Posts Tagged ‘computers’

iSight Security Camera

iSight Security Camera

I live next door to my father and Cheryl, who have been caring for my cat Ophelia for years while I’ve lived in Ottawa and in various no-pets-allowed apartments. This weekend, I’ve been feeding Ophelia since they’ve been out of town. They have some lovely potted flowers on their front steps, and even a small fern tree in a pot.

Apparently some dorks decided to remove the plants from their pots this weekend. I came over Saturday morning, while Cheryl was still there, to be find dirt thrown all over the place. Cheryl had already replaced the plants in their pots, but we found it unthinkable that someone would stop by just to pull plants out of pots.

Sunday morning, on my trip over to visit the cat, I found that all the plants had been de-potted again. After replacing them as best I could, I setup a security camera to watch the front steps:

I discovered a couple interesting things:

  • EvoCam has a very nifty motion sensor feature, which works very well.
  • The normal stands that come with the iSight are not well suited for being placed on a flat surface. They are geared purely towards being placed on a computer monitor.
  • When using a thick firewire cable, rather than Apple’s recommended thin firewire cable, the cut off top of a pop bottle is an effective stand for an iSight camera.
  • An empty casing for the Simpsons’ DVDs works well to boost the camera up a bit, as well as providing a nice escape route for the firewire cable.

Fortunately, the plants were undisturbed overnight. This is good, since I’m not entirely sure how well the camera would have worked in the darkness. I left the porch lights on to give some light, and the iSight is generally pretty good in the dark, but I never tested it in this security camera configuration.

KMDI's Open Source Conference

I’ve been attending an Open Source conference at the University of Toronto, organized by the Knowledge Media Design Institute. The conference has been extremely interesting for a number of reasons, which I will iterate here in chronological order.

I’m here mostly because of Catspaw‘s involvement in the conference. I’m also here staying with her while I attend the conference. This is a major important part of understanding why many of the odd events here have occured.

  • The day before the conference, I chatted with a volunteer by the name of Leigh. Although originally I was just listening to a conversation between her and Jason Nolan, eventually just the two of us were talking. At some point the topic of the Internet retaining information came up, and we used Catspaw’s laptop to lookup her name on google. One of the relevant google groups search result was from a newsgroup alt.dragon-net, which she claimed was a MUD she used to use.

    Well, the discussion continued on MUDs, when Leigh made the interesting claim that she had once dated two wizards from a single MOO (although she hadn’t known they were on the same MOO until much later). I dug into this and discovered she was referring to two people from MOO Canada, where she had previously had a character and used. She had even previously attended a MOO picnic. She was even a close friend of a good friend of mine, Joanna.

    This relatively random encounter was with a person who I had probably met before many years prior, and knew of myself and Catspaw (only by the name Catspaw), and was a very close friend-of-a-friend relation. Small world.

  • Sunday morning, we were treated to an amazing speech by Eben Moglen. He made a great, moving, active speach supporting Free software. It was one of the highlights of this conference. "We will win."

  • During the break between the Sunday sessions, I was standing next to the refreshment table when a voice from behind asked, "What’s with the Python shirt?" (referring to my wonderful Python t-shirt, of course). I turned around to be faced with David Ascher, one of the conference speakers and the current manager of product development at ActiveState. I had hoped to talk with him during the conference, and here was my chance. Surprised as I was though, I had nothing insightful or useful to say.

  • Sundary afternoon, it got even better. A panel on the law and politics of open source became a debate on legal issues surrounding free software and the GNU general public license. David McGowan spoke amazingly well to poke a hole in the wonderful balloon of emotion that Eben had earlier generated amoung the audience. Barry Sookman followed with a continuing and more detailed evaluation of the GPL, with specific references to Canadian copyright law.

    Eben was allowed to take the stage to comment. He replied with some very breakneck comments that blew away the earlier points of discussion.

    One of the conference attendees, while posing a question, described the situation very well. "You’re all excellent speakers, with an excellent discussion. I believed everything each of you said as you said it, which is amazing since it all conflicted with each other." (Ian D. Allen).

  • I helped Nancy Frishberg transfer her presentation slides off her laptop (which was running the Java Desktop System) and into the KMDI ePresence network server. I was happy to help, but I was very confused by a couple of points of this interaction:

    1. Why does a Sun employee need help doing such a simple seeming task using their own desktop environment? I mean, clearly she didn’t write the entire system, but I would have thought she might have the channel of input necessary to tell the software developers to make such a thing easy. It was … unintuitive, but understandable.
    2. Nancy kept a copy of the terminal session I used and put it into a StarOffice document after the process was done. I’m very curious what she planned to do with that… send it to the developers and suggest she doesn’t want to do such things ever again? Place it into documentation for the desktop system?
  • After David Ascher’s presentation during the Monday morning panel, a question was asked by a dude in a red plaid shirt. His question related to Komodo, in which he refered to it as a tool aiding the development of things like MUDzilla. This was an extremely odd comment. As one of the developers of MUDzilla, I was shocked to hear anyone else refer to our small, unmaintained, and very limited-audience piece of software.

  • After the morning panel on Monday, I got a chance to intercept David Ascher while he was leaving the conference room. I asked him whether ActiveState had any plans to develop an OSX version of their wonderful Komodo IDE. His response was, "if I had a nickel for every time I was asked that question…" to which I replied "You could have more than a nickel for every time." Anyways, his answer was that it was not as simple as it seemed to port, and market research had indicated it was not likely that many full commercial copies of the software (at $300 each) would be sold. It was not going to be profitable due to a large amount of development and a small potential return.

  • Nancy Frishberg’s presentation included a quotation from Catspaw’s recent paper on Five Fundamental Issues with Open Source Software. Cecil noticed this just shortly before her presentation began as she was zipping through her presentation on screen. We informed Catspaw and someone introduced the two of them. I find it pretty ironic that one of the presenters during this conference was quoting the volunteer organizer of the conference.

reStructuredText and AT&T 386 UNIX

Since I’ve been trying to get active in Python development, I’ve noticed the proliferation of reStructuredText into the world of Python documentation. I’ve taken an interest in reStructuredText. It seems to be an easy way to write documentation and other text that can be converted into HTML painlessly. It is much easier to write than HTML, and yet it provides just enough flexibility for most activities.

I’ve added reStructuredText as an option within Growlmurrdurr as a way to write weblog entries. This entry is the first to be written in reStructuredText, other than my test entries. Thanks to the wonder of XML-based file storage, my reStructuredText entries can co-exist with HTML entries without any problems. Yay!

I’ve converted MOOzilla’s documentation out of the much more dreadful DocBook format and into reStructuredText. Section 3 of the MOOzilla documentation, Building with MOOzilla, is nearly complete due to my renewed documentation efforts. It looks like another MOOzilla release with documentation might happen sometime this century! Qa’pla!

Alright, off the ReST discussion for a minute. Cecil and I had a trying lunch hour. Our local network administrator referred an associate of his to us for help with a ‘Linux, version unspecified’ box which was supposedly failing to boot at a local law firm. Cecil and I went out as Linux consultants to take a look at the problem. Well, it turns out Linux wasn’t involved at all.

The law firm had an ancient AT&T 386 UNIX box with a terrible green monitor. This box occasionally would poll a device attached to it and get accounting information, and store it locally. A nearby DOS machine would connect to the UNIX machine through a serial connection, using kermit, and download files that had accumulated daily, where they could be transferred to a disk.

It was an ancient, awful setup. And it didn’t work. We set about diagnosing the problem, trying to figure out how the ugly AT&T UNIX worked relative to our modern Linux experience, and so on. Within a half hour, we were pretty sure of one thing: We weren’t getting anything done. It was around when I was about to loose all hope that Cecil discovered the problem. "Shouldn’t that machine be connected to something? I see power, and keyboard, and monitor…" Sure enough, the serial connector into the DOS machine was disconnected, laying on the floor nearby underneath a garbage can. Qa’pla!

The moral of the story is: check the hardware too, not just the software.

Internet Access

Finally got home Internet access today. Hooray.

Today sucked, though, in general. Our source control system at work was down in the morning due to database corruption. It was taking hours to run a repair utility, so Cecil and I went out and toured a near-to-nearby computer store out of boredom. Then we returned to work, found that the source control was still down, and left to go back to my home. We waited around for the ADSL installer, had lunch, and then decided to take the rest of the afternoon off too. We didn’t do anything all too productive. Mostly it was an exercise in not working out of spite.

It’s nice having Internet access. To be able to lay in bed and be online is comforting. Good night world.

The Joys of a New Home

On Monday, I will finally get Internet access at my home. Yay! The Nucleus installer is coming over at 1pm to setup my ADSL line. I’m so happy. The thought of having constantly accessable Internet access is so good. So often lately I’ve needed to use Google to find technical or other information and been unable to without slowly dialing up and blah blah blah and getting angry and smashing things. Or something.

Work is pretty busy. I’ve got a team of engineers as technical guidance people for a new piece of software. It’s less frustrating, more fun, and more rewarding than working on a project alone with no input. I’ve got a meeting on Tuesday which I’m kinda dreading.

Cecil and I spent about 5 hours last night playing Master of Orion 2 at work, until we got tired and hungry and left for food. I came back over to his apartment this morning to continue the game, which took another 4 or so hours before we had happily genocided the galaxy into our own image. We went out, shopped around Future Shop, and then picked up Claudia at the airport after she arrived from her trip home.

I think tomorrow we might go out geocaching, so expect some new pictures and fun! I dunno where we’ll go, or what we’ll find, but I do know that Superman will protect us from the evil Lex Luthor.

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