20 August 2006

Property Wars IV - A New House

So, I now officially own a house.

To be 100% honest, the house still belongs to my mortgage lenders, and it will probably stay that way for another 25 years. But these are just details.

Now it will take a while to "decorate" it (we have to buy all the furniture and appliances, and stripping wallpaper will probably have to be my main hobby for the next 2 months ), but it's a nice feeling to know that all the work you invariably put in "property maintenance" is to your own benefit, and not your landlord's. The plan is to move out in 3-4 years, when kids will probably enter the equation, and I hope that, for that time, we'll have added quite a bit of "european" value to our little red-brick terrace.

The only downside is that it will take time, and lots of visits to DIY stores, and discussions about colours and shapes and positions, silly things that invariably become bigger than they are when two stubborn geeks have to debate them. Middle-ageness, here I come!

10 August 2006

I need BookMooch points!!!

BookMooch seems to work great, I've already sent two books and am waiting to receive another two, one of which had been on my amazon wishlist for ages. I have already spotted quite a few other gems that I want to mooch, so please people, get an account on BookMooch and request my books! Even better, put them on a wishlist and then "mooch" them from me!

08 August 2006

Gold-plated city

Yesterday the sun was shining so much that I simply didn't want to go home; the sharp evening light is one of many little things I love about the UK. So I was rambling and wandering through the streets of Manchester city centre, when all of a sudden, approaching Albert Square, it struck me that some yellowish old building from the XIX century actually looked like it was made of gold and silver. I realized that this was probably how it was meant to look, when the stones were new and clean and the air composition was different... suddenly, all those tales of magical cities, with busy streets full of merchants trading fortunes, and buildings made of gold and silver, looked strikingly similar to what places like Manchester tried very hard to be.

Nowadays, Utopia is made of glass and metal; the mass-market revolution built its fantasy world from Fritz Lang and pulp sci-fi, where wealth is not measured by storing huge quantities of scarce and ultimately frivolous metals, but in affirming the predominance of human intelligence on the physical world.

Wish I wasn't here

Just one of those days when I wish I could just stay home and crank away some fancy little program, but I have to be at work. "Zombieing" my day out, wasting time on the web. Sigh.

07 August 2006


Today, the intrepid soul behind Magnatune launched a new book-sharing site, BookMooch. The idea is that you get to share books for free, using a system of rewards based on a scale of points: you get a point when sending a book (two points from outside the U.S. of A.), and "spend" a point when receiving one. Nice and easy, we'll see how well it works. The guy is technically sound (the site can be translated directly by users, à la wiki, and the main engine is based on consuming the Amazon webservice), and he's business-smart enough to have led an independent DRM-free web music-store for years. As of now, it's experiencing some loading difficulties, probably due to the premature launch (the UI could use some polishing); hopefully they should be fixed soon.

If you are interested and decide to join (it's free!), check out my wishlist, and my inventory (aka the list of books I'm willing to give away).

04 August 2006

Fighting Oracle XE 10.2

I spent the night desperately trying to deploy one of our applications on Oracle XE 10.2. The Oracle install was quick and painless (even though I had to basically remove the 9.2 Universal Client previously installed), but our product couldn't even create a simple trigger. I ran all the SQL script I could find in the install directories, modifying all the lines that seemed to trouble Oracle here and there, to no avail... and 3 hours later, I realised that this was Oracle 10.bloody.2.0, while the last version supported by our app is Talk about wasting my life.

Since XE is not available for previous releases, and the Standard Edition is a 600Mb download, and it's 4 AM, i think this operation will be better "performed" tomorrow at the office. I want to cry. Once again, repeat with me: never EVER start any serious activity after 10.30 PM, unless you are paid to do so.

02 August 2006

Managing categories and menus in KDE 3.5

Ever felt like you K-Menu organises itself like a drunkard? Here is a little tip to force it to adapt to your wishes.
(Note: this is for a Gentoo install, the directory names might be slightly different on your distribution; play around with "locate" to find the correct ones)

if you create a myname.directory file in /usr/kde/3.5/share/desktop-directories, it will use the parameter Name specified in the file to automatically manage a category. You can then assign that category in the .desktop file of the applications (usually in /usr/share/applications or /usr/share/applnk ). It is reccomended (but not compulsory) to append a "X-" prefix to your category name if it's not one of the official KDE ones.

Once you have the .directory file in place and your .desktop files are properly tagged, you can add a directory to your K-Menu to contain those apps. The system-wide settings for kde menus are in /usr/kde/3.5/etc/xdg/menus. Brand new menus should be added to the "applications-merged" directory, to keep them separate from the standard KDE ones. An example menu file to manage the "database" category is this:
<!DOCTYPE Menu PUBLIC "-//freedesktop//DTD Menu 1.0//EN"


Et voilà, you now have a new submenu that will automatically contain the applications tagged with your custom category. By the way, if you don't like some of the standard menus, the file to modify is "applications.menu".

If you then want to remove some of your pre-existing menu customization (made with the menu editor), the files are in ~/.local/share/desktop-directories e ~/.local/share/applications.

See this post on a kde list for another explanation.