Monthly Archives: September 2006

My new notebook

  • CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo processor T7200 (2,00 GHz, 4MB L2-cache, 667 MHz FSB)
  • Memory: 2.0GB, 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM Memory (2 x 1024MB)
  • Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro NVS 110M 256MB
  • Hard Disk: 80GB serial ATA HDD 7200RPM
  • Screen: 14.1″ widescreen (1440×900)
  • Weight: approx. 2.2 kg
  • Battery life: approx. 3-4 hours (normal usage, 6-cell battery)
  • 8 X DVD+/-RW Drive
  • Intel PRO/Wireless 3945 802.11a/g Mini Card
  • Bluetooth
Dell Latitude D620

So far, I’m quite satisfied with the much faster computer, compared to the old Dell Inspiron 6000 I bought last spring. Everything feels snappy, and logging in to Gnome is no longer a painful wait. The only complaints I have are about the screen, which is pale and has a very narrow viewing angle, and the keyboard, which have very stiff keys that you need to press fairly hard to type with.

Captcha Disabled

Many visitors commenting in this blog have mentioned that the captcha plugin I’m using is unreliable so I’ve decided to disable it for now. Does anyone know of a working solution? Not using spam protection at all is not an option.

The Name "Firefox" Not Allowed In Ubuntu?

There are lots of ongoing discussions in the Ubuntu Forums about the fact that Mozilla has asked Debian to either comply with the trademarks/copyrights and use both the Firefox logo and name, and let all their patches run through Mozilla, or to neither use the logo nor the name. A typical forum post, written by Bnonn, quoted here:

This seems entirely insensible to me. Mozilla is basically stating that they would rather Debian (and, by derivation, Ubuntu) pretend that Firefox isn’t Firefox, than use Firefox with a different logo.

Now, personally I hate the damn blue globe and wish that Debian/Ubuntu could use the proper Firefox icon. It confounds me that Mozilla would make the icon non-free, thereby limiting its brand recognition and achieving absolutely nothing (what are they afraid of for crying out loud?) But surely even the blue globe with the name “Firefox” underneath it is better than a blue globe (or something better) with the name IceWeasel, or Freefox? It sounds like Mozilla is cutting off its nose to spite its face—which is particularly dumb given that, firstly, the “fix” is just a farce; secondly, it’s a non-issue anyway! And thirdly, the Debian and Ubuntu communities are big, idealistic, and outspoken, and will surely react with ill-will. I can’t see how that won’t harm Mozilla far more than any perceived benefit they’ll get.

Perhaps it’s simply that, in order to keep their trademark, they have to get Debian to comply (by law, if they don’t, they lose the trademark). But it seems like they should really consider adjusting their copyright requirements. All they’d have to do to resolve this whole issue is open-source an icon!

The truth is, however, that Mozilla Corporation’s aggressive defending of their copyright is sensible. There is (at least) one strong reason why Mozilla must defend their copyrighted name and logo, and that is quality assurance. If anyone were allowed to make their own highly modified version of the browser and for example bundle it with spyware, and on top of that still call it Firefox with the recognized fox-around-globe logo, then people would no longer associate Firefox with high quality. People would eventually associate Firefox with spyware and viruses, which is the opposite of the reputation Mozilla is trying to build. The only way to maintain Mozilla’s strong quality and security reputation is to make sure anything named Firefox really is Firefox.

Of course, one could argue that anything that leaves Debian is probably going to retain the quality of the original authors (Mozilla contributors), and Mozilla Corporation could probably legally make an exception to allow Debian to use the name Firefox even though they don’t use the copyrighted logo which Debian will never use. I am, however, not a lawyer, so I don’t know the effect on the copy/trademark rights if such an exception was made.

Update: As Dennis Kaarsemaker says in the first comment of this blog post, Debian’s DFSG makes a legal exception from Mozilla worthless. In other words, Debian has to a large part itself to blame for this dilemma.

My thoughts on F-Spot

180px-Main-window.pngRecently, I’ve been trying out the F-Spot photo management application for Gnome. Having used Picasa for almost a year now, I’m spoiled with quick editing and management of my photos. With just a simple click, the quality of an image can be improved in Picasa. Since F-Spot was included in Gnome/Ubuntu, however, I decided to give it a shot. From their web page:

Editing photos in F-Spot is a breeze. Easily rotate, crop, resize, and adjust red eye and other color settings with a few simple clicks. Versioning ensures your originals are never altered.

There seems to be quite a difference in the mission statement between Picasa and F-Spot. The latter has taken the “photo management” part more seriously, and the “photo editing” thrown in as an afterthought. F-Spot’s mission statement is not finalized, though, so hopefully this will change. This is also why I’m blogging about it.

Using F-Spot as a photo editor is very limiting. I would like to see lots of changes, most of them inspired by Picasa, but taken a bit further. The tools I usually need to improve a promising but not perfect photo are:

  • Auto contrast. Ideally, it should be a button in the already existing color dialog in F-Spot, which should adjust the slides accordingly, so you have a chance of fine-tuning it before comitting.
  • Straightening a photo. Picasa has a really good tool that not only straightens the image, but auto-crops the image so you don’t need to do that manually afterwards. Much easier than starting GIMP and rotating freehand (without any reference lines) and then cropping to remove the transparent areas.
  • Cropping. My camera sensor produces 4:3 images, and most of the time I prefer to crop them to 3:2. F-Spot has this feature but the implementation is very non-intuitive. You need to select between portrait/landscape aspect ratio with a drop-down list. It would be much easier if F-Spot could just detect which direction you’re dragging the mouse the most to.
  • Rotating. Even though the EXIF tag says the image should be rotated, basically every other application ignores this, making F-Spot’s rotation useless. Please, just do a lossless jpeg rotation like every other software! Also, rotation–unlike every other operation in F-Spot–is not treated as an actual modification. In other words, a (Modified) copy of the image is not created.
  • Filtered B/W. Sometimes you can achieve a much better B/W effect by using this method. Try Picasa to see what I mean. The difference can be stunning.
  • Levels/Curves. Maybe this is a bit advanced, but at the same time it can really make a huge difference on an image. Being able to, for example, increase the light of shadow areas, while preserving the light on the midtones and highlights is invaluable in a high contrast image.

Moreover, I like the idea of F-Spot creating a (Modified) copy of the image you are manipulating, preserving the original. However, there are things I don’t like about it:

  • The modified copy is usually a lot smaller (in file size) compared to the original. There seem to be no preserving of the jpeg compression quality. I’ve seen examples of the original jpeg being over 2MB and the modified version under 700KB. That’s not normal, is it?
  • There is no way of specifying where the modified versions should go. Currently, they’re dropped in the same folder as the original, with an added ” (Modified)” suffix. To me, it would make much more sense to put them in a /Modified/ subfolder. I like to separate originals from my “mastered” versions.

My Life As Software Engineer

I’m been working 4½ months now for Emsize as the Software Engineer of the company. It’s a very interesting job, but at the same time much harder than I first thought. Being the only programmer, you don’t get much help from others and you need to plan, structure, and prioritize pretty much everything yourself.

Today I held a five hour workshop meeting with my two bosses and two sellers from Germany. We discussed the progress, present, and future of the software project I’m assigned to work on. Overall, I think it was a good meeting where lots of relevant information was highlighted and refined.

One thing must be said about software engineering: making project roadmaps is hard, but sticking to them is even harder!

Laptop Screen Resolutions

I might be getting a new laptop at work and was wondering if anyone had any experience with Dell Latitude D620. Are they any good? Linux compatibility is generally very good with Dell, right? The graphics card is a NVIDIA Quadro NVS 110M 256MB.

Is 1280×800 too small for a 14.1″ widescreen? Currently, I have a 15.4″ screen with 1680×1050 pixels and I must say I struggle too often to see the text on screen. I know I can increase the font size, but that makes the text huge when I plug the laptop into the regular 19″ (1080×1024) LCD screen at work. Which resolution is best for a 14.1″ widescreen, 1280×800 or 1440×900? I know both resolutions have larger pixels than my current screen, but is 14.1″@1440×900 going to render the text almost as tiny as the 15.4″@1680×1050 screen?

OpenSUSE 10.2 Alpha4: What a waste of time

What an extreme waste of time that was, trying to install the latest alpha of OpenSUSE 10.2. I first spent over an hour trying to figure out how the network install works, because I really don’t want to waste 6 CDs just for an alpha build of an OS. No matter what I tried, I received an HTTP 302 error. After a bit of googling, I found out what that meant (but why on earth is the installer incapable of finding out the redirect itself?) and tried with a working path instead. All went fine until it tried to install the actual kernel package, which didn’t pass their MD5 checksum. So I was forced to cancel the installation and try with CDs anyway.

The network install hinted that it only needed the first CD (it referenced to CD1, and nothing else), so I decided it was worth wasting at least one CD for this alpha. After all, I really want to try the new start menu in Gnome that I hope will eventually replace the worthless default Gnome main menu. So I burned CD1 on disc and tried again. All went fine until it said “Next: CD2, 10:03″ and counting.

It turns out OpenSUSE 10.2 Alpha4 needs to use five (5) CDs just for the default install! What an insane waste of time, effort and CDs! I decided it’s not worth it just to have a look at a new start menu.

Earth to OpenSUSE developers: Stop this Fedora-like multiple CDs insanity and pick the best tools for each task. At the very least, make just CD1 the required CD and the rest of them optional. Ubuntu has no problem presenting me with a fully functional OS with just one CD. Why should you have to struggle this much to install OpenSUSE? I’m sure many other Linux testers like myself find this situation offputting.

Google Toolbar for Firefox

That Google Toolbar sure looks usable, with the enhanced search box, safe browsing and spell checking. Unfortunately for me, my computer doesn’t meet the system requirements:

• Windows XP/2000 SP3+, Mac OS X 10.2+, or Red Hat Linux 8.0+
• Firefox 1.5+ (Internet Explorer version available here)

I’m using Ubuntu 6.06. What a shame.

On an unrelated notice, I’m back from a week’s vacation on the Azores. I’ll blog more about that later (and post pictures when they’re ready), but I can say right now it was a wonderful week!