Older blog entries for cinamod (starting at number 81)

13 Nov 2005 (updated 13 Nov 2005 at 20:22 UTC) »
Yep, HP, that play button on my iAudio X5 is sure hard to find. I have a hard time listening to all of my music.

The iPod is a killer app because of herd mentality at least as much as because it's a well-designed device. To be part of the in-crowd you must own an iPod and not an iPod-alike. Couple that with a multi-million dollar advertizing budget, a more "exclusive" price (cf. Luis Vuitton bags), and Apple's public preconception as a "cool" company, and you'll end up with umpteen million iPods sold. Apple's biggest "innovation" was making the iPod synonymous with "portable music player".

If iRiver, Creative, iAudio, or anyone else had half the pre-existing clout or marketing budget that Apple has today, the iPod wouldn't be so lonely at the top. Apple's marketing folks did a great job peddling a relatively expensive, feature-poor product with a "good enough" interface. They knew their market well and siezed the opportunity. Credit where credit is due.

Taking the plunge...

I decided last weekend at Luis' that I really wanted to take the LSAT. I've been waivering for quite some time. But no guts, no glory. So today I signed up for the December 3rd examination which gives me exactly 1 month to prepare. I hope that I'm not shortchanging myself too badly - I've taken a sample test and I did pretty well. The question is, will I do well enough a month from now to get into my school of choice? Wish me luck.

Luis, that's why I (tried to) framed the bulk of argument around RTF and not DOC :)

I don't buy your "more competition around open standards" argument as presented. To use your examples, there aren't more viable Web Browsers vying for my HTML-viewing marketshare than there are office suites capable of consuming RTF. There aren't loads of Gimps and Photoshops competing for my JPEG editing needs. There is competition around JPEG with digital cameras, but that is just an interchange format for the internal, proprietary RAW representation, just like RTF is in the Word Processing arena.

There's roughly the same order of magnitude of competition around all of these aforementioned standards, be they open standards or de-facto ones. Open Standards are good. But when they reinvent the wheel, they're somewhat less-good.

28 Oct 2005 (updated 28 Oct 2005 at 03:14 UTC) »
Luis, the problem with that is that we already have at least 2 "standards" for Word Processing formats already - DOC and RTF. I don't see what supporting another standard buys us. The great thing about standards is that everyone has one...

Microsoft and Apple already support RTF in the core OS (and have for a while. Apple's Cocoa framework supports DOC too). All the existing WPs support one if not both of those formats. We already have our interchange formats. DOC may be hard to emit and consume, but RTF is no better or worse than ODF. RTF already is the Esperanto (or lingua-franca, depending on your viewpoint) of the Word Processing world. If we all started speaking ODF instead of RTF tomorrow, pragmatically, nothing really changes.

That's because there already is a standard around which all the WPs measure themselves. And for better or worse, that standard is Microsoft Word. And that standard's file format is RTF/DOC. The WPs of the world are largely competing on quality and not feature creep, built around those standards. In this mindset, all ODF amounts to is a few thousand more lines of code that you'll need to write and support. But having your potential innovations constrained by a large, unresponsive standards body sounds less-than-ideal. As someone who voted "YES" on the recent referendum, I think that you'd show a little sympathy there :) I don't think that we've reached the be-all and end-all of WPs, and any such standard would have to be aware of that.

That said, file formats are boring, just like TCP is. You'll eventually reach some "good enough" state, like RTF or ODF. Like TCP, the cool things are the apps built on top of the formats. Any app that can emit ODF can emit RTF just as easily. Why more don't, I honestly don't know. As more people start using it, I'll continue consume it as happily as I consume DOC and RTF today - they're not going away anytime soon. But I do know that I'd be touting OOo's near feature-parity with Word a lot louder and ODF's importance as a format a lot less if I were Sun. But that's just me.

27 Oct 2005 (updated 27 Oct 2005 at 03:41 UTC) »
Cowon iAudio

Just got my iAudio x5 30GB "MP3" player in the mail. The sound quality, the video quality, the size, the codecs it supports. This device is simply amazing. If anyone is in the market for a new player, I highly recommend it.

Gimp and the GtkFileChooser

Burgundavia , the Gimp and Inkscape use the standard GTK+ filechooser widget. The widget can be extended to have a preview. What the Gimp doesn't do is use GnomeVfs, so only your local file system is browsable.


So Caleb is some sort of coding machine. In the matter of a few days, we've (read: mostly Caleb) (mostly) finished the Cairo backend for librsvg. In honor of this work, I've just released version 2.13.0 (may take a few minutes for the FTP mirrors to sync).

What's the big deal? Well:

  • It doesn't use libart.
  • It can generate more formats than just PNG - drawing to PDF, X11, Win32, Quartz, PS should all be possible now.
  • More conformant output - with the exception of some CSS and text, we nearly pass the W3C SVG 1.1 conformance test. We even beat Batik's conformance for a few tests...
  • It is significantly faster than its libart-based counterpart - on some tests, it's 6x faster than the libart backend. Using pre-multiplied RGBA clearly has some performance penalties.
  • It has the beginnings of a DOM API.
  • Did I mention that it doesn't use libart?

The library is stable - it can handle our own test suite, the W3C suite, and Batik's suite without incident. Only in 1 of the 182 W3C conformance tests did I notice any appreciable memory leakage directly responsible by librsvg (which we'll be correcting shortly). All told, this is one rockin' release. Carl, Caleb, Chris - you all rock. Thanks.

I will warn consumers of the library that the API and ABI have changed to accomodate this work. It's mostly backward-compatible, but there are some changes to be aware of. I expect the API and ABI to change further during the release cycle as things get ironed out and the DOM API formalizes. Caveat emptor.

16 Oct 2005 (updated 16 Oct 2005 at 17:47 UTC) »
Reverse Outsourcing?

It's been an odd week. I've had 3 Indians contact me, repeatedly, via email, asking me to do their work for them.

  • The first was a MSCE who works for Intel. This guy basically couldn't figure out how his compiler works. He doesn't know anything about building packages from source and wants bugfixes for wvWare that are available only in its recent 1.2.0 release. His machine runs (as best I can tell) a 4+-year-old Linux distro and he's complaining about glib-2.0 dependencies. I've been as patient and helpful as I can be (repeating things in the README and INSTALL files before telling him to RTFM), but don't I know that his project for Intel was due yesterday? Does no one at Intel know about ./configure && make?
  • The second was a student in Bangalore who "demands" that I do his CS homework for him. I pointed this guy to some relevant literature for his project (texts summarization, like I worked on for OTS) and politely told him that he would only learn by doing the work himself. Outrage, I tell you! Didn't I know his homework was due?
  • The third was a guy who "demands" that I export Microsoft Word art as LaTeX from wvWare immediately. I told this guy that we currently convert the art to PNGs and that converting it to LaTeX would be a lot of work that I don't feel like doing. Heresy!

These guys have all been extremely polite, but forceful, persistent, and presumptuous. What's in it for me? Intel isn't going to fire me and I won't be kicked out of school due to bad grades. Like I said, it's been an odd week...


Maybe the 0.3s Fontconfig startup penalty will be a thing of the past with its new devel version. Patrick Lam has been optimizing FC in order to reduce memory usage and startup penalties related to computing glyph metrics.

1 Oct 2005 (updated 1 Oct 2005 at 22:42 UTC) »
10 gallons of basil

So, in mid June, Ruth and I bought two small basil plants from a local nursery. Soon, the plants started to get big, so we split them into 4. Not long after that, the plants became a hedge of basil and overtook our back deck.

So today, we harvested the plants and filled a 13 gallon trash bag almost to the brim - about 38 liters of basil, all told.

So, I'm looking for suggestions, besides the obvious pesto and pasta. What should we do with it? If you're in Cambridge, MA, a perfectly good answer might be "give me some" :-) (/me looks in Luis', Krissa's and Bryan's direction).

librsvg 2.12.3

Thanks, Philip. A new release is out that should fix the problems you've run into.

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