Older blog entries for AlanHorkan (starting at number 303)

28 Apr 2006 (updated 28 Apr 2006 at 04:15 UTC) »
GNOME, Gnome, gnome

"To infinity and beyond", so began my question on how much longer the Gnome 2.x branch would continue and if Gnome 3.0 could be seen anywhere on the horizon.

(This post is about the Gnome Desktop Enviroment and if you don't know what it is you probably will not find the rest of this post interesting.)

The results were predictable enough. One developer was bluntly honest and admitted he would not mind at all if the Gnome 2.x branch continued on indefinately. It may seem silly to outsiders to have Gnome 2.x continue on for years and years but developers seem fine with that. Others continued with the "not yet" and "maybe later" comments, and help to further build up expectations that Gnome 3.0 will be some wonderous utopia but with no idea of when it might happen. A few people agreed with my sentiment and helped explain all software development is incremental in a well managed project and there should not need to be any radical changes all at once. Next time someone asks about Gnome 3.0 the answer will probably still be there is more work to be done.

No sooner than I say Gnome 3.0 will not happen based on the lack of any plan or timeframe, I fully expect someone will tell me it is going to happen and how I shouldn't use the dearth of evidence as counterevidence or proof by contradiction. To play it a little safer Gnome 3.0 will not happen out of nowhere and I can at least say Gnome 2.16 is planned for certain. Next year Gnome 2.18 and 2.20 are likely to usher in Ten Years of Gnome. Project Ridley and the arrival of GTK 3.0 will probably be the cause the for Gnome 3.0 to be brought up again but I don't plan on being the one to float the idea.

The Gnome 3.0 discussion was tapering off I was amused by Elijah Newren making a cheeky comment on how Gnome was correct and Jeff Waugh was incorectly typing it in all uppercase as GNOME. I should have resisted but couldn't help but adding a comment about Uppercase Gnome of my own, which was quoted on and syndicated on Planet Gnome. (Pedantic: The background image reads "planet gnome" (sic) an execption to the otherwise consistent use of GNOME.) Since I was already being berated for my suggestion of Gnome 3.0 a little extra criticism for discussing this old chestnut wasn't going to make much of a difference. As usual not everyone realised the silliness of the discussion and one person kindly explained GNOME was an acronym but failing to realise how contrived it was. The silliness continued but some interesting points were made, inlcuding how gnome-binaries are lowercase, Miguel de Icaza writes Gnome, and most interestingly how Gnome capitalisation had all been discussed six years ago by the Gnome documentation project. Patrick Costello wrote an especially lucid explanation of why Gnome should be lowercase. I'm not sure if he was trying to be funny and describe Gnome developers but I especially enjoyed the comment:

The desktop is deliberately associated with small, hairy proto-men of indeterminate age and habits
which is nearly as funny as the Uncyclopedia explanation of the Gnome footprint:
Gnome's logo is a huge footprint, but it is not clearly established whether it is a huge memory footprint or a huge disk footprint.

Between GNOME 3.0 and Gnome capitalisation it has been an unproductive but amusing discussion. I do hope people see the funny side of it but more importantly and all silliness aside I do hope both the proposed changes can come to pass sometime in the future. (Comments)

13 Apr 2006 (updated 14 Apr 2006 at 11:59 UTC) »
Microsoft screws you again

Windows Media player has been getting worse for years. Media Player 6 had a fairly straightforward usable interface, albeit with a few strange permanently disabled buttons. Microsoft then dumped the standard interface widgets and added lots of junk and clutter, and more features than you can shake a stick at.
Naively I thought things couldn't get any worse and installed Media Player 10. Initially I was pleased by the slightly less nebulous user interface, but beneath the surface lurked more insidious changes. Then Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) started harassing me and asking to connect to the internet to check for licenses where none had been needed before. The worst part of this "upgrade" is how it poisoned the whole system and crippled Media Player Classic too.
Avoid Media Player 10 like the plague that it is. Don't put up with this C.R.A.P.[1] and allow you computer to be held hostage. Yet another reason to avoid Microsoft and marvel as Gstreamer continues to improve.

Rant with me... or add your own comments.

[1] C.R.A.P. stands for Content, Restriction, Annulment, and Protection. The publishers promoting DRM claim it stands for Digital Rights Management and critics describe it more accurately as Digital Restrictions Management. Copyright protects publishers and it is their copyrights which are being managed and the users fair use rights which are being restricted. Calling it CRAP removes any ambiguity.

Update: Added plenty of links, to help Google know the true meaning of this DRM CRAP. Damn price gouging pigolists.

Don't hold your breath

Due to problems my service provider is having I might be delayed in replying to email messages. I have made alternative arrangements but I might not be able to reply to messages for up to a week while the system is being gradually restored from backups.

Virusmail

This outage drew my attention to the absurd amount of disk space I was using. I couldn't quite figure how I was still using over 6 GB of space. This was after deleting just under 2 GB of Transformers cartoons I had forgotten about, and clearing out unwanted source code and programs I wasn't using. Eventually I realised I was using a massive 2 GB to store more than a year of virus mail, an average of more than 5 MB a day.
If I had a penny for every virus mail ... if only Microsoft could be sued for contributory negligence for their operating system and atrocious email software.

Cool Links do not change

Tim Berners Lee wrote an interesting article about good web design and maintaining old links. Broken links are the suck. The only minor flaw in the article was his choice of the techinical term URI, an opaque and confusing acronym meaning Uniform Resource Indicator but in the context of the Web known more simply as links. There was enough context for most people to know what he meant by URI and I understand how he might want to make the distinction but in the context of the article it wasn't necessary.
The most interesting part about the article and what prompted me to write about it now (besides jdub mentioning Cool URIs) was the article was written in 1998 but unfortunately it is as relevant now in 2006 as it was then.

Tram Lines

The road was slippy from the rain but what got me was when the front wheel of my bike got caught between the tram lines (near Busaurus). Fell hard. Feared for my life but thankfully didn't have my skull crushed by inattentive drivers. Some English tourists helped drag me from the middle of the road and gather myself until the shock wore off. Strangely I managed to scrape both my left elbow and right hand. My left shoulder and left leg took the brunt of the fall and I've got a badly bruised thigh, I think it was made substantially worse because of the keys and penknife in my pocket but I've got a dead leg and it hurts like a bitch. My elbow was got scraped too, even through a leather jacket and heavy jumper, it stings but so long as I dont touch my elbow off anything I can almost forget about it.
Despite the dead-leg I was determined to do some rock climbing. It went pretty well aside from banging my bloody elbow off the rock face. Pints afterwards helped ease my pain though.
Who needs extreme sports when you have urban cycling?

Not as advertised
This is a public service announcement: The Weatherman should win prizes for misleading advertising. It is a severely unfunny film, the trailers show the most amusing bits and the advertising utterly missells this miserable film. Also Hope Davis is an annoying actress. Having said that there may be things to like about this film but it is only adequate at best, and never really goes anywhere.

Oh, that sounds like fun!
Proof is a film based on a play about Mathematics, can you contain your excitement? It is better than it sounds, the story is really about a woman losing her father and losing her mind. Anthony Hopkins plays the Mathematician father who made ground breaking discoveries in his youth. Gwyneth Paltrow plays the long suffering daughter who takes care of him through his slow mental decline.
Hope Davis plays the annoying busy body sister. Hope Davis has the airs of an annoying drama school actor and is clearly trying to cover a speech impediment. Maybe it wasn't entirely her fault, the character is fairly unsympathetic to begin with and her supposed intelligence is briefly mentioned through her career as a financial analyst but the character comes across as terribly shallow and self-involved and even if that was intentional more depth would have been better.
The story is fairly relaxed and thoughtful, no explosions or car chases here. Nice enough though.

Saw many films during the Dublin Film Festival most of which are coming out soon. I'm unlikely to make time to review them all. Mirror Mask opens this week (in Ireland and probably the UK) and although I've probably mentioned it already I highly recommend it. I might go see it again even. The Proposition is a fantastic "cowboy" film, although bandit/outlaw film might be more accurate description. Speaking of cowboys, the word means herding cattle and despite being dubbed the "gay cowboy film" in Brokeback Mountain they herd sheep, which makes them shepherds (thanks to Pat Dillon for that insight). Gay shepherds doesn't have quite the same ring to it now does it? Speaking of films I'm not going to watch (clunkly segway but anyway) I know enough about Lars Von Trier to know I will not be going to see Manderlay (second part of trilogy). I'd sooner eat cold porridge. Make sure you don't go without knowing what you are letting yourself in for.

So many films to see and so little time...

Windows still sucks

Despite my grumbling about being the de facto systems administrator for my family and not wanting to maintain Windows for another decade they went ahead and bought a new computer. Retraining my retired parents wasn't really an option so I grudgingly accepted Windows was the most suitable option but for that arguement to be valid I would need to disable all the Windows XP themes.
My brother works as a pimp^W^W^W in sales in Dell and had been working on my parents for months weeks and there was no way we were going to get broadband on our old clunker still quite happily running Windows 98. We ended up with a silvery Dell Dimension 3100. My fashion victim of a brother decided to order a flat LCD screen because it was trendy and took up less space. He did this despite or probably in spite of my strong advice to buy a CRT (Cathode Ray Tube, aka telly box) which gets much better picture for the same price.
With help from my cat wandering across the keyboard I cleared away the tedious End User License Agreements (EULA), those draconian click through licenses which I don't seriously believe are of any legal value. You don't have to put up with this abuse when installing or setting up Linux (with the unfortunate exception of the GIMP, but thankfully Ubuntu neutered the annoying startup questions, shamefully not all Live CD distributions have followed their lead).
They say "Windows is more stable than the last version" without intending to damn it with faint praise. Some claim they've never crashed Windows but they really cannot be trying very hard. One the first day of using a brand new machine it already locked up irretrievalbly and the failure was entirely reproducable. There was no grand bluescreen to truely admit defeat, everything just stopped. For the record I went into Display Properties, Advanced Settings, and flicked through the tabs labelled ATI but when I switched to the Options tab everything froze solid. ATI, Dell and Microsoft are all to blame.

We are not amused. Windows still sucks.

26 Feb 2006 (updated 27 Feb 2006 at 00:14 UTC) »
Dublin IFF: Surprise Film

The Surprise Film wasn't V for Vendatta, The Da Vinci Code, Miami Vice, a film by Spike Lee or any of the other suggestions. The Squid and the Whale is a film produced by Wes Anderson, which should give you a rough idea of what to expect. The story is about the breakdown of a marriage, a bearded Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney playing the parents to two boys who are torn between their parents. It is supposedly based on the real life experiences of Noah Baumbach who wrote and directed this film, and also wrote the Life Aquatic. There is some awkward humour, including cheap laughs from the youngest sons cursing and general bad behaviour resulting from the marriage breakdown.

Others seemed to like it but it just wasn't my kettle of fish. Good if you like that sort of thing and clearly someone does as the film received an Oscar nomination. Perhaps I was a little dissapointed as I had hoped the suprise film would be something else but I dont think it was as good as films such as the Life Aquatic or the Royal Tannenbaums. Decide for yourself.

26 Feb 2006 (updated 26 Feb 2006 at 17:07 UTC) »
John Hurt Film Festival

Last night I saw The Proposition is a dirty, gritty, film about lawless bandits in the Australian Outback. Remarkably it is one of four (possibly five) films showing at the Dublin International Film Festival featuring John Hurt. Strong hints were dropped about penultimate Surprise Film of the festival being V for Vendetta which also stars John Hurt.

Roughly one hundred Euro spent on tickets and even more on partying afterwards, it has been a very long week but immense fun. I've enjoyed many films, and rather than diminishing my enthusiasm I want to watch more! I thoroughly recommend Syriana, The Proposition and Mirror Mask.
Now I'm off to see that Surprise Film.

P.S. Thanks to Eclipse film distributors for the free ticket earlier in the week and letting me keep one of the posters from the Propostion.

Riots on the streets of Dublin

Freedom of speech means having to tolerate speech you do not particularly like. The riots in Dublin are a shameful failure to hear out unpopular political views. It is not as if there had never been similar marches before but ignorant thugs were determined to shout down opinions they didn't want heard. One of the groups in the planned march was FAIR, Families Acting for Innocent Relatives who in particular deserved to have their voices heard. Any conflict has victims on both sides.

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