Up’ed to wordpress 3.0

I’ve upgraded my weblog to WordPress 3.0, if you encounter anything weird or wrong, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!

To make this blog entry slightly more useful, I’ve found the Android WordPress application pretty handy. In order to prevent spam, I’ve enabled moderation for the first comment of a person. This way I can more easily keep moderation times down and make that necessity a bit less annoying by quickly approving non-spam comments on my blog. The Akismet spam filter is already pretty good with 99.8% accuracy, the overall ratio spam vs. comments being roughly 50/50. Comment spam that slips through Akismet is caught in moderation, that way I can make sure that no spam shows up at all. WordPress on Android makes the approval process rather handy. It would be nice if the app could automatically check for comments and notify of new ones that need moderation though. If you don’t like web browsers to manage your wordpress blog, I find Blogilo as a desktop client and wordpress on Android app a very nice combo.

Surely, I’m going to Akademy, too!

I’m on the first leg of my trip back to the Netherlands right now. I’ve spent a couple of days in Bretagne, France to celebrate the marriage of a close friend, who asked me to be his best man. The celebrations, which lasted for three days were terrific, but also pretty tiring as you don’t get to spend much time just by yourself. The main celebration was held in the "ridiculously beautiful" Chateau Domaine de la Bretesche, and in Pornichet, the home of the bride. I’m returning to the Netherlands right now, for three days of desk time (needed to prepare my Akademy talk and to get some last minute work done on the impending openSUSE 11.3 release). On Friday, I’ll be boarding a flight to Helsinki and then on to Tampere to take part in my fifth Akademy.

This year’s Akademy is significant to me for a number of reasons:

  • I’m running for a second term on the Board of Directors of the KDE e.V., the foundation backing KDE. I’ve taken this opportunity to re-focus on my activities there. I will be working towards improving the organisation’s transparency a bit more. Transparency of the of our activities sometimes falls behind a little, since we’re very much focused on getting things done, and there’s always something important to push a little further, at the same time, status information gets outdated rather quickly. With the launch of our Supporting Membership Programme, it’s even more important to get the word out what the KDE e.V. is doing, so that’ll be what I’m working on on that front.
  • Last year, Richard Moore and I started Project Silk, which has been silently tagging along. Silently doesn’t mean that we didn’t make progress, just that we didn’t talk about it as much as we could. We felt that we wanted to show results before talking a lot about it, so we sat down and wrote code, worked out concepts, talked to people in order to verify and improve on our ideas. I think we’re at a point now where we got some really compelling stuff to show, and to prove that what we have in mind is not only very viable, but also very important to move on. This year’s Akademy will in part be used to spread those ideas within the KDE team, and to get more people to think Silky. If you think that’s all too vague, attend my talk during Akademy. For the few of you, my dear readers who won’t make it, I’ll prepare some online resources over the next days, so you can catch up as well, and join the Silk bandwagon.
  • Meeting my fellow hackers from the KDE Plasma team. After our last meeting in February in Nuremberg, we’re getting together at Akademy next week to plan, hack, gather ideas talk and have fun. What I really enjoy about getting us together is the sparkling you can see above the table we’re working on after only shortly being together. I guess it’s the motivation, the friendliness, the shared love for beautiful, intuitive Free software but also the mutual respect that creates this atmosphere where we’re getting into hyper-creative mode. It puts us in the position to think about solutions for the really hard problems out there, which none of us could solve individually, and it has more than once been the start of exciting new features and sub-projects.

[break] So I just got home, into our hot top-floor appartment in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Everything’s been taken care of by our terrific friends, the cat is better now after a bladder infection we had to leave it at home with last week. While I do like summery weather, temperatures beyond 30 degrees centigrade without a really cold room are a bit too much for me, and tend to have a bad effect on my productivity. Band-aid: Work at night as much as possible, keep the sleeping room as cool for as long as it lasts and stay in bed as long as I can to get the needed sleep. The laptop is already compiling an updated trunk, while I’m enjoying Brazil playing Chile (Robinho scores the 3:0 as we speak, so I guess my special friend Artur will be happy).

KMail’s Akonadi migration in openSUSE

In openSUSE’s KDE team, we’ve recently planned the migration to Akonadi, the groupware caching solution that will be the base of upcoming KDE PIM versions, notably KDE’s address book, email client and calendar app. With the release of KDE SC 4.4, we’ve seen the first component being ported to Akonadi, KAddressbook, spearheaded by its fearless maintainer Tobias K├Ânig. In the KDE SC 4.5 cycle, we’re seeing more components in their first Akonadi-incarnation. As this means a big step for these applications, some attention needs to be paid to users who will, over the coming months, migrate to the Akonadi-based PIM components. The PIM team has decided to go with a stepped approach, and not introduce all applications in their Akonadi version at once. This is a sensible decision, as it allows you to learn from problems in the migration path, and fix these in the next wave of ports. PIM in SC 4.4 brought the address book migration, which wasn’t completely smooth from a user’s point of view. While in most cases, the fix was as easy as "point Akonadi to your contacts (or .vcf) file", we can (and will) do better with the migration of KMail. KMail2 (which is akonadi-based) will not arrive with 4.5.0, though, but is planned become part of the next monthly SC update, 4.5.1. This decision has been made by KDE’s PIM team in order to get a little more time to stabilise and test the release. This is also our first line of defense :-)

As users’ needs vary, we decided to make the Akonadi port of KMail opt-in for the 11.3 cycle. openSUSE 11.3 is based on KDE SC 4.4, and as such will install the "mostly traditional" PIM suite. Users will not automatically be upgraded to KDE SC 4.5 (which is due in August), but in all likelihood it will be easily installable. As there are many people who follow KDE releases closely, many will install SC 4.5.0 and followups from the Factory repositories, so when 4.5.1 is released, these users’ email would get migrated to Akonadi automatically. That might come as a surprise, as it’s unconventional to make such a big technological leap in what looks like a bugfix update. So in openSUSE, we will keep shipping 4.5.0’s KDE PIM even in Factory, but also make available packages that replace KMail1 with KMail2. Users will be able to opt-in to the Akonadi migration, so they can do this upgrade when it fits for them. From a discussion with the PIMsters, it also looks a lot like you can try the Akonadi-based KMail, and if it’s not ready for you yet, you can switch back to KMail1 without losing your config. That’s a great achievement by the PIM team, and shows that they’re developing with end-users in mind.

For the user, this means that for the innocent nothing will change automatically in the upcoming cycle (other than bugs getting fixed). The effect is that there will be a roughly 6 months long window in which users have the choice whether they just want their KMail to not change, or to jump on the Akonadi bandwagon into the future.

This upgrade also gives us (upstream KDE and downstream openSUSE) the opportunity to make the migration and workings even smoother, and deliver some icing on the Akonadi-cake with the openSUSE 12.0, which show why Akonadi is a darn useful thing to have. I know many people (and I am one of them) who are looking forward to make full use of Akonadi, not only in the applications you’d expect it to be, but also integrate all the interesting information from Akonadi also in other apps. I’m sure some very interesting features will crop up after Akonadi is fully upon us.

Epic Moment: Free and fast graphics at last

Well, epic for a Free software geek. Kim and other normal people just chuckled, and at best grinned when I told them.

I’m now running openSUSE on my desktop, which has an AMD RadeonHD 4350 card. That card is fast enough for my graphics needs (compositing window management, a dated game once in a while) and still passively cooled and providing two DVI outputs for my dualhead setup. I’ve been using an NVidia VGA before, but switched to AMD/ATi when I last upgraded my desktop workstation (to an Intel Quad core, meaning new mobo, graphics as well). I picked a RadeonHD card instead of an NVidia chip because of AMD’s open dealing with specs, something which I deeply despise in NVidia. So, NVidia, there you go: You lost me as customer because you’re too closed a company.

Now bitching about NVidia is not the (primary ;)) goal of this post. The goal of this post is, that with openSUSE 11.3’s graphics stack, I’ve been able to run a composited desktop with the Free radeon driver finally. While there were some hickups in the installation procedure (normal for a beta release), it now all fell into place, and I’m enjoying fast, beautiful graphics with a completely Free software stack. That is a lot of work from the Xorg people that has finally come to fruition: There’s the new DRI framework in the Linux kernel, along with drivers supporting compositing for many of the "newer" RadeonHD models, the compositing support for newer chips that has landed in the latest Xorg, all on top of the EXA acceleration infrastructure. If you’re interested what you can expect from your upgrade to 11.3, check the feature matrix compiled by the Xorg devs.

I’ve tried the setup on Ubuntu Lucid Lynx in the first place, since that’s what was installed on the workstation before, but didn’t have much luck. The kernel shipped with Lucid is just one version too old it seems, so lacks the functionality necessary to accelerate graphics suitable for compositing. For that reason, I’ve upgraded the kernel to 2.6.34, but only to find out that my Xorg is not good enough. Tried installing newer packages from the xorg-edgers repo, but that just resulted in my system hanging solidly during boot. (That’s to be expected if you’re using bleeding edge Xorg, and upgrade your own kernel, but still a shame it didn’t just work ;-)). I assume that new upcoming Ubuntu will provide this nice out of the box experience as well, but I didn’t try it.

For many users, the most interesting thing is probably that the Free radeon driver (and to some degree the Intel graphics driver as well) provide the best user experience for running a KDE Plasma desktop. Using the NVidia driver, the desktop always feels sluggish. That’s supposedly due to NVidia not accelerating some calls that are made while switching windows, so a couple of milliseconds are added there and the whole thing feels less responsive. It’s not as bad as it was, about 2 years ago, but there’s still a notable difference in snappiness when using a low-end (non-poulsbo ;)) Intel chip compared to anything using the nvidia.ko binary driver — and that’s just pathetic given the NVidia hardware is supposedly much more powerful. The same, even if to a lesser degree, is true for ATi’s binary driver, the (in)famous fglrx.ko. This one, while it works OK-ish, also suffers slightly from this lagginess. Switching to the free driver makes the whole thing just very snappy. I could well imagine that those who are complaining about a perceived slow system are suffering from just this problem — bad graphics drivers. If you’ve recently compared the binary and free drivers for RadeonHD cards, please leave a comment so we can see if this — rather vague — theory of mine (binary drivers suck, Free ones feel faster) is true for more people.

So, what’s the epic moment? Well, the epic moment for me was seeing KDE Plasma start up with the Free driver, enable compositing automatically and by that delivering a much more beautiful and functional desktop to me, out of the box. I’m happy that with the new graphics stack in openSUSE 11.3, the same will be the case for many users out there.

Jumped!

Last weekend, a couple of friends and I went to an island in the Dutch Wadden Sea to celebrate the bachelor party of a close friend of mine. It was all pretty awesome, I picked up the poor guy around noon last Friday (when he thought he’d have another good 3 hours of meetings that afternoon), so it was a good start. The night, we spent bbqing on the beach (had Jerk pork) and the next day we want to the small airfield on Ameland — Chris still not knowing what would be happening.

The next couple of hours we spent hanging out with the parachuters from Paracentrum Ameland, learnt a bit about safety, how you’d not break your legs, and what happens if you lose your contacts in mid-air. Then we boarded the small plane, one after the other, and climbed up to 3000m above the island, giving a fantastic view over all Dutch Wadden Sea islands. Then I was secured to my tandem master more tightly, put on the safety glasses, and open went the door. At that point, I just stepped out of the airplane onto the small step outside the airplane, stood there for two or three seconds, and jumped. We fell freely for a good 30 seconds until the parachute opened (probably wouldn’t be writing this if it hadn’t ;-)) at ~200km/h, and then spent another 5 to 6 minutes slowly decending onto the airfield again. Landing went smooth, as you can see on the photo.

I must say, that was an awesome experience, it’s a really weird moment when that door opens, but the view, the experience (and certainly the rush of adrenaline) make it absolutely worth it. I wonder if I’ve left behind my slight acrophobia on that flight. As to Chris, I think he still likes me. His face, in terms of Big Smile looked about the same as mine right after the jump.

If you’ve got friends that have you thrown out of a plane in mid-air, you don’t need enemies.