Older blog entries for msevior (starting at number 71)

17 Apr 2006 (updated 17 Apr 2006 at 05:03 UTC) »
Faith restored in Linux Desktop

I installed Fedora Core 5 on my IBM T43 laptop a few days ago. I waited a while for a new kernel that supported the proprietry ATI 3D drivers.

I'm VERY pleased with the outcome. Firstly the install went like breeze. Video worked, sound worked hardwired network worked. Next I installed the firmware for the centrino Wireless built into the laptop. Got wireless working with the standard Fedora network tools.

Then I did the big update since the DVD was distributed. Around 300 Megabytes! Included was the patched 2.6.16 kernel. After rebooting and downloading the livna rpm to gives access to the grey packages, I installed the ATI 3d driver. It worked like a charm.

Started PowerManager and now the machine suspends to RAM just fine with lid closure. NetworkManager handles different wireless networks beautifully. The video out works nicely so I can make presentations with my laptop (I do a LOT of these now).

Plus there is a whole load of useful goodies in FC5. Gnome-2.14, Beagle, Tomboy, F-Spot are great programs. The FC Extras and Livna repositries now hold a whole slew of useful applications and now the "pirut" graphical interface to yum allows these programs to be discovered and handled easily.

Unfortunately "pirut" has a really dumb behaviour of closing immediately after having installed software. Sum1, our really cool AbiWord bug meister, found that there is a bug for this, and after adding a "Me Too" to complain about this, I discovered that it is possible to load up every thing you want before installing. This wasn't obvious to me and I think most users would find the same thing. Since "pirut" takes a long time to start up, closing the app after a single install really sucks.

Anyway after discovering the right way to use "pirut", via the bug report, it was very easy to find a whole lot of interesting software. (Including the all the patent restricted stuff.)

So in all, I'm very, very happy with FC5 on the T43. Plug and play with USB devices works great. The nautilus based CD and DVD reader and writers "Just Work" beautifully. I'm learning how to use Beagle and desktop search.

I'm looking forward to finishing the integration of AbiWord with Beagle and other search tools via dashboard.

Crossover Office 5 is there when I absolutely must have MS Word and Powerpoint alhough AbiWord is more than enough for almost all my needs now that we have fully integrated Equation support. I've been creating problem sheets and solutions with AbiWord for my 2nd year Thermal Physics classes and it works great. It is much easier and faster than MS Word or OO.o Equation Editors to an old Latex Hack like me.

FC5 definately raises the bar to whole new level for Linux distros. The GL-based Window Managers from Novel and RedHat should make Linux desktop fully competitive with Vista and OSX. There is every chance Novel Linux Desktop-10 will take things this new level, especially since they can ship patent restricted software like mp3 and various video codecs.

Anyway I also wanted to send a big "Congratulations" to the whole community that made FC5 possible. It's great to see how a huge group of competiting and cooperating people can raise the water level so that "everyone floats ups".

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14 Apr 2006 (updated 14 Apr 2006 at 15:08 UTC) »
My First Marathon

Last Sunday I completed my first marathon. It was held in Australia's Capital, Canberra. I flew up on frequent flyer points from Melbourne on Saturday. My brother drove down from Sydney to be my support team. It was great to spend a couple of days together and he even managed to get a few videos of me struggling along at 16, 23, 28, 34km and for my stunning last 200 meter sprint to the finish :-) The day was just perfect. The sky was clear blue and the temperature rose to 20 C. The course was beautiful and wound around Lake Burley Griffen and various Important Buildings. The locals were fantastic and really supportive. Lots of people volenteered their time to provide drinks, traffic coordination and Inspirational Music along the course. I'll never forget "Theme to Rocky" while running under a blocked-from-traffic underpass :-) All in all if you are going to run your first Marathon this was a great place and time to do it.

My time was a very un-stunning 4 hours 48 minutes. I finished 788th out of 866 people who completed the event. I think over 1000 started. I found that despite all my training my legs became really sore after about 23km. At 25 km I just couldn't run any more. I needed to walk. After about 10 minutes of walking I was able to run for another few kilometers. Then I needed to walk again. The remainder of the event saw the periods of me walking get longer and longer except for the final 200 meters when I put on sprint to the finish.

While I was training I thought I would complete this one Marathon and that would be it. I could cross it off my List of Things I Want To Do Before I Die . But there is so much room for improvement in my time I think I'll do another.

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Fuel Efficient cars

Rich Burridge quotes a summary of a Consumer Reports article which states that only 2 hybrid electric cars will save you money over 5 years.

This was based on the idea that fuel prices will either remain stable or fall in this time scale. Just to remind people, China, India and other countries in the third world are enjoying economic growth which is leading to substantial increase in private car ownership. The effect is to increase world demand for Oil by about 1-2 million barrels of Oil per day per year. This article shows that even Saudi Arabia will max out the rate at which it can supply Oil at an extra 4 Million Barrels of Oil per day and that it will take them until well into the 2010's before the increased production is ready.

With an extra 2 billion people competing for the world's remaining Oil reserves, the only way gasoline will become cheap is if it surplanted as the transportation fuel of choice.

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1 Apr 2006 (updated 1 Apr 2006 at 09:43 UTC) »
A really nice compliment.

Our website devoted to the study of Nuclear Power, http://nuclearinfo.net has been selected for Digital Archiving. I received this email asking for our permission.

29 March 2006

Dear Professor Sevior

Request for permission to archive nuclearinfo.net website at http://www.nuclearinfo.net

The National Library of Australia aims to build a comprehensive collection of Australian publications to ensure that Australians have access to their documentary heritage now and in the future. The Library has traditionally collected items in print, but it is also committed to preserving electronic publications of lasting cultural value.

PANDORA, Australia's Web Archive, was set up by the Library in 1996 to enable the archiving and provision of long-term access to online Australian publications. Since then we have been identifying online publications and archiving those that we consider have national significance. Additional information about PANDORA can be found on the Library's server at: http://pandora.nla.gov.au/index.html

We would like to include the nuclearinfo.net website in the PANDORA Archive and I would be grateful if you would let me know whether you are willing to permit us to do so, that is, grant us a licence under the Copyright Act 1968, to copy the publication into the Archive and to provide public online access to it via the Internet. This means that you would grant the Library permission to retain the publication in the Archive and to provide public access to it in perpetuity.

Nice :-)

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6 Mar 2006 (updated 6 Mar 2006 at 13:55 UTC) »
AbiCollab Lives!

Nice screen capture Marc!. jdub hmm yes well only a little bit later than I'd hoped but on the other hand the promised encouragement was never forthcoming :-)

AbiCollab is really cool and I'll prolly get more time hacking on it now that Research Grant writing season is over. On the other hand my involvement in the Nuclear Power debate seems to be taking more of my time than I expected. Hopefully uwog will continue to take up my slack....

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17 Jan 2006 (updated 17 Jan 2006 at 10:32 UTC) »
Another data point for Thomas.

Thomas I know one other person who has all his digital music in Ogg form. He is a vegetarian, rides his bike everyone, dotes on his wife and 2 daughters and looks forward the the Port Fairy Folk Festival every year. He is the epitome of a tree-hugging leftie (and has a sense of humour too :-).

Comments here.

PS. This is not me! I eat meat and all my digital music are mp3's.

30 Dec 2005 (updated 30 Dec 2005 at 12:25 UTC) »
Server-Side AbiWord

AbiWord's primary purpose is to be easiest way possible to prepare documents. We're very tightly focused on being as easy to use as possible. I'm particularly proud of our Visual Drag and Drop feature which substantially reduces a users need to use the clipboard.

However about 3 years ago I thought about the possibilities of utilizing all the neat features of AbiWord remotely. While AbiWord has an extensive array of command-line options, and many people found these useful, each use of Abiword from the command line required reloading Abiword into memory, which was highly inefficient. So I came up the idea of command line interface to AbiWord.

This is a plugin, ("AbiCommand"), which is invoked with the command-line

abiword --plugin AbiCommand

The "--plugin" means execute following the plugin immediately.

This gives you control of the program without actually having a graphics window open. AbiCommand provides a command line interface into AbiWord which allows all sorts of interesting things. You can load and save documents. You can find and replace text. Insert text, delete text etc.

I thought this was a great idea but nobody seemed to be using it much. It was one of those "secret tips" computer magazines like to tell their readers about. Except nobody seemed to know about it.

Then after the release of Abiword-2.4 we began to get more and more bug reports and Requests For Enhancements for AbiCommand. It appears that some people have realized how useful this is for document conversion. AbiWord-2.4.2 (due Real Soon Now) has very good support for export to odt format (Thanks Nokia!), which joins our great support for export to HTML,RTF and ABW. We also had a report that showed how easy this was to utilize with PHP..

$handle = popen("/usr/local/bin/abiword --plugin AbiCommand 2>&1", "w");
fputs($handle, "server");
fputs($handle, "load /usr/local/apache/sites/Toronto.doc");
fputs($handle, "save /tmp/toronto1.html");

or via the "converttotext" or "converttohtml" commands in AbiCommand

So any of you admins wishing to display Word Processor docs in users webbrowsers, just employ some combination of PHP scripts and AbiWord and you're done!

If you are an administrator who wants to automatically convert legacy documents in MS *.doc formats to a more modern and maintainable format (like *.abw or *.odt) go to it :-)

The complete list of AbiCommand's follows. This list of commands is easy to extend.

AbiWord:> help

Currently implemented commands are...

help - prints this message

quit - exits the program

new - create a new empty document.

load "filename" - load "filename" replacing the current document.

printfile "filename1" "filename2"... - print the current document into the filenames listed.

replaceall "find" "target" - replace every occurance of "find" with "target" in the current document.

replacenext "find" "target" - replace the next occurance of "find" with "target" in the current document.

inserttext "target" - Insert "target" at the current point in the document.

delete "args" - Delete "args" characters at the current point in the document.

replacenext "find" "target" - replace the next occurance of "find" with "target" in the current document.

movept "arg" - Move the current point to another location in the current document. options for arg are: BOD,EOD,BOP,EOP,BOS,EOS,BOL,EOL,BOW,+num,-num,num

selectstart - Start a selection at the current point

selectclear - Clear the current selection.

findnext "target" - Find the next occurance of target and select it.

save "filename" - Save the current document.

If filename is omitted the file is saved to it's original name. Otherwise the extension of the filename is used to determine the format of the file

converttotext "src" "dest" - convert the file given in "src" to the plain text file named "dest"

converttohtml "src" "dest" - convert the file given in "src" to the html file named "dest"

writepid "file" - write the PID of this process to the file "file"

server "error file" - This is being run as remote process. Write an error file on error.

previewpng Document preview.png width height - Create a PNG preview of Document with name preview.png of width pixels wide and height pixels in height.

visualedit - popup a visual window and edit the file or just preview what you've done close the window when finished.

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21 Dec 2005 (updated 21 Dec 2005 at 10:08 UTC) »
Everything you want to know about Nuclear Power

For last 6 months I've been leading a team of Physicists here at the University of Melbourne in the development of a wiki website that explains all the issues of nuclear power. Today we sent a media release announcing the website.



We did this because we felt we had something to offer to a debate about Nuclear Energy in Australia. We have no vested interest in Nuclear Power other than ensure everyone fully understands the risks and benefits of either employing it or not employing it. No one funded our research. We donated our time to the work much like what happens in Open Source software project. Because of this we could be free of accusations of bias. (But I'm sure we'll get some accusations anyway.)

Much of the anti-nuclear argument centers on an incorrect model of the energy costs in mining Uranium and Nuclear Power plants by Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen and Philip Smith . The implication of their work is that once the current crop of Uranium mines are exhausted, the energy cost of mining the less abundant Uranium will be so great that it will not be repaid in operating the power plant. We show that van Leeuwen and Smith both over-estimate the cost energy cost of mining the Uranium by at least a factor 10 and also over-estimate the cost of building and operating a Nuclear Plant by over a factor of 10.

The upshot is that Uranium at far lower concentrations that what are currently mined can be efficiently extracted. The implication is that there is hundreds of times more minable Uranium in the world than predicted by van Leeuwen and Smith. Enough to provide the entire energy needs of everyone on the planet for hundreds of years.

But that is just one of our findings. We look at everything to do with Nuclear power. We cover Waste Disposal, Advanced Reactors, Accelerator Driven reactors, Other energy sources, Radiation Safety, What happened at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, Greenhouse Gas emission, Costs of Nuclear Power and alternative energy sources, electricity prices in different Countries plus more.

Have a look. If you find it useful give us a link and tell your friends!

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5 Dec 2005 (updated 5 Dec 2005 at 23:55 UTC) »

After a slow start, hacking on AbiWord-2.6 is picking up. We've all got pretty excited about the One Laptop Per Child program and are focusing on things that would enhance AbiWord for that activity.

Firstly Tomas Frydrych has been hacking away on our basic Unix graphics class to enable us to use the pango library for the various complex scripts employed in places where the OLPC program might be employed. Today he made his work the new default in CVS HEAD and it appears to work extremely well. A great side-effect of this work is that we may be able to make use of the Gtk-Cairo backend to do sub-pixel positioning of text. I would love this as it would finally remove the off-by-one pixel errors of positioning letters within fully-justified text. Using AbiWord would be like having print-preview quality all the time.

I've been hacking on AbiCollab recently. The idea of this feature is allow real-time collaboration on document creation. Claus Schwarm and I wrote about this feature in Gnome-Journal. I've made good progress. We can now serialize document editing and record the editing information to a file. I have also written code to translate the recorded information back into AbiWord commands so that the file reproduces the editing session. With this in place the next task is to connect two AbiWord's together so that the editing information of one session is communicated to the other. My first thought is that the xmpp protocol used by jabber would be employed. There are a number of good reasons for doing this.

1. Jabber works so the protocol must be good.

2. People will want to use an IM client for offline discussions as they work on the document. Might as well be Jabber.

3. There is good reference code in Inkscape 0.43 which I may be able to steal :-) BTW I wonder when the release announcement of 0.43 will be made? It really is an outstanding release which takes inkscape into territory not covered by commercial vector apps.

4. People will need to find a way through firewalls to use this application. If they've already worked out how to do it with Jabber it's one less issue they have to worry about.

Another thing we might do is make our compressed *.zabw file file format the default and work out how we can prevent superfluous properties being exported. The idea of course is to minimize the "disk" space taken up by documents. The *.zabw format really rocks in this department. This blog post occupies 2466 bytes in *.zabw. By comparison the same document in *.odt occupies 9316 bytes, *.doc 24064 bytes and *.rtf takes 5286 bytes.

Comments Here.


For some very strange reason I missed the inkscape-0.43 release prominently displayed at:



Three things.

Firstly I've got my IBM T43 working pretty nicely now. My only complaint is that I can't suspend to RAM and use the proprietry 3D drivers. I'm currently using gnome-powermanager to handle power issues and NetworkManager to handle wireless. These two are cool applications but they don't quite work together correctly. For some reason if I let gnome-powermanager handle lid events I can't return from suspend on lid closings with NetworkManager running. For those events I full back to the scripts I showed in my previous post. It's nice to able to use my laptop in Linux all time now.

Second I'm currently doing research at the KEK National Laboratory in Japan. Last night I watched Australia beat Uraquay to earn a spot in the soccer World Cup final. We watched over an internet stream hijacked through port forward in Australia. The TV station with the broadcast rights blocked direct connections from overseas. Mplayer and totem both performed very well and I thoroughly enjoyed the match and the result :-)

Finally for some reason I have not been able to work out, I've not been able to directly connect to #abiword either at CERN or here in Japan. I've checked my firewall settings and they all seem fine. Oh well I might ssh back to Melbourne and use a text-based IRC client.

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