Thursday, March 30, 2006

Help: Remote control using hotkeys

When I am translating movies, I write the text on my PC (in OpenOffice), while I play the video on my laptop if MPlayer, using SPACE and arrow to pause, advance the video. Both computers have Ubuntu Linux installed on them.

When you translate the movie, you use pausing and skipping few seconds forward/backward very often. I'd like to make my life simpler. I want to control my laptop from my main computer in the following way: When translating the movie, my computer's OpenOffice would work as normal except that the computer would recognize three special keystrokes (for example Ctrl+Right, Ctrl+Left, Ctrl+Space) which would skip and pause the video on the second computer (the laptop) so that I wouldn't have to move my hands between two keyboards.

Controlling the MPlayer on laptop from the main computer is actually very easy. I can just open the SSH connection to laptop, start MPlayer there using "-slave" and then send ASCII commands to control it. Or I can use the MPlayer's remote control capabilities. Anyway, this part is easy. The problem I cannot easily solve is that the simple "control application" on my main computer (which I'd like to write in Ruby) has to somehow "grab" selected keyboard events even when it's not focused (because I am using the control keys while I am writing the translation in OpenOffice). I have do idea how this could be done in the simplest possible way (although I'm sure there are many ways to solve this).

Just to summarize: My problem is not with the video remote control itself. I just need some simple way my Ruby script can monitor the special keypresses without its window having to be active. So far I found out I can monitor "/dev/input/event0" and find the info there but this doesn't look very elegant and requires the script to have root privileges.

We don't need no water

In 2002, Czech Republic experienced rather unpleasant floods. Right now, it's happening again (although it's not so dramatic so far). This was shot yesterday in Prague:

(As with the previous post, this is embedded video and you need Flash player to view it.)

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Zelda: A Link of Unspeakable Awfulness

I was nevery shy to take out my Gameboy or Nintendo DS in public place and start playing. I am proudly wearing my shirt with Nintendo logo.

However, after seeing the following trailer, for the first time in my life, I am actually ashamed that I have something common with the creators of this monstrosity. I.e. at the very least they like Zelda and I like Zelda. Treasure this trailer forever. Every second hurts.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Mom, let's go to the stoning!

International diplomacy 101: If you want to save the life of someone who might be executed for converting to Christianity, it's probably not very good idea for Pope to plead for his life.

Dabbling in Dapper Drake

I bought a new laptop. It's Acer TravelMate 2414 LMi and I have great news: Ubuntu Linux supports it out of the box. WiFi, 3D acceleration, sound mixer, sleep mode, CD burner - everything works without any reconfiguring. Well, some of the special "Acer keys" don't generate scancodes (some do!). This can supposedly be fixed using "acerhk" package but so far I don't care about them.

If you are worried about Linux compatibility, it seems Acer is the way to go (at least its TravelMate 2410 series).

A word of warning about the Windows XP included with the laptop: It automatically runs some sort of "Acer Recovery Driver" which NEEDS disk D: to which it writes some sort of recovery information. If disk D: is not present (because the partition has been re-formatted for Linux), it doesn't print any warning but brutally slows down the whole Windows XP system, making it unusable (system load constantly at 100%)! Originally, there were 3 partition on the disk: One small "Windows reinstall partition" (4GB, hidden), standard C: disk (38GB) and D: disk (38GB) used only for the "recovery" mentioned above by default. I don't care what the "recovery" system does (I hope I will be able to reinstall Windows XP from scratch using only the first hidden partition which can be booted from BIOS) so I simply renamed the c:/Program Files/acer/eRecovery directory to "fuck_eRecovery" and Windows XP now works flawlessly. (Sadly, I need it for using FL Studio.) The cleaner solution would probably be to resize the D: disk to less than 1GB or something like that and add your Linux partition after it.

But back to Linux:

After I succesfully installed Ubuntu 5.10 (Breezy Badger) and started configuring it, I decided I feel adventurous and tried installing the latest Ubuntu 6.04 (Dapper Drake), soon-to-be "6.06" (the final release was delayed by 2 months).

I first tried it on my ancient UMAX laptop and my ACX 111 based WiFi card (which worked perfectly with Breezy) did not work! I found the solution here (see page 2 of the thread). After simple renaming and re-linking of one file, it works OK. The first definitive improvement I saw was that "Networking profiles" now work, while on Breezy I had to reconfigure all the TCP/IP settings every time I changed the profile (basically, all the "Change Location" button did was it wiped all my settings).

A word of warning, though: Dapper Drake is under heavy development and after installing from the CD (which I downloaded less than a week ago), Package Manager immediately prompted me to download 300 MB of updates! Not very feasible if you are on dial-up.

More to come...

UPDATE: Automatic Flash installation in Firefox does not work, must be manually downloaded from Macromedia site. 3D acceleration not working by default, enabled by simply replacing "Driver" by "i810" in xorg.conf. Biggest shock: Quicktime movies from play flawlessly in vanilla MPlayer without installing any proprietary codecs! How is that possible?

Friday, March 24, 2006


I finally saw "V for Vendetta" and I am now in process of translating it. Allow me to share this nice monologue with you:

"Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a bygone vexation stands vivified and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition. The only verdict is vengeance, a vendetta held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose so let me simply add that it's my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V."

As for the movie itself, I don't share the excitement of others but it's still rather good movie, certainly better than you'd expect from comic book adaptation disowned by the comics' creator. And certainly better than Equilibrium, which I rather liked.

Let them eat the cake

There is a bakery in our house (corner of Paříkova and Pešlova streets). Actually... Is there an English word for bakery that only bakes sweet stuff, not bread? Never mind...

The thing is, they often display some very unique (and tasty) cakes and a few days ago they offered this one:

Linux cake!

Excited, I asked about the cake - why did they make it? Do they have some open-source customers who like sweet stuff? "Well," the nice lady (owner's daughter) told me, "I just told them to make some cute animal cakes for the kids". In other words, she had no idea about the significance of this exact penguin! Was the cook Linux guru? Or did he just search for "cute penguin" on the net?

I think this cake is great present for computer geeks. If you think so too, visit our bakery and tell the owner that you want the penguin cake. THIS EXACT PENGUIN CAKE! Of course, this assumes that you live in Prague, preferably somewhere in the vicinity of our house. Yes, our nine-story house is there, although online map says there is nothing. They are a little behind.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


If you are are not sure what movies to watch, try It's a site where you grade movies on a scale from 0 to 100 and, based on your grades, the system finds other users with same preferences and tries to calculate how would you grade other movies (which you didn't see yet)! I am really surprised how well it worked for me so far. You can compare your favorite movies with mine here.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Monday, March 13, 2006

Saturday, March 11, 2006

I feel old

By a pure coincidence, I found this videogame review on The game is called Ladybug and the reviewer gives it "6 out of 10" rating, noting that it's "tired Pac-Man clone", "feels old" and "the graphics look retro but I'm not sure if this is intentional".

If you still don't understand why I suddenly feel old, it means you are probably rather young (as is the author of the review) and didn't put countless quarters (or whatever) into "Ladybug" arcade game, which was released in 1981 (and didn't "feel old" back then).

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Suspected terrorist rudely interrupts a story about an owl with request to pray

Regardless of who will win the war on terror (my bets are on China), this transcript (PDF) of Guantanamo Bay interrogation is something even more bizarre than Katamari Damacy.

"0602: SGT A is telling a story about an owl (Rapport Story). The detainee interrupts and states he wants to pray. SGT R advises detainee that SGT A decides when he prays. SGT R also explains that interrupting is rude."


"1045: SGT R runs a harsh pride & ego down approach. ENS C (as rehearsed earlier) comes in and asks SGT R what he is doing. ENS C says “Don’t talk to him like that, he’s a human being.” SGT R says “Human beings don’t kill 3000 people” and storms out."


"0001: Upon entering booth, lead changed white noise music and hung pictures of swimsuit models around his neck. Detainee was left in booth listening to white noise."