Month: November 2013

Fixing KSnapshot Quirks – and Programming the Linux Shell in the Process

KSnapshot is the best of programs, and KSnapshot is the worst of programs.

First of all, KSnapshot is a terribly nifty utility that takes screenshots of the current screen. It’s very flexible and allows you to grab the whole screen, a single window on the screen, an area of a window, a random rectangle on the screen, or even some weird shape that you draw on the screen. It’s got tons of opportunities for you to record what’s going on.

Also, it is very powerful in what you can do with the grabbed stuff: you can save it in a variety of formats, you can send it on to some other application (for instance, email or photo editing). But wait! There is more! You can request a delay, so you can arrange the screen just the way you want (for instance, if you want to grab a video still); you can have or remove window decorations; and you can or may not include the mouse, if it happens to be where you are grabbing.

To top it all off, KSnapshot is integrated into the default desktop. When you hit the Print Screen key, it pops up, with a grab of the screen (minus KSnapshot) already in it. Save it, and you are done!

Sadly, KSnapshots also has a series of stupid quirks that are largely unexplained. What’s quirky is that the functionality is there, it’s just unreachable.


Why You Should Wait to Buy a New Laptop

This will be an incredibly short post:

If you look up the best selling laptops on Amazon, you’ll notice striking pricing. The best seller is the Samsung Chromebook, 11.6″. The best selling “real” laptop is a Toshiba Satellite, at 15.6″ quite enormous.

The downside: here in two images.


The price on both is fluctuating, currently $250 for the Chromebook and $300 for the Satellite. I guess on an 11.6″ Chromebook that resolution is acceptable, but I imagine you can see the pixels on the 15.6″ as little ponds on the screen.

Next is the best selling high-density screen:


Sadly, it belongs into a completely different universe:


It’s the MacBook Pro. Of course, the price is more justified if you consider everything else you get with a MacBook Pro.

But then we have this little pearl:


So you can have a high-resolution display on an 8.9″ screen for a little more than you get from a Chromebook.

There is no single thing you will use more on a laptop than the screen. If you do any actual work, or if you just like browsing around, you should not buy a laptop with a crappy, 1366×768 display. Enough said.

L’America: What’s the Nuclear Option in the Senate

If you are confused about the changes to the filibuster rules in the United States Senate, read on!

Hooray! There is something new to explain! You have all heard about this Nuclear Option that Senate Majority Leader (Democratic) Harry Reid pushed through, and you don’t understand what it’s about, what’s going on, and why it’s a big deal.

I am not a Constitutional expert by any means, but I’ve been following this for a long time and here is my (potentially totally misleading and confusing) recap:

What Is the United States Senate?

OK, I’ll start at the basics. The United States Constitution provides for a bicameral system. There is a “lower” house, which is called House of Representatives. Its members represents geographical districts with roughly equal population, such that its composition is more or less representative of the general voting populace.

The “upper” house is called the Senate. It is composed of two members per State, called senators. While the two houses are completely different in composition, they have roughly equal powers. The only real difference is that the lower house (or just, the House) has exclusive rights to start fiscal legislation, and the upper house (or, the Senate) theoretically advises the President and his/her Administration.

This advising function ends up meaning that the Senate is required to confirm many of the President’s choices. This includes treaties, but also nominations to important functions in government (including the cabinet) and Federal Court appointments, including the Supreme Court.

What Is the Filibuster?

The senators bring forth motions and bills to the floor. These are discussed as long as required. When the senators are satisfied that the discussion is completed, they vote to end discussion and proceed with a vote. The procedural motion to close discussion is called “cloture.”


Ancient European Divinities (No Letters Missing)

Letter Main Candidate Secondary Comments
A  Athena  Apollo  
B  Bacchus    
C  Cupid Ceres  
D  Diana    
E  Eir   Celtic
F  Frigg   Nordic
G  Gaia   Earth goddess in Greece
H  Hera Helios  
I  Isis Iris  
J  Juno Jupiter  
K  Kronos    
L  Lugus   Celtic Mercury
M  Mars    
N  Neptune    
O  Orcus   Etruscan underworld god, hence orcs
P  Pax Pluto, Pan  
Q  Quirinus   The founder god of Rome
R  Rhea    
S  Sif   Wife of Thor
T  Thor   Husband of Sif
U  Uranus    
V  Venus  Vesta  
W  Wotan    
X  Xanthus   One of the Greek wind gods
Y  Ymir    
Z  Zeus    

Chinavasion Rear View Mirror Device

Verdict: buy if you like installing things without good instructions. Otherwise wait until someone posts a video on YouTube, or some reseller afraid of lawsuits creates a real manual.

I just got myself a new car (a Subaru Forester) and I’ve been interested for a while in getting a dash cam. That’s the cameras you install inside the car to keep records of what’s happened on the street you’ve driven on. I am a fairly polite and safe driver, and if anything happens, it benefits me if I have a video showing what went on.

Chinavasion Rear View Mirror CamAmazon has hundreds of different models of the kind. They come with all sorts of functions, but none of them seems to combine them all. For that, I had to go to Chinavasion, a site that aggregates gadgets made in China and has them drop-shipped to consumers. You can get a volume discount, but there is typically no minimum sale.

Best of all, they allow PayPal, which makes me feel better. I am not too happy about giving a company an ocean away my credit card information (regardless of the ocean), and this way I can monitor more safely what happens.

Aside from an astonishing number of cheap Android gadgets and cell phones, security cameras and solar chargers, and all the panoply of things you can get, there are mirror cams to be found on Chinavasion. Those are like dash cams, but they are built into a rear view mirror that replaces the original one.


Nexus 5 – First Look

Short version: buy it, buy it, buy it. Then get a T-Mobile SIM card (micro) and show off.

Do you like your 2 year contract? Do you like the $100+ bill for such precious commodities as the unlimited long-distance calls you don’t use, while you are stuck with a hard limit of 2GB (AT&T) or 5GB (Verizon)? Do you like the mysterious charges that show up in your phone bill?

I got fed up with all of that a while back. I guess quite a few people have, because contract-free phones are all the rage. And for those that love contract-free phones, there is no better one than the gold standard of Android: the Google Nexus 5.

At $350 off-contract, straight from the source, it’s a real steal. You get a state of the art mobile phone that you can connect (in the USA) mostly to AT&T and T-Mobile, but that also comes in a Sprint version (no Verizon, for great reasons). It’s the same price as a mid-range phone, but it’s top of the line. Its specs put it close to the $600+ phones from HTC, Samsung, and LG, and to the much more expensive iPhone 5S ($850).

I couldn’t resist: as soon as I could order one, I was on the Google Play site and hit the submit button. Unfortunately, the ship date was announced to be November 22nd, and I was ready for a 3 week wait. Sigh. I would have to read the reviews trickle in and figure out whether this phone was really what I wanted.

it’s here already. Google shipped within a couple of days, and before I knew it, I held a tiny package in my hand (Amazon, read this, please!). It had the same shape as one of those business card boxes.


Beaches (No letters missing – with pictures!)

Dream of beautiful places by the sea and name successive releases after some of the most spectacular locations on Earth!

Letter Main Candidate Secondary Comments
A  Arashi    Aruba
B  Bondi    Australia
C  Copacabana    Brazil
D  Daytona    Florida
E  Encinitas    California
F  Falassarna    Greece
G  Guincho    Portugal
H  Hapuna    Hawaii
I  Ipanema    Brazil, the Girl from …
J  Jesolo    Italy
K  Kailua    Hawaii
L  Long    a dozen or so “Long Beaches”
M  Manly    Australia
N  Newport    Oregon, but also Newport Beach, CA
O  Okracoke    Carolinas
P  Punaluu    Hawaii
Q  Queen    Hawaii
R  Rondinara    Corsica
S  Skagen    Denmark
T  Tulum    Mexico
U  Unawatuna    Sri Lanka
V  Venice    California
W  Waikiki    Hawaii
X  Xichong    China
Y  Yachats    Oregon
Z  Zacharo  Zrce  Greece, incredibly long

People of Computing (No letters missing, but Q and X out of series)

Letter Main Candidate Secondary Comments
A  Amdahl  Agrawal  Gene (supercomputers)
B  Boole  Babbage  George (boolean)
C  Cerf    Vinton (Internet)
D  Diffie  Dijkstra  Whitfield (DH exchange)
E  Easley    Annie
F  Feigenbaum    Edward (fractal)
G  Gosling  Goedel, Gates  James (Java)
H  Huffman    David (compression)
I  Iverson    Ken (APL)
J  Jobs    Steve (Apple)
K  Knuth    Don
L  Lovelace  Lamport, Lerdorf  Lady Ada
M  Moore  Mockapetris, Matsumoto  several (most famously Gordon)
N  Norman  Neumann  Donald (UI)
O  Overmars    Mark
P  Postel    Jon (IANA, RFC)
Q  Que    Xinyu (Winner of a 2011 ACM Award)
R  Rumbaugh    James (OML)
S  Stallman    Richard (GNU)
T  Turing  Torvalds, Tanenbaum  Alan
U  Ullman    Jeffrey (compilers)
V  Vixie    Paul (cron)
W  Wall  Wirth, Weizenbaum  Larry (Perl)
X  Xavier    Professor, from the X Men series (no real relation to computing)
Y  Yourdon    Edward (complexity theory)
Z  Zuse    Konrad (early computing)

Sweets (No letters missing)

Sweets words in alphabetical order – single word only (you really don’t want to figure out how multiple words are spelled out in your VCS)
Letter Main Candidate Secondary Comments
A  Amaretto  Apple  Apple is just an ingredient, at least amaretto is sweet
B  Baiser    
C  Cake  Chocolate  
D  Donut    
E  Eclair    
F  Fudge    
G  Gelato    
H  Honey    
I  Icing    
J  Jelly    
K  Kiwi    
L  Lollipop   Licorice  
M  Muffin    
N  Napoleon    
O  Orange    
P  Pie    
Q  Quince    
R  Recipe    
S  Strudel  Sundae, Scone  
T  Trifle  Toffee, Truffle  
U  Umeboshi    Pickled prune
V  Vanilla    
W  Waffle    
X  Xylitol    Artificial sweetener
Y  Yummy    Adjective, but who cares
Z  Zabaglione