Loud ramblings of a Software Artisan

Tuesday 29 November 2005

PIM data synchronisation, part 1

Imagine you have a cell phone, a PDA and a PIM software on your computer. You expect to have the same set of contact and calendar events on each device, or a consistent subset. Currently PDA and phone are converging in term of functionalities as phone are having more than just a phone book and some PDA including cell-phone functionnalities. In fact you may just end up having one of these two, but still surely have a home PC.

So you need to synchronise your data from the PDA to the PC. This is something Palm popularised with their Palm Pilot back in 1995. You put the PDA on the craddle, you press the HotSync button and your data gets synchronised in between the two, carrying the changes made on one side to the other and vice-versa. But this was with one device, one PC software, problem was quite restricted 10 years ago. It slowly expanded to other PC software still using the same middleware. Not very different.

Add the cell-phone to the equation, and it does no longer work. PDA A has its software, cell-phone B has its software, and they are hardly interroperable together, even if sometime then end up being plugin of the same PIM software.

That is what iSync from Apple sort of tried to address: synchronising multiple devices, and it took time (2 OS release) before Apple provided the proper APIs for 3rd parties ISV to write drivers or support syncing in their applications.

Now let's see about Free Software solution. There have been several attempts to provide syncing tools, usually between one device to the PC. J-Pilot, Gnome-Pilot, KSync, KPilot, etc. are amongst them. Then came Multisync, whose goal was to provide synchronisation amongst multiple devices and your desktop PC. It was GNOME centric and for that reason got superceeded by OpenSync whose goal is to provide a general purpose synchronisation framework. fejj has been hacking on OpenSync lately, resulting in producing some patches to fix various issues and disappointements. We chated shortly about that on #gnome-hackers and I thought I would give some views on my ideas about thinking. After discovering some flaws in the design of MultiSync, I started thinking about it, but never got through finding the time to implement them, nor to put them down.

To be continued...

Friday 25 November 2005

My life with the Nokia 770

For a few days, our only internet access was throught wireless network with the Nokia 770. I tried with the laptop but the prism54 card I'm using didn't get any signal while the Nokia 770 could.

Could we turn the Nokia 770 into an USB to Wifi adapter? I think it is possible. We have almost all the bricks. We just need to write a CDCEther driver for the USB slave (relatively trivial, I have done that in the past for the freebox) and bridge that ethernet interface to the wifi driver. And all the wifi specific configuration be handled by the UI in Maemo. Linux has a CDCEther driver built-in.

Thursday 24 November 2005

...welcome to Gatineau

I accepted a job offer from Xandros to work in their development team based in Ottawa, Ontario. So I moved to Gatineau, Quebec, which is just accross the Ottawa River.

In 5 days we managed to pack and move all our stuff to our new home in Gatineau (with help from movers), to acquire a much needed vehicle (mass transit is mostly non-existant, unlike in Montreal) and other needed stuff.

ADSL is back online with a little advance, but with a little glitch: I should congratulate Magma tech support for solving the issue quickly (unlike for Rodrigo with a different ISP). I'm quite impressed, as I usually have really bad experiences with tech support in general. My servers are now working fine.

Thursday 17 November 2005

Goodbye Montreal

So it is now official. I have accepted a job offer outside of Montreal, so I must leave the island behind to go there.

I have become a specialist in book packing, etc. and I realize I definitely own too much books. Two moves in less than a year (my stuff arrived from France last January).

This server will be offline for a few days starting Sunday, and I might be aswell as they are all dependent on how fast the ADSL service will be reconnected. Expect it to be back later.

Je me souviens

Friday 11 November 2005

Geek in pubs

Pubs with random wifi access points are real geeknests....

Posted from a Nokia 770.

Wednesday 9 November 2005

New use case for AbiWord

Mobile Analysis Development has a new use case for AbiWord: taking notes on a Nokia 770, using a bluetooth keyboard.

Tuesday 8 November 2005

One more reason to not buy "copy protected" CDs

Some reports tell us that a big music publisher had produced CDs that installed a malware on users' Windows PCs with a cloaking device. They acknowledge the problem and released a fix to remove the cloaking technology (but still keep the malware!). The purpose of that software is to prevent you from exercising the right to private copy that is granted in several countries, including but not limited to: France, Canada, etc. Fortunately the problem is only on MS-Windows, as usual.

Off course, the $BIG_COMPANY don't seem to talk about replacing said defective CDs. It is just one more case of a big brother company willing to remove the rights granted by the country you live in, for a product you purchased. The paradox is even bigger when the same companies lobby governments to collect a tax for blank medias and music players (like the 50EUR tax on iPod Nano in France.

Personaly, I decide that I would not buy a CD that I can't rip to put on my computer. There is no reason why I wouldn't be allowed to do that anymore, mostly because the price hasn't gone down in almost 20 years. And some will argue that the protection can be worked around, I'll just make it a matter of principle.

OS incompatibility

The governement of Canada does not like Linux. They don't let me apply for the unemployement online, as they told me to do after I came at their office to get the information.

They "check" the browser, and the code is voluntarily bogus:

The check the "User Agent" string, find the OS, and set OS_Good to true only if they found Windows or MacOS. Then they never set isGood to true because of that.

See script 1 and script 2. You'll see that they do it on purpose as they already check all the cases for less common platforms.


Sunday 6 November 2005

Nokia 770 scrolling

jrb: scrolling is hard sometime without using the stylus. I wish too there was a wheel.

Saturday 5 November 2005

Pizza and Beer

Beer and pizza. That was the programme last night with several people from Ubuntu. We ended up being 14 at my place. Lot of talk, lot of fun. We should do that more often. When will there be another summit or conference in Montreal?

A few days with the Nokia 770

I have my Nokia 770 since Wednesday and I have been playing probably too much with it than I should. Ah nevermind.

  • The screen is really crisp and legible. They actually claim to have 225dpi.
  • I upgraded to the newer release, 42-9. Doing so require using a proprietary flasher program. That is a bit odd.
  • Opera, the default browser is quite fast, and works fine on the 800x480 screen. I hate Opera User-Agent. Shows up as IE.
  • Input with virtual keyboard is painful, even if you have prediction of what the user input and Input with character recognition works even less, but I also have issues with Grafitti2 on the Palm. That is probably my awful handwritting. Actually the Newton didn't do bad at that time.
  • I still wonder why it does not come with a PIM by default. Even if it is an Internet Tablet, it should be able to replace a Palm for the PIM features, as one do not want to carry another device. I have installed GPE, still waiting for the calendar to work. I wonder what are Nokia plans to that regard, but for me it sounds natural to have PIM on this kind of device. Long term would be to add a cell-phone, but that is hardware.
  • There are a bunch of usability issues that I have to report, mostly using it without the stylus.

But my overall impression is good.

Friday 4 November 2005

Road trip to Ottawa

Drove to Ottawa yesterday for a job interview.

  • Gas is .12$ a liter less in Ottawa than in Quebec. Even in Gatineau, QC, which is just accross across the river, the gas is that expensive compared to Ottawa.
  • Housing is more expensive. Think $200 more a month for a similarly sized 2 bedroom appartment.
  • Obviously a car would be an almost required acquisition

I should post the couple of shots I have had the time to make, but they are still on the camera :-/

Wednesday 2 November 2005

It is here !

DHL delivered my Nokia 770. I'm using it right now to post this .

Rock on ! Thanks Nokia !

PS: and I got a replacement power supply for the PowerBook. Thanks Ol! Works okay-ish. In fact it is also a problem on the motherboard.

UBZ Day +3 - Plugging nightmare

The problem when people come around from the world with laptop is that you end up with a huge nightmare of plugs and adapterm. This come to an addition of all the cables because everybody is working on their laptop:

Marilize, the woman behind shipit and Kiko, who codes large parts of Launchpad:

Lamont Jones and Claire, without who UBZ wouldn't be UBZ:

In the morning, we have had a presentation of Launchpad by Brad Bollenbach:

gallery 1 - gallery 2

Nikon D100, a short try out

Today I borrowed for 15minutes magnon's Nikon D100 with a 50mm f1.4. I must say that I'm a bit impressed. It is a real pleasure to use (aside the non-USM autofocus, I should have switched to manual focus). The viewfinder is really bright and really comfortable. It is the first time I used that model. The D100 is really convenient, and I didn't have any trouble switching for my Canon, unlike for the F70 the I have used for a short time and whose user interface is really different.

I took the camera as is, so I didn't realize it was in RAW mode, so I have now a bunch of NEF files to process. ufraw seems to do a real good job at processing, despite some minor glitches with EXIF that I should report.