Showing posts from August, 2005

Linux: more weirdness

I noticed in one game, "neverball" that my mouse wasn't working properly. Yesterday I installed another game "criticalmass" and I noticed that basically the mouse was stuck to the right. This kinda thing doesn't happen in Windows! It turns out it's the SDL library that some games use. I just put:


in my /etc/profile and the problem disappears.
Looks like I also solved my sound problems. Turns out when I edited my esd.conf file I left out a bracket when I copied and pasted some information from the Internet.

Linux: Half way there

I don't feel completely at home on my Linux box yet. I'm still installing and playing with different programs and tools. I think I'll finally feel at home after I stop adding new things all the time and start developing in Python again.
Things that worked well:

Writing to a CD was very easy and intuitive.
Printing was a no brainer.
USB devices work flawlessly, it even recognized my digital camera and asked to download the pictures.
Maximize, really maximizes. The only thing you see is the menu. Unfortunately, the first time I pressed the key sequence I didn't know what I did and didn't know how to get out of maximized mode, which is probably why you don't see this feature in Windows.

Things that I'm still having problems with:

I'm a little less impressed with my sound problems. Some games work, others don't. Some work, but only if I run them from the command line. There appears to be 3 basic sound systems for Linux. Old, newer and newest (OSS, ALS…

Some 'piracy' is good

From the ever relevant The Long Tail site Ray Lawton argues that not only is piracy inevitable, but it is actually beneficial.
...I was chatting with a former Microsoft manager the other day and he revealed that after much analysis Microsoft had realized that some piracy is not only inevitable, but could actually be economically optimal. The reason is counterintuitive, but intriguing.
The usual price-setting method is to look at the entire potential market, from the many at the economic lower end to the few at the top, and set a price somewhere in between the top and bottom that will maximize total revenues. But if you cede the bottom to piracy, you can set a price between the top and the middle. The result: higher revenues per copy, and potentially higher revenues overall.
...piracy helps seed technology markets, and can be a net benefit. Especially in fast-developing countries such as China and India, the ubiquity of pirated Windows and Office have made them de-facto national standards…

Interesting: Windows 95 turns 10 today

At slashdot they mentioned that Windows 95 was launched 10 years ago. I remember life before Windows 95 and struggling with Windows 3.11. As a programmer, Windows NT and later Windows 95 really were a real blessing. The first computer I ever used was the Apple II circa 1980. I remember devouring their programming in BASIC book.
I also remember playing with Linux version 0.95 on floppy disks around 1995. My 486 didn't like X windows so I installed just the command line part of Linux. And now I'm running on Ubuntu Linux. I would say that on Linux, things have improved far more than they have on Windows!

Python: I love Python

I've been playing with a few of the (easy) math challenges at and Python makes some of them very easy to do since it can handle large numbers. For example, challenge 16 reads:
215 = 32768 and the sum of its digits is 3 + 2 + 7 + 6 + 8 = 26.What is the sum of the digits of the number 21000?This becomes a few lines of python code:
strX = str(2**1000)
listNums = [int(x) for x in list(strX)]
print "Sum of %s is %d" % (strX, sum(listNums))
>>> Sum of 10715086071862673209484250490600018105614048117055336074437503883703510511249361224931983788156958581275946729175531468251871452856923140435984577574698574803934567774824230985421074605062371141877954182153046474983581941267398767559165543946077062914571196477686542167660429831652624386837205668069376 is 1366
I don't even have to include a library to do this, it's all native.

Linux: more levels of cool

Today at lunch I was playing with getting accents working in Ubuntu. I went to the obvious place and lo and behold there it was. I wanted to have the ' key used as an accent key instead of, say, a compose key or a completely different layout. The nomenclature that they used was a bit different (they call it a dead key), but sure enough it all three ways of doing accents, were there. One thing that Gnome was missing, however, is a button to put the current keyboard layout in panel for you. Help, didn't help much (although it did mention the Keyboard Layout Changer) and after some googling I found out that you can as Gnome to insert an Applet and one of the default applets is a keyboard layout changer. Here are some problems:
My two keyboard layouts are USA and USA with dead keys (or some such), but the status just shows USA for both of them, and there's no easy way that I could see to change the text. If I hover the mouse over the text it tells me the full name, however.
I …

Linux: getting there

When I first installed Ubuntu Linux I really wanted it to be cool and different than Windows. The first day I spent all my time searching the web for backgrounds and ideas looking at other users' cool desktops. Unfortunately, it didn't happen right away. The first reason is because there is too much to learn, too many toys and tools to install. You read about these cool desktops, but they are cool for these people because they are, very bare - and thus fast. In my case my machine is fast with a good graphics card, I don't need bare or simple. The second reason that it didn't happen right away is that gDesklets in Ubuntu has the samples desklets out of date with the gDesklets program. This caused various examples not to work. Even worse is the examples aren't the best examples that the gDesklet community has to offer. I figured out my problem and now I have the gDesklets program itself downloading the desklets directly over the web.
Now we're cooking with gas, th…

Linux: Two weeks later

It's been about two weeks since I've installed Ubuntu on my machine. As compared to Windows my experience has been mixed:
I still have problems with sound. Some games work with sound if I run them from the command line, but the sound fails to work if I click on an icon in the Gnome menu.My microphone isn't working properly. It's too quiet you can't hear what I say. This is probably a BIOS thing that I have to play with.I'm still installing and downloading programs every day. Every day I find another program I want to try out, which involved downloading and installing. It often involves installing prerequisite libraries as well. The process has been relatively painless but time consuming.gDesklets isn't working very well at all. I'll spend more time on it since it looks interesting and uses Python.
I got the Web Cam working, but it took part of a day.I got the Wacom tablet working, but it also took part of a day.I have my two screens working, it al…

Linux: Stellarium

I'm no astronomer, but I'd like to be able to look up at the stars and recognize something. I'd like to able to look down at my son and say, "you see that?, that's the Orion constelation".
So I've wanted some simple astronomy software where you can put where you are and it'll show you what the sky is like, right now - or later on that night.
In the past I used CyberSky, which was simple and shareware, but Stellarium is 100x better. Stellarium even has twinkling of the stars. Take a look at this screenshot which is showing a daytime scene.

You can put in your own scenery as well. Effects fade in and fade out, the menu at the bottom is well designed. Everything about it is good.

Linux: Gnome vs. KDE

As a new Linux desktop user I have lots of new things to learn about. One of the first things that comes up is "Should I use Gnome or the KDE desktop environment?" With Linux, in the end it doesn't make a lot of difference. Because programs for KDE can work in Gnome and vice-versa.
Gnome is slightly more "free" than KDE is because it uses the GTK+ toolkit instead of the Qt toolkit. In fact, Gnome was created as a port of KDE precisely because Qt was owned by Trolltech and wasn't open source. They have since opened up their licensing so it's not as much of an issue.
Previously KDE was nicer looking but Gnome appears to have caught up, there aren't that many noticeable differences between them anymore. But I like Gnome and here are my reasons why:
I prefer Gnomes 'manifesto' to KDE's. Free, Usable (usability), Accessible (people with disabilities), International, Developer Friendly seems to be the right order of things.Gnome seems to use Pyt…

iRiver H340

I love my iRiver H340 which has 40 gig of disk space to store my music and podcasts. I bring it to work almost every day but I do have a list of issues with it:
When you turn it on, it doesn't start playing. So I have to turn it on, put it away, wait about 30 seconds for it to boot up, then take it out and press play. I hate my car stereo for the same reason, when I put the panel in it should play.If the screen goes blank, I need to press one key to activate the device and then another to do what I want, like pause. It shouldn't matter if the screen is blanked out or not. In fact to save on juice I'd be happy if there was a "screen" button to turn on and off the screen, so I can skip the song or change the volume without turning it on, and sucking the juice.After you have downloaded (uploaded?) songs to the player it forgets where you were. I mean, come on! In fact, on my device it always goes back to the same song, which I must have heard the first few seconds 10…

Fun: Coverville

I forgot about this request I sent to Coverville, since I put it in with another. Basically, I gave one Brazilian (Marisa Monte) song request and one Canadian song request (Luba). In the end Brian Ibbot did both! I have three requests (Great Big Sea) that he's played, maybe he likes my musical tastes.
It's a cheap thrill but I like it. Maybe I'll change my sig to "Scott from Brazil".

Linux: Changing operating systems, changes you!

I discovered something. Changing operating systems, can change you. This makes sense if you think of how much time you spend in front of the computer and how important the OS is. It's like if you move from the city to the country it also changes you. In the city you might have a compact car (easier to park) but if you move to the country you might prefer a pickup truck.
For example, I've just added a bunch of RSS feeds that are linux oriented. (Linux Today, OSNews, Games for Linux, 0xDECAFBAD) and feeds like Freshmeat have gotten a new life, I'm interested in programs that I would have passed over before. Games like Wolfenstein or Quake now seem more interesting to me. And now I guess is the time for me to throw myself more into OpenOffice, which has a great Visio like drawing package among other things.

Linux: Ubuntu Part II

So far I like Ubuntu Linux. Googling for Unbutu and any problem I have had has always brought useful and relevant information. I haven't been left floundering for very long if I had something I wanted to fix or setup.
What I like:
You really have a smorgasborg of programs (a.k.a. packages) to install. It's all in one place you don't have to hunt around the Internet to find what you want, for the most part.With enough time you really can setup your machine the way you want. You want clean and simple? Windows like? Transparent, borderless windows? it's all doable.You can change your "windows explorer". I'm used to Windows Explorer to manipulate files, but do you know anyone who ever changed it? With Linux you can use Nautilus, which comes with Gnome, ROX-filer, Gnome Commander, UnixTree or X File Explorer. I remember using Norton Commander and X-Tree back in the day, but I'm sticking with Nautilus for now, it's quite configurable and my machine …

Linux: Ubuntu security

Ubuntu does an interesting thing. It doesn't give root a password, instead you create an account with administrative privileges. This turns out to have a lot of advantages:
Every cracker trying to brute-force their way into your box will know it has an account named "root" and will try that first. In Unbuntu's system the root account is disabled, you have to login to your account then run 'sudo' to do root like things. This means a cracker has to guess your user name and password.
It avoids the "I can do anything" interactive login by default--you will be prompted for a password before major changes can happen, which should make you think about the consequences of what you are doing.Allows easy transfer for admin rights, in a short term or long term period, by added and removing users from groups, while not compromising the root account.
If root were enabled during install, the user would be required to forever remember the password they chose--eve…

Linux: Getting more excited about Linux

I've been looking around and found some nice screenshots of peoples desktops using Gnome. Very nice. Looks like gDesklets is popular, which is cool since it's written in Python.

Games: Arimaa - a better chess?

Chess is a classic game, but to be really good you need to memorize lots of opening moves. One solution is Chess960 which randomizes the opening setup. Another interesting game is Arimaa, which can be played on a chess board and is easy enough to teach a clever 4 year old. Also, the game is easy to learn, but is designed to be tough for a computer to win.
The wikipedia site has some tactics and strategy, it looks like a very interesting game.

via dwheeler

Website: One Bag

What to take in your travel bag, in one big web page.

Windows: out the Window

Well my Windows machine started giving me problems last week. Some kind of corrupt file in the NTFS filesystem that chkdisk won't fix. It happened soon after I installed another antivirus program that I got off the net, if you know what I mean. Now if I do almost anything, I get some error from the system.
I've had it with Windows, I want out!
I've decided that when I reformat my hard drive that I'm going to install Ubuntu linux. I've played with the live CD and it worked with no problems, except for my Wacom tablet and my dualmonitors, which I will need to configure by hand it appears.
I suppose the big reason I haven't gone to linux before, is because of PC games, but rebooting once in a while to Windows really isn't that big of a deal. Plus there's a fair amount of games that work on Linux (Enemy Territory, Doom 3, Unreal Tournament, Quake 3, etc.) plus emulations of some game boxes (SNES, Mame, etc).
Ubuntu has most of what I need or want. I'll ha…

Funny: How to install Windows XP in 5 hours or less

Funny, detailed account of Mark installing Windows XP.
?Windows Update has found 39 critical updates and service packs.? Install now.?Service Pack 1 must be installed separately from other updates.? OK.Yes, I agree to bend over, grease up, and accept the End User License Agreement.Wait. Time passes.Wait. Time passes.Wait. Time passes. It is getting dark. You are likely to be eaten by a grue....
Dive into Mark

Python: Tiny Accounting

I don't need an accounting package at the moment but I noticed Tiny ERP the other day.
One thing I found interesting is that they used a great choice of libraries:
Python, of course,PostgreSQL, the best open source databaseReportLab to create PDF reports for printing,Pyparsing, an easy to use parsing (think YACC) library.The only thing I might have done differently is using wxPython for the GUI instead of GTK.Their description:Tiny ERP was mainly developed for small and medium?sized organizations from 5 to 150 people (either from 5 to 50 users full time). Tiny ERP is flexible and evolutionary. The objective is that the software adapts to the needs of the company and not the other way around. The target sectors are: trade, distribution and service companies. But the flexibility of the product makes it possible to develop new modules easy and quickly to make it easy to implement Tiny ERP in other industries. Due to the module built?up of Tiny ERP, it is possible to adapt Tiny ERP to v…

Programming: Playing with Jython

Jython is a version of Python written in pure Java. The advantage of this is you can call Java classes from within Python easily. I'm playing with this because the code I work with is in Java but some of my integration tests are in Python. I'd like to put the tests in Ant and it seems like it would work better if I called it through Jython.
Unfortunately, Jython is behind the curve when it comes to state of the art Python. The regular CPython is at version 2.4.1 and Jython is at around 2.1. So there's lot's of little things that Jython is missing. A big one one optparse which I use for every program I write. Fortunately,
I was able to copy some of the python files from CPython to the Jython directory and it worked!
For the curious I copied:,, and
I had no problem using zxJDBC instead of cx_Oracle which was a relief. I hope that Jython, with it's new funding, works hard to keep up with CPython, I'm not convinced yet …