Thursday, August 19, 2010

Photo Taking Hardware

In a previous blog I had described the security camera that we selected for taking pictures of our citizens for recreation cards. We found a low sitting tripod for around $15, which pivots the camera at a 90 degree angle. The pictures are taken sideways and then corrected via the 'convert' command line utility in scripts to rotate back 90 degrees and appear correct on the IDs. These cameras are completely self reliant and don't need any attached hardware or PCs to run them. Total cost including tripod + camera should come in less than $150.

Recreation System, Milestone 1

Our IT/Integration division was able to go live with the first milestone of changes to the recreation system on a new server. I haven't been working on the coding on this project, but have been helping with some technical aspects including cameras, mockups, printing and ideas.

The old recreation system used older Motif widgets and was first built in the mid-1990s. We already had thin clients at that point. In the mid 90s the remote sites were in 8 bit color, 800x600 and only had limited bandwidth. The screens were built with those limitations in mind.
(shot below)

For the first milestone the front page was changed to a 'portal' which displays a lot more information. Motif was upgrade to 2.3 which gave us anti-aliased font. The theming system was upgraded as best as possible to allow GNOME colors to alter the look and feel of the software and match the rest of the applications. All of the code from the old system came over without modification; the screens just had to be touched in order to accommodate the new font metrics.

(shot below, no GUI nazis please :) )

The developers are now starting to alter the code of the screens and add functionality. The biggest new features being implemented are membership cards with photos and bar codes, and better accounting integration. If you are a citizen of Largo, these milestones will slowly increase the quality of your experience at our recreation sites. Be assured that all of this technology is being developed with costs and long term impact in mind.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Java & Sun/Oracle Blaze The Way :)

I never thought that I would such high marks to anything related to Java, but as it stands right now this is the only piece of the puzzle working natively and well on 64bit Firefox 4.0. I wanted to draw myself a picture of the pieces (below) so that I could work out in my head how this will all work. There are 4 main areas where I need to run embedded plugins based on our users requirements. 4 of the 5 plugins have caveats and are not deployed in the clean manner that I would like. Some of them are still only 32 bit, some of them don't natively use PULSE and some of them are missing features when built natively 64bit.

Green indicates satisfactory techniques, red indicates problems.

I guess for now we tell our parents and grandma to keep installing the 32bit flavors.

Monday, August 02, 2010

64bit Browser Work Continues

I was pulled off of doing Admin work for a few days to help with some technical projects and assisting in getting some pieces together for our Integration Division. I had previously noted that a system was developed for taking citizens pictures for our recreation cards. I wrote a small ksh and perl script to create the new cards. (shot below). Integration staff will make final changes and add some colors and move the boxes around slightly to fit the perforated paper; but it's all essentially working. The Panther development toolkit we use has no runtime licenses at all on Linux. So that along with the inexpensive cameras and using perl to print the cards has kept the costs to a minimum.

So now I'm back working on the 64bit 'browser' server which will run our Citywide Firefox sessions. I got mplayer compiled natively and it's playing all of our media files correctly. Nice. Now I'll work on getting the multimedia plugins loaded into Firefox. We use the RealPlayer (Helix) to play our commission meetings, but sadly this too seems to be missing 64bit support. Will check for source code, maybe I can build it myself. I guess I have come to the realization that in the short term, I certainly won't have a nice clean 64bit implementation; I'll load as much as I can and upgrade as more packages are released in the future. It's all super fast, the users won't see much of a difference.

I tried loading Chrome as downloaded from Google and there were some dependency problems. I found a release from OpenSuse (11.3) and was able to get it installed natively. What is interesting is that I have found it to be very SLOOOOW. Firefox is very responsive on this server; cold starts in about 2-3 seconds and pages load quickly and spinning the mouse to scroll a page is crisp and works as expected...even over remote display. Chrome feels like page rendering is fighting mouse movement, and spinning the mouse wheel is slow and not very smooth. When you grab the scroll bars, they seem to be jerky and slow. Possibly no one is testing Chrome over remote display, but as it stands right now it's not even close to be usable in our environment.

Work will continue over the next few days with plugin testing and loading more software. I should be able to put on some beta testers in the coming week or so and begin testing printing and printers.