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.

Posted in General | 19 Comments

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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GNOME 2.18 – underwhelmed?

At linux.com, I just read an article about the new GNOME 2.18 release (although 2.18.1 was just released). the line that caught my attention is the following:

“[..] I’m underwhelmed at the changes between 2.16 and 2.18. It’s a solid release, but it doesn’t move the ball forward very far in terms of improvements, new applications, or new features.

I’ll be hated for saying this, and am partially responsible for this (I’m spending only limited time at gnome-media at this time) myself. But I felt something similar when I saw the GNOME 2.18 release announcement. There’s simple things that make me feel this way. Compare, for example, the 2.18 and the very detailed and excellent 2.14 release notes. Of course, all honour to those who do the actual work, but somehow the 2.14 notes look very professional and like they were done with a lot of love. Compared to that, the 2.18 release notes look like they were pulled together at the last minute. Not very impressive, not very impressed.

But there’s more, it’s not just this. Compare the still very sketchy developer pages for GNOME (I know, I know, people are working to migrate to a new web service system, but the thing is: it’s not there yet) and compare that to KDE’s plasma, phonon, decibel or solid pages (and for fun, compare those to some comparable GNOME technologies: GStreamer, Telepathy or HAL). There’s a multitude of differences. The KDE pages are targetted at both developers and users. The GNOME (basically FDO) pages are only targetted at developers. They lack information for the user on what it is. More importantly, they don’t associate directly with GNOME. Unfortunately, GNOME doesn’t associate with those projects either, even though all of them have large backing by GNOME developers and community.

Lastly, apart from the obvious pimping of those very cool technologies, those technologies should be embraced also. If GStreamer is the one true love, then make it work for Totem (and ditch Xine). The Firefox plug-in, for example, should work with playlists, which is what every internet site will stream. While I’m at it, please know that GStreamer can still not play DVD menus, shame on you, go fix it instead of make up excuses (or just rip it from Xine and release it under the GPL in a separate module). GConf, Evolution and the panel should use DBUS (work is being done on GConf [see Jeff earlier today] and Evolution, but none of this is upstream yet…). Let’s integrate Telepathy, add Gossip (even if it only does Jabber and GPhone). There’s some very obvious stuff out there which basically already exists (and it’s far more than the examples I’ve mentioned up here, e.g. Novell’s new start menu, GnomeScan, etc.), it only has to be brought back upstream. GNOME as a whole would profit greatly, those projects would attract more developers making them (hopefully) develop quicker (releaseintegrate early & often) and reviewers would be a whole lot more happy.

In addition to all of the above, I’d love to see exciting new experimental projects such as Gimmie enhance my experience (and I’m as excited when Mirco puts new screencasts online), but some of that is probably further away than “the next release”.

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OOM killer feature in OS X

Yesterday, I was playing with software that eats memory. Lots of memory. It’s the 3D analysis software Volocity. I loaded a pretty big image (basically several M per Z, and then several hundreds Zs), and made the mistake of trying to rotate it along multiple axes and then letting it go at the result.

In the old days, when Linux was a shiny new and hip OS, the OOM would come in and kill your app – if you’re lucky. It may first kill OO.o with that very important spreadsheet that you were working on. Otherwise decent, in a way. Nowadays, your system usually trashes beyond any reasonable repair and a reboot is the only option. If you’re patient enough, there’s a ~30% chance that the app actually kills within 5 minutes (out of ~10 times that it happened to me over the past ~2 yrs – since then I’ve given up and just reboot, a reboot takes less than 5 minutes anyway).

<Advertisement>Meet the Mac</Advertisement>. It pops up a warning saying that my system is low on memory (and later on it complained about diskspace also). The operation in the software, which is getting kind of sluggish up to this point (swapping?), eventually aborted with a nice error dialog. It actually told me that I was out of memory. In addition, the OS gave me suggestions on applications to close so I could retry the operation. No data was lost at any time during the +/- 10 times that I re-tried this. For a geek, there is no way to describe the feeling when you see this. In short: when will GNOME have this? [*]

In the end, I had to quit Photoshop and free up to 5GB HD space so it could complete the operation. Of course, at that time I had moved to the graphical workstation that we have since it would do that in a few seconds.

[*] glib actually has provisions for this, such as


instead of


, but I doubt that any OSdesktop (through HAL?) interaction exists to tell me that I’m OOM and suggest apps to close when it happens. So to say, if it exists, they’ve done a good job hiding it, because I’ve never seen it.

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What is wrong with the world?

Why is there only non-free software in this? GNOME is free software, we promote, we dream and we advocate free software. This’d not be on by default, please?

Posted in General | 23 Comments