Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Driving Like A Java Programmer

This afternoon when I drove home from a retail park I drove the slightly longer way, because I knew it would be easier to turn right out of the other exit and I would have three blocks to cross three lanes of traffic instead of less than one. And as I did that, I thought to myself 'I'm driving like a Java programmer' - that is, it took longer to get home, but it was easier to get there, less stressful and I was less likely to crash. While the average Calgary driver drives like a C programmer. Or maybe an assembly coder. Still, I prefer driving in England where there are higher speed limits and less potholes, traffic lights, four way stops and snow. And where I own a Golf GTI instead of just a GL. And I get to drive it again next week, 'cos that's when I go home. But I'll be back in Calgary sometime next year - once it starts to get less cold.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Sudoku Solver

This afternoon I wrote a sudoku solver in Prolog. I haven't written a Prolog programme since I was at university nearly ten years ago, so it's a bit of a brute force attack really. I tested it on small grids to start with and it worked ok, but on a full sudoku so far it's taken three hundred and ninety-eight minutes and hasn't returned a result. I'll leave it going overnight, but if it hasn't worked it out by morning I'm giving up. Since I have no desire to learn how to code in Prolog properly. I could probably write something in Java to solve it in a few seconds. (That is, the solving would take a few seconds, not the writing.)

Friday, November 18, 2005

I'm Engaged

I got engaged a week ago yesterday. I haven't blogged about it until now because I wanted to tell people personally first. But it's official - I'm engaged to Naomi and will be marrying her here in Calgary next July. Hooray!

Friday, November 04, 2005

SUSE's KHelpCenter

I just accidentally hit F1 while in konqueror, and instead of the ugly help centre I usually see when I do that, I saw this. At first I thought SUSE had replaced the help centre with their own manuals, but then I realised they'd just changed the style of KDE's help pages. It's amazing how much different a bit of styling can make. It makes the help centre look a lot more friendly and helpful, and I might actually use it in future. Which is silly I know, because it still has the same content! I guess I subconsciously think 'these must be professionally written, useful help files. I will do well here', because it looks good, whereas before I was thinking 'these help files are geeky files. I'm not reading these. I'm going to Azerbaizhan'.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


My Wacom tablet has always been a little unstable on my computer. If I unplug it and replug it in I have to restart X. Sometimes I knock the cable and it makes linux think it was unplugged, and I have to restart X. And now, since coming to Canada, sometimes I get a little too much static on me and it zaps the tablet, and I have to restart X.

But I've found a way to avoid restarting X. At last! I knew it should be possible, because it said it was in the linuxwacom documentation, but I've never been able to before. And just now when my tablet got zapped again I tried to recompile the evdev module, but found that in SUSE it's not compiled as a module, so I can't. And then I saw that in SUSE they already, apparently, have the modifications compiled in anyway. Strange that my tablet doesn't reconnect then. So I unplugged it, removed the wacom module from memory and replugged it in. Still no joy. So I switched to a VT and then back to X and look - my cursor is moving again!

Now all I need to do is see if it's possible to write a script which will do all that automatically. Except I'd rather it re-enabled the pointer in X without switching to a VT first.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


I installed SUSE 10 last week. The day afterwards my backlight broke, so I've been unable to play with it. It now seems to be working if I keep the brightness right down, but I'll have to buy a new tube soon.

However, SUSE 10 is great - everything just works. Well, everything except multimedia, but after installing a few packman packages it's running like a dream. It boots and logs in far faster than it used to, and the gnome stuff seems to be integrated with KDE better than before, so when I run gimp and inkscape it's not quite such a chore any more. I'm gradually being converted to using Krita instead, but at the moment gimp is still the winner.

For anyone that's interested in the rest of my life: Calgary seems like a nice enough place. They do a lots of things in a strange way over here, but I'm getting used to it. It's great to be around Naomi again after her six months working on a cruise ship. And her cable internet seems to be a six meg line. Nice! I should be getting myself a VW Golf in a week or so - hopefully before it starts to snow too much here.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


I know it's not in fashion to love AJAX at the moment if you're a real programmer, but I do. Why? Because it's such a cobbled together heap of junk, and everyone is using it. And everyone else is going 'this is rubbish, let's think of something better', and I reckon before too long someone will actually design a proper solution. All because we have AJAX, which sucks, and I love it.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Nearly There

Woohoo! Only one week and I'm in Calgary! I can't wait! I like exclamation marks!

I haven't had much chance to play with KDE or SUSE recently - too much time working and preparing to leave the country. I found time to install SUSE 10 RC1 OSS on my desktop machine, which didn't work properly, but then changed its mind and works really nicely now. I'll almost definitely be upgrading my laptop to v10 when it's released.

Sometimes I look through the KDE bug list and close bugs which aren't in the latest release of KDE with WORKSFORME (although I've not closed many). 'Am I right to do this?' I wonder to myself, hoping someone on the planet might know.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Delta ISOs on SuSE 9.2

I'm downloading the openSUSE beta4 delta ISOs, but I'm using SuSE 9.2 which doesn't have applydeltaiso in the deltarpm package. If you're in that situation too, here's what to do: Just download the SuSE 9.3 version of deltarpm from ftp.suse.com, and install it instead. Or, if you don't want to risk messing up your nice 9.2 system with odd packages from 9.3, install it like this: 'sudo rpm -ivh --relocate /=/home/james/opt/93stuff/ deltarpm-2.2-3.i586.rpm' (with the path changed for your system of course), and then copy /home/james/opt/93stuff/usr/bin/applydeltaiso to somewhere nice (/usr/local/bin sounds sensible, although I used /home/james/opt/bin) and it should all work. It may also work on non-SuSE systems. Who knows? Anyway, it should save a bit of bandwidth, and hopefully I'll actually find time to install this beta.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Yamaha SY85 Keyboard For Sale

I've just listed a Yamaha SY85 Workstation Keyboard for sale on ebay. Want it? Go and bid huge amounts for it then, so I can afford to buy a big rock for my fiancée to be!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Hello Planet SUSE

I'm now syndicated on Planet KDE and Planet SUSE - the second person to appear on both planets. Does that make me an interplanetary blogger or something? Anyway, I thought it was about time another KDE user appeared on Planet SUSE, since it was starting to look a bit like Planet Gnome/Ubuntu recently! I'm currently downloading the third beta of openSUSE which should be done by the end of the weekend. I've had a few more of my bug reports fixed since the last beta, so it should be one of the easiest distros to install on my laptop by the time I'm finished with it.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

openSUSE beta 2

Two and a half days of bittorrenting, and I have the five installation CDs for openSUSE beta 2. Very pleased to see a whole slew of my bug reports have been closed since beta 1 - including extra animation in various splash screens which helps you know the computer hasn't crashed when it's sitting there looking like it's doing nothing. And KDE is now listed first in the choice between KDE and Gnome, which is an improvement, although if my Dad were installing openSUSE he would probably still phone me up at that point because he wouldn't know which one is the right one to choose.

The wireless card still didn't work - the typo I found in the ifup script is still there, despite being reported as fixed in bugzilla. Perhaps they didn't fix it in time for the new beta. And I found another typo which caused my WEP key to be ignored. (I have to use WEP so my Symbol Pocket PC will work on the network).

But now it's all up and running and it's very nice. Looks like it'll be enough to keep me sticking with SUSE for another few years. I mean, there's not a lot different from old SUSE on the surface - some nicer graphics and stuff like that. But I think there is some hardware configuration that goes on differently, since I have everything working on my laptop now and I only had to fiddle with the wireless. And on the final version even that should work. And their version of KDE is close enough to a clean install to not annoy me.

(What's up with blogger and planet KDE? If I post a message I get slashes and chevrons at the end of my paragraphs. So I'm having to use the Edit HTML version of the story poster. Which is also rubbish, because if I leave blank lines it adds extra paragraph tags to my html code. Yuk!)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

When Linux Is Mainstream

I had a horrible thought the other day: If Linux becomes a mainstream desktop operating system, will people like Canon and Nokia start producing horrible skinned featurelight applications for Linux to work with their hardware? And when they start doing that, will the Linux hackers stop making nice integrated solutions because there are alreay solutions which just about do the job?

And then I had a nice thought: Perhaps third party vendors will start producing nice integrated KDE applications which do things the KDE way. Which would be very nice.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


I downloaded openSUSE a couple of nights ago - set my work machine to download on our new two megabit line overnight, and had four ISOs ready and waiting in the morning. Last night I swapped out my laptop harddrive and installed openSUSE on the spare. I love the new graphics during boot and install, but the most of the install process doesn't seem to have changed that much - except for offering KDE and Gnome as choices, instead of defaulting to KDE. It didn't explain to a newbie what the difference was though, and why they really should choose KDE rather than Gnome (evil grin).

During the installation I made a list of eleven bugs, usability issues or enhancement suggestions which I duly entered into bugzilla, and was impressed to see that rate at which those bug reports are being resolved.

Once it was installed I tried to get my wireless card to work. I got ndiswrapper working fine, but openSUSE's network scripts were faulty, so I didn't manage to get connected to the internet. And at that point it was one in the morning, so I swapped the drives back and went to bed.

Once installed there wasn't much visibly different from SuSE 9.2, mainly due to both using KDE 3.4.2, so I expect most differences would come in things like hardware support, and up-to-dateness of the core packages. And things like hal and dbus. I expect it would be a good platform for me to use when developing KDE 4, since I won't have to spend half my time trying to update things. And if I can develop KDE 4 on openSUSE, I can make sure the two work together really well. Which would be nice.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Sticking with SUSE

I've decided to stick with SUSE after all. Since I have years of experience with its idiosyncratic ways of doing things. I mean, I love learning new things, but it's a shame to waste the knowledge I've already acquired. And now, with openSUSE in the wild, maybe I'll see if I can help SUSE continue to be the best distribution for KDE.

Monday, August 01, 2005


I thought that since I'm now on PlanetKDE I'd better get working on KDE again. So I've just fixed a few bits of KMix which didn't work properly on my twinview setup. And you know what? It was really easy - and that inspires me to do more coding. I'm going to find other irritating twinview problems and fix them before 3.5 comes out, since I'm going to be stuck using it for quite a while until 4 arrives, so it'd be nice for it to work well.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Playing With Distros

The last few days I've been trying out Kubuntu and Fedora Core, whereas my distribution of choice has been SuSE since version 6 or so. I thought I'd comment on the experience. Incidentally, this is not a review, it's just some uneducated comments about installing and setting up those distributions. So no posting this on Slashdot and then flaming me, ok?


First impressions: Text mode installation - does the job, but looks pretty ugly: bad. Didn't ask me which packages I wanted to install - just went ahead and put a default set on: not sure if that's good or bad. Detected my dell laptop display without asking me any questions: good. KDE's defaults didn't look very nice: indifferent - I've never found a distribution which makes KDE look nice yet. Had a nice KDE network control panel: good. Couldn't work out how to make my wireless card work: bad. Didn't give me a root password, and I had to use another computer to google for the answer: bad. The fonts looked ugly - it wasn't using the freetype bytecode interpreter: bad. Plugged in my memory stick and it appeared on the desktop with a sensible name: good (SuSE doesn't put it on the screen, and calls it something like usb-p0-0023932746593249). Couldn't find many nice GUI tools to set things up with: bad.

Fedora Core

Nicest installer I've seen: very good. Nice boot screen: good, but not as good as SuSE - you still get a lot of text before it goes graphical. Needed me to select the laptop display: indifferent - until Kubuntu I wouldn't have expected any different. Default setup of KDE actually looks reasonably nice, although I still needed to fiddle with a lot of settings to make it look really nice: ok. Fonts look as good as SuSE: good. Uses RPMs: good (since that's what I'm used to). Uses firefox and evolution instead of konqueror and kontact by default: bad.

Overall FC4 just feels like a much more professionally put together system than Kubuntu. Which means the choice is between FC4 and SuSE. I think SuSE probably does things slightly better than Fedora, but Fedora has to advantage of being a bit more open, so there's perhaps a chance I could contribute to making it better.

So, I'm currently posting this while using FC4, although I'll probably put my SuSE hard drive back in before too long, since all my work is on it. But it is very tempting to change to FC4, as it's a lot better than I was expecting. The only thing I'm not sure about yet is how well supported KDE is on it. I liked having KDE in /opt/kde3 on SuSE, but on FC4 it's all mixed in with everything else. Which is probably more correct, but it complicates things a bit.

And I noticed that I'm listed down the side of planetkde now. So hi to everyone reading the planet!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Who am I?

You can see who I really am by looking at my personal website at www.jamesots.com, but how am I involved with KDE?

My first foray into the KDE world was when I was a student at Warwick University. I don't remember which version it was, but I wasn't impressed. I had a slow computer, and KDE made it crawl. So I used fvwm, and only used my linux box for playing with, and used Windows for everything else. I even bought legal copies of Windows for my machine, although most other stuff I was using was pirated. Then eventually I decided that I should be using legal copies of all my software, but I couldn't afford it. So I wiped my computer and installed SuSE Linux, which I could afford. It came with KDE as the default desktop environment, and it was much nicer than what I'd seen a few years before.

I now use Linux with KDE on my main computer, and only boot up my Windows machine when I need to do Flash development or use Embedded Visual C++ (although with MTASC and other such tools I rarely need to use Flash MX any more). KDE has been improving in leaps and bounds, and when I switch to a Windows machine I'm always amazed at how clunky and inefficient it is. And these days, desipite having a four year old laptop, my system still flies!

I've been delving around inside the code of KDE for a while, but I'm a Java programmer at heart so I've never got too far with it yet. I've fixed a few things here and there, but nothing spectacular. But I regularly read a few of the mailing lists, and keep checking out the commit digests and things like that, to keep up to speed with what's going on. Half the problem is knowing where to start - there are so many things I'd like to do with KDE, but I have very little time as I have my own web design and software development company to run as well. And now there's the added stumbling block of not wanting to work too much on KDE 3 when KDE 4 is around the corner. So I should just set up another machine to play with KDE 4 on, but I don't have the money either...

...because I'm moving to Canada soon, to get married to the most amazing girl I've ever known. Which will boost the number of North American KDE developers considerably! (The moving, not the marrying. Obviously.)

So, what kind of stuff am I interested in doing to KDE? Consistency, usability, beauty, performance. Which in my mind, are all inextricably linked. If a system isn't consistent, beautiful or performant (is that a word?) it isn't usable. If it's not usable it doesn't have good performance (because you take too long working out how to do stuff). BUT... to make a system usable doesn't, to me, just mean that newcomers will find it easy to use. I've been using computers for years, and I want KDE to be usable to me too. So that's the million Canadian dollar question - how do we do that?

I don't know.

Friday, July 22, 2005