Tuesday, 29 November 2005

Mile high : Mile deep menus

MACOS GUI sucks.

MAC fans think it looks nice, and thats a nice opinion but it doesn’t compare to windows for usability.

The only good thing I have heard said about the MAC GUI is the famed Mile High Menu. And thats a good thing if you don’t plan on learning to use a mouse well.

Does anybody seriously claim that all these MAC users can’t position a mouse in 16 pixels vertically but can position it in 16 pixels horizontally? How do they ever manage to click on buttons, or hyperlinks? How do they manage to drag their clipart about?

When you have one mile high menu, you gain something tiny for those who can’t use a mouse. What do you lose? You lose the mile-deep menu.

With GNOME or windows I can see the menu bars multiple windows at the same time, and even click directly on the menu bar of a non-focused window! MAC uses would have to first select the NOT-mile-high title bar and then move to the mile high menu bar. I get just one click.

Maybe MAC GUI has something to recommend it besides the dubiously and only slightly helpful mile high menu?

Monday, 28 November 2005

do { break; } while (0);

I just came up with this C construc, using break to jump out of a block;

do {
  if (! seems_suitable(a,b)) break;
  if (! c) break;
  } while (0);


I was adding a code block before an existing block whose purpose was to filter out certain conditions to handle especially, and trying to avoid lots of nested if/else blocks. Without this foul trick the code would read:

if (seems_suitable(a,b)) {
  if (c) {


it works for me anyway .

Friday, 25 November 2005

Stem cell hoo-hah

Based on The Register’s report I don’t understand why Professor Hwang Woo-Suk resigned.

As I read it two students donated ova under and assumed name without his knowledge and not in breach of contemporary law or ethical guidelines.

So what's the real reason he had to resign?

Perhaps I’ve missed something but that's how it reads to me.

Thursday, 24 November 2005

Flash hangs in firefox

Since upgrading from Hoary, firefox hangs badly on pages that contain flash.

Google reveals that lots of users are having this trouble; many of them relate it to sound access.

Well, I think I pinned it down to an ALSA problem.

Strangely sending a SIGSTOP and SIGCONT recovers it briefly. Hope fully I submitted enough debugging for it to be fixed now.

Apart from the above bug, I do wish Ubuntu would do ASLA device sharing out of the box and configure everything to use ALSA, and do ESD sharing out of the box and configure everything else to use ESD, and ESD to use ALSA.

Here is my config to do that:

/etc/asound.conf - this lets multiple ALSA clients use the audio device at once

# Example /etc/asound.conf or ~/.asoundrc file showing how
# to configure ALSA so that a dmix plugin is used by default
# The writing of alsa-lib configuration files is explained in
# /usr/share/doc/libasound2-doc/html/index.html, provided by the
# libasound2-doc package.
# Make ALSA apps default to using dmix plugin instead of hw plugin
# (Exclamation point is needed in order to override the assignment to
# pcm.default in /usr/share/alsa/alsa.conf.)

pcm.!default {
  type plug
  slave.pcm "dmix"

# Make OSS apps default to using dmix plugin too

pcm.dsp0 {
  type plug
  slave.pcm "dmix"


ctl.mixer0 {
  type hw
  card 0

/etc/esound/esd.conf - (I use libesd-alsa0)

I use tcp mode because my family have multiple console logins at the same time, and that way they can each use each-others esd if it is running, or start one if needed.

spawn_options=-terminate -nobeeps -as 1

# default options are used in spawned and non-spawned mode
default_options=-as 5 -tcp

Installing SUN Java on Ununtu

One of the uses of a blog is to make notes for myself to follow later. I often ending up doing the job multiple times and forgetting how I did it.

From these notes I install SUN Java on Ubuntu Breezy Badger.

sudo apt-get install fakeroot java-package java-common

fakeroot make-jpkg --full-name "My Name" --email "me@example.com" jdk-1_5_0_05-linux-i586.bin

sudo dpkg -i sun-j2sdk1.5_1.5.0+update05_i386.deb

sudo update-alternatives --config java

One good thing

Specialisation is something that troubles me; it makes it easy to have one good thing, but not two!

ToplogiLinux reminded me of this. I used to freak Mepis so that I could boot native or run it with a coLinux under windows (before I made the switch total).

I tried this with Ubuntu recently but had to freak about with a runlevel 4 which I set up to miss out a load of AGP and PCI stuff that crashed the thing.

It looks like TopilogiLinux is going to make that sort of stuff easier - but it means not having Ubuntu (linux for human beings). What if I want both? I can make Ubuntu work under coLinux but that means ignoring TopilogiLinux… can’t have both…


ulog-acctd seems pretty nifty for aggregating network flow statistics.

I’ve submitted some patches so it can build as a redhat package, and also dump the stats when it receives a signal. it’s nice for a stats processor to be able to signal to ulog-acctd to dump the stats now! type of thing.

No much seems to be going with the mailing list apart from eastern spam.

Secrets in GNOME file dialogs

Thanks for to ebassi who answered my rant about the GNOME file dialogs.

ctrl+L is the answer. While thanking you I can’t help wondering why it is so obscure. The Mac GUI may have no shortcut keys and I had mistaken GNOME successful hiding as the same deficiency.

I had noticed that when I typed a real letter, a floating edit box (no title) appeared for quick-jumping to a file in the current view, and would not accept full paths. Interesting if I ctrl+V into the file dialog nothing happens until I press a real letter too, upon which the floating edit box appears complete with the real letter and pasted text.

I wonder why ctrl+L and this other mechanism are both needed, they seem to duplicate each other, and where just typing is sort of intuitive, why is ctrl+L intuitive?

What I would like is for the path button bar to behave like a button bar AND an edit box. The button bar is nice because it shows the path I have descended to even if I pop up a level, sort of like expanding out the forward button of a web browser. But I would also like to be able to type in it. Perhaps like overlaying transparent buttons over a real edit box and moving the boundaries of the buttons to the positions of the slashes. I also want it to have a drop down list box to show recent full paths like firefox and windows explorer does. A selected path will then be displayed in the button/address-bar combination thingy.

A button/address-bar combo sounds like a dogs dinner; but what it were implemented in terms of the edit box custom drawn? Clicking on parts of the path change to that directory and render the old tail in dull grey so it can still be clicked on.

Tuesday, 22 November 2005

Free Choice

A friend recently commented that free  agency is not free, because of the constraints of the consequences.

After consideration I considered that he was right and that the value in agency lies in the constraints that the consequences bring; if there were no constraints, the decision would hardly be worth making.

Consider: If you were not constrained by consequences because you could re-order them at will:
  • You would suffer no disadvantage whatever decisions you made.
  • There would be no need to consider decisions before making them as any error could be corrected later, and the disadvantageous consequences removed.
But what would you be? In avoiding the necessity to learn from experience and do better next time you would remain entirely incapable of re-ordering the consequences to any constructive or permanent advantage, having no proper understanding of the consequences or benefits thereof.

You would often be dissatisfied with the immediate present and never being sure what you would prefer.

You would be little more that a wish-machine in a closed environment unable to form relationships with anything external.

I consider that it is the constraints of free agency that liberate us from our ourselves.

Monday, 21 November 2005

Stinkin’ GNOME file dialogs

AGGGH. The thing I like about Microsoft’s file dialogs is that they don’t get in the way and they let me do what I want.

The thing that makes be so angry with the GNOME dialogs and with quite a lot of GNOME things is that they make it so simple it becomes quite complicated to do things that are simple under windows.


Under windows I can paste a filename into a file open dialog and press ENTER - job done!

Under GNOME, I have to click through a bit at a time, waiting 10 seconds for the dialog to populate the file listing at some points, and then finally locate the file I need. I hate it. I hate GNOME when it makes me do that.


Saturday, 19 November 2005

Whats with s/he all the time?

In the bad old days “she” referred to the wifie, or womankind and “he” referred to the mankind. This much we all think we know.

But mankind referred to man and woman.

What I’m trying to get at is that women are at it again. They have (had) a perfectly good term that described just them, and then they all go and pretend it describes just men and get all huffy about it and insist that anyone who doesn’t write s/he or say “chair-person” is being sexist! Pardon!?

I’ll use terms like mankind and chair-man and if you think it doesn’t mean women, then think again.

I tend to get out of it by saying their instead of his or hers but I draw the line at chairperson.

See the dictionary; if people (*cough* some women) want to take offence at their own ignorance, I’ll let them - to do otherwise would be patronising, and patronising women is an even greater crime!

When asked “didn’t I mean chairperson?” I say “no I didn’t; and rather than pander to the ignorant we should educate them. Chairman does not refer to gender but to authority; and the deference of men has restrained any complaint on their part, unlike their false accusers who claim offence when there is none either in fact or intent.”

The consequence of which, women now have to stand up on the buses or trains, unless they look pregnant. If any female readers have got this far and recollect a case where no man offered a seat to a pregnant passenger, realise that they were probably chewed out once too often by someone who merely looked pregnant.

See the usage note and ponder your own position.

This has recently come up on Groklaw. The main idea is “stop whining, did you really think I meant male when I said he?

Nagging does not work on an individual or mass scale, so stop nagging.

It’s time

It’s time I had somewhere to post my wisdom; not for the masses, but for myself. But let the masses overhear me who want to.

It’s also time for bed, so that sleep can knit up my ravelled sleeve of care and all that.

Why am I up betimes this Saturday Morning? I have been setting up Campsite CMS whose main features are those that a professional publisher would want; namely
  • full control over what his minions can do, restricting such things as
    • putting links in stories
    • changing text size
  • Full characterset support and story-translations!
  • Good workflow to stop minions publishing rot
  • A not-half-bad templating system, of course I prefer mine but it doesn’t yet work with Campsite.