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Present Perfect

Filed under: General — Thomas @ 2:31 pm

2:31 pm


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 ?

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