Posts about open source (old posts, page 4)

2010-06-18 15:42

Free software is good for me.

I make a living working with free software (BTW, if you need sysadmins that know what they do, contact us:

But that's not that big a deal, I could make a living doing something else. I am sure I would be competent at something else, even if I have no idea what that would be right now.

It does, however give me freedom to play, which is much more important. Therefore, this post is sort of a status update on things I play with. Not games, those are not really my thing, but things that I do for fun.

Yes, some of these may mean I am a very strange person.

I'll limit myself to the last couple of weeks or so.

There's been sort of a bump in interest in Marave, my distraction free editor and it's because it has been reviewed in Linux Journal!

I have read the article (sadly I can't link to it) and it was a super positive review, here are some choice quotes:

"marave makes the dull world of text editing romantic and immersive with beautiful minimalism"

"... it doesn't just have minimalism and simplicity, it has minimalism and simplicity combined with beauty and a palpable design ethic. marave has soul, and I love that."

So thanks for the kind words to the author, and something I noticed: you ran into a big bug in marave and didn't notice :-)

The "cricket bat" icon (it's a screwdriver ;-) should show you the config dialog. However, it seems in Ubuntu (and maybe in other distros, I don't know) the config is not visible,and all you see is the text move around a bit. This is what he should have seen:


I have never been able to reproduce it, but I am going to install a Ubuntu VM just for this, so maybe soon.

On related news, marave was also reviewed in a german magazine a couple of months ago, and I have not been able to get a copy of the article. (BTW, isn't it reasonable to send a copy of these to the author of the program you are reviewing? Neither magazine even mentioned it to me!)

In any case, if anyone has this magazine and can tell me what the article about distraction-free editors say, you will make my day:

Here's the article teaser

And this seems to be the magazine issue:

On new projects (yes, I always have new projects), I ran into this awesome blog post by Roger Alsing about approaching Mona Lisa with just 50 polygons < > and being a nerd and having awesome programming tools at my command... I wrote a framework to test that kind of algorithms.

I called it evoluto and it's at

I only did a very simple algorithm, based on transluscent triangles, but it did work... for some definition of work!

You can even see the local minimum that doesn't let her right eye form right :-)

Evoluto has a library of algorithms (currently empty) and you can edit and reapply on-the-fly the one you want, and see the generations change on-screen.

It would take some work to make it a polished program, but it does work.

I folled around a bit with creating a nice PDF presentation player but it's still very early:


In what's perhaps my most established project, rst2pdf. I have fixed a bunch of bugs, and a release is a bit overdue:

Issue 186: Text not wrapping around images when specified
I fixed this by adding a new CLI option, so behaviour was not changed, but now you can have images with text flowing beside it. It will not look great but it works.
Issue 307: Replace directive doesn't replace text in header/footer in some cases
This was an interesting problem! It was very entertaining.
Made it work with Sphinx 1.*
There is a piece broken still, but what I fixed was not terribly hard.
Unbroken bookrest
I need to work much more with this, but at least what worked before works again. If you don't know what bookrest is, it's a rst2pdf graphical frontend / word processor, here's a taste:

I also made several releases for my AUR packages

Plus I worked, and some other stuff. All in all, not a bad stretch.

2010-06-03 13:21

Random photos from my phone

A few days ago I finally got my 89 cents bluetooth dongle (now $1.85, but still with free shipping from china!) and got a bunch of pictures I had in my phone.

The quality is crap because my phone is crap, but trust me, there must be one thing here you have never seen before.

Here they are: weird stuff that made me take out my phone and grab a picture, with explanations.


This, from Mar del Plata, is the most badass popup book I ever saw.



And open:


I'm Mark Shuttleworth!

Imagen024 Imagen025

In a free software event in Buenos Aires, Canonical's boss and former space cargo was supposed to deliver the keynote. He canceled at the last minute. So Maddog Hall offered to replace him... in character.

Someone found a really, really awesome (and/or crappy!) astronaut costume, and Maddog gave a keynote shouting "I'm Mark Shuttleworth! I'm an astronaut!" and claiming to have come from the future to examine some slides recently found, written by some unknown dude named Maddog. Really funny stuff.

Python vs. Ruby

Same event, take a look:

Imagen023 Imagen022

Yes, I swear they are taken with less than 10 seconds of one another.


Imagen018 Imagen026

I was buying groceries in San Isidro's Disco supermarket. Yes, usually buying a large package of butter is cheaper per kilo than a small one. But here, a 200g package costed almost the same as a 100g! That's just stealing money from those who don't use much butter. Me? I'm not at risk.

Visa discount!


This was a shop in Avenida Alem in Buenos Aires. It was unusual to see a "VISA is suspended, 20% discount" sign. Much more unusual was to see the small letters: "present your visa card". I mean, wasn't it suspended?

And then I saw the rest:


It says "present your visa card and pay using anything else".

That guy must really have been pissed off at Visa!

I got a bunch more for some other time.

2010-05-12 20:08

What's wrong with this dialog?

I am writing a book. And I am writing a chapter about UI design. And why not use the Internet?

So, go ahead and tell me all that's wrong with this dialog!


For example, I don't like the dead space at the bottom-left, the different-size of the "Close" button, and the misalignment of the icons.

Are those valid concerns? Are there many more? Would you do it completely different?

The book is open source, and available at (In spanish, sorry!)

2010-04-11 05:12

I am posting very little because I am writing a lot.

I am just not writing here. I am writing a book instead.

What book am I writing? A book about python programming, of course! It's called "Python No Muerde" (Python Doesn't Bite) and it's in spanish.

Now, I am the first to admin: I am not a great programmer. And I am not a great writer. But I have lots of things to say. If I can organize them correctly, they even make sense sometimes!

So, I am giving this write-long-stuff thing a try.

Of course since I am an open source nerd, I can't do things the usual way, therefore, the book is under Creative Commons. And because I am a programmer, I hacked together a (if I may say so myself) decent structure to handle book-writing.

  1. I write in restructured text
  2. I use rst2pdf to create PDFs both of individual chapters and the whole thing.
  3. I use rest2web to create a website
  4. I use mercurial (at googlecode) to handle revision control and history.
  5. I use make to control rebuilding of chapters when code changes, or images get updated, etc.

Of course it's more complicated than that, the PDFs are in the site, the site is uploaded via rsync, the uploads and rebuilds are triggered by hg push, and so on.

In any case, I may post a few times about how this whole thing works, here is the output of the machinery:

2010-04-10 14:51

Android on x86: report

Since I expect Android on tablets to be a big thing in 2010, I am experimenting with the closest thing I can get: Android in my eee 701 Surf 4G:


I got the testing Android 2.0 image from I had the 1.6 "stable" one but it was... well, it worked awful (half the key combos or menu options caused it to crash, reboot or otherwise autocombust).

So... how is it working? Slow, but it has potential!

The bad:

  • It boots quite fast... but my tricked full Arch Linux install boots faster.

  • It works sloooooow, you can see individual letters when you type in the search gadget. I read this is a temporary problem, though.

  • I am getting a "castrated" experience because the open android app stores are not as well stocked as the official android marketplace (and come on, why the heck can't I get free apps from there???)

    I see obvious holes in the app landscape that I suppose are well covered in the market (like, is there a RadioTray replacement?)

    No text editor?

    No semi-decent word processor? Not even one that generates HTML?

  • The web browser is pathetic. It may be nice for a phone, but for a "real" system? It's awful. You get the mobile versions of all sites (obviously) and many don't let you switch to the real ones! (even google does that, for Google Reader), and of course, no flash.

  • The email app is terrible. You can't not-top-post!!!! "In-Reply-To" is off-spec!

  • The WiFi settings are way too hidden. They should pop if you click on the wifi icon.

The good:

  • It shuts down incredibly fast.
  • Some apps are quite nice, specially the Aldiko book reader is awesome (and I can share the ePub books with fbReader on the arch linux side.
  • The included SSH client has great ideas.
  • I love the "all your data is in the SD" approach. I do the same thing with Linux. In fact, I have the same exact data organization now on both OSs :-)
  • The home screen with the sliding app drawer: nice
  • The "grabbable" system notifications on the top bar: very nice
  • The "use the menu key to get the menu" thing? genius ;-)
  • The "everything fullscreen all the time", thing? works on this screen.
  • App installation is a solved problem here.
  • I know I will be able to get Qt working native... can't wait!

I am not sold yet, Arch is just so much faster right now, and it can do so much more, but...

  • I am getting a touchscreen for it, so I can experience it more the way it's meant to be experienced.
  • I am using it a lot to read at night in bed (Just finished Makers, read it, it's cool!).
  • I am using it for casual mail reading (I refuse to reply with that broken app).
  • It's a pretty nice alarm clock, so it's becoming my bedside OS.

I'll write another report once I have the touch screen or a new (hopefully faster!) version running.

2010-03-11 15:09

Finding a programmer that can program.

If you haven't read Jeff Atwood's Why Can't Programmers.. Program? go ahead, then come back.

Now, are you scared enough? Don't be, the problem there is with the hiring process.

Yes, there are lots of people who show up for programming positions and can't program. That's not unusual!

It's related to something I read by Joel Spolsky (amazingly, Jeff Atwood's partner in

Suppose you are a company that tries to hire in the top 1% of programmers, and have an open position.

You get 100 applicants. Of those, 99 can't program. 1 can. You hire him.

Then the company next door needs to do the same thing. They may get 100 applicant. 99 can't program ... and probably 80 of them are the same the previous company rejected before!

So no, hiring the best 1 out of 100 is not a way to get a programmer in the top 1% at all, that's just statistics intuition getting the worse of you.

You don't want to hire in the top 1% of applicants, you want to hire in the top 1% of programmers. Different universes.

These two things are the two sides of the same coin. 99% of applicants are useless, that's why they are applicants, because they can't get a job and they can't get a job because they are useless as programmers.

So, judging programmers by the standard of the applicants you get is like judging quality of a restaurant by licking its dumpster.

But now, having taken care of this, how do you find a programmer that can actually program?

Easy! Find one that has programs he can show you!

I would never hire a programmer that can't show me code. There must be something wrong with him, because programmers write programs.

That's just what we do. If we didn't what kind of programmers would we be?

Let's see some obvious objections to my argument:

  1. He wrote code for his previous employer and can't show it.

    So, he did. What else has he written? Some open source code? Maybe snippets in a blog? Answers in stackoverflow?

    Nothing? He has written nothing he was not paid to write? He is not who I want. He only programs for money, he lacks passion for programming, he doesn't enjoy it. He is probably not very good at it.

  2. He is just finishing college, he has not written much code yet!

    Why? What stopped him? He has been learning to program for years, what has he done with the knowledge he has been receiving? Saving it for his 25th brthday party? He has not practiced his craft? Not the programmer I need.

But having him show you code is not enough, of course. It also has to be good code, if you are serious about hiring excellent programmers.

So here's some bonus criteria:

  1. Check the languages he uses. If he codes COBOL for pleasure, he may or may not be what you want.
  2. Open source == bonus points: it means he is not ashamed of his code, plus it makes his credentials trivial to verify.
  3. If he leads a project with multiple contributors and does a good job he is half way to becoming a programmer/manager, so huge bonus points.
  4. Projects with long commit histories show responsability and a level head.
  5. Development mailing lists let you gauge his personality. Is he abrasive? Is he thin-skinned? Is he annoying?

Then there's the obvious stuff, references from previous employers, interviews, exercises, an such. But those are the least important filters, the most important thing is that he must be able to code. And showing you his code is the way to do it.

2010-03-03 19:28

Hacked on kuatia for a couple of hours...

As mentioned previously, I am hacking a bit on a proof-of-concept word processor. Right now, it's hosted on googlecode and called kuatia.

Now, it is far from being useful for anything, but... it can do nested itemized and bulleted lists.

Here's a screenie of the editor and the PDF output it produces via reStructured Text:


Personally I think that's not too bad.

2010-02-25 11:16

Marave 0.7 released

I just uploaded version 0.7 of Marave, my fullscreen text editor to

Marave is a "relaxing" text editor inspired by ommwriter, DarkRoom and many others. It combines a spartan fullscreen UI with a vanishing UI, which gets out of the way of your text.

It supports syntax highlighting, inine spellchecking, background music, audible keyboard feedback, themes, is extensible via plugins, and much more.

Here's a screenshot:


There are no major new features in 0.7, but there are important internal changes and some major bugs fixed:

  • Fixed bug that broke opening files if you had no spellchecker
  • Implemented basic RTL language support
  • Several other minor fixes
  • Refactored the editor component so it can be reused

2010-02-22 00:54

Are we really this clueless about software costs?

Here's what Ohloh has to say about the cost of developing Marave

Really, Marave is maybe a month of part-time programming. How could that possible be U$S71355, or "1 Person Years"?

Is this garbage the best we have to estimate costs? If that's the case, then whenever you see something about "Open source program X would take Y years and cost Z dollars to write", cut it down by a factor of 10 or more.

Here's what Marave really costed to develop:

  • Nothing.

Ok, here's what it would have costed if I had charged for it:

I am guessing about 100 hours of my time. At my "I hope they pay me this much" rate of U$S 40/hour , that's U$S 4000, which means Ohloh is off by 1600%.

OTOH, for that much freelance work I would not charge you the full rate, I would probably end charging you more like U$S20/hour which would make Ohloh's guess over 3000% too high.

In conclusion: if you like my code (and hey, you can see it for yourself), hire me, I am incredibly cheap, or amazingly fast!

2010-02-21 21:49

Marave 0.6 is out

Version 0.6 of Marave, my peaceful, fullscreen text editor is now available at the usual place:

New stuff:

  • Syntax highlighter
  • Plugins
  • Bugs fixed
  • Nicer animations
  • Code cleanup

Gratuitous screenshot:

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