August 01, 2007

Spread Open Media vs PlayOgg and Creative Commons seem to be behind a new open format advocacy campaign called Spread Open Media at the same time the Free Software Foundation called PlayOgg.

Spread Open Media or SOM which they call themselves for short looks pretty unprofessional. It is a word press blog with a narrow column of text. It doesn't seem to have any links on how to play any of the formats it supports. It doesn't have any sort of badge, button, or logo. they accuse PlayOgg of using "threat tactics, desinformation [sic], and ignorancy." That brings me to spelling I know I'm not a great speller but if I were running some sort of public campaign I'd be sure to have some sort of proof reader. Spread Open Media says to "avoid MP3, AAC, H.264, Xvid, and OOXML like the plague" but it doesn't say why. The truth is that MP3, AAC, H.264, and Xvid are open formats I have specifications for all of them, and anyone can buy the specs at the iso store for a fee. They are an inferior kind of open format because they are patent encumbered. Their name also seems a little bit too long. Spread Open Media is twice as long as PlayOgg, it's long enough that they call themselves SOM for short but unfortunately that don't own

PlayOgg may not look like a work of art wither but it looks a lot more professional than spread open media. It has a button that you can put near Ogg links, and conveniently points to the playOgg site. I disagree with PlayOgg's statement "Microsoft had to pay $1.5 billion after being sued for using MP3 without a license. With Ogg Vorbis, they would have been safe" because the patent in question was thought to be a non issue because it wasn't disclosed during development but was then brought out in the open much later now that MP3 is ubiquitous. In theory there could be several patents on which Vorbis/Theora potentially infringe where the holder may be waiting for popularity to increase before acting. It happened to MP3 and GIF. One blogger blasts PlayOgg saying: "This is the perfect example of how not to be an open source advocate; promoting a free audio format by suggesting to users that they .... download an entirely new media player." But at least PlayOgg gives some way to play these files unlike Spread Open Media. I do agree it would be good for PlayOgg to also link the Illiminable Ogg DirectShow Filters and XiphQT but i think that VLC should be displayed first because it is free software and it runs on any platform.

Posted by ajc30 at 06:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 09, 2007

In honor of etch... new feisty backports

It's been a big day for Debian with the release of Etch and a new project leader being elected. In honor of these events I've made some bleeding edge backports from debian experimental, NEW, and unstable to Ubuntu feisty.

The packages:
* GNU Octave 2.9.10 (and related packages) - A MATLAB like tool for numerical computations
* linuxdcpp 0.0.1.cvs20070330 - a GTK+ port of DC++
* zzuf 0.8.1 - a tool for fuzzing input files to expose buffer overflows (written by the new DPL)
* audacity 1.3.2 - The beta release, this is built against gtk+ 2

All packages are available at

Posted by ajc30 at 03:32 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 08, 2006

Unofficial Sid backports for Edgy

I'm now using Ubuntu 6.10 Edgy Eft on my laptop. However some package versions were frozen earlier than I would have wished. I have backports of gaim-2.0.0beta4 and octave-2.9.9 as well as a port of linuxdcpp from Debian sid. I've posted them at More will probably come along until feisty gets usable.

Posted by ajc30 at 01:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 04, 2006

Bits and Bytes

I found two articles to follow up my previous post on Google's shortcomings. The first is a sixth grader's essay on why Google is great, and the second is a listing of webservices marketshares with commentary comparing Google to MSN.

I found some really sweet Facebook userscripts at facebookWithBenefits. The best are post2faceBook which adds a quick post feature and inYOfaceBook which magnifies user picture thumbnails on mouse over.

Mugshot for Windows still leaves a lot ot be desired. It ignores the users browser prefrence (probably to maintain the login session between the tray icon and the browser) and it only supports iTunes and YME. Digging into the source it looks like it uses two different sets of classes to abstract them.

I made some new mugshot and loudmouth packages for dapper as jdub's mugshot packages are now out of date and the dapper loudmout packages crash on the mugshot out of date notification.

The Gnome desktop has made steady progress lately but sometimes the developers seem so focused on visible changes that they forget about their backend stated goals. For instance they want to migrate from popt to GOption but the patch for gnome-terminal has been sitting for three months now.

They have already recognized patch rot as a barrier to participation. Patch rot means that patches are lees likely to cleanly apply and is also frustrating to patch writers. What they really need is a Patch Marshall to make sure that submitted patches either get accepted or denied in a reasonable amount of time.

Posted by ajc30 at 11:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 03, 2006

Cool new social and collaboration tools from RedHat

Two new interesting collaboration/social networking websites have been released from Red Hat. Unlike what you might expect from a company like Red Hat these sites focus on communication and discussion rather than source code or bug tracking.

First is the more technically orientedRed Hat 108. .

Second is the more entertainment oriented Mugshot.

You can hear about both of them in Szulik's keynote at the 2006 Red Hat Summit. I really don't think I can give a more accurate description of either of these because I'm still learning about them, so you should check them out for yourself.

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April 19, 2006

Getting Right Shift to Work in Olin 404.5

Some of you have probably noticed that right shift doesn't work on under GNOME on the Sun Rays in Olin 404.5. The solution is to go to System > Prefrences > Keyboard Shortcuts, scroll down to E-mail click on it and hit backspace. Or you can run this command
gconftool-2 --type string --set /apps/gnome_settings_daemon/keybindings/email disabled
I found this from the Ubuntu on Sun Ray guide. It also has instructions on how to fix the Alt keys. Another good GNOME on Sun Ray guide is This blog post by a Sun employee. I recommend turning off wallpaper
gconftool-2 --type string --set /desktop/gnome/background/picture_options none
gconftool-2 --type string --set /desktop/gnome/background/primary_color \#037AD6
gconftool-2 --type string --set /desktop/gnome/background/color_shading_type solid

and the desktop
gconftool-2 --type bool --set /apps/nautilus/preferences/show_desktop false

Posted by ajc30 at 10:51 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 03, 2006

WebDAV and Windows

Yesterday I had to manage some files over WebDAV. Explorer on Windows XP refused to open the share. The easiest way seemed to be to run konqueror over a remote X11 ssh tunnel from Is functional WebDAV support slated for Windows Vista?

P.S. Windows web developers, this is probably a good way to see how khtml renders your pages.

Posted by ajc30 at 11:33 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 01, 2006

UNIX software and the Free desktops

Has else anyone noticed that despite growth and popularity of Free desktops like GNOME, KDE, and XFCE on X11 that traditional UNIX Software vendors like Mentor Graphics, Mathworks, and Synopsys continue to stick with old technology (Motif, etc.)?

I know the EDA world has been much more centered on proprietary UNIXes in the past than on BSDs and Linux. But the open UNIXes are becoming more popular and the proprietary UNIXes are becoming more open. Even Sun has already open sourced Solaris and replaced CDE with JDS (re-branded GNOME) on Solaris. But the expensive UNIX software continues to ancient toolkits. These expensive programs are really starting to look dated. Now I'll admit the versions of Synopsys and Mentor Graphics software that I use a re a few years old but even then the advantages of a modern toolkit should have been clear and I am using the current version of MATLAB. I see a few posts relating to Gtk+ and Qt on but nothing big, there seems to be no serious movement toward modern toolkits. There also doesn't seem to be any word coming from of a move toward modern toolkits though there are a few job postings that mention Qt.

I realize that the majority of the time people don't use the GUIs for these tools but maintaining one that really sucks seems to be a waste of energy. Is this just a case of "if it ain't broke don't fix it" where they see no need to migrate existing tools or are the vendors actively avoiding these technologies?

Posted by ajc30 at 12:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 17, 2006

Free/Gratis Software round-up

I thought I'd share some links to some software I've been using lately all of it is Free Software except for LTSpice/SwitcherCAD III which is gratis (freeware).

Posted by ajc30 at 01:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 11, 2005

It's like eTerm for Windows

Today I came across one of those Programs I just feel compelled to share. It's a terminal emulator for windows called Console. It's much more configurable than the built in one and it uses native themes. It supports transparency, multiple configurations, z-order, system tray mode, focused and unfocused settings, and a few other things.


Posted by ajc30 at 12:05 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 16, 2005

Thank You Dr. Fourier

Recently, I noticed that there don't seem to be any Free (as in GNU) Fourier/Laplace/Z tables. Wikipedia has Integral Tables and (Wikipedia also has Fourier Tables (which aren't particularity useful because they use different normalization constants than I need) but what I envision is even more than that. I'd like to see Free tables where you can select specific and specific types of entries and export to LaTeX, MathML, PDF, PS, or rasterize to PNG at a given size. This would be a great tool for students. Does any one know of any free tables or have any thoughts on this?

As a final thought: u(t)\overset \mathcal{F} \longleftrightarrow \frac{1}{{j\omega }} + \pi \delta (\omega )

(and that too far to long to set)

Posted by ajc30 at 08:02 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 01, 2005

Bug Report for the Month of June 2005

I slacked off a little this month. Also this only includes bugs from public bug tracking systems, i.e. not work.

Bug Report for the Month of June 2005
BTS ID Date Filed Summary Status Comments
Ubuntu 7454 2005-03-11 About Ubuntu (from gnome panel) missing a section title RESOLVED FIXED Fixed in June
Ubuntu 11516 2005-06-05 replace debian package search with ubuntu package search NEW
GNOME 307398 2005-06-12 blank IMAP warning messages RESOLVED FIXED Thanks NotZed
Mozilla 297869 2005-06-16 Objects slide on middle click NEW Try it on my main blog summary
Ubuntu 11918 2005-06-17 gdm has runtime dependency on ksh not reflected in package deps RESOLVED FIXED

Vim is real nice, but I really need some good visual XML/XSLT tools.

Posted by ajc30 at 10:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 29, 2005

Tar Wars Or Is the FSF the Microsoft of UNIX?

Friday at work, I had to unpack a gzipped tarball... in Solaris. This ordinarily is quite a mundane task that I've done thousands of times. But this time something was rotten in the state of UNIX. Normally with gnu tar, tar xf file.tar.gz does the task. I wasn't surprised when this didn't work though as this feature was added to gnu tar quite recently. so i tried what I used to do when I first started using Linux, tar xzf filename.tar.gz, again this didn't work. Then I remembered that I had heard that the compression flags were a gnu extension to tar and not supported by many implementations of tar. I also remembered seeing pipe instructions come with many gzipped tar balls. I quickly found on gunzip < file.tar.gz | /usr/bin/tar xvf -.

Now I've never had problems with this on EECS's sun boxen. This appears to be because we actually have tar in four different places on them. In PATH order we have:

ajc30@bender ~ $ /usr/pkg/bin/tar
usage: tar [-]{crtux}[-befhjlmopqvwzHLOPXZ014578] [archive] [blocksize]
           [-C directory] [-T file] [-s replstr] [file ...]
ajc30@bender ~ $ /usr/local/bin/tar
/usr/local/bin/tar: You must specify one of the `-Acdtrux' options
Try `/usr/local/bin/tar --help' for more information.
ajc30@bender ~ $ /usr/bin/tar
Usage: tar {txruc@}[vfbFXhiBDEelmopwnq[0-7]] [-k size] [tapefile] [blocksize] [exclude-file] [-I include-file] files ...
ajc30@bender ~ $ /bin/tar
Usage: tar {txruc@}[vfbFXhiBDEelmopwnq[0-7]] [-k size] [tapefile] [blocksize] [exclude-file] [-I include-file] files ...

In order they appear to be NetBSD's tar, Gnu tar 1.13, Sun's tar, and Sun's tar not on PATH. NetBSD's tar seems to support the compression flags like gnu tar but not auto detection of compression. Gnu tar 1.13 also lacks auto detect. And obviously Sun's tar doesn't support either.

Now command line incompatibility is one thing but apparently there are problems with opening tar files themselves. It seems that OpenBSD's tar could not properly unpack Zope, which apparently used gnu extensions to tar to support long file names. Now it appears that since then OpenBSD tar has become compatible (based on unpacking with both tars on OpenBSD 3.6 and comparing with diff -r).

Another example is m4. The tex build system uses m4 -P yet according to tex-live mailing list m4 -P is a GNUism and not supported by IRIX's m4.

More familiar to people is the bash issue. Bash (maintained by out very own Chet Ramey) is a POSIX compatible shell and also adds a variety of use features that we desire from a more modern shell. Some systems (such as Debian) use bash as their /bin/sh. Then in these systems shell scripts assuming /bin/sh is bash creep in. And voilà incompatibility with other POSIX shells. Of course the shell world is compatibility is a nightmare. To quote the autoconf documentation: "there are some corner cases in the Bourne shell that are not completely compatible with a POSIX shell.... While most (at least most System V's) do have a Bourne shell that accepts shell functions most vendor /bin/sh programs are not the POSIX shell. So while most modern systems do have a shell somewhere that meets the POSIX standard, the challenge is to find it." And Bash even has it's own list of incompatibilities with it's own 1.x series (despite that bash is still my favorite shell)

Now it seems to me that in these examples GNU "embraced and extended" existing standards. For this very same behavior we vilify Microsoft. In this era of of GNU/Linux's rapid growth it seems like this might hurt competing UNIX like systems and cause unintentional GNU/Linux lock-in.

Posted by ajc30 at 12:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 09, 2005

Confessions of an Ex-Linux User

At the beginning of the summer of 2000 my family got a new computer, this freed up our previous machine for my grand GNU/Linux experiment. After playing around with Phat Linux to test the waters and then Linux Mandrake I settled on Red Hat. From that point I used Red Hat Linux exclusively until the summer of 2003 where I started dual booting on my new college computer.

These days I'm back to using Windows almost exclusively now. Windows XP is far stabler than the Windows 98 that I dumped in 2000. Firefox is also nice enough that I can use it in place of IE and not have to worry about taking down the whole shell (though the Linux/X11 port is fairly horrible). And Thunderbird protects me from those nasty Outlook (Express) worms. It's nice being able to almost properly view documents that people have decided to typeset in MS Word (for the love for god, why?). The Windows Gaim port is in a good enough condition that I can use it in place of that add-ridden AOL client. And Media Player Classic has made multimedia a pleasure on windows. I'm also enjoying the excellent Nero suite, both their video tools and their burning tools. Gaming on Windows allows for more choices; Linux has some big title games like Doom 3 and UT2004 and lots of older games running on ported VMs but doesn't have nearly as many games as Windows. As a Linux user, I did (and still do) tend to play more console games though.

MATLAB is another reason. Though there is a Linux (with optional very ugly X11 support) port, I can't use the features I need the most. I need to use the fdatool quite a bit but it just isn't usable on the X11 port and I don't mean the Havoc Pennington it still has features unusable, I mean the gui is so horribly skewed and illegible that it is a real pain to use.

Windows can still really could use a few things though. I'd love to be able to have a tabbed terminal in windows. I'd like to see better out of the box archive support. I'd really like standard tar, gzip, bzip2, rar, and possibly 7z support, with tight shell integration. I'd also like to see a Direct Show Ogg demuxer, Vorbis decoder, and full MPEG 4 support (ASP/AVC/mp4). In the more likely to actually happen arena, windows should shorten the names of its default system folder location for those who have the misfortune to use it in the command line "cd c:\Documents and Settings\Username\My Documents" us a mouthful as is "cd c:\Program Files\Common Files" I realize that there are the tilde names like c:\docume~1\Username\mydocu~1" but that is also awkward. I also know about command completion but in some situations its not feasible. the My Documents, My Pictures, My Music, etc. folders should have the My lopped off, of course they are yours, and "C:\Program Files\Common Files" can become c:\programs\common, of course they store files, and "Documents and Settings" can become "profiles" because it is easier to type.

There are a few things on the Linux side that could win it massive amounts of points. It would be sweet to have a grub menu item or boot up key combination to not start gdm/kdm/xdm. Native Eclipse would also be sweet. Ubuntu got close I could smell it but progress mysteriously stopped over a month ago. I good audio player would also be awesome. Despite the fact that I am currently using Winamp on Windows I don't like the Beep/XMMS Winamp-cloned bitmap interface. Rhythmbox is pretty nice but could really use a plug-in system, right now rbscrobbler is such a hack. Firefox also needs a serious clean up. You shouldn't need to be root to install search plug-ins.

Maybe someday I will return but for now I am content with Windows.

EDIT 5/11/05: I added some stuff, I didn't mean to take the entry live earlier

Posted by ajc30 at 11:21 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 01, 2005

New Operating System Experiences

Lately I've had the opportunity to work with some operating systems that are new to me.
The fist is Ubuntu hoary. I've worked with Debian on the server before so it wasn't totally foreign to me. I moved from Gentoo to Ubuntu because I was sick of waiting for slow compiles. All around it seems pretty decent but there are some things I'm not satisfied about:

  1. There aren't any fast North American mirrors (chod's Gentoo mirror spoiled me)

  2. It still has many of the standard gnome annoyances. For instance you need to edit an esoteric config file to edit the default file type handlers.

  3. No packages for some really useful apps like eclipse. (It appears that they are working on this one.)

  4. No packages for useful gratis non-free software like Java and recent versions of RealPlayer (the seem to have RealPlayer 8 though). This may come as a shock to you windows users but realplayer for X11 is really nice. And yes I do have the multiverse repository enabled.

  5. I find dpkg really awkward I've heard for years about how rpm is allegedly inferior but I completely disagree. I love that rpm doesn't require me to poke around in the tarball, allows multiple single issue patches, allows command line build options, and has a single build macro/metadata file.

One thing that I really do like about Ubuntu is their choice to drop ESound in favor of polypaudio. Polypaudio seems to just work. I also like that they ship the non-free but super useful nVidia kernel drivers.

I 'm not sure about Ubuntu's unique color scheme. They a color scheme that they call human which really is brown. Some call it diarrhea brown others seem to love it. I haven't made up my mind yet.

In general Ubuntu just failed to impress me. I've heard their firefox desktop integration patches are pretty good but I don't use firefox. I know it seems to have a lot buzz it doesn't seem all that great.

While all of this is going on I've also been using OpenBSD on the Tau Beta Pi webserver. We chose OpenBSD because of its excellent security record. I made it my goal not to over gnuize the system but I did choose to install nano (I've always had problems with vi(m) over ssh) and gtar (I've grown dependent on gtar's special features) which I've made my default tar.

I had problems setting up apache to use mysql because of chroot consequences. I highly recommend that anyone setting up an OpenBSD system that you put /var/run and /var/www on the same partition. This is because the mysql socket requires a hardlink inside the apache chroot jail. I also had problems with the mysql init script or lack there of (I couldn't find one).

Ports came pretty naturally to me being an ex-gentoo user but I have no idea how to check for updates (etc.) without emerge, yum, or apt.

Posted by ajc30 at 05:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 08, 2005

My 2.0 impressions

I tried out an 2 pre-release today and I like it a lot better than 1.1. If I understand properly it uses pluggable widgets. For me this means that it finally looks like a real Gnome application (screen shot below). For Windows users, I think it looks natives on windows as well. See these screen shots at The Register's preview. But under the hood it still seems like it's a gianormous mess. It still is a slow loader and slow program in general. It still takes up a metric ton of disk space. I didn't install all the options and it's still eating 198 MB of disk space for me, though the core it self was 192 MB so the rest of the other options wont add on that much more. Now when in an era where people seem love to complain about having to install a few gnome-libraries for AbiWord and Gnumeric, it seems absurd for 192 MB to be acceptable.

Obligatory Screenshot
Obligatory Screen Shot

I didn't try building it but I'm guessing that like 1.1 it will take at least half a gig of ram to even build, let alone build quickly. This might not matter to most people but I love taking advantage of the openness of my software. I like to build it myself with a few special patches or some non-standard options. For instance, I like the spelling libs for spellbound built into my Firefox.

So I guess until OO.o gets slimmer and a lot quicker I'm going to stick with Gnome Office. Even if the tide has long since turned for OO.o. Some times I wonder how awesome Gnome Office would be if it had the major corporate backing that OO.o gets. It seems like the the Open Source Community seems to like to throw away their own solutions for the big PR dance with some megacorp. People made a huge deal over the Bitstream Vera fonts when most distributions still don't ship with the free Dustismo fonts.

Posted by ajc30 at 12:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack