RHoK Event in Toronto

November 30th, 2010

If you’re not familiar with what Random Hacks of Kindness is, it’s a community of IT professionals that works together to make the world a better and safer place.  RHoK works with disaster experts to identify challenges that are faced around the world and in a collaborative effort develops software to assist with solving those challenges.

On Dec 4th and 5th, Random Hacks of Kindness is having it’s second hackathon.  Hackathons are happening all over the world that weekend and Toronto is lucky enough to be hosting a satellite hackathon of its own.  The hackathon is taking place all weekend(through out the night!) and is being held at University of Toronto St George Campus.  If you enjoy collaborating on open source projects and wouldn’t mind helping the world at the same time, please register today!

More inforamtion about RHoK can be found here:  RHoK
More information about the RHoK #2 Hackathon can be found here: RHoK #2
Details on some of the software projects worked on can be found here: Hacks
Registration information for the Toronto hackathon can be found here: Register Here

Thanks for checking out RHoK and happy hacking!

Tiny Adventures

July 31st, 2010

A few years ago Asus started to include an ‘instant on’ OS as part of their motherboards called Splashtop.  It’s a very quick booting OS that comes with a browser, IM, Skype, and a music player.  The idea of having a very quick booting OS for those times that you just quickly want to check something online(movie times, driving directions, etc) sounded absolutely awesome to me.  I swore that when I build my next box it’s going to be with an Asus motherboard.  Of course I never ended up building a new box(still running a Celeron D as my main desktop….thats right…you heard me) so never got to use Splashtop.

<Star wipe to a week ago>

I was reading a copy of Linux Format and there was a blurb on Tiny Core Linux that peaked my interest.  It said how Tiny Core is a fast booting Linux distro that is 10MB in size. 10MB!  I decided to burn it to a business card sized CD-R and take it for a spin.  WOW! does it boot fast.  I had a GUI desktop booted up in under 10 seconds.  Quite a difference to the usual boot times I have that come close to 60 seconds at times.  This is all thanks to the distro running completely in RAM.  After a quick install of Firefox I was browsing the web.  I was sold on the distro pretty much instantly and decided that I’m going to turn an installation of Tiny Core to the perfect alternative to Splashtop.

Where’s my code?!

November 14th, 2009

About a year ago I was asked to come up with a quick way to send out a newsletter/flyer via email for Marie’s Gingerbread Creations.  I decided to write up a little app in wxPython.  User would use it to select a CSV file with all the customers contact info, type up a basic email, and send it off.  Worked quite well when I was testing it.  Had nice error checking and everything.  The shop never ended up using it, but it was still a nice excuse to do some GUI programing in Python.

The other day I decided to play around with it some more but I couldn’t find my code!  I managed to find a very early version of it.  It would send the mail but it had no error checking, wouldn’t personalize the emails to each customer, basically a lot of stuff was missing.  I was sure I had back ups some where but couldn’t find any.  I even went through all of my messages in my gmail account to see if I emailed my self some code.  Couldn’t find anything useful.

So….why am I even writing about this? Well, it’s because I learned a very valuable lesson.  Next time I work on a project, I will learn to use some sort of online versioning control system and have more than one backup.  No more using my gmail account as a backup/version control.  Really sucks to lose code.  Never again!

On the plus side, this gives me a chance to try writing it all over again.  Maybe even try a different toolkit.  PyQT or PyGTK?

One quick side note. If you’re in the Toronto area, I strongly encourage you to visit the shop.  Around this time of the year it’s filled with Christmas themed ginger bread creations.  Really great stuff.

My first bug report

October 24th, 2009

The other day I blogged about a fix for high cpu usage in X. On the Arch forums someone mentioned that a bug report should be filed for this. So…..I have filed my first ever bug report! After years of using opensource on a daily basis, I’m finally able to join in on the fun of making the software better. w00t!

X taking up 100% CPU on Arch

October 23rd, 2009

So yesterday I noticed that X is taking up anywhere between 90-100% cpu.  This is while I’m doing absolutely nothing.  Just sitting there at my bare kde desktop.  I came across this thread on the Arch forums:


People talked about how it’s the Flash plugins fault, X’s fault, kdm’s fault, but every time someone mentioned somethign new, the following post would say it didn’t help.  I decided to have a look my self and see what I can find.

I took at look at my /etc/rc.conf file and noticed that in the DAEMONS section, I have KDM set to load.

DAEMONS=(syslog-ng network netfs crond hal kdm)

I remembered that I have KDM set to load on boot in the /etc/inittab file as well.  Thought this was kinda weird.  Probably a mistake on my part when originally configuring the box.

x:5:respawn:/usr/bin/kdm -nodaemon

In the forum thread above, someone mentioned that removing KDM from the DAEMONS line fixed their issue and that their only complaint was that now they have to manually start X after loging in, I decided to give that a shot.  So I removed kdm from rc.conf and the line now reads:

DAEMONS=(syslog-ng network netfs crond hal)

I wasn’t worried much about having to start X from the command line after logging in since the entry in /etc/inittab should start kdm for me.  I rebooted, kdm loaded as expected thanks to inittab, and now my cpu usage for X is idling at a nice comfortable 2.0%

2739 root      20   0  167m  89m 8760 S  2.0  5.9   4:03.06 X

Quite a difference from 90-100% 🙂

I performed a cold boot just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke and the symptoms have not come back.  I posted my changes to the forum thread and hopefully this can help those people out.

Now….to figure out…why on earth would I set kdm to start twice :/

Can Ubiquity help our parents?

October 20th, 2009

I’ve come across posts about Ubiquity from Mozilla Labs before on Planet CDOT but didn’t quite know what it was and didn’t really look into further.  Recently, someone at work mentioned a video from Mozilla about a ‘you-centric’ web.  I checked the video out and near the end of the video, they show an introduction to Ubiquity.  I was really impressed by what it could do and immediately thought about internet users such as my parents.  Well…not exactly.  At first I thought about a story one of my collegues told me a few years ago.

His father wanted to know the winning lottery numbers for the draw the previous night.  He went online and into the address bar of his browser typed in something along the lines of

May I please have the winning lottery numbers from last nights draw?

This obviously didn’t come up with anything useful and my collegue and I had a good laugh about it.  As funny as this story was to me at the time, now when I think about it, I wouldn’t be surprised if my mom tried something similar.  I’m sure a lot of our parents may have tried something similar.  Their generation usually isn’t as computer/internet savvy as the rest of us.  The way they see it is that they ask the computer a question in plain English, and they expect the magic box to provide them an answer.  This is where Ubiquity might be of help.  If you have a look at the video about Ubiquity or try Ubiquity out for your self, you will see that it almost works the way that my collegues father expected it to.  Granted it doesn’t work with lottery numbers, at least not yet, but it can give you results if you type in a rather plain question/request in English.  The best example here would be trying to find out the weather near Paris. You would simply type in

weather near paris

And then Ubiquity would give you the answer! I personally think this is fantastic stuff.  It could really help make the web more accessible to our less tech savvy parents.

I encourage everyone to try out Ubiquity for themselves.  Please file any bugs you may find as this project is still in heavy development and any help they can get I’m sure would be appreciated.  Who knows, maybe one day it will be able to give us future winning lottery numbers as well! 🙂

quick post test

October 18th, 2009

just a quick test post

Hello world!

September 1st, 2009

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!