{February 21, 2008}   beijing

I’m enjoying beijing so far, despite the bad air :)

I got off the train monday morning, and some people who had been in my cabin took me to the subway since they were going the same direction as me, and told me which stop to get off at. they even insisted on paying for my ticket. :) the only downside to this was that I didn’t have a chance to buy a map on my way out of the train station.

after getting off the subway, people only seemed to have a vague idea of where I was trying to go (despite my directions being copied off the hostel website) – so I wandered in what one person said was the right direction until I found somewhere selling maps. after that I think it took me half an hour to figure out where I was and where I was going – but I wasn’t in any hurry. once I got the map figured out, the hostel actually wasn’t so hard to find. :) I showed up at building #1, and they took me through the hutong to building #2. I haven’t a clue how to get back there – hutong appears to be chinese for ‘a maze of twisty passages, all alike.’ ;)

the hostel itself is quite nice. very old, but in good condition, and the people here are quite friendly :) there are a couple of guys who seem to be staying here for a while – coincidentally, one is from canada. they seem to spend a lot of time eating and making terrible jokes. ;) I went shopping with one guy, and he’s really good at bargaining. :) he helped me get a pair of pants and a jacket at reasonable prices – now I just have to figure out how to fit them into my suitcase when I go home :P

the food here has been fairly good so far. I had a bit of trouble getting vegetarian stuff for dinner today (one of those “it’s not got *much* meat in it” places) but on monday I had no problems at all – when we went for lunch one of the guys didn’t eat any meat either just ’cause we’d already ordered plenty of yummy veggies. :)

it’s been kinda weird adjusting to central heating again. when I arrived, it was a cold morning – I’m pretty sure I saw a frozen river a few minutes before the train stopped – and the wind made it even colder. the hostel was somewhat heated, but I kept my layers and layers of clothing. :) all the rooms open onto a little outdoor corridor, and some people tend to leave the door open…

the conference hotel, on the other hand, was heated excessively. I was slowly stripping off t-shirts as the day wore on, and other people were commenting on the heat too… it was uncomfortably warm :/ but it was still quite cold outside. on the second day I wore less layers, and no long-sleeved shirt, but it was still a bit too hot. there was a lot of static electricity, too – someone said that the hotel power outlets aren’t really grounded :/ every time I picked up my laptop I got a shock. I’m praying that it didn’t damage the poor thing.

today, it seems spring has arrived. when I went out for food, I only wore two t-shirts and a jacket – no big winder coat, no gloves. :) hopefully this means the lake is less frozen, ’cause supposedly the lantern festival is tonight.

well, my first conference is over now. it was quite fun. :)

before I got into the conference room the first morning, I was distracted by some of the laptops being shown off outside. I caught sight of that bright green OLPC, and had to go play with it. :)

I’ve been told that they’re small, but I was still surprised; it really does look like a kid’s machine. :) the screen looks quite nice, there are a bunch of buttons I didn’t have time to figure out… but at least it took me under ten seconds to get it back open after closing it. ;) I’m really looking forward to getting mine when I get home. (did I mention that? a guy on vanlug agreed to sell me his. yay!)

there were some other small linux devices out there that I’d never heard of; one looked like an oversized psp, and seemed designed mainly for playing movies and such. somewhere I have the marketing papers for those devices…

inside there were presentations; my notes on them look long and boring now. there was kernel stuff, and interesting mention of new filesystems (naturally I forgot to write down the name of the one that sounded most interesting), and a lot of talk about mobile devices and being able to have the same sort of software on many devices, how linux has all this opportunity beyond the desktop. some people seem to think traditional pc’s are on their way out and other formfactors are gonna take over. :) there was also a tool called bloatwatch mentioned – it helps keep control over the size of the kernel. I wonder if it’d be useful to kde developers.

at one point someone was talking about the future of user interfaces, how things needed to be consistent and modular and how settings should follow the user from device to device… that made me think of plasma a lot, even though most people at the conference had no idea what plasma is. I wish I could figure out how to explain why this seems significant… it seems like they want to go in the same direction that plasma wants to go, and more communication in this area would be really useful, but… I just can’t seem to find the right words.

it was probably a good thing I couldn’t get online, or I never would have paid attention; I was already distracted getting plasma’s layout-patch compiled and starting work on some multiple desktop stuff. :) somehow that first day gave me a ton of motivation to code – but of course I didn’t have much time to do so.

half an hour before lunch I ducked out to get some tea, and never made it back in. freeflying introduced himself, and then introduced me to some other BLUG (Beijing LUG) people, and somehow I ended up showing them plasma, and then suddenly more people were crowding around, so I was chatting with some people while others played with kde4 on my laptop :) BLUG’s a really nice group – they even gave me a t-shirt (it’s got an orange penguin on the back).

after lunch I was sitting against the back wall so that my laptop could be plugged in, and lots of people came by to chat. I hope I remember to email everyone I promised to email. between the laptop, people talking to me and some things being lost in translation, my notes for the afternoon have a lot of holes :)

the translation system was pretty cool, though. we could get little wireless gadgets with headphones that picked up the live translation, on either the chinese or english channel – somewhere two people in a booth were constantly translating everything that was said. the wireless didn’t seem to like my laptop, though – sometimes if I moved the wrong way it would cut off. :/ other time the speakers went a little fast, and the translators had to skip a bit. a few times I got distracted listening to both the chinese and the english, because it was such a weird effect, and forgot to listen to what was actually being *said* :)

lunch was quite good there, both days; there were enough vegetarian options for me to have a nice meal, and delicious desserts too. dinners weren’t so great; the second day I was sitting beside Matt, and discovered he’s vegan. poor guy didn’t get much more than peanuts and celery. :( I could eat the fried rice at least, but I’m glad I had a big lunch that day. of course, there was no shortage of beer at either dinner. :)

after dinner the first day we eventually wandered downstairs to a bar. me, matt (kernel/embedded/mercurial guy), dave (gnome guy) and jonathan (kernel guy) played a game of pool before joining the gossip about linux companies. :)

by the time I got back to my hostel it was midnight, and the router was turned off so I had no interwebs – but I was exhausted anyways :) I dragged myself out of bed at 7 the next morning so that I could check mail n’stuff before heading back to the conference.

the second day there was a roundtable discussion in the morning; there was discussion about how to increase linux marketshare, how device manufacturers often have trouble learning to interact with the linux community, how to get chinese developers more involved, etc…

some people want to just forget the desktop and focus on making linux awesome on other formfactors and growing strong there before MS is powerful enough to pull the kind of dirty tricks that make the pc a “black hole that sucks in effort”. others thought that the desktop is extremely important and we need to keep trying to win it over.

beijing students seem frustrated that while they have LUGs, and plenty of people using linux, they have very few actual developers. they want people to learn from, but there aren’t any around, and it sounds like a chicken-and-egg problem. I guess language barriers make it hard for them to just go online and teach themselves. one guy from shanghai did seem surprised, and suggested that people come on irc and start chatting. someone mentioned that some students couldn’t even afford to download certain things – I’m so used to thinking of downloading as free, it’s weird to think that some people are charged a lot of money for it :(

also, apparently a lot of these people, even after graduating, are missing important skills. someone suggested that the university should offer students the chance to do a project where one of the requirements is getting their code merged upstream, so that they have to learn how to interact with an online community. I’m not sure what I think of that.

I could probably go on for ages about the roundtable, but this post is long enough already. the BOF session in the afternoon was kinda… odd. I started at the desktop table, but the gnome guy was delayed and never actually made it. everyone else at the table was chinese, so everyone was speaking chinese, and one guy started talking about APIs and how he wanted the kernel to do things that wine is currently doing, or something… trying to understand it was hard, and people spoke nonstop, so eventually I got tired and went to see what the other tables were talking about. this is how chinese people must feel when they try to interact with english-speaking groups…

I didn’t write anything down during the BOF, so I don’t really remember what I talked about (yeah, my memory is that bad). I showed off plasma a couple of times, and someone taught me some interesting things about filesystems and charsets and all the headaches involved… I actually need to report a bug against something in kde4 because it’s not mounting things properly any more, which is what got the discussion started.

by the end of the BOF session I was exhausted. so much talking and listening, especially listening to chinese, is really draining. we went out to a bar after dinner on the second night, but when people decided to head off to a second bar I went back to the hostel. it’s been a long, long few days. lots of fun, though. :) I got some new ideas for plasma, and there are a bazillion things I need to do now…

overall, the conference was great :) I’m really looking forward to the plasma sprint and akademy now – being able to talk to developers face-to-face is so much better than irc. :)

{February 16, 2008}   opensuse livecd

this post is really just an excuse to see whether clee’s fixed the title thing. :)

anyways, I tried out the opensuse livecd (vesion 1.0.61) last night, and it was… odd. I was too tired to poke around much – I just wanted to have a backup run overnight – so I only really noticed negative things. sorry.

the cd does seem clearly meant to just show off kde4. it’s not meant to be a rescue cd or anything, but since I was just dd’ing a partition I managed to get the job done. I do have other cds with me that are actually meant for this purpose, but I wanted to kill two birds with one stone here.

what I noticed first was that konsole crashed when I tried to run it. it would not run… and the crash handler was awol too. that was the first clue that my trying to use the cd to get things done was a bit silly :) I had to run xterm, and it was butt-ugly :P honestly, it does *not* look that ugly on my hard drive. maybe that’s just because the scrollbar is hidden and I have a pretty green theme.

then I noticed that there were no little icons showing up anywhere for my hard drive. nothing in dolphin at all…. media:/ doesn’t exist (I forget, was it one of the ones kde4 had to disable because it was broken?) – but when I plug in the external drive it’s picked up by solid. funny though, mount point folders aren’t treated as special. I couldn’t find anywhere to click to get the properties of a mount point (free space etc) which is a shame.

so I went to manually mount the laptop hard drive, and saw this:
linux@linux:~> ls /dev/hd*
ls: cannot access /dev/hd*: No such file or directory
^^yes, really. my hard drive mysteriously turned up at sda somehow. as for the cd drive… no clue. didn’t try to track it down.

the strangest thing is that wireless (ipw2200) failed. I’ve never had a wireless problem with this laptop before. never ever. I’ve no idea what the cd could have done differently… maybe it uses a buggy version of the driver or something?

I noticed that the system generally isn’t set up for non-root maintenance. this is the one thing that actually bugs me, because it makes me wonder if an actual suse install would be the same way. sudo is included and worked, but tools like ifconfig are in sbin. that might seem like a good idea – until someone just wants to know whether eth1 exists or not. or wants tab completion with sudo. I ended up su’ing, and while the bring red prompt is nice, I’d really rather be using sudo.

as for kde4 itself… well, I seem to take it for granted now. when I needed a calculator, I immediately rightclicked on the desktop and dragged one over from the appletbrowser. no, no krunner calculations for me – I like my calc to stay on screen. :)

oh, and the bootloader screen was quite pretty. hooray for screen resolution options. in general I wasn’t frustrated too much by the cd, which is pretty good considering I was half asleep and I was *very* irritable yesterday.

so in general… I was using the cd for something it was entirely not intended for, and ran into a fair bit of weirdness along the way. :) perhaps tomorrow I’ll try running it again and actually play with the shiny kde4 programs it has – I don’t have all of kde4 installed here, so there’s probably lots I’m missing out on.

ack, lost track of time! now I’ve gotta hurry and get my room cleaned. checking out today.

{February 15, 2008}   : dear lazyweb

if I could have only one livecd (cd, not dvd) to show off kde on an oldish laptop, what should it be?

also, am I crazy, or is there a strange lack of kde4 promotional stuff out there? I’m gonna be at a conference in a couple of days, and people might be asking me questions about kde stuff, and I am *terrible* at marketing… what do I say to them!?

(btw, I’m testing a theory: if I put a ‘:’ in the subject line, will planetkde not eat what’s after it?)

mmm, it’s a beautiful day today. :) it’s been sunny all week, which is part of the reason I’ve been dozing instead of coding, but today the temperature is no longer bloody freezing – I was actually outside without my winter jacket (although I was still wearing 5 layers of clothing). right now I have my window wide open, and I’m only wearing three layers. it’s an improvement! and the sunlight makes it really hard not to be happy :)

best of all, I have my train ticket! whee! I went down to the office at the main gate and just bought it myself – it was easy. I should’ve done that in the first place, but instead I followed my friend’s advice, trying to get the travel agent to do it.

so, it’s official, I’m leaving sunday evening. now I have to pack, and find out which train station I have to go to… I guess I should enjoy this bit of spring before I head up north where it’ll be all cold again :)

{February 13, 2008}   packing up

Where on earth did the last two weeks go?

…programming, I guess. Little things. I remember diving into clock code to figure out why the heck the svg wasn’t being drawn right, tearing my hair out over it – but ending up with a much better understanding of.. um… something. I remember fixing up small issues with the notes applet (at the same time as three other people, it turned out). I remember cleaning up the twitter engine a little. I remember spending excessive amounts of time on irc, as usual – but hey, it’s fun. I remember spending far, far too much time trying to help a guy with his computer problems… only to have him do yet-another windows reinstall while I wasn’t there, and wipe linux along with the iso I’d just gotten him to download. (Apparently his friend finally got the networking to work, but now he has no sound, and I think chinese support is still fscked. meh, whatever.)

True, I had been planning to lose myself in code for that time, but I’d forgotten how damn *fast* time passes when I do that.

Chinese new year… had a lot of fireworks. Really a lot. It started on the 6th, and for some reason I was really sleepy that day. Just barely woke up in time for the school dinner (food sucked, but we got free money) and then fell back asleep afterwards despite the constant barrage of fireworks for the entire night. Whoops. Had meant to go to the bar that night, oh well…
The days after that had lesser amounts of fireworks, but still a lot. I got woken up by them around 8am this morning. :P

Hard to believe it’s wednesday already. Or, thursday technically, seeing as it’s 3:30am. I spent most of tuesday and wednesday lazing around, sleeping, drifting in and out… then realised that I was supposed to be leaving really soon and the travel agent *still* had not got me train tickets. If I can’t get a straight answer from her tomorrow I’ll have to try buying them myself, and hope they still have some… ugh. Hard to remember *not* to assume people will do things they say they’ll do, here.

So yeah, hopefully I’ll be leaving for beijing on sunday. We’ll see. It still hasn’t really hit me. I started to go through my stuff this evening, preparing to pack up. I’ve found a couple of people willing to store my suitcases while I’m up north. :) I basically have everything I need except train tickets.

If anyone wants anything from china, now’s the time to ask. No guarantees though – I think my suitcases are gonna be pretty heavy already.

Oh, and I decided to try this ‘capital letters’ thing for this blog post ;) Since aseigo’s using them, I guess it can’t be that bad, eh? Did you guys notice?

[Edit: I just noticed aaron *hasn’t* been using capital letters lately. huh. Just shows how little I notice such things. :) ]

{February 3, 2008}   sleep is for the weak

not much time to blog recently. I’ve regained my motivation somehow – it’s in a bit of a fragile state, though. haven’t actually got much code done, too much other stuff. half the week was spent doing stupid RL stuff, plus I ran into a guy moving in here and was helping him get internet n’stuff… oh, but that’s not what I was talking about. I mean on my computer there’s too much other stuff.

lots of small issues to get in my way – a few days ago I compiled a new alsa-lib and got amazing wonderful sound, better than I’ve ever had. mixing worked, just worked. I had amarok from kde3 running as my kde3 user in my kde4 user’s session, and phonon still played kde4 sound effects at the same time as the music. skype works again too – so amazingly well that I may as well have been using a real phone. lucky that I discovered this on my mum’s bday – got to chat with her for a while :) but then yesterday the sound just stopped, and I had to reboot to get it back, so things are not perfect.

there’s other issues to work out too, which I would have reported if bugzilla didn’t fall over (it came back today but now I’ve no time). there’s plasma emails to deal with, people on irc asking questions, ideas to write down, techbase stuff to work on… I’m trying not to spend too much time on irc and email, but it’s hard. I’m generally either distracted incredibly easily or totally lost in my code. I was up ’till 6am last night because I got the urge to write some stuff down at 3am and just kept wanting to do one more thing. :) I’m going to put down the computer after this blog post, really.

sleep deprivation is bad in that it makes me act kinda drunk, but good in that it makes it so much easier to do certain things that I just normally hate doing. like reporting bugs. anyways, none of that tonight.

I don’t really remember today – another downside of not sleeping normally. but it seems I finally committed that patch for dragging applets to the toolbar, and I *think* kwallet has a bug :( bugs that only show up on login are a real PITA to test when you’ve only got one computer and your graphics driver dislikes running more than one X.

I spent most of this evening watching that video of aaron’s presentation/tutorial at :) it was quite inspiring – I had to keep pausing it to write notes, and I think I had an important bit of inspiration about the twitter data engine. it was pretty amusing too – plasma is all about the c(l)ocks, eh? ;) rofl.

now I just have to actually make time to implement some of the things I thought of. having paused the video so often, it took me a long time to finish watching it. past time to sleep now. hopefully tomorrow will be a coding day.

et cetera