31 August 2012

Proxy Password with Exotic Characters

I recently changed my proxy password. Soon afterwards I found that I was getting errors like

Error parsing proxy URL

from dpkg. After doing a little bit of research I concluded that this was because I had some "exotic" characters in my password. To be more specific, my password was "xxxxx#xxx". So simply doing something like

export http_proxy=http://username:xxxxx#xxx@proxy:port

did not work. To get this to work you need to find the hexadecimal ASCII code the the character concerned and use this rather than the character itself. The solution:

export http_proxy=http://username:xxxxx%23xxx@proxy:port

You can find the ASCII codes in any of a number of places, for example here.

19 June 2012

Hungarian Soup

Hungarians are serious about soup. I might be so bold as to say that they are mildy obsessed. But, as it turns out, with good reason. My friends and colleagues, Janos and Peter, firmly believe that a meal is incomplete unless it includes soup. Today I walked across from our building to a cafeteria. This place has an obscene array of soups and they are cheap. Possibly the most impressive thing is that, in addition to the conventional bowls of soup on display (of which there was a bewildering variety), there were also bowls with floaters: boiled eggs, meat balls, sausages and schnitzel. I went for a bowl of thick potato soup with an enormous spicy meat ball plonked in the middle. It was delicious. And when I put my spoon down, I was stuffed. Now, if I had been Hungarian, that would have just been starters. I think I will have to go into training if I am going to fit into this soup culture.

02 June 2012

Packed Up and Ready to Roll


Amazing weather today. If tomorrow is anything like this, I will not have anything to complain about. Well, at least as far as the conditions are concerned.

We took a mid-morning trip down to the beachfront, parked near Joe Cools and walked along to Circus Circus. There was a bit of a queue, but since there were only two of us we managed to jump over a bunch of larger parties and were seated pretty quickly. Coffee and a bit of breakfast. Then headed home where I have made a batch of fresh pasta for this evening and assembled my kit.

Claire will be meeting me at four points on the route: Lion Park, Cato Ridge, Inchanga and Westville. At each of these she will be handing me a bottle of Energade with a Hammer gel and Rehidrat sachet attached. She will also have hotdogs (with enormous lashings of tomato sauce). And, for the final stop in Westville, there will also be a couple of home made peanut clusters. These are a serious incentive to get me through the tough times.

Claire will be easy to spot: her usual colourful Alice band and a white t-shirt with a custom print on the back.

01 June 2012

Comrades Times

The up run:

Year km Cowies Hill Halfway Cato Ridge Polly Shortts Finish
2006 87.5 1:47:24 4:46:22 6:30:52 7:40:26 8:58:22 9:49:51
2008 87.0 1:40:57 4:20:06 6:12:40 7:16:05 10:14:27 11:20:20
2011 87.0 1:54:21 4:44:41 6:45:37 8:53:50 9:37:54

The location of the third last timing mat varies: in 2006 it was Umlaas Road, while in 2008 and 2011 it was Camperdown. 2008 was the year that everything went horrendously wrong: I got completely dehydrated, cramped up on Little Polly Shortts when the person in front of me suddenly stopped. I fell over like a sweaty log and crawled to the side of the road, my leg muscles writhing with a life of their own. I lay there in the shade for ages, gathering my thoughts and eventually decided that I could not go on. I asked a lady in a chair nearby to hail a bailers' bus when it came by. And then for ages nothing happened (except for the inexorable stream of runners coming by). I was just dozing off when I heard a voice from above: "Hey, what are you doing?" It was an old comrades veteran (now a veteran spectator). He told me that there was no way that I was going to give up my medal having come this far. He scuttled off and returned with an armload of water sachets which he then proceeded to force feed to me. After the sixth or seventh of these I started to feel a little better. Before I knew it, this old guy was hoisting me to my feet and I was back on my way again. So I owe medal #2 to an old guy on the side of the road.

The down run:

Year km Camperdown Halfway Winston Park Cowies Hill Mayville Finish
2009 89.2 2:32:59 4:16:05 5:33:49 6:44:16 7:55:07 8:41:22
2010 89.0 2:49:37 4:41:58 6:12:11 7:28:42 8:45:07 9:40:02
2012 89.0 9:45:23

My average speed for the 2009 race was 5:51 per km. My goal for 2012 is 09:00:00, so I can afford to run a little slower: I will need to average 06:00 per km.

Okay, so the 2012 race did not go quite the way I planned. My mind was not in it from the beginning and I abandoned the 09:00:00 objective sometime during the first half.

12 April 2012

OpenVPN on Ubuntu

Today I finally got around to setting up a VPN connection on my Ubuntu laptop. I was a little surprised when I opened my network manager and found that the OpenVPN option was not listed. This meant that I was missing a few packages. Installing these fixed the problem:

openvpn
bridge-utils
network-manager-openvpn-gnome

So, next I filled in the options for my specific VPN connection and then tried to fire it up. No luck: I got an error message saying that "The VPN connection 'XXX' failed because the VPN service failed to start." Bugger! I did a bit of searching and found the suggestion that unselecting the option "Available to all users" might fix the problem. It did! But then I got a new error message saying that the "Connection was not provided by any settings service". Bugger again! Oddly, after doing a few other things for a couple of minutes, I came back to this and tried it again. This time there was no error message and a dialog popped up asking me for my password. I entered it and then the little network icon started to do its thing... for quite some time. Eventually it stopped with an error message about a timeout. Well, I seem to be making some progress. The problem now seems to lie somewhere between my client and the server now.

Two Oceans Times

My dad suggested last night that I should consolidate my Two Oceans times somewhere.

28 km42 km56 km
200602:29:4903:49:5405:11:15
200802:30:1203:49:2605:10:02
200902:19:1603:32:2704:44:16
201205:16:55

06 April 2012

Two Oceans 2012: Pills for Everything

Tomorrow is the Two Oceans. Staying on UCT middle campus we have heard all of the action up there today for the trail run, fun run and kiddie races.

People have been muttering about the weather. This morning, while filling up the car, the pump attendant was very happy to tell me that it was going to rain tomorrow. But he also pointed out that Zola Budd was going to be running. I am not sure how those two facts are related.

The weather now is looking pretty dodgy: it is overcast and windy. But there are patches of blue sky. I don't know enough about the weather in the Cape to make a prediction,  but right now I reckon that there are even odds of kak weather. Having a look at the Meteosat image below shows that there is definitely a cold front on the way and what we are experiencing now is just the leading edge...

56 km is a long way under good conditions. In the wind and rain it is going to be a whole lot more challenging.


On a more personal level I have three major concerns leading up to the race:
  1. getting a good night's sleep;
  2. not getting a sore throat or any other type of URTI; and
  3. having a good crap before the start.
Luckily all of these can be addressed by a combination of nutrition and drugs:
  1. melatonin, Kyprodol and red wine (the proportion of the individual ingredients is a trade secret);
  2. ViralChoice and garlic (the latter not only serves to keep me healthy but also ensures that I don't get mobbed at the start); and
  3. Senokot (which I have been taking since the beginning of the week; it's kind of tricky knowing when to take the last dose, but I took a couple this morning).