Category Archives: General


Just a short note to let any potential commenters know that this blog is being rocked by spammers right now. None of it is getting through, thanks to my moderation settings and a few anti-spam plugins; but it’s possible your comments might be getting lost.

I value all (actual made-by-humans-who-are-reading-the-articles) comments to this blog, positive or negative, so deepest apologies if yours gets lost. Just make sure you post something meaningful and easily recognizable as not spam. Thanks!

Windows 8: What will you do?

I was reading through UI expert Jakob Nielsen’s scathing assessment of Windows 8’s usability which has the tech press all abuzz this week; partially from professional interest (I still have to do a certain amount of desktop support at work, and for friends and family), and partially because – as someone who prefers and sometimes advocates a certain non-Windows operating system – I get a certain amount of guilty pleasure seeing the ol’ 800 lb. gorilla getting raked over the coals by someone with actual credentials and expertise.

I won’t for a minute claim to be capable of an unbiased assessment of any Microsoft product, but in all honesty I can’t see Windows 8 being anything short of a train wreck for most users. “Vista” may have become a byword for “catastrophically bad software release” (even by Microsoft Executives), but when you objectively analyze what was wrong with Windows Vista it pales in comparison to what’s happened with version 8. Vista had its bugs, its annoyances (UAC, e.g.), and a UI that was a tad too heavy for the hardware of the day; but frankly, for the gazillions of people who’ve been using Windows since the 1990s, the Windows 8 UI pretty much pulls the rug out from under you.

Some people will love it; in fact, I know a few who think its the greatest, most exciting release ever. Fair enough, to each his own. Whether you love it or hate it, though, you have to agree that for the average user – the folks who have invested about as much effort as they care to invest in figuring out how to navigate their PC over the last 5 to 15 years – the changes are quite jarring and will undoubtedly put a lot of people off the product.

So what do you do?

So, if you’ll allow that I’m even half right about how jarring and off-putting these changes are, what will people do? How do you feel about these changes? Sure, it’s easy for people using GNU/Linux, OSX, or mobile devices exclusively to dismissively say “just use <insert non-MS platform>”; but realistically there are many people and businesses who are pretty heavily invested in the Windows platform, or in software that is only available for it. They can’t just jump ship and run to another OS because the UI stinks.

I guess I’m fascinated to see how this plays out. Will people stick with 7? Will they just get over it and use 8? Will they hold out for 9, and if so will Microsoft actually deliver a more traditional UI? Or will they consider other platforms and OS? Or will Windows 8 turn out to be the best UI ever, in spite of criticisms?

What’s your plan?

Lykwyd Chykyn Pay-what-you-want Music Salestravaganza

I’ve been putting a bit more work into my music pages on this website, notably my Lykwyd Chykyn site; in addition to a revamped Random song player (now using HTML5 “audio” tags),
I’ve got a link to a page with all my songs, using a “Pay what you want” system so that you can have all the Lykwyd Chykyn/Alan D Moore music you can stand for a gift of 5, 10, 20, or 0 (if you wanna be like that) dollars.

Yeah, I know, maybe not what the world has been waiting for, but considering what people are happy to shell out to iTunes for DRM-locked tracks from the west coast music machine, I’m hoping they’ll see the sense in dropping a few
bucks in the hat for some liberally licensed (CC-BY-SA-NC) tracks made with love and care. Time will tell.

Check it out at

Blogging in Emacs, part 2

When I first set up this blog, I attempted to use the weblogger.el extension to blog to this site. Alas, it gave me quite a bit of trouble, so I had to scrap it.

Recently, though, I’ve been trying to get a handle on Emacs org-mode, and noticed an extension called “org2blog/wp”. If it can work, seems like a good way to learn org mode. So, if this works, it’ll be my first post from org2blog. Let’s see how it goes….


Emacs 24 is here!

Well somehow very quietly last month the worlds greatest text-editor/IDE/anything-you-can-imagine software, Emacs, got ratcheted up to version 24.  Actually, 24.1 to be exact.  Major version releases of Emacs don’t happen very often (between 2 and 6 years, on average), so I’ve been excited to get my hands on some of the new features.  My first attempts to compile it on my Ubuntu boxes failed, but fortunately Damien Cassou came through with a PPA for emacs24, and this past weekend I found time to upgrade my systems to the new version.


KiLauncher and Qt Stylesheets

The default theme of KiLauncher

The default theme for KiLauncher. Ok, so it kind of looks like your gramma’s formica breakfast table from the 1970s.

I’ve been doing a lot of tinkering on my KiLauncher project over the last week or so, and it’s not only shaping up into a nice useful little application, but an educational opportunity as well

My goals for KiLauncher were to make it both theme-able, and configurable with plain-text files.  The natural mechanism for this (for the theme, anyway) was CSS, a format with which any self-respecting UI designer is familiar.  Fortunately, Qt supports a subset of CSS to style its GUI classes, sometimes referred to as QSS.


Backporting with apt-src

So often with Linux distributions, the choice is between running a bleeding-edge system, or sticking with stable (and sometimes stale) software.  Most of us settle in to a distro that balances both to our liking, but there are times when you just have to have a little newer version of a package than the default repositories offer.  While it’s great to find a backport repo or PPA that offers newer stuff, sometimes that’s not possible.

So for times like that, I’m going to describe a method by which Debian or Ubuntu users can backport their own software using handy little tool called “apt-src”.


WCGBrowser updated

I’ve been wanting for some time to update my wcgbrowser code to be python3 compatible, but I’ve been held back by the ambiguity surrounding the configobj library — in a nuthshell, the official project isn’t 3.x compatible, but there is a fork that is. Unfortunately the fork maintainer isn’t putting real effort into a release, and Debian won’t include it until they do.

So fed up with that, I got a wild idea last night to port the code to something more supported. I considered JSON and XML, but settled on YAML, since it seems to be reasonably hand-hackable, well supported, and handles about any data types I need.

I thought this would be a big deal, but surprisingly it only took about 20 minutes to get things working. I decided to keep going with my momentum by adding the remaining command-line configuration parameters to the config file and making sure the whole thing worked with python 3.

I also fixed some logic bugs in the process. Nice.

If anyone out there is actually using it, you can get the latest code on github.  Naturally, the conversion to YAML will break any existing configuration; sorry in advance.  To make up for it, I’ve fully commented the config file so it should be pretty simple to figure out how to port it over.  Also, bear in mind that it’s now looking for a config file called “wcgbrowser.yaml”, not “wcgbrowser.conf”.

Debian for Ubuntu people

It’s no secret that many people’s first Linux experience these days is on Ubuntu; yet as they — for one reason or another — find themselves needing to branch out into the wider Free OS world, Debian is often the next stop along the road.  Having introduced a few Ubuntu users (in real life or online) to Debian, I’ve noticed a few common stumbling blocks, and thought it might be nice to offer a little guide for those making the transition (or expansion) to Ubuntu’s parent distro.

It’s also no secret that there tends to be a bit of friction between the Debian and Ubuntu communities, both users and developers, for a variety of reasons.  For the record, I appreciate and use both distributions quite a bit, so I hope that this article will help users from both camps have a healthy appreciation for the other.


The Debian Administrators Handbook arrives, free!

The big news in the Debian world this week is the liberation of the The Debian Administrators Handbook, which, thanks to donations from a crowdfunding campaign, has now been released under free-as-in-speech licenses.  It’s even been packaged up and placed in the Debian repositories, so it’s a quick “aptitude install” away.

I spent some time browsing through the manual online today, and thought I’d share my reactions.

« Previous PageNext Page »