tmux — a super quick “getting started” “cheat sheet” for screen users

Google didn’t find this for me. Google FAIL, Internet FAIL. No computer biscuit for you!

If you’re a pretty fundamental screen user then this is about all you’ll need to start out with tmux:

Goal screen tmux
Start named session: screen -S mysessionname tmux new-session -s mysessionname
Attach-to (and detach) named session: screen -rd mysessionname tmux attach-session -dt mysessionname
Detach from session from within: ^A then d ^B then d

Why use tmux over screen — I have no idea yet! At the very least the default scrollback behaviour seems to be more user-friendly. On that note while you can shift-PgUp/PgDown well enough as in a normal terminal it keeps resetting to the bottom. I’m not sure if this behaviour can be disabled but I found that ^B-then-PageUp takes you into a useful scrollback-view-mode that you can get out of by simply pressing q.

Scrollback aside, I’ve only just started to try to use it, thus this post… nothing against tmux so far!

It’s newer, shinier, and supposedly more eXtensible than screen. Yippee?

Those tmux command lines are just crying out for some shell aliases.

More: Google for it, this is just “baby-steps” bootstrapping information here… there’s plenty of advanced information out there. Want vi-like scrollback navigation?

(The first few Google results I checked didn’t actually provide the useful details with respect to working with named sessions.)

There, super-rare tech entry from me. It’s been years. That’s what a head-cold, no alcohol, and 1.5 litres of coffee does to you… productivity!


What do you get when you mix together failure to implement a reasonable backup scheme, hard-drive failure, and “oh, I thought it was supposed to be RAID-1″? A right pain in the bloody arse!

Gradually putting things back together – starting with the site. I do have copies of all the entries I’ve written but they’re in a funny old format. I’m not using blosxom any more, I’d made a lot of customisations to the code and it seems I’ve lost half of them! So, trying wordpress – reluctantly. It has the advantage that it “just works”, a bonus as I don’t have much time for personal hacking. Sadly I also seem to have lost the photo album content. Not the actual photos, I have all of them backed up, but I’ve lost the commentary I’d added to the albums.

Ah – think of it like a house fire. It feels a bit like that. In fact, as far as personal data goes an actual house-fire would probably have been less damaging!

Café Snowdon

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Café Snowdon!

Café Snowdon!

This could be an interesting theme: climb mountains and make espresso at their peaks.

Late on Friday August 7th we drove off for Wales, leaving home at 17:00 when I wanted to leave at 16:00. Always last minute things to do! The 209 mile drive from Hitchin to our destination was fairly uneventful, the lowlights being a bit of slow traffic on the M1, and being tailgated by arseholes on windy Welsh valley roads (who end up going even slower when I drop 20 miles per hour because I have an asshat in a Land Rover shining his lights straight through my back windows at point blank range.)

Our destination was the Hafod-y-llan National Trust campsite, luckily Mr Land Rover was going to the cityfolk campsite at the other end of the lake. By the time we got there it was dark, certainly dark enough that torches were required to put our little tent up. Alas, we’d only packed one instead of the two we should have had. After wandering the little camp ground for a bit we settled on a clear patch on a bit of a slope, we’re quite happy with slopes really. A nearby camper kindly lent us his head torch and we were all set up in 10 minutes. After some more fiddling we eventually got to bed at 23:00.



It was a slightly rough night of sleep for two reasons. First, I’d worked out how the ends of the tent could be adjusted to improve airflow – I, perhaps, “improved” the airflow a bit too much. The idea being reduction of condensation. The two of us cause quite a lot of this over a night, it is almost as if it somehow rains on the inside of the tent. Our tent is a dual-skin though, so this causes only minor difficulty in the morning. I wipe down the inside of the door with one of our chamios-like micro towels. If we’re to pack up or tents that day, as we were every morning on our Lakes hike, we then combine our efforts, and towels, to towel down the entire inside (and then the outside if it has rained.) Though this seems involved, it really doesn’t take all that long. One of the prices you pay for putting two people in a very small tent perhaps.

The second reason was that we’d unthinkingly let Yaël traipse off with one of our sleeping bags (for a friend she was travelling with.) On the day we were to leave we realise this, oops! So we had one sleeping bag between us, unzipped to be used like a blanket. It wasn’t too bad in the end, but not ideal.

We got up nice and early in the morning, 6AM for me. And prepared to trek off. Putting the bits we wanted for the day into Kat’s pack, which I was to wear. And a few items of food into a micro pack we have for Kat. Kat’s pack doesn’t fit me too well, but it is fine when the weight is only about 6 or 7kg. To begin the day we wandered down the driveway of the campsite to Bethania, where the Watkin Path up Snowdon begins, and where there also happens to be a Café. The café opened at 08:00, 10 minutes after we got there, so we waited. The café is huge, an old chapel in fact. It was bought by a group of locals I’ve read, and converted to its current use as a place of refreshment. Alas, their espresso is terrible, but that is no surprise. At 08:30 we were on the Watkin path, on our way to Snowdon’s summit.

By Afon Cwm Llan, Looking back down the route to Nantgwynant

By Afon Cwm Llan, Looking back down the route to Nantgwynant

At first the Watkin path is a leisurely stroll through woods and fields. Passing some intriguing old stonework. Essentially some very straight and raised paths down steep slopes. You’d think they’re old train lines, except that they’re very steep and don’t seem to take logical routes as compared to other train lines in hilly regions. One cuts straight up a buttress of Yr Arran, following a gradient reminiscent of a rollercoaster ramp. Funny place for a rollercoaster though! Some research reveals that these are the paths of slate inclines, and that this one, in fact, was never completed.



Passing this puzzling sight we’re on an impressively paved stone path up the valley of Afon Cwm Llan. This is a beautiful watercourse, given sunlight and a few degrees more warmth I doubt I could have resisted going for a dip in one of the many spa-sized pools of crystal clear blueish water (is it blueish due to the copper in these mountains I wonder?) The path passes some interesting stone buildings at a narrow point in the valley, some sort of fortification perhaps? Fortifying what though? The old ‘net is littered with references, the closest fitting of which is that it could have been the residence of the master of the slate mine.

There are a few more buildings along the path, as it makes its way up the valley. Finally there is a long one with a track heading out from it which loops around and forms a well defined road-like track on the other side of the valley. We wonder if this links up to the crazy-steep line on the other side of that ridge. An engine house of some sort perhaps? (I’m going to have to look all of this up when I get home. No Internet in the middle of a field in Wales!) Now, much later, I can look this up and it seems most likely that the long building is the barracks which housed the slate mine workers during the weekdays. The slate mine itself is said to have only operated for about 40 years, the slate there being of low quality. Modern evidence of this is said to be visible in how overgrown with grass many of the old tailing heaps are. This indicates that there was much dirt dug up with the slate, which isn’t at all good I take it. I presume they kept going in the hope the dirt would go away … but eventually hope, or money, ran out.

Barracks - home of slate mine workers during the week

Barracks – home of slate mine workers during the week

After passing the “engine house” the path becomes steeper, though still well paved. The stretch up the side of the valley is the most picturesque leg of our hike. Views above, views below, and since we aren’t in the clouds yet, views for miles around. We can even see the coast from up here. Plus, there are goats, goats with huge horns, goats cannot be beaten.

Bwlch Ciliau, Y Llywedd behind us

Bwlch Ciliau, Y Llywedd behind us

Rough stone steps take us up to the top of the ridgeline, Snowdon’s buttress out to Y Lliwedd. This is Bwlch Ciliau, where the path flattens out and follows the ridgeline over Bwlch Saethau. (Note that, this being Wales, I can only guess that the names near peaks and valleys are actually names I can apply to said peaks and valleys!) The walk along this ridge provides for some excellent photos if you follow one of the minor tracks off to the right. You find yourself at the top of a huge cliff looking down on Glaslyn, it is an excellent view for a photo.

On Bwlch Saethau, Glaslyn far below

On Bwlch Saethau, Glaslyn far below

The ridge takes you from about 750m to the 825m mark, where the going gets tougher. The route turning into quite a scramble as you make it up the final 200m to the peak. By the 800m mark we were in cloud, so just like our Scafell climb the summit looks like it won’t be giving us much of a view. A little sad, I cross my fingers and hope it’ll clear before we descend.

The last 50m of ascent is something of a stroll. It is all a little strange, we begin to hear the chuff-chuff of a steam engine, and soon a large building looms out of the fog. Then we hit the people… it is like a shopping mall. We skirt the building, past people clustered around the building entrance sucking on fags, looking a lot like they would rather be elsewhere. Fathers and husbands dragged along for the ride perhaps. Then we’re there, a short stone platform with two sets of stairs and the trig-point at the centre. It is crowded with people.

More than one use for coffee!

More than one use for coffee!

We wander around to the more sheltered north eastern side of the platform, using it as a wind break. Not bothering to venture to the top in a hurry, we can wait for a break in the crowd. I get out my little meth-burning stove and fill-er-up. We almost had a major disaster on this trip, I forgot to bring fire. I use a flint to light the stoves, which is a case of lighting either meths or wax-impregnated card (Hammarö paper.) It works surprisingly well. Unfortunately it didn’t come with us! We were somewhat lucky that the café at the bottom of the Watkin Path sold lighters and matches, so I bought a lighter. All hunky dory now right? No. I don’t have a lot of experience with lighters, and didn’t realise how crap your typical lighter is. This one doesn’t like to light if there is anything so much as a breeze, it lit inside the café just fine, which is the only place we tested it. On top of Snowdon all it would do is spit a few sparks, not good enough to light meths. So I had the smart idea of applying an old trick from when I was a kid, adjusting the +/- wheel so that the + was even more +! As soon as I took the silver shield off the lighter the wheel fell out and it was only by luck that the little bit of flint was jammed and didn’t fly off. Now I had to get the flint back down the little hole, compressing the spring. This is hard to do at the best of times, but with numb fingers close to impossible! With the aide of the tweesers from Kat’s pocket knife I put it back together… after 15 minutes and almost losing the flint twice! I extra-plussed the + and we were soon back in action!

One more step back... Enjoying espresso at Snowdon's summit

One more step back… Enjoying espresso at Snowdon’s summit

Café Snowdon espresso was enjoyed, we even made second shots. At least this amused some of the multitude of people up there. Including a couple of guys who were enjoying some beers they’d brought up with them (on foot, not by the train, so respectable in a way especially as one of them had brought both pints up as a surprise for the other.) They took some photos for us and we took some for them. We took some photos on the trig-point platform as well, though I now realise I never even bothered to look at the plaque on the trig point.

Next, Kathlene keen on some hot food, we headed for the actual café that is up there. We squeezed in, it is a huge space so having to squeeze indicates how packed the place was, then immediately I turned around and squeezed out. Insane! Horrible! I promised Kat we’d find some hot food after our descent and we began our downward route. Alas, the cloud never cleared.

Looking down the Pyg Track, Glaslyn afore, Llyn Llydaw aback

Looking down the Pyg Track, Glaslyn afore, Llyn Llydaw aback

I’d worked out a full circular walk in advance. After the hard trek up the south side of Snowdon we were to take a more leisurely route downhill to the east, before following the valley south west and back to the camp. This begins by heading north from the summit and then east down the Pyg track, before descending onto the Miners’ track which runs alongside Glaslyn and Llyn Llydaw.

Talk about busy! This route was a bumper-to-bumper highway of human traffic. Very frustrating at times as most of them make their way along the track very slowly and there are several stretches where overtaking isn’t possible, and waiting for oncoming walkers is necessary. Aside from the difficulties posed by the popularity of this route it provided some wonderful views. Most of the time the view down the valley over the lakes is present, and all the time the steep walls to the north and south loom overhead. From the shores of Glaslyn we could see the spot where we took the photo of ourselves on Bwlch Saethau with Glaslyn far below. On the western side of Glaslyn towering cliffs running straight up to the summit of Snowdon, lost in cloud, dominate the scene.

Looking up to Bwlch Saethau we took our photo looking down on Glaslyn from the V in the ridgeline

Looking up to Bwlch Saethau we took our photo looking down on Glaslyn from the V in the ridgeline

The route along Glaslyn and Lyn Llydaw is flat and wide, allowing you to focus more on the scenery than where you’re putting your feet. As with much of this countryside there are ruins littered around the landscape which intrigue the mind. In this area most of these high ruins are mining related, generally either slate or copper. By Glaslyn and, further down the track, Llyn Teryn are the remains of miners’ barracks. While, most impressive, is some sort of mine working building on the shore of Lyn Llydaw.

As you make your way along the lakes you pick out other remains, some foundations and what seems to be the line of an old raised railway. There is a causeway cutting across Llyn Llydaw then a more modern structure which is presumably a valve house feeding the large pipe running down the valley (this, it turns out, feeds a small hydro power station in the valley which was built in 1908 and is still put into operation when required.)

Copper works by Llyn Llydaw

Copper works by Llyn Llydaw

The rest of the walk to Penn-y-Pass continues to be straightforward and before long you find your self at an ugly car park. There isn’t much here, I had hoped for a nice little pub, but there is just a caf which can do you a solid hot meal. From Penn-y-pass you could catch a bus back around to Bethania, but we did the valley walk.

This home stretch took us down Afon Trawsnant, then Afon Glaslyn. From not long after Pann-y-Pass to well past the power station this path is very wet. Good high boots with reasonable waterproofness are highly recommended! The path takes you behind the veritable metropolis of the fancy campsite to the north-east of Llyn Gwynant, then on behind the lake itself. The walk behind the lake takes a fairly high route and provides for some excellent views down over the lake. This was also the best area for us to gather sticks for our excellent little Bush Cooker, my pockets were soon bulging with nice dry wood.

Dinner time! Mmm... fire

Dinner time! Mmm… fire

A few fields later we’re back at the Hafod-y-llan campsite. We’d set out at about 0800 and got back at 17:00, with at least an hour’s worth of stop time along the way. Our 17:00 return gave us plenty of time to chill out, make some coffee and dinner, and relax. Quite an excellent day all up.

We’re calling this walk the Devil’s Circuit… I do hope you can see why.



Our path took us up quite a steep route, which was clear and well paved all the way to Bwlch Saethau. The final ascent towards the summit became quite loose and confused at times, with hands being required at some points. I can see why this route is considered quite dangerous in winter. At one point you’re traversing a scree slope that ends with a cliff, imagine it covered in ice and snow! One way ticket to splat. The summit of Snowdon is very civilised, too civilised really. Scafell Peak wins any summity goodness competition hands down.

We will go back, but in the off season, when the train isn’t running… hm, perhaps I should get some ice axes and crampons for that one ;) Meanwhile, I’ve been playing with generating SVGs of these walks, the most interesting of which is elevation over distance covered.

Snowdon Walk – Elevation over Distance
(click here for a larger version)

If you can’t view SVGs (i.e. you use a retarded web browser like IE) then you won’t see the image above. If you care… use Firefox (and no, I don’t think Firefox is great, I think it is a pile of crud.)

Stour Valley Path

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Across the Stour Valley

Across the Stour Valley

In order to test out all our new Lakes District hiking gear we went for a nice long walk last Saturday. Since we also had a desire to visit Colchester I combined the two by picking up a hire car and choosing part of the Stour Valley Path as our walking ground (just to the north of Colchester.)

Things kicked off on Friday night really, as we packed the core items into our packs. We were aiming to carry what we’ll be starting with on the Lakes expedition. This meant clothes for a week; actually just 2 changes of base layers, one change of a couple of mid layers, and a windshell. Trying to keep it light! Major weight factors are water (which diminishes through the day of course, I start out with 3.5kg of the stuff) and food (about 4kg), followed by tent (1kg), and sleeping bag (0.8kg.) In the end my pack weighed about 20kg. I did also carry my Asus EEE, which is more than a 1kg – I’ve almost decided that carrying a laptop through the Lakes would be really silly :)

We drove to the Rushbanks Farm campsite, which is near Wissington and right on the banks of the River Stour, and started walking pretty much straight away. Leaving assurances that we’ll be back in the evening to the somewhat bemused camp warden, or whatever you’d call him, who must have been wondering why we were trekking off with huge packs on. (Note on the Rushbanks Farm site: it is clean and well maintained, though because of its small size you’ll always be close to the neighbours. The price of camping there seems steep, it is based on the number of tents you have and is £9 per tent. Quite annoying given that we had two tiny ultralight tents, so would have paid twice what a family near us with a massive mansion of a multi-room tent would have paid.)

We walked solidly for about 4 hours, getting us along 15km of the Stour Valley Path. The path itself, this part at least (there’s 60 miles of it in total) was a little dull, with just a couple of short stretches actually near the river. In the map above you can see our route, most of what is north of the river is the Stour Valley path, the point where it crosses the river to the right is our 4-hour mark (halfway), where we sat on a small patch of grass for a rest.

Unfortunately, by this point I had the most appalling headache, and was feeling mildly nauseous. We can only put this down to me having had no caffeine for 24 hours, pretty typical withdrawal symptoms my sister tells me. Great, 24 hours without coffee leaves me in a state of debilitating pain (it was one of the worst headaches I’ve ever had.) As is probably obvious, I never go 24 hours without an espresso. So a couple of choices for the Lakes: take coffee, or go cold turkey. I haven’t made up my mind on this, but I have to admit I’m somewhat disturbed at the side-effects of this lack of coffee. Might need to reassess my coffee drinking habits (again.)

I grinned (well, grimaced) and bared it. No choice really, we still had to get back to the camp. For the route back I chose a quicker stroll along the Essex Way and some roads (including the amusingly named Burnt Dick Hill.) We rocked up back at the campsite at about 18:30, 8 hours after we’d set out. All up we’d covered just under 26km, or 14 miles (I prefer the sound of 26km personally!)

Setting up our tents was a snap, just a slight issue with the ground being very hard (held the pegs firm at least!) Then, while I rolled around in agony in a tent, Kat and Yaël wandered off to gather some dry sticks and twigs for dinner. The sticks and twigs feed our little Bush Cooker wood-gasification burner. The BC is a little beauty of a device, boiling our 600ml of water in a few minutes. Lit with a flint and steel and a bit of Hammaro paper (just half a segment is enough), a couple of big handfuls of sticks will boil a couple of rounds of water. Leaving nothing behind in the burner but the finest of white ash. Most impressed!

We ate our cous cous, had a hot chocolate, then headed to bed at about 10:00. Being in the middle of a field, it was still quite light even this late. Thanks to our walking I don’t think any of us had any real issues getting to sleep, despite the campsite being rather noisy.

Waking up was easy the next day, thanks to it getting light before 5. There had been a heavy dewfall but we were all dry inside our tents. The tent Kat and I were using had collected a lot of condensation inside the fly, not surprising a it is quite a small space for two. The inner tent was entirely dry however and protected us from brushing against the wet outer. We opened the tents up a bit in the hope that they’d dry out while we sorted out breakfast.

Our breakfast for the trip is a high-calorie muesli, eaten with milk reconstituted from a powder. Quite tasty actually, and on this morning I heated some water so we had warm milk with our muesli.

After breakfast we started packing our bags, leaving the tents until pretty much last. They were still quite damp though, ours especially was very wet on the inside of the fly. I wasn’t sure what to do about this and eventually resorted to wiping it down with one of our ultralight towels (basically a chamois), this seems to have worked quite well.

Backpacks all re-packed, we tossed them in the back of he car and drove off to visit Colchester! Anyone observing us over the previous 24 hours would have thought us quite bonkers.

There are a few items to think about coming out of the trip, the first is to not forget to bring the ibuprofen! The second, to remember my contacts. More seriously though, I need to consider what to do about my shoes. For a couple of years now I’ve been wearing an excellent pair of Scarpa boots, but the soles are nearly worn through and they have cracks in the sidewall where they flex at the toes. The primary problem with them is that, due to the cracks, they’re not at all waterproof. So I bought a new pair of Scarpas a month ago, which I have been wearing a lot since buying them. They didn’t treat me so well during our walk, they’re not exactly the same as the old ones (which are no longer in production) but are a very similar model. I’m certain there is less room around my toes though, and that this isn’t just my old boots being thoroughly worn in. I got a typical back-of-ankle blister on one foot, and blisters on my little toes on both feet (from my toes being compressed together) and a bruised big toe nail on one foot. Very far from ideal.

So, perhaps I’ll wear my old boots and hope it doesn’t rain too much. I could also try something totally different, such as the Innov8 shoes that seem to be all the rage in fell walking circles. There isn’t really any time left to wear-in a new pair of shoes though.

Food-wise I think we calculated pretty well, we could probably even cut back a little. But then we might feel different about that idea by the third day into our trek so will stick with what we have (there will be food around of course, it isn’t wilderness!)

Our Lakes walking will be far less of a forced march though, we’ll never cover 25km in one day (let alone 8 hours.) That said, the terrain will be very different. They may call it the Stour “Valley”, but you’d barely notice you were walking in and out of a valley without being told, it looks more like gently undulating countryside. In the lakes we’ll be covering a lot more vertical, so 10km may very well feel like our 25km! Still, we’ll take it easy and enjoy the scenery. I envisage a rough template of 3 x 3-hour walking stints through the day, with ample scenery-enjoyment between-times.

Expedition Planning

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Phew, been spending a huge amount of time planning for our Lakes District hike. Only two weekends between now and the weekend we head off. Next weekend we’re going for a trial run, a two day hike around countryside along the River Stour north of Colchester. It is just for the weekend, camping at a proper campsite on Saturday night. We’ll have packs fully loaded as they’ll be for the start of our Lakes District trip though.

This quick weekender will give us one last-minute chance to make adjustments and find any issues with our gear or procedures. (The weekend after is a write-off as the local Rhythms of the World festival is on and we’ve all volunteered for the opening and closing steward slots. 0800 until midday Saturday, and 2000 to midnight Sunday. We won’t have time for much else that weekend!)

What is fully loaded? That’s the main question that has been bugging me. The most obvious thing is water, we each have 500ml bottles and 3 litre platypus bag (they go into your pack and you drink from them using a hose.) In my case I’ll aim to start each day with the full 3kg of water, plus an additional 1000 to 500 millilitres. Food is the next big thing, and what’s great about food is that over the trip it gradually reduces in weight :) (As does the water through each day of course.) I’m working on carrying myself 8 days worth of ~2100 Calories per day (I’ll be burning more than that, but that isn’t a problem), that’s about 3.5kg of food. The food in question is mostly carbs, lots of high-Cal-per-gram dry carbs like granola and couscous. Plus plentiful dried fruit and nuts.

The 8 days is one day is surplus of requirements, which gives us some flexibility. We also do go through one reasonably sized town, but we aren’t planning for ad-hock sustenance on the road. No doubt we’ll have a pub lunch if we find such a thing along our more cosmopolitan walking routes, and National Trust tea and scones at Beatrix Potter’s house is probably on the cards.

Combine the food and water above with packs, clothes, tents, mats, bags, and other gear and I seem to be talking a starting load of about 12kg. Our test walk next weekend will be interesting! If it goes well perhaps I’ll pack some additional luxuries, if not then I’ll have to see where we can cut back. Kathlene will, of course, be carrying a lighter load from the outset (I’ll take the tent and all the cooking gear.) Hopefully Yaël will have a weight somewhere between the two of us, though she also has to take her whole tent (which is heavier than ours) – perhaps I can carry the poles or something to rectify the loadings.

So much stuff, so many online orders rocking up at work (my collogues may think I’m about to go off-grid!), so much planning. But it is a “first time”, of sorts. We’ll make mistakes no doubt, but I’d prefer to minimise them. And next time it’ll be so much easier!

Meanwhile we’ve also been working up our endurance a little, nice long weekend walks. I also rode all the way home from work on Friday, a 67km bike ride, which took me a little over 2.5 hours (about 25km/h average speed, which was better than I expected.)

So much to do! But first I must cook dinner: tagliatelle with prawns, scallops, and chorizo (the latter from Barcelona!)

Preliminary Lakes Route

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

I’ve been asked to post a mudmap of our planned Lakes District walk. So here it is. There’s a rather small version iframed below too. The last two days (yellow and cyan) are very vague, I just threw in some random lines really. This starts on July 12th at the blue marker. The dark blue line is a steam railway, everything else is walking. The intention is to do about 10 miles per day (FYI: long days, no hurry, very wrinkly terrain in places.) If we find this is too easy, we’ll cover more ground, if it is too difficult then perhaps less. The current plan loops us back to our departure point well within time, so we have a lot of flexibility for timing. It’ll probably all change drastically once we’re on the ground and have the first couple of days of walking behind us!