sure how I will
get to Lyon in time for my plane. At worst I guess I could take a cab, which is going to cost over 100 euros....

(*) This is a lie used for dramatic effect. No characters were typed while driving a truck

GNOME Foundation board

Filed under: General — Thomas @ 23:20


Contrary to last year, I managed to remember in time to cast my vote in the GNOME Foundation elections.

In unrelated news, our country is now without government for half a year. This is less of a problem than my non-Belgian friends seem to believe it is, though.

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