- I Can't Dance
- Talk with People who want to Discuss
- Better Free Software Organisations?
- 21 today! MJR around the web...
- Explaining web site improvements: what's important to you?
- Dangling the Bluetooth Dongle in front of the Penguin
- UK mobile micropublishing choices?
- Computer things that puzzle me today
- Updated GnuPG Key Expiry
Entries from April 2008
Mon, 14 Apr 2008 11:00:42 +0100
My legs hurt.
It hurts to sit. It hurts to stand. It hurts to walk. $DEITY knows what it will feel like to ride my bike.
How did I do this? It wasn't some bizarre biking accident. I was laying cables under the floor between the two offices at the opposite corners of my building yesterday. I lifted three floorboards and four carpets and drilled one hole. Afterwards, I rebuilt some shelves. How did that hurt my legs???
Meanwhile, messages that came in while I was AFK included a strange one from Paul, Steve being elected as Debian Project Leader (well done!), 'Free Software in Ethics and Practice' - Richard Stallman, Thursday 1st May, Interview: How a hacker became a freedom fighter From New Scientist Print Edition, Understanding Design & Computers: Notes from an Introduction to OpenMoko, by Ole Tange for UKUUG
[Talk with People who want to
Tue, 15 Apr 2008 14:58:37 +0100
I spend too much of my time trying to talk with people who don't want to discuss, yet somehow I won't stop.
I keep hoping that things like suggesting good advice on meeting scheduling will avoid them repeating old mistakes. The most extreme life-and-death example is probably trying to help with Kewstoke Toll Road, where people still speed and someone crashed off again last night (although I don't know what caused last night's crash - could have been a simple accident).
Of course, it's better to talk with people who have asked questions and want to hear the answer. I'm currently involved in several groups like that and it makes me much happier [4HWW]. I've even made a confidentiality agreement [Network Blogging article] about one group because I really like the organiser and want to help them, but I've yet to see changes happen because of it and that's probably about all I can write here, which does rather suck.
"all Windows stuff must be gone from the premises [...] no longer help do callers favours with broken Windows machines, apart from fixing them properly and permanently by installing Debian"
at their March meeting. Well done, BW!
After a request, I finally put four photos from Social Source South West (which was hosted by BW) online, which reminded me to subscribe to watfordgap's travels. Disappointingly, on my first read, it promotes the Suppliers Directory developed by Lasa. That directory is a big problem because it creates a silly barrier to entry which hinders new social enterprises and cooperatives. At a time where most non-profit software is unsustainable and needs to change, requiring three referees is a way to obstruct change. Also, persuading three people to support their work is no substitute for supplier evaluation.
Any non-profits who want to lead their sector should approach ICT suppliers directly. The article also mentions Experts Online which is even more short-sighted about computing: "both PC and Mac" indeed! What about GNU/Linux, thin clients, and other changes which are already making a big difference to some non-profits...?
But here I go again, talking to a brick wall.
I expressed these concerns when that Directory started and it didn't do any good then, so I doubt they'll change it now, near the end of its life.
So I'm going to move on. There are lots of people emailing who want to hear from me, so it's time to concentrate on talking with people who do want to listen. If you want to discuss this with me, visit my website for the comments form (click the title or look for a "view original post" link, depending what site you're reading).
[Better Free Software
Wed, 16 Apr 2008 10:11:38 +0100
Another zero-day announcement of a Software in the Public Interest online meeting has been posted. The announcement mentions "one motion has been raised" but the agenda doesn't include any motions, so I'm not sure what. Also, the agenda lists "Debian logo licence" as up for discussion but I thought last month's meeting resolved that. I watch SPI fairly closely and I'm confused. How about the rest of you?
SPI isn't alone in this: many software organisations seem to suffer from similar problems. For example, I ranted in passing about Free Software Manchester yesterday, who just posted the notes from their own zero-day meeting and I've suggested possible ways of reforming debian's currently-stalled New Maintainer process more than once.
Are free software users particularly bad at the basics of running an interest society (like welcoming and expiring members, calling meetings, publishing routine communications, and so on), have I been spoiled by cooperatives with their friendly Member Services departments or secretariats, or what? Is this why so many free software orgs seem to include self-perpetuating leadership groups? Is this a serious problem if, as reported, Software Development is a Team Sport [etbe]? Are there fully-working free software mass participation groups out there?
I feel a lot of these problems are caused by attempting to order our inherently entropy-filled world completely and insisting everything follows petty rules, such as refusing to answer a question because the "wrong" member asked it. The world will not become less random just because hackers try to impose arbitrary rules. Sometimes it's good to put down minimum standards (because calling zero-day meetings is a mostly-avoidable way of excluding some members) but it will always be a poor alternative to trying to do the best you can for others.
How do we get past this? My pro-cooperation-and-better-business platform for SPI board went pretty badly and I've had some anti-cooperative flames back from someone starting another free software group this month, so I don't think I can fix these existing organisations any time soon. About 1 in 6 people in the UK are members of a cooperative, so even if that is reflected among hackers (and I think it's lower), all of them would not be enough to reform much.
One of the most common memes in free software is "show us the code" and the few other free software cooperatives I've seen have mostly failed, with a few surviving but hitting a size limit. As a result, I'm currently negotiating the start of a new free software cooperative. So far, I'm really happy with how that's going. Many cooperators learn at the feet of large consumer cooperatives like the Cooperative Group who run training courses for new members about putting cooperative values and principles into practice, which we smaller groups couldn't run ourselves. As a result, most cooperators already know how to work well together. Should large software societies like SPI try commissioning similar courses?
[21 today! MJR around the
Thu, 17 Apr 2008 13:44:57 +0100
Not done one of these round-ups for a while and I'm really pushed for time today, so here are some sites that I've written on:
- Property of a Lady » Wicca on House
- Ross Burton: The End Of Homeopathy?
- » Enough with the dried yoghurt covered raisins Korerorero: Just random ranting and raving
- How to host a free software advocacy event | Free Software Magazine
- Raw Output: AGPL
- One for the Morning Glory: Facebook comments
- Sam Liddicott » GPL3 Questions and Implications
- Drugs and an Election | etbe
- New Tropicana images «
- robmyers - Support BY-SA/SFDL Compatibility, Not BY-SA/FDL Compatibility
- Internet Psychology: Teenagers do not need our help online - we need them to help us oldies by Graham Jones, Internet Psychologist
- Wanting Your Opinions about Blog Comments and City Attorneys : David Lee King
- Zookoda - I Don't Recommend them Anymore
- Solar Water Heating :: ShowBlog
- Internet Psychology: Forget email - it's old hat by Graham Jones, Internet Psychologist
- Drake.org.uk: That's a wrap! Time to roll the end credits..
- Internet Psychology: Internet criminals are going to have a field day by Graham Jones, Internet Psychologist
- A Cambridge Co-operator: Rebranded Stores
- robmyers - Two Common Errors
- Lucas Nussbaum's Blog » Blog Archive » Where is the NM bottleneck?
- NM: FD is fixed - MadBlog
[Explaining web site improvements: what's important to
Fri, 18 Apr 2008 12:32:33 +0100
Is this traffic or congestion?
This is one of those Friday Afternoon Projects - it's been put off all through a busy week because it's unpaid, I'm not completely sure how to approach it and now my arms hurt like hell from travel jabs which are making it hard to concentrate! So I'm going to float it on here...
I've been asked to brief a meeting next week about that group's current web site and its problems. I'm not linking it yet to avoid insulting/embarrassing them.
The site looks OK, but doesn't rank well on search engines and doesn't allow much member participation. I need to explain why that's a bad thing and how the site's technical choices have led to that. I'm not directly pitching for TTLLP to get any work (because I'm a member of that group, it might be a conflict of interest and we're pretty busy anyway - even our own site needs work on some of the points I'm going to mention), but I don't want to be unhappy if we're asked to implement my recommendations.
I've got a usual outline that I follow, but my presentation's time is limited, so I'd like to ask you: what about this is important and what isn't? If you give me useful feedback, I'll put you in the Acknowledgements with a backlink and I hope the briefing will be shared pretty widely over the next few months.
The current plan is to start with a basic explanation of how search engines rank pages, as far as we can tell, referring to PageRank Explained Correctly with Examples, by Ian Rogers as well as the shorter official summaries from the dominant search sites at Yahoo, Microsoft and Google.
Then I go through a quick evaluation of the site against the basics of validation, accessibility and robot-friendliness, followed by a couple of SEO- style checks of its current rankings and inbound links.
Next is a bit different because I have access to some of their web access stats: I summarise what we know and suggest some other stats they've probably not considered and why they're useful, along the lines of Dave Briggs's measures of blog success.
Finally, I suggest ways to improve the site. The top tip will be to take control of the site hosting and stop using the cheap and cheerful donated server that makes all links except the front page point to another domain. I'll probably suggest a mix of free and open source software tools to power it. If they don't want to move it all yet, I'll suggest running a second site for member participation, using tools like Wordpress, NoseRub and so on.
What do you think? Plan for success, am I missing some tricks, or am I setting myself up for a lynching? Let me know with a comment or email, please.
[Dangling the Bluetooth Dongle in front of the
Tue, 22 Apr 2008 00:43:38 +0100
Tux likes this fish-like object.
I finally got bluetooth file transfer working between my phone and laptop a little while ago. It wasn't particularly hard, although there were a couple of dead ends.
The basic bluetooth layer is petty easy. Start dbus, start hcid, start passkey-agent if you've not paired the two. It seems to be a bit simpler to start the pairing from the phone. Then use sdptool browse to check the phone is seen clearly.
After that, it got a bit complicated. obexftp worked well enough as far as it went, putting items onto the phone and getting files off the phone, but I couldn't work out how to get some items off the phone. They just didn't appear in the obexftp or obexfs listings. So I wondered if it night be easier to start the transfer from the phone.
There's an obexftpd, but I didn't figure out how to send it files. I also tried to compile opd but I think it offer patching for modern gccs. (Anyone got these working?)
What I did get to work was sobexsrv - just tell it a directory and it puts any files it's sent there. Works a treat.
One other thing that has been really useful is anyremote. It's a command server for the GNU/Linux side and a Java client for the phone. The phone mostly picks from option menus or preprogrammed keys, but editable fields are also possible. You can run any commands that the server configuration allows, including starting file transfers. I think that's possible because remote control and object transfer are on different bluetooth channels, but I don't really understand it yet.
I've improved the RSS reader to use xsltproc and added shell commands to it. Once I'm fairly sure it's reliable, I'll upload it near here.
(Posted in part due to an ALUG thread which reminded me about this forgotten draft.)
[UK mobile micropublishing
Sat, 26 Apr 2008 01:08:35 +0100
My communications connection
I'm going travelling this summer. I don't know what internet connection I'll have (if any) but I'm pretty sure I'll have fairly cheap SMS access from my phone. Maybe even MMS. So, I want to use one of the mobile micropublishers to try to avoid sending international SMSes to lots of people.
Facebook doesn't look good - it gives a shortcode (which would cost me extra to use and I don't know whether it works while roaming), has no number for SMS that I found and it looks like O2 is the only UK carrier it knows - bizarre.
20six is a German-based cost-free service which takes SMS and email (which is also on my phone), so that also looks good, but there are some old doubts about whether it will stay cost-free.
Is there a service you'd recommend?
[Computer things that puzzle me
Sun, 27 Apr 2008 17:09:25 +0100
I can suspend my laptop and it restarts happily enough in X, but playing video results in a strange green square. I've found that starting and killing another X server (like X :1, wait for the grey mesh and then zap it) fixes the problem and I can switch back to my original :0 X and play video again. I wonder if these notes on X suspend and video BIOS by Matthew Garrett explain it.
Why on earth did someone change the .changes format so swiftly and why does a change that breaks a common upload process (build in a VM, sign on a stable system) only warrant a -devel-announce paragraph under the headline Misc Development News (#6)? "Small news" - my foot!
Mon, 28 Apr 2008 12:42:37 +0100
"The expiration time is updated by deleting the old self-signature and adding a new self-signature."
but somehow I always have to look it up, so I thought I'd make a note of it here.
It looks like debian-keyring should update now I did --send-key to it, but I guess I'll find out in a few weeks.
- banking (2)
- charities (3)
- cooperatives (19)
- cycling (5)
- debian (8)
- gobolinux (2)
- hardware (3)
- koha (3)
- life (31)
- links (1)
- phones (5)
- photos (1)
- satellite (3)
- software (28)
- spi (5)
- statistics (3)
- toll road (5)
- travel (6)
- web (26)
- wsm (12)
This is copyright 2008 MJ Ray. See fuller notice on front page.
*[AFK]: Away From Keyboard