Airconfig

Sometime last November or December I posted about GUI wireless networking config options for Linux, and I mentioned I was planning on writing one if I couldn't find one that met my needs (and actually worked).

Well, I went ahead and did it. It's not finished. There are things that don't work yet, buttons in the settings window that aren't connected to anything, and probably a bunch of error conditions I haven't handled yet. But it's starting to actually work for me, and I'm going to start actually using it for day-to-day stuff.

I haven't made any releases yet, but you can grab it from my Subversion repository (warning: sometimes the server decides to go off into the weeds and becomes unreachable). See the website here for download/install information, and do pay careful attention to the requirements list: older versions of the stuff in that list will almost certainly not work. I'm sorry about the high required versions of glib/gtk+, but I'm not going to try to reduce those until the app actually is "finished" and I have some spare time.

Please look at the README as well. There are a few dependencies that are required that probably aren't already set up properly on your system. (For example, there are only two distros I know of offhand that package wpa_supplicant with the D-Bus control interface compiled in.)

Note that Airconfig is more or less cross-desktop. It doesn't require any Xfce or GNOME libraries to function. It might not be particularly friendly (in the blending-in sense) for KDE users, as it does use gtk+. (A small exception: xfce4-dev-tools is required, but only for building from SVN. When I make release tarballs, you won't even need xfce4-dev-tools.) However, currently the GUI stuff is confined to two files, so it wouldn't be too difficult to write a Qt/KDE frontend (or even a wildly different gtk+ frontend) for it if you don't mind that it depends on gobject. That's probably a project for somewhat far in the future, though (I might do it myself; I haven't touched Qt since 2.x, and it would be fun to re-learn it).

Anyway, give it a look if you're interested. I've added Airconfig to Xfce Bugzilla, so feel free to report problems there (I greatly prefer that instead of email). I may not get to your bug for a while since there's still a lot to do.

Hell

From Penny Arcade:

Tycho: We're gonna die, right? You're here to take us to heaven? Jesus: I'm just here for him. You're gonna burn in hell forever. Tycho: God dammit. Jesus: See? It's shit like that.

On Blogging In General

As my two faithful readers have no doubt noticed, I haven't been posting about my life since mid-December or so. I think this is pretty normal for me; every now and then I get too busy to post, and then I just let it go for a while, not really having the motivation to catch up.

I do feel a little bad about this, because there are several people who I don't talk to all that much who have told me they enjoy reading my blog every now and then to see what I'm up to.

I think my "privacy pendulum" might be swinging back a bit the other way as well. Clearly, I'm very open about myself on the Internet. I'm easily contactable, and Google knows a lot about me. While I don't post every little detail of my life (I often make good use of WordPress' "private post" feature), it's usually easy to get a pretty good impression of what I do during the week, on the weekend, etc. While I'm not uncomfortable with this, I really do just write that stuff for myself. There's little to no exhibitionism component to it. It's more like a private journal that I don't mind other people reading (well, except for the actual private/personal things). I do frequently go back into my archives just to see what I was up to at a particular time. I'm often very interested in how my life changes, and how the things that constitute a "normal week" for me change over time.

On a side note, I've also started thinking a bit about the other people in my life. While I don't reveal any intimate personal details about my friends, they do figure prominently in my life, and I write about the things I do with them, usually giving names and places and whatnot. Again, this makes perfect sense if you think of this as my personal journal that just happens to be readable by anyone: why would I censor myself? But still, some of my friends in particular might feel a bit uncomfortable about being mentioned so publicly by name. It's a bit late at this point to invent pseudonyms or just use first initials; anyone who has read my blog for a while would easily know who I'm talking about. And besides, I don't want to do that for my own sake: I'd have to decipher the names or initials later when I go back and read them, and I don't want to do that.

There's also another annoyance from my perspective: sometimes when I'm writing about public stuff, there are sections of private material that I want to add in there. Invariably, I end up making a separate private entry, but that's a pain and doesn't really fit the flow of my writing very well.

So, I probably won't be posting about day-to-day stuff all that much anymore, unless it's unusual or interesting. I'll reserve that for private posts when I feel like doing them. If you want to know what's going on with me, ask! Email, IM, or -- god forbid -- call me. Those of you who are likely to want to do so already have my various forms of contact info.

Computer Retirement

I've been thinking a lot lately about my computer situation. At home, right now I have: - little router box; on 24/7 (Cyrix MediaGX 233MHz)

  • Aging desktop machine; on 24/7 (mid-tower case, Athlon 1.33GHz)

  • HTPC/PVR; on only when I'm watching or recording something (mid-sized desktop case, Sempron somethingorother)

  • PowerBook G4 laptop; usually on 24/7, though occasionally it gets turned off (ppc 1GHz)

I've noticed recently that I haven't been using my desktop all that much. In general, it just sits there eating power and making noise. In a way, I want to retire it and just turn it off permanently, and just use my laptop for everything.

However, it has four main advantages over my laptop: 1. slightly faster processor (the laptop can't handle some video using more computationally-intensive codecs)

  1. Flash plugin (laptop is running Linux on ppc, and Adobe doesn't support that; all the open source Flash players I've tried are useless for my purposes)

  2. better-supported video (albeit through an nvidia binary driver; the laptop has an nvidia chipset as well, but Linux on ppc is not supported)

  3. storage: I have a 1TB array in there

1 isn't all that big a deal, since I have the HTPC for watching video, and it's been able to handle pretty much anything I've thrown at it (720p H.264 with 5.1 audio is fine).

2 isn't that bad either. The only real downside is that I lose out on YouTube; people do send me links to funny videos, and I feel bad when I say "I'm on the laptop and I don't have Flash here." Eventually, I figure the open source Flash players will achieve some measure of parity with Adobe's and the problem will disappear (or maybe Adobe will start supporting Linux on ppc, which is unlikely). If there's something I just have to see, I can always reboot to MacOS and watch it there.

3 is a bit annoying: I like real window transparency. I find it very useful because I work with a lot of terminals open. Making them semi-transparent helps me find the one I want when I have many piled up. It's also just fun and nifty. But I can (and do) live without.

4 is the problem at this point. Due to some annoying recent financial occurrences, I won't be building my low-power file server any time soon. My HTPC case isn't large enough to accommodate the drives, and I don't really want to spend the money on external USB/Firewire enclosures for a temporary solution. I'm a bit stuck here.

I guess, in the near-term, I'll leave things as-is. Maybe I'll turn off the desktop machine at night sometimes to save power (and thus money) and reduce noise. Sure, people won't be able to download stuff off my computer overnight, but... well, too bad.

Recently I've been experimenting with not logging into AIM/Jabber/etc. from the desktop. I've just been chatting on the laptop, and that seems to be working pretty well. For the past several days I haven't even touched my desktop. I think this clearly points toward the idea that I'd rather sit on the couch with my laptop while doing computer stuff than at my desk. And for occasions where I'd rather use the desk, I can always hook up the laptop to my monitor, keyboard, and mouse (though I guess I'd need to buy a USB keyboard).

So we'll see. I'll continue my experiment until the weekend, and maybe start turning the desktop off after that.

Bugzilla Permissions

Finally! I can't wait until 3.0 final (or, rather, 3.0.1 or 3.0.2) is released. It'll be nice to be able to properly restrict permissions on b.x.o.

Mail Clients That Don't Suck

I really want a MUA that doesn't suck. I suppose "doesn't suck" is a bit prejudicial. I have a few requirements unrelated to suckitude that have to be met before I'll even consider a client, one of which being it has to be gtk2-based on X11.

For years I've used Thunderbird (and Mozilla Mail before that, and Netscape Mail before that). Like its cousin, Firefox, it tends to be a memory hog. It also has a bunch of annoying bugs: the in-memory message cache gets corrupted often if it has more than one connection to the IMAP server; folder names stay bolded (and they keep the new mail icon) if the mail was marked read from another mail program (e.g., on another machine). It also just tends to do weird things, like after a while spin the throbber forever, and never stop.

Don't get me wrong, Thunderbird is a great mail client. But I have a machine at work that only has 256MB of RAM. No, upgrading it isn't feasible right now. What I have to work with is... well, it's what I have to work with. With both Thunderbird and Firefox open, my system quickly starts swapping, and it kinda sucks waiting 30 seconds just to switch to another window.

I recently installed Claws Mail on my laptop (a renamed Sylpheed-Claws, apparently). I installed an older version, Sylpheed-Claws 2.6.0, on my machine at work, since that appears to be the latest version available on Ubuntu. Both versions seem to be a huge improvement over the last time I tried it (over a year ago, I guess).

Still, though, there are some major annoyances. When I'm sending mail (which seems to take a bit longer than it should), the entire UI blocks and I can't do anything else (like read other unread mail). That's retarded. I can't open the account editor dialog when I have any mail compose windows open. That's also retarded. It just cries "I was designed poorly". Fairly often, it'll get into a weird state while checking for new mail (on IMAP), and it'll hang there and not let me do anything without restarting. Occasionally it'll get into a different weird state where it just isn't able to check for new mail anymore without restarting. Occasionally it'll get into yet another weird state where it tries to check for new mail, but keeps reading garbage from the server, and sits there in a loop, and needs to be restarted.

There are some functional annoyances, too, like no shortcut (or option at all, as far as I can see) to mark all messages in a particular thread as read. There also doesn't appear to be a keyboard shortcut to mark all messages in a particular folder as read, but I suppose that's ok. I also can't mark a message read without opening it, unless I temporarily hide the preview pane, which is annoying. It doesn't pay attention to the concept of 'subscribed' IMAP folders, so I can't hide my spam folders (and unhide them once a month when I go through them). I prefer that the client not remember my password for me; however it takes my security paranoia a bit farther than I care about: if I ever get disconnected from the server, it asks for my password again. I'd really prefer that it just keeps my password in memory (mlock() is your friend), and forgets it entirely when I close the app.

Weirdly, even if I set it to convert HTML mail to plain text, it still displays <a> tags as if they were rendered as HTML. So for phisher URLs embedded 'underneath' a supposedly-legit-looking URL, you see the legit URL, and clicking it takes you to the phisher's site. I of course know better than to indiscriminately click on fake bank URLs, but why offer the option of ditching HTML if you're... not actually ditching HTML?

The PGP support doesn't let me assign particular recipients to which I want to always sign mail by default (it only lets you do that on a per-account basis). I like to sign messages I send to various OSS-related mailing lists, but not for personal correspondence. (Otherwise, I do like the PGP support here better than Thunderbird/Enigmail.)

On the plus side, it uses memory much more efficiently than Thunderbird does, and it doesn't seem to randomly lose mail from its cache. I've decided I'm going to try to use Claws Mail for a month before really deciding if I can use it permanently, just to give myself time to get used to its quirks (just as I've been spending years getting used to Thunderbird's quirks), but it's not looking good. Having to restart the client 3-5 times a day because it breaks in some unrecoverable way is not acceptable, though this may be a function of the slightly-older version I'm using on my machine at work. After I use the latest version on my laptop a bit longer, I may go to the trouble of compiling the latest version for my work computer if it seems like it would offer an advantage.

So, anybody else have any Gtk2 MUA recommendations? (I'll only consider non-Gtk2 clients if they're perfect.)

Update: I noticed that you can edit keyboard shortcuts, so I was able to add a ctrl+shift+c shortcut for marking all read, and I changed the 'next unread message' shortcut from shift+n to just n. I also changed 'check for new messages' and 'check for new messages in all accounts' to ctrl+t and ctrl+shift+t. This all mirrors Thunderbird, so I feel a little more at home. I'm still missing a 'mark thread read' action, though. Also, I found Ubuntu packages for Claws-Mail (on their website, oddly enough), so I can install the latest version on my computer at work and not be basing my opinion on an older version of Sylpheed-Claws.

On Pizza Toppings

I don't really understand the "everything on it"-type pizzas, or the people who order them.

A pizza is a sacred object. In its most pure and unadulterated form, it consists of the following: bread (crust), sauce, and cheese.

Anything else, and you have the potential to destroy it.

Now, I'm not saying I'm a cheese-only man (or extra-cheese-only, even). Every now and then I'll have them throw on some sausage, pepperoni, or chicken... maybe even some broccoli if I'm in a weird mood. Olives can add an interesting taste.

But why, oh, why, would you want to put seven different toppings on it? At that point, the essence of the pizza is only a memory. How can you taste the sauce (arguably, the most important part of the pizza)? How can you taste the cheese? If you've piled too much on, the crust might not even be able to withstand the pressure, and collapse. Then what are you left with?

And what of the cacophony of topping flavors themselves? How can you tell them apart? They just blend into one mass of strange homogeneous taste. It's not good, ladies and gentlemen. It's not good.

So, I suggest you step back. First, go cold turkey. Spend some time ordering nothing but plain cheese. Try a few different pizzerias. The ones who can make a great-tasting plain pizza are the ones who really have talent.

Of course, it also helps to live in a place where pizza is, on average, good (i.e., not northern California). But that's a rant for another day.

Naming Meme

YOUR ROCK STAR NAME: (first pet and current street name) Misty Camino

YOUR "FLY Guy/Girl" NAME: (first initial of first name, first three letters of your middle name) B-Jam

YOUR DETECTIVE NAME: (favorite color, favorite animal) Orange Cheetah (I don't really have a favorite animal, but that was the first one that came to mind.)

YOUR SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, city where you were born) James Neptune (I think this one actually sounds more like a cool detective name.)

YOUR STAR WARS NAME: (the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 letters of your first name, first 2 letters of mom's maiden name) Tar Br Ki

SUPERHERO NAME: ("The", your favorite color, favorite drink) The Orange Guinness (I guess using a beer name is cheating, but my fav mixed drink changes often.)

NASCAR NAME: (the first name of both your grandfathers) Albert Arthur

FUTURISTIC NAME: (the name of your favorite perfume/cologne and the name of your favorite kind of shoes) Oldspice Sandal (Er, I don't wear cologne... oh well.)

WITNESS PROTECTION NAME: (mother & father's middle name ) Barbara Anthony (Awesome, I get to be a transsexual witness.)

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