Monthly Archives: June 2012

xterm on Ubuntu 12.04 manages to party like it’s 1989

In one of those moments when the occasional rough edge in Ubuntu’s otherwise highly polished desktop environment sticks out like a sore thumb:

xterm icon in Ubuntu 12.04

xterm, you uuuuuugly. Still, not too hard to replace the icon with something a bit less jarring.


Prevent the “List of attachments” from appearing in documents printed from JSPWiki

In a default installation of JSPWiki files attached to a JSPWiki page are printed in a list along with the rest of the document. If one has a large amount of attached files in a wiki page, this leads to needless extra printed pages:

List of attached files in a document printed from JSPWiki

I enquired about this on the JSPWiki users mailing list, and Dirk Frederickx kindly gave me the solution to this:

“Following changes to the jspwiki_print.css file, in the “templates/default” directory, will hide the attachment list:”

/* add this line to hide the List of Attachments */
#attach {display:none;}

And, it works a charm.

Das Keyboard Model S Professional Mechanical Keyboard – a short review

I find that simply having different keyboard layouts, or even the same layout from different keyboard manufacturers can really become a hindrance when rapidly switching amongst multiple computers across disparate locations. I figured why not purchase a set of identical make and model keyboards as a solution, but then got to thinking: I spend most of my time at a computer keyboard, so why not look around for something a bit more deluxe?

In terms of mechanical keyboards, I’ve hitherto been using on and off an old Silicon Graphics AT-101 keyboard which I rescued from the waste skip at work during a clear-out of old equipment a few years back. Even though the keyboard response is a bit soft, each key is mechnically switched – and a definite improvement over the cheap Dell keyboards which I typically use most of the time.

After a considerable amount of reading and research, I’ve gone for a mechanical keyboard in the form of the Model S Professional keyboard from Texas company Das Keyboard:

As can be seen at the above link, each key has its own mechanical switch, in this case, the Cherry MX Blue switch from German company Cherry.

Some impressions: it’s a no-frills piece. Just 104 keys, and a built-in USB hub. No backlighting, programmable macros, media controls or shortcut keys. This kind of simplicity, coupled with the excellent build quality and the weight of the device (it’s not light for a keyboard!) leaves the impression it’s designed to do one thing very well.

The keyboard symbols are laser-etched: no cheap printing here. An extra-long length USB cable pair is a very considerate touch – perfect for reaching down the back of a desk to a computer on the floor. No third party drivers are required, as there is no enhanced functionality of any kind. Simply plug it in, and go.

Of the mechanical keyboards I was looking at, the Model S Professional is the sleekest and most stylish design available, in my opinion. The glossy piano black finish is a nice touch, too:

Das Keyboard Model S Professional

So what’s it like to use? In a word, awesome. The “clickyness” in the key action is delightful, and true to the advertising, less force is required to make a successful keystroke compared to a cheap keyboard by virtue of the mechanical switches. Quite simply, after an hour of using the Model S Professional, my Dell keyboard by comparison feels like total mush – really awful. If there is one tiny complaint I have, it’s that the backspace key is a tad squeaky. I have a second unit arriving in the next few days (to accompany the first, not to replace it), so it will be interesting to see if it’s the same. (Update: the second unit has arrived and it has no such squeaks. Nothing a little bit of DIY couldn’t fix, and sure enough it’s the plastic hooks on the stabilizer bar which just needed a little bit of synthetic grease.)

If you haven’t used a mechanical keyboard before and you perform a moderate to heavy amount of typing during the day and/or night, then definitely check one out. I can certainly recommend Das Keyboard’s products.

Add a single video to the XBMC video library

In the latest (version 11) release of XBMC, the ability to add single videos manually to the XBMC library has been removed. In version 10, all one had to do was right-click on a video file in the XBMC user interface, and from the contextual menu that appeared select “Manually add to library”. This is no longer the case in version 11, but rather than go into the potential reasons for the removal of the feature, let’s simply describe how to add a single video file manually.

This is obviously most useful for media files which aren’t detected automatically by XBMC’s media scrapers. In the example I’m using, it’s a technical presentation made by the Nuxeo ECM developers.

First, one has to create an NFO file for each video that needs to be added to the XBMC library. Ensure that both the video file and NFO file are both placed in a directory which is already an XBMC media source. Use your favourite text editor to create the file, give it an .nfo extension, and name it after the same name as your source video file:

Create an NFO file

The contents of the NFO file are very simple – the “title” value should match the name of the video file, for example:



Finally, firing up XBMC and running a media scan (or not, if you’ve set it up to do it automatically) will result in the video being available for playback from your XBMC library:

Single video file detected by XBMC

Google “Data Liberation”

Spied while checking out a Google Group I’m a member of (which Google has applied the “suck” setting to as well):

Google Data Liberation

Couldn’t have picked a more apt phrase than “data liberation” myself – as it implies pretty accurately that your data is captive to begin with…

Microsoft Surface – the short version

There are many words I could waste on the newly announced Microsoft Surface tablet, reflective of the company’s obsession with Apple Inc, and their increasingly obvious hail mary approach to staying relevant amongst mobile users – a market that I believe has well and truly left Microsoft behind. However, my feelings on it are perhaps best summarized by this:

Twitter search for vapourtrails hashtag

Yes, despite the inane statements and claims originating from certain (somewhat clueless) Microsoft staffers, the thing is vapourware, pure and simple.

If I had one piece of advice to give Microsoft collectively at this point, it would be – to paraphrase Gordon Ramsay – if you’re going to do this, then shut the fuck up and do it. Keeping customers in the dark about price, dates, or if it will even run half-decently at all can only translate to huge amounts of egg on face if or when it doesn’t match their expectations.

If anything, this is the one area they could do with aping Apple a bit more closely…

“Open Source vs. Jive” – part 2

As a belated follow up to these posts, late last year looks like eBay ditched Jive Software for Drupal on their e-commerce platform, as reported by Wired:

“As eBay formally launched its new X.commerce business unit — a sweeping effort to bridge the worlds of online and offline payments — the company revealed it had moved the unit’s website to Drupal, dropping the proprietary Jive Software platform the site previously used.

“We found that Drupal offers more tools and does so faster,” Neal Sample, chief technology officer of open commerce at eBay, told Wired.

“There were certain tools we needed built, and often, if you go to a single vendor, you just get in line with everyone else. With Drupal, we can tap into a bigger developer community to get the tools we wanted — if they weren’t there already…”

Ouch. Myself, I’ve been delighted with Drupal 7. And, if anyone has a copy of the “Jive vs. Open Source” whitepaper available for what I assume was a very brief period of time, I’d love to see it – if only to know what goes on inside the mind of a marketer 🙂

Skype under Microsoft – would you like additional ads with that call?

Great summary in Ars Technica of recent attempts by the brilliant minds at Microsoft to monetize Skype:

“This is part of a larger blending of Skype properties into the Microsoft advertising network,” Wolff said. “Microsoft is selling display ads on Skype’s websites, the Skype ‘home’ pane in the desktop client, and now in voice calls. How would you feel if Apple or Google did this to your mobile calling experience? It’s invasive and gets in the way of good calling experience.”

There’s never been a better time to check out a Free Software VoIP alternative, really. is now WordAds-enabled

Some changes to the site which you may have noticed – my blog is now displaying embedded advertising as part of WordPress’ WordAds programme. Part of the change involved choosing a new WordAds-compatible theme, which meant that my previous Premium theme had to go – but the new theme is a rather nice replacement.

Fun with JSPWiki skins

I really love JSPWiki. It’s super-easy to install, doesn’t require any additional configuration for a back-end database, the native interface is quick and fast to use, and it just runs and runs. Great software.

If there’s one area however where it’s lacking, it’s in a nice selection of bundled good-looking themes. But hey, it’s free and open source software, so one is really in no position to complain – and new skins can be created using entirely standard and familiar HTML and CSS.

It’s worth noting the difference between JSPWiki templates and skins – described at

After a bit of tinkering with CSS and the bundled “Smart” theme, I came up with this:

JSPWiki - modified "Smart" theme

Not the stuff of professional web design, but a definite improvement on the default theme, in my humble opinion.