Home for christmas

What happened last week is just amazing. I was planning to go home (to Europe) for christmas, so I booked a flight from Newark to Schiphol, Amsterdam for Saturday the 22nd. I left home over 4 hours before the flight would depart, all would be fine. I took the FDR Drive to south-Manhattan to bring my girlfriend home, kissed goodbye, back onto the FDR and the West drive (Tribeca), trying to turn into the Holland tunnel and head into Jersey.

That’s where the story would’ve ended. I’ve waited for over an hour in front of the tunnel, I have no idea what happened, no single inch progress. I’ve been told (by friends, or the taxi driver, can’t recall) there was a massive accident shutting down half of the west-bound tunnel, but can’t find a thing on any news site. Two hours before my flight departed, I escaped the taxi, ran for a good 10 minutes with suitcases and everything to the nearest subway station, on to Penn Station, took the next Amtrak to Newark Airport, cutting the Elite check-in with 55 minutes remaining (“sir, you’re supposed to be here in time, y’know?“), to enter the airplane to see the door close literally right behind me. Now that’s a close one.

Thanks to all my friends for helping me get around and make it. But what happened? I still have no idea…

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Verizon Wireless and getting a cell phone

Today, I was in a Verizon Wireless shop, trying to buy a cell phone. Actually, I was just trying to get my old one fixed, it broke for the 3rd time within a year (LG is completely crap, so it seems). Instead of getting a new item of the same old crappy LG, I just wanted something else, so I told the sales guy that I wanted a new phone “that wouldn’t break within a year”. He says: “oh, so you want a high-end phone kind of thing?” (oh-my-god, so it is supposed to break within a year unless you pay extra?), bringing me to the realm of vcast (some kind of post-stamp sized video on demand system or so), car navigation and that kind of fancy. When I told him I really wanted a phone, we went back to the cheap models and he asked how exactly my old phone was broken, so I told him the battery was always empty within a few hours (all previous models just wouldn’t turn on after a few weeks-months). So, he says: “oh, yes, they have a Lithium ion battery, you shouldn’t charge it overnight!” (oh-my-god, talking about a complete failure of engineering; who designs these phones/batteries, a bunch of lunatics?).

I went over to the purchase of a cheap actual phone (one of those things that you can just make phone calls with). So, he refers me to his colleague salespeople, because his computer is broken. They tell me: “Sorry sir, the network is broken, we can’t handle purchases today.” (oh-my-god, for just so many reasons). After coming back later, I was referred back to the original guy, who referred me to customer service to re-pay a late phone bill that I paid by mail yesterday but they hadn’t handled yet, then back to the original guy, who gave me a piece of paper and referred me back to the customer service to actually pick up the phone, who referred me to technical support to get my phone numbers transferred from the old to the new phone, who referred me back to the customer service for actual payment, who referred me back to the sales guy to get coupons for refund of the phone cost. Oh-my-, oh-my-, oh-my-god. I think I talked with 6 people in total, all in all it took over an hour. How inefficient is that?

Verizon Wireless is seriously screwed up.

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While all those poor GNOME rockstars were at GUADEC hacking on features

I was at DJ TIESTO (ti-jes-to, ti-jes-to, ti-jes-to) at Hammerstein, Manhattan. And yes, he is amazingly good.

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A Google Slave

Good things generally happen when you least expect it. After Apple support was kind enough to erase my HD without asking, I started using Google Mail and Google Calendar. One word: wow!

  • Did you actually know that there are good spam filters out there? I mean, filters that catch more than 10% of spam without having to install and set-up spamassassin (I mean, the thought alone is tiring already). I actually read real email again.
  • I can actually read my mail and calendar on multiple computers and multiple OSes without having to go through pains of installing imap, maintaining a calendar syncing server or other such pains where the thought alone just drains all your energy.
  • Google Mail Conversations are just… Insanely smart. I actually can keep track of which email is a reply to which without tearing hear out of my head or needing 3 screens to see the tree of the email list.
  • Never again lost my agenda or mail when Apple once again offers their service to erase my HD. I should maintain my documents on some storage space online also…

Now if only…

  • Google Calendar had capabilities to serve as a Todo list…
  • GTalk would not be so incredibly annoying. I just hate it. I hate it.

As of today, I’m a Google convert.

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Holocaust cartoons

Sometimes the devil has style. Real, genuine style. There may be no question that the holocaust was a sad reality during world war 2, but regardless, Iran decided to start a contest to make cartoons of it. And I have to admit, some of them are really quite good. Again, not to make you doubt the holocaust or the tragedy of it. Not even because I agree with them and also not because they changed my mind. But just as a matter of opinion of someone I apparently disagree with and as such, they are quite distinct pieces of art. I particularly appreciated these two:

The full list is available at irancartoon.com. Click it, scroll down and look for the chicken one. It’s hilarious.

Edit (6/2/’07): This entry was not the first to be modified without my consent later on. Long live Google cache for allowing me to re-enter this entry. I don’t know what’s wrong but suspect a bug in newsbruiser related to incoming trackbacks. Subsequently, I’ve disabled incoming trackbacks, which will hopefully prevent this from happening again.

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A while ago, I blogged about the impossibility to have a shared agenda between multiple OSes (here, a Linux / OS X dualboot) running local tools. iCal getting slower as my calendar grows made me finally decide to move to GCal and synchronize both sides client-side. I don’t like it, but whatever, at least it works. That was last week, before my screen broke and I sent my computer off for repair to the MacStore (with my calendar still available online, yay!).

Now, I wish I’d done that with my email also, because when the computer came back 2 days later, everything was gone. I had backups of my thesis work (yes, kids, make those – TODAY), but not of my programming (this is a good test to see how much I synchronize with bugzilla / svn) or my email (GMail, here I come…), I mean, seriously, who would’ve thought they’d remove the Linux partition along with fixing the screen? It means anything I’ve ever worked on that was not in a svn/cvs somewhere is now lost. Also, patches in progress or under review no longer exist.

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A night out in NYC

… or, really, Brooklyn. J. invited me to go to a bar for some live music. I was into it, not having a clue who was performing. Well, in short, first it was a sucky singer who couldn’t sing. However, there was a really hot girl in front of the crowd. She had brown hair, half-long, was distinguishably the only person actually moving on the – ahem – music and disappeared as soon as the band finished. Then, second, Jenny Owen Youngs, she got the voice. Best remembered for her cover of Hot in here with some piece of Oasis’ Wonderwall in it, also.

L’entree was Jonathan Coulton a.k.a. CodeMonkey. Let’s say that again, Shopvac, You ruined everything (in the best possible way), Your brains, Baby got back, First of may and of course Codemonkey. Some will know what this is, but just for those who don’t, go to Youtube or just read this:

“codemonkey get up, get coffee, codemonkey go to job; codemonkey have boring meeting, with boring manager Rob; Rob say codemonkey very diligent, but his output stink; his code not functional nor elegant, what do codemonkey think; codemonkey think maybe manager wanna write goddamn login page himself, codemonkey not say it out loud, codemonkey not crazy, just proud; codemonkey like freetos, codemonkey like tap and mountain dew, code monkey very simple man, big warm fuzzy secret heart, codemonkey like you.”

Thumbs up!

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Feisty is Feest

I accidently made myself update to Feisty earlier today. I think it started with an email from someone telling me that my iSight driver didn’t work for him, me deciding it was time to boot back into Linux and see what’s wrong and getting annoyed that Gtk+ on Dapper was several minor versions behind on the svn that I have installed on OS X.

See, it could be so easy. “sed -e s/dapper/feisty/g sources.list” and Debian all the way. Somehow, Ubuntu suffers from the Fedora disease where they fail to create proper update paths, although fortunately, Ubuntu is still lightyears behind on Fedora when it comes to providing a completely poor and crippled user experience for those of us that wish to not re-install from scratch every six months. Thumbs up here, sort of…

After dist-upgrade worked relatively well, and Feisty rebooted, I got no X and no virtual consoles. In short, I was in a running system with everything ready & working in front of me, just me not being able to enter a command in any way. Nice, so close, yet so far away. Seems that in the end, it was a combination of bug 95210, 89853 and a quirk in the update process that caused gdm to magically disappear (?).

Result: the webcam module for the iSight in Feisty is just svn trunk, i.e. it’s not iSight-aware, and works fine otherwise. Updated my (one-year-old!) patch against svn trunk and modified it to allow for both iSight and native UVC devices (they’re somewhat different in their USB data transfer protocol), re-sent to Laurent, let’s see if this goes better if I update again one year from now… What a waste of a my day.

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A number

The AACS (those people that try to own your high-resolution video player) has attempted to take down numerous sites (examples provided in the link) that try to express a number (13,256,278,887,989,457,651,018,865,901,401,704,640, that’s ~13×10^36) as hex (0x09.f9.11.02.9d.74.e3.5b.d8.41.56.c5.63.56.88.c0, which happens to cover 31 hexes, or 15,5 bytes). Apparently, knowing this number is a violation of federal law and makes you a murderer, atheist, prostitute, terrorist and some other things that they have yet to figure out. It also lets you copy high-resolution DVDs, just like that. What’s in a number, right? Sites that are being harassed include Google, Digg, and so on.

What a waste of lawyer money, history is already done guys. You lost, and you’ll never learn.

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I went to see the immensely poopular movie Pan’s Labyrinth (imdb) this weekend. This Spanish-spoken, half-war / half-fairytale movie, nominee for a Golden Globe, is without doubt going to be one of the most popular of the year.

The movie plays at the end of World War 2 in Franco’s Spain, at a site where resistance and military are fighting out their fight. Ofelia, daughter of the flirt-of-the-day of the military’s captain, is caught up halfway between on the one hand this world of very explicitely and realistically pictured misery and violence, and on the other hand the world from her fairytale books. Wonderful scenery, convincing play and just a very nice story, not at all suited for kids.

This entry showed up on planet.gnome.org on May 1st, 2007, with all content deleted and tons of spam trackbacks dated on May 1st, 2007. I don’t know how or why. Using google cache, I was able to re-find the post and re-enter it. Please ignore the noise. All images and links are lost…

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