Archive for October, 2007

gentoo-sources-2.6.23 feature changes

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

Linux 2.6.23 was released a few hours ago. See the kernelnewbies changelog lots of details.

In addition to all the upstream changes, gentoo-sources-2.6.23 (which will be in portage very soon) has some Gentoo-specific feature changes worth noting:

vesafb-tng replaced with uvesafb

Michal is the author of vesafb-tng, which is popular as it allows you to use higher frequency refresh rates on the VESA framebuffer to stop you getting headaches on CRT monitors.

Michal has always been first to admit that vesafb-tng was an ugly hack and has no future. He’s now able to refrain from insulting his own coding abilities though, as he has reimplemented the functionality in a way that isn’t an ugly hack.

uvesafb is the replacement. The fundamental difference is that much of the functionality has been moved out of the kernel into userspace, so the kernel doesn’t have to worry about the ugly details.

The big change on the inside means that it’s unfortunately not a direct switchover to uvesafb from vesafb-tng. There are installation instructions on the uvesafb project homepage.

In fact, the uvesafb code is so non-ugly that it has been accepted into the upstream Linux kernel for the 2.6.24 release. Thanks Michal!

fbsplash replaced by fbcondecor

Michal also authored fbsplash, a kernel patch to allow you to place a pretty splash image behind the framebuffer console.

Due to confusion in the naming, fbsplash has been renamed to fbcondecor (FrameBuffer CONsole DECORations). However, this is just a simple rename, so the migration path is not difficult. See Michal’s blog for further details.

speakup isn’t back yet

speakup is an in-kernel speech synthesizer for blind/hard-of-sight Linux users.

We dropped speakup for 2.6.22 as it was no longer compatible with the kernel. I was planning to revive it for 2.6.23 but I haven’t had time, so it will have to wait for 2.6.24.

Blue-tack stop motion

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

My artistic friend Chris has just published his first stop-motion blue tack creation. It rocks. Watch it on youtube immediately.

IBM University Team Challenge 2007

Monday, October 1st, 2007

At the end of last week, myself and five other 3rd years represented the University of Manchester at the IBM University Team Challenge. We competed against 16 other UK universities at IBM’s site in Hursley (near Southampton).

After a meal the previous evening and various introductions we were given 2 hours 30 minutes to complete as many challenges as we could. There were 24 challenges, grouped by category: maths, logic, communication, sensory, mystery, physical. In one challenge, 5 of us had to communicate a map to our team mate who had to transcribe it, but our communication was limited to 4 picture cards, 4 smells, and a rattle (no talking allowed).

The most amusing challenge we undertook was in the physical category, pictured below:

In this challenge we had to strap colanders to our heads and catch badminton shuttles in them, which were batted by a team mate from behind a wall!

The second half of the competition was a quiz, with various dynamics to mix things up a bit.

The winning team – Cambridge – won a ThinkPad each and £1000 for their university. As we didn’t come in the top 3 overall, we were not told our position, but we do know that we came 2nd in the first half of the competition with 7 challenges completed (plus a bonus for completing at least one challenge in each category).

It was a fun trip and interesting to meet some IBM people and look around their site. It’s nice to see IBM organising and sponsoring student events like this, it can’t be cheap…