Off Its Rails

04/26/2012 § Leave a comment

If you read my earlier post on topics like these then you’ll know where I’m coming from. This is an AP peice from yesterday on a TSA checkpoint in Wichita wherein a little girl had passed through a checkpoint and was waiting for her grandmother. After going through she ran up to her grandmother who was still waiting to be processed and hugged her. We’re talking about a 4 year old child. The TSA, of course, flipped out.

To quote a recent film; “There’s something very wrong with this country, isn’t there?”

Found this story on slashdot. Known for its “eclectic” geek user base, by and large, these aren’t stupid people. Read some of the comments.

And by the way, this is who is in charge of keeping us safe for democracy.

Then this



Industrial Automtion News

04/25/2012 § 2 Comments

Its been a minute since my last post but I wanted to get something technical in, and as “something” of an insider in IA space I thought I’d bleet about this. The above picture is a PLC control system, a DIN rail mounted “rack” containing an Allen-Bradley (Rockwell Automation) logic controller and some ancillary stuff for communicating with various “things”, usually machines that make products. A production line does things, and the PLC controls that process. They’re vital to industrial processes all over the globe and control everything from baby bottle manufacture to petrolium processing and and the production of nuclear weapons.

There are many manufacturers but the big players are Rockwell Automation, Siemens, & Schnieder Electric, with runners up in Sony, Sanyo, and a host of other shops making specialized controllers, cheaper ones, etc.

The thing about the IA industry, like many, we all know, is it condsiders itself a club. A big, geeky, old boy club. And the price of admission to that club is a distributorship. If you’re an Encompass Partner with Rockwell, for example, you’re riding first class, more or less, on the SS Rockwell, a huge, lumbering, coal-fired, PLC powered steamer for warm waters. Coal-fired? Well, allegory for the way business is done, get it? Its a slow, but huge and powerful ship

Its not always possible to turn that ship on a dime. Why? So when ethernet hit the masses in the 80’s Rockwell et al had already invested their life’s blood in the existing communication infrastructure, which was serial based. That’s right. All digital controllers and their little worker gnome comm devices that were connected to things like vats making rocket fuel and heart medicine were all talking to each other using very simple serial protocols, and they liked it. They liked it just fine. 9600 baud is enough for anyone. It was enough becuase PLCs up to that point used data in very disrete amounts, bits (coils) and words (16 bit). And in real time, if you have a plant going off its hinges and you need to hit that stop button it has to happen lickity split! Right then.

Serial is capable of deterministic states; when a state in a machine changes that state is reported immediately to another machine right away, even at 9600 baud. Of course there are limitations, an RS-232 link can only be so long… plus you have cables all over the goddurn shop floor, or in overhead rails, or wherever you can stuff them. Ethernet had the “problem” of being non-determnistic, the idea behind ethernet is you send off a packet and pay no mind after that; it’ll get there when it gets there and by any means, depending on network load and the disposition of the routers along the way it could get to its destination by 1 of 100 routes, depending on net work topology. That’s no good for a real time system.

But advances where made; real time ethernet systems have been developed, and that argument doesn’t really wash anymore. Plus ethernet has a host of other benefits; built-in redundancy, easily added to and expanded, can travel a much further distance than a serial packet, and it can connect to the internet.

Woah, hold on, connect to the internet, you say? Yep. you can take your process’ data and spit it on to a database, another part of your process in China, all that stuff. Pretty valuable. This transition is still happening, slowly. It was going on when I was still involved in the industry less than a year ago. Its kind of a dark secret that the industry is still using machines and protocols developed when lionel trains were hitting their stride, back in, say, the 50’s? But its understandable; these systems are difficult to manage, and once in place, as long as they’re working, plant managers have no incentive to change them. Upgrades are a hard fight, I would hate to be a IA sales executive. Slow to adopt technology, slow to change. The above picture is an example; this is an Allen Bradley 1756 PLC rack with assorted modules to the right. One of the modules is an ethernet adapter with a gold BNU connector sticking out of the bottom. I got this off of Allen-Bradley’s own website, and its their current, top of the line family. Does ANYONE still use 10-Base-T?

But the internet has changed all that, and its obvious that the industry has to change. One of the effects of being able to deliver real time data to the outside world (a good thing) is that the outside world can get in (a bad thing). If you’re generating electrical power, say, well, what could happen if criminal elements hacked into your infrastructure? PLC’s have minimal security support. They have minimal everything, they’re designed to do what they do and that’s it. But that picture slowly changing. The big players are putting more security in to their products. But then come back to the lowly plant manager. Its often the case that ONE GUY will be the plc guy for that plant. Hopefully that engineer gave the manager the keys to the palace, ’cause if he dies, the plant is screwed. Hopefully there’s a whole army of staffers of one kind of another who store that kind of data carefully and redundantly. Of course, redundantly means its been copied. More people with THE passwords. More vectors of compromise. But still, that’s how we need to go there. I don’t know how many times I’ve been on site to do a commissioning (install the PLC program) and the client wasn’t ready with the keys to the cabinet, or the ip address of the router we needed to assign the PLC, or Jimbo wasn’t there to give us access to the cream hopper the PLC needed to control to make delicious ice cream.

So configurations are left alone as much as possible. Before Jimbo retired he showed Bucky how to turn on the line ‘puter to start production, and that’s all Bucky knows. Don’t start asking him about IP addresses and passcodes and routers. Bucky just knows to pull out the Stop Button. Lack of security is a creeping feature, see?

Point of all this is, why is RuggedCom putting a back door in its controllers? Could be a “feature” to keep the previous scenario from happening. Could be. Could be they’re a Chinese-connected outfit ready to whole-sale harvest a bunch of technology (again) from the US. We did invent this stuff. Process automation is big business and the US is a leader. But not for long if people keep pulling this crap.

UPDATE: RuggedCom has decided to fix their back door issue. Read about the backstory to all this here.

The American Dream

04/23/2012 § Leave a comment


This link to a piece by George Carlin sums up the state of the union for the last 20 years.  Its a dark and stormy outlook for this country, but its increasingly apparent, even to idiots like me. I didn’t want to see it, but its increasingly harder to ignore. I’m content to do the 9 to 5 thing, not upset the apple cart, tow the line, work for the man. But should I?

It was the duty of every American, as one time, to throw the bums out of office, to vote, and replace with revolutionary fervor the ruling party with some one new, some one I felt confident was looking out for my best interests, and the interests of my fellow citizens. Read what Thomas Jefferson had to say about this some time, its very enlightening. But currently, voting doesn’t seem to be quite the effective tool it once was. We keep electing the same guys, really.

Obama came in with a mandate for change, yet the policies GW and Clinton put in place with regard to bills eroding civil liberties have been extended and even toughened. The Department of Homeland Security, and that name is a joke, everyone knows its the American version of the Gestapo, or the GRU, has been given dramatic new powers to ignore your constitution in the name of “security”. I never heard a truer statement until a friend recently remarked that every sovereign’s reaction to threats, real or perceived, throughout history, has been to prey upon its own people, no exception. I can’t really refute that comment.

I’ve always been a big believer in our system of capital and its ability to raise people up. More millionaires are created in America than anywhere else in the world, period. That’s great. But its becoming more and more apparent to me that the game is rigged.

America puts more people in jail than any other civilized country, in the WORLD! Largely due to drug offenders. mere possession puts thousands of people in jail. Once in jail, assuming the offense is a felony, that felon has as record. Once some one has a record, they are virtually unemployable. Once unemployable, well, there’s food stamps. That’s one less person able to contribute to our incredibly complex tax system. And there’s incentive for jurisdictions to jail people, county sheriffs collect state tax money for every person behind bars. There’s a whole system in place to house and feed these people. Inmates, assuming they have money or has someone who can put money in their county “books” can buy junk food, for which that jurisdiction collects even more cash. Once out, or even while they are in jail, there is an entire system of social programs, with people waiting to “help” them, and everyone one of those people count on these inmates and ex-offenders for their jobs. Its a huge cash machine, and once the machine is in motion whoa to those who stand in its way. This system, for all the good everyone on the outside believes it is doing to keep them safe, really just feeds on people. Violent offenders, those who are obviously not fit to live in the confines of decent and “normal”, modern, non-violent life, the Charlie Mansons of the world, well, the problem here is obvious, and difficult to solve. But the bulk of people in jail are hardly of that cloth. We’ve all apparently accepted that anyone that’s every been to jail is useless to us and only worthy of being on the dole. Can we afford to stay with this philosophy?

Another way the game is rigged is a strange law that I became aware of as a contractor. Tax law is incredibly complex, if you don’t employ the help of an accountant who knows about it your at a great disadvantage. To qualify for certain deductions you, as an independent business and a corporation, must have multiple income streams and the corporation must be comprised of two or more living people. I’m certainly simplifying the thing, but many of you know what I’m talking about. At first blush its obvious that this was imposed as some kind of way to control tax fraud, and people willing to commit it are plenty. I know, a friend of mine is an IRS agent. She tells me about her cases all the time. But its another hurdle to us who would like to be self employed, and again, I can’t stress how very complex the system is. What exactly are the problems with a tithe; everyone contributes a percentage of their income? There’s tons of opposition to that, of course, the loudest voices would be from the accountants, I’m sure.

The last troubling bit of evidence for the rigging I want to mention is the obvious creepage of systems to help those in power maintain control. Video cameras are everywhere. I know the arguments, it cuts down on violent crime. I don’t have an argument against that. But is that the world we really want to live in? I read posts by people all over the world, we all do, at least those of us who work or do things online, and I have opportunity to speak to IT professionals from Britain quite a bit. Britain’s CCTV system has been in the news a lot, it appears to be a concerted effort of the British Government to install closed-circuit cameras everywhere and the effect has been a supposedly dramatic reduction in crime. But there are detractors. Spoilsports, or legitimate concern? The British that I speak with online about this are a mixed bag, of course. A surprising number of them don’t seem to have a problem with it. But some do. Many did regard the earlier link to the story about a CCTV being installed in every home as simply too intrusive. It is. In my opinion however its a natural progression. Once CCTVs are an accepted part of the landscape the natural next step is to install them in every home. Once that’s accomplished, well, I don’t know what the next step is but its probably not too far to observing the kinds of foods people eat and charging them accordingly as the strain on the British state health care system will simply not tolerate another heart attack. Please put that cake down, Mrs. Parsons, and report to the nearest health clinic for some state mandated health and nutrition re-education.

Sounds preposterous, right?

Here’s a link to a story that just showed up on Susan Sarandon.

Had to update this entry with this story.

Good peice by Tavis Smiley on the part of the American Dream that I didn’t cover.

What Does Douglas Deitrich Really Know?

04/12/2012 § 2 Comments

Is this the flag Doug Deitrich spoke of in his C2CAM interview?

I listen to Coast2Coast AM on a local am station here from time to time, usually when I’m up late at night hacking, and only if host George Noory or any of the really great alternate hosts interview some one really interesting. Some one speaking on Tech, Science, or Geopolitical topics, which they do have on in between the usual magic crystals people or pyramid power geeks. As that usual fare has been the mill grist for the last month I decided to look into some of the past shows on youtube. And I found a show from last year with a WWII revisionist guest who was on with John B. Wells as host, a DEEP voiced radio vet. The guest was Douglas Deitrich, an author specializing in WWII revisionist history and exposing the “real” facts behind the Roswell incident. He has a new book out regarding some amazing new stuff about Japanese advanced weapons research during the war.

He then went on to unwind an amazing story about his time as a defense department clerk working at the Presidio in San Francisco, California. Apparently he was a pupil of Gary Hambright, a semi-homeless drifter who had been trained as a baptist minister and was a part-time school teacher, as well as a councilor at the Presidio’s Army Child Day Care facility in the early 80’s, and had apparently met with Michael Aquino, described as the Army’s (self-appointed?) Satanic Chaplin. He then went on to spin the tale of the uncovering of a ritual child-abuse scandal at the Presidio CDC with Hambright in the middle of it and the Army’s attempts to squash the story, information mishandling, and the lack of professionalism and plain sloppy behavior of the DOD’s civilian personnel. This is all verifiable enough, although I question his pinning the number of children victimized by this creep at over 250, I can only find reliable numbers in the tens. One alone would be bad enough of course, but it speaks to Deitrich’s credibility. Some of the other parts of this claim were that there was a wide-spread practice of Satanism among the intelligence elite of the Army AND the CIA, and that the ritual abuse was practiced among these personnel in their own homes on base and around San Francisco.

That alone was a horrific enough story and he could have spent his entire 3 hour slot just talking about that, but that was only the first 20 minutes. THE REST of the story is what intrigued me and compelled me to comment.

The remainder of Deitrich’s time was spent on where the WWII belligerents were in terms of technology and his version of actual events during the war, which are quite a bit out of what the accepted narrative is. He also sounded a bit like a Japanese Empire apologist, excusing or outright dismissing some of the atrocities committed by the Japanese occupation forces. Some of his more outlandish claims are that the famous signing of the Instrument of Surrender on board the USS Missouri was just for show, and that the true end of the war wasn’t concluded until a “real” surrender ceremony in 1951. That the Japanese had completed development of a fission bomb in 1944 and had tested it some where in North Korea. That the Nazis also had the bomb before their surrender in May 1945, but Hitler refused to let it be used. Japanese super weapons such as a submarine-based heavy bomber fleet were deployed and awaiting orders to attack the US West Coast, balloon fire bombs were effective in starting thousands of fires in the continental US, and that the Japanese were not actually beaten and were about to beat the tar out of the allied forces prior to the imminent invasion of the Japanese homeland, but surrendered anyway as part of some obscure and (at least for my part) difficult to understand Geo-political master plan. Deitrich also described himself as an American with Japanese ancestory who was born in Taiwan.

Juicy stuff certainly, if true. But let’s examine some these claims, shall we?

I’m going to paraphrase the interview as I don’t have a transcript, but I have listened to it a number of times and it is available on youtube if you care to listen to it as well. Also, let me state categorically that I don’t know Douglas Deitrich, I have nothing against the man, and I have no agenda other than the truth. I am an armchair historian as well and know something of this history, but by no means am a scholar. But let common sense and facts prevail.

At one point, near the end of his interview, I think, Deitrich describes how the signing of the Instrument of Surrender ceremony was for show as some part of a bizarre back room deal between the Japanese Empire and the Allies, and that the real conclusion of the war wouldn’t happen for another 6 years. He also makes a big point of the fact that the Japanese dignitaries didn’t carry samurai swords. If he described what the exact nature of the “deal” was it blew right by me. I couldn’t even begin to describe his reasoning. But what I can say is that as part of his proof he offers a photograph that shows an odd American flag that was on display at the event. He says this flag was odd for the number of stars in the blue field and some other peculiarities. He gives no reasoning other than this and doesn’t explore what the flag may have been.

There were many, many photographs taken by many people at that ceremony, so its difficult to say which photograph he is speaking of without buying his book, which I will not do. But a quick google search turned up the above close match. The flag is odd for having only 36 stars (Deitrich says 31), by 1945 there were 48 states in the Union. Also, its rather rough looking, obviously pretty close to having been hand done. So is this the flag that Deitrich is referring to? I hope not, even though a pretty exhaustive search turned up only this example of anything Deitrich was talking about. Its simply a replica the flag Commodore Perry flew from his ship when he opened up Japan. Perry’s mission to Japan was in 1851, naturally it has fewer than 48 stars. Also- the dignitaries were exactly that, dignitaries. Civilian. Aside from the fact that with a few exceptions they weren’t military, the carrying of swords was a re-emerging embodiment of Bushido thing the military was trying to use to foster a pride and honor ethic among the rank and file soldiers. It wouldn’t have been appropriate to either the surrendering dignitaries or the officiating victors to allow swords at the ceremony.

Next, lets look at the technology, in particular, the atom bomb. Using this archive from actual memoranda circulated among defense, white house officials, and scientists we can see the course of the war leading up to the surrender. The Empire was getting desperate, and looking at exit strategies. One memorandum describes a Japanese Embassy cable to the Russians talking about possibilities for Russian intervention in Asia. American Intelligence had been able to decrypt these cables since 1940. In the last months of the war nowhere is there a discussion of any super weapons, the over 40 Japanese reserve divisions waiting in China Deitrich described in the interview, nor the killer bomber-submarine fleet deployed in the Pacific just waiting for word to pounce on the West Coast, nothing. Just a desperate Empire looking for a way out of the string of defeats they had suffered since Midway in 1942, widely held as the turning of the tide for the Empire. However, far from being the impotent monkeys as depicted in US propaganda (one wartime clip I saw on youtube was a really stupid cartoon explaining that since Japanese babies are carried on their mother’s backs they weren’t good pilots because they had a hard time dealing with all 3 spatial axis or some nonsense), Japanese researchers made great strides in research on the fission bomb (the type of bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.) One of their leading researchers, an associate of no less than Neils Bohr himself was Yoshio Nishima. He was an amazing scientist and made several discoveries furthering the field. If anyone was going to produce a bomb for Japan it would have been he, and he did go far in his research, but his lab was destroyed in an air attack late in the war and I was not able to find anything deffinitive as far as a ready bomb by 1945. As far as an atomic test in North Korea, it looks to me to be the usual FUD, nothing definitive. I think if the Japanese had a bomb they could have used by early 1945 they would have used it. Is this an unreasonable assumption? There are anecdotal stories of an atomic test near Hungnam, which is now in North Korea, but the details are scant and 2nd hand. It does seem however that the Japanese got further with their research than did the Germans.

Another strange assertion Deitrich makes is that the Nazis had the bomb by early 1945 as well, or perhaps even late 1944, but after the Normandy invasion and and the collapse of the “Atlantic Fortress”, German Staff implored Hitler to OK the use of what atomic weapons they had produced. Deitrich then claims that Hitler said “No”, the reasoning being one of conscience, at least for German people. Does that sound remotely credible? This is the same man who ordered the commander of the occupation force of France to destroy Paris as they left, which to his credit that commander refused. And not to mention the scorched earth policy Hitler ordered for his own country as the Allied advance plowed on through 1944. He dismissed concerns brought up by his general staf that Germans would suffer under such a policy. Hitler also placed his remaining faith for victory in the German advanced weapons programs, the same programs that produced the V1, V2, and Messerschmidt 262 jet fighter, the so-called “vengence” weapons. A man who ordered his field commanders always on the attack, a man who cared so little for defensive tactics it made him the Allies best friend during the war *. It doesn’t seem likely to me that Hitler’s conscience would have stopped him at the bomb. Also, their atomic program was heavily invested in using deuterium as as a reactor fuel and they didn’t have even half the necessary amount needed for a successful reaction by the time the war in Europe ended. Plus the program received little attention as the war ground on to the end game, the other, maturer programs were more actively developed, and the Nazi’s were putting their faith in those. If they had tested a working bomb there’s no record of it at all.

The sub-based bombers. I saw a special on the history channel about this very program. Far from being an imminent threat, these subs were actively being developed, and they were to be the largest submarine type vessels ever, but only three prototypes were developed (according to the history channel), and were not a smashing success. If they were a game changer in any way, wouldn’t the Japanese have produced more of them? What happened to the invasion fleets poised to attack the US? Deitrich at one point made a claim of Japanese sub-bombers were ready to bomb the east coast of the US with nukes. NO ONE has even hinted, in all the post-war commentary that has been written, that this was even a thought in Hirohito’s mind, ever.

Lastly, but by no means exhaustive of the details Deitrich spilled on the interview were the effectiveness of Japanese experiments in sending balloon-based gas bombs to fire the US continent. I did recall reading a news archive from during the war that described a balloon bomb killing 6 people in Oregon. According to the wikipedia article there were about 300 or so of these balloons sent by the Japanese to the US causing negligible damage as well as these lives of those 6 people. Its not exactly hard to find, and I remember reading something about this event in school text books. If these bombs were as effective as Deitrich claims there’s not much record of it.

Not to Well’s credit, whom I otherwise respect, he questioned none of Deitrich’s assertions, just a sort of audible head-nodding. I was screaming at the radio retorting with facts that I knew myself as an amateur author/historian/gardener/Parcheesi champion. I mean, the chain of events regarding this time in history are pretty well set out, questioning them as Deitrich has painted is the job of any critical thinker or competant interviewer I would think. Its great that we live in a world where people can write what they want. Its also to our detriment that we live in a world where people can write what they want.

* In a british program that described the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich by British trained Czech commandos a comment was made that the British High Command thought about sending a similar mission for Hitler but as the war wound on they thought better of it seeing that he was his own worst enemy, tactically.

Let’s Hack XFC

04/10/2012 § Leave a comment

I was delighted to find an OSS solution to address Xfce delopment with C++ in XFC, it uses GTKMM as its model and development with it is very similar. I was also delighted when Bo Lorentsen. XFC’s current chief maintainer, agreed to take me on to assist. I’ve been wanting to participate in an OSS effort and had a hard time finding one until now. I wanted two things out of an OSS project; one that really needed help, and one that I really believed in. There’s no shortage of the first condition, but the second, that was a little tough. Web 2.0 is still raging hard, web technologies are popping up faster than the problems they are desgined to remedy, and systems and native programming solutions are taking a back seat to these technologies. Where UI/UX once referred generically to any GUI technology now almost exlusively describes web presentation. Its only natural and certainly makes sense in a web 2.0 world. But there’s still a need for native code, at least until the perfect web os comes along (everyone hold your breath…)

Jeff Franks, the original XFC code master, has been MIA since 2005, and Bo has been stepping up to the plate since then. He’s had help here and there, but I think he’s been going it alone for the most part since then. This is a perfect fit for me, I’m really excited to help out, and I hope he feels the same. I’ve set up a repository on github and made some updates to the web site, eventually I hope to get access to update the site directly, releiving Bo from that responsiblity.

The same google scanning that informed me of Jeff Frank’s current status also revealed some very positive reviews of the initial releases of the kit. Some commentors even went so far as to say it was superior to Gtkmm in a lot of ways.

Due in no small part to Linus Torvalds’ recent comment that Gnome 3 had become an ‘unholy mess’, it seems to me that more Linux users are going to seek out desktop alternatives, and with Xfce especially, we should see much more support. Xfce is a natural alternative for users who want a sleeker, more responsive alternative to Gnome. With that we need toolkits to enable devlopers to write native API it. XFC is one answer that problem. I hope you can support it.

Goodbye Gnome!

04/07/2012 § Leave a comment

Well, its not really good bye, but I will be saying good bye to GTKMM, and to Gnome as my main desktop. I’m switching to Xcfe as my desktop and as my Linux GUI development platform. Its not much of a switch, Xcfe depends on GTK+ and DBus and whatnot, hardly a complete 180.

My little experiment of attempting to pull out the current GTKMM 3.0 infrastructure and replace it with the stable 3.3 stuff didn’t work. It wasn’t a complete disaster, but as I wrote to fellow GTKMM mail list member ‘Phil’, replacing gdm-pixmap (a dependency of Gtk+) current with stable resulted in a broken DBus area, specifically whatever deals with updating the status of the trash. After I recompiled ALL the stuff leading up this pixmap library, and after I compiled and installed IT, I re-booted and logged back into my desktop, the familiar trash icon was replaced with a ‘red x’, meaning it was broken. Not only was the status icon busted, I couldn’t access the trash directory from the desktop.

I thought about carrying on, but not having access to the trash directory was a problem, it meant I had to shell out every time I wanted to recover something, and I wasn’t even exactly sure where it was in the file system. Forget that. Experiment over. It was a failure.

Out of the ashes of failure raises a new bird; not all is lost. Seems that Xfce has its own version of Gtkmm, XFC. Looks like a winner. The only thing I need to do is install it, and perhaps write a project wizard for Anjuta. That will be easy, and I’ll look forward to it. That will give me an easy and useful project I can contribute to the community lickity split. I still need to re-install Mint/Xcfe on that machine. Might as well get to it.

Hacking The Gnome Desktop

04/05/2012 § Leave a comment

When I did a search in google images for ‘Gnome Desktop Development’ this came up, and I liked it.

I hack for fun, personal growth, and profit. Right now I do a lot of it for personal growth, and I believe that’s important. There’s always something to learn. I also think there’s lots of room for more native Gnome apps and I really want to contribute to the stable.

My personal development cycle goes like this; I get idea or I identify a personal need and start some prototyping. I first change my ‘Currently Hacking:’ banner on my web page with a simple bourne shell script I threw together, which serves to remind me what my goal is (I need that from time to time) and then I shell out to my development area in my home directory and run another script I wrote that creates a subdir with the name of the project, creates a subdir under that named ‘src’, touches in that, and the files that autoconf will want (“README” and so forth) in the top level dir. I then run Anjuta and import that new project. I then fire up a movie, usually a Samurai film (I’m currently watching NHK’s 47 part taiga drama Aoi Tokugawa Sandai) in a window.

This works well and I like it. I also like being able to work on something without issues, if there are any issues I really like to believe that the issues are mine and not because of any code down the chain that are out of my control. If the problem is ability I can fix that.

To teach myself Gnome programming I started working on a Gnome-native version of a windows application I like very much, Breakpoint Software’s Hex Workshop. Its a great app and I use it a lot. Even though it runs perfectly well under Wine I thought a native version for Linux was a good idea, and something I could get a lot of use out of, I would use it much more under Linux that Windows. I know there are a number of hex editors for Linux, GHex is the prime Gnome app in this space, but like I said I wanted to learn Gnome application development. Plus most of the other offerings are console apps.

I actually started ‘Hex Tool’ (for lack of another name, and I’m not licensing anything from BP) back in 2008 and got as far as laying down the main frame, menus, and views, including the main window and the two sub windows below that, and I had the toggle action working and everything. All three views can be toggled on or off, and the drag bars wrote their positions to a GConf client I had added, and I had even included a class that pulled the writable mounted file systems to a dialog, so the user could select a file system to edit, not just a file. It was to be a full-featured copy of Hes Workshop. I was really proud of that code.

I kept it in the repository that was associated with google code search, thinking it would be safe there for all eternity. Well, if you’re up on the news, you know that isn’t true. After the media spilled the beans on google’s shuttering of many of its free services I, after a year of not looking at the code frantically searched for it. Did I call it ‘hex tool’, ‘htool’, I couldn’t remember. Neither turned up a result. All that work is gone. Hours of work. Literally.

I thought ‘unfortunate, but ok’, I really needed to rewrite the thing using Glade anyway. I had placed and positioned all the menus and widgets in the GUI using the APIs and although I didn’t find it that incredibly tedious while I was prototyping, now that I have a better handle on what I needed to do I think I want to use it for this. Ok, so lets get to writing a gnome app.

Unfortunately, as I’ve commented before, GTKMM development seems to be on a minor hold. I say minor, but it really is a show stopper for application development. Application.h has been yanked from the current stable build, which includes, really the entire Application Class has been pulled from the kit, nothing else (that I can see). And here’s the weird part; not only is it missing from GTKMM 3.0, it seems to be missing from previous releases as well. I d/l’d a 2.4 tarball of GTKMM (which is actually 2.6 internally? I can’t keep their verisioning system strait) last night and its simply not there. That means many of the examples won’t build.

I’ve commented on it before, I know, and their are obviously ways around it (read on for how I know that). But since I’m learning, its difficult to know exactly what the solution is. I did an experiment last night to see where I could go and what I could do with what I have. GTK+ applications are fine, this is a GTKMM issue. Unfortunately (again), I’m not really interested in C development (GTK+ is the Gnome Tool Kit, C only.) I could, after a considerable investment in time, write a wrapper or some way around the issue, perhaps writing my own application class, I could write my own C++ framework around GTK+, but seriously? That would effectively be writing a competitor to GTKMM, and I really have no hope of doing that. I lack the talent, time, and energy to make a serious attempt. I would miss the nuances of writing such a thing for GTK+, it would really be a huge waste of time. And I want to write an application, not a tool kit.

I noticed Bakery is still in the repositories, so I did a little experiment to see if it still functioned. Bakery is a MVC implementation using GTKMM by the same team that wrote GTKMM, but they stopped development on it in 2009. The best excuse I could get from here and there is that it was redundant. I’m paraphrasing, I’m not exactly sure if that’s the reason, but it is a reasonable excuse IF one can find the better kit. I can’t. So I dunno. Its still in the repos, so there’s probably stuff out there that use it. So I installed it. All the examples run. I did a quick dependency check, no dependencies on application.h. Hmm… should I? Dare I use bakery? It would solve a few issues, I wouldn’t have to create my own MVC framework, I could just use that… in the end I decided against it, it will be pulled from the repositories some day soon, leaving my poor little app to suck dirt. And I think its best to stay on the cuve as much as possible.

I could use Qt, or KDE, but call me a glutton for punishment, there’s just something about GTKMM I really agree with, I enjoy developing with it.

THE FINAL SOLUTION: Application.h HAS been put back in the latest stable build, which is 3.3. I know, because as a last resort and after reading more commit notices from the team. I could find no human-intelligible explanation, just release numbers and yes, its in there, and so on. Well, I’m running GTKMM 3.0, would a build-level, incremental point upgrade kill me? It has in the past, I’ve tried this before and it resulted in a broken desktop. But actually some builds and some forced package installs. This time I don’t think I need to go that far, I just need to build the latest stable GIOMM, GLIBMM, and then GTKMM. I’m going to try it.

Wish me luck.

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