Archive for February, 2010

Paneer (say cheese)

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

The kids — now aged five and nearly seven — have some interest in cooking. After all, they see one parent or the other making dinner daily, usually with some narration. Once they’re old enough to hold a paring knife and not cut off their little fingers, I’ve been herding them both into the kitchen for odd jobs like chopping mushrooms, zucchini, bell peppers. Recently I’ve started trying to explain principles to them as well — like what can you do with an egg. Fried or scrambled is familiar to them, and I’ve started explaining why a boiled egg can be soft- or hard-boiled (and playing with the kitchen timer to show them how). Recently we moved a step further with separating an egg and making meringue from the whites and custard from the yolks. Kitchen chemistry at its best.

This weekend the “kid’s science corner” in the paper (with Dr. Zeepaard) had an item on “gummy cheese”, which they made with milk and vinegar — warning that it’s inedible. That prompted me to go looking for edible recipes, which are of course paneer and its cousins ricotta and the like. Some recipes for paneer call for vinegar — it’s a little random out there on the web. In any case I wonder why the paper added that warning.

We went for a lemon-juice based paneer, bringing three-quarters of a litre of milk to a boil (in retrospect I should have kept it cooler, around seventy degrees) and then adding half teaspoons of lemon juice until the milk curdled. This was quite remarkable to watch, as the transition from milk to curds and whey went quickly. One minute it looks like milk, the next it’s lumpy and watery — then add one more half teaspoon of lemon for good measure, cut the heat, stir, strain, press and serve. The curds need to be strained out of the mixture. I discarded the whey. I suppose I could have made fake Rivella as well or boiled some rice with it, for full use of the ingredients. The whole process yielded a lump of white gummy stuff — very little lemon taste — about the size of my fist. The kids didn’t like it much, because they’re more into aged goat cheese, but as a first excursion into this kind of chemistry I think it was a success. With soy sauce and coriander leaves it was great.

There must be a movement somewhere striving for awareness of ingredients and participation in basic foodmaking — any tips? (Of course, such a movement would be very much tied to Europe; when I lived in Yemen my mom made this kind of stuff regularly if only because you couldn’t get cheese otherwise so then there’s no real point to emphasizing it)

Hola, Amigo

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Hola, MeeGo. Not amoeba. Not mi-go (I wonder if they stay at the YMRCIGB-S?). The Register has a little bit on it, and Engadget has it labeled “a doozy?” With Intel and Nokia cooperating on a single Maemo/Moblin platform, re-dubbed MeeGo, we’re seeing a reduction (in the medium term at least) of the number of platforms for smartphones and devices (leaving Windows mobile, iPhone OS, Bada, Android, Symbian still out there as well as plenty of others, I’m sure).

At OSiMWorld last year I fiddled around with Moblin devices and thought they were OK — but unfinished. I haven’t done a whole lot with Maemo, either. But the two of them together, on ARM and x86 platforms? Sounds to me like a strong mix if the license-to-tinker and the dedication to Free Software remains. Since MeeGo is to live under the auspices of the Linux Foundation, I think that’s a given. In addition, there’s a history of working towards good governance there (by all three parties involved). I like governance. It makes things simpler, smoother, so that everyone can focus on their core competence and tasks (in other words, don’t get developers hung up on licensing questions).

All the more reason to have a good mix of devices at Tokamak4, starting this Friday.

poll(open(“KDE4 on OpenSolaris”))

Friday, February 12th, 2010

The communities working on KDE4 on OpenSolaris are fairly small — there’s one group using Sun Studio and aiming for integration with the usual packaging on OpenSolaris, and there’s the Belenix distribution which uses gcc. The two complement each other. I’m involved with the former group, working on packaging and keeping KDE code tidy (as much as possible — though I’ll admit to introducing hideous #ifdefs). What we don’t know much about is who would want KDE4 on OpenSolaris (or Solaris 10, for that matter — Ben has been really active in bringing the whole thing to S10, which takes even more porting). To that end, Pavel has set up a poll on SurveyBob, writing: If you are already using KDE4 on OpenSolaris or Solaris, or you plan to, please let us know more about your expectations and take a brief survey. There’s no prizes attached to this survey, but we’d be happy to know more about the people for whom we’re doing all this packaging (you don’t necessarily have to show us any love, either).

Valentine’s day

Friday, February 12th, 2010

I love Free Software!Valentine’s day is approaching, and if you love Free Software, show some of that love. Send a bug report (a well-written one). Add to API documentation (someone was complaining about that on the dot). Update a wiki page.

The Free Software Foundation Europe encourages you to show your appreciation for your (fellow) friendly neighbourhood Free Software contributor. Hugs show up with distressing frequency in the KDE world, as does beer. I’ve gone out of my way to thank folks who have written useful software for me, and I’d like to recommend you to do it too.

A long time ago, in elementary school — and a primary purpose of elementary school is socialization — the words we used were “warm fuzzies” and “wet blankets” to describe different ways of interacting with people. Wet blankets tend to hang around a long time; so spread some love instead.

(Maybe this is just cover for an upcoming “ten things in KDE4 use that I can’t decide whether they’re bugs or just design decisions that I don’t like” blog post, who knows?) (Also, in spite of Tom Albers, I’m not going to be at the Dutch KDE launch event — other commitments)

KDE Software Compilation 4.4.0 and OpenSolaris

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Although KDE SC 4.4.0 isn’t officially released yet (or there’s no announcement on the dot yet), I’ve bumped the specfiles in the KDE4-OpenSolaris repository to 4.4.0 and kicked off a rebuild. That means that we should have new packages at about the same time that the major GNU/Linux distributions have them. The release candidate was pretty stable on OpenSolaris as long as you didn’t (re)build any parts of it while logged in, but we’ll probably be hearing enough bug reports in the next few months for OSOL. You can report problems to KDE’s bugzilla with the OS set to Solaris, or use the OpenSolaris bug tracker and choose one of the KDE components there.

Of course, the whole future of OSOL is a little .. fuzzy. The Oracle / Sun takeover has caused a fair amount of shake-up in many of Sun’s projects, but OSOL has not, as far as I know, been either committed-to or deprecated. We’ll see.

In the wake (er, .. the bow shock wave, since I’m getting ahead of myself) of the release, Jos asks for something offensive and the KDE website has been re-vamped. Especially the latter is impressive, for breathing new life into the somewhat moribund site. I believe the call for help still applies as the rest of the content is polished and brought up-to-date.

Bits of Privacy

Monday, February 8th, 2010

The organization “Bits of Freedom is a Dutch NGO Privacy watchdog. It has been re-vivified in the past years. It hands out semi-regular Big Brother Awards (say, isn’t the estate of George Orwell going to wake up at some point?) for the worst offenses against privacy in the Netherlands. Worth reading if your Dutch comprehension is ok. BoF has garnered some mainstream media attention as well, which offers hope that privacy isn’t completely a lost cause in this country. [Current schemes of nationwide chipcard travel and road-pricing deny that hope] There’s also a “Winston Prize” for someone fighting for privacy, which went to the Euro-MP Sophie in’t Veld. It took me a minute to figure out the “Winston” name, but since I’d read 1984 (it says so right there in my book list) the light dawned eventually.

Anyway, cheers to BoF, and keep watching over your own privacy.

O noes, book list meme

Monday, February 8th, 2010

I was reading some hip and literary Swedish blogs (no, actually I found this stuff on some tech blog, but swimming down the attribution links brought me these far more acceptable references) which talk about a list of books one might be expected to have read. The list has apparently been circulating for some time, witness the lonely librarian, and continues to be passed around, for instance on the symbian diaries (I can’t find any Symbian content there, though). It might be that the list stems from this story (from 2007?), but I’ve seen the Guardian reported as the original source as well.

The list itself (in the form in which it’s being passed around right now) is a little odd, since there’s some strange entries: the Bible (which version? does it matter? with or without the apocryphal books?), the complete works of Shakespeare (zounds, that’s a lot, but it also duplicates Hamlet much later in the list). The list mixes classics with much more recent work and includes some real cruft (IMO) as well. Anyway, I thought that publishing the list would be far too space-consuming and not interesting on a technical blog, so I wrote a python program to produce HTML and plain text renderings of the list, as well as a compact text representation using the initials of authors and titles and a base-3 representation.

You can run the program with something like python text to get plain text output; alternate modes are html, code which outputs a kind of geek code, and short which produces a decimal integer. The program comes with an unread database, so it will print an all-unread text representation, or the integer 0. The integer corresponding to my own reading of the list is 472899411102988434671899921134218056756239761136, and you can add that as a second parameter to get the output showing what I’ve read; in code form that’s:


To generate your own book statuses, you’re going to have to edit the program and insert a status (READ or WANT) into some of the tuples that form the book database. Then run the program with only one argument for the desired output format. Once you have the code or short output, you can post it and keep the booklist meme alive (albeit in a more nerdy form).

The program itself can be downloaded as source from here, and is under the GPLv2 or later (bear that in mind if you send patches for an interactive of Qt version, and please don’t berate my python style).

There’s clearly features missing from the program: there is no Qt interface (with PyQt bindings) and no interactive mode, which would make it much easier to generate your own booklist output. Abstracting the purpose of the list would also be nice, and I can see a Meme-Plasmoid (a memeoid?) somewhere in the future where you get the checklist of the day and can enter your results for that checklist, to share across the social desktop. O noes!

Scratch that

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

I’m still sick. I still can’t hear properly, nor breathe, so as FOSDEM draws nearer (where I would man the FSFE booth, attend a few talks, and promulgate a business-friendly selection of Free Software licensing topics) I’m forced to re-evaluate whether I can go there at all: no, I am not going to FOSDEM. I’ll miss Paul’s bits on PIMping the KDE desktop, which is a particular shame. I’ll miss Michael Meeks, with whom I was looking forward to chatting about copyright assignment. I’ll miss Vincent Untz and the Dutch GUADEC team. I’ll miss Claudia and the KDE gang. I’ll miss the OSOL guys. I’ll miss the cute lovable blue Postgres elephant. And the weird devices at the OpenBSD stand. I could go on.

Instead, I’m going to stay home, eat lots of oranges, sleep a lot and hope for a better future. One where I can actually hold a conversation without phlegming anyone to death.

On a totally unrelated note, I’m reading “de telduivel”, a book on mathematics for kids by H.M. Enzensberger (English title “the number devil”, but the book is originally in German). It’s a fun book, and this time I’m actually reading it to the kids. Their minds do wander when we get to topics like fib(n)^2+fib(n+1)^2=fib(2n+1), but it’s inspiring for me as well. It’s been a long time since I sat down to try to do a little proof on paper, and since I don’t have to talk or breathe very hard to do math, it’s fun!

KDE SC 4.4 beta 2 on OpenSolaris

Monday, February 1st, 2010

The second beta release of the main collection of software produced by the KDE community, aka KDE SC 4.4 beta 2, was released last week. There are OpenSolaris packages available thanks to the compilation efforts of the Pavels; since we’re still not very good at publishing the packages in a standard repository, nor in managing smooth upgrades, you can find the packages here.

This set of packages includes Qt 4.6.1, which is a marked step up in stability; also Virtuoso support has been added if you build from source, but not in the packages. We’re still wrestling a bit with the C++ stack, as some things still use the older Cstd STL and “our” stack uses the newer Apache stdcxx4. In OpenSolaris, things are supposed to move to the Apache stack, but that takes some time and needs careful coordination, for instance because enchant plugins need to be moved over, but that implies that all of GNOME (the parts of it that use a C++ API anyway) also needs to be recompiled.

The first time I started up 4.4 beta 2 was a real eye-opener, from the new artwork to various bits of polish applied to the desktop (well, on OpenSolaris that includes things like “you can now start an application from the K-Menu again”, which was broken in all the recent versions). Since then I’ve started jotting down comments about aspects of the default installation that bother me — mostly little things, and it’s another indication that the packaging is coming together pretty well on OSOL that little bits that lack in polish are able to attract attention again.

Once I’ve got a more substantial list I suppose I’ll blog about them. That’s a little tricky to do, since many of them might be a “designed that way, but incompatible with [ade]” thing that I just don’t know about and I don’t want to come across as whiny or demanding (I’ll save that for licensing issues). And I don’t think that things like “Akonadi startup screen gets in the way” are worth filing a bug over, not until there’s some consensus that it is a bug. See also the “logout sound” thread on KDE core-devel right now, that feels similar.

Anyway, it’s good to see that the next release will be pretty solid, also on OSOL; if you want to take a peek, bother me at FOSDEM this weekend (just before the 4.4.0 release!).

FOSDEM schedule (my own)

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Going to FOSDEMLike many folks, I’ll be going to FOSDEM this weekend, in Brussels. Thomas Koch posts his whole weekend schedule — gosh, that’s ambitious. I know I never get around to attending one tenth of the talks I might intend to see, simply because there’s too many people to talk to, things to demonstrate, chats to have and random other interesting things to do. Given the state of my health, I think I’m going to remove “excessive amounts of beer” from my list-of-interesting-things, but I’m still looking forward to Brussels Cheese during the social hours. Isabel Drost is giving a talk on Hadoop — that’s one I might actually make a point of attending, because otherwise I’m never going to understand any of her blog posts. I guess like I’m tedious about licensing, she’s tedious about map-reduce. We’ll see.

For most of the weekend you will find me at the FSFE stand near the front entrance. I hope it’s less freezing cold than down the other end of the hall where the KDE stand is, traditionally. I’ll be available for legal and licensing talk, mostly. Governance? Patents? All ears. For technical stuff I will need to escape from the watchful eye of my handler, Hugo Roy, and covertly discuss bits and bytes.