Exhibiting at LugRadio Live This Year

July 18, 2008 at 7:41 pm (lugradio, lugradio live, open source)

I should imagine that most you guys reading this know about LugRadio Live. For those who don’t (I’m looking at you Sam), go check out the website. Just like the last two years, you’ll find me amongst the mass of beards, long hair and O’Reilly books. However – unlike the last two years – all attending will have the opportunity to contribute towards a colaberative artwork, this is where I get involved.

Indeed, I shall be hosting an exhibition during the weekend long event where anyone can walk up, grab a pen, pencil, pastel, paintbrush, prittstick or many other wonderful things begining with ‘p’, and apply them to a large piece of paper. The aim being to create at least one piece of art produced in a (vaguely) similar fashion to how Open Source software is produced. Seemed like a fun, and reasonably apt idea – and the handsomely large gents over at LugRadio towers appear to have agreed.

The idea behind this originated while I was studying art a sixth form, as for one of the modules I did I could choose anything so long as it could be connected to the subject of “freedom”, I believe – something like that… So I chose FOSS, somewhere near the end of the course I remember talking to a friend about how great it would be to produce a piece of artwork in a similar fashion to the collaberative way that FOSS software is developed. Unfortunately, it was too far into the year to actually arrange that. However the idea stuck with me all this time – gently simering in the depths of my brain, like some kind of exqusite stew – and finally I decided to mentioned to the LugRadio guys earlier this year. The idea, not the awful stew analogy.

Anyhow, as much as it pains me to admit, I am only one of many great reasons why you need to attend LugRadio Live UK this year. In addition to the swarths of great speakers at the event – there will also be parties held each night starting on Friday. In addition to this you get to meet loads of great people also exhibiting at the event, talk to people about stuff you’re interested in during BoF sessions, see some poor guy in a thong banging on a gong, and – most importantly – shed a tear while whitnessing the very last LugRadio Live live LugRadio.

As it happens, I’m going away to make some final preperations for the exhibit (or rather, eat some tortilla chips and then go do something useful like that). Incidentally, for those who don’t know, I’m a big fan of LugRadio and it does feel a little strange that I’m exhibiting at the finale of this cherished thing. Although, at the same time I’m very excited about what might come out of this exhibition.

Don’t forget to pop round my table and draw/paint/pen/verb something if you are attending!

Chris Hayes

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FOSDEM08

March 5, 2008 at 4:52 pm (open source)

This year I was fortunate enough to attend the premier Free Software event of Europe, FOSDEM. FOSDEM is a weekend long event in which Free and Open software developers, enthusiasts and users meet up to watch presentations, key notes, lightning talks and demonstrations of some of the coolest things going on in Free Software right now, as well as taking part in workshops and talking to people representing many of the biggest projects and companies in Open Source.

My interest is mostly that I am an enthusiast, although I also work with Open Source technologies in my job, plus I intend to become a developer in the future. To make it all even better – it is hosted in Brussels, Belgium – this being quite nice because the first time I went abroad it was to Brussels, and I have very fond memories of the holiday.

Anyhow, back to FOSDEM. For those who have been to LUGRadio Live, over here in the UK, it is much like that event – although bigger – and with more of a technical focus, and – of course, far less rude. As for language (as opposed to Langridge) all the talks I attended were in English, and all the people who I spoke to at the event spoke English extremely well. This was good, seeing as I cannot speak any other languages well, and can barely articulate a coheisive sentence on demand in my native tounge. I remember being surprised of the widespread use of English throughout the actual event – however it makes sense as computing tends to be a realm where English has become the working language.

In general, I found the talks to be of a high quality – both well presented and rich in content. Being such a large event they were able to have both a really broad base of subjects, as well as having entire rooms dedicated to key projects – such as OpenOffice.org and Mozilla. Unfortunately – with so many really interesting things going on all around – this meant that it was impossible to see everything that you wanted.

Saying this, I found that there wasn’t much going on in the graphics and design area, it would have been great to have a Dev room for GIMP, Inkscape, Xara, FontForge, Blender – just to name a few of the more popular ones I’d love to hear about. CrystalSpace 3D appeared to be the only major graphics related project in the entirety of the event, excluding Xorg stuff. It would have been nice to hear about the creative tools out there from those developing them – as it wasn’t just graphics, there also seemed to be a lack of audio/video creation tools hackery on show too… It’s not as if FOSDEM was entirely technical either, the Mozilla related talks I saw tended to be timelines, facts about the Corporation, demos and job recruitments – rather than nitty gritty tech talks. However thei few Mozilla talks I saw may have been unrepresentative, for all I know.

Various people out there probably know that I am interested in game development – and it was great to hear about CrystalSpace 3D and the GGZ development framework. These and the virtualisation talks are probably the things that I found to be most interesting. Again, it was a shame that voice recognition wasn’t covered at all – even across the immense breadth of what was on offer there – however, this is merely a symptom of that fact that there isn’t a lot of work going into Open Source speech recognition, unfortunately… I also attended the Globulation2 talk as I’d played it once – and thought it was pretty good. And PackageKit – the package abstraction layer sounds very nice – this was the first time I’d heard of it, and I think that if some key distros adopted it (which certainly sounds like they are) it could be quite a big win in the Linux-on-the-desktop thing. Although it did get me thinking about how AutoPackage seems to have effectively died, something that I am deeply annoyed about.

I greatly enjoyed FOSDEM08, I certainly feel it was worth going. And I’ve definately come back with a spring in my step – eager to advance my skills as a developer. On that note, one thing that I learned at some point during the event was not to be shy of using abstraction layers and frameworks rather than reinventing the wheel. Sure, abstraction carries with it an enlarged overhead, however as a fairly novice developer, trying to re-invent the wheel from the ground up over and over again wastes time – and unless you do know what you’re doing – will likely result in badly written code that isn’t as effective as using a properly written abstraction layer. At least, that’s my current opinion of this.

Anyhow, I intend to be at the next FOSDEM, if I’m able to make it. And, finally – I’d like to thank Juddith and Christopher so much for being able to put me up between them both for the 3 nights I was over in Belgium for. I really, really appreciate this – epsecially on such short notice. Also, thanks to them both, for ensuring that the time outside FOSDEM was as interesting as the event itself. Thank you.

Chris Hayes / cbhworld

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USB to Serial to ancient pda…

June 12, 2007 at 7:56 pm (d3v, open source)

I just thought I’d put this up as it could help someone. It concerns the transfer of data over a USB to serial port adapter (I believe using this Prolific chipset http://www.prolific.com.tw/eng/Products.asp?ID=59 and was bought from Maplin) to an ancient PDA, the Olivetti Davinci – version 3 (http://www.dv3.info/) when running Linux on your computer.

Anyway, to transfer programs to the homebrewed extended Davinci OS (http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/dv3-devel/) you need to transfer the data using the xmodem protocol (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XMODEM) – and I found this to be a problem to do. Anyway, eventually I found a way that worked:

  1. Have your DaVinci switched on and plugged into the docking cradle, make sure you’re ready by going to the Launcher part through menu>app.>Launcher
  2. Type the following command into the command line (you might have to install the sz programs – I can’t remember)
    sz -X App_15.dv3 > /dev/ttyUSB0 < /dev/ttyUSB0
    Here ‘App_15.dv3′ should be replaced with whatever the file you disire to send is called. And the path ‘/dev/ttyUSB0′ should be to whatever file in the /dev directory that seems to be where your serial port adaptor is appearing at (a way to find this out is to go to the Gnome Device Manager, by going to the Administration menu and looking for the serial port listed in there, if it’s this one it’ll show as PL2303 Serial Port, then click that and then on the Advanced tab at the side pane with the information on – and there you’ll hopefully see a row with ‘linux.device_file’ and the /dev file at the end)
  3. After pressing enter, you’ll likely see something like this:
    Sending hexwidget.cpp, 90 blocks: Give your local XMODEM receive command now.
    At this point you can tap the tools button and then on ‘New Record’ from that menu. And hopefully you’ll see the terminal jump into action and starting counting how much data it’s sent – until it’s done!

Anyway, hope that might help someone, somewhere. For those interested in adding progams into the miniOS bit of the homebrew moded DaVinci OS thingy, I was able to do that using gtkterm, I think – just setting it to use the right serial port /dev file and setting the speed to 19200, and the making sure that the parity was none, bits were 8, stop bits were 1 and flow control was none.

Also! For those interested in developing stuff for the DaVinci v3, take a look at http://sourceforge.net/projects/dv3sdk – although they haven’t released any files, you can loginto the CVS system and take a copy of the source code, then type ‘make’ in the main directory of the 4 sub parts, and it should compile them all (although I do have a ton of development libraries, headers and general stuff on my computer – so, you’ll need some of those things, and there’s no configure script so I’m not sure how much help you’ll get from it in terms of telling you what you need) – anyway, the stuff there seems pretty cool, I haven’t really done anything with it though – and I’m unable to figure out how to get the emulator to load a state yet (or find a state it’ll load).

Anyway, that’s that.

Chris Hayes / cbhworld

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my KDE and Gnome rant unearthed…

June 5, 2007 at 4:28 pm (open source)

Today I heard Adam Sweet on LugRadio episode 20 season 4, ask Aaron Seigo whether KDE 4 would be lighter, specifically less option saturated. Upon hearing this I found it ignited the ongoing annoyance I have been known to hold towards people criticizing KDE for being intensely configurable. I’ll quickly make clear now that I don’t use KDE, I find it ugly and – in my more recent experience on Ubuntu, quite unstable. So I use Gnome, because I think it’s the best out of those two.

Something that upsets me about Gnome though, is that it regularly forces me to use the commandline, this is a problem because the whole point for a graphical desktop is surely to stop you from having to use the commandline. An example of this was where I attempted to get some of he Myst games to work under wine, and reading the error messages that were spamming my terminal – it appeared that at least one problem was switching the display to a different bit depth. As much as I doubted that it make everything work, I thought it’d be useful to at least see whether anything changed if I manually did this – so wine didn’t have to. Bearing in mind that this was in the days before I had a constant internet connection – I lost an entire night going through xorg related man pages, and got nowhere. To this day I don’t know how to do it, but I’m sure it must be fairly simple. Anyway – that was an example where I, a reasonably technical user of Linux (not competent) wasted many many hours trying to do something that is straightforward to do on Windows and I would be surprised if you couldn’t do it on KDE. Previously I had described Gnome’s insistence that users cannot handle lots of options as the result of inbred ideals, where instead of making functionality usable, they instead choose the strip out the functionality entirely.

As far as the extreme saturation of options resident in KDE goes, I totally agree with Aaron Seigo here when he said that cutting back on KDE 4’s options would be fine except that the 20% of options that one person would use, will not always be the same as the 20% that another person uses. A good example of something I see as a seemingly useless, yet overwhelming useful option, and also the reason why I continually fight KDE’s corner against those who criticize the abundance of configurability within it, is the taskbar hide button width setting. Basically, kicker, the KDE taskbar, allows you to add a button to it which retracts it from the screen – so that only the button still shows. When you want the taskbar back, you just click again and it will return. Back on my old laptop (which appears to be effectively dead now unfortunately), I only had an 800×600 pixel screen resolution, and the ability to hide the taskbar was great – however I only ever used this option in KDE. This was because in KDE I could set it to be only 3 pixels wide, which was great when you’re fighting for every single pixel on the screen – whereas in Gnome, it’d be a large button that’d take away too much space to merit using it. That’s my example, and I’m sure other people could think of better ones, although I really must stress – on a 800×600 pixel resolution screen this was a great help. Heh, I just remembered that the reason I stopped using KDE on that computer was because some of the configuration boxes wouldn’t fit on the screen.

Anyway, I personally don’t think that it is possible to satisfy everyone in the way that Gnome tries to, hoping that people will all come to work in the same ways. I do however see great value in Gnome, I think that it is a very easy to use desktop – unfortunately the user is restricted a lot, that’s it’s downside. But for most people, it doesn’t matter – and that currently describes myself. Even I am willing to put up with what I openly consider restrictions, in preference to a desktop that feels nice and is straightforward to use.

I’m hoping that KDE 4 will have the changes that I need to move back to it. But, perhaps more importantly – I don’t see any reason why Gnome couldn’t be option intensive while maintaining its ease of use, and why KDE couldn’t become more streamlined and ‘hide’ its advanced settings somewhere less in your face. All it takes is having basic configurability seperated from the advanced options that are generally conceived to be less used.

Anyway, that’s a big ongoing rant that I’ve had for a long time, I hope I’ve done it justice.

Chris Hayes / cbhworld

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