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February 15, 2009

Pidgin Countdown v0.2 Part Deux

Filed under: Blog — admin @ 12:12 pm

This time though, the 0.2 version bump is pseudo-official, as the experimental branch has finally been merged with the trunk. New features from the revision I just pushed include:

  • An “Append” option which, who would’ve expected, appends user-defined text at the end of the countdown.
  • An option to select whether the target time is specified in UTC. This was especially problematic as all my sandwiches started taking an extra five hours to heat up in the oven. Initially blaming Pidgin for having some psychic connection with the microwave, it later turned out that the countdown was aiming five hours ahead because, well, that’s the timezone I live in.

Keeping up with the tradition, here’s the obligatory screenshot:

Pidgin Countdown Preferences Screenshot

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February 12, 2009

Pidgin Countdown v0.2

Filed under: Blog — admin @ 3:21 pm

The 0.2 version bump is kinda unofficial as my code branch hasn’t yet been merged into Pidgin Countdown‘s trunk. Nevertheless, here’s the changelog of what I’ve worked on so far:

  • Reimplemented preferences with calendar and spin buttons for user-friendliness and validation.

    Pidgin Countdown Preferences Screenshot

  • Fixed plugin unloading.
  • Added “activation” of the saved countdown status message.

The plugin has become quite handy now. I do have another set of features planned which I will be implementing as soon as I get some more time for leisure coding. Still, as things stand right now, I am pretty content with being able to countdown my IM status to Roma fixtures, Fedora releases or even my sandwich’s heat-up time in the microwave with just a few clicks.

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February 11, 2009

Counting out the teens

Filed under: Blog — admin @ 7:23 pm

No, hitting twenty is not a big deal at all. Also, since I have to deal with an academic fiasco of epic proportions these days, there wouldn’t have been any candles involved even if growing old was halfway as important as not growing up.

To compensate for the cake though, or lack thereof, I suddenly got this idea of having a countdown for midnight in my MSN status. Fortunately, Stephen English had just started working on a plugin called Pidgin Countdown for achieving such functionality. Less fortunately, the plugin only changed “saved statuses” in Pidgin and didn’t actually activate them for my IM accounts.

Now if this were a Windoze scenario, my only option would have been to pitch up a bug report to the developers and wait for a newer version to pop up (which most certainly would’ve taken considerably longer than six hours — my deadline). On the other hand — the beauty of open-source — all I had to do was to vim the plugin source, consult the Pidgin API documentation for status messages, add a new line and er.. witness the MSN protocol go all schizophrenic as my status message started flipping every second. Increasing the delay to about ten seconds was sufficient to make everything daisy. I actually plan to polish the nifty plugin a little more and have my changes merged in the source repository in near future. Till then:

Pidgin Countdown Screenshot

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September 7, 2008

Flash-back

Filed under: Blog — admin @ 1:04 am

Once upon a time (or, “in before times, long long ago” according to South Park speak), I used to be a Flash developer. I even developed a half-useful extension called “External Text MX” circa 2003, which got a little bit popular too. I loved Flash and even found ActionScript to be an intriguing language for a learning programmer.

And then, slowly and gradually, I realized that Flash isn’t worth 10% of the hype it usually gets. I’m in no way trying to debunk the wonderful art produced by Flash developers. It’s wonderful. My realization was a direct consequence of the troubles I had with Flash as a user rather than as a developer. Flash, for all the great things it embodies on a particular version on a particular platform, is still a proprietary technology steered by an enterprise giant. I started using different architectures and operating systems than simply 32-bit Windozes and most of the time I felt like the efforts needed to get Flash running aren’t worth all the animations and sounds. The mere idea of something as vendor-specific as Flash “driving” the “next-generation” of something as general as Web was enough to make me scowl.

Flash fans usually try to argue that it did become a driving force behind Web 2.0 afterall, and come up with YouTube as the example supporting their claim. Actually though, I had been using major Web 2.0 sites (YouTube, Facebook, Slashdot) for about 2 years now without any Flash support. YouTube videos can easily be viewed without Flash plugin and other websites are careful enough not to rely on Flash for their business. During this period, I treated Flash plugin with contempt simply because Adobe have been epically unsuccessful for providing a working version for 64-bit Linux. I was aware of a method which allowed usage of the 32-bit plugin to work with the 64-bit platforms, but it turned out to be highly unstable and resource intensive with my initial efforts. This method involved installing a “wrapper” plugin named NSpluginwrapper in Firefox. My verdict: “totally not worth it”; up until just a few weeks ago, when I retried the NSpluginwrapper with Firefox 3 and the official Adobe Flash Player 9.0 r124 plugin. The result? Finally the PITA vs. worth ratio has been reduced significantly enough to guarantee its continued existence on my laptop. YouTube works wonders and even the sound gets played through PulseAudio like a charm. Too many animations do tend to crash my X.org server every once a while but I’m willing to spare this much for now.

Not to mention, I still immediately close any website which starts with a Flash-y intro ;-) .

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