May 27, 2009

Legal 1 Usability 0

Posted in Misc at 19:55 by graham

The cooking instructions for my Tandoori Chicken Breast microwave lunch, are to cook…

…until internal temperature reaches 74C (165F).

How many office kitchens have a cook’s thermometer? Score nothing for usability.

Should you for any reason attempt to sue the manufacturer, it will rapidly become apparent that you didn’t follow the cooking instructions. Score one for legal.

May 21, 2009

OpenTTD: Trains and signals for beginners – a tutorial

Posted in Misc at 08:22 by graham

I have been playing Open Transport Tycoon Deluxe, or OpenTTD on and off for a while, but I confess I only understood train signals very recently. The game gets a lot more fun once you can have complex track layouts, so here’s a tutorial on train track layout and signaling for complete beginners.

Building tracks the wrong way

If you’re anything like I was, all your train layouts probably look like this:


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May 20, 2009

Quote of the day: Why racists have bad graphic design

Posted in Society at 17:34 by graham

Charlie Brooker on a television advert by the British National Party, England’s (very small) right-wing political party:

Extremist material of any kind always looks gaudy and cheap, like a bad pizza menu. Not because they can’t afford decent computers – these days you can knock up a professional CD cover on a pay-as-you-go mobile – but because anyone who’s good at graphic design is likely to be a thoughtful, inquisitive sort by nature. And thoughtful, inquisitive sorts tend to think fascism is a bit shit, to be honest. If the BNP really were the greatest British party, they’d have the greatest British designer working for them – Jonathan Ive, perhaps, the man who designed the iPod. But they don’t. They’ve got someone who tries to stab your eyes out with primary colours.

Read the article: Charlie Brooker on the BNP and their political broadcast.

May 17, 2009

Speaking at Open Web Vancouver 2009 in June

Posted in Future of Web Apps, Software at 22:30 by graham

I will be speaking at Open Web Vancouver on Thursday, June 11, 2009 and Friday, June 12, 2009. That’s in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. There’s a very interesting speaker lineup, and the whole conference is reasonably priced, so come along, learn, interact, and enjoy Vancouver in the summertime.

My talk will be entitled How and Why to Extend Firefox in Javascript (and Thunderbird, Komodo, and Songbird). I will post the slides here in June.

See you there!

May 10, 2009

Micro-Zooids: A story

Posted in Ideas, Misc, Software, Strategy at 23:23 by graham

When I was 16, I wrote a computer game, called Micro Zooides. It was called that partly because on Windows .EXE files all start with the two characters MZ, and partly because it was about small creatures. Micro-Zooides was going to be about humanity’s progress, it was going to be Civilization, which didn’t exist yet.

The game had a splash screen of a Far Side comic, then a short video of me tromping through the woods like a Neanderthal, which my Dad filmed and which I digitized with a very early video capture card.

In Borland’s Turbo C++ 3.0 I wrote a basic graphics engine to display the tiles of the world, and an event loop so I could move the main character around the world. I drew sprites for a proto-human (the micro zooid), dirt, rocks and sticks. He could walk around the world, and pick up and put down rocks or sticks.

Then I took a break to plan. I have a proto-human, rocks, and sticks. How do I get to civilization?

May 8, 2009

Turn on debug output in SVN

Posted in Software at 00:02 by graham

After a desktop and server upgrade, my subversion client stopped working. I am using Digest authentication, and it kept asking me for the username and password. Wireshark showed me that the SVN client wasn’t sending the Authentication header. To find out more, I turned on Subversion’s debug output. Here’s how you do it:

Edit /etc/subversion/servers Add this line at the end: neon-debug-mask = 511

That showed me this error: auth: '/' is inside auth domain: 0.

This means that the path I was requesting (the root of the repo) was not considered inside the AuthDigestDomain I had set in Apache.

It turns out that at some point in the upgrade of Apache, Subversion, or a library, the AuthDigestDomain requires a scheme. I had AuthDigestDomain whereas it should of been AuthDigestDomain

So now you know.

May 6, 2009

Migrating from Picasa to GIMP

Posted in Misc at 06:07 by graham

Update April 2012 Google has discontinued Picasa for Linux, so I’m going to try to do all my photo editing in GIMP. Here’s what I use most often:


  • Colors / Auto / White-balance
  • Colors / Auto / Color enhance
  • Colors / Brightness-Contrast / Contrast up by 5 or 10


  • Tools / GEGL Operation / Color temperature / Raise desired by 0.5k or 1k.


  • Filters / Enhance / Unsharp mask

Original post follows

I’ve been using Picasa to edit my pictures for a long time, and it’s an excellent program. Recently however I’ve started shooting RAW, and I’d like control, so I’ve started using GIMP. It’s more powerful and more complicated than Picasa, so to start myself off I went through all the features of Picasa and made notes on how to duplicate that operation in GIMP. Here are those notes.

Most of what Picasa does can be replicated with the Colors / Levels or Colors / Curves tool. It’s well worth spending a little time experimenting with both of those (the documentation is very good too).


In the Toolbox, click the Rectangle select tool In its options (beneath the tools), tick ‘Fixed: Aspect Ratio’ Enter 6:4 ratio (for 1.6 sensor, most DSLRs) Tick Highlight. Draw a rectangle on the image that you want to crop to. Image menu / Crop to Selection

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