Three Reptiles and a Gato

The weather has improved a bit here in TX. Now that the spring rains seem to have stopped, Susan and I have been able to resume our habitual late-night walks. The neighborhood wildlife count for last nights walk: three reptiles. A sleeping green anole in a tree, a mediterranean gecko out for a nocturnal snack, and a small rough earth snake that had been lying on the sidewalk to catch the last of the evening heat and must have gone to sleep. We woke it up and it slithered away into the grass.

Meanwhile, online, Advogato was host to a lengthy debate that started out being about what sort of community certification metrics were best and ended up being a flame war about politically correct labels for the certification levels. I posted my two cents on the certiciation issue. The end result? It looks like Advogato will stick with the existing certification system for now. And I got two more certifications – one Journeyor and one apprentice – apparently from people who read my article. Duff, one of the users who gave me a cert posted his reasons in his diary. This was kind of cool as it’s the first time I’ve actually known what motivated someone to certify me. (thanks duff!). My own certification system is that I only give certifications to people I know well (there aren’t any on advogato yet), people who have a well known reputation (like alan or miquel), and people who certify me, if there is enough information on their advogato page to make an educated guess at their level (like flaggz or kelly).

I noticed that ALSA 0.5.7 is out today. This should have the MIDI patches as well as a few other bug fixes. It will probably be late next week before I get a chance to try it out.

Loaner Cars and Vorbis

I got my car back from the service center today – along with the repair bill. :-(

Oh well, at least it’s nice to be driving a standard again. The only loaner cars they had were automatics which I find downright frightening to drive. They’re always shifting up and down when you don’t want them to and when you really want them to downshift, say to avoid getting smashed by a big truck as you get on the highway, all you can do is stomp on the gas and hope the lousy automatic transmission feels like down shifting. And sometimes on the highway, you’ll accelerate a little during a lane change and for no apparent reason the transmission kicks into first or second gear and slams you against the seat like it wants to beat the Millennium Falcon’s record at the Kessel run. I couldn’t deal with that much lack of control for long with going nuts.

There’s a great interview with Christopher Montgomery on Advogato today. (if you’re reading the syndicated version of my diary on Advogato rather than the original, you’ve probably already seen it, of course). Christopher is working on a GNU licensed audio codec that will be completely unencumbered by patents and other IP problems. It’s called vorbis. I find this good news to be somewhat amusing because I’ve read countless posts on Slashdot from people claiming video and audio codec projects were too complicated to be created as free software – that only large corporations with money for R & D and patent lawyers could tackle projects of that scale.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my many years of programing it’s that nothing is really as hard as it seems. Not knowing how to do a thing makes it seem hard and knowing how makes it seem easy. I’ve found it’s helpful to start each new project with the assumption that no matter how hard it seems, if you just knew how to do it, it would be really easy. And like they say, it’s not what you know, it’s how fast you can find out.

Degas to PIcasso, Followed by Evelyn Glennie

Time for a weekend update. Saturday Susan and I headed off to see the Degas to Picasso: Painters, Sculptors, and the Camera exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art but we never made it. About half way there I noticed the temperature gauge on my car pegged on the hot side. I knew the radiator was on the way out so this wasn’t totally unexpected. The car is more than 8 years old now and begining to need a fair amout of service. Still, I’d like to keep it going for a full 10 years (or at least for one more year so my next car can be next millennium’s model – I’d hate to buy one this year and be stuck with a vehicle from the last millennium). Anyway, I did a U-turn and headed for the nearest Acura dealer which was only a mile or so away. We managed to pull into the service bay just before closing time. They checked it out while we picked up a loaner car. The final verdict is pretty bad. I’d been putting off some other maintenance stuff that really has to be done. All told, it needs a new radiator, timing belt, and water pump, one of the cooling fans has to be replaced, one engine mount is shot, the master cylinder has to be replaced, and assorted other minor things. Yuck.

By the time we finished at the service center it was too late to make it to the exhibit (maybe next weekend). We had DSO tickets for that evening however, so the day wasn’t a total loss. The soloist was Evelyn Glennie, the first (and only?) full-time solo percussionist in the world. She brought a set of percussion instruments that rivaled the setups Neil Peart used during the big Rush shows of the 1980’s. The piece being performed was James MacMillan’s Veni, Veni, Emmanuel. She is an amazing performer to watch and at times the entire orchestra seemed insuffucient to balance her performance in volume or intensity. Her instruments were spread out all over the stage and she had to constantly run from place to place to get to the right instrument in time to play it. If you ever get a chance to see her play live, I highly recommend it.

Sunday was much more uneventful. I spent a lot of the day playing with those pesky ALSA drivers. But it wasn’t until this afternoon that made any progress on them. I got some email today from Steve Ratcliffe with a patch that fixed the problem. After patching the driver and recompiling, I finally have MIDI in and out working correctly. Woohoo! Now I can do something more interesting than recompile drivers all day.

One last bit of good news today. My copy of Havoc’s book,
GTK+/Gnome Application Development arrived. I’m looking forward to getting up to speed on GTK and Gnome stuff. Perl is a lot of fun but it will be nice to work on some C/C++ programming again.