phayz's blog

…it's time for a new phayz of life

Monthly Archives: January 2011

AsciiDoc – I think I see the light at the end of the tunnel…

..and I hope it’s not a train coming the other way. ­čśŤ

I am trying to use the AsciiDoc application to produce the Frugalware Linux newsletter. AsciiDoc is a tool which takes text written in a “light” markup language and converts it – via various tools – into formats such as HTML, ePub, DocBook etc. I have only just begun learning about it and I tend to be a slow learner.

I first made the mistake of taking an existing newsletter issue in HTML format and manually converting it to AsciiDoc format. This all looked good when I used the basic AsciiDoc tool to convert it to HTML. However when I tried to do the same using the more sophisticated ‘a2x’ tool, I got validation error messages. I asked for help on the AsciiDoc Google Groups’ group and quickly got help, highlighting some invalid syntax I had left in the file. With that corrected, the file now converts successfully to HTML.

Now I am looking at using various configuration options to get the desired result. The results so far are encouraging. It’s when I see what other people and groups are doing that I get a little scared. Of course I need to realise that I need to do only the minimum with AsciiDoc to get what I want. If later our requirements change and we need to use a more complex configuration then OK, I’ll do that. For the moment, though, the simple configuration I have is working.

AsciiDoc is part of a plan to make the production of the newsletter easier. Right now it’s quite labour-intensive when more of the production steps could be automated (or at least semi-automated). I will report my progress here.

Amazing! Live Linux in your wallet

I recently bought a USB “key” (as they’re commonly known here in Australia) which was essentially just the chip wrapped in plastic. It’s so small that I’m almost certain to lose it at some point :). I also recently installed my first live Linux installation on a USB key. Live Linux installations are nothing new, and nor are small USB keys. Put the two together, though, and I think they’re quite amazing. Imagine I need to run my favourite OS on a foreign PC. I don’t need to carry a key in on my belt or hanging from a lanyard, I just need to open my wallet and there it is!


Store'n' Go Micro USB Drive Black 16GB


Although I have worked in IT for many years, I’m still often amazed at some of the things that technology makes possible.


Rock on!

I love Microsoft (mice) :) :(

Let me first say that I love FLOSS, both the idea and the products which are created in the spirit of openness. However in my personal experience I have found that I like Microsoft mice more than any other brand I have tried. Of course I haven’t tried every brand in the world but over my many IT years I have tried quite a few. I recently bought my very first laptop and got from a friend a Microsoft wireless mouse.


I like the fact that Microsoft mice are usually: good looking, have quiet buttons and scroll wheels and make the Nano transceiver easily accessible.┬áCompare this with a Logitech wireless mouse I use with a work laptop: the scroll wheel is quite noisy, the Nano transceiver is to be stored in the battery compartment, and it doesn’t look nearly as nice as the Microsoft mouse.

I expect there are even better mice than the one I have but they soon become expensive. I don’t think I’d ever pay much for a mouse, since I don’t see the advantages. More money seems to bring you more buttons and on a mouse I most often use only the left and right buttons, together with the wheel (which of course also serves as a button). I don’t need a mouse with 64 buttons. I am not a gamer, so incredible accuracy doesn’t matter to me. As long as I can click on or select what I am aiming for, without the mouse pointer wandering, I’m happy.
In summary then, I apologise, but I like Microsoft mice. And as my┬ápsychiatrist asked me, “And how does that make you feel?”, it makes me feel good to have a nice mouse, but bad that I’m using a Microsoft product. ­čÖé

I have switched to Chromium as my primary web browser

A while ago I started using Opera as both my web browser and mail client. When I made the switch I was really pleased with the overall look of the browser and its functionality. It looked better than other web browsers, including Firefox and Chromium (at least I thought that at the time) and so I was happy to have an alternative. Opera might be free as in beer but it’s definitely not free as in freedom. For reasons that I have never seen explained anywhere, even its bug tracker is not publicly available. You’re welcome to report a bug but you have no way of knowing beforehand if anyone else has already reported it, nor if it anyone’s working on it. After using it for a while I found that it had some strange quirks with several web sites I use regularly, including GMail. After finding out that I couldn’t do anything to fix or avoid these, I simply began ignoring them.


Recently a work colleague suggested I use Chrome or Chromium instead. I hesitated because I had never been happy with Chromium’s font handling because within the content window, all fonts looked slightly fuzzy. I had gone looking for help and finally found out that it was a known bug. I followed the bug for a while but there didn’t seem to be much progress on it, nor were the developers particularly worried about it. It bothered me, though, and so I had been avoiding Chromium. I tried it again, though, and was surprised to find out that the bug had apparently disappeared. Fonts were now nice and crisp, at least as good as those in Firefox, for example.


I have been using Chromium now for about a week as my primary browser and am very happy (so far). I was frustrated that there was no option to force web pages to use your selected Serif and Sans Serif fonts. I did quite a lot of Googling and finally found out how to force this. It involved running Chromium with a command-line switch to enable user CSS, then editing the file produced by including this switch – Custom.css. It seemed a difficult way of doing something that’s so simple in Firefox. I have also been surprised by how often I have tried an extension and found that the entire desktop environment has frozen solid, requiring me to turn the laptop off and on again. I believe I have resolved most of these issues by “downgrading” the visual effects I use in the GNOME desktop environment. I can’t quite understand, though, why Chromium can cause such a “difficult” problem when the design states that every tab runs in a separate process. Anyway I have finally settled on just a few extensions that I find useful and don’t freeze the desktop environment.


I’ll keep on using Chromium but of course I reserve the right to switch to anything else when I want to. Now I need to find an email client, a function for which I had been using Opera. I don’t really like Evolution, Thunderbird or Claws Mail but I will keep trying.