Posts in Category “Other”
May 30, 2020
On Friday, my employer had a “learning day”. Among other things, I followed a typography video course called “The 33 Laws of Typography” by Jill Butler. I liked it a lot and I took notes so I could actually remember the conclusions of the course, so I’m publishing them here in the hopes that they will be useful for other people.
This will be long!
There are five categories for the 33 Laws of Typography:
- How to Format a Document
- How to Format Large Bodies of Text
- How to Format Small Blocks of Text
- How to Use Punctuation Properly
- How to Choose Typefaces
How to Format A Document
Distrust default software settings
In particular, Typeface, Type Size, Line Spacing, Margin Sizes, Text Alignment.
Ensure good contrast between text and background
To ensure text legibility. Reverse type (light text on dark background) is fine for small chunks of text, but have to be careful with thin strokes in the font (sans-serif tend to work better because of this, and extra letter spacing and line spacing).
Complex backgrounds can be almost impossible if there are different colours in it (impossible to have enough contrast with all parts of the background). In those cases, use a box with a single colour.
Avoid chartjunk and pagejunk
Chartjunk: excessive and unnecessary use of graphical elements in charts and graphs.
Pagejunk: excessive and unnecessary use of graphical elements on pages. Usually boxes, shadows, and rules.
Watch out for fancy, thick, and double rules in boxes. Also small margins in boxes… and pages.
Enforce consistent style within a document
Use software styles, or CSS on web.
Maintain a visual hierarchy
Document title, Level 1 Headings, Level 2 Headings, Body Text, Image Captions, Headers and Footers.
Plan which elements the document will contain so you can make design decisions about the hierarchy.
Group related page elements
Gestalt’s Law of Proximity, eg. having headings closer to the body text (or subheadings) than whatever is before them, so they are visually grouped with the text.
How to Format Large Bodies of Text
Set printed body text from 9 to 11 points
9pt to 11pt on print, 12px to 16px on web. Font size is measured from the top of the ascenders to the bottom of the descenders! That’s why different fonts look small or big in different fonts.
Set body text 2 to 3 alphabets wide
Too narrow is bad because all the eye jumps (and possibly jagged lines when left-aligned, or “rivers” when justified), too wide is bad because it’s hard to read long lines.
Should be 52-78 characters wide. For fancy typefaces or reverse type, 52 characters or a bit less is good. For justified text, better to use 78 characters or more.
Favour flush left, ragged right body text
The problem with justified is the potential “rivers” (horizontal gaps that sort of align). Shorter line lenghts are worse for justified text.
Flush right is ok for figure captions, attributions, and such.
Center for document titles, formal invitations, etc. It gives the document a conservative moods.
Separate sentences with one space, not two
Two spaces are a convention of the past, don’t use it. They produce big spaces that can be distracting.
Don’t allow less than 7 characters on a line
For example, at the end of paragraphs. Doesn’t look nice, and it wastes space. The goal is to keep visual balance. Ways to fix this:
- Widening the text block, to make the text reflow.
- Changing the font size.
- Edit the text itself (usually the best)
- Use a “soft return” (Shift-Enter) to force the end of a line.
- Use a non-breaking space so that some words cannot appear on different lines.
This is not just for body text, also for headings and such.
Avoid bad paragraph breaks
When paragraphs break in between pages, don’t leave a single line in either page (if it’s part of a bigger paragraph; single-line paragraphs are fine). Of course, titles that go with the paragraph should go together with the first line of that paragraph.
It creates visual imbalance and makes the point of the paragraph kind of moot because the text is not together. Solutions:
- Edit the text
- Tweak the “keep options” in the software you’re using (how many lines of text have to be kept together)
- Change the text box width / height
- Tweak the space that surrounds headings (if there are many)
- Add image or pull-quote
Avoid line-breaking hyphens
The automatic ones added by the software when a whole word doesn’t fit in the line. They are ugly and they break concentration and reading rhythm. They should be avoided.
If you must use them, don’t ever hyphenate any headings or proper names. Don’t allow more than 2 consecutively lines ending in hyphens in a paragraph. Don’t hyphenate URLs or email addresses. Don’t allow your software to make all the hyphenation decisions (you can control consecutive hyphens in a paragraph or turn them off).
Signal new paragraphs once, not twice
Don’t both indent the first line of each paragraph and add vertical space.
Never use spaces for the first line indent, always a setting (1-2 times as wide as the type size).
For vertical space, use space before or space after, not both. It should be 50-80% of the type size.
Break up large blocks of text
Too much of the same, full text page becomes dull and uninviting. Some possibilities:
- Drop Caps (drop together with the second/third lines of text) or Initial Caps (just big letter, same baseline as the first line of the paragraph).
- Rules: for headers, footers, and sometimes some headings.
- Pull quotes: highlighted quotes in a box, separate from the rest of the body text.
- Whitespace: big margins to lighten up the feeling of the page.
- Graphics. Only if they are good quality. They are not required.
Don’t add more than needed! Just enough to solve the problem.
How to Format Smaller Blocks of Text
Emphasize 10% or less of text
Emphasis should be limited so it stays effective. Both things like bold and such in body text, and font sizes and colours in business cards and such.
Avoid All Caps and Underlined Text
Limit their use to titles and headings. Underlines should be avoided, use italics instead. You can use rules for headings, never underline. Some good ways to emphasize text:
- Italics - should be used for book/film titles, too!
- Small Caps
- Different typeface
- Spacing - doesn’t work so well in body text, but it can be very effective in business cards, posters and others
- Size - same limitations as above
- Colour - be careful that the emphasis is not critical to understand the text
Choose one technique and use it throughout, don’t oversignal (use more than two or more techniques at the same time for the same words).
Set Acronyms and Initialisms in Small Caps
Acronyms are pronounced as words, initialisms are pronounced as each letter separately. These in all caps take over the document visually.
Small Caps (uppercase characters that are around x-height tall) look much better. A tiny bit of letter spacing makes acronyms look even better. Choose a type family that includes small caps typeface.
Hang punctuation in small chunks of text
Hang punctuation means that eg. the opening quote is outside of the left margin. Also final periods being outside of the right margin, when right-aligning text. Applies also to quotations, headlines with question marks at the end, etc.
In body text, punctuation is usually not hung, but it’s important in bigger font sizes and such.
Hang bullets and numbers in lists
It makes a difference when the items have more than one line. Numbers should be aligned in the “decimal point” (even if it’s not visible), ie. to the right.
Learn to use “tabs”: left-aligned, right-aligned, center-aligned, decimal-aligned.
Avoid Bad Line Breaks
There are two bad breaks: visual (visually disrupt the flow, eg. in left-aligned text, producing bad ragged edge) and contextual (sentences are broken so words that should appear together, don’t; it makes the reader go back and re-read).
Watch line breaks with URLs and email addresses, which should appear in full in one line whenever possible. How to fix?
- Edit the text
- Change text box width
- Change the size of the text
Use Symbols and Special Characters as Needed
Registered trademark, degrees, etc. Look for and use the proper one. Character map apps on desktop, character entities on web.
Not all fonts contain all these characters, so make sure that the font contains what you need, if you know you will need “special characters”.
Use Proportional Oldstyle Figures in Body Text
Numbers with digits that take different horizontal or vertical space. These are great for body text, but the “lining” (the other type, all digits are equally wide/tall and have the same baseline) is better for comparison and data tables and such.
There are tabular and proportional, too, so four types total (2x2 types):
- Oldstyle proportional: for body text
- Oldstyle tabular: for uppercase text
- Lining proportional: for fancy table data
- Lining tabular: for data tables
OpenType fonts are the ones that have all these combinations.
Adjust Leading and Kerning for Large Text
Leading: amount of vertical text from baseline to baseline (line spacing). Default is usually 20%.
Kerning: horizontal space between certain letter pairs (not the same as tracking/letter spacing).
Why do we need to adjust leading? For body text, default leading is usually fine. Large text usually needs less leading, and even less if there are few descenders!
Kerning is also usually fine for body text. In large sizes, sometimes kerning needs to be adjusted.
Verify Software Alignments Optically
Sometimes alignment is mathematically correct, but visually wrong, because some parts of the text, especially logos and such, are “visually lighter” so they should be taken as taking less space.
How to Use Punctuation Properly
Connect thoughts using em dashes
When to use em dashes when you don’t want a comma, but not sure what to use instead. They can be used to:
- Add emphasis
- Indicate long pauses and interruptions
- Indicate abrupt changes of thought
Full spaces between em dashes is wrong! But depending on the font (if the em dash touches or almost touches the letters) you might need to use a “thin space” (1/5 of an em wide). If you don’t have the option to add a thin space you can enter a space and use a smaller font.
Show Ranges Using en dashes
In between a hyphen and an em dash. It’s used for:
- Show ranges of time, duration, or distance
- Join words when at least one word is an open compound (New York-New Jersey Border)
- Join hyphenated compounds (post-Jacksonian–pre-Nixonian politics)
Don’t add full spaces between en dashes, but depending on the font, size, etc (if the en dash touches or almost touches the characters), you may need thin spaces.
Clarify and Improve Readability Using Hyphens
Their usage can be confusing. It should be used to:
- Improve readability and clarify meaning (five-dollar bills vs. five dollar bills)
- Joining a letter with a word
- When using the prefix “Re” to mean “repeating”, “again”
- Joining a prefix with a proper noun
- Joining a prefix and a root word with repeating characters: ultra-ambitious, non-native
- Joining two words that contain the same three characters in a row, eg. cross-section.
- Numbers between twenty-one and ninety-nine
- Phone numbers and social security numbers
- Joining two last names
It’s not the same as the minus sign! Don’t use hyphens for minus signs!
Designate Feet and Inches with Prime Symbols
Prime symbols are similar to but different from both curly quotes, and straight quotes. Straight quotes should never be used! When to use curly quotes:
- When quoting material (quotes inside quotes use the single quotes)
- Single closing quotes are the same apostrophes
Feet and single prime symbols, inches are double prime symbols. Math, music, linguistics and other fields also use prime symbols.
Replace Missing Characters with Apostrophes
When to use apostrophes:
- Gone Fishin’
- Bread ‘n’ Butter
- For decades, you say ’40s (missing “19”): the “40” doesn’t own anything
Careful with “Bread ‘n’ Butter”, because by default word processors will typeset the “n” in single quotes (the first one will be open, not closed).
How to Choose Typefaces
Limit typefaces to two per document
If you are not a professional, using more than that makes it too easy to become messy. One serif and one sans serif is a good place to start. Sameness competes, but differences highlight and contrast. If the difference is not big enough or doesn’t add anything, one typeface is much better.
Use typefaces that reinforce a document’s mood
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the choice of fonts, and you end up always choosing the same one. To help you choose, always think about the mood/personality of the document you’re creating.
Choose Serif or Sans Serif, based on aesthetics
For type size larger than 10 points, there’s no difference in readability between the two types. For smaller type sizes, sans serif have an edge, especially on computer screens (they are simpler).
For reversed text (white over black), medium-weight, slightly larger sans serif work best. You can use serif, but they have to have thick and uniform serifs: no “delicate” serifs!
So, in general, focus on the mood/personality and aesthetics first. Sans serif are a bit more modern and contemporary, and serif a bit more conservative and traditional.
This is it! I hope it was useful. I really recommend the course if you are interested in the topic: it has a bit more context and of course the visual examples and explanations that you lack in this summary.
Nov 30, 2015
Lately I’ve worked on several small projects, mostly to learn new technologies. The newest one is music-related: a piano that shows scales and chords “in context”, to learn and explore music theory. The idea came about because my first instrument was the guitar, and music theory is pretty hard to make sense of when you’re playing the instrument. It’s just too hard to remember all the notes you’re playing, let alone realise when two chords in the same song are repeating notes because those notes might be played in different positions (eg. one chord might use E on the open sixth string, and another might use E on the second fret of the fourth string).
I remembered that when I started playing around with a piano, and I could figure out how to play a couple of chords, it was painfully obvious that they were repeating notes because they are in the same positions. In the same way, it felt much more natural and easier to figure out on a piano which chords fitted a scale, so I decided to write Music Explorer, and ended up even buying music-explorer.org to host it. I don’t have a particularly grand plan for it, but I’ll probably add at least some small improvements here and there.
Jun 21, 2012
Gustav Vigeland’s sculpture park in Frognerparken is without doubt my favourite part of Oslo. It’s “simply” a collection of sculptures of people doing different things, but ever since the first time I saw it I fell in love with the park. I have been there many times and I have taken many pictures of the sculptures, and when I went there again about a week ago I remembered how much I like it and decided it was about time I wrote about it and made my personal “ode” to it.
The most famous sculpture is the “Angry Boy”, a sculpture of a little boy crying. While it’s expressive, funny and original, I think it’s a pity that many visitors seem to only pay attention to that one, and miss the dozens of amazing sculptures around it.
The reason why I like these sculptures so much is that, in my view, they represent the essence of what is being human. They are completely stripped down, timeless and lacking unnecessary elements. Adding clothes to these sculptures wouldn’t work because they would make them belong to a concrete time and culture, and thus lose their expressive power. I also like the nakedness because it reminds me of how clothes and many other social conventions often hide how similar we all are, and how we often forget what really matters and what doesn’t. Thus, it’s no surprise I get annoyed when people refer to it as the “park with the naked sculptures” :-) They’re indeed naked, but that’s missing the point of the park miserably.
When I think about why I like these sculptures so much, I can’t help thinking about the book “Technopoly” and the book (and movie) “The Road”. I see all three as being about being human and about stopping for a second, forgetting about all the things you assume (as part of your everyday life in whatever society you live in) and considering what you think is actually important; what is “essentially human” and what is simply a detail of the current culture and time; what is strictly necessary and what “needs” are artificial.
Feb 4, 2012
This is something I’ve been thinking about for months, but took me a while to give it a shape in my mind and put it into words. I’m not done exploring these ideas, I might write about them again.
Edit: forgot to thank Manu for her feedback on a draft of this post.
It all started with a couple of conversations I have had with different people, about different topics. The common denominator was me not doing/buying certain stuff for “non-consumer reasons”. Some examples (feel free to skip):
Apple. I don’t buy anything from Apple. The most important reason is that I don’t believe in a closed software ecosystem controlled by a single company (even if I know it has advantages in the short term). There are other reasons, like them trying to fight the right to jailbreak or them supporting SOPA.
Sony/PlayStation. Although I do own a PlayStation 2, many things that have happened since then made me decide not to buy a PlayStation 3 (yes, there are many PS3 games, some of them exclusive, that make me drool and I’d love to play them). Partly closed systems, partly Sony fighting users’ rights on court and chasing homebrew developers, partly the draconian terms of the PSN.
Being vegetarian/vegan. I’m actually not a vegetarian (but I’m somewhat close; long story), but I understand and support vegetarianism and veganism. I was pretty surprised that one concrete person I talked to about this hadn’t even thought of it as a form of belief or activism (the person thought vegetarians were, more or less, people who “don’t like meat”).
Note that I don’t claim to be right about these beliefs or about the best/most practical way to support them, but that’s completely besides the point I’m trying to make, namely that many people seem pretty surprised by those decisions, as if anything that doesn’t maximise your short-term “joy” or minimise the money spent was irrelevant when spending money. As if it was unthinkable not to be a Homo economicus. I mean, money has essentially zero influence on your happiness once you have enough to live comfortably. Thus, I fail to see how money should be a deciding factor for close to nothing at all (again, assuming you already have enough to live without worrying about money).
I think of myself, first and foremost, as a human being (with values, morals, empathy, etc), not as a consumer or a money-spender. For me it follows that mainly caring about money and “consumer values” is wrong, because that consumer identity I have can never override most of my other identities. Even feeling the need to write about this and explain it is pretty awkward. It seems to be a suspicious position to be in, as if you had to explain that not making “consumer values” the centre of your life doesn’t make you a crazy extremist. Part of this awkwardness is somewhat confirmed by a comment I have heard several times, something along the lines of “it’s your loss”, as if eg. having a PlayStation (as opposed to other consoles, or devoting your time to reading more books or jogging or playing board games or whatever) had to be more important than anything else I might care about.
But this is not just a philosophical question, there are two practical points in all this. The first is that how and where you spend your money matters and lot. Let’s say there’s two companies providing the same product. Company A offers it cheaper and uses illegal, poorly paid workers, while company B is more expensive but its workers have normal working conditions (this is of course a simplification for the sake of the argument). When you give your money to company A, you are saying that using illegal workforce with a shitty pay is ok as long as they give you a better price. You are saying than you, deep inside, care more about saving a couple of bucks than about having normal working conditions. Those decisions, our decisions, are what make companies behave in this or that way.
The second practical point is that if one makes all decisions based only on “consumer values”, you are defining your path of least resistance. And it’s big companies and lobby groups that have all the money and resources to make that path of least resistance something that makes you do whatever is in their interest (and possibly against yours, in the long term). And I know it’s human nature to save energy, be lazy, not think too much about every single thing we do, etc. I do that myself all the time. What kills me is not that people don’t resist, is that people don’t seem to see it as a limitation in themselves, but as a weirdness in anyone that tries to.
May 29, 2011
How hard can it be to figure out how to use a shower? As I found out in my recent trip to the United States, it can actually be quite hard :-) This is a small post about the shower I had to use, pictured below, and some suggestions as to how to improve it.
Note that I’m not a UI person by any measure, but I know what I find confusing and I thought it would be a good exercise to think about why it was so hard for me to figure out how to use the shower (I was relatively close to giving up and calling reception, and for a moment I thought there was something wrong with it).
You can see a picture of the shower controls below. As you can see, there are two things you can manipulate: a big handle in the centre, and a small handle below. There is a label “OFF” at the top, a blue “C” (for “cold”) at the left, a red “H” (for “hot”) at the right, and “HI - TUB - LO” and “LO - SHR - HI” at the bottom.
My first attempt was to “use the affordance” of the shape of the big handle and pull it up, towards me. That didn’t work. Then I tried to turn the big handle, but for some reason it only moved counter-clockwise (?). That was alright I guess, because I wanted hot water. So I turned it just a bit, to get hot water, but not very hot. What I got instead was very cold water. That was pretty surprising, but then I thought that it maybe needed a couple of seconds to reach the right temperature, so I waited a bit. The wait was very irritating because the shower head was fixed, so it was quite hard to stay away from the cold water.
I gave up on waiting, and after a while I noticed that the thing that was pointing to the “C” and “H” wasn’t the handle itself, but the mark on the opposite side on the handle, so I was doing the exact opposite of what I wanted. Then I tried to turn it the other way, but it wouldn’t let me. That was very confusing, and meanwhile I was trying to fiddle with the small handle. It was strange because the labels surrounding it seemed to suggest that the small handle controlled the water pressure, but the truth is I didn’t have to turn it to get water, and to stop the water completely I had to put the big handle on the initial position.
After a (frustrating) while I figured that I could go with the big handle from very cold to cold to mild to a bit hot, what I wanted in the first place.
In summary, these are the things I found confusing and I think should be changed:
The big handle should be a simple circular knob, because the only thing you can do with it is turning it.
Having all labels in the same area is very confusing, because it’s not evident which labels belong to which handle. In particular, that the labels for the small handle “break the continuity” of the labels for the big handle suggests that the big handle should be moved both ways, and that it can’t be moved “through” the bottom part.
I find it amazing that you have to go through “very cold” and “cold” to reach “hot”, why not have “mild” as the default position in the centre, control the pressure only with a different handle, and let the user go from mild to “a bit cold” and “cold” or from mild to “a bit hot” and “hot”?
“Water pressure” has a clear, necessary extreme (ie. “no water”) and “temperature” is basically only a gradient: why does the handle with a clear “end position” control the temperature, and the handle with no “end position” control the pressure? Sure, the small handle also controls whether the water comes out of the shower of the bath tub, but surely there are other, better ways to solve that.
Personally, I find the mental model of the other showers I have used much simpler (either two knobs, for cold and hot water; or two knobs, one for pressure and one for temperature). But then again I might be biased because I’ve used them all my life :-)
Feb 26, 2011
Last Saturday I went to by:Larm, one of the annual music festivals in Oslo. The festival is actually three days, but I only went on Saturday, the last day. There were a lot of bands playing in many different stages at once, so I’m sure I missed some very good stuff (not to mention the bands playing all those days I didn’t go at all!), but in general I liked the stuff I saw:
The first band we saw (only for around 10 minutes, though) was Nidingr, a black metal band. I have to say I didn’t really like them, and I didn’t even expect to like them that much, but there wasn’t anything else that I liked at that time slot, and the drummer playing in that band was Jan Axel Blomberg, Arcturus drummer. I really like how he played in Arcturus, but with Nidingr it was just very fast, uninteresting metal drumming. Oh well.
Then we went to Victoria Jazzscene for something completely different: Chili Vanilla. This band is the weirdest jazz trio I’ve ever seen, comprised of voice, drums… and tuba. No piano, no guitar, no bass, no horns… just tuba and drums supporting the voice. It sounded quite interesting, possibly the best of the night.
Then we checked the Danish punk-rock band Black City for a moment (just a few songs), but although they didn’t sound band, it wasn’t all that interesting and there were other bands we wanted to see…
…so we went to see 22, a really glam-looking rock band. Some songs reminded me of Red Hot Chili Peppers (from relatively long time ago, that is), and other reminded me of Placebo. Although the whole paraphernalia and “marketing” was a bit teenage for my taste, they were quite fun to listen to and see live.
After that we went to see Mary Me Young, a band I had already seen in Øyafestivalen. Although maybe their music has to evolve a bit, they reminded me of Veruca Salt, a band I used to like a lot (if you don’t know VS, check out Seether or Number One Blind). Cool band, and the bar had Havana 7 :-P
And the end for us was Kommode, Eirik Glambek Bøe’s (of Kings of Convenience fame) new project. I think I like KoC better (their concert last year was amazing), but it was a pretty cool concert too.
All in all a fun night.
Aug 31, 2010
Ever since I discovered Flattr I was really excited about it. Back then it was a closed beta, only-by-invitation service, and I couldn’t get hold of an invitation before they opened it to everyone.
Of course I signed up, tried it out and looked for content to “flattr” right away. I think the idea is great, and I can’t really complain about the implementation either. The service feels really easy to use and understand, and there are many extensions and plugins to integrate with different tools, including the Wordpress plugin I’m using.
How does Flattr work then? Basically, you pay a fixed amount of money per month (you choose how much of course!), and you click “Flattr” buttons of the content you find interesting on the internet. At the end of the month, the money you paid is divided between the number of buttons you clicked, and each of those “slices” will be given to each author. You can watch the video below for a better explanation:
The only downside is that the money Flattr gets for every transaction is a bit high (10%), but I really like the idea and the service and I feel it’s something I have to support. Because, as the Question Copyright folks say, “I am the content industry”.
Aug 30, 2010
It’s kind of funny how the whole thing started. I had gone to some drum lessons and had an electronic drumkit at home… but hadn’t played that much and didn’t have anyone to play with, so I was worried that I’d lose motivation and drop drumming. So I talked to Chris because he played bass (and he liked Jazz!), we met at my place and had a mini-jam-session. But hey, only bass and drums can have only so much fun. So he proposed we looked for someone else and add some “spice” to the mix.
So I sent a message to some internal company mailing list to see if there was anyone interested. And boy were they interested. Four people replied, and the best is that it was a singer, two guitar players and a piano player. So we decided to look for a place to rehearse, found the amazing Øvingshotellet and gave it a try. One of the guitar players was really put off by Jazz, so ended up being five: voice, guitar, piano, bass and drums.
It was funny because I was exceptionally bad at the time (October 2009; now I’m just very bad), and had never played Jazz before. And of course Jazz is the scariest style to start with, also when you play drums. But somehow we managed to stick together and play for another week, and another, and another, and after some months someone said “we should start looking for a gig, you know? So we have a goal to focus on and all that. Otherwise this will just be fooling around”. We were a bit scared of playing in front of people because we didn’t sound that great (not that we sound that great now, but it was definitely much worse back then). Somewhere in the middle of that we decided to choose “Not a Number” as a band name (the story is longer and more complicated… and boring, so I’ll skip it). I even made a funny logo resembling another band’s logo.
And it happened: we got this opportunity to play in Opera’s 15th anniversary Summer Party last Friday, August 27th, and we went for it. Unfortunately the only recordings we have are of dubious quality, but hey, it’s what we got. And after the next-to-disaster situation we experienced right before the gig, exemplified by the comic below, it’s not such a tragedy that we didn’t end up with a proper recording.The gig was quite short, only 5 songs, but we felt really good while playing and had a lot of fun. Apparently some people liked it even! And we were lucky enough to even have a “guest star” playing sax in the last two songs. The set list was:
If someone had told me this “playing with Chris at my place so I don’t get bored of drums” was going to end up like this…
UPDATE: It seems some people have trouble downloading or listening to Ogg files, so I’ve uploaded the recordings to SoundCloud and I’ve embedded the concert recordings down here: Summer Party Concert - Aug 2010 by Not a Number
UPDATE 2: And now also in HTML5 (you’ll only see it if you have a modern, decent browser):
Some Day My Prince Will Come:
High & Dry:
May 29, 2010
This is a quick post to say that I just came from watching “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, played by students of the TITAN theatre school in Vigeland Sculpture Park. It was amazing, probably the most engaging and fun play I’ve seen. Admittedly, I haven’t been that many times to the theatre, but still. The actors were really good, the play was super fun to watch and having it in the Vigeland Park, moving around for different scenes, made it extra enjoyable.
They are going to play it again tomorrow (Sunday, 30th May) so don’t miss this opportunity if you are in Oslo! One word of warning though: the actors speak pretty fast and for me it was fairly hard to follow the story by the dialogue. Luckily I knew the story so it wasn’t a problem. Thus, by all means go see them tomorrow if you can, but read a summary of the story if you don’t know it already, it will make sure you can follow everything ;-)
Edit: forgot the time, it’s at 19:30.
Jan 20, 2010
Lately I’ve been eating vegetarian at work. It’s been more than one month since I started, and that also included the Christmas Party dinner (wasn’t sure about it, esp. after hearing some awful stories about “vegetarian is the same dish as the other one, only removing the meat”; but finally I decided to go for it… and it turned out to be yummy!). Note that I not only not claim to be a vegetarian, I don’t even claim to have it as a goal.
I guess the first question is “why?”. Some people have suggested/assumed that maybe I’m spending too much time with a certain person :-P I’m sure that has somehow paved the way or helped, but actually I never thought of changing my eating habits until I saw a film called “Sharkwater”. Sharkwater is a documentary about sharks that shows some of the misconceptions about them and the cruelty there is towards them (mostly shark finning). When talking about the possibility of shark extinction, it explains that it can be a huge problem with the planet’s oxygen supply. The film got me thinking, and I also connected some dots with stuff I had read on the Meat-Free Mondays website. Also, watching Sylvia Earle’s TED talk made me think even more about the impact of people’s eating habits in the world. And I realised that I was eating meat in almost every single meal, every single day, so I decided to change it for the environment, for my health, and for the craic.
So I guess the next question is “why not go all the way and really become a vegetarian?”. That’s a good question. For one, I don’t have that moral thing with animals. Not yet anyway. Maybe I just have to watch a couple of documentaries ;-) Another important point is that I don’t live alone, and I can’t really impose my view of the world or eating habits on anyone (although we’re doing meat-free dinners on Monday so I can have Meat-Free Mondays, yay!). Third, I’m not even sure I’m currently able to: I mean, giving up on sushi? For life? I doubt I can do that. Now, limiting myself to eating it, say, just a couple of times a year… sure thing. And finally, as the main reasons for the change were practical (health and environment), I currently don’t feel I need to completely give up on meat. I guess it’s a matter of economics. Sort of.
Nov 3, 2009
WARNING: This is basically a rant. If you don’t agree with me, take my opinion with a grain of salt or send your trolls to
Today I read an article, linked by vrruiz on Twitter, called We’re Rich, You’re Not. End of Story.. My first read felt weird, but then I read it again, hours later, and I really had to write about it. I have to say that, although many things it says are true, the way it portraits Oslo feels so unreal I couldn’t just leave it at that. My best guess is that the portrait feels so weird because of cultural differences and difference in values. My worst guess has to be that it’s some sort of neoliberal propaganda
First of all, I don’t even understand the point of trying to make Oslo or Norway look “poor”. Unless of course you take into account the constant mentions to “social welfare”, “regulated economies” and related crap… but let’s not get started with that. I’ve been living here for close to three years now and the last thing that crosses my mind when I think of Oslo, is “poor”. Let’s comment on a couple of concrete points:
“News reports describe serious shortages of police officers and school supplies. When my mother-in-law went to an emergency room recently, the hospital was out of cough medicine. Drug addicts crowd downtown Oslo streets […]”. I’d be really surprised if the first one was any common. And in Norway kids get school supplies from the school, they don’t have to buy anything. The cough medicine, it seems he wants to make it sound like “they don’t have money for it”. Are you kidding me? I’d just blame it on poor organisation (yes, despite the stereotype, some Norwegian things, particularly in the public sector, can be disorganised). And about the drug addicts, what? Sure, there are “a lot” of drug addicts in “downtown Oslo” (in one or two squares near the central station… which is unfortunate, but it sounds like a different world in the article), but again that sounds just wrong.
“Norwegians live more frugally than Americans do”. Probably true, but so what? They have an insanely different culture, and that doesn’t mean they have to, they just do. I can’t really compare to Americans in particular, but for my standards people around here can afford pretty much whatever they want. And I don’t remember Americans complaining… except about the poor selection in supermarkets. But every foreigner complains about that ;-)
About the whole matpakke story: yes, preparing “matpakke” is a very Norwegian thing. But it’s not that people can’t afford eating out (although yes, it’s quite expensive); they’re just used to that, it’s the kind of lunch they’re used to, and probably they prefer saving money there to spend it in other things.
About the teacher salary and the pizza thing: AFAIK those wages are only for people without studies, and the minimum wages for any person with three years of studies are quite a bit higher. And the pizza price, that’s just a lousy example: first of all, for that price you can have dinner in a relatively expensive restaurant in Oslo; second, although I do believe the price, (1) that is for a large pizza (I assume more than one person), (2) in probably the most expensive pizza place in the city, and (3) with delivery, which is very expensive and I don’t think many people pay for that anyway. You have take-away places everywhere, so people would just go somewhere close instead of paying delivery.
“Every weekend, armies of Norwegians drive to Sweden to stock up at supermarkets that are a bargain only by Norwegian standards”. Sure, some people do that, but it’s not like you can’t afford buying at supermarkets in Norway. Going to Sweden is just cheap and convenient for a lot of people. Besides, there are other reasons why people go to Sweden, like generally broader selection of products.
“My own sense of things is that Spaniards live far better than Scandinavians”. That’s just hilarious. And the most hilarious thing is that his best argument seems to be that alcohol is much cheaper in Spain. Alcohol is expensive in Norway. It’s heavily regulated and has a lot of taxes. Sure it’s annoying, but get over it: that tells very little about how well a nation lives. And about the next paragraph, “adjusting for cost of living”… well, I might not be an average case, but those numbers just
don't computefor me. And that doesn’t count that I have lunch for free every day or a lot of other advantages. Or that the wages are relatively low for Norway’s IT standards. Or the first comment below.
And other general comments:
It’s not fair comparing “wealth” by just comparing disposable income. Everyone knows that Norway has insanely high taxes, but it works. The government does a lot of things and you still have money for a lot of other things. And don’t get me started with that “taxes don’t do anything for me” crap, because you don’t pay taxes so you get things for free: you pay taxes so the society as a whole has all it needs, so people don’t have problems and you live in a peaceful place. E.g. kids/parents don’t pay for school material, you don’t have to pay for the university, you can ask for “student loans” so you don’t have to work while you study, there is money for when you’re old, the government fosters culture by paying everything school kids need to start music bands or whatever, etc. Sure I don’t get all those advantages myself, but I want the system to work like that so people are just relaxed and happy and there is less crime and less stress. I’m not saying you have to like that system, but you can’t compare it to others only based on disposable income. That makes you either an ignorant or a hypocrite.
This is of course completely subjective, but I don’t remember hearing people talking about money problems. Particularly compared to Spain, the country that supposedly lives much better than Norway, I find that to be a huge difference.
Sep 20, 2009
I had said that I was going to publish the slides for a couple of talks I had given over the last couple of months, and I just got around to actually do it, so here they are:
Software automated testing 123, an entry-level talk about software automated testing. Why you should be doing it (if you’re not already), some advice for test writing, some basic concepts and some basic examples (in Perl, but I trust it shouldn’t be too hard to follow even if you don’t know the language).
Taming the Snake: Python unit tests, another entry-level talk, but this time about Python unit testing specifically. How to write xUnit style tests with
unittest, some advice and conventions and some notes on how to use the excellent
Just a quick note about them: the slides shouldn’t be too hard to understand without me talking, but of course you’ll lose some stuff that is not written down, some twists, clarifications of what I mean exactly by different things and whatnot. In particular, the “They. don’t. make. sense. Don’t. write. them” stuff refers to tests that don’t have a reliable/controlled environment to run into. I feel really strong about them, so I wanted to dedicate a few more seconds to smashing the idea that they’re ok, hence the extra slides :-)
Enjoy them, and please send me any comments you have about them!
Jul 29, 2009
Some time ago I had promised a friend I’d bring some drum exercises the next time I went back home. Of course, I forgot so I taught him the exercises I could remember and promised I’d write some of those exercises and send him by e-mail. Thus, I had to find some Linux program to do it. I knew there were a couple of alternatives, and I even knew some names, but I had never used them to typeset music, so I had to give them a try. Sadly the search was more painful than I had expected.
Disclaimer: I have no idea about music programs and my needs were a bit "special" (typesetting drums, not "normal notes"), so take my comments with a grain of salt.
The programs I tried were Rosegarden, NtEd, NoteEdit, Lilypond, Canorus and MuseScore. I’m sure there are more, but those were the ones I had the patience to try, and they were conveniently packaged for Debian. My final pick was MuseScore, but as I said YMMV.
Rosegarden is, according to its website, a “well-rounded audio and MIDI sequencer, score editor, and general-purpose music composition and editing environment”. It seems like quite a complex beast, and probably capable of a lot of things (most of them I’m not really interested in of course). I think it took me a while to figure out how to fire up the music score editing interface, and once I did, I couldn’t see anything that helped typesetting drums. While I could have typeset the notes in their correct places, I didn’t find a way to change the “head” of the notes (like for the hi-hats and stuff, see the Lilypond documentation for drums). Thus, discarded.
NtEd didn’t seem bad (althought I find the UI really ugly), but it seemed a bit painful to use the keyboard and I couldn’t figure out how to add “lyrics” (for the comments on using left or right hand). Also, it doesn’t have any notion of drums, so I would have had to change all the types of note heads all the time (using the mouse, which involves extra pain).
Noteedit also looked nice, but again I couldn’t figure out the lyrics, keyboard usage seemed suboptimal and it had no special shortcuts or options for drums.
I also considered using writing Lilypond by hand. What I wanted seemed simple enough to be writable by hand, but adding lyrics and possibly a second voice didn’t seem so fun anymore (it looks more like programming than typesetting).
Canorus looks quite simple, but it seems to lack, again, good keyboard input and any kind of drum typesetting support (I can’t see how to change the note heads, again). Also I can’t seem to find any option for adding lyrics.
Finally, MuseScore seemed to match my needs. Although it did take a bit of time to figure out certain things, and I don’t completely get the keyboard usage, it seems easy enough for what I wanted, the lyrics input is very clear and easy, and the output is quite good (although probably most, if not all, these programs really use Lilypond as backend, so I guess all of them look good). The downside is that the Debian package in the current Debian Sid is quite unstable, so I have to save very often :-/
Jun 1, 2009
I haven’t written in some time, I know. I haven’t done much worth blogging about. Just a new release of the Kiva World Loanmeter widget, and also a couple of things at work that I’ll be releasing soon (including a small tool for managing database changes and some Perl module to parse Debian
However, recently I watched a really funny and interesting talk at TED, Are we in control of our own decisions?, by Dan Ariely. In the talk he mentions his book, Predictably Irrational, which funnily enough a friend had already mentioned to me.
Well, I just finished the book and I have to say it was very interesting and eye-opening. It’s interesting how it shows our minds are biased for certain kinds of decisions or behaviour, even though they are often not the best for us. Some of the experiments are truly brilliant and they show totally unexpected (at least before starting reading the book ;-P) outcomes. One of the experiments that got me thinking was this:
> > Research on stereotypes shows […] that stereotyped people themselves react differently when they are aware of the label that they are forced to wear […] One stereotype of Asian-Americans, for instance, is that they are especially gifted in mathematics and science. A common stereotype of females is that they are weak in mathematics […] In a remarkable experiment, […] asked Asian-American women to take an objective math exam. But first they divided the women into two groups. The women in one group were asked questions related to their gender […] The women in the second group were asked questions related to their race […] The performance of the two groups differed in a way that matched the stereotypes of both women and Asian-Americans. Those who had been reminded that they were women performed worse than those who had been reminded that they were Asian-American. > >
I can’t stop thinking about the implications this has to working conditions and productivity in different countries, and also to project management.
Apr 1, 2009
Phew! It has been a long time since I wrote. More than once already, hmmm….
I went to the movies to see Watchmen. I don’t want to spoil, but I think it was a very, very good adaptation of the comic book. Actually, I think it’s the best comic adaptation I have ever seen. And I don’t think Watchmen was particularly easy to get right. And I had just finished reading the comic for the second time just before watching the movie. And yet, I was impressed. The adaptation was really close to the book, and very, very good.
I admit I didn’t have huge expectations: after 300 (amazing book, silly-although-fun action movie), the “from the visionary director of 300” in the Watchmen trailer didn’t sound particularly encouraging. But I just love Watchmen-the-comic, so I figured it’d probably be fun to watch. And boy was I right. Not only fun, but very interesting, and even moving at moments (my favourite part of the movie is the story of Jon Osterman).
There are a couple of things I didn’t like (not spoilers, don’t worry!):
The fights were a bit too superhero-ish (people “flying” around and such), which made it look a bit silly.
It was a bit too crude and bloody.
Adrian Veidt didn’t have the massive charisma from the comic. He felt more like an arrogant asshole.
Before actually watching the film, though, there were the typical commercials. One of them really upset me, and I thought it was worth a mention. The commercial showed three young lads waiting in a queue, about to enter the U.S. Someone was checking their passports and whatever. The first of them enters and waves at the other two, happy. The second one enters and looks at the last one. The person checking the passports takes a while with the last one… and finally says some bullshit like:
> > I'm sorry sir, I can't let you in > >
The first two look at him, confused, looking for an explanation, and the unlucky one looks back with a sad face, like regretting something. Then, the grand finale: some stupid text explains that he couldn’t enter because he had done something horrible, namely…. graffiti.
Give. me. a. fucking. break. I’m tired of all that biased bullshit. It’s not like Oslo has big problems or anything, but seriously: even fixing the crappy pavement around Grünnerløkka is like several orders of magnitude more important than the “graffiti problem”. Seriosly, politicians, get a life and do something useful.
Luckily, the film made me forget the ad quickly ;-)
Feb 26, 2009
About two weeks ago I wrote about Kiva, a cool website that allows people to make microloans. Almost one month ago they had started a developer site, including an easy to use API to access the data (loans, borrowers, lenders, etc).
I couldn’t resist the temptation to have a look at the documentation and start thinking about some application to use it. Soon after I started reading I came up with the idea of writing an Opera widget. There were a couple of reasons for that:
I had never written a widget, so it sounded like a good excuse to learn how to write them.
A widget in http://widgets.opera.com had more possibilities of actually being used than a random pet project of mine lying in some obscure repository of some obscure version control system (well, actually I ended up using Git for it, so it’s not that obscure in some sense; but you get the point).
Finally, for Git, I had a look at the screencasts hosted in GitCasts. I already new some basic Git things, but I think I started to feel more comfortable with it after watching a couple of those videos. Still, too many references to the obscure objects and SHA names and whatever, but clear enough to understand your way around it.
In short, I have to say that creating the widget was easy enough, and it was lots of fun to write it. I had some frustrations debugging it, but things worked fairly well in general. When I finished it, I uploaded to widgets.opera.com and after a couple of days it was already approved and public for everyone.
Feb 9, 2009
The whole lending-money-to-people-who-need-it (and to whom banks will probably not lend) really attracted me. You help communities develop, and you don’t even lose money, because it’s a loan.
It seems that they really know who you’re lending money to. They make complete profiles (including pictures) of all the people, they follow up on every change in the loan, etc.
So I started digging a bit, and said “what the hell”, and created an account. So far I have only lent money to one person, and I’m waiting to see how it goes and how much information you get. For now I know the person has received my money, and with that and the money from other people she has all she needs to buy a new oven for pastries for her shop :-)
I suggest you go and have a look at Kiva.org, and create an account and lend some money if you like the idea. I have added a banner to the sidebar just now to show my support :-)
Jan 17, 2009
I had this pearl saved since I was on vacation in Gran Canaria. It’s a perfect example of a shoddy piece of work when you do things quick & dirty, without wanting to spend money or time to do things properly. I obviously don’t know the circumstances of the company that made this, or its employees, but I can imagine.
A bit of context: I was in a very touristic part of the island, and some person handed me a brochure (in English) with information about excursions around different parts of Gran Canaria. I thought it would be a good idea to keep it around, to get ideas about which parts we could see in the next days. However, when we arrived at the hotel and started reading it, we realised how horrible it was. So horrible that we spent some time reading through it, half laughing, half outraged, and I kept it to write about it ;-)
First impression: crappy design and font faces; lots of information stuffed together without order or harmony; horrible wording (bad high-school student level); different writing style in each text; typos, Spanish-like expression, almost complete lack of accents in the Spanish names. Obviously English is not my mother tongue, and I don’t claim to not make mistakes, but the general quality of this is really bad. Some highlights:
From the first excursion, “Grand Tour”: “We drive now along de (sic) west-coast up to Agaete, do you know what Dedo de Dios means?? The gide (sic) will explain you everything about it. In Agaete we have some time for a small lunch, today we go for fish (meat is possibel (sic))” and “This is a verry (sic) nice trip with lots of magistic (sic) views of al (sic) types of rockformations (sic)”.
The second excursion, “Undiscover Gran Canaria” (emphasis mine), ends with: “At the end of the day, the couch (sic) will take you back to your hotel”.
From the third one, “Las Palmas ‘HighLights’”: “[…] the Museum ‘Casa Colon’ (christof.columbus)”. WTF is that, his GMail address? Apart from the fact that that’s not the English spelling for Christopher Columbus.
The fourth one is about a municipality called “Teror”. For some reason, they decided to always uppercase it, which leads to this expression jumping and screaming for attention: “Market of TEROR” (also bold in the original), so easy to misread as “Market of TERROR”, which sounds… weird.
The fifth one, “The Cavehouses (sic) of Guayadaque”, also has interesting stuff: “Our last stop will be in the old town of Agüimes, […]. Now we turn back, direction Aguimes (sic) […]”, “[…] where we have the posibility (sic) for a nice lunch in a typical canarian (sic) restaurant ( entrance musem opcional (sic))” and “Its (sic) now time to go back, the beautiful ravain (sic???) of tirajana (sic), with a stop in the old village Fataga, enjoy the amazing views, and please…don’t forget your camara (sic)”.
The sixth has some minor issues, but the seventh (“Ferry/market Mogan (sic) 2 in 1 excursion”) is short and just great so here it goes: “From Playa del Inglés we travel too (sic) the port of Arguineguin (sic) where we take the ferry too (sic) the port of Mogan (sic), better known as little vinice (sic), here you will visit an authentic tradicional (sic) street market”.
Fast-forward to the eleventh (“Sioux City”), which starts strong: “It is time to go back to your childhood and play cowboys and Indians! Yes I am talking about the famous Sioux City”. Gotta love the lack of commas. Then it goes: “You will witness a bank robbery in the wild wild west, with horses, guns, knifes (sic) whips and of course those dancing gids (sic??? wtf?). Whilst feasting on a western buffet and drinking free all night. It’s a night for all the family… So go on ride em Cowboy”. I love the super fancy “whilst” mixed with the lack of commas.
Twelveth sets a new standard, and writes everything IN CAPS… and of course almost without commas: “COME AND ENJOY WITH US A GREAT DAY, KNOWING THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES OF OUR ISLAND […]” (“KNOWING” for “getting to know” of “discovering”), “ENJOY THIS ADVENTURE AND WE WILL TELL YOU ALL ABOUT THE HISTORY AND CULTURE AND AT THE SAME TIME YOU WILL BE ABLE TO ADMIRE THE WONDERFUL COUNTRY” (“COUNTRY” for “countryside”, I think) and “DO NOT FORGET YOUR SWIMSUIT FOR OUR REFRESHING SWIM IN ONE OF OUR LAKES”. I’m not completely sure about the English terms, but I think in Gran Canaria we only have dams, not lakes.
There is more crap, but I’m tired of writing and you got the idea already. I think the world needs more QA ;-)
Oct 28, 2008
From time to time I like making panorama pictures. When I started several years ago, Autostitch was really popular, but it didn’t have a Linux version, which sucked. Actually, it still doesn’t. However, it worked under wine, so I just used it via emulation. It was very simple and worked ok.
Sometimes I’d look for alternatives under Linux (if possible, free) and I had seen a tool called Hugin. It looked complicated (at least compared to Autostitch’s select-pictures-hit-ok-there-you-go), and for some reason I never really used it. It probably wasn’t packaged for Debian or something like that.
A couple of days ago, though, I arrived from a trip where I took a couple of panoramas, and Autostitch had a quite suboptimal behaviour: it didn’t recognise one of my panoramas, and some others were completely destroyed perspective-wise. So I decided to give Hugin another go. And boy am I happy with it. It’s very easy to install in Debian, and although I had some problem with the path to
enblend(apparently I had to specify the absolute path to it in preferences), everything worked fine. Selecting the points to join the pictures is not that hard, and actually has one advantage over Autostitch, namely that if it doesn’t recognise your panoramas automatically, you are giving “hints” about which points are the same in other pictures to Hugin, so it will work. Another advantage is that it has several ways of joining the pictures, which solved my second problem with perspective destruction :-)
Apart from the panorama pictures, I also had some videos… and one of them was recorded as “portrait” instead of “landscape”. So I needed a way to rotate the video. Fortunately, that was easy enough with
mencoder(using command-line, though):
mencoder -vop rotate=2 MVI_2352.AVI -ovc lavc -oac copy -o MVI_2352.avi
I found the tip in some thread in Ubuntu forums, and had to look up the values for “rotate” in @mencoder@’s manpage:
0 Rotate by 90 degrees clockwise and flip (default). 1 Rotate by 90 degrees clockwise. 2 Rotate by 90 degrees counterclockwise. 3 Rotate by 90 degrees counterclockwise and flip.
Oct 16, 2008
Maybe that’s something you all already knew, and it’s just me that arrived late to the party, but this is hilarious. I hadn’t used Google Translate myself too much (if ever; can’t remember), but the other day someone mentioned some “funny” translations in some internal mailing list at Opera:
The first translation is… not correct, but somewhat close to the original. The Spanish text is “SOY FELIZ PORQUE CONOCI LA VERDADERA AMISTAD” (“I’m happy because I knew true friendship”) and the translation is “I AM HAPPY KNOW WHY THE TRUE FRIENDSHIP”. As I said, not really correct, but at least it’s somewhat close to the original. Check by yourself:
If you add a couple of exclamation marks at the end, some strange things happen (only half of them are shown in the translation, as if they were escape characters or something). But the really hilarious thing is what happens when you add five of those:
In that case, Google Translate “translates” the same sentence to “KNOW WHY I AM HAPPY THE REAL MURDER !!!!!”. Maybe that means that for Spanish speaking people, friendship plus an adequate amount of enthusiasm means…. murder. Scary.
Jul 31, 2008
The last days I have noticed that most of the spam I receive has some made up news as subject. I imagine it is to make people click on the messages.
The point is that one of those messages was titled “Knol, the Wikipedia killer”, or something along those lines. I didn’t click on the message, and actually I just thought that “Knol” was a made up word… but then I thought “hm, maybe this exists after all”, so I went to the Wikipedia page… and there you go, I just found out about Knol and learned something about Music in Capoeira because of some spam message.
Informative spam. Go figure. Or maybe it means I should read more tech news?
Jul 23, 2008
In my recent trip to Copenhagen, I recorded a small video of the subway (it’s really cool, because it’s completely automatic, it doesn’t have drivers or anything). I wanted to edit the video to remove people that were reflected on the window, so I wondered if I could do that on Linux. I imagined it wouldn’t be trivial, but it was more frustrating than I thought. Maybe I’m too old for this.
The first thing I tried was looking in APT’s cache for “video editing”. The most promising was kino. I had tried that some time ago a couple of times, and I never made it to work, but I figured I would try again. Unfortunately, same result: I just can’t figure out how to import my videos. Maybe I’m just hitting the wrong button or whatever, but it’s really frustrating.
Second thing was having a look in the internet. I found the (dead and being rewritten?) Cinelerra, as always, and I didn’t feel like installing the old one from source, only to lose my time and not get it to work, so I just ignored it. Maybe they had it in debian-multimedia and wouldn’t have been a tough install after all. Anyway.
Next thing, I found some program called openmovieeditor. This one apparently worked, but I couldn’t figure out how to crop the image (or almost any other thing for that matter).
Next, some neat program written in Python, called pitivi. When I tried to run it though, it just said
Error: Icon 'misc' not present in themeon the console and died. I later figured out that I had to install
gnome-icon-themefor it to work (yeah, Debian maintainer’s fault). It’s funny, because on the webpage it says that it has some “advanced view” that you can access via the “View” menu… but I couldn’t find it. My menu only had one entry: “Fullscreen”. Great.
Oh, wait, there’s a
gimp-gap. I could just import my animation in Gimp, crop the frames, and convert again to video. Easier said than done. I needed some programs that I didn’t have, and I wasn’t sure if they were so easy/quick/clean to install (sure, I could have exported to GIF animation and probably convert to video, I just didn’t want to lose so much color quality in the GIF step). Forget for now. At least I had the images, so if I could just turn them into a movie…
So, I started wondering if, given that I had decided to just crop, and especially now that I had a lot of images that were the frames, maybe I could just use some command line tool or something. So I found this tiny little program,
images2mpg. Long story short, after installing some dependencies from source (that gave compilation errors, but luckily I could compile only the binaries I really needed) that program was completely retarded and didn’t even do what I wanted (it wanted at least one second between images, but I didn’t want a slideshow, just a normal movie from the frames). It looks some simple and it’s so buggy. Gah.
So I started wondering if I could just crop with mplayer… Hmmm… after a couple of problems (like documented switches that were not there and other crap), I ended up with this command line:
<code> mencoder -vf crop=320:200:0:40 MVI_2160.AVI -ovc lavc -nosound -o metro-crop.avi </code>
That was reasonably quick and easy but it was so frustrating after all that lost time.
In any case, I ended up with the video I wanted, so I went to YouTube to upload it. When uploading, I realised that there was some option I had never seen: annotations.
YouTube annotations are really cool. They are like the notes on Flickr, but on a video
:-DActually I kind of wanted to make a note like that on this video, to show the automatic doors on the Metro station, so I was really happy to see that I could actually do it. And the interface is really easy to use and very clear. I really like it! You can see the result here:
EDIT: WTF? The annotations don’t appear on the embedded videos? You’ll have to go to the video page to see them, then…
Jul 9, 2008
21 May 2008. Dawn in Austria. A lot of policemen enter in 23 different premises with guns, battering down doors, harassing the people inside. They take 10 people under arrest. Dangerous terrorists? War criminals? Drug dealers?
Animal activists. There haven’t been any concrete charges yet, so they are basically prisoners of conscience_conscience. Some of them are in a hunger strike. It’s somewhat amazing that all that can happen in Austria in 2008.
Some more information:
Petition to make them press charges or release them. Please sign it!
Who’s being caged?, article in The Guardian
Help stop this nonsense!
Jun 15, 2008
Some days ago, Arve posted a very interesting link in Twitter: Turn Your Point-and-Shoot into a Super-Camera. It was about something called CHDK (Canon Hacker’s Development Kit), which is a non-official firmware enhancement for many Canon cameras.
It sounds pretty scary, but actually it’s really safe and easy to use: you just copy some files into your memory card, and ask the camera to upgrade the firmware via some menu option. The awesome part is that it only “upgrades” a copy in memory, so if you simply turn off the camera, the next time everything is back to normal. Of course there are options to load it on startup if you’re happy with it.
The goodies: saving in RAW format, some new menu options, more information on the OSD, configurable OSD, BASIC scripting, and even games (Sokoban and Reversi). One of the features that caught my attention in the article was a special mode for motion detection, that apparently works well for making pictures of lightning strikes. And it’s actually a user-written script, how awesome is that?
I haven’t played that much with it yet, but I have tried and it works as advertised (YMMV). I can’t wait to use it more, and maybe even try some silly BASIC program.
Thanks a lot Arve!
May 20, 2008
Nine Inch Nails released their new album, The Slip, under a Creative Commons license. You are actually encouraged to “remix it share it with your friends, post it on your blog, play it on your podcast, give it to strangers, etc.”. After reading that, I couldn’t resist giving away my e-mail address to download it. There is an MP3 version and two FLAC versions, including a very high quality one.
Kudos to them. I just listened to the album for the first time, I will probably like it when I can make an informed opinion. At least the first impression was better than with Year Zero.
May 13, 2008
I admit I don’t get it. Tons of people are using Git these days, and most of them seem incredibly happy with it. I don’t really have any relevant experience with it (just used a couple of days), but I didn’t like it that much. Feels weird, clunky and complicated (especially, the interface is horrid, but then I’m used to Darcs so I’m biased/spoilt there).
Yeah, yeah. So everyone says that Git’s power lies in the concepts it’s built on, and that they’re different from other VCS, and you have to learn all that to really “get” Git. But at the same time they admit the documentation sucks and doesn’t really help you understand it. So, to be enlightened you have to play a lot with it then. I just don’t feel like it. I’m just afraid that all that power… well, I just won’t give a shit about it, to put it bluntly. Having a quick look at the net, the arguments supporting Git seem to sound really obscure or not that life saving to me.
And yes, I realise that sounds like the Blub Paradox in Beating the averages, but I just can’t see how a revision control system can be so wonderful and make a difference for small and medium projects. I have no doubt Git does make a difference every single day for the Linux kernel, but when most (non free software) projects work “not that bad” even with a centralised VCS like Subversion, is there really any important feature that Git can add vs. any other distributed system (I’m thinking mostly Mercurial here)? Isn’t the interface going to have a much bigger impact in everyday work (and everyone seem to agree that Git’s still sucks)?
Personally, I’m looking forward to certain talk about Git, to see if it will make me see the light ;-)
May 4, 2008
So, the other day I was reading about Scientology, and I stumble upon the Space opera in Scientology scripture. Apart from the odd article title, I couldn’t help but noticing the picture on the right. It has the following footer: “Hubbard said that the galactic ruler Xenu transported his victims to Earth in interstellar space planes which looked exactly like Douglas DC-8s”.
“Wow”, I thought, “that looks like a picture (and comment) from Uncyclopedia, not Wikipedia”. So, obviously, right after thinking that I just go to Uncyclopedia and check the Scientology page. It’s just hilarious, don’t miss it ;-) Apart from the funny reference to the poor journalist in that BBC documentary, it says things like:
> > Please be aware that Scientology's beliefs are so absurd to begin with, that writing an Uncycopedia article about it is a massively difficult undertaking. > >
Not to mention that their parody of the plane is almost exactly the same
Apr 24, 2008
I’m not a huge fan of Star Wars myself, but those figures are just awesome, I had to share
Apr 3, 2008
It’s kind of funny. I created a twitter account many months ago. I never really used it, because I guess I didn’t see the point or something. During all that time, several people started “following” me (in twitter jargon), even if I had no content at all, nor plans to add any.
Just today and yesterday, three people added me, so I got kind of curious, and decided to login and have a look. I made a comment just today, about me finding it funny that so many people started “following” me, and someone replied. So I started “following” other people, and reading, and I have made a couple of more comments since. I’m not really sure I’m going to use it everyday, but now I have installed a really handy Opera widget for twitter, so this might be “the start of a beautiful friendship”.
Alas, not just twitter, but I also started using eBay (and, to a certain extent, PayPal) this week. Why? Because I have been trying to find one of the greatest PlayStation 2 games ever made, Ico. It’s quite hard to get in a shop nowadays, even second hand, because it’s an old game that wasn’t very successful when it was released. Now it’s a kind of cult game that you’re better off finding in eBay or similar, hence my sudden interest in using eBay:
Note that most of that is actually while being played, not videos. It looks like a film because it doesn’t have a HUD.
I have to say that the eBay experience was satisfactory: it was really easy to find what I wanted, it was easy to bid (special mention to the automatic bidding system, which I didn’t know, that renders the old bid monkeys kind of obsolete), and I won the item, yay! For the maximum money I wanted to pay, but still. I did have a couple of really weird problems with PayPal when paying for it, but it finally worked.
Another thing that just happened to me today is that I realised (stupid me) that Skandiabanken works like a charm in Opera. It was my fault for being so nazi with the cookies.
Finally, although not a website, I’m really amazed by the new Opera Mini 4.1 beta. These guys have managed to make a really awesome browser that works in any crappy mobile phone (and that means working around stupid limitations and bugs of tons of different models). Kudos to them!
Jan 23, 2008
I have always hated mobile phones. I always had problems with them (coverage, battery), I always found them ridiculously counterintuitive, expensive, impractical…
But then I moved to Norway (from Spain), and, partly because I wanted to be able to use OperaMini, I decided to buy a new phone. I didn’t buy anything fancy at all, especially for Norwegian standards (a Sony Ericsson K310i), but I must admit I’m simply impressed by the phone. I know it’s old now and probably half of the phones in the latest five years have been good in those regards, but I find it really intuitive to use, very well thought out, with lots of tiny details that make it easier to understand and use, and frankly, for my modest needs, it’s just great. Sure, the camera is very crappy, almost useless, but I never trusted a camera phone anyway.
Also, living in Norway, any phone services I could want to use (normal calls/messages, international calls, Internet access) feels affordable, almost cheap, and now I can just check Mick Jagger ‘s age if I’m arguing about it with somebody in the middle of the street
So, after buying the phone, I wanted to make backup copies of the contacts and messages, and I also wanted to be able to copy pictures and videos, and (why not?) games, ringtones and other stuff. I tried fiddling a bit with the IrDA and Linux, but I didn’t get it to work and I got frustrated, so I decided to just go and buy a (insanely expensive) USB cable. The good news was that the phone had a mass-storage mode that is compatible with pretty much any operating system. The bad news is that that mode doesn’t let you access the contacts or messages, just ringtones, pictures, movies, themes and similar.
I was quite desperate, especially after having bought the cable (I did find some really great games in the net, though, so I used the cable for something), so I decided to download the official Sony Ericsson PC Suite, and try on some Windows machine (real hassle, because I don’t have that at home). And, oh the horror, that wasn’t a solution either, because I couldn’t just make a backup of the contacts, I had to “synchronise” with Outlook. And that wouldn’t work for me, that’s for sure.
So I didn’t know what to do, I tried with other progams under Linux, but nothing really let me back my contacts… until I found
gammuand especially the oh-wonderful
wammuGUI. I just had to specify the USB device in some wizard (in my case,
/dev/ttyACM0) and everything just worked like I wanted to. They even have a Gammu-supported phone database, with a Sony Ericsson K310i entry.
I’m so happy now, everything works like a charm with
wammu, I can backup my contacts, messages, and even the calendar, todo list and list of calls, if I wanted to. I can also access the ringtones, themes, pictures, videos, so I have everything I need now, under Linux without problems. Yay!
Jan 21, 2008
Today I have been one year working in Oslo! Yay! So far the experience has been quite good, so I’m staying here for some more time still.
I’ve also slowly becoming kind of active again in Debian (especially helping
dhelp), although I admit not being very active in any other software project (Haberdasher feels kind of abandoned, because I don’t have any urge for new features). Hopefully that will change…
- Jan 5, 2008 on