* Posts by viet 1

42 publicly visible posts • joined 23 Jul 2009

This year's classy compact cameras

viet 1
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They make pretty decent images, granted. Especially in black and white. But the build quality is terribly poor, the AF is a joke not worth mentioning, and the announced pixel count in "bayer matrix equivalent" is borderline fraudulent (not that I believe in more pixels => better camera, but I feel cheated when true number is 1/4 of advertised one). Better save your money for this when it finally comes out (at a price, Ouch !) :


viet 1

My mistake

You're absolutely right. I got confused here. Thanks for the rectification.

I'm tiptoeing -->[ ]

viet 1

You have a point too

But it really depends on your needs. I won't dispute on the usefulness of modern DSLR's amenities. They are some pros' bread and butter, especially those working in areas where speed is prime (sports and weddings comes to mind). But how many photographers are making a living on their cameras ? And which pros exactly need to suck dry their memory card capacity in less than a minute ?

One should never forget a whole generation of reporters brought back worldwide acclaimed images from all over the world using only a leica, a 35mm lens, and tri-X.

The good camera is the one that's ready in your hand when something happens. If you don't have problems carrying your EOS 1D around your neck, by any means, do it. Maybe I'd like it too, but I can't. It's too big for me, it breaks my back, it scares away people from scenes I'd like to picture, and it would be much too expensive to replace if it got stolen or damaged. My e-p1 on the other hand is always at the ready, unobtrusive, light, produces almost dslr quality, and doesn't make people think I'm pointing a shotgun at their head.

In fact, it so much fits my needs like a glove that I sold my DSLR system since I got it. It covers 90% of the pictures I wish to snatch. The 5% of situations I need something really small, I use my LX2. And the 5% I'd like faster AF, well, I'm doomed, so be it. Most of those times, I'd be doomed anyway because any DSLR would be tucked out of reach either at home or at the bottom of my bag. But if I only had a DSLR, I would miss more than half the pictures I currently make. I've been making more images with the e-p1 in a year than I made with my dslr in 4, with almost a constant keeper ratio.

So, it's really a case of "to each his own", I guess.

viet 1

real interest of EVIL cameras.

"But no mention of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5? Surely a much more significant "classy compact" release for the serious photographer than the pointless Micro Four Thirds DMC-GH2."

Don't misunderstand me - I love the panasonic LX line of cameras. Still using my LX2 by the way. But the smallish sensor is only useful in optimal conditions, at base ISO setting. µ4:3 are much better, solidly wedged between compacts and dslr low light performances.

But that's besides the point. The real interest of µ4:3, not much advertised but that's sure to score with any long time photographer, is the ability to mount *any* lens you have in your cupboard from the film era on your body with a small adapter that sells for peanuts (EOS mount lenses are a problem, though, electrical aperture being the culprit).

No more closet queens. Got m39 ? Check. LTM ? No problem. FD, Nikon, OM, MD, K, Pentax 42 mm ? All pass with flying colours. CCTV lenses ? No problems, great fisheyes for a dime. Etc., the list goes on endlessly.

In photography, the body is nothing, the glass is everything. µ4:3 revives superlative optics that can be snatched almost free because until now, you couldn't make pictures with them anymore.

Mozilla to unload Firefox 4 spit and polish beta

viet 1

windows related problem

I've seen this reported elsewhere. FF on windows uses hardware rendering for fonts. You can revert to software rendering for the usual look, or tweak windows itself to render fonts to your convenience.

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Can we quit bitching for a second ?

I tried ff4 ß7 & 8 on linux. Both work as well or faster than ff3.6 on the same machine. WebGL is very impressive, but isn't enabled by default ; it's just a flip of a switch away, though (try the google chrome webgl demos, I really liked http://www.ninepointfive.org/ ).

I don't feel I've lost any function in the switch. It's stable, and fast considering the scope of this software. I've been using chrome, safari and IE recently too, and ff4 is at least on par with them when not outright better.

Extensions are a chance we'd be fool to object to.

All in all, thumb up, and I look forward for the final release.

Famous 'Silhouette' Flash illusion unravelled

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Funny trick

In the 1st half of the video, I see the 3 identical black silhouettes spinning clockwise, but when the left and right ones are lighted, I see the left one and the sillhouette spinning clockwise while the right one spins anti-clockwise.

Is it normal ?

Asus Eee PC 1015PEM

viet 1

SWMBO begs to differ here...

I haven't seen my 701 back since she laid a hand on it. She uses it for all girlies related things, out my basic geek's understanding capabilities. Shopping from the couch, chatting with friends in the bedroom, hunting down cooking recipes and trying them outright following the instructions with the eeepc near the chopping slab.

She loves the pearly colour and the fact it fits in her handbag. She's got a regular notebook and a desktop PC, but she barely uses them anymore. She coaxed me into turning her PC into a kind of NAS for storage only over wifi. She likes the very straightforward linux environment, too. Easier than a phone to use, as she says.

I tried for a while to get it back, to no avail, and even lured her recently toward 'better' or 'shinier' tablets, but somehow the feeble resolution of the eeepc is what's holding her back, because /per pixel/, it's better than many alternatives (she wears glasses and appreciates not squinting at the screen ; there are few pixels on the 7", but they are *big*).

I had to buy myself a 900A to replace this loss.

WikiLeaks payment service threatens to sue Visa, MasterCard

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"However, as far as I understand it, you cannot be arrested on a European Arrest Warrant for an activity which is legal in your country. The example I have seen given beofre is that of Holocaust denial - this is illegal in Austria, but a UK citizen cannot be extradited to Austria for denying the holocaust in the UK."

This is the general principle, but there's a list of 32 crimes that can be an automatic basis for an EAW, irrespective of local laws. Among them, you guess it, rape. So, take an unproven 'minor' offence, say sexual harassment, spin it to 'alleged rape' proportion, *bam* EAW.

The EAW is a monstrosity.

Unarmed Royal Navy T45 destroyer breaks down mid-Atlantic

viet 1

More simply...

... no need to call for conspiracy lunatics.

We do exactly the same blunders to our own navy than those we sell to others. Just read the logs of our carrier "Charles de Gaulle". Since launch, this ship has seen much more the insides of navy yards than high seas. For example, one of its propellers broke off after a couple of month.

Face it : all the past is forgiven, and now, we love you brits as much as we love ourselves. Which can be a curse at times.

Great and Good honour the designer of world's first laptop

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Object of lust

When I was a kid, I remember seeing the first ads for this computer while I was struggling to pile up enough money for a desktop PC/XT clone, and literally feeling my jaw drop with envy in front of the pictures.

"Buble memory" was hot tech in those times. Funny thing to see it brought back to life under the SSD guise today.

Fedora gets nips and tucks with 14 release

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My guess is...

They referred to the gcc ppro target which in effect means any P6 core, from Ppro to PIII and some other chips for laptops that used basically the same core (neutrino was P6 based, if I remember well). Of course, later pentium chips are backward compatible with this P6 core, even if very different internally.

The Ppro was also the 1st chip to handle the extended address scheme (PAE), this maybe explaining that, as I believe Fedora since F11 relies on a PAE-enabled kernel in 32bits mode.

Fedora 14: haven for Ubuntu's homeless GNOMEs

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I already have an easy solution

# yum remove pulseaudio

Still, I'd love it to be a bit more automated.

I don't really understand why almost every distro out there jumped the shark on this. Pulseaudio is a concept with possible interesting applications (like automagically lowering the sound of the movie you're watching if you have a voip call coming through), but real life cases are still so limited that it'd better stay in beta until fully debugged and not be included by default until someone sorts out the unbearable latency issues this POS introduces.

And, no, I won't do it. Alsa works fine enough for me, thank you.

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All fine and good, but...

did they finally put a definitive end to the misery of pulseaudio ? I'm a big fedora user, since core 2; pulseaudio (included optionally since F8 if I remember well, and active by default since F9) has never, ever worked for me, nor for anybody else I know. We're now 6 main revisions away from inception, and the creeper is still there waiting for someone with enough guts to quash it.

Hands on with the new Apple MacBook Air

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in other words...

It's really a nice freudian slip you made between 'to go by' and 'to go buy' ; shows nicely what your uni is really all about, form over content. This 'puter will certainly make you feel good, go for it. Your tutition fees are a good investment obviously.

Anyway, that wasn't my point. What I was saying is, I don't mind if a computer can multitask faster than the one I've got, if it can't address the task I'm expecting it to fulfill. Most real life computing problems are io-bound, not cpu-bound. Those little things look good, but they don't have enough connectivity for what I do. They can run as fast as they want, if I can't feed the processor with my data the way I need, they're useless. To make a comparison, much like sport cars, they are nice, shinny and fast, but the trunk can't hold what I expect to fill it with.

But pedal to the metal and godspeed to you, my friend.

ps. mind you, I learned the basics of computing on CP/M (no multitasking -at all-), spreadsheets and wordprocessor on a DOS 286-12MHz, and then I switched from finance to law science, and, oh, shock and horror, most of it was in DEAD TREES BOOKS !

viet 1

Honestly, I'm trying...

... to find an interest in those things. Especially the smallest of the two, but then, my eyes fall on my asus eeepc 900A, and I can't see how I could get rid of it.

Granted, the hardware is - as someone elegantly put it already - a piece of shite. The plastic is flimsy. The battery protrudes. It's thick. And surprisingly heavy for its diminutive size. Not because it's well engineered mind you, one of the track pad mouse button gave up after two years.

But It cost me - 2 years ago - less than half of those 850$, the screen is adequate and it's got 3 USB ports and a SD reader. Its little atom for sure is no power house but it runs Fedora 13 KDE spin with all bells and whistles, and the intel graphic chip handles all I throw at it (mostly aero-like GUI effects). What I use it for is unloading pictures from my camera, making minor edits (on 16 bits raw) in the process before feeding my full workflow back home, and saving the result to a 2.5" HDD while I'm traveling.

I pack it along a hard cover novel : they're about the same size (the apple wouldn't fit in the bag in that space). I hook it to a monitor via the included SVGA port. I then plug a full format keyboard and any usb mouse (often borrowed on location). This leaves me 1 USB free for the HDD, the SD reader for my camera's memory card, and I'm set to work.

Feature wise, this leaves the Apple dead in the water, and completely useless to me. Aptly, someone compared it to a Ferrari : the perfect garage queen.

Microsoft: IE9 will never run on Windows XP

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you realise...

... your explanation is as clear to the average human as any mumbo jumbo from <name your favorite sect here> trying to explain why we should all drink the kool aid on the last full moon before christmas 2047 to foil Satan's attempt at conquering the world, right ?

Pentax K-x

viet 1

Pentax AA batteries

Former owner of another Pentax DSLR that fed on AAs, I've never found common rechargeable batteries to be very convenient ; their full charge output is around 1.3 V, and drops quickly below 1.2, which tricks the camera to believe the set is nearing exhaustion while there are still a couple hundred pictures worth of juice left. The workaround is to quickly shutdown and restart the camera. It's fast enough not to be be too debilitating, but it's still annoying.

To avoid this, I used disposable lithium batteries on planned events. They output the correct Volt value, their discharge curve is almost flat (won't trigger the charge warning too soon), they have almost infinite shelf storage life, and they don't loose charge once they're taken out of the camera (you can take 300 pics on a set, swap out the batteries, put them back one year later and be good for another round of 300 pics - just note how much you used one set, and if you know how much one set is worth of pictures, you can know precisely how much pictures are left). Those batteries are also extremely light (half the weight of normal alcaline batteries).

Only drawback I can think of is price, about 10 € a set of 4. That's why I used conventional rechargeables for day to day, and those disposable for planned events only.

Researcher: Code-execution bug affects 200 Windows apps

viet 1

That's my understanding too...

What's more worrying is I learnt on my 1st month dealing with unix many moons ago that including '.' or '~' in $PATH was DUMB for obvious reasons a 5 year old can understand. And I'm not even working in IT, just a hobbyist.

How on earth could so-called IT 'professionals' let this one slip out ? Worse, how did it managed to be green lighted after supposedly careful reviews of windows security model announced with fanfare by B. Gates himself 10 years ago ? It's just plain stupid.

Pictures of Ubuntu: Linux's best photo shots at Windows and Mac

viet 1

Comparison is not reason.

"DIgikam is light years ahead of everything else on Linux, but it's still light years behind Lightroom in terms of useability."


"Lightroom opens my RAW images and gets the colours more or less spot on." ... "Digikam opens my RAW images in about 2 minutes per image, gets the colours completely wrong, and then many settings have to be applied using a 'Try' button which takes a very long time."

As of colours, LR comes packaged with many cameras ICM by default. Digikam expects you supply your own camera ICM. Either you're lucky to find a good one floating on internet, either you need to build one yourself with Argyll. Don't blame on Digikam what results from commercial bonds between Apple and camera manufacturers. It's a sad state of affairs cameras are not provided with accurate ICM like they used to be.

Speed : agreed, digikam is slow, and the preview button is annoying. Hope this will be addressed soon.

"And that's without enabling colour management, which slows everything down even more"

C'mon, is your computer still steam powered ? I've got a 2007 AMD X2-64 3800+, and there's no measurable difference induced by colour management.

"And where's the non-destructive editing?"

In next release along with face detection for auto-tagging of persons. Or so says the roadmap. No excuse, I know. I hope they really make it work.

"to regard it as an alternative to Lightroom is to demonstrate that you prefer sitting in front of a computer watching progress bars to actually taking photos."

Allow at least some of us to have principles we stand for. All my personal used softwares are GPL or free licensed. Until Apple changes a couple of policies, I won't have any at home. But then again, I'm not a professional, just a conscious amateur. I take around 10 - 20 pics a day, and I work on 1 or 2 at best, which I consider 'good enough'. Others are archived as is.

For a pro, LR is certainly the way to go. For others, it depends on the load.

viet 1

Future proof...

More than 90% of the burden to have a working gpl raw decoder is weighting solely on the shoulders of a single man, Dave Coffin.

That's not future-proof in my books.

viet 1

It's all about the future.

"8 bit is still fine for what I'm doing. Once the image has been tuned through RAW conversion or used for HDR, I'm happy to work in 8 bit. I've yet to come across a web site that sells posters or wall art that takes other than Jpeg, or a magazine/book submission house that wanted other than 8 bit Tiff."

Absolutely true for current technologies and resolutions, but consider the evolutions of the display medium. Until recently, we had paper with a contrast of 1:50 at best and inks covering maybe 25% of the srgb gamut. The contrast on paper is almost a given, but already ink makers are making incredible progress in colours rendition. The situation of displays is even wilder. 1st lcds had poor gamut and poor contrast, and 6bits/channel colours. Today, high end lcds cover AdobeRGB gamut with contrast of 1:5000. Technology previews exist with contrast in excess of 1:30.000. Real life contrast (outside the basement ;-) ) is over 1:150.000, so there's room to improve toward 'real life' imaging.

How the pictures we carefully edit today are going to perform tomorrow ? What technologies not currently available will we have to re-edit them in the future ? I can't answer that, but I'm not axing now my files of informations captured by my sensor just to archive in today's good enough containers.

"If you still want 16 bit, I've read it is coming in the next full release of Gimp soon, so that's a non-argument really."

It is because I'm taking my pictures today, and 16 bits Gimp is supposed to come "real soon now" since an awfully long time. They're still building the foundations, and they better be solid, because they've been stuck at this point for *YEARS*.

viet 1

Partial review

I hate to put it bluntly, but The Gimp, which I use and like, is no way near Photoshop for picture editing. Don't misunderstand me : I use it a lot, but it comes very far down my post processing path, in fact as the last tool before uploading to the web, because The Gimp is still limited to 8 bits, and not so good for archiving pictures without losing an enormous quantity of colour information. This said, for converting a 16 bits colour managed image into something optimized for the web, it's a treat.

The reviewer also forgot a fantastic combo found with KDE 4 : digikam and showfoto. It's really all you wish a raw software to be for filing, geotagging, archiving and uploading your pictures. From raw to web or print in a couple of minutes. It does correct chromatic aberrations, geometric aberrations, allow finely tuned perspective corrections and levelling. Truly a thing of beauty. The list of raw supported cameras is about the one of dcraw. And icing on the cake, it's of course colour managed and full 16bits. The digikam package also includes everything you should need to work on DNG raws that are now the de facto standard for high quality archival of raw images.

This is not photoshop for now (it might become when Krita is finally useable), but for conscious amateurs worry of degrading their files, it's got all you need and more.

Linux game-time refined with latest Wine

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Wine geatest appeal...

From my point of view, wine is great for companies using it from the start to rig a linux version without investing too much in two different branches of a single product. A single codebase, tested against both windows and a wine snapshot, snapshot shipped with the product as a linux package, is a friendly way to acknowledge linux users without diverting too much ressources toward a small market.

As a stand alone application, wine is not too stellar. Better use a true emulator like qemu and slap a real (paid) windows in it. Works great.

Olympus PEN E-P2 Micro Four-Thirds camera

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e-p1 now a steal

Warning : I'm an e-p1 user, and as everybody knows, nobody likes to appear like a fool for his buying decisions, so feel free to think I'm prejudiced in favour of the e-p1.

So, just to address some lapses of the main article :

1) AF. The e-p1 has been brought to par with the e-p2 by the latest (1.4) firmware upgrade. The e-p2 is vastly superior to the originally released e-p1, but who would freeze his camera when bugs are corrected quickly by the manufacturer ? E-p1 still lacks AF tracking, though.

2) Art filters. While the 2 new filters were not ported in-body to the e-p1, Olympus newly released raw software 'Viewer 2' allows e-p1 owners to apply said filters afterward while post processing their pictures. Nice touch here Olympus.

3) MF focusing of legacy lenses is perfectly adequate on the back lcd. This lcd may not be as shiny a it is on competing bodies, but don't kid yourself, it's perfectly adequate and contrasts are better than most better spec'd lcds. This is a viewfinder, not a TV set. So if you have no vision troubles, there's no real need to pay 3 time the price (current discounts included) of an e-p1 for an e-p2.

4) Owners of an e-p2 I know are in love with the VF-2. To avoid sucking batteries dry quickly, they simply turn off the back LCD ; rocket science, I know.

5) Flash. For a long time, the small FL-14 was given free by Olympus with the e-p1 body. Another reason to have bought this camera soon. Does a correct job (ng 20 at 200 iso). Insoluble dilemma for e-p2 shooters who need to choose between flash and VF-2, not so much a problem for e-p1 users.

6) Conclusion : all olympus cameras (including the e-pl1) produce outstanding images with, at the moment, the widest range of adaptable lenses. Almost post-processing free. Out of camera jpegs are the best, full stop. You go shoot graphs, bar charts, curves all day long if you like, personally I'm out to capture real peoples with a revolutionary camera ideally suited to street shooting. Perfect it is not, but considering the only other model besting it in that field is the Leica M9 reviewed here, I'm happy.

The Reg guide to Linux, part 1: Picking a distro

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As a long time linux user, and after trying many of the reviewed distros as well as a couple of others more confidential ones, I've finally settled on fedora since core 2 release.

Aside from the usual office work, I do a lot of photography, and fedora is a very clean base for me to install or build whatever tools I need in my colour-managed, 16bits workflow. Photoshop it isn't, but I can't justify the cost of the latter, so I'd rather 'pay' with my free time than from my wallet.

But what years of hand-on practice taught me about any linux version is you can't expect a smooth experience by simply slapping linux on a computer and expect it to run better than windows. The hardware choice operated beforehand is absolutely paramount. Many linux old timers tend to forget that linux works well on their computers because they have a reflex to pick known compatible parts. Most newcomers expect linux to run whatever closed bits they own, and are plagued by troubles they blame on linux instead of the hardware manufacturer, who is the real offender here.

Sarko gets crypto mobe after BlackBerry ban

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Not really a smartphone...

AFAIK, it's more a plain point to point encrypted phone than a smartphone ; it peers with other similar units to have voice communications encrypted + the occasional sms while being able to communicate normally with any other handheld.

France has announced an order of 14.000 units to be given to top officials, from president to army brass and such. It's more like an automatic VPN travelling inside the public network. Any lost / stolen phone can be revoked from that network immediately by ID.

Serious IE and Windows flaws left to fester

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SMB again ?

I can't believe it. Since its inception this protocol has been the worst protocol to work with, the least reliable, and MS will to impose it is dumbfounding. On 10baseT ethernet, there was a (very) small advantage to run smb instead of TCP/IP, but since, it should have been put out of its misery long ago.

PC tune-up software: does it really work?

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My first PC was an IBM XT ; and it wasn't even my first computer. Since forever, I've seen snake oil sellers come and go, and some even making a profitable business (McAffee, Norton, etc.). Truth has always been Microsoft OS of the moment requires to operate normally (ie, not just running the system but working with it) at least twice the ram usually sold with the computer (and half the CPU speed, but you don't look a given horse's teeth). This rule of thumb applies to linux too, but you can get away with less by tweaking around.

The main difference is a linux box won't degrade over time as much as a windows box will. Being conservative, I ran the same box from 2001 to this year, 900 MHz cpu - 512 Mb ram. This was a bit of a stretch, if you ask me, but it cope nicely with linux improvements nonetheless, until the video requirements for newer aero-like effects couldn't be met by upgrading my video card any more (they don't make fancy GPUs in AGP...). So I changed, loaded up the new box with 4 Gb ram, and chose an AMD 64x2 3800+ for CPU (this is a 2007 typical config, I erred on the cheap side). Runs great, but what's better, won't degrade in the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, windows users are still stuck back in time, standing where I was in the mid-90's, hoping a miraculous software will help them curing a defective OS running on a badly balanced computer. I don't even feel amused. I'm just sorry so much people keep on losing their valuable time and being ripped of their cash, waiting endlessly for a never ready computer. Pretty much a picture of Sisyphus rolling his boulder forever.

'Evil' Windows 7 campaign goes global

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It shouldn't be needed to answer this kind of mail, but for the sake of straightening facts, it looks like it's necessary.

It's been now a long time since a CLI hasn't been mandatory to setup any mainstream linux distribution. GUI tools do exist and work. Does it entail that the CLI ought to be removed ? Has it been removed in MacOS X ? Hell no ! OS X proudly has a virtual terminal and fires up tcsh ! Has it been removed from Windows ? Hell No ! Windows went as far as releasing a NEW CLI for windows a couple of years ago.

Why do mainstream OS *all* have a CLI ? Because it is faster, it is better, it gives control. It's not a *sin* linux have a CLI.

The difference between MacOS and Windows on the one hand, and Linux and other OS (Solaris, BSD et al.) on the other hand lies in the way help is given to the users.

While Microsoft and Apple favour the GUI in their generic explanations, with loads of screenshots to make their point, most of the time, in linux realm, help is given on a specific question, and as it is much more personalised and targeted to the real problem the user is facing, it's impossible for the person giving that help to build an /ad hoc/ walkthrough with pictures. Hence, a cut-and-paste script is the fastest way to accurately answer the question.

That's because unless you pay the most expensive support contract from MS or Apple, you can't have a tailored solution to your actual problems, you must rely on canned answers to any question you have.

This may lead to a false impression the CLI is required, but this is a fallacy. And it borders deception when heralded over and over again by MS schills, regardless of countless accounts that their belief is WRONG.

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Fanboism, round 2.

I sense this story will lead to another 150+ messages mud-slinging war. Well, let's go !

1) This campaign is silly ; not because of the message, but because of the targets choice : F500 companies first is stupid, because I'm sure even Microsoft runs some linux distros somewhere, just to be aware of the competition. Others likely do too. The ball is already in their hands, and if they were likely to switch, that would be already done. NGOs and Edu 2nd is even sillier if possible, in the optic of fund raising, for those "non-economical" groups are unlikely to spill cash in support of another cause than their own. The prime targets for a switching / primary adoption of linux and FOSS are SMBs and government agencies, obviously.

2) This said, switching is possible ; as a proof, the french gendarmerie (a kind of police forces) did switch to FOSS. And they are not the brightest bulbs in the billboard, so to speak. This is a huge, very corporate structure. As far as I know, they were not disturbed in the least by the change, because most their desktop space was adorned with wallpapers and custom icons that were switched as well on the new system. Thus, their usual look and feel was preserved. Do this favour to your workers, replace "MS-Word" by "Wordprocessor" under the icon of every desktop, and if/when you switch, nobody will get lost. Bonus, you're not paid to run an advertising machine for microsoft, why would you display their brand ?

3) I'm not in IT. At all. Nonetheless, I run linux as my desktop, and I've been doing so since 1998. It's a question of responsibility. In 1998, I had to compile my kernel and do much voodoo to get things working. Hopefully, it wasn't any more complicated than launching a DOS game after tweaking config.sys with EDIT to set up memory split between LOW, UMB, EMS and XMS on a per-application basis. Any gamer worth his salt was doing that in those days. The slackware INSTALL file was comprehensive, and as far as I know, still is. Being older and wiser, whenever I need some hardware, I enquire first on linux support via google. Today, I'm pretty much confident that I can put *any* mainstream linux distro in my computer and get things running in half an hour. KDE 4.3 is all I expect a modern desktop to be. It just works.

4) I said, to me, running linux was a responsible choice. I trade in paralegal. What I do deals with records. My clients are entitled that in 30 years, I'm still able to print what I'm doing today. With windows versions of Office being slightly incompatible between revisions (to the point where even simple documents can and do fail to open correctly within 10 years), and the fact that many windows products require some kind of activation (preventing usage, and there's absolutely no warranty I will be entitled to activate a product in 30 years), the hassle of converting all my previous files to newer formats as versions come and go, just to keep current, is simply not manageable. On the other hand, FOSS file formats are either plain-text, human readable, documented, or at the very least, contained within the code. This gives me confidence that whatever happens, my data are always readable. Now, to wrap up my thinking, the FSF should target the legal department of the companies instead of CEOs. If their lawyers were aware of the risk, in term of liability, of not being able to produce some required documents on notice, I'm dead sure they'd lobby the board to death to get everybody on linux ASAP. I'm sure the cost of liability would offset the cost of porting business apps, with change to spare.

Linus calls Linux 'bloated and huge'

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@Peter Kay

Not everybody's using an x86 ; my test gear was a sparcstation 20-712 that came empty, OS wise. I've got already a 10-512 that's happily running the latest supported sparc32/debian (etch) so I was willing to try something else, because of sparc32 being EOLed. FreeBSD : no sparc 32 support. Out. OpenBSD : no smp support on sparc 32 (at least this is clear from the installation web page). Out. NetBSD : no particular caveat, brags about being compatible with about every arch out there. OK, let's burn that iso. Hum. There are two conflicting statements in the INSTALL notes at the iso root... Can it go smp or what ? Check the mailing list archive : in -CURRENT, sparc32 smp is broken. But hey, -4 still does smp ! Let's burn -4. Install, boot, post-config, ok, seems to work, let's D/L some stuff. pkg_add -v windowmaker (yes, I know, serial console etc..., but that's beside the point). "Kernel attempting to lock itself against a lock", break to OBP. WTF ??? A couple of random crashes later, let's try to slim down the beast. Remove every obsolete bits in default pertaining to 4, 4c, 4d arch, config, depend, make... wait... wait... link fail ! Would you believe it, there's an undocumented ref in 'default.smp' to some 4d stuff in 'default'. Neither config nor depend gave me warning about it ! Goto config, etc.

Verdict : it somehow works for some values of work. I've less random deadlocks (but I still got some on occasion). My linux 10 has served me well for years, acting as dhcp provider, dns relay, and pop3 from my isp to local imap in my home network. The NetBSD 20 wouldn't cope with that reliably at the moment. It makes for a fine X terminal, which is a pity. Superior BSD stability my foot.

Flames, obviously.

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small and lean isn't always efficient

I've used linux for over ten years, starting with the latest 1.2 - 1.3 kernels, and slowly climbing the ladder until now (fedora 10, 2.6.27). 1.2 kernels were terribly inefficient, but we didn't expected much of computers in those times, so it got away with it. But 2.0.x was really marvellous, albeit limited in functionalities. Then we got the 2.2.x series, that was rather experimental in spite of its alleged stable status, and performances sucked (big locks, many in-memory data copy etc.).

It was soon replaced by the 2.4 line. 2.4 is still rock stable today, and while it lacks many drivers for new hardware, it's pretty small and can run most of your exotic stuff (alpha, sparc smp). But in spite of being lean and stable, 2.4 is still full of the 2.2 conception quirks that are performance bottlenecks. Hence the need for 2.6.x, which originally aimed at streamlining the foundations of the kernel. Many O(n) algorithms were swapped out in favour of O(1) counterparts, and where it runs, 2.6, while generally much bigger than 2.4, runs way better and faster. That recently it begun to slow down a bit doesn't do justice to the extraordinary improvements it made over older kernels.

So maybe it's time to feature-freeze 2.6, and stabilize it while launching experimental 2.8 for new stuff. But in my books, 2.6 is still the most efficient kernel to date, and one of the most innovative, competing only with 2.0 in that area (2.0 brought a tremendous amount of novelties to linux, support for elf32 to begin with, and much, much, much more, and is still maintained for some embedded applications).

Now, I'm not a kernel hacker, but I've had the chance recently to play with NetBSD, I've used windows XP and Vista (not 7 yet), and a bit of MacOS X. While any of those can be marginally better than linux in a particular area, *after* spending an awful lot of time trimming it (just about like you could improve linux in the first place by tailoring a slackware to suit your needs), the conclusion is linux is the 4WD of OS. Runs everywhere, and pretty much goes over everything you can think of throwing at it. NetBSD ? Oh, you need to compile that kernel to get what you want (and I tell you, it's not for the faint of heart ; been compiling my linux kernel for ages without breaking a sweat, but NetBSD gives you chills down the spine). MacOS X ? Does everything, but random (x)thing will set you back another (y*10^3) $ - and forget about whatever computer you have, it's intel-apple only now. Windows ? ... I'm torturing myself to find a place where widows shines, and can't find none. It's a nightmare for everyone, from sys admins to users, albeit a familiar nightmare so they don't feel the need to wake up.

Ricoh GR Digital III compact camera

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the GR DIII is certainly OK,

...but I wish your tests were a bit more documented. I assume you shot your pictures in jpg, and what they show is a pretty good handling of the NR algorithm by Ricoh's engineers. I'd have liked to see a downloadable raw sample to make up my mind, as cameras of this class won't be set to jpeg most of the time. Further, a raw would have shown the expectable level of noise that's been wiped by the in camera NR process. A general 'softness' in the 100% crops is a tell-tale sign of this.

Oh, and while I'm at it, stop shooting your door knob for the iso settings. The mostly uniform blue background is a free gift to any self-respecting NR algorithm, as it makes its job much too easy ; better have a pint at your local pub after 8 PM and shoot indoor. Don't forget that tripod to offset the lager parameter though, it would be bad science otherwise.

Word nemesis: Microsoft deliberately 'destroyed' our business

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He who forgets...

...Stacker is doomed to be assimilated.

There's a popular joke in France : The wolf and the lamb shall dwell together, but one of them isn't going to get much sleep. (loosely adaptated from Coluche).

How to run Mac OS X on a generic PC

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Why bother ?

I really tried hard to love Macs ; since the first time I laid my hands on the square mice of an original beige Mac 64 (Kb, that is) until now, maybe once a year I manage to get a couple of days alone with one, waiting for the magic to happen, and I leave desperate. I have all reasons to love Macs. I even run NeXTStep 3.3 on a sparcstation 20 for the fun ! I wish EFI becomes more widespread, and I taught myself the basics of objective-C and Xcode (was called AppBuilder in the NeXT realm, I know it vastly improved since). But nope. Doesn't work for me.

Firstly, the much vaunted Mac hardware is (to put it mildly) a filthy pile of standard PC components glued together in the worst possible manner, with barely enough forethought to boot MacOS. As most people will only run MacOS, it's all right, but you won't sell me the system at a premium based on the engineering alone. I don't include the case outside design in my concerns, I admit it's fashioned, clean and desirable, but there should be a computer inside first thing !

Secondly, price. It goes with Apple like Leica : all things being equal, the apple kit is not so much overpriced if you were to build a similar PC kit. But you wouldn't ! Why shell out such an ungodly amount of money on something that won't last more than a couple of years (and be considered underpowered in 6 months) ? There are a few people that really, really, need to pay the premium because their job dictate it, and they are able to recoup their investment quickly enough. I very much doubt it's the case of the majority.

Thirdly, software. MacOS isn't windows, neither is it Linux nor BSD. This may be OK to users, but it gives me (personally, I make no general consideration here) claustrophobic moments. I won't speak of windows for I don't use it being nearly linux only since 1998. To me, it's not only that it's simply alien (I manage quickly enough the shortcuts not to bother too much about the GUI specificities), it's outright oppressive. For the fun of it, I tried linux on various Macs, but the hardware is so restrictive too that I'm forced to conclude that a well trimmed PC is better in this role.

Conclusion : if I could turn my PC into a Mac for those moments I need one, I'd happily do it instead of buying the full kit, because I know MacOS is unlikely to become my main system. Maybe I could spend a bit more time with it (say about 25% of what I do), but the price has to reflect this secondary nature. At the moment, a hard solution like EFI-X seems perfect, but still overpriced. They sell you what amounts to a bios + hard drive at a full computer price.

End note : BSD is no more Unix, nor Posix than Linux. I very much doubt there's any original Unix code left in BSD, and the tenuous link between {Free|Net|Open}BSD and the original port of Unix at Berkeley by Ken Thompson is in effect a tale of lore intended to make BSD users feel more aristocratic than the linux commoners crowd. Not that it didn't happen, but there's no magic in computing, and I very much prefer a clean rewrite of a function rather than being bitten by a buffer overflow left in ancient code because it has been written by a semi-god no one dared to contradict ; and luckily, this isn't how it's done, BSD code has much improved over time. But at the moment, hardware support is better in Linux than in all BSD around ; linux even runs on some platforms NetBSD doesn't (and vice-versa). When it comes to various cards addons, the difference is evident. To ice the cake, for a long time, linux has been the only system SMP compatible, so as soon as you had to animate more than a CPU (or a core), there was no choice at all. Free and Net BSD are slowly coming to par in this area, but I'll wait a bit more bug testing before considering a switch.

About Posix, well, Linux is fully Posix with GNU extensions, like BSD is Posix with BSD extensions. That's all there is to it. Hey, even Windows NT had a Posix layer you could bolt on ! In the beginnings, around linux 1.2, posix compatibility was admittedly a guesswork because nobody had the means to offer Linus Thorvald a full Posix specification. That's 10 years old news.

SMBs unimpressed by netbooks

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It's all in the price margin !

I don't buy the small screen explanation. The main factor lies in the retailer. In a SMB, most I know of at least, you buy software according to the description of your job you give to your IT solutions provider (I don't know the exact word in english). Along software, he sells you the needed hardware, taking a margin on the deal in the process (here, around 20%). Of course, it's only human he favours higher priced laptops ! This is nicely wrapped in marketing speech, and it only leads to forming the belief no actual work can be done on a sub 500 € computer in the kinds of my former boss.

My former boss was happily fighting with an expensive subnotebook that shouted "big bucks" all over, but didn't put a second glance on my personal eeepc the second after I told him it cost only 300 €. As a matter of fact, I was doing pretty much exactly the same kind of things he did on his laptop. Netbook just scream work, not attitude.

Linux guru: interface innovation is the challenge

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Ok, I'll bite.

Linux is not Windows ; and hopefully, won't be in any near nor far future. Neither is it Mac OS X. All complaints I read here are comments by people expecting to have a free-as-in-free-beer Windows clone. Not going to happen, better switch to ReactOS now, folks. I admit Mac OS is a decent desktop, but then again, Linux evolution is orthogonal to Apple engineering methods in every respects : open dev / closed dev, all possible hardware and some more / closed platform, etc., and IT IS THE REASON WHY linux and mac os have similar market shares albeit targeting different sectors.

On to the fine points :

- Consistency : Linux is consistent ; more so than windows. The learning curve may be steeper, but it's mostly completely additive. You barely ever re-learn to do something. New methods to do the same things can appear, but when all else fails, you've always got a bash and vi. To enforce consistency business wide, just stick with a major linux vendor, Ubuntu-LTS redhat or novell, and you're warranted consistency for *years*.

- CLI : you can spend months *not* touching a CLI in linux. You do so because it is *faster*. The flip side is you can't use a CLI without knowledge, and knowledge means WORK. So, if you want to pull out guru things in a GUI, you'll always get spanked by the bearded CLI wizard standing at the next desk. It's a common pattern in humanity : cavemen began by small icons on their cave walls, then men went on to hieroglyphs, and then invented alphabet. And thereafter, the CLI was born. GUIs are backward. They slow you down and limit you expression capabilities. You can choose to be lazy, but you can't be both lazy and respected. And this is really the crux of the problem here : everyone with a few tricks up his sleeves can *look like* a Windows wizard, because the whole system is so obfuscated that changing a couple of keys from an internet recipe in the registry gives instant guru status, and sends chill down the spine of normal users. You can't get away like that with Linux. Either you really know what you're doing, either you look like the moron you really are. This removes the carpet under the feet of many individuals among corporations, undermining their little power, and this is clearly not acceptable to them. They'd rather have everyone else struggle with a GUI than losing their position on the social ladder.

Linux has come a long way since its inception. The same debates creep in time after time, but the truth is Linux *is* successful *because* it is *different*, not in spite of being different. Desktops are really only a part of the computing world at large, and in many other sectors linux is on par with the competition. I am personally satisfied I can do all my everyday work with linux, I like KDE 4.3 for what it is, and so far the only desktop application I might need that doesn't really exist is a good OCR. I can live without, though.

US women protest for the right to bare

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continental europe...

has some very unlogical restrictions on breast display too. In France where I live, it's OK for women to go topless on seaside beaches, but not much anywhere else. There are various restrictions in place, leading to somewhat hilarious situations. This year, a tranvestite was prosecuted for removing her top at "Paris Plage" (during summer, a beach is created on the banks of the Seine river), where it's forbidden for women to go topless, and (s)he argued during her hearing that being a man per records, (s)he had the right to do so. Ruling due in autumn...

Canon Selphy CP780

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Let's get real.

Pre-bought 500 18x13 cm prints at my local lab (member of a nation wide franchise ring) : 150 € ; that's 0.30 €/print. They're at foot reach, but I could as well trade with them by internet and get the prints by mail the next day. It's not the best bargain, but the quality is decently constant. And they won't make me pay for their mistakes, so I don't pay for botched prints (and being an ex-wet lab afficionado, I can tell you there's always waste to calibration and various tries). They've got a range of products from postcards to binded books you can print your photos on.Trade off : their minilab knows only about Jpeg in sRGB colourspace. Could certainly do fancier things, but that would imply training the already underpaid workforce. I know another, more professional lab, that will happily let you download their printer icm profile and print exactly what you send them ; better know what you're doing beforehand, because it's a no money back option (if you miss your prophoto conversion, you can get nasty out of gamut imaginary colours), but still it's way less expensive than the Shelpy.

So, to make sense, the Shelpy should offer me complete control over the prints, but your review doesn't cover that area (specifically the colourspace profile of the device, and how you can match whatever your camera outputs to that colourspace). I'm making a wild guess here, but by the sound of it the process is closer to CMYK printing than ink printing. So we can expect a quite narrow gamut. Even low end cameras have a massively wider colourspace to save your pictures to, and matching the colours is the most important part of the work. Not doing it is like buying the latest yamaha motorbike and wrapping gardenhose over the wheels instead of proper tyres, "because they're both rubber, you know".

I wish your review had addressed this important area. If I can't have more control over the process than giving a correct sRGB file to my local lab and asking them to keep their hands in their pockets (which they happily do), I can't see the value of this printer.

Microsoft opened Linux-driver code after 'violating' GPL

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If GPLers are 'freetards', then...

BSDists are certainly egotards. They don't give a f* about the end users of their code, and are perfectly ok with them being ripped off by companies whose sole contribution to the world is dumbed down integration of that code into an opaque container of (generally speaking) eye-candy.

Their only interest is the egotrip to be cited among authors of the original code, to shove their personal, selfish, brightness into the face of everyone. Except that nobody cares about it, and I would be hard pressed to cite *one* BSD developer, except De Raadt, of course, while I know at least 20 persons by name who contributed high quality GPL code.

GPL is perfectly free : if you don't like it, don't use it. Good luck and godspeed to you. If you *need* a GPLed part to finish your job to the point you can't do without, then, you're not as bright as you think you are.