• Category Archives tech talk
  • Computers and programs, maps and GPS, anything to do with data big or small, as well as my take on the pieces of equipment I use in other hobbies — think bike components, camping gear etc.

  • Compiz: Freely Transformable Windows?

    Posted on by Don

    I’m not even sure why I turned it on, but for some reason, some time in the past, I did turn on the Compiz effect called Freely Transformable Windows. I probably clicked on it randomly to see if anything dramatic happened, didn’t notice any changes and moved on, but if you look at the description it sounds pretty cool: you can rotate (in 3d) or tilt or scale any window, including its contents. If you look closer at the description though, you’ll also see that once the window has been “freely transformed,” you can no longer “interact normally” with it, meaning you can’t use it at all, or even close it normally — it’s like it’s locked up, with the window crooked.

    So like I said, I forgot about selecting it, and had no idea what it did in the first place. Unfortunately, it has a bunch of Control-Shift-Letter commands to initiate the effect, which override other uses of those same keyboard shortcuts, so I would be in Firefox say, press Control-Shift-A for the add-ons page, and instead of getting what I want the window would go crooked and lock up. As far as I could tell, it was some weird and serious bug.

    Well tonight I just happened to do a little Googling, and found the info that reminded me of what I did. I turned off the effect, and all is right with the world.


  • Conky Update

    Posted on by Don

    I turned it off, as well as all the RSS feed screenlets I had all over my desktop. (I kept the clock.) Those RSS screenlets turned to be a distraction and an annoyance, and luckily nothing worse, but I’m pretty sure that Conky made my system unstable: whenever I had it running more than a day or so, I started getting weird crashes in other programs. Turned it off, crashes (at least,thosecrashes) went away.

    I’m keeping most of my Compiz eye candy, but it turns out I actually prefer a cleaner desktop…

     


  • The Bullet, Bit

    Posted on by Don

    I’m not sure why or even how this happened, but ever since I upgraded to Mint my web server had been dealing with PHP in a very unsatisfactory manner: as long as the PHP file was in the main website area (/var/www/html) it worked fine, but I usually keep my web stuff in my own “user directory,” and in that directory any actual PHP was just totally ignored when the file was served up.

    This, for security purposes, is basically the default behavior, and there is supposedly an easy way to change the behavior, which involves minor changes to the configuration files. But, when I made those changes to the configuration there was no corresponding change in behavior… A week or so of Googling for answers, and (in the end, almost random) fiddling with the configuration files, file permissions, etc etc, got me nowhere, so I decided to just live with it for a while.

    Fast forward to Saturday night. I have no idea why I decided to mess with things again, but in the end I got so frustrated that I just completely uninstalled both the Apache server and PHP, and did a clean reinstall of them both, just before bedtime… Actually the reinstall went reasonably smoothly, to my considerable surprise. I broke a few other things along the way, PHPMyAdmin among them, but the server was up and running, correctly — after making those configuration changes that refused to work before — before I went to bed.

    Yesterday I spent a little time fixing and rebuilding, and today I got the last error messages in PHPMyAdmin to go away. Anne was joking that I love a challenge, but playing with PHP would have been the challenge, and this was more like finding my bike tools needing repair (and in the end, replacement) before I could even work on the bike, to get ready for a challenging ride.

    Mixing metaphors: I feel like like I’ve been putting off dealing with a toothache, and am now kicking myself after the dentist visit, for putting it off so long.


  • Almost-Weekend Update

    Posted on by Don

    Morning weigh-in: 187.5#, 13% BF

    Just thought I’d check in, and brag (I was pushing 200# in March)…

    The Sporting Life: The bike training continues apace, by the way. I’ve seen some definite improvement, in strength mostly. Endurance, not so much, but it should be coming. I have started riding Lehigh and Sals again, and I even broke out the singlespeed last night for Jacobsburg. What I really need is long road rides, sigh.

    Meantime, Anne and I also signed up for the Hersey Half Marathon in October. Her sister, and a bunch of her nieces and nephews are doing it too. I should — hopefully — be ready in time.

    Reading: I just finished The Mathematician’s Shiva, by Stuart Rojstaczer. Very good book, an awesome, well-written and well-structured read, with a great story — by turns funny and heartbreaking — with a lot of interesting math and science tidbits thrown in. It’s the story told by a professor of his mother, a towering figure in the world of mathematics who passes away, and the chaos that descends on their family when all her former students, acolytes, and adversaries come to pay their respects. There are also many jumps back to her early life, her work in mathematics, family history and dynamics, and academic and international politics. Just a really good book.

    RIP Joe Martin: I had a funeral of my own to go to recently. My cousin Joseph Martin passed away a few weeks ago. He’d been suffering for many years with Huntington’s Disease, and had been institutionalized and bedridden for probably the last fifteen, and now his struggle is over.  So sad, he was one of my older cousins, just two years older than me, and was the one I studied, as a pre-teen and teenager, for what “cool” was supposed to look like for me in a year or two.

    The wake and funeral were both in his home town on Long Island, and many of his old friends and hockey teammates came, as well as a large portion of the Long Island side of my Dad’s extended family. The funeral home was just up the block from where Joe grew up — the last time I was there was 2002, for his mother’s funeral, and he was buried in the nearby cemetery with his mother. My cousin Wayne came up from Florida; he brought the ashes of his parents, and after Joe’s service we had a small ceremony at the cemetery, where they will be buried with their daughter, my cousin Suzanne who died at 19 in 1967. (We stood around and marveled at the massive trees that weren’t even there when she was buried.) A sad day, but one with a bit of closure, and it was good to see so many of my relatives, and hear so many stories…

    GRAMPS, QGIS, Postgres: All that family talk, and all the photo albums that were bandied about, got me thinking about geneaology again, so I got that GRAMPS program up and running, and started updating what I had in there. I have about 250 people listed, but for many of them I don’t have much information other than where they fit in the family tree. Birth dates, death dates, where they lived or worked or got married, even for relatively close relatives I’m missing information. Working on it, along with everything else I’m fussing with.

    It’ll be a whole other post, but I’ve also been playing with Geographic Information Systems using GRASS and QGIS (mostly QGIS), and that led me to start messing around with databases. I’d already installed and played with MySQL for a while, but even if it’s everywhere MySQL is not all that advanced (especially for GIS), and so I also got PostgrSQL/PostGIS up and running.  I played with those for a bit, but sort of ran out of interest. Until…

    I started thinking again about one of my pet peeves (lack of information about old family photos), and since I was hyped up about metadata after reading a book about it, I thought I should be able to do something to capture or store that information, especially electronically, when or if they got scanned. (I’m talking about who took the picture, when/where it was taken, who are the people in the photo, stuff like that.) Anyway, there are all sorts of methods, including embedded metadata in the image files (like EXIF data for digital photos, only these are XML-based and show different info); even GRAMPS could be used with a little work, but I finally decided on a Postgres database using LibreOffice Base to be the front end. I have been on a steep learning curve — mostly LibreOffice, and mostly YouTube tutorials with droning voice-overs, so I do it when Anne’s not around — ever since.


  • Cairo and Lua and Conky, Oh My!

    Screenshot at 2016-02-14 18:59:19I’ve been playing a lot with the “eye candy” aspect of my computer setup lately. Not sure why, but I really got into the Compiz “window cube” decorations — I now have a whole bunch of medieval alchemy images hiding behind my ordinary screen (a close-up of the Crab Nebula), revealed when I spin the cube.

     

    I also decided to put a bunch of screenlets, or desklets, or desk accessories, or whatever they’re calling them these days. I found the screenlets program and I really wasn’t all that impressed, but it led me to the program called Conky, which does pretty much the same thing, only much more impressively. The only problem is that Conky has an unwieldy, text based configuration, which in turn can call the Lua programming language to do fancy effects, and Lua in turn uses the Cairo graphics library. I had no idea any of these things existed…

     

    Screenshot at 2016-02-14 18:58:37So I spent some time learning something about these new languages, and now, besides the floating clock screenlet in the upper right, and a few screenlets for RSS feeds floating here and there, on the right side I have a simple conky reporting my laptop’s hardware stats. I don’t know if I need more than that, but may play with it some more just as a learning experience, and to candy-coat my screen some more.