Goodbye Kubuntu, thou foul and fickle temptress. Hello faithful Debian, thy time come round again…

After the debacle that was the attempted upgrade from Kubuntu 8.04 to 8.10, I sat back and thought about using Ubuntu for a while. In fact, I’d been thinking about it when I wrote the blog post on the upgrade. And the conclusion I came to was this; I started using Linux with Debian, way back in the days when 3.0 was in testing; I used it on my desktop, on my laptops, on my robot, on the lab server and anywhere else it could fit; and I stayed with it up to the point where I needed some hardware support and was too lazy to build from source, and tried Ubuntu because “all the cool kids were doing it”.

And that was a bad mistake. They may bar me ever re-uping with SAGE for saying something as basic as this in public, but stability is far more important than having the suspend-to-ram function working or faster graphics regardless of whether it’s a mainframe or a laptop, if that is, you’re actually doing work with your computer. I did know that at one point. I blame reading too many Rails sites 😀

At any rate, plugged in the external 1394 hard drive, backed up everything (~50Gb in under an hour, sweet), stuck in the netinst cd for Debian Lenny’s amd64 version (feck it, if it didn’t install, I had the i386 handy as a fallback), walked through an incredibly improved installer process, and now I have a pristine system running Gnome, KDE (3), Openbox, Windowmaker, XFCE, LXDE and matchbox (for a project).

The only nonstandard thing in here is that I went and got the 1.2.1 version of Mercurial from the testing repository by hand because otherwise it wouldn’t hg pull from the 1.2.1 repos in the lab.

It’s very stable, it’s got support for everything, and the parts which don’t work are trivial (starting wireless after the wireless kill switch is used seems to be utterly broken and hibernate isn’t working either, nor are the brightness softkeys but there are menu options).

So that’s that, the Kubuntu experiment is over. Back to Debian and breathing easier…

Disasterous Kubuntu Hardy upgrade to Intrepid

What *bangs head on desk* was *bang* I *bang* thinking?

I tried KDE4 before, I didn’t like it. I downgraded back to KDE3 just to get something that worked. I know my new toy upgraded to Intrepid without problems, but that was running Xubuntu, not KDE, so why did I think that a quick apt-get dist-upgrade to Kubuntu 8.10 was going to work on the machine I have all my precious, precious data on? Read more

Irish telephony costs

You know, most folks think we’re pretty expensive as places to get a telephone line go. The thing is, they’re wrong.

Chart showing line rental charges across the EU
Chart showing line rental charges across the EU

Turns out we’re the most expensive. Of any country in the world. Great thing to say about a country where the internet is fairly critical for the economy…

From Ireland Offline

Fujitsiu LT C-500 touchscreen in Ubuntu

Just as a small note to anyone trying to get this to work, the fpit driver has a bug in every version of ubuntu up to and including hardy; upgrade to intrepid and you get fully a functional touchscreen again, using this xorg.conf:

Section "InputDevice"
    Identifier     "touchscreen"
    Driver         "fpit"
    Option         "Device"    "/dev/ttyS1"
    Option        "BaudRate"    "9600"
    Option        "MaximumXPosition"    "4096"
    Option        "MaximumYPosition"    "4096"
    Option        "MinimumXPosition"    "0"
    Option        "MinimumYPosition"    "0"
    Option        "Passive"
    Option        "SendCoreEvents"
    Option        "TrackRandR" "true"

Just don’t try using KDE4 unless slow-motion work sounds appealing 😀 XFCE is reasonable though, so Xubuntu is an option (and what I’m running on it right now).

Now, on with the PyQT4 coding…

New Toy…

I used to be a great fan of the “study sim” genre – flight sims which tried to model their aircraft as accurately as possible. The acme of the genre (and simultaenously its nadir thanks to system requirements and a plethora of bugs and instabilities) was Falcon 4.0, a simulation so accurate that F-16 pilots reported no discenable difference between the simulation and the real thing (beyond the obvious). They even took one player of the simulator up in a real Block 52 F-16 and had him fly for a few minutes, and he was able to do so successfully (not to trained professional fighter pilot standards, true, but for a guy who trained on a home PC, it was a definite succes).

Well, the new laptop can finally handle the computation load that went with Falcon 4.0 (which was enormous back when it was released), and a new version with all the patches and updates since 4.0 was released recently (Falcon 4.0 Allied Forces), so all I need is a new USB joystick (my old thrustmaster kit was wonderful to use but needs a joystick port my laptop doesn’t have).  Away to Maplin and I buy this utterly ridiculous-looking thing, seemingly the last USB joystick in Dublin (none in PC World, none in Game, none in WH Smiths even – maybe Petes had some but they had closed):

Saitek ST290 Pro
Saitek ST290 Pro

Don’t get me wrong, to get the job done it’s grand – stick, throttle, a few buttons (sorry, but five thumb buttons, a pov hat and a trigger is not a lot for a flight sim joystick when you’re used to the Thrustmaster HOTAS systems 😀 ) and rudder through twisting. But look at it. It looks like an extra from a Transformers fight scene, and not in a good way!.

See, this is what I miss about the study sim genre. Yes, you got an inch-thick book, actual paper maps of the area you were flying in, had to learn arcane jargon and procedures, needed a top-of-the-line PC (which is why I fell away from the genre in the end, Falcon 4.0 demanded so much that it just broke my enjoyment) and “proper” gameplay was a dedication of several hours and it was often more cerebral than adrenal. But that was the joy – it was immersive escapism at its best.

And the joysticks didn’t look so utterly ridiculous.


Blogging for Tubridy…

One of the first questions any non-blogger asks about blogging when talking about it with a blogger is usually “why do you do it?”.Ryan Tubridy’s show this morning (yes, I was a bit late out the door 😀 ) was somewhat different (as commented on elsewhere today) – he’s already got an answer in mind. Shame that answer is “because you’re all a pack of unqualified attention-seeking amateurs”… and downright rude for him to have that in mind when talking to bloggers face-to-face. It’s like hauling in a guest only to tell them they look ugly with all that new weight they’re carrying…

I did try making two points by text message, but only the first got on air, namely that being a journalist really only qualifies you to talk about journalism. I know of pretty damn few journalists who have the qualifications to talk about the linux kernel or the latest netbook trends or whether you should use the c89 or c99 standards for your C code. Nor do I know of many who’d be given the column inches to do such stories; and yet, for the readers looking for them, those are very high-value articles. And every journalist doing a story about target shooting these days is coming at it from the point of view that Guns Are Bad M’Kay? but not one of them has any time on a range to their credit, nor any knowledge of the sport or the administration of the sport or the licensing system or any of the surrounding apparatus; and it takes too long for them to get up to speed on that and get the article in by deadline. So that’s two strikes against print journalism – it’s the high street book store, it has to cater to the lowest common denominator and the authors have seriously tight deadlines and resource limits for each story. It has to be that way or the publishers would go out of business.

Bloggers on the other hand are out there in the long tail, being the of this world. Small audience? Who cares, the service is free. Want to take a week to do the blog post? Sure, why not. Take the time and do it right. Not a journalist? Guess what, unless you have chops in the area, noone will listen anyway, so unless you want to blog about journalism, you’re sorted. And thing is, the model, even if it is only selling to J.R. Hartley, kicks the high store street in the pants every time. There’s an awful lot of J.R. Hartley’s out there, it turns out, and there’s more under the long tail than in the “mainstream”.

The other point, the one I did send in but which wasn’t read, was that there are a lot of IT professionals who have blogs for a professional reason; we work under NDA, we can’t show you our work, so if you’re trying to hire us you have to go on the reputation of the company we worked at last and what we said we did. Which isn’t anywhere near as good as just looking at someone’s work. So a lot of programmers and engineers have blogs like this one where they put up examples of past work (filtered so that the NDAs don’t kick in) or of side projects, or of their thoughts on design issues and so on. That way, if you’re looking to interview someone, you have a much better idea of whether or not they will fit in, or whether or not they have the chops for the job.

It doesn’t hurt that writing up these things gives excellent practice in technical writing, nor does it hurt that actually writing stuff up tends to lead to greater understanding on your part.  Years ago, I used to do a lot of aikido, and everyone who trained with me agreed that the classes where you learnt the most were the ones with the complete beginners, because if you didn’t know the basics perfectly, they didn’t know enough to avoid pointing this out to you 😀 The same principle comes into play here (and in writing up academic papers or my thesis); the more I write for an ab initio audience, the better my understanding of a thing becomes.

That’s reason enough to write. Pity a talk show host didn’t know that…

Stochastic Geometry is Stephen Fry proof thanks to caching by WP Super Cache

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