Older blog entries for raph (starting at number 114)


I've been spending most of my time lately trying to mash down bugs in the SourceForge bug tracking system. Many of these lately have had to do with pixel roundoff errors. It's a tricky area, but very satisfying when you get it right :)

I also put the new www.ghostscript.com up today. It's based on vanilla mod_virgule (rather than lkcl's interesting mods. If you consider yourself a part of the Ghostscript community in any way, please come on over and sign up. Now that it's an official part of the Ghostscript project, I get to justify at least a little time to work on it. One thing I'd like to work on is more gatewaying between virgules, for example for diaries.


The rate at which Max is growing and developing continues to astound me. He's sitting up by himself now, can pull himself to standing while holding onto something, and is a mobile crawler. Not to mention the fact that outfits that were loose and floppy only a few days ago (or so it seems) are now bursting at the seams.

Alan is funny too. We carved a pumpkin on Sunday, and he came up with the word "ginga" (two hard "g"s) to describe the stringy, pulply insides of a pumpkin. I think it's a good word. I wouldn't be all that surprised if it shows up in the dictionary many years hence.

Last night, he offered Heather "forty five dollars" if she would give him some ice cream for dessert. When she handed him the bowl, she asked, "where's the money?" He responded, "it's magic money."

Clearly, he's destined to become a venture capitalist for Linux companies :)


I've gone through a period of thinking very critically of free software. I still very much believe in it, but am really sick of all the hype and delusional thinking from what Dave Winer calls the "open source promoters." The fact of the matter is that good software is extremely hard to come by. Yes, free software has had a few successes, but for what most of what people use computers for, proprietary software is generally of higher quality. In some areas that I care about, such as creative tools for graphic arts, the gap is so immense that it is difficult to visualize how it will ever be bridged. yosh and I had a good discussion of some of these issues over Chinese food at Long Life Vegi House in Berkeley on Saturday, also.

From where I sit, I see a few more problems. For one, I'm very wary of the various businesses trying to make money off free software. I'm beginning to wonder if the main problem with proprietary software is not so much the license per se as the attempt to create a lock-in. Just about all of the big distros (and wannabe distros and pseudo-distros) these days are trying to do for-pay managed services for updating. I'm concerned on a number of fronts. First, there seem to be at least a half-dozen serious efforts out there for package updating alone. None of them seem to be seriously working with any of the others. A lot of the work is being done more or less in secret, even though the final releases are free. This doesn't smell like free software to me; it smells like business.

It's not just managed services. In all the brouhaha about RedHat's fork of the gcc distribution process, the one thing that stuck out for me was Red Hat not notifying the development community what was happening until very late (see Toon Moene's letter printed in lwn for details). That also doesn't smell to me like free software.

But my main point here is not to piss and moan about the tension between business and free software. My main point here is to piss and moan about the lack of critical thinking and analysis. You're sure as hell not seeing it on Slashdot. You're not seeing it in the traditional press. About the one bright spot is lwn, which continues to rock. Instead, you mostly get porn-and-mp3-downloading sideline cheerleaders saying how perfect free software is and how Microsoft is going to go down on the one hand, and people on the other hand who dismiss Linux as a hacker toy. To me, both sides are missing the essential truth.

I'm going to do some more editorials here as I continue to work through my thinking. At least that way I'll be doing something about the lack of critical analysis, rather than simply bitching about it. Now that smells like free software!


For whatever reason, two excellent articles with a political theme crossed my screen in the past half hour.

The first was "Al Gore and the Internet", written by Phil Agre and posted to his Red Rock Eater mailing list. Agre makes a compelling case that the press systematically distorted Gore's original, supportable statement. Wired News' articles about Al Gore and the Internet did not simply contribute an urban myth to American culture. They were part and parcel of a hysterical campaign of character assassination against an innocent man based on lies and distortions. This campaign should bring disgrace to Wired News and all of the other media organizations that were part of it. It should also cause sober reflection on the corrupt state of public discourse in this country.

Second was "I Don't Like Your Examples! by Steven Feuerstein. I believe that just about every technical book comes with a body of politics, an ideology that governs and usually restricts its example set. We don't notice the political slant because it reflects the dominant viewpoint in our society and is thus invisible.


Max is growing like a weed. It's not just that he's getting bigger, which is of course inevitable. It's that he's so eager to grow. I imagine that he says, "ok, how soon can I reach my one year milestone? I bet I can do it in four months if I try hard enough." Well, I've certainly seen more realistic software schedules :)

In any case, he's just on the verge of crawling. He can move, but not yet quickly.


Ghostscript 6.30 beta is released! Check it out from SourceForge and see if you can throw some files at it that it renders incorrectly. I've been tracking down a few bugs from the bug tracking system, and entering even more. It's a lot of fun, but I'm sure I'll be happy to get back to PDF 1.4 transparency hacking when 6.50 ships.


I've felt the mental equivalent of having cotton balls stuck in my ears for the last week or so. Part of it, I'm sure, has been having a cold, but probably not all. I've certainly had periods like this in the past. If it lasts past the end of the week, I'm going to go back on Zoloft. In the meantime, I'll try good diet, exercise, a more regular sleep schedule, and choice of work tasks that are both doable and satisfying.

When I get like this, the one thing I'm absolutely horrible at is followup. It feels like I have an immense queue of emails that need answering, design proposals that need review, etc. Ah well. I'll just do what I can.


schoen: Yes! I do have an idea for a free bibliographic database. A very (very) rough prototype is up at bibref.org. The basic plan was (is?) to add an Advogato-like account system so that trusted users could tweak the bibliographic data. I was also planning on using the Library of Congress database as a start. I played around with YAZ a bit to see if I could get access to the Z39.50 port, but with no success. I'd be interested to see your shell scripts - if it's possible to integrate them in less than an hour's work, I might just do it.

Of course, I have no time to work on bibref.org, so it's all a completely delusional fantasy.


The new mailing lists are now online, as are the guidelines for CVS commits. For the latter, checkout Ghostscript from CVS and view doc/Maintain.htm.


It's no secret that I want much higher resolution displays, and that I believe improvements in manufacturing technology will bring them relatively soon. So it was with some interest that I browsed this Slashdot article.

Unfortunately, it seems that the current trend in LCD's is simply for bigger screens rather than higher resolution. The ViewSonic VP181 cited in the article has an 18.1" viewable diagonal, but a mere 90 dpi of resolution. Similarly, the Apple Cinema Display lauded in many of the comments has a whopping 22" viewable diagonal, but a paltry 86 dpi.

I believe one of the main problems here is the inability of almost all existing software to properly drive a truly high resolution display. To me, this issue is quite analogous to the Y2K bug - it should be obvious that higher resolution displays are coming, but nobody is actually doing anything about it. Thus, it was amusing to read this quote from the Apple page:

Easy on your eyes
Pixel density is something else to watch out for. After all, you don't want to have to squint to see images because the pixel density at high resolution makes them too small to see without magnification. With the Apple Cinema Display, the pixel density allows you to use the display at the maximum resolution all the time - and still view everything at a size and sharpness that's easy on your eyes.

You see, you really want a two-digit date field. It's much more convenient and efficient!


The stuff that lkcl is doing looks very interesting. The fact that it's now using schemas to dramatically slim down the main logic for article posting and so on is particularly interesting. I may just have to port some of the code back.

Unfortunately, I'm feeling pretty backlogged right now, so I don't have much time for fun projects like this. Hopefully soon, though.


Life seems to be settling down a bit these days. Max is over his chicken pox, I don't have any trips in the next month, and it seems like a lot of chaos and crisis has just passed. I'm looking forward to a period of really being able to focus.


Thanks, gtaylor, for pointing me to the LinuxToday posting of my open letter and the followup discussion.

It saddens me that there are rude, thoughtless individuals in Linux land. It saddens me even more that they seem to dominate discussions frequently, especially when it comes to serious issues such as how we're going to manage diversity of choices in desktops and GUI toolkits. I am pretty sure that these flamewars are a manifestation of the "squeaky wheel" syndrome, but the Linux world is changing so fast, it's hard to be sure.

That said, whether to link in a GUI toolkit, or whether to hold GUI interfaces at arms length, is a tough decision. I realize now that I should have put discussion of the XFree86 Render extension into my open letter, as that changes the technical landscape dramatically. When hardware accelerated implementations start shipping, it's going to be amazing.

My heart is telling me that, while I could upgrade the X driver for Ghostscript to do shared memory, Render, and so on, I'd rather share that work with a more generally useful framework than do something completely Ghostscript specific. The framework that has what we need now and is a good base for future work is Gnome.

If somebody has a better idea, I'd really like to hear it. I'm sure we're going to be debating this on the public, archived mailing lists once they're properly set up.


seems to have the chicken pox. It looks like it's a pretty mild case, though. His fever is 100.5, and he's only a little cranky - mostly he's his usual smiling self.


I'm backlogged in answering my email again. I really do try to get to it all, but I haven't been very good at it. Sending me a reminder is a good way to get a response. Sorry.


www.gimp.org, the current host for Advogato, got hacked recently, and was down last night for a reinstall. Thanks yosh!


I've been doing mostly admin work, setting up mailing lists (which will be publicly announced as soon as Concentric fixes some DNS problems) and getting ready for the upcoming 6.30 beta release.

Emin there exists m

I've been listening to a fair amount of music downloaded from the Internet recently. Of course, I've got check out the popular stuff of the day, so over the last few days I've listened to some Eminem. The guy spits some twisted, misanthropic lyrics, but he also has a lot of talent.

I don't really understand the controversy around the supposed homophobia of Eminem's lyrics. Yeah, he says "faggot" and other things, but I'll take that over the homophobia of Jesse Helms any day.

If you're ever in a bad mood, I'm sure some of the lyrics will resonate for you. Hey, dudes from the program committees who rejected my papers about the Advogato trust metric, he's singing about you!

On a lighter note, I put up a new album of favorites at MP3.com.


Sent my submission to linux.conf.au. I'm really looking forward to visiting Australia, so let's hope the program committee makes the right call :)

lkcl: you have my blessing! I'm happy that there is an "experimental" branch of mod_virgule, but don't want to be the maintainer of it myself. Advogato almost entirely runs itself, and I only need to spend a little time to do a fix here and there. I like it that way. So, please, go forth and do interesting things.

The work on PDF 1.4 transparency goes well - I have almost all of the low level pixel crunching done, including all of the blend modes (in RGB, anyway), and some of the nested two alpha channel modes. lpd and I are a bit stuck on some of the integration with Ghostscript, but we're meeting this evening and so hopefully will be able to resolve some of this then.

My open letter has gotten almost entirely positive responses, but a few flames from people who think I'm favoring Gnome too much. One such email came from somebody I now think of as the archetype of clueless free software people - in response to my email asking him how he'd reconcile wanting to have a really high quality GUI with trying to be desktop agnostic, he begged off volunteering, saying he's helping a friend with an instant messaging app. Woohoo! I bear him no ill will, though. With luck, he will get a passing score network application programming 101 and may someday become a productive member of our society.

The open letter got picked up by lwn and Gnome News. Interesting discussion on that latter link.

I am sincerely flattered. Sourceforge has just implemented a popularity contest which they say is inspired by Advogato and its trust metric. I'm very pleased to see more experiments in this area. A number of people have been asking for finer grained ratings than the three levels here; now we get a chance to try that out. I'm not able to tell from what I've seen whether they've done a true trust metric (with protections against spammy certification) or just a fancy voting system. If anyone does know the answer, please let me know.

Thanks to everyone for the response to the music selection ideas. The response has been positive enough to justify doing a real writeup. I'm not saying when; I have a lot of stuff to do.

I have this funny feeling that mathieu's basis for believing I'm a staunch advocate of capitalism is a late night BS session in a Paris crepière at Guadec, in which somebody was defending communism as practiced in Eastern Europe (you know who you are :). Anyway, nope. I'm definitely on the liberal end of the political spectrum, particularly for America. I'm tempted to go into more detail here, but it's not really on topic. Just wanted to avoid getting painted by mathieu's brush.

BTW, using browsers for entering diary entries sucks. I'm particularly fond of the fact that Alt-Q is "rewrap paragraph" in Emacs, but "lose all work" in Netscape. Hooray for user interface consistency!

mojotoad: Thanks! In fact, I do read pretty much all advoentries.

I guess I need to sit down and write up my ideas for the new rating engine. They're an extension of the flow network ideas I implemented on Advogato, but different. The good news is that it should be pretty easy to implement - unlike trying to do distributed computations of the Advogato trust metric over very large graphs, as lkcl and I have been discussing.

I'm talking to a bunch of people who might be able to make a real implementation of my ideas. I really hope it happens, as it's both interesting research and also potentially very useful. There are two functions that the record industry does well: getting CD's distributed to the stores, and promoting the records so that people know what to buy. Distributed file sharing networks cover the first half of that job pretty well, but I believe there is a void to be filled for the second part.

Meanwhile, the ghostscript hacking goes pretty well. I have my very own memory device that does transparent pixel compositing. I still haven't hooked up the transparency parameters yet, but lpd has done almost all of the higher-level plumbing I need for that. The next few days portend fun and interesting hacking :)

I sent out my open letter to the Ghostscript development community today. So far, a very good response.

Max drank water out of a glass for the first time today. He's really into eating, food, and just sticking things in his mouth. He also scammed some Godiva chocolate ice cream and really seemed to like that as well.

Alan is the only four year old I know who uses "coprolite" as a swear word. His intense interest in dinosaurs continues, but he also seems to be branching out into other kinds of animals. His bedtime reading tonight was selections from the Simon and Schuster encyclopedia of animals, particularly the Malayan tapir.

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