2007-11-20 14:51

Haven't had one of these in a while!

You start a blog, you like something another guy wrote, what do you do?

  1. Link and write a nice comment
  2. Add it to del.icio.us, have feedburner show it in your "Links of the day" feature?
  3. Copy the whole thing, including the name of the author, not following his very liberal license, ignore his request to fix it, and piss him off?

If you chose option 3, then you will get along just fine with this guy!

2007-11-20 13:02

New blog feature: Spanish translation!

I have decided to make this blog available also in Spanish starting yesterday.

Since it's generated by my own software called BartleBlog, that meant I had to implement everything so each post can have multiple translations.

And it's starting to work. You may notice several things:

  • Below the banner there is an "Available in English - Español" thing.
  • Each Post has links to the different translations for which it's available.

The location and styling of these elements will change, and they may be broken in different ways for a few days. Sorry about that.

There will also be a "Lateral Opinion en Español" RSS feed soon.

Update: here it is

2007-11-19 15:16

Still waiting for the perfect ebook (No, the kindle isn't it either)

And that's sad, because I don't ask for much!

I have read everything for the last three years in some sort of Sony Clie. First a SJ30, and after its sad demise in a coke accident, a SJ20 and am very very happy with them.

Now, as usual I may be a bit eccentric in that my favourite format for ebooks is TXT files. They are easy to manage, you can read them on anything, and they are gorgeous to look at if you use Palm Fiction, the best etext reader by far for any platform I've seen.

Now, what do I want?

  • e-ink display
  • A display that doesn't take a second to refresh
  • One week of battery life
  • A way to put a bazillion texts in it using some sort of card (I have about 3500 books in zTXT format in a memory stick right now)
  • Light (below 300 grams)

That's all. OK, I also want it to be cheap and at least open-ish, since I would prefer to be able to write apps for it, but that's secondary (I never wrote a Palm app anyway).

And sadly, the Kindle fails in:

  • Not cheap enough ($400????) Plus a subscription for most useful stuff??
  • Not fast enough refreshing the screen, according to the demo video. And even if you can live with the slowness (I probably could) it flashes in an incredibly annoying way.
  • Not open enough (they charge you to upload files to it by email?)
  • It's incredibly ugly. It looks like a gadget from Star Trek: TOS. That's seriously not good. I know that was not a requirement, but baby jebus cried a little when he saw it.

Of course the e-Ink display looks great as usual, and the battery life is excelent, and we are getting closer to a decent product, but not there yet :-(

2007-11-19 11:50

The future is not what it used to be

Today I found Paleo Future via reddit.

  1. Something like Wernher von Braun's Shuttle images look a ton better than the CG used today
  2. The future is, of course, always going to be different from what we think now
  3. I still really want a flying car
  4. The nice things we have, noone guessed (like cellphones which work as phones always did instead of as radios)
  5. This blog is very readable! Welcome to my RSS feed collection :-)

2007-11-16 14:54

What I want for christmas (The cool new trend on preloaded Linux)

Dear fictional character that oppreses the workers of
the North Pole:

This christmas, I want an Asus eee PC, an Everex gPC,
and some bare white box with a nice Phoenix PC 3.0 BIOS.

Why am I asking the red menace from the north for these items?

Well, they do have one thing in common: Linux. Another is that they are consumer boxes, not servers.

For many years, one of the huge advantages windows had was that it came preloaded with most PCs. This enabled people to turn a blind eye to windows installation and configuration since it was done by Someone Else (TM).

Since getting Linux has become much easier in the last 10 years [1] this has been very frustrating. Imagine you had something you gave away for free, but people kept using something more expensive because they had to pay for it anyway!

That itches. If Linux was not chosen because it was inferior for the task at hand, that's one thing, but not even being able to be tested because the other product was bundled and paid for? Annoying.

Of course on servers this worked differently. The OS was not the expensive part, and was preloaded less often. Corporations have prearranged licensing terms, and adding things to the mix is simpler.

But for consumers, preloading has been a huge problem [2]

So, if the jolly trespasser brings me what I ordered, I will find the following:

  • Asus eee: A cheap subnotebook with Linux and KDE preloaded.
  • Everex gPC: A cheap Desktop with Linux and Enlightenment(!?) preloaded.
  • Phoenix PC 3.0 BIOS: an embedded hypervisor and Linux OS.

The eee is probably the most appealing. It's ideal for many uses:

  • Salesmen who are now using some ungodly Blackberry app (or worse)
  • System and network admins. Really. I would love to have a cheap notebook I won't hesitate bringing to a roof, a bar, the beach, whatever. It would live in my bag. My current notebook? Besides weighting 8 pounds, it's expensive and large. All I need are webpages email and SSH sessions!
  • Kids and students (it's cheap! You can buy a replacement if he drops coffe on it!)
  • Basic users and old people. Really, an office-like thing and a web browser? And I can use it wherever there's wifi? Neat.

And it is going to get a lot cheaper, and it's going to get a lot better. I expect there will be a 32GB, 10" model by the end of next year for $350, and the current model available for $250 (after all, half the components are cheap as dirt already, only flash is expensive, and that's a fluke)

And so on and so forth. If Asus creates a decent dock [3] and a nice rdiff-backup-based backup solution (it should be at least as nice as Apple's Time Machine), this box turns into my main computer whenever I am at home, and is a useful tool on the road. I really can live with those specs.

The gPC is a bit harder to grasp.

First, it's even cheaper. $200 is cheap. The CPU is slowish, but there are a whole range of tasks that are not CPU bound. I really want one of those as a home server. This is the first time I can see one of these ITX boxes as actually cheap not just small (in fact this one is not small at all).

  • I have a TV capture card, I could make a PVR out of it using LinuxMCE? It does have enough CPU for that (since I am doing it with a slower box already)
  • A file server? More than good enough for that.
  • A houseguest computer?
  • A MPD server?
  • All of the above?

And do all this while being quiet and power-efficient? Neat!

And the Phoenix PC 3.0 BIOS simply would be cool because I can virtualize without jumping through any hoops. This one is still fuzzy for me, but I only found out about it today. I need time for things to grow.

Why do I think these boxes mark a trend? Because they are definitely low-end products. These are meant to be made by thousands and hundreds of thousands, and make small money on each.

The makers are being smart about providing as little functionality as they can and making them simple, niche, consumer products instead of monstruosly powerful Linux monsters (sorry for how ugly that sounds).

Another factor is the huge growth of web apps that work well on non-IE browsers. This is making the OS irrelevant just like Netscape hoped in 1996. If the OS is invisible, Linux won.

So, Santa, for this christmas I ask for all these toys,
and if it has to be only one, please make it the Asus eee.

                                            Roberto Alsina

PS: and if you don't do your part, the raindeer's a goner!
[1] Look, no need to create 30 floppies! You can add a driver without recompiling the kernel! You don't need to know what a Modeline is!
[2] The other one is probably games, but that's a different problem. There are whole markets where gaming is not an issue.
[3] A wireless dock with place for a IDE disk or two, an optical drive, a powered USB hub, a card reader. Hardware costs? Maybe U$S 50 + disks?

2007-11-15 17:56

I used to like Paul Graham's "Hackers and Painters"...

... I was totally wrong. Read Dabblers and Blowhards for the real thing.

Inspired paragraph:

Great paintings, for example, get you laid in a way that great computer programs never do. Even not-so-great paintings - in fact, any slapdash attempt at splashing paint onto a surface - will get you laid more than writing software, especially if you have the slightest hint of being a tortured, brooding soul about you. For evidence of this I would point to my college classmate Henning, who was a Swedish double art/theatre major and on most days could barely walk.

2007-11-15 16:23

Bash does thing I never suspected.

Try this and be amazed:

$ cat < /dev/tcp/gsmtp163.google.com/25
220 mx.google.com ESMTP 12si345086nzn

Be honest: did you know bash could do that? I didn't until finding it in the man page

Now try this and be amazed it doesn't work (yes, it's in the docs):

$ cat /dev/tcp/gsmtp163.google.com/25
cat: /dev/tcp/gsmtp163.google.com/25: No such file or directory

And remember, on unix everything is a file, but maybe that file is only there in some very specific circunstances.

UPDATE: There is a chance this will not work in your distro, specifically Debian.

2007-11-14 10:34

Lateral Opinion's greatest hits

Since this blog just broke the 100K visitors barrier yesterday (although it had about 150K more when it was lateral.pycs.net), it's a good time to revisit some of the old stuff that was somewhat good.

So here are (IMVHO) the best ten things I remember writing in this blog in the last 7 years.

  1. Data-aware widgets in PyQt

    This article describes a cool (again, IMVHO) way to implement DB-backed apps using PyQt. It's short, working code and you end being able to create neat stuff. I liked it, noone else did.

  1. Be a good lamarckian froggy

    It has it all! Evolution theory (theories)! It pretends to provide insights into FLOSS! Movie-critic-like quotes in the comments!

    best blog i've read in a long, long time.

    —Aaron Seigo

  1. Rapid Application development using PyQt and Eric3 ... in realtime!

    An original premise, a semi-useful app written, got good reviews. I still like it, but sadly it's not a format that ages well, since you can't update the tutorial for newer versions of PyQt.

  1. Squid authentication via POP or IMAP

    It solves a real problem, does it elegantly, and I still am installing it.

  1. Shared: Narnia, The Da Vinci Code is Broken., Kong at dawn, Matrix Revolutions, Troy (not McClure), Double feature at the Electric

    I sometimes try to "review" movies in an oddball way. Please read them if you saw the movies. I think I made sense.

  1. Skeletons of stories that won't ever be written.

    I have no idea why I wrote it, but I still like it.

  1. The world cup and I

    Too sentimental, but hey, I did feel that way.

  1. Frodo as a Hacker

    The subtitle is "Shameless explosion of nerditude." and it is that. I am at the same time very ashamed of writing it, and rather amazed by it.

  1. The Linux Booting Process Unveiled

    One of my most popular articles. It's even cited as a reference on Linux booting in Wikipedia! (I edited it because they had the link wrong, though). It was even copied without atribution a couple of times.

  1. A Modest Usability Improvement

    Other articles had more links, more views, or more comments, but this article inspired the creation of two new apps that are much better than what was around before I wrote it, which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. So, check it out, then use Speedcrunch or Abakus instead of kcalc (or wincalc).

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