Robotic Tendencies
The personal blog of Robert McQueen

January 21, 2009


(Apologies in advance for the shameless plug.) It’s possibly a little late to talk about new year’s resolutions, but if anyone is a Facebook user and has given up smoking (or plans to), you might be interested in Quitclock.

My brother Alastair is a health editor for the Bupa private health insurance company, and thought of this neat project which was implemented by my housemate Martin Kleppman, and announced at new year. It helps you keep track of how long since you’ve smoked, how much money you’ve saved, lets you and your friends know how you’re doing, and has health tips about the improvements that you can expect from your new-found abstinence. I’m not a smoker but hopefully someone will find it useful.

posted by ramcq @ 7:47 am
Comments (1) .:. Trackback .:. Permalink

July 10, 2008

GUADEC, Telepathy and a Party on a Boat

For everyone at GUADEC, there’s a boat party sponsored by Collabora this evening. Our sponsorship was confirmed after the program was printed so it’s listed anonymously, but it’s mostly sponsored by Collabora, of course with huge thanks to Baris and his team for the organisation, and local sponsors for food and discounted beer. The boat leaves from Kabatas at 9pm today (Thursday). It’s actually pretty close to the 3rd anniversary of Collabora’s incorporation, so I think we could call this our birthday party. 😀

I gave my presentation earlier today about using Telepathy to make collaborative applications. My slides are available, as well as the apps I demoed, which are the python VNC demo based on telepathy-python’s examples, Elliot’s Tic Tac Tube game, and Guillaume and Alban‘s quick hack to Empathy and Vinagre to share your desktop over a stream tube. I was followed up by Senko‘s presentation (slides also available) which had an overview of the libraries and APIs currently available to embed Telepathy functionality in applications on the desktop. The talks were all recorded so hopefully some videos will turn up on-line too.

Speaking about collaborative stuff with Telepathy, we’re really keen to hear from the authors of applications like Abiword, Inkscape, Vinagre, Jokosher, Tomboy, Gobby, etc, to find out how we can help you integrate with Telepathy, what features you need before you can get started, or just try and convince you that it’s a good idea. 🙂 If you’re at GUADEC, come and grab one of the Collaborans or drop by on #telepathy on FreeNode and tell us what you’d like to do and how we can help.

Yesterday after the talks on Soylent and the People project, Travis and I met up with the guys behind the People project (Ali Sabil and Johann Prieur) and some of the Online Desktop team (Owen Taylor and Marina Zhurakhinskaya). We sketched out a way of plugging together Telepathy, People, Soylent and the Online Desktop to deal a lot better with meta-contacts on the desktop, providing “first-class” people objects. It all looks pretty promising and hopefully we’ll all find some time to make moves towards our vision.

This afternoon at 3:30pm, Olivier is also presenting our work on Farsight 2, which is really cool stuff and should include some exciting demos of the multi-person video conferencing stuff we’ve been doing.

More generally, GUADEC is awesome. I’m having a great time in Istanbul (despite it being pretty hot for a pale-faced Brit like me), and enjoying the sights and sounds of such an interesting city and culture. I’ve caught up with many of the usual suspects (like Lennart, who never turns down the chance to turn up at a conference and sample the local bars and clubs), and had some great discussions.

posted by ramcq @ 11:33 am
Comments (1) .:. Trackback .:. Permalink

June 9, 2008

Xen virtual interfaces with more than one IP

I’ve got a load of boxes running Debian etch with Xen 3.0.3 with routed networking (rather than bridged, so I can do iptables and reverse path filtering etc in dom0). Since upgrading from Xen 2.x many moons ago, I’ve not known how to configure one virtual interface to have more than one IP. In the meantime, I’ve ended up doing nonsense like providing a VM with two interfaces just to give it two IPs. However, this interacts really badly with reverse path filtering unless you do a bunch of source-routing rocket science in the domU to send out through the right vif.

So, I looked at the vif-route script and it seems to support iterating through a space-separated list of IPs, but I was totally unable to find any documentation or mailing list posts explaining how to format the IPs within the formerly-Python key/value Xen domain config file syntax. After a while playing with the parser and various levels of quoting, I found that actually, the correct amount of quoting is none at all, and also uncovered a bug in another script which prevents it from working correctly. In the hope that this might help others using Google and trying to achieve the same as me, here is my recipe for configuring Xen vif devices to have multiple IPs (note that I think this might be specific to Xen 3.0.x, as I believe 3.2.x introduces config files in the S-expression format which is what xenstore uses internally):

  1. Configure your VM using this surprisingly obvious, but somewhat dubious syntax (including a second argument just to prove that yes, it really does work like that):

    vif=['ip=, mac=00:16:3e:01:23:45']

    When parsed into SXP by xm create, this sets the ip value correctly as a space separated list as the scripts expect:

    (device (vif (ip '') (mac 00:16:3e:01:23:45)))
  2. Fix the bug in /etc/xen/scripts/

    --- /etc/xen/scripts/ 2008-06-09 01:14:23.065065119 +0100
    +++ /etc/xen/scripts/ 2008-06-09 01:11:06.599986274 +0100
    @@ -103,7 +103,7 @@
    if [ "$ip" != "" ]
    local addr
    - for addr in "$ip"
    + for addr in $ip
    frob_iptable -s "$addr"
  3. Set up multi-homed or aliased interfaces as normal in the domU (depending if you’re a ip or an ifconfig kinda guy).
  4. Profit!

posted by ramcq @ 12:40 am
Comments (5) .:. Trackback .:. Permalink

June 5, 2008


In the office, Christian has just unwrapped a very carefully packed box containing a bulging tin of Surströmming. Apparently due to the “unique” smell you have to open it outside, and he’s invited people to come to his house to try it. Now, I’m not keen on various types of fish even at the best of times, so add a year or so of fermentation, and I am very, very scared. In unrelated news, some people in the office have decided to take up vegetarianism.

posted by ramcq @ 11:08 am
Comments (8) .:. Trackback .:. Permalink

January 18, 2007

LCA and hiring

I’m in Sydney for LCA 2007 this week, and this should also be my debut post on the conference planet. This is the first time I’ve made it to the other side of the world for this conference, and I’m really glad I came. It’s definitely one of the cooler conferences I’ve been to, slickly run and with an excellent programme of talks, so massive congratulations and thanks are due to the organisers and volunteers. The weather’s a stark contrast to the French Alps (I was skiing last week!), although thankfully it’s quite mild at the moment and not gotten too hot for a Pom like me. 😀 It’s always cool to catch up with people who I’ve not seen for a while, and put names to faces for a whole load of others I’ve not met yet. If you’re around, reading this in time, and interested in the Telepathy VOIP/IM framework, my talk is today (Friday) at 11am. If shameless bribes help, I’ve also got some funky Collabora and Telepathy shirts I need to give away before I head back to the UK.

The second bit is that Collabora‘s looking for a couple of people to either join us in Cambridge (UK) or work with us as a subcontractor. We’re currently doing loads of cool and totally open source stuff with IM, voice & video streaming and collaboration technologies. We’re looking for people with experience with some/many/all of C, Python, Glib/Gtk, D-Bus, GStreamer and RTP. If you’re interested, send mail to jobs(á), or if you’re around at LCA then come and find me if you want a chat.

posted by ramcq @ 3:09 pm
Comments (0) .:. Trackback .:. Permalink

June 29, 2006


Just a quick one, people want food: my Telepathy talk at GUADEC earlier this week was a success by most accounts, and followed up by after-hours talks today with Kai Vehmanen’s on Telepathy SIP, and Yannick Pellet on the IM/VOIP project on the 770. My slides are available for people who missed my talk, and hopefully soon Fluendo will grace us with videos feeds too.

For people still around at the conference tomorrow, I’ve arranged a BOF with Martyn Russell for discussing/hacking Telepathy and Gossip stuff. It’s in the museum library room at 11am tomorrow (Friday). Hope to see you there!

posted by ramcq @ 6:01 pm
Comments (0) .:. Trackback .:. Permalink

June 2, 2006


In the office just now, daf complained at me that he finds it very annoying when people blog about how they havn’t blogged recently. I apologise, although in my defence, the post was mainly about C (I’ve subsequently learnt that -Wextra will warn me about such errors in future, thanks :D). The question is, is this post also annoying because of this meta-blogging property, or can it be excused as meta-meta-blogging?

Although, whilst I am talking about my blog, I found that Ross Burton took a reasonable picture of me at FOSDEM (I’m the one on the left, versus Iain Holmes on the right :D), which I’ve cribbed for my photo on the GUADEC speakers list. I was wondering if in exchange for beer (or cake), anyone would like to make me a hackergotchi for my various Planet appearances?

I’ve decided with mjg59 that when referring to Web 2.0, the correct pronounciation of RSS is ‘arse‘ (linked to the definition for people to might spell that word wrongly ;), leading to witty concepts such as ‘arse feeds’, ‘arse readers’, etc. It amused us in the pub anyway.

posted by ramcq @ 6:27 pm
Comments (8) .:. Trackback .:. Permalink

November 21, 2005

When exactly is week 1 of 2006?

According to Jeff, I’ve become a smelly Nokia contractor (the reason he stayed with Luis instead of at Mako’s place in Boston, although I’m sure he was referring to Rob Taylor causing the smell). Part of this entails exchanging project schedules with various managers, where time is often talked about in terms of numbered weeks of the year, like: Foo task will be completed by week 42 of 2005. We ran into some problems with varying definitions of these numbers when exchanging schedules with people running on different platforms. Then we realised that even the software we’re using seems to have different ideas about what’s going on too…

  • Outlook and Evolution seem to agree, and define the week as starting on Monday, and the first day of the year is always week 1, even if this results in a truncated week. Hence, week 1 of 2006 starts and ends on Sunday 1st January, and then week 2 begins on Monday 2nd, etc. It’s my belief that this is the correct behaviour as defined by some ISO standard somewhere which governs week numbers.
  • GtkCalendar gets the week number correct, in that the first day of the year is always in week 1, but varies its definition of the first day of the week depending on your locale. This is presumably so that the display of the weeks is correct, but using it to number the weeks results in bogus week numbers. For me in LOCALE=en_GB it claims that week 1 of 2006 starts on Sunday 1st January, and ends on Saturday 7th January, making my week numbers one lower than the rest of the world.
  • Planner uses GtkCalendar for inputting dates, so gets it wrong there as described, but seems to get it wrong in its Gantt chart view in a different way. It has the week starting on Monday, but claims that January 1st 2006 is the last day of week 52 of 2005. This results in week numbers that, match those GtkCalendar give me on weekdays, but differ over weekends, and are still totally bogus when I try and talk about project plans with my managers.

The result is a whole world of pain, and at best causes extreme confusion when we provide documents referring to both dates and week numbers which are inconsistent with each other in their minds, and at worst makes our managers think we’ll have things done a week sooner than we do. I’m not using Evolution at the moment for calendaring stuff, so I can manage if I remember to add one to all my 2006 week numbers when interacting with managers based on GtkCalendar and Planner, but this all seems to be horribly broken. I really don’t want to have to do this for the whole year.

posted by ramcq @ 5:06 pm
Comments (10) .:. Trackback .:. Permalink

September 21, 2005

Corporate anthems

OK, I admit this is exceedingly old but still highly amusing (if somewhat nauseating). If you thought my take on Britney Spears yesterday was bad, a friend who’s just started at the pan-global accounting firm KPMG has just mailed me a copy of the (long since completely disowned) company song, “KPMG (As Strong As Can Be)”. Set to incredibly cheesy synth music, the chorus goes:

KPMG – We’re strong as can be,
A team of power and energy,
We go for the gold, together we hold
Onto our vision of global strategy.

Wired has the details from 2001 and a copy of the offending song on the 2nd page. I won’t link to KPMG in case their lawyers e-mail me…

posted by ramcq @ 10:39 am
Comments (0) .:. Trackback .:. Permalink

August 2, 2005

A good idea

I’ve sometimes pondered what would happen to me if I was out on my own, was in some kind of an accident and the ambulance staff didn’t know who to contact, so I’ve always kept obvious things like “Home” and “Mum” in my mobile’s phone book even though I know their numbers. I’ve just heard about the “In Case of Emergency” (ICE) campaign, where you prefix a number in your phone book with ICE, so the ambulance staff can find it quickly and know who to contact to seek consent for emergency treatment. According to Vodafone, “75% of people carry no details of who they would like telephoned following a serious accident”. More details from East Anglian Ambulance Service and Vodafone.

posted by ramcq @ 12:30 am
Comments (2) .:. Trackback .:. Permalink

Next Page »