Archive for May, 2006

Mugshot? Mugshot you said?

The always classy Havoc Pennington of Red Hat today announced a new project, named “Mugshot“. And I ask you: what is Mugshot? From the front-page of the project you get absolutely no information of what it does. Reading its “About” page we get a bit more information, but we still can’t quite pinpoint what it is exactly: “Mugshot is an open project to create a live social experience around entertainment.” We had to read the… Terms and Conditions page just to get a better idea: “Mugshot is an online service that enables Users to share information and communicate with others.

In other words, this Mugshot thing, is nothing but yet another Orkut/Friendster/MySpace-kind of social networking site and client, but with a twist towards entertainment and media sharing. What a useless project. Is this Pennington’s super secret project that he has been working on for the past year? Is this what he spent Red Hat’s money on? On yet-another social networking site? Instead of using his team, money and energy making Linux and Gnome better (e.g. adding a full Bluetooth front-end, fix the damned phone/pda sync app that’s been in alpha for 4 years now, or add video chat on Gaim, or make Nautilus ask for the root password when you try to copy/delete files outside of your ~ folder), he spends it on this thing that only interests teenagers — and only for a fortnight until they move on to something else? I am in complete shock.

Update: Here’s the slashdot discussion btw. To make something clear: while everyone is free to work on whatever they want, Red Hat is not. They have an obligation to their customers and shareholders to keep improving their core products and sell more. And removing key engineers from their core products’ teams in order to create… Mugshot, is inexcusable. Except of course, if the company changed its focus away from servers and OSes and got into social networking. If that’s the case, then the SEC should investigate them for not doing a proper press release about it. If not, then as I said, there is no excuse of pulling someone like Owen Taylor away from GTK+ developement in order to write a vague meta-service for teenagers.

The Mars Exploration Rovers

I won’t be able to stop crying when the two Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, finally stop working (which might be soon due to the martian winter). I am getting too emotional about them because they have served the mankind so incredibly much. They were supposed to stop working within 90 days of their landing, and here we are 2+ years later, still working fulltime for us. They have exceeded their lifespan and their original targets by an incredible lot. I just hope that in the future, when man is able to land in Mars with ease, they go find them, collect them and put them in a museum. These rovers are heroes!

Recipe: Summer Salad

Here’s a big, easy-to-prepare salad to enjoy in the summer as a complete lunch or dinner meal. It is refreshing, it’s healthy and yes, it will fill you up. No reason for meat or “heavy” saucy foods every day!

Ingredients (for 2)
* some previously cooked ham or chicken/turkey or tuna in small cubes, or shrimp
* leaves of a lettuce, spinach and/or other usual green salad ingredient
* 2 raw white button mushrooms, thinly sliced vertically
* 4 slices of mozzarella (then each halved in two )
* 2 hard boiled eggs (then each halved in two)
* 1 tomato, thinly sliced horizontally
* 1/2 avocado, sliced in cubes
* 6 pitted olives
For the French dressing:
* 2 tablespoons of virgin olive oil
* 2-3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
* 1/3 tablespoon of a French mustard (”Dijon”)
* some salt and pepper

1. Use a big bowl and pour in it the olive oil and the vinegar. Add the salt & pepper.
2. Put the mustard on a fork and then start beating the mixture with it, until it becomes “one” and yellowish.
3. Add all the main ingredients except the eggs. Mix well with the dressing using some special salad utensils (or the fork and tablespoon used above).
4. Place the halved eggs on top and immediately serve.

Tip: The French salad dressing can be used for side-salads too, for example: tomato and mozzarella, green leaves mix, tomato and cuccumber. In the case of the ‘tomato and mozzarella’ salad, you can replace the red wine vinegar with balsamic vinegar if desired.

I will write a book

I think I found how I want to spend the next few months until we get the Green Card. I will write a pocket guide book on mobile web design techniques. There is absolutely nothing like this today in the shelves of any book store, so that can keep me in drive mode for a while. I have already emailed my O’Reilly contacts to ask if they would be interested to publish it as part of their pocket guide series (usually these are about 100 pages) and if not, I will simply post it as freeware in the PDF/DOC/ODF/HTML formats. Of course, if O’Reilly won’t publish it, it means that no formal proof reading will be applied, so expect lots of weird sentences in it… ;-)

Regarding Hobbies (updated)

I have no hobbies. Except (re-)loading webpages on my browser and rarely getting involved with mobile web design, I do nothing else. Even music-listening or book-reading gets boring to me real fast. Only my OSNews/journalist hobby lasted 4 years and then it became so annoying that I dropped out. Why all this, you ask… Well, I just don’t find any joy doing stuff. Things that others consider as hobbies, I consider them fags (in greek: a??a?e?a). It surely sounds depressing and it certainly is. But I can’t help it.

On the exact opposite of me, is my beloved JBQ. He can’t just sit tight and be a couch potato. He always have to do something. In the beginning, it was Lego, then it was painting, then, it became photography, then it became golf, then it became cloth stitching, and today, he is creating… paper. Yup, he is recycling paper at home and he creates all by himself new paper. Once, he almost got into electronic circuit design. Many thousands of dollars have been spent so far for all his hobbies in the past 3 years. Not that I complain about it, mind you. I am happy for him, although he seems to be switching hobbies a bit too often for my personal and financial taste.

What I don’t understand though, is his enthusiasm about things. How one can get happiness and satisfaction via working with such stuff. I find most hobbies that people have… useless. The only reason I have this on-off mobile web site design hobby, is only because most people can’t do it. If everyone got the knowledge, scripts and devices to test and truly create compatible mobile sites the way I can, I would stop doing it altogether. I just don’t find joy on something that can be easily done by everyone else.

Of course, it’s not JBQ or the people who have hobbies that are on the wrong side of this argument. I AM. It’s just that I can’t do anything about feeling any different about it… The situation became much worse after I moved to USA 5 years ago and was ‘confined’ to our home, as I don’t have the right to work (yet) in this country and don’t have a California driver’s license (my Greek driver’s license is not recognized here).

Ok, back to my boredome and self-destructing laziness now. And God, do I need to take care of that laundry… :(

Update: We discussed with my JBQ the reasons on why do I have this mindset. Here are the best candidates:

1. My H4 visa status that doesn’t let me work yet. 5 years living in a home not doing much eventually brings you to your knees psychologically. It’s terrible. I have heard many stories of couples returning to Europe because the wives couldn’t stand it anymore (wives who had no right to work as their H1B visa status holders husbands could).

2. My parents. They never influenced me positively towards hobbies. Each time I had a hobby as a teenager (e.g. sprinting, javelin, sketching or… Madonna picture collection), they always beat it down on me: “these are useless stuff, why are you wasting time doing them? Go read a book for school instead so you get better grades“. For them, if something doesn’t have an immediate value, then it’s useless. Even if I rebelled against them many times and even eventually left the country, it seems that their own miserable mindset has a place in me and I can’t shake it off, even if I know it’s the wrong mindset.

3. Plain and simple, my laziness.

Village name changing and more

If it’s one thing I hate, that’s name changes on villages. Around my mountain village (”????a S??????”) there are many other small villages which their name changed in the last 20-30 years. Apparently, driven by a wave of nationalism, Greece changed all names of places that their words were not derived by Greek words, but instead they were either turkish or albanian or even, just village-greek. Some examples from the villages around my own:

Rousatsa became Polystafyllon (means “many grapes” in Greek — that’s where olympic sprinter Katerina Thanou is from)
Zarmi became Vrysoula (”small water fountain” — that’s where Gousis who betrayed the Souliotes was from)
Koritiani became Trikastron (”three castles” — its history goes back 2,300 years)
Koutsari became Kato Revmatia (”southern wave”)
Gionala became Pano Revmatia (”northern wave”)
Podhogora became Rizovounion (”root mountain”)
Nassari became Assos (”ace”)
Kantzas became Stefani (”tyre”)

To prove this misguided nationalism, my very own village, Skiadas, never changed its name because its name was always Greek (”at Hades’ shadow”). It really hurts me seeing this mania that wipes out anything that doesn’t represent the Greek belief system, even if the place I am from most of the time was not 100% Greek but it usually belonged to the Illyrians (here’s a better map): the whole region was speaking an ancient form of Albanian at the time (some old *greek* ladies in Preveza still do when they are chatting away), the southern side was doing some trading with Greeks and they had some influenses from the Greek 12-God religion, but they had mixed it with their own paganistic cults (sex with snakes and other stuff like that, just as Great Alexander’s mother did, as she was an Illyrian who married a Macedonian). Of course, if I go now to any of the Greek people living there now (including my own family who are direct descentants of the heroic Souliotes — Greeks now understand why I am such a bitch who never shuts up) and tell them that after all these years they are probably not pure Greeks and maybe they never were, they will excommunicate me and strip me of their will. They don’t even wanna hear that the ancient Greeks only considered Greeks people from the southern Greece and some islands. They were reffering to the Illyrians and Macedones as “barbarians” (despite their compatibility in religion and other matters) and they didn’t wanna let them take part in their Olympics. Corinthians had some colonies in the southern Illyria region (Dodoni, Appolonia, Amvrakia etc), but the main population (mostly clans living in huts) were Illyrians. They only became “part of the club” many hundrends of years later, after the whole Byzantium had become Christian and Greek became the official language (and everyone had to speak it in the kingdom). But in the Greece of today, nationalism has won: you are a true Greek only if you are a Christian Orthodox (and only Orthodox) and you can trace back your geneology within the *current* Greek borders. If you happen to have a Greek passport and be a Greek citizen, that doesn’t automatically make you “hellenic” in their eyes. This is how they think they “keep their national identity”. I call it racism and anti-democratic.

Don’t get me wrong. Do I feel Greek? Yes. Do I love Greece? Yes, with all my heart. I was reading about Kolokotronis yesterday on Wikipedia and started crying. I am not shitting you. I was crying by the time my husband came back from work (and I even registered a wikipedia account so I can write an article about hero Odysseas Androutsos as there was none listed there). But, as we say in my place: “ta s??a s??a, ?a? ta ?a??d?a ?a??d?a”. It is more important for me to be objective and know who I am (or who I am not), rather than fall into blind nationalism and common myths. Because then, and only then, I can truly help my country to get through the 21st century, even from far away.

CNN: one of the sites that has no clue about mobility

Once more, I am appalled. This time, over the mobile version of CNN International. It looks like shit and it doesn’t even render correctly on the vast resolution of the Treo’s 320×320 (running Blazer which is a branded Netfront browser). As you can see from this picture, it even creates horizontal scrollbars on a 320×320 screen, which completely renders useless the mobility of that page.

So, as I have nothing else to do (well, there’s laundry, but that’s ok), I sat down and rewrote the CNN International page in a way that renders perfectly and without scrollbars even on 128×128 phones (images are not bigger than 105 pixels wide because we should not forget the scrollbar width when designing a mobile page). I also lightly shuffled around the words at the table at the bottom and trimmed them a bit, e.g. “Technology” became “Tech”, so the table can fit better on small screens (and it’s important to not impose any width to the TDs but let it flow depending on the length of its longest word). My design also looks good on a QVGA phone/PDA where it only has “two pages” to scroll up and down instead of long scrolling. True to my mobile principles, the page uses very little CSS and it’s written in cHTML instead of XHTML, as it’s is more compatible with most mobile browsers.

The source code for the whole page is not more than 4.5 KBs and the two pictures used, are not more than 5 KBs — combined. Overall, that’s less than 10 KBs that a mobile user will have to download on his phone or PDA — which means that it doesn’t cost more than $0.10 with Cingular’s GPRS prices. Totally financially feasible, even with these crazy GPRS prices that we have here in USA (in case that no unlimited data plan was purchased by the user). All it takes, is some design clue and some testing with lots of devices.

my CNN mobile mockup

SuSE 10.1 == just another buggy Linux

Some say that I don’t like Linux, which is not true. The truth is, Linux doesn’t like me. All its possible bugs, it offloads them to me. Naturally, we have a very weird relationship all these years because of this.

The latest bru-ha-ha, I experienced tonight when trying to install SuSE 10.1. I downloaded the official DVD ISO (4 GBs or so) and installation went well in the beginning, but afterwards it would complain that there is no CD 1. Even after manual installation was invoked, the OS would complain that there is no CD 1 inserted. Crazy stuff.

At the end, I filed a bug report (yet another Linux-related bug reporting account I had to create — I lost count and it is getting out of hand and I am getting pissed about it). I also had to use the nolapic kernel option to force SuSE to work with my twin-optical drive system (other distros have no such problems). In my opinion, the best installation routine has Fedora/RHEL. It works, it is consice, it is powerful and it is usable. SuSE’s was always a piece of shit, especially the partitioning and YaST package screens — terrible usability and bugs arising out of the blue. Now that Red Hat embraced Mono, Novell should do the same with Anaconda. It would be to their advantage.

The best TV series this decade

My favorite TV show ever are the seasons 3-6 of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. What a classic. I always talk about “seasons” and not TV shows in their entirety though because quality can really differ from year to year. Just like with TNG, seasons 1 and 2 were unwatchable while the last season 7 the overall quality became a major issue… Speaking about this decade, here are my best TV show seasons (no sitcoms included), along with my rating:

1. Lost, season 1: 9/10
2. 24, season 2: 8.5/10 (it would finish first if it wasn’t for the lame Kim Bauer subplot)
3. Lost, season 2: 8/10
4. Firefly, season 1: 8/10
5. The 4400, season 1: 7.5/10
6. 24, season 4: 7.5/10
7. Invasion, season 1: 7/10
8. 24, season 5: 7/10
9. The 4400, season 2: 6.5/10
10. House MD, seasons 1&2: 6.5/10

As you can see, in the 6 years of this decade, I truly enjoyed 6 shows only (I mostly watch History, Discovery, Science, National Geographic and the Military channels instead of normal TV). I am pretty difficult to please as I require some compelling mystery & plot and (preferably sci-fi) action. Although, sorry David, I just don’t get the new version of ‘Battlestar Galactica’, while the Stargate family of series were shot too cheaply for my taste with a confusing background plot. And don’t let me start about the terrible “Star Trek: Enterprise”. ;-)

I don’t believe in OLPC

Check the picture of the $100 OLPC here. Notice how the Gnome preferences menu does not provide arrows up and down to scroll within that long menu list that obviously doesn’t fit on screen. It seems that OLPC does not run a standard resolution, but a modified near-VGA one and Gnome does not fit in it, as you can see from the pic. Red Hat works on this project for over a year now, and they still haven’t fixed something as vital as having all their windows fitting on the targetted resolution? I am appalled. Like I usually am with most Linux-related stuff. Apple or Microsoft would never show off with pride a piece of software that doesn’t even pass smoke testing no matter if it’s beta quality or not.