Busy making things: github, links, photos, @mc.

I (heart) Hoary

Posted: February 28th, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: Linux | 1 Comment »

I’m a Debian guy. I didn’t start out a Debian guy. I started out with Slackware back in the dowload images overnight and rawrite them to floppy days. Then I looked around and noticed everyone else using Red Hat, so I picked that up around 5.2 or so. I lost faith in Red Hat sometime after 7.3 and floated around a bunch of different distros until I finally drank the apt koolaid and settled on Debian and Debian-based stuff. I qualify that with “Debian-based” because there are a lot of excellent distros that build on the Debian core. For example, I try to have a copy of Knoppix or a Knoppix-based distro on me because you never know when a live Linux cd can come in handy. I’ve also been on a heck of an Ubuntu kick lately.

I’ve got a couple of boxes that I frequent during a typical day. There’s a Debian-testing server that I have a screen session to on whatever machine I’m on. The machine I spend the most time on at home is a PIII-600 running Debian-testing. I’ve also got a Dual PIII-733 that boots Windows and as of yesterday the upcoming Ubuntu release, Hoary Hedgehog.

It. Freaking. Rocks.

Hoary feels a lot like Debian-unstable. There are rather major package updates every day or so. That’s okay though, because there’s a super friendly update manager that takes care of everything for you:

Ubuntu Updates 1
Available Updates

Ubuntu Updates 3
Downloading Updates

Ubuntu Updates 2
Installing Updates

I can’t tell you how seamless it is and how right it feels. I guess that I shouldn’t be that amazed. Red Hat and Fedora have had a similar feature for years. I really like that I don’t have to pay for updates or have to register and confirm my email address and all that jazz. It’s just there, baked in, quietly doing its thing.

Another thing that I love about Hoary is that they fixed my one big gripe. Now when you install an application via apt or Synaptic, it actually ends up in your Applications menu. I can’t say that this is the case for all applications, but for several Gnome and Mono apps that I installed, all of them ended up in Applications. This totally rocks! The lack of newly installed programs going in to some place in Applications was the only thing that really bugged me about Warty.

Speaking of apps, I updated my /etc/apt/sources.list and pointed it to Universe. After that I promptly started playing around with a bunch of the Mono apps that I had heard about but hadn’t had a chance to look at. Here are a few screenshots from my playtime:

Tomboy
Tomboy

Inkscape
Inkscape

Blam
Blam

I’ve got to say that I’m really impressed by the level of polish of these Gnome Mono apps. If I were on the same Linux box all day I would replace Instiki with Tomboy. I may augment my notetaking habits to work Tomboy in a bit while I’m home. You know what would be killer? Tomboy+WebDAV.

I also played a bit with Inkscape. It reminds me of Illustrator with all of the path stuff. Blam is a solid 3-paned aggregator. Of course, because it’s a 3-paned aggregator it means that it’s not for me. I also fired up MonoDevelop and would love to spend some downtime reading Mono: A Developer’s Handbook and hacking on some GTK# stuff.

Enough rambling. Here’s the reader’s digest version: Ubuntu rocks. Gnome rocks. Mono rocks. Man I love Linux!


When Things Just Work: Nautilus and SFTP

Posted: February 26th, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: Linux | 5 Comments »

Nautilus SFTP

Every once in awhile my plain jane Debian workstation amazes me when something just works as it should. Tonight’s realization is that Nautilus plays extremely well with sftp:// URIs. I’m running version 2.8.2 which is relatively up to date but no bleeding edge. On a whim I decided to try using it to upload some pictures for my previous posts. scp:// failed but sftp://worked just fine. Since it uses SSH I already had the host key cached and it just prompted me for my password. Just as with SSH, you have to use sftp://username@host, otheriwse it assumes that you’re using the username that you are currently logged in as.

Speaking of Nautilus (and Gnome for that matter): I love the minimalism and clean lines. I’ve spent some time in the eye-candy KDE camp, but I’ve got to tell you: I’m a Gnome guy. It does such a good job at getting out of your way and just letting you do what you need to get done. KDE is nice, but it’s a little candy coated and busy for my tastes. Of course I’ve got both Gnome and KDE installed on this particular box because there are some things that KDE does better than Gnome, but for everyday use, Gnome is where it’s at.


Thunderbird Shortcomings: Outlook Import Support

Posted: February 26th, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: Open Source | 46 Comments »

Don’t let the subject of this post fool you: Thunderbird can import emails and folder and all that from Outlook, but not neccesarily in the best way. I’m not sure how this works on the Macintosh, but at least one Windows, you can’t just point Thunderbird at a .pst file as I was hoping.

I’m in the process of migrating between two corporate boxes, and thought I’d take the opportunity to switch from Outlook to Thunderbird. I ended up trashing my profile and starting from scrach (it has a nice spring cleaning feel to it). I wanted to switch over to Thunderbird immediately, so I installed it and went searching for how to point it at my Outlook .pst.

It turns out that it’s not that simple. You can’t just point Thunderbird at a .pst and run. You need to have a copy of Outlook installed, as aparently Thunderbird relies on it for the import process. That approach is probably the easiest way to get the import done, but it would be really nice to remove Outlook as a requirement for importing old Outlook data. I would have prefered to not have to reinstall Outlook on this particular box and stuck with a Firefox + Thunderbird + OpenOffice environment.

This isn’t the end of the world, and definitely not a showstopper, but gosh darn it I’d like to be able to import my Outlook messages without requiring Outlook to be installed.


Pathway to Recharge

Posted: February 26th, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: Mobile | 4 Comments »

Pathway to Glory

I love Pathway to Glory. It became my primary game and took up all of my taco time for a month or two. I made excuses to play it. I told myself that I would get back to doing something productive after I restarted this level one more, okay two more times. It’s worth every penny of $34.99

After a lot of dedicated play (and a couple of really tough levels) I beat the game. I actually beat it twice, because the first time I lost two of my maxed out snipers in the process of winning. I couldn’t bare being without them so it took another few days of downtime play to beat the game to my satisfaction.

My snipers were good. I would commonly play 2 of them even when the game urged me not to. After awhile my two best guys could quite literally be counted on for 4 confirmed kills a piece per turn. They could hit just about anything on the map within their range using 6 time units per kill. They were monsters.

After I beat the game the only interesting thing to do is hop online for some N-Gage Arena play. Our apartment is a dead zone, so no Arena there. I tend to be too busy at work and usually spend part of my lunch break catching up on my feeds, so no Arena there either. Once it warms up a bit I can probably play outside before class, but right now I spend time before class inside. Of course the buildings are virtual faraday cages, so I’m lucky to get FM reception for Marketplace let alone enough signal for GPRS.

At this point keeping the Pathway to Glory MMC in my phone just doesn’t make sense (I’m back to picking up tapes and sucking less at Tony Hawk). There’s a better reason besides boredom: Pathway kills my battery life!

I’m a casual N-Gage gamer. I usually have a game paused in the background, sometimes for days at a time. When I’ve got a few minutes to spare, I Alt-Tab as it were by holding down the little swirly key and selecting my game. This usually happens a few times a day when I’ve got downtime. Every other game that I’ve played has been fine with this. As long as the game is in the background I can get the usual couple of days out of a full charge.

Pathway just doesn’t behave the same. At first I wasn’t sure that it was Pathway, but I noticed that the taco was powering off completely at odd times. Maybe it would be first thing in the morning after the charge. Other times it would be later the same day. I thought that maybe my battery was going bad, but as soon as I stopped idling Pathway in the background I popped back up to my usual coupe of days of use per charge.

Has anyone else experienced this? This behaviour doesn’t make me love Pathway any less, it just makes me less likely to keep it in my taco running in the background. I’m more likely to have another game running in the background rather than waiting for Pathway to start up, start/resume a game, choose my guys and loadout and then start playing. A lot of the time my casual gaming time would be up before I had a chance to make a move. I’m hoping to have some more downtime while I have GPRS coverage, as playing Pathway on N-Gage Arena is total killer. I’ve only done it a few times but it’s lots of fun to play against a real human on your mobile phone.


Experimental del.icio.us Bookmarklet

Posted: February 26th, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: Weblogs | 321 Comments »

New Delicious Bookmarklet

A week or two ago I tried to post something to del.icio.us for the first time from a new box. I logged in and went to drag the bookmarklets to the bookmark bar in Firefox. I was excited to find a new bookmarklet called experimental post to del.icio.us on the del.icio.us about page.

I dragged that on to my bookmark bar and haven’t looked back. It sounds cheesy, but the experimental bookmarklet adds a lot of value to del.icio.us. If other people have posted the link to del.icio.us the tags that have been used in the past show up in recommended tags at the top. All of the tags that you have ever used are listed below, with the recommended tags highlighted. Below that are a list of some of the more popular tags that may apply to what you’re bookmarking.

This rocks on so many levels.

First, it’s great to get instant feedback as to how other people are tagging something that you’re about to post. At first I thought that this was a drawback and might confine new links to be posted within a universe of existing tags. After using the new bookmarklet I’ve found myself looking at the existing tags but often diving in to my list of tags and just as often using a tag that I’ve never used before. Second, it makes tagging easier. Just find the tag you want in your list and click on it. It’ll be automatically added to the list of tags in the form. It’s also a great prompt to remind you exactly what variation (singular, plural, e tc) of a word you have previously used as a tag. This way you’re not tagging stuff that you would post in the same category (such as blog/blogging/weblog/weblogging) to one category one time and another category the next.

I think that this new bookmarklet is going to make the del.icio.us experience even better than it already is. I’d suggest that everyone who uses the service go to the about page and snag the experimental bookmarklet. Trust me, you’ll never go back.


Orange Code Camp

Posted: February 25th, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: Mobile, Python | 3 Comments »

Orange Code Camp

One of the gems in the latest edition of Symbian Community News is a link toward the bottom to the Orange Code Camp in Sarasota, Florida. It’s scheduled for April 18-20 and sounds like an amazing bargain at $249 for 72 hours of hardcore learning and coding. From the program it looks like they’re going to cover the spectrum from basic technologies to Windows Mobile, J2ME, and Symbian development. It looks like there will also be resources set up to assist you in hacking together that killer mobile app.

The bang/buck ratio seems quite good here. $249 seems extremely cheap for a 3 day coding intensive miniconference. If money were no object I’d be there, but I’ve already commited to attending PyCon, another conference with an awesome value factor. I’m hoping to get a Python for Series 60 BoF session together during PyCon. If anyone attends the Orange Code Camp, please please please blog about it.


Connected Calendar Tipping Point

Posted: February 24th, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: Mobile, Open Source | 2 Comments »

It’s becoming quite obvious that the connected calendar is reaching a sort of tipping point. There have been all kinds of blips on the radar about calendars, calendar programs, calendar servers, calendar services, and just about anything that has to do with calendars. Frank lists the attributes of a perfect calendar in reaction to Jeremy Zawodny’s post on the subject. They’re both spot on. The world is in desperate need for calendars that sync to and on multiple paltforms, allow easy sharing, public and private events, access anywhere, and interop nicely. To put it bluntly we really need a calendaring system that doesn’t suck.

There are a lot of calendars out there, many of them quite good. But when you get down to it they all suck in one regard or another. Some are paltform specific. Others work well as long as you stay within walls of their system. Others sync with half the platforms that you’d like but not the other half. Heck, I even hear that Hula is getting some people laid.

I’ve looked at a lot of different calendaring systems and would rather not laundry list them. Some have been very close to being ideal. I set up calendar sharing over WebDav with Sunbird after its first public release. I tried Hula the day it came out. I tried unsuccessfully to compile and install Open-Xchange. Webcalendar is a solid webapp written in PHP, but it’s lacking in sync.

Like I said, we’re at a tipping point. We could go over the edge if Google really is working on a rich-web UI calendaring system that rocks. I doubt that they would be able to work in the synchronization that I’d really kill to have, but you never know.

Until the killer calendar comes along and slaps me in the face, I’ll be trying each one that has promise in hopes that it’s “the one.”


Perfectly Spherical Holographic Cow

Posted: February 24th, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: Weblogs | 4 Comments »

While I was in middle school, I spent a fair amount of time on CapAccess (the local Freenet. Yes I had to get my parents to sign the application form that I printed on the Okidata) and ViBES, The Virtual Interactive Blair Environment System. I was going to Sligo at the time and was nowhere near as cool as the Redland middle schoolers. I went by the name Prometheus. I had an office with some useless stuff in it that you had to teleport to. I wandered the virtual halls of Blair and vaguely remember something about a Perfectly Spherical Holographic Cow. I could be hallucinating though.

How did I get here? Oh right. Go North.

The whole ViBES mention is a tangent on a tangent on a tangent. It all started when I refreshed the Hack the Planet tab in Firefox (on my Debian box). I finally clicked on the PDF about peer to peer event notification which I had been meaning to do since yesterday. After glancing it a name near the top stuck out: Dan Sandler. Where the heck have I heard that name before? Reference the first paragraph of this post in which I rememberd ViBES and two of the god-like admins: Dan Sandler and Danny Gould.

I was curious what Dan had been up to since I vaguely knew him (virtually) in middle school. All is well aparently. He’s working on his PhD in Computer Science at Rice and working on the FeedTree project [pdf] that got me started with all of this googling in the first place. He’s also got a weblog which I’ve subscribed to via RSS. I wasn’t sure that he was the same guy I knew years ago, but this reference to ViBES confirmed it for me.

It was nice to stumble across old names and remember the good old times when we used to surf via gopher. It’s great to know that some of the kids I hung out with online when I was a kid are doing well. It also makes me realize that I’m still working on my BS in Computer Science while others from my childhood are working on their Masters and PhDs. I really need to slack less and code more.

My apologies for the trip down virtual memory lane. Don’t even get me started on green CRTs and 1200BPS modems, I could go on for days.


Is The Series 60 Brand Becoming too Diluted?

Posted: February 24th, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: Mobile | 2 Comments »

The other week I was glued to the monitor during the first day of 3GSM. Lots and lots of stuff was going on. One of the highlights for me was the announcement of the Nokia 6680, 6681, and 6682. They are compact, state of the art Series 60 devices. There’s full-on UMTS for the parts of the world that do that sort of thing, and EDGE for us in the mobile backwater better known as the United States. Even better, the release date for the US variety should be sometime during 2H 2005.

After the initial excitement I dove in to the tech specs a little bit. I then realized that Series 60 can mean quite a range of things. At the low end you’ve got the 7650 and my 3650 which I’ve never been able to clear out enough memory to actually run Opera. (I’ve managed to misplace my 3650 somewhere too and probably haven’t seen it in a few weeks.) On the other end of the spectrum we’ve got devies like the 6630 and now the 6680, with newer versions of Series 60 and with additional Feature Packs. Somewhere in the middle there are devices like the taco and 6600/6620.

Yes, there’s a lowest common denominator in there somewhere that you can refer to when you say that something is Series 60. After that you have to think to yourself What version does that run? and Is that Feature Pack 2 or Feature Pack 3?

At the same time I think that most of this confusion is inevitable. Series 60 has grown up quite a bit in the last few years, from the 7650 slider with no external memory capability to the latest devices with lots of on-board memory sporting the latest in low voltage RS-MMC cards.

What really worries me is the confusion that will come when the Series 90 technology is rolled in to Series 60. Then Series 60 might mean anything from the classic 7650 to the latest bleeding edge stylus input or QWERTY device in addition to whatever the latest single-handed unit may be.

What can be done about this brand dilution? Off the top of my head I can’ think of anything. Nokia could try sub-branding the different variants: Series 60 Classic for the old stuff, Series 60 One-Handed for the main stuff, Series 60 Stylus for pen-based stuff and Series 60 Keyboard for the QWERTY stuff. Of course that would probably just cause more confusion than If it looks like Series 60, walks like Series 60, and talks like Series 60, call it Series 60.

*Sigh*


Hula!

Posted: February 16th, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: Linux, Open Source | 22 Comments »

I was excited to hear Nat and Miguel talking about The Hula Project yesterday as I was catching up on my feeds.

Hula is an email and calendaring server. I think they’re taking the right approach: instead of trying to do everything for everybody they’re going to focus on email and calendar. They’re going to try to make the best darned email and calendar server out there. They’re also looking to make of Javascript and DHTML to create a rich web UI.

I have to say that I’d love to have something like this. A month or two ago I spent a few weeks off and on banging on OPEN-XCHANGE. I tried several times to get the prereqs right so that I could build slapd from source and then build OPEN-XCHANGE in order to be able to configure all of the stuff that needed to be configured. At first I got stuck near the top of the Debian install instructions. Then I got stuck in the middle, and by the time I had written a shell script to do most of the dirty work, I got stuck at adding the LDAP user. I also looked at installing OpenGroupware but a lackluster attempt at figuring out what to do with nightly build .debs I gave up.

I’m going to repurpose a box and put Debian unstable on it (testing has an older version of automake) to play with Hula, as it seems like it has the easiest build/install process so far:

./configure
make
su make install

Granted there is some configuration to do after that, but from what I’ve heard in #hula on freenode the process is quite easy.

That’s not to say that I’ve stopped looking at alternatives to iCal-over-webdav or Exchange or an exchange workalike for my calendaring and general togetherness. I’d love to see a livecd with openexchange already running on it. For now I think I’ll build Hula and see what the buzz is about. I’m confident that it’s going to progress and improve quickly.


Nokia 6680, 6681, and 6682: Covering the Bases

Posted: February 14th, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: Mobile | 32 Comments »

Nice. I don’t think that these are supposed to be live yet, but Symbian has links to details on the Nokia 6680 and Nokia 6681. The 6680 has it all: Tri-band, WCDMA, EDGE, etc. The 6681 is a gem. It’s pretty much a 6680 with UMTS stripped out. This is big news for us in the relative mobile backwater called The United States of America.

Nokia have definitely played their cards right. They have a bleedng-edge Series 60 device that can debut almost simultaneously around the world. The Euros can get their true 3G handset while at the same time we can get the same tech in our hands using EDGE. This is A Good Thing, since we don’t have to wait for the technology to trickle down or wait for lethargic carriers to update their infrastructure before a phone is deemed approrpiate for our market.

Nokia is also able to please the entire US market by releasing the 6681 and 6682. The 6681 will be good for T-Mobile (tho they lack EDGE so will probably not pick it up) that use the 900 frequency. Cingular will (hopefully) eat up the 6882 which runs on 850. Both units are tri-band so they’ll also do 1800 and 1900.

Here’s the timeline:

  • Nokia 6680: March 2005
  • Nokia 6681: April 2005
  • Nokia 6682: Q2 2005

Now that’s a way to launch a phone! It looks like the US version will be a bit behind the others, but should be much less behind than usual. Go Nokia!

More information:

Update: The 6680 is small, but the 6681/6682 is even smaller, as in the smallest Series 60 device to date.


3GSM Roundup

Posted: February 14th, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: Mobile | 6 Comments »

Just Browsing: Books that Caught my Eye

Posted: February 14th, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: *BSD, Java, Linux, Python, Web Services | 12 Comments »

As a break from classwork last night my wife and I headed to the local Borders to do a little book browsing. I didn’t pick anything up, but several titles caught my eye. Here are the books that I would have picked up if money were no issue and there were a few extra hours in each day:

  • Novell Certified Linux Engineer (Novell CLE) Study Guide: I almost went for a cert with the previous SUSE cert system. I also remembered that I’m a Java Certifieid Programmer and would do more Java certs if I had the time. I really wish that there were a J2ME cert book out there that I could study in my downtime.
  • Secure Architectures with OpenBSD: This looked like a meaty book with lots of information on hardening the already paranoid OpenBSD as well as ways to use it without making stupid mistakes.
  • Managing Security with Snort and IDS: There aren’t enough yellow O’Reilly books. Snort has intrigued me for some time and I’d love to read up on it someday.
  • Advanced Unix Programming: I’ve never been a really low-level guy, but I’ve had a newfound respect for plumbing since I’ve been shoving 0′s and 1′s around this semester. This looks like a great reference for low-ish level programming in a Unix (or Unix-like) environment.
  • Knoppix Hacks: I swear, if you leave two Hacks books alone for 20 minutes they’ll mate and have offspring. There really are a lot of things you can do with Knoppix.
  • Essential Mathematics for Games and Interactive Applications : A Programmer’s Guide: This one was showcased a little bit and gets down to the nitty gritty of stuff that you need to do in order to know your stuff. I’m always amazed at how much you need to know about whatever subject you’re coding for.
  • XML Hacks: What did I tell you? There’s another. A bunch of tricks with XML from cool but useless to wow.
  • Python Programming Patterns: I don’t think I’ve seen enterprise-grade patterns using Python before. This looks like a good book for those looking for an excuse to use Python in the workplace.
  • Moleskine by Kikkerland: Some great small notebooks and stuff. They could be great for jotting down notes before they can make their way to my wiki.

It was great to get out and graze at the bookstore a bit. It has been awhile since I’ve done so. Of course I have a similar number of tech books already on the shelf that I haven’t had a chance to read, but I always want more.

What books have you looked at lately? I was bummed not to find Mono: A Developer’s Notebook on the shelf, but considering that there were several there last time, I think that’s a good sign.


VLC Media Player (Formerly Videolan) Rocks!

Posted: February 12th, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: Apple, Linux, Open Source | 22 Comments »

Codecs and Linux distros don’t mix. A few years ago, Red Hat stuff stopped playing mp3s. I love my debian Sarge desktop, but Totem just doesn’t support enough codecs out of the box. It’ll handle the basics fine and keeps in line with the minimalistic clean-lines Gnome philosophy. It just won’t handle everything that I throw at it.

Enter VLC.

Man, this thing does it all. It can stream just about everything, and it handles a lot of the Windows-based formats that other players throw ugly codec errors on. It may not be as pretty as Totem, but it sure as heck gets the job done.

Installation was cake on my Debian box. I followed these instructions but opted to install most of the related optional and suggested packages. I also went the sid route as opposed to the woody route. VLC was downloaded and installed in just a few minutes, tho I didn’t get a chance to try it out right away. Sure enough I threw some .wmv and .avi files at it and it handled them perfectly. I don’t have speakers on this box so I can’t vouch for sound decoding, but the video looked just fine.

I’d highly recommend VLC in addition to whatever media player you’re using now under Linux. There is also a Win32 and Mac OSX version. Take a look at it, I think you’ll like it.


Lock Down Your Aerials: The 2005 Brit Awards

Posted: February 10th, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: Web Services | 4 Comments »

The Brits were taped yesterday and are airing tonight on ITV. Since Comcast doesn’t carry ITV (only the watered down BBC America), I was elated to find that BBC News took notes on the winners. I was glad to see that Mike Skinner (aka The Streets) picked up the British male solo artist award. I loved his debut Original Pirate Material. His newest, A Grand Don’t Come for Free is best listened to from cover to cover, as it all fits together in a well-told story. Both albums have enjoyed heavy rotation in my car CD player as well as at home on the computers. They’re really top notch work.

Other hilights from the awards are that Franz Ferdinand didn’t dominate quite as much as was expected. I think there’s a bit more hype for them then they deserve. Other big winners include Keane and Joss Stone. The Scissor Sisters sadly dominated the international category. I’ve heard most of their album and I guess I just don’t get it.

Congrats to the winners, including my underdog favourite The Streets.


Google Maps From Point A to Point B

Posted: February 8th, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: Weblogs | 14 Comments »

I’d like to say this up front: Google Maps is the most beutiful webapp that I have ever seen. It’s thick-client goodness in a plain old browser. It’s gorgeous, it’s clean, it’s interactive, and it’s driven by Google. It also has a killer feature: parmalinkage.

Getting back on topic, has anyone actually trued to use it? For directions I mean. They seem to be about on par with Mapquest, which isn’t a compliment. I was really bummed when I clicked on the Print button. I was expecting a nice clean overview map with a minimap for each turn. I was dissapointed to find a rather huge map with some text directions thrown in at the bottom.

Hey guys and gals, what gives? I love that I can click on each turn number and get a zoomed-in map of the turn. They’ve got this retro nostalgic feel to them. I love them. They don’t really do me a lot of good when I’m on the road though, unless I’m balancing a laptop on the dashboard. For the sake of drivers around me, I’ll refrain from that

I know, I know, it’s a Beta. Unfortunately Google has led me to expect perfection out of their Beta services. I do hope that they give me some options on printing in the future. As much as Mapquest sucks I really like the turn by turn graphics (for when I miss the turn and get lost).

I could probably deal with the printable directions as they are if they didn’t feel like an afterthought. Mapquest does a pretty good job with their little icons (right, left, interstate, route number, etc). I also like no-nonsense approach that Yahoo Maps takes. They mark their turns with clear L and R icons.

Thanks Google, for another awesome tool, even if it’s not perfect yet.


Open Message Queueing: The Next Big Web Services Thing?

Posted: February 8th, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: Open Source, Web Services | 20 Comments »

Slashdot links to an eWeek article detailing the plans of John Davies at JPMorgan Chase & Co to release an open source message queueing system. Amazon already has its Simple Queue Service. Codehaus has its ActiveMQ. There is a lot of room in the marketplace for queues of varying openness and closedness. I’d love to see several queueing systems thrive, especially if they end up being as open as it looks like they may be.


Open Source PBXes

Posted: February 7th, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: Open Source | 33 Comments »

The most interesting article (to me) in the Jan 31 edition of InfoWorld was one titled Open Source PBXes: Free Flexibility. I’ve been tracking a few open source PBX and softphone projects for awhile now. After reading the PBX article I thought I’d take another look.

The InfoWorld article looks at Asterisk by Digium and SIPxchange by Pingtel. Asterisk is probably the most well known open source PBX package and can run quite well in its open source form. Pingtel has a much more corporate feel. Its core, sipX, is open source, but it appears that that to do anything useful you need commercial extensions from Pingtel. I can’t fault Pingtel for that either. A company has got to make a buck somehow, and some open source is better than no open source at all, I think. There appears to be a nice community growing up around sipX at SIPfoundry.org.

If I had to choose one open source product over the other, I’d probably have to go with Asterisk, as it handles many protocols (SIP, H.323, MGCP, IAX, SCCP) while SIPxchange/sipX focuses exclusively on SIP. The commercial SIPxchange is probably going to be the easiest to administer with its graphical user interface for confiuration and management. On the other hand, if you have a linux guru on staff you should be able to pull off an Asterisk configuration without too much trouble.

Most (if not all) PBX systems require some sort of hardware to interface with your external lines and internal network. These open source alternatives are no different, although the processing power requirements are very low. InfoWorld tested out these PBX systems on surplus Pentium desktop systems and they performed just fine. You’ll need some sort of hardware to hook in to your phone lines and phone system, but open source PBX software running on modest hardware can quite proably reduce the costs of your PBX.

Update: I really should have dug a little deeper, as I forgot to mention GNU Bayonne, which has probably been around longer than most. Erik also pointed me to Voicetronix, which looks like a good place for hardware as well as open source PBX software.


Freshmeat\’s Revamped RSS Feeds Rock!

Posted: February 6th, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: Open Source, Weblogs | 8 Comments »

Freshmeat offeres several XML feeds of new project releases as well as an RDF representation of its software map and all releases. Until recently the Freshmeat RSS feed that I was subscribed to was a no-nonsense short list of projects with new releases. To view information about a particular release, I just CTRL-clicked on the project name to get more information in a new FireFox tab.

That has obviously changed recently. I’m pretty sure that the barebones feed has gone away, and I’ve now been redirected to fm-releases-global.xml. Here’s a quick list of available feeds:

The release feeds are RSS 2.0 generated by PyRSS2Gen and are just beutiful. The new feeds provide most of the critical information that I would want to know about a new release: project name, branch, version, project description, changes for this version, and a screenshot if available. That totally rocks! Here’s an example from a release that hit my aggregator this morning:

Title: gnormalize 0.12 (Default branch)

Link: http://freshmeat.net/releases/186939/

Description:

Screenshotgnormalize is a graphical front end to normalize. It decodes the MP3/OGG files to wave, then normalizes the wave and re-encodes it to MP3/OGG. It can also convert audio format between MP3 and OGG, change the encoding and ID3 tag properties of final normalized files.


Changes:
This release can now convert audio format between MP3 and OGG.

Thanks, freshmeat. You’ve totally made my morning!


Research and Development

Posted: February 5th, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: Java, Mobile, Open Source, Projects | 7 Comments »

I was joking with a friend about Fortran Server Pages and how silly that would be the other day. A quick google search didn’t reveal anything, although it did unearth some Fortran CGI from the FCC (with source code). While investigating further, I found myself arriving at the R&D sections of a few different companies. I thought I’d collect my findings for you:

This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but there are a lot of amazing research projects, downloadable software, and amazing papers on the other end of those links. If you have some free time, you should look around a few of them.