Friday, July 29, 2011

KDE-4.7, Digikam 2.0.0, KIPI-Plugins 2.0.0

Another year, another major KDE release - KDE 4.7.0 is out and already in the portage tree for your consumption. So far I can recommend the update very much- it seems like this time there is no "zero version effect" and 4.7 is working nicely from the start. With one caveat however: I've been staying with the old KDEPIM-4.4 so far, as I've heard mixed reports about the new KDEPIM version included in 4.7.
If you want to combine KDE-4.7 with KDEPIM-4.4, you can do that as well: get the mask file and place it in your /etc/portage/package.mask. If you are using the full-kde meta ebuild kde-base/kde-meta, enable the useflag "oldpim" there, so dependencies on the KDEPIM version are relaxed. Afterwards you can update your KDE to version 4.7.0, and KDEPIM remains at trusty version
Using KDE-4.7 has a very nice side effect: you can upgrade Digikam and KIPI-Plugins to version 2.0.0, also just released, with a ton of new features. Enjoy!
Thanks go to Jorge Vicetto and Alexey Shvetsov, who put the most work into preparing the new ebuilds and testing betas and release candidates. After all this effort, updating to 4.7.0 immediately went very smooth!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Vacation reading: "Sewer, gas, electric"

... He stood on the Yabba-Dabba-Doo's launch deck, wearing a star-and-moon-speckled wizard's hat and a set of fake-nose-and-moustache glasses. "Hey world, time for another visit from Mr. Science. Today we're going to do an experiment in kinetic energy transfer. This" - he pointed to a long cylindrical track that had risen out of the hull beside him - "is an electromagnetic rail gun, a scaled-down model of the very same device the Republicans are using the protect the White House from a nuclear attack. And this" - he held up a hefty deli sausage - "is twenty pounds of kosher salami. Now what we're going to do is accelerate the salami to Mach 9 and see what happens to the bow of that ship over there, OK? Kids, please don't try this at home without your parents' supervision ..."
Every now and then, a really bizarre book is needed. So, when I saw another obscure trilogy-of-something on the bookshelf, I gave it a try. After all, I've survived Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow" (which a friend gave me as a present many years ago; she's now a professor of comparative literature studies). And so we enter the strange world of 2023, where ecoterrorist and pirate Philo Dufresne plays practical jokes on large corporations with his green-with-pink-polka-dots submarine, robots have become everyone's best helper, the New York sewers form a highly mutagenic biosphere including the giant white shark Meisterbräu, and the shadows of Disney and Hoover loom. A murder mystery has to be solved, which requires all the attention of Joan Fine, ex-wife of America's richest entrepreneur and ex-employee of the sewers department after her first encounter with Meisterbräu (the hand grenade blew up half of Times Square and ignited the Hudson River)...
What shall I say. It was interesting reading, but I'm not really sure if I will read it again. Some clever ideas, good jokes and nice discussion. In the end, what drove me off was my personal feeling that the crazyness and style could not keep up with the storyline. Which is a really hard-to-reach objective, as even Douglas Adams may concede from above; while focussing the attention of the reader requires at least some sort of coherent narrative, the innovative character of the text also needs culmination and finesse. (Maybe, just maybe, all the fake Ayn Rand dialogues got on my nerves, too.)
Matt Ruff, "Sewer, gas, electric: The public works trilogy". Aspect 1998; ISBN 044660642. Two-point-three-three-three-three out of of five eyes in the pyramid in the category "whacky conspiracy theory postmodernism". May be considered quite bad taste (but that's likely true of many books in this genre).

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Having fun with Hugin

There's as always a lot of fun stuff you can do with Gentoo; what I've discovered recently is Hugin (media-gfx/hugin) for panorama stitching. See the above image (and in particular click on it for a better view!) for one of the amazing results. The file is not really perfect yet and probably will never be, as boats tend to move with the waves. Even after removing all useless alignment points and adding many correct ones manually, if you look very closely there are some shifts. Nevertheless, I think the result is pretty neat. The image is assembled from 16 separate free-hand portrait photographs, each with resolution 3456 x 2304; after cropping the total size of the assembled image is 20227 x 1390.

Arry Potter et les Reliques de la Mort, 2e partie

This is already the second time I'm watching a new Harry Potter movie while in France, but the first time that it's in French. :) Ah well, Collioure is not Paris, but breathtakingly beautiful anyway, also now at night with the full moon over the bay and the castle... But I disgress...
As expected, not counting all the moms and dads in the audience, I was somewhere at the upper age edge. Accordingly, the movie makers had also obviously put a lot of effort into making all the killing in volume 7 more "boom bang crash" but not really that bloody. Still, the whole experience was quite some action and special effects spectacular, keeping (as far as I can remember now, having stuffed my head with all that physics in the meantime) rather close to the book. The lightheaded humour sprinkled through some of the earlier movies was mostly missing, but that was to be expected. The bad guy is finished off heroically, with quite some tragic losses and tears shed on the way, and finally all the Dumbledore / Snape connections become clear. (By the way, in the French version the name Snape has been translated... seems like some someone actually realized that JKR is good on wordplay.)
On the whole I liked this Harry Potter movie more than many of the other more recent ones, mainly because there was enough "movie time per book page" to tell a coherent story. If you have read the books a few times, that probably does not matter, but there might also be some moviegoers who have not... There even was enough time to add the cheesy "19 years later" epilogue, causing quite some sniffing in the audience. I felt that our heroes did not look old enough there, just dressed up a bit different ("adult style"). But then, maybe I'm just too old and you have to be sixteen to notice the change in makeup...
Now of course the most interesting question is, how will J. K. Rowling continue. From a financial point of view, giving up the franchise at this point would of course be sheer stupidity; even so, I understand that some sort of a break might be needed. I'm not a sufficiently enthusiastic fan to follow all the internet fandom and rumour sites, but in the long run, I believe that some more books will turn up for sure. After all, life does not end after highschool, even if you have just overcome le Seigneur des Ténèbres, right? :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Near most-beautiful: La Seu d'Urgell cathedral

Ever since I picked a related topic for one of my highscool final exam in history, I have been a big fan of Romanesque architecture, churches and masonry in general. For those who don't know, this term denotes a period rougly 1000 A.D. to 1300 A.D.; wikipedia of course has an extensive article on the subject. The largest and most elaborate Romanesque cathedral ever unfortunately has been torn down many centuries ago and exists today only in digital reconstruction, but in spite of the age quite some buildings have survived until today. So far my clear favourite was the church of Fontevraud-l'Abbaye, an incredibly light building of clear lines, famous also because King Richard Lionheart is buried there. Since today, I have a clear runner-up: the cathedral of La Seu d'Urgell in Catalonia, whose bishop is one of the co-rulers of the Principality of Andorra. The pictures on the wikipedia page (and also my own ones) do not do the building justice. It is at the same time both beautiful with clean lines and elegant architecture and dotted with the obscure, partially bizarre or funny detail masonry that comes up on some of the more elaborate buildings of that era. Beyond describing in words!