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Wills' Projects: Biography

Interests in Depth

My interest in music spans both computer generated stuff and chart trivia. From the time around my student days, I have a number of albums' worth of experimental work produced under the name 'Estiente'. The recordings are all instrumental, and inspired by music I owned, liked, or wanted to try making medleys of - with two original instrumental pieces and four full 'songs' with accompanying lyrics. My interest in pinball stems from passing a great deal of time as a "young boy" (to coin a phrase) in Leeds University's Student Union, a time when I also got into tenpin bowling courtesy of (the The University of Leeds student league). These days I'm a member of the British Tenpin Bowling Association, and bowl regularly in a number of leagues.

Having been a long-term net surfer, I've come to respect the Everything2 encyclopaedia, and have the username etwills there. I once designed the LUUTBC web site (at I also ran an Eternal fan site when they were popular, called Kéllé's Heroes. This was the inspiration for the name "Ekaviel", the name of my final-year University project, a music player/editor.


Linux and Me: How it Happened

I remember when I met Unix: as a first year undergraduate at the University of Leeds in 1992. I'd been programming for some time by then, so of all my computers, I took my Olivetti M24 DOS box with me. I could have met Unix before; the Olivetti had apparently had some sort of Unix installed on it previously (which probably meant Minix), although the friend I got it from had assumed I wouldn't like it.

He was wrong. I'd been interested in computer music for some time through ownership of an Amiga, and one of the profs had a synth hooked up to an Indigo on Open Day. I went to Leeds, 'learn'ed 'vi' and C programming (and a few other things) ... and was hooked.

Precisely where meeting Linux comes in is a bit greyer. I graduated in 1995, whereupon one of the first Indys to hit the UK came under my wing for a postgraduate project (and the undergrads doing graphics were getting O2s to play on). One or two years later, when an IRIX upgrade finally rendered it unusable (disk space was insufficient), I was blessed with a PC. I also rescued two 386s supposedly destined for a local school, and started looking into floppy-based Linux projects such as the Linux Router Project to get them going.

Finding I could run binaries grabbed from the new undergraduate Linux machines under LRP, I named the result 'Earlgrey' ("not everyone's cup of tea"), and had given a talk on LRP with a demonstration of 'earlgrey' booting to WYLUG by summer 2000. 'Franki' linux was a further amalgam of 'Earlgrey' -mostly with muLinux- and sat on one of the 386's 40MB hard drives.

My STUBS project sprang into life around 2000, following an investigation into how the LRP package format worked to start with, and leading to a means of properly cross compiling packages (and ultimately kernels) when RedHat Linux changed its libc to a different one from LRP's and I couldn't just import executables any more.

WYLUG, as it happens, was where I found my first full Linux CD. Also around 1999, they were giving away SuSE 6.3 evaluation disks. Being aware of virtual consoles on Linux, I realised the evaluation CD could be subverted into giving me a Linux prompt on work's PC ... but this wasn't necessary: it spotted an incomplete partitioning scheme, and I made it a dual-OS machine. The rest, as they say, is history...


...Three Castles?

Somebody asked me this once. I quote:

> i was recently looking through some old news
> articles and it occured to me i never understood
> that "as in two castles" or something that you
> used to have in your sig.  what was that about?

"Three Castles", and indeed "Midland Mainline" and "Wild Woodbine" are brands of cigarette manufactured by W D & H O Wills and Co (a box of Wild Woodbine is on display in the cabinet above the stairs in the Felon and Firkin[1]. Their collective moniker can be observed to this day[2] on packets of Golden Virginia[3]

...There's another train of thought that goes along the lines of it actually being short for Willsibub (as in [cue Bohemian Rhapsody] "Will-sibub has a devil for a sideboard" - coined by a short cute ginger girl-next-door type I once knew). This is also true, but not _the_ reason.

Addendum (16/10/2006): Here's a frame from Monty Python's excellent Hungarian Phrasebook sketch with an old-style advert for the cancer sticks in question.

[1] Leeds pub, since closed
[2] also no longer true, they've been bought out!
[3] "...but you don't smoke..."

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William Towle (, 14/02/2007