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2006-08-03 Backup using rsync

Here’s how I backup my current home directory on the Mac Mini onto an external USB harddisk using rsync.

rsync --archive --verbose --delete --delete-excluded --exclude=/Library/Caches --exclude=/.Trash "/Users/alex/" "/Volumes/Media Backup/Alex Pyrobombus"

For my laptop:

rsync --archive --copy-unsafe-links --verbose --delete --delete-excluded --exclude=/Library/Caches --exclude=/apache2 --exclude=/.Trash "/Users/alex/" "/Volumes/Media Backup/Alex Alpinobombus"

I don’t have any music on my laptop… I’m excluding apache2 because that is a symlink to /usr/local/apache2 and this causes a chgrp error when running rsync. I use --copy-unsafe-links because some of the links in Library/NeoOfficeJ-1.1 point outside of my home directory.

That reminds me, by the way, that I need to buy a second enclosure for the second internal 120G IDE drive I have left-over from my old Confusibombus machine. The old dead and empty hull is all that remains of my self-assembled Pentium 4 SlackWare. BumbleBees don’t last forever…

Update: I bought an “M9-DX Mini Pod” with USB 2.0 1 port upstream (B Type) and 3 ports downstream (A Type), 3 ports Firewire 400, a passive heat sink, and a thermal probe to regulate fan speed.

While backing up, I noticed that my use of the CPAN shell was wrong, and I reran o conf init and used “sudo make“ and “sudo ./Build” instead of the defaults. Now I can run the CPAN shell directly without sudo, and it will sudo when installing. That (hopefully) means that my .cpan/build and .cpan/sources will have the correct ownerships: alex instead of root.

For Claudia’s account, we also need to backup the DVD stuff. The DVD stuff has no space on the system disk. So we have a disk called “Extern” for DVD stuff.

1. /Users/Claudia → /Volumes/Claudias Backup/Claudia Pyrobombus
2. /Volumes/Extern/DVD → /Volumes/Claudias Backup/DVD

Here we go:

rsync --archive --copy-unsafe-links --verbose --delete --delete-excluded --exclude=/Library/Caches --exclude=/.Trash "/Users/claudia/" "/Volumes/Claudias Backup/Claudia Pyrobombus"

rsync --archive --copy-unsafe-links --verbose --delete --delete-excluded --exclude=/.Trash "/Volumes/Extern/DVD/" "/Volumes/Claudias Backup/DVD"

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CoryDoctorow talks about DRM in the music business, and Apple's iPod in particular.

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More evidence from the owners admitting that DRM is not even conducive to their business. They will say less about their “customers” interests, but they’ll admit the rights of customers are being trampled, too.

AaronHawley 2006-09-25 05:40 UTC

2006-08-03 Picture Service

I would like to host my images somewhere else, since I’m paying €20 per month for emacswiki.org bandwidth in Germany. I’ve been using Flickr for the occasional file upload, but I haven’t been using it seriously enough. [1]

I wanted a good integration into a client program: Either an independent uploader (preferably free software, of course), or a plugin into iPhoto, since I’m still using it.

Today I gave both of them a try, and uploaded all the pics I had from my hiking trip on the AlpenPassRoute to a Picasa Web Album and into a a Flickr Photoset.

I’ll have to see how easy reorganizing an existing album is, since the pictures I uploaded are more or less in random order.

Update: It seems I can reorganize my album via the website. The site works fine, however, so no problem as far as I can tell. I wonder how easy it is to get the data back to my local machine, however. Let me check out their RSS feeds…

There’s a pretty good Flickr RSS feed with the last 20 pictures in it. Getting a feed of all of them would be ideal: All the info I care about for now are in there… Or I’ll have to take a look at the Flickr::API Perl library. The Picasa RSS feed, on the other hand, seems to contain all the images I just uploaded, and a bit more meta information including links to thumbnails.

Hm, should I add all 66 pictures to the Switzerland group on Flickr? Something tells me that would be rude, which is why I hit the cancel button after 8 pictures got sent to the group…

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I’d recommend flickr. The UI is pretty slick and intuitive. also their API is open, so I think you can write some tool to upload pics…

Does use flash heavily at places, though with good effect. Also storage is somewhat limited.

I’m using flickr right now. It has the advantage that you can also upload “private” images. As to upload stuff, they have uploading tools (for OSX as well). There should be some plugins for iphoto to flickr as well. And they have only bandwith limit, but no storing limmit. The website is not always very intuitive on flickr though. And sometimes not that “snappy”. Google seems to be much faster, but they probably have much view users (for now).

2ni 2006-08-03 12:30 UTC

Hm, both seem to have upload tools for OSX [1][2]. I’ll upload the same collection of images to my Flickr account and see which one I like better…

AlexSchroeder 2006-08-03 12:52 UTC

AlexSchroeder 2006-08-03 13:08 UTC

Restarted Uploadr, authorized myself, quit, restarted, started upload, and now it seems to work. Weirdo bugs.

AlexSchroeder 2006-08-03 13:12 UTC

2006-08-03 The Power of Images

In the comment section to an post by AadityaSood [1], in which he links to FromIsraelToLebanon that I also linked to a while ago [2] – triggered by the mail of a mutual friend, I assume – anyway in the comment section I found two additional interesting visualizations linked to by N:

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Comments on 2006-08-03 The Power of Images

Yup. It was me that posted that comment and the visualisations but I think he found the site through other sources. BTW, do you follow democracynow.org? It has lots of good articles that cover the current crisis from an independent standpoint. I especially like the interviews with Robert Fisk.

NoufalIbrahim 2006-08-03 09:51 UTC

I came across the site before, but it never ended up in my news aggregator. And unless it does that, it’s not going to be read. InformationOverload, I guess. I liked the Robert Fisk interview he gave on 2006-07-19, which I just read.

I also linked to two Fisk pieces on 2006-03-23 Israel. That’s why his name sounded familiar.

AlexSchroeder 2006-08-03 11:05 UTC

Well, there are some people who know how to behave. Check this out [1].

NoufalIbrahim 2006-08-03 12:26 UTC

2006-08-04 The Baron in the Trees

Yesterday we had our English book club discussion about The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino. I had only read ⅔ of the book, and hadn’t liked it. It seemed like a response to Candide by Voltaire. Except that I didn’t get the references. And since I hadn’t liked Candide either, it really made little difference.

Strange. I picked up Envisioning Information by Edward R. Tufte this morning and on page 37 it mentions Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. Is this the same guy?

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Comments on 2006-08-04 The Baron in the Trees

Yes, it’s the same guy – and Invisible Cities is by far the better book of the two.

BrianKerr 2006-09-05 18:53 UTC

2006-08-05 Medusa Pool

I’ve read another mystery – Medusa Pool by M. K. Wren. Another book in the metro series by the Unionsverlag. I liked how several interconnected crimes get solved at the same time. I liked how the racism theme is played out. And I liked her style: Short dialogues, short descriptions, dry. It felt weird at first, and I admit that I believed it to be an artefact of the translation to German, but now that I have finished the book, I’ve learnt to appreciate it.

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2006-08-07 Ceasefire Petition

I wonder how useful these online petitions are. Anyway, there’s a Ceasefire Petition to the UN Council out there. It says that your name and message will be publicized in newspapers in the US, UK, and Israel. At least they’re not planning to hand them to public leaders or the UN. I have so totally lost faith in their ability to do the right thing.

Oh, and while we’re at it. How about ending the occupation of the West Bank and stopping the pounding of the Gaza strip? ElectronicIntifada has a piece quoting from a UN report: “The United Nations humanitarian agencies working in the occupied Palestinian territory are deeply alarmed by the impact continuing violence is having on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza, which has resulted in a sharp decline in the humanitarian situation facing 1.4 million people, more than half of them children.” [1]

Most of these days I just read the emails from GushShalom, with reports from anti-war demonstrations and all that. This is also where UriAvnery writes. On Junkies of War, for example. Here’s a quote both funny and terrifying: “Some comfort themselves with the thought that ‘the Arabs have seen that we are crazy’.” I also laughed when I read this one: “We are conquering South Lebanon as flies conquer fly-paper.”

2006-08-07 Giving Away Old Books

JanneJalkanen writes about BookMooch, a site where you can trade old books. [1] Via JoiIto. [2]

Sounds interesting. Basically the Amazon Marketplace seems to work well enough for me when I’m trying to buy old books, but I can’t seem to get rid of books I no longer want. At least here in Switzerland the community libraries don’t seem to be interested in them. I asked.

So I’ve signed up, and will add about twenty books. Let’s see if anybody ever wants one of the books.

BookCrossing sounds so much like dumping the books like trash. I somehow doubt that in the age of gratis newspapers and tons of paper trash, books will actually be picked up in trains.

I guess my problem is that bookcrossing requires you to read and release good books only. But I only want to give away bad books.

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Comments on 2006-08-07 Giving Away Old Books

I’m a member of Bookcrossing and I meet up with other bookcrossers in my city. Some of us are purists who insist on reading books before releasing them. Others buy bulk lots of books in used-book stores and release them without reading – I think they’re more interested in tracking where the books travel.

I think most regular bookcrossers find that only a small number of books that they release are eventually found and recorded in the system, so these “catches” feel special.

ClaudineChionh 2006-08-14 08:54 UTC

Hm. What do you is happening to the unregistered books. Are they just lost junk? Here in Switzerland, I suspect people would just dump them. Trash. Recycled paper. I don’t think I can bear the thought.

One promising development is the appearance of a bookcrossing shelf in a coffeehouse we like to go to [1]. I’d feel ok dropping good books there.

AlexSchroeder 2006-08-14 18:48 UTC

Oh, got my first book request via BookMooch! Somebody wants the Shockwave Rider by John Brunner

AlexSchroeder 2006-08-16 10:29 UTC

I got an email from the site today starting off with “BookMooch has been live for 9 days now and it’s been a wild week!” – I didn’t know that it was such a new thing. Guess I’m hipper than I though, haha.

AlexSchroeder 2006-08-16 22:38 UTC

Hm. I sent off the Shockwave book. Cost me CHF 10 (USD 8.16) postage + CHF 1.20 for the envelope. And that’s non-express post. That’s pretty expensive…

AlexSchroeder 2006-08-17 08:23 UTC

Hah, I added 52 books to my inventory @ BookMooch.

AlexSchroeder 2006-08-18 00:31 UTC

Some books reappear on the website after being “missing” for months or years; and some do end up in the bin. Regular bookcrossers are always discussing their favourite release techniques.

ClaudineChionh 2006-08-19 11:10 UTC

2006-08-07 Reverted Spam Still Breaks My RSS Feed

When an idiot comes along and spams twenty pages on my site, I can easily roll it back. But all changes are recorded for posterity in the log files, and therefore they appear on RecentChanges and thus also in the RSS feed. Too bad!

Unfortunatly simplistic schemes won’t work: I cannot skip all entries whose last edit was a rollback. I need to figure out what edits where undone by the rollback and then check whether there are any remaining edits in the current time window… Damn!

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Didn’t CapnDan complain about it some time ago?

TheSheep 2006-08-07 16:10 UTC

2006-08-08 Oddmuse T-Shirts

In preparing for WikiSym 2006 I decided to print three Oddmuse T-Shirts (PDF). Printing T-Shirts in two colors in such small numbers is expensive. I bought them at Dinschrift for about CHF 60 each.

Dinschrift is a one-man show at Gasmalerstrasse 5, Zürich.

Let me know if you’re coming, too. Or add your name to the Oddmuse wiki.

2006-08-08 Rant in support of Lebanon

A friend just sent me a YouTube link to a video showing a SkyNews interview with George Galloway.

Funny to see in the YouTube sidebar that about four other people have uploaded the same video.

As Wikipedia:George Galloway notes, he is “a British politician noted for his socialist views and rhetorical style.” Right on. There’s also his official homepage.

I also remember his speech in the US senate I wrote about so long ago (2005-05-22 USA): “Now I know that standards have slipped in the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice. I am here today but last week you already found me guilty. You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever written to me or telephoned me, without any attempt to contact me whatsoever. And you call that justice.” [1]

I was looking for the video online. There’s an excerpt on YouTube, and apparently you can watch it on the Information Clearing House, but it requires real-audio.

Anyway. The discussion also reminds me of the HumanRightsWatch press release IDF Fails to Explain Qana Bombing: “The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) inquiry into the July 30 killing of at least 28 civilians in Qana is incomplete and legally misguided, and contradicts eyewitness testimony, Human Rights Watch said today. The findings underline the need for an independent international inquiry into what took place.”

Comments on 2006-08-08 Rant in support of Lebanon

And what a rant it is. I don’t think I have seen anyone blast mainstream media while on air like this. I actually googled for the guy’s speeches after seeing this.

NoufalIbrahim 2006-08-08 10:13 UTC

[1] The guy’s on a roll.

NoufalIbrahim 2006-08-08 11:40 UTC

2006-08-09 Millennium Actress and Snow White

I saw Millennium Actress (2001) and Snow White (2005) on DVD.

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2006-08-09 Product Features and User Goals

KathySierra asks in her latest post how we can get users to really use all the features the product has to offer. [1] Some people have responded that as long as the product does what they want, they don’t care about any of the other features.

So I drew this:

Generally I think it is more interesting to improve the documentation or discoverability of the existing product to get users to do what they want, instead of expanding the feature set of the product to allow the few power-users (or only the developer of the tool!) to do all the things they want.

Discoverability is a part of usability. It allows users to skip reading the manual. Knowing more or less what they want to do, they can use the tool with basic skills such as reading text and clicking links such as to better learn what they might want to do and finally do it.

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Comments on 2006-08-09 Product Features and User Goals

Sure, discoverability is important, but increasing it is often very costly in terms of other important “usability” parts.

For example, icons are usually viewed as a very good thing for “discoverability”. But they draw the attention away for the “productive” control methods, like the command line, keyboard shortcuts, etc. And it’s while they are still availbale, only with icons added. It’s part of the novice/expert mode myth, I guess.

Personally, my favorite tools for increasing “discoverability” are various tooltips, status lines and, of course, auto-completion on the command line.

TheSheep 2006-08-09 14:53 UTC

I actually don’t like icons at all. The kind of discoverability I like in Oddmuse is how you view a page, and find the history link at the bottom. If you follow it, the history page will contain another link at the bottom, showing you a filtered list of changes for the page you’re looking at, with log entries going as far back as possible. Thus, filtering of RecentChanges and listing all changes ever made to a page is hard to explain but easy to discover by users. Similarly, if you search for a term, the search results begin with a link to the list of recent changes filtered by the same term. Again, filtering of recent changes is hard to explain but made easy to discover.

AlexSchroeder 2006-08-09 15:30 UTC

Ich bin eben dran eine Applikation zu designen und freue mich übern jeden Input. Momentan denke ich, eine gute Applikation sollten

• nur eine Ebenen zur Informationsdarstellung verwenden: also keine Dialoge öffnen, oder sogar Daten in Tabs verstecken
• nie zwei zeitgleich oder zeitnahe, manuelle Aktionen fordern: Z. B. Maustaste drücken und Maus gleichzeitig bewegen. Oder Doppelklicken. Oder Klicken und gleichzeitig die Shifttaste drücken.

Plus das meiste was JefRaskin sagt

Ich denke es ist extrem schwierig, Applikationen zu designen, die diesen Kriterien genügen, aber die, die es schaffen (z. B. das Web oder Visicalc) haben erstaunlichen Erfolg.

– Chris 2006-08-13 12:58 UTC

2006-08-10 Fast CGI

I decided to give FastCGI a try, after the awwaiid from EggplantFarms told me that using mod_perl was a security problem in a virtual hosting setup, since all CGI processes would then run as the webserver user.

When I tried to build mod_fastcgi 2.4.2 I realized that I had wiped my Apache source directories. So I got the latest an greatest Apache: httpd 2.3.3 and built it. Then I realized that the lastest mod_fastcgi is not the greatest: It won’t build. I needed Daniel Smertnig’s patch.

Anyway. Everything else is on Oddmuse:Using mod fastcgi.

2006-08-11 Audacity Crashes

Grrr. The Audacity binaries keep crashing on Mac OS 10.4.7 on my Intel-based Mac Mini. This is true for both 1.2.4 and 1.3.0b. I think I have a working Audacity binary on my laptop with Mac OS 10.3.9 – but I’ve moving all my music stuff off the laptop.

I’ve tried to get Ardour to work, thinking it would be an interesting Audacity alternative. Not so. Ardour is leagues beyond what I will ever need, I think. All I ever do with these programs is cropping soundfiles, so Audacity is already super-charged with features. With Ardour, I was unable to figure out how to import an MP3 file into the system.

Maybe I should try to build Audacity from source. I got wxWidgets 2.6 for the Mac. Compiling and installing was painless. Only later did I realize that Tiger comes with wxWidgets 2.4. Maybe getting and installing 2.6 was unnecessary. And then I found that it comes with DarwinPorts anyway. Damn, how could I be so careless as to miss this?

While building, I had trouble with libFLAC. Not being a big fan of FLAC (Wikipedia:Free Lossless Audio Codec), I decided to disable it. It took me a while to figure out that I had to pass both --without-flac and --disable-flac to configure.

Even then, compilation aborted: msgfmt was not found. WTF is that? Something involving .mo and .po files. I googled a bit and found my suspicion confirmed: GNU getttext. Installed that from DarwinPorts, finished building Audacity, started it, opened an MP3 file, everything seemed to work, tried to play it back: Got a second of noise and then silence. For all the MP3 files I tried.

AAAAARGH!

Ok, I’m deinstalling it all. All this time wasted. Makes a grown man want to cry.

In the mean time, command-line MP3 editor cutmp3 looks interesting. DarwinPorts includes mp3splt which is what I’m going to try next, after trying Audion and looking for mEdit. Both of them not really FreeSoftware. Just Freeware. And Abandonware, too. Oh well.

Back to free software! It turns out that mp3splt of OSX is a command-line tool only with no interactive use, but cutmp3 does what I need! It takes a bit getting used to the interface, but I think I was able to cut an interesting minute from a sound file that we’ll be using as a ringtone for Claudia’s mobile phone.

Hurray!

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My track-trimming tool of choice is Sweep.

MichaelOlson 2006-08-12 15:17 UTC

Hm, Sweep looks useful. It doesn’t seem to be in DarwinPorts, however. We need a volunteer!

AlexSchroeder 2006-08-12 19:56 UTC

It seems that Audacity 1.3.3 beta is working well on our Mac Mini. We’re giving it another try…

AlexSchroeder 2007-06-29 22:07 UTC

2006-08-11 Oddmuse Plans

As I look at my Oddmuse:Plans, I see a major revision coming up. Here’s all the stuff I plan to do regarding the list of recent changes and the rollback of spam:

1. Changes that were rolled back should disappear from default RecentChanges. They should only be visible when supplying all=1. ✓
2. It should be possible to rollback single pages from the history page. Using the history page means both “discoverability” and it also means that rolling back single pages will only work for revisions actually available as kept revisions. That’s great. Rolling back single pages doesn’t require the admin password. Anybody can do it. ✓
3. It should be possible to rollback a page to revision 0, ie. replace it with “DeletedPage”. This means that a new entry must be added to the history page if possible. ✓
4. Write unit tests for the above. (Current status: 945 passed, 0 failed.) ✓
5. When a diff shows the diff to the last major version (ie. diff=1), then the minor edits made in addition to the major diff one expects are confusing. Why show minor edits when the user saw the last major edit in RecentChanges and wants to see the corresponding diff? When using diff=1, and minor edits were made after the last major edit, the heading should say so, and link to a diff showing the remaining edits up to the present. ✓
6. When the list of recent changes is filtered for a single page only (rcidonly is set), as it is when clicking on “View all changes” at the bottom of a history page, then the body of the RecentChanges pages should not be shown. It is usually confusing. The title should change as well, for example to “All Change for X”.
7. Link to a list of all contributors from the history page, too. ✓

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2006-08-13 Angle-A

We went to see Angel-A (2005) yesterday. It was ok entertainment, and I chuckled several times, but all in all, I don’t recommend the movie. Life is short; too short for merely entertaining movies.

Auf dem Web gibt es ein paar vernichtende Kritiken zum Film. [1] [2]

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2006-08-13 Volver

We went to see Volver (2006), and I enjoyed it very, very much. I absolutely recommend this movie. Penelope Cruz and the other female actors are an absolute pleasure to watch.

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2006-08-14 Gaza Bombing

An ElectronicIntifada email I got [1] mentioned a UN estimate for just a single day in Gaza:

…since 28 June, 175 Palestinians have been killed, including approximately 40 children and eight women, and over 620 injured in the Gaza Strip. One IDF soldier has been killed and 25 Israelis have been injured, including 11 Israelis injured by homemade rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. Palestinians have fired on average between 8-9 homemade rockets per day towards Israel (319 in total) and the Israeli military has fired on average 200-250 artillery shells per day into the Gaza Strip and conducted at least 220 aerial bombings. – “Statement on Gaza by United Nations Humanitarian Agencies working in the occupied Palestinian territory” [2] [3]

Note the small differences between the statements by the WFP (over 620 injured) and UNICEF (over 600 injured).

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2006-08-15 Bugs coming back to haunt you

Overheard on the EmacsChannel:

04:13 user
hi. remember that bug we once fixed in the IRC client that made the cursor jump to the article buffer in the mail client (from the summary buffer) when the IRC client was loaded?
04:14 developer
That sounds freaky. We did fix that one?
04:15 user
yeah. actually you fixed that in a wink
04:16 developer
Sounds like a bug in the buffer creation.
04:16 user
i’m not sure, but it could be somewhere the mode-line was being touched… or something like that
04:16 developer
04:16 user
well, it’s back

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2006-08-15 Louis de Funès

We’ve rented the three Fantômas movies with Louis de Funès. Yesterday we watched the first one of them, Fantômas (1964).

Weird.

I don’t recommend it. Claudia was telling how I really should watch a Louis de Funès movie, and her mother recommended a few, but unfortunately Fantômas was the only one they had at the rental. Oh well.

I think James Travers says it all:

“[…] the film is also marred by a rather obvious attempt to compete with the James Bond films, which were as popular in France at the time as they were elsewhere. In fact, with their obsession with gadgets, girls and interminable chase sequences, the three Fantômas films of the 1960s come much closer to sending up the Sean Connery bond films than anything else. The overall design of the film, particularly the gaudy sets stuffed with incomprehensible scientific paraphernalia, has that unmistakable kitsch 1960s feel to it.” [1]

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Comments on 2006-08-15 Louis de Funès

Ich kenne die Fantôme Filme nicht, aber Louis de Funès war mir immer zu bloed. Zu nervoes, zu schusselig, einfach zu dumm. Ich konnte da nicht lachen. Aber Jaques Tati in “Les vacances de M. Hulot”, da konnte ich mich totlachen ueber ganz einfache komische Situationen. Alles in Ruhe. ohne Gehuddel.

– Helmut Schroeder 2006-08-18 20:21 UTC

Ich wollte eigentlich genau nervös & schusselig sehen. Claudia hat mir immer davon erzählt, und ich kannte ihn nicht.

AlexSchroeder 2006-08-18 22:48 UTC

Bitte unbedingt “la grande vadrouille” mit bourvil und de funès sehen! Meiner meinung nach, der einzige intelligente UND lustige fil mit louis de funès. Schwarz-weiss, nimmt die engländer/franzosen im 2. weltkrieg aufs korn… Herrlich!

– mom 2006-08-30 20:06 UTC

2006-08-18 Exposé or Tabs

I’ve never been a big user of Apple’s Exposé (KDE alternative: Komposé). Somehow Command-Tab (Alt-Tab on Windows) has been good enough for me. On OSX there’s an additional complication, however: If you want to switch applications, use Command-Tab. But if you want to switch windows within the same application (from one Terminal window to the next, from one Chat window to the next), you need to use Command-< (at least on a SwissGermanKeyboard).

In this context, using F9 to see all the windows of all the applications and using the mouse or the arrow keys to pick the window you want seems like a good idea.

If your applications us tabbed windows, however, you loose: You will never see windows hidden behind tabs. Just like you will never see the Emacs buffers that are not shown in a window. Is this a natural turning point for people with too many tasks?

I have no solution for Emacs, where I often have several dozen buffers open (eg. half a dozen IRC channels, half a dozen source files, an EmacsShell buffer, scratch, various directories, plus sometimes calendar or calculator). But for browsers, there is a solution: You can switch tabbed browsing on or off. So now I’m trying to live without tabbed browsing and using Exposé to navigate windows. At least for a while.

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Comments on 2006-08-18 Exposé or Tabs

C-x C-b is useful, as is either iswitchb or ido. =)

SachaChua 2006-08-19 14:32 UTC

2006-08-18 Tabletennis

I’ve been enjoying the occasional table tennis match in a park nearby (Bäckeranlage). Today I went there and played with strangers.

There are two tables at the Bäckeranlage, two tables at the Kanzlei, and two tables each in the schools nearby.

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Haben die gute Tische dort im Freien? Stein- oder Betontische sind furchtbar!Und wie sieht es mit Wind aus? Mit guten Schlaegern, Baellen, Netz und Tischbelag ist es schon ein Freude. Ich bin auch immer auf der Suche nach Spielgelenheit gewesen, habe aber kaum Glueck gehabt. Bangkok war gut, da hatten wir unseren eigenen Tisch.

– Helmut Schroeder 2006-08-18 20:09 UTC

Stein- und Betontische sind es, du hast es erraten. Und Wind gibt es auch immer wieder. Aber die Mischung zwischen Bewegung, Spaziergang, und Kaffeehaus besuchen hat es in sich. Gefällt uns beiden sehr gut.

AlexSchroeder 2006-08-18 22:50 UTC

2006-08-20 WikiSym

I’m leaving for WikiSym 2006. Hope to see you there, if you’re interested in wikis. Hopefully I’ll be wearing my Oddmuse T-Shirt, so I should be easy to recognize if you want to talk to me.

2006-08-21 Day One at WikiSym 2006

My notes on WikiSym 2006. [1]

Angela Beesley talked about things that make WikiPedia work. Stuff I noticed.

• She also mentioned the importance of OffTopic: 75% of the articles are not articles: Talk pages, user pages, talk pages for user pages, help pages, etc.
• NeutralPointOfView doesn’t mean compromise or single point of view: It means multiple points of view + verifiable sources
• Wikipedia has a code of conduct
• Projects, portals, regional meetings
• Public & private watchlists; public watchlists are user editable
• Tagging pages as stubs, controversial, unverified, etc. Angela says that these are used both to warn visitors (I agree) and to allow editors to search for and fix these articles (I doubt this works as envisioned).
• Semi-protected pages: Prevent edits by unregistered users, prevent edits by new users (four days or less)
• BarnStars, IRC
• Planned feature: Stable versions (approved by certain people?) – reminds me of StableCopy
• Poll support might be interesting, as Wikipedia uses lots of (informal) polls, it seems
• Asking questions on a wiki are problematic for users unfamiliar to wikis – they expect a personal response, eg. mail. A bug tracking tool helps solve this issue.

Talking to Eugene about PurpleNumbers I mentioned that most wiki pages don’t change. I decided to look at the numbers for CommunityWiki.

Days #Pages
1000: 102
900: 128
800: 210
700: 189
600: 80
500: 251
400: 359
300: 264
200: 259
100: 466
0: 229


OpenSpace: Nobody was interested in my session, Integrating Language Minorities. I ended up listening in to a discussion about measurements.

Anrea Forte talks about learning, how students learn, how people are motivated (WikiPedia = authentic context). Are teachers required? Interesting questions:

• Classroom vs. wiki culture – no hierarchies
• Some structure needed – critical thinking about sources, faithful citations. Special pages for sources, where students can comment on sources, and with a user interface that makes it easy to pick sources
• How do we know learning when we see it – hard to do anyway
• Ethical implication of coerced publication – but I disagree with her, here: Society will have to adapt to RecordKeepers, adapt to the TransparentSociety.

Sheizaf Rafaeli talks about using a WikiBook. What is a book? Problems with text books: Expensive, unavailable, revenue goes not to the researches but to few writers, publishers motivated to issue new editions every semester, few non-English books. Motivation: Extrinsic, by providing a 3% grade bonus for five edits per semester, but the average is much higher. Statistically significant: High participation and better grades correlate.

He mentions WikiLiteracy.

Talking about WikiFounding with Kerry Santo. She was wondering how much effort she would have to invest in her wiki before it would take off. Intrigued, I looked at my own EmacsWiki numbers:

Month   Total    Top Poster     Edits
2001-05  289     AlexSchroeder   222
2001-06  457     AlexSchroeder   228
2001-07  293     AlexSchroeder   152
2001-08  182     AlexSchroeder   108
2001-09  246     AlexSchroeder   203
2001-10  381     AlexSchroeder   170
2001-11  387     AlexSchroeder   191
2001-12  225     AlexSchroeder   108
2002-01  415     AlexSchroeder   131
2002-02  302     AlexSchroeder   103
2002-03  279     AlexSchroeder   96
2002-04  367     AlexSchroeder   117
2002-05  431     AlexSchroeder   168
2002-06  513     AlexSchroeder   163
2002-07  338     AlexSchroeder   102
2002-08  424     AlexSchroeder   163
2002-09  530     AlexSchroeder   225
2002-10  507     AlexSchroeder   189
2002-11  337     AlexSchroeder   129
2002-12  414     AlexSchroeder   125
2003-01  795     DeepakGoel      181
2003-02  627     AlexSchroeder   185
2003-03  1222    AlexSchroeder   225
2003-04  684     AlexSchroeder   115
2003-05  682     AlexSchroeder   214
2003-06  765     AlexSchroeder   237
2003-07  485     AlexSchroeder   65
2003-08  480     AlexSchroeder   177
2003-09  695     AlexSchroeder   221
2003-10  705     AlexSchroeder   184
2003-11  745     AlexSchroeder   130
2003-12  369     AlexSchroeder   46
2004-01  417     AlexSchroeder   79
2004-02  388     AlexSchroeder   76
2004-03  970     AlexSchroeder   105
2004-04  1202    MarkusKnittig   165
2004-05  934     AlexSchroeder   140
2004-06  1049    AlexSchroeder   212
2004-07  750     AlexSchroeder   68
2004-08  1055    AlexSchroeder   289
2004-09  1132    AlexSchroeder   296
2004-11  1104    AlexSchroeder   210
2005-02  722     AaronHawley     53
2005-03  1002    AlexSchroeder   166
2005-04  794     AlexSchroeder   137
2005-06  817     AlexSchroeder   109
2005-07  1660    AlexSchroeder   703
2005-08  947     AaronHawley     135
2005-09  809     AlexSchroeder   85
2005-10  2565    AlexSchroeder   1438


You can also search Flickr for more WikiSym 2006 pictures.

2006-08-21 Peer to Peer Microloans

TedErnst has lots of money in Prosper. Basically he loans out small amounts of money $20 to$50 per person, to many persons, at interest rates of around 16% or higher. Some of these will default, but others will pay back. The reason these people accept such high interest rates is that sometimes they have credit card interest rates of 30%, and bad credit, so they can’t get money from a bank. Once you accept that the credit card companies are bastards (Wikipedia:Usury), “only” asking for 16% is starting to sound ethical.

I wonder if something like that is bound by national law. It sounds like an interesting way to invest your money. Then again: How much time do you spend doing a background check on the people borrowing your money, how much money will you be earning in interest, and what kind of hourly wage does that end up as?

Perhaps I’m better off not spending time on this.

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2006-08-22 Protecting Against Dictators

This is what we talked about in the OpenSpace session on “Protecting Against Dictators” – enabling stake holders to exercise their RightToFork.

Plan

I think this is what we need to offer, based on my own experience:

• the maintenance scripts
• the crontab
• data files
• CGI scripts
• make sure the configuration files are easy to configure in a single location (paths, database logins)
• document how to use rsync, if possible
• document privacy issues (is more data available in the archive than via the interface?)

Current Practice

A danish university – teachers and instructors have a blog, there are wikis for courses. When the teachers move to a new job, can they take their data with them? It turns out that they keep their account, have access to the data, but there are no efforts underway (yet) to facilitate the export of data.

EmacsWiki – Alex has taken great pains to provide an archive of the files needed to run the site (and the site doesn’t need a database). He also has an archive of all the static HTML pages for emergencies. Setting up a copy of the site, however, requires manual intervention. So much, in fact, that nobody bothered to resurrect the site when only a short break was anticipated. Plus, the bandwidth used by the archives amounted to 20% of the site traffic, about 2G per month. This was solved by only allowing access to the archives to a small number of people. Another problem is that once the site is down, there is no simple way to find out who has backups and there is no plan for bringing the site back up.

Wikipedia – only lead administrators can make complete backups, because some of the information in the databases is only meant to be seen by administrators. The backup plans and the plans for getting the site back up elsewhere are not widely known, so we don’t know what they are.

A small wiki for about 100 users – no plans exist, adhoc backups are made, there is no license attached to the site, so the only implicit license is to modify and distribute them on the original site. There seems to be no right to fork (no free content).

2006-08-28 Lighttpd and Fast CGI

It turns out that my web hosting company is getting serious about me using Fast CGI for emacswiki.org and oddmuse.org. After some fooling around on the webserver, I decided that I needed a local lighttpd installation to get aquainted with the software.

I joined #lighttpd on Freenode and installed it. After a while, I got to a dead end and posted some questions [1]:

fastcgi.server = ( "/my/" => ((
"socket" => "/tmp/fcgi-test.socket",
"bin-path" => "/Users/Shared/WebSite/FCGI/test.fcgi" )))

cgi.assign                 = ( ".pl"  => "/usr/bin/perl", )


I can now visit http://localhost/rock.pl and get the rock.pl to run correctly. That is, plain CGI works.

When I visit http://localhost/my/food however, I get a 404 error instead of my test.fcgi being run. Any idea what is going wrong?

Starting the server using sudo lighttpd -f /Users/Shared/WebSite/Conf/lighttpd.conf doesn’t produce output at the moment. should it list the processes started?

In the following setup, it looks as if the URL to a non-existing script such as http://localhost/mu.fcgi should work just as well as the URL to an existing script such as http://localhost/test.fcgi. How come the first one returns a 404 and the second one seems to work? Doesn’t the first one (non-existing mu.fcgi) trigger the same .fcgi pattern?

fastcgi.server = ( ".fcgi" => ((
"socket" => "/tmp/fcgi-test.socket",
"bin-path" => "/Users/Shared/WebSite/Pages/test.fcgi",
"min-procs" => 1,
"max-procs" => 1,
"idle-timeout" => 20 )))


I guess my main problem is that I want to run two wikis on a single server. This seems to require the setup using prefixes, but the only setup I have working uses file extensions. I guess I could use one file extension per wiki but boy what a hack.

In the end, this is what worked:

server.document-root        = "/Users/Shared/WebSite/Pages"

url.rewrite-once = ( "^/test(\?|/|$)" => "/test.fcgi", "^/rock(\?|/|$)" => "/rock.fcgi" )

$HTTP["url"] =~ "/test" { fastcgi.server = ( ".fcgi" => (( "socket" => "/tmp/fcgi-test.socket", "bin-path" => "/Users/Shared/WebSite/Pages/test.fcgi", "min-procs" => 1, "max-procs" => 1, "idle-timeout" => 20 ))) }$HTTP["url"] =~ "/rock" {
fastcgi.server = (
".fcgi" => ((
"socket" => "/tmp/fcgi-rock.socket",
"bin-path" => "/Users/Shared/WebSite/Pages/rock.fcgi",
"min-procs" => 1,
"max-procs" => 1,
"idle-timeout" => 20 )))
}


With test.fcgi and rock.fcgi being files like the following:

#! /usr/bin/perl
use CGI::Fast qw(:standard);
$COUNTER = 0; while (new CGI::Fast) { print header; print start_html("Fast CGI Rocks"); print h1("Fast CGI Rocks"), "Invocation number ",b($COUNTER++),
" PID ",b(),".",
hr;
print end_html;
}


Note:

1. If you put the .fcgi scripts outside the document root, you will get 404 Not Found errors.
2. I cannot get rid of the .fcgi extension, since using a prefix rule for fastcgi-server did not work (beginning of this page).

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2006-08-28 Swiss Oral History

Archimob ist ein Verein, der Zeugnisse über die Zeit des zweiten Weltkrieges sammelt und archiviert. Auf der Webseite gibt es 555 Interviews, jedes davon ca. 2h lang. Wahrhaftig ein “Oral History” Projekt.

Siehe auch: DeutscheWikipedia:Oral History.

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2006-08-28 Verlängertes Wochenende in Graubünden

Flickr Set
Ich bin nie lange im Engadin gewesen. In St. Moritz als Teenager ein paar Tage, wenn ich mich recht erinnere. Diesmal sind wir von Freitag bis Montag in Scuol geblieben, ins römisch-irische Bad gegangen (was ist hier “irisch”?) (mein erstes Bad mit Nacktzone!) (gemischt!!) – egal. Ich habe hier das Romanische zum ersten Mal als wirklich lebendige Sprache erlebt. Faszinierend. Für meine Ohren tönt es immer noch, wie wenn man eine Mischung von Italienisch und anderen lateinischen Sprachen mit krass schweizerdeutschem Akzent und schweizerdeutscher Melodie spricht. Ich habe das Gefühl, den einfachen Small-Talk problemlos zu verstehen. Herrlich!

Und das Essen war auch klasse: Tatsch, Pizokl, Micluns, Capauns. Das haben Claudia und ich gerne gegessen!

We spent four days in Scuol.

I uploaded the pictures to Flickr, in my ongoing quest to figure out what I want to be using in the future. Owning my own data, yes. But does that mean I want to host it myself? I don’t think so. Self-hosting is expensive. Oh well. I guess my need to argue my case goes to show how unsure I am of myself. (Note: Limiting free accounts to three sets is annoying, since this limit feels more arbitrary than not having an advanced feature at all.)

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2006-08-30 Bar Camp Zürich

Wow, reading about DanaBoyd @ FOO camp, I found the BarCamp site, and discovered that there’s a BarCampZurich planned for Saturday, October 28, 2006!!

Reading all the reports on previous Bar Camps [1] reminds me of OpenSpace. At WikiSym 2006, TedErnst really convinced me that OpenSpace is the way to run a conference. Maybe the Bar Campers should get rid of breaks, too. Take a break when the time is right, eat when the time is right, talk when the time is right. Perhaps the focus on “presentations” is problematic. A presenter needs an audience, a projector, a room, and control, when it would be more pragmatic to engage with listeners right from the start, as equals, and to stick to smaller groups, thus fitting several groups into a single room.

At least they got rid of keynotes.

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Comments on 2006-08-30 Bar Camp Zürich

Alex, thanks for attending & presenting! I’m one of the organizers of BarCampZurich. This very first event will give us an opportunity to experiment with the BarCamp format - at this stage, it’s hard to tell whether it’s right and I think it will evolve fairly quickly. I’m sure this thing will fly! See you there, Gabor

Gabor Cselle 2006-09-01 08:57 UTC

2006-08-30 Trash Unfinished Patches

At WikiSym, I implemented some Oddmuse stuff while I was disconnected from the net. The patch grew, and tests were failing, so even when I got connected again, I could not commit my half-assed patch. I kept working on it. It had some important stuff in it, and it had some weird stuff in it (renaming of parameters from “rchostonly” to “host” and renaming of variables to go along with it). It grew. Tests kept failing. I was angry.

Today I copied the current state of the files to my desktop, and started to use EdiffMode, in order to rescue the important stuff from the working copy and trash the rest. I feel so much better!

Trashing patches that keep growing is important. Extreme Programming mandates that your stuff runs at the end of the day and passes all the tests. If it doesn’t, trash it, and start again tomorrow. If you can’t get an incremental change that works today, how do you hope to finish anything at all?

But it hurts.

Oh well. Trying to rescue more and more, I see the tests failing again. Damn!

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I’m thinking of buying a NOXON iRadio thing for my kitchen. It connects to my WLAN and streams radio stations from the net. The alternative would be to buy another Tivoli Model One (see 2006-01-14 Gadgets). Negative points for such a webradio thing:

1. It seems that it gets the stations from a proprietary source on the web (ie. no community to support it).
2. It doesn’t play Ogg files. This is not really important for me personally, but I think it is important to send a signal to product designers.
3. There’s supposed to be a follow-up model that does the traditional UHF radio thing as well, but the price difference is astonishing.
4. I seem to need a piece of software on my computer that will allow it to stream to the iRadio (UPnP™ AV): TwonkyVision for the PC or EyeConnect for the Mac.

Thoughts?

(In the mean time I found that my favorite local shop for this kind of stuff doesn’t have them in stock.)

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the squeeze box 3 seems to do everything you want and don’t want…but perhaps not in the same price range as the Noxon iradio

PierreGaston 2006-08-30 12:55 UTC

As I’d like to use the device in our kitchen, it has to come with its own amplifier and speaker.

AlexSchroeder 2006-08-30 13:23 UTC

The squeeze box without any hesitation… The funniest is that the software inside is using Perl and available under a free software license. [2]

I see. Well, I guess that means I’ll have to get some external speakers, too. I actually think I have a pair of active speakers somewhere in the cellar. As for price on their website: Product, UPS shipping, 7.5% VAT → USD 361 ≈ CHF 441. At my favorite portable audio shop here in Zürich I can get the Slimbox3 Wireless for CHF 429, and other shops seem to sell for as low as CHF 379 + CHF 18 shipping. But then again, I like to be able to go to the shop and actually talk to somebody. I guess I’ll give them a visit on Monday.

AlexSchroeder 2006-09-02 14:53 UTC

I bought the Squeezebox3!

AlexSchroeder 2006-09-04 17:19 UTC

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2006-08-31 Oddmuse and SVG Files

At WikiSym 2006, we talked about the future of wikis, and one thing I am really looking forward to is extending wiki ideas to SVG images. I use InkScape to produce SVG files for my diagrams on CommunityWiki. That gives me the ability to use some VisualLanguage.

Today, I went back and made a serious effort at installing OddmuseToInkscape that LionKimbro wrote so long ago. It’s awesome! All it needs is some more polishing and an installer.

I also upgraded to Inkscape 0.44.

I checked in what I had, and rewrote the documentation on Community:OddmuseToInkscape. It’s looking pretty good at the moment!

I also reworked the visual documentation that Lion had written. Check it out.