Older blog entries for lloydwood (starting at number 42)

Cory Doctorow confuses the Royal Society with the Royal Society of Arts. One wonders how he could do that, given that he claims membership of the Royal Society of Arts, while also claiming to have read Neal Stephenson's Baroque trilogy in its entirety -- a work that features the Royal Society rather heavily. Though, as Doctorow says, Stephenson's work is "bogged down in detail". Ah, detail. Still, it did make Doctorow "think hard".

(I've read Stephenson's work as far as Quicksilver. I would recommend Zodiac and Cobweb.)

The results of Sourceforge's new, more accurate project statistics system are now bemusingly limited.

They're limited to showing only the top one thousand projects, so the long, long tail of dead, dead Sourceforge projects is no longer visible to the user.

SourceForge should re-open their statistics.

I worked with Eskimos to bring you SaVi live.

This shook out a couple of bugs in SaVi and added a couple of minor features; the two-line-elset handling code is now slightly better thanks to Tom's diligent testing, but still needs much more work. The modifications needed to SaVi to force texturemapping on without Geomview, decrease CPU use, and set defaults correctly in this installation turned out to be minor. The coverage texturemap is converted by ppmtogif, which is exactly how our old satellite footprint generator generates its plots.

In a rare publicity coup, one of my fashion designs has now graced Guido van Rossum... and it's not even valid Python. Perhaps it can be seen as a criticism of some other languages?

Now that we're finally appearing on bearded hackers rather than on the traditional attractive models you'd expect, we've broken into the target demographic. We've got it made... if only we can make some more shirts.

(It's surprising that Advogato, of all places, does not allow the <code> tag)

I have of late become increasingly unenamoured with the way my laptop communicates with me. In short, I hate being disturbed by a mere machine. In a multitasking environment, I want to switch tasks when I am ready, not when my computer dictates. I don't want to be beeped at. I don't want to be forced to deal with modal alerts, especially not from some browser window in the background that I've forgotten about. I don't want my computer's operating system or applications to interrupt me or my flow. Ever.

I am not my computer's servant.

I'm almost wondering if I should buy a Macintosh and use Mac OS X in an attempt to be interrupted less; after making three appearances on the Macintouch iPod nano page, I'm not buying one of those.

I also had a play with the very polished but simple Stellarium. It's enough to make me give up on SaVi entirely; we're so far behind the state of the graphical and user interface art it's not even funny.

The results of reporting on SourceForge's new, more accurate, project statistics system are bemusing.

My previous diary entry on SourceForge statistics generated some extra traffic for SaVi, with that SourceForge project climbing slightly higher from 99th percentile to 99.15th percentile in project activity rankings, at around 1180th most active project in the listings.

Yet today, we've dropped like a stone down to ranking 7887th, or 94.2 percentile. Coincidentally, Geomview, which SaVi uses for 3D output, ranks just slightly higher up the listings, at #7881. Geomview hasn't had a release in several years (and a release to support gcc 3.x is long overdue, which is why I make an alpha Geomview snapshot available in the interim), but does have a larger user community (almost all mathematicians) and a lot more downloads than SaVi.

All in all, odd. Even now, the SourceForge statistics reliably inform us that each of these projects is clearly still more popular and active than over 90% of projects on SourceForge, despite both projects being pretty moribund. So, as I previously concluded, it's still a long, long tail of dead, dead projects.

It's interesting how making observations on the results appears to affect the results.

The results of SourceForge's new, more accurate, project statistics system are bemusing.

A look at the weekly statistics shows SaVi ranking 1250th in weekly project activity. That is, barely more than a thousand open-source projects are more popular than SaVi; all the big-name SourceForge projects you've heard of, and more than a thousand you haven't -- while more than 98,000 SourceForge projects are less popular. The figures show that SaVi is consistently in the 99th percentile of project popularity for weekly activity -- in other words, that SaVi is more popular than 99% of all currently registered SourceForge projects (or more popular than 97% of all such projects, if you're going on 'all time' figures).

As SaVi's sole registered developer and the only person I know still running it on a regular basis, I know this is ludicrous; I barely do any work to maintain it, it could be more portable, I see daily download figures but hardly ever receive comments or feedback about its use, so can safely presume that any random user trying to compile it winds up trashing it. SaVi is, to put it mildly, something of a minority interest, for a minor community consisting of me. But it's committed to public CVS, and there are announced file releases for download by users; since it's graphical (with state-of-the-art 3D... circa 1990 or so), there are pretty screenshots on webpages to look at, resulting in hit traffic. You are, at least, given the opportunity to choose to try out SaVi and decide for yourself that you have no interest in it. The lack of barriers to entry is not much by any measure, but those simple steps in making it available for use seem to be sufficient to rank it above almost all the nearly 100,000 currently registered SourceForge projects by their metrics.

The SourceForge home page currently claims 103,936 registered projects and 1,115,296 registered users. The SourceForge stats currently claim 99,256 visible projects out of a total of 137,420 ever registered; there was a widely-trumpeted cleanup of 'truly empty' projects a while back. Of those almost 100,000 'active' projects, I'd estimate 50,000 or so projects as vapour evanescing from good intentions that have never released files or committed changes to SourceForge CVS. Once you're beyond around the 50,000th SourceForge project, it's pretty hard to find a project that has ever released files for download, and public CVS commits are increasingly rare. Some projects have file downloads but no SourceForge CVS use, which seems to miss the collaborative-development point of using SourceForge. After all, you can make files available for download anywhere on the web.

All of this makes the May 2005 SourceForge press release, claiming that SourceForge passes 100,000 projects hosted on the site, sound a little hollow. I'd expect hosting to include CVS use and some visible record of active development, or at least a single file release if the project is described as stable. A thousand flowers may be blooming in SourceForge, but over a hundred thousand have withered on the vine. SourceForge project activity appears to be a very long tail indeed, and little of that tail is available as open source.

My apparently being a successful SourceForge developer is a compelling argument for commercial, closed, software written by people who are skilled programmers and who know what their users want, as opposed to people who simply talk a lot about how proud they are of their work (be that work SaVi or, say, Fetchmail). But it's true that success is based on perseverence, that all metrics are ultimately perverse, and that there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.

I released SaVi 1.2.7 today, making the new spherical projection available in a release. That projection still has a few rough edges: calculation of selected point longitude for fisheye use is incomplete, and the bitmap maps could be captured from rendering in Geomview itself and much improved. But available time and lack of inclination are currently against me; I think I've exhausted myself on SaVi until the Christmas holiday.

Update: Despite my previous expectations, Cory Doctorow, member of the BoingBoing editorial team, remains unable to recognise a ludicrous article when he sees one. This is despite his previous acknowledgement of Phil Gyford's entirely valid criticisms of BoingBoing, where neither the acknowledgement nor the original criticisms go far enough. The generation of BoingBoing articles in their entirety from quoted material in a transparent attempt to avoid responsibility for editorial accuracy is entirely underwhelming. (Thanks, Leo!)

On 24 March 2005, nutella wrote:

I don't believe Tk is available for Cygwin so my Perl and Python scripts that rely on Tk will have to wait for a while.

Insight Tcl/Tk can be installed easily as an option in the Cygwin setup installer. It's a bit unusual, in that Tk windows live in Windows windows outside the main X window. The net result of this is that if you mix Tk and X calls for the same window, you crash. On the other hand, you don't have to launch the X server just to run a pure Tk application under Cygwin and Insight.

I'm doing all my development work on SaVi on Cygwin these days for convenience. And the fisheye view there is disabled under Cygwin, because it tries to draw with X inside an Insight Tcl Tk window that isn't in X...

You could, of course, build the usual Tcl/Tk from source.

Cory Doctorow described Robert McHenry's The Faith-Based Encyclopedia, a view of Wikipedia from the perspective of a Britannica encyclopedia editor, as "ludicrous, pejorative, and childish".

Well, Doctorow should recognise a ludicrous, pejorative or childish article when he sees one, after having authored so many. His voice is shrill, strident and sophomoric even at the best of times.

McHenry's central thesis -- that accurate Wikipedia articles written by knowledgeable experts are ground down to mediocrity by well-meaning dilettantes with peripheral knowledge of the subject matter -- is borne out by my own observations from a very minor role in editing some Wikipedia articles in which I can claim to have interest and expertise. Any passionate defence of the Wikipedia editing process and whether that process is self-sustaining and reinforcing is an aside; it's the outcome of that process that is of concern here.

I don't believe the Wikipedia editing process is collaborative; in many cases, it's adversarial, until the outnumbered expert simply gives up.

(I've finally gotten the new equatorial orthographic spherical projection in SaVi development working properly, and added crude Earth outline maps for it to CVS.)

Today I released SaVi 1.2.6, which is a considerable improvement in polish and performance on all previous releases. After a lot of head-scratching on a new spherical Earth projection, that's still buggy, so only available in development snapshots.

I'm also submitting abstracts for papers to a variety of places. I'd like to think I'm creative, productive and busy -- or raising my standards, at least.

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