Recent blog entries for RickMuller

Two of my scripts at the Python Cookbook made the Daily Python URL, for 11/28/2004 and 11/29/2004. The scripts were simple OpenGL windows, one which used GLUT to draw the window, and another that used wxPython. I've been paying more attention to these as I've been trying to maintain stable RPMs for the PyOpenGL project. These little scripts make it easy to test whether PyOpenGL is working.

26 Oct 2004 (updated 27 Oct 2004 at 01:23 UTC) »

Update on Python Distutils AssertionError where unexpected number of RPM files were found. Turns out a patch exists for the bug that I complained about here. The full bug report is here. The patch is here. I tested it on python2.2 and python2.3 on RH9, FC1 and FC2, and it seems to work fine.

I'd also like to rave about Vector Linux. I have an old 200 MHz Pentium II at home that was sitting turned off. It used to run linux quite well, back in the old RedHat 6 days. But most modern linuxes are so bloated that they creep on this box. So I tried VL, which boasts that it is a lightweight application. Sure enough, it runs well on the old box. Not enough to become my primary box, by any stretch, but it makes a fun box to play around with.

Thought I should also post about one of my favorite toys, the Linksys KVM2KIT 2-port KVM switch. I have a 4-port KVM at work, but I like this little 2-port version since it's cheap, costing only as much as KVM cables typically do, and integrates nicely with my scroll lock key, allowing me to leave it under the desk.

Just bought a Brother HL-1440 laser printer. I checked first to see that it was supported by the printer setup in FC2. Sure enough, it installed flawlessly.

I haven't set up print queues for the other computers on my home network yet, but so far it looks like a nice cheap laser printer.

I had no end of difficulties getting my HP deskjet 825c to print more than one page without getting a paperjam, a problem that existed in that printer since it was new. Inquiries to HP customer support were met with statements like "buy official HP paper", which not only didn't work, but I knew wouldn't work before I tried them.

The Python Distutils are one of the nicer features about Python, as they allow one to build, install, and distribute Python modules.

I'm in the process of trying to build RH9/FC1/FC2 RPMs using the distutils for the PyOpenGL module, and am having problems.

First, the distutils builds more than one version of the RPM file (a debug version and a non-debug version), and then dies on a simple AssertionError when it finds more than one version. As seen here, the distutils mailing list has known about this for over a year, and I don't know why it hasn't been fixed. Obviously, one can simply hack bdist_rpm.py, but I don't want to do this, in part because I want to be able to make sure that people who use my software can install/upgrade things without hacking their python installation.

Secondly, when calling bdist_rpm, one is supposed to be able to pass in --python=whatever arguments to specify which version of Python one is building the RPM for. This doesn't seem to work, and, additionally, seems to kill other options.

It has been a while. I note that my last post was complaining about Debian. Actually, it was praising Debian as much as complaining about it. There are some amazing things about Debian. The user community is unparalleled, both in the sheer number of packages submitted to the archives, and to the help they can offer. And apt is similarly brilliant. But the rate at which stable releases come out is much too slow, and I got tired of living on the edge with Sid.

So I tried out Fedora Core 2 this weekend, and I've been amazed. Fedora, in conjunction with fedora.us, provides a great set of stable packages, and yum is working pretty nicely as a replacement for apt (although I realize that I can use apt/synaptic with FC).

Debian
Debian is a remarkable mix of contradictions. Debian has a remarkable package management system, probably the best linux package management in existence. At the same time, the political battles are unbelievable frustrating and threaten to marginalize the package. Recent resolutions to remove all non-free documentation and firmware from the install mean that Sarge will be delayed until 2005. Woody, the last release, came out in 2002, which means that people using the "stable" (i.e. Woody) branch of Debian have packages that are all several years old, which is a problem for some of us. Now, I realize that anyone can simply can upgrade their installation to "testing" (i.e. Sarge) quite easily, but the fact is that most casual users won't do this. Plus, part of the "cool" factor of any distro is having reasonably up-to-date packages.

That being said, I just did a major reinstall on my home box using Sid, and I am once again floored by how easy it is to maintain a Debian box. I have a hard time using other distros now, since Debian is so effortless.

Is the Software Pricing Model Part of the Problem? I was recently musing about the wonderful Emacs program. Emacs is so stable that most of the time I don't even know which version of the program I'm using anymore. The program has changed very little over the past 10 years because it already includes most of the functionality that most of the people need.

In contrast, Microsoft Word changes drastically every 3 years or so, even though it already contains more functionality than most people will ever use. Why is this the case? Perhaps MS Word changes because MS doesn't get paid unless people buy new versions of the software, so they bloat their code adding more and more features to lure customers to upgrade.

I've always been against the idea of software subscription pricing, mainly because when I buy a piece of code, I want it in my greedy little hands. I want the CD, and, if possible, the source code. However, it occurs to me that the software that I do license (mostly techno stuff like Matlab) is much more stable than the software I buy. Ditto for the free software like Emacs.

Perhaps the idea of buying software is the problem. MS has wanted for a long time to move to a subscription model, and I've always seen this as another attempt to grab more money and power. But perhaps if they were to sell software subscriptions, the MS programmers could spend their time improving the base product rather than chasing creeping featurism.

My interest in wxPython continues. I've now released PyCheckbook as a wxPython application.

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