Too busy to spend much time playing on the web today which is typical for the start of the work week but disheartening nonetheless. I've barely spent more than a few minutes in front of a (functioning) computer today but here are some things I noticed:
1. As much as I've tired of the ridiculous fear mongering over Mono being included in package sets (it's not a default install, okay?) and the resulting forum vomiting that has taken place since (this has also spread to identi.ca and the like as well with a million different posts TinyURLing the rms opinion on the subject), I do enjoy it when people come up instructions on how to exorcise all of the imaginary bogeymen from your install rather than just spastically spamming the hell out of every Linux news site with unrelated comments on any given post. On the other side of the coin, you've got stuff like Mononono which just breaks the dependency tree in dpkg to make sure no demons get in. To be fair, it's a good implementation of a terrible idea. Good/bad work.
2. I had no idea that up until recently it was illegal to collect rainwater in Colorado. It becomes sort of comical when cast in terms of water rights and property ownership but I'm happy that it's been removed from law. The fact that 97% of precipitation was getting no where near streams and rivers is a study that should've been done long before people were concealing their water collection barrels but this is still a happier outcome for all parties involved.
3. Box-Look is a theme site for all of your favorite minimalist window managers of the *box variety and some pekwm stuff as well. I'm not living in Fluxbox nearly as often as I did in the past but it's still exciting to have all kinds of eye candy that doesn't weigh heavily on your processor to organized into a single place.
The weird pissing fight that this current Mono controversy has become had a reality check in the form of rms posting a cautionary note about dependence on Mono applications in case some sort of magic bullet patent is fished out of cold storage to fuck with Mono. This is a measured and sane warning from a person I respect tremendously but the response to it has been largely to read the first three lines and proclaim righteous victory over the oppressive forces of whoever is supposed to be a tool of the evil empire this month.
So, here are some things you should consider before shooting off your stupid mouth:
1. C#'s specification (the HIV to Mono's AIDS if you're batshit crazy) is recognized as an ECMA standard specification is is not in fact some kind of nutty language library neutron bomb created to rid the world of Linux.
2. The GNU project actually has their own version of this functionality called Portable.NET. Chances are given that C# is a specification and not a curse muttered by an Egyptian king before his death should some legal action be taken against Mono implementation that existing applications could be adapted to use the GNU runtime.
3. I have absolutely nothing to say about the Ubuntu forum controversies because I avoid both that distribution and its acolytes like the plague on common sense that they are.
I still haven't had the spare brain cells to look too closely at the actual client level implementation of Opera Unite (as I'm seldom on either a Windows machine or my MBP with the exception of using it to play World of Warcraft long enough to really monkey with a technology that isn't crucial to either my work or my play) but I do intend to mess with it sometime after the next major project is close to buttoned up.
One of the places where I've found a huge amount of useful information is Opera Unite HowTo's which is assembled by someone interested in the technology and isn't tied directly to Opera so it's a pretty interesting take on what Unite is capable of.Despite being all but peed on by most FOSS advocates (and I include myself in this vast and shadowy generalization) Opera has managed to assemble an awesome community of users who come up with all sorts of cool ways to take advantage of the Opera toolbox. It's very heartening.
Summer is traditionally the season of reading if you're to believe the marketing hype. I'm with them on this as I too savor the feeling of cheap mass market paperback pages sticking to my fingers and reading while having the ravages of the scorching sun soothing by voracious insects biting me. Anyway, the summer often brings with it something vaguely interesting in publishing sphere and, in this case, it comes via The Smart Set's notes about the domestic reissue of Dan Fante's books in tandem with the publication of an anniversary edition of John Fante's Ask The Dust.
If you're not familiar with Dan Fante's stuff it's probably because most of it hasn't been published in the United States and here we only read shit that could feasibly transcribed from shows produced by the Lifetime network at least until the author has been dead for 25 years or more. The interesting question that prefaces (slick, no?) all of this is actually posed by Nick Mamatas in his piece: is the American readership really ready for either of the Fantes' jerks? I just ordered two of the reissues since I've only read Chump Change on loan from a friend with the sufficient loose income to buy trade paper imports. I'm looking forward to being able to potentially read these books more than once but I'm curious about how they'll be received since Dan Fante's subject matter immediately makes him a sure shelf mate with Charles Bukowski and Hubert Selby Jr. That probably isn't the best thing for an author hoping to be read as the usual suspects that shop that section are typically more interested in being seen with a book than the actual substance of the book. The problem here is whether you want book publishers getting all freaked out by previously inaccessible authors failing to suddenly bring in a gazillion dollars in book sales and whether or not (as Mamatas mentions in his article) the book chain stores are going to sell these books or not.
All that aside, it's good to finally have these books accessible in the United States and given a shot for inclusion in mainstream bookstores. Here's hoping that things work out for the best and hoping Dan remains productive no matter what the outcome.
This probably doesn't matter to you at all if you're not one of the legion of slack jawed, sleep deprived, gear perverts latched onto the massive teat of World of Warcraft but Opera and Elitist Jerks have put together a special edition of the browser all configured to make you wet your pants (if you're into Elitist Jerks at all) and maybe even use a browser that doesn't totally suck. Unfortunately, you'll need to use one of the more sucky operating systems in order to use it as it's only available for Windows and OS X. I'll probably take it for a test drive when I get home tonight as switching to the XP side of the KVM makes me twitchy.
Later that night:
I installed the Elitist Jerks browser on a Windows XP box at work and on my Apple laptop at home. It's Opera so that is a plus and also has a ton of categorized links to WoW related sites (although many of them are official forums) and preconfigured RSS feeds for an equal number of useful news sites. Obviously all of this would be much more helpful if you're running raids and playing the game with progression in mind. A year ago I would've found this ridiculously handy but now it just makes me wish I had more time to play.
Also, heads up to Wow.com for bringing this somewhat amusing development to my often straying attention.
Microsoft versus email marketers. No matter who wins we all lose. I like the idea of scripts not running in mail clients on a surfboard made of bleached human skulls and Internet Explorer. I have no love for the concept that HTML constructs may be replaced by word art or worse. Mail is for reading not fucking clicking around in but thanks for playing.
The Andy Rooney of the web has decided that password masking (you know, part of the form standard in HTML) is a bad thing. I guess he and his merry band of sycophants decided that making shoulder surfing even easier than the eyes-follow-fingers-on-keys method will really help old guys correctly type in their passwords. Brilliant, fucktard, brilliant. I also love how he summarizes the masking as an impairment to 'visual feedback' because is only apparent to the clairvoyant. The kind of users he represents are the kind of users you don't want (also known as the type who use your lack of security to the fullest and then litigate with you over it) and he manages to third party condescend to them in effigy. Grrrr.
Lenovo making some pretty smart keyboard changes on future ThinkPads. The Escape key on my IdeaPad is microscopic and it is a key that I hit probably 200 times a day when I'm not accidentally jamming down F1 mistakenly. Now all we need to do is rid keyboards of the seldom used (other than many CAD programs) caps lock key and put the control back where god intended it to live. Being a pretty heavy Emacs user makes me wish that laptop keyboards would give me, as opposed to the shouters, a fucking break at some point. I hit the control key purposefully more often than you hit the caps lock key accidentally.
That is all. Take the rest of the night off and enjoy drinking yourself to sleep..
Since crying foul on the use of Mono in basic distribution installs is apparently the new cool thing to do: I encourage you to read the Mono project's licensing page wherein they explain that they've actually thought about software patents, possibly before you even personally invented Ubuntu to be cooler than all your friends, and have a pretty thorough explanation of what their exit strategy might be if the bloody shirt of software patents ever gets waved around.
Sound good? Gooood. Now you can go back to ranting about how KDE4 is causing people to turn into werewolves. Awesome.
I like it when freely available resources have a purpose other than simply providing free shit for people to overuse. Culturally Authentic Pictorial Lexicon is a great example of this. While it is a collection of Creative Commons licensed images, it also seeks to be culturally relevant for the purpose of language learning. This collection is driven by a real goal that intrinsically requires participation from folks all over the world. The site's creator has this to say on the front page:
As a language teacher and learner, I always seek to connect language, culture, and meaning. This site represents my interest to not only write about language learning, but provide concrete examples.
Our world rich in diversity, both linguistic and visual, and often the connection between word and image can be lost. As commercial globalization brings the world together through 'common products', we sometimes forget how our visual perception of the world affects our use of words and the meanings they convey.
It might not be immediately useful for many people in the United States but for linguistics and teachers of language looking for visual learning aids this will develop into a very valuable collection available for ready use. To me, that is really what it is all about.
Unless you actually use Opera (I do! I do!) and leave the default settings in place (I'm lame, I'm lame) you may not have heard much about the whole Freedom page rumor-ocalypse. Luckily the announcement is supposed to come tomorrow so I can stop reading weird and paranoid speculation and momentarily wonder if the paranoid/insane are incorrect.
The text hidden in the page source is up to this now:
We start our little story with the invention of the modern day computer. Over the years, the computers grew in numbers, and the next natural step in the evolution was to connect them together. To share things. But as these little networks grew, some computers gained more power than the rest and called themselves servers. Today, millions of people are connected together in a great web ...
I imagine this means that the embedded server everyone has been frantically wishing into existence might actually happen. What this means in reality is that a lot of us are going to spend huge amounts of time fucking around with new builds of Opera tomorrow and then be bitterly disappointed that the new version of the client doesn't poop out unicorns
Mark your calendars, kids: MySQL has a release plan that doesn't look like soup and likely won't add totally broken (they call it alpha but hey) shit into stable releases. It's quite an innovation. All sarcasm aside, whew and good work.
I'm tired and no amount of this brutally strong press of Peets French Roast I just made is going to keep me vertical for very much longer so I'm just going to dump some links with minimal explication. I'm trusting that most of you can read.
1. Jo Shields eloquently and more calmly than the situation really calls for explains why Mono isn't going to be the undoing of FOSS by raining MSFT-dependence and a hail of lawyers down upon our heads. I admire people with this much patience and goodwill in them. When you're essentially dealing with a bunch of Ubuntards who got all bunched up on a couple different sites about the evil conspiracy to keep them down as users by including functional and quickly expanded software as part of the default set of packages included in the installation, one shouldn't feel obligated to explain your motivations to a bunch of lusers who blatantly accuse you of being a shadowy MSFT operative for making software using libraries that share functionality with MSFT product. It reminds me a little bit of what we called 'taste vegans': people who couldn't stand the idea of eating fake meat product because it simulated the taste of animal products. Whatever makes you feel better about your shallow understanding of the topic at hand I guess.
2. The generation of purposely corrupted Office documents for the purpose of extending assignment deadlines for profit is kind of amusing. I can't find much disdain for this service because it provides props for potentially hilarious dramas more or less. If you're not clever enough to do something really technologically advanced like twiddling system time before handing in the real assignment then you're sort of asking for it.
3. I guess that's really it. Now it is time for sleep. I hate you sleep.
A real quick one here since I'm technically watching Oscar and there is only so long the cartoon about bugs will actually hold his attention but make sure to check out this incredibly detailed overview of how https works in a common situation -- checking out at Amazon and presented through the use of very commonly available tools. I learned a crapton as my general knowledge of secure transactions is pretty limited.
Well, two of them...
1. The Gentoo web site got an impressive makeover that adds a bunch of content from Packages and Planet Gentoo which is much nicer than the previous little paragraphs. I'm really hoping that Packages will eventually gain some of its old functionality back because it was one of the best package listing sites I've ever seen. In it's present state you cannot even search. Sigh.
2. Gimp FX Foundry is crazy awesome. I had no idea it existed until I read about it here via a tutorial but a half dozen "wow, holy shit"'s later I had a whole lot more scripting functionality going in the Gimp. I've always thought the installed base of effects was actually impressive given that they were just bundled in as part of the application but some of these scripts are amazing. As is nearly always the case, some Photoshop-esque functionality is the inspiration for a lot of the effects but then again how many years of darkroom and negative manipulation inspired the filters Adobe includes?
The developer of NewzJournal was nice enough to ask me to take a look at his Windows feed reader in the comments attached to a post from years ago. The requirements specifically state Windows Vista as a requirement for installation (I think due to .Net requirements) but given the fact that I think Vista is completely unneccessary for anything I went ahead and installed it on my work XP machine. The environment is pretty bare since I think of the Windows box as a pretty wrapper around gpedit, services.msc, regedit, and mstsc and don't actually use it for much other than a couple of work applications that I scarcely touch unless they're broken. Now that I've painted myself into a corner with disclaimers, here's what I thought.
NewzJournal is really, really basic for a feed reader. You won't find a lot of extra stuff other than subscribe, delete, and a couple of preferences you can monkey with. Interface wise, the reading panel really needs to be turned on by default. If I need to double click something to see it in a feed reader I've spent nearly as much effort as I would opening a new tab in a browser. When you do enable the third pane then NJ starts to look more like an application. Adding subscriptions is also pretty straightforward: you plug in a URL, it does its discovery song and dance, and you save it under x name. That works very well. There is also an import/export function for OPML. I had nothing to import since I tend to do that manually when setting up a new reader but I did export a copy of the OPML for the five or so feeds I'd subscribed to and successfully imported them into Liferea with no isssues. Another strangely missing feature is the ubiquitous 'update all' button that most readers usually place within easy reach. The only way that I was able to find to update subscribed feeds was via a right click context menu -- there isn't a menu entry to handle either individual feeds or the entire list of feeds. I'm not sure if that is a showstopper for many people but it would make me hesitate before pulling in a huge list of feeds. Again, at that point, I'm probably better off using a browser than a reader. I also noticed that the application seemed pretty unresponsive at times as was the case when trying to add a subscription from the button on the upper left side of the main window. After three attempts I just moved over to the drop down menus and did it that way. This might also be related somehow to the mysterious Vista requirement and versions of the .Net libraries but I didn't get that far.
It does feed discovery pretty well and without too much craziness. It only failed to find a feed for the Gentoo website out of the ten or twelve that I tried to pull in.
It's a pretty reasonable and simple feed reader once you configure some sane settings through the application preferences.
It handles the import and export of OPML well. I'm not a Windows developer so I dunno if this has more to do with existing libraries than stupid coding tricks so bear that in mind.
The not so good:
Not only Windows-only but Vista only. Regardless of whether or not it will actually run is immaterial.
Intermittantly unresponsive UI that doesn't give feedback when parts of it aren't working.
Frustrating update controls. Updating all of your feeds in a oneshot isn't an option.
Here's a screenshot. It's pretty basic:
I should probably start by saying that I think the ideas behind Zine Pal are totally fucking cool. This is of course less appealing to me than it would be for folks who do weblogs that are more like a personal zine or age a little better that the things I typically spend words on. At worst this is a great way to offline archive things in a more visually appealing way. Go play with it.
I created a PDF version of this website but I did it with the mail URL which only yielded something like the last five posts. I imagine it would've fared better with a feed where more posts are considered current.
Yet another drive enclosure piddled out this morning making Time Machine throw a bunch of errors and making me feel like the data on my MBP is somehow irreplaceable. This marks something like the third enclosure I've blown through since the Leopard upgrade.
Things I need:
capacity for drives up to/above 1 TB
controllable fans are always nice so I don't have to listen to the ever revving sounds of cheap components grinding away while I'm trying to think.
USB2/Firewire. either works but both are nice
A fairly standard power cable so when Bug inevitably chews through it I can replace it without buying a model specific cable. I can't begin to estimate how many MagSafe adapters I've purchased in the past couple of years thanks to Sir Gnaws-A-Lot.
Things I don't need:
Any of that one touch crap because it's nearly useless
Raid capability. I'd buy a Drobo if I thought it was worth the expenditure.
Any clues would be appreciated.
That was sort of easy. Lenovo webcam is now working. V4L2 was the culprit.
The story about ownership of sounds (in this case kazoos that simulate duck quacks) has been pretty widely covered by a number of folks who have some professional/legal foundation for pontificating on the subject. I'll say that it's a terrible idea and admit that I didn't know that it has existing precedents:
Cynthia Lynch, an administrator for trademark policy and procedure for the United States Patent and Trademark Office, said such sound marks were fairly uncommon, with only about 150 registered, a short list that includes the Ride the Ducks quack, the MGM lion’s roar and NBC’s signature chimes.
The truly scary part is that given the filed trademark their legal action seems (again, not a lawyer) legitimate since the business they're in dispute with is in precisely the same industry. The legitimacy question here is really with the Patent Office for allowing this filing in the first place.
As is often the case when you neglect things you once used frequently for long periods of time, there was a lot of dead, rotting, and generally poisonous shit left hanging around while I changed jobs, learned how to be a father, and other important stuff. I just cleared out the list of too many links (still refusing to use the term 'blogroll') and found far too many that led to domain squatter pages. They're all gone now which makes me feel better in a spring cleaning sort of way and also absolves me of any guilt I might feel for giving ad spammers more Google juice. No longer feeling bad about something is powerful motivation.
Also, while I was away Team Murder turned seven. How does that happen?
One of the reasons I've started to post here again is that I just acquired a new laptop (an antiquated word that just sounds so many degrees less stupid than any of the other associated terms that I cannot break with it) that has enough horsepower to run the Linux distributions that I tend to favor which tend to involve a lot of compiling and nearly endless fiddling. The upside to all of this is that I tend to have things setup permanently when I'm finished. The really terrible part is that I also tend to find everything that sucks about the expensive and highly integrated piece of hardware I've just laid hands on. It's a little like the rubble pile of shattered expectations on Christmas morning.
For the record, this machine is a Lenovo Y-Series Ideapad. I like Sabayon quite a bit these days (more on that further below) and I plopped that on here after watching the OEM install of Windows Vista thrash and stall for something like thirty minutes on its first boot. All of MSFT marketing uberpush aside, there might actually be a real consumer reason that the current version of your operating system is in utter failure mode guys.I've read some reviews of this box that contain similar complaints and say that the solution for those who intend to run Windows on it is to just do an install from another source. Part of the Lenovo branding is making it slow as fuck apparently. This seems a little sad for a machine that has a dual core processor and comes outfitted with 4 fucking gigabytes of RAM but that may just be the grumbling hobgoblin of common sense trying to keep me down. I hate it when that happens. All of that bellyache aside, it's a great machine for me as it has enough juice to simultaneously run the twenty or so virtual desktops I typically use and has enough sticky multimedia goo included to make it feel mildly-to-moderately more sexy than the austere *pad case might first impress. I'm not a fan of the glossy screen because I have a ginormous television to watch movies on thanks but it is, after all, fast as fuck so I can deal with the occasional moment of squinting through some glare. The power management features also totally blow at least under Linux. Basically it wants to dim the LCD in a matter of seconds. I'm using an applet just to keep things sane.
So, this distribution choice... I don't know if many of you have tried to kick off a fresh installation of Gentoo lately but it is pretty broken even from a Stage 3 install staring point which is the only starting point these days. I've always had a love/hate relationship with Gentoo because it is such a powerful base for getting your machine just so and the forums as much as they are bogged down under the weight of kids trying to vroom vroom go faster are so generally useful even if you don't use Gentoo or one of its derivatives it will likely come in handy some day. The current situation reminds me a little bit of the somewhat iffy days of Debian Potato where getting things installed and working for the desktop was almost more fight than it was worth. When I discovered Libranet (rest in peace Jon) I didn't even bother trying to use the stock Debian installer anymore. It was so much easier to just use the Libranet installation tools to get things functional (exotic hardware like IDE CD burners and USB, well, anything), then switch out the repositories for testing or, gasp, unstable and take off from there. Gentoo seems like it's in a similar place now: the installation is still a pain in the ass and getting things squared with the installation portage snapshot is an exercise in the breathtaking variety of tedium.
Now that I've said many mean things about Gentoo, I really like the portage system despite all of the problems that potentially come along with using it. Debian will always be the backup solution but given what I want to do with my computers I need to run unstable and unstable (lately unlike the past where unstable was about as good as most release versions of any given distribution) has problems. I'm always on the hunt for good derivatives of models that I like. Right now Sabayon is the only real game in town because it gives you a solid base in a relatively short period of time, has its own package management system that works remarkably well (equo, entropy), and doesn't break portage in the process. For me, it's the most tenable compromise I can find. Calculate is pretty damned close but it leaves enough ragged edges that need to fixed post-install that I couldn't really deal with it on a new machine. I've got it up and mostly running on a test machine at work but I'm not ready to commit to it on a working machine that I need to reliably do things.
Working with equo is also a positive experience. It has a ton of options that for the most part you don't need to investigate but they're still available when you run into that singularly screwed up situation and need to kick down the door with both pistols blazing. It strangely reminds me of Mandriva's urpmi. Powerful tool with basic and comprehensible syntax or something like that.
I also find myself using Gnome lately. I used to be religious about the *box managers but the 2.24 version of Gnome minus the dreadful and maddening Metacity which is great for the first time computer user who normally interacts with things by poking at them with sticks but totally sucks if you're trying to get things done like switching desktops or having some kind of control over what the fuck windows do. Sabayon has made it really easy to set up Compiz-Fusion and pare it down so it acts like a respectable window manager instead of a multimedia demo. It isn't outrageously fast but it behaves less ridiculously under Gnome than the other window manager options do.
All of this spewage is really just to say that I'm excited/irritated enough about technology to hang out here again and it feels really good.
In an act of Barnum-esque showmanship I realized right after posting the previous entry that I was a few light years behind the current WordPress current. Little did I realize that the version of gftp installed on this machine was so utterly broken. The combination of the two led to some unintentional hilarity and caused me to wonder if WP upgrades had gotten dramatically more complicated. Nope. Just make sure that your FTP client doesn't randomly decide that certain files are not to be uploaded. Sheesh.
For whatever it's worth, I've decided to start writing here again and not worry so much about whether what my spleen decides to excrete and I pass along to you is consistent with thematic concerns. Apparently sometime around last October I had some kind of existential crisis and decided that Team Murder was some kind of thematically pure endeavor. The other name for this is temporary brain damage. I'm sort of back with less a little less time (fatherhood) and less patience (duh) so I'm leaving things just like that.