Vanessa Mae in Riga

On Monday I was at a Vanessa Mae concert in arena "Riga" in Riga, Latvia.

The concert was almost an hour late due to flight delay. It would have been fine if the organisers would let us into the hall or at least informed the several thousand people about the delay and its reason and not just have us stand in the rather restricted lounge. around half an hour after the planned start time, we were let to our seats and some ten minutes later an announcement was broadcasted explaining the reason for the delay.

Vanessa came out with her own band and a local Latvian string orchestra. I wonder if she played with local orchestras in other locations as well. The orchestra preformed perfectly as far as I could tell, which is not much because they were mixed way down and were barely audible most of the time.

I am a big fan of Vanessa Mae - I like classical music, I love her interpretation of that music and I appreciate how she made classical music more acceptable for a modern teen to like. That said, the concert was a mix of joy and disappointment for me.

The joy came from hearing the music that I know and like and seeing how it is played in real life. It was a great joy and most of the time I was bobbing in my chair as a very happy boy.

However, there were moments when I cringed and unfortunately there was more than a handful of those during the two hour concert. The problems could be put into three categories:

1. Vanessa missing a note or even a handful of them badly. I will be an optimist and blame that on the tuning - just the day before she was playing in Seatle in 80% humidity and then came to Riga and 20% humidity. She had to retune her wooden violin after each song because of that. She apologised for that mid-show.

2. Spotlight and camera missing the action. At times Vanessa steps back and one of her band members goes on a solo, but most of the time the person controlling the spotlight and the person controlling the camera were not 'in' the action and just stayed on Vanessa. The worst cases were when a couple seconds into the solo the camera would start to pan over to the band member playing the solo part, spend a couple more seconds framing and focusing and then after another second the spotlight did the same and by that time the solo part was over. Two cameras and two spotlight should be used for such cases with people controlling them having a clear idea of what happens next. One camera should always be on a wider angle shot and one for closeups, so that when a switch is coming, you could switch to wide angle a couple of seconds before the switch, give the closeup camera time to change target, re-frame and re-focus and then switch to it. And for the spotlights, one would always track the main person and the other seeking out the next person of interest.

3. Mixing problems. Vanessa was always way too loud and drowned out the other instruments even when that was not desirable. Background orchestra was too low. In general the mixing was very pop-ish - no dynamic range. The worst cases of this were Bolero and Storm. Storm is my favourite melody and I especially love the slow and quiet beginning of the song, but that was skipped entirely in the concert cutting straight to the loud part. Some other songs were also brutalised that way.

I know that true artists generate most of their income through concerts and for that reason I recommend every Vannessa Mae fan to buy the tickets to her concerts, but if you are an audiophile .. don't go there - stay at home with you trustworthy stereo system and FLAC recording of great sound. The concert is there to support the artist and for the atmosphere not for the best sound, unfortunately.

Beamers = BMWs

In reply to: Daniel

In Russia it is common to create pronounceable words from abbreviates and use those 'crippled' names instead in the spoken language, so "BMW" (the car brand) is not "Bee eM doubleU", but a much more pronounceable "Beemer" or even "Boomer".

Brought to you by "The more you know" (picture a rainbow). :D

Webmin alternatives

Everyone knows that Webmin is nasty - it does things in wrong way on a pure and nice Debian (and Ubuntu) systems and for some reason is not included in Debian (post-sarge) or Ubuntu. That does not inspire confidence in a root-running web based software to say the least.
I have a need to have a Linux server and give an administrator the ability to add/remove users, configure some LAMP settings, some email settings (SMTP, POP, IMAP, Spam/Virus protection), Samba and those kinds of everyday system administration tasks on a SOHO Linux server without having to know much about Linux.

Unfortunately I am very hard pressed to find anything that I could just set up and forget. Does anyone have any good experiences on this?

TurboGears widget errors

I am making a small project with TurboGears and I am just loving the widgets and the identity framework. There are some rough spots, like the documentation, but luckily for the most pars you can just launch an ipython interpreter and use tab completion to look at what functions are available. But then I got this error:
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "./", line 23, in
from foo.controllers import Root
File "...Foo/foo/", line 22, in
File "/var/lib/python-support/python2.5/turbogears/widgets/", line 169, in widget_init
validator = generate_schema(self.validator, widgets)
File "/var/lib/python-support/python2.5/turbogears/widgets/", line 277, in generate_schema
if widget.is_named:
AttributeError: type object 'SettingsFields' has no attribute 'is_named'

And I could not find any help on this. Luckily I found Lucas manual and by comparing the code I found that in this part of the code:
settings_form = widgets.TableForm(

Instead of passing the whole SettingsFields class, an instance of it needs to be passed ( as in "fields=SettingsFields()," ). Cann't wait to see all the goodies they are making now in TG 2.0, but considering my experience, I will wait until they update the documentation for it before diving in.

FON not giving me my own Internet

Unfortunately I will have to disconnect my FONera and buy a real WiFi router to replace it because that small box is a glitchy piece of crap compared to every other WiFi router out there.

The killer: if the LaFonera can not connect the FON authentication servers, then it thinks that there is no network available and does not let me use my Internet. There is even no way to force it to pass connections to outside which is required in many cases such as partial network failures (when you can not get to FON servers for some reason, but rest of the Internet works just fine) and for web signup pages that some ISP's use to login users to their network. And you can not use another PC for that, because it records the MAC address.

The box frequently freezes and the DNS server stops responding. I can continue working by editing my local DNS server settings to the DNS of my ISP, but that is no way to work!

The damn thing has no idea about uPNP which is a must nowadays for peer-to-peer transactions.

And lastly there is absolutely no way for me to fix any of this because the FON keeps a tight lock on the firmware. In the time when all good software and community projects go to the open side, the FON moves further and further to the dark side and that is disturbing.

I consider this a permanent failure on FON's part that negates my ability to hold my side of the Fonera promise.

It would be so much easier if I could ssh into the thing - ping stuff, traceroute stuff, put some kind of flag file to say that network in fact is there, release or refresh the DHCP lease or even restart the damn thing remotely. Nothing of this is available.

Almost a master

On Wednesday I had a viva for my Master by Research thesis on "Text classification by quality". After a 15 minute presentation and almost two hours of questions from two of my examiners, I was told that I will receive my Masters degree (after minor corrections to the thesis). It is a great relief and a great reason to celebrate!

In order of celebration I will embrace consumerism and get me two things: World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade expansion and a cat. Next week I will be going around animal shelters and cat owners in Riga in a search for a 1-2 months old black, male kitten. It has been my dream to have a cat again since my last cat died of old age 3 years ago. Unfortunately I lived in dormitories where they did not allow pets or in UK. But now, I can finally get one. I am very exited about that :)

Wow 2.1.3 on Wine 0.9.40

If you are playing World of Warcraft on a Debian or Ubuntu system with newest Wine packages from WineHQ, then you might run into a problem - WoW- files will crash on Wine 0.9.40 with some nastygrams sent in the direction of its mshtml implementation. Downgrade to 0.9.33 (like the version in feisty) and the patching will work just fine.

Photos, photos, photos

Finally I took my time and uploaded all my good Debconf7 photos to Flickr, 193 photos in total. Most interestingly I have created a much improved version of the group photo.
Debconf 7 Group Photo
Please do note that these photos are under Creative Commons Attribution licence, so please do give credit where it is due. And I also would love if you would send me an email telling where you have used my photos of the event.

Links to other photos (and mugshots) can be found via the corresponding wiki page.

You are next!

We need you ...You are next!

Tokkee and I are doing the mugshots this year and we need your cooperation. Mugshots are a great way for people to link the name to a face and remember that link even after several years. Liw did this as his project last year and it was great success - many people have now a better way to link a persons IRC nickname to their face which in turn reduces the tension in communication as you can very easily know who is the person you are speaking to.
There are people who avoid the mugshots and i wanted to ask them to reconsider. Mugshots is not a beauty pageant - in Debian people are judged by their merits. Mugshots are useful tools in future on-line communications, tools that could reduce the aggressiveness and flammability in the Debian IRC and mailing lists.
It is not the holy grail, but it helps. So I ask every participant of Debconf - help us make this mugshot gallery complete by contributing your own picture. And thank you very much to the many people that already did.
If you want to have your mugshot taken then listen out to when mugshot sessions are taking place - we take all mugshots in front of the cafeteria door, usually during the food times, so you have easy time finding me and tokkee there.

UPDATE: First 120 mugshots are uploaded here. Next mugshot shooting session will be tomorrow - on the 18th of June, during scheduled lunch and dinner.