31 December 2005

New Year's Eve. No party to go to. Lots of time to spend reading up on my mailbox and working towards 1.0 release of sbackup.

However I will stop for a moment for a meme from my friend, Yume

The idea is to put all of your music collection into a player, put it on shuffle, ask a question and press next. "Me" is myself, "PL" is the player with my interpretation of results on the next line.

Me: What do I think about myself?
PL: Aqualung - Strange and beautiful
I like that, nice start! :)

Me: What do my friends think about me?
PL: Rammstein - Moskau
Old, yet new. Known, yet strange. Open, yet with lots more to explore. Money uber ales.

Me: What does my family think of me?
PL: Weezer - Buddy Holly
"...I don't care what they say about us anyway..." :)

Me: How will the next year be for me?
PL: Gloria Estefan - Turn the beat around
dynamic and revolutionary?

Me: Hmm, nothing comes to mind ...
PL: Madonna - Secret
"...Happiness lies in your own hands..." or " baby's got a secret.." ?

Me: Will this year be more romantic then the last?
PL: Jackson Browne - Sky Blue and Black
??? strange love song about the edge between lovers and friends

Me: Do I have a bright future?
PL: Roxette - Dangerous
lol. "Hold on tight...", "...You pack your bag, you take control..." sounds nice even if "a little bit dangerous" :)

Me: Will I become a President (or at least a MEP)?
PL: Celine Dion - If you asked me to
so it is possible, if I want it to and ask for it

Me: Will I get my Master's degree?
PL: Shiro Sagisu - Destiny avaits (From "Bleach" OST)
Good, so that is my destiny :)

Me: When will I buy myself an apartment or a house?
PL: Dream Academy - Life in a Northern Town
Not positive - "all the work shut down" and mentions of the Salvation Army and "they sat on the stoney ground", but "everyone else came down". On the other hand, living outside Riga in some more northern towns is much cheaper, so that's an option.

Me: What about renting, I hear that is more reasonable now, ne?
PL: Anastacia - Pretty Little Dum Dum
"illusion and deceit" mostly about self illusion, sounds like you want to say that I myself will not be satisfied with a rented place.

Me: Ok, that brings another question - if I start a company, will it be successful enough for me to buy/build a house without taking a mortage?
PL: Diana King - Shy Guy
song says that shy guys are sexy, is that a potential marketing pitch :$
Me: I didn't quite get it, could you a bit more clear about that?
PL: Anastacia - Time
"one day at a time", "timing is everything". now that is better.

Me: Now, should I really publish this blog post?
PL: Avril Lavigne - Not the only one
If you do it, do it now.

So I will.

24 December 2005

It just came to me that if we accept the definition of "industry" (from the text of the software patent directive that EP had in first reading where it it was said) that industry basically is mass production of material goods, then there is no need for neither software industry not movie industry nor music industry - the production and distribution of copies is very efficiently achieved via the Internet. These industries are no longer needed by the society - they have no reason to exist.
Some might object - but where will the first copy come from? Well, that is not product of an industry, but a product of an artist. If originally said industries were created merely to copy and distribute works, now they are morphed into structures "supporting" artists. That is a clutch, that is not needed. There are other ways for artists to make a living off their art. Fanart and free software movement clearly shows that. Patents and copyright are just clutches for the falling industries. The clutches must go and giants must fall for progress towards knowledge society.
I would be glad if we could have professional musicians getting a minimal wage from the government. If your art has been downloaded by 10 000 people last year, you can get government pro-artist payroll. If you want more then minimal wage - do tours, sing in clubs, do advertisements, work in more then one art or get another job. I would be very glad to pay a tax for that if I could have free and unrestricted (copyright-free) access to all art of all artists. Call it art tax, device a maximum number of pro-artists the country can support via the tax, make qualification competitions, whatever. There is art without copyright. It is just not that expensive.
However, while the society will allow industries to suck their money, it will be very hard to change the situation as the very same money will be used to prove that said industries are worth supporting.
There are two ways: kick the crutches out (abolish patents and copyrights) or just move forward and ignore them and their crutches as we step through them towards freedom (develop free software, free media, free ... movements). Of course we can do the second until the first becomes viable.

In that context it is nice to see some funny lawmaking in France (a law project for "copy all you want for 5€/month") or WIPO saying that copyright is not really a right and it is quite a shame that word "right" is part of "copyright". Even reading about each new patent horror of USA court system becomes fun, because them worse it gets, the closer is the end. (Same with Bush :P)
Learning TurboGears now. True MVC separation. Nice and powerful. Templates are valid XHTML documents (and not a mess of gibberish). Not much magic. I hate magic. Especially when it fails. I look forward to writing a task tracking system for a very special project in this framework. More about the project when it is launched. You're gonna love it ;)

Also I am going to visit my family - they still have no Internet, so I'll be mostly offline 'till the New Year (except for this and this). So I wish you all a Merry Christmas (note: there is absolutely nothing christian about Christmas - it existed like 2000 years before that character from Bible is born according to that book and in Latvian this day is called "Ziemassvētki" - "ziema" = winter, "svētki" = celebration) and a Happy New Year (if you are really an orthodox christian, why do you count years the new, non-christian way? you should be celebrating New Year on 13th of January like Christ did and the Orthodox church still does, because it uses Julian Calendar more then 420 years after it has been denounced)!

Oh, the fun of touting religious people ... of any religion ... :D Have fun everybody!

Footnote: in October I noted that there have been 11000 spam mails in my GMail spam box at that point (it stores only spam that has arrived in last 30 days). Today I am pleased to say that I can only see 4300 spam mails there today. It could be that GMail has implemented some procedures so that some spam does not even reach that folder, but I shall be very optimistic and say that amount of spam has declined! Maybe spammers are on holidays? If so, I wish they stay there :D

22 December 2005

Ben from Eye

It is misty today in Riga this reminded me of the second oldest photo that I've taken and that is still on my harddrive. A photo taken by a simple dispensable camera, but still so nice :)

21 December 2005

NightShot FireFire ghost

Christmas is coming and the longest nights of the year are here (in the Northern hemisphere that is). At this time of year I always want to remember about something nice and warm. This time it is the Jāņi/Līgo - Latvian national festivity dedicated to the shortest night of the year. Everyone is celebrating that - people lite fires before sunset and tries to keep the flame going until dawn thus bridging the two days together. Lots of beer, cheese and campfire grilled meat of all sorts is the order of the day. That's traditional. Also very traditional is the rain - there always is at least a bit of rain during the Līgo.
Anyway - these two photos of that midsummer night warmed up my midwinter night.

20 December 2005

Soviet blocks

Today I was doing the free vs. open presentation and comparison by Lawrence Lessig came up, that having computers governing your live in cyberspace without access to the rules along which you are being governed (essentially the source code) is like living in a society where some or most laws are secret any only know to the law enforcement agencies. Like it was sometimes the case in USSR. So photo for today's photoblog entry comes from last day of 2003 that I spent in the city of Liepaja. It was a semi-military port town in the USSR times, but today it is a city of peaceful engineers and tinkerers with nice beaches and a very distinct and proud stance for the future. A free future.

19 December 2005

RMS in Riga

I spent day preparing a presentation for tomorrow's "Open Christmas" celebration in Latvian University. One of my topics is "Free vs. Open: philosophy vs. presentation" about the various terms floating around the FLOSS movement: free, open, libre, shared, ... (and also their various translations to Latvian :P). This reminded me of the day I organised an event in Riga for the RMS's Baltic Anti Software Patent rally in 2004.

14 December 2005

Another idea came to me in shower - I've been reading up about MS Office 12 UI changes and I think there are some very nice ideas there, but we can do better.
The main principle of the Ribbon is that all functions are there, but some are smaller then others based on their priority.
It came to me that when you design an UI in, for example, Glade you are basically creating a dynamic structure that can scale up or down. The only two things missing to make it a Ribbonesque interface are: 1. unique priority for each widget to decide which widgets to reduce/increase in size, 2. multiple size versions for each widget - buttons from 128x128px to 16x16px, ...
For situations when 16x16px is not enough for the widget (editbox, for example) one could make a micro button that brings up the rest of the widget as a popover when pressed or simply not show the widget. Less important widgets would simply not be displayed at smaller screen/window sizes (hidden behind a generic "+" icon meaning more functions in a category).
This would allow an application to use those huge screens of the future for bigger and more detailed buttons/widgets and at the same time would increase usability of applications at small screen sizes. Or maybe I am just thinking too far.

13 December 2005

Here is a quick idea for you - Free Software tax.
Imagine a voluntary 1% tax that is collected by a non-profit US foundation from the people that signed up for the program. Imagine that amount exempt from the usual taxation. Imagine that money channelled to Eastern Europe or Russia or India or China or anywhere else where the cost of living is low and a lot of smart people live. Imagine then that students are hired for 4-10$/hour to work on free software tasks that are voted on by the "taxpayers".
So, anyone up to implement that? If you do, please contact me for coordination :)

Update: A USA foundation to get the money from USA, similar organisations in other countries would be needed to gather donations from that countries (in order for that money to be tax deducible). Of course students or other people from USA or Germany or UK or whatever would also be able to participate in getting the money, but the catch is - while 4$/hour in USA is half of the McDonalds pay, it is 4 times more then McDonalds pay their workers in Latvia. Quality control by feedback: after completion of a task - a mentor of the task leaves feedback in the profile of the worker.

12 December 2005

We all know how over time our input devices get contaminated by particles from objects that tend to reside in our hands in between acts of data input. Basically I am speaking about those bread crumbles in the keyboard and that slightly sticky stuff that covers the buttons of a mouse after a few months of everyday usage. Today it got too much for me and I gave my mouse a bath - disassembled it and washed all non-electronic components with liquid hand soap. After a couple of minutes and drying with a paper towel, all the parts looked dry enough for a reassembly. The patient lived on, giving a much more pleasant tactile feedback to its user (me).

P.S. It looks like I botched the clicking feel that a wheel of a mouse makes when scrolled. I've heard that it is actually better so, let's try to find out by trying.

11 December 2005

Catching up with unread blogs - Nat Friedmans blog has two very interesting entries: one huge entry about parties (with lots of photos) and another about parkour featuring a bunch of Latvian-Russian guys from the second larges city of Latvia - Daugavpils, which is ~50 kilometres away from the place of my birth. The video has several scenes from the very centre of the city. While on that topic I must say that I have also done some soft parkour when I was ~10 years old - not like it was popular in the day, I was just naturally good with climbing, jumping and balancing on strange places. :)

Also note: It is possible to watch Google Video videos without Flash plugin - view the source of the video page, copy the first parameter that is passed to the Flash plugin (the one that starts with "http"), decode that with something like Python's urllib.unquote() and then pass to wget or even directly to totem. I didn't get sound from the stream, but as I also can gen no sound from Flash, I am not complaining.

Free Christmas in Riga, Latvia.

It looks like the Linux centre of the Latvian university in partnership with Latvian Open Source Association is going to throw a Free Code Christmas on 19th of December. Current idea is to make a mix of a social and technical event. The plan calls for two rooms - in one room a series of 15-20 minute presentations will be held and in the other room tea and cookies will be served and all the speakers will be available for interrogation. The plan is to start at 18.00 and go on until 21 or maybe a bit later. The official information will be coming next week, but remember - you heard it here first ;)

08 December 2005

Lead singerDark wisper

A couple shots from Tokyo girls concert from the closing ceremony of the Animefest3. This ends my photostream from the event, now I'll have to shoot something new to show you. BTW: there are also some photos that I did upload to Flickr, but didn't link to the blog - you can go to my photostream to see all of them.

Last week a idea came to my mind - promoting open source is most rewarding if we do it to developers who then come to open source and help us move forward, the biggest identifiable bunch of developers in Latvia are the web developers (LAMPers, ASPers, J2EEers, ...) and these developers are quite interesed in that new "Web 2.0" buzzword. So I thought - why cann't Latvian Open Source Association organise a event dedicated to Web 2.0: what it is all about, what open source solutions empower you to develop Web 2.0 sites, how and why should you use them and also why and how do you contribute back to the community that created these tools. Nobody else stepped up for the task, so if I want this to happen - I will have to organise that. I have defined the master theme and format of the conference and now I am going around the potential sponsors asking for few hundred $ to fund the coffee breaks and a lunch. If I get that, then we can start thinking about specific topics, speakers, participant registration forms and all the rest of the stuff. If I don't get that 'till Christmas, then I will not be able to get the event going at the planed time in the last week of February. Well - a bunch of job to do.

BTW: this reminds me - what's up with USA and Christmas??? As you probably know, mine only source of information about world events is The Daily Show (along with the Colbert Report, and _sometimes_ BBC news) and now it seams that USA have gone to the extremes of ridiculousness (I guess, president sets the mark). Banning use of word Christmas? How about cancelling New Year? You do know that in some religions the year changes at a different day, don't you? And don't get me started about "Plan for success" two years after the "Mission Accomplished" by the man personally!

06 December 2005


A contest at Animefest - we all are trying to remember how paper boats were made. Here I have a moment of "enlightenment" :)

In other news - today I was "performing" in an event at Latvian University - telling a bunch of people what is console, how and why can work and survive there. Was fun.

Also I got tired of instability of Ubuntu dapper and went for a radical move - downgrading a system back to breezy. It was no easy feat - after setting APT preferences (pinning breezy to 1500) I went trough a series of "apt-get dist-upgrade"s and "apt-get -f install"s. Some packages failed to downgrade because of file conflicts, then I had to manually fix file lists in /var/lib/dpkg/info/package.list so that there is no conflict. After the whole downgrade I could reinstall all my lost packages by means of "dpkg --set-selection" and "apt-get dselect-upgrade" and via aptitude remembering what software I installed manually trough it before the downgrade. All in all - a successful downgrade.

05 December 2005

Another bug has pissed me enough to start debugging. This time it is Totem-xine crashing on startup in Ubuntu dapper.

The first thing is that you cann't rebuild totem from sources multiple time after ubuntu patches - ubuntu uses dpatch to patch something in automake files and after the build has been run, the unpatch fails thus preventing a rebuild, doh! Worked around that by removing that patch. (Bug not reported yet)

After installing totem-gstreamer, my main suspect is the change to the statusbar, that look very recent. Could it be that Totem developers forgot a critical fix to the xine backend? Could it be that the treat xine backend as a ... second class citizen? To what? To that GStreamer? I tried to use GStreamer, I really did, but there are a few tiny issues: 1) it doesn't open even half the files that xine does, 2) within 5 minutes of a movie audio-video can easily get out of sync by 5 seconds. I have never seen A-V sync in xine. Ever. I love telling our Windows using frends that my movies "just work" with totem-xine, please do not take that away!

Anyway - back to the bug we go.

As we have a clean crash, I recompiled totem with debugging symbols ("DEB_BUILD_OPTS=nostrip,noopt debuild -us -uc") and run with gdb. When totem crashed, I got the code line, where it happened:
(totem:4608): GLib-GObject-WARNING **: invalid cast from ` ' to `TotemTimeLabel'

Program received signal SIGSEGV, Segmentation fault.
0x08068659 in totem_time_label_set_time (label=0x8199a60, time=0, length=0) at totem-time-label.c:69
69 if (time / 1000 == label->priv->time / 1000

Now, that is interesting, lets see, what we have here - time is an int, so no segfaults from there, but label is a TotemTimeLabel. Hmm, that error now makes sense. And when we take a look at label->priv, it appears to be a pointer to TotemTimeLabelPrivate with an address of 0xffffffff. That's the problem, now we only need to backtrace trough the program and find the bug that is causing that.

Well all looks pretty nice - there is a "tick" event in the player that calls the time update. Not really clear, why there is such a discrepance between GtkLabel and TotemTimeLabel or why this structure is not inicialized in time. More strange is that gstreamer backend never calls this function. Wierd. Let's see what happens if I just return from it without doing anything. Does not help - now statusbar is crashing.

Let's try it from another angle - it worked before. Nothing much in totem changed since release of breezy. Installing the version from breezy, it works fine. Recompiling the version from breezy on dapper - crashes. Ouch! It looks like xine backend of totem has not been ported to that new crazy Gnome 2.12 thingie, like gstreamer backend was. Strange - that is a backend, it should not be dependent on the frontend, no? Anyway, it is not something I can do - I will have to install the breezy version, hack some dependencies to make it no conflict with one optional library and then file a critical bug on totem for breaking the xine backend.

But even that will have to wait 'till tomorrow, sleep is of the essence, anywere.

03 December 2005

After reading the Final Debconf5 report I suddenly saw how this report shows all of us how much blood, sweat, tears and ruined stomachs has really been put into organising the best Debconf ever (so far at least). A lot of Debian Developers were present at Debconf5, even more Debian developers, Debian users and other free software users gained something from this event - a better Debian.
I feel that we should give all organisers of Debconf5 the prise the deserve, but as we can't send them all to a two week vacation to Hawaii, we could at least express our gratitude on a web page.
So, if you feel that Debconf5 has given something good to your life - got to and express that in warm words towards the people that made that happen!

P.S. Today I configured my Palm to be a IR remote trigger for my Canon 350D, happy like hell about that.
P.P.S. Number of unique visitors to my photo gallery has reached 575, with one of the photos seen by 475 unique visitors, thanks! (Hint: more comments with constructive critique would be useful to improve quality ;))
P.P.P.S. For me "a1t" will always mean that girl nicknamed "alt" with the shotgun pointed my way, really.

02 December 2005

Caught in the act!
Here is my friend lastguru - the second most active photographer on the AnimeFest3. He is trying to get a shot of the audience, but while he is doing that, I got a shot of him :)

Yesterday I discovered a great surge in popularity of SBackup - just on SourceForge around 700 people downloaded it in a period of three days (compared to ~250 total downloads before that) and some new bugs were filled.Only then I remembered about the interview I gave over the email, looks that it was published on Monday. Fun. Now the plans for a good rewrite are even more prominent on my ToDo list and I am also thinking about trying to get all developers of similar tools to unite in the context of this rewrite. This will bring all their good features in (encryption, per-user subconfiguration, removable media support, config on server option) and ensure continued development of the project even if I get a bit lazy on it ;) A confederation for simple yet feature complete Linux backup solution?

Also today we have a very good milestone - translation of Debian Installer to Latvian language has just reached 100%. I thank greatly our new contributor - Orvils from Latvian University who did bulk of the work. I still had to spend around 6 hours reviewing and correcting his translations and then updating the translations that changed or were added during the time that Orvils was translating, but it was much faster then it would have been it the translation was only up to me :)