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Snippets ? 19/12/2002

Dec 19 2002 13:01
Oliver Pell
A totally harmless non-column: the Bald One strikes back; Bo?s run-in with the law; Scientists versus the machines; ICU phones home
Bo' being towed away.
  • More web woe as Baldy strikes again

Imperial College Union?s once again demonstrated its seemingly endless ineptness at running web servers last week when the Union web server died for the twenty-millionth time this year. Eyebrows were first raised on Sunday 8th December when several bright sparks realised that the server was blankly refusing to serve web pages or indeed anything else. Suspicion quickly fell on the Bald One, the member of the volunteer web-editing team who is usually responsible for all problems with the server. ?Fudge monkeys,? said Mr Sharpe, shortly after restoring the server to the land of the living on Monday afternoon. Surely the choice of operating system must be to blame.

  • Bo? towed away by the Met (no, really)

Faculty of Engineering motorised mascot Boanerges had an unexpected run-in with the law yesterday after breaking down in the middle of Hyde Park Corner just before Rush Hour. Help from a passing motorist was sufficient to get Bo? to the side of the road but it was the Met Police that were finally called upon to tow the striken car to safety. Bo? Driver Dan Lehmann described the incident as ?highly amusing?.

  • RCSU computer farce

Rumours are abounding about a farcical situation with the Faculty of Physical Sciences and Faculty of Life Sciences Student Associations (also known as the RCSU) office. ICU Student Activities Committee handed over a sizeable chunk of money for the embryonic associations to spend on new computer equipment for the office, on the basis that the existing equipment was ?poor, broken or non-existant?. After the Union had bought two shiny new Dells it seemed to emerge that actually the computers in the RCSU office weren?t all that bad after all and the Union seems to have decided to keep hold of the new computers, for whatever use no-one can tell. No one at Beit Towers could be reached for comment.

  • Union to ?communicate? with itself

Following a certain disciplinary and the accompanying counter-accusations about lack of communication within the Union, President Sen Ganesh and the ICU Executive Committee have set-up a ?working group? to look into communication within the Union. Unfortunately no-one seems to know anything about it ? communication problem anyone...

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Discussion about “Snippets ? 19/12/2002”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Dec 19 2002 14:48

The operating system is to blame for web server downtime, absolutely!

I think it's unfair to blame Baldy all the time. The Guilds web server (hosting this fine site) has Mr Sharpe as one of its administrators and has never fallen over, ever. That's because it runs FreeBSD rather than the arcane geek-y Debian GNU/Linux favoured by Etienne for the ICU machine.

< / rant >

Dec 19 2002 15:06

Setting up a "working group to examine communications policy throughout the union" was one of the three recommendations of the Panel at my disciplinary, so it's not really a "counter accusation". The other two are quite interesting as well, but I'm sure they will have already been disseminated to all interesting parties.


Dec 19 2002 15:08

(..."interested parties"...)

4. Dan L   
Dec 19 2002 22:57

Nothing wrong with Debian. My Webserver runs fine with it on....

Maybe it's because the bald one is not an administrator!

Dec 19 2002 23:33

Exactly - Debian is not Baldy-proof (unlike other, superior OS's).

Dec 20 2002 13:11

From what I remember it was decided at exec to set up a "comunications working group" at the _next council_. I am surprised Mr Pell that, seeing as you were present for the discussion and are normally so attentive to pedantry detail that you make such a statement in your article.

Dec 20 2002 13:51

On the contrary, the impression I was given was that Sen was aching to set-up a working group. He said something along the lines of "I can just do it", and everyone agreed. He then mentioned something about inviting the members of Council to volunteer, but the assumption was that this was via e-mail, I thought.

Dec 20 2002 14:32

I do remember that, but I thought that imediately after that discussion someone (can't remember who) said that it would be better to take a paper to council and Sen said he would. No matter, I'm sure Sen acurately minuted the discussion (as well as the "discussion" between him and Katherine) so all we have to do is refer to minutes, which in accordance with the Freedom of Information policy have to be made available to all students!

Dec 21 2002 01:03

It's not me that broke the webserver, it's a faulty mysql/apache combination.

If i can consume the entire machine's resources using only php and mysql, imagine what the more aggressive person could do???

incidentally, Mysql4.0.X has support for user resource limits... this might become useful...

i'm tired...

Dec 21 2002 01:05

Hey Sam, shall we try upgrading MySQL to 4.0x? It's just gone beta --> gamma. And I believe Slashdot are running it live.

Dec 21 2002 22:22

I for one am looking forward to this working group's terms of reference.

"throughout the union" is pretty far reaching. I agree with comments elsewhere that sens page in felix is quite frankly largly a waste of time. Sen could stick it on the web, or just email it to the small number of hacks who understand lots of it, and care.

If the union used its columns in felix to promote the union then maybe that would be better. If we want our clubs and societies, our welfare and education representation and services, and the various retail/trading and so on then _we_ (all 10,000 or whatever it is now of UG and PG) have to organise this. And at the same time we have to do it right. There is not a lot of pointless burocracy. There is some. but not a lot... If only people actually knew what was going on and could get involved.

Why whinge about Minibusses (for example)? why not find out whats going on, and actually put forward your views, and maybe get them acted on?

Why whinge about anything else the union is doing. Everyone is represented (assuming your reps actually go...) make your voice heard. Or go anlong yourself... every one can go to every meeting, and express their opinion (subject to the normal restrictions)

The union is "for students, by students" but i feel much of the student body doesnt know what the hell is going on.

A long article in felix is not needed if it is not being read, and not provoking interest. All that is needed (in my humble opinion) is a short, even bulleted, list of what is happening. and then where to find the other information. For example a continually updated resource book

Meanwhile what the union needs to be is open to all we have a freedom of information policy. not that I could find a link to it....

And at the same time of course it needs to inform its membership of the varous changes in policy, etc. as they happen, so everyone can act accordingly....

Is this too much to ask for?

12. Sam   
Dec 21 2002 22:40

Blatant Plug:

I like the resource book because it is a good idea. I dislike the implementation. It's very hard to update/maintain/whatever.

I've tried to make a nicer system for Student Activities, where any idiot can update it.

It's database backed, with a nice front-end - all i need now is to make a much better back-end... but the principle is there.

Once i have the system working, i can install it in /resource/ as well - giving a nice system for updating and changing stuff.

Maybe we can even use it for /council/

it certainly won't harm my job prospects!

Dec 21 2002 22:58

Sam - that is a truly eyewateringly bad design :-).

And didn't the Union spend ???s over the summer having a database-based content management system put together...

14. sam   
Dec 22 2002 02:55


you are simply pinkophobic!!!

15. John   
Jan 04 2003 00:49

Welcome back!

Wow, no live for a fortnight. How did we cope?

Jan 04 2003 01:25

Tell me about it... now that the logins are working again I shall be writing an article on why it was all Sam's fault that the web server's hard disk went caput (and pretty expensive one threw that we had to throw away...)

But first, i need to fix the thumbnail graphics on the front page. The image generation software isn't yet installed...

17. Eddie   
Jan 06 2003 12:24


Where is that article? Or are you now guilty of something going horribly wrong too now?


18. Sam   
Jan 06 2003 14:59

I'd just like to say that the "operating system was to blame for the (second) downtime" to quote a random guilds hack

which is rather funny! Apparently FreeBSD falls over when installing perlmagick (necessary to generate image thumbnails) whereas i installed it on debian in about 10 seconds...

better luck next time Mustafa!

Jan 06 2003 15:19

I did not say that!

I said I thought it was because I had switched on process accounting (out of curiosity) and it ran out of memory and went mental. So I switched it off.

I had a problem with the PerlMagick installation - which fixed itself after the reboot. But I think, to be fair, that all that meant was that I needed to restat apache for mod_perl to notice the newly installed perl module. (Which if I'd remembered to do, would probably have avoided the weekend blip - since it was writing a hell of a lot of lines to the log saying "cannot find PerlMagick" or thereabouts.)

Closed This discussion is closed.

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    18 Dec 02 | News
  2. Union has "lost" its fees policy
    27 Nov 02 | News
  3. The bitch-slap that said it all
    12 Nov 02 | Straight Talking

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