June 07, 2003

American Wedding

While at the movie last night I saw the preview I've been waiting for.

Jim and Michelle are getting married - in a hurry. Jim's grandmother is sick and wants to see Jim walk down the aisle, so they're going for it in two frantic weeks. Stifler plans to be there (bridesmaids!), and more importantly to throw the ultimate bachelor party (strippers!). While everybody else sweats and frets, Jim's Dad (Levy) is cool as ever, dispensing advice that no one wants to hear.

I thought it'd be called American Pie 3 but they went with American Wedding instead.

Regardless, as a huge fan of the Pie, I'm really looking forward to this film. I'd try to describe the funny stuff from the movie trailer, but you're best off watching it yourself if you're into this genre at all. (I am.)

Posted by jzawodn at 07:07 PM

2 Fast, 2 Furious, 2 Fun

The second was far better than the first. Really. Rather than being about Vin Diesel as a badass driver, this film had a bit more humor, driving, and action.

Posted by jzawodn at 01:17 AM

June 06, 2003

Yahoo! Buzz RSS Feeds

Neat. The new religion is spreading at work--specifically on the Yahoo! Buzz Index.

Be nice. And report any bugs you find. They're very new.

Posted by jzawodn at 02:44 PM

Fonts on Linux: A Rant

Have you ever noticed what a royal pain in the ass it is to get fonts working on Linux that do not look like complete crap? On Windows it's a non-issue. On Mac OS X it's all quite amazing out of the box. But for some reason, having the X Window System on your desktop means that fonts must suck.

Here's a great example--a web browser. I want web pages to look decent on my Linux box. It's not asking a lot, is it? They don't have to look exactly as the "designer" intended, just nice. I have all high-resolution LCD displays at home. I run relatively modern graphics cards (or chipsets in the case of the notebooks) and nearly the latest release of X. Yet it's still a complete mystery to me.


Let's start with the latest release of the Mozilla Firebird browser (not the database). I installed it recently on my notebook (and IBM ThinkPad T21 running the latest Knoppix, which is based on Debian). Go ahead, click the little thumbnail image to see what I see on my screen when reading my blog with Firebird.

Notice the jagged fonts? No smooth edges here. No anti-aliasing.

I spent some time futzing around with the fonts to figure out what's wrong. And I can't figure it out. Nothing I did resulted in a dramatic improvement of the display--not that I claim to have tried everything. Though I do claim that I shouldn't have to do anything. Anyway, we'll come back to that.


Let's now look at the latest version of Mozilla on the same machine (the IBM ThinkPad T21 running the latest Knoppix), with the same blog screen, at the same resolution and window size. Go ahead, click the little thumbnail image to see what I see on my screen when reading my blog with Mozilla.

Nice, isn't it? The fonts are crisp and clear. There are no jagged edges. On my LCD screen it looks very, very good.

Digging Deeper: Firebird

Okay, here's where it gets really mysterious. Let's think briefly about what's going on... I'm using two browsers that use the same underlying rendering engine (Mozilla's Gecko), yet they're showing me radically different things.

"Ah..." you say, "Firebird must simply have different default fonts configured. That's what I thought. So I pulled up the little font configuration window (click the image on the left to see what I saw).

Notice that funny looking font names? My default serif font is something called adobe-times-iso8859-1. The name's a big long-winded. One would that that Times is sufficient, but it's not a crisis.

The display resolution setting didn't help either. I'm not sure why the application needs to know what my display resolution is. Furthermore, I'm not sure why it doesn't simply ask the system. It seems to, by default, so I'm not sure why I'm being offered a choice. Is there a reason that I'd want to run one application at 72dpi while the others all run at 100dpi? I don't think I've ever needed to do that.

Unfortunately, I found no check box marked "Use crappy fonts only" that I could toggle. So I turned my attention back to Mozilla.

Digging Deeper: Mozilla

Mozilla, of course, also has a font configuration tool. So I launched it to see what it had to offer (click the image on the left to see what I saw).

Hmm. It looks remarkably similar. The only real difference I noticed is that the font names were different in two important ways. First, the names look like they were designed to be read by humans--like you'd see on a Mac: Courier, Times, Century Schoolbook, and so on. Secondly, the font names didn't seem to be related to those I could choose from in Firebird.

From this I concluded that the two applications were using different sets of fonts, one set crappy and one set nice.

Konqueror: Sanity Check

Not sure what to do next, I tried one last sanity check. I launched Konqueror, the browser built by the KDE folks. Guess what. It muddied the waters even more!

Konqueror makes my blog look crappy too, just like Firebird. However, when I view the font choices, they match those offered by Mozilla. I didn't bother with screen shots this time. It's too depressing.

The Burning Question

Having seen what I've seen so far, I'm really left with one burning question: What the hell is going on with my fonts?!?!?

Why do these two applications use completely different fonts? And why does a third, using the same as the second, render things more like the first? I cannot figure out how to get Firebird to use the set of fonts that Mozilla is using. I can not figure out how to get Konqueror to render like Mozilla even though it seems to be using the same fonts. Hell, I'm not even sure where the applications look to figure out what fonts are available.

On any other operating system, I'd expect all apps to have access to all fonts. Fonts are one of those "core services" that the GUI desktop framework ought to provide--to all applications.

Am I smoking something here? Am I expecting too much?

Can anyone explain what I've done wrong? I have to believe that it's something I did. What sort of self-respecting Open Source hackers would do this?

I give up.


Linux is not ready for the desktop.

Why not? Fonts, that's why.

Posted by jzawodn at 01:22 AM

June 04, 2003

No More Blog Popups

Okay, I've finally "fixed" my templates for MovableType. There should no longer be and stupid pop-ups on my archive pages or new entries (I didn't regen all 750+ old ones). Feel free to steal my templates. I use MT's ability to link a template to a file on disk to guarantee that those will always be exactly what I'm using.

MovableType is great. Except for that.

I never understood why the default templates use pop-ups for comments and TrackBack. No longer will you be subject to them here.

In reality, I've been phasing this in over time. I just happened to do the last 5% of it this evening.


Posted by jzawodn at 11:42 PM

Adobe's Stupidity

I was going to write a long commentary on how stupid Adobe is being with version 6.0 of Acrobat Reader. Err, I mean "Adobe Reader" I guess.

Just read this and you'll see. I can't add much more to the discussion without using using a lot of four letter words.

Think about what a powerful brand "Adobe Acrobat" is, as one of the single most popular web plug-ins or "helper applications" of all time. Really. I remember those little Acrobat buttons showing up on web sites in the mid-90s.

Anyway, I'll stop before I start ranting.

Thanks to Scott for the pointer.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:39 PM

Birthday Biplane Ride

I decided to do something fun for my birthday today (29th, thanks for asking). So I hooked up with Amelia Reid Aviation at Reid-Hillview Airport in San Jose, the folks who also run RideInABiPlane.com. I had picked up a business card and flyer from them at the Watsonville Air Show (see this entry) a few weeks ago.

Anyway, we flew for about 40 minutes. Here are some pictures from the experience. The plane had room for two in the front, so Ray came along too.

It was great fun. I highly recommend going for a ride. I'm now tempted to work on my power license after the book is done.

Posted by jzawodn at 04:08 PM


Do you ever play the "now vs. then" game?

My mind is a little strange. But you probably knew that already. About 20 minutes ago it was wandering a bit and I found myself wondering what'd it'd be like if me now met me from 10 years ago and had a chat.

What might that be like?

It went something like this.

(I was a freshman in college 10 years ago.)

Then: Wow, this is so cool. I don't know where to start. What did you do today?
Now: Well, I went for a bike ride, drove some friends to the airport, got my hair cut, went to work, did a bit of consulting after work, came home, watched a George Carlin video, and went to bed.
Then: Is work fun? Do they pay you a lot? Are there cool computers? Do you have to wear a tie?
Now: Yeah, work is pretty interesting. Sometimes it sucks, but that's life. They pay pretty well, but living in California is expensive too.
Then: You live in California and don't have to wear a tie to work?
Now: Right. I can pretty much wear whatever I want.
Then: No shit? Wow. That's great. Do do have a girlfriend?
Now: No.
Then: Why not?
Now: I live in Silicon Valley. The ratio of available girls to guys is really out of whack here. As far as I can tell, they're really quite hard to find. It seems that everyone I meet is either already dating, married, or just not realistic. Usually they're married. And the few that are available and interesting... Well, I never seem to be able to ask them out.
Then: Oh. That sucks.
Now: You're telling me.
Then: Do you have a cool computer?
Now: I have, uh... (counting) ... 11 computers.
Then: (blank stare)
Then: I'll just pretend you didn't say that. What's this consulting about?
Now: I sometimes help small companies fix their computer problems or design software systems.
Then: And they pay you?
Now: Yeah. It's nice to make a few hundred dollars for a few hours of work. It helps to pay for my expensive hobbies.
Then: Damn! They pay a lot!
Now: Yeah, and it's really laid back. We met at the founder's apartment, had a beer, a cookie, and talked through their problems.
Then: You get to drink on the job? No way.
Now: Well, it's not what you think. Really.
Then: What's the expensive hobby?
Now: Flying gliders.
Then: All right! That means I'll get to keep flying someday.
Now: Exactly.
Then: Hm. I don't even know what to ask next. There are so many things I still want to know.
Now: Well, I'm not going to tell you how to live your life. Life hasn't turned out at all the way I expected. But I don't regret any of it. (Okay, a few minor things, but don't worry about that.) You'll know what to do.

Of course, I have no idea what it'd be like. But that doesn't strike me as being too far off.

A lot has changed in the last ten years. But what's more striking is what hasn't changed. It's fun to look back. Especially since I'm no good at looking forward. "Where will you be in five years?" Beats me. Wherever life takes me.

Enough rambling. I'm tired. I have a big day tomorrow.

Posted by jzawodn at 12:10 AM

June 03, 2003

Life is Teasing Me

I suppose it was due. It's been a while. But I just realized that life is, once again, teasing me.

Hm. There's really no way around it either.

Posted by jzawodn at 11:31 PM

Network World Fusion Weblogs

This may not be news, but I just noticed that Network World Fusion has weblogs.

Posted by jzawodn at 05:52 PM

June 02, 2003

Corporate Panty Raid

Well, well, well. It seems that another company has begun trying to recruit people from one of our business units as they begin trying to staff up their own.

It's really too bad that I didn't know this before responding to the recruiter who contacted me. I could have had a lot more fun.

Apparently the games that rivals played in high school continue right on into the "professional" world.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:20 PM

June 01, 2003

Knowledge Worker or Google Hound?

I was having a chat with Kasia a little while ago and we got on the topic of knowledge. I had mentioned that the MySQL folks have asked me to take the MySQL Core Certification Exam, which I think is a good idea. They'd like some feedback on the exam and I'd like to be able to tell people that it's a worthwhile certification, etc.

Along the way I said something like "I don't know how much they expect me to study, but there's a whole lot of stuff that I just don't know without the on-line manual nearby." Call me selfish, but that was one of my motivations for becoming a MySQL mirror (mysql.zawodny.com). I wanted to ensure that I'd always have fast access to the documentation.

Anyway, the conversation went roughly like this:

k: That's true of most everything I know..
k: I'd be lost w/o books and manuals
j: Yup, me too
k: I'm good at looking things up
k: I've always felt sort of guilty about that..
k: People think I'm bright.. nah
k: I'm just efficient with google
j: Heh, right... I think lots of people are like that.
k: Do you ever get that feeling?
k: "If people only knew how little I really know..."
j: All the time.
k: Oh, good. Not just me then.
j: Not at all.
k: That makes me feel better.
j: It's most noticeable when I'm talking with VPs at work and they're like, "but we have you so it's no big deal..."
j: But that's probably just good delegation on their parts too... "That's your problem, not mine..." :-)

And then I had this "ah ha!" moment.

In thinking about the difference between "knowing something" and "knowing how to find something" I realized that I'd heard this all before in a different context.

Back in the late 90s when I was occasionally building things that passed for knowledge management tools at Marathon Oil, there was all this talk about knowledge workers. These were people who'd have vast quantities of information knowledge at their fingertips. All they needed was a way to organize, classify, index, search, and collaborate with it.

I think we've made it. I've become quite efficient at finding information when I need it. But the information isn't organized like I had envisioned a few years ago. It's just this big ugly mess known as the The Web. Lots of pockets of information from mailing lists, weblogs, software projects, communities, and company web sites are loosely tied together by hyperlinks. There's no grand schema or centralized database. There's little structure or quality control. No global vocabulary.

But even with all that going against it, it's all indexed and easily searchable thanks largely to Google and the companies that preceded it (Altavista, Yahoo, etc.). Most of the time it actually works.


Really. Think about it from the point of view of 6 years ago.

Now that I think about it, there was also a lot of talk about corporate intelligence back then too. But one thing I learned in my time at Yahoo Finance was that a lot of people who work for very respectable multi-million dollar companies used Yahoo Finance (and various other common web sites) for corporate intelligence--not some fancy tool that was designed and marketed for corporate intelligence.

We're all just very efficient at scavenging on the Web. Some are simply more efficient (or can think of better keywords) than others.

So, anyway... I just figured all this out. I guess I'm a little late to the party on this one. But I can't help but to look back and laugh at all the stuff that never materialized.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:53 PM

Remote Control Ceiling Fan

My landlord called me on Thursday to let me know that someone would come by on Saturday to install the ceiling fan that I requested over a year ago. He bought it a long time ago but never got around to getting it installed. And by the time I remembered it was fall and not that hot anymore.

Anyway, the guy came by on Saturday and did the installation. I have a nice new ceiling fan in the computer room of my apartment. It was the only room that had virtually no circulation, so it always got really warm in the summertime.

The funny part was when he asked me if I had a 9-volt battery. "Why?" I asked. "For the remote control" he said with a straight face. I looked at him blankly for couple seconds and then looked at the box. Sure enough, there was a remote control in it.

You don't believe me? Have a look.

It's official:

  1. People are too lazy
  2. I now really have too many remote controls
  3. The computer room is cool. Literally.

This got me thinking. If we're putting remote controls on ceiling fans now, what's next? I already have remote controls for my Sony Car Discman, DVD player, Lights (X10), TV, VCR, TiVo, and Stereo. My previous car had a keychain remote for locking, honking, and so on.

Maybe kitchen appliances? Or the toilet? You know, a "John Cage from Ally McBeal" sort of remote flush device?


Posted by jzawodn at 03:01 PM