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June 2007 Archives

June 8, 2007

Fedora 7: GUI ignorance?

Fedora 7 is out, and I've upgraded. The upgrade was mostly unspectacular.

I use KDE as my desktop environment these days, but a number of critical applications (Firefox, Amaya, OpenOffice, gaim^Wpidgin) use gtk. It took a bit of magical fiddling with font settings to get GTK applications to use the right fonts again. When all seemed well, OpenOffice had a nasty surprise (freedesktop.org bug #4650; fedora bug report #232159) for me: The interaction with gtk-qt-engine is broken enough that the software becomes essentially unusable. I'm somewhat bewildered that this seems not to be treated as a priority by the Fedora folks: OpenOffice is, for all intents and purposes, an absolutely critical piece of application software that simply must run flawlessly on any Linux system today that claims it's targeting the desktop.

I'm now back to using GTK applications with a native GTK theme that looks similar enough to the KDE environment I'm in. Still, these two bugs alone may very well be enough to make ordinary desktop users switch to other distributions, or systems.

Meanwhile, gaim is now Pidgin; with the change in name comes a change to an amazingly ugly icon theme -- yes, even geeks like their desktop pretty!

Edited, later: They've done it again -- suspend/resume needs more manual fixing. This time, the bluetooth subsystem leads the kernel to lock up upon suspend. Fortunately, this is fixed by a simple /sbin/service bluetooth stop in the suspend script. Still...

June 10, 2007

Fedora 7: more fun with freezes

Seems as if the kernel included with Fedora 7 has more problems than I anticipated: Suspend/Resume isn't alone in leading to lockups; disabling Bluetooth using the appropriate keyboard combination has the same effect.

I'm back to the last FC6 kernel until this gets sorted out. Yet, I'm surprised how reasonably usual activities still lead to regressions like this, on common hardware (a T43 isn't that unusual).

Forget cookies!

Client-side SQL rules. And it's rather useful: Google -- the site recently rated worst major web destination for privacy by Privacy International (rebuttal 1, rebuttal 2) -- has put out Google Gears, a browser extension which lets you use things like Google Reader in an offline mode. Functionality-wise, this seems to work nicely indeed, and I'll try it again as the next couple of flights come up -- reading blogs certainly sounds like good inflight entertainment.

The extension's key additions to today's infrastructure: You can reliably keep both Web applications and significant amounts of data locally, such as the last 2,000 blog posts, and you can talk to that data store in SQL. Applications that can use these facilities have all the abilities that cookies could ever give them, and then some more; cookies simply look boring against this.

It will be interesting to see whether (and how) the community overall takes up the tension between the functionality enabled and the privacy worries caused -- both -- by web applications' ability to link interactions much more reliably than today, and to store larger and more structured amounts of data on the client. The tension is, in fact, non-trivial: On the one hand, reliable client-side persistency clearly enables reliable linking of different interactions. On the other hand, applications could be designed to be more privacy-friendly by actually keeping information on the client, and not transmitting it to the server. If anything, this shows that discussions about privacy online can't be limited to the side-effects of this or that technology, but should actually focus on how the technology (and the data processed) are actually used.

Meanwhile, Opera's Anne van Kesteren points to Erik Arvidsson's blog, which talks about a submission of the interfaces exposed by Google Gears to WHATWG/W3C coming soon. Anne notes the relationship to related work in the HTML5 spec. (W3C's new HTML Working Group took up HTML5 as the basis for discussion with the editors and the WG going forward in May.)

PS: In terms of security models, both the HTML5 and Google Gears work rely on the same-origin policy that's well-known from cookie land.

June 11, 2007

Bias in reputation systems

A while ago, I ordered a memory extension at Amazon -- or, rather, through Amazon. The first merchant took a while to not deliver; I called them, they tried to feed me some cheap excuses (which were rather obviously wrong). I cancelled my order, but that cancellation was only confirmed by the merchant once I tried to invoke Amazon's guarantee.

Overall, a pretty bad experience -- this particular merchant didn't do what they were supposed to do, they communicated badly, and they didn't react in a timely way. Yet, I can't give a rating in Amazon's reputation system: After all, the order was cancelled... This suggests that some of the really bad merchants might have higher reputations there than they deserve, simply for the reason that the customers who were disappointed most heavily don't get to rate them.

(The memory extension has meanwhile arrived from a different merchant who got 5 out of 5 points for professionalism.)

About June 2007

This page contains all entries posted to No Such Weblog in June 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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