2014-02-28

[General] Ambience at home

I must strongly recommend soundrown.com. Basically it's a website that will play a variety of different ambient noises for you.  A bit less intrusive than a lot of music, and bit more comforting than dead silence.  I'm quite enjoying the song of many birds.  I just wish I could control the density of the sound (fewer birds :D). 

Previously, I have enjoyed rainymood.com, which only does rain.

2014-02-27

[Microblog] Elliott Brood


My friend P who's up in Thunder Bay shared this today, and I was delighted to realise I'd already seen them live in Peterborough a life-time ago.

2014-02-26

[Microblog] Transient Signatures

A friend wrote my name in pancake,

Thank you Mina

2014-02-25

[Technology] Working in parallel

I have about 704 .flac music files that I want to convert to .ogg.  Mostly because flac is a lossless encoding while ogg is lossy, so for a potentially imperceptible reduction in audio quality, I reduce disk usage for these files by ~75%.  Hooray.

I noticed oggenc doesn't seem to make good use of my quadcore processor, so I used find + head + tail to split the collection into 4 sets that are being re-encoded in their own terminals.  Each process is using 70-80%, with gnome-shell stealing the other cycles (GNOME Shell tends to run ~90% when I have my second monitor attached).

Hooray.  Once they're in ogg, I'll have an easier time sharing them with my tablet.  Speaking of which, it's a bit sad that it's faster to copy music files to a USB key and then copy them from there to the tablet then to just copy them over wifi.  Hehe.  (~1MB/s over wifi versus ~15MB/s to the USB (but gets copied twice, for an average of 7.5MB/s)).

[Technology] Building Synergy

Synergy is software that will share a keyboard, mouse, and clipboard between computers over a network.  It's great.  If you have multiple machines in one place, you can just drag your mouse cursor between their screens, even if they're running different operating system.

I want to start off by saying that synergy seems like great software.  I used it a lot in the past, and was very pleased with the results.  It wasn't very user friendly then, and at some point it was no longer actively maintained.  It seems to be actively maintained now, and even has file drag-and-drop support between computers (for Windows and Mac, not for Linux yet ;_;).  In the rest of this post, I'll be detailing each step and obstacle I encountered trying to set up synergy 1.4.16 (the latest as of today) on Fedora 20.  In part, I hope it helps the next person who tries this and perhaps Googles their error messages.  Know that if you're just a regular user, don't take the issues that arise below as a cause for terror.  You can do what you should, just install the package from the repository (if you're fine not having your key presses be encrypted over the network...) and not worry about anything.  A lot of the problems below will emerge from me not properly understanding what's expected, but then that goes to show how straightforward or not building Synergy can be.

A quick summary is:
  • can't install from RPM
  • can't build from source using cmake
  • can't install from source using configure
  • just copied binaries out of RPM in the end :(

attempt 1: installing from an RPM

I run Fedora Linux 20.  The version Fedora has in its repository is 1.4.10.  The latest version from synergy-foss.org is 1.4.16 and has some features I would like.  synergy-foss.org provides a pre-built package for Fedora, but there's an issue with their package for 1.4.16 preventing it from installing.
Error: Package: synergy-1.4.16-1.x86_64 (/synergy-1.4.16-r1969-Linux-x86_64)
           Requires: libcurl.so.4(CURL_OPENSSL_3)(64bit)
They explain that in their release notes.  Basically the packages get built on a Ubuntu installation which has an out-dated version of curl.  Whoops.  So, I'll take the opportunity to build it myself.

attempt 2: building from source, with cmake (their recommendation)

The first problem I have in building is that their wiki tells me to use their hm script.  First, I try following hm.sh's own suggestion of
$ ./hm.sh build -g 1
Error: option -g not recognized
Hmm, double check the wiki and ... aha, yes, apparently -g should go to conf and not build.  When I try doing
$ ./hm.sh conf -g1
Error: Could not find qmake.
Error: Cannot continue without qmake. 
Fine.  I install qt-devel, and set PATH to include the directory containing qmake
PATH=$PATH:/usr/lib64/qt4/bin ./hm.sh conf -g1
Success.  Next step,
$ ./hm.sh build
Entering dir: build/release
make: *** No targets specified and no makefile found.  Stop.
... Great. The instructions say I can skip the hm script, so yay.  I follow its advice and go to
$ cd build/
$ make
make: *** No targets specified and no makefile found.  Stop.

attempt 3: building from source, the old fashioned way (not their recommendation)

... Alright.  I see that there is a configure script.  I am used to doing ./configure && make && make install, so let's try it the old fashioned way. The next problem I encounter is with Xtst,
Missing library: Xtst
I thus installed libXtst-devel (which may have been unnecessary; libXtst was already installed) but still, I get that error message.  I then grep'd about and checked CMakeError.log.
/usr/bin/cc   -DCHECK_FUNCTION_EXISTS=XTestQueryExtension    CMakeFiles/cmTryCompileExec218679776.dir/CheckFunctionExists.c.o  -o cmTr\
yCompileExec218679776 -rdynamic -lXtst -lXext -lX11
/usr/bin/ld: cannot find -lXtst
Hmm.

I then went to /tmp/ and tried compiling with -lXtst myself and... it worked.

I deleted the build directory, and unpacked a new one, and ... it worked.  Annoyingly, their configure script apparently doesn't check again, and I'm not sure what you would use to clear its memory of the failure. Ah well.

Next problem is this:
CMake Error at tools/CMakeLists.txt:87 (add_library):
  Cannot find source file:
    cryptopp562/3way.cpp
I poked about with find and grep and ultimately found tools/cryptopp562.zip.  If I just use unzip on it, it actually dumps all its files into the tools/ directory, so, clean up that mess, and then create cryptopp562, and unzip it into there.

And ... it works.  I think.  I manage to success do "make", but then there's no "make install" target.  Hmm, let's check hm.sh again; yup, there's an install target!
$ ./hm.sh install
Not yet implemented: install
...

I peeked in bin/ and found a bunch of binaries that are familiar to me from the old synergy/synergy2 days, but reading the User Manual and the User Wiki to find out how to set it up again almost exclusively references a GUI, and none of these binaries are a GUI...

attempt 4: pillaging the RPM

OK, let's just extract the contents of the 1.4.16 RPM and see how the .desktop application file works and- aha, there is another binary, synergy, that hasn't been built.  Let's just copy these into ~/.local/bin and ... it works.

It works.

running it

Now, getting it to run.  Two more hiccoughs.  One was that I needed to open the firewall port.  Using FirewallD in Fedora, I used this command,
firewall-cmd --add-port=24800/tcp
Next, I configured the server to know the client using the GUI, and they could finally connect.  Hurrah! 

It's running beautifully now.  Hopefully future releases will Just Work on Fedora like older releases. :)

[Microblog] Terminal Thought

Me at the last Con-G ever after giving a iaido panel.  Photo by my friend at somethingsomethingphotography.com.

UPDATE: More photos for greater satisfaction of my vanity




2014-02-24

[Microblog] My Imagination

When I'm glum, sometimes I turn on the tea kettle and dance around to imaginary music with an imaginary partner and try not to trip, and it's good.

[Technology] Trackpad only scrolling

So I've run into a problem on my Lenovo Thinkpad Twist occasionally where my trackpad starts only scrolling, as though for every touch it senses two fingers (if I disable two finger scroll then the trackpad stops responding all together).  Googling had advice such as "modprobe -r psmouse; modprobe psmouse" which doesn't work on my Fedora install since psmouse is built-in.  Some people suggest using the hardware key for disabling and re-enabling your trackpad.  My Thinkpad Twist does not have such a key.  So, I ended up using xinput.

# find out the ID of my trackpad
$ xinput list    
# Ah, it's 12!  Then disable and re-enable it
$ xinput disable 12
$ xinput enable 12

Hooray, my trackpad works again.  Well, works as well as it ever did.  It's kind of hysterical on the Lenovo Thinkpad Twist.  If only I had the leisure to debug the actual problem. :)

2014-02-22

[Microblog] YouTube

YAY!  I really like the UI overhaul, and the new emphasis on playlists. :D

2014-02-19

[General] Sad movies

Amusingly, Marion Bridge is on TV, and I'm watching it with my dad, again.  It features Molly Parker and Ellen Page, among others, set in Nova Scotia.  I'm mostly amused, as I'm guessing it was scheduled in part because Molly Parker recently stars in the new season of House of Cards, and Ellen Page recently came out.  Or maybe it was scheduled months ago and it's just a coincidence.  The movie itself is not too amusing.  It deals with Real Life.

[Microblog] Fatherly love

My dad likes my soup!

[General] Those Who Do

In relation to an earlier post today, about quality and enjoying it high and low, one good reason why less than stellar things get created and shared is sometimes because there was a need and the only people willing to fill it were perhaps not the best qualified, except in that they had the will to.  It's hard to fault.  I've had to create artwork, posters, and videos for groups I've been a part of, even though I'm not brilliant at it, but I was at least willing to.  In that regard, the early English manuals for iaido and jodo, despite being bound simply with Cerlox bindings, are still amazing for the fact that they exist at all.

[General] Attribution

I'm often frustrated trying to find the creator of art and video.  Especially on services like tumblr, where people popularly re-share.  I typically have to go to Google Images and 'search by image' to eventually find a website that has the image and actually identifies the artist.

I used to wish this would be solved by metadata.  Make metadata more prominent.  If you hover-over an image in your web browser, a minimum box should appear to the side of it listing key metadata like the artist.  Then perhaps people would be motivated to actually properly encode it when the original image (to be reshared a thousand times) is created.  And perhaps image editors could make metadata more prominent (always default to preserving metadata in an image's new copy after modification, and prompt the user while saving "Is this metadata correct?"). 

I don't trust people enough to trust this approach anymore.  Now I sort of want a database that fingerprints images and video and stores the metadata there.  Then, you could query it as a service to find this information.

[General] Proof-reading my blog

I don't proof-read my blog entries.  They're not here for the benefit of others, just for myself.  I'm happy to let others see my thoughts, and potentially converse with me about them, but this isn't for a job, it isn't intended for mass public consumption.  The effort of composing barely coherent thoughts in the first place consumes enough energy and time.  I'm not going to spend still more time making sure that the final presentation was flawless.  I'm already comfortable with my spelling and grammar ability, for those cases in which it actually matters.  You're lucky I capitalise the start of sentences, and avoid abuse of ellipses.  Meaning still comes through.  It's unfortunate that I used to dismiss others due to typos or rough grammar.  Their meaning was still usually plain, or at least if it was ambiguous, the likely meanings were still apparent.  It wasn't an actual hardship.  100% correctness isn't really necessary, 95% still works well.  Elsewise, I'd have to dismiss the writing of a lot of people for whom English is not their first language.  Pedantry and prescriptivism inhibits meaningful communication more than systematic grammatical errors.

[General] The Best We Have

So sometimes I watch television series or see art or hear music or poetry, and it's in many ways underwhelming.  Some potential recent examples are the recent Voltron Force animated series, or this cooking segment on CTV News.

Talent and budget are two considerations.  Local television channels want to offer features that larger stations can allocate a lot more funds to, and you can spot the differences.  My hometown wants to highlight local artists or music.  However, drawing from a smaller pool of people reduces the opportunities to find Wow!

There's that comparison between the best you can find in your tiny community versus the best you can find globally.  Thanks to globalisation and technology, we're easily exposed to some of the best writing, art, visual stories (TV :D), and games the world has to offer.  It's hard for a village of 700 or a single country of 30 million to compete against the 7 billion in the world.

But even then, expensive, premier content often disappoints, like the Last Airbender movie (alright, sometimes it even offends), and sometimes local work shines (like my favourite Guelph artist), a diamond in the rough.

by Katherine MacGregor
A lot of signal versus noise.  But even the noise I see, awful 'zines a friend publishes or terrible Canadian TV (I think a lot of TV is good) survive and thrive.

Part of the reason, I suppose, is that I'm surprisingly not the ultimate judge of quality.  It's not quite objective.  Something might be objectively more colourful, but "good", or "better television"?  How is Sherlock better than Elementary, or how is Jimmy Fallon better or worse than Conan O'Brien, or Lord of the Rings better than those awful Dungeons and Dragons films, or the Ender's Game book versus the film, or Hemingway's work compared to the barely coherent texts of a twelve year old narcissist?  They don't try to be the same thing, and they register differently with different people, with their different priorities and values.  To some people, especially less discriminating children, Voltron Force probably seems awesome.

I watched a lot of television when I was a kid and I enjoyed a lot, but if I looked at it now, the animation in particular isn't smooth, it's rough and inconsistent and doesn't represent its subjects well. But I loved it then.  It reverberated with me for different reasons.  I hadn't learned standards yet, learned to criticise things and dismiss them.  I was impressionable.

I miss that, a bit.  I've been working for the past couple of years to be able to enjoy things more broadly.  To accept limitations and appreciate the limitations, appreciate the choices that had to be made, find meaning in flaws.  Other people still appreciate these things, and I don't want to create my own barriers to enjoying life.  I've done that enough.

Ultimately, we're often stuck with the best we have.  In a small community, if you want to have a poetry night, you have to accept that a lot of contributions will be "amateur", and not professional.  Even the professional stuff won't necessarily have the depth or broad appeal that something attaining global fame might.  (Of course, a lot of stuff that obtains global fame has questionable depth or quality, though it succeeds in delighting people.)

I'm sitting here watching Vision network's Tribal Trails, which focuses on Christian spirituality in native communities, because my dad is watching it.  Even if the sound quality isn't great, or the speakers aren't the most eloquent, but in many ways, it's about the best they can do given their resources and skill, so they're trying anyway, and it is meaningful.  People's choices, their values, their intentions are visible despite the cracks.  I don't want to be distracted by the cracks.  I don't want to dismiss someone's thoughts or value or arguments because of negligible typos or awkward grammar (ideas are still successfully communicated; I'm not about to start proof-reading my blogs, after all).  When I'm at a martial arts seminar, I don't want the highlights afterward to be the amusing mistakes a sensei might have made, I want it to be fundamental message, though I've heard it before, the particular emphasis from this instance.

I want to still appreciate 'high quality' work, but not at the expense of my enjoyment of the most awful and wretched creations we produce.  I don't want to be the source of my own displeasure.

2014-02-17

[General] Wanted: A personal information database

Update: and then I discovered dokuwiki
 
I want to be able to to
What I'd like right now
  • personal wiki
  • accessible remotely (but securely)
  • accessible via my mobile device
  • WYSIWYG, with inline images, tables
  • searchable, tags
  • open source
  • nice, standardised data representation (OrgMode, Latex, HTML); something easy and clean to parse
I think Microsoft OneNote offers some (if not all) of this.  I sort of want an experience that merges using Wikipedia and Aloha Editor.

Things that exist that are inadequate:
  • MediaWiki: big, requires web infrastructure (well, Apache), not WYSIWYG; comprehensive though
  • Tomboy: doesn't have inline images or tables; nicely WYSIWYG though
  • TiddlyWiki: doesn't save automatically, or have WYSIWYG; easy to setup though
  • org-mode in emacs: no WYSIWYG, no obvious remote; great data representation
  • MS OneNote: not open source, doesn't run on Linux; seems featureful

[General] Master Chef Canada

I generally dislike competitive/reality TV shows, but I'm watching Master Chef Canada with my father right now, and I'm enjoying it. The judges seem intelligent and have meaningful comments. The food is actually interesting. And the pettiness isn't toooo excessive. I would basically try to make variants of my cookies for every challenge. :P

2014-02-16

[Budo] The May Seminar; Iaido and Jodo

A fellow who attended the May seminar before has sent this to my sensei, and it's a nice 3 minute explanation of it.

2014-02-14

[General] Happy Velociraptor's Day

Cards for that special velociraptor in your life who will inevitably devour your heart (originally from 2006)







More here, including heart-felt Halloween cards.

2014-02-13

[Microblog] Brief Bliss

Is when you're sitting in a sunny kitchen, listening to the violin (Vivaldi), sipping hot Monk's Blend tea.

2014-02-11

[Budo] For what it's worth

In 2007, my sensei produced a set of small videos for various sets of kata our club practises, and put them on his website for free. (They don't come with explanation, and they're not 1080p :D) His host recently decided they were too large to host, so I've moved them on to YouTube. So, here are some of the core sets. If you're interested in knowing what it is that I do 3+ times a week, here you go.

Iaido

Koryu - Muso Jikiden Eshin Ryu

Omori-ryu


Eishin-ryu


Okuiai - Iwaza


Okuiai - Tachiwaza


ZNKR Seitei


Jodo

Koryu - Shinto Muso-ryu

Ha, I wish.

ZNKR Seitei

kata


kihon

2014-02-09

[General] Happy Chinese New Year

I was asked by my favourite tea shop, Bon Thé Place, to talk about veganism at their Chinese New Years celebration.  I'm friends with the family that owns the shop, and they're most vegetarian or vegan, but I was a bit nervous.  I don't have a great memory, especially for details.  Thankfully, I persuaded my friend Rebecca from GSETA to come speak as well, and with Jonathan, it turned into a panel and the hour went easily and wonderfully.

Rebecca and I discussing veganism
I got to watch a traditional Dao Chinese tea ceremony.  The shop owner, Madeline, actually studied for a long time in China, and now she teaches here in Guelph.  It was very controlled and artful.

Pei, Frank and Raven performing a tea ceremony
All the food, brought by friends of Bon Thé Place, was vegan, which was delightful.  I get to look forward to special occasions like these to eat freely and wantonly, since most places don't cater to my kind. :)

Delicious vegan treats
Corey (also from GSETA) came along as well, and I was pleased by how much he and Rebecca delighted in my favourite tea shop.  I slowly bring people into the fold, addicting them to the variety and atmosphere.

Rebecca and Corey make great company
CAKE!

Vegan cake!
I was rewarded for speaking with my choice of tea (Jasmine Green) and a bubble tea! (mango and pineapple).  It's nice being able to eat without fear.  :)

Bubble tea, the reward for my efforts
Happy Chinese New Year. I hope you celebrate with a hot cup of tea!

[General] Website tweaks

I'm quite happy with managing my website via git.  I made a couple tweaks that have been long overdue too.
  • Constellations update: updated my Constellations on the main page, removing the G+ +1s list (which is now obsolete), link to my Tumblr (which replaces the function Google Reader's long defunct Shared Items page once served; this tumblr will eventually fall under something like tumbling.kosmokaryote.org now under observatory.kosmokaryote.org), and split it into two columns (one for blogs, one for not; height isn't well balanced though)
  • other websites: added a page noting websites I've worked on; one problem with it is that I've still not made proper thumbnails for the images, which I hope to get around to by Monday; until then, prepare to download largish screenshots :D  So instead of waiting, I just went ahead and did it, employing some clever sed and ImageMagick convert usage to determine the size for each thumbnail from the existing index.html source (250 or 350), scale the image downtown to the thumbnail, and replace the img's src value. :D
  • no more header delay: the JavaScript that creates the header for each page used to run after the page's body had fully loaded; so if you it was your first time loading a heavy page, like one with 10 images (or more, like the website portfolio...), and it took a few seconds, the page would start off without the header, and then suddenly everything would shift down when the header was finally added at the end.  Now the header is created at the start.  I hate user interfaces that shift elements about while using them.  (In particular, when a web browser has a little bar that appears at the top of a page for a warning or something and suddenly pushes everything down a centimetre, making quick clicks miss their mark, grr!)
  • no more horizontal header shifting: added some CSS so that a vertical scrollbar always appears, even if the page doesn't scroll (you can't use it then).  The reason is because elements of my interface are right aligned, but traveling between a page that needed a scroll bar and one that didn't caused the header to jump left and right (to make room for the scrollbar).  No more shifting!
My next goal is to make this site's home page more 2D, rather than linearly falling down the page, and embedding some lousy art representing more of me.

[General] Curious shells

I was walking home today when I found three tiny piles of snail shells in the snow:

I wonder where they came from.

2014-02-07

[General] Website Changes

Not very user visible, but I am now managing my website with git, as per these instructions.  That should eliminate issues I have with synchronisation.

2014-02-04

[Microblog] Reading the Internet

At some point in the past month I stopped reading Feedly (my Google Reader replacement, an RSS manager), and I haven't really missed it. More time doing things of my own accord.

[Microblog] One small victory

It's been over a month, but I've managed to want and enjoy me-time without becoming overwhelmed by anxiety.  Real change, possible in my time!

[Microblog] Diversity in me

I can't just be iaido all the time. 

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I am aeronautical, vanship-style.  I am olympic and mythical.  I rest on my laurels.