Thursday, November 12, 2009

bitten by ubuntu

I like Ubuntu. This is why it saddens me to see that the quality of its releases are going down.

I have been waiting with high hopes for the Karmik Koala release and I've started installing it on my boxes the same day it was released.

To my surprise, the quality was really low.

For a start, there was no simple way to cleanly install on an encrypted disk. For a long time I keept my /home and / on separate partitions and I prefer to reformat / when moving to a new release, while preserving the data from /home. Unfortunately, Karmik can't do it if your / and /home are inside a crypted drive. I had to boot into the live cd, install by hand the crypto and lvm stuff, mount the crypted drive, install Karmik than do some more configs so that it boots. Fortunately, I was able to find enough info on the net. But it wasn't a nice experience.

Then I've installed MC. To my surprise, MC doesn't create its ~/.mc directory, so your settings are not saved.

Moving forward on, I tried to view some movie with VLC. At some point I've decided I need some more buttons on VLC and started to reconfigure it. Bad idea. The system locked up and after waiting for more than 15 minutes, I've decided to hard-reset the system.

But nothing was more annoying than the latest contraption from Ubuntu: mountall. This little crap of software is supposed to speed up your booting time, I guess. What it does is that it magically decides that some partitions are needed and some are not. Therefore, when a fsck is due, if the partition is not needed (but beware - not needed in mountall's conception), the fsck is started in background, without any warning. You get a loggin prompt and all your services are running, but not all partions are mounted. Maybe some very important partions to you (but unimportant to mountall) are still checked and missing :(

This is a major change in the way boot is handled. And not in the good way. In my opinion, a change this big should need explicit enabling. That is, by default, the system should behave as before and need special enabling for the new functionality. Unfortunately, the mountall's Ubuntu developers think they have the holly grail of knowledge and they know better than anybody else. When people complained about this new Ubuntu bug^h^h^h feature (see bug 439604) they said this is not a bug and the system behaves as designed.

My question is who asked them for this design?

Is this the directions Ubuntu wants to take: break existing stuff and releasing crappier and crappier software?

Friday, September 04, 2009


Ok, another boycott post. What can I say - I like complaining.

This time my target is

A couple of days ago I wanted to buy a Samsung 2343bw monitor. After some search on the net, I've decided to buy it from Big mistake.

The shop asked for my address and told me they'll deliver the monitor after 18:30. Around 20, I get a phone call that the courier can't deliver the monitor any longer, but I will get a phone call the next day. The next day (today), I get a new phone call around 11 that they can't deliver at all the monitor after 18:30 at my address. They will deliver the monitor at another address or I can come and pick it myself. Unsatisfied by any of the options, as I don't fancy myself walking with a bulky monitor in the Metro, I decided to cancel the buy entirely.

To warn others, I then tried to post a comment on the web site. Apparently the comments are moderated or something as my two attempts were fruitless. Or was it because my comment was not flattering enough? Who knows.

Anyway, the attitude from makes me believe that the economic crisis has somehow steered clear of Romania - there is still not enough competition to make the local sellers treat decent their customers and they probably still consider they are doing us a big service by their mere existance, that they can survive by not adapting to their customers' needs and that we should accept any conditions they try to force on us.

To conclude, check on or some similar site for good deals and stay clear of

Mud Volcanoes, Întorsura Buzăului and Siriu Mountain

We've spend the last weekend at Întorsura Buzăului, together with Mirela and Marius.

Because of the late booking, we were able to find a room only at Roxana Pension. It's not a bad place, thought, I would recommend 2 double rooms against an apartment if you plan to go in 4. The apartment has 4 beds, but the rooms are not well balanced - one is very big and the other is very small, by comparison. The apartment also has a jacuzzi, but if you take a shower the bathroom will fill with water - I would have preferred a nice shower cabin to the jacuzzi, but this is my personal taste.

From Întorsura Buzăului

On the way to Întorsura, we visited the Mud Vulcanoes from Pâcleme Mari, near Buzău and the Siriu Dam.

From Vulcanii Noroioși (Buzău Mud Volcanoes)

From Barajul Siriu (Siriu Dam)

Întorsura being relatively close to the Siriu Mountain, we managed to make a short trip to the Lacul Vulturilor (Eagles's Lake), too. We had to circle the Siriu Dam Lake and take a forest road for 1 hour. After that we continued by foot. The path through the woods was quite steep and taxing in the end, but the view from the lake was worth the effort :)

All in all, a nice spent week-end :D

From Munții Siriu (Siriu Mountains)

backlog - Tărlungeni

Another backlog - Tărlungeni, with Cristina, Elena and Răzvan. This was during 1-4 May 2009. Just a short escapade from Bucharest, to Tărlungeni, near Brașov. With a trip to Ciucaș Mountains.

From Tărlungeni, Ciucaș, Brașov

Thursday, September 03, 2009

backlog - floss camp @ curmatura stezii

During 14-16 August me and Cristina have attended the FLOSS Camp 2009 from Curmătura Ștezii, near Sibiu. It was an informal meeting with other FLOSS people from all over the country.

Here are some pictures taken by the organizers at the tent camp.

Drawing the line, it was a nice experience:

  • I've met new FLOSS users
  • we've played a lot of Dominion
  • we've visited Sibiu
  • my first drive into that part of the country - I'm a lousy driver, so this counts as a big achievement :)

  • Thursday, August 13, 2009

    layers in gimpsketchbook

    The open source spirit works even for small projects like gimpsketchbook, apparently :-)

    Tina was one of its users (the only one, beside me?) and wanted layers in the sketchbooks, not only pages. So now we have layers, too!

    Go grab your copy of gimpsketchbook and let us know of what you think.

    And many thanks to Tina ;-)

    Wednesday, July 01, 2009

    time to move to fedora?

    with great displeasure i've read today about ubuntu's stance on mono.

    i have been considering for some time to try the latest fedora for this very reason - they've decided to remove mono from the default install. i was hoping that ubuntu will follow the same path, but, after reading the above e-mail, it is clear that they are taking the opposite direction.

    bad ubuntu, bad :-(

    Friday, June 05, 2009


    I have just posted on my latest pet project - gimpsketchbook - a set of python scripts that allows you to use gimp as a sketchbook (evidently :) ).

    It consists in an external GUI app and a Gimp plugin. The plugin starts a D-Bus server and executes certain commands sent by the GUI. The GUI stores your settings from one session to the other and acts as a D-Bus client.

    The idea behind gimpsketchbook is to have as little (no) need for a keyboard, so that working with Gimp while in tablet mode (when the keyboard is tucked away under your screen) is not as difficult as it is now.

    Tested and developed on Debian and Ubuntu. Requires a fairly new PyGTK.

    Wednesday, May 27, 2009

    romanian goverment pays 450+ mil Eur for proprietary software, instead of creating 5000 IT

    our government has decided to pay micro$oft and friends more than 450 mil EUR, for windows licenses and new hardware needed to run it (probably).

    what nobody has noticed so far, is that these money could have been used to create more than 5000 local it jobs for 3 years (the duration of the contract with m$).

    the math is quite simple:

    450 mil eur / 3 years / 12 months / 2500 eur/month = 5000 jobs

    and i'm talking of well paid jobs for a romanian it programmer.

    5000 jobs for 3 years is quite a big it task force. the government could have opted for a far smaller task force and save the rest. use the savings to something really useful. after all, the world is in the middle of a financial crisis.

    but what am i expecting?

    Wednesday, April 15, 2009

    free albums galore

    I'm following for some time a nice blog about free music: Free Albums Galore. I don't like all of the bands featured there, but some of them are quite nice.

    Here are some of the recent ones I really liked:
    Just go to that site, browse the reviews and take your pick - you will not be disappointed. Who says you have to pay a lot for good music?

    Sunday, April 05, 2009

    boycott seagate, ep. 4

    I have finally managed to get my data back from the failed drive. Yay!

    As you might know from a previous post, in January 2009 I have filed a ticket on Seagate site about the defective drive. After a couple of weeks I finally got a reply. The excuse for the extremely slow response was that their e-mail server had issues and it took some time to backlog all the new tickets, including mine. After some more e-mails, the Seagate representative agreed that the problem appears to be their defective firmware and he pointed me to the i365, the Seagate company that handles the data recoveries. He also assured me that all the recovery will be done free of charge.

    Soon after that, I went to i365's web site and tried to log a ticket with them. Unfortunately, due to some glitch, the process didn't finalise, even though the site presented me with a success page.

    Two weeks ago I was almost to the point on giving up on the data from the drive, return it to the shop and request my money back. Just to be sure that I have exhausted all the other options, I've decided to make a second attempt to contact i365.

    This time, the ticket was logged and I was soon contacted by a representative asking me more details and if I have a ticket with Seagate about this drive. I had a ticket and I've sent it to them. The reply came shortly saying that i365 will do the recovery free of charge.

    I asked them if 'free of charge' includes transportation or only the flashing, but I got no answer. Nevertheless, the next Friday I've received a call from TNT Romania asking me when can they come to pick up a HDD for Seagate Recovery Services. This was quite unexpected, so I've agreed with TNT to pick it up the next Monday.

    After 1 week, the drive was back and all the data is apparently in place.

    i365 inspected the drive and they've came to the same conclusion as me - the drive failed because of the firmware, so they covered both the recovery and transportation expenses. The people handling the case were quite nice and speeded up the process enough to return the HDD the same week. I was very dissapointed by TNT's services, but, in the end, they did the job (the package was handled ok, but they messed up the transport papers and they have a lousy 10-18 delivery/pick-up policy).

    Now I'm reviewing what's on that HDD and try to make backups for the data from it. I'm not sure how soon I'll buy another Seagate drive, but at least for now, I'm happy I have my data back, data that I've thought lost for ever.

    Thursday, March 26, 2009

    boycott seagate, ep. 3

    This is a bit overdue (it happened on February 25, 2009), but I wanted to let anybody interested that I've been able to return the 1.5T Seagate drive to MediaDot and recover my money.

    It wasn't as easy as I hoped.

    I've started by sending an e-mail to MediaDot, explaining that I want to return the HDD because its performance is sub-par and I no longer trust the safety of my data. I've got a fast reply stating that I'll get the money on the spot, when I return the drive. The e-mail looked too good to be true, so I've asked for a confirmation. Instead of a confirmation, I've got the same e-mail. Asking again for a confirmation, I've got the same e-mail a third time.

    Despite all the uncertainty given by those e-mails, I've decided to go to the shop nevertheless and try my luck. But before anything else, I've whiped the whole HDD (unfortunately, I forgot what I've used... it might have been shred or sfill, but who knows...).

    On February 2, 2009 I was at the MediaDot. The counter lady told me that the e-mail was just a standard reply, but I was already expecting something like that. After some parleys, I've left the HDD for RMA, but I had to give some reasons for that. There were plenty, so I've given the main ones:
    • HDD not working in RAID
    • data gets corrupted on the HDD
    I would have added that I no longer trust Seagate, but I guess this is not considered a valid reason. It should be :-(

    After 2 weeks, I've got a phone from MediaDot stating that the HDD can't be repaired or replaced, because the Seagate dealer no longer have my model on stock. Lucky me. I was asked if I want to buy something else, but I told them I want my money back. It was Thursday and the guy from the phone said it can't make the paper till Friday, so I'll get a phone during next Monday. He told me to wait for the phone, so that I don't come to MediaDot to discover the return papers are not ready.

    Monday passed and so did Tuesday. Wednesday I could wait no longer and phoned MediaDot myself. They told me that I can come to MediaDot the next Monday. I've told you, it wasn't eays...

    Finally, the next Monday came and I arrived at MediaDot. As expected, the money and papers were not ready. I've had to wait another 20 minutes for somebody to bring the money from another building, because they didn't want to give me the money from the cash register. Go figure.

    To conclude, on February 25, 2009 I had finally managed to get rid of the 1.5T Seagate drive and recover my money, after more than 3 weeks from the day I've returned the drive for RMA. But it was worth it and I own now one Seagate less.

    Sunday, February 01, 2009


    The death of my Seagate 1T drive found me with my pants down: I was testing my new PC, all was working acceptable and the drive had worked ok for almost 2 months, so I decided to move all my data on this drive, for convenience.

    Trusting Seagate was a stupid move. Just after days of moving all my personal data on that drive, much with no backups, the drive stopped working because of the Seagate firmware bugs.

    Now I have removed all the Seagate drives from my PCs. I have cleaned the 1.5T drive and will try to return and get back my money in the following days. The dead 1T drive is still laying around and I'm searching for a way to recover my data from it. After that, I'll return it, too.

    The new PC is running now with 2 Samsung drives (in RAID1) I was already having. They're slower than the Seagate, smaller (400GB vs 1TB) and make more noise. On the other hand, they work while Seagate drives don't.

    The problem is that I've become so paranoid that even RAID1 is not enough. I was wondering what to do and then I've realised:
    • my really-really important data is not that big
    • I have a 60GB USB drive that I haven't used lately and is just gathering dust on my desk

    So why not use it as a backup storage medium?

    After some skimming over the available backup solutions (the solution had to be in Ubuntu ready for use), I've decided to use dirvish.

    It's not the simplest or the most complete solution out there, but, for me, it has a good balance between features and configuration complexity. Here's some of the features I like about it:
    • the backups produced by dirvish are transparent - they are exact copies of the files you back-up and you don't need to decompress them.
    • new backups are incremental and only changes are copied
    • if a file hasn't been changed, it creates a hardlink to the old one; this way space is saved and if your files change rarely, making backups frequently will increase the space needed by the backups just marginally.
    • because it uses hardlinks, you can delete older backups without worrying you will loose some important file from (when using deltas with archives this can be a problem - you have to keep your full chain of full and intermediate backups or you will not be able to reconstruct the latest backup - there's no such problem with dirvish and your latest incremental backup is as ready to use as the first full backup you've made)

    Saturday, January 31, 2009

    get in touch with yumi

    Hi Yumi,

    If you are reading this, please send me an email at "iborco at gmail dot com".

    And Happy Birtday to Nami.


    Wednesday, January 28, 2009

    boycott seagate, ep. 2

    What's very sad (but also enraging) is that for Seagate's employees all the trouble they have caused is simply a job, but for the unlucky Seagate customer with failed drives it can be a nightmare.

    I have lost a lot a nights trying to find a way to recover my data, vented my frustration on my girlfriend, ruined my Christmas, etc. I might even have to pay some sensible amounts of money if I want to recover my data (and I dearly do that).

    But what Seagate does?

    They first denied there was a problem. Then they released a firmware that bricked in certain conditions a drive that was still working. They still deny the problem is a real and widespread one (on the other hand, some data recovery specialist consider that these drives have a 30% failure chance).

    They offer to flash the firmware, but only in USA. What about the rest of the world?

    After almost 2 weeks I have yet to receive some answer to the trouble ticket I have logged on Seagate site. I have emailed yesterday Seagate EMEA and I am curious how long will it take (if ever) for them to respond.

    Tuesday, January 27, 2009

    boycott seagate

    Last year I have bought a 1T Seagate HDD (model ST31000340AS). At the beginning, all was fine and, after 1 month, I even bought a second Seagate drive, the 1.5 T version.

    The 1.5T was really a let down: I tried to put it in a RAID configuration, but it was expunged from it every now and then. Searching the net for an explanation, I've discovered there are major problems with 7200.11 Seagate series, especially with the 1.5T models.

    The Seagate site assured customers that the problems were minor and no data loss will come to us. I have checked my firmware on both the 1T and the 1.5T and, according to Seagate, none of them were having problems.

    Oh, boy, I was really stupid!

    After another month or so (so, after around 2 month after buying it), the 1T wasn't recognized by the BIOS any longer. Moving the HDD in another PC didn't help. I can hear the drive spinning, but the BIOS will just hang for a couple of seconds trying to detect it, fail to do so and continue.

    Now I am waiting for a solution that might never come. I have some important data on the 1T drive and still hope that, some day, I will be able to recover them.

    The 1.5T is used now as a second backup solution and I keep on it only data that I already store on DVD's. I would not trust sensitive data to it.

    Even when I copy the DVD's to it, I often have to copy some files twice or thrice, as they get corrupted during the copy process. Lucky me, all my DVD's are now having MD5 on them and I can easily detect such a problem from the beginning. Usually, the second copy of the file gets fine on the drive, but copying correctly a whole DVD to HDD is, unfortunately, very rare with this 1.5T Seagate HDD.

    I have registered a ticket with Seagate, but, after 1 week I still have not received any human answer. If you live in USA, the solution is simple: just send the bricked HDD to Seagate and they will update its firmware, with no data loss. Nice and simple. But because I live in Romania, this is not possible - at least, for now, the only answer I have received is to RMA the drive and get a new one instead. But I want my data back, for free, as other Seagate customers do.

    I have learned my lessons:
    • never buy another drive from Seagate,
    • always use RAID and,
    • for really-really important data, do regular back-ups.

    Friday, January 23, 2009

    git cheat sheat

    Found some nice cheat-sheets for git:
    To set the user and e-mail used when making a commit to your git repo, use:

    git config 'John Doe'
    git config

    If you are using gitorious, you might find handy to use an alternate ssh key made specifically for gitorious upload. You could make such a key with:

    ssh-keygen -b 4096 -C

    Save the key under ~/.ssh/id_rsa_johndoe_example_com and modify ~/.ssh/config to:

    Host gitorious

    Upload the public key to gitorious. After that, you'll be able to use the new key to push your changes to gitorious using the id_rsa_johndoe_example_com key.

    Another very useful setting for using git with CMake is to add the build/ dir into your .git/info/exclude file so that git status ignores all build files.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009


    I have published my free-time work from the past couple of months on gitorious. The code should evolve in time into a new and better isohexengine, but, for now, it consists only in some samples and benchmarks. The code is release under AGPLv3 license and it can be accessed here.

    Have fun ;)

    Friday, January 16, 2009

    in romania, buy retail components

    I have discovered the hard-way that in Romania it is a lottery to buy bulk components.

    Last month one my bulk Seagate 1T HDD died just days after moving all my photos and other important docs on it, without making any backup. My mistake and now I'm paying the consequences.

    My other Seagate 1.5T HDD, also bulk, reports periodically smartctl errors and copying files from a DVD to the HDD often produces corrupted files. Lucky me, all my recent DVDs have MD5s on them, so I just make a new copy of the corrupted file until it is ok.

    My other two bulk Samsung's also report smartctl errors (these are now in RAID, so if one of them fails I will not loose my data again - hopefully they will not both die at the same time).

    I suspect all this is because:
    • Romania is still considered a second rate European country and we receive all the bad lots that can't be dumped somewhere else (nice conspiracy theory, right? :-) )
    • Romanian resellers don't give a s*t about how they handle the bulk compos, so these components get damaged during handling
    What's more unerving is that recently I wanted to buy a Pioneer DVD 216 writer from MarioSoft.

    Lucky me, I've looked carefuly at the unit when I wanted to pay it and discovered it had a bent corner. That could only mean it had been hit really hard (you can imagine what must have happened inside to the fragile compos that are there).

    Of course, I refused to buy it and, as a precaution, I've written down the serial number of the unit: HFDP005942WL.

    After a couple of days, I've ordered again the Pioneer DVD 216 to MarioSoft. They told me I can come and pick it up the next day.

    The "new" unit looked ok (no bent corners this time), but, to my surprise, the serial number was the same!!! So somebody simply replaced the back-cover that had no serial number on it and straightened the front-cover.

    When I've asked about this, the MarioSoft guy told me he sent back the defective unit to the Pioneer supplier and they received the current unit as a new one.

    Just figure!

    Of course I haven't bought the "new" unit either and searched at other shops for some other DVD writer. I've ended with a writer in a retail package. Hopefuly this will work ok despite of how Romanian sellers and suppliers are handling their merchandise.

    I've tried to get some comments from Pioneer and MarioSoft about this, but without much success:
    • Pioneer Europe said they are sory and they hope the matter will be solved;
    • Sun Audio Electronics SRL aka Pioneer Romania told me they are not the suppliers for these components;
    • the importers Asbis Romania and RHS Company didn't reply in any way (I might have received a bad e-mail address for Asbis - I will update this article if they will reply in any way);
    • no comments from MarioSoft
    My recommendations:
    • buy a retail component if you can
    • if you want to buy a Pioneer DVD 216, check it's serial number is not HFDP005942WL

    qt4.5 to be released as lgpl! yay!

    As you already know from other better news places, QT4.5 will be released under LGPL 2.1 (scheduled to be released in March 2009).

    Last year, when I was pondering if I should use QT or GTKmm, I sent an e-mail to QT and asked how much a commercial license costs. The reply put me off (the commercial license costs around 4K EUR/year) and for some time I didn't know what to do: use QT4 and release my code under GPL3 or go with GTKmm.

    Spending some time with both QT4 and GTKmm made me decide go with QT4 (mostly because of the docs, but also because QT apparently has all the widgets that I need and, from what I understand, can integrate nicely OpenGL into a QT app), even though I wasn't completely happy with being forced to use GPL3 (I like GPL3, but I didn't like being forced to choose my license).

    So you can't imagine my joy when I've read that QT4.5 will be released under LGPL. Now I can use QT and decide on my own on what license to use. For my projects, it will probably be Affero :-D

    moved to ubuntu 8.10

    After almost 10 years of using only Debian/Unstable, yesterday I have converted my last laptop still running Debian to Ubuntu 8.10.

    Now I have 2 laptops and 2 PCs and keeping them updated was becoming a chore.

    Ubuntu looks acceptable and even though I will not have the cutting edge any more, having a stable distro that is not older than 6 months at any time outweights this.

    In addition, in the past couple of months I've discovered that I have to compile by hand, from sources, some of the libs I use, even on Debian/Unstable. The same as on Ubuntu.