Tuesday Sep 16, 2008

Cool Cool Iris, an image optimised browser

I had a swift meeting with Juan Jose of Telefonica which while we had some important stuff to share, he just had to show me Cool Iris.

Cool Iris screenshot

This is a browser optimised for image and video content. The screen shot above is a view of my flickr photostream. The one below, shows a selection which has been enlarged and has some 'go to' buttons, which takes you to the web page holding the picture, which is more useful if you use their pre-canned queries; we all know what a flickr page looks like, but if using it to browse a news stream, it can act as a very rapid filter.

cooliris screenshot

It has a search engine interface which allows you to fire queries at the usual suspects, the picture below shows the response to a query on flickr for the tags 'beach sunset'

Cool Iris Screenshot

You can also see the screen shot [full size], and hovering over the link shows it via snap preview, which is now so small its a bit poor.

Another clever feature, is that it can be installed using a Firefox browser addon, which then has a button, on the button bar, that tells you if the site you're browsing in firefox is"cool iris ready". I wonder what it would take to get Roller sorted.

For various reasons, I created a tiny.url, which they offer a preview of depending on your settings.>/P>


Monday Sep 15, 2008

Laptop Diaries, Open Solaris

So while at the Lintlithgow EBC launch last week, I saw a demo'd copy of an opensolaris VM which looked really cool, and then Jingesh Shah, published this blog article on an Open Source ERP package, called "openbravo" running on Open Solaris. This has to be done.

Open Solaris running on my Laptop

I have downloaded the Open Solaris .iso from http://opensolaris.org/os/downloads/, and this is how I did it.

Start a VM using the .iso as the boot device.

Follow these installation instructions to define the locale and users.

Shut down the VM

Using the Virtual Box control panel, point the CD/DVD drive at the VX additions .iso, which is in the installation folder and restart the VM, then as root,

    cd /media
    pkgadd -d ./VBoxSolarisAdditions.pkg

I was using V1.6.4 of Virtual Box and for some reason, the "Add Guest Additions" on the Virtual Box command bar didn't work. The above trick seems to work quite happily, I have full screen mode working. Now to upgrade to Virtual Box 2.0.2.


Thursday Sep 11, 2008


I was introduced to IM by my US colleagues (& my children). Many of the former use AOL to forward IM's to their phones. This has become even easier to use with the advent of the iphone. Sun has also implememented an XMPP service and I came to the IM scene with a couple of YIM contacts as well. So I adopted GAIM and went with the pidgin people when that came along so I only have to worry about the protocol I use for those colleague like me with multiple service accounts.

I have recently had a real problem with pidgin in XMPP chat rooms, and when my boss decided to open a permanent chat room, these problems had to be fixed. Basically, I have reverted to Pidgin 2.0.1 for Windows. I did experiment with using pidgin inside an Ubuntu Virtual box instance and it worked fine, an interesting use case for Virual Box. I propose to raise a bug/note at pidgin's site, but you can use the [READ MORE] button below to read my more detailed notes, which cover the failure symptoms, Google Talk and more about facebook.


[Read More]

Monday Sep 01, 2008

Vbox 1.6.4, guest additions for Hardy Heron

Another download of Virtual Box and the creation of an Ubuntu Hardy Heron VM, using a Windows host. I shan't publish a picture this time. I think I had a problem as the VM wouldn't boot from the Live CD. This could have been me of course, I may have misconfigured it. So I copied the ISO image onto the hard disk and booted off that. The good news is that the guest additions are better than previous versions, or they are for the screen interface. After installing the guest additions, the screen resolution opens @ 1280x768 and full screen mode works just fine. I hadn't got round to fixing the xorg config file on my previous installs but it wasn't as easy and I did need to fiddle with xorg.conf.

Use the [Read More] link below for a step by step guide.


[Read More]

Thursday May 01, 2008

Laptop Diaries, Goodbye to dual boot

A month and a half ago, Sun & Innotek, the authors of Virtual Box, an open source desktop virtualisation solution announced that Sun was buying them Virtual Box is a free type II virtualisation solution permitting the configuration of a number of popular x86 operating systems to act as guests and hosts. I have just today configured a Linux VM running on my Windows XP Laptop, here's how it looks, when its not full screen.


Dave's Ubuntu Desktop screen shot


I used Ubuntu 7.04 and this is how I did it. Firstly a friend cut me an ISO image on CD and I loaded it into the cd reader.

  1. I then created a VM. This has hardware virtualisation enabled, I created a new .vdi file. This must be big enough, and defaults at 8Gb. This is a limit on the file size. It does not reserve this space at install time, however if you make it too small, the install fails. The boot device order is floppy, cdrom and then hard disk. The cdrom has to be enabled in the 'settings -> CD/DVD' panel. I also defined the VM as a host of a Linux 2.6 image.
  2. I then started the VM using the virtual box control panel. This then boots a live cd of the cdrom, and I selected the 'Install' option. This then installs Ubuntu and offers you the opportunity to restart the system, i.e. the VM.
  3. I then used the update manager to update the software. It downloads, works out dependencies and then installs the new software versions. At the end of this stage, I then rebooted the VM. This took some time, over an hour and half, but I was using a wireless connection to a not very quick BT broadband line.
  4. At this point in time, it only offers 800x600 screen resolution, which is a bit pants, so, I used the VM window menu option, 'Devices -> Install Guest Additions'. This opened a nautilus window on the CD which exposes a script called "VBoxLinuxAdditions.run". I ran this from a terminal session command line in bash using root privilidge (see below). At this point, I then rebooted the VM again.
  5. I then needed to check that the xorg.config was configured correctly. In order to amend it, one needs a root user shell. Its been a couple of years since I used a Linux, so I tried to 'su' to root, but it was having none of it. A quick google found me this article this article about default passwords for the ubuntu super user. So a quick 'sudo gnome-terminal' and we're away. This artilce at forums.virtualbox.org, about guest additions, and this article details the checks and changes required of xorg.conf to permit full screen mode on a larger screen. The Toshiba M5 I am using has 1400x1050. I only had to add the additional resolutions. The device name agreements worked and the virtual devices had been inserted.

I should also thank the Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, who posted an Ubuntu 7, install walkthrough, which while not difficult, helped me debug the initial install failure.

I have downloaded some backgrounds and installed them, but it seems as I shall not be trying to build dual or triple boot solutions again; I have also got opensolaris nevada and indiana VMs. I just wish it had all been installed on  a single partition. I can run whatever OS I want on the laptop now.


Monday Nov 12, 2007

More about Plazes

As you may know, I am a fan of Plazes and one thing I havn't had time to document is that our friends as plazes have fixed one of my informal RFEs (More...). You can remove a traze from your trail now. The remove activity button is all over the site. This'll make managing the plaze trial easier and more accurate. The mobile phone interface seems to remain problematic, but the whole site is becoming useful for keeping touch with highly mobile colleagues.

Sadly there is no Solaris agent and the Linux one seems to have gone into hiding, but I have a few ideas and am trying to work on an answer between other projects.


Tuesday Jan 30, 2007

More about BT & the GPL

The Register is still running the story about BT's use of GPL code and their duty to publish their enhancements.


Tuesday Jan 23, 2007

The duty to publish bites!

I have been talking to some customers about Sun's policy to publish Solaris as CDDL, and found that some of their staff are 'balls out' fans of the GPL. The GPL places a duty to publish your source code if you have used GPL code and publish your binary. This is a very serious duty, about which I am not sure these fans are getting management or their legal departments approval.

The register reports that British Telecom have decided to publish their home appliance code because they feel that otherwise they may be in violation of the GPL since their home hub appliance uses Linux which is published under the GPL.

They are being hunted by http://gpl-violations.org/, whose page states

The ultimate goal is to make vendors of GPL licensed software understand that GPL is not public domain, and that there are license conditions that are to be fulfilled.

and Home Hub Blog comments on the act of publication.


Thursday Dec 14, 2006

The Future for HP/UX is dull

I have been researching Sun's competitive position against HP. It's clear to me that HP, when they think about IT as opposed to ink, agree with Nick Carr and his thesis "IT doesn't matter". Mark Hurd (HP CEO) in the highlights of his keynote speech [.mp3] to Oracle World earlier this year (November) stated that their IT would contain

no proprietary infrastructure...... consisting of proliant and "c" class blades, linux, network storage, dynamic smart cooling, integrated racks

No room for HP/UX! Nor for Itanium! No wonder the HP/UX roadmap is so ephemeral. My colleague Matias Alonso, has also written about this direction from HP and finishes his article with the comment that even HP prefer the cost of open source to their own proprietary fees, which presumambly they rebate, so the TCO must be pretty poor.

It's already been damaged as a platform by the requirement to recompile or develop in order to transition from HP PA RISC to Itanium, and neither HP/UX nor Itanium have the volumes to retain and recruit developers. This discontinuity is a true tippining point; if you have to spend money on the application, you'd prefer (as Hurd himself says earlier in the speech) to spend it on improving the business logic, not extending its life.

HP-UX 11i v3 has slipped again to next year [1] and is now over 2½ years late. Given it only runs on HP's Itanium, perhaps the demand's not there! A prediction of this sorry state of affairs was made Sun when it published over 15 months ago an article "Reality Check: HP-UX has no future!", on its web site.

The chart below has been built from an article at IT jungle, analysing HP's most recent earnings call. Now that HP/UX is only available on Itanium, it is part of 'Business Critical Systems' (which is the extruded segment.)



HP's results last quarter 


Business Critical Systems (BCS) earned $987m during the quarter selling Itanium, PA-RISC, MIPS and Alpha based systems The Itanium revenues grew (representing 45% of the revenue) but HP do not publish the Linux/HP-UX breakdown any more. These earnings represent a year on year decline because the growth in Itanium systems is insufficient to compensate HP for the decline in the older proprietary PA-RISC and Alpha systems. The one thing we do know is that HP-UX only represents a part of the BCS revenues. Is this enough to keep HP interested? Is it enough to keep the ISVs interested? ISV's that want an Itanium port, will probably choose Linux. I think HP-UX's future is destined to add to HP's growing reputation as the IT industry's operating systems undertaker and join Ultrix, True64 and VMS in the hospice.

Hurd's Oracleworld speech streaming audio [.mp3]: the quote is at 3:10, you can find the whole speech with other keynote speakers on the Oracle World 2006's keynote speaker page. We can see HP's historic delivery of their roadmap,  HP's recent release history.


Sunday Dec 10, 2006

Personalising the roller Sotto theme

A principal engineer colleague, John Stanford has just kickstarted his blog and is using the "Sotto" theme. With respect to themes, one of the most requested theme amendments I've seen has been How to amend the pictures in the Sotto theme? I and some colleagues looked at this some time ago and I posted most of this article internally. On review, there is nothing requiring secrecy in it, so I thought I'd re-post it here.

I think Sotto is a pretty and relaxed theme, but I suspect that most people will want to change the pictures to develop a uniqueness and personality. There are some other problems with Sotto, which I may return to at another time, but for now, here's how I amended Sotto. I originally demonstrated the effect by converting my private blog to Sotto, but I shan't be doing this here, so I have instead posted a picture of John's blog.


John's Blog


Firstly select the pictures you want and upload them to your ../resource directory by logging into roller and selecting the "File Uploads" sub-tab from the "Create & Edit" tab

In my case the pictures had been chosen and munged to have the same height, which was different from the theme's default pictures. This change of height needs to be managed. (See below).

I'd never selected Sotto as my first theme, but I had an empty _css file in my page templates file list. Select Sotto as your theme and then press the customize button. This copies Sotto into your local file folders. Sotto's global theme styles are held in /roller/themes/sotto/styles/default.css. Sotto declares style alias for the three pictures, which it calls gutter images. These are located within a div tag which also has a style. This style is called #gutter. Using the hyperlink above, (and checking that it remains accurate by reading the page source ), you can obtain the CSS code source for #gutter & #gutterimage[1-3]. Cut and paste these into your local _css file. Now amend the file names!

Each of the css rules has a height attribute, set them as appropriate i.e. the images with their height set to the height of the picture and the gutter set to two greater. The image aliases have a width parameter, set these as appropriate. I set #gutter's height to be two greater than the images as this is how the original author sized it. Obviously the background attribute needs to be set appropriately and we use the url() descriptor to do this. The new pictures are held in /roller/${yourloginname}/resource. The simplest way to get these is to open them in a browser and cut and paste the URL into the _css file. If you want more pictures, then create more #gutterimagen alaises; one for each picture. This is all that is required of the CSS file.

We now need to amend the weblog page template to ensure that our new CSS file is interpretated at the correct time in the cascade. The changes required are as follows:

     <style type="text/css">#includePage("_css" )

must be inserted after the

    #showThemeStyle("sotto" "default.css" false)

line. This forces the new _css file to be included and interpreted after the default file. The default file sets the gutter and gutterimages to have a default height and use the default pictures, and our new _css file overwrites these settings. This is enough if you require three pictures. If you require some more pictures then,

    <span id="gutterimagen">&nbsp;</span>

needs to be added as appropriate. Look at Sotto's weblog file, you'll see what I mean.


Thursday Nov 30, 2006

Tags in Roller & Technorati

Two days ago, I looked at how to display the tags assigned to an article hosted in roller and left the question of generating techorati tags unfinished.

<!-- Now lets technorati tag the tags -->
<P><small>technorati tags:
    #set ($mytags=$entry.tags)
    #foreach ( $tag in $mytags )
        <a rel="tag" href="http://technorati.com/tag/$tag.name">$tag.name</a>
        <!-- NB there is a trailing space on the line above #end -->

should produce the technorati tag list in a small font paragraph. Now on to Chris's challange.  

I have a challenge about how to migrate forward, since if I put this code in the _day file (inside the entries loop), than I will get the technorati tags twice, for those articles with both roller tags and technorati tags specified. This is caused by my eagerness to load my tags into roller to see my tag cloud; thats why I have articles with both roller and techorati tags. I might be able to create a local velocity macro and use this as content within an article, but I think the _day file is the right place. Have to think about it.

The tags are thus still done by hand.



Monday Nov 27, 2006

Tuning tags for query & propagation

I am still hand coding the the tags in this blog. Roller has a macro to display a hyperlinked tag list but resolves the links inside the roller instance.

<P><small>tags: #showEntryTags($entry)</small></P>

However, I still want to use technorati, so I am copying the tags from the input text box into the content body and using the topic plugin to create my technorati tags. (Actually I don't even necessarily always keep the same tags, but I am pretty consistent.) I wonder how to write velocity code to build the technorati tag list.


Wednesday Nov 15, 2006

Have we moved on?

Last year, Richard Morgan showed me Protopage, which I looked at today. Here's a screen shot.

My Protopage


I think it might be interesting to see how it tries to keep up with the new emerging tools. It seems an odd cross between a personal portal and a collaboration tool. The post it notes metaphor is good, I assume they can be read by others but surely del.icio.us is a better bookmark manager and any wiki better for collaboration. I think that for these sort of applications specialisation is becoming the key. The application needs to be excellent at something and protopage neither excells at anything, nor assembles well, although it does have an RSS display panel.I have set up a personal protopage for Dave Levy to see how I feel about it, but I can't see it replacing my.yahoo in my usage since it lacks the FX gadget. It does claim a mailbox interface, but I can't find a calander (not that I use Yahoo's calendar) The weather feature seems very comprehensive and easier to use than Yahoo.


Friday Nov 10, 2006

More about Tag Clouds on roller

Another e-mail exchange with Dave Johnson, and a quick look at the Velocity manual and I have produced the tag cloud at the top of this page which only includes those tags, with more than two occurences.

I set an interest threshold, and then within the foreach tag loop test the tag count against the interest theshold.

  #set ( $interestthreshold=2 )
  #set($mytags=$model.weblog.getPopularTags(-1, 100))
  #foreach ($tag in $mytags)
      #if ( $tag.count > $interestthreshold )
        <A CLASS="tag s${tag.intensity}" HREF="$url.tag($tag.name)"
           TITLE="$tag.count"> $tag.name</A>

The tag is only written if tag count is greater than the threshold.


Tuesday Oct 03, 2006

Pile'm high! Sell'em cheap!

I cannot believe it! Tescos are going into the software distribution business. Reported here... by vnunet. Unfortunately its not Star Office!





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