26 November, 2006

Good Grief, Novell!

The Bad

It seems you’ve got somebody’s back up. In fact, you’ve got his back up so much he wrote a letter about it. It’s written up in a blog entry about it. For those of you still living under a rock, it seems that Microsoft signed yet another deal promising the following, among other items:
As part of this agreement, Microsoft will provide a covenant not to assert its patent rights against customers who have purchased SUSE Linux Enterprise Server or other covered products from Novell, and Novell will provide an identical covenant to customers who have a licensed version of Windows or other covered products from Microsoft.
This of course made somebody at UWC rather peeved in the process. The text of the letter can be found at the first link above, and no doubt many other places too by now.

The Good?

Of course, there are other goodies in there, like:
The two companies will create a joint research facility at which Microsoft and Novell technical experts will architect and test new software solutions and work with customers and the community to build and support these technologies. The agreement between Microsoft and Novell focuses on three technical areas that provide important value and choice to the market: * Virtualization. Virtualization is one of the most important trends in the industry. Customers tell us that virtualization is one way they can consolidate and more easily manage rapidly growing server workloads and their large set of server applications. Microsoft and Novell will jointly develop the most compelling virtualization offering in the market for Linux and Windows. * Web Services for managing physical and virtual servers. Web Services and service oriented architectures continue to be one of the defining ways software companies can deliver greater value to customers. Microsoft and Novell will undertake work to make it easier for customers to manage mixed Windows and SUSE Linux Enterprise environments and to make it easier for customers to federate Microsoft Active Directory with Novell eDirectory. * Document Format Compatibility. Microsoft and Novell have been focusing on ways to improve interoperability between office productivity applications. The two companies will now work together on ways for OpenOffice and Microsoft Office users to best share documents and both will take steps to make translators available to improve interoperability between Open XML and OpenDocument Formats. “As a result of this collaboration, customers will now be able to run virtualized Linux on Windows or virtualized Windows on Linux,” said Jeff Jaffe, executive vice president and chief technology officer at Novell. “Customers continually ask us how they can consolidate servers with multiple operating systems through virtualization. By working together, Novell and Microsoft enable customers to choose the operating system that best fits their application and business needs.”

... and The Ugly

I think I smell a rat here. A rather fishy smelling rat. From what I’ve read, it rather seems like Novell went to Microsoft and offered this deal, seemingly on a plate, although the actual mechanics (legal or otherwise) are beyond me at the moment. But one other tidbit I did get from the commentaries that I read was the fact that Novell would make a one-off payment to Microsoft, of course the amount is undisclosed. Now exactly why would they do this, given that Novell offer a free operating system (Suse) based upon the Linux kernel? And that it’s very unlikely that any of the Open Source code offered by Novell would infringe any patents claimed by Microsoft, valid or otherwise? Just who benefits here? I find it really really hard to believe this is merely a case of "You scratch our back, and we’ll scratch yours".
It's Virtually pointless
For anyone holding a valid Windows licence, they surely can run Windows how the hell they like. For anyone else, whether or not they choose to run Windows under a virtualization layer OR natively, they are still infringing upon the Microsoft End User License Agreement and no amount of finger—pointing to Novell is going to claim otherwise in a court of law, as the agreement only covers exercise of patents. Or do Novell want the ability to exercise some of those patents held by Microsoft so they can improve the virtualization experience?
Service ME now
Of course Web services are big. They’ve been saying that for the past ten years or so. Frankly when SOAP was first released, on April Fool’s Day, I thought the announcement really was the biggest April Fool’s joke yet. It turned out not to be so. And many of the other services available today (AJAX, etc etc) add to the experience. Why does Microsoft want a bigger slice of the pie? Haven’t they messed up IIS enough already? Granted, there is still no way of emulating an ActiveDirectory server without losing some of the functions that this piece of Microsoft technology provides, but not everyone needs all of that functionality. Do Novell want to be the company that is finally able to offer that, for their customers?
Documenting the Blob
Now, this makes more sense. Microsoft have been complaining for a very long time that there really is no need for the OpenDocument format to even exist, given that they consider their OpenXML format already does all a user could want and more, freely offered royalty—free to any user that is willing to use their format, for only the small cost of a blob of binary code in each XML file created. Whoops, did I say that? Sorry, Microsoft. Guess that’s not Open enough. Document the Blob, and we’ll talk further.

To wrap up

I’ll freely admit I don’t know most of the details of the agreement between Microsoft and Novell. Maybe it’s just as well I don’t. But I do know a lot of people in the Open Source community and in the Free Software community too are probably seething, shouting out comments like sellout, traitors, and .... yeah well, I won’t go there. Others have claimed that Microsoft eventually want to claim a "legal right" to run Linux, and that anyone else who has not purchased a license from Novell are then in infringement of any patents contained in Linux code that Microsoft think that they currently own. Does that sound like more of "Embrace, extend, eliminate alternatives"? Yeah, I thought I smelled a rat.

25 October, 2006

A new rubber band needed

I had a drive that had some data on it, but it sounded like a miniature jet engine. I did have the sound file, but I've since lost it. Someone cheekily said it needs a new rubber band. As you can imagine, I grabbed all the data off it and stashed that onto another drive, which doesn't sound that bad. I've got a friend with a drive that sounds worse than that; it sounds so loud that I gave it the nickname "The Screamer", and it's only a bog-standard 3.4GB 3 1/2 inch IDE drive. For what its worth, here are some other bad drive sounds from Hitachi.

18 October, 2006

A Pas-de-deux, in three parts

Part the first: An alternative to Squeak.

My forays into the world of the Smalltalk language are proving to be rather interesting. About seven years ago, a company called Cincom took over the rights to VisualWorks, another Smalltalk environment. They have commercial licences, of course. What made me sit up and take notice is that they also have a non-commercial licence for the exact same product. The License states you’re not allowed to use it in the running of a business, or to provide products that you would ordinarily charge for. In my case, as I do no production software anyhow, I’m hardly likely to choose to charge for what I do produce. So, I took up the non-commercial licence option, and downloaded VisualWorks and a goodly lot of goodies that go with it. It’s certainly different than Squeak, in that it feels more integrated, and doesn’t have its own desktop, instead electing to create separate windows on the existing desktop, whether it be a Windows platform, MacOS, MacOS X, Solaris or Linux. There has obviously been a lot of work put into the product, as it seems to flow better than Squeak does, and given the length of time that VisualWorks has been around, I would expect that. There are even tutorials available for recent versions (currently released version is 7.4.1, hot off the presses back in May 2006) though some links on this list cannot be reached. I have noted that the wiki occasionally goes offline. I do of course have free books addressing VisualWorks (and Squeak too) but they tend to focus on the interface of VisualWorks 2.0, which is quite an old version in comparison. Still, the books will bear reading, because they will hopefully be future-proof enough for me to actually learn something about the current version I’m playing with. The books are also a good way of introducing the reader to the principles of Smalltalk in general, not just to the respective products.

Part the second: An agreement not to disclose.

So far I’ve found out that there is no decent web browser project that uses ST, and the one that has got the furthest has an NDA attached to it. As I haven’t signed it (and am unlikely to, at this rate), I can’t say what is actually IN the web browser code, and even if I had signed, I still couldn’t tell you (I’d have to kill you afterwards). From the look of it, the project’s not strictly a web browser, more one of those core components that everybody needs, or will soon if they only but knew it. If I were to take up the NDA, it would mean that I couldn’t discuss the code of the component with anyone whom I couldn’t verify as having also signed the same NDA. Ironically, this includes the author. Effectively, I’d have to request from my lawyer that his lawyer faxed over the document stating his agreement to his own NDA. Frankly, I can’t be bothered with all that unless it was mandatory. I’m beginning to see why rms feels the way he does. Ordinarily, I would have no trouble in agreeing not to disclose. After all, I effectively agreed to several when I downloaded other programs onto my computer, such as QuickTime, IE, Macromedia Flash, and others of their ilk. I don’t have to distribute those, and I’m not allowed to even discover their source code, so I can readily agree to use but not disseminate. However, in the Smalltalk world, things are different. In the Smalltalk world, you can see all the source code for applications loaded into the image. For anyone wanting to protect any intellectual property from being ripped off and used in other products, they require others using that IP to sign agreements. I’m a bit wary of that, given the length of time they ask for this information to be kept hush-hush for. I seriously expect the product (as such) to be sold as a product on the market not unlike most modern software, however, I’m assured this isn’t the case. I will have to wait and see. If it becomes available under a more liberal agreement, I might then be able to use it; until then, I’ll have to be one of the have-nots.

Finalé in one part.

Given the state of play with Smalltalk web browsers, I think I won’t be holding my breath for anything fantastic. Scamper (the web browser commonly available in Squeak) is nearly as bare—bones as you can get a browser to be and still support images and table layout. TwoFlower, the browser available for VisualWorks, has had the plug pulled on it, doesn’t work on my current setup and is not being actively developed any more, since the author wants to concentrate on the new coding project. I haven’t seen any others except in projects like Inferno and Plan 9, which are themselves rather primitive and prone to crashing at inopportune moments, like when loading a page, for example. And the mere fact that Smalltalk uses a VM to interact with the user means that things will quite possibly be significantly slower than on a binary-code platform, even if Just-In-Time conversion to binary code from bytecode takes place. I did manage to get an IRC client that looks good though. This wasn’t actually going to be a talk about web browsers, more my conclusions about Smalltalk environments in general; I guess that will have to wait until next time.

10 September, 2006

A piece of history

Like a Rolling Stone

I finally got the Squeak CD downloaded, took six days over bittorrent. There’s a lot of historical stuff on this CD, though I was surprised as anything to actually find out that there’s actually a DVD available as well. For only the princely sum of (probably US)$9.95 through a paypal account, I too can have an entire DVD’s worth of Smalltalk and Squeak goodness, whatever that all is.

Hey Mister Tambourine Man

So anyhow, I was playing around with this yesterday now that I’ve got it burned to CD and all, and stumbled across the "BotsInc" environment, used to help with a book aimed as a tutorial by programming "bots". Sort of like LOGO (if any of you remember that, feel privileged, most of us are too young) but done Squeaker style with most of a squeak image emptied and only the bare essentials left in to teach about controlling the bot.

Glory Days

Reading up on the history of Smalltalk from its origins back in 1961 up to the release of Smalltalk-76 was quite enlightening, even though I had to rotate the pdf through 90 degrees and increase the font size by about 80% just to read it. Lots of design decisions got talked about, as well as the original view of the author, to produce an environment that kids would naturally want to explore in. Hearing about some of the initial hardware the creators had for working with seemed a bit baroque, especially when they said that the 8086 CPU was a non-optimal chip to use.

Secret Garden

Anyhow, I expect that just like a secret garden, there’ll be all SORTS of things to find out about inside the average Squeak image, let alone the other three or four images that are provided to experiment with, including a whole Web application environment. That one surprised me, but it shouldn’t have. My puzzle is: how do I get access to the environment from outside the Squeak image? At the moment, I don’t know.

Wild World

Just like Cat Stevens of 1970’s singing fame, I feel like this is a switch back to the simpler things of computing—where stuff was experimented with, and it just workedTM. There’s a lot of stuff to re-learn, and probably a whole lot of stuff to learn from new. I hope I enjoy it.

A little bit of reference

I first stumbled across the Smalltalk language when Bruce Eckel, of Thinking In Java fame had described his brief brush with how Smalltalk experts just seemed to grasp certain subjects almost intuitively, in comparison to other programmers who had more of a hard time with those same concepts. Bruce thought it might have been due to the design of the language, where literally everything is an object, and unlike Java, there are no primitives—no Integers, no Floats, no Chars, etc etc. If you create an object, you can put almost anything into that object. For those of us used to lowest-common-denominators of strong typing, having a system whereby you don’t have raw types (int, long, char, float) as a basis to build other types out of can be in some senses totally foreign, yet after a while, it becomes liberating to not have to deal with what type an object is.

Learning to walk the Smalltalk

I’ve yet to learn how that works, as I’m still getting to grips with the bare essentials. The History Of Smalltalk described this phenomenon as well, stating that at the beginning, we quite often have more trouble just thinking in the field natually, because we don’t even know the building blocks of the language; we’ve got no idea of how even to do the simplest of things that we’re used to being able to do in the other languages we’ve learned. And in fact, sometimes what we have learned in those other languages is actually holding us back, because the assumptions of the previous environment simply don’t fit. Stuff like strong typing versus weak typing, or perhaps no typing at all; early binding versus late binding; syntax issues (my current weak point); and of coucse the simple feel of the language are all things to consider when looking at such a different beast as Smalltalk.

Coda

Anyhow, I’m sure I’ll have fun. I’ve got a bucketload—well, okay, a CD load of books to peruse to help me learn the language. I only wish some of these books were available inside the image so I didn’t have to flip between inside the Squeak world and outside just to go read a document. Wish me luck, and if you want to comment, feel free. In fact, do comment, it’ll let me know what you think.

08 September, 2006

The Number 8 Wire Mentality

I had to cobble together something today. Suffice it to say, it worked. Drill a hole in the top of a one or two litre plastic milk bottle lid—Meadow Fresh for us South Islanders, but Anchor might work too; remove the little plastic ridge around the inside of the top, cleaning up as you do so, and remove about 2 mm of the clear plastic around the top of the bottle. Poke the Tommee Tippee Fast-Flow teat through the hole, and clamp down onto bottle, making sure you don’t have any leaks when you’ve finished. Hey presto, one home-made bottle. Nearly as good as the real thing. I note that you have to remove the little ridge inside the lid so that the rubber seals against the remainder of the lid, and you have to remove the 2 mm of plastic on the bottle, so that there's enough thread to grip the lid properly. I of course found this out only through trial and error, like the usual way of doing it, though I bet that if I'd asked an old school dairy farmer, they may well have told me that too. In these modern days, I'll bet they have custom versions, just like they do for babies. Got a story of something you’ve done? Put it in the comments, so we can hear about it too.

07 September, 2006

All booked up

In Fury Born

In my previous post about David Baen I omitted a book of his, mostly because I hadn’t read it yet; however I believe that it’s well worth a mention. It’s a considerable rewrite of a previous novel of his, and is called "In Fury Born". It’s not an Honor Harrington novel, but it rocks even better than they do. I'd like to see more of the series describing this character, and I suspect he will write more. Good one, David Baen. I await the next novel with anticipation.

Sir Arthur Conan who?

Ever read any of Ellis Peter’s novels? No? Well neither had I. He writes about a monk back in the 1100s that ends up being a detective. It’s an interesting twist on the Agatha Christie/Sir Arthur Conan Doyle sort of book, though so far, I’ve only read part of one story, which was on a set of audio tapes that I got. I’ll let you know more when I’ve read them for real.

I’ve lost that reading feeling

Ever had the time where you’ve gone to the library, got books out, only to take them back four weeks later, unread? I seem to have that a bit recently. I think to myself "That might be nice to read up on", yet by the time I’ve gone back, I haven’t looked much at the book. Sometimes it’s because really, I need the book on a full-time basis so I can read it at leisure. I found I had to do that with "The C Programming Language", as well as "Thinking In Java, 4th edition", which I eventually bought for myself from Amazon back in June.

Money money money!

Computer books cost so much for what they actually are, here in New Zealand. For example, to bring in "Thinking In Java", I was quoted $100 by my friendly local bookshop. I decided to amaze myself at Amazon and buy the book there instead. Turns out that zoombuggy also wanted to buy a book. So - we went there, selected the books we wanted, and entered in our all-important details. After the dust had settled, we paid less for both books than we would have paid in New Zealand. I’m not sure what it would have cost our friendly bookstore to bring in that other book, but I don’t think the price would have been as cheap as we paid at Amazon. To illustrate, (these prices are in U.S. dollars) normal purchase price of the Java book would have been $59.95, and at Amazon, I paid $35.45. Add another $10 for the postage and handling over all, and another $3.99 for the book itself, that still comes to less than the price I would have paid for the book normally. Zoombuggy paid $24.95 for her book, and $3.99 for postage - because it was in with my order, she didn't get charged another $10.00 for their "postage and handling cost". Where Amazon seem to make the money is on what they charge for their postage and handling options. I’ve struck this before, when someone ordered a CD for me and was charged a lot more than the postage would have come to.

Like the look?

I thought I’d spice my blog entries up with a few headers. What do you think? You’re welcome to leave me comments, unless of course you’re trying to sell me something, in which case your comment will get /dev/nulled. But I accept all other comments, no matter what currency. I also want comments on my other blog at MSN Spaces, where frankly, I haven't found a "theme" that I like yet. Could be that they need larger previews of their themes so I can actually make an informed choice. I’ve also got to be more careful about any Microsoft-bashing there, as they may decide my comments aren’t what they want to appear in their Spaces.

06 September, 2006

What's the plan?

Solaris can't connect

Well, I finally managed to get Solaris 6/06 downloaded, thanks to the help of someone else who had a fast connection at the time. Now all I have to do is to install it, presumably with that extra acpi-user-options=0x02, or else the kernel won’t recognise my ACPI and won’t work. I’ve already had one lockup booting off the initial CD, which isn’t a good look. While I was at it, I started up another blog at spaces.msn.com, though I haven’t found a colour scheme I like yet.They tout it as not just another blog, but more a whole environment, of which blogging is one part. The nice point, at least for me, is that I don’t have to be running under Windows to access and update it.

Plan 9

Weird. Another experiment of something from Bell Labs, though I’m not entirely sure I’ll get used to it yet. I downloaded their Live CD, and burned it, booted off the CD, and got me a Plan 9 desktop, acme the editor, a terminal that’s a bit ... retro, a series of status meters (mem, activity, load, etc) and a biff-style icon to show mail. Acme is the hardest piece of software to actually get used to, as it contains considerable functionality, combining a file manager with an editor. And to get other stuff working properly (such as ssh or drawterm), I have to set up Plan 9 on a hard disk somewhere and really have a play. That way I’ll be able to generate keys so other services can connect to the Plan 9 box. I can also modify the plan9.ini so that the computer boots straight into the correct screensize, finds the USB mouse, and gets networking up and running. And that’s not even including Inferno, which is another addition to the Plan 9 environment, though it doesn’t just work under that; it can also work as an emulated environment under Linux.

Smalltalk - or at least, Squeak.

I’m downloading the Squeak ISO image, and finding out what they installed on it. I’m not sure if they have made it a live CD or not, I’m beginning to think that the creators of the ISO didn’t. After all, what would you have as the environment that Squeak runs on top of? Browsing the contents makes me suspect that it’s a combination of documents covering Smalltalk and Squeak, and Squeak images for three platforms.

RFC documents

I’ve been working on a bash script that displays RFC documents, and downloads them if the user requires. Currently I have been using bash, with a little extra dash of perl to do the searching, and other support programs. But frankly, the whole script is getting too slow, accessing 4671 documents in one directory may be one limitation. I’m looking for another way of implementing the whole script, so that it runs fast, and not slow; as well as displaying in a window that stays present on the screen, rather than my current method of using pop-up dialogs. I’ve got the option of reimplementing the whole script in perl instead of bash, but I don’t know enough to get me by. I could also do the job in C, but I don’t know C any better than perl. On top of that I then have the problem of what I use for a window manager, whether I use ncurses (for a terminal program) or go to a gtk2 window, counting out all the console users.

And to wrap up

I got Windows XP Home booting again, once I took out the driver for the SATA card I have in the machine. I’ve also found out that the NVidia card won’t work in 3D mode on my Windows install - as soon as DirectX tries to do anything more than see if the card is there, the whole computer freezes. So I've basically had to forget about using the NVidia. Hopefully I can still use Solaris 6/06 with the serial ports. Catch y’all later.

17 August, 2006

Where are all these daemons coming from?

It's been a while since I updated this particular blog. I've been a bit busy installing new hardware, and playing with different operating systems, such as Solaris 3/05, Solaris 1/06, and the three BSD. First, my notes about the BSDs - I installed NetBSD on fatty, mainly because for some unknown reason, FreeBSD wouldn't install... or at least the version I had at the time wouldn't install. As I only got what was on the NetBSD CD (base, comp, X, etc) I had to download a few more packages to make a decent install. A few weeks later, I installed FreeBSD-6.1_RELEASE off two CDs that were available, and installed just about everything bar the kitchen sink. The only thing left to get is other packages available from ports/packages. Then, I went and sliced up the drive a bit further, dumped the first FreeBSD install, and made a partition available for OpenBSD, then reinstalled FreeBSD to the now smaller partition, then installed OpenBSD. Again, like NetBSD, I only had what I'd downloaded (base, comp and so on), and had to add a few more bits. Things seem to be working okay in all three BSDs, though I have a hard drive issue with OpenBSD that necessitates me starting up in Linux first, so that the Linux kernel turns off the "Host Protected Area" of the drive. Once that's done, then OpenBSD can "see" the whole of the drive, and is happy to boot. I still hate the way NetBSD do their package management, so I have been doing the downloading manually, checking out what whining it does when I try installing the package, then grabbing the complaint packages. I much prefer FreeBSD's package management in this regard. What THEY have is a fat INDEX file, which the user downloads, perhaps through sysinstall, and browses the entries he wishes to install. Then sysinstall goes and gets those, along with their dependencies in a nice tidy manner. I've also checked out how OpenBSD does the same thing, and even it seems to be somewhat saner about dependency handling. For Night-Hawk building, especially for Gray Light, I'm going to need GLUT, so I found that and installed it in all three cases. NightHawk is available as a package in FreeBSD and in NetBSD, but not in OpenBSD. I'm going to see if it compiles and runs under OpenBSD, then find out how I create a package. Now, onto Solaris. Frankly I'm surprised. It could be my machine, but I'm not sure. 3/05 worked slow, but fine. So I went and really did something insane. I purchased 1/06 on DVD, all eight DVDs. I installed it, and got to it. It works, BUT it doesn't see any serial ports, meaning one of two things. Either I go and find a 10GB drive, and install it on fatty, so that I can at least have network access for the poor thing, or any time I want to grab stuff for Solaris, I'll have to download it to fatty first, then start up Solaris, and pull the data off fatty. sigh. For the moment, I'll have to see what will happen with Solaris, go browse website or stuff. And my final complaint... Windows. The two pieces of hardware I installed were:
  1. A multi-function card, containing four USB 2.0 ports, and three FireWire ports. Came from Dick Smith Electronics, and came with a CD with its own driver.
  2. A NVidia MX4400 (though this may not stay).
If I try and start up Windows XP, it flatly doesn't get started. Shows the logo screen, scrolls the little blue bar a bit, then stops. Dead. If I haul out that card, then Windows will boot. At least until it decides to go find out what other video cards exist. When it finds the NVidia, then things get .... interesting again. So far, I haven't had a successful boot of my Windows XP system since I got these two cards. I got the first card so that I had more plug-n-play options, and the speed increase that USB 2.0 gives. However, the driver makes Windows have blue fits. I'm not sure exactly WHAT the issue is for the Nvidia card. Again, I suspect I'll have to do some surfing. Well, that's all from me for the moment. I'll get this posted, tidy up the fonts, and go screaming mad.

21 March, 2006

Playing with chips, bits, and wires.

I’ve been playing a bit with my machine. I’ve found a blogging client I like better than BloGTK. Drivel seems to support the things I want to do, though it behaves a bit strangely too. BloGTK didn’t even let me set a title for the posts I was making, so I was having to go back into the Blogger web interface to correct this. I’m seeing what Drivel provides for a Blogger blog like this one, and I’m repeating this post (hopefully) in my personal WordPress blog. It seems that Drivel also doesn’t support setting a title - is that something to do with the API or something? I don’t know, as I haven’t looked up what the API is all about, or what I can do from a web interface.

Ubuntu seems to work a little faster than Mandriva does, but I’m not sure why that is. I get start times of about 15 - 30 seconds for Firefox as opposed to 1m52 seconds on Mandriva. My Mandriva machine seems to be too slow, but I have no idea why. Anyhow, I’ll have to reinstall from a clean Mandriva install medium just to see if that corrects things.

15 February, 2006

Hard(ware) changes

I've been playing around a bit with the webcam (the Logitech QuickCam Express), and I managed to get this picture out of it, which made me quite happy. The colours are all (relatively) natural, and everything except the picture size is exactly how I want it. I've also been playing around with my own blogging software (Wordpress), and so far I've been doing okay. I don't find it too heavy (yet). This post is actually a clone (almost) of a posting I made in WordPress, but I thought I'd let you lot know about it too. I got a present today. It was a box from Canada, and it contained (before I emptied it) a DVD-writer, a 256 MB stick of memory, some blanks, Mandriva 2006.0 (x86_64 version, so no good to me), Slackware 10.0, and Ubuntu 5.10 (Breezy Badger), which I'll use to upgrade zoombuggy's machine. The owner even sent me a DVD-RAM pre-blanked, along with a few blank CD-R, a CD-RW, and a few DVD-R media. The memory stick replaced one of my existing 128MB sticks, taking my machine up to 512MB, and, once I got the order of sticks sorted, almost eliminating the memory errors I had. I have also stuck the spare 128MB memory stick from my machine (brick) into zoom, bringing it up to 256MB. Seems to work, along with putting the old 32 speed CDROM into there too. The new drive is interesting, it’s a LG GMA 4020B DVD writer, and is reviewed here, and also here at CDRLabs.com. Both reviews say that the drive is slow, but that it also supports all major single-layer media formats: CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, and even DVD-RAM. Now I rather wish I had the CD that came with the drive. Now I'm going to try and watch a DVD. (Later) - hrm, after fighting with the machine, I've come to the conclusion that my machine isn't actually fast enough to play a DVD properly without actually jumping. That's a pity, as I wanted to watch Laurence Olivier featuring in the famous Shakespeare play Richard III. Never mind. At least I was able to burn a CD without creating more than one coaster in the process. I.E. two burns, one CD successful. I can only go up from here.

12 February, 2006

Slim pickings for Linux blogging software

New blogging software (BloGTK) on trial here, though I don't know how well it'll work. I guess we'll find out. I got a little sick of gnome-blog-poster not actually setting the title, instead, what I set as title ended up being the first line of the body instead. (Later) It turns out that BloGTK won't even LET me set the title for a blog, although it seems to be a very nice client otherwise. I found that the main advantage to gnome-blog-poster was that it could be reached by a gtk panel applet, popping up a window below the panel. You then filled in the fields and sent it on. Nice. There's no real difference with BloGTK, except that there isn't a panel applet to reach it by. Someone cheekily said for blogging software, that I should use the browser. Umm, this particular generation of the browser seems to be really slow. As a result, it's not speedy to use, which halts the "flow of ideas" that blogging software is supposed to help with. And emailing the posting has its own limitations, though several blogging sites allow that now. I've created a WordPress blog on my own machine that's been fun to work with, though currently I'm using the browser to reach that too. I did find a really nice theme that I like lots, so I suspect I'll stick with that for a while. I'm still looking for "decent" free blogging software, so wish me luck.

Show up those RFC documents

I've got a little further along on my current pet project, rfcshow. It does pretty much what it says, downloading RFC documents you want if you don't have them, providing a really simple search facility through the index, and displaying them in a small variety of formats.

What I was thinking of, was to do a graphical user interface that's different from the one I use currently, and for that, I'd have to learn more C and gtk2+. At the moment, I don't have that knowledge, though apparently it's not difficult to learn. So you could be seeing a gtk version, perhaps even with embedded hyperlinks.

Anyone vaguely interested in viewing RFC documents on their own computer can take a look at http://flying-brick.caverock.net.nz/rfcshow, though it's still a work in progress, it does nearly all that I want for an RFC program. I built this because I wanted a way of calling up any document, and I added searching because I needed it. Another project, "rfc" is written in perl, and is where I 'flogged' the search routines from. The only reason I didn't customise that version further was because it wasn't my own work to begin with. Not only that, but there were features about my program that I preferred; for example rfc uses lynx to fetch the documents from the rfc site, and displays them, but doesn't store them locally for later use (unless there's a caching function I didn't find). Rfcshow downloads documents if you don't already have them, and stores them in compressed form on the hard disk for later retrieval. It uses a dialog client to draw pretty boxes filled with content to the screen. About the only thing I haven't managed to do yet is to have a document with embedded links so that you can click merrily from document to document.. I also don't have a "table of contents", as such.

Requirements to run rfcshow are as follows: bash (2.05 or greater), a dialog client (cdialog, Xdialog, or zenity will do, kdialog may not), bzip2/gzip, perl, tcl (not mandatory) and ncftp-utils or curl. You'll also need a place to store about 120MB of downloaded documents if you choose to install them all. Requirements for PDF versions or PS versions may be higher.

Incidentally, I managed to get this working under FreeBSD without any real hassles aside from modifying the line at the top of the file that looks for bash. I even got it to run under Cygwin, though for this I had to go and find a dialog client. It can be found, as I used google to find it.

Enjoy! And do let me know what you think of it. I'm still working ot bits of it, like how to download a large number of documents at once.

05 February, 2006

Writing with no idea

Yep. As some of you know, I'm trying to write a book. Well, three of them. At the moment, all three are in embryonic stage. For one of them, I don't even know what story I want to tell, quite. The other two, at least, I have some ideas for. Do all authors have this problem?

I ended up swapping webcams with someone else, so now I've got a Logitech QuickCam instead of the OV511-based KTX that I had. We'll see how much luck the other guy has with my camera.

Googletalk absolutely sucks on my connection, so I'm sticking with Skype, at least for the moment. I'm not even sure how well the audio/video would even work in MSN.

Anyhow, cheers for now.

07 January, 2006

Now you can Skype in video too.

I've been taking a look at the next generation in IM programs, and came across this link: Skype - The whole world can talk for free. Not only that, they can even see each other for free. Or so it goes, at least for Windows XP machines. Not sure about anything else. On my machine, it's a bit moot, as I've only got a dialup modem, so I'd get about three pictures during the span of my five minute conversation. Can't get silk out of a sows' ear.

I got given a gift the other day - a box - green. With a pretty logo on. Inside, it had an orange folder, with a CD in it. A pretty CD, with lots of logos and authentication logos on it. By now, you've probably figured out that I got given what some consider a mixed blessing, and some others consider a downright curse. Yep, Windows XP Home. It was even legal! Over the past three days or so, I've had a play, and it's not totally horrible. I've had to tinker just to get it installed, mind you. Then, once I got it installed, I had to tinker a little more to get it like I want. Interface tweaks, mainly - shifting the taskbar to the top of the screen, making it hide itself, changing the screen resolution and background, stuff like that. Then I went to the updates website for it, grabbed the required updates (only 19.2MB, people! Wow!) and grabbed a couple of Google extensions I'd been wanting to try out. I suspect the Microsoft Anti-SpyWare program might cost a little more than I want to spend on a program, given that Ad-Aware is free, however I'm trying out the beta and it's ...erm, okay. Does what it's (probably) supposed to do. It's due to time out in July, but until then, I'll see just how it behaves.

I still don't have a really compelling reason to shift to XP full time, even though it's more stable than Windows 98. I think Microsoft simply have to change their pricing and anti-piracy visions; but that'll never change. They're a commercial entity who thinks there's too much to lose by doing so. I'm not entirely sure I agree. Ah, blow it. No, I don't agree at all, but then I'm not a major company who literally owns billions of US dollars and has control over possibly (my guess) hundreds of thousands of employees worldwide. I still have complaints about the way programs can be suddenly killed purely because an applet doesn't do the right thing. A case in point: after I downloaded the patches (and installed them), I went back to the Windows Update site the next day, to install the patch for the recent Windows Metafile Format exploit. I got to the page that showed me two buttons for selecting what upgrades I wanted to install, and that's where things got tricky.

If I clicked on either button, I got a refreshed page, and a progress bar that ticked along for about a minute or so (normally it takes longer than that); then I got the dreaded "Internet Explorer has encountered a problem and needs to close. We are sorry for the inconvenience." And no matter what I did, I couldn't get to the correct page to download the WMF fix that Microsoft released. At least not through the Updates webpage I was trying to use. Every time I tried, I kept getting the same dialog. I eventually got there by changing users, and going back there. This time it worked, but I don't know why the other user didn't work, as both users were administrators of the machine. That's one example of why I don't like Microsoft's programming.

Anyhow, 'nuff said. Later, all.