Category Archives: Pictures

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Akademy retrospective

I had an amazing time with the KDE community in Vienna this past week at Akademy. In fact it was my first Akademy despite contributing to KDE for so long, but Vienna was a great reason to make my first trip to Europe.

selfie of mpyne in front of an ad for a yellow submarine

It’s like Vienna knew I was coming over

It was nice to experience in person many of the things I read about from previous Akademies. There were the talks, meeting up with friends, the late-night hacking, showing others the work I’ve done. I even got to participate in impromptu collaborations such as taking Helio’s Qt1 port to CMake and building and running it on the Windows Subsystem for Linux within minutes of his announcement of the release.

I also got a reminder again of the importance of open source and making the work we do available to the wider community at the postmarketOS talk on day 2 of the talks, where the presenter noted how their effort to port a real Linux (as opposed to something like AOSP) to mobile form factors with a good GUI ran into some roadblocks related to their use of Alpine Linux (which uses musl libc), but managed to overcome those roadblocks more quickly thanks in part to some patches I’d written a year ago for musl support. This helped get them closer to running Plasma Mobile on platforms like the original Nexus.

This talk was the first I’d heard of this, and this platform wasn’t the reason I’d pushed to get KF5 to compile on Alpine, but then that’s the beauty of open source — people will do amazing things with even the smallest contributions you make, if only you get those contributions out there.

Improving the onboarding experience

A big theme of this Akademy was improving our ability to onboard new contributors, whether that’s testers, artists, bug triagers, designers, and developers, which is one of our major goals as a community. We need help everywhere, and this focus was reflected in many of the “Birds of a Feather” (BoF) sessions we conducted.

Improving kdesrc-build

I led a BoF on this topic for kdesrc-build and participated in a few others as well. There’s a lot out there that we can do to improve our story here, in kdesrc-build and elsewhere, and I’m hopeful we can accomplish real improvement here over the next year. But it was also nice to see and hear a lot of the positive feedback our developers had about kdesrc-build.

A blackboard listing some user complaints about kdesrc-build

Pain points from the kdesrc-build BoF

A blackboard listing some suggested improvements for kdesrc-build

Suggested improvements from the kdesrc-build BoF (some less serious than others…)


At that BoF, Dominik Haumann also demonstrated a mockup for GUI he’s been working on that, in association with the work I’ve been doing to add support for APIs in kdesrc-build to communicate to external processes, would make it easier to use kdesrc-build. More to follow on that, but I’m excited for it.

Other options for onboarding

Also, there was acknowledgment during the week that kdesrc-build is not the best method to get access to bleeding-edge KDE software for all the types of new users.

That’s OK — I agree myself, and if anything it would be surprising for a command-line script to manage to be all things to all people.

So we talked during the week about other options for getting people access to more recent builds of KDE software (Plasma, the Frameworks, Applications, etc.). These options could include:

  • Using virtual machines like KDE Neon’s Developer Edition (recommended by Nate Graham)
  • Flatpaks or Snaps for nightly builds
  • Conan.io C++ binary packages
  • Container-based solutions (e.g. being able to “docker pull” a kdesrc-build-based image based off a standard Linux-based docker image and which automatically gets you all the way to a working install without extra effort on your part)

There’s pros and cons to all of these. I don’t expect kdesrc-build would go away — our developers need some way to build our software on their own, but many of these would be much easier for power users to test on, or for application developers to use to just get the latest Frameworks easily.

Closing Thoughts

All in all, Akademy was an amazing experience, it more than met up to the reputation it had built in my head from seeing things from the outside here. It’s never too late to attend either, so don’t let missing a few like I did keep you from going to your first!

The team that hosted Akademy did an amazing job in organizing. These types of events offer every opportunity for “Murphy’s Law” to strike, but you’d never have noticed from my perspective as a participant — everything simply happened smoothly. I was especially impressed with the extracurriculars like the day trip to the Kahlenburg, and the sightseeing tour of Vienna hosted by the local team (the tour was so good you’d never have believed it was organized nearly at the last minute in response to the high interest we showed).

Now, it’s time to dive into all the “TODOs” I’d collected from just a week of in-person engagement with the Community, until the next time I can come back!

Animated Plasma Wallpaper: Asciiquarium

Years ago, for KDE 3, I had ported a console “asciiquarium” to operate as a KDE screensaver, called “KDE asciiquarium“.  By KDE 4.2, it was included as part of the kdeartwork module by default.

Since the KDE 3 times when I started this screensaver, our desktop concept has changed around a bit.  We’ve developed the Plasma desktop, and have effectively deprecated the idea of screensavers (which are increasingly less popular), though lock screens are still important.

But not everything that changes is a negative: Plasma also supports “live” (or animated) wallpapers, including for lock screens.  After some pleas from users hoping for a Plasma 5 port of the screensaver, I started work about a year ago to see if I could port the screensaver to Plasma 5 as an animated wallpaper.

Screenshot of the running live wallpaper (set as the Plasma background)

I think I’ve succeeded in at least getting something to start with.  In fact I’ve been running this code for months, never quite finding time to work on it, and I figured maybe someone would be interested if I shared it out.

The code is available at my scratch KDE repository.  A packaged tarball of the initial release can be downloaded from here.

This version uses QML, which was quite a bit harder than I thought it would be, due to the desire to keep this “low res”.  For instance, instead of smoothly animating the fish with pixel precision, the code forces each fish to align to a text boundary (to simulate the effect of running the original TTY-based script).

To the Qt devs’ credit, I found that this was almost entirely doable in QML alone, thanks to its support for OpenGL shaders in its particle system.  In fact if you look at the QML code for the sharks you can see that I managed to get the shark sprite to be de-rezzed using vertex shaders alone.

This didn’t work for the individual fish; unfortunately I hadn’t found a way to both use vertex shaders for the fish and allow a per-particle sprite for the fish.  I’m sure this is just my inexperience with things; for now I create the fish in QML (in Component.onCompleted) but use a small C++ QML extension plugin to update their positions.  The C++ plugin is also used to create the pixmaps.  If it weren’t for these, the whole thing could notionally be in pure QML.

Unfortunately this isn’t anywhere near the greatness of the old version.  The shark sometimes dies early, and can’t kill the fish.  The air bubbles are missing (not that fish really produce bubbles anyways!), and we’re missing the other major ‘fun’ sprites like the sailing ship or, my favorite, the submarine.

But those nits aren’t getting fixed any faster hanging out on my hard disk, so I offer it up for wider consideration.

Family Reunion results

I mentioned last entry that I would come back with photos. I also mentioned I had suffered a flat tire. I converted 9 photos that didn’t disclose tons of personally identifiable information and put them up, and in case you’re not in the mood for looking at photos I even added a “Read More” thingy for what I think is the first time ever…

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2.1

Although I missed the birth of my son, I managed to be here for the birth of my daughter.

Small photo of Emma in the nursery bed

Emma Pyne was born 12:56 U.S. Eastern time, weighing 5 lbs 12 oz (2.6 kg). She was 18.5 inches long (~45 cm). Both she and her mother are doing well, and hopefully we’ll be able to take her home this Saturday. Now I’ll be off to celebrate. :)

Victory is mine

So I bought the game Galactic Civilizations II a long time ago. I was able to play it on my wife’s laptop and I figured it had to be pretty easy to get at least the major parts of the game running in Wine since it doesn’t have the copy protection code which normally breaks games nowadays, and it didn’t look like it was using any fancy DirectX features.

Needless to say my first attempts to make it work in Wine didn’t go so well. I tried off and on over that month and eventually just gave up, playing it on the laptop when I had time. I basically never play it now, as moving over to the laptop is just too much of a hassle.

Last night I decided to try again. It took some 6 hours and probably the most debugging I’ve had to employ over this entire year on a problem, but Victory is Mine! :)

Link to screenshot of GalCiv2 running in Wine

The first problem I had is that after patching the game to the latest version, 1.4x, it required activation (what Stardock uses for copy protection instead of CD copying controls) in order to start. This is normally pretty easy, and you can activate by email even if necessary. But the process always crashed. I first tried copying over the authentication certificate from the laptop but it’s tied to the machine you’re on.

So I then tried bringing down the network interface, running the activation again and trying to get the activation request so I could email it to Stardock. That didn’t work either, as it crashed just before I got to that part.

Getting fed up I decided to use one of the Wine debugging megaweapons, relay tracing. This option causes Wine to mark the entry and exit from practically every single procedure call in Wine, including function name, module, and parameters and return codes. You can filter this all down to just the module you need but I didn’t know where the problem was. 70 megabytes of a relay log later, I had something which I could look at.

It took a bit of deductiveness (i.e. searching for the last place where the serial number is used, which is probably close to the crash location) but it turned out the error was in advapi32, in the cryptographic code. Looking at the Wine source code, it looked like the code was trying and failing to read a required Registry key. But how did Wine install itself without setting up required Registry contents?

I tried running wineprefixcreate (which among other things, sets up default Registry contents) but that didn’t help. Eventually a bit of Google searching for the registry key name (Cryptography\Defaults or something like that) resulted in a hit on the rsaenh.dll in the Wine source, in the DllRegisterServer() function. That looked like it created the required keys. Hmm.

From my past life developing Win32 applications I knew that OLE registration for a DLL was typically handled by running rundll32 and passing the DLL name and entry point (DllRegisterServer in this case). wine has that tool as well so I tried running it and… success at last!

Now GalCiv2 wouldn’t run because it said I didn’t have DirectX 9.0c. I tried following some instructions I found to install DirectX 9.0c DLLs into Wine. It turned out I had to use the rundll32 program again on the wintrust DLL to get the installer to do anything. It would still error out though.

At this time I figured there were probably many DLLs that needed to be registered. So I took the rash action of going to my /usr/lib32/wine directory and registering every single DLL in there.

GalCiv2 still didn’t start up, but that’s because I forgot to undo some of the steps I took in the previously mentioned DirectX 9.0c install guide (namely, using native instead of builtin versions of some DLLs). Once I undid that GalCiv2 started up just fine. I haven’t actually played it yet. It was so late by that point that I immediately went to bed. Now I need to see if the game can actually be played in Wine.

I also wonder what part of Wine is supposed to register DLLs (i.e. installer, on first run, or what?) and figure out why it never happened here.

My scanner works

Spent a lot of time over the past two days scanning in some old photos that my Grandma has left me and trying to touch some of them up. I’m not good at photo editing but ye olde “Auto Adjust” feature has made a lot of these pictures look better. For a few of them they looked 100% better just from being scanned (xsane also has an auto-adjust feature).

Picture of myself as an infant

Sadly I look nowhere near this good nowadays. :)

ELF Library dependency viewer

Update 2009-10-10: Updated link to software

So after having a Gentoo upgrade break a lot of programs, even after running the revdep-rebuild which rebuilds packages affected by a changed library, I decided that I had to have a way to find out what libraries in particular were causing programs to need to load the affected library. In my case an expat upgrade replaced libexpat.so.0 with libexpat.so.1. Even though revdep-rebuild was supposed to rebuild the affected packages it missed quite a few.

(I would eventually figure out that the reason it messed up is because the lib64 directory is symlinked to lib since I have a 64-bit system. The program would end up linked against a library in /usr/lib64, revdep-rebuild would look for programs linked against the exact same library, but in /usr/lib instead, and then not find it.)

Anyways, after playing around with ldd and discovering that it would not give a nice tree diagram showing what the dependencies of a program was I decided to make a tool that would do so. I call it ELF Library Viewer (elflibviewer on the command line):

Screenshot of the ELF library viewer in action

If it interests you at all it is available from my software page. It requires Qt 4 and the readelf utility to be installed. It doesn’t really do much error handling (i.e. run it on ELF executables and libraries and you’ll be fine) but it shouldn’t ruin your binaries either.

It is rather Linux-specific at this point as well, but it should mirror the GNU binutils way of finding libraries closely. Instead of searching the ld.so cache it checks ld.so.conf to figure out what ld.so should be caching however. Let me know if this program proves useful for you (or if I’m just reinventing the wheel). Bonus tip: Type the name of the offending library into the search line and hit enter. It will highlight in red all of the libraries which depend on the offending library. It also recursively resolves dependencies, but only the first time it sees a library. It probably wouldn’t be too hard to copy over the dependency tree each time it reencounters a library but I can’t be bothered to implement it.

I’m back

So I’m finally back from my first patrol. The patrol itself went pretty well, we did a successful test launch and I learned a crap load about the engineering systems (but I still have oh so much to learn). There have been quite a few changes in things while I was gone as well.

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Aworkin’ away

I think I’ve finally implemented all of the features that mornfall and
berkus have suggested, with the exception of separate compilation and linking,
since that seems to be impossible.

So, I update the entry on
kde-apps.org
, and when the content page comes back up, what do I see? This is a
screenshot
of what I saw. If I were a superstitious man I’d be nervous
right now.

Hopefully nothing bad turns out with this release, Perl has given me enough
problems that I’ve been seriously pondering how to introduce a testing
framework into the script. That would be nice, since I already use a
packaging script for the program, I could just force the script to run all the
tests before doing any of the packaging.

Cats are weird

I was sorry to read about
Roberto’s kitten, especially since I have two cats of my own.

One is named Sabrina, and is rather large. The other is named Boots, and
is rather timid. You can see a few photos of them, graciously hosted by my
University.



Sabrina is on the left, Boots is on the right.

I
swear I don’t know why Sabrina likes licking out of the tub faucet.

She
also likes lounging in various assorted containers.

Regarding Sabrina, she’ll happily lay in damn near anything with at least 3
sides. This includes the bathroom sink, the bathroom tub (when she’s not busy
licking the faucet, that is), the stray Thinkgeek.com box
I have lying around, the shelves in the entertainment center, the cabinets
under
the sink, and oh yeah, my computer chair.

Boots isn’t nearly so weird. She’s just scared of all human contact. I
guess
the previous owner wasn’t a very nice guy, although Boots at least doesn’t
have
any physical deformities as a result.