...it's got bells on...

That's it. The Labour Party (of the U.K.) has officially jumped the shark. Here's Jacqui Smith (home secretary) attempting to spin the news that they've got their violent crime figures completely wrong for the last decade:

"She told the BBC: "What the statisticians are clear about is that the increases in the most serious forms of violence have actually in terms of numbers been more than counteracted by the decreases in less serious violence.""

In other words - yes, more people are being stabbed or shot to death, but fewer people are getting punched, and surely that's more important!

Bearing in mind that I'm a fairly left-wing type and I grew up under Thatcher, it's really coming to something when I'm genuinely feeling that a Conservative government would be better than a Labour one. But that's where we are, what with this kind of deplorable fatuousness, the apparent obsession with developing an all-seeing national surveillance system, and a complete lack of imagination on the environment. Roll on the general election.

It's an interesting contrast to where I live now (Canada), where we just had an election and returned a strengthened minority government for the Conservatives (same as the U.K. Conservatives, basically) under the deeply unpleasant Stephen Harper. Unfortunately, Canada is stuck with a genuine multi-party democracy using a first-past-the-post electoral system and a strong executive government - the result of which is that a bunch of intolerant thugs gets to run the country on the basis of the support of around 35% of the population. 65% votes left (or, y'know, Bloc) and we get a right-wing government. Anyhow. Harper is a lot more of a twat than Cameron, and the biggest opposition party (the Liberals) were led by a thoughtful, intelligent, dignified, respectful, honest and thoroughly nice chap (Stephane Dion) with a genuine practical plan for the future. Of course, they got creamed, because his first language happens to be French, and he wasn't willing to sling mud on Harper's level.

It's rather sad that, of the two supposedly centre-left parties mentioned here, the one that got elected for three terms was the one led by a grinning, demagogic charlatan and staffed by chronic liars and incompetents, and the one led by someone with the real qualities necessary to lead a country successfully was the one that got torpedoed.

Of course, I'll still be sending in a postal ballot for the Lib Dems. Doesn't make a blind bit of difference, my home constituency is solidly Tory. But it's the thought that counts!

The Register: patchy, but...

I'm a long time reader of The Register, but I find it's been dropping in my estimations over the last few years. It's a great case study in how losing focus reduces quality. They expanded to cover a great number of topics they never used to bother with, and also (this bit's probably controversial) went transatlantic. A lot of Reg writers are now U.S.-based, and it frequently prints articles that assume the reader lives in and automatically thinks about the U.S. ("the government", "the President", "the attorney general"). This is a big change from the old days when it was completely - and very visibly - U.K.-based. Now it's a bit of a mish-mash, which makes it disconcerting, especially when you're flipping between articles by the U.S. and U.K. authors.

But, anyway, my point is that it makes it all the nicer to see a genuine, old-skool Reg article like this one.

"In the typical American fashion, Yahoo! bought a bunch of shit it didn't need with money it didn't have. That, of course, was no problem at the time because the stock market always goes up, and they get a fuck-ton of airline miles every time they buy a Web 2.0 startup."

Ironically, this one was actually written by one of the U.S. writers. But its style, accuracy and sheer lack of waffle reminds me of the Reg circa 2001, again.


Yesterday, I bought a very sober black woollen overcoat, and a dressing gown. Last week I bought...a red sweater, and a blue sweater.

I am slightly worried I'm turning into Wallace (of Wallace and Gromit fame).

Mandriva Linux 2009 released

Mandriva has today released Mandriva Linux 2009, the new major release of the popular distribution. 2009 is a bold release which brings the new KDE 4 as the default desktop, along with a re-designed installer and Mandriva Control Center and many other new features. Other significant updates include GNOME 2.24, OpenOffice.org 3, Mozilla Firefox 3, and kernel 2.6.27. Key features include new graphical in-line upgrade capability, netbook compatibility, class-leading hardware support, and further improved support for working with mobile devices. For more details, see the Release Tour and the Release Notes. Get it at the download page, or go straight to the torrent list.

Digg it!


So, after today's baseball, the only thing I have to say is...

go Red Sox.

Mets? Mets? Who are they? They play ball?

Making stuff work

It's fun to make stuff work.

I just verified that with current Cooker, I can synchronize a bunch of contacts from a Blackberry (Curve) to a Windows Mobile device (HTC Apache, running WM 6.1) and it all works. Phone numbers, email addresses, everything shows up right.

Sure, this all relies on a messy hack to Barry's opensync plugin, but hey, it works, and you don't need to know that.

Oh, wait!

Also fun lately - Cooker is booting like greased lightning, thanks to quite a lot of bug fixes and Fred Crozat's work on readahead / preload. Fastest I can remember it booting for years. Neat stuff.

Synchronization in 2009: what's new, what's good, what's not so good

First things first, the eye candy: here's a video showing off how to synchronize with a Windows Mobile 5+ device (with GNOME) in Mandriva Linux 2009.

So today I finally got a 2009 test install on my clean testbed machine (long story), which meant I could get down to testing synchronization in a clean environment. I've now finished (more or less) the 2009 synchronization page on the Wiki. So - what's changed?

Well, the good news first: there's good support for Windows Mobile 2003 and earlier devices. 2008 Spring only really supported Windows Mobile 5 and later (as that was the only test device I had, and synce's WM2003 support at that time was not great). With the new synce-hal, and with my getting a Windows Mobile 2003 test device, Mandriva Linux 2009 supports WM2003 devices just great - it's pretty much exactly the same procedure as WM5 devices, and just as easy.

Also, I've been able to package the VFS plugins for GNOME, KDE 3, and KDE 4. This basically means that you can now browse your device, and transfer stuff to and from it, via Nautilus, Konqueror, Dolphin or any other app that supports your desktop's VFS system. No need to hack around it with wm5torage any more.

We're now using synce-hal, rather than the odccm system from 0.11 we used in 2008 Spring. This isn't massively visible to the user, but it does mean there's no more need for odccm to be handled as a system service - so you don't have to reboot or manually activate the odccm service the first time you install the synchronization packages. It's all handled by HAL.

And finally, the Mandriva firewall configuration tool is now able to configure the firewall correctly for Windows Mobile devices. If you tried to synchronize with the firewall active in 2008 Spring, you likely would have noticed it didn't work. I had a procedure to work around this documented in the Wiki, but it wasn't the cleanest of methods. Now you can just run drakfirewall (with the device plugged in), check off a box, and it'll open the necessary ports. Much nicer.

The bad news? Well, we use KDE 4 by default in 2009, and there's no way to synchronize with KDE 4's kdepim suite (KMail, Kontact, all that jazz). Simply, no-one's written an opensync plugin for KDE 4's kdepim yet. So it's just a no-go. You can only synchronize with KDE 3 or GNOME. Unfortunately, there's nothing I can do about that. A plugin will likely show up in due course, but it will likely be for opensync 0.4, which will make backporting tricky, as the entire current setup is based on opensync 0.2 (as the current 0.3 / 0.4 tree is completely unstable and unusable). So unless someone happens to write a 0.2 plugin for KDE 4, it's unlikely 2009 will ever get KDE 4 synchronization support. Sorry about that!

Beat that, Windows

It's nice when something you worked on becomes practically useful :)

My partner works in a cellphone store, so he gets lots of shiny new demo hardware. Right now he just got an HTC Touch Diamond (pretty nice phone actually) for two months. The phone he uses regularly is a Blackberry Curve. So he needed to synchronize all his contacts from the Blackberry to the Touch.

Try doing that in Windows! You'd probably have to set up the Blackberry software to sync from the Blackberry to Outlook, then use ActiveSync to sync from Outlook to the Touch. Bleh. Pain.

I just grinned, grab them both, plugged them into my PC, set up a partnership with the Touch with synce-trayicon, ran Kitchensync, set up a sync group, added the Blackberry and Windows Mobile device plugins to it, and hit synchronize. Bing, done. Took about thirty seconds. No intermediaries, it just syncs direct from the Blackberry to the Touch.

Neat, yes?

EDIT: Ok, so I spoke too soon. It turns out the contacts all show up on the WM device...sans phone numbers. :) But I have figured out why that is, hacked up a quick fix, and reported the bug to synce and barry, so it should get fixed soon.

Blackberry tethering in Mandriva with barry-ppp

ATTENTION GOOGLERS: this post is now superseded by a much more up-to-date and in-depth article on the subject. Please read that instead.

So I woke up early this morning to watch the athletics, and then I was at kind of a loose end...so I borrowed the boyfriend's Blackberry (Curve) and got tethering working.

For anyone who absolutely must tether a Blackberry with Mandriva, right now, or die, here's the quick and very dirty way. I intend to get this integrated much more smoothly into our networking tools for the release of 2009, though. For 2008 Spring you'll need /backports enabled for this.

  1. urpmi task-blackberry-gnome

  2. urpmi barry-ppp

(plug in blackberry)

  1. cp /usr/share/doc/barry-ppp/barry-sprint /etc/ppp/peers/barry-sprint

  2. cp /usr/share/doc/barry-ppp/barry-sprint.chat /etc/ppp/barry-sprint.chat

  3. sed -i -e 's,/etc/chatscripts/barry-sprint.chat,/etc/ppp/barry-sprint.chat,g' /etc/ppp/peers/barry-sprint

(just pointing the options file to the chat file, I don't know where it's "supposed" to go on MDV)

  1. pppd call barry-sprint

On Sprint, or Telus in Canada, this will get the basic connection up and working. Probably. :) It's different for every network, though. There are four sample files included in barry-ppp; try each set (replacing barry-sprint above with barry-verizon etc). If you have no luck, look around online for people who've got your network working with another device, and see if you can transfer the ideas to the Blackberry config scripts.

It still won't be working, as there's no route and no DNS config: this is because we've just bypassed the MDV network config setup entirely. There will be a cleaner way to do this, but I don't know it offhand, so I did it quick and dirty:

  1. route add default dev ppp0
  2. echo >> /etc/resolv.conf

and you should have a working connection. Now celebrate. As I said, we'll be cleaning this up.

MLB.tv on Mandriva Linux

Baseball fans probably already know about MLB.tv - it's a streaming video service, run by MLB, which gives you access to streaming video of most Major League games, for an annual subscription (actually I notice they reduced their prices a lot this year, which is cool).

I used to use it a couple of seasons ago. It kinda worked on Linux in the browser with RealPlayer for a while, but then it stopped. I figured out a way to find the stream URL and play it manually with mplayer, which was a big pain. In the end I kinda gave up.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to come across mlbviewer, a simple console tool which automates the whole process in a really nice way. Basically, you install mlbviewer, run it once, and it'll create a config file in ~/.mlb/config . You edit this, put in your MLB.tv username and password, then run mlbviewer again. It gives you a simple, console list of all the available games, you select the one you want to watch and hit enter, and it opens it up with mplayer.

It's extremely simple, and it works brilliantly. It's actually a much nicer and more convenient interface than the browser-based one MLB.tv uses officially; reminds me of much, much older single-purpose apps before everything was done via the browser.

I packaged it up for Mandriva: it's in /contrib/release for Cooker and /contrib/backports for 2008 Spring and 2008. I haven't tested it on 2008 but it should work fine there. It definitely works fine on 2008 Spring and Cooker. All you have to do to use it is what I wrote above.

It's also available for other distros, of course, and there's a great thread on the LinuxQuestions forums for discussions and problems, where you can probably get help with installing and using it if you use a distro other than Mandriva.