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Posts Tagged ‘about me’

Switch to self-hosted blog

Posted by isilanes on February 25, 2008

This blog moves to: handyfloss.net.

This weekend I signed up for a hosting service with DreamHost. By the way, I used a promo code from dh.promo-codes.us.

Along with the hosting, I obtained a free domain, which allows me for a shorter blog name, which is: handyfloss.net.

I am in the process of moving my stuff there. Moving the posts and comments was easy. Probably statistics are not transferable (maybe it wouldn’t make sense, anyway), and other things like widgets and the blogroll seem to have to be moved by hand. Oh, and obviously I have to work with the theme (the most important thing in any web :^)

I will not write here anymore (I’ll leave it behind, as I left isilanes.blogspot.com), so you will be able to follow my new posts at handyfloss.net. Expect theme/widget/whatever changes there for a while, until I settle down a bit. It was fun to be here at WordPress.com, and I hope the fun goes on with the WordPress.org software (the one that powers my handyfloss.net blog) on DreamHost (or anywhere else).

See you there!


Posted in my ego and me | Tagged: , , | 11 Comments »

Filelight makes my day

Posted by isilanes on February 7, 2008

First of all: yes, this could have been made with du. Filelight is just more visual.

The thing is that yesterday I noticed that my root partition was a bit on the crowded side (90+%). I though it could be because of /var/cache/apt/archives/, where all the installed .deb files reside, and started purging some unneeded installed packages (very few… I only install what I need). However, I decided to double check, and Filelight has given me the clue:


(click to enlarge)

Some utter disaster in a printing job filled the /var/spool/cups/tmp/ with 1.5GB of crap! After deleting it, my root partition is back to 69% full, which is normal (I partitioned my disk with 3 roots of 7.5GB (for three simultaneous OS installations, if need be), a /home of 55GB, and a secondary disk of 250GB).

Simple problem, simple solution.

Posted in my ego and me | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

App of the week: digiKam

Posted by isilanes on February 6, 2008

As digital cameras get more and more common, and personal photo collections grow bigger, solutions for managing all these images are more and more needed.

I bought my first digital camera (a Nikon CoolPix 2500) almost 4 years ago (now I see the model was 1 year old when I bought my unit), and now I own a Panasonic Lumix DMC FX10 I’m so happy with. I obviously have the need outlined above, plus the desire to sometimes share some pictures over the web. I didn’t want to go for something like Picasa, and made a lengthy Perl/Tk script to generate HTML albums from some info I would introduce.

When I later discovered digiKam, I realized it had all the features I wanted. It is incredibly useful to tag your pictures, so that you can later on retrieve, say, “all the pictures in which my father appears”. It also has many other features, like easy access to image manipulation (of which I only use the rotation for photos requiring it), or ordering of the pictures by date, so you can see how many pictures were taken each month. The humble, but for me killer, features is that you can automatically generate HTML albums from a list of pictures, which can be selected e.g. by their tags.

Give it a try, and you’ll love it.

Posted in Application of the Week | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Reflexión repentina y aleatoria

Posted by isilanes on February 1, 2008

Hay muy pocos problemas que los ordenadores no puedan solucionar. Y casi ninguno que no puedan crear.

Posted in my ego and me | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

I hit 30k tracks played

Posted by isilanes on January 25, 2008

I keep track of what pieces of music I listen to through last.fm since June 2006. This can be done automatically for you with Amarok, if you configure it to. As you can see in the following screenshot, I just listened to 30,000 tracks in this time!

last.fm 30k songs

(click to enlarge)

I listen to music continuously while I work, and I also count the music I listen at home too, so that’s why I have heard an average of 50-60 songs per day.

Posted in my ego and me | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Graphical = good and command line = bad?

Posted by isilanes on January 15, 2008

It is not uncommon to hear (mostly from Windows users berating Linux and its “useless console”) that one of the benefits of Windows is that everything can be done through a GUI. After all, clicking on icons and finding stuff in menus is more intuitive, and everything is easier that way. In contrast, with Linux you have to “type an awful lot of things, which is boring, slow, and difficult. And ugly”.

Now, don’t get me wrong, GUIs are great. I quite like them. What annoys me is the lack of command-line interface for some tasks. Both GUIs and CLIs have their place in computer use, and the wise should use each when appropriate. In this post I will try to illustrate a case where the automation allowed by using the CLI and some scripting is largely missed. The user (me) is forced to use an “intuitive” GUI, with the result that my patience takes a direct hit below the flotation line.

The first task I faced was to plot some orbitals of a molecule. The data for each orbital is saved in one file, and I am running a program that can read them and plot the given orbital (Molekel).

The following YouTube video, made by myself, shows the process of plotting 2 orbitals (I had to plot 17). Notice that, due to the program running so slow, the process takes around 1 minute per orbital!

Notice also that all the previous work has been done: choosing the colors of the background, atoms and orbitals, choosing the orientation, opening the atomic geometry… The comprehensive list of what to do for each orbital follows, with each line preceded by the point in time (seconds) when it happens:

  1. 00.00 – Click on “Delete surface” to remove previous orbital
  2. 07.80 – Click on “Load” to load a new orbital
  3. 12.67 – Choose a file from the dialog window, and click on “Accept” to load it
  4. 30.27 – Click on “Both signs”, because we want both positive and negative part of the orbital
  5. 31.33 – Introduce a value for the isosurface (0.05) in the “cutoff” box
  6. 33.13 – Click on “Create surface” to have Molekel render the isosurface
  7. 37.33 – Isosurface appears
  8. 37.93 – From a drop-down menu (called with right-click of the mouse), choose Snapshot -> RGB
  9. 52.66 – “Save as” dialog box appears
  10. 62.73 – Introduce filename for snapshot, and click “Accept”
  11. 65.00 – We’re done, and can repeat the process for the next orbital

One can’t help but notice that 65 seconds are needed to make eight clicks and introduce a short text in two boxes! The issue is that human attention is necessary during the whole 65 seconds, because the time between actions is too short to do something else in between (although long enough to get on your nerves, like the full 15 seconds to have the “Save as” dialog appear).

Another obvious point is that from the two short texts introduced by the user, one (the value of the isosurface) is always the same, and only the other (the name of the file to save the snapshot as) varies. Also, only one click of the 8 we do is ever different (the choice of orbital file to read). It would be nice to have a robot do this task, the only data we would have to feed it being a list of orbitals (to read, and then to save a snapshot). But we can’t. We are stuck with this sluggish process!

In contrast, I will next show a case where some automation was made. The process is that of cropping the snapshots taken in the previous step (the Molekel thing). Sure, we could use GIMP, or some other GUI tool, but applying exactly the same process to a list of 17 images (and this is a short list, it could have been 1000) is the kind of thing that cringes for automation.

The following video shows the process:

Recall that it takes 4 minutes to process ALL the images. This may not sound like a huge improvement over the 18:25 that it (in principle) took the process above (17 x 65 sec). However, the time spent with Molekel scales linearly with the number of orbitals. 100 orbitals would need almost 2h. The automated cropping process would have taken more than 4 minutes, but only slightly more: maybe 5 or 6.

Also notice that the 4 minutes are full of decisions, and there is no repetitive, unnecessary task (except the fact of committing errors). Let’s take a look at the actions taken during the 4 minutes:

  1. 00:11.00 – Open a Perl script I had half-done (another benefit of automation: you can reuse old stuff)
  2. 00:17.87 – Shade window to take a look at the number and name of files to process
  3. 00:21.33 – Change script accordingly
  4. 00:47.93 – Save changes
  5. 00:51.60 – Back to the CLI, and run the script
  6. 00:55.00 – Ups, nothing happened!
  7. 00:58.27 – Reopen the script, and look for the error
  8. 01:05.53 – Found it. Fix it.
  9. 01:07.33 – Save and execute
  10. 01:06.87 – It works!
  11. 01:13.00 – Finished running (0.36 sec per picture)
  12. 01:21.73 – Open a cropped image in viewer
  13. 01:22.93 – Realized the crop is wrong!
  14. 01:30.73 – Alt-Tab to script file, to modify it
  15. 01:55.67 – Save and execute again
  16. 02:11.73 – Open the cropped images. The first one seems to be OK!
  17. 02:29.80 – We reach one that is wrong
  18. 02:34.20 – Back to the script, and fix it
  19. 02:45.07 – Save, and back to CLI to re-run
  20. 02:53.00 – Reopen in image viewer
  21. 02:56.00 – Cropped part is not centered!
  22. 03:02.00 – Back to the script, and fix it
  23. 03:12.33 – Save and re-run
  24. 03:19.73 – Reopen in image viewer
  25. 03:27.87 – Yet another error: an image could have been cropped more, to hide an unwanted part
  26. 03:32.40 – Back to the script
  27. 03:40.80 – Rerun
  28. 03:47.13 – Reopen images
  29. 03:59.93 – See that all of them are correct. Stop and rest

Recall also that if I were to repeat both processes tomorrow, the image cropping would simply require to run the script again (0.36 seconds per image, and you can do something else in between, if you have 1000 images and don’t want to waste time waiting). The creation of the orbitals, on the other hand, would require to repeat the whole process again!! (65 seconds per orbital, plus you have to spend that time paying attention to the process. You can not run something and go away). And the whole problem with the creation of the orbitals is that there is no command-line way of doing it, to be able to automate it.

Posted in Free software and related beasts | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Flash: better without Flash

Posted by isilanes on January 6, 2008

Remember my previous post about a problem with Flash in Firefox/Iceweasel? Now the second part.

After following my own instructions, I ended up with a Flash instalation that could play YouTube videos correctly, but some other Flash animations would not work. By chance, my computer at work would reproduce any Flash animation just fine, so… why would that be?

To find out the reason, I have compared what Flash-related packages I have installed in Homer (my computer at work) and Heracles (the one at home). The result is quite surprising:

Homer[~]: aptitude search flash
p   flashplayer-mozilla       - Macromedia Flash Player
p   flashrom                  - Universal flash programming utility
p   flashybrid                - automates use of a flash disk as the root filesystem
p   libflash-dev              - GPL Flash (SWF) Library - development files
p   libflash-mozplugin        - GPL Flash (SWF) Library - Mozilla-compatible plugin
p   libflash-swfplayer        - GPL Flash (SWF) Library - stand-alone player
p   libflash0c2               - GPL Flash (SWF) Library - shared library
p   libroxen-flash2           - Flash2 module for the Roxen Challenger web server
p   m16c-flash                - Flash programmer for Renesas M16C and R8C microcontrollers
p   vrflash                   - tool to flash kernels and romdisks to Agenda VR
Homer[~]: aptitude search swf
p   libflash-swfplayer        - GPL Flash (SWF) Library - stand-alone player
p   libswf-perl               - Ming (SWF) module for Perl
p   libswfdec-0.5-4           - SWF (Macromedia Flash) decoder library
p   libswfdec-0.5-4-dbg       - SWF (Macromedia Flash) decoder library
p   libswfdec-0.5-dev         - SWF (Macromedia Flash) decoder library
v   libswfdec-dev             -
p   pyvnc2swf                 - screen recording tool to SWF movie
v   swf-player                -
p   swfdec-mozilla            - Mozilla plugin for SWF files (Macromedia Flash)
p   swfmill                   - xml2swf and swf2xml processor

Yes, Flash works perfectly at Homer because it has no package installed with swf or flash in their name! And I don’t have any Gnash package installed, either. I removed all swf/flash-related packages on Heracles, and now Flash works perfectly in my home computer too.

Posted in howto | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

rip2ogg released

Posted by isilanes on December 19, 2007

I have released (how pretentious!) rip2ogg.py, the wonderful CD ripper everyone was waiting for. You can check its “home page” at www.ehu.es/isilanes.

Why did I do it? Well, one of the wonderful tools GNU/Linux provides to rip CDs is KAudioCreator, which is very neat. However, it has some shortcomings I wanted to overcome (again, how pretentious!):

  1. It’s slow. It rips the CD to WAV and encodes the ripped WAVs to Ogg in parallel, while rip2ogg.py does both things sequentially. Yet rip2ogg.py is 40% faster! I have ripped a whole CD in 14 minutes with KAC, and in 10 minutes with r2o.
  2. You can not have arbitrary character substitution, just one, and the interface for that is horrible. For example, with KAC it’s very simple to substitute every blank in the track name with an underscore. BUT I have found no way to provide KAC with two lists, so that it substitutes every character in the first list with the corresponding character(s) in the second list.
  3. You can change the track title to get a “nice” filename for the Ogg, but the change is also reflected in the “track tile” tag. You can not tell KAC to substitute a “ñ” in the title for a “n” in the filename, but to keep the “ñ” in the “tag title” tag.
  4. KAC is not able to rip all CDs. It sometimes chokes on DRM‘d CDs, and copes horribly with scratched surfaces. In contrast, the programs rip2ogg.py uses to rip have never failed for me. More than once command-line was my only way of ripping some rogue CDs. KAC simply couldn’t.

In the end, it all boils down to be able to control what the ripper is doing. To do so, I decided to make this simple script.

Obviously it is FLOSS (GPLv2), so use, modify and redistribute to your heart’s content!

Posted in Free software and related beasts | Tagged: , , , | 9 Comments »

Compiz Fusion on an integrated Intel 865G graphics chip under Debian Lenny

Posted by isilanes on December 14, 2007

Blog moved to: handyfloss.net

Entry available at: http://handyfloss.net/2007.12/compiz-fusion-on-an-integrated-intel-865g-graphics-chip/

This YouTube video shows Compiz Fusion running on my work computer. It has a fairly decent CPU (P4 3.00GHz), but no “useless” things like sound cards or (more relevant for this issue) graphics card. The only thing it has is an Intel 82865G graphics chip integrated in the motherboard. We are talking about an integrated chip (not dedicated graphics card) released in May 2003.

Judge the performance for yourself (take into account that the actual performance is higher, since the recording program to make the video also uses up some resources):

Posted in Free software and related beasts | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Blackout summary IX

Posted by isilanes on December 11, 2007

Yesterday morning, a new failure from Iberdrola turned the power supply of the whole campus off. So, here goes the updated list of blackouts I have been able to compile, with comments if any:

  1. 2007-Dec-10 (I used the reboot of my computer to install kernel 2.6.22-3)
  2. 2007-Oct-16
  3. 2007-Aug-27 (at least three short power failures, 5-10 minutes apart)
  4. 2007-May-19
  5. 2006-Oct-21 (they warned beforehand)
  6. 2006-Sep-14 (Orpheus fell, the DNSs fell, the DHCP servers fell)
  7. 2006-Jul-04 (Orpheus didn’t fall)
  8. 2006-Jun-16
  9. 2006-Jun-13
  10. 2006-Jun-08
  11. 2006-Jun-04
  12. 2006-May-26 (The card-based automated access to the Faculty broke down)
  13. 2005-Dec-21
  14. 2005-Dec-13

Summary: 14 blackouts in 728 days, or 52 dpb (days per blackout). 56 days since last blackout. Average dpb went up by 0.3.

First post in the series: here

Posted in This evil world | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »