Shallow Thoughts : : Aug
Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.
Mon, 29 Aug 2005
Sven, one of the GIMP developers, has been interested in setting up
a "paper prototyping" system for reorganizing the GIMP's menus
(see his blog
Since I've been involved with some of the ongoing menu
reorganization, we've talked about it a bit, and discussed some
tools that are being written to assist with online paper prototyping
(since the "get everybody together in a room with slips of paper"
model doesn't work for worldwide distributed projects).
But for some reason it never occurred to me until a couple days ago
that GIMP itself would make a fine paper prototyping tool.
The move tool lets you move the text layers into any configuration
you like, you can control colors and fonts, and you can save to your
choice of standard formats.
It didn't take long at all to whip up a script-fu to
enable paper prototyping, which I posted
to the gimp-developer list.
Nobody has actually used my script to comment on the menu reorganization
yet ... but what the heck, it was fun to write the script. Maybe
it'll be useful in other projects that need paper prototyping.
[ 17:43 Aug 29, 2005
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Thu, 25 Aug 2005
I was contacted months ago regarding a
on my web site
asking whether it could be used along with an article on
molting patterns in Dowitchers in
Months went by (print magazines are slow) and I wondered if
the plan had been dropped, but last week I heard from the author,
Caleb Putnam, and the article is in the current (July/August) issue!
Yesterday I received a copy of the magazine and a modest payment.
Even cooler, the photo is the frontispiece of the article.
The author says he's received many comments about how great a shot
it is for illustrating molt gaps. That's a pull quote if I ever
heard one: "Great shot for illustrating molt gaps."
The article is interesting as well -- I didn't know that molt patterns
could identify the two species of dowitcher. Telling long-billed and
short-billed dowitchers apart has been beyond my modest birding
skills, but perhaps I'll have better luck now. I'll be heading out
to Baylands today at lunch to see what the dowitchers are doing ...
[ 11:49 Aug 25, 2005
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Sun, 14 Aug 2005
I bet I'm not the only one who uses Ubuntu (Hoary Hedgehog) and didn't
realize that it doesn't automatically put the security sources in
, so apt-get and aptitude don't pick up
any of the security updates without extra help.
After about a month with no security updates on any ubuntu machines
(during which time I know there were security alerts in Debian for
packages I use), I finally tracked down the answer.
It turns out that if you use synaptic, click on "Mark All Upgrades",
then click on Apply, synaptic will pull in security updates.
However, if you use the "Ubuntu Upgrade Manager" in the
System->Administration menu, or if you use commands
like apt-get -f dist-upgrade or aptitude -f dist-upgrade,
then the sources which synaptic wrote into sources.list are not
sufficient to get the security updates.
(Where synaptic keeps its extra sources, I still don't know.)
When I asked about this on #ubuntu, I was pointed to a page on
the Ubuntu wiki which walks you through selecting sources in synaptic.
Unfortunately, the screenshots on the wiki show lots of sources that
none of my Ubuntu machines show, and the wiki doesn't give you the
sources.list lines or tell you what to do if synaptic doesn't
automagically show the security sources.
The solution: to edit /etc/apt/sources.list and make sure the
following lines are there (which some of the people on the IRC channel
were kind enough to paste for me):
## All officially supported packages, including security- and other updates
deb http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu hoary main restricted
deb http://security.ubuntu.com/ubuntu hoary-security main restricted
deb http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu hoary-updates main restricted
In addition, if you use "universe" and "multiverse", you probably also
want these lines:
deb http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu hoary universe multiverse
deb http://security.ubuntu.com/ubuntu hoary-security universe multiverse
deb http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu hoary-updates universe multiverse
[ 22:49 Aug 14, 2005
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Thu, 11 Aug 2005
There's really not much to say about Linuxworld this year. It was
smaller than last year (they moved it across the street to the
"little" Moscone hall) and the mood seemed a bit subdued.
SWAG was way down: to get anything remotely cool you generally had
to register to watch a presentation that gave you a chance to get
something to wear that would enter you for a chance to win something
cool later. Or similar indirections. You had to be pretty
desperate. But maybe people were, since I saw lines at some of the
I did my annual sweep of the big booths to see
who was running Linux on their show machines. This year was the first
time that all the major booths used predominately Linux (except on
machines running fullscreen presentation software, where it's
impossible to tell). It was a huge change from past shows --
I stopped keeping tabs after a while.
I saw only one or two confirmed Windows machines each
at most of the big booths, like Intel, AMD, IBM, Sun, and even HP.
They seemed fairly evenly divided between SuSE and Redhat.
At the AMD booth, lots of machines sported cardboard signs saying
"Powered by Redhat" or "Powered by SuSE". One of
the "Powered by Redhat" machines clearly had a Start menu,
so I had to ask. The AMD rep gave me a song and dance about
virtualization technologies, pointing out that although the machine
was running Windows, it displayed both Redhat and SuSE windows which
he said were running on the same machine. Okay, that's a perfectly
good reason to be running Windows at a Linux convention. No points off
there. I suspect most of the booths showing Windows had similar excuses.
"Virtualization is the wave of the future! Everybody here is
displaying virtualization technologies," the AMD rep told me.
Indeed, virtualization was everywhere. I don't know that I'm convinced
it's the wave of the future, but there was no question that it was the
wave of the present at this year's Linuxworld.
Sweeping the hall, I passed by the Adobe booth, where
someone was giving a presentation to an audience of maybe ten people.
The projector showed a window which showed ... nothing. A blank window
border with nothing inside.
"Now, it's connecting to San Jose", explained the presenter with
apparent pride, "to get permission to display the document."
I kept walking . It hadn't finished connecting yet by the time I
was out of earshot. Perhaps the audience was somehow persuaded by this
demo to buy Adobe software. I guess you never know what people will like.
A bit past Adobe was the weirdest booth of the exhibit hall:
SolovatSoft, offering offshore software development at rates starting
at $18/hour. Honest, this was an actual booth at Linuxworld. I should
have taken my camera.
Gone were most of the nifty embedded Linux displays of yesteryear. I saw
only two: one (Applieddata.net, I think) which I've seen there
before, showing an array of fun-looking custom embedded platforms of
all sizes, and another showing Linux on various cellphones and similar
consumer devices. Only one laptop maker (Emperor) made it there, and
none of the smaller-than-laptop manufacturers -- I was hoping Nokia,
Sharp, Psion or some other maker of nifty Linux PDAs might be there.
The "Dot Org Pavilion", the place where free software groups like
Debian, Mozilla, the FSF, and the EFF have their booths, was on a
completely separate floor, and would have been easy to miss if you
didn't look at the maps in the convention guide. But it wasn't all
bad: someone on a LUG mailing list pointed out that this put them in a
nice quiet area away from the raucous advertising of the big
commercial booths in the main hall, so you could actually have a
conversation with the booth folks. Also, the dot-orgs got a nice view
out the second-floor windows compared to the cavernous indoor
I only went to one keynote, "The Explosive Growth of Linux and Open
Source: What Does It All Mean?" The description made it look like a
panel discussion, but it was really just five prepared speeches: three
suits repeating buzzwords (Dave and I amused ourselves counting the
uses of the word "exciting", and with Toastmasters reflexes I couldn't
help counting the "ah"s) and two more interesting talks (well, okay,
Eben Moglen was also wearing a suit but at least he didn't spend
his whole talk telling us about the exciting opportunities ahead for
I would have liked to have heard Mike Shaver's keynote on web
technologies, but it wasn't worth going back to San Francisco for a
second day just for that.
In the end, the real highlight of the day was hooking up with Sonja at
the Novell/SuSE booth for a nice lunch. Hooray for conferences that
give you an excuse to meet friends from far away! Catching up with
some of the Mozilla crowd was good, too. That made the trip worth it
even if the exhibit hall didn't offer much.
[ 22:25 Aug 11, 2005
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Fri, 05 Aug 2005
Both the mourning doves and the mockingbirds snuck in in a third
round of nesting this year.
Rather than make lots of little entries, I kept the timeline all
in one (long) file. If nothing else, it's easy to skip for anyone who
doesn't like "bird columns" (taking a cue from Jon Carroll and his
There's a little drama going on on the roof of the house across from
the office window. a pair of doves showing extreme interest
in the rain gutters at the corner of the porch and above it at the
corner of the house (flanking the tree where they raised their chicks
last month). She (I assume) will fly to the porch gutter, snuggle down
in the gutter for five or ten seconds, then appear dissatisfied and fly
over to the other gutter, do the same there, fly to the ground, fly up
to the roof, coo for a while, then repeat the process. Meanwhile her
mate flies from the roof to the ground to the power line, cooing
the whole time.
At one point, one of the dovelets flew to the roof just above the
gutter and started pecking for gravel, and mom chased him away
furiously. No more parenting for you! Get your own place! Get a job,
why don't you? And cut your hair!
The scaly dovelet still looks scaly. I wonder why? The other chick
looks like a miniature adult.
Unfortunately we had to disturb the little episode because the porch
gutter the dove kept landing on had come loose. Dave went out with a
hammer and hammered it back into place, but I guess that spooked the
doves. Which may be just as well -- an exposed rain gutter really
doesn't seem like a good place for a nest, especially since the
youngsters seem to avoid sun, fun though it might be to have the
nest right out in plain view of the window.
The doves seem to have been scared off by the hammering of the rain
gutter, and are looking elsewhere for a nesting site.
There's lots of ooohaaahing going on while they're up on the power
lines, and once I saw the male trying to mate (the female flew away).
Haven't seen the dovelets since mom chased one off the roof.
The doves are back, cooing and nestling in the gutter. Looks like she
really likes that site.
She's given up on the roof and gutter and has decided to nest in the
old nest site in the guava tree.
One dove now stays in the nest at all times
-- I suspect there's an egg there -- while her mate furiously brings
her sticks one after another. When he's not bringing sticks for the
nest, he's up on the wires singing Oooaah, oooh oooh oooh!
Turns out there's a mockingbird nest in the pyrocanthus just outside
the kitchen window. We can see it from the sink. The mocker hardly
spends any time there, though. The dove is still sitting patiently in
Dave cleaned the outside of the kitchen window so we could get a
better view of the nest. Haven't seen the mocker since; we may have
scared her off.
The mocker wasn't scared off after all. I saw her perched on the edge
of the nest, poking into the nest. I couldn't tell if she was
rearranging eggs or feeding chicks. No chick noises, though.
The dove still sitting. Of course, it's impossible to tell when dove
chicks hatch since they are silent and motionless until nearly ready
Mocker perched on the edge of the nest again, but this time we saw the
chicks. She hunted about four bugs for them in quick succession, then
disappeared. Amazing how little time the mocker spends in this nest
compared to the dove, who's always there.
One mockingbird chick tentatively seen on the edge of the nest.
The mockingbird chicks have fledged. I say "chicks" but I've actually
only seen one, hopping around the upper branches of the pyrocantha. It
doesn't seem to be able to fly yet, and still looks very fuzzy and
And the dove-mom, never flitting,
Still is sitting, still is sitting ...
Drama outside the bedroom window this morning. Apparently there was a
chick down in the neighbor's back yard, and I was awakened by
squawking as both mockingbird parents buzzed something in the yard
just on the other side of the fence.
This went on for about an hour, with breaks for a few minutes every so
often. Then the harrassment abruptly stopped. I don't know whether
whatever it is they were attacking (a cat? I didn't hear any barking,
so I think the dogs were away) went away, or got the chick. But it's
possible the chick may still be okay. A little while later I heard
some tentative singing, and about an hour later there was a little bit
of squawking aimed at a different part of the neighbor's back yard.
My hope is that the chick is slowly making its way out of the yard.
I haven't seen any more sign of mockingbird chicks, but I heard
outside the living room window something that sounded remarkably
like a mocker chick and an adult talking to it. So I think at least
one chick survived.
The dove, incredibly, is still sitting on the nest. It's possible that
there are chicks in there too, but I haven't been able to spot any.
Incredibly, I think there are actually dovelets in the nest.
I had pretty much decided that it must be time for the dove to give up
sitting and go get a life, but I'm seeing vague signs of movement in
the nest, and slightly different behavior from the sitting dove.
Doves sure are patient.
Tonight when we got home from dinner, we were greeted at the gate by a
baby bird hopping around on the driveway. In the dim light it was hard
to tell what it was, but probably a sparrow or house finch -- too
small for a mockingbird fledgeling.
And fledgeling it was: after regarding us for a short time it flitted
unsteadily into the top of a nearby bush, which seemed to us like a
much better place for a birdlet to spend the night than the
There are indeed dovelets in the nest. Looks like two again, though
it's hard to see them clearly. The parents look tired; one of them
spent part of the afternoon sitting on the deck, out in the open, and
didn't move when we walked by. (It wasn't hurt, though; I kept an eye
on it through the office window in case I needed to shoo away cats,
and it eventually flew weakly up to join its mate in the guava tree.)
The dovelets are sitting up in the nest and looking very
alert. Probably only a few more days left to fledging.
The parents are no longer sitting with them, and are up cooing
on the wire.
No dovelets in the nest! I found them in the corner of the yard, the
same corner that the previous pair liked so much. They stayed there
Like the previous pair, there's one that looks like a miniature
mourning dove, and a second with a scaly pattern.
But in early afternoon, they were gone. A whiff of cat poo in the air
There was one dovelet in the corner of the yard this morning. I
haven't seen the other, but at least one (the scaly one) survived.
Haven't seen any dovelets since the morning of the 3rd.
[ 23:15 Aug 05, 2005
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Mon, 01 Aug 2005
Another in the series of "I keep forgetting how to do this and
have to figure it out again each time, so this time I'm going to
write it down!"
Enabling remote X in a distro that disables it by default:
Of course, you need xhost. For testing, xhost +
enables access from any machine; once everything is working, you
may want to be selective, xhost hostname for the hosts from
which you're likely to want to connect.
If you log in to the console and start X, check
/etc/X11/xinit/xserverrc and see if it starts X with the
-nolisten flag. This is usually the problem, at least on
Debian derivatives: remove the -nolisten tcp.
If you log in using gdm, gdmconfig has an option in the
Security tab: "Always disallow TCP connections to X server
(disables all remote connections)". Un-checking this solves the
problem, but logging out won't be enough to see the change.
You must restart X; Ctrl-Alt-Backspace will do that.
Update: If you use kdm, the configuration to change is in
[ 13:52 Aug 01, 2005
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