A rapper facing Darth Vader

Life after Death Star

A rapper facing Darth Vader

Changing teams means having new work neighbours, new conversations. I’m not really into rap, but a colleague got me interested into Life After Death Star, an interesting mix between rap and the music of John Williams soundtrack.

I had no clue who Richie Branson and Solar Slim are and I really would not have though that these two genres would mix up properly, but for me, it works. I always found rap a bit dry, adding a rich instrumental background fixes that. In a sense it feels like the approach of the heavy metal + female lead singer formula, except in reverse.

The full album can be downloaded from the project’s web site, either as a zip archive or via torrent.


Contenus et financements


Alias a écrit un billet intéressant sur la création de contenus et le financement en 2016. Je suis assez d’accord avec lui sur le fait que Flattr est plus ou moins mort. Pour le mois de décembre, j’en ai reçu trois, dont deux d’Alias, le troisième étant pour l’article qui génère le plus de trafic sur ce blog: Falsehoods programmers believe about geography, 466 vues sur les 2437 page visualisées durant les 30 derniers jours, ça nous fait environ 2‰ de donation.

Alias évoque d’autres systèmes que j’ai tout simplement la flemme d’explorer. À mon sens, Flattr souffre de sérieux problèmes, qui affectent probablement les autres systèmes.

  • Flattr est compliqué, il faut ouvrir un compte, transférer de l’argent, ajouter un plugin sur le blog. L’intégration du plugin avec le reste de WordPress est minimale. Bref, c’est pas pratique.
  • Flattr a une distribution très confidentielle, le quasi abandon du systèmes ces derniers temps n’a pas aidé.
  • Flattr est incompatible avec les autres systèmes de donation (et vice-versa).
  • En dessous, il y a un système de payement (Skrill, Paypal, Mangopay), plutôt qu’un bouton Flattr, j’aurais donc plutôt intérêt à avoir un bouton de donation avec ces systèmes de payement, Flattr n’a joute qu’une couche assez fine par dessus, avec une marge de 30%…

Force m’est constater que cette année, j’ai surtout fait des donations via Paypal, et encore plus d’achats bête et simples. Ce qui nous amène au cœur de la discussion : la nature des dons. Comme le fait remarquer K. von Murphy en commentaire, pour quelqu’un qui a boulot, vu le traffic qu’a mon blog, et la générosité des internautes, ce que je reçois ne paye jamais l’investissement en temps. C’était pour moi une expérience académique pour comprendre cet aspect du web, jamais une source de revenus.

Pour moi c’est la schizophrénie centrale de ces systèmes : soit c’est un réel système de don et de reconnaissance, et avoir un payement monétaire n’est pas nécessaire et ne fait que compliquer le tout, soit c’est un système de rémunération. Dans ce cas on se retrouve avec le problème des restaurants aux États-Unis, où le pourboire est le salaire effectif des serveurs. Ne rien laisser revient à ne pas payer le serveur, c’est techniquement légal, mais pas socialement acceptable. De telles normes passent difficilement à l’international, d’autant plus dans un univers où tout à toujours été gratuit.

Alias parle d’obole, je me suis demandé comment traduire ce mot en anglais ; il se trouve que c’est le nom d’une ancienne monnaie grecque, en anglais le mot ne veut dire que cela. La meilleure traduction que j’ai trouvé c’est peanuts. Bref, on est dans le domaine de le symbolique, pas des solutions.

Il existe un mot pour la notion de donner de l’argent pour un bien ou un service… Payer…

Obole sous Louis Ⅰer le PieuxCreative Commons Partage dans les Mêmes Conditions 3.0 non transposé (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Star Wars Laser Sword – projected on Star Wars laser sword projected on chimney in Sihlcity, Zürich

The force awakens

Star Wars Laser Sword – projected on Star Wars laser sword projected on chimney in Sihlcity, Zürich

One of the perks of working for Google is that I regularly get geeky team activities – for instance a private showing of the new Star Wars movie. So this week, I was in Sihlcity, ushered into the cinema by people dressed as various Star Wars characters. In general the cinema did a big deal of the new movies, with animated laser saber projections on the chimney stack of the mall (it used to be a factory).

I never watched any of the three prequels, but I saw enough bits and pieces, left and right, not to mention parodies and critiques, which gave me real incentive to do so. This post talks about the The Force Awakens and its plot, so if you want to go see it without any spoilers you should probably stop reading now.

Plot Spoilers!

Star Wars – The Force Awakens – Poster

The movie was directed by J.J. Abrams, and it shows, from the start you get the sense of vastness which was present in the Star Trek prequel. The spaceships of the original trilogy are ruins in the desert.

The movie starts with a set of new characters, Kylo Ren, a rebellion pilot, Rey, a scavenger and Finn a clone trooper who deserts the evil army for moral reasons. The antagonist is a Darth Vader wannabe within some post-empire military organisation. There is also a new droid which is pretty cute.

As the story unfolds with a lot of running around and explosions, I slowly reached the conclusion that I knew the story. The young orphan on a sand planet which has the power of the Force, the unwilling helper, the quest for some data thing inside a robot, the evil forces building a planet sized death ray. Does this sound familiar?

As such this would not have been a problem, the new Luke is a girl (Daisy Ridley) and kicks ass, she is basically both Luke and Han Solo, and whines way less than the original. Finn, the clone trooper is an interesting character, which would open up some interesting questions and narrative opportunities. Basically, the plot could have gone Battlestar Galactica, why not.

Instead the heroes stumble on the millennium Falcon, steal it, get boarded by Han Solo and Chewbacca who indirectly bring them to Leia. To the credit of the actors, I actually cared about that old couple’s relationship, which was splintered by their son, which turned to the dark side and became Darth Wannabe. So Han Solo has to go into the death ray thing to save his son from the dark side. Does that sound familiar?

The force awakens is not a bad movie, and I’m sure that compared to the three Lucas made prequels, it is nearly a masterpiece. On its own it is a very flawed movie, that tries to jam into one movie the plot of A new hope and The empire strikes back (inverted), with both a reboot of the original characters and the characters themselves played by the original actors, and most of the iconic props (spaceships, robots). This makes a lot of sense for merchandising and fan service reasons, but these are not the ingredients for a good movie.

Another thing that struck me with this movie is the non humans, which are still limited to their minority roles: shady characters and brave soldiers which will die anonymously for the rebellion. Where the original trilogy introduced many interesting aliens characters, the new movie only has one, the owner of the shady bar. Chewbacca is at the side of Han Solo of course, and Admiral Ackbar makes a token appearance, but that’s it. So we get a strong female protagonist, a black person as secondary character, but the universe did not become richer.

So all in all, a good action movie, certainly better than the prequels, but nothing ground-breaking either.

Screenshot of a terminal running the fish shell with tab completion of applications starting with 'te' A 16 colour map of a city with a lake in the Center

Java QuickDraw – GitHub

A 16 colour map of a city with a lake in the Center

Another project whose source code I moved to GitHub is Java QuickDraw, this is very old code I wrote before my PhD. Surprisingly, it still runs, once you pass the Java security hurdles. The source code now has its own repository, which would make the code easier to clone / browse.

At some point, I was contacted by the person who maintained the Twelve Monkeys ImageIO project, which aims at adding support for various legacy image formats. I had added a link to my own project’s page, but as these things go, the link broke and I never took the time to fix it, as that project is also on GitHub, I fixed the links.

Latex Importer Spotlight View

Laτeχ Spotlight Importer – GitHub

Latex Importer Spotlight View

I did a bit of cleaning this week-end, mostly moving old projects to GitHub. Besides my Swiss French Keyboard, I also moved my old Laτeχ Spotlight Importer, I updated the project – it still compiles – but I don’t think it works, as ownership of tex source files seem to go to other Text Editors (in my case TextWrangler). If someone still cares about that project I might look into it, but my days of using Laτeχ are long gone.

Clavier Suisse Romand – Cyrillique

Clavier Romand – Github

Clavier Suisse Romand – Cyrillique

Comme mentionné dans un billet précédent, un élément important de la langue serbe est l’alphabet cyrillique. J’aimerais pouvoir écrire en cyrillique avec mon clavier. Pour écrire, j’utilise une variante du clavier suisse romand que j’ai conçu alors que j’habitais encore au Japon.

Il était temps de dépoussiérer ce projet, j’ai donc migré les fichiers sur GitHub, j’ai créé une version haute-résolution de l’icône, et finalement j’ai téléchargé Ukelele et ajouté une nouvelle touche morte, ⌥x qui provoque l’entrée en mode cyrillique. J’ai déjà ajouté les caractères qui ont une équivalence directe avec des caractères latin, il faut que je réfléchisse à comment les autres seront ajoutés. J’ai aussi ajouté un script d’installation simpliste.

Daniel Craig in a black turtleneck


Daniel Craig in a black turtleneck

During my short trip to Silicon Valley last week, my team went for a showing of the new James Bond movie, Spectre. Swiss is playing all James Bond movies on its onboard entertainment system and I ended up watching Spy on my way to California, so I was pretty much into that theme.

I found the part of the movie before the opening credits breathtaking, beautiful visuals of Mexico city, gripping action. This quality remained through most of the movie, but I got increasingly annoyed by the feeling that I had seen this movie before.

More precisely this is not so much a new movie as a collage of scenes of the previous ones: the hospital in the alps accessible by cable car, the trip in the fake orient express, the fight with the indestructible bad guy, Blofeld, his cat and his secret base.

The plot feels like a linear contrivance to get bring the camera to the next tableau, the one in Spy, had more twists and made (slightly) more sense. Even the James Bond girls felt like mere graphical accessories: they fit in the scenes their appearances carefully crafted to be a perfect graphical match. It’s the first James Bond movie where my main though of the James Bond girl getting into the frame is that she should fix her makeup, maybe I’m getting old.

By the time we reached the end of the movie, it felt faded and dull. I really had a hard time connecting with the characters, they felt like they had wandered out of another movie. There was little wit, the movie felt dark without being the slightest bit realistic or having any serious implications beside a vague surveillance is bad.

The confrontation with Blofeld got me to the wait, what? point. There is some gratuitous torture – useless of course – Daniel Craig endured far worse in Cow-Boys & Aliens. He escapes, and the ensuing fight felt like we had gone to the 50’s: the world’s evil mastermind has only 30 henchmen in his secret lair? And a base consisting mostly of satellite dishes can blow up in such in impressive way? In the previous movies people had to set up some explosives to get this effect, but not in this day and age. Seriously?

The movie could have finished with the explosion of said secret base. Alas, Sam Mendes felt there needed to be a another confrontation in London. This was the one part that did not feel like some homage to another James Bond movie (or maybe Skyfall) just some random action movie at night with computer stuff, with some symbolic stuff (blowing up the MI6 building again).

I liked the way the various supporting characters of the franchise, Moneypenny, Q, M were setup in Sykfall, this is all destroyed in this movie which throws them all into action, except it forgets the Moneypenny was an actual operative in the previous movie, and Q had seen his share of the action.

After the mandatory damsel in distress rescuing, James Bond finally moves on to a normal life. Maybe the franchise should do the same…

Honeycrisp Apple

New Technologies

Honeycrisp Apple

The first technology I remember coming into my life was the photocopy. One day my father brought back a piece of paper, with the copy of a magazine cover, it looked like a fruit and a factory. My father wanted to show off this new technology, and I was mostly intrigued by the idea of making a factory that was also a fruit. Maybe it was a tomato, which is a fruit, but I did not know that at the time, it certainly did not look very appetising. My father was very enthusiastic, which made sense, these machines certainly did change office life.

Photocopy is one these things that were present for most of my life, one of these analog technologies that worked fine but are now slowly being replaced by their digital equivalent: most photocopy machines are probably a scanner + printer combination. Photocopy started the whole discussion about private copy, courses, RPG supplements, notes, everything could now be copied.

It was also a technology that was not well understood, people always tried to copy photos and the results were awful, I remember buying a white pattern sheet which would improve the quality of such copies, this was considered a strange hackery.

honeycrisp appleEvan-Amos – Public Domain.