Random notes from mg
Thu, 26 Jun 2008
Mango Lassi is a GNOME
program that lets you painlessly share keyboard & mouse (& clipboard
too!) between computers. It's not packaged for
Ubuntu yet so you have to build it from sources.
Big fat warning: Mango Lassi has no authentication and
does no encryption, so use it with extreme care. Don't type any passwords
over your unsecured WiFi network!
Here's how to get it working on Ubuntu Hardy:
$ sudo apt-get install git-core curl build-essential intltool \
automake-1.9 libdbus-glib-1-dev libgtk2.0-dev libxtst-dev \
libavahi-glib-dev libavahi-client-dev libavahi-ui-dev \
$ git clone http://git.0pointer.de/repos/mango-lassi.git/
$ cd mango-lassi
Press Enter once at the prompt.
$ sudo make install
Now you can run it with
When you're tired of it, go back to the source tree and type
$ sudo make uninstall
If it only used an SSH tunnel for encryption & authentication, it would
Porting it to Maemo would be an interesting project. Imagine copying and
pasting URLs from your laptop browser to your N8x0 tablet browser. Is Avahi
available for Maemo?
Sat, 21 Jun 2008
I unexpectedly acquired an Asus EeePC 900 last weekend.
Lovely piece of hardware.
The Xandros distro was okay at first (IceWM brought me fond memories of the year
2000, when I used it). Then
I started longing for Firefox 3 and the aesthetics of GNOME applications.
Finally, when apt-cache search told me there was no SSH server package
available, I gave up and installed Ubuntu
Eee from a SD card. The software selection is incomparable (Asus/Xandros:
870 packages available, according to apt-cache stats. Ubuntu: over
30,000 packages.) Also, yay rotating cube desktop!
Things I like about the Eee:
- Small! Lightweight! Beautiful white colour!
- Small pixels are pretty! 1024x600 at 8.9" is 133 dpi. Not quite the 225
dpi of a Nokia N810, but nicer than the 100 dpi of my T61W or the 85 dpi of my
19" external LCD.
- The keyboard is much better than I expected. I hate those laptops that
squeeze Home/End/PgUp/PgDn in an extra column on the right. Asus didn't.
- Web browsing is much more pleasant than on a N810. It's faster for AJAXy
sites such as Google Reader. Also, Firefox 3.
- Video watching is much more pleasant than on a N810: no need to convert
Things that are bad:
- It gets hot. Either the hardware is not power-efficient, or the software
isn't doing a good job.
- Only 2 hours of battery life (plus an extra 40 minute safety warning with
the blinking red battery low light). This is during normal usage (WiFi on,
Compiz, Firefox, no CPU-intensive Flash plugins).
- No integrated Bluetooth. Therefore you have to lug a dongle around if
you want to use GPRS/EDGE/3G when there are no WiFi access points around.
I hate dongles.
- Doesn't come with Ubuntu preinstalled.
- Not all hardware works in Ubuntu:
- Even after using the Eee version of Ubuntu I had to manually tweak
config files and compile kernel modules to get volume hot keys working.
- No webcam or mic for me, though others report those working.
- Touchpad is not configurable and doesn't do wheel emulation on the
right edge, although most other gestures work.
- Sound needs a module reload after suspend/resume, which causes an
irritating error dialog from the volume control applet).
- Video playback sometimes shows a blank black screen until you move a
window to overlap part of the picture.
- Firefox scrolling/redrawing under Compiz is noticeably slow sometimes
(I don't know if it's because I enabled CPU frequency scaling, or if
this is a problem
with the Intel graphics driver problem.).
- When I unplug a Bluetooth USB dongle, a btdelconn process starts
eating 100% CPU time in the kernel and cannot be killed. Did I mention
my hate for dongles?
My workhorse, a 14" Lenovo T61W, now seems huge by comparison:
I'm not going to stop using my N810 (which fits in a pocket, has a much longer
battery life, and is more convenient for e-books or NumptyPhysics). I'll stop
lugging my T61W around instead and start leaving it at work. The EeePC is an
almost-perfect travelling laptop.
The upcoming Asus EeePC
901 is going to fix the lack of internal Bluetooth and the battery life. I
wonder when it will become available in Lithuania. (The 900 is displayed in
almost every electronics shop here. Yay Asus. Boo Nokia for not doing this
with its Internet Tablets.)
Sat, 14 Jun 2008
Fri, 13 Jun 2008
I used Windows at work until January 2002, when I changed jobs and went to
Linux full-time. I barely remember what life was back then. Driver CDs you
had to install before plugging in new hardware, shareware apps that you had
to pay for and couldn't see how they worked, web pages full of blinking
advertisements. Magic voodoo rituals you had to do to fix your IS when it
broke down, that you had to do by rote without full understanding of how it
all fit together.
These days I run Ubuntu. Hardware just works (or doesn't). Apps are
an apt-get install away. Web pages I read mostly end in .org and rarely
have obnoxious ads. The system breaks rather more often than I'd like, but at
least there are no artificial obstacles in the way of debugging. Download
the sources, recompile with debug symbols, go.
I am a programmer, and I've been one for many years now. I found something
that works for me, and I'm mostly happy. I do not want to tell you how you
should live your life, or what OS you should use on your laptop.
Recently I was hit
on the head with the understanding that my point of view is somewhat
atypical. As a programmer and a long-time Linux power user I have the skills
and knowledge to download sources of applications, apply patches, and build
packages. I don't view these tasks as development, because I'm not
creating anything new. I'm just using the fruits of others' labour a bit
earlier than I would have if I'd just waited for the next Ubuntu version to
bring me the updated package in 6 months.
I want to apologize to timeless for expressing myself
badly. I did not mean to complain or demand anything. I wanted to
encourage transparency by disagreeing with a previous claim (which
was that marking bugs as fixed was useless unless the developers provided
updated packages for the current distro or released the next distro ASAP).
But then I couldn't resist adding a poorly-written postscript and got
the opposite reaction: timeless quoted my words as an example of How can
people discourage transparency:
Personally, I'm disappointed that when a bug is closed as "fixed in diablo",
as a user I've no idea how to get the updated package on my N810. I've got
scratchbox handy, just point me at the new source package and I'll backport
it -- but repository.maemo.org has no 'diablo' in dists/.
This is what I'm used to, with Ubuntu, and open-source software in
general. When a bug is fixed, I get a choice: wait for the updated package, or
dig out the fix from the publicly available version control system.
It's what I'd like to have, but not something that I demand of Nokia (or its
employees). I do not think I have the right to demand it from anyone.
I should finally learn to think more and write less.
My post on hunting memory leaks
in Python received a lot of feedback via email. And both^H^H^H^H most of them asked for the source code.
Aside: if someone could recommend a good spam-proof comments plugin for
PyBlosxom, I'd be very grateful. I see six plugins on the main
site and it's unclear which combination is the one I need.
So, here's the mysterious checks module I used in the post.
There's nothing complicated in it, just a bunch of ad-hoc functions I wrote in
an afternoon. I'm sure you could do better.
Continue reading this post...
Thu, 12 Jun 2008
At work the functional test suite of our application used up quite a lot of
RAM (over 500 megs). For a long time it was cheaper to buy the developers an
extra gig of RAM than to spend time hunting down a possible memory leak, but
finally curiosity overcame me and I started investigating.
Warning: long post ahead. With pictures.
Continue reading this post...
Fri, 06 Jun 2008
Where's the GNOME applet that can show me my laptop's power usage in
Watt? I cannot believe that nobody has written one yet.
Sun, 01 Jun 2008
The last day. Saw a bunch of interesting talks about freedesktop.org,
Ekiga, GNOME and Ubuntu. Jono Bacon's talk was very interesting. I think if
Nokia is interested in building a healthy developer community, they would do
well to talk to Jono about it.
Got a USB gender-bender from Kees Jongenburger -- now I can plug in
USB devices to my N810, provided that they don't require too much power (extra
software required: usbcontrol from Maemo Extras). I owe you one Kees!
Discovered that the GNOME booth does in fact have T-shirts for sale, they're
just not out on display like in other booths. Sadly, since I discovered that
during the last hour of the last day of the conference, only extra large
T-shirts were left. Spent my last 10 EUR in cash on the T-shirt anyway.
Met MaryBeth Panagos from OpenMediaNow, learned about interesting happenings
with Gnash, open media codecs and Ubuntu Mobile. Raised my hopes for a
brighter future. Showed off my N810 and expressed my hopes for Gnash replacing
the closed Adobe Flash player on it. It won't happen any time soon -- everyone
wants it now!, but there are few developers actually working on it.
Went to a very geeky cafe/computer club c-base for the Ubuntu BBQ. Almost
didn't find the place, but one of the LinuxTag guys happened to be going back
at just the right moment to show me the path hidden behind the bushes.
Feeling content now. Well, missing free (or at least paid, but working --
boo, Swisscom, boo!) WiFi at the hotel, but other than that I've had a