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How to easily exclude packages from
apt-get upgrades

Once you've got the hang of Debian/Ubuntu's package management system and have had a fine time smoothly upgrading your system periodically, at some point the inevitable will happen: while upgrading a package will get installed that will break something. It could be, as happened to me recently, a version of Google Chrome that won't play nice with some element of Gnome or the GTK toolkit - any button on a webpage that should launch a dialogue box took minutes to do so. Several minutes. So we need to reverse this, by downgrading the package to the previous version, and then prevent it from being reinstalled automatically. How? The most common Debian package manager frontend is apt-get. There are a number of different options, from powerful but complex dpkg, it's more user-friendly brother aptitude, to the full blown X-windows GUI of synaptic. But apt-get is most people's first choice, the most straightforward, and the one which comes with no obvious switch or option included - the following demonstrates how.

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Social media’s war on image metadata

An interesting trial carried out by the Embedded Metadata Manifesto shows that most social media sites are pretty terrible at maintaining creator, copyright, credit or caption Exif and IPTC image metadata – despite the fact that posting and sharing is essentially what social media is founded on.

Facebook performs predictably badly, stripping all Exif and IPTC data from uploaded and downloaded images. This is doubly ridiculous because Facebook’s image processor already reads that same information and displays it as image captions and titles. Why not just leave it there?

Flickr fairs just as badly – outrageous considering it’s supposed photographer-friendly stance, but probably no surprise to long-time users who have watched dejectedly as Flickr’s star has faded over the years, with zero investment of either money or ideas since Yahoo bought it.

At least Tumblr and Pinterest leave metadata intact, but don’t show it, as with common Twitter image hosts Yfrog and Img.ly.

Google Plus is the surprise winner, respecting all uploaded metadata, showing it on the interface, and preserving it in downloaded images. Shame nobody uses it – not even Googlebosses.


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Food blogging for Zagat

I’ve been filling in for friends at the Zagat London food blog these last weeks, which means the opportunity to research some interesting restaurant and bar openings, and get paid for it, rather than just fall into the usual suspects (and get carried out).

In the process I managed to swing a visit to the opening night of fancy-pants contemporary Japanese restaurant Wabi in Holborn, and last night we even managed a visit to the hallowed members-only clubrooms of Electric House on Portobello Road in order to road-test the new Electric Diner’s Chicago-inspired meat, eggs and booze-heavy menu.

More to see over at the Zagat blog. There are, on reflection, worse ways to make a living.


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Independent Record Market at Spitalfields

Among the interesting items on display was this ghettoblaster that plays 12″ records.
You’d struggle to carry it though, it weighs a ton – small child to scale.

Yesterday I wandered down to Spitalfields Market to visit the Independent Record Market, an occasional gathering of indies big and small (but mostly small) that meet there several times a year, last in August. At the were labels like Bella Union, Big Dada, Fierce Panda, Fire, Full Time Hobby, !K7, Laissez Faire Club, Monotreme, Moshi Moshi and Play It Again Sam alongside bigger indies like Ninja Tune, R&S, Planet Mu, One Little Indian and Peacefrog – with more labels setting up on the Sunday.

There was a large amount of vinyl on display, perhaps unsurprisingly as that’s what the sort of buyer-collectors that haunt record markets are looking for, and they would have been overjoyed by the selection of interesting items up for grabs rarities dragged from the vaults and special releases. And branded T-shirts, badges and mugs, of course. I’m now kicking myself for not picking up a nice R&S tee when I had the chance, to replace my veteran Joey Beltram Novamute t-shirt that was well loved but disappeared years ago (If any of my friends have that, but I’ve forgotten, I want it back by the way).

I interviewed a few of the stallholders and label bosses for Clashmusic to talk about how business was faring through 2012 and what prospects for the indies looked like for next year. Among them were Moshi Moshi’s Michael McClatchey, Bill Brewster of independent publishers DJHistory.com (which released the hilarious Raving ’89 photostory of one man’s early days of acid house), Andy Bibey from One Little Indian, and Nigel Adams of Full Time Hobby.

You can hear the results at Clashmusic’s Soundcloud page.


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On adventure upon the high seas, part 5

Sunday 30th September, Mar Cantábrico near A Coruna. NE force 4, 1020 mbar. The boat cuts through the quiet sea, as it has continuously for the last four nights. By 3am we've reached the Spanish coast at Cape Ortega, heading west on the last leg. To port lies the dark mass of Galician hills, black against a bright, moonlit sky, with lights picked along roads and great lighthouses semaphoring their unique messages out to those watching for them. Trawlermen rumble past along the coast, nets out in the waters. Ahead of us I can see the glow on the clouds from the lights over Ferrol - Franco's birthplace - miles away, still hidden behind the headland. As our phone signal has reappeared on reaching inshore waters, I text Carmen, my friend from A Coruna who is celebrating her birthday back in London. "I can see your house from here", I say.

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On adventure upon the high seas, part 4

Saturday 29th September, Bay of Biscay. NNE force 4, 1009 mbar. The rocking and rolling of the boat, the incessant creaking of the cabin walls, and being occasionally flung across my bunk do not make for a restful night's sleep. The watch rota is three hours on, six hours off, so when given the opportunity to sleep at night it's foolish to turn it down - even if actual sleep is harder to come by.

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On adventure upon the high seas, part 3

Friday 28th September, Bay of Biscay. SW force 3, 1050 mbar. I sleep uneasily. The ship rattles, the wooden partitions of the cabin creaking with the pressure of the waves on the hull. Everything creaks and groans. The ship rolls and pitches strongly, and I am tossed from one side of the bunk to the other, and resort to trying to brace myself against each wall with my feet. But the motion is not because the weather is rough outside. In fact, sometime around 3am I awake to almost total stillness, only the gurgle of water under the keel. It feels like we've slowed almost to a stop.

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On adventure upon the high seas, part 2

Thursday 27th September, Western English Channel. SW force 4, 1020 mbar. I emerge groggily from below decks to find the dark clouds have dispersed, the sun is shining and the wind has dropped. After last night's experience I had secretly hoped we were nearly there, so I am pretty disappointed to discover that I can still see the English coast. My god, sailing is slow. Having had to tack a bit through the night because the wind was against us, we've not even reached as far as Plymouth in 18 hours of sailing. However, my stomach is relieved to find it is a calmer sea through which Salamander cuts a brisk pace, and when cups of tea and oatcakes go down and stay down, it seems I have found my sealegs and am declared fit for duty.

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On adventure upon the high seas

Wednesday 26th September, Poole Marina. S force 5, 990 mbar. The plan was to leave last night, but there were still too many unticked items on the list of things to do, the wind was against us and Michael, the captain, was happy to have a vegan shepherd's pie and a final sleep on (or at least docked beside) British soil before we left. He had waited 12 years for this, after all, so another night would cost nothing.

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End of an era at 26 Maples Street

Maples Street Rummaging through my virtual filing cabinet the other day I came across this. I must have written in about 2000 or 2001, not that long before I too was on my way somewhere else. I quite like it, for all the 23-year-old I was when I wrote it, and all the things that were happening then. So here it is, exactly as it has been lying around all this time, gathering only electronic dust.

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Proper British language tools in Libreoffice

An annoying and apparently long-standing bug in OO/OOo/Libreoffice is that a British English dictionary and thesaurus are absent, and won't appear even after trying all the usual, obvious routes.

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Avoiding package meltdown with APT source pinning

Debian's release cycle is pretty sedate, which means the distribution you have installed will be solid and stable, but there will undoubtedly be more recent versions of programs available than you have installed. The safest and most easily reversed way of locating and installing the latest or at least more recent versions of software is to point the apt-get package manager to the Debian repositories that contain the upcoming Debian distribution releases, using apt's sources.list file. This is how to do that.

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