Strange companies

Some companies invent strange reasons to tell potential customers that they don't have the time or inclination to actually do some work. For example, I asked the dutch branch of if they have a z39.50 compliant search interface available for the public. Not a strange question, because although the standard is an ANSI (American) standard, it's quite an Open way to search for books and the like. Programmes like Tellico can use it to search for certain books, something that's very interesting for a bibliophile like myself.

Note, I asked if they had one available for the public... And what's their answer? "I'm sorry, but we can't disclose technical information about our site due to security constrictions." I don't get it. Why not just answer "No, we don't have such an interface available for the public" or "No, but we're thinking of implementing it" or something like that? Sounds like corporate babble again. sigh

Valid Email addresses

I'm a big fan of The Order of the Stick and today the author/artist, Rich Burlew, informed me that finally the first volume of the comic will be in print. I love web-comics, especially when they are a parody of Dungeons & Dragons or other Fantasy RPG's. For example, I bought all three volumes of Bruno The Bandit. That's really a lot of laughs. So I went on to buy the first book of The Order of the Stick and apparantly the e-commerce software used is something called CubeCart. Well, let me tell you, that stuff is real rubbish.

Most sites I know that deal with email addresses are rubbish, actually. Since they don't allow for a "+"-sign in email addresses. I hate that. I really do. The "+"-sign in an email address is a really convenient way to track where spam comes from. My MTA, Postfix, allows for the "+"-sign to be used as a delimiter (and Postfix isn't the only one that allows this). This way I can make different email addresses without any fuss, I just append a "+" and some string to my normal email address et voilà, a new email address that is automatically delivered to my normal Inbox. My email client, Novell's Evolution (used to be Ximian's Evolution, but Ximian was bought by Novell), can filter spam out and I can filter special email to other folders just by checking the address it was sent to. Very neat.

But alas, since those stupid programmers don't follow Open Standards and RFC2822, they will not allow my address with a "+"-sign. Anders Jacobsen made the whole rant before, on his weblog. Be sure to read it.

I emailed Rich Burlow that since the app didn't accept my valid email address, I was unable to buy a comic. Now, I feel sorry for the guy, he puts a lot of work into the comic and I'd like to support his work. Maybe I'll try to donate some using PayPal... Assuming PayPal accepts "+"-signs in email addresses...

The First Day of the Year

I don't really care for celebrating New Year. Some people consider it some kind of closure, a point in time to start anew, with a clean slate, so to say. Not for me. I don't mind celebrating it, since it is a holiday and fireworks can be very nice to look at, but I don't feel or act different the first day of the new year. I have no sudden urge to say to myself "Yes Tim, this is the year that you're going to do things all different, from now on, there's a new Tim, that will first of all loose 10 kgs of body weight."

It is a special day for me, nonetheless, but for a whole different reason: Me and Monique, my girlfriend, became a couple on the newyears eve of 2003. And that's a thing I like to remember and celebrate. But aside from that, my day was a normal saturday.

Since Monique went home around 4 o'clock in the morning, I slept late. I slept bad, too, since the dogs started barking early in the morning. I really woke up around 1 o'clock in the afternoon. The first thing I do on a saturday is sms my Monique to ask her what we will be doing this day. She wanted to go take a stroll with one of the dogs. Since my dad has four dogs, there's always one willing to jump in the car and drive to the park. So we went strolling through the park ('Brunssumerheide', for you dutchies) and didn't return to the car until the sun was almost completely down, around half past five.

When we got back home, dad already prepared dinner. He asked us the day before if we'd like to fondue this day and of course, who can say no to fondue? We talked a lot during dinner, about all kinds of things, mostly the dogs, though. And then we went to see what was on the television. Sometimes we play a game, 'Kolonisten van Catan' in Dutch, 'The Settlers of Catan' in other places (see also GnoCatan), sometimes we watch television and tonight we watched the DVD of King Arthur (the director's cut). My dad usually doesn't understand the movie and goes to bed early and Monique and I have some of the privacy we sorely lack in our few days per week together.

So nothing special, just a normal day. I do need to loose those 10 kgs, though...

Mandrake Install Update and a new Toy

In case you were wondering, I'm still working on my dad's pc. The Mandrake Mini Install CD is seriously fucked up. You may know, Mandrake-versions consist of two branches (at least, since 10.0), known as "Community" and "Official". Community can be seen as a rc-version of the new Mandrake version. The Official branch is the one that ends up in the stores. Well, the Mandrake Mini Install CD, which depends on packages from Official, only has a list of mirrors for Community! I solved the problem by manually entering the URL for the Official-branch. A good thing I know that one by heart, but a sad thing that the creator of the mini install cd wasn't able to have that forsight...

On another note, I started a new project. I'm going to develop a small RSS aggregator (yeah yeah, there are many already) in Python, which classifies news-items with a Bayesian filter. I haven't really done large things in Python before, so it's more a test than anything else. Would be cool if it just worked nicely, though. Bart showed me the RSS aggregator he used in Mac OS X, one with an interface I really liked. I'm going to ... ahum... borrow that interface ;-) And have buttons added to each article to determine if you like it or not. In the end, the programme should be able to determine articles that interest you by the words they contain. At least, in theory. We'll see how it ends up.

I already found some libraries I can really use, Reverend looks to be a good Bayes-classifier, Feed Parser looks to be perfect to actually interact with RSS and last but not least, htmllib will aid in the displaying of the feeds. The programme is almost done with just these three libraries ;-)

More Mandrake Trouble

Bah. I downloaded a mini installation CD, so I could install my dad's machine via the network interface. But alas, Mandrake isn't smart enough to not refer to specific versions of packages on a server. Or the Surfnet FTP server doesn't contain all packages that are required. I tend to go for the first option. Because it's not the only thing that goes wrong.

Apparantly, the mini install CD is still a work-in-progress, since even the latest "Official"-version points to the Community-mirror! Bad choice...

You know, I really like Mandrake for the desktop, once it's installed, it just works. No trouble at all. But the installation isn't easy and an upgrade certainly isn't advisable. Just make sure you have a separate /home-partition (darn, didn't do that... this will bite me in the future, I just know it) and re-install each new version. That's the only safe way to go. Upgrades just do not work.

Darn Mandrake

Bah! Last night I updated my dad's computer from Mandrake Linux 10.0 to 10.1. A small upgrade, one would think. Nothing is further from the truth. First of all, the update ended with messages about not being able to update KDE components and SANE stuff. Okay, I can fix that. Work some of my Mandrake-magic and all is fine. At least, I thought it was fine...

Apparantly, sound was disabled. That was my dad's first complaint. Nice. I had this problem each time I upgraded his computer before, so at the moment I know where to look for the trouble. I edited /etc/modprobe.conf, rebooted (I don't know how to fix Alsa-problems without rebooting... it usually is something with the kernel-modules) and fixed it. But... Bah, KDE starting problems. Enough. I downloaded the mini install CD from Mandrake and are now in the process of backing up the /home. I know, that's not necessary, but all the filesystems are still ext3 and I'd like to change that to ReiserFS. And make all partitions part of a LVM2 partition.

You know, that's just one of the times that I'm glad I know some bash-shell-scripting. I'm working on my own pc now, waiting for my dad's pc to finish backing up. Consider this line:

BLA1=0; BLA2=1; while [ $BLA1 -ne $BLA2 ]; do echo -n "Not equal - BLA1: "; echo -n $BLA1; echo -n " BLA2: "; echo $BLA2; BLA1=$BLA2; BLA2=$(ls -l /mnt/extra-drive/backup.tar.bz2 | awk '{print$5}'); done; echo "Done!" | mail -s "Done backing up!"

Yeah, all that in one line. Hehehehe. Fun with a command-line-interface ;-)

Book collection, the trouble with 'em

I use a nice programme called Tellico to manage my book-collection. Well, I'm still in the process of adding books. At the moment, it contains 272 books and I'm guessing I'm about at two-thirds of my total book collection. It's an easy programme to manage my books in, but primarily I would've liked to show my complete collection on the Internet. Yeah, I'm a show-off.

It is possible though, to a certain degree. But the end result isn't to my liking. I.e., it's not possible to sort the result, not possible to search through the result, not possible to have the collection presented as genres, et cetera. Don't get me wrong, Tellico is a nice programme and I could build that kind of an interface myself and all, but I would've expected there to be already one available. Someone would've used those nice standards like BibTeX or BibTeXML? Guess not... Ah well, I might spend some time on it... When I have some spare time somewhere...


Today I've been working mostly on an offering for one of our new customers. It's always an interesting process, to translate the requirements the customer thinks he needs to requirements they actually need. And from that the translation back towards the customer. Don't forget, they need to see the things they noted in the initial conversation, or else they don't recognise where I got my information from. So that's how I'm able to work for eight hours on a five page document. Really. The fact that today is the first day in this winter that we've got a centimeter snow in the backyard and the dogs really love the snow and it's just plain fun to play with four dogs in the snow has nothing to do with it. I swear it.