Air France sucks monkey balls

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(Two rants in a row, people will start taking me for Hub ;)

J’ai essayé de réserver un vol aller/retour de Lyon à Amsterdam avec Air France, départ le matin du 21 Octobre, retoure le soir le 22.

J’ai eu pour 700 euros, avec un prix pour l’aller de 320 euros HT.

J’ai changé mes préférences de vol pour choisir un retour le dimanche matin, le 23, à 6h30. D’un coup, les tarifs sont tombés à 161 euros TTC, avec le même place dans le vol de l’aller à 42 euros HT. En plus, toutes les vols des deux jours avais ce même prix affiché, 42 euros par place l’aller, et le retour.

Un demi heure plus tard, j’ai essayer de réserver définitivement ce dernier formule, sans succès. La même combinaison de vols était affiché à 700 euros, et même des vols partant et arrivant plus tard avais maintenant le prix de 71 euros par place, pour un nouveau total de 212 euros.

Comment Air France peuvent expliquer ce politique de détermination de tariffs, et est-ce qu’ils croient vraiment que leurs clients vont accepter ce genre de traitement sans rien dire?

Carol and the GIMP

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For a long time, Carol Spears was a positive contributor to the GIMP. She wrote tutorials, helped people out on IRC and on mailing lists, she mentored people who were a little shy or new to the community. And she re-wrote the GIMP website, to a stage where it was almost ready to replace the old one we’d had some the 0.99 days.

That’s when things started coming unstuck. Carol had several personal hardships around that time, which I understand and sympathise with. She had built up a lot of capital around the GIMP, and people gave her a lot of lattitude, and help. But she became discouraged with GIMP development when replacing the GIMP website took years, rather than weeks. She ended up blaming one or two people for that (including me, I think) more or less harrying them away from the GIMP for extended holidays.

And since then, we have still tried to get the old Carol back. She moved to California, where she stayed with a GIMP developer. She came to GUADEC in Kristiansand with a ticket paid for by GIMP sponsors. For a time, things looked like they might be getting better.

And yet, Carol persists in being incredibly anti-social. She gets incredibly aggressive any time anyone mentions photoshop, Windows, her lack of politeness, or any other of half a dozen loosely connected topics.

And she scares away potential contributors, the lifeblood of the project. The GIMP hasn’t had many new people for a while, but reading the mail she sent to Diana Fong after Diana was trying to contribute positively to the project stepped over a new boundary.

I don’t know how many times she has sent this sort of mail to well-wishing people who then silently went away. But this is the first time that I have seen this kind of thing from her.

I am no longer prepared to be associated with Carol. I’ve asked yosh to remove her e-mail address. He may well refuse. If he does, he can remove mine instead.

GUADEC photos update

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Thanks to everyone who replied. Especially Calum, who sent links to Google, which gave his photos for Copenhagen in the first 4 answers.

I have not found any group photos for Dublin or Seville, and I know that there weren’t any for Kristiansand or Stuttgart. But here’s a trip down memory lane for people who were in Paris and Copenhagen (count how many people were in the photo for bonus points).

Paris group photo

Copenhagen group photo

Freedom is not having to ask permission

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I have been thinking lately about why I do free software. Why do I spend so much time on a computer, rather than relaxing with the family after work? In general terms, why are we here?

The most important thing about GNOME (and the GIMP) is its community. It’s about being among friends. But communities don’t just materialise – they come together around ideas and goals.

So I found myself asking the question – what is the goal of the GNOME community? What is my goal?

Les Contamines

Is it the software? GNOME’s great, but it’s not something I get orgasmic about. It’s not as easy to use or pleasant an experience as Mac OS X, say.

How about giving people cost-free software, is that the thing that keeps me ticking? It’s free, but that’s not what has me spending my evenings on the phone or at the computer. In fact, most users think that Mac OS and Windows are free too – since they come with the computer. Most people really don’t give a shit that we’re providing cost-free software.

There are a few things that keep me here. But the most important one is freedom. The freedom of the user, yes, but even more importantly, my freedom.

When I started working on free software (fixing GIMP bugs and helping out with gnect) in 1999, I wasn’t a very good programmer. And at work, I didn’t get the chance to improve. That would have been a promotion, and in spite of asking, I didn’t get it. I hadn’t proved myself.

Free software opened its arms to me. I learned more than I thought possible – learned how to code C properly, learned about GTK+, callbacks, idle loops. Finally had the penny drop on linked lists, binary trees, and a bunch of other elementary stuff that I suppose people learn in college. Mastered debuggers, source control, bug tracking… the list goes on. Anything I wanted to learn, I was free to do so.


It took me a while to figure things out, though – those early bug fixes, I used to feebly pipe up “anyone mind if I go ahead and fix this?” It took me about a couple of months to realise that I could just go right ahead – if something wasn’t getting done, it was up for grabs. And I grabbed with both hands.

Time moved on. Who cares if I had no marketing experience? I’ll learn it. So I joined the GNOME marketing team. No administration experience? Well, the GIMP needed someone to organise a conference, and no-one jumped. I said it sounds like fun. Fell into being the GIMP release manager, joined the GNOME board, organised a GUADEC or two.

All along, the thing that struck me was that apart from a couple of cases, I never had to ask permission. I was free to explore my own limits and no-one jumped up to say “You can’t do that”.

Free software fills a void in my professional life. Free software taught me that I could learn and grow without someone telling me that I could.

Freedom is not having to ask permission.

Looking for GUADEC photos

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As I said in this mail, I’m looking for photos from old GUADECs (Paris through Kristiansand) to show the evolution of GUADEC. Can anyone who has archives of photos online contact me at bolsh at, please?

Blogging about work

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If you want to blog about work, but are afraid to because of what will happen if someone at work reads it, does that mean that

  • You know in your heart that blogging about work is wrong,
  • You’re working for the wrong company, or
  • You should blog about work so that the issue will come to a head?

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Color management in the GIMP

With the recent GIMP 2.3.3 release, color management in the GIMP is now well past what we have had before. Recently, someone asked me what color management is, in simple terms, so I wrote the following. There might be some error in here, unfortunately I don’t always have the time to research what I write. Corrections welcome.

Color is one of the most subjective things around – what are “red”, “green”, and “blue” quantitavely? Every input device has a slightly different perception of color – try scanning a photo with 2 different scanners, or taking a photo of the same scene with 2 different cameras. The results will be almost, but not quite, the same.

There are similar problems for output – two screens will show the same data with slightly different colors, and the same image printed to 2 different printers may be different.

Usually, the differences are small enough that we don’t really care (although if you do the test, you might be surprised at how big the difference is). But for print work and graphics design, color is everything. We want to start from a photograph, have colors from the photo appear exactly the same on the screen, and then after airbrushing away those freckles and printing the photo, we want the colors to look the same as the original.

Company logos and art-work are chosen with their colors by meticulous people who couldn’t tolerate a slightly different shade of pink being in the logo than the one they chose – imagine a graphics designer ripping his hair out while passing a billboard add saying “No, no, they ruined my work.” because the charcoal grey he had chosen was slightly darker than the printed result.

So to address all these issues, an international standards body was established, to decide what color is. In fact, there are two groups – the first, the CIE (Commission Internationale de l’Eclairage) defined the standard for colorspaces, and the ICC (International Color Consortium) defined a standard way to convert between these standard colorspaces and device-specific colorspaces. The CIE colorspaces are XYZ for linear additive color (plates in a printer, or diodes on a screen, for example) and La*b* for “perceptive” color – which doesn’t quite work the same way. So a value in one of these colorspaces is the same, everywhere.

They also defined a means of converting from these standards to other colorspaces. Our typical RGB colorspace represents the way light waves combine to create color. CMYK, for cyan, magenta, yellow, blacK, is the way that paints mix to generate colors (since paints absorb rather than reflect colors, this is called a subtractive colorspace – as you know if you’ve ever painted, when you add more & more paint to a mix, the color gets darker & darker, until every addition just gives a murky brown).

The means to changing between colorspaces is a color profile (also called an ICC profile). These can be embedded in images to say what colorspace was used to capture the data, to allow it to be converted to XYZ, and from there to another colorspace.

High-end scanners and digital cameras embed these profiles in the images that come from them. Screens and printers have profiles associated with them too. So we can load an image, and by applying the embedded profile, in combination with the display’s profile, the projection on the screen should be exactly the same as what we started with. And by combining with the printer’s profile during printing, the result on paper will look the same too.

This functionality has long been missing from the GIMP, but now we have it. Admittedly, it is of limited usefulness while we are limited to 8 bits per channel, because the application of a color profile results in what is called banding – when you squeeze one colorspace into another, sometimes colors close together map to the same color in the output, which means that we lose some quality. However, this is a massive step forward over what we have had until now.

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Do you RPM?

I have been talking to someone recently who is looking for some help packaging GNOME for an RPM based distribution. The distribution has some special things going for it which make the task a bit more interesting…

If you have some experience making RPMs, and you like trying out new distros, drop me an e-mail, and I’ll put you in touch with the guy.

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Mac keyboard update

Many thanks to Frank Murphy for an updated fr keymap to use for Ubuntu. Now I just need to figure out how to get the bootloader back…

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For shame…

I finally got around to backing up all my data, music & photos for the past few months this evening, with the intention of installing Ubuntu on my PPC, and kicking the MacOS X habit.

Alas, I’m back in MacOS X again. I wa going to install it in any case, because my wife likes it, but given that I can’t type # or @ in Ubuntu on a standard Macintosh French keyboard, I can’t see myself booting into it regularly for the next while. When I have more time, I’ll maybe try to figure out XKeyMap stuff again.

Also, I was a little annoyed that the (marginally unusual) case of English language and a French keyboard would cause so many issues. During the installation, I was asked for a country, language preference, and keyboard config (which worked fine). Then after the first boot into GDM, my keyboard was in US layout (very useful when you have numbers in your password).

And after logging in, and configuring the keyboard for myself, I still have no idea how to configure the keyboard layout system-wide, even though it’s obvious that I’m not going to have a different keyboard plugged in for each user…

I’m not quite a JWZ’s “last time”, but I have had far too much trouble configuring keyboards, sound cards and fonts in my short life, once every 4 or 5 years is more than enough, thanks.