31 October, 2005

Only two hours old, and already there's a spot.

So much for thinking that comment spammers would leave me alone. Out, out, damn spot. Anyhow, back to our regularly scheduled transmissions. And no, you can't comment. Go away, spammer. Being on dialup sure doesn't hold a candle to having DSL. As yet, I've not experienced DSL, but I suspect that for the first month, I'd quite likely be just like a kid in a candy shop, and go WAY over my normal account allowance. Thankfully, I haven't got that chance, as yet. And, given that ADSL2 is just around the corner in New Zealand, and already being rolled out in Australia, I suspect that ADSL (version 1) is yet again going to be relegated to the boondocks just like dialup was when ADSL first came along. Free Fibre throughout the country, anyone? Hrm. Thought not. Guess our telecommunications infrastructure has to make their profits some way.

Time to consider things, Big Ben included.

Timezones get confusing, sometimes. You say you're in New Zealand, and nobody knows where the hell that is - although that's sort of changing now. At least now they know we've got sheep. And pretty good scenery - though that was always a given. I was on IRC last night (as per usual) and was talking about Casio watches when I found out that the newer models (for lots of money, of course) now have "Atomic" timekeeping - the general concept is that these watches take their time off an atomic standard, and hence, never need setting, except to set the timezone that you're in. What method do they use to receive the signal? Is there a little radio set up to receive WWV or WWVH? And what if you're out of range of either of those? Does your little watch gradually drift further out of time with the rest of the world? Tick tock, tick tock. I played around with a perl script called "grandfatherclock" last week, along with adding decent "bong" and quarters sound files. Took a little work in audacity, and I'm still not sure I've got two of the files "right". But at least now it sounds good at the half hour chime, and the last "bong" of the hour is nice and drawn out, like I'd expect. A little trick I thought of was to have two "bong" files - one for the first, second, etc,, and the other bong file would be what you get on the last bong of the hour with proper delay at the end. Then, when we play the hours, play the first sound for every bong but the last one, then play the second sound with the full audio decay as the last one. It only took a little work with an editor, and a couple of iterations of "edit, test" to get it right. The trick of course was to get decent audio files to begin with, and thankfully, someone had put up an MP3 of Big Ben striking 3 (along with all the quarters, of course). That gave me enough material to work with, once I converted it back into split-up wav files. In the Windows world, things are a little different. For starters, most people putting up their program shout out "Authentic sound of Big Ben!" while hiding the fact that their program could literally be doing ANYthing while it's chiming. I'm intending to port the program to Windows, using the ActivePerl environment. The only thing that I'll be missing is a cute toolbar icon and tray applet to go with it. Any suggestions, anyone?

Mass and Microsoft: and the beat goes on...

To continue to introduce myself: I'm basically a New Zealand Viking, with a presence on IRC, web, and now, on blog. Don't expect too much out of me, as I'm only learning stuff, mainly to do with Linux and programming, but also don't expect that I'll be totally vapid either. You may even find that I'll play with things, just because I like to play with things...

Mass vs Micro: is this fight open?

First, I recently took a look at the October Open Document Format invite-only discussion, and had read the recent Groklaw article and link to the Harvard Law School audio/video feed. By the way, Pamela Jones and the team run a really tight ship at Groklaw. Well done. The fact that Mass. Executive has voted for OASIS Open Document Format is certainly a signal for other organisations to consider the format, along with Microsoft's XML offering and Adobes' PDF format, of course. I also note, as David Wheeler does, that it IS only one department of Massachusetts state government, but still, it's a pretty important move to make. My beef is with the internal wrangling that Microsoft must be undergoing right at this moment, "do we support it, or don't we". Simply put, my impression is: they wish to retain or even extend market share and lock-in (or lock-out of competitors). They feel they can only do this by exercise of their "proprietary" crown jewels, that "retain fidelity" of the author's creation, though only in the manner that Microsoft decide that an author should lay out her document. If they are able to achieve this, then they guarantee themselves a revenue stream. If on the other hand, they cannot achieve a lock-out of competitors being able to create any "documents" in any layout and format that they wish, then Microsoft have lost the chance to maintain their revenue stream, at least from the simple requirement for the creation and exchange of documents. We all know that Microsoft isn't the only kid on the block. Hell, they even have pretty decent software in the Office arena. The recent release of OpenOffice.org 2.0 is a big signal that now, there's another contender, and Microsoft won't be getting any money from people's use of OpenOffice.org.

Rights of an author not to be left out

Authors obviously have the right to create documents. They also have the right to control what those documents look like, and to control who their documents can be accessed by, and in what manner. The argument (at least from Microsoft's view, perhaps) is that Microsoft should be able to say "We'll support the author's right to control these items, but we'll use a layout mechanism (a schema) that doesn't have an implementation diagram on public show" - in short, the "binary blob" in each Microsoft XML document that has been described in other places. In comparison, Open Document Format shows the layout mechanism in plain view. Arguments can of course be made on either side of this, but I think OASIS have done the right thing. More later.

This is a test - this is.. Oh, hello.

Ah! So you've arrived already! Mon dieu! Garcon. GARCON! Where's that waiter when I need him to bring me my winelist? Hmpf. Never here when I need him. Ah well. I guess I had better introduce myself. I'm the Viking from down under - a.k.a. New Zealand., and I have a lot of opinions. Sometimes not very well informed ones either. I have several interests aside from computing, but, computing pretty much has it all over the rest of the interests at this time. Sometimes my wife complains she can never get me off the thing, and that she should just brick up this portion and leave a feeding hole (or perhaps not). I seem to have gained some experience in Linux computing, Windows98 and with FreeBSD as well as having dabbled with the Amiga500+. I'm interested (but mainly unknowledgeable) about programming in a number of different arenas, web and scripting coming to mind. I also like to try to understand the current battle between Open Source, Free Software, and commercial companys that want us to buy their product because it's NOT free. I also can be found on IRC, occasionally talking up a storm, or on the Web, where I can be seen discussing points with developers just because I need to understand something better than currently. Other than that, well, I read a lot, or try to. Sometimes I need to get my voice out on photons, so - here I am.