Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mid-Week Vacation Day

I took a day off yesterday to avoid the weekend crowds and visit Busch Gardens Tampa. It's about a 30 minute drive from my house. The park wasn't crowded and I was able to get on most of the rides. I was most looking forward to riding Sheikra again since it got upgraded to having cars with no floors. Sheikra is one of only 4 Dive Coasters in the world. You are seated 8 across and 3 deep in stadium seating, cranked to the top of the hill and then for a few seconds are halted at the top looking straight down 200 feet.

Photos don't do justice to the size of this drop when you are standing next to it; or looking down from the top :)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Pulse Audio On HP Thin Clients

Yesterday we had a conference call with HP and worked out a plan to have Pulseaudio built and installed on our HP t5725 thin clients. This was always a phase 2 goal, and now that the thin clients are installed, this is my primary project. I have been impressed with Pulse so far. Sound on Linux is horribly inconsistent (Alsa, OSS, ESD and NAS anyone?) and difficult to deploy. Various applications support different sound libraries, and what Pulse does is support enough of them to allow most things to just work. We hope to deploy this sometime in October or November.

Here is the only change I had to make so far:
< #define MAX_CACHE_SAMPLE_SIZE (1024000) ---
> #define MAX_CACHE_SAMPLE_SIZE (2048000)

Increasing this cache allowed the standard login.wav GNOME sound file to play over Esound. Some of these probably should be environmental variables or settings, so that they do not require a recompile.

Our biggest sound requirements have been resolved:
Esound handles GNOME login sounds and other Linux applications
OSS is handled with the padsp binary, this allows Citrix clients to play all of the sounds from Microsoft Windows apps.
PulseAudio is handling the shockwave plugin in Firefox, and also works natively with Xine to allow playback of Windows Media, Quicktime and Real content. For grins I'm also testing remote display of TV tuners and DVD playback.

Here is a simplified diagram of multiple servers and applications all redirecting sound to the thin client and it coming out the attached speakers.

Finally An Evolution Upgrade For Us

As of today I have checked in and approved the Evolution build that we will used to upgrade the whole City on September 4th. We have been running Suse 9.3 for several years on a build that I would give a letter grade of a "B". That was the first release that we used with the GroupWise postoffice. It had some threading problems and not all of the GroupWise features were enabled.

We entered the beta program for Evolution on SLED 10 in the fall of 2006, which then continued into the SLED SP1 beta. Focus on this release has been interaction with the GroupWise calendar system, proxy, free/busy, meetings and appointments. I was a bit disappointed that it took one year to complete, but that isn't the fault of the developers. My view is that Novell should add additional people to the project; there simply are not enough human resources. This is a huge piece of software for use by corporate and enterprise customers, and needs more love.

The new release is labeled 2.6, but contains a lot of code from later releases. The mail view supports the triple panes (shot below):

The calendar view contains the most amount of changes. The mini-calendar has moved to the left and memos are now listed on the right side. The proxy feature was picked by our users as the most important feature to get working, so I focused on debugging and testing that functionality.

You might notice all of the "On The Web" calendars. We have developed some scripts that automatically generate .ics files each night with information useful to our users. For instance, in our financial system we can enter leave requests. We generate departmental Ical files which show which employees are off which days and can be checked easily at a glance. Very cool. (Shot below).

If your organization has GroupWise and you are thinking of moving to Evolution, I would highly recommend testing this release on SLED 10 SP1. It's been tested and QA'd greatly with that backend.

Thanks to Harish, Chen, Varadhan, Srag, Flex, Sankar and everyone else for working on this project with me.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Compiz-Fusion Looking Great

Once again I synced with the latest version of Compiz-Fusion and things have never looked or worked better. My notes:
- Previously the transparent hexagon was too slow to deploy over remote display, especially when you had software packages on the 6 sides. It's much faster now. Spinning the hexagon barely shows up as a blip on the server, seems like it would scale just fine.
- It's so much faster now in fact that I was able to enable the new spinning gears plugin for testing. Eye candy for sure, but the user community loves that kind of stuff.
- The new cubecap plugin is awesome. It gives you a lot more control over the image, and correctly supports transparent PNGs. It also works correctly if you have more than 4 sides.

To everyone that is working on this project, Thank You.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Vacation In New York & New Jersey

I took off a week and used the time to do some traveling. There were a few things that I wanted to do in the New York and New Jersey area.

I went and saw a ballgame at Yankee Stadium before the new one opens. Lots of history, and it was nice to sit and have a dog and watch some baseball

I then made my way down to Atlantic City and pulled some slots and walked the boardwalk. I left with a few less dollars in my pocket. :)

The grand daddy part of the trip was riding Kingda Ka at Six Flags in Jackson New Jersey. It's the worlds tallest and fastest roller coaster. You go 0 to128MPH (206 kph) in 3.5 seconds and then are launched up 456 feet (139 meters). It's quite something and I rode it 3 times. The picture below does not do justice to the size of this coaster.

I also loved El Toro, a wooden roller coaster with a 76 degree drop. It goes over 70MPH (113 kph) and is excellent.