Monday Jul 03, 2006

Thanks to the organizers of GUADEC 2006 in Villanova!


Many thanks to the organizers of the GNOME developer/user conference "GUADEC 2006" in Villanova i la GeltrĂș, Catalonia Spain. The venu was ideal for the talks and even though the transportation to the campsite was awkward, it forced GNOMEers to share a bus every day and encouraged us to stay in the village after work for tapas, beer, football, swimming and technical discussions. I was made to feel welcome from the moment I arrived and I really enjoyed the casual collaboration that took place. I think it helped that our desktop developers are now working closer to head and that other parts of Sun are beginning to follow the desktop team's lead of open development. It feels as though Sun is becomming less 'evil' in the eyes of other open source developers. The GNOME developers I met were very approachable, honest and open. GUADEC highlighted areas where Sun can make significant new contributions (e.g. perfomance via dtrace, canary and libumem, QA , marketing, customer feedback, APOC). There are other areas where Sun needs to stay involved to help prevent GNOME from being locked to non-extensible or linux-specific APIs.


It's interesting to hear that other GNOME companies are encountering some of the same issues that have been plaguing Sun for several years. For example:

  1. Heavy memory and CPU usage impacts Nokia embedded devices, the One Desktop Laptop per child initiative... and Sun Ray.
  2. Application background kill or checkpointing could be useful on Nokia, ODPC and Sun Ray.
  3. Sharing gconf settings between several GNOME releases in the same NFS home directory affects nearly all enterprise GNOME users, including the 18,000+ thin-client GNOME desktops within Sun.
  4. The original gnome-session fade out effect is slow on all thin clients (not just Sun Ray.)
  5. It is difficult to support customers using old versions of GNOME, but it is also difficult to migrate customers to newer version of GNOME. Common experiences, common requirements, common solutions. GUADEC might just help prevent everyone from reinventing their own version of the wheel.

Friday Jun 09, 2006

Yerkes observatory site to become spa resort, a victim of light pollution?

Yerkes Pillar

The photo is of my nephew in front of Yerkes, an observatory which houses the world's largest refracting telescope. This pillar appears to be decorated with creatures of the zodiac. While on our eclipse trip, the Astronomer Royal for Scotland told us that this beautiful observatory near my family's Wisconsin home was up for sale. Today I learned that the University of Chicago has decided to sell Yerkes observatory and the surrounding land to a developer. The developer plans to build resort and spa on part of the land.

I don't know what will become of the telescope, but if you find yourself in southeastern Wisconsin and Yerkes is still open to the public, it is worth a visit. Our Scottish astronomer friend called it the Taj Mahal of astronomy. Albert Einstein once said that he would rather visit Yerkes than Niagara falls. The two main dome buildings sit on a grassy hill which is surrounded by woods and overlooks Lake Geneva, a small deep blue glacial lake. During one cloudy November leonid meteor storm watch, we were taken inside for a semi-private tour. The enormous refractor fits the stereotype of what a telescope should look like. Yerkes observatory is approximately the same age as Lick observatory, but Yerkes seems to be much more ornate. I'm reminded of Jules Vernes or H.G. Wells' vision of Victorian technological art. The enormous wooden floor under the dome of the 40 inch refractor rises so smoothly that it feels as though you are standing still and the building is shrinking. But when the dome rotates, it feels like you and the telescope are rotating.

I certainly hope the developers are able to maintain the buildings as a public science education resource. Unfortunately, the location for this observatory is now severly affected by light pollution and air pollution from Chicago and other large nearby cities. If it's true that exburbs, including those adjacent to Yerkes, are approaching the peak of a real-estate bubble, perhaps in 10-15 years a science organization can buy the observatory buildings back for an inflation-adjusted million or less. In the meantime, I hope the University of Chicago wisely uses the $8 million generated from the sale.

Saturday Jul 10, 2004

Broadband is here in Ireland

A company was piloting cable broadband in this Irish village when I first moved here in 2001. Three years later it finally became generally available and last night I signed on to broadband (ADSL) for the first time. I'm using the same provider as Calum and I'm quite happy with the service so far. I do need to check the advertised rate on uploads, though getting 56k through this house's tangle of phone jacks and splitters was already a miracle.
Friends in Oshkosh Wisconsin have been listening to Ireland's FM2 via broadband for years, so I decided to try Wisconsin Public Radio's live audio feed and found this link about differing perspectives on one nation's history. I also wondered if the Green Bay Packers had any live webcasts. A few years ago I was only able to listen to the celebration of German reunification over a scratchy shortwave radio. Now news and broadcasts are easily available from anywhere in the world, even Lake Woebegone or weirder places.
See if you can guess where these headlines are from:
  1. FEMA Disaster Recovery Center open in Berlin
  2. Wanted: army of migrants to keep the Tiger purring
  3. City struggles with smoke ban enforcement
  4. Poteen seized
  5. Justice Minister warns smoking ban flouters could loose(sic) their licence
  6. Refugees offer up opportunity to experience an immigrant experience
  7. Probe likely as Garda hit by bottle at hurling match
  8. Restaurants want to stop `buffet abuses' before they happen
  9. Famed astronomer in dump site shock
  10. It's a drag: each fag can cost 3,000



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