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Released the new version of Sketch today.

In other Sketch news, the people behind, who also wrote French Sketch documentation, interviewed me and the interview has now been published online and in Linux Magazine France. Currently there seem to be only French versions of the interview available. Let's see whether an English versions will be available, too. That shouldn't even be difficult because the interview was conducted in English.

I haven't found the time to update the diary in the last few months, mostly because there's just a lot to do at work and I moved from Hamburg to Osnabrück.

Work for Intevation remains interesting. Among other things, I've worked on GPA recently.


I haven't found much time for Sketch either, but at last things are moving again. A new release of Sketch is imminent. I definitely want it out of the door before I leave for the Python conference on Saturday.

I've got a new job. I'm now working for Intevation, a very small but growing free software company. I'm actually their first real employee. It also means that the other Bernhard is now my boss :-).

I've already been working on my first project for the last few weeks. It's a web-based mapping application called MapIt!.

Unfortunately, this project also means that I don't have as much time for Sketch or the Vectorgraphics-Foundry as I would like at the moment.


The second day of the HHLUG install party on Sunday (September 10th) was very much like the first (see my previous entry), although we did more installations. One problem with the location was that we hadn't access to a phone line, neither analog nor ISDN, so we couldn't check whether the new linux users would be able to connect to the internet. Well, that's something to do better next time.

Oldenburger Linuxtag

Together with the other Bernhard I went to the Oldenburger Linuxtag this weekend. We had two and a half posters. One was about the FreeGIS Project and the other was about software patents and the petition against software patents in Europe (If you haven't signed it yet, please do so now). Both attracted quite a few people. Many signed the petition, especially after Georg Greve (of Brave GNU World fame) mentioned it in his talk.

The "half" poster was a smaller Sketch poster that managed to attract some visitors too and I got to demonstrate Sketch or answer questions few times.

The whole event was bigger than I had expected. The exhibition space was bigger than at last year's Bremer Linuxtag, and I think there were more visitors, but Alan Cox did draw quite a crowd last year with his keynote.

One of the most prominent attendents was Wichert Akkerman, who allegedly played moonbuggy the whole weekend. I can confirm that he did play moonbuggy and all the time I saw what he was doing at his computer he played moonbuggy, so that rumor must be true. :-)

Films and Books

Saw X-Men, Being John Malkovich and Titan A.E. recently. X-Men was entertaining but not really something you have to have seen. At least I saw the original version and not some localized German one.

Being John Malkovich OTOH, is hilarious. I saw it in English too, although it had German subtitles. I find subtitles irritating. Most of the time, I've got a reflex (sort of) to read them even when I understand the soundtrack quite well. If you read the subtitles you don't have time to actually watch the movie because your eyes are fixed on the text and can't take in the visuals of the scenes themselves. Luckily, this time I somehow managed to somehow block them out completely after a few minutes.

Titan A.E. was an interesting mix of hand-drawn animation and computer graphics. AFAICT, there wasn't an English version shown here in Hamburg, so I saw a German translation.

Saw Iain M. Banks' new Culture novel Look to Windward in a bookshop a couple of weeks ago. 36DM are a bit steep for a paperback, if you ask me. I think I'll wait until I find it cheaper elsewhere or on the internet. OTOH, I found his The Business for 21DM on Monday morning in Oldenburg before I took the train back to Hamburg.

Another book I've bought (and read) recently is the paperback of The Fifth Elephant which is already available here in Germany in some bookstores even though it's not available in the UK until early November. Heh.


Someone from LinuxFund.Org read my diary entry from July where I mentioned that their agreement limits grants to US residents. I never got around to ask them about this and now I don't have to do that anymore because he contacted me about it and said that they're going to change that. Cool. (This should have been in my last diary entry).

HHLUG Installparty

Today the Hamburg Linux User Group had an install party in Altona at the HEW Kundenzentrum (A Customer Center or something in English :-) of Hamburg's electricity company). We didn't have much room, only enough for a few demo machines and a handful of actual installations, but we attracted quite a few people who wanted to learn about linux or ask questions. The HEW people were apparently very pleased with the outcome and offered to let us have the next install party (probably in January 2001) in the main customer center in the city center where we'd have much more room (At least that's what I heard afterwards at the dinner).

The event will be going on tomorrow (Sunday 10th) from 12:00 till 18:00, so if anybody in Hamburg is interested in meeting fellow Linuxers this might be a good opportunity. The Kundenzentrum is in the Große Bergstraße. I wanted to put a hyperlink to the relevant page of the HEW web site here but those pages can't be navigated without Java Script and with JS enabled Netscape kept crashing on me, so be careful if you follow that link.

Dancer, I don't think it's all that surprising that there are many teens in the free software community.

I bought my first computer in 1985 when I was 15, an Amstrad CPC464 (roughly comparable to the C64 and it was actually called Schneider CPC464 here in Germany). One thing I liked about those computers was that they were simple enough so that you could understand how they worked and how the pieces fit together.

With a Windows PC this is practically impossible, given the Windows policy that the users are stupid, don't know what they do and that it's good to hide information from them. Add to that that even Microsoft doesn't seem to know how everything works in their own operating systems.

Linux and the other free software OSes are much more complex than those 8bit home computers, but with their modular nature it's still possible to understand how things work in principle and the availability of the sources means that you can delve into the details as deeply as you like. They also don't hide any information that might be interesting to a user. That's a very intriguing thing for an inquisitive newbie. If I were a teenager today, I'd probably be involved with free software in some way too.


I've begun to implement a meta-data facility to make it possible to attach arbitrary data to an object. This is effectively a dictionary. This feature poses some interesting design problems:

  • How is the data saved and loaded?

    This is easy to solve by restricting the keys to strings and the values to a subset of builtin python types. It's possible and not even difficult to extend that to class instances if they implement a certain interface.

    I could use pickle, but that would make the file format Python specific.

  • What happens when you duplicate or copy/cut and paste an object?

    The easiest solution is not to copy the data at all. The duplicated or pasted object will have no meta data at all. This is obviously bad, since the user would rightly expect that cut and paste preserves at least some of the data.

    The next solution is to make a shallow copy of the dictionary. This can lead to subtle bugs because objects can end up sharing mutable meta-data. Always making a deep copy is not useful either because there might be cases where that sharing is desired.

    So perhaps the method that attaches a piece of meta-data to an object should have a third parameter in addition to the key and value, that describes what should happen with the data. That parameter would simply be a callable object that is called with the value and returns the value that is to be used in the copied graphics object.

    This solution would be very flexible but it also makes saving and restoring the data harder.

In other Sketch news, I've received Italian translations for 0.6.x.

Sketch is also mentioned in the current issue of c't in the SVG section of the article on internet multimedia standards.

Movies and Books

I've seen several movies lately, including Lola Rennt, Chicken Run and the Wallace and Gromit films A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave.

I've also read quite a bit and finished Neal Stephenson's Zodiac (recommended by the other bernhard) and Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman which I've been meaning to read for a long time now.

22 older entries...


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