Older blog entries for thomasvs (starting at number 156)

20 Apr 2004 (updated 20 Apr 2004 at 17:53 UTC) »

Had quite a productive weekend. First of all, I got off my ass and tried out the Intel Pro Wireless 2100 drivers on my laptop. I had bought driverloader, which worked quite well, but I'm getting tired of having to download stuff each time I upgrade my kernel, and of course I actually forget to download the RPM before upgrading in the first place.

Of course this gave me a good change to test my kernel module packaging strategy again. Fifteen minutes of work gave me a loadable ipw2100 module (without WEP, at first), just by running ./configure and make. Five more minutes gave me a set of packages for it.

Then, I enabled WEP and rebuilt the hostap packages from the QA submission queue at www.fedora.us. I had a problem with the function call being used from hostap not being versioned. After some thinking, I figured out that this was because the hostap package didn't include a hostap.ver file that actually does the symbol redefining. So I changed the hostap package to include that, rebuilt it for four archs and four kernels, and then rebuilt the ipw2100 packages for the same. And lo and behold, the packages worked. So if you have Fedora Core 1 and an ipw2100 card, *please* test these packages together with these..

Don't forget to download the firmware as per the instructions on the ipw2100 project site, and install it in /etc/firmware.

Next step is to update my kernel module stuff to 2.6, but I'm not looking forward to that. AFAICT from discussing with people it seems there is no decent way of building kernel modules against a read-only kernel-source tree. Moreover, Arjan seems to say that to build kernel modules for a kernel/arch combo, you need that exact kernel package installed as well. That will probably make it harder to do mass builds of kernel modules as well. Sigh :)


I've been wanting to write a usable DocBook template tarball for quite some time. There are a couple of "guides" I'd like to do and every time I work on projects that use DocBook there is always something tripping me up. Between xmlto breaking in TeX processing for PS and PDF, or the docbook2 tools insisting on downloading SYSTEM identifier stuff from the net, there just is no foolproof way of building this stuff.

So, after a day of trying to write somewhat clean make rules and .m4's, I have a template tarball project that builds documentation, passes make distcheck, and easy to use in other projects. Yay me.


So, it's official: Fluendo is launched ! In a nutshell, we're going to write a free software streaming media server, on top of GStreamer, making it possible to do completely free software-based video streaming, using royalty-free codecs.

We decided some time ago to fund Xiph.org, since to reach our goal we actually *need* a decent royalty-free video codec. Theora is very close to what we need at this point; as soon as the bitstream specification is fixed, all videos created with that version of Theora will be playable by future versions of the library. This will hopefully have the same effect as the Vorbis Beta 1 release had for audio.

And even if it doesn't, it still enables us to provide this server working completely, for free, and hopefully, allow distributors of Linux to pick it up, distribute it, as well as the GStreamer stack with playback and recording applications. I can understand it doesn't make sense to do so if you can't distribute video codecs as well, so once Theora is ready to be distributed, I hope this changes the field a little.

Anyway, I'm pretty psyched we can announce all of this. There's always a fear of turning over to the dark side without realizing, but being able to start a company with these goals is exciting, and I hope we do well. We're moving in our new office this week, and our new collague is arriving next week.

The nice thing was being able to use my docbook-xml-template to generate the press release easily :) So the next one we do will just be a matter of filling in the content and running make.


Ross is not the first one to link Fluendo to influenza. I really like the name, it took us long enough to come up with something that we liked, still had a domain name available, and not too much GoogleJuice. I'm wondering though if non-hypochondriac people make the same link between Fluendo and influenza ?

Also, Ross ran away with a "might happen" newsbit and posted it, probably to put some pressure on us to deliver :) All I can say is that we'd like to, but aren't sure yet if all the pieces will be in place.


Read Jorn's latest entry. Good to see Muine progressing. Only, Jorn is switching backends (again). I have a lot of respect for Jorn, and he's a talented coder, but I really have to wonder *how hard it can be to do some bug reporting*. The number of times jorn was in our channel, multiplied by the number of bug reports by him, multiplied by the number of mails to our mailing list, are easily countable on the fingers of my two hands.

People seem to think stuff should just fall out of the sky. Sometimes it does, but when it doesn't, it doesn't hurt to poke the clouds a little so they drop some more stuff you want :) How's about some simple feedback about the framework you're coding against ?

Easter Weekend

Over here Good Friday is a holiday too. Great ! Kristien's birthday, so spent all day together. Hope she's happy with the very lowcost present she got, to compensate with the high-cost one from our anniversary that she didn't seem pleased with (the present, not the anniversary.)

In the evening we went out to an absolutely wonderful Thai restaurant. Been quite a while since I had such good food.

Over the course of a few days I've seen a whole bunch of movies: Ghost World (Scarlett, yum), 21 Grams (scary, but good), True Romance (again, I love this movie), Liar Liar (I haven't seen a lot of Jim Carrey films, which means I don't get annoyed, so I liked this one), and Highlander (which is still one of my favourites, even if only for sentimental reasons), and 8 Mile. I must avoid catching hadessitis. And tonight we watched Sixteen Candles, which was ok-ish if only for seeing a really young John Cusack :)

For counterbalance Kristien also made me watch about 10 more episodes of Friends. Well, it was her birthday, she got to choose this weekend.

Had a great barbecue on Sunday too for Easter. Invited some friends over, experimented with roasting peppers to great success, and had a great day out on the terrace. I love the weather here, even though it's been flaky of late.


Finally ended up packaging all the bits and pieces for Dave/Dina to make TV/out work again with the new Matrox. That meant rebuilding kernel packages with appropriate patches and options, DirectFB from CVS, and some other stuff.

Played a little with an interesting application from someone that basically rendered a user interface as a filter to MPlayer. It's a big hack, and I'm not sure it's the direction I want to go in eventually, but it does work very well when you don't know how it works. Left me thinking about a lot of things. It's not ideal however because it won't be easy to get output from other applications (say, MAME) into that.

It does make me realize though that it really isn't that easy to get nicely output interlaced video on a TV from a bunch of applications.


Walters asked for new releases in time for Fedora Core 2 Test 3, so I went ahead. Releasing was so much less painful than before. I could easily tweak the spec files to rebuild packages to test, and everything worked out fine. So 0.8.1 of both core and plugins are out the door.


Experimented a little with camserv, which gave me some trouble making packages, but after a few patches it agreed to be put in an rpm. I didn't like what I saw from the code though. Now to start thinking how to split up GStreamer pipelines to implement the same thing.


New office is almost ready. I get thrilled even only from seeing our name in sticky letters by the door :) We'll probably move in sometime next week.


I went looking for two bands I have heard stuff off but haven't found CD's for here yet. I came up with their latest albums. The first band is Mew, a Danish band. Their music is sort of like My Bloody Valentine in sound, but more poppy, and with Sigur Ros-like singing, but in English instead of made-up-language. I saw them live once and really liked them, but never found a CD in a store. I must say it's a really good album (with a good Stina Nordenstam duet on it too) and I'll probably order it. The other one was by the Walkmen, which for lack of inspiration I'll describe as a mix of Interpol and the Strokes :)


We had sort of crappy weather with lots of rain over the last week. More rain than in the three months before last week combined. But this weekend has been absolutely wonderful. We went out skating with a smaller group today and it was incredibly nice. A bit of sea wind, lots of sun, and pure fun. We passed by a square were they were setting up huge cranes for some construction work, and I noticed a van with a cable tied to a traffic light, with the traffic light being bent.

After some cluedo'ing we concluded that the van had reversed on purpose to pull down the traffic light in an angle so the big crane could take the place of the traffic light. I wish I could've taken a picture :) That's Spain for you - if the traffic light's in the way, you just bend it.


Finally made some time to finish up some new packaging. I finally figured out the right kernel magic plus DirectFB magic to make applications share the framebuffer, and have video playback be smooth again, and return to XDirectFB after exiting. It involves cvs of the linux-fusion module and DirectFB in itself at the moment, but it seems to work. Just rebuilding the whole stack of RPM's from the kernel to XDirectFB on just takes a lot of time though. On the plus side, the latest set of improvements to mach just help a huge bunch. Nice to see your software coming together.

2 Apr 2004 (updated 2 Apr 2004 at 17:38 UTC) »

Tracking Heisenbugs this week. The first one was that after my return from holidays, GstPlay wasn't able to play back anything anymore. I didn't really look into it much until I really got annoyed and decided to read some logs.

The first problem was missing return value checking in the libraries, giving the Totem user no clue on what is going wrong. I added some error handling for these cases. On bugs like these it's best to work from the outside in, and first fix the bugs at the top of the stack. If you fix the underlying bugs, you forget about the toplevel bug that "the user doesn't know something is wrong".

The actual problem seemed to be osssink failing to negotiate, and after some digging I realized some code was added while I was away to autoprobe the allowed sample rates. The log seemed to indicate that it wasn't able to play back any sample rate, and from that point on everything failed.

I added some error signaling code for this condition. Only after testing again it suddenly worked. This was even more surprising. I wasn't able to reproduce it since, but I'm sure if anyone encounters it they'll at least get a nice error dialog. So now it's a matter of waiting until it pops up again for me.

Does serve as a reminder though that we really need to take more care in the stuff we commit after 0.8.0 - it is impossible to predict how other people's hardware will react to changes we make if they're less than trivial.

The second Heisenbug is one where playing our Matrix test clip and seeking a lot of times can trigger an error where it fails to negotiate. Dolphy and I thought it was a race, but it turns out it really isn't. It's another bug that gets exposed sometimes because of a race. Basically our plugin is somehow failing to cope with a resynchronisation after a seek. It looks like the mad library handles the resync correctly, but we probably mess up emptying the internal buffer somewhere. As a result, each seek, even in audio files, triggers a whole bunch of resynchronisation in a row as it's misreading header information and changing the sample rate quickly. Only in some random cases this fails and throws an error.

Mad documentation is very sparse and our plugin isn't exactly crystal clear either, so I'm spending some time reading the code and adding comments to figure out what exactly could be wrong. It doesn't help that I'm constantly distracted by other things to do as well.

One of those is thinking of the whole media playback/licensing issue. We're starting to see some solutions to that problem but they will all take time.


I really want to use GNOME 2.6 as soon as possible, there are some enhancements that I'd like to use and there is code I want to test and fix. Over the last years I've changed and tweaked my cvs setup a little, and this time I made the last change I wanted to make. Instead of having the cvs checkouts and install locations under my user account, I decided to move it to /home/gnome and create a second test user. There are some things that really don't like having the same process from different locations for the same user at the same time running, so for those things it's better to run your cvs session as a different user.

So basically, I have jhbuild check out to /home/gnome/head/cvs and install to /home/gnome/head/prefix. I'll also be having a 2.6 jhbuild branch, in the same location, but with head changed to 2.6. Maybe I should write a short article on how I organize stuff and why, because a lot of people seem to run in various problems using cvs build tools and the resulting build.

Then I wanted to actually use it without interrupting with my regular X sessions, so I tried to use gdmflexiserver -n again, but it just crashes mysteriously on my Fedora box, bringing down the current X. After some searching and poking, it seems that this is a known bug (127780), and I pulled the fix from CVS and rebuilt the FC1 rpm - if you're experiencing the same problem, get this RPM and try it out.

So now my fake user is happily running GNOME head again, and I can finally fix some nautilus-media bugs again. And I get to recover about 5 GB of accumulated crap from my main user's gnome directories, including some stray patches I was going to still submit.

ssh key authentication

Some people gave me some tips. Apparently keychain is a daemon which allows you to authenticate only once per bootup, not once per session. Also, You don't really need the two files I created on Fedora Core; your X session is already run inside ssh-agent by default, and you can just add ssh-add to gnome-session-properties and you get a nicer, nonblocking dialog for your passphrase. Even better ! Thanks.


Saw a poster this week for a great music festival at the end of May in the middle of Barcelona ! Beside Wilco, PJ Harvey and Elbow, the Pixies are playing ! I'll get to see them before all of my undoubtly jealous Belgian friends :) Too bad I have to be in Belgium the first day of the festival for my dad's thesis/graduation/professor thing, but as long as I can see the Pixies, I'll be fine.

31 Mar 2004 (updated 31 Mar 2004 at 10:16 UTC) »

Spun a new tarball yesterday because a translation got added. This also allowed me to try and put in a patch I had received for the thumbnailer but for which I didn't have time or inclination to push it in before going on holidays. Having to respin the tarball anyway made me submit the patch to the release team together with some good arguments on why this patch makes sense. Nice to see that good arguments help make good decisions.

Then I made an RPM to test and got extremely puzzled by the fact that nautilus crashed as soon as I checked a property page on an audio file. After reading a bunch of bonobo, then ORBit code, which scared me senseless, I figured out the right way to run nautilus from gdb (remove nautilus from the session), and then the problem became readily apparent. It was not finding glade files, and it was not doing so because I forgot a "make" command in the spec file. So the actual build was done from %makeinstall, which overrides datadir and friends, causing the wrong - install-time - location for the UI files to be put in the binary.

So now I firsthand experienced the difference between running or not running make before make install.


With the recent break-in on GNOME servers I wanted to do my part in making sure I'm doing things correctly. I got told that using passphraseless ssh keys is worse than doing password-based ssh access, so I started looking into how it ought to be done instead. Some people asked me to let them know if I figured out the right set of things to do, so here it is.

Basically, I did the following:

  • mv .ssh ssh in my homedir
  • generate a completely new ssh-dsa key, with passphrase
  • replace the old public key in authorized_keys on all the servers I use this key on (for this step, ssh -i ssh/id_dsa is useful, since you want to get on the servers using your old key to install your new pubkey)
It is possible to add a passphrase to your current key, but since that doesn't really change the public key it doesn't help at all if someone might have gotten your old private key. So, don't :)

After this, you want to set up your session so that you only get asked for your passphrase once, and ssh-agent takes care of authenticating when you move around. If you run Red Hat/Fedora, you can do the following:

  • run switchdesk, and choose the same type of session you are running. This will generate .Xclients and .Xclients-default
  • edit .Xclients and replace each "exec" instance with "exec ssh-agent". This step makes sure that your session is run under ssh-agent.
  • edit .Xclients-default and add "ssh-add < /dev/null" BEFORE the exec gnome-session line. This step makes sure that before your gnome-session is loaded, a GUI window will pop up to ask you for your passphrase.
Now log out and back in, fill in your passphrase, and try logging into a server where you copied your new public key to. It should just let you in.

If I made an important security boo-boo, let me know please.


There's this incredibly nut roasting store in Barcelona. If you're ever around, go over and buy some almonds or hazel nuts. They taste so much better than the ones you buy anywhere else. I feel an addiction coming up.


Had a good holiday, was good to see some Belgian friends back. It made me realize though that even though I love my new life, I do miss my old friends. There's probably no good solution anyway, since even when going back I'd probably not just have my old friends back. People change.

As for snowboarding, I had a great time. One day our teacher got us to jump off a cliff without us being able to see what was down there. She asked us to trust her and go straight ahead. The first two took a turn right at the edge though, which made her really angry. So I decided to switch off my brain and go straight ahead. A very nice drop of at least five meters awaited me beyond the cliff, which was both scary and very exhilarating at the same time.

We had three days of continuous snow fall and fog. The penultimate day, it started clearing up, so our teacher took us off-piste again. Only, one of the others smashed his knee into a rock, so I stayed with him to make sure he was ok, and at that point the fog set in as quickly as I ever saw it rise. Our teacher urged us to get back to the track, and I followed a trail that took me further down instead of back to the track by accident.

I had spent about ten minutes trying to listen for sounds telling me where to go, and had pretty much resigned myself to making an iglo and waiting for the next day, when I finally heard our teacher yelling back at me, trying to guide me back to the track. Pretty scary moment, all in all :)

We also played the Werewolf game again, which reminded me of how much I like playing games, and how good this particular game really is. Just when you think you have pretty much figured out all the strategies, you get surprised by another twist in how the game evolves. And as soon as the people around you realize some new trick, the rules change since you have to take into account the fact that they now realize new things. You can play this game either completely on an emotional level, or completely on a tactical level, or combine bits, or only look at what happens between start and end of night, and so on.

For people that don't know the game, apparently it's a variant on a game called Mafia. Well recommended.


Getting home was a strange feeling. Skiing holidays always meant going back to Belgium, and now we drove the 800 kilometers back to Barcelona. I was glad to be back home anyway. I also got the card game I ordered in the mail, Chez Geek. Looks like fun, now I need to find people to play it with :)

Didn't touch the laptop during the weekend. We had a good meal, and watched Made afterwards. Vince Vaughn is so magnificently annoying in that movie, you keep wanting to grab him and yell some sense into the guy.

And now, Kristien's parents are over for the weekend. Had some good spaghetti, hope they enjoy themselves out here even though the weather is pretty bad.


Trying to get back into the swing of things. Commited some of the translations that we got submitted, ran into a weird bug where the player wouldn't play anything. Traced it down to return values not being checked causing the program not to say anything about not wanting to do anything. Fixed that so it pops up dialogs; now need to trace back what's actually going wrong underneath.

Started to make libtheora packages for Fedora now that alpha3 is out, and checking how well our support is at this point. Had to package libogg and libvorbis as well, and noticed some oopses in the release of those packages too. Tried checking out their new SVN code setup, but couldn't make sense of the error messages svn threw at me. Will try again later.


Sifted through tons of mail, still going. SPAM in general has come to the point of being completely ridiculous. You know, sometimes people on two sides of a fence just keep inventing workarounds to things the people on the other side do, and at some point it has grown to the point of complete and utter ridiculousness and both sides have lost track of the actual goal.

I mean, seriously, who is going to buy a product spelled v|aGR@ from some guy mailing you with the body containing text like

Get Your Meds Here programmer eastwood churchwomen abet  turnpike You too can now enjoy the same deep discounts offered to US  residents
where the text is probably chosen to lower scores on spam filters (churchwomen selling v|aGR@).

This whole spam thing is getting ridiculous - do these completely senseless mails still cause people to buy stuff ? There must be a point where the message is so crippled that it's no longer economical to send them, no ?


At some point in the holiday (there was WIFI access you could pay for in the ski resort, but apparently some holes were still open since I was able to get on the net fairly easily) I read some blog entry by Miguel about media playback.

One point he raised was I would love to see a standardized C-based interface that every one of them exposed and allow people to pick one over the other. Well, I'm fairly sure people don't care and don't want to pick, they just want one that works. The people that care about which framework to pick are the distributors and the people working on said frameworks.

The REAL problem with media playback on Linux is very very simple. People expect to be able to play formats that, because of patent/legal issues, are not as easy to provide code for.

In general, there are two approaches to that problem, and they present a significant split in methodology for distributors. On the one hand, people who install and use Linux themselves are fine with installing some packages providing "questionable" codecs, in whatever way. These people really don't care that xine or mplayer is not distributable as is.

On the other hand, there are large desktop rollouts where people expect stuff to just work, and where distributors can't afford to walk the grey areas. In these cases, licenses need to be bought to allow the framework to legally play back these formats. On top of that, there is code that needs to be written, because the code playing back this format CANNOT be GPL.

So, bottom line: the people running Linux in a corporate desktop rollout will be running different code than the hacker/player community out there. As far as I know, this is about the only area that really causes such a wide chasm between the two sets of Linux users we currently have or are aiming to grab. The only thing I can think of that came close was Ximian's Exchange Connector, and even that is fairly limited in scope. Feel free to correct me with other examples, I haven't thought it through that much yet.

Given this pretty big problem, my personal feeling is that the only right solution is a framework that is pluggable, LGPL, and enforces an architecture of its plugins in such a way that it is possible for companies to write closed plugins, and for the hackers out there to write open but possibly questionable plugins. This is in my opinion the only way the opposing goals of both the hacker community and the corporate desktop rollout can be married, instead of having to wildly diverge codebases due to legal issues.

The other remark that puzzled me in Miguel's log was I for one am not excited about requiring 160 megs of GStreamer code on my machine to essentially play mp3s and CDs. With tarballs for core and plugin coming in at 1.5 and 3 MB, I'm really curious who is going to have to write the remaining 150+ MB of GStreamer code. Miguel, can you give us a ring when you're done with those ? If all you want is mp3 (boo ! Use Ogg !) and cd playback, I can give you a GStreamer binary that does just that in under 300K easily. But I'll be asking you in three years' time if playing mp3's and CD's is really the only thing you want to do in the multimedia arena... There's really not one .avi movie or DVD you want to play ? Not even, say, Antitrust ?


Phew. 0.8.0 out the window. Made releases of core, plugins, and ffmpeg. Rebuilding Fedora packages, seems to work fine. Thank god for all the work I have done in the past on mach. It was almost as simple as just changing the base names I inflicted upon myself, and rebuild. Mach took all the other pain of package building away.

Need to update the site to announce the packages, too. Now I have to submit all the depencendy packages, and the actual packages, to rpm.livna.org and www.fedora.us.

The good news is, installing gstreamer-universe on Fedora Core 1 does the right thing, pulling in the "old" 0.6.x series packages, so RhythmBox, gnome-media, sound-juicer and nautilus-media keep working fine. Exactly as planned, sigh.

A mail from Jeff about GStreamer not sticking to release processes. I'm not the person who needs to be convinced in this case. There are other people on our team that seem to either not think the GNOME policies apply to us, or think we can get away with not following them.

People seem to think GStreamer lacking one clear maintainer is a problem. On the one hand, they might be right. On the other, sharing maintainership is IMO both possible and preferable. It's just not something that is done much. In our case, there seems to be a fairly natural distribution of maintainer-related tasks. I think that's fine, personally. If there is no clear natural maintainer candidate, it's better to split up responsibilities than shed them all.

On the whole, I think we're doing a good job of putting processes in place, slowly but surely. We've successfully moved to using ChangeLog's, we're trying to enforce a common coding style on the .c files now (I never thought we'd "agree" on one), we're doing more regular releases, a lot of work has gone into making the release process itself more streamlined, the website is easier to manage...

Also, a lot of the things that were requested from us have happened - more formats supported, internationalization infrastructure in place, decent error messages with translations work now... I think we're doing good. Still enough room for improvement not to get bored though.

As for packaging, Matthias and I seem to agree on the packaging. Now it's a matter of getting them to QA at www.fedora.us and rpm.livna.org as quickly as possible.


Went back to IKEA to buy new parts of life. Recursive coffee table and a bunch of plants, all of which made Kristien happy. She has her first real tours today, I hope everything turns out well.


With the right combination of CVS versions of stuff and recompiles, I finally managed to get a DirectFB stack running that allows me to execute stuff from XDirectFB and not mess up the framebuffer after stopping. So, now it needs some clear packaging, and some twiddling, and then I can finally go back to actually watching stuff on the TV by using the remote. I hate video cards that just stop working one day :)


Off soon. Looking very much forward to it. Skating has seemed to exercised my leg muscles a lot, so I should be ready. OTOH, my left middlefinger hurts a bit from RSI. Hope I can get rid of that over the course of a week.


(Warning: if you don't care about music, skip this entry)

So, when I set off to Spain I thought it would be interesting to bring only a small set of CD's to see which CD's matter to me. I had told myself to choose only 20, but after three hours I realized that was impossible, and settled on 30.

Here's the list:

Afghan Whigs - Congregation
This is probably their only flawless disc, even though other discs have better songs at times. But this one flows from beginning to end, hinting at their later potential.
Afghan Whigs - Gentlemen
If you've ever been in a broken/unhealthy relationship, this is the soundtrack to it. My favourite band, and this disc shows why.
Arab Strap - Philophobia
drunken Scotsman songs mumbled over a beatbox and sparse instrumentation, but with ever so subtle and stinging lyrics
Arid - Little Things Of Venom
Have to both bring and plug some Belgian artists too, no ?
The Blue Nile - Peace At Last
They make about one album every ten years, but manage to make it result into crystallized beauty
Buffalo Tom - Let Me Come Over
Another one of those era-defining discs, where not a song is bad. Excellent guitar sound all through the album.
Catherine Wheel - Adam And Eve
One of those vastly overlooked bands that managed to perform consistently with each album, changing their sound as they go. This one has a huge atmospheric soaring sound.
Counting Crows - August And Everything After
Later albums never quite managed to capture the raw emotion and naive but perfect musicianship from this album. Today he's huge and looks like a pineapple, but he feels a lot better. An argument for the case that torn-up artists make the best records.
dEUS - In a bar, under the sea
A lot more variety than on their first album, but still as exciting as that first one. Selected only because of the bigger song selection.
Elbow - Cast of Thousands
Within the confines of modern rock music, Elbow manages to sound quite like they're the only band who does what they do. With the simplest of guitar figures, using silence as an instrument, with a gifted singer and some splendid songwriting craftsmanship, something to discover.
Embrace - Drawn from good will
My personal selection of their first two CD's, because it was too hard to choose between the two
Gorky - Gorky
My first ever CD, and still containing my favourite song ever. The only disc I brought that's in Dutch
Grandaddy - The Sophtware Slump
Proving that you can have a beard in music without being ZZ-Top, these guys manage to express fear of technology and progress with recycled instruments, mix it in with guitars, and pull out the nicest tunes. With album artwork appealing to the hacker in me.
Grant Lee Buffalo - Fuzzy
I can still remember the day when I first heard the title track. One of those discs I still play today even though the CD is so badly scratched these days that I should buy a new one.
Interpol - Turn on the bright lights
Lots of people who find this boring or a Joy Division ripoff. But if you let yourself get swayed by the washing guitar sounds and the hypnotising vocals, you'll soon find that musically they're completely the opposite of JD in aural density.
Jeff Buckley - Grace
Every time I hear one of his songs I am sad for all the songs we'll never hear. A truely tragic loss.
Lift To Experience - The Texas/Jerusalem Crossroads
The hardest band to explain to people. Sonically touching Jeff Buckley's guitar style, but with the sound of Texas canyons echoing. A concept album about the Apocalypse and proclaiming the USA to be the centre of Jerusalem. With a lead singer who sounds like a repenting preacherman in sin, reigning fire over God's land. Still not sure whether to take them seriously, but the music is incredible.
Mansun - Six
Hard to tell if they were egomaniacal or just plain crazy. It took me more than a year to even start liking this album. It sounds like each CD track was cut in the middle of the actual songs, and each song sounds like a patchwork that only after repeated listening manages to sound like a coherent whole. But once you have made a mental map of this album, you are hooked, and there's no denying the incredible thrill it ends up giving you.
Muse - Origin of Symmetry
Sometimes there is nothing wrong with teenage angst, hard rock guitars, screeching vocals, and opera-like delivery. Each song on this album manages to surprise and entertain.
Pixies - Surfer Rosa
How to describe the first band that managed to excite you and open up your eyes to a completely different world of music ? I couldn't stand this album at first, and I laughed at a friend who came crying to school when the Pixies broke up. He retaliated by giving me this disc and soon I was crying along with him. To think they are touring again this year, yay !
Radiohead - The Bends
Hard to choose a disc from a band that's actually been three bands already in their lifetime. While my favourite songs are on the first album, and while everyone seems to applaud them for all of the albums from the third one, as a complete album none of theirs can top the Bends.
Six By Seven - The Closer You Get
A perfect rock album from beginning to end. One of the songs proves that the only reason drum'n'bass is so BORING is because it's played by computers - by having a human drummer play the dnb rhythms, and making the perfect rock version of such a song.
Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream
Another seminal 90's record. Dreamy guitar figures alternate with edgier alternative guitars, and the songs actually are good all the way through, in contrast with later albums.
Spiritualized - Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space
Coming in a package making it look like medication, with a booklet written like a medicine leaflet, and a perfect flow from beginning to end. Defying traditions of rock/jazz/gospel/blues, and mixing them all together, adding a drugged-out soundscape to all the songs, there is no easy explaining what this album sounds like.
Tindersticks - II
Their finest album by far; sparse instrumentation leaving room for each of the accents, the graveyard vocals, and their best songs. This disc is only better because it was accompanied by a 70-minute live set with a complete orchestra.
Tom McRae
Stunning debut album; not consistent in quality because it contains some spectacularly beautiful songs.
Tool - Aenima
An album showing that metal can also be intelligent, well-played, and that it's ok to have variety. Songs easily passing the 8-minute mark, but keeping listeners on their toes all the way through. One of those rare albums that can be listened to from beginning to end and back again.
Twilight Singers - Blackberry Belle
Afghan Whigs frontman going solo and teaming up with a whole bunch of guests, including Mark Lanegan. While the music is different, this disc manages to catch some of the essence that the Afghan Whigs left behind.
Weezer - Pinkerton
A completely personal and emotional album from beginning to end, which they caught a lot of flack for. After that they went back to writing the regular catchy surfpop tunes with bubblegum contents, and apparently the singer doesn't want to hear about his "failure" disc anymore. Incredible, this is easily their finest, coupling their catchiness to lyrics that matter.
Much ado about nothing
A two-disc set mixing audio excerpts from the Kenneth Brannagh movie adaptation of the Shakespeare play with some of my favourite songs from that time. One of those stupid projects you have time for as a student and that you end up doing when you're madly in love with someone and want to show them you are without saying so :)

Of course, to be fair, I have to admit that my Dave/Dina box holds about 1500 CD's, so it's not like I don't have any music here. And I already bought a few CD's since coming here, of which Sophia's "People are Like Seasons" and Explosions In The Sky's "The earth is not a cold dead place" deserve honorable mentioning.

Hm, I pulled a jfleck-y diary entry, sweet.

12 Mar 2004 (updated 12 Mar 2004 at 19:05 UTC) »


All in all, pretty scary that this is still possible today. Eerie too how it was exactly 30 months after the WTC buildings collapsing. Doesn't say much however...

I called the one person I know in Madrid to check if she was alright. She was.

Today in the building where we work (which is Barcelona's own WTC), there was a fifteen minute silence gathering outside on the square. Seeing more than a thousand adults trying to be quiet for fifteen minutes makes you think.

There's not much I can say - my heart is with all those people who were there.


Released a new version yesterday, with a bunch of nice fixes for a lot of issues. Already put in two new fixes today. One was a bug report from Matthias from last night; the other was to add --promoteepoch when supported so that with the recent epoch changes, it's again possible to build packages that were unable to install their deps due to this.

Am now thinking of splitting up the distro files, and after that it's time to start thinking about a reworking with everything abstracted nicely into classes.


Everything is getting pretty much ready for the 0.8.0 release on Monday. Tweaked the packaging some more, sent out a mail to interested packagers about how we would like to see it packaged. Decided to drop the gstreamer08 set of packages obsoleting the 07 ones, since apt didn't handle it nicely.

Decided not to implement release-device, even though I think Benjamin is wrong about the importance of the bug or the way he chooses to express his opinion :) But OTOH, I think it's bad for our internal community if I keep complaining about stuff I think is important on behalf of other people who for some reason don't really take part in the discussion. Even though they're our primary users. I need to figure out first how I can make the community around GStreamer a bit more vocal.

I think I found the correct way to do gst-ffmpeg, so that we can be a good community player and send patches upstream where it makes sense, but also make it perfectly easy for users to build it from CVS. I think I found the right mix of procedures to do this correctly. Let's see how it goes; if it turns out well, I can write something up about it as a general solution to the "how to pull in other people's CVS and use it in a project" problem.

Open Carpet

I'd like to have some of the big repos use Open Carpet themselves, instead of the completely crack umbrella repository set up at the OC site. It's completely wrong to make people believe that all these repositories can be freely mixed :)

Anyway, since all these people build their packages themselves, not having the sources readily available to all the red carpet components is kind of a problem. What's more, I tried to convince snorp that this really is an issue, but for some reason he thinks it's not a problem and "they should just use build-buddy to build the packages". Apparently he doesn't understand what these guys' life mission is...

Anyway, buildbuddy is nice, but solves a completely different problem. It's aimed at "how can I make packages for all different distros from one control file". Unsurprisingly, it generates very ugly spec files. The repos out there are, at the most, concerned with getting it to run on only Red Hat/Fedora. Some of them even explicitly limit themselves to a subset of this. And they want clean spec files. And src.rpms that can be rebuilt without problems on the target platform. Something that's very much not possible with the red-carpet stuff.

So, I'm going to take a stab at trying to figure out how to do it correctly. To warm up, I made ximian-artwork rpms, where I actually use their .src.rpm as the Source: in the spec file. Neat trick. Probably be necessary for the red-carpet components too.

I was really happy to have Industrial again, it's so much prettier than Bluecurve. I had missed it ever since moving from my RH9 install to Fedora Core 1. For some reason metacity failed to change the window decorations though, which a quick metacity-message restart fixed.

Going home

Coming to work on blades is starting to work out fine. Going back home is slightly harder since there is no easy bladable route going home. I guess I'll have to do some searching.

9 Mar 2004 (updated 9 Mar 2004 at 12:42 UTC) »

Things people do

We had someone with very strange GStreamer errors and we were unable to figure out what was wrong. Until we asked how he installed GStreamer. I had already noticed he had it in /usr, with the registry in /usr/var, which clued me in to the fact that he had compiled from source to /usr himself. He sort of didn't reply to the actual question "How did you install GStreamer".

Then I got floored after asking for the fourth time:


<thomasvs> So I'm asking you, "how come it ended up in /usr" ?

<*him*> okay

<*him*> i copyed /opt/gnome26/* to /usr/

After that it took quite some convincing that a) his system was now officially broken, b) he should reinstall, and c) we cannot debug or support our software when he deliberately screws up his system.

So, for people who didn't know yet:

  • Never ever ever install stuff from source to /usr unless you are completely sure that this is what you want and the only way to work around something. If you don't know if it is, the answer is it isn't.

  • If someone is trying to help you figure out the problem, ANSWER the questions. Maintainers often know from the start what's wrong, but lose too much time trying to help you figure out the problem because you didn't reply to their questions. Don't second guess them or think for them. Just answer the questions, so you can help them help you.

  • If this is news to you, and you didn't know these two things, then don't use a source install system like LFS/Gentoo/Slackware. There is nothing wrong with these systems, but you have to pick a distro that you can understand. If you didn't understand why copying stuff to /usr was bad, you are missing some knowledge to control these systems, and they will end up controlling you.


Was hoping to do a 0.8.0 today, but I'm better off doing another 0.7 release, with the majorminor override to 0.8, to shake out the last few bugs.

"Fixed" the buggy MPEG playback yesterday; it would have been caught if the testsuite was running a few months ago. So we need to finish our infrastructure work so all of the key components are working well.

Fixed up and did a nautilus-media release in time for GNOME beta 2. I think I fixed all issues I still had with it, I hope I get some feedback still.

Off now to try and make the audio sinks have a release-device property so that Rhythmbox and Jamboree can stop setting the audio sink to NULL. It really is an application bug given the current GStreamer design, but of course everyone is going to blame GStreamer for not being able to unpause. So a hack is required here.


Finally saw Lost in Translation. Blew me away - easily one of the top five films of the last twelve months. The movie is 100% believable, and it oozes tenderness all over. As a bonus, it was pretty funny even though I didn't expect it to be.

Also finally saw Kill Bill. Before I thought I had missed it here in Spain, but apparently it only just got released. Well, what can I say about a movie in which blood performs the best acting job ? The movie was very slow, which as a homage to Japanese samurai movies I can understand. But, if you're updating a genre to present days, it tends to leave stuff you didn't change stick out like sores. Take out the blood, the intense staring, and the ominous pauses, and you're left with a five second video clip.

Anyways, I know a lot of people will disagree, so to them I ask: is Kill Bill better than True Romance, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown or Reservoir Dogs ?

As a bad point, it wasn't funny much even though I expected it to be.

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