Hmmm… I’ve been pretty quiet on the blog front. Better write something. Show some sign of life. Well, officially 2 weeks of not being gainfully employed and I’ve been making pretty good use of the time, I think! (I know, you’d expect more blog posts from someone who has more time – I’m weird). Even though I haven’t been blogging much, I *have* kept fairly active in Twitter, so if you follow that, it’s kind of like my mini-blog.
So what have I been doing? Naturally, most of my time has been spent on the computer. I finished a tool (written in Python) that I had started in the last week of employment – both for personal satisfaction and for the benefit of a (ex) colleague. I think it will be useful, and that makes me happy.
Warning: the following is quite long and geeky. Feel free to skip to the end.
Distributions and Open Source 3D
I’ve done a lot of poking around with my computer, fixing lots of problems (and creating a few others). The most serious of these problems was my wireless connection, which appeared to die somewhat suddenly. I ended up trying multiple other Linux distributions over the course of resolving it. OpenSUSE had a nice polish to it, but I found the interface kind of cluttered. They seem to use their YaST back-end for everything configuration-related. Fedora 9 was really well organized and pretty, I was generally very impressed. But the best thing about Fedora 9? 3D acceleration worked when I booted it up! Even on the live CD! Not only that, but because of Fedora’s “Free” motto, this was the open source (ATI Radeon) driver! WHAT?! I couldn’t even get the proprietary (Catalyst) driver to work on Ubuntu!
Obviously, I had to do some more research. I found out that Fedora runs a lot of software that hasn’t been released as “stable” quite yet. Well guess what I’m running on my Ubuntu now? That same software. I’ve noticed my computer crash a few times when I leave certain other experimental software running for a while, but other than that, it’s stable enough for me to keep and enjoy the perks of 3D every now and then. But I certainly can’t advise it unless you’re willing to suffer the consequences – of which, there could definitely be. (I can’t use the closed source drivers, they somehow break my computer.) You could make a bootable thumb drive to test it out first. I did. Start here.
Performance, Games, and Screencasting
I guess I should talk about that. I read someone say the performance of the open source driver (radeon) is about 40% of the closed source driver (fglrx). 3D effects on the desktop work pretty good, but I can’t play FPSs (First Person Shooters) like Sauerbraten – an open source Quake-like game. In fact, I can barely play “Extreme Tux Racer.” Kinda sad. But I can play Neverball and CriticalMass! Oh, and I can kind of play Frets on Fire, an open source Guitar Hero clone (has a pretty funny tutorial). So the open source drivers aren’t as feature complete or as high performance as the closed source ones, but since AMD/ATI have become more open, releasing documentation and helping out the community, the open source drivers have been quickly closing the gap. This is very exciting for me.
Anyway, enough of that.. I spent a lot of time playing around with 3d and getting my wireless to work again. And the primary solution to my wireless problem? Turning the wireless router upside down. It still cuts out every now and then, but it’s mostly solid now (although maybe a bit slower, due to some buggy drivers). yay. No Internet makes Steven cry. (I really wish I could run a cable to my room….)
I resolved connection problems with my printer (yet again). Oh, and I also set up mic recording and tested making screencasts. I want to use Istanbul, but it seems to have more problems and fewer options than gtk-recordMyDesktop. I was considering making screencasts, as video tutorials for introducing people to GNOME or other simple things. I’ve written down a few ideas, but I’m not sure where that will go. I would like to do it as a kind of mini series with a bit of polish, but I’d have to look into the somewhat shady world of Linux video editing.
For some reason (perhaps I’m a bit of a masochist) I decided to learn about Debian packaging (creating those lovely .deb files that us Ubuntu users find so handy). My pain was further enhanced by choosing to package a library (Clutter), rather than a normal application. I found the documentation available to be overly verbose and not particularly plentiful – I suppose I wanted something concise and never found it. When I had finally produced two packages (the lib binary and the accompanying dev package) I could install on my system, I didn’t bother because a few other libs depended on the library I was updating, and I was tired of packaging. And I didn’t really want to create an even more unstable system. ^.^ But even though I didn’t use my packages (which I’m sure were far from “Debian” standards) I found the whole thing quite educational and I’m glad I went through it. I have a new respect for package maintainers and perhaps I can now package my own software (if I get around to writing something worth packaging).
The non (less?) Geeky
Aside from all that geeky stuff, I’ve been spending a bit of time with friends and family, and doing lots of rollerblading. Played RockBand at Jeremy’s birthday on 360. Sung til everyone’s ears bled. Drums are fun. That game is seriously fun. It just came out for Wii, but I think I will wait for the next Guitar Hero which promises even more and should be out in Fall. More is better, right? I like more. Oh and I still have to push out that blog post about my roadtrip….