Review of Flash in The Register

I was happy to be able to get a review of the new 2008 Spring Flash into The Register, one of the biggest U.K. tech news sites - sometimes writing lots of nitpicking letters to journalists pays off, who knew :). Of course, it was good that their reviewer liked it - that always helps...

Spent the afternoon watching a Canadians game at Nat Bailey. Sitting ten feet behind home plate with a nice cold Granville Island beer and looking out over the outfield wall at Queen Elizabeth park is, in my opinion, reason enough not to want to live anywhere else for a long, long time...

of course, we lost the game, but hey, you can't have everything!

More on Windows Mobile synchronization

I should mention, actually, that I'm working on Windows Mobile synchronization again. I bought a couple of old iPaqs off eBay, so now I can get synchronization of Windows Mobile 2003 and earlier devices working. Unfortunately, one of the iPaqs I bought - a 3850 - doesn't seem to work, but the other one - a 1715 - is fine. I already have synchronization with this device working, and I'm now in the middle of setting it all up to work easily in Cooker. If possible, I'll backport the work to 2008 Spring once it's done. I'm using synce's new HAL-based implementation, which is working really well, and simplifies things quite a bit - great work by the synce guys there.

They're multiplying...

I really don't know what it is about being a geek - systems just seem to multiply. I realized today that since I upgraded my HTPC, I actually had an entire system in parts lying around the house; the old motherboard and CPU from the HTPC, plus a hard disk that was no longer needed after I made the bigass RAID storage array, some RAM sticks I found lying in a cupboard, and an old graphics card that was in a drawer. So I went to the oldest, dodgiest PC store in Crystal Mall and asked for the cheapest ATX case they had lying around ($29, including power supply...) and hey presto, I have a new system sitting under my desk. I'm gonna use it as a general-purpose testbed, basically - I can do a lot of stuff in VMs, but for things like Windows Mobile sync testing, it's nice to have a real machine.

The case is actually surprisingly good for the price, given that the price is "almost nothing". It's made of a very convincingly metal-like material, it almost fits together properly, it has a few corners on which it's not possible to cut yourself, and it came with a bag of screws. Oh, and the power supply hasn't exploded yet. :)

More sync work, interrupted by random insanity

Today I got a small box in the post containing an obsolete iPaq I bought off eBay for 50 bucks. I'm expecting another one next week. These are my Windows Mobile 2002 and 2003 test devices, to allow me to get Mandriva's WM2002/2003 sync support into line with the WM5+ support I already worked on for 2008 Spring.

So I had it hooked up and was about yay close to getting it actually sync'ing when my system suddenly refused to connect to my wireless network. Point blank.

Fiddled around on the system for an hour. No joy.

Then (oh, bad move Adam, bad move) I started poking at the router settings. Pretty soon, the router was refusing to talk to my cable modem at all. Just wouldn't ever get an external IP address.

I upgraded dd-wrt. I downgraded dd-wrt. I did factory resets. I did 30-30-30 resets. I power cycled everything in sight. I switched cables. I did voodoo rituals involving rubber chickens on pulleys. I took four hours out to go and watch the Narnia movie (not as bad as the first, BTW). I was just about to throw the whole lot in the trash and go to bed when I tried, one last time, power cycling the modem. And bip, the router was back to working like nothing had ever gone wrong.

Sigh. Hardware insanity.

So I came back to my laptop and, surprise surprise, it still wouldn't connect. Rebooted and tried kernel 2.6.24 instead of 2.6.26 and it worked. Dunno if it was the reboot or the kernel switch or the fairy dust or what, but it's working now. Sigh.

This server obviously was down during that whole incident, so sorry about that.

Still, now I have the test device syncing. Yay for that. On Monday I get to try and make it work without you having to actually type stuff at consoles...


Today I was upgrading my HTPC, which turned into a predictably painful experience. I'm upgrading from an Athlon XP 2500+ to a Pentium D 2180, adding a spiffy GeForce 9600GT, and three 500GB hard disks to form a RAID5 array.

So I get all the stuff home and realize the motherboard I bought only has two SATA ports, but I need four. D'oh. Back to the store (different one, actually) to pick up a PCI SATA controller card. SATA controller card doesn't work. Double d'oh. Back to the original store to buy a DIFFERENT card. About to break screen when boot up with new card and find it reporting a PCI ID that does not exist. Fortunately, switching PCI slots makes it behave. Finally, all hardware is working. Frankly I think this combination of hardware is also teetering on the brink of my 380W power supply's capabilities, but it seems to be holding up so far. So now the system is checking for bad blocks on the newly created RAID array. 1.5TB of bad block checks takes...a while. I'm estimating five hours at the moment...

Mandriva: 100/100 on Acid3

So, thanks to the fine work of the WebKit team - particularly the GTK+ port - Mandriva can now achieve 100/100 on the Acid3 web standards compliance test. I'd include a picture, but I'm not in a position to upload them right now.

Cooker users can test with webkit-0-0.32531.2mdv2009.0 and either use Midori (package 'midori') or rebuild Epiphany with its WebKit backend (two changes in the spec file). I am now sending the packages to backports for 2008 and 2008 Spring, so users of those two distributions can shortly do the same, if web standards compliance is what floats your boat!

For comparison, our current Firefox (2.x) build scores 54/100, with lots of red bits, and the word FAIL in bold capital letters. Charming. I wonder if even worse browsers get "EPIC FIAL"...:)

Mandriva's WebKit build also includes the patch currently being worked on in upstream Bugzilla which allows the use of Mozilla plugins in WebKit-based browsers. At present it works reasonably well for long as you don't try to scroll any windows. And yes, YouTube works. The plugin is getting refined rapidly by upstream developers, so I'm updating the package pretty regularly at present to keep up with developments.

Hate to whine, but...

Yes, well, it's not nice to whine, but...check this out. That's the most important news in the Linux world from the last week, according to Slashdot.

Notice anything missing, perhaps?

Yep, according to Slashdot, a preview release of Granular Linux, a vague Gartner report on the future of open source, Red Hat sending out a press release about software patents, and a preview of The GIMP 2.5 are all more important than a new release of Mandriva. Slashdot's been heavily neglecting Mandriva news for a while now, but failing to print a story on a major new release of the distribution - even in their Linux section, never mind the front page - is just ridiculous. Yes, we're not the biggest distribution in the world any more, but by any sane measure we're still comfortably in the top five or six, and clearly more significant than Granular. Yet a major new final release of the distribution does not warrant a mention. It's just really sad to have to deal with this kind of thing on a daily basis.

If you feel the urge to write and complain, I certainly won't mind. ;)

Personal milestone

So, sod major new distribution releases and anniversaries and all that malarkey - I hit a far more important milestone yesterday:

08 70 X X 9/ 7/ X X X 72 186

boo yah. next stop, 200!

Mandriva Linux 2008 Spring released

Yes, it's finally done. And for the first time...well...possibly ever? Certainly since I can recall,'s on time. In fact, a day early, really, as our initial plan set release for the 10th.

Yep, 2008 Spring is done, we stuck a fork in it and sent it to the mirrors this morning. Early seeding has been up for a couple of days, and the torrents are now open to all. I'm also happy that we got everything out at once: Powerpack, Free, mini, and all versions of One (including extra language versions) are out together. Powerpack subscribers can get it right away, and the box sets should start shipping within a couple of weeks. All in all it's been a remarkably good launch process so far, but I'm sure something will go wrong soon enough. :)

The release has some really nice new features, and looks to be pretty solid and stable. We're really happy with it. The community announcement is up on the Club, the press release is on the main site, and you can download it from the official page or find the torrents directly here. The Wiki, of course, has all the nice info on the release, including the Release Tour, Release Notes, Errata, Reviewer's Guide and more. The main page, from which all the others are linked, is here.

So go out, grab it, and enjoy it! I'm off to get some rest...

Windows Mobile synchronization: video!

Following on from my last post - I cleaned up the Windows Mobile 5+ sync support even more, and tested that it works from a completely clean install of 2008 Spring. And then I made a video, and now I'm sending it to the world. :)

The video shows me installing the metapackage for WM5/6 + KDE support, creating a partnership (with synce-kpm) and running a demo synchronization (with KitchenSync). It's riveting stuff, and it even has a voiceover. I'm sure it'll make me rich and famous...

Testing on Cooker, it seems most people can get synchronization going with their device, which I count as a huge success given how pointlessly difficult this all was about five days ago. It also has exposed several minor bugs in, particularly, how KDE handles synchronized data, so I'll be poking the KDE team to see if they can improve that. But it's definitely a good feeling to leap right from the "well how do I do that, then?" phase to the "polishing and bug fixing" phase.

I also need to make a video for Nokia and Blackberry syncing, and see if I can fake enough C++ to get this KitchenSync module for nice easy GUI configuration of the Blackberry plugin written. Not sure if I can manage that, heh.

Video is below!