C879875-4, pop=200m

This binary system (Alpha=G2, Proxima=K1) is the closest star to Earth’s Sun. The planet called “Centauri” orbits Alpha Centauri. Its land surface is mostly island chains and a few small sub-continents. There is lush green vegetation. Wildlife is mainly insect-like creatures, none of which grow very large.

The world was colonised by Earth’s very first wave of slower than light ships. The early colony failed to develop much vitality. A second wave of colonists arrived once jump drive was introduced. These were mainly low tech utopian religious (Wheelie) communities from Earth’s underclass. The original colony still exists, but it is just one community amongst many. The warrior castes of rival Wheelie nations regularly battle each other without significantly disrupting the majority of agricultural communities. There are chaos cults in the outback, which are feared by all.

The primitive Centauri colony was protected by an indulgent Upload elite on Earth. Now that the Commonwealth has taken over, it is only a matter of time before they begin to exploit such a valuable nearby garden world. Already there are plans afoot for “relocation camps” in the outback. The starport has a contingent of Commonwealth Marines, and the system is patrolled by a squadron of Earth Union frigates.


Epsilon Eridani


C655534-6, pop=500k

This system is the key waypoint for ships destined for Kapteyn and the Xa Imperium. Commonwealth starships regularly patrol the system, to discourage Procyon-registered vessels from using it. As a result, most Procyon traders now travel via Sirius.

The colony is on Epsilon Eridani b-4, a large gas giant moon, well outside the star’s habitable zone. It is in the late stages of a centuries-long terraforming project – the thin atmosphere is now breathable, but the climate is still frigid. Giant orbital mirrors have been built to warm the moon, and sulfur hexfluoride had been added to the atmosphere to create a greenhouse effect. Algae have been introduced to the water oceans to create oxygen. Typical weather is snow, or icy rain. Terrain is barren, with pools of slime and occasional hoards of terrestrial snails.

Fluorite prospecting and mining are major industries – as vast amounts of SF6 are required for the terraforming. The gas is also exported to support alien terraforming operations. Food is produced in algal beds and energy intensive greenhouses, as well as imported. Snails are farmed for food. There is one major city, “Falstaff” (pop=80k).

In recent years, the Esperanzan Commonwealth have stopped anti-matter exports to Eridani, as part of their blockade of the Core Worlds. This has lead to food shortages and rationing.




A767957-C, pop=3b

Procyon was amongst the first of Earth’s off world colonies. Planted centuries ago by slower-than-light colony ships, before the discovery of jump drive. The earliest population was from Earth’s European continent. These people are known as the “Old Andorians”. In the centuries since, most immigrants have come from the Outer Planets (”Belters”), or Earth’s underclass. This is a balkanised world, mostly governed by mega corporations whose philosophy is akin to the mercantile spirit of Earth’s Belters. The largest corporate state is “Andor”. There is a global “Steering Committee”, which acts as a talking shop for intercorporate cooperation.

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Jump Drives

Jump Drives are the only known means of faster than light travel. They allow spacecraft to travel through a wormhole that follows a “jump chord” between two nearby stars. Jump-1 chords connect stars up to 1 parsec apart. the chord has a well defined start and end point, usually within the inner system of its star.

The spacecraft travels in normal space to the local chord endpoint. It then engages its jump drive, and disappears from normal space. Approximately 5 days later the ship emerges from jump at the chord’s other endpoint, near to the destination star.

Travelling to and from the jump point in normal space is often the longest part of a journey. Even with the best commonly available space drive (antimatter-catalysed fusion direct drive, capable of 1G continuous thrust) it can take several days to travel between the jump point and a world in the habitable zone. Travel to the outer system often takes weeks.

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A877A7C-B, pop=30b

Until recently, Earth was dominated by a vast computer network called the “Virtuality”. Over the centuries, hundreds of billions of people uploaded their minds into this “life after death”. Eventually, living people came to be a minority who were largely excluded from decision-making. Out in the living world, nation-states still existed, cooperating through a fairly strong “Earth Union” – successor to the United Nations. However, aside from a tiny elite, most living people felt entirely disenfranchised. Many chose to go to the colonies rather than live as a second-class citizen.

In the last decade, telepathic radicals from the colony world of Esperanza have infiltrated, and entirely overturned this ancient, conservative society. One by one, they seized control of Earth’s nation states, destroyed the Virtuality’s data centres, and imposed their own brand of totalitarianism. Finally, four years ago the central Earth Union fell completely under their sway, and the remaining conservative nations were conquered in a short, bloody war. Today, the “Next Step” radicals are still consolidating their hold over Earth, whilst pushing aggressively on into the Outer Planets.

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Narcissist of the Week?

Apparently Twitter has been a-tweet over David Ramsey’s list of “20 Things the Rich Do Every Day”. Ben Irwin has posted a pointed ripose, but the original post is a hoot.

The controversial list isn’t all that bad. There are a handful of good points (”81% of wealthy maintain a to-do list vs. 19% of poor”) surrounded by a sea of ignorance. He seems to think that if only the poor had more time, and above all money, then they wouldn’t be so poor. E.g. “76% of wealthy exercise aerobically four days a week. 23% of poor do this”.

No, don’t read it for the list. Read it for the amazing screed that he’s added to “defend” himself from all the criticism. Here are some choice nuggets:

“I am amazed at how many of my brothers and sisters in Christ have attacked us because of a simple list posted on our website.”

A “simple list”.

“When you actually bother to look into what we teach, you find generosity and grace taught throughout.”

Saying it doesn’t make it so.

“There is a direct correlation between your habits, choices and character in Christ and your propensity to build wealth [...]. To dispute that or attribute hate to that statement is immature and ignorant.”

He’s clearly been listening to his critics.

“My wife and I started our lives with almost nothing [...] driving two cars [...]“

You couldn’t make this stuff up.

“God has blessed our efforts and we have done well, and for that I am incredibly grateful and humbled.”

The idea that this man thinks he is “humble” is preposterous. I hereby award him my “narcissist of the week” prize.

I’ve never heard of David Ramsey before today, because I don’t watch TV so I’ve had no chance to watch his TV show, and I certainly don’t read self-help books, his or anyone else’s. I’m confused though: Since “67% of wealthy watch one hour or less of TV every day vs. 23% of poor”, but “86% of wealthy love to read vs. 26% of poor” – does that mean that poor people watch his TV shows, but then switch to reading his books once they’ve achieved wealth?… But, why would they be reading his books if they’re already rich?… Perhaps the books are about how to keep hold of your money, rather than actually making it?

Maybe I’m over-analysing.


File deduplication.

I use rsync for backups, and it has a very nice feature, where it uses hard-links to a reference directory tree, in order to reduce space. That works well, but sometimes the chain of links is broken, and disk space gets used up unnecessarily. The most common cause is when I move a file – rsync can’t tell that it’s moved, so the new location gets its own copy. That can be expensive if I’m renaming a load of videos!

So, it would be nice to find a tools that can spot these cases, and replace the duplicate files with hard links. There are a load of candidates, but none of them seem to quite meet my requirements.

Here’s what I need:

  1. Files must match metadata as well as content. Hard links merge the metadata, so if two files have different owners, then I can’t replace one of them with a hard link. I’m willing to accept some variations in meta data – access time, certainly. Probably modification time, and maybe even group. The ideal tool would let me choose what metadata is important to me.

  2. I probably want to set a minimum file size. The benefits of reducing duplication are pretty minimal when file sizes are small.

  3. I need to be able to blacklist/whitelist files by name, or by location. If a file is ever modified, then all of its link-brothers will also get modified. That’s no so bad for back-ups, which are hopefully immutable. But if I ever use this tool on files in use, it could be catastrophic.

  4. I’d like to restrict hardlinking to between directory trees, rather than just will-nilly within a tree. That would preserve the integrity of each back-up snapshot, just like rsync does.

  5. The number of hard links per inode is limited on some filesystems (particularly ext4 – which is what I’m using). The tool must know about this limit.

Frankly, i haven’t found anything that fits the bill, so I’m thinking of writing something myself. Here are the candidates…

  1. freedup Overall, the description makes it sound like a solid tool, and the documentation seems relatively complete. However, when I built it, I noticed that the Makefile attempts to write new lines into /etc/services, and yes, the program does contains socket/server code – which is apparently triggered by undocumented options. Personally, I’m a bit leery of file-system level tools that contain undocumented server code, so I’ll not be using it.
  2. fdupes This is a popular tool (packaged in Debian), but I don’t think it covers any of my metadata requirements.
  3. rmlink This is a fairly new tool – it’s not packaged, so i had to get it from github. It’s got good name filtering, but it doesn’t check metadata, allow for size or directory tree limits. Finally, it doesn’t natively support hard linking – you can give it a custom command to use, but that could not easily be taught about hard link limits. On the plus side, rmlink is reportedly very fast. Finally, the name is horrendously dangerous. I caught myself editing “rm” commands, because I’d not been paying attention when I did a reverse history search… Had I not noticed, and hit return, I might well have found myself needing those backups.
  4. fslint This is a GUI tool. Not much use on my server.
  5. hardlink is a pythobn script. I’ve not investigated it too much since there’s no online documentation.
  6. rdfind is a very basic tool. It doesn’t have any of the features I’m looking for.
  7. duff seems like a solid tool. It can’t make hard links, only report duplicates. It does permit me to set a minimum file size. No coverage for any of my other requirements.

The fdupes Wikipedia page contains a useful list of other such tools. I may investigate more of them later.


EPS, XPS or PIR for EWI?

I’m having second thoughts about using Polyisocyanurate (PIR) boards for our external wall insulation (EWI). PIR is the best commonly available insulator, so it will enable us to get the most insulation into the limited thickness that we have available. Unfortunately, I’ve just learned that PIR has some problems that may cause it to deteriorate with age. Firstly, it is liable to shrinkage, which means that gaps might open up between the boards. Not only would that compromise thre insulation, but it might show through the render, and spoil the external appearance of our house. Worse, PIR can deteriorate if it gets damp, which is something that is hard to rule out. Finally, the gasses trapped in the foam could leak out over time, further degrading the material’s performance. Is that bound to happen? No. But it’s certainly got me considering alternatives… Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (1)

fostertom on EWI

Excellent advice from fostertom on external wall insulation (EWI):

The ideal is EWI to walls, continuous with similar EPS [expanded polystyrene] on OSB [a kind of plywood] boarded over the top of the rafters, tiles/slates replaced but a bit higher up. The roof OSB is adequately airtight, without any problems with interruption by internal trusses etc. Unfortunately EWI can’t be relied on to be airtight, so either an external rough-render (breatheable) on the brickwork before EWI-ing, or the internal plaster wd be your wall airtight barrier.That (like IWI [internal wall insulation]) is problematic because of joist penetrations and joists so close parallel to wall that you can’t make the internal plaster continuous through the floor thickness. Also needs connecting up with roof OSB (or with over-joist membrane if trying to air-tight at loft floor level).

(from greenbuildingforum.co.uk)

Comments (2)

ICICI bank

Me (calling ICICI bank): Hello, I’m trying to open a savings account, but when I click next on your form, it says “Address information cannot have special characters” – but I can’t see any special characters in any of the fields I’ve entered.

ICICI bank: Hello sir. I’m very sorry for the inconvenience. What browser are you using?

Me: Erm let me see. It’s Firefox 21.0.

ICICI: I’m sorry sir, you are using Safari. Please try to use Internet Explorer.

Me: I’m not using Safari. I’m using Firefox, version 21.0.

ICICI: Please try to use Internet Explorer.

Me: I don’t have Internet Explorer.

ICICI: You don’t have Internet Explorer???

Me: I think I’ll find someone else to look after my money, thanks.

Microsoft has been selling Windows without Internet Explorer for years! Even if they assumed I was using Windows, it’s by no means safe to assume that everyone will have IE. I should have told him I was using my phone – that would have freaked him out even more!