Older blog entries for Raphael (starting at number 22)

Ghostscript

It is nice to see that Ghostscript has a new maintainer, in the person of raph. Congratulations and good luck! Ghostscript is already very good, and adding better antialiasing and other stuff from Libart will make it even better.

Hmm... There seems to be an account for L. Peter Deutsch on Advogato. Not very active, apparently...

Diaries, yet another meta-discussion...

At the end of a previous diary entry, raph mentioned that the diary format is working, but is not ideal for question-and-answer discussions. Well... Obviously the diaries were not designed for that, but it is great to see how they have evolved. There seems to be a need (among the free software community) for this kind of discussions, which are more public than direct e-mail, mailing lists or IRC, but whithout being restricted to a particular topic like the articles on the front page.

A first step would be to use automatic bi-directional links whenever possible. Whenever someone posts a diary entry containing a link to someone else's diary, the filter that parses the submission would at the same time add a backwards link at the end of the other diary (e.g. "[1 comment by so-and-so]"). It would then be easier to check if someone has replied to your diary entry.

But as the number of diaries grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep up with the postings. It will not take long before the daily submissions cannot fit on the front page. Already now, it is easy to miss some parts of a discussion if you go away for a couple of days. And the only way to read the missing parts is to look at the pages of all potential participants and check their previous entries. This is not very convenient, because you may forget some of them and you may not know that a new guy has posted some interesting comments. Of course, that could be solved by another hack to Advogato: allow the "recentlog" to take a range of dates, or at least a starting date. It would then display all diaries that have been posted or modified during that time, so that you could read last week's diaries in chronological order if you missed them. (Implementation note: Advogato should store a chronological index of all diaries, otherwise finding and sorting them would be inefficient.)

But where does that lead to? If it is easier to discuss things in the diaries, that part of Advogato would become similar to a web-based bulletin board or chat room. Or a web-based version of USENET. The comparison with USENET and other chat rooms is interesting: they allow threading (using a "References" header in the newsgroups, or direct links in the web fora) and they provide easy ways to separate the unrelated topics (different subject lines, newsgroups or chat rooms). The Advogato diaries put everything in one large page and it is up to the readers to separate the interesting things from the noise. But on the other hand, this can be considered as a feature that reinforces the community, because all members get the opportunity to read some articles that they might have skipped if the topics had been clearly separated. Also, another feature of the diaries is that they do not have subject lines: those who want to add them can do it (using bold and/or indentation) but nobody is forced to structure their diaries in any way. It is difficult to please everybody...

So I don't know what would be best for Advogato (anyway, who am I to judge?) but I think that there are several significant differences between the diaries and a full-featured discussion forum, and these differences may be good for Advogato. If nobody has enough spare time to add a discussion forum besides (and not as a replacement for) the diaries, then I am happy with the current situation. Hmm... Maybe it would be better with the addition of bi-directional links...

I wish I had the time to reply to raph's diary entries about the Tragedy of the Commons. There are lots of interesting ideas and things to discuss.

I need a break from work. I am going on vacation tomorrow.

There is yet another discussion of the QPL vs. GPL issues, on Slashdot this time. I posted a reply to some comments related to the two Freshmeat editorials. I wonder when these license incompatibility problems will be solved.

<rant>And I am always surprised by the number of people who fail to understand some basic things about licenses and copyrights. IANAL and I am probably wrong in some of my comments, but at least I try to get the basic facts straight and to see the difference between law and opinions. It looks like most contributors to these stories don't do that. Ah well... </rant>

I saw a new editorial on Freshmeat discussing the incompatibility between the GPL and the QPL version 1.0. It contains a good step-by-step explanation of the problems. I included a link to it as well as some comments about the editorial and its replies at the bottom of my previous article about the QPL.

I read Cees de Groot's diary in which he mentions that the Orbiten Free Software Survey credits him for a mere 39 K of code. Since I am curious, I decided to check what the survey says about me and I saw that it credits me (author 3745) for the incredible total of 28 bytes of code. Wow! I'm impressed...

For some reason, it did not find me among the contributors to the GIMP or some other packages to which I contributed. But after a bit more careful investigation, I found that the database had registered me several times, so I have the other profiles 7841 (credited for 21 K) and 9709 (credited for 55 K). Still, that's not much... The interesting thing is that I am credited for some projects in which I did not even know that my code was used. But on the other hand, I could not find my name in any of the projects to which I contributed directly (except for rplay). Funny... Anyway, I'm curious to see the results of their next study, which should be available soon.

While I am thinking about contributions to free software projects, I realized that I wrote some patches to the GIMP last month and I forgot to submit them. They have been sitting on my hard disk since then. Hmmm... Maybe I need more sleep?

During the last days, my SO told me a couple of times that I was strange (why am I not surprised?) She has seen me picking up some small flowers, dead bugs, stones and other weird stuff from various places, then running back home and putting them on my scanner. I told her that these would make great textures and brushes for the GIMP, but she is still thinking that I am a bit strange. She was disgusted when she saw me tearing off the wings of a dead dragonfly in order to scan them (I got the idea from here). But she liked the final result very much: dragonfly wings are beautiful and can be used as a GIMP brush to create very nice effects. Now I still have to find a dead locust somewhere...

Besides this and some more hacks and bug-fixes on the GIMP code and Script-Fu's, I also spent some time trying to convert scans or photos into tileable textures. There are many ways to do that, depending on which features of the original image should be preserved (the "make seamless" plug-in does not give good results most of the time). Maybe I should write a tutorial about that, because the tricks that should be used to make real objects tileable are different from the ones that are used to create textures from scratch.

Yesterday, I spent some time scanning random stuff that I could find in my house. I would like to create some nice brushes and textures for the next version of the GIMP (1.2). So I scanned some samples of wood, pebbles, skin, flowers and even bread and pasta. Since I scanned them at a high resolution (1200 dpi), I now have a number of large files (several megabytes each) that I have to shrink down to a few dozen KB if I want them to be distributed with the gimp-data-extras package. I hope that I will be able to produce some nice, high-quality textures.

I also hacked some Script-Fu logo scripts so that they can register in a new menu "Alpha to logo". I already sent a patch for the first five scripts on Friday, and I continued yesterday. Still a few more to go before all of them are converted. It is very nice to have these enhanced scripts when you have the GIMP Freetype plug-in installed.

I am not sure that I will ever publish the second part of my article about Moderation and Certification. I decided to wait for one month before publishing anything new because the first part of that article was published at a time when a lot of "meta" discussions were posted (sometimes as replies to unrelated articles) and some people were rightfully upset about the number of meta comments. Now the month is over and I still do not think that it would be appropriate to post the second part of my article. The best way to contribute would be for me to write the code instead of just talking about it, but on the other hand it is nice to have a discussion before implementing something that people may not like. Hmmm... I think that I will wait a bit more before deciding what to do with that article.

  • Congratulations to Heather and Raph for their new son Max.
  • It's sad to see someone comitting suicide on Advogato. I don't care if he is removing all his certifications, but removing all his diary entries as well means that some (valuable) information is now lost. Including the last diary entries that could have explained what happened (and of course, the other people who were involved in that discussion edited their diaries too, so it is now very difficult to understand this mess.) This reminds me of the WikiSuicide that was mentioned in an article two weeks ago. It's just sad. And stupid.
  • I was hoping that yosh would wait until this week before releasing the Gimp 1.1.20. Nope. It is out now, so my patches will have to wait until 1.1.21. Ah well...
  • Yesterday evening, I updated the template that I use for my home page. The icons look better with some anti-aliasing, but they still need more work. And I also have to include the contents from my old pages, because the current draft does not contain much.

I see that someone has fixed the strange </ul> that had been escaped in my article after I previewed and posted it. I suppose that I should thank raph for that. Now even Lynx displays it correctly. Great!

I will be away until Tuesday. I wonder what kind of replies will be posted while I am not on the 'net.

Maybe I will take some time during my short Easter break to update the gimp_tips file and to create a new splash screen just for fun (using some of my bug images). Hmm... Unless yosh decides to release 1.1.20 before I have the time to submit my patches...

And Sven hasn't replied yet to my questions about my Script-Fu patches. I wonder what's up. Hi Sven! :-)

My account has been switching several times between Master and Journeyer during the last two months. Every time I log in, I wonder what color I will have. Isn't that funny? Anyway, I don't think that I deserve this purple color, at least not for my current contributions to the free software community.

Phew! I finished the first part of my article and I posted it a few minutes ago. I still have to update the second part, which is more tricky because content filtering involves more subjective things. This essay on "moderation and certification" is growing way out of proportion. Tell me that I need a doctor...

I had to resort to some ugly HTML + CSS tricks in order to make my article look like I wanted to. I hope that raph will not be upset about that. At least Lynx and Netscape display it almost correctly, except for the next problem...

For a reason that I do not understand, Advogato escaped one of my </ul> tags when posting, although it looked fine in the preview. It also added some extra <p> tags that should not be there. Help! My article looks ugly now, with this broken indentation and this </ul> sitting in the middle of the text. I still have the preview on screen to check that I was not dreaming. What's up?

I see that a couple of people are abusing Advogato, or at least being creative:

  • flomo855 is the worst offender. This account is incorrectly registered as a "Lead Developer" for every large project that exists. I will not comment on the diary entries...
  • nwv is an interesting experiment that started two months ago. I wonder what this account would become if the system that I propose in my article is ever implemented.
  • God and Satan are the most recent additions, probably created by the same person. I am curious to see if anybody will certify these accounts, and if a symbolic certification war could start between them.
Nothing serious so far, but I am still afraid that some script kiddie could come, create a few thousand accounts, and start updating those diaries like mad.

I just read nether's diary entry about diaries, finger and links. He hits the nail right on the head! Lots of good points there.

I eventually took the time to scan my photos from GUADEC and to put them on my web pages. I also spent some time hacking some Script-Fu things for the Gimp. But no time left for my Advogato article. Sigh!

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