Open-hardware graphics card gets ready to debut

Free Software 1 Comment »

Traversal Technologies is getting ready to release the first open architecture (for lack of better term) graphics adaptor. From their announcement, they make it clear that the first few units sold will be primarily to fund future development:

The first 100 pre-orders get a $100 discount and free accessories (programming cable that retails for $65).

I ask everyone to start pushing this. When we have a one or two more things ready, I’m going to get help from the FSF to market this. But in the mean time, it’s important for everyone on this list to help get the word out.

For us to be able to start production, we have a goal of 100 pre-orders. But it’s actually a dollar target we need to meet, so the more that get sold at the full retail price, the sooner we’ll make that target. Remember, this is a fund raiser; in order for the OGP to be able to design and build more open hardware in the future, we need to raise money. For those of you who have contributed to the OGP and are in need of a discount, please submit your application to the OHF.

I would gladly buy one if I had that kind of money to splurge, but US$1500 is way out of my current budget for something I probably won’t have any use for, as nice as the concept is. The specs are available from their FAQ page, and it’s clear that this card is expected to be used for more than just dumping pixels onto your display. Users will be able to load custom firmware on the card and use it for security and to increasesystem performance.

I wonder if it’s ready to actually be used as a display card in its current state, and whether any drivers for it exists yet. I hope that they do really well, I believe that a free hardware platform can provide many benefits to consumers, and that we’ll say many beautiful technologies emerge in the next decade because of that. I also think it’s about time that the FSF spend more time thinking about free hardware architecture, since so many people use the GPL for these kinds of projects. Not that I think it’s a bad idea, of course, it’s just that the GPL was designed for software, and I haven’t quite thought through what kind of effects that could have on the freedom of the hardware. At least GPLv3 licenced hardware would be able to stop manufacturers from locking you in to using proprietary software on the hardware (a type of flipped tivoisation)… or would it?

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Girls suck

Humour 1 Comment »

Just be careful. It’s all I’m saying. This kind of thing happens all the time, and when it does, most guys won’t even realise it until it’s too late.

PS: Never ever EVER write them letters. They keep them, and then show it to everyone after your relationship ends and laughs at you! I haven’t been a victim of this yet, but have seen it a lot. Just after making this post, I found this picture (I promise that is another Jonathan). Some girl must have decided it would be funny to put it up… although I must admit it is quite funny, but don’t let it happen to you.

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Zimbabweans are our Neighbours

Project Mayhem 1 Comment »

The crisis in Zimbabwe saddens me immensely. I’ve felt terrible for the Zimbabweans for a very long time now. I’ve also been disgusted in the South Africans for not doing more to help them. They are just humans, who really don’t have much control over the situation they find themselves in, and I think, as South Africans, we should do more to help rehabilitate Zimbabweans and make them productive citizens and help them to make a living here in South Africa. I suppose people will be quick to point out that we don’t even have adequate resources to take care of our own people, but when I see things like this, I certainly don’t feel proud to be South African:

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OpenSSL and SSH ports

Free Software 3 Comments »

I’ve just updated all my SSH keys, as everyone who is running a Debian-based system should. I’ve also changed the ports that SSH listens on on a bunch of systems, just to be safe, and to be a less obvious target to script-kiddies. Debian itself has also taken caution by disabling key-based logins to some developer services for now. If the changes I made caused any breakage for anyone, please let me know, and I’ll get it sorted out.

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Wine project announces first release candidate

Free Software 7 Comments »

The Wine project has announced the first release candidate for Wine, the free Windows API for Unix/Unix-like systems (and even non-unix systems like MS Windows itself and ReactOS). The Wine project started in 1993, which makes this release candidate 15 years in the making.

With so many excellent software for Linux systems these days, and the combination of powerful desktop hardware with great free virtualisation suites such as Virtualbox, people often ask me what the actual benefit of having a complete and stable free Windows API is. The ones I could think of is:

  • Gaining the benefits of free software. This comes down to having the ability to fix bugs yourself, or getting someone else to fix them for you. A company might have to run some legacy software under Windows, and Microsoft itself might not find it financially beneficial to fix a certain bug in their system. You could then switch to a free API and if the bug is present there as well, have it fixed. Since Wine does not run Windows under an emulator (or run Microsoft Windows at all), you do not need a Windows license, which you would need if you would run Windows under KVM/Virtualbox/VMWare/etc.
  • Beneficial to ReactOS (and similar projects). ReactOS is an attempt to completely re-write the entire Windows operating system, including boot loader, registry. kernel and user interface. ReactOS uses Wine for its Windows API. ReactOS is currently in early alpha state, and plans to release an alpha that is roughly 70% of a Windows NT 5 (Windows XP) kernel by the end of 2008.
  • Allows software vendors to dip their toes into cross-platform support. Software vendors such as Google have ported software such as Picassa and GoogleEarth to Linux-based systems using Winelib. Using Winelib, a software vendor can package their software to run on non-Windows systems at a fraction of the cost of what a rewrite or proper port would cost. While this may be a short-term solution for some providers, it may give them a market lead boost by being able to provide to a large audience rather sooner than later.
  • Commercial Wine support providers such as Crossover or Transgaming (see Tom’s comment below). These companies patch Wine to provide additional support for certain software and also provide user interfaces to allow easy installation and configuration of Windows software. The software released by these type of companies are usually proprietary software.
  • Performance and integration. Even though desktop hardware has become cheaper, and virtualisation software offers more and more nice features such as ‘seamless’ window mode, running a complete additional operating system does come at a performance hit. At the very least, it will typically consume a dedicated amount of memory. Unless you do fancy tricks with shared directories between the host and guest systems, you also don’t get tight desktop integration with the software running in the guest. Running your legacy software under Wine allows you to get past some of these problems.

That’s the immediate benefits I could think of from having a free, stable Windows API available. There are probably more, and while I think that we probably won’t care about this anymore 10-15 years from now, considering all the next-generation cross-platform programming tools that are available now, I do think that the coming of age of the Wine project will be welcomed by many, and will provide many companies and individuals plenty of short-term benefits while the computing landscape transforms.

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Armchair Theatre is Closing Down

Jonathan, Music, Project Mayhem No Comments »

I had lots of good times at the Independent Armchair Theatre, whether it was challenging my friends to the only sport I ever play (foosball), watching Ferris Beuller’s Day Off with pizza and beer, or rocking out to the likes of All Star Funk Four. I’m quite saddened to have read the following press release, sent to Facebook today:

Hi Everyone,

I’ve been avoiding this press release for about a month now. To cut straight to it, after little more than eight years of existence and an eternity of good times The Armchair has closed.

So that there is no confusion on the matter, this is what has happened:

I bought The Independent Armchair Theatre in March 2005. At the time the business was heavily in debt and about to close. Since then we have fought tooth and nail to not only keep The Armchair going but to make it the best venue for live music that we could offer. But three years later with my debts and stress levels reaching dangerous proportions, and some expensive renovations required in order to meet the city’s noise pollution requirements, I had to take the decision, like my predecessor, to sell the business. However the sale has not gone as planned and so – with The Armchair not able to reopen without the requisite soundproofing and no money to pay for the rental – the time has come to close.

That’s the story. I hope you understand. The Independent Armchair Theatre is one of the finest things to have existed in this city. It embodied loves and dreams. It was place to belong to and that belonged to you. In all the time I owned The Armchair, I never felt that it was really mine. It belonged to everyone. To the fans, the musicians, the promoters, the staff. I was simply the guy at the back holding the rudder. It was our home.

And it was all about the music. When The Armchair started it had quite a mixed line up of film, music, comedy and drama but as the years went on it grew into a venue whose purpose of the soul was to provide for the music of Cape Town and it’s many lovers. In the end it might have been out downfall, but the music was all we have ever cared about and I take comfort in knowing that we never made a decision that didn’t have the music at heart. I would start listing all the sublime moments I had in the place, the bands I saw, the musicians that changed my life, but the list would be too long and I wouldn’t want to leave anyone or anything out. The Armchair was nothing if not a sum of its parts. Plus I’d cry lot.

That’s it. I could write all night but that would just be avoiding the inevitable. And I don’t have enough tissues, toilet paper and sleeves in this place.

Before I go though, some very important thank you’s:

To my parents, who have gone far beyond any reasonable expectations in supporting me and The Armchair. To Jen and Alison – for being totally fucking cool, for weathering the storms and for understanding more than most. Thembi, Angela, Nick, Alex, Timmy and Stuart and to everyone else who worked at The Armchair since it opened – you know who you are and I’m not going to list names because I don’t want to leave anyone out. One huge thanks to Ian James Watson whose value and talent can never be underestimated – if you ever meet this man please buy him as many drinks as possible. And of course Carl, Jess and Chris for coming up with the idea in the first place.

And finally, to anyone who ever set foot in the Armchair. Who made the times and enjoyed the times. The place was there for and because of you.

Till next time.


I’ve sent Gil a message to ask whether the sound-proofing is the biggest barrier to getting the place up and running again, and what it would cost to get it up to standard. I’m sure if it’s not too much money, that the fans of Armchair would be willing to raise some money for it. It does seem that it’s too late for that though, I wish I had the money to buy the place over and take care of it.

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Time for changes

Free Software, Jonathan, Music 13 Comments »


The past few weeks, I have been very angry, frustrated and perhaps even depressed. I’ve been drained by all of the types of emotions that ultimitely leads to the Dark Side. I guess it all stems down to running out of time. Unfortunately, as humans, we only have a limited time in our life to do everything we want to, and I just haven’t been able to find the time to do the things I want to. Partially because of work, partially because of all the things you just have to do these days to keep going. Either way, I don’t like excuses. I recently read a blog entry from Jonathan Endersby where he explains how you shouldn’t let work take over your life, which has set some thoughts in motion for me. In the last few days, I decided that I’m not going to get angry anymore. Letting all the responsibilities of work, the situation in Zimbabwe, the environment, all the poor people in the world, etc get to you all the time gets too much, and it might sound terrible, but I think life is just too short to care about everyone and everything. I think it might just be better to help those around you- and yourself. If everybody could just sort themselves out, the world would already be a much better place. I don’t know, maybe I’ll change my mind, I’m in a bit of flux at the moment, I can hardly remember what I just typed.


I’ve come to the conclusion that to achieve goals, to make use of my time on this planet and to reach some sense of achievement, I’m going to have to make changes in my life. I might even have to start completely over, even if it means selling my house/car/etc, change carreer, whatever it takes. No excuses. Those are of course, extreme measures, but at this stage I’m willing to make whatever changes are required.


Usually I think about goals and where I am and where I’m going just about once a year, usually at the end of the year. Not because it’s close to new-years and almost time for new-years resolutions, but because I ususally have a bit of quiet time to think things through. I think my ‘goals-cycle’ is too long, and it makes it difficult to achieve them. From now on, I will work on a 3 month cycle, at the very longest. And I will work harder to push myself to get where I want to be, I will have to say no to people more often as well. My goals for the end of July (slightly less than 3 months from now) are:

  • Become an Ubuntu MOTU member. This is something that I’ve been wanting to do since 2004. I should’ve really done this by now, but I’ve been blaming a series of bad circumstances for not getting there (pressure at work, lack of Internet connectivity at times, etc)
  • Get in better shape. I’ve actually done quite well with this in the last 6 months, I’ve lost weight, I’m getting fitter every week, but now and again I have regressions, especially where alcohol is involved. It’s another case of having to say no more, but saying no to friends is often more difficult than saying no to someone you work for. I want to lose 5kg’s by the end of July.
  • Work through the Simply Guitar handbook/DVD. I want to learn how to play guitar. This manual and DVD only covers the extreme basics. Working through this should only take me an hour or two a week to finish by the end of July. I’ve had my guitar since 2004, and only went for two lessons in 2005.
  • Be less miserable. I used to focus on the positive, and used to see passed the problems that I encounter. These days all I seem to see everywhere is problems, with no obvious solutions. I want to be a positive person again, and be a good problem solver, like I used to be even when I’ve been in very bad situations in the past.

I’ll provide an update on how this is going when there’s anything to report back on. In the meantime, if I seem aloof or far away in the next few weeks, don’t take it personally, I have things that I need and want to sort out. I can’t even promise that I’ll be back to my ‘normal’ self again. Maybe I don’t want to be back to my normal self, maybe I should change. I definitely don’t want to become the person I’ve been the last few months, I guess time will provide some answers.

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