World Cup Madness

Those of you who haven’t seen the World Cup final yet but are planning to watch it and don’t want to be spoiled will want to stop reading now.

What a boring, poorly-played match on Sunday.

Overall, the knockout rounds were pretty enjoyable. Most matches in the round of 16 were at least interesting: Argentina beating Mexico after extra time (a match I still need to wach), Italy’s last-minute dubious penalty win against Australia, Portugal’s card-filled clash with the Netherlands, and France’s surprising win against Spain.

The quarterfinals had some moments: Germany’s penalty shootout win against a heartbroken Argentina, England’s poor performance and loss during a shootout against Portugal, Italy’s thorough trouncing of the Ukraine, and France’s surprise (and most satisfying, if I say so myself) win against five-time champions Brazil.

The semis were even more amazing. Italy and Germany neck and neck throughout regulation play, only for Italy to turn it around with two goals in the last few minutes of extra time. France comfortably shutting down Portugal with a single goal off a penalty kick midway through the first half.

Germany, disappointed with the end of their run to the finals, nevertheless put on an impressive performance to defeat Portugal in the 3rd-place match, almost shutting them out 3-1. If nothing else, Germany deserved to be in the final based on spirit alone (though their play wasn’t too shabby either).

But the final… oh the final.

I was a bit torn going in. On one hand, I’d come to like and respect the French team. Zidane’s work as captain really kept the team working together like clockwork. They really excel in ball-handling skills, and their goalkepper is top-notch.

And Italy… I may only be quarter Italian, but that’s the part of my heritage I’ve always identified with most. The Azzurri had played well to get all the way to the final, though at times using some questionable tactics. Either way, they’re a group of players who work well together and really pushed themselves hard to get as far as they had.

But the match was absolutely awful. First a questionable penalty-mark goal for France in the first 10 minutes, followed by a brilliant header goal off a corner kick 10 minutes later for Italy. Italy started out very strong, beating France 70/30 on possession alone in much of the first half. But after the second goal of the match, everyone started getting sloppy. France’s play deteriorated as well. This continued through the second half. Perotta and Totti – who had served Italy well in previous games – were performing poorly and were taken off. Later, Camoranesi was subbed out to bring in Del Piero. For France, Vieira was injured and pulled out midway through the second half.

Then we went into extra time. Everyone was tired. Ribery ran himself into the ground and was subbed out. Henry suffered an injury or cramp or something, and was taken out. Zidane was hit in the shoulder, but continued playing despite what appeared to be a significant amount of pain.

And then the madness began. Off the play, Zidane head-butts Matterazzi. Video playback seems to indicate he was provoked, but how could he lose control so completely? He’s said the World Cup would be his last games, and he’d retire afterwards. How could he let himself leave in disgrace? The referee didn’t see the foul, but Zidane was sent off with a red card after a consultation with the fourth official on the sidelines, who had seen what had happened.

Of course, at this point, 10 minutes left in extra time, things pretty much fell apart. France weren’t coordinated enough without Zidane (not to mention being pissed off), and Italy were just too tired to put together a goal-scoring play, so they settled on delaying long enough to bring the game to penalties.

Italy made all their shots. France missed one. Ironically (and sadly), the miss was a crossbar hit from striker Trezeguet, who probably wouldn’t have been in the penalty lineup had Zidane not been sent off.

I wouldn’t say the match was boring. Not at all; it was the World Cup final, after all. But neither team played at their best, and the ending was marred by the horrible – yet rightful – ejection of one of the sport’s most celebrated current players, in his last match as a professional.

At any rate, I annoyingly only saw 25 of the 64 matches, due in part to my lack of cable and thus lack of ESPN. I saw very few in the initial group stage, so there are several teams I hadn’t seen play at all. Fortunately I was able to see all but one of the 16 knockout-round matches, one of which I downloaded and plan to watch when I get a chance, since I read it was a pretty good game (Argentina vs. Mexico).

Ah well. I’m looking forward to South Africa in 2010. Maybe the US can make it to the knockout round next time. And maybe I’ll have the time and money to be able to go there and see a couple matches. That would rock.

Xfce 4.4beta2 Released!

We’re pleased to announce the release of the second beta of the upcoming Xfce 4.4.0 release.

Check out the list of changes, and head over to the downloads.

Be Manly

How to Prevent Chapped Lips in a Manly Fashion.

Net Neutrality

I’m not the first to write about this, but there’s an excellent article over at the Washington Post advocating network neutrality, written by Lawrence Lessig.

I kinda go back and forth on this issue. I’m not really sure that net neutrality needs to be codified into law. We certainly have enough ridiculous regulations on the books, and I don’t think this one’s a great idea. The market really does tend to sort itself out eventually.

What I don’t want to see is legislation specifically authorising different types of a tiered Internet. Then again, why would you really need this legislation? In the absence of legislation banning tiered service, can’t the ISPs and backbone operators do whatever they want? (Unless there’s some Random Telecom Act that currently prohibits this.)

Anyway, it’s nice to see a piece like this in one of the nation’s most popular newspapers. It just shows that technology rights issues are finally moving into the mainstream, where I think they belong.

What Kind of Blogger Are You?


(Found here.)

Supersonic Ringtones

Well, not quite. It’s pretty well-known, I suppose, that people generally lose the ability to hear higher frequencies as they get older. Seems like some grade-school kids are taking advantage of this. Kinda smart, I think. I can here the “mosquito” sound perfectly well, but I’m not sure if I can hear the 18kHz tone. Acutally yes, I can hear it, but not very well. If I jack the volume of my speakers most of the way up, I can hear it very well, but I’m not sure if that’s just distortion caused by the amplification (then again, it’s a hardware amplifier, so I’d think not). Probably the tone is very close to the edge of my audible range.

Kinda neat, and amusing.

Simple Cell Phone

How hard is it to find a nice, simple, stylish cell phone? I can’t seem to find anything I like. I’m looking for an unlocked tri- or quad-band GSM phone without a service plan, so price is an issue: I’m thinking ideally under $200. I currently have a CDMA phone with a 2-year contract with Verizon (expires in 11 months next April), but I’d also like a GSM phone for when I go traveling overseas. After my Verizon contract is up, I’d consider dropping that plan and signing up with T-Mobile or Cingular. Until then, I’d run this new phone off prepaid SIM cards.

I have three main requirements: flip phone, small, looks good. The last one is a bit subjective, of course.

Flip phone because it will live in my pocket and I don’t want my keys to be calling my friends all the time. Yes, I know most all phones have a keypad lock, but I hate using it.

Small because, again, it will live in my pocket. I wear jeans sometimes. My phone goes in my right pocket with my keys. That’s just how it is. I hate belt clips. In general I think they look dumb, and the last thing I need is something protruding from my hip that I can slam into things by accident.

Obviously, “looks good” is a pretty stupid criterion: who would want an ugly phone? I guess maybe I have different taste than most people, because I find most phones to be at best ordinary and uninspiring, and at worst blatantly ugly. I want something small and rounded, somewhat organic-looking, maybe. If they can get away with ditching the external antenna without hurting signal quality, more the better. I’m also tired of the silver look, though I guess a two-tone with silver/grey would be OK. I’ve seen some phones with a “soft touch” finish, which I really like. Maybe something in a medium or dark blue (maybe just as a highlight color). I don’t want something shiny or flashy; matte finish is better. And I’d like to get away from the cheap-plastic look prevalent with so many phones. The finish on my phone scratches so easily (remember, it goes in my pocket with my keys), and it looks like crap now.

As for features, it’s pretty negotiable.

The phone book needs to allow me to associate several numbers (home, cell, office, etc.) with each contact, but should let me easily call any of the numbers with just one or two extra button presses.

Predictive (T9, I guess) text input for text messaging. I don’t do text messaging often, but when I do, I don’t want to spend 10 minutes crafting a 5-word message.

Easy access to a “manner mode” type feature where I can quickly switch between the ringer and vibrate mode. I usually have the phone on vibrate all day while at work, but if I come home and toss it on the table, I want it to ring. I also leave the ringer on while I’m asleep (yeah, I know, I’m backwards) since work people occasionally call me in the morning when I’m still in bed (but should probably be up). Holding a key for a few seconds to switch between modes is the best way to do this. Bonus points for a feature that lets me set it to vibrate in place of the first 2 or 3 rings, and then start ringing after that. I’d probably leave it in that mode all the time.

Color screen on the inside. Color screen on the outside is optional, but desired. There has to at least be a screen on the outside, even if it’s b/w or greyscale. Since I don’t wear a watch, I want to be able to pull the phone out of my pocket to check the time quickly.

Ability to silence the ringer or make it stop vibrating by hitting any of the keys on the outside of the phone. If I’m busy and don’t want to answer it, I usually try to mash the phone buttons just by grabbing the phone without reaching into my pocket.

A decent call log for dialed, received, and missed calls. It should tell me at least the time and duration of the call.

The caller ID should automatically match incoming numbers with my phonebook and display the name if it’s in there. I’m at the point now where I (sadly) don’t remember anyone’s phone number. It must show this on the outside of the phone, as I want to be able to answer the phone simply by opening it, so I need to know if I want to answer it before I open it. I’m lazy. I don’t want to open it and hit a key to answer.

I don’t care about web access, downloadable ringtones (a default, pleasing ringtone is fine by me), applications or games (downloadable or builtin), PIM/PDA features, music/video/picture playback, voice recognition (my current phone has it, and, while it’s reasonably reliable, I never use it), voice memos, etc.

The obvious stuff. Decent battery life. Two days minimum with moderate use without charging. Good voice quality, good reception. I live in Silicon Valley, so reception usually isn’t a problem, but when I’m not in the bay area, it can be annoying, especially when I visit my dad (virtually no service in the house, barely usable service outside on the property). I guess that’s more of an issue with the network and tower placement, but a slightly more sensitive receiver might make it just usable enough. Eventually the cell might become my primary phone (and I don’t have a landline), so it needs to work everywhere, and certainly in my apartment.

Nice to have but not deal-breakers: simple calendar where I can set alarms on a specific day and time (I’m very forgetful about random non-work appointments), tip calculator, calculator, generic alarm clock (nice when I’m traveling), and an AIM client (useful occasionally when I’m out late to check if a friend is awake before calling).

Note that I don’t need a camera. They take shitty pictures, and getting the pictures off the camera is either a pain in the ass, or costs money. I refuse (more on principle than anything else) to pay money to send myself a picture from my camera. If there’s a camera on the phone, I don’t mind, but I don’t want it to compromise my other requirements (small, mainly). It’s kinda cool to associate a picture with a phonebook entry, but not necessary: I can read the name faster than I can associate the picture with a name, especially since it would be so small and low-res. My current phone is somewhat retarded in this: it only displays the picture while the phone is ringing, and only on the inner screen (the outer screen is greyscale). So I rarely ever even see the picture at all, since it disappears when I open the phone to answer it.

I guess my feature requirements are somewhat annoying: I want some fairly detailed basic functionality, with some nice-to-have advanced functionality, but at the same time I really dislike some of the more mainstream advanced functionality (like the cameras).

So how about it, lazy web? Where can I find my dream phone? My “looks good” requirements seem to knock a lot of phones out of the running. I’m not particularly partial to any brand: from an informal survey of my friends, on average everyone likes and hates every particular brand. Though Nokia, LG, Motorola, and Sony Ericsson seem the most popular. But when it comes down to it, I really don’t care what the brand is, as long as it fulfills my requirements.

Then again, I feel like I should wait until the end of the year. Phones go out of style fairly quickly and my “small” requirement will only get easier to satisfy over time as technology improves. I don’t want to be thinking about ditching my current cell plan next April when my contract runs out, only to realise I don’t really like the GSM phone so much anymore (or rather, that there are newer, more stylish phones available that meet my requirements better). For practical reasons, I’d like to buy this new phone no later than mid-August.

Ok, that was a really long post. I’d edit it down, but I really don’t care that much.

Bug Counts

As people have noticed, I’ve had much less time over the past month to work on Xfce. In some ways this is OK, because we’ve entered the 4.4 beta cycle, and theoretically all I should be doing is fixing bugs. Of course, every now and then I add a new feature, because, well, honoring my own feature freeze would just be too easy, wouldn’t it?

I guess part of the problem is that we don’t add any new features to the stable series after it hits point-oh. So the feature set that 4.4.0 has will be the same feature set that 4.4.1, 4.4.2, 4.4.3, etc. have. Couple that with the fact that our 4.evennumber.0 releases have been 14+ months apart, and I feel like way too much stuff brews in the development branch before we have a real feature release.

I’m not really sure of a good solution. All of us work on Xfce whenever we can. We all have day jobs or go to school, so it’s totally a free-time, unpaid endeavor at this point. It’s hard to do scheduling when no one can commit to any specific amount of time. And honestly, I don’t like working to those kinds of schedules. If I want to work with deadlines, I’ll get a job that requires me to do so. Oh wait: I already have a job like that, and it sucks.

Anyway, I actually sat down to write a post about bug counts (as you can see by the title), but I’ve digressed before I’ve even started. Go me.

Xfdesktop has had a good amount of changes lately, and therefore there have been a fair amount of bugs. I’d like to say my bug count is dropping, but it seems to be hovering pretty steadily around 20-22 bugs. Part of the problem is that some people keep logging new bugs after I close old ones. Not that I mind: I’d rather know about things and have a chance to fix them. But it’s hard to feel like I’m accomplishing things. Clicking on that Commit button after changing a bug’s status to Resolved feels good, but getting an email in my xfce bugs folder a half hour later with a subject line starting with “New” is starting to wear on me.

That’s not to say I don’t want to fix bugs. Keep ‘em coming. (The reports, not the bugs.)

On a side note, I’m really sad that I haven’t touched Xfmedia in many months. According to the svn log, I haven’t really made a significant code change in about 5 months. Also, I fear that I’ve made a few changes to the current trunk branch (basically just the latest stable release plus some fixes), and I haven’t carried them over to the experimental branch, which will eventually replace trunk. I probably won’t really have much time to work on Xfmedia until after Xfce 4.4.0 is out. Though I wonder if that’s just an excuse.

Anyway, just wanted to take a quick break. Back to work…

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