May 30, 2005

Long weekend...

Had a great long weekend. Weather was hot and sunny and we used the time to clean up some rooms and paint our upstairs kitchen-room.

Painting took two days but now we'll have a nice kitchen with three walls of light sun-yellow and one wall with a special effect orange/mandarin and white, smeared stripes and rough facing.

Looks very great.

On the other side I just noticed that my recent wikipedia dump, which is not yet finished, already has a size of ~12GB. Over a million files so far.

I wonder how I'll get that on portable media if I already have such problems with the dump of last year.

May 25, 2005

Restricted Access

Today I stumbled over an error message when I tried to visit a site with IE. Suddenly a error message came up instead of the site. "Company IT security policy blocked access to this site. See blah, blah, blah...".

A link directs to a notice which explains why there is a block. "Not all traffic on the * network is business related." You tell me. "Some of this traffic is less than professional and [not acceptable]." Hell yeah, but you forgot to block "The extend of this traffic is not great, however, I'm certain you agree [anything is too much]." Surely because we need bandwith to connect Outlook to our central US mailservers and have all mails travel around the world every time I want to show them on the screen. And if I have to wait only two-and-a-half minutes instead of three when I just want to have a look at my Inbox this is a leap forward even if it takes another coffee-break if I click on a mail to actually display it.

So the companies clever IT heads have decided that I must not visit certail sites using their proxy. Well, I'm not using their proxy for that non-business stuff because I use Firefox and our local internet access for that normally. Just had to use IE for a certain MediaPlayer-enabled site showing a dancing Citroen robot.

I guess they will get rid of such backdoors somewhere in the future...

May 23, 2005

Buckaroo Banzai

You surely know that situation: You're doing something, doesn't matter what, but suddenly a scene or small snipped pops up in your head from a movie you saw in your childhood. You have absolutely no idea what the movie was about nor what its name was but you want to know that. You want to watch that movie again badly.

I had this feeling with some mind snapshots of a movie. What I knew was that it was about aliens from the 10th dimension, a scientist travels there by going through a mountain in a rocket or something, when he comes back he is able to see aliens from that dimension which are appearing as normal people among us. That's it, everything I knew about the movie. And for years this "teaser" of the movie popped up in my head without warning from time to time. Dammit.

But just a few hours ago I came over this strip in the Sinfest webcomic.

Look at it. Don't mind the actual content of this panel but look at the right top. The creator of these comics adds his name and a different "title" on each panel. This time his sign was "Evil From The 8th Dimension". WHAM! It hit me. I knew that sentence.

A quick Google search came up with a movie called "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension". Read through the description and yep! that's the one I've been searching for for ages. Perhaps I'll try to get my hands on a copy of that if I mind. Dunno because it's also listed on

At least those flashbacks are hopefully over now. Another one which caused me that experience was "Spaceballs" but I resolved that mystery years ago already.

Do you also have or had such mysterious movie-flashbacks? Tell me!

May 20, 2005

Getting Wikipedia Done

The GTD TiddlyWiki I mentioned last time has been getting better every day since then. Meanwhile it supports automatic saving after editing and it is also possible to write/change self-made CSS styles for it through changing a special StyleSheet Tiddler.

According my offline Wikipedia effords, K3b turned out to be useless too, just can't cope with the enormous filesystem-stuff. So I switched back a gear and went into hardcore, using the mkisofs commandline tool for generating an ISO file to burn on DVD.

To my surprise this worked quite well and I had my first ISO-image within hours. Sadly at a size of about 5,3GB. Not small enough for DVD. I played around hours after hours with different settings of mkisofs, omitting useless structures/information, ie. hiding everything from ISO filesystem and just keeping the Joliet filesystem intact, but nothing helped. The image was always at 5420MB.

Currently I'm stripping down the HTML files, removing useless parts but I doubt that I can gain another 600 megabytes.

May 13, 2005

Mini bits

Getting Things Done

For a long time now I've been trying to reliably remember stuff and collect notes and thoughts in a common environment. My mind itself has proven to be not reliable enough for that stuff. If I want to remember something important and get distracted within moments or minutes with something other but also important the first information is lost. It just randomly pops up in my mind, when it's too late or useless at that moment.

I tried several methods and tools like Post-Its, appointment calendar, mobile phone reminders and so on.

Only the mobile phone reminders are still in use but I can't drop pieces of mind into my mobile, typing is just too slow.

The problem with such tools is that after a while I get lazy at looking into them and forget stuff because of that.

I tried also software tools but those I tested have significant drawbacks:

  • Microsoft Outlook is too heavy to keep it open all the time. And it's not very secure. Taking and ordering small notes is also not easy.
  • CUEcards 2000 is good at taking and sorting notes but I don't feel comfortable with the overall handling.
  • Mozilla Calendar/Sunbird is also bad at taking notes and has a large footprint (at least it had the last time I checked)
  • and some minor tries with others

Recently I was browsing around at Lifehacker and read an article about a simple tool.

It's called GTDTiddlyWiki and is in fact a highly dynamic and self-contained WebApplication which is somehow a mixture of a Wiki and a Hipster PDA. In fact it's just a "simple" webpage that can edit and change itself and even save itself to disk if used within the right browser. Adding, editing and sorting is all done with Wiki-like actions and everything works just within seconds.

I thought of integrating it into my browser experience, because my browser is something I use almost every day. When I make a personal instance of GTDTiddlyWiki my startpage in the browser, everytime I open a new tab I'll have to look at my stuff.

It has no reminders but this could be the most useful thoughts-box I came across until today.

Perhaps it would be possible to even integrate something like a calendar with reminders into a sidebar, I'll have to contact the creator of this greatest piece of dynamic HTML.

May 12, 2005

Creating success

Wow, what a weekend. Yeah, I know that it's Thursday but I've been busy since last Friday in a row.

The weekend was filled with an update of our software platform to the very latest version, involving changes at almost every place in the system. There were also changes necessary in attached applications which are completely out of our responsibility, but because no one is around anymore we got the job to fix these too.

All in all we started at Friday evening with database preparations needed for the software switch between Saturday and Sunday night. The database changes went almost flawlessly.

Between Saturday and Sunday we changed the software part of our platform too which wasn't that flawless and had some very unexpected occourences but finally we managed to bring the system up almost in time. During the whole process, customers should have noticed problems only three times for a few moments. We're getting better every time :)

Sunday to Tuesday we were busy almost all day long fixing incoming bug reports and minor changes but by Wednesday the System was working as expected.

We'll still be busy with some afterwork for some time but that'll have an end.

The client seems to be quite happy with our work and I guess that there are already other projects lurking around there. There is a chance that this client will grow quite a bit and in that case we'll be there to feed it to make it big.

On the other side, we're all quite exhausted from that weekend but that'll go by too. And I think we're all proud of our common success.

May 6, 2005

Coup'la stuff

Whew, had no time to post something for quite a while. Nevertheless some interesting stuff has happened meanwhile.

Firstly I did download the german Wikipedia DVD I mentioned in my previous post and had a look at it. Quite nice work guys, the only thing I miss is that the included Digibib viewer doesn't automatically open up the Wikipedia database and I always have to manually choose "Run from CD/DVD". The cause could also be on my side, I did an install of Digibib from the mounted .iso-file of Wikipedia which had some drive-letter, deinstalled it, burned it to DVD and reinstalled it from another drive-letter. As far as I remember when I had it just mounted it DID actually start up the Wikipedia itself, but my mind could be betraying me.

Secondly I tinkled around several things with my own offline Wikipedia and gained some more insight. I managed to get a local MediaWiki instance running with a rather recend database dump. But then I quickly noticed, that my idea of crawling a local instance isn't that trivial. For example the wikipedia meanwhile seems to give back a full HTML page if I just want to view a single image. It also seems to create some sort of thumbnail on the originating page which is IMHO just wasted space for an offline edition. Another point was that if I would crawl through that local instance the spider would probably create the same directory structure as it would encounter from the wikipedia: everything in one directory. > 500.000 entries in a single directory are not acceptable for me because it would take aeons to open that directory in a file browser. There are also other obstacles like page-layout and links to interactive pages (configureations) but I guess these could be avoided with some skin-hacking. Generally I suspended that idea for now and went back to the wiki2static alternative.

On that side I had successes as well as failures. I bugged a bit around with my last years dump and I think for that specific dump I have made good progress on some problems:

  • Size: I found a rather comfortable way to free up some space. With the batch-conversion mode of IrfanView it is possible to downsample the image quality of almost all image-files so that it is hardly visible but saves loads of space. The advanced settings of the batch-conversion even allows to keep the whole directory-structure of the media files intact. My particular settings for conversion was to downsample all JPG-like files to 75% of quality and remove all EXIF- and other optional information. I also processed all PNG files to be saved with maximum compression. There were surely other optimizations possible but the two points above already gave me more than 1 Gigabyte of space, enough to fit all content on a single DVD now.
  • Burning Tool: Since Nero turned out to be completely useless for such a vast amount of files I was looking for alternatives. I found one with K3b for Linux which at least is able to import all Wikipedia files into a project. For that step alone I had to create a gigantic (1,8 GB) swapfile for Linux wich was used up to ~80% after importing from K3b. Didn't try to burn actually because I tried to navigate inside the project which caused massive RAM swapping happen. I killed K3b after about an hour or so. Next time I won't try navigating but burning instantly after import.

Well, all these problems will have to be re-evaluated with the recent version of Wikipedia because there is now much more content, articles as well as media files, to be considered.

Thirdly, I have looked into CrystalSpace development again, digged through some API docs, tutorials and articles. Slowly I'm getting a bit more comfortable with the whole stuff. Perhaps there will be more on that from me in the future. I'm quite confident because this CrystalSpace stuff is around in my head for years now.