Thursday, February 23, 2006

The fascinating cases of amnesia

It's been a while since a movie has got me thinking beyond the post 30 min day dream session. But that's just what happened when I watched "50 first dates", accidentally on HBO. And while, I do admit that I'm a sucker for romantic comedies, the fascination comes not from the awesome Walrus (who I'd rank as the best actor) nor the great chemistry between Adam and Drew, but the plot.

50firstdates

movie spoiler: (highlight the following paragraph to read)

In a nutshell, Lucy (Drew Barrymore) is suffering from a form of amnesia called Goldfield syndrome where every night as she sleeps her brain sort of reboots and all her short term memory is lost. As a result she can't remember anything since the day before her accident an year ago. Harry(Adam), falls for Lucy has to make her fall in love with him daily as she can't remember him the day after. While goldfield syndrome is really fictional (you wouldn't think so unless you studied neurology), its not total fiction. For example there is another patient who can only remember 10 seconds -- seems like fiction? read on...


I knew very little about amnesia, so I did some research on the subject and found some fascinating stuff. For example in a form of amnesia called Anterograde amnesia, one can indeed forget things within a few seconds to few minutes, hours or days, much like in goldsfield syndrome.

One such extreme real case is the man with a "7 second memory!". There is a documentary film on this, which I hope to find somewhere on the net.

Another interesting book, that I'm keen on reading is, "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat", which has several accounts of patients suffering from loss of short term memory.

The brain is an awesome machine, and a mystery that's worth trying to understand - both biologically and spiritually.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Some success with Xgl...

Well.. after messing up my system with broken packages and then fixing it by unmerging or recompiling them, I managed to get everything installed (thanks to the revdep-rebuild tool).

Once everything was working, I emerged gnome-light and then copy & pasted the startxgl script from the Gentoo HowTo. After running this script, within a few seconds, it loaded the Gnome desktop.

The first thing I noticed was the smooth bump effect to drop down menues and popup windows. Moving a window also had the rubber like effect, just as in Novell's demo video. Other effects such as macosX's expose like application switching worked beautifully and fast.

s1

2 3D switching of desktops was also supprisingly fast as so was moving a window across multiple desktops! Manual rotation of the desktop was also quite fast. Now the amazing thing is, all this was happening despite my 3D acceleration having being broken under Xgl! I know this because glxinfo says Directed Rending : No.

But I'd be lying if I said eveything worked. Unfortunately, as for my ATI IGP 340M card, Xgl isn't well supported. The main issue (besides the lack of 3D), is the ugly black window I keep getting. Clicking on an empty space redraws the window correctly, but scrolling will screw it again. Seems to be a problem with glitz package and how it uses OpenGL.

3

Transparency effects also seem to work faster with compiz than compmgr (or kompmgr). This is all alpha quality software so you really can't complain much. But so far things are looking really good. This is exactly what the GNU/Linux desktop had been waiting for.

Desktop dominance is inevitable!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Trying to get Xgl working

After a good Foss-Ed event and having met the 3/4 of the people who were founders' or co-founders' of LAMP stack, I was ready to get back to dangerous life living on the bleeding edge.

What better way to start it off by trying to install the highly experimental Xgl server. If you haven't already heard about Xgl, I'd recommend you run! to novell's site and download the awesome videos.

In a nutshell, Xgl will bring the cool, slick MacOSX desktop effects to GNU/Linux. Actually it will even be better than the MacOSX desktop and will most probably be superior to the upcoming Vista desktop. Check out the videos, as words simply can't describe it.

So I set off trying to get it installed on Gentoo. As a first step I removed the current stable molothic X, in favor for the unstable and hard masked modular Xorg as described in the Gentoo XGL Howto. This wasn't at all easy has it sounds. After unmasking a couple of dozen packages, some that weren't even mentioned in the Howto, I managed to get X working again with one glitch -- no keyboard support. After a bit of resting and googling, I managed to find the problem. The path of the XKeysymDB had changed in the new installation but X was still looking at the old location. Creating a symlink and additionally adding some keymapping entries to the xorg.conf file fixed that.


ln -s /usr/share/X11/XKeysymDB /usr/lib/X11/XKeysymDB



Section "InputDevice"
Identifier "Keyboard0"
Driver "kbd"
Option "XkbRules" "xorg"
Option "XkbModel" "pc104"
Option "XkbLayout" "us"
EndSection


Next up was getting the latest port overlays that had the glx and compiz packages which makes all this magic possible. Unfortunately at the moment kde isn't supported and I didn't have the latest gnome packages. As a result emerging compiz didn't generate the gnome-window-decorator which is required to wrap around a gtk app to provide the gui eye candy.

So it looks like I need to emerge more gnome stuff that I've been keeping away for a long time, if I'm going to see anything at all. Just started re-emerging cairo, gtk+ and pango to discover I needed more - gnome control-center and libwnck.

But it's late already, 1AM. Since I have a class tomorrow, looks like I'm gonna have to postpone this to tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Fullhouse @ FOSS-Ed

crowd crowd2


After a long long break from blogging, I am back. So where was I, one might ask? Lets say I was too busy having fun :) I've pretty much upgraded my life when I bought a new Sony PSP and later a Mac Mini. But the best of the devices was the PSP as it was more fun to hack it to run homebrew opensource applications.

Hacking devices to run FOSS applications such as GNU/Linux has always been a time killer and personal obsession. Today I was able to share some of my experience at the FOSSEd when I demonstrated a sony PSP running a home brew FOSS application called PSP Radio to listen to an audio stream that was being broadcast by ice-cast, an FOSS audio streaming server, via 802.11b (WiFi)!

The location has been full with students, corporate people and individuals keen on broadening their understanding in FOSS. Anuradha did an excellent presentation yesterday on the different myths that is surrounding FOSS, especially among some IT literate communities .

Manju Hathotuwa of the ICTA also made an excellent presentation has he usually does :) about the benefits of adopting FOSS for certain sectors such as education and government process automation. This was reiterated during the panel discussion, where I learned that the Government is moving towards the use of open standards as a first step to ensure interoperability. I hope this will push companies such as Microsoft to open up their document formats or endorse the open document format.

In another presentation, I learned a lot from a talk on SE Linux (Security Enhanced Linux) developed by the NSA. It was presented by Suranga de Silva.

During the evening session there was a talk by Mr. Dinesh Fernandopulle, CIO DFCC, who was talking about how the banking industry can benefit from FOSS adoption for certain aspects of banking. He even went as far as inviting experts to help DFCC in using more FOSS applications.

brian_me But probably the best talk of all was that of Brian Behlendorf, the guy who started the world's favorite web server -- Apache. He brought few of us with up to speed with the trend towards FOSS adaption by enterprises. He also broke out some rumors about Oracle's plans to purchase Jboss (J2ee app server), Zend (major contributor to the PHP engine) and Sleepycat (developer's of Berkly db).

So all in all, I think FOSSEd has made some impact atleast the way people precieve Free and Opensource software. With that note, I'll sign off wishing all of you a happy valentines day.

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freebeer registration

opening brian_and_geeks