April 2008

41 hours in an elevator

In 1999, Nicholas White had been trapped for 41 hours in an elevator. Thanks to the internet, you can now watch a time-laps video of his struggle.

More on this story on USA Today.

BBC: Interview with Mark Shuttleworth


Open source is the key. The tech industry has tended towards natural monopolies, towards a single company which comes to dominate the whole platform - it's true of databases, true of operating systems, of every category of software, due to the network effect.

Nothing new, but nice PR for Hardy Heron.

Read the full interview at dot.life

Walk of the Hawk

A boyhood dream of some day walking around the world. Not in eighty days as Jules Verne wrote about in his famous novel. But a walk around the world in seven thousand, three hundred and fifty days or thereabouts.

Harry Lee "Hawk" Mc Ginnis is traveling by foot across seven continents, since 1983. Now he's 81 and still living his childhood dream.

ShowMeDo video tutorials

ShowMeDo is yet another open source video tutorial site. What makes it superior to other sites is it's huge selection on topics, ranging from beginner tutorials to advanced software development.

There are still some flaws. I'm missing information on intellectual property rights, especially which rights ShowMeDo claims and which license the authors intend to use for their content. Additional to that, a decent designer would be a good choice, and some use of standards would be great.

But other than that, it's a good site with great content on it. Thanks to Ian Ozvald and Kyran Dale for providing this free (and ad-free) service to the community.

Original location: 'Practical Episode - User Interface Basics' at ShowMeDo from the Ubuntu category.

Thanks to Og Maciel for mentioning it at Planet Ubuntu.

Jason Beghe on how he got into a disputable cult (and why he got out)

American film and television actor Jason Beghe talks about his experiences as a member of a disputable organisation, which is monitored by the german offices for the protection of the constitution. According to the "Verfassungsschutz", concrete evidence of activities directed against the free democratic basic order continues to be available for this self-proclaimed "church".

The interview delivers a deep and personal insight into how easy Jason Beghe was drawn into the cult and why he decided to leave.

Interviewer Mark Bunker released the video to the Internet, so enjoy watching it:

Defusing one of the most annoying bugs in Ubuntu Hardy Heron: Stop Flash from killing Firefox

Using Hardy Heron for about 2 months, I'm happy to say that it's a great piece of software. Rock solid and with a lot of useful features.

Unfortunately, there's one really annoying bug:

If you start using Firefox 3 with Flash, odds are good that you'll experience Firefox crashing every few minutes while loading Flash. It seems Pulseaudio (Hardy's new sound system) is triggering a bug in Flashplayer, which causes Firefox to crash. Since Flash is closed-source software, there's no chance Ubuntu is able to fix the problem in time for Hardy Heron's release.

So here's how you work around the bug:

1) Current Ubuntu policy:

Package libflashsupport (which connects Flash to Pulseaudio) will no longer be installed as a dependency on flashplayer-nonfree. Without libflashsupport, Flashplayer directly sends it's audio to ALSA. This works great, as long as your sound card supports hardware mixing of multiple audio streams. If it doesn't, you'll get no sound at all from Flashplayer.

If you installed Hardy due it's beta cycle, you may want to remove libflashsupport and check if Flash stops crashing your Firefox.

sudo apt-get remove libflashsupport

2) Alternative workaround

Since my onboard sound card does not support hardware mixing, I was quite unsatisfied with the currect Ubuntu policy. I do understand that it's Adobe who needs to fix this bug, but the current workaround is hardly a "fix" for the problem.

Fortunately, Conn O'Griofa introduced a second workaround, which works much better for me.

He utilizes nspluginwrapper as a interface layer between libflashsupport and Pulseaudio. What makes it special, is that nspluginwrapper originally serves as a wrapper to include 32bit Flash into 64bit Firefox. It wasn't meant to run at 32bit Ubuntu, but it still works. To give proper credits: It seems this idea was born at the Fedora Project.

To use his work around, follow these steps:

1) Close Firefox
2) Install Conn's nspluginwrapper package

wget http://launchpadlibrarian.net/13470096/nspluginwrapper_0.9.91.5-2ubuntu2... dpkg -i nspluginwrapper_0.9.91.5-2ubuntu2_i386.deb

3) Remove flashplugin-nonfree

sudo apt-get remove --purge flashplugin-nonfree

4) Install flashplugin-nonfree again

sudo apt-get install flashplugin-nonfree

I had one Firefox crash since testing Conn's workaround, immediately after installing his package. Flash still crashs from time to time, immediately after starting a video for example. You'll be presented with a grey box where your video used to be, but you just need to reload the page to fix that problem. Not a single crash of Firefox since hours of testing.

Thanks for the great solution, Conn!

Update: If you're using Ubuntu for AMD64, you don't need the alternative workaround, since you're already running nspluginwrapper. One drawback: Scrolling over Flash with your mouse wheel no longer works. This was one great feature I will miss much. Let's hope Adobe fixes this bug ASAP.

OLPC may switch to XP

According to some sources, the One-Laptop-Per-Child Project is thinking about switching from Linux (Red Hat) to Microsoft Windows XP.

[Nicholas Negroponte] lamented that an overriding insistence on open-source had hampered the XOs, saying Sugar "grew amorphously" and "didn't have a software architect who did it in a crisp way." For instance, the laptops do not support Flash animation, widely used on the Web.

"There are several examples like that, that we have to address without worrying about the fundamentalism in some of the open-source community," he said. "One can be an open-source advocate without being an open-source fundamentalist."

Even so the last sentence is true, I don't get what the "open-source community" has to do with a lack of project management and resources at the OLPC Project?

Hans Reiser guilty of first-degree murder

According to CNET and CNN, Hans Reiser, known as the author of ReiserFS, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of his wife Nina Reiser.

Nina Reiser disappeared in 2006, her body has never been found.