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Present Perfect


Filed under: General — Thomas @ 11:07 am

11:07 am

Dave, it’s not only Americans. I know some Scandinavians that are fond of using the word “utilize” a lot too.

The dark side of my soul wonders if it is because the rest of the sentence they’re using it has no real message to get across, so replacing the plain “use” with the heavily belled-and-whistled “utilized” makes the sentence carry a deeper message. Of course that message is open to interpretation…

Late-night reading

Filed under: General — Thomas @ 4:42 am

4:42 am

After three hours of sleep I woke up and was unable to get to sleep again. So I started surfing at random, and came across the Unix Haters’ handbook. It’s well-written and funny in places. Here’s a sample that made me laugh at least:

Some Unix victims turn this filename-as-switch bug into a “feature” by
keeping a file named “-i” in their directories. Type “rm *” and the shell
will expand this to “rm -i filenamelist” which will, presumably, ask for
confirmation before deleting each file. Not a bad solution, that, as long as
you don’t mind putting a file named “-i” in every directory. Perhaps we
should modify the mkdir command so that the “-i” file gets created auto-
matically. Then we could modify the ls command not to show it.


Filed under: Music — Thomas @ 12:19 am

12:19 am

Warning: random musings about music ahead. Proceed at own risk.

Last night while failing to get to sleep I discovered an extension of one of my superpowers. The superpower in question is my goodexcellentremarkableincredible/strikethrough>amazinguncanny ability to remember minute details about music I’ve heard or am even remotely interested in. I have a jukebox locked inside my head that can play any of the tunes I know whenever I want. (I’m not sure yet if it’s a blessing or a curse after all these years, but anyway …)

So there I was, lying awake wondering if I could conjure up the track lists to albums I own but haven’t listened to in a while. And it dawned on me that I could use the jukebox to reconstruct the whole album by skipping forward to the end of each song, then listening to what comes next. So, I tested it out. First test, “Bossanova” – not listened to that for a few years.

Starting is easy. Surf’s up with “Cecilia Ann (1)”, entirely instrumental, and the chord dies out. The screeching guitar comes in, and then the drums start rolling over the sustained note, and in comes the power chord progression of “Rock Music(2)”. Skip forward to the abrupt halt, a very short silence, and then comes the still mystifying two-times-three chord progression that uses only two notes for each. “Velouria(3)” kicked in. It ends with Kim singing Velouria, R-I-A and dies out. Drums fall in at high speed, and the guitar spits out the high-speed “Allison(4)”. It ends with a few repeats of the names. Bass and drums draw out the next rhythm, and then Joey Santiago pulls out four perfect notes to kick off “Is She Weird(5)”. Fast-forward, “head has no room”, and two final chords. Next, airy chords ride in like a horse, and the drums break their rhythm, dropping the guitar down a note and putting it into dream mode for “Ana(6)”. Fast-forward – the song ends with the same horse chords that started it and dies out.

The next song starts on a high note sliding down over a 3/5 rhythm – “All over the world(7)” has kicked in. Fast forward – “what I’m tau-au-au-au-aught”. The song dies, and the sleigh bells come in, followed by a playful bass line, and then the guitar rushes down – “Dig for fire(8)”. Fast-forward – the song is ending in multiple vocal lines crossing each other, until all the music stops to give away for the final “for fire”. A double drum kick starts off the next one, the guitar complains, and in the distance a voice wails, until we learn that Betty always knows – “Down to the well(9)”. Fast-forward – “down to the well”, the guitar flourishes out the song.

Drums and bass kick off “The Happening(10). This gives me a bit more trouble, I have to skip through to the ending part where the song changes tune and becomes the story of someone driving to meet the aliens. The song dies out without a real ending. Drums kick in with a short roll before the guitars dive into the bossa nova rhythm of “Blown Away(11)”. Fast-forward – “I didn’t get so far”, and an end note. A quick chord progression puts the next song in gear – they’re going higher – it’s “Hang Wire(12)”. It ends on a death yell of hang wire, with 5 chords volleying off the finish. Drums fall in and a guitar kicks off the playful tune to “Stormy Weather(13)”. The song comes to a stuttering and strangely tuned halt. On the next song, the guitars go starry-twinkly as a backdrop for “Havalina(14)”

Next up was “Adam and Eve” by “Catherine Wheel”. First song starts with an acoustic slide, and a naked intro song. It’s untitled(1). Ending on “let’s get started.” One chord is struck and left to ring, until it’s cut short by the bass line pulling up, and the guitar starts sounding like a piece of plastic being flapped up and down – it’s “Future Boy(2)”. Fast-forward and the song ends where it feels good to me, and the drums finish off with some dry strokes while the chord and bass runs out. A guitar gently pulls the next track up to speed – it’s “Delicious(3)”. The actual song ends tree to fruit, apple to seed, and then a piano starts complaining, and there’s something in the belly. Next song starts with a chord, some drums rolling over it, same chord again, and then “Broken Nose(4)” starts lifiting off. At the end, the song dies out until the guitars give one final sign of life. Next track starts with some distorted power chords, which break away abruptly to leave room for the acoustic guitar intro of “Phantom of the American mother(5)”. Fast forward, the song dies on the American mother. Again, some plastic is waving in the wind, and someone tries out two chords on the guitar to distract us – and suddenly a progression rolls out of an acoustic guitar – “Ma solituda(6)”. Fast-forward, and “I fell down”.

An electric chord bounces and dips up and down to start “Satellite(7)”. Which ends on a wail of “were young young young”, and the guitars finish off. A cymbal ride gently accompanies some drum strokes, until there’s a second-long pause to introduce the far too many ghosts that make us rely on three notes of “Thunderbird(8)”. Forward to the end, where you’re making it sound absurd. A chord rolls in like a wave hitting the beach, and the lead guitar drops in, and more and more instruments start building up the sound towards the start of the vocals – “Here comes the fat controller (9)”. At the end of the song, a door gets shut on the song while it’s still playing, and muffles the sound. The next song starts with a cymbal roll and a chord intertwined with a lazy upwards-pointing lead guitar scrawl – It’s “Goodbye(10)”. It ends with a dying out distortion wave, and the silence gives away to twinkling xylophone and guitars, and here come the good times of “For Dreaming(11)”, which brings back the female voice of “Delicious”. The song takes a long time to die fading out, and a few lazy chords at the end of the track make for a transition to the next song, again untitled(12), as a counterpoint to the opening track. A single guitar and a single voice who’s going to phone everyone he’s known through the downs and the ups.

So there it is, my new completely useless superpower. I believe in RPG terms this is called “levelling up”.
I’m going to try and get to sleep practicing my new-found superpower on some other albums – be sure to give it a try yourself. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s not too late to buy both these albums!


Filed under: General — Thomas @ 1:21 pm

1:21 pm

A quote from IRC:

<syruss> can I just congratulate the devs of gst 0.10. I've just installed FC5 and it's absolutely fantastic, I love how all my fave apps are now really snappy :)
<syruss> also, the new plugin naming was a great idea.

I’m sure the more cynical (like, I don’t know, some guy calling himself TopDown) will think that we made the quote up, or that we are paying the guy to come on IRC and say something like this, but possibly all of you out there without tin foil hats may actually see this as the fruit of our hard work finally reaching the end user.

Of course, if you disagree with Syruss, feel free to share your disagreement! We need new goals, and if you disagree, you’re our new goal.

0-day warez

Filed under: General — Thomas @ 11:56 pm

11:56 pm

I’ve been running Fedora Core 5 over the weekend and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I installed it on my new laptop hard drive (100 GB, 7200 RPM, Hitachi Travelstar), which happened to arrive last week. The multimedia stuff worked out of the box, and it is soooo very nice to have Fedora Extras to install even before the official launch. Most of the times, when jumping to the next Fedora before it is released, it’s kind of like doing a lunar landing and consequent terraforming – lots of stuff needs to be added to the core install before it starts feeling like home again.

With Fedora Extras churning over the past month to be ready for FC5′s release, most packages are completely ready to be installed. A big help – so thanks to all of you who made Fedora Extras into what it is today!

Mach worked pretty well anyway on the last few development installs I did, and I spent some time the last few days reorganizing the GStreamer repository and rebuilding packages. I’ve put up a new download page specifically for FC5 because I wanted to reorganize the repository to A) split up the 0.8 versus 0.10 packages and B) refocus the layout on a yum-friendly one, and putting i386, SRPMS and x86_64 on the same level.

If you were using the repository, be aware that you need to follow the new instructions to jump ship to FC5.

It was nice to see that, contrary to FC4 where there still were some small buglets here and there, the out-of-the-box experience for media stuff was a lot better this time around. GStreamer 0.10 really is a lot more stable when it comes to playback of video, and the seeking feels even slightly faster than MPlayer’s. After installing all of the “questionable” codec packages, it was thumbnailing my media files (which includes 3gp stuff as well) happily.

As for FC5 itself, happy to see that NetworkManager finally works ok for me! I had given Dan some feedback after my last try, and the actual reason for all of my problems was the fact that none of the developers actually run with SELinux enabled. I’m sure I’ve ranted about this before, but really – if you’re a Red Hat developer, you should be running with SELinux enabled, because that’s what you’ve set the default to. Period. If you leave it up to your users to experience mysterious crashes and unexplicable behaviour, and afterwards it turns out you never ran with the defaults of your distro, it just looks bad.

But this time around, kudos to Dan and Christopher – when it works, it *is* nice. It’d be nice to be able to plug in some scripts if you’re on a known good network – I have snippets of /etc/hosts files and known_hosts things and yum repo files and stuff that I keep copying around between my home environment and work environment.

I was excited to try out beagle, and for the most part it works. Too bad that after a while it eats into my memory (top claims 20% on a 512 MB machine, with 1 GB swap), and the second day it was using 100% CPU. I’ve been using it on and off as I was looking for files.

I’ve also forced myself to finally switch to Firefox, just because it’s the default. I am missing some of epiphany’s nicer features. I had a few entry boxes where I could enter bug numbers, and I can’t find a way to do that in Firefox. I found an equivalent that allows me to type for example “bgo 432892″ in the location bar and that takes me to bugzilla.gnome.org to the relevant bug, so that’s close enough for now.

On the other hand, I had two small problems with epiphany that I was so frustrated and embarassed about that I never ended up filing bug reports for them. One was that dialog boxes popped up on some random workspace and weren’t brought to the front of where I was, leading me to believe that there was something wrong with the site. The other one was that for some reason all authentication dialog boxes (which, you know, only contain two or three lines to fill in your username and password, plus some buttons) took up more than the 1024×768 pixels my screen is set at. In other words, I saw a lot of grey, a little bit of text, and no way to resize them except for alt-clickdragging, then dragging the edges. And somehow it did this *every time*. I can’t even make up a plausible theory for where epiphany would be storing these settings, and I was so frustrated at my own embarassment every time this happened (and remember, this dialog box was then on some other page), thinking the net was broken again, that I just gave up for now. Firefox doesn’t feel homey yet, but we’ll see how it goes. But really, in general – all mozilla-based browsers are such resource hogs. 75% of my memory is typically taken by three apps – a browser, evolution, and now beagled. The browser most of the time comes out on top. I regularly close my browser completely to reclaim memory, because closing-all-but-one-tab hardly gives back anything. But enough complaining.

All in all, an exciting release – I wonder how it will be received.

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