Omphaloskeptical Belated Musings

To content | To menu | To search

Monday 10 May 2010

Ubuntu Developer Summit Started in Brussels

The Ubuntu Developer Summit (UDS) for the upcoming Ubuntu Maverick 10.10 just kicked off with Jono Bacon setting the tone and it's just about fantastic thanks to all the amazing people gathered!

All details are available here.

Tuesday 30 March 2010

Joining Canonical, goodbye Fluendo; goodbye Barcelona, hello Prague!

After what have been 3 fruitful years of focusing on building a simple, usable and beautiful media center it is time for me to move on. I am thrilled to have the unique opportunity to join Canonical's OEM team and have the chance to influence the spread of Ubuntu and free software on a big scale. I started my journey in open source as a Debian user for its solid free software policy and impressive packaging system. Along the way I was tempted by more elitists Linux distributions (such as Gentoo) but something was always missing, something that at the time was a frustration not so much for me but for the potential success of free software on a global scale: ease of use. Discovering Ubuntu Hoary Hedgehog 5 years ago was a revelation: "At last someone got it right!". At least in principle. Since then, bug reporting, bug triaging, advocating in my local community, helping out friends with their use and understanding of free software became second nature.

Now, I will be contributing to making Ubuntu installed and fully functional on various hardware therefore giving more and more fair choices to end users. And to make it even more enjoyable, I will be doing so from the beautiful city of Prague.


Thank you Ubuntu, thank you Canonical.

Wednesday 12 November 2008

The Elisa team is hiring!

Fluendo is looking for enthusiastic developers to join the Elisa crew. Motivation and a genuine will to create a usable and useful piece of software for everyone are the keys for a successful applicant. Special brownie points for those who master: - Python - user interface development (prototyping, animated UIs, empathy, etc.) - C/GObject - cross-platform programming - automated testing (unit testing, user interface automation, etc.)

The team is based in Barcelona: you can expect a lot of sunbathing all year long and a very relaxed atmosphere :)

If you are a talented and rigourous programmer and want to be part of a very dynamic environment, send me an e-mail to

Sunday 19 October 2008

About synchronisation: Evolution and a Nokia E61

Today I wanted to synchronise my data across my laptop (Ubuntu Hardy) and my mobile phone (Nokia E61, Symbian S60). I decided to reduce my expectations from the start and went for the easy kill: a one-way, one time import of only my contacts, forgetting about notes, calendars and what not. After some investigation involving gnokii, Gammu and friends I stumbled upon that marvellous framework called OpenSync. It's been developed for more than 3 years and displays a huge list of supported devices, protocols and software. It is currently undergoing an important rework towards version 0.4 but today it is recommended to use the latest stable release: version 0.22 from march 2007. I thought it was worth giving it a shot. Everything went well, installation and setup were reasonably straightforward following that post on Ubuntu Forums and I was impressed by GNOME's bluetooth support working out of the box. My hopes went very high when I noticed that Multisync, OpenSync's GTK frontend, was able to handle two ways synchronisation of all my data. Unfortunately, after a couple of hours of fiddling with the thing I went out of luck: the contacts weren't goin' in! I was able to have at best 5 or 6 contacts sent to the phone. Shame :/ Solving real life issues while having fun coding is so enjoyable that I decided to fire up a good old iPython shell and started to look around the different possibilities of interaction I had with the Nokia E61. I settled for the following 3-steps technique, simple and efficient:

1. Export contacts from Evolution into separate vCard files, one for each contact

Thanks to the excellent Evolution's Python bindings coming straight from the Conduit project fame it is as simple as that Evolution-to-vCards script.

2. Transfer all the vCards to the Nokia E61 over bluetooth

ObexFTP does the trick in a one-liner:

obexftp -b [PHONE MAC ADDRESS] -c E:/Others/Contacts -p [VCARD FILES]

3. Import the contacts from the files

Go in Contacts > Options > Copy > From memory card.

That's it!

All contacts were imported even the problematic ones. I still noticed some glitches in the final result such as encoding problems and missing avatars but well, that will do for now. Next time: OpenSync development version.

Thursday 15 May 2008

Elisa @ Ubuntu Developer Summit and FOSSCamp

Part of the Elisa crew will be attending UDS next week to discuss around media centre integration with the Ubuntu/GNOME desktop. Alessandro Decina (GStreamer hacker, Python ninja, dog lovers) and myself will be more than happy to talk with anyone dealing with multimedia projects, user experience related things and interested people in general.

If you are keen on either of these subjects or even just keen on czech beers be sure to drop us a line: florian at boucault dot net or a couple of lines: boucault2003 at jabber dot iiens dot net.

Tuesday 13 May 2008

Elisa 0.5 ramping up!

Long time no blog and that's for good reasons! I have been very busy for the past month with the upcoming Elisa 0.5 which is now shaping up quite nicely thanks to the amazing developers gathered around the project.

The main goal of the 0.5 is to make it really easy to integrate any kind of services in Elisa (think social networking, shared music libraries, VOIP, etc.). It required quite a shift in the way the user interface was built up. As a side effect, that meant rewriting part of the Elisa UI as we know it. If you check out the branch today you will not have the media centric UI we were used to because it has to be rebuilt. Until it's reborn a nice plugin browser will welcome you: we call it "the shelf" plugin. See for yourself:


Screencast of Elisa's shelf plugin

As usual it's a bit laggish because of the screencasting but in real life it's perfectly fluid at 60fps with virtually 0% CPU usage. For those who are eager to contribute please be sure to go straight to the contribute page which has been updated with brand new step by step tutorials.

On the software engineering side of things, I'd like to thank a great deal all the Bazaar team and specifically Aaron Bentley for its awesome Bundle Buggy merge tracker that allows us to get our head around the code by following the "Decentralized with human gatekeeper" workflow quickly described on the Bazaar website.

As usual code is available:

bzr branch elisa

Monday 10 March 2008

Pigment + GTK == Live effects on HD videos

Guillaume's blog has some really cool Pigment bling that was demoed at last FOSDEM by Loïc (remember the guy trying to kiss himself with a webcam? :)).


Screencast of live transformation on HD videos within Gtk+

It demonstrates "[...] the ability of pigment to integrate with Gtk+" and to apply various effects on videos "[...] without any CPU cost, everything being done in the GPU. This is done in about 350 lines of python code, including 135 lines to construct the Gtk+ interface."

Wednesday 5 March 2008

New Elisa 0.3.4 release: the 'Telmatobius jelskii'


The telmatobius jelskii is a semi-aquatic frog from Peru for which breeding takes place in streams. That's how Elisa 0.3.4 was born, in the streams of ideas flowing towards improving the solid basis we already had. Following the idea that Elisa should not get between you and your media, a lot of small yet important details related with how the user interacts and feels the user interface got in the release.

People eager to try it can get the tarballs from the official website. Unofficial Ubuntu packages are also available for Gutsy and Hardy on the packages page.


Telmatobius frog from northern Chile [1]

For people into frogs, this "[...] species is locally affected by harvesting for both food and traditional medicine, and by water pollution (from agrochemicals and domestic waste)." and is part of the Red List of Threatened Species.

[1] Thanks to José Grau de Puerto Montt for making this photo available under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0

Monday 25 February 2008

Elisa and Pigment post FOSDEM = bling

Loïc's talk about Pigment went really well with lots of "Oooh and aaahs" together with laughs when he made funny faces in front of the audience thanks to his small Pigment's Photobooth-like application. As for Alessandro's Elisa demo, it was well received and I hope people understood how much the developers take care of users, especially GNOME users, at every step of the development.

Today, for those who were not at FOSDEM, I would like to share Loïc's magic with you thanks to a few screencasts and their unavoidable source code :)


Bouncing Cairo Sphere


Wavy Grid


Volumic Grid

Source code is available in a Bazaar branch at:

Be sure to get it while it's hot! Be aware that it requires latest Pigment SVN.

Monday 21 January 2008

Elisa Media Center 0.3.3 released!

This is a huge step in the life of the project since this new version features a brand new user interface. It aims at "enhancing the usability of Elisa and also at giving to our users this polished and sophisticated look and feel that makes great software." says the release announcement.

The team did an awesome job to make that new bling happen. Since words will not be as impacting as a video could be, here is a screencast also uploaded on various video sharing websites (YouTube, etc.):


You can also find screenshots and more details about Elisa on the official website.

I really recommend anyone to try it out since the fundamental changes made to the UI have really transformed the user experience. Of course any feedback will be more than welcome!

Monday 10 December 2007

IPython and Pigment simplicity

Tough week-end again trying to get my hands on the cool IPython integration with GLib's main loop. Thanks to that it is possible to interact at runtime with any Pigment application just by launching an IPython shell like that:

ipython -gthread

You can guess that from that point on I was eager to show it! After many rehearsals of I do not know how many lines of code learnt by heart I finally discovered IPython's demo mode and got around making a screencast out of it.

It demonstrates how quick Python + Pigment is at prototyping flashy GUIs. As usual, the effects shown do not incur any CPU cost and is completely smooth on my so incredibly fast Intel 915.



ps: many thanks to Arek for kindly providing his hackergotchi :)

Monday 3 December 2007

Pigment bling du jour

A crazy idea popped into my mind this week-end: showing off some bling!

Python and Pigment coupled together allow you to do really nifty stuff in no time. Hacking what's shown in the screencast takes about 500 lines of code and customising the layouts and the animations is a matter of minutes.

For this I thank Arek who is in deep need of that stuff since MacSlow aka the bling master left him.

The whole thing is made with the Pigment library (itself coded in C/GObject/OpenGL). This sample runs pretty smoothly (50 FPS) using nearly no CPU even on my shitty Intel 915 (synchronisation to VBlank is still missing with DRI though: please Intel, save my life!).


ps: code is available in Pigment subversion repository

Sunday 26 August 2007

Hardware plug-in feedback in the free desktop

At the moment, GNOME does not give any feedback to the user when a device gets plugged in. If the hardware is recognised and a driver for it found, then a piece of software might be executed if previously defined: that's it and not yet user friendly.

Here comes hardware-feedback, a little Python experiment relying on HAL that displays appropriate feedback and potentially useful hints when a device is detected.

Here is the result:


A notification appears immediately when a device is plugged.


Mouse detected!


Webcam detected: the Tango project needs an icon for that, anyone?

For those who would like to start hacking, here is the bazaar branch:

bzr co

A number of improvements are possible:

  • helping the user to find a solution when no suitable driver is available on his/her computer
  • providing the user with software handling the device well (think Cheese for a webcam)
  • rewrite and integration in gnome-volume-manager
  • audio feedback in addition to the visual one

ps: thank you Danny Kukawka, David Zeuthen, Richard Hughes, Havoc Pennington and the many others for this very nifty HAL.

Hull '06: they did it!

After what was an amazing year in Hull followed by a year of waiting, we got to wear the robes!

Thank you Olivier and Guillaume for that!


Wednesday 22 August 2007

"Are we there yet?"


Ostrava's blazon.

Ostrava is a reasonably old city and the capital of the Moravian-Silesian region ('Moravskoslezský'). It is located at the extreme east of the country. From there, one can reach Poland and Slovakia very quickly. It is also the third biggest city of Czech Republic, just after Brno and Prague. But more importantly, it is Jan's and Karolina's hometown!


A hug for the sick girl.

Wikipedia tells us that during the communist era Ostrava was the steel heart of the republic. According to Jan, a few years ago while the black coal mining was still active, black snow would fall. Nowadays, the main remainings of these activities are the nearby still burning mountains where the excavations were carried out.

I let your eyes savour some of the nice places of Ostrava.


Ostrava's main square: always nice to watch people caught by the fountains :)


Antonín Dvořák Theatre: nothing to do with the famous Mr Dvorak...


Ostrava's townhall: odd statue!


Ostrava from the townhall's tower.

These three days were a breeze. Jan, as a perfect host, took us to all the good public and confidential places. Thanks for that! We will have to show you around and you will get to taste all the wine, cheese and gourmet meals of our country :)


Hull's twins fighting the wind.


Olivier loves Czech Republic!


And we sure love Jan's friends :)

Stodolni street is the rendez-vous for all those who want to enjoy the night in Ostrava. It is really famous and has even got its own website.


Stodolni street: we'll be back!


Jan's family is just ...


... awesome!


It's so realistic!


They even put some bogeys!


All you need to remember on one photo!

Back to work now! Na shledanou a měj se hezky!

"Would you mind closing the door for me?"

A night in the UK.

After 18 hours of waiting at Gatwick airport, we finally take off to the great city of Prague, leaving behind us Una and our beloved England. It has been a long awaited moment not only because of the sleeping in the airport but more importantly because we have been looking forward to visiting Jan and Karolina for quite a long time. Two hours and a few naps later, Prague is here right before our eyes. Well, actually, mainly from the sky... Anyway, the airport is nice, and even nicer, Jan is waiting for us in the main hall with a "small" surprise behind his back: Mischa! That makes a day and also makes you forget all these stupid floodings in London... It has been such a long time! In no time, we reach the city centre and soon after the dormitory where a warm shower is welcoming us. Next step to start off this week of holidays: a small pub next to the dorms with nice drinks and crazy marinated cheese! Yummy!

First day: the biggest in the world!

9 o'clock: alarm's ringing!

- Muuh? Wanna sleep, niarf.

9h30: bathroom!

- bath-what?
- bathroom!
- what-room?
- bathroom!!
- what-what?
- oh, nevermind.

Everybody thinks that holidays are meant to rest. Actually, it is quite the opposite. Who would want to miss all the touristy places that make you a real west european traveler? First ingredient: money, coins, bank notes, lots of them. Here, the currency has been the "koruna česká" (czech crown) for 14 years since the split of Czechoslovakia and will be so for at least 5 more years. The value of things (apart from beer of course) is not obvious at first when you are used to Euros or Pounds: you can get bank notes worth as high as 5000 czech crowns (roughly worth 180 euros). Thanks to Mischa exchanging is not too much of an issue: if we keep our mouths shut, she can pass ourselves off as natives and get us the exchange rate for Czech in a "Smĕnárna pro Čechy" (a bureau de change exclusively for Czech people).


A bureau de change exclusively for Czech people.

First order of business once we have the painfully earned money, visiting the "Pražský orloj" (astronomical clock tower), with a french speaking guide of course which is just perfectly fitted for our "language freak", Jan :) The clock is called astronomical because it displays the position of the Sun and the Moon in the sky and several other astronomical states. It also features a show every hour made of a few figurines of apostles coming out and back in.


Prague's astronomical clock tower.


Jan, myself and Olivier at the top of the tower.

From the top of the tower, we discover a great overview of the city starring all the places we would later visit starting with the "Karlův most" (Charles bridge). This is for sure the most beautiful bridge crossing the Vltava in Prague and also the oldest with an announced age of 650 years! It is flanked by many imposing statues and, by any means, swarming with tourists and local artists.


The Charles bridge in the middle of Prague.

After a nice meal (Czech food is tasty!) on a Prague's terrasse, direction Malá Strana to one of the three St. Nicholas church of Prague and certainly not the least. Miguel Alonso describes it as [...] algo grandioso, diferente, lo nunca visto. En el interior de la iglesia hay colosales estatuas de santos, y en el techo un fresco de 1500 metros cuadrados sobre la vida de San Nicolás.

See for yourself:


St. Nicholas church from the inside: impressive.

Right after, still keeping a good holiday rythm, we take the tram to the Petřín hill in order to enjoy Prague from above. On our way to the top, a couple of obstacles need to be got through. First, five hideous creatures, vaguely humanoid but mainly made of metal, are trying to scare us to death by disappearing. Secondly and more importantly, 300 steps have to be climbed to make it to the top! Thankfully, our incredible courage helped by a 5 minutes journey on board of a funicular do the trick.


Are you an idiot? No sir, I'm a dreamer.

Following a little nap badly needed to recover from the hard trip to the top, we make our way to the Petřín tower. As a french person, the easiest way to describe it is comparing it with the Eiffel tower. It got built 2 years after the latter and can be considered as its little sister since the styles are pretty much alike, apart of course from the 264 metres that the Petřín tower is lacking.


Petřín tower: a baby Eiffel tower.

From the top of the tower the view on Prague is plainly amazing. Many outstanding monuments are visible and particularly, thanks to Mischa's deep interest in the subject, the "Velký strahovský stadion", the Strahov stadium, meant to be (hold tight) the biggest stadium on the planet or something close.


The "Great Strahov Stadium": the second biggest sports facility in the world.

If you go there, do not forget on your way down to grab a drink from this really well located bar where Olivier and Mischa are savouring czech beers. The view on the city from this middle spot is absolutely gorgeous.



Finally, a well deserved pre-sleep meal is waiting for us next to the dormitories. It is worth mentioning that it is only during these hard times that you get to learn crucial vocabulary of the local language.


Upiček! Sleep's needed...

Second day: slow down! It's tough being a tourist...

11h30: the "Pražský hrad".

Litterally "château praguois", is erected on the west shore of the city and is (again!) one of the biggest castle in the world. It hems in the saint Vitus cathedral and serves as a residence for the Czech Republic president. Here, one of our main discoveries is the most boring job ever (yes, even including counting pigeons in plaza Catalunya): guard at the Prague castle.


Prague château and St Vitus cathedral: unique!


Are you able to count those people?

15h00: the jewish district.

Unfortunately, no photos of this guided tour of these many jewish culture related sites are available. The french speaking guide is nice, knows a lot about the subject and plans on telling everything in only a few hours: she has to speak fast! Synagogue after synagogue, we discover many things that none of us three knew about Judaism and the history of the jewish people. Highly interesting! Also, it is worth noting that Prague hosts the world's oldest synagogue still in activity. Its name: the Old New Synanogue.

This adventure also allows us to safely say: czech old counter women are definitely fluent in english! Lístek prosím!

19h00: relax night before leaving Prague.

Photographs are worth a thousand lines:


Tomaš enjoying a beer and Jan pretending that he never drinks.


Photography is an art, you know...


After the first pub and before the second one :)

Last day in Prague...

Our last visit is for the Vyšehrad cemetery where many famous czech people got buried. This includes composers, artists, sculptors, writers but not the czech genius Cimerman (the guy who invented everything including flying balloons and electricity, freed the czech nation and so on...).

On the way to the cemetery, we cannot help but notice this metro+cars bridge famous for its every-3-days-suicide.


The suicide --booth--, erhm, bridge.


Vltava river crossing Prague.

It is finally time to say goodbye to this wonderful city that Prague is (and to rest for a while :)).


Working hard...

See you on the other side of the country: next stop, Ostrava.