Older blog entries for ncm (starting at number 88)

7 Dec 2003 (updated 7 Dec 2003 at 19:11 UTC) »

Finally got the Gnome panel to display only two rows of pixels, on my laptop, when it auto-hides, instead of six. Using gconf-editor, go to /apps/panel/profiles/default/toplevels/panel_0 and change auto_hide_size to 2. Voilá! (Somebody got a leetle beet overzealous about chopping out config choices!)

The linuxlaptops.com domain now belongs to Werner Heuser, of Tuxmobil (nee Mobilix) fame, and no one could be more deserving. I should have handed it over years ago. (I'm still sorry, Rusty.)

Wrote my first emacs macro, ever, last week. A bit late... but then, I run emacs in viper-mode.

Saw Down by Law for the first time in a decade or two. Tom Waits, John Lurie, and Roberto Benigni in what might be the world's most perfect film, by Jim Jarmusch.

Thank heaven for chalst. And for murrayc, too.

Evolution crashed "only" once in recent weeks. I just discovered why I had had so much trouble with HTML forms in Galeon, lately: somehow my language-preference had magically switched itself (I never touched it, I swear!) to "English with Arabic encoding". That confuses the content-negotiation apparatus of some web servers, including Speakeasy.net's.

3 Nov 2003 (updated 4 Nov 2003 at 04:45 UTC) »
shlomif: I foresee trouble ahead for you.

mbrubeck, bagder: Congratulations on your various releases, both code and offspring. And, thank you.

More about what many liberals think about Republicans: The dupes would like to be toadies, but can't find anybody to pay them for it. The toadies wish they had the courage to be crooks. The crooks have nothing but contempt for the rest. (Disclaimer: I'm not a liberal, myself.) P.s. to berend: The "day-by-day" strip has about as much zing as Mallard Fillmore. You'll find more insight in Garfield.

Evolution crashed for the first time in almost two weeks. I wasn't using it at the time; it must have crashed when it was polling imap.

Congratulations to the Galeon team on their 1.3.10 release. Running it, it works. (Shame on Fedora for dropping it.) The more Galeon-y and the less Epiphany-y it gets, the better. On a related matter, gnome-panel has degraded; now it can no longer be set to hide itself by showing only 1 or 2 rows of pixels (it insists on six rows), and it's even sloppier than before about noticing when it should autohide itself in the first place.

rlk: your postings are the most inspiring I have seen on Advogato in months.

Evolution 1.4.5 with the new Gnome libraries underneath still hasn't crashed, in more than a week. Now Galeon 1.3.10 is the crashiest program I run. Galeon, I suspect, has a problem with the downloader corrupting things (i.e. "Download link"). When it freezes, it seizes the X event queue, always immediately after clearing space to display the right-mouse-button-on-a-link menu; I have to kill from a console. (Ctrl-Alt-F1 still works.)

28 Oct 2003 (updated 28 Oct 2003 at 06:51 UTC) »

Terry Pratchett has a new book out, again. It's hard to keep up, and (contrary to publishing industry norms) the newer ones are better than the old ones. Tom Robbins has, too. Actually, two, since I had last checked!

Saw Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang for the first time in decades. Ian Fleming's best work?

Why does nobody involved in designing Mars probes put a microscope on board, so they can simply look for microbes? It would be useful for so much else, too, such as looking at mineral crystallization patterns.

T-shirt: Front, "Don't mind him". Back, "He's OK."

raph: I'm disappointed that you were taken in by this econopundit guy and his attack dogs. Incidentally, he cites Krauthammer claiming that "Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.". K got it wrong. Liberals think that (so-called) conservatives are crooks, toadies, and dupes. (Mostly dupes, of course.) Republicans can't understand why liberals want to upset the gravy train. Krugman fascinates them because he can play every rhetorical trick as well as they can, and is competent too.

deekayen: Maybe you'd better go jump off a bridge.

Evolution still hasn't crashed on me.

Somebody posted about a patch management tool named quilt, already pushed off the recent-diary-entries page. Who was that? (Google is all polluted with some grotty Java test-coverage thing, although I did find http://graal.ens-lyon.fr/~mquinson/deb.html#quilt.)

Stevey: Go for the money. After you're well along, start explaining to them how much more valuable this thing will be to them after they release it under GPL, 'cause it will get new features and bug fixes for free, and they will have a pool of people to draw upon for future work who already understand the code (in case you're engaged with something else by then). There are plenty of examples of companies who have seen the light and released finished work. If they don't go for it, so what? You can always write more code. If you feel strongly enough, treat it as prototyping, and then write better Free code to compete with it, afterward.

Evolution-1.4.5 hasn't crashed on me in several days. I suspect it was tickling Gnome-2.2 bugs fixed in 2.4. The Evolution icon comes off my gnome-panel immediately. All hail Ximian! All hail Gnome! All hail Galeon!

21 Oct 2003 (updated 21 Oct 2003 at 15:40 UTC) »

From the Wall Street Journal, www.CareerJournal.com, today:

...you can try to train a dumb boss, says [Scott] Adams. One worker he knows offered her boss a piece of candy every time he stopped by her desk and said something positive. If the boss said something negative, he didn't get any candy. According to Mr. Adams, the number of negative comments the boss made plummeted.
I would favor using electric shocks, too. But that's just me.

I installed new Debian GNOME packages today. We'll see how that affects Evolution's crashiness.

Do British web servers and browsers, and X servers, and Kerberos peers, exchange magic biscuits?

I see two immediate implications of Bram's Law. First, it means that for things that are, nominally, easy, most likely somebody has implemented it right, and probably lots of people. The problem is just finding the good implementations, and calling attention to them. If the HTTP service that comes with Python stinks, the one in Twisted is probably good. (Disclaimer: This is hearsay, I haven't looked at either.) The community is pretty good at recognizing its best and brightest, and making it easy to find out what they think, so if the competent among us help by keeping lists of competently done alternatives to popular but badly-done code, those among us equipped to tell the difference will use the good stuff. The good stuff might get less community participation, but maybe it doesn't need it so badly, given that it's (nominally) easy. In the extreme case, we can each implement and maintain our own versions of such code. Probably we do already, but who likes extrema? Let's each post a Bram's Law List of obscure but competently-constructed alternatives to badly-done but popular components, and let Google collate them for us.

The second, perhaps subtler, implication is that the law might be the first sound engineering reason for making (what might otherwise be) a simple standard complicated. If it's really hard to get something essential to a standard right, then there will be less temptation to re-implement it badly. The danger, of course, is that the bozos will just dispense with the hard bit. MySQL was built without the essential transaction engine, and became wildly popular. (Of course the soundness of this reason depends on the idea in my previous paragraph failing.)

Evolution 1.4.5 still crashes almost every day. I've never had Mutt crash, not even once. Evo, Galeon, and XFree86 are the only programs I (still) use that ever crash.

I just did something fun with high voltage. It involved two metal mixing bowls, aluminum foil, thread, a metal bottle cap, and a TV. Drape foil across the top of the TV and covering half the screen, and put one of the bowls on it. Put the other bowl near it on another scrap of foil, not touching. Hang the metal bottle cap from a thread between the bowls. Attach the scrap of foil under the second bowl to a wire to a good ground, such as the third prong of an outlet, or a water pipe.

When you turn on the TV, it sends a nice static charge into the foil on the screen, and the bowl on it. The bottle cap swings over and gathers charge, and then swings to the other and dumps it into that side, and swings back again, ringing like a gong. This is called "Franklin's Bells", and is perhaps the first electric motor. He attached his to a lightning rod instead of his TV, and used it to detect incipient lightning. For more fun, see scitoys.com, e.g. this one.

That guy who plays Morpheus in the Matrix movies may have had the best role of his career as Cowboy Curtis in Peewee Herman's "Peewee's Playhouse" series, now available on video.

3 Oct 2003 (updated 3 Oct 2003 at 19:40 UTC) »
Bram: Why start by turning all this great high-grade energy into heat? Photons are about as clean an energy source as ever there was, albeit oscillating three or four orders of magnitude faster than we can quite manage to rectify efficiently yet. Lightning is already electricity! You need extreme temperatures to get any respectable efficiency from a heat engine, and all a heat engine does is turn dirty heat into clean motion. The problem with lightning is that it releases an extreme energy burst (1.21 gW? :-) in a millisecond, but you usually need smaller amounts of power over a longer period. Therefore, what you need is really a storage system that can absorb a huge amount of energy in an instant, and then feed it (all of it!) back slowly. Run the lightning through a coil to generate a magnetic field, and use the field to loft a heavy object that releases gravitational potential energy as it descends.

mrd: I can't imagine you neglected to put a "$" at the end of your regular expression to anchor it to the end of the file name...

Evolution 1.4.5 crashed, twice. Back it goes onto my GNOME panel, even though it's quite a lot better, crashwise, (maybe 5x) than 1.4.4. Crashiness seems to be triggered by searching, FWIW.

I've been running Evolution 1.4.5 for over 24 hours, and it hasn't crashed yet. I'm removing its icon from my GNOME panel now, in hopes that I won't be needing to restart it any more.

Does anybody know why jimw's diary entries are being filtered out? This is they guy I mentioned last week as originator, in 1992, of the expression "Sooner if you help" as applied to Free Software releases. I had no idea he was here. If you can do anything to raise his diary rating, please do.

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