Archive for June, 2007

It’s so simple now…

June 30, 2007

From the “I wish I had said that” file comes:

“you do know that Facebook is AOL 2.0, right?”

Courtesy of Jason Kottke.

[via evhead].

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Starting from square one – update

June 29, 2007

An update on my journey back to square one…

I've installed a lot of the apps I normally use that don't come pre-installed in Ubuntu Feisty like Rawstudio, Inkscape, Avidemux, vlc, mplayer and beep media player. No problems there. You gotta love linux distros and their repository systems. In Feisty, there are 21,000 odd packages available for installation and they're just a click away.

I took a stab at installing the new Compiz-Fusion compositing system for those lovely desktop effects, and while it worked, the startup of Compiz was painfully slow and the configuration app seems very kludgy compared to where Beryl is. It also seemed to bring instability to the performance on my system. So off it went.

After verifying that the desktop performance of standard Metacity was up to snuff (it was), I have now installed a fresh copy of Beryl and I'm a happy camper once again.

Problems? A single small one at the moment. My dsl seems to disconnect at random times. Sometimes it will stay up for hours and other times will go out every 10 or 15 minutes. I end up having to do a 'pon dsl-provider' in a terminal window to get it back up and running. It's strange. I can't seem to figure out what could be causing it. I thought it might be the suspend or sleep mode of my system, but I've turned that off and still get the behaviour. If anyone's got any clues on what might be turning it off I'd be thankful. I don't have a router and run straight into my DSL modem, but don't know if that matters or not.

Anyway, the system is running much better that it used to. I am the proverbial Happy Camper right now.

Screencasters Update

June 28, 2007

There has been significant discussion over on this thread at inkscapeforum.com about our screencasters.heathenx.org site. We received several good suggestions and as a result we’ve updated the site slightly. Kudos to heathenx for his successful journey through video encoding hell, and his patience with my absolute skill at butchering his CSS work. 😉

Here’s the low-down on the changes:

– tweaks to the css to make it suck less in IE browsers

– we’re now streaming the swf files and offering up avi files for direct download (the avi’s are encoded with xvid and mp3 codecs for those interested).

– we now show the size of the avi file so that you know what you’re about to download

– we added anchor links for each episode so if great people like Ryan Lerch and Nico Buculei and other Inkscapers want to blog about specific screencasts they can link directly to the specific episode

That’s pretty much it. If you’ve got more suggestions, keep ’em coming. Although now maybe heathenx and I can concentrate more on coming up with some new screencasts.

Speed Linking? Didn’t know it was called that – but I like it.

June 26, 2007

David Airey posts about ‘speed linking‘. I had never heard the term before, but I’ve seen plenty of it. In fact, Kent Newsome’s Evening Reading posts could be termed speed-link posts and are among my favourite reads.

It’s actually a pretty accurate term too. I find myself zipping through Kent’s ER posts very quickly. I find them to be low commitment – that is, I go in knowing they’re not going to be in-depth dissertations on a single topic – which in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. I enjoy a good long well-written post, but at times I want something lighter and fast-paced. He gives me his quick take on a variety of topics and provides the links should I want them. No pressure. In and out.

And it’s not a simple link blog post. I get to see what things are piquing Kent’s interest at the moment along with his take on them. And it’s fun – because I never know what I’m going to find in there. The writing style has a lot to do with it too. Someone pointing me to their delicious links or to their Google Reader shared feeds is NOT the same thing.

I’m not sure how long Kent (or David) spends crafting these things. I fly through them quickly and they ‘read quickly‘ if that means anything, but I imagine they’re not so quick to put together. I’d be interested in hearing for instance how long it takes Kent to put together one of his evening reads. David? Kent?

Clean Slate

June 23, 2007

After about 2.5 hours of backing up my XP and Linux data to my new USB external hard drive, I popped in the Fiesty install CD and wiped the slate. In a relatively quick 40 minutes, I was back up and running. I had no problems with the install at all. Very nice.

But boy did I ever do a lot of tweaking and customization to my system over the past year or so. You don't realize all the fiddling you've done until it's all stripped away and you're back at square one. I've got a lot of re-tweaking ahead of me, but at least I'll now be running XP-free on this machine (at least in the non-virtual sense if that means anything). Anyway, it's sometimes refreshing to start with a clean slate.

I've now got about 90MB of updates to download and install – seems like the perfect time to let it do it's thing while I sleep. 😉

All revved up, not sure where to go…

June 22, 2007

I spotted a good deal on a 500GB external USB 2.0 drive, and decided to pick one up this morning. It’s an IOMagic drive and cost me $170 CAD (plus taxes of course). While I know kind of what I plan to do with it, I’m still mulling over the finer points. If you’ve got suggestions I’d love to hear them. Here’s what I’m thinking:

My machine has been a mess ever since I set it up as dual boot XP/Linux box. I’ve never been fully pleased with the performance of linux on this box and I think part of the reason is that the boot drive is a SATA drive, which caused weird problems with early versions of Ubuntu. I could never really get the dual boot setup working right, and performance on the machine is quite spotty.

Since upgrading to Feisty, things have been much better, but still at times it feels like it’s got a P3-800 chip on it and not the P4-3Ghz chip that’s actually on there. Processing operations are sometimes slow and other times rebooting seems to cure the problem – something that should NOT be a problem on a Linux box.

Anyway, I plan to use the new drive to back up all of my data that resides on my XP and Ubuntu partitions and wipe everything clean, starting from scratch. I’m going to install a fresh copy of Feisty on it, and then run XP in a virtual machine – yes, there are still a couple of things I need XP for… 😦

So here’s where my questions begin – pardon any stupidity:

1. Do I have to format this 500 GB drive? I’m assuming that I do. Should I do it in multiple partitions? And what type. I was going to do the whole thing in ext3. I can see all my XP data from within Linux now, so I’m assuming that’s the best route.

2. Once the backup is done, is there a definitive ‘best’ partition setup to use for the fresh Ubuntu Feisty install on my internal drives? I’ve got 2 – 160GB internal hard drives. One is SATA the other is IDE. I can let Ubuntu do it’s thing automatically. Is this the best way? Anybody got any pointers on this?

3. Is there any point in trying to preserve the various app settings and configurations that I have? I was just going to really start fresh. And that means reinstalling and configuring a lot of things from scratch. I’m a bit worried that if I try to migrate system settings that my past performance problems might follow me.

4. Is there anything I definitely need to save before wiping out my existing system? I’ve got all my ISP info on paper, and I generally don’t use saved passwords and logon info from my browser so that’s likely not a problem. But should I grab device info (like hard drive info) before starting the install? Is there a way to easily get this data? (maybe the dmesg logs?)

Those are my main questions right now. I will be taking the plunge this weekend whether or not I get any suggestions or advice. I’m far too impatient, especially when it comes to geeky stuff like my pc, to wait ;).

A New Site is Born…

June 22, 2007


Well we’ve gone and done it. Fellow Inkscape screencaster heathenx and I have spent the last month or so putting together a home for higher quality versions of our screencasts. You can see the fruits of our labour at http://screencasters.heathenx.org.

About 6 months ago I uploaded my first Inkscape screencast to YouTube and soon after heathenx started doing them too [he does nothing but copy me ;)]. We’ve had plenty of views on YouTube, but two things always bugged us. The quality/size of the video, and the 10 minute/100MB limitation on uploads.

So while we won’t be abandoning the YouTube posts, we’re going to be putting our screencasts over on the new site and likely posting versions to YouTube in tandem with that.

We’ve got all of our 23 episodes up on the site right now. We decided to encode them in flash format (.swf files) for two reasons really: ubiquity of the flash format and easier streaming capability. You can download the swf files to your local machine and view them in your browser or any flash capable media player, or watch them right on the site in your browser. The site also has an RSS feed which will serve mainly as a outlet for announcements – ie. not as a video blog per se, at least for the time being.

Call me a masochist, but I have to say that the hurdles and challenges we had to overcome to get the site the way we wanted was the most fun I’ve had in a while. Both heathenx and myself are engineers and because of that, I think that we’re pretty much in our element when stuck with a problem and left to our own devices. The fact that we share the same dry and sometimes childish sense of humour didn’t hurt the fun factor either. A quick check of the About page will illustrate that fact quite clearly. 🙂

And that’s really the whole motive behind it. Fun. Sure, we could easily use the site to make millions (after all, we developed a completely custom-built content management system for it – in 80 lines of python [cough cough]), but we’re far too modest for that. 😉

So if you’ve enjoyed any of our past screencasts, or want to check them out, head on over to the site at: http://screencasters.heathenx.org

We’d appreciate your feedback to help improve the site, so if you’ve got any comments or questions, you can comment on this post, or email us at: screencasters AT heathenx.org

And of course, if you like the site (or hell, even if you don’t) spread the word to your screencast and/or Inkscape loving friends.

Wiki research in mindmap format… nice!

June 18, 2007

I’ve always been a fan of the concept of mind mapping, but for the most part, for me, it has remained in the realm of pencil and paper. I’ve found a few good tools, but just haven’t put enough effort into any of them thus far.

Will Simpson posts about a great online app called WikiMindMap which pulls the search results for any term from wikipedia.org and displays it in a mindmap format. The output is great for this type of data since it let’s you expand different nodes to effectively drill down without the clutter.

I’ve seen a few posts in my feed list about mind mapping in the past. What tools are people using to do this stuff on the desktop? Leave a comment and let me know.

Daddy’s day…

June 17, 2007

To all fathers out there. Happy Father's Day.

Make sure to celebrate it with those that make you a father. Namely
your sons or daughters.

Hope you all enjoy the day.

Another Twist on the Quick Chill

June 15, 2007

Here’s a twist on the cold beer hack I spotted over on lifehack.org this morning. That post suggests using a tray full of salted ice water in the freezer to quickly chill a room temp beer. If, like me, you haven’t got any room in your freezer, a trick that I’ve used to good effect in the past to achieve similar results is as follows:

1. Pour a sink or bucket full of cold water, some ice and some salt. Make it deep enough that the entire bottle (or can) of beer can be submerged including the air trapped in the neck of the bottle – that’s crucial.

2. Grasping the bottle top in your fingers, spin it back and forth keeping it as vertical as possible. Higher rpm is better but don’t strain yourself – you’re chilling a beer after all ;).

3. A couple of minutes of that will drop the temperature to a respectable degree.

4. Dry off the bottle and add a side of nacho chips, chicken wings or pizza to suit. Enjoy.

I think spinning keeps the beer from foaming, and also keeps moving the warm beer in the middle of the bottle out to the sides where it’s nice and cold. The part about submerging the air in the bottle neck is crucial since this can inhibit the chilling effect.

If you’re good, you can spin two at once and enjoy that beer with a friend. 🙂

While you should be able to do it with cans, spinning them might be more difficult. I don’t normally drink canned beer, but give it a try. What the heck.

My personal recommendations for a hot summer day are Pilsner Urquell, Creemore Springs or a nice Sam Adams.