Welcome to my world

New Laptop

It has been quiet a while on this site while I was working and painting my living room. After the necessary stress of the 'hollidays' I decided it was time to buy myself a new laptop to replace my old 17" HP laptop.

I finally settled for a 15 inch Dell XPS in Tuxedo Black. After 2 anxious weeks, the laptop arrived a week before the planned delivery date. Even though I was still pretty sick, I took some pain meds and manned up to get my new toy.

Currently I'm trying out all the software on this baby and some of it has to go. First thing up: ditch Internet Explorer, Windows Mail and Windows Media Player and replace them with Firefox, Thunderbird and Winamp.

After tuning Windows Vista and its software I'll start installing Gentoo Linux - I can't wait ^^.

Why I don't like Ventrilo

Recently I installed Ventrillo because some red necks decided we needed a voice server for EVE Online and the in-game stuff won't cut it. Ventrillo advertises with 'advanced' features like surround positioning and useless crap like that.

At first glance I'd say the GUI is old-skool, bit too plain and awkward to set up for the first time. It annoys the heck out of me where all panels are placed and how it all comes together.

Perhaps profiles are useful for some but not for me: I need a separate name for all servers I use in voice chats so profiles separate from the server settings is as useful as picking up your hamburger at a different counter from your fries...

Next up is the fact that it won't minimize into the system tray, leaving me with yet another window to lug around.

Finally it has no Linux client. Seriously. It is in the works (or so the site says) but the do have a linux server, leaving me puzzled why linux is not supported in the first place.

The only cool thing that Ventrillo has (and Teamspeak will get in version 3.0 which is currently beta) is the surround stuff... Which I can't try because I don't have a surround setup on this computer...

Ow I long for the days where everyone would just stick to Teamspeak, which is still masterfully better suited for voice chat than all the other programs around...

MoveableType Plugin Joomla! enhanced

Joomla can be used in a blog like manner using the XML-RPC interface. Unfortunately, Joomla only provides a Blogger API plugin which is rather limited.

Luckely, some Japanese people created a plugin which improved the supported XMLRPC API's. It's called MoveableType XML-RPC Plugin and can be found on the Joomla site.

Technically this is not only a MoveableType implementation as it supports all functions needed for MetaWeblog and Blogger as well as Google Docs (since version 2.1.0).

The only thing driving me nuts is the fact that some blog tools refuse to work because the plugin refuses to return a list of supported functions (most programs just assume everthing is supported, which is wrong as almost everything is optional).

Fortunately this is solved quickly by adding a few lines of PHP to the plugins/xmlrpc/movabletype.php file. Find the following section (around line 790):

function mt_supportedMethods()
      return (new xmlrpcresp(new xmlrpcval(array(), "array")));

Replace this with the following:

function mt_supportedMethods()
      global $xmlrpcString, $xmlrpcArray;
      $functions = array();
      foreach(array_keys(plgXMLRPCMovableType::onGetWebServices()) as $function_name)
         $functions[] = new xmlrpcval($function_name, $xmlrpcString);
      $struct = new xmlrpcval($functions, $xmlrpcArray);
      return new xmlrpcresp($struct);

And voila, there you have it, a fully working function listing enabling your favorite blog program to do its job properly...

Outlook and winmail.dat

In the legal world in the Netherlands the importance of email and websites is slowly starting to emerge. Of course, the huge, almost American-style law firms are using these techniques for years and years now, but the smaller law firms and the government itself always had a negative standing towards these modern day communication channels.

One of the most common complaints was the fact that the channels were not secure (this was one of the statements around the year 2000 while the rest of the world was starting to live and breath online). Now (2008) they are slowly dumping the fax machines (like those are secure) in favor of email. One of the things that became clear was the fact that they started using plain email. No PGP, no encryption, no secure mail storage - none of the above, which sort of surprised me (still does in fact).

If I have to be honest, both the fax and email are methods of communication that are pretty hard to intercept. You would need some decent skills to get even close to intercepting the communication and even now, the most important documents (originals and private documents) are still sent by postal mail. Thats right, normal old-skool hard copies. Probably one of the safest ways to sent stuff like that around. The only downside: transport can take a while, making rush jobs impossible (you probably would not want that anyway).

But I'm starting to side track here. The point is that they are finally starting to use email. Normal (status) communication is handled this way, think listings and charts, and has replaced the printed out versions that were driven between offices in the past. The downside of it all is the fact that these forms are now send around in Microsoft Word format, making conversions between offices error prone (try to explain that to them: Word = Word in the mind of an average legal secretary) and in fact, those errors have occured before. Think pages gone missing, tables out of alignment making the data useless etc. Mix in Open Office and you have yourself quite the party. I tried to explain that PDF might be a good option as prepared lists don't need to be altered after they've been mailed to another office, but that suggestion has as much chance of becoming reality as me winning the lottery.

But that is the sort of crap we can handle. Everyone knows it is flawed so they expect problems. But now someone at the court of justice found the option in Microsoft Outlook to use RTF for the mailings. Probably to make pretty colors appear in the mailings or something. The result: the message (in RTF format) and the attachments are compiled into a winmail.dat binary and sent along with the plain text message.

Now, Outlook (and maybe Outlook Express) can do something with that, however Mozilla Thunderbird can not (any non-Microsoft mailer for that matter). I tried installing a 3rd party TNEF decoder, which worked but required a lot of extra steps. I finally found this Thunderbird add-on called LookOut, which in fact is an embedded TNEF decoder. After installing, any winmail.dat attachment found in a email will be decoded on the fly - showing the components inside as separate attachments.

Even though this sort of provides a work around, tomorrow I'll call the department and have them check out who sent those mails. It a P.I.T.A. to fix each quirk those idiots come up with and frankly - they should get their act together, not all the law firms in The Netherlands have someone to fix these kinds of issues...

Logitech Quickcam Communicate STX and Linux

Todays annoyance is the fact that my webcam was broken for months now because I couldn't get the correct driver to work. To be exact, the device ID is 046d:08d7 and the correct driver for it is gspcav1, from this site. I tried the UVC driver from Berlios as well, but it only works with newer cameras (and as I upgraded from my perfectly fine Logitech Messenger just because Windows Vista needed it, Logitech can drop dead if they think I'll buy yet another camera). Anyway, the UVC driver can be found here.

The problem I kept having was the fact that the gspcav1 driver was the only one for my camera but it wouldn't compile. I would end up with this error dump:

make -C /usr/src/linux M=/var/tmp/portage/media-video/gspcav1-20071224/work/gspcav1-20071224 CC=x86_64-pc-linux-gnu-gcc modules
make[1]: Entering directory `/usr/src/linux-2.6.25-gentoo-r4'
  CC [M]  /var/tmp/portage/media-video/gspcav1-20071224/work/gspcav1-20071224/gspca_core.o
In file included from /var/tmp/portage/media-video/gspcav1-20071224/work/gspcav1-20071224/gspca_core.c:848:
/var/tmp/portage/media-video/gspcav1-20071224/work/gspcav1-20071224/Sunplus/spca506.h: In function 'spca506_SetNormeInput':
/var/tmp/portage/media-video/gspcav1-20071224/work/gspcav1-20071224/Sunplus/spca506.h:120: error: 'VIDEO_MODE_NTSC' undeclared (first use in this function)
/var/tmp/portage/media-video/gspcav1-20071224/work/gspcav1-20071224/Sunplus/spca506.h:120: error: (Each undeclared identifier is reported only once
/var/tmp/portage/media-video/gspcav1-20071224/work/gspcav1-20071224/Sunplus/spca506.h:120: error: for each function it appears in.)
/var/tmp/portage/media-video/gspcav1-20071224/work/gspcav1-20071224/Sunplus/spca506.h:131: error: 'VIDEO_MODE_PAL' undeclared (first use in this function)
/var/tmp/portage/media-video/gspcav1-20071224/work/gspcav1-20071224/Sunplus/spca506.h:137: error: 'VIDEO_MODE_SECAM' undeclared (first use in this function)
/var/tmp/portage/media-video/gspcav1-20071224/work/gspcav1-20071224/gspca_core.c: In function 'spca5xx_get_depth':
/var/tmp/portage/media-video/gspcav1-20071224/work/gspcav1-20071224/gspca_core.c:1093: error: 'VIDEO_PALETTE_RGB565' undeclared (first use in this function)
/var/tmp/portage/media-video/gspcav1-20071224/work/gspcav1-20071224/gspca_core.c:1095: error: 'VIDEO_PALETTE_RGB24' undeclared (first use in this function)
/var/tmp/portage/media-video/gspcav1-20071224/work/gspcav1-20071224/gspca_core.c:1101: error: 'VIDEO_PALETTE_YUV420P' undeclared (first use in this function)
/var/tmp/portage/media-video/gspcav1-20071224/work/gspcav1-20071224/gspca_core.c:1104: error: 'VIDEO_PALETTE_RGB32' undeclared (first use in this function)
/var/tmp/portage/media-video/gspcav1-20071224/work/gspcav1-20071224/gspca_core.c: In function 'v4l_to_spca5xx':
/var/tmp/portage/media-video/gspcav1-20071224/work/gspcav1-20071224/gspca_core.c:1291: error: 'VIDEO_PALETTE_RGB565' undeclared (first use in this function)
/var/tmp/portage/media-video/gspcav1-20071224/work/gspcav1-20071224/gspca_core.c:1293: error: 'VIDEO_PALETTE_RGB24' undeclared (first use in this function)
/var/tmp/portage/media-video/gspcav1-20071224/work/gspcav1-20071224/gspca_core.c:1295: error: 'VIDEO_PALETTE_RGB32' undeclared (first use in this function)
/var/tmp/portage/media-video/gspcav1-20071224/work/gspcav1-20071224/gspca_core.c:1297: error: 'VIDEO_PALETTE_YUV422P' undeclared (first use in this function)
/var/tmp/portage/media-video/gspcav1-20071224/work/gspcav1-20071224/gspca_core.c:1299: error: 'VIDEO_PALETTE_YUV420P' undeclared (first use in this function)
/var/tmp/portage/media-video/gspcav1-20071224/work/gspcav1-20071224/gspca_core.c: In function 'spca50x_init_source':
/var/tmp/portage/media-video/gspcav1-20071224/work/gspcav1-20071224/gspca_core.c:1802: error: 'VIDEO_PALETTE_RGB24' undeclared (first use in this function)
/var/tmp/portage/media-video/gspcav1-20071224/work/gspcav1-20071224/gspca_core.c: In function 'spca5xx_setFrameDecoder':
/var/tmp/portage/media-video/gspcav1-20071224/work/gspcav1-20071224/gspca_core.c:1841: error: 'VIDEO_PALETTE_RGB24' undeclared (first use in this function)
/var/tmp/portage/media-video/gspcav1-20071224/work/gspcav1-20071224/gspca_core.c: In function 'spca5xx_do_ioctl':
/var/tmp/portage/media-video/gspcav1-20071224/work/gspcav1-20071224/gspca_core.c:2074: error: 'VIDIOCGCAP' undeclared (first use in this function)
/var/tmp/portage/media-video/gspcav1-20071224/work/gspcav1-20071224/gspca_core.c:2078: error: invalid application of 'sizeof' to incomplete type 'struct video_capability'

Note: I'm posting it all so someone might find it using a search engine because nobody else put this up.

The solution to this? So darn simple that I shouldn't have missed it: enable Video For Linux 1 in the kernel. You see, this driver is designed for V4L1 and without the compatibility layer it will error like this. For the Gentoo users it seems like a problem which is here to stay as the ebuild can not check for this (only if any V4L version is enabled).

I still think it would be nice if the package maintainers put up a warning in the ebuild so I wouldn't have to figure this out on my own... ahh well.

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