Plain Design Ltd.

That should be the name of my new web development company. There's a lot of complexity in the world and complexity is the true root of all evil.

I've spent most of the weekend updating a website from a ... retro 1998 GeoCities-style to something more humane.

Before After

(Sometime soon, both of those will point to the same one.)

Changes have included:

  • Rewriting almost all the old presentation code. It was primarily broken HTML with a table-based layout, and now it's clean HTML+CSS+JavaScript with a position-div-based layout. It's about 1/3. In the end, it's about half the size. The smallest savings come from the PayPal-based order page.
  • Restructuring some of the flow. Most of the navigation was usually at the bottom of the page. We now have a sidebar that can get you to almost anywhere, except the individual game's pages, and for those, we have thumbnails of each game leading to their page. Yay.
  • Some of the saving comes from how I build the sidebar and header consistently on all pages: they're built using JavaScript and written in response to getHeader() calls on each page.
  • Cleaning a lot of the images. Many were GIFs with coloured edges. I cleaned those edges and made them into slightly smaller PNGs. Hurrah!
  • We now use Silk icons for a few icons. Yay. Silk is a great CC By-licensed icon set ideal for websites and application development.
  • We now use handfont2 by Benji Park as a cool web font as provided by the Open Font Library. There are a few points where text and text images still needs to be converted.

Anyway, there's still some work to be done, but it has been fun. Back to my first comment, though, the new design was initially very plain, and I hope it still mostly is (though the thumbnails son the left and the paw prints up top seem to have muttered up things a bit, in a way I like). I don't have aspirations to particularly rich designs. They often end up garish. A lot of websites I visit look repulsive. Especially on-line stores. I don't understand how making their website difficult to traverse, cluttered, and ugly is supposed to improve sales. Ah well, I'm not everyone. I think my designs err on being too simple sometimes, but at least they are hopefully efficient and a pain-free experience.


Why isn't my z-index doing anything?!

Tip of the now: z-index apparently only works on elements whose position have been specified. So, if you like, set "position: relative;" for the objects CSS style and then set its z-index. Hurrah! My images now float where they're supposed to.


Stop GNOME from resuming old sessions

Once upon a time, I asked GNOME to save my session when I logged off. Eventually I disabled it, but ever since, the last session saved has always tried to start when I logged in. It's rather annoying, as it greatly slows my login.

Parts of that session were saved across a few different directories. I decided to clear their contents to restore my profile to a pristine and quick-to-load state.


GNOME doesn't have really good session management features, but what does? At least Firefox doesn't clobber its sessions anymore.



Submitted another revision of my patch adding gdata_picasaweb_service_upload_file_async() and gdata_picasaweb_service_upload_file_finish() to libgdata. I think it's almost there. We will hopefully have asynchronous upload support for PicasaWeb in libgdata 0.6.0 and I will hopefully be able to use these official functions for my Postasa PicasaWeb uploading plugin for Eye of GNOME. Yay!


Almost Perfect

I have just finished reading Almost Perfect, a book available for free online about the author's involvement in the rise and fall of WordPerfect Corporation. The author is Pete Peterson. It's kind of interesting. I think I disagree with a lot his ideas, but I liked using Corel Word Perfect when I got my first computer in 1998, and I really enjoyed following the development of the company.

The idea of building a company is exciting and scary. I'd probably only do so if I thought I was able to help distribute important technological advances to many people by doing so. Personal wealth isn't very attractive to me. Money comes and goes and enables many things but isn't the reason why.

I more or less liked many or most of the ideas the author related. He liked to keep a flat, simple organisation, encourage principles and be hard when it was necessary. WordPerfect Corporations downfall did follow from his exit from the company, so there could be some correlation in that. He had to more or less figure out what he was doing as he went along. I suppose I'd probably end up having to do that, too. However, there seems like there'd be abundant resources in the market I'd have to compete in to learn from, whereas during his time, there'd be many fewer for the software market.


Fedora 12

So, I upgraded to Fedora 12. Yay. Naturally, bugs bugs bugs. Most interestingly though, is this:

Fedora12 now comes with ABRT, a bug reporting tool with so many bugs it can't actually report bugs it finds, so I have to manually report bugs on the bug reporting tool.

Preupgrade crash when resuming


Seth Vidal has a better solution. Rather than just catching the exception, you can prevent it by correcting the error in the code, as noted by Anonymous in the comments:

Patch from Seth Vidal:

diff --git a/preupgrade/__init__.py b/preupgrade/__init__.py
index 2e82f1e..d79ec4b 100644
--- a/preupgrade/__init__.py
+++ b/preupgrade/__init__.py
@@ -325,7 +325,7 @@ class PreUpgrade(yum.YumBase):
rf = open(repofile,"w")
for repo in [self.instrepo] + self.repos.listEnabled():
# adapted from YumRepository.write()
- repo._grabfunc.opts.user_agent = __user_agent__
+ repo.grabfunc.opts.user_agent = __user_agent__
yc = yumConfigParser()
for k,v in repo.iteritems():

So the problem is that it tried to use _grabfunc, which doesn't exist, instead of grabfunc. Yay.

I was trying to upgrade to Fedora 12 today via preupgrade but had to stop my upgrade session due to a network issue. When I tried to resume, as you're supposed to be able to do, it started getting the metadata again and then it suddenly crashed!

[root@localhost ~]# preupgrade
/usr/lib/python2.6/site-packages/yum/__init__.py:203: UserWarning: Use .preconf instead of passing args to _getConfig
  warnings.warn('Use .preconf instead of passing args to _getConfig')
Loaded plugins: blacklist, dellsysidplugin2, presto, refresh-packagekit,
              : whiteout
Detected in-progress upgrade to Fedora 12 (Constantine)
preupgrade-updates (mirrorlist) 
  url: https://mirrors.fedoraproject.org/metalink?repo=updates-released-f12&arch=i386
  now: https://mirrors.fedoraproject.org/metalink?repo=updates-released-f12&arch=i386
unknown metadata being downloaded: metalink
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "/usr/share/preupgrade/preupgrade-gtk.py", line 764, in 
    widgets = PreUpgradeGtk()
  File "/usr/share/preupgrade/preupgrade-gtk.py", line 376, in __init__
  File "/usr/share/preupgrade/preupgrade-gtk.py", line 259, in _do_main
  File "/usr/share/preupgrade/preupgrade-gtk.py", line 436, in main_preupgrade
  File "/usr/lib/python2.6/site-packages/preupgrade/__init__.py", line 130, in setup
  File "/usr/lib/python2.6/site-packages/preupgrade/__init__.py", line 328, in complete_repo_setup
    repo._grabfunc.opts.user_agent = __user_agent__
AttributeError: 'NoneType' object has no attribute 'opts'

That's obnoxious. I didn't want to restart it, as I'd already downloaded over a hundred MB of files. So, as root I looked at the file tripping the AttributeError, /usr/lib/python2.6/site-packages/preupgrade/__init__.py, and decided to catch the error:

    repo._grabfunc.opts.user_agent = __user_agent__            


    repo._grabfunc.opts.user_agent = __user_agent__             
except AttributeError:                                          
    print "Can't set user_agent, repo._grabfunc = NoneType :( "

I then ran it again, and this caught two exceptions, but allowed me to proceed with seemingly no loss of functionality. I am now happily downloading still more amazing amounts of MB. Hurrah!

Now to file a relevant bug if it doesn't already exist. The oft duplicated, already existent RH bug is 538118.

The Internet is for Recipes

So, the Internet is changing a lot of things gradually as well as quickly. One thing I thought of today is the death of family recipes. I don't really expect them all to die, but I could believe a trend of people moving away from learning traditional family recipes and to the top hits from Google.

Instead of having different species of a recipe evolving in isolation with generational mutation and a little bit of interfamily crossover, people can now find that canonical First Hit for "Pumpkin Pie". Information becomes so trivially distributed now. I suppose it was somewhat similar with popular cookbooks that might have been had in one out of three homes.

At least we don't easily all implement the same recipe the same way. There's still a lot of room for variation. And it doesn't have to spread just locally now, it too can spread globally. It still seems, though, a little sad that what once would have acted as a thread through generations of a family now loses that claim to legacy.

But then again, perhaps most children who learn how to cook will continue to obtain instruction first from their parents, and cooking as a family activity will blunt the invasive power of globalised recipes.


Pay Me

I like micropayments. I like their idea a lot. It's nice to see that cheap virtual content is actually making money, too. People are getting less afraid of spending money online. Yay! The Internet might be able to thrive still more yet.

People buy music online (wow!), people subscribe to video download services (waiting for Netflix to come to me), people buy an insane amount of applications for their cell phones (software that I find to be much more limited than their PC counterparts, which people would often be SHOCKED, SHOCKED to pay for!). Old properties like 1990 video games even generate money anew through consoles' online stores and emulation. Wow. Some people even buy books.

It's nice to know that people are willing to exchange something and not just take it. I'm surprised when I find people who are still perplexed by why they should pay for something. Sigh! In some ways, though, I wonder why such things didn't take off still earlier.

For instance, gutenberg.org has millions of classic texts available for public consumption, but in some ways it doesn't seem as successful a resource as, say, the Wikipedia. Lots of people I know do not know about it, but know about Google Books. Perhaps it's the technical interface? (Hey, it looks better these days.) Or perhaps people really just want to read modern literature. Ugh :(

Lots of Open Source software offer ways for you to donate to its development. I think most never see much more than a dime, though, unless they start promoting it heavily or in the context of some strong need. GNOME is a major project, huge, and they have a donation-based project that, to me, is surprisingly under supported. Well, at least they have private sponsorship to make up that massive shortfall :)

Newspapers are in dire, need I guess, for a successful revenue model that goes beyond advertising online. Lots of payfor magazines and stuff have, if they survive, seem to more subsist. If they lock all their content away, then they end up having to survive with much reduced reach, too. Is it more important to make money off your content, or for your content to obtain maximal distribution? I suppose the mixed-model with pay-for premium content and free regular content isn't that bad, though I stopped visiting IGN for that reason.

As micropayments become still more popular, and in the traditional sense, with readers being willing to pay 2¢ for an article and not think twice about it, I think a lot of traditional funding problems will relax. Many websites would thrive off 1¢ per visit, which is a very minor expense for a user who enjoys any of the content. Imagine the profitability potential for webcomics. If a consistent and regular model and interface was available for open source projects beyond the Pay Pal button, things might improve there, too. I'm sure copyright holders will be happier when YouTube starts generating still more revenue for them (they actually share money off the ads right now and purchases of their music prompted by YouTube).

I think micropayments could be made still easier if they could somehow be facilitated by the browser. I don't think browser makers want that responsibility, though, and extensions and toolbars are limited in their reach. Perhaps mashups will help instead. It would be nice to, without being redirected to a completely different page to make a purchase, have a small widget that indicates how much money I have (but which is not available to the site hosting the widget), and offer me a two-click process to spend a small some to reward or access the content.

So, yah, I think people are becoming more and more comfortable spending money online. Content exists that people are proven to be willing to spend money on. Now for it to become more trivial to spend small amounts.

The downside

Oh, of course there is one. The success of many businesses online is a very damaging threat to businesses offline. I dare say a threat to the very economy!

When Netflix, which is now moving onto all the major consoles, I read, and services like it hit critical mass, why will people still visit the video store? Eventually, the video store as a popular destination must die. I'm sure some might still exist, but in general, at some point, people will turn to their computer to watch it on a cheap monitor or to their game console to watch it on their TV, like they would if they inserted a DVD into it. Sure, Netflix and its competition will be new business and will hire people, but will it need to employ as many people traditional brick outlets? I don't think so. In theory, it should be incredibly cheaper to operate a comparable business online rather than offline, especially in the human resources department. Ah well, having people drive to get their movies is bad for the environment anyway, and high unemployment will reduce consumption which is bad for the environment anyway.

I imagine it will take longer to migrate people away from paper to digital books. Current ereaders are repulsively ugly and awkward. However, in theory, people might accept a digital board to do all their reading from. If library systems can manage to implement a loan and share system like in the brick world, that'll be an additional blow. I wonder how they'll manage it, as it seems like it could really undermine commerical models. Manufacturing thousands and millions redundant copies of books, many of which can go unsold, is bad for the environment anyway.

I suppose any information-based item that can be shipped over the Internet, or physical object that can be constructed with a 3D printer, signals the impending demise of a previous industry, increased efficiency, and, perhaps, high unemployment and reduce environmental impact. I suppose all the unemployed can make their living off huge global audiences reading their webcomics, anyway.

Here's to the future!


Blogger navbar returns

Blogger doesn't force their navbar upon you when you use SFTP to publish to your own server. They do if you have it hosted at blogspot.com or use a hosted domain (like blog.kosmokaryote.org). So, when I switched over, I initially used CSS to hide their navbar. They would rather you didn't do that. However, because I use my own template, they don't provide me with any easy way to change the colours to make it match my vibrant colour scheme. I can't simply restyle it with CSS because their navbar is hosted on their own server in an iframe, and thus doesn't regard my style sheets :(

However, I did check its code today to realise that it sets the colour scheme in the iframe's src's URL. Hurrah! So, now when the page loads, I re-src the navbar to one with the above colour scheme. Pretty! Also, fragile and improper. At least it looks good.


GenderGuesser SetBuilder

GenderGuesser and SetBuilder have been updated! They now compress their sets (the use XML to store their data, so hurrah!), and you can now edit specific records in SetBuilder, rather than just adding new records and removing old ones.


Security on the local machine

Patch on Bug 531603

Apparently, GNOME Blog once upon a time stored your passwords in plain text in GConf. I've posted a patch which stores them in Gnome Keyring instead. Yay!

And now

GNOME Keyring support for GNOME Blog?

Gnome Blog

Gnome Blog is a nice little application/applet for GNOME. I have enjoyed using it. Sadly, it hasn't seen much love in recent years. I even submitted a patch to make it support Blogger's ATOM API, so that we could, you know, have titles that were proper and separate from the post.

I just looked at the patch again and touched it up a little. I previously had it adding a second Blogger.com option, but now it just replaces it. The old blogger.com API remains, because apparently some other service uses it. I decided to also find out how to add tags programtically. So, you should see those appear at the bottom.

Testing on another blog, I noticed that paragraphs weren't appearing properly, but I couldn't figure out why. Perhaps they will here?

One other thing I like about the ATOM API is that my blog list is sorted by Last Used, rather than by Random :) Yay!

New Softwares!

Eye of GNOME plugin for PicasaWeb

I've written a plugin for Eye of GNOME, currently available as a patch to Eye of GNOME Plugins, which I submitted for inclusion there. I might have to just release it separately, though.

GNOME bug 600109 has the patch for it.

You can see screen shots and more here

Bell Aqua redux

This is that nice little software I have that announces the hour on the hour using Speech Dispatcher.

I think I previously posted about Bell Aqua, but just as a shell script's contents. Now it's still a shell script, but it's a bit nicer. Sleeping your computer no longer interferes (much) with its countdown to the hour. It also is hosted at gitorious.org/bellaqua/ which also hosts simple instructions on how to set it up to run when you login.

It also has a local page now that mostly just redirects you to gitorious.


Instead of telling you that my blog will behave strangely as it undergoes maintenance this Halloween, I instead did maintenance and let the breakages be a spooky treat for hapless visitors. Oooo, scary.

I had a problem with the header. Another "Firefox and friends define a DOM property that IE doesn't, thus leading to breakages." Not having a Windows installation and consequently no IE, I didn't have many options for debugging, but I trick or treat'd a friend with a few moments to hand out and, tada, even IE users (perhaps most visitors?) should see the starfield and header now.

I also get e-mailed links about access attempts that result in 404, 401, etc. I often get e-mailed about 404 errors when browsers check for a favicon.ico. I have used a .png image historically, but I don't think IE understands it, so now I have a favicon.ico too. Or, at least browsers still check for the favicon.ico, so it exists now. Yay.

I'm aware that this blog mostly seems to discuss this blog. What a blug!


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