late cat

I think I’m about the last person on the planet to get a Digital Convergence CueCat — remember those freebie barcode scanners that were going to change the world, until the parent company crashed and burned?

Active Surplus has a whole case of late-model USB ones (model #68-1966 for those who care). Maybe $14.95 is a little steep, but it does cover all your barcode scanning needs.

Toronto, the MFP enquiry, and Linux

At a Green Economics meeting last night, we heard from councillors Paula Fletcher and Glenn De Baeremaeker about the Toronto Computer Leasing Inquiry. It seems that the city is stuck with approximately 14000 Windows-NT class machines that it can no longer use, as Microsoft will not support its operating system.

I need to find out more on the specs of these machines, but I think it would be fair to say that they would be functional for most office applications with Linux. This has only been hinted at by other writers, but at least it could provide working, virus-proof computers to city staff at very little extra expense.

This could be something that the Toronto Linux User Group could look at.

Rendez-vous with the Triplets

triplets of belleville
Ah, how I love The Triplets of Belleville. I was brought up on a steady stream of Jacques Tati and Django Reinhardt, so it’s natural that I get along with this film very well. Especially since I scored a region-free copy in the UK. I can live with it being called Belleville Rendez-vous on the box.

It was robbed of an oscar. Finding Nemo was an amusing little merchandising platform, but ToB is genius. But what chance did a joint French-Canadian production have in a US-based competition?

vuescan and gentoo

The very excellent VueScan for Linux now seems to require libusb. It’s no problem to install, but I don’t think I needed it for v7.6.69, but I do for v7.6.79.

Yet another Scottish rooftop turbine

Anent the WindSave turbine, yet another similar product has appeared: the Renewable Devices Swift. It’s Scottish too, and again there are few details. The Scotsman has the story.

Someone commented here that one could build such a device cheaply from parts from any DIY store. This isn’t quite the case. Properly formed blade sets are not trivial to make, and while you could build your own generator, weatherproofing it and making it CE-compliant would be hard.

appalling office samizdat generator

Remember when office walls were festooned with grubby, wonkily photocopied slogans, bad attempts at Snoopy cartoons, and all manner of xerox-worn paperwork? Something like this:
donthavetobemad.jpg

With everything being digital, and e-mailed the world over without degradation, I became nostalgic for the old analogue days. So I decided to emulate the squint, black-edged, mottled, heavily-thresholded imagery with the NetPBM toolkit and a shell script. You can download it here: pnmcopier – emulate a badly-photocopied document to stdout. It should work on most Unix machines. It does require that your shells sets $RANDOM, which might make it a bit bash-specific.

It works best with a fairly high resolution image. Be advised it’s a processor hog; it has to rotate, smooth and merge very large images. To compound the effect, pipe the output into pnmcopier, perhaps several times. I don’t quite have the parameters right, but it gives the desired level of grubbiness. Sorry I couldn’t reproduce coffee stains, staple marks, old tape ghosts or random doodles.

Do what you will with it, but harm none.

WindSave cleans up

If you go to WindSave’s website, you’ll note that their performance claims have gone.

Update, 5 April 2004: I am no longer supplying their PDF brochure. WindSave does not seem keen to back up their product with reliable technical information. If their original dimensions were accurate, here is all you need to know about WindSave’s designs (and why they won’t work) .

Ode to Joy

(or, how Stewart is obviously very easily pleased …)

At work, I use emacs over an ssh connection in a Gnome terminal window. For months, I’ve complained that it wouldn’t respond to mouse clicks, and thus cursor movement was tiresome.

So today, on going back to a particularly large project file, I wondered if anything could be done. Googling for “emacs xterm mouse”, I discovered xterm-mouse-mode. It does what it says on the tin; gives you basic mouse control in an xterm. I’m happy now. Almost too happy, in fact.

I also found out about flyspell-mode today, an on-the-fly spelling checker for XEmacs. It does the equivalent of the little wiggly red line under misspelt words in Word, except not quite so in-your-face. Neato-mosquito.