Random Free Software Stuff


One of my longer term ToDo items made it to the top of the list this week. I’ve been setting up a Subversion repository for the Dallas Personal Robotics Group. The DPRG has a number of programming projects in various stages of completion ranging from working code to idle talk. Having a repository like Subversion will make project development easier, particularly for projects with multiple programmers. All projects hosted in the new Subversion repository will be Free Software and/or Open Source.

I used Subversion v1.3.2 for the initial setup. ViewVC v1.0.3 was added to provide a web-based interface to the repository. Last, I added Highlight v2.4 to provide some nice code highlighting for the ViewVC code browser. Everything is running on a CentOS Enterprise Linux box that also hosts the DPRG website.

At this point, everything seems to be working but I still need to customize the ViewVC templates to tie the look-and-feel in with the main DPRG site.

In addition to DPRG projects, I’m going to keep the mod_virgule codebase there too. Mod_virgule is the code used on robots.net and Advogato. Getting mod_virgule into Subversion was a good learning experience. I used the trunk, branches, tags layout recommended by the GPL’d O’Reilly Book, Version Control with Subversion. I used the last 2004 release of Raph’s codebase, version 1.41 as the initial commit. I created a separate branch for Raph’s code and also tagged it as release 1.41. Then for each of my releases since 2004, I committed them and tagged them as a release.

Ubuntu and Proprietary Drivers

Seems like everyone has been talking about Ubuntu’s decision to start including proprietary graphics drivers in the Distro to support flashier eye candy on the desktop. There’s been a lot of discussion and some flame wars over the issue. Rather than joining in flame wars, how about an an alternative? Why not put that energy into making sure there are free drivers for ATI and nVidia?

There are currently free ATI drivers with DRI support for 3D acceleration. Maybe someone could find out why the free driver is not suitable for the Ubuntu folks? Not fast enough? Missing a critical feature? Maybe it can be improved enough that the Ubuntu developers would reconsider their decision.

The free nVidia driver doesn’t support DRI so there is no free alternative yet for nVidia cards. The nouveau project is working on the problem. They’re making fast progress but they could use your help. They’ve developed a tool called called REnouveau to assist with reverse engineering the nVidia hardware without violating the license on the proprietary driver. If you have an nVidia card, you can help by downloading the proprietary driver and using this tool to generate dumps of test data for your card.

For a few more ideas on how you can improve Free Software support for 3D accelerated graphic cards in general, visit the Free 3D wiki.

Things to be thankful for

Holidays are handy things because they give you a chance to get caught up on everything you’ve fallen behind on. Part of my holiday todo list includes posting an update to my blog, of course!

Books and other piles of words

I’ve been reading Neil Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle (a three volume prequel to Cryptonomicon) aloud to Susan in the evenings. We’re about half way through the second volume and loving it. I finished reading R. A. Lafferty’s Past Master recently as well. My quest to obtain and read the entire series of Neil R. Jones Professor Jameson stories is proceeding slowly. All of the stories are out of print, many since they originally appeared in the pulps in the 1930s. I’ve managed to obtain copies of about 20 of them so far. The sad news that Jack Williamson has died means I’ll probably be tracking down and reading a few of his out of print books soon.

C Programming
Between the recent burst of mod_virgule work and the DPRG group robot project, I’ve been doing a lot more C programming lately. It’s nice to work on things that are fun for a change. And even fun things result in an occasional patch for something more important. Both projects need to get moved into a Subversion archive. I’ve only been on the user end of Subversion until now, so this will be another interesting learning experience. I’ve completed the basic installation and started playing around with the configuration and web interface.

Jihad Jerry and the Evil Doers

Gerald V. Casale has a new CD out. He’s calling the band Jihad Jerry and the Evil Doers and the CD is titled Mine is not a Holy War. Who else is on the CD? Let’s see, there’s Bob Mothersbaugh, Josh Freese, and, yes, Mark Mothersbaugh. If that seems suspiciously familiar, it should. This is essentially a new Devo CD. Mark Mothersbaugh co-wrote a few tracks but doesn’t provide any vocals. The sound and the subject matter is very Devo-like. They’re not happy about Bush, SUVs, and other forms of stupidity. The lyrics are full of Devo-like mixed metaphors and devolved wisdom like, “remember, you look through your glasses but the rest of the world looks at them.” Recommended.