Comment spam

November 21st, 2007

I just went through the comment moderation queue on this blog, and there were four (4) valid comments out of 385 comments. Spam is such a pain that I can’t even imagine how it would be without comment moderation activated.

Vodafone Wi-Fi Hotspots

November 1st, 2007

I have the dubious pleasure of using a Vodafone Wi-Fi hots at the Jolly Hotel at Cagliari. It must be the lousiest hotspot I have ever used.

I am consistently thrown off every few minutes and association attempts fail three times out of four. It makes it bloody hard to do something with the time you have actually bought.

Using that hotspot to get a message through to Telecom Italia Mobile is just about hell. Their site is so lousy and inaccessible it should be a crime.

Nokia N800 on kayak journey

October 26th, 2007

I’m on a three month kayak journey around the Italian islands of Sardinia and Sicily. Our only computers on this trip are two N800 tablets which we use daily for email, checking weather forecasts and for blogging. They keep us connected and updated wherever we go.

Our blog is at

We’re bringing two N800 tablets and several accessories. I have my own N800 which I got through the N800 device program. My paddling partner, canadian schoolteacher Wendy Killoran, has received a sponsored N800 from Nokia Nseries, which has also supplied us with a foldable keyboard, a gps receiver and a car charger.

We’re currently at the NW tip of Sardinia, having done just over half of the circumnavigation of Sardinia.

So far we haven’t found many usable wifi hotspots, but we have a good deal on EDGE traffic via Telecom Italia Mobile. We use my old worn Nokia 6131 to connect.

The only downside so far is that I have fried the charging circuits on my tablet by connecting it wrongly to a solar panel. It now says its charging but it doesn’t charge the battery at all. We charge batteries in Wendy’s tablet and swap them when mine is depleted.

It is quite fascinating trying out the ‘internet anywhere’ for real. Here’s Wendy writing an Icelandic friend while sitting on an iron-age nuraghe in northern Sardinia 😉
Nuraghe blogging

Compiz 0.5 in Debian unstable

June 15th, 2007

Compiz 0.5 arrived in unstable a while ago. I usually run testing, but the Compiz 0.3.6 I used came from experimental. Unfortunately, an installation of Compiz 0.5 from unstable on a testing system would update libc6 and hence almost all of the system to unstable. I waited.

Compiz in actionThe libc6 update passed into testing recently, and I upgraded Compiz from unstable afterwards. Disaster.

Initially, Compiz started, but all windows were empty, blank, void. The windows were there, I could click on links in a browser window, but I could see nothing but a blank window. Pop-up menus didn’t even display, though they too were there, but invisible.

After much experimenting and searching and reading fora and blogs (using a Metacity session), I discovered that I needed to update the the latest version of xserver-xorg-core from unstable. That solved the blank window problem.

Now I could see the content of my windows. It is actually quite nice, once you’ve tried the opposite 🙂

The windows had no decorations, however. No titlebar, no borders, but naked and ashamed.

This was a bit harder to solve, but in the end I discovered that the package “libdecoration0” had version 0.3.6, so it had not been upgraded for some reason, probably due to an unversioned depends rule in the Compiz packages.

A manual upgrade of libdecoration0 solved the problem, and now Compiz 0.5 works very well on my little laptop.

Text editing in Firefox

May 25th, 2007

I’ve often been annoyed with the editing possibilities in Firefox, but now I have found a couple of useful add-ons which helps quite a bit.

The first, Resizeable Textarea, does as it says. It makes all text areas, that is, multiline text input boxes, resizeable. Place the mouse over the edge of the text area, and the area can be resized interactively, just like in most window managers. No more editing long texts in four lines windows 🙂

It’s All Text screenshotThe other add-on is It’s All Text, which adds a small “edit” button to each text area. Click that button and the text in the area is opened in an external editor where you often have much better editing functions than you have in Firefox. The text in the text area is synchronised with the text in the editor automatically when you save the file, and, of course, when you exit the editor.

Playlists on a Nokia 6131

May 20th, 2007

Nokia has in their infinite wisdom decided to make playlists in the media player of my Nokia 6131 phone a complete mess.

They claim the phone supports M3U playlists, but if you copy one to the phone using a cable or bluetooth, you just get a “Unsupported media type” message. So much for support. Playlist files has to be places in a semi-hidden folder on the phone to work.

There is no way to make a playlist on the phone, so you have to use Nokia PC Suite which is windows only.

Making a playlist for the phone under Linux is cumbersome, but it can be done with a bit of effort.

Files can be copied back and forth between phone and computer using gammu, formerly gnokii. With the right options one can read and write the entire file system on the phone, not just what is exposed through USB storage or bluetooth.

Unfortunately, gammu and the phone have different ideas about how the world looks. gammu uses drive letter A: for the memory card and D: for the internal memory of the phone, but the phone itself uses C: for internal memory and E: for the memory card. gammu uses / as the separator in path names and the phone uses \ like DOS and derivatives. gammu escapes non-ascii characters in filenames with a =XX syntax, which the phone doesn’t understand.

This means that everything has to be expressed in two different ways. It is possible to get a complete listing of the files on the phone in gammu syntax, and to copy files between phone and computer, with names in gammu syntax, but the content of the files have to be in the phone’s syntax to work.

Anyway, here is what I have done to make playlists for my phone.

First I make a complete listing of all the files on the phone:

gammu --getfilesystem -flatall > nokia6131.lst

Using this file I can easily generate lists of files I want in my playlist and convert this list of files to a playlist in a format usable on the phone:

grep 'Patrick Bruel/Des Souvenirs Devant.*mp3' nokia6131.lst
 | sort | perl
 > "Patrick Bruel - Des Souvenirs Devant.m3u"

The script “” does the conversion of filenames from gammu syntax to a playlist in the phones format. It is quite simple: download script here.

The resulting playlist file can then be copied to the phone using a command like:

gammu --addfile 'd:/predefgallery/predefplaylist'
 "Patrick Bruel - Des Souvenirs Devant.m3u"


March 26th, 2007

I’ve been using dpkg, apt-get and apt-cache for a long time, but since I got a new laptop with a fresh install of Debian testing I have been playing with new toys.

One is aptitude.

I found the curses-based interface obnoxious, but after some time I came to like the command line interface. It has some very nice abilities.

It integrates debfoster functionality as it automatically uninstalls unused dependencies of packages being removed. That’ll be a great help in maintaining a clean uncluttered system.

The search function is really useful, adding a lot of possibilities that used to require several programs. Here are few examples:

Search for all packages whose description matches “syncml”:

aptitude search ~dsyncml

Search for installed packages depending on “rsync”:

aptitude search ~Drsync~i

The search patterns are regular expressions, so the above will actually search for an installed package depending on some other package whose name contains the substring “rsync”.

Simpel terms search on the package names, such as:

aptitude search '^rdiff'

Aptitude has a silly little easter egg. Try “aptitude moo” and then add “-v” options one at a time.

Nokia N800 firmware upgrade 3.2007.10-7

March 25th, 2007

Nokia released a new firmware for the N800 tablets, and I flashed mine yesterday. It was by far the easiest upgrade ever.

I took a backup first and stored it on the internal flash card, and flashed the unit as per the instructions. One of the first questions asked was if I wanted a backup restored and I picked the backup made just before the flash.

The backup restored my gconf settings, and all the application repositories I had added, so while the non-standard applications weren’t restored automatically, all it took was to go to the Application Manager and install the ones I wanted. Applications that use gconf for user preferences had their preferences set already so I had to do nothing. For example, the FM radio applet had all the same stations as before the upgrade.

Blog moved to WordPress

March 18th, 2007

I finally got my act together at moved this blog to WordPress. There’s still a few lose ends, some uploaded pictures are missing and will have to be added by hand, and the top graphic needs replacing.

It’ll probably make a mess of those places using the feeds from here. Sorry about that.

Printing photos on a HP Color LaserJet 2550

November 18th, 2006

This command prints nicely coloured photos on the laser printer:

lp -o scaling=100 -o landscape
 -o PageRegion=A4 -o PageSize=A4
 -o HPOption_PaperPolicy=Scale -o HPEdgeControl=Off
 -o HPColorSmart=Automatic -o HPRGBEmulation=Vivid
 -o MediaType=Glossy photo.jpg

The media type will probably have to be adjusted to match the paper used.

This command will show all the available options:

lpoptions -l