wanderings of an aimless vortex|
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|Monday, October 21st, 2013|
A week ago, I went to the GNOME Montreal summit. Much thanks to the GNOME Foundation for sponsoring me. Here's a brief summary of my trip:
- Friday: Got maybe an hour of sleep; left home at 3am for a 6am flight. I hate flying. Got to Montreal at around 1:30. Took a cab to the hotel. Took a nap. Finished drafting an email to discuss some AT-SPI refactoring to reduce the needd for synchronous D-Bus calls. Had dinner at a Thai place with Alex and Joanie. Went back to sleep.
- Saturday: Tried to get a Wayland test environment set up but wasn't successful--it seems that gnome-shell-wayland is exiting for some reason. Talked with Alex and Joanie some--we now have a page discussing the accessibility-related work that we need for Wayland. I need to figure out what to do about mouse events--AT-SPI has functionality to monitor them as well as synthesize them, but it requires X. Talked with Jasper a bit over beer; he suggested that mutter could possibly provide API for it, or otherwise I'd probably need to talk to the kernel directly.
- Sunday: Started looking at Mutter and Wayland. Also researched reading the mouse via the Linux kernel. Found /dev/input/mice, but reading it doesn't seem like a good solution--for one thing, it reports the amount that the mouse has moved since the counter was last reset, which presumably doesn't tell me anything about where the compositor thinks that the mouse cursor is on the screen. Need to look more at evdev, though. Met Miguel, who works with an organization that wants to distribute computers with Linux to people in the area who are blind, if I remember correctly; he thought that it would be a good fit because they often have limited incomes. He is interested in improving sbl to add drivers for recent Braille displays or improving brltty to add features present in sbl but missing from brltty, so going to keep in contact with him. He was having trouble getting Orca to read while installing OpenSUSE, which should work as far as I know as long as you're using the GNOME LiveCD, so I plan to follow up with him. Talked to Matthias about a totally unrelated gtk bug that we have a patch for in SLED and need a review for; he suggested emailing Marek and CCing him. Had some poutin(sp?) for dinner, then went to the beer summit.
- Monday: Looked at Wayland some more to try to understand the interfaces relating to input devices. Had lunch at a Greek restaurant. Left for the airport shortly after.
In general, I'd say that I have a somewhat better idea of what should be done for AT-SPI to support Wayland, although the details still need to be worked out. Matthias followed up by sending an email to the wayland-devel list to try to get feedback in terms of how best to port a11y functionality to Wayland. Also, see the accessibility team page discussing the summit.
|Thursday, February 28th, 2013|
|a flashback to 1988
Back in 1988, when I was in the 3rd grade, I had an Apple IIE equipped with an Echo II speech synthesizer that I used in the classroom at school. When other students were writing at their desks, I would type on the computer. It was easier than using a Braille writer would have been, both for me (because it was faster) and for my Teacher of the Visually Impaired (because I could print out my work and hand it to the teacher instead of it having to be transcribed from Braille). Anyway, the school was broken into, and several things were stolen, including this computer that I used. It received coverage in the local media (I think that the school Principal had the idea to go to the media, hoping that it would lead to the computer being recovered), and my parents video-taped the media coverage. My father ended up with the video (it is good that he had it, rather than me, or I would have certainly lost it in one of my moves), and now he has digitized it and placed it on Youtube, so it was an interesting flashback for me. I don't remember it all that well, except for various snippets of conversation. ( Read more...Collapse ) Anyway, there was a happy ending, since the computer was eventually returned by the police, after it was placed in a vacant field with their being anonymously tipped off to its location. The software was never found, although the school had another copy of the word processor that I used, so we didn't lose anything essential. I ended up switching to using a PC shortly after this happened--the Apple IIE wasn't new technology even then and was on the road towards becoming obsolete.
The media coverage led to offers to help. Someone had an Apple II+ (and older Apple II model) that she offered to lend, so I think that we tried to use it but could not get the speech synthesizer or perhaps the word processor to work with it.
It made me realize how much my thought processes have changed since I was a child. I was asked what I thought of the thieves who broke into the school, and my response was that "the people are real bad." Now I wouldn't give a response that was anything like what I said then. Mostly I'd wonder why they did it and hope that they would get help i it was drug-related. I don't know what happened to the people involved. One of them was eighteen at the time, and two of them were seventeen and were presumably treated as juveniles. Now they would be in their early 40's. I haven't ever thought about this until now, but I wonder how their lives have gone. I wonder if they're raising families and have put their teenage escapades behind them. I hope that they have gone on to lead productive lives rather than going on and ending up in prison. They did return the computer following the media coverage. They may have been motivated, at least in part, by a desire for leniency, but I would like to think that they felt some remorse after learning of the significance of what they had taken and decided to return it, and their deciding to do this could have been a step towards re-evaluating the trajectories of their lives, for all that I know.
Last night I went to a panel discussion on land use hosted by Imagine Austin. The city is planning to revise/rewrite our zoning/land use regulations now that we've adopted a comprehensive plan. There were panelists from Raleigh, Denver, Madison, and Dallas. Here are the general themes that I remember coming up:
Codes get added onto and become overly complicated and hard to navigate. Revising the code can be a good way to simplify it and make it more accessible.
oning might make sense in the city while another kind of zoning makes sense in the suburbs.</p>
Inclusionary zoning (ie, mandating a certain amount of affordable housing) is illegal in some states, but revisions in the zoning code can eliminate barriers. Denver has eliminated minimum parking regulations for senior and low-income housing, figuring that residents often won't own cars anyhow. Also eliminated a 600 sq ft minimum dwelling size.
Denver has never had minimum parking requirements downtown, and things have always worked fine, according to the planner who was there.
General planning issues can come up in a zoning discussion, and zoning might not be the right place to address them--it may not make sense to write regulations around solar access for buildings if there is no policy anywhere else intended to address it. Some cities have created a "parking lot" for these kinds of things where the decision is made not to address them as part of the land use discussion while it might be worthwhile to consider them in some other context.
Young people often can't/don't want to drive, and seniors often can't drive, so it should be possible to get around a city without having a car.
If you say "no" to something, then you're saying "yes" to something else. If you say no to rentals, then you're saying "we're not sure that we want you here" to young people and seniors. (I think that this applies to a lot of kinds of policy decisions.)
|Saturday, December 8th, 2012|
|so I'm just an Austinite?
It's supposedly 82 degrees out, but I don't feel like it's July. Is this really what a typical summer day used to feel like when I lived in MA?
Of course, it's supposed to go below freezing Monday night. Current Mood: amused
|Tuesday, November 27th, 2012|
|Sometimes games are kind of like real life.
You can make mistakes that have drastic consequences that you can't reverse, and then, in real life, you need to accept that you can't change the past. You can make less-than-ideal decisions that you didn't really need to make because you didn't realize that you had other options and/or didn't understand the way things work.
|Tuesday, November 20th, 2012|
For a while now, I've been struggling to figure out why my filter in libatspi wasn't seeing NameOwnerChanged signals from D-Bus, even though in theory I'd added a match rule for them, and then suddenly it came to me while I was eating lunch. At-spi2-core and at-spi2-atk share a D-Bus connection, at-spi2-atk also listens for nameOwnerChanged signals, and its filter was returning DBUS_MESSAGE_RESULT_HANDLED when it saw them, meaning that no other filter (ie, not the one in at-spi2-core) would be called.
Also, I like how it's in the low 80's and I'm sitting outside in the sun in the middle of November.
|Thursday, July 19th, 2012|
|There's more than one way to skin a cat.
I was trying to do something and having trouble figuring out how to get things to work. Then I realized that I could do it another way, and, at around the same time, I remembered a former boss saying that "there's more than one way to skin a cat." For a second, I wondered if remembering that comment helped me figure out that there was another way to do what I was trying to do, but in actuality I think that probably it was the other way around. Current Mood: amused
|Monday, July 16th, 2012|
|collaborative budgeting via the net?
Along the lines of this post, I think it would be neat to have a site where people could vote on what they want a budget to look like. The current year's budget would be a starting point, perhaps with automatic adjustments across the board to compensate for projected inflation. Users would have various options in terms of where to start; they could start with the original budget, or with one done by a friend / other person, or perhaps with the current average as determined by previous submissions (although this might be problematic in terms of expressing rationale, since these users will be starting from a different point from other users--see below). The budget would be presented as something like a tree view, with nodes that could be expanded or collapsed. A user could raise or lower the budget of a node, which would have the effect of proportionally adjusting the budgets of all sub-nodes. When doing so, the user would be asked to either provide a rationalization or +1 a rationalization provided by someone else. When a change is proposed, the site would present a list of rationalizations given by other users, sorted by their rating. (This could result in poor visibility for things written in by users, so, to help boost the visibility of items that are similar to other items, the author of one item could request that it be merged with another item, and, if the author of the other item approves, the items and their ratings will be combined.) Sometimes a rationalization for a node will be inherited from its parent, meaning that it was subjected to an across-the-board cut or raise from its parent, and sometimes they will be specific to the node. Users could have the option of importing changes made by other users. In this way, a budget could be planned and submitted collaboratively by several people, with each person taking an area in which they have expertise.
It would be interesting to have a process like that and pass along the outcome to congress for consideration as a baseline, although doing this has problems that I can foresee (and probably some that I can't). The integrity of the system would be a major issue, and, as with electronic voting, I don't know how to ensure it. Whoever administers it could tamper with the results and probably not be detected. If there are security holes, then an outsider might be able to do something similar. Also, I am defining "the outcome" as the average of the budgets passed by users, but taking this as final might cause problems. For one thing, some projects might be possible with a given amount of funding; otherwise they would not be possible, so funding them half-way might not make sense. Also, the results might (or might not) be more variable than the variability in the budgets passed by Congress, and institutions will want to have some amount of stability in their budgets to facilitate planning. Also, such a system would be subject to bias in that it would select for the positions of the people who participate, and some people may be prevented from doing so for reasons other than their willingness, although all forms of democracy are subject to one form of bias or another. Some of these limitations could likely be accommodated, although lack of security seems like a fatal flaw that might make the whole system impractical in terms of influencing public policy.
|Monday, June 11th, 2012|
Today would be such a great day for a swim!
Of course, that could be said for almost any day in June, July, August, or September in this city.
But, alas, I'm not swimming--going swimming would take too much time, since I'm maybe a 20-minute walk from the nearest place I know of to swim, and I'm trying to fix bugs.
|Thursday, May 17th, 2012|
McAllen and I went to Sasona yesterday to talk with Hannah about our next steps. She was looking at property and found a church in Hyde Park which looked promising / worth looking at. I wonder why our realter didn't find it / point it out to us. I can't get too hopeful about it yet, since we haven't even looked at it, but it's good to be in the position now where we can start moving forward again and looking at properties, since we know now that NASCO Properties can buy the building, and that seems like our best financing option. At one point, Hannah was saying that we should have a common room that connects to other rooms that people need to pass through, since otherwise it would be a community room that pretty much never got used, and then, as if on cue, someone walked through the community room in which we were meeting. I agree that this would be highly desirable, although it seems like it would be hard to do if we bought an apartment complex that we tried to run as a typical housing co-op. That seems
like an advantage of a commercial building like a church which would presumably have a lot of open space that we could remodel, that we could lay out the building the way we want to some extent, although such a building might have its own zoning and finance-related challenges.
I spent a lot of time this week backing up my hard disk, replacing it, reinstalling, and restoring from the backup. Now I'm trying to run jhbuild since I have ample space.
I feel like I used to write a lot of interesting things, and now I can't think of anything interesting to write. Perhaps it's my time to do things rather than write. Current Mood: okay
|Sunday, March 18th, 2012|
|educational games (Freeciv)?
I really want to look at Freeciv. Perhaps I will next week when I take some vacation time. I really think that there should be a game that has the player make decisions about the usage of various technology/resources and models possible effects. Ie, if a type of transportation requires a nonrenewable resource and decisions are made that cause a society to become dependent on this type of transportation, then the player will see effects of this decision when the resource becomes scarce. The degree to which the society became dependent on the resource would depend in part on decisions that the player makes, such as the extent to which the resource is taxed (this might lead to decreased usage and increased private investment in research into other technologies) and the extent to which public research is funded. The player could choose where and under what conditions to allow drilling for resources (if regulation is minimal, then this would reduce the price of the resource slightly for a little while and thus
cause a small amount of relief but might also contaminate the water supply in some places). The outcome of research would be somewhat random, like Warring Factions, so no two replays of the game would be exactly alike, meaning that the effects of a decision could be very different from one game to another. So I wonder if Freeciv has anything like this. Modeling these kinds of things seems challenging and inherently limiting, though, since it isn't possible for anyone to predict the effects of a decision with certainty, much less write a model that would be completely accurate. So such a game would always be subject to criticism that the model isn't accurate or realistic. But I think it could be educational for people to play a game that involves making such decisions and trade-offs, which can be difficult at times, and seeing what the results might be. I have a vague recollection of someone talking about learning some things about urban planning or becoming interested
in it from playing SimCity.
But I doubt that the game is completely accessible, so I'd need to look for a way to make it accessible before I think about improving it in general, since otherwise I couldn't test my work. To borrow a friend's metaphor, it's like I want to play in the playground but can't right now because the playground isn't accessible, so _that_ would need to be addressed first. Current Mood: contemplative
|Tuesday, February 14th, 2012|
|It all just feels like a paradox...
So I'm here, sitting outside, and being here just feels right, like wearing clothes that fit rather than clothes that don't, except in so far as it doesn't, since my family is far away, it would feel very wrong not to visit them, and it feels wrong to burn fossil fuels and contribute to global warming in order to visit them. I'm not sure it really matters when people can find ways to constructively fit themselves into the ecosystem of a place which they feel fits them, but still I wonder if having one's place "feel right" is a luxury which people needed to live without in the past and to which we should not feel entitled, given that all of our decisions have ramifications to them. Current Mood: confused
|Tuesday, January 31st, 2012|
I'm coming to the conclusion that it is often the case that people will advocate for something or other because it seems to make sense, and indeed it would make sense in a perfect world, or at least in a world where some resource or other is in ample supply, yet it may not make sense in the world we have at the present time.
|Sunday, January 22nd, 2012|
|randomness from my trip
We ate dinner last night at a vegetarian restaurant (which was kinda nice for me and Joanie). It had a menu translated into ENglish (which is kind of unusual here). I ordered something that was described on the English menu as "dumplings with tofu, vegetables, and seaweed" or something similar. It was called an empenada on the SPanish menu. And then it came, and it wasn't dumplings; it was an empenada.
Yesterday Frederik and Benjamin were conversing in German. I couldn't understand their conversation except for the odd technical term or other word that they spoke in English (ie, "C++", "accessibility," "operator overloading," etc).
Apparently it's not normal in EUrope for a store to quote a price for something without including taxes, as is typical in the US. Someone was talking about leaving the US and wanting to buy a magazine that was listed at $8, and he had $8 left over, and he was surprised, since he didn't have enough cash to pay what he was being charged. Current Mood: tired
|Friday, January 20th, 2012|
|Thursday, January 5th, 2012|
It's January, and it's 69 degrees out. I've got all of the windows open, letting the fresh air in.
I love Austin.
I love my life. Current Mood: happy
|Wednesday, November 30th, 2011|
|about customizing applications for accessibility
So, a few years ago, Nautilus was modified so that pressing right arrow at the end of a row of files would move the cursor to the next row. The person who added this feature recalled it being decided that this would be confusing for visually impaired users, so the change was made, but Nautilus would check whether accessibility was turned on and not enable the behavior in that case. So that worked, sort of, until the current release, when their check stopped working and always indicated that accessibility was enabled, so the behavior was always disabled. So someone wrote to the GNOME accessibility list to ask how to check.
But I'm left wondering who decided that this behavior would be "confusing for visually impaired users" and how (ie, were there visually impaired users who were consulted and preferred that the change not be made, or did someone simply guess that other users might find it confusing?) The only rationale I can come up with for it being confusing is that a screen reader user may not know that the cursor is now on a new row, but this only matters to the extent that it matters whether the cursor is on a new row. As far as I can tell, Nautilus places files on the screen in alphabetical order, starting at the top left, filling the top row with a few files, then descending a row, and so on, so I don't see the layout as being important. Even if I did care about the layout, for some reason, it would be possible for a screen reader to tell me that I'm on a new row if the application properly exposed the needed information.
So I personally see no reason for the enhanced keyboard navigation not to always be enabled, although I could be overlooking some reason why people might prefer it not to be. In any case, I think that there are a few lessons which can be learned from this:
- It is a good idea to consult users before deciding whether a feature will or won't meet their needs. I am not necessarily saying that this was not done here (the original conversation happened a long time ago, and I don't know if anyone would even remember it.)
- Trying to test whether accessibility is enabled is probably not a good way to decide whether to enable a particular UI feature. There can be many reasons for accessibility to be enabled. It may be on because Orca has been installed, or because some other AT is running (some work has been done to start integrating Simon with AT-SPI, for instance), or because a developer is trying to test the accessibility of a program that s/he is developing, or because GNOME (or a particular Linux distribution) enables accessibility by default in the future, or because an automated testing framework that uses the accessibility infrastructure is being used. In the latter case, one could not write an automated test for the feature that is to be enabled only if accessibility is disabled. However, there is currently no way to, for instance, test whether a screen reader is running, so a developer who wants to enable a feature only if a screen reader is not running would be forced to do something like trying to check whether
accessibility is enabled. Even that kind of check may not be a very good solution, however, since screen reader users will often not be unanimous in preferring that a program do one thing or another, so having a way for the user to customize the behavior seems best.
- Still, we probably want to provide a way for applications to check whether an AT is running and what kind of AT. If we'd had that, then Nautilus would have used it, and we would at least not have had this regression caused by a kludgy is-accessibility-enabled test no longer working correctly. There may be good reasons for an application to, for instance, check whether a screen reader is running. Ultimately, this could be a good way to handle customizations of behaviors which screen reader users in particular may want; a tip could be brought up the first time a program is run, to let the user know about the ability to alter the behavior. It seems like a good topic for the next ATK hackfest. Edit: We already have a bug for this (just brainstorming so far).
|Wednesday, October 12th, 2011|
|So... I am here.
I was just thinking that my whole life has been building towards where I am now. Being in school/college was a kind of building for something in the future. For a long time I would have been in Austin but for some barrier or other (circumstances for the most part, but I also needed to understand that I have options other than neither receiving nor giving, which is not really living). And for quite a while I've wanted to live at or start some sort of coop / intentional community, as a way of helping myself and others to collectively reskill/prepare for the future, and I have not ever had that, either, excepting my time at HoC to some extent, although I don't entirely count it since it always felt temporary to me. So now I'm here, I don't plan to leave (although plans can change), and I've met a couple of people who also want to start a co-op and have a vision for it that aligns with mine. So now I feel like I'm here, after a long time of preparing and searching, and it's time to face the challenge. The
challenge for me will be to stay engaged and to resist the temptation to walk away if/when things get difficult, as is generally what I'm tempted to do. I also need to remember that, although this is important and something that I need to continue to focus on, it is also not the only thing in my life, and I need to remain open. Current Mood: determined
|Tuesday, October 4th, 2011|
|draft proposal for a web site to facilitate the democratic process
This is a living document. Last updated 2011-10-04. Comments, critiques, offers to help, etc. welcome, as are pointers to sites that are already doing what I am proposing (and I don't think there are any, although there are sites that implement pieces of it).
Note: TBD == to be decided
Democracy can be defined separately from the structure of the government. It has generally been impractical for a large organization to employ a direct democracy in which all decisions are voted on by all of the people. It is tempting to think that the internet may theoretically allow this to change, but in reality I suspect there are too many decisions to make to allow people to effectively bote on all of them and live the rest of their lives. Anyway, democracy is defined as "rule by the people," so a society can be said to be democratic if the will of the people is reflected in the laws and structure of the society. However, talking about the will of the people only makes sense in so far as the people are informed about the issues at hand. For instance, I have read (source?) that most people think that we spend too much money on foreign aid and that people think that about 20% of our budget goes to foreign aid and it should be about 10%, yet less than 1% of our budget goes to foreign aid in
reality. Thus, people cannot simultaneously want to cut foreign aid and want about 10% of our budget to go to foreign aid. I similarly wonder if asking "do you feel that our defense budget should be increased, decreased, or kept at its current level" would yield the same results as asking "would you support reducing our defense budget to twice the combined budget of China and Russia if it means reducing the national deficit?" Thus, polls cannot be relied on as an indicator of the will of the people, for instance, since peoples' wishes may be affected by the degree to which they are informed about the issues.
( Read more...Collapse )
|Wednesday, August 31st, 2011|
|cooperation and stuff
On Saturday I went to the Austin Cooperative Think Tank retreat. ACTT is a group that has been meeting for the past year or so (although I only learned of it a few weeks ago, from Will, who I met through applying at White Hall) to look for ways to strengthen the cooperative economy / for coops to support each other. It went fairly well. We discussed some potential projects for the organization to undertake within the next year, 2012 being designated by the UN as the international year of cooperatives. One of these projects (that now I've drafted myself into working on) would seek mentors and match them with mentees who are starting cooperatives of various types. Then some of us went to Black Star, and it was my first time going there. It felt a little strange to me to be at a table with Brian, drinking a beer, when normally I'd used to see him if I walked into the ICC office, when I lived at HoC.
I ran into McAllen at the retreat and met someone named Bryce who is also interested in being part of the new coop. I feel like our goals overlap/complement each other (in terms of being self-sufficient, being involved with / of service to the community, etc.), so I'm becoming excited about getting this going. The only downside for me is that I'm not really familiar with the east side, although we may or may not end up there in the short term, but, from the perspective of expanding the availability of cooperative housing in general, I think that starting a house there makes sense, and I'm generally excited about starting the house, since it feels right, so I'll seriously consider whether it can work for me. In the long term I can only decide what to do once I know exactly where this property will be that we'll ultimately buy, and of course we don't know that yet. We should be somewhere fairly central in the short term, anyway, and some people may end up staying in the existing house in the long term
while others move into the house that we buy, so I'm just going to go with the flow and see how things come together. And I really like that we're (hopefully) creating something that can survive beyond any individual member.
Other than that, my life doesn't seem very interesting. I have one more month, then a bunch of trips (GNOME summit and general Boston visit in October, ATIA in November, which would be much more worth going to if I'd planned ahead and proposed a talk, and then another trip to Massachusetts for Christmas). Next year I'll hopefully have fewer obligatory trips than I had this year. Current Mood: good