Monthly Archives: April 2009

KDE 4.2 – Day 5

I am starting to grow more comfortable with the KDE desktop. Quick keys are starting to become habit, I am enjoying the visuals and smoothness. Ipod support in amarok is okay although not yet 100% there in my opinion. Kpackagekit still gives me cryptic messages which seem more about the programming underneath than user messages – one recommending that I should be forking. Using plain old apt-get installs the apps without complaint.

I have changed the theme to darker colours and played around with different theme sets. The kubuntu default colours are far too light and “in your face”. Glassified and Thin Glow are both desktop themes with much to admire except that I didn’t think they were without their issues.

The wallpaper can be found here

KDE 4.2 – Day 2

Spent all day with KDE. Found lots of things to like but also things that just don’t work as expected…

CTRL+= or CTRL+- makes the desktop freeze. I can move the mouse but nothing responds to it or the keyboard. I can jump to CTRL-ALT-F1 and log in and see that nothing is holding up the processor etc. When I jump back to X11 (F7) the screen won’t redraw, it’s just black with a mouse pointer (which I can still move around).

Changing the look and feel is partially successful (see the screenshot)
The multimedia keys on my Microsoft Digital Media Keyboard don’t work by default (they do in Ubuntu 9.04). Sad making :(

Konqueror is not a supported browser for google apps yet which leaves me using Firefox which is sluggish especially now that the KDE desktop is so much more responsive.

Installing the KDE approved photo manager of digikam is proving to be non-trivial. On a default initial install it seems that there are incompatibilities between libgpod4 and libgpod4-nogtk! Awesome. Running sudo aptget install digikam from the terminal seems to work fine. I don’t know what kPackageKit is complaining about?

Some of the widgets behave poorly or are incomplete an example is when rotating and resizing the blue marble widget.
I have read many opinions on various community boards that suggest that kubuntu doesn’t necessarily produce the best KDE 4.x experience. Having used Ubuntu for many years, there is indeed a disconnect between the polish of the out of the box experience. KDE is a beautiful desktop – I really do mean beautiful and smooth and integrated, screenshots don’t really do it justice as so much is in the way it moves and transistions.

So far I am 50/50 as to whether I can stick with it. Tomorrow I begin to try to be productive with it.

Kubuntu 9.04

For a long time I was a KDE user however since using ubuntu I have grown used to using the gnome desktop. I was always still a fan of KDE but not a fan of the ubuntu treatment of it. With the announcement of the KDE rewrite I was very excited and keen to give it a go. I have tried KDE 4.0 and 4.1 and found it too buggy/hard to use daily. I have decided to give KDE a go again in Kubuntu 9.04.

First impressions are that it looks very slick and feels fast. So far I have had two apps crash but nothing critical. There is enough different from KDE 3.5 and Gnome that it feels like learning a new desktop manager.

I will continue to play with it.

Art of Tagging

It’s no secret that tagging/labeling is the new black in the online world. It’s not a criticism, I’m a fan, I just suck at it.

Hierarchical (Tree/Directory) structures are very much going out of fashion and I don’t expect that trend to change until the great tech wheel turns again. The advantage of the hierarchical structure though is that it is simple – If you keep your categories broad it is pretty simple to find a pigeon hole that is “good enough” and we have all been trained to some extent by the Windows defaults of My Documents etc. Particularly great if you just don’t know where to put something you just need to save because once you decide where to shove it at least your other directories are unpolluted. This tends to create a directory that becomes the dumping ground until you are forced to re-evaluate the directory structure again. The limitations, however are rather obvious – files can only be stored in a single directory and once you get to multiple media projects it becomes an mess (storing a .wav in a sound directory and .jpg in a photo directory and the presentation in a “My Documents” directory) and difficult to move the projects around.

Tagging on the other hand is networked (many-to-many) relational meaning that things can be stored with multiple labels. Tagging makes it important to describe the thing when you save it which means that you have to think about what it is that you are actually trying to store – what are the different meanings that I might want to associate with this chunk of data? So you have a system that should (in theory) make retrieving the data easier right? Well only if you have a reasonable tagging scheme.

I am really bad at tagging. I either over tag (and end up with tags that are so diluted that they don’t help me retrieve easily) or too specific that after a few weeks I’ve forgotten. I think that tagging is an skill that you develop over time… I hope.

Why does Google think I am Spanish?

I’ve noticed recently that somehow google has tagged my account that I am Spanish speaking. It is quite irritating, despite have my country as Australian and my language as English (British) but when I go to I get:

and when I click on “Next Blog>>” link in the Blogger bar at the top, it takes me to Spanish blogs. I am hoping that it is purely coincidence but this is an example of google “learning” a wrong fact about me that seems to keep trailing me around.

For the record I’d love to be able to speak/read Spanish. Maybe it’s a google foretelling or something?

Ubuntu 9.04 Release soon

Not long to wait for the next ubuntu. Release date is 23rd April (5 days).

For more info check out the technical overview. I have been using the beta and haven’t noticed any serious issues, overall it has been stable for me. My gotcha’s for those wanting to play along were pulse audio and sounds not playing for flash (I had to install the adobe flash player not the default one that came with the install), getting a mic to work (my unfamiliarity with pulse audio) and (not necessarily an ubuntu issue) Firefox 3.0.8 is just getting slower and stranger – just times out, net banking gives me strange errors (something about using the back button) and some other javascripty/ajax kinda weirdness – for example captchas on never worked for me. Midori browser worked for all of those issues.

Innovation and the Artistic Process

Whilst on annual holidays and beset by some pretty rainy weather, I had time to think about the nature of innovation further. I found myself turning more and more to my time spent in amateur theatre and how (in hindsight) innovative the process of low budget theatre-making is. First of all I might need to explain my theory of art. I might add that this is not necessarily a complete theory but it is one that I keep coming back to.

Art is intuition-based decision making inside a framework.

Firstly – I believe that you cannot create a work of art without rules and a frame of reference. Given unlimited time, money and freedom, I posit that an artist would not be able to create a work of art – there simply isn’t anything creative without some form of constraint. For example the act of putting a sunrise on a finite piece of board has very material constraints (space) or painting a portrait using only three colours. A framework could be stylistic, moral or political – sometimes the most innovative art comes when you are constrained socially. In order to push the boundary, there needs to be a boundary to push. Some frameworks are technical or format based – eg. radio or 30 second tv spot etc. The point being that creativity is fueled by constraints because knowing what you can’t do in a sense gives scope to what you can do. Even if someone says “create whatever you want” at some stage you will have to invoke personal contraints (time, energy, etc.) and choose a framework (be it a medium or method) anyway.

Secondly – decision making because a framework comes with oportunity costs and therefore as “art happens” each decision realises the artists goal by reducing the artists freedoms. I might go so far as to say that the work is finished when you have nothing more that you can add before you start undoing or obfuscating the work. There is another issue that I feel needs to be put in the decision making category – random is not art. A lot of emphasis is placed on interpretation of the audience/viewer and that art happens when a beholder beholds. I don’t dispute this assertion, but art has to have some level of communication, there has to be a message that moves from artist to viewer. Random is not a message. If someone interprets something that is purely random and finds meaning in it I would say that if any art happened it was more to do with the viewer acting as artist – what they are experiencing isn’t a connection between two minds rather, the self responding to a lack of message and therefore filling the void using its own means. I’m NOT talking about random in the sense of the artist choosing say red paint or blue (although I don’t consider that random really) I mean random in the sense that the artist defers making a decision at all and leaves it up to a device or entity that has no interest/stake in the process and that changes for the sake of change with no regard for context or to enhance the message. For example, a computer program that generates random sounds that doesn’t have any notion of movement from state to state (eg. random) is not music (art). A computer program that uses random to introduce controlled variation that use the state of the work to determine its next state has the decision making in the code itself.

Finally – Logical and rational decision making removes the artist from the work. What I mean by this is that if ten artists paint an image each based purely on objective rules then each image should be the same therefore making it irrelavent who the artist is. An artist creates with sense of self awareness – mood, passion, homage, experimentation, temperament etc. The artist makes subjective, gut decisions to bring out the message or focus of their work. The process of making art is personal and therefore subjective.

I consider that innovation and art are in fact linked. The scientific method relies on the repeatability of events. Art is a “spark” event and uses innovation to differentiate itself from prior art.

Failure is merely an indication that something greater is trying to emerge and it is blocked. (Gina Mollicone-Long)

Innovation occurs when the mental space is created and the fear of failure is removed.

In great attempts it is glorious even to fail. (Cassiu Longinus)

* The limitations and boundaries of the solution should be dictated by the inherent framework rather than the limitation and boundaries of the people seeking the solution.