Older blog entries for wingo (starting at number 176)

16 Sep 2006 (updated 17 Sep 2006 at 16:30 UTC) »

you may refer to me as the perceptron

Outside the wind is crisp. The quantum weather device is now more frequently observed in the autumn state. Indeed, my favorite time of year.

The only thing that could make this better would be walking in the mountains with leaves of orange and red. So I bought a ticket back to North Carolina, to enjoy Lake Lure for a weekend, and perhaps sip some coffee back at Cup a Joe in Raleigh. On Hillsborough street of course; the other branches lack the luster of the original. October 5 to the 17th.


August’s paucity of aikido classitude made my schedule more rigid, revolving around the few classes that I could attend. Now that they are offered again, I should get back into the habit of going to the 7 AM class and have my evenings free.

Time is in short supply in my days. If anyone’s got a few hours to spare can you please email them to me. It is appreciated.

digging for maggie

Work’s going OK. Just finished a six-month-long project to construct a cluster of machines to stream live video. It’s basically a distributed fork bomb. Currently it is failing to kill the machines, but succeeding in streaming TV and radio. Perhaps I need to tweak some of the parameters for better effectiveness.

oshi li nawa

A buddy of mine that worked with me in Namibia just finished up his contract and dropped by Barcelona in his travels. We tooled around a bit in Figueres and Sant Celoni, inland towns north of Barcelona. Figueres is famous for its Dalí museum, which was indeed nice. His surreality is a bit overplayed though; it’s as if they’re trying to beat it into you.

More surreal by far was the “castle” up the hill, castell san ferran. It’s an enormous structure, built to hold thousands of people. There were only a handful of other visitors, so the emptiness of the place was manifest.

The decaying arches, the bricked up doors, the stairs descending into water: all silent bellicose artifacts. How absurd to build such a structure, on such a scale, in the 18th century. Engineering meets libros de caballería. Bizarre.


The software I use to manage my photos is the most excellent F-Spot from Larry Ewing. Inspired by F-Spot’s tag support, the aesthetics of Jakub Steiner’s Original, and the tag clouds used by flickr, I wrote a pair of scripts to synchronize my photos from f-spot to the web and show them in their taggy goodness.

Well, I finally imported that code into a bzr branch. To fetch it, just run:

bzr get http://wingolog.org/bzr/original

When that’s done, you’ll have your own private branch of original to play around with. There’s a README in there and such. If you have any patches, either publish your branch to the web via bzr push or send me a bundle via bzr bundle, and I’ll see about applying them.


Advogato is playing with our hearts, “I’m gone”, “I’m back”, etc. I think the site has a lot of value. It’s a place of outsiders, of unaffiliates; no project ties the people there together, only a love of hacking. It sidesteps a lot of the inside-outside problems that plague other aggregators, partially because the software that runs it is so unmaintained that nobody identifies with it. I hope that it stays alive — it’s fresh, and there’s no barrier to entry in order to be read.

Advo can lose the articles though, in my opinion. The recentlog is what it’s about. Providing a place for pontification isn’t so interesting.

Also, regarding http://advogato.ev-en.org: I don’t think a simple aggregator is sufficient. You do need a way to filter out the crap, which is the trust metric. A trust metric + an aggregator would be much better.


those wonderful songsters of the south

Sounds I have enjoyed recently: the tune Damaged Goods from Gang of Four, a greatest hits album of Arlo Guthrie, Gnarls Barkley’s album, Twig and Mancini (Let’s fucking brunch!). Also, did I mention Damaged Goods? Yes yes.

I’m your native son

I think I have finally been able to verbalize what I don’t like about GNU arch. Enumerated: (1) Complicated offline operation; (2) Insane command-line interface (register-archive versus archive-mirror, commit -s or commit -m?, foo -h versus foo -H, etcetera); (3) Slow. There. There it is.

I recognize in myself an adherence to the known thing, a partiality about things I am familiar with. My family used to have a house in the mountains of Avery County, North Carolina, where we’d go to chill sometimes. Each trip we’d hike what I think was called Bellvue Mountain, which, as I was told, was the highest mountain in the county. I knew this, internalized it, told it to people I took up there. But in the end I realized what I knew was only my relationship to the mountain, not its relationship to the world. Sure it was important to me but I have no idea how it relates to anything else, without looking at it myself.

I mean to say that the only reason that I think that someone can stay with GNU arch is the familiarity, the affection for the tool, the idea that it’s the tallest mountain in the county. If you actually walked around the area without preconceptions, I think that you would not end up with Arch. It was excellent at the time, but everything else is better now. Anyone that uses Arch now should try Mercurial, Git, Bazaar, Darcs; anything else. You’ll be better off.


presumably puigmal?


Last weekend I went with some friends up to Núria, on the border with France, straight north from Barcelona. We hiked what we’re pretty sure was Puigmal. It’s rather amusing that we’re not exactly sure, though — it was just a question of up-until-you-can-go-no-further.

camp vs. conference

Source events are skill-share events, with some similarity to free-form radio: The audience has a lot of input and influence on the radio, but that does not mean there is no programming.

Recently got a mail from Marek Tuszynski of Tactical Tech, a Dutch non-profit working to get NGOs to use free software. They’ve done a number of events in Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe, trying to introduce local free software people to local NGOs. It’s an interesting approach to development work, one that they do via intensive retreat-atmosphered “camp events”.

“Camp events?” you say? The open-source meme has infected them to the degree that they wrote up a large-ish web site on replicating “source camp” events locally. There is a lot of practical event-management knowledge there; anyone who wants to create an immersive event would be well-advised to check it out.

Allow me to make a few free-association observations:

A disclaimer: I went to their Africa Source conference in Nambia, in 2004.

Meta: the hierarchy of their web site is good for navigation, but less good for reading. So for those of you interested in what they write about, you have to click-suffer a bit. It’s probably worth it though. Still, a book would be better.

Holy shit! That’s a lot of stock material. Yow.

Is it relevant to GUADEC, GNOME’s largest conference: yes and no. Yes because successful conference organization is a black art of sensitivity, preparation, chance, and architecture. They have a lot of experience in this regard.

No because GNOME has an identity already. Although it is true that the organization is people more than a reductionist “big idea”, there are current memes as to what GNOME is; the organizers’ responsibility to create this idea is less.

Although e.g. Quim’s “be a part of GNOME 3.0″ slogan was an example of an “outside” organizer seeing and mobilizing possibilities. The people sensitive enough to arrange such an experience are very rarely those that actually hack the software.

One exception in the Africa Source case was the fellow that was the head facilitator of the conference, Allen Gunn of Aspiration. You wouldn’t know he was an ex-Java hacker. Truly an amazing person, with a rare understanding of people. A number of sections of the Replication site speak about him.

I can’t actually recall him giving an opinion on something relevant to the conference, which was astonishingly generous: normally someone who commands that much respect is expected to opine. Instead he created a space in which people could think and come to their own understandings.

Even with all this, I’m not a big fan of the whole NGO scene. Good people mostly, but misguided I think.

I suppose I have some issues I’m still dealing with: all the times that I and the rest of the country were literally trudging through the sand in Namibia, as the 4×4 Land Cruiser emblazoned with an NGO-logo tore by, fast on their way to somewhere important, only occupied by the driver and NGO agent. Those interactions, while very subjective, are indicative of the way that most organizations “help people”. Good apples exist but the system does not select for them.

meanwhile, we fatten our calves

Luis records his law school perceptions, which I find very interesting. (Since I first wrote this he’s written a bit more; exercise for the reader.) The fellow has a lot of human perspective.

However, a message from Persons With A Persnickety Appreciation of Language: Luis, please never mention the word blawger ever again. Thanks! Love PWAPAL ok.


21 Aug 2006 (updated 22 Aug 2006 at 05:49 UTC) »


<center>stationary existence</center>

Real pleased with the weekend in Paris. Pleased because I got to hang out with some quality folks I hadn’t seen in a while, pleased with the city, meta-pleased because the visit fixed the city for me. The last time I was there left a very grey impression.

The light is different there from here in Barcelona. Here it is a soup, generously spooned out by a well-fed sun goddess; there it is a garnish on a plate of wild mushrooms. Very dramatic when it breaks through the clouds, colors come out in relief.

Also interesting was the way time has unravelled the knots in us, leaving us a bit more simple, a bit more who we are.

read(”/dev/summer”, 1024) = 0

There is a palpable feeling here of end-of-summer. People are starting to come back from holiday, the days show an occaisional chill, it rains. Fine for me; I don’t think I’ll be spending too much time at work in September.


I broke yet another spoke on my bike. What’s up with that? Before here, the last spoke breakage I had involved a bent wheel, a failed jump, and a deflated ego. These times have been due to my half-hour commute to work. Do the changing circumstances mean I lead a more boring life? Or perhaps do I inject an EXTREME element to commuting? Choose your own adventure!


Opened comments, not sure why they were off.


15 Aug 2006 (updated 15 Aug 2006 at 09:24 UTC) »

lebanon links

In The New Yorker’s online edition, neatly absconded between flashy adverts showing how beautifulhappysmart you could be, lies a gem of a column, Watching Lebanon: Washington’s interests in Israel’s war. The sources are a bit weak, but the story is believable.

An exceedingly rational and legalistic Stephen Shalom explains how a principled person should react to the situation in Lebanon, at least as it was a week ago. I finished the article feeling clarified. I have a tendency to side with the oppressed in any pair, to the point of concealing their crimes; Shalom transcends that. Nonviolence is a hard path. update: fixed the link to point to a full version of the article.

and a bonus

Guardian journalist Rory Carroll writes How I never quite fell for South Africa. The fellow’s account is true and distressing in many ways. Life among South Africa’s poor, yes; but the class distinction is what bothers me. Namibia is similar, in some places.

the next movement

I think I’m going to inflict myself on Paris this weekend, meeting up with a fellow wanderer on our third continent thus far. Provided that the train station still has some tix.


I moved guile-gnome to bazaar, away from arch. Arch is just too complicated. I never want to have to register an archive again.

The move is still experimental, awaiting a bit of feedback before I update the web site and such, but from the little time I have had with bzr (bazaar), I can say that it is much, much easier. I just don’t think like Tom Lord does.



It is an amazing night tonight! I cannot hold it in. Change is in the wind.


Went to the Montserrat monastary last weekend. It occupies an odd place in the Catalan world, but I didn’t really plug into that — the space was what occupied my mind.

Montserrat perches in a fold of a geographically improbable mountain range, like a piece of pepper in a disorganized collection of molars. The rocks lean out, project up, mold the air.

While wandering through their sage-scented trails, I started to remember more about the extraurban life. I spend too much time in the city these days. It’s rather stupid, given the availability of transport and the good state of the GR trails.

Unfortunately my camera died after one measly photo. Lame!

more writing about weather

Barcelona had its first healthy rain today in a long time. I biked home in it, the Ciutadella refreshed and alive, the streets washed clean of months of pollutants. Tomorrow’s probably not a good day for swimming…

last fm

Been getting a bit more into last.fm, but just for its ability to visualize what I’m playing and to see what Thomas is listening to. Thumbs up, compatriots!

I think Havoc has some interesting points about the identity of GNOME with regards to web services. We control a large platform and have huge possibilities for integration, not just within the context of one computer, but between all of us. Yet we’re not the ones making flickr or lastfm or myspace or what-have-you. Why is this, and what kind of an organization would be able to make such an application in an open manner? Also, should GNOME be that kind of organization, and if so, how?

Such an endeavor would take capital and infrastructure costs. Here is where I will let the Ribeiro wine talk. It seems to me that the most infrastructure-capable organization we have, the foundation, actually has interests opposed to the creation of a stronger GNOME brand and unified online user experience. This is because its funders (the advisory board) are mostly distributions and embedded device makers. In both cases, GNOME as an experience is value-added down to the level of a support library, a lower box on the component diagram of their UI offering. If what you get is GNOME, why care about SLED vs Ubuntu vs RHEL? So that’s not the way they work, they build their own brand identities. Try finding the word GNOME on RHEL or SLED’s initial web pages.

I’m stil mulling over how to create a Free web service, though. No quick fix from this side for the moment.





And then who gets to review it for the Wall Street Journal, certainly not Mahmoud Omidsalar, but yet another neocon artist Azar Nafisi wannabe named Roya Hakakian who believes Dick Davisâ€[TM] translation is not good enough. Dick Davis sneezes and there is more poetry and scholarship in it than in Roya Hakakian and seven generation of her parentage put togetherâ€''and who died and made Roya Hakakian an authority either on Shahnameh or on its English translation?

Hamid Dabashi expounds adjectively in Lolita and beyond on ZNet. Enjoyable read if you’re into that kind of thing.


Oh, the ongoing saga of Friday. I suppose if you’re reading this, hoping to pick up some tips about video recording and streaming, my first advice would be to forget about streaming. I look at what the free electrons folks are doing, and am quiite jealous of their output.

The reason their output is better than what I have for guadec is threefold:

  • They capture to raw DV video, which is very easy to edit. The tradeoff is that it takes a lot of space, but that isn’t so much of a problem these days.
  • They don’t stream the video live, which decreases the combinatoric coordination clusterfuck that is live conference streaming.
  • They don’t encode or process in realtime, which avoids the heavy and variable cost of theora encoding. Also the way that overlays are implemented in Flumotion right now is expensive.

So if you’re looking to record video for something, record to DV, potentially even on a tape, and process it later. Very easy. Few things that can go wrong (sound, basically).

but guadec archives?

As a person who prides himself on the quality of his work, editing the GUADEC videos is depressing to the point of inaction-inducing. After a bit of diversionary LADSPA hacking this Friday I synced up with the videos that Jamie had been cutting, about four or five talks. Jeff Waugh gives his opening guadec presentation, walks off the stage and cleans up, and two minutes later he’s still talking on the audio track as Maciej Katafiasz wanders in front of the camera in an empty room. Terrible! Doubly so, because I had a hand in the software that made those archives.

At first I thought I could just get away with synchronizing the beginnings of the talks, but some videos show worse disconts than that. So, in the end I ended up modifying my lossless ogg theora cutter to produce a stream resynchronizer:



Now it relies on an unreleased version of gst-plugins-base, but in time things will be fine. Anyway, now that I have a decent process, hopefully I can rope my coworkers into cutting with me one day, and we just knock out all of the videos. Then I can write once more about all of this to say it’s finished and proceed to some other, any other phase of my life.


In the oft-listen department, may I mention Deee-lite and Oumou Sangare. Thank you.


ten years late

Whilst in DC in June, I stumbled upon the famous crooked beat. Nice shop good people. Spent a couple hours listening to things, eventually walking out with Gang of Four’s Entertainment and Neutral Milk Hotel’s On Avery Island.

Regarding the latter: sonic deliciousness. I’ve just now gotten around to giving it a good listen, and I can’t stop.



Both times that I’ve tried to make the 7:30 aikido class in the last month, I get out of work and find one of my tires is flat. Perhaps they magically reinflate if I leave work later. In any case, yesterday I was prepared with a can of <strike>whoop-ass</strike>flat-fixing foam. It got me about 5 kilometers out, at which point I reached a decent bike shop and had the tube changed.

After coming back from a beer, I found the fellow relaxing a bit. I sat down in his shop and we talked about Lebanon, the Spanish civil war, people. In the middle of changing the flat some guys came in and showed us how to make a brush out of a feather. Nice interactions.


Today I left slow, not racing. Decided to go back by the beach. Slowly pushing the pedals and watching people, clothed and naked. No interactions, but pleasant nonetheless. I’ll have to start packing a bathing suit when going to work.


I used to listen to radio a lot in Namibia, but here never got in the habit. Now as I type in the lingering sunlight, BBC news is playing on the computer downstairs. It’s comforting. I can’t even make out what they’re saying, only that the accents soothe.


Because I egocentrically syndicate myself on advogato, which only shows your most recent post, I’ve shied away from multiple postings at a time. The result is mashing a bunch of topics into one writing product. This practice has its, um, aspects.

The biggest minus for me is that I have to have all of my thoughts finished at the same time. I’m going to experiment with shorter writings on marginally more focused topics. We’ll see how it goes; advo folks might want to look at my last entry, which is more advo-related.

hack hack hack!

Today was Friday at Fluendo. Although I do bitch a lot about various things work-related, the fact that we have a day a week to hack on what we like is hot. It’s cunning though, being at the end of the week, as the momentum of the week’s projects bleed a bit onto the last day, but still. Hack hack.

So today my goal was to figure out what was up with the GUADEC video and audio archives. People are all up on my case about this, and wha? I just don’t have the time I used to. (Reasons for this are in a book I’m working on.)

Anyway, so this is a prelude to the sequel to my last post on conference streaming. What I wanted to say was something about ensuring that you get archives on disk, and then to edit them later.

However I was running into problems. Sometimes totem was having trouble playing the files, for example. Wha? Also there were some sound level issues. Amusingly, in the sala d’actes, an unbalanced cable converter was picking up the radio, for example.

More disturbingly, all players (gstreamer, xine, mplayer, vlc) were playing unsynchronized audio and video for some talks. How could this be? I was getting proper timestamps from the DV feed, but somehow in the encoding process we are producing bad ogg timestamps (granulepos values)? Wha? The italics totally indicate internal dialog.

A little background: the 2005 Guadec video archives suck. I say this having been a part of the process of their creation. Most do not pass oggz-validate. This is because of problems in the GStreamer ogg muxer back then.

Oh man we were pissed, in the American sense. How could we produce bad ogg. Us the exponents of ogg. Gar. So Thomas fixed the ogg muxer For Once And For All, and the world was happy.

Another background: the way that we produced those videos was by watching the talks, then when a new speaker started, we pressed a button in a flumotion-admin client that we had running, which would tell the “disker” flumotion component to start a new file. Because we didn’t have any decent cutting tools, we had to rely on this to produce files per-talk. It was a bit of work, but it produced decent results. At least we could do it from anywhere with network access.

Fast forward to 2006. I had streamed a couple of conferences, and thought that it was a pain in the ass to have to have someone rotate the conference archives manually. This was a selfish desire, that although I was the person responsible for streaming, I wanted to enjoy the conference too — always having to rotate the videos is a drag. So I wrote a lossless cutter for ogg/theora+vorbis, the intention being to let the video capture to disk all the time, then just cut out the talks you want.

So I cut the talks. I get some segfaults, patch some code, update to latest CVS, have to patch it some more, but in the end I get cuts which I believe to be correct. Only problem is, the audio is completely off. As in, 10 seconds out of sync. This should not be possible. I mean, my GStreamer talk (not yet posted) was about synchronization. I know how to do this. What was up?

Well. Long story short, after despairing to Thomas, we figure that if the CPU usage spikes, such that the theora encoder takes too long and we get behind, that it could be that we have to drop frames. This will happen on the capture end of things, if what is processing the raw data is not reading fast enough. In theory this is fine. The encoder will still receive correctly-timestamped data. However, GStreamer’s Vorbis and Theora encoders were internally assuming perfect streams (no dropped data), so internally they disregarded the timestamps they were given, choosing instead to produce continuous streams.

The end result is that our GUADEC archives are perfect, in one sense: they present no problems for oggz-validate or for ogginfo (the two programs you should use to validate ogg files). However they are incorrect. In the event of dropped data, the audio and video become unsynchronized.

This is even more of a problem for the long files I chose to record. What a PITA. I have broken files that I will need to manually patch at certain points to resync the vorbis and theora ideas of granulepos. This means we need even more custom tools. Ug.

So the end is that seekers of GUADEC archives will have to wait a bit.

what I meant to say

Writecode. Indeed what I meant to say was that after recognizing the bogus behavior of GStreamer’s vorbis and theora encoders, that Mike Smith and I set out to fix them. He hacked up patches while I hacked unit tests. All I wanted to say was that it was really nice to hack GStreamer, after so long away, and that C is fun sometimes.

also wha is the new what


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