Tuesday, 30 June 2009

A History of Violence

I had high expectations for this movie as I have read some rave reviews about it. The movie started slowly and not too convincingly but I thought it would pick up. Unfortunately it didn't. There's just so much wrong in this movie. I wouldn't mind the simple story of a man living a happy family life being caught up with his past if the script and acting was good but in this case neither is. There are just so many unnecessary scenes in this movie that you have to wonder what the contents would have been if they had been removed as already the movie only last just over an hour and a half.

The opening scene in itself is completely unneeded. The two guys are bad, ok we get that. But it was obvious in the scene where they enter the diner and after that it doesn't matter any more. These two characters are really only the vehicle to get the movie going, now they got too much screen time as they are not particularly interesting. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The baseball scene at the beginning is another scene that I don't understand. The whole point is to show that one of the school mates of Jack's is a bully. But that becomes apparent right in the next scene. There is nothing particularly interesting in the baseball scene despite it being built up like there was (Tom and Jack talking about it earlier). There are quite a few scenes which don't really serve anything, they are not even interesting, have witty dialogue or good acting. They are just a waste of time.

Jack also gets a lot of screen time and it's apparent that Cronenberg just wants to show how violent tendencies are inherited. Trouble is, again, that these scenes feel disconnected and the message is far too obvious. The whole Jack plot is added to add some depth but it just doesn't work.

Acting and dialogue are another issue. Both are pretty poor. The only actor that comes through with something of an intact reputation is Ed Harris and he only has to play a simple bad guy role.

Ending of the movie is another disappointment. You could see it coming and it is only made worse by the terrible acting of William Hurt.

All in all, the core plot of the movie is ok but it is hidden behind numerous scenes that don't serve it and the rest is spoiled by mediocre acting and uninteresting dialogue. And I didn't even mention the sex scenes that were unneeded.

** / *****

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

What's wrong with these people?

I'm all for digital rights and all that. Everyone should have the right to say how their creations can be used. If they want money for their track, software or whatever, fine. We then pay or not use their product.

But sometimes (quite often these days, it seems) the digital rights' people make it very hard to support these rights even though I know that in the end piracy hurts the artists the most. I've seen some ridiculous claims (like having to pay $80,000 per downloaded track) but this case really takes the biscuit.

Honestly, what sort of imbecil thought of that? If I knew piracy only damaged these idiots I would be all for it. Every time you think these people can't come up with a more stupid idea they do. The only reason I can think of for these is that they have a bunch of lawyers working for them on result-based salaries. No lawsuits, no salary. The other alternative is they have some sort of competition on who can come up with the most ridiculous idea to take to court.

Maybe it is time to look at this again. Demolish ASCAP and other organizations like it because it's obvious they have grown way beyond their means. Their job should be to support the artists, not come up with ideas that make more people turn against legitimate products and into piracy. It's obvious ASCAP has far too many employees when they have time to use their time on something like this.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

The ridiculous task of installing Gitorious

I can accept I don't know anything about Linux, but the process of installing Gitorious is getting downright ridiculous. The help file for Ubuntu is badly outdated and documentation is non-existent (or I just couldn't find any). There are so many dependencies and tools required that you seem to have to fix everything by hand. I tried following the instructions in gitorious/doc/recipes/install-ubuntu.txt except for installing Ruby Enterprise. Here's a partial list of stuff I have so far done on top of that:

1. I have installed by hand the next apt packages (aptitude install), some were not mentioned some didn't install correctly on first try: apache2-dev, mysql, imagemagick, libopenssl-ruby, rubygems1.8, ruby1.8-dev, libmagickwand-dev, libaspell-dev, aspell-en.

2. mysql didn't start so I had to do "set LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/usr/lib" and uncomment "skip-innodb" from /etc/mysql/my.cnf

3. I also had to update rake because the version in Jaunty was buggy. Fortunately Karmic has a working version, so:
  • cd /etc/apt
  • cp sources.list sources.list.jaunty
  • sed -i 's/jaunty/karmic/" sources.list
  • aptitude update
  • aptitude install rake
  • mv sources.list sources.list.karmic
  • ln -s sources.list.jaunty sources.list
  • aptitude update
4. I had to install a number of gems (gem install) that were not listed in the recipe: mysql, hoe, json, stomp, rdiscount, diff-lcs, oauth, stompserver, raspell.

5. I fixed gitorious.yml by copying contents of test section to production section and made sure the values are correct.

6. /etc/init/init.d/git-daemon needed to be fixed becaus GIT_DAEMON pointed to wrong directory.

7. I had to chmod 777 /var/www/gitorious/log/message_processing.log.

8. In /var/www/gitorious/config: cp broker.yml.example broker.yml .

9. Aspell was missing ap.multi file, so: cp /var/www/gitorious/vendor/plugins/ultrasphinx/examples/ap.multi /usr/lib/aspell . Link

10. Still problems with Ultrasphinx, so: echo "lapse" | aspell --lang=en create master ap.rws . Link

11. I installed Stompserver at this point and configured and started it (hopefully) since this link says it's needed. I don't know how else to run it, so I did this: /usr/bin/ruby /var/www/gitorious/log/stompserver -p 61613 -b & . It also says about the need for memcached but I'm not so sure I need that because at least it seems like the requests are forwarded from Apache to Gitorious correctly.

12. I had to remove these lines from /var/www/gitorious/app/views/layouts/second_generation/application.html.erb:

<%= text_field_tag :q, params[:q], :id => "main_menu_search_form_query", :class => "unfocused", %>

because this was causing an exception.

These were of course mostly on top of the stuff said in the recipe. Some of this stuff was probably not needed, but then again it's impossible to know this.

Now I'm stuck trying to configure Ultrasphinx some more as I suspect this might be the problem. But if I try to any rake commands with Ultrasphinx (like rake ultrasphinx:index) I just get this trace:

rake aborted!
no such file to load -- echoe
/var/www/gitorious/vendor/plugins/ultrasphinx/Rakefile:2:in `require'
/usr/lib/ruby/1.8/rake.rb:2359:in `load'
/usr/lib/ruby/1.8/rake.rb:2359:in `raw_load_rakefile'
/usr/lib/ruby/1.8/rake.rb:1993:in `load_rakefile'
/usr/lib/ruby/1.8/rake.rb:2044:in `standard_exception_handling'
/usr/lib/ruby/1.8/rake.rb:1992:in `load_rakefile'
/usr/lib/ruby/1.8/rake.rb:1976:in `run'
/usr/lib/ruby/1.8/rake.rb:2044:in `standard_exception_handling'
/usr/lib/ruby/1.8/rake.rb:1974:in `run'

Problem is, echoe is installed (gem list --local).

In any case, currently there are no errors in production.log (under gitorious) and this in apache's log:

[ pid=22272 file=ext/apache2/Hooks.cpp:470 time=2009-06-18 14:21:37.964 ]:
Forwarding / to PID 24930
[ pid=22264 file=ext/common/StandardApplicationPool.h:405 time=2009-06-18 14:31:01.785 ]:
Cleaning idle app /var/www/gitorious (PID 24930)
[ pid=22264 file=ext/common/Application.h:448 time=2009-06-18 14:31:01.787 ]:
Application 0x80a3498: destroyed.

The last part seems ok, the app is just killed if there is no action for some time. It is automatically restarted when I refresh the front page (this and a few of the pages work, mostly either nothing happens or I get the "Failed to Connect" page).

The most problematic thing is I don't know how this is supposed to work so I can't really use any systematic approach to solving these problems. So I don't honestly know if I will be able to install Gitorious at all in the end. There are still a lot of stuff I'm not too sure will work, like the actual connection to git. In conclusion it looks like you don't want to install any software that uses Ruby on Rails unless you know RoR already. There is bound to be problems with missing gems, errors when migrating them and so on and everything is dependand on all of the sw components being available and being the correct version: rake, correct version of Ruby (1.8 and 1.9 don't seem to completely compatible) etc.

Redmine at least had a Bitnami stack which made the installation seem almost ridiculously easy in comparison, I'm guessing if I have to install it from scratch it'll be a similar experience.

Friday, 12 June 2009

More on digital photography

And just as soon as I wrote about digital cameras I came across a magazine review about HD quality digital video cams. They are pretty much what I suggested would be the ideal camera for most people. 3 megapixels, enough zoom, good lenses (aperatures could start at something like f1.8 and even at full tele be as low as f3.0 although I don't know how these work in low light), compact and decent still picture quality.

Only thing is they need to be a bit less expensive, in Finland these cost from 700 and up. Once these drop to sub-500 euros for a decent one (there are some available in US in that price range but they seem to have a few compromises too much), anyone who isn't dead serious about filming should consider one of these babys in the near future. You would get a HD quality video cam that you can also use to take your holiday shots with!

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

More is not always better

Camera business is an excellent example of when customer driven business (the usual case, I know) is sometimes harmful to the customers. I could think of many other examples as well, but this is as good as any.

The problem comes from the fact people think more is always better. I'm of course referring to pixel count. Two cameras, same price tag, other has 4 megapixels, the other 12, guess which one is sold? Why not stop and think what might be better in the 4 megapixel camera instead of assuming it's just worse?

It would be beneficial to at least 99% of camera buyers if the manufacturers stopped increasing pixel count and concentrated on other issues. Making a camera with 4 megapixels would basically mean better image quality in most situations. The camera could have higher usable ISO settings, so shooting in low light would be possible and since a smaller pixel count would allow cheaper parts, not just the CMOS chip, but also CPU etc. the manufacturer might be able to squeeze in a better quality lens as well for the same price. This would have better aperature, clearer image and larger dynamic range. And the camera would work faster since there would be a lot less pixels to handle.

But of course manufacturers have to keep increasing pixel counts because consumers expect it. And partly this is because in most magazines pixel count is the first thing mentioned. I have read lately several comparisons where the heading was in the form of "10 megapixel cameras reviewed". So the onus is in pixel count. The really funny thing is these cameras are usually in the so-called prosumer class, i.e. cameras meant for more than casual photographers. People you would expect to know things like this. But they fall for the same.

I have had a few prosumer cameras and by far the best lens was in my first, the Canon G3. It was really slow, like digital cameras then used to be, but it had a great f2.0 lens. It was so good I could take pictures inside French cathedrals without a tripod! Yep, all of those pictures were taken without one (I didn't want to lug one with me). Unfortunately the LCD screen stopped working and since it didn't have an EVF it became practically useless (since I couldn't access the menus etc any more) so I had to buy a new one. This time a Canon S2 IS, which I have to say is a lot faster and has more megapixels, bu struggles in low light. I also have a cheap SLR (Nikon D40) but prosumers are a very good niche. They offer almost the same features as an SLR in normal conditions but in a much more compact form. SLR's get really useful only in special conditions and special needs and when you need one you are carrying a big backbag just for the camera in contrast to the small bag hanging from your belt (like I carry my S2).

Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a market for 3-5 megapixel cameras with good lenses because everyone wants more megapixels instead. Maybe the trend will stop some day when everyone realises they have no use with all these pixels. How many actually make so large inprints that they need 12 megapixels? The details are still fuzzy if you try to zoom, mostly because of the lens. But of course it would be a lot harder to sell better picture quality and more shots without camera shake.

Another thing is the long tele lenses. How many pictures does anyone apart from some special cases (like wildlife photographers) take that require a 300+ mm tele lens? But to get these 20x zooms manufacturers have to sacrifice image quality, aperature and dynamic range and then try to fix some of these problems with software (hence stuff like HDR entering the market).

A camera with a good lens (f2.0-f5.6 for instance), lowish pixelcount and a decent zoom range (say, 28 - 200) with quick operations and manual, programmable and auto settings in a decently sized package would be the perfect solution for at least 99% of camera buyers. They would probably never need anything else.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Installing plugins to Redmine

Installing plugins to Redmine is both simple and not so simple. There are two problems:
All plugins don't seem to install (the install process gets stuck on these, at least occasionally) and then there's the issue of restarting the system...

The steps to install a Redmine plugin are:
  1. Download the plugin, some useful ones can be found from Redmine's Wiki.
  2. Unzip the archive to redmine/vendor/plugins (some require that the directory you create is named in a certain way).
  3. (Change to bitnami stack with ./use_redmine if you are using that)
  4. Go to your redmine installation directory.
  5. rake db:migrate_plugins RAILS_ENV=production to migrate the plugins (not every plugin requires this, but most seems to).
  6. ps axf | grep mongrel (or replace mongrel with what ever backend you are using)
  7. Search the part that says something like tmp/pids/mongrel.3002.pid (I have two of those).
  8. For each process, do mongrel_rails restart -P <redmine dir>/tmp/pids/mongrel.3002.pid obviously replacing the file name with the correct one from the ps output.
I noticed that if I didn't start both processes again, I got occasional "Page not found" errors in Redmine, even though clicking the link again opened the page.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Migrating to Redmine from Trac

I just managed to move a Trac database to Redmine on Ubuntu, but it had it's quirks. Installing Redmine was dead simple with Bitnami's stack (just download the stack bin, chmod 755 to it and run, couldn't be any easier). But to get the Trac database to Redmine was a bit more complicated, even more so because the db was sqlite3 and Bitmine's stack doesn't come with it. So, this is how I managed it:
  1. I copied the Trac db from the other machine to this (there apparently is some way of doing this remotely, but this was much easier).
  2. cd redmine-0.8.4-0
  3. ./use_redmine
  4. cd ruby/bin
  5. gem install sqlite3-ruby
  6. cd ../../apps/redmine
  7. rake redmine:migrate_from_trac RAILS_ENV="production"
Then I used the following values for the migration process:
Trac directory []: /var/trac/myproject
Trac database adapter (sqlite, sqlite3, mysql, postgresql) [sqlite]: sqlite3
Database encoding [UTF-8]:
Target project identifier []: myproject
And tadaa! When I opened Redmine in my browser all the tickets etc. are visible. Job done. Pretty much everything else was described on this page (and this for some ), but since I used Bitnami's stack, I had to do the "./use_redmine" thing to get the sqlite3 gem installed inside the stack.

EDIT: Damn! Wiki pages didn't transfer correctly, only one page and that one is wrongly formatted.

EDIT2: Damn damn. The Trac database used LDAP as the authentication method and Redmine doesn't support it. This is probably the reason why I can't log into the db, just view it.

EDIT3: Ah, things are looking up. The Wiki thing is no biggie, in this database there was just one page, so it's just a matter of fixing the formatting (mainly links). The password thing was much more complicated, this is what was required:
  1. cd redmine-0.8.4-0
  2. ./use_redmine
  3. cd apps/redmine
  4. RAILS_ENV=production script/runner 'user = User.find(:first, :conditions => {:admin => true}) ; user.password, user.password_confirmation = "my_password"; user.save!'
Now the password is set to "my_password" and with the default admin name is "redmine" and I can finally log in! If the admin name is something else you can find out it with this command:
  • RAILS_ENV=production script/runner 'puts User.find(:first, :conditions => {:admin => true}).login'

Monday, 1 June 2009


Sometimes Microsoft manages to make something useful. Usually unintentionally, but still. Microsoft Songsmith seems to be one such thing. It works by adding instruments when you sing to it. So, people have entered the vocals for some hits and the results are... completely wacky. Check these out:

The Clash : The Clash - Should I Stay Or Should I Go
Billy Idol : White Wedding
Metallica: Enter Sandman
Motörhead: Ace of Spades

Queen: We Will Rock You

And many others you can find in Youtube.