Cegelec to be bought by leeches

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After all the talk of being bought by another company in the public works sector, it turns out that whatever happens, Cegelec will continue to be owned by an investment fund.

The problem with investment funds is simple – no emotional involvement. Without emotonal involvement, there’s no passion. And without passion, your business is fucked in the long term.

Luckily, investment funds don’t care about the long term, they have a 5 year exit plan.

Krita is now officially blowing my mind

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Boudewijn Rempt has made an art of dropping short notes about HUGE features in his blog. Yesterday, he wrote this:

Casper Boemann has added a 16-bit L*a*b colorspace to Krita and thoroughly reviewed the color management path making it very dependable. And now that Adobe allows anyone to download and package a set of high quality icc profiles with their application, the results are good, too. Casper has also added autoscroll to KPresenter and Krita, and the code is generic, so it can spread to other KOffice apps.

Holy shit!!!

I guess they’ve got the object model for the data sorted out, and now it’s just a question of implementing the back-ends, and putting an interface on them. This is massive. Krita can now do 8 bit integer, 16 bit integer, La*b*, RGB, CMYK… these guys are adding major new functionality every week these days. I recently asked Boudewijn if there were plans to add support for floating point, and he reckoned it would be possible to do in a couple of weeks (!)

I guess all they’re missing to take over the world is a plug-in framework, and a bunch of 3rd party plug-ins.

Things that make me smile

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Tim Bray doesn’t need any help from me, but his report on ApacheCon made me smile – specifically, the section titled “The Rest”:

Covalent showed up with a T2000, which got a lot of attention. They had a little Thinkpad plugged into it and were running the ab benchmark to establish how many requests it could handle. Dan Price of the Solaris group decided he wasn’t satisfied with the numbers, so he buckled down and got to work on optimizing it.

By the time he’d finished tweaking, he had it cranking through around 25,000 requests per second, which is good but not that impressive; then we looked and noticed that the poor little Thinkpad was totally red-lined, I’m surprised it didn’t start to melt; plus we were pumping 290 megabits/second or so through the gigabit ethernet wire, which is not bad at all for HTTP traffic.

Explanation time

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So – I’d like to explain what I meant yesterday.

I completely agree with jdub: we’ve lost a lot of momentum users and that we need them back.

I also agree with this:

We shouldn’t ignore it just because it’s Linus and we shouldn’t be overwhelmed by it just because it’s Linus.

A while back, we lost Jamie Zawinsky – another momentum user.


That hurt (for me) more than Linus’s outburst because Jamie’s always been more or less polite when dealing with us in Bugzilla, has always attached his complaints to concrete functional problems, hasn’t assumed that things are the way they are deliberately, and in general, hasn’t called us “fucking idiots”.

Some people’s opinions *do* count more than others, and a lot of the weight an opinion gets in my mind comes from the level of respect the person across the way has for me, and the other members of this project.

Of course, if someone other than Linus was involved, it wouldn’t have ended up on pgo, slashdot and newsforge. More’s the pity.

Linus is irrelevant

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Linus Torvalds’s view of GNOME is irrelevant. I can’t believe anyone still listens to the guy when he goes off on one of his rants.

He lost all right to authority when he chose a commercial program made by a guy who doesn’t understand free software to manage the kernel, and then backed him when he turned on a free software developer acting in good faith. Any technical credibility he had went out the window when he claimed that all specs are useless.

It’s sickening to see people pandering to him and trying to calm him down just because he’s Linus. There are easier ways to make our users rock than wasting time on this kind of shit.

MySQL import (or: How I found the LazyWeb)

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O Lazyweb, o lazyweb…

This is the first time I have called on you, please don’t let me down.

I have a bunch of data files (dumped from an Oracle database) that look like this:

     17;    12,43;Data dump of integer and float fields
     18;    -4,10;The decimal separator is ,

I’d like to load the data into a MySQL database with

mysqlimport -Lr --fields-terminated-by=';' --fields-optionally-enclosed-by='"' database input.txt

but those pesky floating point fields are getting truncated at the , and no amount of messing with LC_NUMERIC gets it to use the comma as a decimal separator.

Anyone know how to massage mysql to do this?

La fête des lumiéres

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On the 8th of December in Lyon, every house lights some candles and puts them in the window. Children decorate small glass pots for the occasion. And throughout the town there are spectacular light shows and art installations.

The Fête des Lumiéres is a Lyon tradition which has grown in the past few years to a weekend festival of light, both bigger and more accessible than Paris’s “Nuit blanche”.

The origins of the tradition are open to question. One version is that the city of Lyon is thanking the virgin Mary for saving Lyon from German bombs during the second world war (a nice contrast between the black-out and a city full of light). However, some people I know have told me that their grandparents put candles in the window as children, suggesting that the tradition predates 1945.

The festival has outgrown its religious origins to become an emblem of the city, and people now come from all over the world to take part.

Thomas had great fun painting and decorating his jars, and last night we went to see a light-show in Place des Terreaux. We got home well after his bed-time, but it was a real treat to see the glint in his eye at the end of the evening.

30 year’s service

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Last night, I went to the retirement party for Mike Powell, an Englishman who has worked for Cegelec for the past 30 years. I knew mike mainly because of our shared language, and while our paths only crossed for a short while, he was a really nice guy, a pleasure to have a coffee with. We talked for a while, I met his wife, and he got a very nice going-away present, a proper telescope.

What was surprising, and shocking, about the going-away party was that none of the senior managers or vice presidents of the local organisation were there. Lots of colleagues turned up, but not one of “les patrons”. After 30 year’s service, none of the people in the upper hierarchy turned up to say thanks and goodbye.

Given that the company invests so little in its employees, it’s hardly surprising that the employees invest so little in return.


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The marketing list has caught on to the idea of personas, we’re currently going through some iterations, and hopefully something useful will come out the other end.

A persona is a characterisation of someone who represents a target market. An imaginary character, with a background, a name, and some typical use-cases. It’s a way to make a reference to a need, and point to a “real” person, and explain why they have that need, and why it’s important. They’re often used as a tool in usability studies to describe an existing user base.

What do personas have to do with marketing, you might ask? Well, marketing has a number of stages – deciding on a target audience and positioning, then evaluating how we’re doing against that target, and if we’re not doing well, making sure people know that, and that we are moving to address our shortcomings. And obviously communication – telling people in our target audience why they should consider us, focussing on their needs as compared to what we offer.

A persona is a tool to ease communication through all of these stages.

We can agree, given a certain amount of detail, whether someone is in a target audience (“Of course Roger, the 37 year old marketing executive, is the kind of person who is likely to be interested in driving a Porsche!”)

We can use that person as a reference for our positioning (“does Jane, the 40 year old housewife who sticks friendly reminders for her husband to the fridge with a fridge-magnet really care that this moisturiser contains beta-kerotine? Then maybe we shouldn’t be talking about it in ads in the magazines she reads.”)

And internally, we can use personas as a yardstick for measuring the usefulness of features and as a usability tool.

The great thing about a persona is that you can get to know them – they have real needs and behaviour patterns which happen to roughly correspond to a target. They force you to avoid focussing too much on corner cases.

It’ll be interesting to see what gets produced. Particularly since this work will be complementary to the market segmentation work with the KDE promo group are cooking up at the moment.

A good day

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Yesterday morning, Thomas, Paul and I made a surprise breakfast in bed for Anne.

Afterwards I went walking with Thomas to buy the newspaper, and we went climbing in a nearby playground. On the way home, we found a balloon from the previous evening and spent ages playing football with it. There were eddies of wind blowing it in circles, and most of the time we were playing against invisible opponents.

After his siesta, we went out to buy a christmas tree and get all the ingredients for a real traditional heavy Christmas cake (except they don’t have treacle in France). The kind that you hide under the stairs for 3 weeks before it’s just right to plaster with marzipan and icing.

Tonight, we decorate the tree and make the cake.

Update: Don’t bake a Christmas cake in a fan-assisted oven (or cook it in unassisted mode). It will dry out, and rather than slowly ripening, the cake will carbonise. The house did smell great, but I’m afraid the cake is mostly inedible. Will post a recipe later, if people are interested.

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