Older blog entries for dobey (starting at number 279)

30 Jul 2009 (updated 30 Jul 2009 at 17:08 UTC) »

The System Is Down

Last night, Stuart and I were having a little argument about the merits of OAuth and whether it is actually suitable for what we are using it for (authenticating destop applications to access a service), as I am not particularly fond of it, and I was working on support for OAuth 1.0a. Stuart's argument is that user's trust the browser, and we need some piece of trust in the system, and OAuth provides that as it pretty much requires a browser to use it. But I don't really think users trust their browser (as so many don't even know what a browser is), but instead, what they trust is the site they're looking at. The browser doesn't even exist. It's just this inherent part of the system that you have to use. To most people it's The Internet, or the giant blue e, or a compass. The browser has no real meaning to them. It's the place they have to go to search for things, and access information. And Humans have two very important attributes. They are both very prone to error, and very resilient. People will keep going to the web, despite all its problems with poorly designed sites, and crashing browsers, and broken plug-ins, because they need to get at the information they're looking for. And they will very often type their password in the wrong place, or mistake a phishing site for a real site. No amount of code will fix this. And nothing that requires a Human to do something will guarantee security and authenticity. It will only create annoyances that Humans will optimize around.

As a specific example. I received a PayPal phishing mail in my Inbox this morning. It's a pretty nifty attempt at getting credit info, too. It includes an HTML form attachment, which POSTs to PHP script that was implanted on http://ag-exchange.com/, presumably by compromising either Apache, PHP, or some other module their server is using. It appears to be a simple script which just reads the POST data, and redirects the user to the PayPal About Us page. The HTML form requires javascript and has a little card number validation method it seems, to avoid getting bad data. The mail was sent to my alias on gnome.org, and apparently got sent by taking advantage of an SMTP relay with a broken configuration. Of course, the SMTP server may have also been compromised and just had the configuration changed to allow open relay as well, but I suspect it was probably just open already. And that mail server belongs to

Syndicated 2009-07-30 15:09:16 (Updated 2009-07-30 17:08:52) from dobey's blog

Things Goin' On

I meant to make an announcement last week, but have been too busy to write up anything... The new version of intltool, 0.41.0 was released last week, with several bug fixes. It's available on Launchpad. This release also gets rid of the long-standing and annoying multi-line quotes warnings in Python files. So get your distros upgraded!

Speaking of annoyances, another one that's be cropping up quite a bit lately, due to the fact that the Ubuntu One client code wants to launch a browser for acquiring an OAuth access token, is how obviously un-usable the Default Applications concept really is in our desktop, as so many people have been filing bugs about the browser failing to launch. And the logs show exactly what's wrong, the configuration is broken, and pointing at an executable or path that no longer exists, and probably hasn't for some time. I'm surprised anything in the desktop can open a browser on these machines. This is of course, because we call the xdg-open script to launch a browser, so that our client will work on all the XDG desktops. Calling the GTK+/GNOME API directly would probably result in a different key being used, and the browser loading fine. I wonder if we can somehow make this better, because having multiple different configuration keys to launch the browser is doomed to fail at some point (which is of course what is happening right now for us).

I'd say something about RMS, but I know a bunch of you would take the time to write me some fiery e-mails. But the Michael Jackson bits in the South Park episode "Mexican Staring Frog of Southern Sri-Lanka" were great.

Syndicated 2009-07-20 20:27:16 from dobey's blog

Tarmac Mini-Sprint

Today we are having a mini-sprint via the ether for Tarmac, the most awesome piece of branch landing code using launchpadlib and bzrlib, to land approved branch merges automatically. Join us in #tarmac on freenode and help us make it even more awesome.

Syndicated 2009-07-10 13:55:11 from dobey's blog

Ubuntu One 0.90.2

We've been in a controlled beta of Ubuntu One now for a little more than a month. Recently, I've been hacking on the client a fair bit, porting our Nautilus extension to C, to avoid the dependency on python-nautilus, and for the extension to perform better, and not slow down desktop start up times by loading up Python. As part of this, the build system for ubuntuone-client was switched over to autotools for most stuff. We still generate a setup.py, and use it to perform a few tasks, but that should be going away soon as well. Keeping it around requires some funky magic in the build system, to pull all the necessary pieces into a release tarball correctly, and get Python pieces installed to the system. But now we have a way to build reproducible tarballs, and should be doing regular releases on Launchpad. You can find them here:

Ubuntu One Storage Protocol

Ubuntu One Client

We encourage people to build packages for their favorite distros as well, and are glad to answer any questions about how things should be packaged. If you have any questions, feel free to come bug us in #ubuntuone on FreeNode (irc.freenode.net). Enjoy!

Syndicated 2009-06-19 04:16:04 from dobey's blog

Pre Tricklet

So, I just got my Pre yesterday, and was messing about with copying some of my more important contacts over (until my new Laptop arrives, and I can use Vista to copy the rest over from my older Win Mobile phone), and noticed that the Pre doesn't save commas in contact entries. After no luck searching through the manual, or with a search of the internets, I ended up calling Sprint's customer support. Apparently, I'm the first person to call about this issue, and so nobody could help really, though it was suggested to possibly call Palm directly. So I went back to do a little searching, and found some references to using the 'p' or 'w' characters to mean pause/wait on other phones. Not exactly the results I was hoping for, but inserting a 'p' does let me store the bit of information I need in the contact entry, and use it in the dialer. It simply does a 'wait for input' type of thing, and appends a button for the next sequence of numbers to dial, which must be manually 'pressed' during the call. At least it will let me still use conference numbers at least somewhat more easily than remembering the PIN myself.

Syndicated 2009-06-08 02:49:03 from dobey's blog

It's a Mock WOrld

Some people like to live in dreams. Others like to live like those dreams can never be real. I like to make them come to life.

I've mentioned in a couple place recently that I'd been working on some mock-ups of a new interface for contacts management. I'm finally posting them here now, and hope I can figure out some of the details for getting it implemented, soon. The idea is to provide a very simple interface, and extra information about a user, which one wouldn't normally find in the address book interface. I also want to get rid of the concept of having sepparate "address books" that you manage separately from your actual contacts, that may even have the same contact in multiple places.

This is the simple list view for the contacts. Not sure what would belong in all the menus, or if it should even have any, yet. The current tool bar items are new contact, return to list view (would be greyed out in the view), and a combo box to filter the list. Filtering would work based on which store the contact is in, tags on the contact, names, status, and all the information assosiated with a contact, so it would pretty much be a "do what i mean" sort of interface. The content associated with the contacts, which ends up in the list view, is also not entirely specified, nor is the context menu which would pop up when right clicking. Opening a contact would use some neat clutter-like animation sequence and bring you to the Contact view:

Not entirely sure what the layout should be like exactly, as some of the things would require scrolling. Probably will just have one scrollbar for the whole canvas, and just overflow vertically where needed. Here the new contact item would be disabled in the toolbar, but I think the filter entry might be still useful, for condensing the information displayed for a contact. Typing "phone" to show only the contact's phone number information, for example. We could display a lot of information for a contact here, such as RSS feed data, flickr posts, related contacts, and similar things from web services. I want to find a nice balance and show the most pertinent information in the prominent top portion of the canvas though, such as useful free/busy agenda information, basic contact info, status, presence, and contact store locations.

This contacts UI is a small part of a much larger project I've been talking with some other hackers with, to unify the backends, and an access API, for getting at all this information, to really make people and relationships a first class part of the desktop. More news coming soon on that.

Syndicated 2009-05-27 21:36:02 from dobey's blog

Ubuntu One Beta

Ubuntu One is now in a limited public beta. Check it out. There will be lots more awesome stuff on it in the future too.

Syndicated 2009-05-11 23:13:48 from dobey's blog

Moving intltool

After a short discussion, Danilo and I have agreed that moving intltool to Launchpad would be better for the project, and us, as its maintainers. The project is not specific to GNOME, and we would like to encourage non-GNOME projects to adopt it for use by their translators. All future development will take place in the LP project, with Danilo and myself as its continuing maintainers. Please report any new bugs or requests in the bug tracker on Launchpad. I will be sending a mail shortly to the appropriate GNOME lists, with some more details soon. If you have any questions about how this will affect you, feel free to e-mail me or ping me on IRC.

Syndicated 2009-04-08 17:56:16 from dobey's blog

24 Mar 2009 (updated 24 Mar 2009 at 14:10 UTC) »

The Mantra of Done

Over the years I've been developing software. I've seen all sorts of things that attempt to manage what you are doing, and how to improve that workflow. There are lots of apps for both GTK+ and Qt, as well as Windows and Mac OS, to try and help with this. There are lots of interesting web services too. I've even used a couple, particularly landing on SlimTimer for contract work I was doing in the past, as it has some particularly nice reporting features, and a simple REST API for connecting to it. However, even then, I felt there were several things which I would improve on.

A couple weeks ago, I was in Orlando, sprinting with some of the other members of my team at Canonical. One day, Elliot pointed out a particularly interesting blog entry, titled The Cult of Done Manifesto. The great thing about it, is that it all makes sense, and is yet rather simple. It's also not a finite set, and doesn't necessarily apply to all fields of practice. I would say that for example, item #9 in the list, doesn't really fit well into the politial arena.

Back to all the apps though. I was thinking about the Cult of Done again, and the very simplified task manager app I'd started writing, that was to just be a client for SlimTimer, after being asked for comments on a couple of icons for Getting Things Gnome, a GTK+ task manager based on Getting Things Done. Looking at its screenshots, I was amazed at just how complex it really was. Even all the miriad of OS X apps for GTD seem to be too complex, and don't really integrate well with the rest of the system. Most importantly, all these apps seem to targetting a specific workflow, and concentrating on what needs to be done, rather than the actual point of them being done.

So back to Stopwatch. Last night I set up a project on Launchpad for it, and will be moving the code I do have for it already, over to bzr. But it will no longer only be a SlimTimer client. Rather instead, it will be a very simple, yet extensible, task manager, which integrates better with the rest of the system. The most interesting thing to do with it, I have in my mind right now, is a backend to handle trackable and taskable items on Launchpad. It will be so nice to have all my assigned bugs right in front of me, with an easy way to mark them as done, or reprioritize them, based on MY workflow, and not that of the bug tracker.

Syndicated 2009-03-24 12:02:59 (Updated 2009-03-24 14:10:22) from dobey's blog

Less Irssi Noise

I finally got fed up with having excessive activity notifications in irssi today, and decided to write a script to solve my complaints. I have about nine channel windows, and sometimes there's a lot of join/part activity, and not much else, especially during nights and holidays, when IRC is left unattended, or if there are some hiccups in connectivity around the globe. Though, by default, irssi likes to show an activity notification for anything, which can be rather annoying and fill up the right end of the status bar very quickly, when nothing is actually going on. So this morning, I wrote a wonderfully quick and easy perl script for irssi to not show these levels of status in the activity area on the status bar. You can find it here. Just stick it in your ~/.irssi/scripts directory, as lessact.pl, and do /run lessact. Any future messages for a window, which aren't above a certain level now just get wiped clean. If you have any issues with it, or have a suggestion to improve it, feel free to let me know. Enjoy.

Syndicated 2009-01-02 16:47:56 from dobey's blog

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