Irregular Verbiage
from the desk of Colin Nicholls

Homegrown tomatoes on Grandma's plate

September 19, 2009 16:10 by colin


The tomatoes grew in *our* garden. But the plate belonged to Grandma.

"Because it's there" may not be a good reason

September 3, 2009 22:10 by colin

I'm seriously thinking about going back to Windows XP on my little laptop here. For two reasons:

1. Ubuntu 9.04 / Gnome appears to run sluggishly. Is it the EXT4 file system? Is it some optimization I haven't discovered? I have no idea. Since part of the reason of giving Linux a go was to experience a lean, mean OS with no cruft, it seems just wrong to me. 

2. I'm not really having much fun. I thought it would be fun to dabble and learn and maybe even get MonoDevelop and ASP.NET working. Well it's not fun at all. It's tedious. There is much that I don't understand and what little time I have left over for this kind of activity is spent trying to find exactly the right blog post that explains something.

I want my comfort zone back.

Categories: Computers
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I don't know the exact number

August 3, 2009 21:32 by colin

Christianity: Enabling hypocracy for 2000 years (approx)


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Ubuntu Diary - Thunderbird 2 + Lightning 0.9

July 13, 2009 21:06 by colin

OK, so I installed the Lightning 0.9 add-on to Thunderbird in order to have Calender functionality, and I didn't notice until yesterday that I can't actually add any events to the calendar! The buttons and menu options are disabled.

This evening some quick googling turned up this reference to Bug# 278853 which is actually misleading because this isn't a bug in Thunderbird at all, but a dependency of Lightning 0.8 and 0.9 on a library that isn't installed on Ubuntu 9.4 by default.


  • Uninstall Lightning 0.9 from Thunderbird's add-on dialog;
  • Go to Synaptic Package manager and search for "libstdc" and select to add the libstdc++5 package and apply changes;
  • Re-install Lightning 0.9
Result: I can now add an event to my calender reminding me to record the show "Being Human" on BBC America on the evening of July 25th.
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July 12, 2009 22:06 by colin
Where it's OK to say "We don't know the answer yet."
Categories: Miscellaneous
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With apologies to Henry Spencer

June 30, 2009 14:14 by colin

Those who refuse to use SQL will be forced to reinvent it, poorly.

Exhibit #1: LINQ

Categories: Computers
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Listing VST plugins used by a SONAR project

June 7, 2009 14:27 by colin

Cakewalk SONAR and similar DAW applications allow you to use third party "plugins" such as effect processors or "soft" synthesizers. These plugins - usually VST or DXi format - take the form of DLL files (on Windows anyway), installed somewhere on your local file system. I use several commercial plugins, but there are also many free, high-quality offerings from many different vendors both professional and amateur, available for download from the Internet. After a while, your hard drive can be littered with DLL files in various locations. In my case, many of these I have downloaded, installed, evaluated, and rejected, but left around in case I ever want to try them on something else.

So when it comes to backing up your system, it would be nice to know which plugins you are actually using! Unfortunately, in SONAR at least, there is no convenient way to list the plugins in use in a project. I asked this question on the SONAR forum, and received a couple of helpful replies, but I am happy to report that I have found another way:

You will need a utility called Sysinternals Process Explorer, which you can download from that link.

  • Run SONAR and load up your project (or projects).
  • Run Process Explorer. You will see a list of all the applications and processes currently running.
  • Locate and high-light SONARPDR.exe in the list. (That's Sonar Producer. I do not know what name Sonar Studio would have.)
  • Press Ctrl-L to toggle the display of the lower pane, then Ctrl-D to display DLL files(instead of file handles).
  • Right-click on the column headings and choose Select Columns... and enable the [x] Path checkbox.

At this point you might see something like this:

This shows all the DLL files that SONAR has referenced as it loaded the project. I've clicked on the Path column to sort the list by file location, to make it easier to see the plugins differentiated from the other support files that SONAR uses. At that resolution it is difficult to read the text, so here is a portion of the image at normal size:


Here we can see that the project I have loaded is using TruePianos, Vintage Channel 64, pretty much all of the Sonitus FX suite, and Arturia's awesome CS-80V. Oh, and a free audio "chopper" effect I downloaded from somewhere on the Internet called Gate3.

Once I've noted these down, I can switch to Sonar and load a different project, then switch back to Process Exporer and refresh the list with the F5 key. I will see a different set of DLL files. 

Interesting point: It seems that when you close and open a new project, not all the plugin DLLs will necessarily be closed. For example, when I switched to a project that used XLN Addictive Drums but did not use Arturia's CS-80V, the AddictiveDrums.dll showed up in the list, but the CS80VDx.dll stayed visible (the CS80V.dll, however, did not remain in the list.). So if you want to be completely sure to see only those plugins used in the project, close SONAR and repeat the steps above for the next project.

Icland is an icland

May 30, 2009 15:48 by colin

This is very cool:

Introducing Google Wave

That is a Youtube movie of a keynote presentation at the Google I/O conference.

My first thoughts are:

  • Sharepoint killer
  • What about SPAM
  • This would rock if it could be deployed on a corporate WAN (in other words, private data, not in the cloud)

Note: The title of this post won't make sense until about 42 minutes into the presentation.

Categories: Computers
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Down to the Sweetwater Sea

May 7, 2009 10:38 by colin

Meeks Bay, Lake Tahoe, CA

In other news, the Pandora plugin for Gimp makes this kind of thing practically effortless.

Categories: Photography
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Ubuntu Diary - Day 7

May 2, 2009 15:46 by colin

Web Camera

My Sony Vaio FE790G has a built-in web cam, a "Motion Eye" lens located in the top edge of the LCD screen border. Last time I tried Ubuntu, in 8.10, I couldn't get it recognised, but the truth is I didn't do much research and I probably didn't expect it to work. I know that in Windows XP, I needed to install special Sony-provided driver.

This time around, given that I am trying to get as deep into the Ubuntu/Linux world as possible, I did some googling, and found this very lengthy and comprehensive thread from other users of Sony Vaios with Motion Eye web cams. It seems that was was needed was something called a "gspcav" driver.

I actually got as far as downloading the driver source code and attempting to compile it (failed) before I thought to ask Ubuntu/Linux whether the driver was already installed:

    $  modprobe -l | grep gspca

This command seems to indicate that this is already present on the system. But how to activate the camera? I tried running Gimp and creating a new image from a scanned source, and some intermediate helper application called xsane popped up and allowed me to "scan" from the camera. The results were not encouraging:

That's me holding up my hand in front of the camera, but you can see my Escher print in the background. Do the three copies of the image represent RGB scans? Is this because the xsane program thinks it is talking to a flatbed scanner? I have no idea, but clearly there is a possibility that I can get the webcam to work. More on this as I get around to it, as having a working web camera is not the highest priority right now.


"It just works" almost applies. My traditional default printer is a Minolta/QMS Magicolor 2350 EN Laser printer, networked on the LAN. I turned it on and went to System > Administration > Printing. Click on the New toolbar button, and up comes the New Printer dialog, giving me a list of two choices: "Other" or "Network Printer". When I clicked on Network Printer, the list expanded to show an addition entry: "Minolta-QMS magicolor 2350". The Location host and port parameters were already filled out with and 9100 respectively. Very cool.

I clicked Next and saw briefly "Searching for drivers...", then "Searching for downloadable drivers...", then a new dialog, "Choose Driver". This gave me three options: Select printer from database; Provide PPD file; Search for a printer driver to download. Always the optimist, I selected Select printer from database. The comprehensive manufacturer list contained three possible choices: KONICA MINOLTA; Minolta; and QMS. I tried each of them, and the closest I could get to was Minolta > magicolor 2300 DL. I tried this, and long story short, it didn't work. (I would have been very surprised if it did.) My test page was rendered as a few garbage characters at the top of what could have been a vast number sheets of paper, had I not switched the printer off.

I tried the third option, Search for a printer driver to download. This appeared to be searching the same database as the first option because I could not find a better match from the results. Time to try google to see if I could find a .PPD file for the printer. I can't remember what search terms I used but it can't have been 10 seconds before I got to this gem:

This led me to download 2350lin_ppds.tar.gz, which contained a bunch of language folders, and inside the English folder was KM2350NP.ppd, which allowed me to select the Provide PPD file option. This worked perfectly. I can now print from applications, in duplex too.

This was no harder than searching for printer drivers in Window XP, in some ways easier, particularly in cases where you don't have a CD from the printer manufacturer stuffed with drivers for your convenience.

Categories: Computers
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