Dorward's Ramblings

Windows touched my file permissions

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A Windows system made a commit to a branch and then I had to merge it. There were +xs everywhere, and guess who got to clean them up?

Perl to the rescue!

bzr diff | grep properties\ changed | perl -pe”\$_ =~ s/^.*?’//; \$_ =~ s/’.*\$//; \$_ =~ s/ /\\\\ /g” | xargs chmod -x

A self-indulgent rant about software with a happy ending

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Last night I volunteered to convert a couple of documents to PDF for a friend.

‘It'll be easy’, I thought, ‘it'll only take a few minutes’.

The phrase "Ha" comes to mind.

Adobe Acrobat can't import DOCX files. This wasn't a huge surprise and I was prepared.

One a quick trip to Pages later and … one document came out blank while the other was so badly misaligned that it was unusable.

‘Never mind’, thought I, ‘there are other options’.

OpenOffice rendered both DOCX files as blank. This was not progress.

‘Fine, fine, let's see what MS Office is like these days’.

There was a free trial of the upcoming Office for Mac available. A 2.5GB download later and I had a file which would, when double clicked, make an icon appear in the dock for about two seconds before quitting.

At this point, I admit I was getting frustrated.

Off to Office 365 I went. I'd even have gone so far as to give Microsoft my £5.95 for a month of access to it, if they'd let me login. I was presented with a blank page after entering my Live credentials.

I got the same result after switching web browser to one that wasn't laden down with the features that make the WWW bearable.

Did Microsoft not want my money?

(The more I deal with DOCX, the less I like it).

By this point, it was past midnight, I was running out of options, and I didn't want to let my friend down.

Then I found the rather wonderful (Gosh, this paragraph looks a bit spammy, it isn't though.) and I had the DOCX files converted a minute later.

So time to talk about Adobe software… in a blog post where I've been ranting about software. Brace yourselves…

I really like Acrobat CC. (Has the sky fallen? No? OK, then. Let us continue.)

I don't know what someone who has used earlier versions a lot will think of the dramatic UI changes, but as an occasional user, it is really rather nice.

It combined my two files without a hitch and did a near perfect job of identifying all the form fields I wanted to be editable.

The step-by-step UI is rather nice and makes it easy to find the various tools to edit the document.

CCTV and Google Glass

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Astro Teller is somewhat missing the point:

"I'm amazed by how sensitively people responded to some of the privacy issues," Teller explains, expressing frustration about the backlash against Glass in public, given the prevalence of mobile video. "When someone walks into a bar wearing Glass... there are video cameras all over that bar recording everything." If it were around a year ago "they'd be Meerkatting," Teller joked.

"Society's issues about privacy are completely legitimate," Teller said. "I'm not making an apology for Google Glass. Google Glass did not move the needle... it was literally a rounding error on the number of cameras in your life."

The problem (from my perspective at least) isn't the number of hard-to-notice cameras around. It is who is wielding them and what they might do with them. CCTV isn't really a problem:

Images of people are covered by the Data Protection Act, and so is information about people which is derived from images – for example, vehicle registration numbers. Most uses of CCTV by organisations or businesses will be covered by the Act, regardless of the number of cameras or how sophisticated the equipment is.

Cell or Wifi

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This is inevitable, and a terrible idea. It is based on two major assumptions:

  1. Cell connections are slower than Wifi connections
  2. Cell connections are unmetered and Wifi connections are not

These are both often wrong. My office sits in a cell signal black spot. I'm lucky to get one bar of 3G. Sadly, the wifi isn't up to much either (this isn't a problem as almost all my work goes over ethernet).

If, on the other hand, I walk 200 meters to the east, I find myself with a nice 4G signal that is (last time I measured it) 42 times faster than the wifi.

Since I'm with 3, that 4G is “all-you-can-eat”.

Wifi 0.21 kbps, Cell 8.96kbps, Cell 13.26kbps

As for the second assumption, doesn't take much effort to find a home broadband package with a usage cap.

I do not want to be part of your ecosystem either

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Today I've rubbed up against the annoying side of proprietary unreasonableness. Amazon Instant Video.

For reasons best know to themselves, the geniuses at Amazon have decided to put up the cost of Prime membership by 60%. As well as getting next day delivery on thousands of items, I can now also watch Amazon Instant Video - previously known as LoveFilm.

Yes, this, absolutely.

I'm in more-or-less the same boat. My Panasonic is a Blu-Ray player rather than a TV and I hadn't got to the point of discovering that I needed to pay for XBox Gold again (I let it lapse a year or so ago) to get the streaming video app.

So, I'm getting Amazon Video bundled with Amazon Prime and I have no good way to watch it on my decent screen / sound system.

If the new features were going to be bundled into the existing package, then that would be fine, but the renewal cost is awful. I won't be renewing when my current prime subscription is finished (I have a calendar entry set to remind me to cancel it before auto-renew kicks in).

@font-face is a nice idea but…

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Update from 3rd March 2014: It looks like this problem may be going away.

I like the idea of @font-face, but some implementations leave a little to be desired.

I was trying to read a webpage on a 3G Internet connection and the font was taking more than a little while to download. Unfortunately, Chrome doesn't render text in a fallback font while it is waiting for the desired one to download.

The result is a wall of white space, interspersed by headings and bullet points.

The page contained 350kb of fonts, which isn't much these days when it is unusual for people to have slower than 10Mbps connections … at home … in the country where I live.

When you start dealing with mobile connections, which can be intermittent when moving, have weak signals in some locations and suffer from high levels of contention in busy urban areas, 350k is suddenly a lot of data for something that will prevent people from reading the text on your page.

As a developer, I'm leaning away from using font-face these days, the "show nothing until the font has loaded" approach in Chrome is too crippling when there are problems loading the fonts (NB: The CSS for this site was written before I wrote this entry).

As a user, I'm going to dig out something to strip the stylesheets from pages so I can read them if their fonts are missing.

Recall is live

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Half a year ago I accidentally uploaded a hideous redesign and decided to keep it so that I would be motivated to get things fixed. This plan didn't work quite as well as I had hoped.

The new CMS went live this afternoon though, so fingers crossed that is is going to run smoothly.

It is written in Perl (currently running on Perl 5 version 18.1) with Catalyst and uses FastCGI with a MySQL backend (because that is what my hosting has available). The source code is available on Github.

The 2013 rendering engine shake up

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So Opera isn’t dropping Presto for WebKit but for Blink, which is Google’s new fork of WebKit that exists, as far as I can tell, because Google and Apple have a hard time playing together nicely. (See this HN thread in which people make various claims).

Meanwhile Mozilla is teaming up with Samsung to write a new rendering engine (Servo) from scratch. One which, from first impressions, is very heavily geared towards mobile devices.

I’m going to have to revise my testing platforms before very much longer, aren’t I?

Accidental redesign

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I’ve been writing a new CMS for ages (it’s been a low priority rite-of-passage project). It is getting to the point where I am almost ready to start using it.

I know! I think. In advance of moving to it, I’ll update the data in my old CMS and hit build.

Unfortunately, I forgot that I’d started redesigning the site a while ago. I’d also been getting experimental with colour schemes and fonts. (For “experimental” you can read “crazy”).

Worse, my backup includes the change in design.

Even worse, the old system predates my use of version control (I love version control … now).

So the net result is that my site is going to look hideous for a little while. This is motivation to get the CMS finished off at least!

The homepage isn’t going to look hideous, it is just going to look dated and ugly. This is because it is generated from a different set of templates, on a different machine.

Overly complicated and twiddly? I knew there was a reason I was writing a new CMS!