Synergy vs gnome-screensaver

I’ve been using Synergy to share my mouse & keyboard between my Linux desktop and Mac laptop in the office.

One of the features of Synergy that hasn’t been working so well for me is the screen-saver synchronization. I’m not too picky, but I do want to be able to quickly lock both screens at once so I can leave the room without leaving a bunch of server terminals open to anyone who walks in!

After a little research, I found that Synergy’s X11 server code looks explicitly for Xscreensaver, but Ubuntu ships with gnome-screensaver, which has a different interprocess control API based on DBUS. This is apparently an issue of much contention, as a lot of video players and other apps haven’t updated to speak the new protocol, and you end up with screen savers activating during long-playing files and such.

One possibility is to manually reconfigure Ubuntu to use Xscreensaver, but it would probably be cuter to add support for the DBUS interface to Synergy.

iProduct vs Veronica Mars

So I finally gave in and picked up an Apple TV unit; that frees up my Mac Mini from TV duty to be my main home computer, while letting the Apple TV concentrate on being a media player.

The good: unit is very compact, setup is pretty straightforward, and picture looks good once I adjust the ungodly color saturation my TV defaults to on the component input.

The bad: at least for the shows I tested (Veronica Mars season 3), video playback is totally broken at HD resolutions!

At 720p playback stutters very badly, with very jerky motion and sound out of sync from picture by about a second.

At 1080i I don’t even *get* picture during playback, just sound. (Menus display fine.)

At 480p everything looks great, though, and the currently available content doesn’t need more than that, so I’m leaving it there for now.

A quick Google scan doesn’t show any other obvious complaints of this problem, so I’m not sure if I’ve got a bogus unit or if it’s something funky with the Veronica Mars encoding that might not be a problem with other shows…

Update: At some point it started working fine. *shrug*

Leverage your synergy

On Rob’s advice, I set up Synergy to share my keyboard and mouse between my Linux and Mac boxes at the office.

Pretty straightforward to set up (if you’re a *nix geek); I had just one nasty surprise. If you’re sharing a keyboard from a PC server to a Mac OS X client, it switches the alt and command keys for you.

That might be a cute option if you’re using a PC keyboard, where Alt and Windows keys appear in the opposite order from the Mac’s Alt/Option and Command keys. Not so cute if you’re using a Mac keyboard and want things to remain sensible.

Luckily, it’s pretty easy to switch them back. In the screen section of the config file for the Mac client, add these options:

		super = alt
		alt = super

It seems to consider ‘super’ and ‘meta’ to be almost the same, but if you say ‘meta’ here it gets confused — you get two option keys and no command key.

Wikimedia in Google Summer of Code

Wikimedia’s been accepted as a mentoring organization for the 2007 Google Summer of Code program.

Here’s our organization page, and I put up an initial project list on meta.

The list is semi-protected so it won’t be too vandalized ;) but additional suggestions are welcome. I’d like to ask that people who aren’t directly involved in development not add too much to the main page directly, though; last year we ended up with lots of project submissions for things that weren’t really considered high priority, so I’d like to keep the list a little more ordered this time.

We don’t know for sure how many projects we’ll get assigned, so we’ll see. :) At least Tim and I will serve as mentors for the student projects; if a couple more experienced developers would like to help out with that too that would be super.

Last year’s projects went really well up to the public demo stage but never quite got integrated into the mainline; I’m hoping that this year we can stick with projects that will be easier to slip in and take live much earlier in the process, which should help keep the students interested and the projects active.

I hate^H^H^H^Hlove you, Subclipse

Inspired by river’s addition of PostgreSQL support, I was gonna make a few quick changes to mwdumper. I figured I’d get Eclipse and the Subclipse SVN plugin set up on my 64-bit Linux workstation so I’d have a decent Java IDE to work on it in.

Well… no.

Neither with the version of Eclipse that ships with Ubuntu Feisty, nor with a fresh copy of it from… when I try to check out from SVN, and get to the final stage, it just… stops. No error message, no explanation. Just the wizard’s done and I’ve got no project.

I… hate… computers.

Update: Mark Phippard explained the secret in a comment — you can check out a project from the SVN Repository browse view, and it works! Thanks, Mark!

Fun with mb_strlen

I noticed the fallback implementation for mb_strlen() that we had in GlobalSettings.php sucked:

	function mb_strlen( $str, $enc = "" ) {
		preg_match_all( '/./us', $str, $matches );
		return count($matches);

There are two things to note about this code:

  1. It doesn’t actually work, because no matches are done — it always returns 1
  2. Even if you fix it to return the matches, it’s extremely slow and will eat lots of memory by creating a giant array of every character in the (potentially quite long) string

I’m replacing this with a new version which uses PHP’s count_chars() function to count up the ASCII-compatible bytes and multibyte sequence head bytes. It’s still a smidge slower than mb_strlen but it’s… much better than the old one.

	 * Fallback implementation of mb_strlen, hardcoded to UTF-8.
	 * @param string $str
	 * @param string $enc optional encoding; ignored
	 * @return int
	function new_mb_strlen( $str, $enc="" ) {
		$counts = count_chars( $str );
		$total = 0;

		// Count ASCII bytes
		for( $i = 0; $i < 0x80; $i++ ) {
			$total += $counts[$i];

		// Count multibyte sequence heads
		for( $i = 0xc0; $i < 0xff; $i++ ) {
			$total += $counts[$i];
		return $total;

Some quick benchmarks using the UTF-8 normalization benchmark pages (code):

Testing washington.txt:
              strlen      31526 chars    0.007ms
           mb_strlen      31526 chars    0.114ms
       old_mb_strlen      31526 chars 4813.686ms
       new_mb_strlen      31526 chars    0.132ms

Testing berlin.txt:
              strlen      36320 chars    0.001ms
           mb_strlen      35899 chars    0.129ms
       old_mb_strlen      35899 chars 6328.748ms
       new_mb_strlen      35899 chars    0.127ms

Testing bulgakov.txt:
              strlen      36849 chars    0.001ms
           mb_strlen      20418 chars    0.076ms
       old_mb_strlen      20418 chars 3003.042ms
       new_mb_strlen      20418 chars    0.133ms

Testing tokyo.txt:
              strlen      36244 chars    0.001ms
           mb_strlen      19936 chars    0.071ms
       old_mb_strlen      19936 chars 2623.109ms
       new_mb_strlen      19936 chars    0.131ms

Testing young.txt:
              strlen      36694 chars    0.001ms
           mb_strlen      16676 chars    0.063ms
       old_mb_strlen      16676 chars 2246.179ms
       new_mb_strlen      16676 chars    0.125ms

Font fun in Gimp on Mac

While whipping up a theme for the nascent Planet Wikimedia, I needed to use the standard font for Wikimedia logos, Gill Sans.

Gill Sans seems to come conveniently preinstalled on Macs, so I opened up my MacBook, symlinked the Mac fonts from /Library/Fonts to /usr/lib/x11/fonts/TTF, and whipped out Gimp… Unfortunately I ran into an old problem I’d forgotten about:

Fonts o doom.png

For some fonts, only the bold-italic version seems to come up in the font list. This time I decided to get to the bottom of it. Poking at the font files, I found that Gill Sans comes as a single .dfont file instead of the more traditional bundle of .ttfs. While Gimp/Freetype was happy to read the file, it appears to only pick up one of the style variants — in this case bold italic.

Some googling turned up this page which included a hint that you can extract .ttf files out of a .dfont using the utility fondu. Conveniently this is available as a fink package, so in a couple minutes I was able to replace the .dfont symlinks in /usr/lib/x11/fonts/TTF with separated .ttf files. Restart Gimp, and presto!

Fonts o fun.png