Netbook trial by FOSDEM

Welp, I’m on the plane to FOSDEM to meet up with all you fun folks over there and get some MediaWiki action going on. To get fully in the FOSS spirit, I’ve left my trusty MacBook at home and am doing the whole trip with just my Linux netbook. (Well, that and my iPhone of course! ;)

I’ve replaced the Dell-customized factory Ubuntu install with Ubuntu Netbook Remix 1.0.1, which is basically Hardy with a nice launcher and a window manager/panel optimized for the small screen; definitely a help for keeping things clear and organized. I’ve also brought along a BlueTooth mouse which’ll be nice when I get off the plane; the touchpad still feels a little awkward, and I’ve found the machine a lot more comfortable to use with an external mouse. It also doubles as a presentation remote, switching into a mode where the buttons serve as virtual page-up/page-down keys. Very nice, since I’ve become completely spoiled by using the Apple remote for my Keynote presentations.

And yes, the BlueTooth mouse worked on desktop Linux first try. Shocking, right?

So far I’m very happy — the Mini 9 is half the size and weight of the MacBook, which makes a huge difference lugging my carry-on around. More importantly, I can actually operate the damn thing in an economy-class seat on the plane! Even my old PowerBook 12″ left me too cramped to type and see the screen at the same time.

OpenOffice Presenter seems actually fairly passable for editing my presentation at 1024×600. Threw together a pretty gradient background for my slides in OpenOffice Draw… ick. :) Editing colors and gradients in OpenOffice is terrible… must make a note to see if this is improved in 3.0 and see if we can improve it if not.

I’m not 100% sure I’ve turned off the BlueTooth radio, but the plane hasn’t crashed so I guess I’m doing ok. Disabling wifi is easy through the network doodad on the panel… Battery life seems somewhere in the 3-4 hour range, though I haven’t run all the way down yet.

Currently using Tomboy for offline note-taking on the netbook… It doesn’t support images and syncing isn’t quite first-class (and the Mac build is very experimental) so it’s not ready to replace Yojimbo for me, alas. Also playing a bit with Evernote, which does most of what I want out of Yojimbo plus good web and Windows clients… but no native/offline Linux client or support for encrypted notes/passwords. borkage resolved

Was out sick for a couple days, catching up now before the FOSDEM rush. :D

Got a report that hadn’t been updating since January 30; turned out to be a UTF-8 BOM problem — one of the maintainers saved the Planet config.ini file in an editor that added a Unicode byte-order-marker character.

In theory, the BOM is a great idea. It’s a particular character (U+FEFF) which can act as a signature to tell the computer what variety of Unicode encoding the file is using — UTF-16LE, UTF-16BE, UTF-32, or UTF-8.

In practice, in the Unix-y web world, UTF-8 is king… and lots of things that eat UTF-8 don’t know what the hell a BOM is. We can’t use them in our PHP code because PHP sends them to output, corrupting your headers or binary data. We can’t use them in our Planet configuration files because the Python config file class gets confused by it.

Back in the 1990s they told us Unicode was going to be so easy… :) *wistful sigh*