Monday, July 27, 2009

Yahoo Video

A friend suggested I check out a web tool called pipes (they're not going to trademark that name are they? That'd be like trademarking word, or office, or windows, or some other common day-to-day term.

Anyhow, I watched a video showing how to use the tool. The video was boring and not very informative. Or maybe it was informative. Hard to tell. The video site,, is very distracting. There's this video playing, but there's also text scrolling around in two places competing for attention. So whenever another part of the screen changes, the eye is drawn to the other place. What's happening in the video I was watching? Don't know--I got distracted. Should I go back and watch the video again? Well, if they really cared they would have hosted it at a more competent video site.

Or maybe not, since the pipes site itself is hosted at yahoo:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Chrome: Darn the Luck

It looks like my favorite feature of the Linux version of Chrome, the lack of Flash support, is going the way of the dodo: It's nice to have a browser that doesn't support Flash simply because so many web sites use it for advertising content. Perhaps advertising is the predominant use of Flash.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Fixing a Broken Link

In November I posted about my last mile, and the entry included the Xohm logo. But I linked to it rather than grabbing my own. And the link rotted. So, I've just grabbed my own and will update the broken link in the old post.

gFTP Much Nicer than Nautilus for sftp

Gnome ships with GUI sftp support built into nautilus, but it's not ideal. I was living with it, and do prefer it over the command line version (I'm getting lazy in my old age) but recently have been evaluating xfce as an environment. This is a whole different story, but I'd like to find a less bloated, less buggy environment than Gnome. Xfce doesn't seem to ship with a GUI sftp client, which is totally fine--why ship software that many users won't use?

Looking around, I found gFTP. So far, it seems gFTP is as good as nautilus in every respect. A major difference, however, is that when transferring files to and fro, gFTP maintains modification times. This way, if I have two copies of the same file in two (or more) places, they all have the same modification time. Seems pretty basic and pretty obvious--and very important--but nautilus gets it wrong.

Is my preference for a GUI sftp client really a sign of laziness? I don't think so. In many cases command line tools are quicker and easier, but when maintaining web directory trees it's nice to be able to quickly glance at two directories and see if their contents match. gFTP does have one quirk that's inconvenient in this regard, however, in that it sorts files and directories differently. IMHO, this is another sign of Linux developers not understanding Unix: a directory is, like a file, a link in a directory, darn it, so sort it like other links.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Image Editing

I've been a bit frustrated (so, what else is new?) by image manipulation software on Ubuntu. The GIMP makes even the simplest operations complicated. Imagemagick[sic] is sufficiently buggy as to occasionally be useless, though it usually works fine for simple things. I installed a KDE package on my work machine, but of course that comes with an amazing amount of baggage that stays resident after the program terminates. What's a guy to do? Grin and bear the GIMP? I don't think so. As a partial solution, I've installed a version of LView Pro that I registered (and paid for) in 1996 and used to use on Win95 and NT4. WINE certainly has improved in recent years. LView might be sufficient, except it doesn't deal with PNG or EPS images. Neither of these is a surprise: Windows has never had the Postscript support Unix folks assume, and whether PNG was around 13 years ago or not, I'd never heard of it. Still, the LView guys did a nice job with this program. My immediate plan is to use ImageMagick to convert among file formats and, whenever ImageMagick barfs on an image, use LView for the actual editing. We'll see how that goes...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

To Use Blackboard is to Hate Blackboard

It may be that Blackboard isn't so bad from the student side, but it's terrible from the faculty side. This afternoon I was trying to create a quiz and Blackboard locked up before I was halfway done. A couple days ago the same thing happened to me inside the grade center. BTW, who thought the new grade center would be an improvement over the old gradebook? It's harder to use, and very cumbersome. Almost anything a faculty member does causes a page reload while some slow script somewhere runs. Lovely.