Opposition creates meaning: Batman explains semiotics

Just to offer an expansion on Stormy’s last post:

In semiotics and audiovisual narrative you are taught to create meaning by opposition between things.

If Batman is dark and silent, the Joker is colorful and noisy.
If the Joker kills, Batman doesn’t.

Who is Batman? What the Joker isn’t.
Who is the Joker? What Batman isn’t.

If you don’t define oppositions, you have no dialectic in your story. If there is no dialectic, you have a story that can’t move organically, and as such, a boring story.

In less film-y terms: You know what cold is, because you know what hot is. And vice-versa.

Sense and meaning appear from opposing things to what they are not, and not from just restating who you are:

It is not what we are underneath that defines us, but what we do [that the villain doesn’t] that defines us.

Thank you, Batman.

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EFI mode boot on Macbook3,1 with Debian

After my last post I got curious about booting the Macbook in EFI mode. Because, well, why not? So I googled for a while and found this blog post which served as a great reference and comment on two other.

I understand EFI is somewhat buggy and what works for me might not work for you. So be careful, have a rescue disk at hand. On that topic, I should say that I could not get this to work with Debian sid’s 3.2 kernel, but 3.5 from experimental worked fine for me.

Hopefully, you after booting EFI succesfully.

My main question before doing this was “What works?”, I had heard some weird rumours and mentions that you had to run X in framebuffer mode and weird stuff like that. This is bullshit. Everything works fine, with the same standard software and setup.


  • GNOME Shell, hence acceleration, works
  • All drivers work: wireless, bluetooth, etc.
  • No need to force AHCI mode on the disk controller
  • No graphic flicker during the boot process
  • A feeling of catching up with the times

So, here we go. I am posting my notes in “shell-like” since I find little benefit in turning them into an essay or something more textual. Good luck!

# Install grub-efi-$arch.
# Usually $arch depends on your processor.
# Best bet: you can use OSX to check for this:
# $ ioreg -l -p IODeviceTree | grep firmware-abi
# It will print EFI32, or EFI64. You know what to do.
$ sudo apt-get install grub-efi-amd64

# Now we need to mount the system EFI partition for GRUB2 to install
# itself on it.
# NOTE: you have to do this, installing the package is NOT enough.
$ sudo mkdir /boot/efi
$ sudo mount /dev/sda1 /boot/efi

# Did you get the right partition?
# It should have an EFI directory with an APPLE directory inside.
$ ls /boot/efi
$ ls /boot/efi/EFI/

# Create a new directory, “debian” will do.
# Run grub-install so GRUB2 drops its EFI code in the new directory.
$ sudo mkdir /boot/efi/EFI/debian
$ sudo grub-install
$ ls /boot/efi/EFI/
$ ls /boot/efi/EFI/debian/

# Help rEFIt know this is a GNU/Linux boot.
# rEFIt assigns icons depending on the name of the EFI file, grub64x is not in its list
$ sudo mv /boot/efi/EFI/debian/grub64x.efi /boot/efi/EFI/debian/e.efi

# IMPORTANT: Add the proper modeset.
# For EFI-only systems: efi_uga
# For UEFI systems: efi_gop
# Without this you won’t have any graphics.
$ sudo vim /etc/default/grub

# Update grub, reboot. Hope that everything worked.
$ sudo update-grub

Extra credit
You can clean your MBR from the old GRUB2-pc installation (if you installed it to the hybryd-MBR, like a sane person) from OSX:
$ sudo fdisk -u /dev/disk(tab-to-complete, verify it is the right disk)

(Read the man page for your fdisk to be sure -u still means “fix MBR while keeping partitions”)

Posted in English, planetdebian, planetgnome, Tips | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Enabling SATA AHCI on a Linux Macbook3,1

I have a Macbook3,1 with the following SATA controller:

00:1f.2 SATA controller: Intel Corporation 82801HM/HEM (ICH8M/ICH8M-E) SATA Controller [AHCI mode] (rev 03)

This chip can work either in AHCI or IDE mode. Even though (in numbers) AHCI and IDE should have similar performance, I have found that AHCI mode is much better. Specially when the disk is under heavy siege by more than one application.

The catch is that Macbooks turn off AHCI when booting in BIOS mode, which is the mode I use for GNU/Linux. I understand this also affects Windows.

Pictured: a girl after enabling AHCI on her Linux Macbook

After some googling I found this post that explains how to activate AHCI mode using GRUB2.

The fix is to just add a setpci call on your GRUB configuration. To be safe you can test it by going into command line mode in GRUB, and doing something like this:

> lspci
(check for the ID for IDE mode, in my case 8086:2828)
> setpci -d 8086:2828 90.b=40
> lspci
(The 2828 ID is now gone, replaced by 8086:2829, AHCI/SATA mode)

You can add this to your GRUB configuration, and avoid losing it on upgrades, by adding a script like this to /etc/grub.d/:

set -e
## Enable SATA (AHCI) mode on macbook 3,1
echo "setpci -d 8086:2828 90.b=40"

I understand this is also relevant for newer Macbooks and “standard” PC hardware, so you might want to do some googling. The easy way to know if you are on the right mode is to run lspci -nn on a regular terminal (not GRUB) and see if you have a SATA controller that is in the wrong mode.

Posted in English, planetdebian, planetgnome, Tips | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

WebKitGTK+ failing to build, argument list too long

The last few days I have been unable to build WebKitGTK+ from git.

The problem is that make chokes the command line with an insanely long list of file names. You need a patched version of make.

Pictured: myself debugging WebKit build issues.

Gustavo told me that WebKit has some handy jhbuild scripts that include a patched make.

Being WebKit-scale I knew the scripts did a lot more than what I wanted, so I just reused its moduleset for a quick buildone command:

$ cd WebKit/Tools/gtk/
$ jhbuild -m file://`pwd`/jhbuild.modules buildone make

And yes, it works! Thanks Gustavo.

Posted in English, GNOME, planetdebian, planetgnome, Tips | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

GUADEC, day 2

You can follow what is happening at GUADEC via the @guadec twitter account.

It is an awesome GUADEC so far. Thanks to the incredible work by the local team everyone has been able to completely focus in hacking, talking and planning.

A special mention from day one is Jacob Appelbaum‘s talk about the Tor Project. The importance and relevance of Tor is incredible when you check out the graphic reports they have. Jacob even proposed that GNOME make Tor a first class citizen, which would mean a big “go anonymous” button, or even more light approaches like a real guest session. Jacob suggested that GNOME should work together with Tor in funding and mentoring some projects to improve privacy in the Free Software desktop.

Speaking of interesting talks, I understand that Xan and Juanjo gave a really inspiring talk, with some concrete proposals on how to take the next big step with GNOME. If you are wondering what they said, like I do, do not worry because the local video team is preparing all the videos to be published this same week.

If you were around the venue an cafeteria yesterday during the afternoon you might have noticed that students were chasing hackers with cameras. This is part of the Outreach Games, Summer of Code and Outreach Program for Women interns are supposed to achieve some challenges that are due tonight at 11:59PM. Don’t make it too easy for them!

I want to thank the local team again for their awesome work. This is a great GUADEC so far, only because of their hard work. You rock girls and guys!

Don’t forget to follow @guadec on twitter!.

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A Coruña, día uno

You can follow the latest GUADEC updates from @guadec and @diegoe.

Isa, Alejo, Laura, and Germán stealing a mug.

GUADEC just started. Or at least, the arrangements for GUADEC.

The local team is hard at work at the GUADEC HQ of the Facultade de Informática, they are really working really hard to make sure that there is a proper wired network setup (yes, you read that right!), a great video setup to record all the talks and publish them as soon as possible and setting up the final details of rooms, info desk, accommodation…

If you are staying at the Rialta, you can take the hourly bus to the Facultade (just ask the driver). The bus departs from the frontis of Block 3. Ask the driver to let you know when to get off the bus. He is aware of GUADEC so your gringo-spanish should suffice.

We will be holding a pre-registration party tonight at 21:00 (9pm) just outside the Rialta cafeteria. If you are already here drop by for the Queimada by Alejo, our galician wizard.

Posted in English, GNOME, planetdebian, planetgnome | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Sign up for the GNOME Olympic Games at A Coruña


Like every year we will be holding the annual FreeFA World Cup, this time as part of the GNOME Olympic Games.

This year we have fields available for basketball and volleyball.

Just add your name to the wiki, under your preferred sport, and we will sort it out.

Do not forget to add your email address! We will contact your for further details like team colors.

Posted in English, GNOME, planetgnome | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Removing the hidden/system bit of vfat/fat32 files on GNU/Linux

Huelga, on flickr

I just fixed an USB drive that apparently had been hit by a virus. All the top-level directories were invisible on Windows, but visible on GNU/Linux.

First I thought that it was just the “hidden” bit. But turns out it was the “system” bit. I had completely forgotten that one even existed!

After some googling I got this solved by using mtools:

  1. Create a ~/.mtoolsrc file with this:
    drive s: file="/dev/<your-usb-drive"
    mtools_skip_check=1 (otherwise it refuses to operate on the drive)
  2. Check for file attributes with mattrib:
    $ mattrib -/ s:
  3. Fix any broken stuff (this removes the hidden and system bits):
    $ mattrib -/ -h -s s:

Hope it saves your neck or the neck of someone that has to use Windows.

Oh, and please, please, don’t make your entire digital life depend on a tiny piece of plastic. Make backups on your real computer, or other drives.

Posted in English, planetdebian, planetgnome, Tips | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

All the new cool stuff in Epiphany, alias, Web

Today we released Epiphany 3.4. It includes all the fixes, enhancements and new cool features that we build since September 2011. That is 6 months of cool stuff!

Xan already explained the bigger picture but I want to highlight some details in the spirit of Every Detail Matters.


Improved location bar, and the new history backend

The location bar suggestions now load extra-extra-fast, thanks to our new SQLite backend.

Besides being extra fast, SQLite allows us to make complex queries to offer better results in the completion. Goal for 3.6: to successfully handle searches like “that page, with the dog, you know, that one… with the funny one”.

This also makes possible to have a cool Overview start page for 3.6. Much like Chrome or Opera do.


An awesome UI: cleaner toolbar, loading progress

That is all the chrome you are getting, kid!

Less distractions, more web! All the usual tools are still available in the “gear” menu:

Oh, and this other one is a pretty one. Check out the new load progress indicator:

You might have already noticed the combined stop/reload button. Some other niceties like the new link tooltips are all over the place. I will not ruin the surprise :-).


Reliable download icons

This is my friend Juanjo:

He is always happy. One day he said: “Diego, my PDF documents are shown as ‘boxes’ while downloading. It makes me mad!”

I want Juanjo to keep that happy hacker smile. So I decided to fix this. Downloads now have a better idea of the icon they should show:


Page icons, now a WebKitGTK+ feature

Do you notice something? Yeah, icons for every of the loaded pages. The support for this is now in WebKitGTK+, available to other applications. This means it is better supported and maintained!


Redesigned about: pages

For a time now we have had some geeky about: pages. One for memory (about:memory), one for plugins (about:plugins), and perhaps the most useful one, one to manage applications (about:applications):


And, last but not least… Less lines:

$ git diff --shortstat 3.2.0..3.4.0
328 files changed, 73211 insertions(+), 104528 deletions(-)

Unlike other browsers, Epiphany does not have dozens of engineers behind the project. This means that the more code we have to maintain, the less time we have to develop new features and to even maintain that code! Also, this makes Xan happy.

But luckily Igalia has hackers like Martin Robinson who are willing to show us how hacking should be done:


Epiphany 3.4.0, alias, Web. Is an awesome release. It will soon be in your distro of choice.

Thanks Allan for the screenshot help!

Posted in English, GNOME, planetdebian, planetgnome | Tagged , | 21 Comments

High pitch noise with built-in microphone in the MacBook

For a time now I had gave up on finding out what was the problem with a mysterious high-pitch constant noise in any sound recording in the macbook.

Today, I solved the mystery: It was my USB mouse.

So, here is some advice for anyone with weird noises on recordings: try unplugging everything you can unplug.

I don’t think this is an exclusive problem of the MacBook (3,1).
So I hope it is useful to someone else.


Also. Here is a funny mouse, working out. You are welcome.

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