Physicists Letter to President Bush on “nuclear option”

Read the letter here.

Great technology can be used for both good and evil, let’s hope that this time mankind has the sense not to use it for evil. We all know they *could*, but if they actually *did* the world will never be the same again.

I generally have a lot of faith in the human race, but with the powerful recipient of this particular letter I have to admit I’m worried.

Pluto Home – The Open Source Digital Home

If Pluto Home lives up to the claims on the commerical website and “all facts no fluff” techie homepage then it’s really quite exciting and almost exactly what I’ve been looking for/starting to develop myself. The similarities really are quite uncanny.

Pluto Home caters for Security, Home Automation, Entertainment, Telecom and Computing using a single development platform as a wrapper to a lot of very good Open Source software in a distribution based on Debian. It has a central “core” machine and can have a large number of client “appliances” around the home including tablets and symbian mobile phones.

The biggest things I might have done differently are trying to use more web based user interfaces rather than a custom window manager to give compatibility to a larger number of client devices and a slightly different (more idealistic) design philosophy. I’m trying to keep an open mind.

So far I’ve not got the “Kickstart CD” to boot, it freezes with a libc problem, but I will persevere.

Accessing rather than importing data

I’ve just added a music and news section to my personal web server using Ampache and Gregarius respectively.


I’ve rsync’d 8000 songs to the web server (luckily it was sitting next to me on this occasion rather than being the other side of the country) and Ampache is coping very well. I’m using a MySQL backend but Ampache uses id3 meta data so involves no user action other than pointing it at a directory full of mp3 files. I can then create http streams of albums, artists or random selections on the fly and it gives useful information about popular songs, recent additions etc. I’ve disabled the built in authentication mechanism and just placed it in my http authenticated area which has caused some interesting problems for the http streams.

It seems XMMS does not support http authentication on web streams like Windows Media Player and Winamp do. If you provide it a URL of format http://user:password@stream_url it sort of works, but that’s not convenient when the stream URLs are generated on the fly with PHP. What it *should* do is just prompt me for a username and password when they are required. I’ve found out that the latest beta of VLC media player has this functionality but it’s in the early stages and prompts you for a password for every song in an m3u stream.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to keep my music synced between my web server, desktop and iRiver H340.


I was going to use PlanetPlanet to aggregate all my daily news reading because I don’t like the way a lot of web based RSS readers only let you read one channel at a time, I’m used to the merged feeds view on LiveJournal. PlanetPlanet isn’t really designed for this sort of thing though and I soon realised that it wasn’t going to be dynamic enough for my news reading needs. I had a look around and found Gregarius in a deep dark corner of the Internet and I love it! The news can be viewed all merged together, by category/folder/tag or whatever you like.

It has a clean, slick magical-AJAX-ified UI and it’s easy to add new feeds, organise them into folders, categorise them, tag them, whatever. I’m using a MySQL back end again but it also generates such useful things as an OPML file on the fly so the useful data isn’t all locked up in the database.

I’m currently trying to figure out how to subscribe to this OPML file in a desktop client like Mozilla Thunderbird but all it seems to want to do is import from an OPML file, and does it badly.

Access not import

Above I mentioned that I want to subscribe to my list of news feeds, not import it. I have this same problem with a lot of things like calendar and address book applications. Importing implies that this is the only application I will ever use to access my data and if I ever want to use anything else I will have to keep exporting and importing manually. What I really want to do is have one data source and many applications, not have my data locked up in one place. For calendars this means iCalendar and WebDAV or CalDAV and for an address book the best I can think of is LDAP. Separating the data from the application and using open standards to access the data.

I suppose this is Software as a Service type thinking and it’s all part of my big masterplan ‘o doom. Watch this space.

Gallery Software

I’m looking for some decent web based gallery software. I like Gallery2 and Coppermine but neither of them manage albums the way I want them to. They import!

With Ampache I can point it at a directory of mp3 files and let it feast on the data, updating as more songs are added (though this has to be done with an “update” click or a cron job). I want my gallery software to do a similar thing – look at the directory stucture and create its albums from that. It’s fine to cache a load of thumbnails and a cache of certain data, but I don’t want to have to keep importing new “albums”.


I’ve been looking for a decent VOIP client for some time so I can stop using Skype and start using open standards. Google Talk almost has me convinced but it’s not quite open enough yet and The Gizmo Project is closed source.

Enter OpenWengo – built by a load of French guys. I’ve not had chance to play yet but it looks promising.

I just have to sort out in my mind where all these bits and bobs like OpenWengo, Asterix, Call Out, Call In and mobile devices are going to fit together. The world of VoIP is pretty complex. I also want to bundle instant messaging with my VoIP somehow… and then there’s the issue of video confrencing.

More subversion and trac

Next up, I want to start using subversion and trac for *all* the code I write. I was so impressed when using them for our rover project that I want to start using them for all the C and PHP etc. I write. Having multiple projects means playing around with SvnParentPath and TracEnvParentDir. I want an installation on tralk for my personal work and an installation elsewhere for Twisted Lemon work.

Google Calendar

Google Calendar finally launched today, that’s another tick on the predictions list.

At first glance I don’t like the scroll bar on the calendar but I love the quick add field and am impressed by their support for iCalendar files – you can subscribe and publish as well as import and export!

Another neat feature is to send a reminder to your mobile phone though I doubt if this will work in the UK.

They do of course have very good search for events, the interface is reasonably slick and the design is very clean. I’ve not yet figured out how good the integration with GMail is.