Life Changes

So, today I quit my job and gave three-weeks notice. Thank you Tony, Shane, Peter, and all the rest; I’ve enjoyed working with you and wish you all the best. EBS has been very good to me, but I feel it is time to move on.

I think that it’s nigh impossible to know what you should do with your life. The best you can do is stumble towards things that excite you. In this regard, I have to follow my heart and explore new territory. I’m still passionate about programming and want a career in it. I’m just not sure EBS is the right vector for doing so.

For whatever reason, open source software floats my boat. It interests and excites me, enough to do it for fun. Ideally I could do it for a living as well. But in order to advance in the open source world, you have to do open source. So, my first plan of action is to take time out to explore the landscape of open source, maybe while holding down a part-time job. Kind of the programming equivalent of backpacking through Europe.

Simultaneously, I’ve started looking into substitute teaching. It’s not glamorous or lucrative, but teaching has always been one of those things that has tickled my subconcious. It’s not clear how good I’d be at it, but I’d be foolish not to try.

So, if anyone out there wants to hire an eminently-relocatable, enthusiastic, open-source programmer or teacher, please let me know. I’m officially on the hunt for a job.

Quote of the Day

From the Carrier-Grade Linux Is Coming Up article in the February 14th, 2005 issue of InformationWeek:

The wireless industry has been aggressive in deploying Linux-based products in its infrastructure, [Bob Monkman, senior manager of product marketing at MontaVista,] says, and the capabilities of the worldwide open-source Linux development community to quickly develop and deploy new features and correct problems makes it inevitable that other equipment makers will follow suit. You’re almost at a disadvantage if you stay with proprietary systems, Monkman says. You can’t move as fast.

This is what world domination is all about. Open source software tends to maximize long-term momentum, allowing more resources to be poured into projects than any other development method. It’s only a matter of time.

Console Movies

I’ve had the distinct pleasure of watching movies on my Linux console in gloriously rendered ASCII characters, but as great as it was, it seems to me that an untapped wonderland of console movie technology exists. AAlib is an old standby for watching character-ized movies, but doesn’t handle color. While Libcaca does, it doesn’t seem to offer as high quality. Both projects can get very recognizable on high resolution consoles; just look at some of the screenshots.

But what I would like to see is a library that uses color and also uses the full Unicode character set. Many consoles can be configured to handle Unicode (mine is and large distros probably do by default), and there is no reason not to take advantage of that. The full range of Unicode characters would allow ridiculously high correlations between lines in the image and the console, increasing quality. So, someone do that.

Ubuntu First Impressions

I just downloaded and played with the Ubuntu Linux 4.10 preview LiveCD. (A LiveCD is one that you can boot into a working Linux, without touching the hard drive. A sort of try-before-you-buy.)

I occasionally find myself in the position of helping new users of Linux and try to keep up to date on distributions. The most important question to be able to answer is, Which distribution do I use?

My thoughts on new users is that new-user-friendly defaults, GNOME, and a decent package manager for future tinkering are all musts.

I have not known any distribution that fit all these requirements. Debian had decent GNOME support and a great package manager. But it also had the worst defaults of almost any distribution and requires significant work to get a workable installation. Of the RPM distros, SUSE and Mandrake were OK, but they both had an aura of KDE that I didn’t like. Red Hat was the best I knew, having good defaults and excellent GNOME support. Not only did it use GNOME by default, but it has adopted the GNOME aesthetic of simplicity. However, it also happens to have a terrible package manager. Dependency hell is not something a new user wants to deal with while trying to install a third-party package. It also has a couple annoyances like no MP3 support.

Most often I would have users do a hand-held install of Debian and would remain in constant communication while they discovered all its quirks.

Hence my interest in Ubuntu. I booted it up and was pleased with what I saw. It had the Debian core and thus its amazing package manager, but managed to avoid its most egregious faults. It is pretty and functional by default, has quick release schedules, hides details from the user, has a polished install program (although Iwould have liked to see a graphical one), and has excellent GNOME support.

The default GNOME install was a tweaked version of 2.8.0, which is nice. It allowed all the great system configuration stuff that Windows users have come to expect in graphical form, due to gnome-system-tools and synaptic. I liked the inclusion of synaptic; allowing users to avoid command lines is a top priority.

It also had a few other niceties for migrating users. The default browser was not Epiphany but Firefox, which will be immediately recognizable to many Windows users. It installed OpenOffice by default, which is a great Microsoft Office clone. The regular mix of top-notch programs was there: Gimp, Gaim, Rhythmbox, Totem, and friends.

I noticed the inclusion of HAL due to GNOME 2.8, which I haven’t seen in action before. If it behaves like it promises, that’s a great addition. I’m interested to see if Windows shares will show up without prodding. GNOME 2.8 also has VNC support by default, making my job as tech support guy easier.

I’m not yet convinced enough that I want to switch to it myself from Gentoo, but I definitely want to play with it more. If I do end up installing it, I hope to write more here.

23 Jan 2004

Rhythmbox

The patch for adaptive listening got committed. Sweet!

Bounties

Having worked on a couple of the various open source bounties floating around, I feel qualified to comment on the phenonemon.

First, it’s awesome. It connects people with money and a desire for a particular feature with the people that want money and can code particular features. So, I hope we see more of it.

Second, I think the bounty movement is good for programmers. Not merely for our wallets, but for our image. The stereotype of pizza-eating, coke-guzzling late-nighters is gone, transformed instead into the sexy image of a bounty hunter, risking life and limb for the pursuit of money.

“And what do you do for a living?”
“I’m a bounty hunter. Very dangerous.”

You don’t need to specify that you hunt slow-moving programming bounties. Let their imagination roam.

19 Jan 2004

Rhythmbox

I’ve started hacking a patch to Rhythmbox that will add adaptive listening akin to the IMMS plugin for XMMS.

Adaptive listening means that a song’s rating will decrease when it is skipped and increased when it is heard. When done right, it’s pretty handy for automatically figuring out the user’s tastes.

This is a feature I’ve wanted for a long time in a music player, and I’m glad I can have a part in its creation. Certainly beats rating all my songs myself. Plus, I’ll wager it’s more accurate than myself.

RSS

I’ve just now discovered the joys of RSS; I finally see why everyone else is so into it. I installed Straw and subscribed to all my usual haunts. A lot less manual labor is now required to keep abreast of news in open source land. I just wish certain sites would offer more details on each article.