Quick 'n dirty wxPython plot digitiser

There are a number of digitisers out there, but I wasn't happy with any of them - they either gave me weird results or didn't work on Linux. Also I hadn't played with wxPython in a long while.
Dependencies: wxpython, PIL, numpy, scipy.
What it does:
  - manual or automatic (scatter or line) detection of plot points by colour. 
  - axis calibrated ascii (x,y) data export.


Compose key in KDE

The compose key is a useful feature if you regularly type international/special characters. Key combinations for pretty much everything can be found here:
Enabling the key in KDE is a bit laborious though:
System Settings->Input Devices>Keyboard->Advanced tab->Compose key position.


Scheduled backups to an external hard drive

After a narrowly averted data loss, I decided to schedule daily backups to an external hard drive. The scheduler of choice for this would be anacron, which runs tasks after a specified delay at startup, but only if it it hasn't run before in a specified time period (daily, weekly etc.) This is arguably better than a startup job running at every boot or a cron job running every day at a certain time regardless whether the computer is switched off.
I used unison as the backup synchronisation manager, it has both a GUI interface and an intervention-free console batch mode. Copying exceptions and permissions rules can be easily defined in profile scripts. You can't run this script in pure batch mode, as you have to tell the user to connect the external drive before starting the backup, so I used the Kdialog (zenity on Gnome/Unity) app for pop-up messages.


Resuscitating Nanoengineer on Kubuntu

Nanoengineer has been unsupported for at least five years, and it shows. The 1.1.12 source zip file apparently contains corrupted files, and the code relies heavily on the deprecated python-Numeric.


Movie playback in Latex/Beamer: the current situation with Adobe Reader, Okular and Impress

A few years ago, the only option to include multimedia content in Linux presentations was linking to an external player. While the situation is still far from ideal, we have a few options now:
  • Okular has been able to play back movies via mplayer for quite some time now. Features: pause and seek. Downside: poster images appear all black (fixed in KDE 4.10), control bar spacing.
  • Adobe Reader can embed external flash players and videos. Features: pause. Downside: Flash, works only with old acroread.
  • Open/Libre Office Impress movie playback finally works. Features: presenter console. Downside: plays immediately, pause and seek only outside presentation mode. Also, the LaTeX PDF has to be converted into page images.


A fairly decent poster in Inkscape

Input: nicely polished LaTeX/Beamer slides from the last conference presentation. No concept at all yet. The poster is due in 5 days.
I used to do posters with LaTeX/geometry, but that only works if you have lots of text and a plan. Trying this approach with throwing lots of figures on your empty canvas and shuffling them around is a nightmare.


HTML directory of PDF files

The file names for my PDF presentations contain only my name and the presentation date. Having to sort through a hundred meeting write-ups when looking for a specific bit of data is annoying, so I wrote a python script to put title, author, modification date and a link to the file into a HTML table.


Upgrading to VLC 2.0 on Ubuntu 11.04 with checkinstall

There doesn't seem to be an official Debian package yet (at least I couldn't find a natty ppa), so I installed from source with checkinstall.
Checkinstall (instead of make install) creates a local .deb package, which can be uninstalled via dpkg -s vlc when the official repositories catch up.
The configure script kept popping up with missing packages, so I posted a list here. It's probably not complete (depending on what I had installed already) and might include a few unnecessary dev packages. Anyway, missing packages can usually be resolved by  aptitude search <keyword>.
Checkinstall failed at first being unable to create /usr/local/include/vlc and not finding vlc-cache-gen  (source). Afterwards, vlc crashed at startup missing some libraries, which had ended up in /usr/local/lib instead of /usr/lib, so I had to create a few symbolic links (source).


Eee PC 1015 disassembly

As previously mentioned, I'll not take apart my ASUS U43 unless I absolutely have to. However, one of my friends had an Eee PC with a possibly broken DC jack, so we decided to have a look.