Archive for May, 2007

bread, the Dutch way

May 20th, 2007

If you've not had the pleasure of sampling authentic Dutch bread, let me tell you that you are in for an experience you didn't see coming.

If you're a conservative/romantic when it comes to bread, you probably slice your bread with a knife. This means that a) it's hard enough to be sliced and b) it's a loaf, not pre-sliced. Well, if you come to Holland, both of those terribly reasonable assumptions are unapologetically cast aside.

When you buy bread here, it's a soft sponge. And it's pre-sliced. In fact, natives are so terrified of bread that isn't sliced that if you actually find it in the supermarket, a rarity in itself, it has a big label saying not sliced. :scared: Yeah, take your chances, buddy.

This presents a real practical problem, because the bread gets deformed before you get home. If you apply the classic 7-loaves-to-a-plastic-bag formula, you'll notice that you can fit many more loaves into a bag, just like you can fill a bucket with untold amounts of cotton. But the result is that the bread doesn't restore its original form, as a sponge would. It's permanently deformed. So now instead of putting bread at the bottom, you have to handle it like the most fragile piece of fruit, silk gloves treatment.

But that's not all. The bread here just isn't very good. Although there is plenty of choice, it's a choice of mediocre products. Sure enough, they may appear to have all kinds of different flavors, and different grains, and embellished packaging, but when you actually try it, you often realize that the most fancy looking products have an aftertaste you can't stand. They also smell funny. On the whole, the bread gives the impression of being manufactured, rather than baked.

Predictably, it's not just the bread. A rich culture for bread products tends to show in all kinds of pastry. One that Holland apparently doesn't have. And the pastry here is truly bad. There really isn't anything you would buy to say serve to guests, or for a snack. For instance, you'll find croissants, but they're far from the real thing.

In Poland the bread is certainly a lot more authentic, although it isn't that great. But not this mushy spongy stuff. Meanwhile, the pastry is very good, there's lots of choice and tradition.

In Norway the bread culture is very high, and just about any bread you can find is better than anything you'll find around here. The pastry side of things is less prosperous, there are a few trademark traditional products, but not too many of them. Then there's a tradition of imported products like Wiener-rolls, which is a cornerstone in Norwegian pastry. Not native perhaps, but embraced as one's own.

sealed plastic packaging

May 19th, 2007

The patient sustained multiple severe stab wounds to the upper chest and abdomen. The consumer didn't stop until he was able to retrieve the product.

They basically use this packaging for anything they can get away with. In some stores half the products are packaged this way, in what has to be the most consumer hostile packaging known to man. There are three big problems with it:

  1. It's a huge pain to open, unless you have a mechanical lab on hand.
  2. Sometimes it's almost impossible to open without damaging the product.
  3. There is no semblance of putting it back together the way it was, you open it you bought it

I would take the cheapest, ugliest brown carton box with the technical specifications printed on the side over this plastic. And it would be cheaper. No pictures either, just open the box and see what it looks like. And if you don't want the customer to open the box for some reason, just seal it with duck tape. And leave one box open so they can check out the merchandise.

painless website backup/synchronization

May 18th, 2007

Why you should care

There are quite a few reasons why you would want to back-up your website. For one thing, in the case of some kind of security breach, you don't want to lose the files on the server. Even if someone broke in, with a backup you could just restore it and you'd be back in a jiff. Otherwise, maybe you just want full control of your files, and knowing that they sit on a server somewhere remote doesn't make you feel as good as knowing they are right on your local disk. Whatever the reason, the following method is well suited to Wordpress sites, but general enough to apply to just about any website.

However, the following method enables you to transfer files in both direction, it's equally ideal for deployment. It makes no difference if you're uploading or downloading, we cover both bases.

How it works

Okay, that was the sales pitch. The script was written to allow for fast deployment of files on a server. Using Wordpress as an example, if you're hacking on your theme and you want to upload that one file you changed and see the result, you can do that quickly and painlessly with rsync. It's really the best way to transfer one file when you know none of the other files have changed. rsync synchronizes two locations, transferring only what has changed.

The files are transferred with rsync over ssh, so you need shell access on the server for this.

In a typical example where you have an account on a web server, this is how your file structure is at the root level (your homedir):

$ ls ~
=> cgi-bin/
=> images/
=> => picture.jpg
=> index.html


The files in bold are the ones you want to synchronize with your local disk and keep up-to-date. But there will generally be a lot of other files you're not interested in, generated in your homedir automatically, like raw web traffic logs, mail spam etc. (If the item is a directory, you want all the files and dirs it contains to be synchronized.)

So the issue is to selectively pick the items you want. But there may also be certain types of files inside these dirs you don't want, like for instance I ignore cgi-bin. So you want a way to exclude certain files/dirs from being transferred.

How to

Now that you know what's happening, it's time to set it up. You fill in the variables at the top of the script. local_path is where you want the files on disk. remote_path is where they are located on the server (in most cases ~ or /home/username). locations is the list of top level directories/files you want to synchronize. And finally exclusions are patterns you want to exclude (so if it contains cgi-bin, then that directory and all the files in it will be excluded from the synchronization).

Once that's done, you just run

$ down

to download the files on the server to your local dir, and

$ up

to transfer your local changes to the website. Finally,


alone will log you into your server with ssh.

Time to synchronize full local/remote tree for (5470 files) when no changes were made: 4.4 seconds. ;)

A small note about security

Note that this script does not violate or subvert how you access your server. It uses ssh as the underlying security context. You can easily synchronize up/down with public key authentication, in which case you'll never have to type in your password when running, and it's actually more secure as well. :)

# Author: Martin Matusiak <>
# Licensed under the GNU Public License, version 2.

# server setup

# local setup

# remote setup
locations="bin backups public_html"

exclusions="cgi-bin *.swp *~" #.swp are vim swap files


# rsync options
rsync_options="--archive --verbose --stats --progress"

# switch priority
nice="nice -n 10"

function inclusion_list() {
	for i in $exclusions; do
		inc_list="${inc_list}--filter='- $i' "
	for i in $locations; do
		inc_list="${inc_list}--filter='+ /$i' "
	inc_list="${inc_list} --filter='- /*'"

function shell() {
	 ssh -C ${username}@${hostname} -p ${ssh_port}

function sync_up() {
	cmd="${nice} rsync ${rsync_options} -e \"ssh -p ${ssh_port}\" \
	${inc_list} \
	${local_path}/* \
	${username}@${hostname}:${remote_path} "
	echo "$cmd"
	sh -c "$cmd"

function sync_down() {
	mkdir -p ${local_path}
	cmd="${nice} rsync ${rsync_options} -e \"ssh -p ${ssh_port}\" \
	${inc_list} \
	${username}@${hostname}:${remote_path}/* \
	${local_path} "
	echo "$cmd"
	sh -c "$cmd"

if [ -z "$1" ]; then
elif [ "$1" = "down" ]; then
elif [ "$1" = "up" ]; then
	echo "$0 [down|up]"	

good marketing-talk is incomprehensible

May 18th, 2007

Å bestille bonusreiser på Internett er gratis

Da vi innfører et servicegebyr for å bestille bonusreiser via Medlemsservice den 21. mai, lønner det seg å bestille via våre nettsider. Basic-medlemmer må fra 21. mai betale et servicegebyr på 150 kr. Se linken for mer informasjon.

How bout that. SAS Braathens has my email address, because I book all my flights online. Periodically they send me this spam, which is "great offers" included in "important membership information". Today they sent me an update on my bonus miles (along with a host of "great offers", of course), including this paragraph, which I find completely incomprehensible.

Booking flights online using air miles is free

Since we are about to introduce a service charge for booking flights out of air miles through our Membership Service, from May 21, we encourage you to book them on our website. Basic-members will incur a charge of 150kr from May 21.

Well that's an interesting way of telling you that 5 days from now you'll be paying money for booking flights from air miles you've saved up. So something that's not supposed to cost you anything now will, meanwhile you can avoid paying the service charge if you book online. Which is exactly what you expected to hear based on the headline, isn't it?

It almost reminds me of Orwell's 1984. First the weekly quotum for chocolate is 30 grams. So first they announce it is lowered to 15g, and the a week later, as if nothing happened, the "increase it" to 20g, to demonstrate how generous they are.

Trondheim burning

May 17th, 2007

The latest from back home:


Yes, that's right, yet another fire. Trondheim chock full of wooden houses has been a feast to fires in the past couple of years. The biggest one destroyed a whole block:


The city decided to reinvent itself by putting up an ugly ass new building:


And that's just a prospect from the architects, believe me it looks crap up close. But the fun didn't stop there. A restaurant smack in the middle of town caught fire. The place is so central that it's practically a landmark.


I don't know if you shop at Hennes&Mauritz much, but their building burnt to the ground a few years ago:


And apparently, last year in April while I was here in Holland, yet another fire.


Come see Trondheim, a city that enjoys a good bonfire. Here's a full timeline, but unfortunately doesn't list upcoming events. That's just the big ones, there are bound to be plenty of smaller fires as well, like one covered in the past.

On the upshot, I don't think any people were hurt in any of these fires. "But", you say, "that's good, Trondheim center is packed with these old wooden houses that are all the same and the city badly needs urban development. At least this way, new buildings can come up." Well, that's true, but it would be nice if this could come about through controlled change and some proper innovative thinking, not clumsy accidents followed by damage control. As it is, the city is hell bent on preserving these "cultural treasures" instead of actually building something that is worthwhile. Conservativism to the fullest. The cathedral is one of those landmarks that really stand for something, the rest of the city center is practically expendable architecturally. Well, it's little old Trondheim, with all its close minded provincial mindset, don't expect urban progress.

Oh, and happy Constitution Day.