Despite being an overall fan of KDE, I always preferred the Gnome version of the Instant Messenger, Pidgin. It is really designed for ease of use, it is extensible with incredibly useful plugins, and is available on a ton of platforms. Also, it can be easily configured and you can synchronize the configuration files with no issues, even using OwnCloud or Dropbox.
No surprise then that I would use Pidgin to automate all sorts of tasks. I will send myself a message so I get notified on all my phones, using whatever mechanism I want to use. Pidgin comes with a plethora of protocol plugins. If you need something that isn't on the list, you can also look for third-party plugins. And you can, of course, write your own. I am doing that as a side project to include small social networking sites that only use a web interface.
One of the advantages of Pidgin is that it is scriptable. You can either write scripts internally (using the plugin mechanism) or you can direct Pidgin from the outside. If you want to call Pidgin methods and make them do things, you use the universal DBus interface.
DBus is universal in that you don't need a particular environment or programming language to make it work. In fact, DBus was born out of the desire to make different bus interfaces work together. KDE used to have DCOP (which frankly was far superior to DBus). Gnome, if I am not mistaken, used CORBA.
You can send DBus messages using a shell script, or from the command line. DBus comes with utilities that send messages to various interfaces, making it easy to script things.
In my case, I decided to use Python. The Python DBus interface is rock solid and stable, and the language fairly easy to use and parse. If you want to send a message to a DBus object, you simply invoke it.
It was so tempting: on the heels of the mega-epic trip around the Rockies, I wanted one last chance to ride before the season's officially over. Also, I had bought this cheap Arbor board and these cheap Gnu bindings and I wanted to give both a go.
I packed the car and my friend Torrey and we dashed up the highway on a fateful Monday afternoon. The snow divinities liked us, as we sailed up the 15, then 215, then 15, then finally 395 without a hitch. I've had the worst experience driving through San Bernardino before: none of that this time.
We got into Mammoth too late to get an idea of snow conditions. The hotel was the Juniper Springs Resort, which has amazing lift access: you stumble out the side door and you are at the lift. It's really awesome! The room was the usual one bedroom condo, with a spacious and well-equipped kitchen and two TVs. I love to stay there!
In the morning, I looked out. We got a condo on the South side of the building, overlooking the lobby and hence automatically the lift. What do you know, there was no snow. Not a single flake, speck, or puddle. The lift was bone dry, immobile, and our lift access had been revoked by Mother Nature.
It seems impossible that I've had the Unibrow for just two months! It's grown on me so fast, it feels like we've been best buddies for a very long time. So here my impressions of my new BFF in the ocean.
I wrote about the Unibrow briefly when I mentioned Firewire Demo Days. They hold them frequently enough that I got a chance to form an opinion. Not a good one at first: the board is very narrow and it takes a while to get used to it. Because of the form factor, it tends to like some types of waves better than others. Since I couldn't pick the waves on demo day, my experience with the Unibrow was so-so at best.
Basically, this board underwhelms on small days, where its salient features can't shine. Also, it feels a bit unstable at first. The combination can be quite toxic, and it took me a while to catch a good wave on the demo days. Granted, I was mostly demoing the Baked Potato (that I then bought) and had to split the remainder of my attention between the Unibrow, the Vanguard, and the Spitfire.
I never did a good demo on the Unibrow, and my guess is that not a lot of people do. Still, every time I tried it out, I liked it more. It felt radically different from the Baked Potato to which I was starting to get used. It was less forgiving, but more precise. If the BP is a micro-aircraft carrier built for small waves, the Unibrow felt like a precision tool meant to dissect large open waves.
I wavered for a long while. As with the BP, the price turned me off: it's a piece of foam with an epoxy shell, how could it possibly cost $800 bare? But then I realized how much fun I had with the BP, and that I wouldn't want to go out on overhead days with it. I needed a winter board, and the BP wouldn't cut it.
I love my Y50. The 4k screen resolution gives me both a chance to see a lot more on a single page and much better and crisper text if I want to see it normal size. The only downside? Software that assumes pixel sizes.
It doesn't really matter what I am looking at: anything that comes with predefined pixels turns into a microscopic smudge. It's completely impossible to realize what the buttons do in the Gimp, for instance. Checkboxes are so small, it's virtually impossible to tell whether they are checked or not.
I can deal with everything else, though. The one thing that is an eternal pain is the web. In particular: sites that define their content in pixels.
User interface design has always been caught between two extremes: on one side, the desire to make everything predictable by forcing it to look exactly as it looks on the designer's screen; on the other, the desire to make everything work universally on all screens. The former is epitomized by PDF and iOS; the latter by HTML and ... the Web.
A PDF document is many things. Most importantly, though, it's a blob that looks the same no matter where you are and how you look at it. The part where it looks the same everywhere is very useful in certain cases - like if you want to shuttle an official document around, or if you need to ensure that elements don't get moved out of place.
Research for the new novel is almost completed. There are going to be twists and turns that will make a helicopter spin, and I decided to keep with the strength of In the Mission: a novel about a deep mystery wrapped in a conundrum, where science parallels art which parallels the otherworldly.
Somewhere in the depth of the research (and it goes very deep), I found myself mired in a strange story. It was originally reported in the year 2000. Given that it was about something in the Nazi period, it seemed very odd we could still unearth something of fundamental importance 50 years after the fact.
But people gobbled it up. By "people," I mean UFO researchers, science fiction authors, and alternate reality scientists. Unsurprisingly, the story made its way into Ancient Aliens, the show that consistently rivals Fox News for the most outlandish interpretation possible of actual things.
This is about Die Glocke, or "The Bell." A device whose function seems to have been lost in time. The secrecy surrounding it was so total that the only evidence of it is the report in the book, The Truth about the Wunderwaffe. In fact, there is no hard evidence of this bell at all. All we have is what the author says in his book.
The Wikipedia page on the matter is a little vague; the crackpot sites with blinking GIFs are full of outlandishness. But as soon as I read the description of the thing, I had a theory fully formed in my mind. It seemed so self-evident that I wondered why nobody mentioned it. But of course it was too self-evident for a world more interested in outlandishness.
So I bit the bullet and bought the book. It arrived today, and I started perusing. The Truth is fairly long, the English version a little too close to the Polish original, making it sometimes closer to a Google Translate rendition than an actual translation. While the writing, for that reason, sounds a little off, the research is spectacular. The author spent a ton of time putting together data on the Wunderwaffe project, and the tome is evidence of effort and care, as well as skill and acuity.
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