Older blog entries for shlomif (starting at number 207)

Gilbo'a March

The Saturday before the last, my father and I attended the Gilbo'a March. He wook me up early, we drove and there and took the short 6 km route. Dad came there with sandals and kept getting stones into his shoes. He also slowed me down quite a bit, and I had to wait for him a lot. As far as food was concerned, I ate a few apples, a snack, and a hot dog after the March. I don't remember my father eating anything at all.

Anyway, we had a good time. The scenery was beautiful and it was fun walking outdoors. I took the book "The qmail Handbook" with me for the ride and read it on the way there and back.

Random Computer Problems

When trying to use KAddressbook, I noticed that my distribution lists disappeared. Turns out it was a change of format, which I had to fix manually. Berkeley dbxml caused me more problems, with some obscure exceptions being thrown by the C++ code. After contacting a support person of Sleepy Cat, I found out it happened because I was using Xerces-C 2.5.x instead of 2.4.x. Downgrading Xerces-C solved this problem.

When upgrading some of my Mandrake packages, I noticed that upon invocation of some scanner-related code, the process started to consume all CPU and print some kind of message. This even happened during boot time sometimes. I filed a bug report and found out that the problem can be solved by replacing the faulty sane-backends package with its older version (of the Mandrake release). I did it and now everything works fine.

When trying to help Eran, I tried to install the ADSL connectivity as a PPPoE straight to the computer, without the router in between. I was not successful, and eventually, decided to revert it. Upon boot, my networking was left in a sub-optimal state: there wasn't a /sbin/route route to the Internet and the eth0 Ethernet card was enabled. After a lot of head-scratching , I was able to solve the problem by removing the S11internet startup script. This is a script that starts the Internet connectivity, was enabled by the Mandrake control center, and was kept there, after I tried to revert the problem.

I tried to use drakfont to uninstall several fonts using the command line --uninstall and it did not work. Nothing happened. I filed a bug report to it and eventually was able to fix it with a small patch that took me quite a long time to write. (also available at the bug report).

rpmdrake and MandrakeUpdate converted to using gtk2, so now the buttons are in different locations in the message boxes. Thanks to the GNOME HIG (= Horrible Interface Guidelines), I pressed the wrong buttons, but now I simply have to take the time to think for a while about that. Wretched GNOME developers.

I had a problem with Yahoogrooups that I was a member of a mailing list , but could not access the web files. I tried many things, but they did not work. After reading the usage instructions, I was able to be registered to the web services.

Finally, now that I'm using KHTML 3.2.x it seems there are some new bugs in it. For example, DocBook TOC's are displayed with vertical spaces and a use.perl.org journal is not displayed correctly. Hopefully, I'll find some time to isolate these problems and report them to the KDE bugzilla. Will wonders ever cease?


I took the two second chance tests - in "Introduction to Thermodyanmics and Statistical Physics" and in "Statistics". I did not felt very confident about the Thermodynamics test (it was pretty hard), but eventually I got a final score of 78%. (Yay!)

The Statistics test did not go too well. There were many difficult questions there and several things that I did not know how to answer. I'll wait for the grade and see how I fare.


A couple of days ago, I downloaded a song at a speed of 40 KBps during its entire download. It was finished in a second, and it was not corrupted!

17 Mar 2004 (updated 25 Sep 2004 at 13:06 UTC) »

Solving the smb mount problem

I had a problem with my Mandrake installation that after upgrading to Mandrake 9.2, I could not mount SMB partitions with the mount command. I tried to look at the source of the mount command, but the util-linux package is very hard to build with debug flags. (I could not figure how to do it within my time frame).

But strace came to the rescue and I was able to find out it was looking for a /sbin/mount.smbfs program. Since I only had /sbin/mount.smbfs2 I symlinked to it, and then everything worked properly.

Installing dbxml

One day I set out on trying to install Berkeley dbxml. Problem is it had several dependencies: Berkeley DB with the C++ bindings, Apache's Xerces, and Pathan, an XPath library for Xerces. Compiling Berkeley DB with the C++ bindings went very smoothly (I just had to tweak my configuration script a bit). I was also able to compile Xerces as an RPM from its tar.gz.

Then I set out to install Pathan. I tried to compile the .src.rpm but I encountered two problems. The first was a compilation problem that was only encountered on gcc 3.3.x (which I have). I was able to resolve it based on the description in that bug report. Then, I encountered a missing header file. After a long time of head-banging, I realized I had to set up an env var to the path of Xerces' source, instead of its binary installation. After I did it, everything worked.

After Pathan was installed (which took several hours all in all), I compiled dbxml, which went very flawlessly, and nice. Did not have time to experience with it yet, but I may need to find a way to use it from within a scripting language of some sort, because I'm not fond of using C++ for this.

What I did do was play with the Perl XML::XPath CPAN module. I got the hang of XPath through it, but of course, the queries did not run very quickly as it's a pure Perl module.

Upgrading to Mandrake 10.0

I upgraded to Mandrake 10.0. The upgrade went pretty OK, albeit it is highly possible the CDs were not burned well. Then came the usual slew of upgrade problems.

First thing was that xmms kept crashing when trying to play a song. I found out the problem was that xmms-arts was not installed at all, and so had to install it. After I did (version 0.7.0) everything worked well. 0.7.0 seems more solid than 0.6.0 which was buggy as hell and forced me to downgrade to 0.4.0.

Then I realized I had no Internet. Apparently, the Ethernet driver configuration got lost and I had to fix it using a quick visit to the Mandrake Control Center.

Afterwards, I found out KMail was crashing and I could not read the mail. I had no idea why, until I looked at the rpms list and found out that version 3.1.x of KMail was still installed. I removed it and installed KMail 3.2.x instead. The problem was probably that kmail 3.1.x belonged to kdenetwork and kmail 3.2.x to kdepim.

Then, kmail informed me that it was now using $HOME/.Mail instead of $HOME/Mail and had to move all the directories. I instructed it to do so, but then I saw that it displayed none of my existing folders. I panicked ("all my mail was lost"), but then remembered to check ~/.Mail. What I found there was that there was a ~/.Mail/Mail directory there, with all my original files. (stupid KMail!!). So I moved all the files manually to ~/.Mail/ and then everything worked fine.

One thing I noticed was that suddenly all my fonts became smaller. It may have to do with the Sans font becoming smaller, for some reason. I changed the fonts manually in kmail. gvim itself displayed the fonts in a horrid font. After consulting the good guys at FreeNode's #vim channel, I found out that I had to do a set guifont=Bitstream\ Vera\ Sans\ Mono\ 12 (with backslashes before ths spaces) instead of a set guifont="Bitstream Vera Sans Mono 12" (surrounded by double quotation marks) which worked fine previously. Don't ask me why, but it works.

The came the GIMP Compilation problem. I tried to compile gimp from cvs, but could not because of the following error: << Can't locate object method "path" via package "Request" at /usr/share/autoconf/Autom4te/C4che.pm line 69, <GEN1> line 111. >>. After I searched google for it (which was a bit hard because it does not accept quotation marks inside.), I realized that I had to delete the autom4te.cache directory and then everything worked. Afterwards, during the linking stage I had to resymlink some shared libraries because gimp was looking for their canonical unversioned filenames.

The last problem I encountered was that Samba did not send Hebrew filenames to my Win98 laptop. I looked at the smb.conf man page, but could not find anything. So I logged on to the channel #linux.il at EF-Net, where someone told me I needed to set the "unix charset" directive (and from my understanding the "dos charset" directive as well). This caused everything to work again. I also deleted the old directives that were relevant only to Samba 2.x.

Just another typical upgrade, only this time more eventful.

Perl Meeting

We had an Israeli Perl Mongers meeting last Thursday. Here is my report of it as I wrote in the Israeli Perl Mongers Wiki.

Telux Meeting

Last Sunday we had a Tel Aviv Linux Club meeting. Ohad Ben-Cohen gave a very nice lecture about Securing Linux. I learned through it about some common exploits and about some ways to better secure your Linux system. (which I am a bit reluctant to implement on my system).

One thing that disturbed us was that the lecture was prepared in PowerPoint 2000, instead of in a cross-platform solution like OpenOffice. Lecturers should know better than that. And besides, the PowerPoint 2000 format has a security problem of containing the Ethernet address of the computer in which it was last edited. So the shoe-maker has no shoes.


After playing a bit with the GIMP, I discovered a GIMP bug. Apparently, it also exists in GIMP 1.2.0, and is quite annoying.


I finished reading "The Design of Everyday Things" and wrote a review of it. All in all it's a very good book: very entertaining and very important.

Now I started reading "The qmail Handbook", which I took from the book giveaway of the last YAPC. Having read the first chapter of the introduction, I was impressed with qmail's feature-set and design. The second chapter with the installation instructions left with the feeling that Dan Bernstein wished to make it hard on his users. Clearly his belief that "There are two kinds of interfaces: good interfaces and user interfaces" is showing. As a result of it and its license, qmail is a mess to install. But I'll read on, because I need to administer a qmail installation and may need to administer further ones in the future.


I've been studying a lot lately for my upcoming Thermodynamics exam. I finally got the hang of Ideal gas (Fermions or Bosons) in the classical limit, and Fermion Gas and Boson Gas in the quantum limit. With the help of someone on the IRC, I understood something else about it which disturbed me.

Telux Meeting

We had a Tel Aviv Linux Club meeting the Sunday before the last on the "Open Source development model and how non-programmers can contribute" given by Ori Idan and Shoshanah Forbes. The lecture was very nice and was finished quite early which gave us a lot of time to chat. (I was also able to return buying a soda to someone whom I lended money for a soda can from). Can't recall exactly what I talked about but it was fun.


I've been to YAPC::Israel::2004 some time ago. I woke up early in the morning to catch my ride with Thomas Maier. We drove to Central Tel Aviv to pick up Ran Eilam. Ran was a little late, but he arrived at the end. Then we drove to the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, where we got to the designated location. There we helped prepare the bags for the participants, and their tags. It took quite a while, but was quite fun.

Then came the introducory talks and the lightning talks. I enjoyed them a lot, and one of them was my own that went very well. Next came the longer presentations. Ran Eilam's presentation about the Aspect module was very nice, and introduced some Aspect-oriented-programming voodoo. Marth Greenberg's "System Monitoring with Perl" was quite informative and interesting.

Next I attended Yuval Kogman's "Making your objects smell funny" presentation where he introduced some cool AUTOLOAD tricks. Afterwards I had to give my presentation about the LM-Solve module, but there was very little attendance in the hall. (3 people to be exact) I gave it anyway and finished up in due half the time, and was still able to catch half of Dov Grobgeld's presentation about the Perl/Gtk2 module. (I felt that my own presentation did not go too well).

Afterwards I attended Mikhael Goikhman's "Artificial Intelligence and Perl" which was a bit tedious. Then came the book giveaway's in which I was given a book about qmail as a present.

Then came the Speakers' Dinners and BOFs. It was at the Seven Stars Mall, in a coffee shop called English cake. There was a show for children nearby and all in all I did not feel very well. I called my father to pick me up from there. While he took the time to arrive, I went to the key-signing. The problem was that I was the only one who brought my key fingerprint from home and no-one else seemed to do so. So I figure out that I'm not going to sign the keys of the other people. :-(

Disk on Key

My father upgraded his USB disk-on-key and gave me his old one. So I tried to get it to work with Linux. After trying to figure out why the appropriate SCSI disk could not be mounted with a simple mount command despite the fact it was present in the SCSI listing under /proc, I finally realized I did not have the SCSI disk module compiled. After compiling it in the kernel 2.6.x tree and installing it, the problem was resolved.

I was able to mount the disk and place files on it and everything now works. Hallelujah!

Sodipodi's Font Problem

Sodipodi had a problem that whenever text was typed, or the font dialog invoked, it would crash. It started happening only after I installed a large number of fonts. I reported the bug to their mailing list, but it did not get me very far. After a long while, I discovered that inkscape, which is a Sodipodi fork did not have this problem. Then I read an E-mail in its mailing list that said that someone else had this problem and fixed it.

The patch he supplied in the problem report fixed the problem for me as well, and Lauris Kaplinsky (the Sodipodi developer) applied it to the CVS version. All's well that ends well.

Gobliiins on Dosbox

I'm now playing Gobliiins on Dosbox - it's a lot of fun, and I'm making a lot of progress.

New Wiki for Perl-Begin

Having been displeased with Chiq-Chaq for the wiki implementation, I've been looking for a different wiki. I've tried installing TWiki, but its installation could not be carried out by a mere mortal, especially if I don't have root. PerlJam on FreeNode's #perl suggested PmWiki. I've tried it out and found very easy to install and with a nice syntax.

So, I set it up on BerliOS, and converted all the old content to the new wiki (in one evening), and now the new wiki is set up and filled with the original content.

Israel.PM Meeting

The recent Israeli Perl Mongers meeting went very nicely. First of all, I had an opportunity to do a lot of Chit-Chat there, which is something I like a lot. We talked a bit about WWW::Form, Perl in Israeli Banks (some banks don't wish people to know they are using Perl, because most people don't know what it is), Cobol and Java as the new Cobol, Mail::Audit vs. Procmail, Spelling errors and Microsoft Office features to correct them, and Microsoft Office in general (95, 97, 2000, XP).

Then came a lightning talk by Jason Elbaum. The first thing I noticed was that he had a strange accent. I guess I'm not very used to hearing Australian Accents. He gave a lecture about making XML-TV listings out of Israeli television listings on the Internet. The lecture was very interesting.

Afterwards, I took the stage and gave the Template Toolkit presentation (in preparation with the YAPC one). It went quite well, but after it, Ran told me I should have focused on one part more and create more suspense. I'll keep that in mind for the YAPC. One question I received was how compatible was my solution with laymen, who don't know squat about programming. I answered that the philosophy of the Template Toolkit (and Perl in general) is that you and your co-workers should know what you are doing. I previously encountered this mentality in talks I had with several PHP users.

After that, Gabor took the stage and lectured about HTML, CGI, CGI::Application and HTML::Template. The lecture was very interesting and instructive and I enjoyed it a lot despite the fact it was quite long. I learned some things there: "<form>" without arguments in the HTML leads to the same URL, a bit more about CGI::Application, etc. We learned that the first language Larry Wall designed had its code embedded in text, but luckily he came to his senses afterwards, and did not implement Perl this way.

Afterwards, most of the people there decided to go to the Bar and I took a ride back home with Ronen Kfir. I forgot my coat there, but when I got home, I called Gabor and he let me talk to Ran who took the coat with him. Eventually, I was able to set up a time to take it a few days ago. My father drove me to his home in Northern Tel Aviv, and I took the coat, while being able to meet his wife and see his baby. (but not much besides)

Hamakor Meeting

We held the annual meeting of Hamakor members, a week or two ago. I was one of the first to arrive, but was very soon followed by many other people from Haifa and Tel-Aviv. I got to do a lot of chat with people I know which was very nice. The meat of the meeting was:

  1. A presentation by gby about what was done in the past year of Hamakor. (current status)
  2. Short introductions by Hamakor members who wished to be elected.
  3. Elections for the new board and comptrollers committee.

I was first nominated for the board, but then moved my nomination to the comptroller committee, and in my introduction asked people not to vote for me because I did not think I was very suitable. I indeed wasn't voted, but I hope to find other ways in which I can get involved without being an official.

New Homepage URL

I changed my homepage URL from t2.technion.ac.il/~shlomif/ to http://shlomif.il.eu.org/, thanks to the kind help of the il.eu.org hostmasters. The new domain gave me some trouble so far. Hopefully, it will be resolved in the near future.


I did a lot of work on the Solving site. A lot of revamp and more revamp, new content, some graphics, some CSS tweaks, etc. I asked for critique from the webdesign-l mailing list and received some very useful input, which I also applied.

Solving now stresses a completely different paradigm: instead of trying to implement distributism in the government, I simply propose that individuals form competing leaderships, or support them, to make sure that people don't take the elected leadership for granted.

I also did a lot of work on the Better-SCM site. With contributions from other people, I added Visual SourceSafe and CM Synergy, and perhaps other systems into the comparison there. I plan to put all the source in an online Subversion repository, which will make contributions easier.

One thing that annoys me about Better-SCM is that people keep bugging me about darcs.

Vocabulary Builder

I'm looking for a vocabulary builder with a certain behaviour. This post to linux-elitists explains what the program I want has. I have yet to receive a satisfying answer. Meanwhile, the discussion there diverted to discuss whether Debian was indeed the Elitists distribution, and whether Debianists are simply too full of it. I am to blame for this. ;-).


I certified miguel as Master due to his work on GNOME. I also see that mulix is blogging in Advogato, again. Welcome back, Muli!

12 Feb 2004 (updated 25 Sep 2004 at 12:55 UTC) »

Aarrggh! My Hebrew has turned into Question Marks

I edited a Hebrew HTML file with kedit, but forgot to set the encoding appropriately. The Hebrew was edited fine. However, when I closed it, I realized (after some experimentation) that the Hebrew characters have all turned to question marks. The actual ASCII question mark letter.

I ended up losing the entire document. What the hell? Fury... fury... fury.

To prevent it once and for all, I added this to my .bashrc:

function kedit
    LC_CTYPE=he_IL.UTF-8 /usr/bin/kedit $*

The reason I don't use an i18n'ed locale by default is because it causes my fonts to become uglier. How lame is that? <sigh />

DocBook continued

Well, Bob Stayton helped me and instruced me the how to modify to the code of the DocBook/XSLT itemizedlist handler to make it propagate the role attribute as a class. Now, it works and I'm happy. Still I think it's a huge mis-feature that role is not propagated for any element.

Version Control Article

My Version control article now has many more comments. Many of them were in the vain of trying to protect CVS and why it should still be used. I think this is not true, and new projects should not start with CVS. I expect CVS to be used in years to come, but be considered hugely deprecated just as RCS and SCCS are still used today, but are also deprecated.

It was referenced on OSNews.com (courtesy of Eugenia Loli-Quero who also contributed to the Better-SCM site and comparison), where there are more comments, and it also hit Whatsup in this feature in Hebrew. There it seems to form a discussion of the Linux Kernel Development Model, why it requires BitKeeper, and whether it's a good thing.

As a result, or just out of word of mouth, I received a great deal of E-mails about the Better-SCM site lately. Someone even sent an addition to put in Visual SourceSafe and CM Synergy to the comparison. (which I bounced because it wasn't a patch to the XML file). I have modified the pages a bit since then. Next, I plan to put its source on a public Subversion repository so people can contribute more easily.

I also started sending a Newsletter about Better-SCM to all the people who contacted me about it. ("Cathedral and Bazaar"-style) It worked pretty nicely so far and I received a lot of useful input. Someone, however, wished to be unsubscribed from it, and suggested I ask before I add someone to the Newsletter. I have to think about it a little, but think I'll go with unsubscribe on demand, given that most people are not very responsive.

Finally, there's now a new mailing list - better-scm-discuss. Several people have joined now, and there was some active discussion. That's good.


I managed to do quite a bit of work on Perl-Begin. I moved its source to a Subversion repository at opensvn.csie.org (which offers a very discreet and unintrusive service, albeit sometimes the connectivity seems slow), and then added a lot of content and changed the CSS somewhat (made it more modular and nicer). Finally, I created a newsletter for it as well, and sent some announcements to the people who contacted me about the site. One of them replied with some useful suggestions. :-)

In any case, I contacted ask and the rest of the beginners workers about contributing to learn.perl.org. Eventually, I found out that perl.org had a hardware failure and so work on learn.perl.org was stalled. What I did do was write a "learn/" section to www.perl.org, which will take some time until it is proof-read, and integrated into the main site. What I did there was simply link to the appropriate places on learn.perl.org and perl-begin.

I'm glad I could find some time to do a lot of really productive work. I missed hacking, and hacking on web-sites, while not being as challenging as hacking on code, is still fun and rewarding.


Check this message of Hackers-IL for a post I made to Hackers-IL in regards to the new and annoying Yahoo Groups limitations. (Hackers-IL is hosted there). There are three possibilities: accept the Status Quo, pay Yahoo Groups for getting a primum service, or move to our own service.

We decided that being hackers, the last option would be best. The problem is that several people have resources at their disposal, but none has the time (except me). So, I went out and contacted sun, one of the beak.hamakor.org.il's admins to host the hackers.org.il domain there. He told us we should send a description of what Hackers-IL is all about to the appropriate list and he'll see if everything can be arranged.

I wrote a charter, which was criticized as being too long to be effective and Arik Baratz wrote a shorter one, which was still very good. I ended up revising both charters and putting them online. We decided we are going to use the shorter charter for contacting the beak admins and for further purposes like that, and the more verbose one for putting on the future site.

The discussion was pretty long, and eventually we debated if it was off-topic or whatever. We reached a conclusion that it was just a "meta" discussion, which was a necessary evil, but that it was still annoying. This was towards the end when everything stabilized, so it just closed the discussion.

Yesterday, I sent the mini-charter in its final form to the appropriate list, with some explanations on what we need in the present and in the future.

Mozilla's Firefox

I'm glad the Mozilla people changed the name of their browser so it won't clash with the Firebird database. I also like the new name. It is almost certainly based on the Biblical story where Samson sets fire to the tails of 400 foxes and drives them to the Philistines camp to throw it into chaos and destruction. There's a nice symbolism with trying to do the same with MSIE, but I don't know how many of the target audience know the Old Testament well enough to realize that.

Still, the name is very cool, even without recalling the story. Of course, I have a feeling that it might start a new trend: Fire+[Animal]. Firecat. Firedog. Firedove. Firebear. Firepenguin. Etc. All these names are very cool, but one will have a hard time distinguishing between them. But who is John Galt?

How Good are my Technion Grades?

I posted a post to the Joel on Software forum about my Technion grades. This seemed to be a mis-calculation as many people took the opportunity to criticize me, claim I was no-good or lazy, etc. They obviously haven't been to the Technion...

Here is the creme de la creme of the discussion by someone calling himself "Caliban Tiresias Darklock":

Shlomi, just a bit of constructive criticism here... and this *is* supposed to
be constructive...
 You come across as childish, inexperienced, and belligerent. Nothing you have
 written interests me. What little sticks out in my mind is not positive. You
 sniff at the college for not having a standards-compliant web page, as if
 anyone really cares. You sneer at CVS for not having a few minor features, as
 if anyone really cares. You solve a few basic puzzles, and build a
 presentation generator that you use to create a bad Perl tutorial. Then you
 come in here and say you know you're a good engineer. 
 Unfortunately, you're not. You're just a competent Perl programmer. But
 engineers solve problems; if you expect to impress me with your work, do
 something that's relevant to someone other than yourself. Why in the world
 would I want to read your ramblings about SCHEME or run some program you wrote
 to solve mazes? I know why I would want to read *my* ramblings about SCHEME or
 run some program *I* wrote to solve mazes -- because I'm arrogant and
 self-involved. I love writing stupid little things for no good purpose, just
 because I can. Every engineer does. 

Maybe I should check the definition of "constructive" in the dictionary again...

Melissa Joan Hart - Pictures

You innocently type "melissa joan hart" into Google and search it for images and what do you get in the first hits? That's right - soft porn.

A few notes are in order. The Google search for MJH (=Melissa Joan Hart) is perfectly fine and clean and leads to various fan sites and pages. Secondly, some of the other pictures in the search are not provocative at all. Thirdly, the first pictures are absolutely horrid, IMO. I don't have a problem with sexual or even provocative photos - some of them are very nice - but these are done in very bad taste. (I guess ESR was right when he noted that most porn is disgusting)

Moreover, this is not entirely an issue of "child-safety", keeping "innocence", etc. I just wish that the Google images search was a bit smarter about this, as the Google regular search is. It is possible that it was the anti-thesis to these pictures that made them get a higher rank.

In any case I found a very nice picture in the first page of hits. Hart (fully groomed) standing among automn leaves. She looks a bit sad, but the picture is very beautiful. Having downloaded it, I noticed it was scanned and of low quality. So I decided to reduce its size using the GIMP. The latter simply opened it in %50 scaling ratio, which made it look very decent, so I just reduced it to this size. Finally, I placed the picture in my Konq+Xmms Virtual Workspace instead of a very nice picture of Gabrielle Anwar, which I had there for several generations now. (I guess it's always time to move on)

Melissa Joan Hart - Silly Etymology

Well, enough Cybersex for now and let's just discuss MJH's etymology. Her full name is "Melissa Joan Catherine Hart". Considering the fact that Catherine is a variant for "Catherina" we can see she has no less than 6 private names:

  1. Meli (short for Emily)
  2. Lisa (short for Elizabeth, or Alisa)
  3. Jo (the "Little Women" short for Josephine)
  4. Anne
  5. Cathy
  6. Rina (a common Hebrew female name meaning sing-song)

Six names for a girl who isn't even thirty yet. (!)


Well, for something a bit more serious. I had some kind of enlightenment in regards to Solving. Now, I simply say that instead of trying to bring the open-source world-like Distributism model into western-world-countries, I am instead going to propose that competing leaders will compete for controlling the countries instead of the "official" elected government. This will create a multi-tude of leaderships all competing for the same niche, and doing so logically and reasonably, instead of one leaderhip who cares more about his public image than about being a honest one.

I revamped the content of the site (without re-writing it from scratch). Then, I linked to it on the IRC in several channels, and also on a web-designers' list I am a member of. From the replies I received, it seems that I did not explain myself correctly enough, and people thought it was Feudalism or even worse. This means something is still wrong there. I still got some useful replies and input. Guess it's time for more revamping... <sigh />

30 Jan 2004 (updated 25 Sep 2004 at 12:47 UTC) »

Version Control Systems Overview Article

An article that I wrote with an overview of Version Control Systems got published on O'Reilly's ONLamp.com. I wrote a suggestions to it (with a summary, IIRC) to the editors of O'ReillyNet some monthes ago. chromatic answered me, said he would publish it and asked me to write a draft. I wrote a draft and sent it to a couple of people I know from the version control business, and they helped me revise and correct it. Tom Lord of Arch fame was especially helpful with his commentary, but I received a lot of useful commentary from other people.

The published article is not identical to the final draft I have. Some things were clearly modified, and I believe that it detracted a lot from the article's colour. But whatever.


I have no more lectures and tutorials for this semester. My first test is in two weeks, and the next one a few days afterwards, which gives me some time to study. I have a lot of material to cover as far as Thermodynamics is concerned, and also need to prepare some material summary pages for Statistics. (and naturally need to prepare for that too)

Work on WWW::Form

It turns out we forgot to include the README in the MANIFEST of WWW::Form 1.13. I fixed it along with a test to make sure it won't be neglected. Now, the question is what will make sure the test file will be included there. (Who will watch the watcher?).

I also did some refactoring of the code. The original code had a function to set all the fields parameters as inputted from the user. I converted it to one small loop that calls a function that sets each parameter individually. I thought that was enough to add new parameters for every form field, but then thought of a better idea, and so created a function to return them as a hash.

Now, the user can sub-class this method alone, call the original and add more parameters of his own to the hash reference that is returned.

I'm doing test-driven development now, writing tests before writing the code.

Hebrew XML with Perl

I wrote an article about processing Hebrew with Perl (it's in Hebrew). I received some useful commentary on it and revised it accordingly. Now I hope it will be published in the Perl and Hebrew page.

PCLinuxOS Live CD

I downloaded the PCLinuxOS LiveCD which is a Mandrake-based Linux Live CD. The first burning produced a CD that booted but got stuck with some errors in the middle of the initialization. It was probably because I did too many things at once. So I re-verified the MD5 sum and did another copy. This time it worked perfectly.

Well, I only played with it a little. I found out it did not have gvim, or joe, (guess that if you want to have both GNOME and KDE, you have to give up something), and so it wasn't ideal as a rescue CD. Still, it seems nice. Probably a nice way to introduce Linux for newbies, or install Mandrake for them.


I stambled across a bug in the GIMP Curves dialog when I was looking for interesting GIMP bugs to solve. So, I tried to reproduce it on my system, but could not. One thing I was able to do, even with fewer clicks than were described was in the bug report, is to grab the pointer for the window with a few rapid clicks. It is so bad, I have to kill the GIMP to release it.

However, Sven Neumann could not reproduce it on his machine, and he claims it is a problem in my X server. I tried to disable the Nvidia acceleration, but this did not help either. Even a bug fix from Sven to disable the explicit pointer grab did not help. What could be the problem?


I ended up using the XSL stylesheets of DocBook for processing "The Eternal Jew" into XHTML. They are quite nice and I was able to customize them to include a CSS stylesheet and other stuff. Now, I'm stuck as I want to make sure a specific itemizedlist will be CSS-classed according to its role attribute. This turned out to require a hairy XSL customization, and I guess I'll have to learn XSLT better to do it by myself.

24 Jan 2004 (updated 26 Jan 2004 at 08:21 UTC) »

Life + Studies

I had been sick starting a week ago, but now I'm OK. Meanwhile I missed the Statistics Monday, so I had a gap of several lessons which I did not learn, and could not hand in the three assignments. I E-mailed the T.A. asking when to hand them, and she told me to hand them on Wednesday. (which came right before my Thermodynamics lecture).

On Wednesday I felt better, and took a ride to the Technion. I found her room and waited for her there a long time, but the door was closed and she was nowhere to be seen. I came to the room two other times throughout the day, but she wasn't there then, either.

She eventually E-mailed me that she had an urgent meeting and could not come to her reception hours that day, and so I should hand in my assignment at the class on Monday (two days from now). I also need to hand in another assignment then, but I don't know how to solve one of the questions because it covers material that I did not learn yet. Whatever, I solved the other question.

At Wednesday I also photo-copied the Thermo lecture that took place at the hall without proper tables to write on, so I won't need to go through understanding my bad writing being even worse.

The Eternal Jew

I might as well tell that the philosophical essay I worked on is The Eternal Jew. It is complete now, and I sent it to several people for review, but none have responded yet. If you wish, you can read it and comment.


I added a lot of tests to it, and fixed another bug (while writing a test to it, first). Ben promised he will release a new version of CPAN based on what we have in the repository now, when he finds some spare cycles. (he is very busy in work, now) We'll probably continue covering more and more of the functionality in tests, and when the tests coverage is reasonable, we'll start adding more features.

We've talked with instant messaging about some stuff, including error handling, and adding common controls (like country-list, U.S. states' list) to be auto-generated, as well as creating a function inside _setFields to set one field.

Review of Perl & XML

I finished reading Perl & XML and wrote a review of it. This means I now wrote the 10 last book reviews of the Israeli Perl mongers.

Quad-Pres Logo

I've been working on a logo for Quad-Pres using the GIMP. I started by constructing a wireframe text saying "Quad-Pres". I finished the Q and the u by now, but they are not perfect. Maybe I just need to look harder for a suitable font. I think I'll install "Print Shop Ensemble III" as it comes with plenty of fonts.

GIMP Bug Squashing

I spent some time tracing and fixing some bugs that had to do with the GIMP Image Info Window. You can find the patches and discussion in Bug #118084 and Bug #132329.


Despite the fact that my SpamAssassin installation is up-to-date, a lot of Spam on Vipe still slipped through. So I decided to enable its Bayesian filtering. I invoked "sa-learn" with my ham and gradually had more and more spam to put there. Now it seems to be working better and better.

I don't have a spam filter on my home E-mail, but I may eventually. To prepare for this, I started collecting all my spam, so I'll later can input it into the Bayesian filtering. I wonder if SpamAssassin can easily work with kmail, because it's very nice.

Otherwise I discovered my ISP's SMTP server is on the black-lists of several other SMTP servers. I still don't know if it's really an open relay or not.

MySQL Client Library

The MySQL client library for versions 3.x of the product was LGPLed, and for versions 4.x it is GPLed, which does not allow proprietary applications to link against it, without purchasing a license. So, I decided to compare them to see how different they are and if the old one could be forward-ported to the other.

It turns out to be a 2,764-lines patch, that most of it are whitespace-changes, and can easily be manually applied to the older source, in a few days of work. Generally, I disapprove of using the GPL in hope of getting more revenue this way when LGPLed original is available, and the library does not have something substantial to offer. So I think I'll forward-port the MySQL library.


On Wednesday, there was some construction on the Tel-Aviv->Haifa road so the inter-city bus came late on Wednesday, and I had to take a later bus and arrived late at class. Nevertheless, it seems it just started, and I was able to write everything that had been written on the board in my notebook. I then took the material for the previous lecture that was given in the week in which I missed the lecture.

Other than that, I've been a bit busy solving the exercises in Statistics. They seem to be pretty easy once you get the hang of them. Now, I have an exercise about Linear Regression which seems very easy, but the page with the formulas is a bit illegible.

Scanner under Linux

Turns out my scanner (UMAX Astra 3450) works fine under Linux. I first tried it with kernel 2.4.x in which it did not work too well. After trying it in Windows, and then rebooting, it worked well again. With kernel 2.6.x, I needed to compile the USB sub-system and load some modules with various parameters. (which I did not do already, but now I have the right configuration file to do it).


Ben Schmaus (WWW::Form's head developer) finally commited the most up-to-date files into the WWW::Form repository. I continued the work by first generalizing the "tr_class", "tr_hint_class", etc. parameters to be "container_attributes" and "hint_container_attributes". Then I documented everything that I added.

Following that, I wrote a couple of tests to one of the utility functions in the module, and hope to continue this trend of writing tests. Ben is a bit busy at work now, so he cannot invest a lot of time into it. We are still discussing things via Instant Messaging, which is very convenient.

Anti-MSIE Campaign

I finally started out the anti-MSIE campaign on my web-site, after frustration from Microsoft's abuse of its users, the web-developers community at large, and their apathy towards users of non-Windows systems. Also pay attention to the large no-IE icon at the side-bar. Feel free to join!

Telux Meeting

I've been to gby's Telux presentation on Sunday, about Embedded Linux. He gave some guidelines for error-free development of Embedded Linux systems, and introduced uClibc (a libc that can be customized with just the right functionality), BusyBox (an all-in-one UNIX toolchain, that is also configurable to death), Kaction (formerly Tiny X), and FLTK (the Fast Light Toolkit). It was very interesting and lasted only one hour.

Egged Site

The new incarnation of Egged's (the Israeli national bus company) stopped working with Konqueror, and only a basic functionality half-works with Mozilla. I filled in the feedback form (an E-mail to webmaster@egged.co.il did not work), and got this reply:

"Hello Shlomi. I'm sorry, but the site is designed only for the Explorer browser. I will thank you for your understanding."

This answer is very laconic, and does not address half of my complaints there, nor assured me that they were going to be fixed. I answered him in return, but was not answered. Guess I'll have to find some other means of complaining.

9 Jan 2004 (updated 10 Jan 2004 at 19:39 UTC) »

Perl Meeting

I had a Perl Meeting yesterday. It was raining on the way to the bus stop, but from the bus stop next to Dapey Zahav until then, it wasn't raining, so I was lucky because it is a long walk. I met Shlomo Yona at the hall, and we talked a bit. Then other guys came. Kfir Lavi brought a digital camera and took a few pictures throughout the meeting.

Before the lectures, we chatted about various topics. We talked about processor speeds (Pentium 4's vs. UltraSPARCs), form process handling (WWW::Form and friends), whether to use my meta-data database access or Tangram, DBIx::DWIW, the August Penguin conferences, and other things. It was very fun. I went to buy two bottles of mineral water, because I saw that we were going to run out of them in the fountain. (they don't seem to keep a spare container there for some reason). Afterwards, Ran Eilam and I went to buy some pastries to eat, which were eaten like crazy.

Gabor could not come for the second time in a row, and his presence was once again missed. Some people paid entrance fee to the YAPC::Israel::2004 conference, to the other organizers.

Then the lectures started. Shlomo Yona gave a very nice presentation about edit distance. I recall needing to do this algorithm in one of my Algorithmics courses, so this was a nice comeback. What I did learn there was that related algorithms like this are a field of very active research and that they are very useful.

Afterwards, Ran Eilam gave the second part of his presentation about Extreme Programming. It was very insightful and entertaining as well, with various interesting ideas and techniques for better software management. Like the "Dukes and Engineers" game. Or cards to write the names of classes in the program as you come with them, instead of UML. And naturally, the usual depreciation of the Gantt chart. He explained why "pay-per-project" outsourcing and especially off-shore outsourcing cannot work. Someone told there that an outsourcing project that costed twice as much and had half the requested feature-set was declared a success, because most projects don't do that well.

Afterwards the guys went to hang in a pub, but I picked a ride home with someone who drove northwards as I was quite tired.


I ended up switching to gvim for my Hebrew LaTeX needs. he2 sucks pretty badly as an editor, and gvim is naturally much better. Now I'm using F9 to toggle the direction leftwards and rightwards and it is much more convenient. And I have all my favourite gvim features.


Did some work on my yet-to-be-reviewed/yet-to-be-published philosophical essay. But more importantly, it seems that the development on WWW::Form is really going to take off. Its Wiki is being filled up, its author sent me the password he wants for the Subversion repository. I'm still waiting for the code to be imported there, but it may take a while, because the author has a job and is quite busy. Still, I was able to talk with him on ICQ and AIM, and so I have a way to reach him in which he is very responsive.

I upgraded my system to kernel 2.6.0. One thing I notice is that the first instance of gvim (running above KDE) takes much less time to load.

Mailing Lists Threads of Interest

Here's a thread I started about the NVidia drivers. The problem I mention there may be better now that I upgraded to kernel 2.6.0. In any case, here's my conclusion of the thread.

I joined the linux-elitists mailing list and witnessed a large and lively GNOME-related discussion. I introduced myself which sparked a lot of discussion about BASIC. I always thought the WHILE...WEND loop was present in most BASIC interpreters, but it only got introduced later on in the PC revolution.

Then, I joined in the GNOME discussion with some rants about GNOME's lack of similarity to what I was used to. Just read it to find what a GNOME developer answered, but I was not satisfied by it. (I still find its behaviour annoying)


Finished reading Extending and Embedding Perl. The book was written professionally but pretty boring. Here's my review of it.

I also read more chapters out of "Perl & XML". This book is very short, but also very interesting, so I think I'm going to finish it soon. Then, I'll have to find something else to read, and I did not take any books out of the Perl library. (due to the fact that no one brought the requested books from Gabor's house)

5 Jan 2004 (updated 25 Sep 2004 at 12:10 UTC) »

Linux Events

I attended Aviram Jenik's lecture on Sunday. Before the lecture I had enough time to give a quick appetizer in the form of my "Template Toolkit" Lightning Talk. I received one positive criticism, and two others that said that it was not very understoodable. I believe they were correct and I understood how to improve it. (but think it may make it into a seven minutes or ten minutes talk).

Immediately after I was finished (and before I had the chance to hear any feedback) Aviram came, and started with the lecture. The lecture was very good, funny, and interesting. I first believed it was going to be a "preaching to the choir" type of lecture, but it ended up also bringing up alternatives for full disclosure, and many cases from the security history. (some of which were very amusing) The room was crowded, and Shachar (who is also a humorist "behesed") also contributed things.

There was also a Haifux Lecture on SMTP and Qmail by kilmo. It seemed interesting and Eran was there, but I was very tired that day so I decided to leave prematurely. I dozed off at least twice during the ride back home, so I guess I couldn't have made it through the lecture.

I ended up modifying my Template Toolkit lecture and am looking for a chance to give the modified one before the YAPC.

Talk with Ya'el Marksemer

On Monday, I drove to the Technion with Ya'el Marksemer (the girl who studied Game Theory with me, and also was Orr's Officemate), and had a very pleasant talk with her on the way. We discussed many topics. Among them:

  1. SQL - she said she studied about databases in a course, and found the bare SQL standard very hard to get by with. I told her that database vendors create incompatiblity on purpose so people will not want to port their databases to something else. I then told her of my (so far failed) Extended SQL initiative.
  2. I told her about a Technion lecturer I know. When I came to see him once he was running an old PC computer with fvwm on it probably running Linux. What he did was that he invoked one Emacs window and worked on it exclusively.

    When I came to meet him again, a year ago or so, his computer was upgraded. Now, he had a Red Hat system with the Red Hat icon instead of the K, anti-aliased graphics, flashy looking and all. What did he do? Invoke an Emacs session and worked in it exclusively.

    Of course, he was quite old and studied at MIT back then. I'm still very fond of him.

  3. Software Management Stuff - we discussed having private offices (Peopleware, etc.) vs. two or three people in an office. I told her of a company I worked for, where people had to move their chairs to let me out and she said that was indeed unbearable. I told her that Microsoft U.S.A. allocates an office even for interns. Like I said, she was a theoretical computer scientist, but she was still interested.
  4. Her Thesis - she said she and her instructor for the M.Sc. were now writing a scientific article about the proof she did for his conjecture. She said she only used high-school Combinatorics there, but there was a certain tricky part. I told her I wish to write an article for a scientific journal about Freecell Solver, but said I would need someone to tutor me and instruct me exactly what to do.

Forums Threads of Interests

My post to Hackers-IL's about "Reading Open Source Code" took several interesting turns. First of all we came into conclusion that reading code was relatively neglected in university, even though it's a very important skill and can possibly teach students how to write better one. Otherwise, Tzahi Fadida said that some open source code (and non-open-source code) was very hard to read, and we discussed what measures could be taken. We discussed the XP-belief that no documentation should be written for the code, because the code needs to be self-explanatory. And we further discussed the validity of XP and how "scientific" it is or should be.

My post Some Thoughts on FogBUGZ for Windows on the Joel on Software forum may be of interest, because it contains a answer by Joel.

Here's another one: More Linux Developers than Windows Ones . This recent statistics, and what does it mean. (and what would be the implications of open source on programmers) An offspring of this post is Open source complexity Issue.

There was an opinion piece in the Register that was Slashdotted and discuss.fogcreek.com'ed. See this thread on Joel on Software for some of my comments.

Finally, if you want to converge the two most common themes in the JoS forum (outsourcing and open source vs. the world) to one big conspiracy theory, look no further than here.

All in all, mailing lists, the Joel on Software forum and Whatsup.org.il are a huge productivity killers! But they do add some insights and understanding even to very knowledgable persons.

Linux Problems

Here's a bootload of problems I've encountered recently. Ever since I installed the Bitstream Vera TTF fonts, many fonts on my desktop got uglier. I don't know why it happens and I don't know how to fix it, but I'll look into it. (removing the package did not help).

I also was able to install and use kernel 2.6.0 today, with some advice from a Linux-ILer (to install the module-init-tools package). At first, the Internet did not work because I did not compile the Tulip-class modules (they were off by default), but now everything is in order. (I'm writing this E-mail on 2.6.0)

The mouse cursor however, became much faster after the upgrade. I found a good workaround by issuing "xset m 10/10" (play around with the numbers), but all in all it is quite frustrating, and I'm not sure I'm happy with it as it is now.

Finally, an old problem which still was not resolved. When I play an mp3 file using XMMS with artsd, then I must set my buffer size to over 1000ms (precisely that - 999ms does not work) or else the sound sounds garbled. It does not happen with directly to ALSA playback or with KDE's Noatun. It is annoying because the music gets played for another second when I press the stop button or when a song is switched.

Recent Update: - my computer accidently rebooted itself when I shut down X, and some of my files got corrupt. Luckily I had a backup and was able to restore .ICEauthority and the .kde sub-dir to a working state. Other than that, I found a way to change the font in gvim to something more likable. Now for the other apps.


I populated some of the Israeli Perl Mongers Wiki (created a page there for non-Perl Israeli Projects) and created a Wiki hypertext base for WWW::Form. I also wrote some of the outline for the second draft of an essay I wrote a prelimary version of some time ago. Now comes the hard part of writing it in DocBook, entirely.

I also wrote the Cross-UNIX Portability - Facts and Myths technical article. (first on paper and then on computer - don't ask).

Too much time E-mailing. Far too less coding. Teh teh.


Certified graydon as Journeyer for his work on the Monotone version control system.

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