Saturday, February 25, 2006

Create a kennel for your cat

Speaking of trying to put one system on top of another, using brute and unnecessary force if needed, Here's a short, yet uninspiring article from Mono creator Miguel De Icasa's blog regarding "Using Visual Studio to develop with Mono".
In a nutshell, Mono is a free, open source implementation of Microsoft's .NET development platform for GNU/Linux, Unix, Mac OSX, Solaris, and MS Windows. By supporting all those different architectures/OS Mono's actually helping to resolve a paradox, with .NET being a cross-platform development platform which is only available for Windows.

Part of the whole Mono project is their dedicated IDE called MonoDevelop, available for the GNOME desktop environment, but can basically run on any GNU/Linux or Unix machine. But apparently there are some people who must run their Mono developing-ing on Windows. Naturally, one would assume they would be using .NET as their dev platform, but no. And while working on Windows, why not get the most of the pinnacle in the IDE crown, Mr. Visual "my-way-or-the-highway" Studio. (If you misunderstand my sarcasm, I'm not what you might call a VS fan).

Now, I'm all for freedom of choice, and if someone wants to do his Mono mojo on Windows using Visual studio, let im have it, and just hope he's not actually developing a Windows application, since the extreme mass of irony will probably rip a new one in the space-time continuum. Still it's nice to see De Icasa drooling all over the VS plugin, reminding us all that free software or not, GNU/Linux revolution or not, some out there still consider Microsoft to be the one to follow, rather than to shy away from.

In and out of context

This post from OSNews quotes verbatim from the article it links to, and yet, in some magical way, manages to convey exactly the opposite:

"Yesterday, I got Qt running on top of the Glib main loop. By using the QAbstractEventDispatcher API, I was able to completely replace the entire event dispatching mechanism of a Qt 4 application with less than 600 lines of code. What does this mean?"

That was exactly my question when I read the extract. Amusingly enough, the writer is actually a QT developer, and he answers his question with "No integration" rather than "I've no fucking clue". Which is more or less my answer. And keep in mind, I have some minimal understanding of what he's referring to. I guess someone with even less understanding of programming would probably use many more expletives in his answer.

One day, they'll run out of books

Courtesy of the Site at the End of the Universe (whos RSS feed is constantly feeding me with up to 20 of past articles, read and unread) comes this interesting Wired article about Holliwood execs being less reluctant to authorise Philip K. Dick based Science Fiction movies. Who would've thunk it? I wonder if any of them actually read any of Dick's works to realise they stand for everything he hated. Still more power to us. Unless that power is anything like Lawnmower Man 2, *shudder*.

We put the fun in dysfunctional

The main man R.Cobbett is at it again, and in full force.
Go read his take on humanity, morales, ethics, and a very stupid download form quesiton...

News, views, interviews.

A lot of stuff going on lately, work, life (beta-testing the current version of it), et all.

I'll be at the OSDC for the next three days, hope to be able to write about some X-citink new and ground-shaking discoveries, or at least bump into some cool and famous guys.

There's a nice interview with one of the developers, where harsh questions like "why is OOo is so slow", "reasons for OOo being bloated and slow", and "OOo's slowness, why, dammit?". No punches are pulled, but other than "we are trying to solve it", no real answer is given. Oh well, I've always been a fan of actions speak louder than words, let's hope this is the case here.

A nice, if immensely, excruciatingly, bring-a-pillow, boring article regarding GNU/Linux distros on older hardware is available here. Most of the discussion is regarding the usual suspects, meaning Slackware and the Business-card distros (Damn Small and Puppy). I think the biggest point here is that many distros can be tweaked and adjusted to run on old hardware. A full-blown Fedora or Mandriva install won't probably work right (Actually, won't even install), but I've been having some good experience with an old laptop running "Xubuntu", which is Ubuntu using XFCE. And there are other Desktop managers like Fluxbox and FVWM that would run even faster, and allow you to use the latest and greatest software.

Two great projects, and my personal favourites, GNOME and Ubuntu, are getting propped up for their up coming major releases. Version 2.14 of GNOME, the desktop environment (or however it's called these days), is scheduled for March 15, a detailed preview of what to expect is found here.
Ubuntu, the GNU/Linux distro that warms up my screen, is also gearing up for it's 6.04 release, silly-code-named "Dapper Drake" and is scheduled to be available April 20th (hence the version number); the last alpha release "Flight 4" is already available for download, and as the project reached feature freeze, it's high time for das preview, as can be grokked here.

Most of the stuff available in both previews isn't really going to user experience, as this can't be "transferred" via screenshots. I have some issues/requests of my own with both releases:

GNOME will incorporate a more robust desktop search, which will be able to interface with Beagle, not a bad idea, assuming that Beagle is up to snuff. I have Beagle installed here, and have hardly used it. It has potential, but haven't lived to that yet, and it's biggest problem is being a resource hog. I have some of those resources-munchin apps running, and with the right amount of RAM, all those memory & CPU suckers can be satisfied, but Beagle's hunger is tantalisingly never ending. Also, if the search is dependent on Beagle to be able to do deep inter-file search (meaning not only searching for files, but also searching IN files), what's going to be the difference between it and the options we have now?

The much toted "DeskBar", the more I try to understand its functions, looks like something that, eventually, won't be of much usage to me.

GNOME's sub-folder treeview (look under File Manager here), which is incorporated to their file-manager is sweet, but I would like to have some better keyboard-manipulations. For instance, if I click on 't', I expect to get to the first file, or folder that start with that letter. Currently, it only works with the upper level, not with anything that is opened as a sub-folder.
The file-manager search is complete kerfuddle, with a "search-as-you-type" feature that chokes when you type the first letter (as you have about a zillion files that start with that letter), and can only search from the start of a file name (meaning 'boog' will find "boogleband.odf" but not "doctor_boogenboom.mp3")

YELP, the help browser, is said to have a huge face-lift and feature enhancement. Good. VERY Good. The promised ability to search and view man files is extremely welcomed, but the main target is to actually make yelp usable.

But I guess my main beef with GNOME is that the "packaged" applications are almost always not up to snuff. RhythmBox, Totem, GEdit, you name it, are the first to be replaced, and usually uninstalled. I think only Evolution is used, and probably because I don't need an email client, and use it for synching my Palm.

Which reminds me, Palm synching should work better. It's quite a mess right now.
I don't really know whether any, or all of those have been addressed in either Ubuntu or GNOME, but I would really like to see some work done on these, instead of putting all the time and effort into making a GUI installer. I don't need a GUI installer. Nobody needs one. I think people who cite the text-based installer as the biggest problem in any distro that use it has a major problem and need to have some therapy and have their computer rights revoked for a year. Made my point? I would appreciate if more man-hours would've been directed towards usability and compatibility instead of that GUI-installer.

I'm pretty optimistic, all around. Ubuntu 5.10 was light-years ahead of 5.04, in terms of ease of configuration, usability and "Out-of-the-Box work-ability". If 6.04 only partially matches that jump, it will be a very nice birthday present.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

You look like you've seen an optical self-delusion

I'm currently re-reading DC's Ghosts crossover. I love the art, and the writing is solid, if nothing spectacular. I especially like the underlying theme, that the superheroes are haunted by those who are a manifest of their own guilt about something they consider among their biggest errors.

However, one thing I can't "get" about this whole thing. In every single issue of the crossover, at one point, the main character will go "this can't be a ghost", or "I don't believe/you don't believe it's a ghost". I mean, C'mon. It's expect that from anyone else BUT DC's characters. After all, what exactly is the Spectre? Deadman? Those heroes deal, live and eat with the metaphysical/supernatural/occult on a daily basis, I find it a bit hard to digest that they would go skeptic all of the sudden. I know that the writers do tend to "keep it real" when it comes to characters, and those skeptic remarks are our own (as in the readers) immediate reaction, but it's quite a stretch of the suspension of disbelief.
I recall those late-seasons Star Trek: The Next Generation where one of the characters would enter and go like "I've heard voices all night" and the crew, instead of sending that character to a nice, long vacation with a nice prescription of medical drugs, would immediately start scanning for stuff and theorising on what could've caused it. It looks silly, and probably is silly, but those characters met with the unknown on a weekly, daily and hourly basis, they'd be more susceptible to accepting the metaphysical than the rational.

On the other hand, it does create some interesting reflections. At the ST:TNG episode "Journey's End", Wesley Crusher announces he is quitting Starfleet Academy (this being TNG, quitting the academy is akin to giving up all chance of post-graduate education. There are, technically, other academic institute, but in the TNG world it's "SF Academy or bust"). He gives the usual "young adult" reasoning, he doesn't "find" himself there, the pressure is too high, etc. etc. Then he meets a colony of Native Americans who refuse to be transferred from their planet due to some connection they feel with the land. He meets one of them, who takes him to a "ritual room", puts some heavy incense, which induces a trance-like state in Wesley, resulting in him seeing and talking to his dead father.

Now, let's take a different look. Had I come, several years ago to my mother, and told her that not only I'm quitting school, but I'm doing this after I inhaled some drugs that made me talk to my late father who encouraged me to not follow in his footsteps, I would really hope that my mother would have the sense to beat the crap out of my head. Literally, if necessary. Not surprisingly, this is hardly the case here. Dr. Crusher shows some maternal concern for her boy, but nothing that really hints that she thinks he did anything wrong, or is making a bad decision. While at it, Picard nearly rekindles a war with the Cardassians rather than kick the hell out of the Native Americans, just because they have this "bond" with the land, so there you have it.

Ridiculous as it may sound, this is perfectly in theme with the rest of the series, a bit to the extreme, granted, but not something we haven't seen before. Having the Flash doubt the existence of ghosts, is just bad writing.

Everything you know is wrong

Apparently I'm not the only one who "doesn't get it". Ever misinterpreted an email or an IM for being the opposite of what it was. Child, you're not alone.
Although I rather be alone than going hunting with Dick Cheney. Let me guess, guns don't kill people, people do? Try to use that line again. While at it, if you do go hunting with the VP, make sure to bring this visual aide with you. Not that he needs a gun to kill you, mind, as you know, if there's a will, there's a way (although if Law & Order, CSI and the rest are correct, when you do write a will, don't tell anybody). (Thanks to BoingBoing for the links). Of course, it might be that he was checking for WMD on that guy

Speaking of will (nice connection, eat your heart, new journalism), here are the shining knights of will power, the Green Lanterns. Courtesy of Monitor Duty comes a nice recap of what is probably DC's more interesting (if somewhat ridiculously over-the-top) heroes. Of course, everyone has his favourite GL, and while that GL is usually one Hal Jordan, mine's actually Alan Scott and Guy Gardner. I got acquainted with Alan Scott by reading the All Star Squadron, and that got my attention. Especially the story where he demolishes entire Japanese villages in a blind rage. His breakdown at the end of that issue is one of my best memories from a Comic book.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Video Games Journalists Hold Breath, Get Blue in the Face

In yet another case of Gaming Journalistic giants collision, Kyle Orland from the VGMwatch comments on a comment made by 1UP's John Davison.
In a column with a dozen or so 2006 predictions, Davison writes 'Games journalists will stop writing "the thing that's wrong with games journalism" musings, and start actually fucking doing something about it.' To which Orland replies '... But just because you’re yelling at the wind doesn’t mean you aren’t, on some level, yelling at yourself at the same time ... I think anyone who complains about game journalism has to reflect, at some point, on how their own writing measures up to the ideals they’re espousing.'

And to which I say: Stop splashing in your pond and call it a tsunami.
Why is it that I don't see movie critics release article after article about "state of Movie Journalism", even though a huge percentage of written material about movies is based on, or is promotional releases? We've seen those "interviews" which made of dozens of reporters waiting in line to get 15 minutes out of a half-asleep actor/director/whatever, then blowing it up to a full, three pages, front page article. So what, goes the communal opinion, we all know the rules of the game.

The movie "reports" are almost entirely PR in disguise, the interviews are mostly fake, and the gossip/rumours is at the bottom of the yellow barrel, but the movie reviews are mostly independent, free of commercial dictation, and true to the opinion of the critic. It might not be a fair tradeoff, but nobody really cares. In fact, of the whole loop, those receiving the short end of the stick are the critics, probably for not taking place in the whole charade. Not surprising, as movies are supposed to entertain. So we get an entertaining total package of marketing bliss, occasionally marred by the odd spoil-sport critic. These are the rules of the game.

The same could be said about the music journalistic world, while acknowledging the differences, not in favour of objectivity, or commercial free reporting, as music reporters exist almost solely on record-company-paid trips to live shows and events, music critics are bombarded with free material and are often over-saturated with new releases, the radio playlists are almost exclusively dominated by but commercially promoted material, you get the drift. It's all a huge festival centred on one common trait: create hype for your latest release and shove it into music buyers' pockets.

But that's the whole point isn't it?
Getting all high and mighty about Video Games Journalism is just ignoring the fact that this is a commercial media, not a philanthropic one. Everyone's out to make money, a fact no New Gaming Journalism manifesto can change. It's time to get on with the show, the way you do with every other popular media. Find the writers you like, ignore those you dislike, etc. It gets us more glittering events coverage and better "Hollywood" chic, but it means almost everything you see is free advertising. Sort of like politics.

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