Debian artwork

Artwork is a matter of taste, style and consistency. Design by committee does not work.

If we really want to get a consistent, stylish and professional Debian style trough the whole Debian (and I think we should), we need to have an appointed Debian artwork czar - a professional designer or graphic artist, who would agree to dedicate some of his time on continuous basis to creation and improvement of Debian artwork and refinement of the old artwork from release to release. In exchange he would get to show of his elite design skillz via Debian to a lot of users across the world.

Formally he would have to be a DPL deputy and have the ultimate say about all artwork and colour related matters. I think the DPL should organise this.

SBackup purge

SBackup Purge
Here is the first screenshot of a new tab in the SBackup configuration that allows you to automatically erase old backups. There are two options: plain and simple "keep backups for X days and then erase them" or the smart (and default) progressive trimming option in which you have more backups of recent times and fewer backups of less recent times.
Now that the interface is up, I will be coding the part that actually does the trimming. The tricky part is dealing with incremental backups in progressive purge scenario. I will need to do a lot of testing to insure that I get it right, before I release it.

ObNotebook: A happy DHL courier woke me up today and picked up my laptop. I kept the harddrive. The courier said that usually Dell guys return the notebooks on the third day, so I could hope to get my laptop back on Wednesday.

Bit horizon

A small idea for increasing the performance of peer-to-peer communications for highly popular files.

Imagine a BitTorrent file that becomes popular overnight. There are thousands of clients trying to download it, so for each client there are thousands of possible source to get the file from. However, one client can only connect to a small number of source at any one time (50-100). Due to randominess of that connection, such sources could be from the house next doors or could be from China or Australia. This creates excessive stress on the whole Internet as the parts of the file fly all around the world over and over.

I suggest to introduce a horizon effect in clients when the number of peers is much higher then the max number of connections the client can make at one time.

The easiest would be to make the decisions based on ping speed, but other criteria could also be useful.

For an example implementation consider this: a new client joins in downloading a very popular file on a P2P network, he discovers enough peers to enable the horizon feature, the client connects to 100 random peers and takes their ping times, a distribution is calculated and a horizon is established - all peers with ping higher then the horizon value are deemed to be too far and are disconnected, freeing the resources for finding closer peers. The algorithm would continue to update horizon calculations and eventually would converge down to a set of closest peers and that would give both optimum performance to the client and less stress for the global Internet backbones.

Separate horizons could be set up for seeders (clients with fully downloaded file) and lechers (clients with only partially downloaded file), so that we do not have a whole section of the network stagnating with no seeds in the area.

Anyone up to make this work in, for example, Azureus?

Simple day

I spent the whole day today investigating and fixing SBackup bugs and adding new features. The 0.10 release will be da bomb! My current plan is to spend 10 more hours on this tomorrow and after that I will declare a feature and string freeze for 0.10 and will give the translators a day or two to make/update their translations.

And at the same time I will be figuring out a good systematic way to test a SBackup release. It is an important package, but it has no automatic or even manual tests, which is not nice at all. So while translators will be translatig, I will be testing.

Ah, and this blaze of activity is thanks to both Jonh who contributed i18n code and some fixed to SBackup a few days ago (I hope he will continue contributing in the long term) and a brakedown of my primary laptop which makes it hard for me to do my university work. (I had no backups configured there yet :P)

Security costs? You pay!

Apparently the government agencies in UK that are managing the current security craze have little to no idea how much their super-paranoid security policies acctualy cost. It appears that direct losses from one day of air traffic chaos costs airlines 175 million pounds.

Everyone who has their flight delayed for more then an hour for whatever reason need simply to sue the airlines and further the UK government according the EU regulations. Each person delayed for just 4 hours can claim as much as 600 euros of compensations. I wonder what compensation must a person delayed 24+ hours get, considering missed meeting, needed hotel bookings and other expenses.

Now if all passengers and all airlines united and sued the government for the compensations (those can be in billions, considering that no sane business person would fly without their mobile and notebook and no mother would want to fly without toys to keep their children happy, so that will cause huge decreese in flying), then the government will think twice before disturbing lives of tens of thousands of people even when all suspects have been arrested.

And we do not even know if there was any terror plot. Last time there was a terror craze in the UK, a road was closed and isolated, a house was raided and then disassembled and a man was shot, but in the end nothing was found.

Who will foot the bill this time? The news say that people will not receive any compensation even if they were insured, because "it was an extreme event". WTF?! That is what regulations and insurance are for!!! And the minister is saying that they think that most restrictions will stay forever. No carry-on baggage? That is ridiculose.


Next day means next week?

The Dell saga goes into second stage. Despite me having a priority XPS next day on-site warranty it took three days, one click-trough of on-line wizard, two emails and three phone calls to get the collection of my broken laptop going. And now it will only be collected on Monday. Doh!

I wonder how much it will actually take from the first problem report until I get my system back into a fully functional state. I was counting on being up and running by the end of the week, but apparently that is not happening.

British rural public transport

I am writing a collective article about all thing I hate (and a few I like) in UK, but this is too important to let it slide until then - I hate British public transport.
Background information: I live in Cranfield village (ZIP code MK43 0JN, look it up) right in the middle between Milton Keynes and Bedford. Last bus from Milton Keynes to Cranfield leaves MK at 19:20. Last bus from Bedford to Cranfield leaves at 22:40. None of them is late enough for my taste, but most importantly none of them is synchronised with other transport, like trains from London.
The Story: today the sponsors of my Masters project were meeting with a technical evangelist from Google and invited me along to a pub in London. I planed my journey via Bedford. The meeting went well, the time flew by and I found myself taking a Midlands express back to Bedford that left London's St. Pancras station at 22.00. Needless to say I missed the last bus to Cranfield by 3 minutes. Wonderful.
Of course the good thing was that I had done this walk once before a few weeks ago, when I was returning from getting my new laptop from Newcastle. Then it was a backbreaking 4 hour walk along a highway with a 10+ kg backpack and almost no water. This time I was more prepared - I knew the names of the villages in the area and knew the directions better and I had less weight with me. I also discovered a number of shops and take-away places that were still open at that hour (a rare sight here) and manged to get a sandwich and a bottle of water for the trip. I took a few safe shortcuts and in the end came home in just over 3 hours.
But still that does not change the fact - British public transport sucks, especially in rural areas.

Laptop down

A half an hour ago my brand new Dell XPS M1710 laptop stopped working. It just turned off and would not turn on again. I got my old HP lappie out and went to Dell site for debugging. After several quite nice debugging steps the fault fell into a generic "no idea what it is, but it sure is bad" category and I was told to contact the support, which I did - by email. Let's see how long it takes to get this thing fixed and how will they respect my Linux partitions if I will need to send it in.
Oh well, that means that I will go to bed early today - yay!

(P.S. As one might note, I am very keen to find good thing behind anything. I got into this habit when I was fired from my job last January. It helped me a lot. Repeat after me - every change is for good. It is that simple, you just need to find the good things sometimes. Sometimes it is hard, but the search is rewarding.)

SBackup revitalising - I18N

The development of SBackup was very stale for most of this year, mostly because many of the bug/feature that user were requesting required a significant rewrite of the codebase and at the same time I saw how messy the code has become over time. A few people came up and offered some help, but out of that only new icons and a command-line parameter parser were fully developed - other developers just took a task or a an idea and disappeared.

However this week my trust in Open Source development model was reinforced by Jonh Wendell. He approached me yesterday about localising SBackup to Portuguese and was also willing to add the i18n support that was needed for that. I gave him all the details he needed and forgot about it. But today he came back with working code and a translation.

That really inspired me to resume working on improving SBackup one little it at a time. Expect a new release version 0.10 soon with i18n and a few long awaited bugfixes.

Also, if you want to translate SBackup to your language - use this file as your template. There are only 75 strings to translate.

P.S. One happy user of SBackup donated some of his time cleaning up SBackup wiki from spam. Thank you for that! Now I only need a way to prevent the spam from coming back there :(

Cobert takes on Latvia (future, hopefull)

I was just told that Steven Colbert is going to feature Latvia in it's new sketch "Meet an ally". On his show, he often does thematic multi-part sketches where he meets with all participants of some kind of group. The best example is his ongoing '434-part series' "Better know a district" that even earned a Wikipedia article for itself. After talking with the representative of Pilau to UN, he found out that only military force they had was one single patrol boat and that it's ambassador has barely any relation to the small island state from the Pacific. Hopefully we will look a bit better :)

P.S. Regarding spelling - I have found that it is still more convenient to use gnome-blog package then to use the Wordpress on-line spelling plugins.