Jul 312005

Deadwood logo

Started watching HBO’s Deadwood, a credible story of the wildest west.

Produced by the guy behind Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue, the show does not shirk from the ugly side of history. Filled with violence, ugly people, self-serving motivations and swearing. Indeed, this must be the show with foulest mouth I’ve ever watched. Grates only at times, most of the time the flow of the language just seems natural.

Ian McShane has lost all pretense of being a nice guy (of Lovejoy fame), in Deadwood he is Al Swearengen, a ruthless bar owner with not so infeasible delusions of grandeur.

Like NYPD Blue, there are very few positive destinies about, and Mr. Wu’s pigs do an admirable job on the ones who turn up really bad cards. The show is steeped in history, with larger than life characters like Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane adding a touch of authenticity to the proceedings.

Roll on the second season onto dvd as quickly as possible.

Jul 302005

Viivi & Wagner
The eighth collection, Ranskalainen Liukumäki, is out.

Hilarious as ever. I thought it had stagnated during the few last years a little, but ended up laughing out loud several times.

Too bad these albums are not definitive collections, a lot of the published strips are left out – as simple mathematics will tell you 46 pages x 4 ~= 180 strips, which is a lot less than the 290+ published annually (there’s no sunday strip). The unofficial (but very credible) facts about which are left out are available from Miikka Lakoma’s encyclopaedic comics pages.

The comic probably does not translate that well, being thoroughly imbued with the finnish national character. The first album has been pushed into sweden already, no idea how well’s it been selling.

The daily dose is available from the web as well as the closest newspaper. And they seem to have a full archive present there, but without a proper navigation system.

Jul 282005

Nice test. Not much off the mark, but not a perfect hit either.

the Prankster
(47% dark, 30% spontaneous, 16% vulgar)
your humor style:

Your humor has an intellectual, even conceptual slant to it. You’re not pretentious, but neither are you into what some would call ‘low humor’. You’d laugh at a good dirty joke, but you definitely prefer something clever to something moist.

You probably like well-thought-out pranks and/or spoofs and it’s highly likely you’ve tried one of these things yourself. In a lot of ways, yours is the most entertaining type of humor.

PEOPLE LIKE YOU: Conan O’Brian – Ashton Kutcher

Being grouped with the almighty Conan the Absurdian does not trouble me, but Ashton Kutcher does. As Kelso in that 70′s show he’s pretty much the quintessential white trash jock, the association with which does not seem likely. Haven’t seen a single episode of Punk’d yet (too little music, too much Jamba on MTV these days), so there’s some hope left.

Jul 282005

Plans to visit Mont Royal the last morning in Montreal were scuttled by sleeping rather late and less than optimal weather. Decided to take a leisurely breakfast and pack up slowly.

And slow was indeed the operative word for lunch as well, actually left one place due to service whose speed is measurable on geological scale. Rain started to fall in the earnest during lunch, and continued intemittently for the rest of the day.

The Dorval/Trudeau airport is on the provincial side, and the offerings in the stores are rather meager. Ended up buying smoked maplesyrup-cured salmon and chocolate. Inniskillin icewine was priced around 60 dollars for a small bottle, so decided to do without.

Plane ride via Frankfurt was eventless. Finished Rule of Four and didn’t pay attention to movies (Hitch held no interest whatsoever, and had already seen Paper Moon).

Despite a mere 45 minute layover in Frankfurt all luggage arrives on carousel in Helsinki, and just the last leg – a taxi ride home – remains.

The next hurdle is to stay up until 23 or so, and try to get a proper wrestling hold of the impending jet lag immediately.

Jul 272005

Ate a sushi dinner at restaurant Mikasa near our hotel. The menu was long, and some of the makis offered were indeed exotic. Mainly vegetarian though, not many of the variants had any fish or shellfish in them.

Paid a short visit to hard rock cafe afterwards. Nope, managed to stay my hand and didn’t add to the t-shirt collection, though the bar was making brisk business even late in the evening. The hardest song heard during the visit was by the Zeppelin, mainly they seemed to concentrate on No Doubt and other artists that do not really fit under their moniker.

Jul 272005

Montreal Olympic Park
Visited the Montreal Olympic Park, site of the 1976 summer olympic games, and these days a centre piece of a largish park. The tower’s elevator car had problems, so decided to look at the other attractions first.

Skipped biodome, a nice enough indoors zoo and concentrated on the botanical garden and a collection of insects housed within it.

First stop on the long meandering walk through the park is the japanese garden. Which contains all the expected elements – lots of bonsai trees, a fancy tea garden (which is unfortunately off limits), a very zen gravel yard and as the encompassing design, a large pond at whose shores the rest of the elements reside. Really liked the pond, with its koi carps, carefully designed rocky environment and a waterfall to add movement to the otherwise very static scene. Not easy fitting such a creation into a typical finnish yard, but clearly possible – and the ambient temperatures ought not to present no problems, since Quebec experiences harsher winters than Finland by far.

Rocky garden
Tea garden

Quickly walking through the shade garden, we feel the first raindrops fall – sky is not totally ominously dark, but hints at prolonged rain. Hence, decide to move to the indoors stop at a brisk pace.
Big bonsai
Indeed the next location on the map is a tree house, surrounded by a huge arboretum (several square miles on a quick calculation). The house itself is pretty much a natural history museum on its own, concentrating on forests, and an adjoining courtyard has yet more bonsai trees. By far the most elaborate design contains (according to the official description) a princess riding a dragon across the sky. The tree house contains no real trees, but even browsing through the samples is educational – never knew how much differences there can be between the weight of tree species (with cedar being bt far the lightest).

The rest of the arboretum falls by the waysides as we continue onwards, it would take ages to visit the trees properly. And in the continuous drizzling rain, there isn’t much incentive to.

Cranberries in glass
The First Nations garden contains plants that were used by the natives. Corn, berries, birch bark are all prominently featured. Multiple biotopes are featured, from southern canadian forests to the nordic zone. One of the many souvernir stores of the park is located here, and I end up buying two cans of caribou meat before moving on.

The next stop, where we arrive after travelling through labyrinthic forest paths is the chinese garden, with all the expected trappings (a big pagoda, couple of other buildings) in full view. There’s an interesting exhibition about rice growing, but I end up missing the actual rice paddies outside.

Deadly nightshade Poison ivy

A small garden features species of poisonous plants. And there are indeed quite a few that I’ve never actually seen before – only heard or read about. Poison ivy turns out to be quite an innocent-looking species, whereas deadly nightshade looks every bit the part. Some plants in the garden are considered poisonous for allergenic purposes (like timothy), but most are indeed egven more hazardous to health. An adjoining garden contains medicinal plants, and there’s quite a bit of overlap inbetween the two.

The collection of greenhouses, ten in all, houses most of the garden’s collection. Each house is devoted to a biotope, or group of plants, and the selection ranges between jungle and desert. Orchids are very prominently represented, but no carnivorous plants at all seem to be among the flora. Yet more bonsai trees turn up, as do clear relics from the flower-powered sixties. The temperature inside the greenhouse is actually cooler than on the outside, and some of the rooms have very functional fans to make the environment even more comfortable.

The extremely odd “living baseballs” were on sale in the greenhouse shop, but would have been hard to transport, and there was a big sign over the cashier stating that every shipment outside Canada must be cleared with the relevant authorities. Clearly, that would have been too much of a hassle to go through.

Another orchid
VW Beetle covered by flowers
Peace sign constructed from flowers
Living baseball-cactus

Rock garden

The walk to the next stop, the insectarium goes through the chinese garden again, with views to an alpine section inbetween. Noted that moving water, with or without the japanese trappings around it would indeed be a good addition to any future gardening effort.

The camera’s battery started to show off a worrisome red light at this point, so a lot fewer pictures from the remaining stops exist.

And actually there are no pictures at all from the insectarium. Wanted to save batteries for a couple of shots from the tower and thought I’d buy the relevant guidebook from the local shop instead, but they only stocked inappropriate or french books there. The selection of insects was good, on disgust scale ranging between “hey, nice” and “double-eww”. Not really concentrating on either end. Some highlights: several species of stick insects, a fully functional leafcutter-ant colony, couple of beehives where the insects have access to the rest of the garden, beetles in many shape, color and size, a tank filled with aquatic insects. Some tarantulas and hissing cockroaches fill out the set. The collection is mainly live, but the walls are lined with butterflies collected all over the world.

The view from the leaning tower is good, with access all around the building. Not very high, but definitely high enough to allow for a score of miles visibility in each direction. The view is marred mostly by dirty and lightly tinted windows, but I’m sure some smog comes into play as well. The funky pyramidal building in the left-most image is part of the olympic village – probably dormitories for the athletes.

View from the stadium tower:  olympic village
View from the stadium tower:  downtown Montreal
Stadium tower seen from the park

On the way back to the hotel heard the first finnish sentences (apart from those spoken by us, of course) on the trip. Might have been just a tourist family, or some attendee-collateral from the currently ongoing swimming world championships.

Jul 262005

Slept in. Horribly. And thus missed breakfast. Surprisingly the hotel provides a newspaper for every room, which is always a notch in the plus column.

Explored the area surrounding the St. Catherine further, and quickly ended up in HMV. Had very cheap Neil Young albums for sale, and at five euros each, couldn’t really even pretend to resist. Noted that Otomo’s Steamboy (which I missed in last year’s R&A) will be out tomorrow. Or actually today. Discovered a chapters bookstore also, despite indication by the phone book that none such exist in the city.

Hook up with the rest of the guys, more aimless wandering and shopping. A big collection of Criterion movies is available, but cannot decide which to get, so opt for something much lighter instead. A very grand local liquor store has a lot of interesting stuff for sale, and I’m very tempted by the 1970 Coeur de Lion calvados. Decided against it, in the end, still got half a bottle of the previous grand ancienne left…

Good dinner in the portuguese/brazilian quarter, guidance provided by a Norwegian friend. End up taking octopus, which is excellent, and fried sardines for appetizer, which turns out to be quite manual-intensive portion. A couple of beers in various bars in and around the Latin Quartier cap the evening nicely. Didn’t quite recall whether the 2003 hotel was nearby, the area seemed rather familiar, but we clearly were not far enough north, this time.

Jul 252005

Walking through dusky Montreal Skipped breakfast. Did mandatory chile shopping. Had lunch in a Subway and taxied out to the train station.

Train ride was eventless, and arrived in Montreal at pretty much ETA.

Hotel was way nicer than expected at the 140 dollars a night cost, 4 stars on their own scale. Definitely not a business hotel, closer to an apartementos – no complimentary WiFi in the rooms, but a fully functional kitchen instead. Floor’s uneven under the carpeting, and AC even louder than in Ottawa, but then, I ain’t going to spend enough time in the room to really worry about either…

Took a two hour slow walk from the hotel (on Sherbrooke & McGill, so pretty much downtown) to the Old Montreal. Had previously visited the city briefly, so was given the guide-duties immediately. Traipsed through Chinatown, where some very dodgy wares were hawked by street vendors. Ate in an Old Quebec-style restaurant, and found the meal (Meats of the Savage Peoples and some funky local sausages) very good.

Sunset in Old Montreal

Walked towards the nearest Metro-station (very well-camouflaged, but semi-recalled from 2003-trip) and rode back to the hotel. Even though it was in a nicely restaurant-filled area, decided to cap the night with just one beer in the hotel’s own bar. Turned out to be a quite subdued place and the long day, walk, the Griffon from tap and the soundless Episode 1 behind the counter dictated that an early night would be a decent idea.

St. Jacques
Big house atop St. Jacques

Jul 242005

Was crowded, as expected. Was loud, but not as loud as last year. Was complimentary (and I hope they’d hidden all the good stuff).

‘s over now. Time to sleep tight and be prepped for the trip to Montral tomorrow.

Jul 242005

This year’s keynote was given by Dave Jones, Red Hat’s kernel maintainer. Concentrated very much on problems in current error regression principles (or actually lack thereof). There exist quite a few problems – fault maintenance is not very well taken care of, and escalation principles between distribution vendors and the mainline are not really clear to anybody. The keynote was indeed a very single-minded affair, and contrasting it with last year’s world-embracing alternative does it no good. But then, last year’s talk was given by Andrew Morton, and he certainly did not feel constrained to stay under a single topic. Not a bad keynote, not at all; and if it brings better analysis/debugging tools, it definitely served its purpose. And no presentation where there’s talk of monkeys having crashed the speaker’s space ship can really be thought to be boring (“I know the guy on the left will not be piloting mine”).

I think next year’s keynote will be given by Greg Kroah-Hartman, but the identity was never made explicitly clear.

No additional swag was dealt out post-keynote, which was too bad. Previously google and O’Reilly have seen fit to reward attendees with shirts and books, respectively – but that didn’t happen this time.

Retired to Keg Steakhouse for dinner. Had a truly magnificently tender chunk of medium-rare cow accompanied by a twice baked potato. Dessert choice was not as optimal, as the “chocolat mousse cake” turned out to be both very heavy and Gargantuan-sized, though very tasty. Had to stop around the halfway point and was duly disrespected by both colleagues and the waitress.

Time to chill out for a while and then check out the official symposium nachspiel at Black Thorn.

Jul 232005

Visited the Museum of Civilization before going into the symposium.

Took a lot more time than expected. In addition to the normal “history of Canada”-expo, they also had a special one on “Pompeii”. Never been that much aware of either, so had to do both.

Photography in the Pompeii-chambers was forbidden, due to the clearly unstable nature of some of the items displayed. Quite a few casts made of people that succumbed in the roiling ashes, in addition to their surviving trinkets (some quite sizable jewellery), but a few definitely delicate items: pieces of cloth and leather. The whole expo was well laid out, with informative plaques describing the events from AD 79. And adding to the somewhat morbid atmosphere was a crackling ambient soundtrack filled with cries of anguish. Worth seeking out as the exhibition travels around the world.
Hall of Totems in Museum of Civilization

The rest of the museum was devoted to Canadian history – starting from the point of First Nations (native canadians). Big room full of totem poles, had already seen some in Vancouver couple of years ago, so wasn’t amazed at their size, but carving and variety are indeed good. And yeah, the room is way bigger – containing multiple alcoves than what the image actually shows.

Past the totem poles were carvings, tools and quite well-explained histories behind the very variable First Nations – from Inuit to agricultural and even trade-based groups.

The arrival and settlement of the Europeans, first Vikings and thereafter the French and English forms the second big part of the museum. Divided into big displays in two floors – most visible from both, it’s nothing short of fascinating. And the skill with which the displayed houses and everything within is tied to context would have required more time to browse through the collection. Learned a lot on the tour, both on macro- and micro-level of history and was pleased how well aspects of the Canadian nation – both across geography as well as chronology were put on display.

Stop-sign in inuit
A diorama in Museum of Civilization
A diorama in Museum of Civilization
Detail of a totem pole in Museum of Civilization
Detail of a totem pole in Museum of Civilization
Stone carving in Museum of Civilization

The museum is located in Gatineau, Quebec, just across the Alexandra-bridge from Ottawa. About a mile or thereabouts from Byward market. Easily within walking distance.

And there’s a brand new War Museum in the city as well. Had to skip it this time due to time constraints, but am looking forward to finding out whether it’s as well done as the Civilization museum was.

Jul 222005

Parliament from afar
Went to see a half-hour presentation about Canada projected on the walls of the parliament house. A lot of patriotic backpatting, but well-done and occasionally amusing (the best use of “eh?” in a long while). The pictures did not come out that well – really could have used a tripod, or better and more stable things to lean on.

The moon was hanging low, but did not succeed in getting a good shot of that, especially one that would adequately prove or disprove the moon illusion theory.

Rideau canal at night
Totem on the parliament
Totem on the parliament

Jul 222005

Notes on presentations to be decyphered from hieroglyphics in notebook.

EDIT 23.8.2008: Seems that I never got around to the decyphering part. Sad, really. The notes are available in paper form.

Jul 212005

Nope, the pub evening wasn’t very good, I’m afraid. Loud, crowded, hot and filled with only a couple of familiar faces. So retired early and woke even earlier. Not a perfect start for a long day.

Divided the sessions among the four of us (there’s four concurrent tracks), and I got the short stick and had to sit in on some very desktop-y presentations.

Linux 2.6 Roadmap by Jonathan Corbet (Linux Weekly News).
Like last year, the conference kicks off with a presentation about what was decided in the preceding kernel summit. Slides of the presentation are available at the LWN site.

This time around there were less major bombshells (ie. the development model had not been thoroughly changed, once again).

Presentation was divided into two parts – a recap where the kernel is right now, and where it is expected to move in the near future (though calling it a real roadmap is an insult to the cartographers of the world).

All in all the new development model seems to be in pretty good shape, Andrew Morton maintains the development flavored branch (the -mm tree), and Linus maintains the stable branch. Not perfect by any means, patches can, of course, avoid the -mm branch altogether and there’s no formal bug tracking going on. The adoption of sucker trees (2.6.x.y – maintained by Greg Kroah-Hartmann and Chris Wright), where only bugfixes are rolled in has been beneficial as well, since it prevents the need for wild backporting.

Another big development model-related thing is the sudden move from bitkeeper to git. Git is not at “1.0″-quality yet, and known issues exist (diskspace is wasted). Competitors exist as well (mercurial rated to be the best of the bunch).

The roadmap-portion of the presentation went on the vague side immediately when inclusion of a feature was not feasible in the next upcoming release. But it was still a very useful talk, since a lot of interesting, previously strenuously resisted features are making it in, now. Some of them already in the just-around-the-corner next release.

First up, 2.6.13, expected in august: kdump, inotify, execute-in-place, voluntary pre-emption, selectable timer-frequency.

The roadmap was not fully devoted to technical issues, process-related things were discussed as well (as shown on slide 24).

Latency improvements, ie. the time required to respond to an event, is a huge and hard problem to resolve. Ingo Molnar’s patches for “deterministic scheduling response time, always” are invasive and very hard to sell to the community as a whole (there are many beneficaries, but unfortunately everyday desktop use is not in for a big haul – audio/video, data acquisition and all kinds of [pseudo]-realtime control are). So each and every aspect must be argued individually, some of the improvements have already been rolled in, to a positive reception.

A controversial change is the move from spinlocks to priority-inheriting mutexes, where processes unable to run sleep instead of constant spinning. This brings with it the possibility for even wider pre-emption of processes in the kernel as well prevention of core stalling between entirely unrelated processes due to contention.

Another long-discussed change proposal is the implementation of all interrupt handlers as kernel threads. This would mean that everything is scheduled in a similar fashion. However, the additional locking primitives needed are not trivially determinable.

An “interrupt pipe” is another implementation of an improved handler. Both ADEOS and RTAI use it as the default mechanism.

Virtualization is a big and popular topic. So popular that a full day’s track (friday) is devoted to the subject. Xen is by far the leader in this niche. But far from completion – issues in scalability domain (ie. not ready for SMP or PAE).

On filesystem front the score is pretty simple: Reiser4 will go in “when it’s ready” as will FUSE. Cluster filesystems have a long road, as there’s no 100% clear vision which parts can a) be shared between implementations (especially the distributed locking manager, if at all possible) and b) need to be in kernel. GFS and OCFS2 are the two clear leaders here.

Security and resource management are moving along on expected routes, SELinux and CKRM, respectively. The support for TPM has already been added for the former.

Timekeeping has been changed to be more dynamic – for the benefit of virtualization (especially), there’s a separate presentation devoted to the issue.

Memory management has also been a target for tweaks, some of them large indeed (the 4-level page tables).

All in all the conclusion is that the kernel remains very much a “work in progress”, but steps are being taken into many interesting directions.

Building Linux Software with Conary by Michael K. Johnson (Rpath).
The slides are not available, the company site appears to be undergoing major reconstruction.

The rpath-guys have implemented a RPM-replacement called conary. Which does away with one of the most menial task of software configuration management (maintenance of the spec-file of a package).
Definitely an interesting addition to the currently available solutions is the availability of “shadows”, basically copy-on-write branches, that allow for trivially easy inheritance.

Python (the language) is used as definition language for building “recipes”, which are further simplified by the availability of superclasses (with which pretty much eg. most KDE-apps can use the same scripting).

The technologies involved are still evolving, and especially large scale SCM issues (releases etc.) are still incomplete.

[ And yeah, it's indeed the same Michael Johnson, who wrote a lot of the early "getting started with Linux"-type guides. Partially responsible for what I do these days, for sure. ]

Had lunch in the Teriyaki-place at the food court of Rideau Centre. Simple, fast and good, not to mention way healthier than the usual BK/McD/whatever-fare. Helsinki ought to have one as well.

SNAP Computing and the X Window System by Jim Gettys (ex-HP, laid off during the summit).
Slides available at freedesktop.org. Good summary at lwn.

Very much centered on the idea that current computers do not really scale beyond single users. Single screen, single mouse etc. Approaching ubiquitous computing, where applications follow users and users do not have to lug around any hardware. Also, the management of the environment is way too expensive – currently up to 3/4 of the cost of any non-trivial installation goes into maintenance.

Quite academic and necessarily provocative. Bluetooth is supposedly “useless”, whereas Zigbee is seen as a potential solution to networking issues.

The big idea is to make the “plumbing” of the network (eg. discovery and authentication of services) as seamless as possible. X must go truly multi-user, and that requires lots of design and implementation, eg. ssh is not seen as an adequate connectivity tool, but could be leveraged as the underlying transport – it has legal issues (export control) and is not ever truly ad-hoc (needs an account on the target system). IPsec is not usable either – it is not end-to-end, and does not handle user-level authentication.

Input devices must become true network services, otherwise the plumbing’s only half-done – the control must be able to migrate between devices.

And services must be able to be seamlessly used, without regard to network topology. HAL and DBUS technologies are seen as big enablers in this area.

Clearly the problem domain is much wider than just graphics, and there are really no places to copy good ideas from – so it’s really time to innovate.

TWIN: An Even Smaller Window System for Even Smaller Devices by Keith Packard (HP).
Slides available at freedesktop.org.

Easily the best speaker thus far, and pretty much in the top 5 ever (among technical folks, that is). Keith Packard’s an old X Window System guru and it shows – the presentation is peppered with war stories and anecdots from old days.

The basic idea behind the presentation is the need for a new truly lightweight window system – lightweight in the sense of memory footprint, not in CPU consumption. And with severe wizardry (more than adequately explained in the material) the entire system including scalable fonts, translucency support and PostScript-based geometry engine fits in 100 kilobytes. Yes, one hundred kilobytes. That definitely qualifies as lightweight. There are a lot of interesting shortcuts taken, while hugging the requirement set at height of several molecules only – showing that truly impressive results can be had even when the initial set of reqs seem mindbogglingly hard.

Can You handle the Pressure? Making Linux bulletproof under load by Martin Bligh (IBM).
No presentation available as far as I googled.

Struggling to make the virtual memory system of Linux truly bulletproof is a painful task.

The presentation described the current state of affairs and included ideas how to improve the situation.

The current state is that the behavior is easily explained, but contains lots of issues. Basically all memory is used – and some of it is easily reclaimable when needed. Clean pages can be reclaimed immediately, whereas dirty ones must be dumped onto backing store first. The current page selection algorithm is LRU (with lots of extra spicing on top), based on HW-level information (pages). Complicated by the need to balance pagecache and slabcache (kernel’s pages) with the users’ paging needs.

By far the most problematic structure at the moment is the buffer-head, which has a lot of dependencies and is thus extremely hard to reclaim (eg. filesystem metadata caching, differences between filesystem blocksize and HW page size, mappings between data in memory and on actual disk surface, ordering guarantees for transaction-based entities).

Some pages are just plain unreclaimable – eg. kernel, locked pages, RDMA. But a big omission in the current system is the lack of differentation between physical and virtual pinning of pages, they are after all two separate address spaces and should be treated as such. Fragmentation of memory complicates reclamation further (especially when most kernel structures are definitely sub-page sized). Dependencies are not managed well – a full tree to map eg. inodes/dentries/pagecache entries is needed.

The OOM killer is usually a good first sign that there’s either a) suboptimal workload b) bugs. Usually the former. But the diagnostics provided by the killer are not as good as they could be. Usually there’s just indication how much memory is not available, and that’s not enough in most cases.

Clearly there’s a need for better tools here. Both to monitor the memory consumption (both live system [ie. instrumentation] and in postmortem fashion), current state of the art vmtop and meminfo/slabinfo do not reach very far. Some ideas to create “event receptors” with priority sockets exist, but no complete implementation is available. Recreation of the fault is usually between hard and impossible, and kprobes/tap cannot be hooked in after the fault has manifested itself. The dirty page evaluator is slow, and usually not available – heuristics to switch between two modes at certain threshold would be beneficial.

Instrumentation would indeed be very good addition, but both space and performance criteria apply – adding per-page tags is not easily accomplishable.

In swapless systems the code short-circuits and avoids very lengthy page management methods.

This time it seems that no free sodas are offered, only water.

Ate dinner in Fishmarket restaurant, monkfish is still a good selection.

Visited the Intel/IBM-hosted evening reception in the conference center. And quite something else it was. The initial presenter from Intel was slick and harmless (especially considering how much longer he could have spoken). Performance was marred by the revelation that he was actually showing slides from an XP-machine (to loud booing). Which was probably a wise choice, since the next presenter took a sweet fifteen minutes to tune his X-window system settings before commencing the show. The less said about the quality of the content, the better. The evening was capped off by a traditional lottery, but someone had obviosuly screwed up gravely, since among the twenty-odd tickets drawn were no winning matches whatsoever. So, the speaker switched over to trivia questions, to which the answers shouted to – kinda putting anyone sitting more than five meters distant at a severe disadvantage. Drinks were available, otherwise I (and I guess most of the others as well) would’ve left before the official program had reached its halfway mark.

Jul 202005

1 cache found
Walked around Ottawa in afternoon heat. Kari pointed out that there are a couple of “very easy” geocaches around. Rose to the challenge, borrowed his Garmin and located my very first one (with clues).

Metallic spider menacing Ottawa The art gallery seemed to have been attacked by quite impressively large Spider Demon thingy from Doom, fortunately rendered immobile by the heat, and without its autocannon capable of rapid-fire devastation of entire city blocks. A nearby park provided some shelter from the >>33C heat, and had a nice view on the multi-locked canal as well a statue of some explorer, who shall remain nameless that silhouetted nicely against the mercifully cloudy sky.

Ate in Elephant & Castle, standard bar grub – an Elephant Plate is big enough to feed a party of four.

Off to see whether the “official” OLS pub evening is worth anything.

Ottawa canal with locks
Statue of an explorer dude

Jul 192005

Registered to the conference. Good loot – not one, but two t-shirts (the other provided by the newly minted Intel Open Source Labs). Bought a hardcopy of the proceedings as well. By-invitation annual kernel summit and the very first desktop developers’ conference were ongoing, took a peek into the latter (based on a six second analysis, the guys were discussing the future of KDevelop).

The adjoining Rideau Centre mall is its old trusty self. Food court with variety and a smallish selection of interesting shops. HMV’s sales are as good as ever. EB’s PC game selection has gone down some 80% from last year’s. Radio Shacks have mutated into something called “the Source”.

Jul 192005

Crashed earlier than I thought. Baseball on tv (no ESPN, but something equivalent is on offer) is a great sleep-inducer.

Woke up earlier than I wanted. Multiple times. Catnapped for a while, but seem to be pretty much fully awake now. Breakfast room opens in an hour. And I’m sure they have both good (fruit/juice) and bad (sausages/potatoes/whatever) things up for grabs.

Jul 192005

Eventless three-leg trip. Very small shuttle between Montreal and Ottawa. Otherwise, it’s the traditional transatlantic fare, though with surprisingly large legroom. Watched no movies – both Million Dollar Baby and Catch me if you can deserve a better environment than is provided by half-a-buck earphones. So, concentrated on Rule of Four and a couple of magazines instead.

The Ottawa airport is getting bigger by the year. Landed on the domestic side, so no idea what the international looks like.

It’s very warm here. The temperature hovers around 30C even late at night. And the weather forecast is more of the same, air conditioning is prevalent (and in case of room #456 of Courtyard Marriott, quite loud).

Had late dinner at the ever-reliable Blue Cactus after milling around the Byward market for an appetite-boosting twenty minutes. Large portions, and the triumphant return of Rickard’s Red. Can’t remember what I ate for main course, but had a Himalaya-sized plate of nachos for starters (thankfully split between the four of us). Blame need for sleep on the less than total recall…

Time to stick around for an hour or so to prevent a total sleep cycle destruction.

Jul 172005

Finally made it to a preview of the most expected movie of 2005.

Movie of the year, thus far. And it’ll have to be an amazing performance from any film to de-throne Sin City.

A movie based on a graphic novel, actually three of them, that’s true to the original to the extent of actually using the same angles and positions.

A very violent movie – the Sin City originals never shied away from violence, but seeing it erupt in full motion, with bone-jarring sound effects is shocking at times.

A very stylish movie. Filmed mainly in front of greenscreen, with the scenery added digitally. Filmed mainly in duotone black/white, with splashes of color for good effect (though there are a lot more of those splashes than the trailer lets on).

A very well-cast movie. The male leads range from “way better than I expected” (Clive Owen) to “amazing” (Mickey Rourke). And the female leads are no worse either – with the exception of Jessica Alba, she’s not fully convicing in her role – Brittany Murphy and Rosario Dawson shine, on the other hand. Supporting cast is full of murderously good performances – with Benicio Del Toro (as Jackie-Boy, the catalyst for the Big Fat Kill) taking the top spot. And Elijah Wood sheds any remaining jollylittlehobbit-influences from his karma with an effective portrayal of Kevin, a class-act twisted psychopath.

But it’s really Mickey Rourke that’s the greatest performance, after a decade or more in utter career doldrums, his return as the armed and dangerous Marv is nothing less than perfect. His merciless romp through the original Sin City story is the high point of the movie, but it doesn’t let up much in the other two stories either.

And yah, it’s a total classic, with some small blemishes. The original ending of The Yellow Bastard would have been a perfect cap to the whole movie, but there’s a needless (yet mercifully short) addition at the very end.

Co-directed by Frank Miller (the comic artist behind the Sin City franchise) and Robert Rodriguez. One scene (transporting Jackie-Boy) is “guest-directed” by Quentin Tarantino (as payment for Rodriguez composing music for Kill Bill, vol. 2), and that indeed oozes Tarantino-esque handling of dialogue all the way.

And how could a movie that gets the lowest possible score in the ChildCare Action Project be any bad.

Part two is in the early stages of production, and the sequel’s release in 2006 sounds definitely optimistic. Let’s just hope they leave the awful Family Values album aside when choosing sources.

Yes, it’s a five star movie. First in a long long time. Go see it. There’s no middle ground to it – you either love it, or you hate it. But at least you’ll have a lot to say about it, no lukewarm feelings expected.

Jul 162005
  • A decent analysis about what’s eating tinseltown right now.
  • Coolest keyboard ever.
  • There ought to be a law forbidding self-inflicted typos on tattoos.
  • NHL will return this season. For the NBA it took some thirty minutes to come to agreement.
  • Fractal image generation with an image creation language.
  • Wil Shipley on why OS X is the best environment for making money on software.
Jul 162005

Saw Christopher Nolan‘s refactoring of the start of the Batman saga.

And it’s a good movie indeed, firmly placing Batman amongst the comic book franchises. Again. After Joel Schumacher did what neither the Joker, nor the Riddler or any of the caped crusader’s myriad enemies accomplished: He killed Batman.

Batman Begins starts, obviously, from the very beginning. Bruce Wayne seeing his parents killed, disappearing for years, and returning to Gotham City as a starting vigilante. A lot of time is devoted to his missing years, and this is pretty much the only place where the film stalls a bit. Otherwise it keeps chugging along at a good pace.

The architectural design is far less gothic than Burton’s vision, and less neon-saturated that Schumacher’s. Batman’s equipment comes from a somewhat believable source (surplus army R&D), and the batmobile resembles no previous incarnation in its utter lack of grace.

The story is decent, concentrating on a very appropriate theme: fear. Both the eponymous hero and one of his biggest enemies in the movie have their foundations buried in use and abuse of fear.

Christian Bale is great in the protagonist’s role, as is Michael Caine as his butler, Alfred. The leading lady, Katie Holmes, flashes a lopsided grin a couple of times, but is pretty much forgettable. The rest of the supporting cast is at least functional, with Gary Oldman (as Gordon, the only clean cop in the city) putting in a very subdued performance that hits the mark head on.

Bring on the inevitable sequels…