Archive for March, 2010

Russian comments (3)

Friday, March 12th, 2010

So, having used Google translate a bit much to work on Russian these days, I pulled out an old bilingual edition of Irina Ratushinskaya’s “Tale of Three Heads” — Russian on the right-hand pages, English on the left. My favorite story in there is “On the Meaning of Life”, and I laboriously typed the Russian first paragraph into a text editor, and fed it to the Oompa-Loompas in Mountainview. Here are the original text, the machine translation, and the printed translation by Diane Nemec Ignashev. You still need a person to translate literature. (The translation was published in New American, no. 5/6, 1986).

Original: Жил-был удав-вегетарьянец. Мясного он ничего в рот не брал, но не из убеждений каких-нибудь или идей, а так … Не хотелось. Да и как-то неловко было бы. Так что ел он б основном огурцы и бананы: на них было удобней натягиваться. Да и вообще материальной стороне жизни удав ыделял мало внимания. Потому что была у него всепоглощающая страсть, а уж вы сами можете себе представить, что это такое, когда страцть поглощает удава! Он любил смотреть на кроликов.

Machine translation: Once upon a boa-vegetaryanets. Meat he had in his mouth for quite awhile, but not from any belief or any ideas, as well … Did not want. Yes, and somehow it would be awkward. So he ate Used mainly cucumbers and bananas: they were more comfortable tense. And in general the material side of life boa paid little attention. Because it was his ruling passion, and only you yourself can imagine what that is, when passion absorbs boa! He liked to look at the rabbits.

Human translation: Once upon a time there lived a vegetarian boa constrictor. He never ever ate meat. Not out of moral conviction and for no particular reason, he simply didn’t. It just wouldn’t have seemed right. Instead, he ate only cucumbers and bananas; they were easier to swallow. Besides, the material things in life generally didn’t interest the boa constrictor. For, his all-consuming passion (and you can imagine what it’s like when passion consumes a boa constrictor!) was rabbit-watching.

This concludes a little foray into machine translation and mucking about, and I’ll return to my regularly scheduled programming of KDE and licensing shortly.

Russian comments (2)

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Thanks to all of the commenters explaining the odd Russian comment that I’d gotten on my blog. The bike maps entry also attracted two more: one saying “Что-то такое слышал, но не так подробно, а откуда материал брали?” and the other “Просто спасибо, за красивые мысли вслух” — from the same IP address, with links to sites whose quality I cannot immediately judge. Regardless of the content — these seem to be plausible but meaningless comments to make — I’m going to have to regard them as comment spam. If anyone wants (dares!) to take a look at oleg dot soviet union or 24types dot russia, be my guest.

Let’s assume that this little episode has one positive effect: I’ll take my teach-yourself-Russian books down from the bookshelf and read them again.

Checkin’ out the goods

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Just a touch of compliance today. If I wanted to do real compliance engineering, I would turn to (in Europe, and please note they are still looking for a new webmaster) or to Brad Kuhn/SFLC (in North America) to do the actual engineering and checking of product. But here’s a mostly happy story.

I spotted the LG NAS N2R1 at a local webshop. Two drives, DVD burner, UPnP, bla bla. Not something I need, but it struck me that that’s exactly the kind of device that does poorly in compliance — ships with Linux and busybox, no sources. So with my usual assumption of malice in place, I went looking. While the firmware downloads for the device (say from LG’s Dutch site) do not mention corresponding source code, the file is clearly and unashamedly a Linux image: a .zip containing a .bin which is actually a .tar containing a .tgz which is the result of tar czf – / on a Debian installation. Somehow I expected a firmware update to be a little more sophisticated than that, you know?

No README or other indications of the licenses in the firmware, but when I downloaded the users manual for the device, imagine my surprise to find pages 159-164 filled with license information: which parts of the firmware are covered by GPLv2, GPLv3, LGPL, other liceses, and a compilation of copyright notices and BSD variants. There’s a written offer for a CD with sources in the users manual. Pretty good, all in all — although of course one might consider checking that the sources are the complete corresponding sources for each firmware version.

But this brings me to a mystery point in the GPLv2. You may distribute versions of the Program in object code (section 3) under the terms of section 1 and 2 provided you offer the source code in some way. So — since this firmware is clearly distribution in object form — we need to check if the conditions are satisfied. The source code offer is ok. But what does “under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above” mean? Section 1 is about verbatim copies of source code; section 2 is about modified versions (which might be understood to include object form). I guess the question comes down to this: does the condition in section 1, “give any other recipients of the Program a copy of this License along with the Program” apply to distribution in object form, or not?

Bike Maps

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

The Register is reporting that some company in Mountain View includes cycling directions in some areas of the world. Old hat, I’d say, as the Dutch national cyclists union has had a really good bike trip mapper for quite some time already which makes use of the cycling infrastructure we have here. Too bad the editor to add data to the system seems to be a Flash app.

Speaking of apps, there’s an app for cycle route planning, which prompted the MOMC to say “I want an iPhone!”. To which my knee-jerk Free Software response was “No, you don’t. Really, you don’t.” But how do I make it a little less knee-jerk and a little more reasoned? Or how do we get pseudo-community organizations like the cyclists union to produce apps in a more open fashion so that they’re easier to port to all the platforms we use? I’d like that cycle mapping app on my n810, for instance.

Russian Comments

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Kind of strange, I’ve picked up two Russian-language comments that do not immediately seem to be spam on my previous post. I find my Russian reading skill hasn’t deteriorated completely, but I’m left wondering what разместить means. Which reminds me of the advances made in machine translation, so of course I can look it up. At the current state of technology, wouldn’t “multi-lingual chat” be a viable service? Set up an IRC server and run everything through a translate API so that each person connected reads and writes in their own tongue.

Things to do March 31st

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

March 31st brings us Free Software cyclists a dilemma: Document Freedom Day, supporting Open Standards in document storage (the Dutch organization will be in Baarn) or the nationwide record-breaking attempt for simultaneous cycling (in Dutch). Of course, I could ride my bicycle to DFD, that would do the trick (it’s about 70km from here). Dilemma, dilemma.

Girl Geeks

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

The Amsterdam Girl Geek Dinners held their sixth dinner two weeks ago; one of the rare days that I wasn’t knocked out by illness, so I went to Amsterdam with my ex-colleage Donna (she is one of the organizers) to see how things were. Besides the talk by Karin Spaink — well known in the Netherlands for her agitation for privacy — it was like meeting a bunch of old friends again. Take a look at the GGD site, it gives a good impression. I’d almost say it was “like a KDE event” — in the sense of good food, good drink, camaraderie and a good deal of technical progress.

I also met the woman who runs Therp (great name, if only they were located in Friesland; site in Dutch), which is an OpenERP consulting gig. That kind of business software has been missing in my experience with Free Software (thinking back to OpenExpo in Winterthur, for instance), so I’m going to applaud it.

The Girl Geek Dinner reached one of the national papers (Algemeen Dagblad) on Saturday the 27th of February as part of a multi-page article titled “gezocht: vrouwen met wiskundeknobbel” (wanted: women with an aptitude for mathematics). [At which point the translation is rather weak: there’s a -knobbel for all kinds of things, like someone who easily learns new languages is said to have a “talenknobbel”. A bump on your head. See, Dutch is just a cover for phrenology.] That article in the paper also reminded me of the Wiskundemeisjes, two girls (now women) who have been blogging about their discoveries in mathematics for the past four years. Who now study at Leiden, where I’ll attend a thesis defence on a Free Software legal topic next month.

See, there’s a network of serendipity going on here.

It wasn’t until Geek Girls at Linux Expo showed up on my screen today (was I searching for sometihng? Was it on /.? Who knows) that I had to translate serendipity into a rambling blog entry. Which is this.

Brief catch-up and congratulations

Monday, March 1st, 2010

It’s spring; I can tell because the power converter connected to the solar panels on the roof is starting to hum again. That, and yardwork has to start happening, so this afternoon after my laptop crashed I headed up a tree with a swede saw.

Congratulations are in order on two fronts: Julia A. Klein for winning the Fellowship election to the general assembly of the Free Software Foundation Europe. She is now (part of) the voice of the Fellows of FSFE in the philosophical backbone of the organization. The second front is for Paul Adams and Georg Greve, who are in the process of launching Kolab Systems, which I understand is a service and support company for the Kolab groupware server and closely tied to KDE PIM.