April 27, 2009

New blog

I've moved my blog (a while ago now) to andrewski.net. Please find me there!

February 13, 2006

Today is the first day of the rest of my life

So I've had a few half-started posts sitting here that I just never finished. They're gone now, having little motivation to talk about Opera versus Firefox 1.5 or GTK+ (who wants to hear about that?). This exposes rather well my problem with this whole blog thang. I set out with this hoping it would be a nice commentary on my life--more than personal blather that, in my opinion, belongs in a personal journal, but moreso what I'm thinking about, a public sounding board for my reflections and insights on technology, programming, and music. Of course it would be personal, because it's mine, but about things that would interest and benefit the Internet community, or "blogosphere" if you will. (I hate that word almost as much as "blog".)

But I'm no good at journaling. My past attempts have fizzled. I thought this would fare better than a journal because it would be online. However, the opposite has been true. I've simply let it go, not in the least because my life has been a bit too personal lately, so I have little energy left for writing on here.

My solution? A longish post about my life at present.

As you can see from my last post, I now have a son. Even though I'm not raising him, it's amazing to me how much that simple fact changes things for me. In large and small ways, things shift focus and emphasis in my life. Mostly, it makes me realize that there are plenty of things in my life in which I put too much value. It's been my lifelong goal to be a husband and father, but at the moment, I see that I'm not ordering my life as such, nor have I in the past few years. I've been far too selfish with my time and relationships. The consequences have been severe: I brought a boy into the world in the midst of a relationship that was not ready for him, said relationship has since crumpled under the pressure, and I'm left unable to handle dealing with moving on or getting over that.

I find it necessary, especially after posting pictures before, to post some pictures of Samuel Stuart Steven, the beautiful boy that he is. Here are two that are particularly dear to me. He looks so very much like Pearl and me!

I've been reading a great book about depression called Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman. It's about the concept of learned helplessness and explanatory style. It's all about how you respond to adversity in life. There are three levels on which to evaluate things: whether the event is personal, whether it is permanent, and whether it is pervasive. He says that pessimism tends towards those three, and optimism tends away from them. It's amazing what a little awareness will do, and I've been catching myself explaining things very pessimistically, from something as small as burning some food that I'm cooking ("Blast! I am such a loser! I always do that!") to something as large as my relationship with Pearl ("I'm worthless and my love life is doomed"). Of course, total optimism wouldn't do in the latter case, because what happened is not Pearl's fault per se (I don't even like to think of it in terms of anyone's fault or blame), it's not immediately temporary (I'm not ready to love again), and it's not completely specific (e.g. what happened with our relationship is directly related to my spiritual struggles of late). Thinking optimistically would be short-sighted and immature. So while I can't be completely optimistic about everything, I'm finding that I'm far too pessimistic about most things. This is the deep work I need to do, and I'm very glad I'm in counseling to do it.

All in all, though this past year has been the toughest of my life, I'm beginning to see some good changes in myself and things are looking up, bit by bit. I'm not sure if all of these things will make sense in a general way, but there are a few things that I've noticed that mark significant changes in the way I operate:
  1. I don't want to spend hours on my computer fiddling around with crap and tweaking the hell out of my system. I do still like and use Linux, but I want it to work for me and not the other way around.
  2. My musical tastes are changing. I have found Bruckner to encapsulate almost all that I'm feeling, in such a way that his music has constantly and repeatedly been pointing me to God. His ninth Symphony in particular seems to hold together all the pain and grief I've felt and lift it up before God in release. The Adagio therefrom has brought me to tears.
    In general, I find myself lately favoring the Romantics and the slow movements of music, whereas I have always before tended towards the formalized Classical models. (I think it's that Bruckner holds both together so well that I've taken to him so much.)
  3. I've been much more accepting of people and their faults, particularly in my family. My family is the best example of love that I have on Earth, and the best opportunity for me to love. Accepting and loving them has been a hard thing for me over the years, but it's worth it.
  4. I've been spending a lot more time with my family, and I see the benefits most directly in my relationship with my little sister Kaitlyn. It's become important to us to spend time together, and I treasure that.
So, all told, this is ostensibly my last post. There's just too much life to be lived to worry about this blog thing. Perhaps I will pick this up again in the future, but I don't necessarily see that happening. Time will tell.

Bis dann and Adieu,

November 26, 2005

The visit with my son

Luke Steven Hays
Born 11/14/2005
7 lb., 8 oz. and 21" long

So last week my mom, dad, sister, and I had a chance to visit with my son. It makes the decision to give him in adoption a bit harder but more rewarding in the end, because I can see (and hold) him whom I'm committing to the care of others (a very wonderful couple). You can see more pictures and video by clicking on the image below.

He's certainly adorable.

November 14, 2005

Pygmy: New tooltips for the trayicon

So I've cooked up a nice tooltip for the trayicon for Pygmy (in SVN r79), with the help of Gian Mario Tagliaretti. Basically, it's a window that looks like a tooltip, smells and tastes like a tooltip, even behaves like a tooltip, but is not one. Here's a peek at what they look like right now (tooltip is on the upper-right):

I guess it could look a little more like a tooltip, but it's getting there. :)

Edit: r86 has corrected the look and improved the positioning. Thumbnail updated above.

November 12, 2005

Gaim and UI

So I've been using Gaim's 2.0 CVS (development version). They have some nice changes since 1.5.0. The most notable upon signing in (especially someone like me who has an AIM, a Jabber, and two IRC accounts) is the absence of the account sign-on window. It is one of the most annoying features about 1.X (and I have read that many people would agree), especially on my network connection which sometimes seems to be flaky. (I used to get a window popping up every time an account would disconnect.)

Another nice thing is the status message "selector". Whereas you used to have to use the menubar or system tray menu to set an away message, now you can set your status in the main window by way of a menu bar at the bottom (see the screenshot). It's very nice; you can select from a few different types of statuses (though I honestly don't know if all of them apply to the different protocols).

And the little things are nice too:
1. There's now a keyboard shortcut to open the formatting bar (I normally keep it off but want it on at a keystroke).
2. The tooltips in the buddy list are a little better-looking now, though I'd have a hard time describing how. :)
3. The Buddy List can be made smaller now without seeming cramped.
4. New messages don't just appear at the bottom; the rest of the text "slides" upward to make room for the new message. Not only does it look slick, but it's more eye-catching.

A few peeves, though all may be gone by 2.0:
1. The absence of the connection window is not (yet) replaced with any kind of notification, so it's hard to know at a glance if a connection has been dropped.
2. The idle times of buddies cannot be turned off (the option is gone), so when I make the Buddy List smaller, I still end up with things cut off. (I trust that this will option be added back in before 2.0.)
3. IRC/chat handling is still less polished. I'm of the mind that Gaim should remember window position, but even barring that, you can't keep the user list off in chat windows and they always open at the same (big) size. I filed some bugs in Gaim's bugtracker a while ago (and I know they're focusing on lower-level code changes first) but I hope that they get to them before 2.0 is released. (I'd patch the UI code myself if I knew C.)

All told, some nice changes in Gaim already. I still recommend it to anyone as the IM client of choice; it's only short of Trillian's* functionality (and only in a few less-than-critical ways), it supports all your accounts at once, it's completely free, and it just plain rocks.

*- Plus, Trillian is not available for Linux and costs money to get all the features. ($25 for an IM program?!)

November 3, 2005

GTK+ is not GNOME's

So I read this article this morning on work on GNOME optimization and they mention the "GNOME file chooser". Lo and behold, they actually mean the GTK+ filechooser, something available in any GTK+ application, not just in GNOME's. Perhaps it's a pedantic distinction, but I think it's an important one. Linux users should have a clear description of how things work (not to say that said description should be complicated) and GNOME holds too important a position to be saying inaccurate things, in my opinion.

I don't think I'd care as much, but this isn't the first time I've seen GNOME saying such things. This 2.12 preview lists Evolution as a "mail client for GNOME", but I happily use it when not in GNOME. And this leads me to a sore point with GNOME apps.

Many GNOME apps carry extra dependencies that a non-GNOME user wouldn't have. Often, these dependencies are unnecessary. A popular example lately is Evince, which relies on gnome-vfs. Nautilus, GNOME's file manager, also controls the desktop, but the default behavior of running the "nautilus" command is to open a file manager window and, if not already, take over the desktop. There's a flag (--no-desktop) and a GConf setting that can be set, but in my opinion, the default is a poor choice. Better would be to have "nautilus --desktop" run the desktop process and have "nautilus" only open a file manager window. The GNOME startup settings are very good, and you can have the desktop started therein.

This kind of development and publicity, in my opinion, is telling. It seems GNOME developers are developing for GNOME. They have a very respectable integrated desktop, but these types of things belie a narrow-minded attitude that hurts Linux as a whole in my opinion. With Linux being generally modular--customizable from the kernel up, chock full of functionality whether on the command line or in a GUI (of which you have many choices), and many choices of applications to suit your need and taste, etc.--I think it's frustrating to see GNOME be so self-oriented.

Rather, I prefer Xfce's attitude towards their software; they make things such that the user can use any piece of their choosing in any environment. No unnecessary dependencies, because the user's choice is valued. In fact, thinking about it, I'd say that whereas it seems that GNOME develops for GNOME, Xfce develops for the user. For example, Thunar, Xfce's upcoming file manager (being developed currently), looks very much like Nautilus and will provide comparable functionality, but performs faster (in my experience, and I understand that this is not a completely fair comparison at this point) and has a shorter dependency list. Xfmedia, a media player that uses Xine, doesn't do as much as GNOME's default, Totem, but performs better (when using GStreamer or Xine) and has a simpler UI. Of course, there's also the fact that Xfce's window manager, perhaps the most important piece of the desktop puzzle, is incredibly more useful and elegantly designed than GNOME's metacity.

I really appreciate GNOME's efforts on the desktop and recommend them to any person new to Linux, but as someone who's been around for a little while, I'm just a bit disappointed.

Disclaimer: I do not represent Xfce in any way (though I use it primarily and enjoy it) and in fact, I run GNOME's panel and volume manager on my Xfce desktop because I like them.

November 1, 2005

Pygmy... and Bantu?

So. Many updates with Pygmy lately. I rewrote the way it connects to MPD using a Singleton, so there's only ever one, no matter if you change the port, open the browser, etc. Makes it all very stable. For example, (I haven't written this capability yet) you'll be able to update your music database and not have to close/reopen the browser window. Neat.

Decklin Foster also graced us with his presence (and code) this past weekend and he has already made some good improvements on my code. He also has some good ideas about what to do in the future. For example, he has started implementing a parsing engine using the empy system. I haven't tried this out (or even heard of it before Decklin mentioned it), but I look forward to it. (As of now, Decklin has access to and will be patching our SVN tree. :) He also recommended we give the browser window a name, Bantu. I like this because that gives credence to the (eventual) fact that you can run the browser on its own.

All in all, it's been a fun time. This project has increasingly been a learning experience in OSS development and as such, has been constantly humbling! Decklin's patches, for example, have focused on cleaning up some of my badly organized code, which is a result of me learning how to do things as I'm implementing them. There are interesting ways of categorizing and classifying things; Python keeps on impressing me!

Look for a release in the next few days!

October 20, 2005

Interview with OOo's Louis Suarez-Potts:

In celebration of OOo's 2.0 release, here's an interview with one of their most important people.

From the article: "OOo is a massive project, and so it is fitting to have an in-depth interview with one of OpenOffice.org's main project leads to look at where OOo has come from, how it got here, and where it is going."

read more | digg story

September 14, 2005

Pictures... just because I can

So I've been doing a lot of familial reminiscing in the past few weeks, plus I just figured out how to add images on Blogger, so here's one of my sister and me, circa 1987. This is a particularly dear picture to me.

And here's one last year of my littlest sister and me. She isn't quite so little anymore; she just turned 9 in July!

I love them both very much, as you might have guessed.

September 11, 2005

Gosh, Windows...!

So Windows Vista will come out (when it does) with 7 different versions. My first thought: "[Groan] Oh, that'll be just great for support, trying to figure out which people are using and why 'feature X works on my other computer but not on this one...'." How can Microsoft tout usability and simplicity? Because most people don't know anything else. For example, since switching to Linux, I use a filesystem that does not need defragmentation. It's out there, but all Windows filesystems (don't know about the upcoming WinFS, which apparently won't be ready in time for Vista's release anyway) need defragmentation. So, users have to remember, manually, to defragment their hard disk periodically or suffer a performance loss. (Windows does not automatically add defragmentation to their Scheduled Tasks.)

Second thought, from one of the comments at the Slashdot link: artificial limitations. Windows is making all of this stuff, but they'll only give it to you if you pay more. This doesn't even sound like a good business model, let alone the fact that GNU software is simply free: Word and Outlook, widely used applications, have limited imitations in Windows by default (WordPad and Outlook Express), because they can't give away the major draw--MS Office--with the OS. Gosh.