The news is out now, that Wellington will be hosting LCA 2010. As someone on the core team for that (potential sponsors please contact me sooner rather than later :-) I really hope we can do something as awesome as the current week we've had here in Hobart.
Thanks to all of the Hobart team for doing a great job.
As with most of the photos I have put on Wikimedia Commons it is released under PD-Self, so it will be interesting whether he chooses to credit me or not.
He seems to have a pretty good argument, and I hope that this gets visibility and acceptance in the legal community over time. The free software audience is pretty sympathetic, of course.
LCA is once again proving it's premiere status as one of the top free & open source software conferences in the world. Our hosts in Hobart are well-organised and friendly, and though I've been locked into the Systems Administration miniconf by virtue of being one of the organisers, what I've been hearing from the other delegates with the freedom to sample other streams is that all of the miniconfs have once again achieved the high standards that we've come to expect from the conference.
Right now I'm in the keynote by Tom Limoncelli who's giving us all a good kick in the proverbial, to switch us to the mindset of plenty, and to see beyond limited scarcity. Wonderful stuff. Linux == Infinite Love :-)
Tomorrow will be a challenging day, herding the kids through the airports to get to Hobart for a holiday in Tasmania before linux.conf.au 2009 in a couple more weeks.
Sadly I didn't get the DAViCal release out over Christmas that I'd hoped for, and realistically I should face up to the fact that I won't have much chance to push it out until I get back...
Still, it might happen, so don't lose hope! And if you're desperate the current Git head is pretty safe too - so long as you use the head for AWL as well.
I'll only have sporadic net access (until LCA anyway), and my cellphone won't reach me at all, so I guess the world will have to get along without me for a few weeks :-)
Have a Happy New Year - we won't be partying tonight, with a 4:00am start in the morning!
I had to visit two sites today and got what I consider to be amusing responses from them. Firstly I had to visit NZ Post to get them to hold our mail while we will be away.
Life is always a bit of a gamble, but I wasn't expecting NZ Post to be making their website into a lottery like this. It seems that they're trying to statistically limit the number of people who are allowed to have their mail held, because I got to see this little gem:
What are fruit companies trying to achieve by putting stickers on their fruit? I remember as a child when these first appeared on oranges and bananas, and I can cope with this because in these cases the sticker disappears without any inconvenience to the consumer when the skin is discarded.
When Heather designed a logo for me for Morphoss she did it with a bitmap editor, naturally enough because that's the tool she's most familiar with using. I'd rather not use a bitmap as the source format for the logo though, because it will degrade when it gets resized, so I redrew it as a vector graphic.
One of the best free, open-source tools around for vector graphics seems to be Inkscape and I've mucked around with it for many years, so I naturally used that.
Once you have a logo though, you naturally want to use it in documents, and the importing of SVG graphics into OpenOffice.org documents is a long-outstanding bug (let alone embedding SVG graphics) so I needed to convert them to another format. It's actually the most requested feature in OOo, appearing twice in the top 10, and even spawning an external SVG importer project.
Since both programs support encapsulated postscript I was able to save the logo from Inkscape as .eps and use it directly in OpenOffice.org. While this initially seemed satisfactory, after a few weeks of using documents with the .eps logo embedded in them I started to get annoyed with the strange pauses when my CPU was maxed out while paging up and down. I was sure that that had not happened in the past when I was using a logo in WMF format, which OOo inevitably has to support well for compatibility with other Office Suites.
After some searching around for more complicated ways to convert SVG or EPS to WMF, I discovered that what I could do was simply to open the EPS in OpenOffice.org draw, and save it from there as a WMF. This seems to work well, for my purposes anyway, so now when I use my logo in my OpenOffice.org documents I don't see any annoying slowdown paging up and down within the document, and I didn't have to download the SVG importer for OpenOffice.org either.
Well alright, I did download the SVG importer as well, but my logo didn't look nearly so good without it's text, and with everything displaced up and to the right at various offsets!
I really have to feel sorry for the people who run Tan-Y-Bryn, self-contained accommodation in Hobart, Tasmania. I booked this place for the second half of January next year because it looked so well-priced for such a great place to stay while we're at LCA as well, as the week we'll just hang around Hobart afterwards.
Unfortunately for both of us, it seems they forgot to note somewhere on some booking site that they were full for that period, and they got a booking through some high-handed booking organisation who said they were liable for AUD$1000 if they refused it. So they cancelled on me, as the easier & cheaper option. A step that wasn't taken lightly, to read the agonised e-mail they wrote me in the small hours of the next morning.
After a few years of only buying laptops with Intel hardware, today I bought something totally different. It's not really what I wanted (which was an HP HDX 16t) but I get the feeling that none of these 16" HD 1080 laptops will make it to New Zealand for a while yet, and the NZ dollar has done such a nosedive recently that it's better not to wait any longer.
In the places that hold stock there seem to be some good specials around at the moment, and as the owner of a new free, open-source consulting business (i.e: a cheap bastard) I went shopping for the cheapest dual-core I could find with a half-decent screen, and I found the Asus X53K for $999 (USD$589) at Dick Smith, including a 2G ram upgrade to take it to 3G. It's entirely non-intel, with a 2GHz Turion dual-core, ATI Radeon X2300 with 1440x900 panel, Atheros AR2425 wifi and 160G HD. I'd bought a replacement 320G hard drive even before I got the laptop, so now I have a pristine, unbooted 160G hard drive with the install files for some other OS on it - no doubt I'll find a use for the disk, at least!
Since AMD got ATI to release all their chip documentation earlier this year I felt able to shell out for this, rather than the extra $100 for the model next to it, and it was nice too to get home and find that Atheros have recently released the HAL for their a/b/g chips. Which presumably means that they haven't done so for their 'n' chipsets, and I should continue to steer clear of that technology for a while yet...
I'm running Debian GNU/Linux 'Sid' on the Asus X53K and, everything pretty much just works out of the box. My installation process was to rsync the old laptop onto a new disk, and boot the new laptop from that - after compiling a new kernel more appropriate to the changed hardware.
After overcoming my own stupidity in not syncing the /dev/ underneath udev, which I easily googled my way out of, the only problem I've found so far is that the free radeon driver doesn't do 3d for me. Presumably the non-free ones would, but they won't compile against my 2.6.27 kernel so I don't know for sure. Fortunately I don't use 3d for anything so it's not a huge inconvenience to me. With 3G RAM and a fast 320G hard drive the laptop actually is an upgrade for me, too, and it has a webcam too, which I expect I'll look at in much the same way as I did the fingerprint reader on the old laptop. It will be good to finally hand that old one back to Catalyst, too, who have given me the flexibility to take my time on this.
Now to try and peel off all these stickers without damaging anything!
It is nice to see someone apologising for their planned failure to consider Linux users. It's ridiculous that they even have to. It seems to me that these people have spent way too much effort on making the logo and menus scroll in from the left and right of the screen, and not enought effort on the actual functionality of their website.
Since I have a nice word number for my phone (027 2 DEBIAN) I wanted to keep it when I left Catalyst so I went to a Vodafone dealer to ask them to change the name on the account. It seems that this is not easy. I actually ended up going to two different Vodafone dealers to try and arrange for this, but they both seemed to be telling me it would be expensive and complicated, and I would lose service for up to a week in the middle of the changeover.
What is relatively easy is to sign up with a different phone company and port my number across to them, so that's what's happening. Hopefully all of the number portability problems I encountered last year are gone now!
I suspect that the Vodafone sales staff were trying to discourage me, because they sell on commission, and there's no commission in moving a phone to a different account.
Since leaving Catalyst to follow my interests there seem to be a neverending number of organisations e-mailing to my old e-mail address, which I have to go through to update to a new e-mail address. This evening it was Air New Zealand's turn.
Going through their update form, I noticed a few other little details were wrong, and they had a couple of my pet hates down pat:
- My surname was spelled 'Mcmillan' rather than 'McMillan'
- My city was down as 'Wellington' rather than 'Porirua'
For no particularly good reason that I can see, they don't provide me with the ability to edit my surname. I have to ring some 0800 number, and I was kind of all 0800ed out having had to ring TelstraClear earlier. (To question their sense in wanting to deliver a password for an e-mail account to that same e-mail account... but that's another story...)
I can at least correct the city, though, right?
Writing free, open-source software is an incredibly public activity. Everything you do is in the public eye, and google will inevitably discover your site, and then other people will find your software, and download it, and this is a good thing. It's why you're doing it, after all, and it's so nice to receive those occasional 'Thank you for your software' e-mails. There are occasional exceptions, however.
Today's practical exercise is to demonstrate your skills responding to the annual student exercise question, like this one, following on to finish a real exchange while still retaining your sanity to the maximum extent possible. Humour will receive bonus points.
Here goes. First up, we have an e-mail arriving out of the blue which looks like this:
how to run the caldav server in window i have download it from the http://wiki.davical.org/
After 11 years 1 month and 28 days it's time for me to farewall Catalyst IT. While this is something that I've been working towards for the last couple of years, my reasons for leaving don't reflect any large dissatisfaction with Catalyst, but rather my own disinterest in fulfillling a role which is deemed appropriate to an executive director of the company it has become. As well, it is Catalyst's current and continuing success which provides me with the opportunity to fade out, like the cheshire cat, without the need to have strong plans.
I do believe that the use and understanding of free and open-source software in New Zealand has matured to a point where there is the potential for an independent to make a few dollars reviewing or planning for open source projects in corporate and government areas. I hope I'll find out.
And a great big thank you to every one of you — staff, clients, suppliers and friends — who has made Catalyst such a fantastic place to be a part of. It really will be a hard act to follow.