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Goodbye, Unity. Hello Xfce

March 22, 2013 at 14:15

What is Unity?

From the project’s About page:

Founded in 2010, the Unity project started by Mark Shuttleworth and Canonical has gone on to deliver a consistent user experience for desktop and netbook users alike. Putting great design at the heart of the project, Unity and its technologies such as Application indicators, System indicators, and Notify OSD, have strived to solve common problems in the Free Software desktop while optimizing the experience for touch, consistency and collaboration.


My experience

Please, read it again. Consistent…Well, if I should define Unity, the last word I’d use would be consistent. I approached Unity for the first time in the Netbook Ubuntu Edition. At that time, I looked at the desktop and I felt surprised. Good-looking interface, clean. But after I installed Ubuntu 12.04 with Unity as the default desktop environment and using it until now, I’d say that I feel depressed. Unity is not mature, is not consistent (try to integrate any application in the notification area), 2D and 3D versions hang and freeze when I use any molecular visualization tool, random crashes, double monitor issues and I won’t talk about the user experience. Well, I will. I understand that switching from one environment to another is not a painless process and some adaptation time is required. But, come on, Canonical, Unity is slow, configuration options are hidden, minimizing and maximizing windows is a survival horror game and, most important, why a new UI?


Looking for alternatives to Unity

After my divorce with Unity, I looked for new options. I’m not a KDE boy, I didn’t understand the Gnome affaire…I used fluxbox in the past, so I decided that the time for a lightweight desktop environment had come. And then I rediscovered Xfce. I love Xubuntu (Ubuntu flavor with Xfce as the default desktop). I installed it in a different machine and I checked it was a perfect fit for me.

Good guy Xfce

Good guy Xfce

Highly customizable: themes, icons, panels, almost everything. Maybe it is not as pretty as Unity, but I really don’t care. No more random crashes, no more pain and suffering. I didn’t want to re-install everything on my working desktop machine to enjoy a fully Xubuntu experience, but only one command line was separating me from Xfce:

Goodbye Unity, hello Xfce!

Military nuclear accidents

March 18, 2013 at 23:33

A few days ago I found this interesting list: List of military nuclear accidents. I was amazed at how stupid the human race can be, “silly asses“, and the high number of nuclear accidents in naval ships specially caught my attention. But one of them is even odder than the rest: the K-219 incident.

Soviet submarine K-219

Soviet submarine K-219

On October 1986, the K-219 Soviet submarine sank together with its two nuclear reactors and the full set of warheads after an explosion in a missile tube. The URSS claimed that the leak was caused by a collision with an American submarine…

The incident even inspired a film, Hostile Waters, and lots of conspiracy theories, but there is still a big question to be answered: where are the warheads? According to the Wikipedia article:

In 1988, the Soviet hydrographic research ship Keldysh positioned itself over the wreck of K-219, and found the submarine sitting upright on the sandy bottom. It had broken in two aft of the conning tower. Several missile silo hatches had been forced open, and the missiles, along with the nuclear warheads they contained, were gone.

So let’s wait for more US declassified documents.

Fixing LC_CTYPE: cannot change locale (UTF-8)

February 28, 2013 at 20:35

Today I experienced a weird behavior when I was trying to compile reStructuredText with sphinx. While I was able to run locally ‘make html’ without issues, it was failing when I executed the same command in a remote shell from my Macbook with OS X 10.8.2.

The root of all evil was that OS X terminal was not setting properly the LC_CTYPE variable. Every time I was logging in the Linux machine from my local machine I had this message:

warning: setlocale: LC_CTYPE: cannot change locale (UTF-8)

Linux remote machine was expecting something like ‘es_ES.UTF8’ while my remote terminal was setting it to ‘UTF8’.

What I’ve done is simply add this line to my .bash_profile:

And voilà, problem fixed 🙂 I used ‘es_ES’ because my keyboard is in Spanish from Spain, but you can use ‘en_US’ for example.

Distributing N points on a sphere

February 25, 2013 at 22:55

In one of my PhD projects, I had the need to distribute n points on a sphere of radius r. I found a very interesting post in stackoverflow about how to solve the problem and I tested a few of the solutions they proposed by myself. In my opinion, one of the most elegant solutions consists in using a spiral function to distribute the points uniformly. Below you can find a little snippet in Python which uses the spiral method to calculate a list of n points (thanks to my colleague Iain for sharing his source code with me):

This function is based on the original work “Minimal Discrete Energy on the Sphere” which you can find online here.

An this is how a sphere of radius 10 with 300 points looks.

Points on a sphere using the spiral method

Points on a sphere using the spiral method

The Wakhan Corridor

February 20, 2013 at 23:56

Wakhan Corridor

Today I read an article at National Geographic about the Wakhan corridor and the nomads who still live in there. This region belongs to Afghanistan since 1893, when  Britain paid Afghanistan to create this buffer zone between the British India and the Russian Empire. But after the rising of communism in Russia and China, the frontiers became sealed, deeply affecting the life of its nomad inhabitants.

I’m fascinated about how the Kyrgyz nomads can survive at more than 4200 meters above sea level, moving from the north to the south face of the mountain range depending on the season. Furthermore, I can’t imagine how overwhelmed Marco Polo felt when he visited the region in the 1200s…

National Geographic. a family yurt in the Kyrgyz lands of the Wakhan Corridor.

There is an excellent image gallery here from the Varial and Nadjari 2011 expedition.

I’m becoming more and more interested in Central Asia as long as I’m reading about the region, its old history and its pristine nature. How beautiful will stars shine from there?

Lunokhod 1

February 11, 2013 at 11:10

Lunokhod 1

When I was a kid, I spent most of the time building different stuff with Lego®. I remember devouring books about satellites and space rovers to reproduce them with Lego bricks. One of my favorite ones was the Lunokhod 1 (as I was completely fascinated about soviet techonology) and it seems I’m not the only one that was interested in reproducing the Lunokhod using Lego (see below): http://lego.cuusoo.com/ideas/view/23916

I am not the only one building soviet rovers in Lego :)

I am not the only one building soviet rovers in Lego 🙂

By chance, today I’ve read that in 2010 the lost Lunokhod 1 was found again! A NASA team pointed a laser beam to the Lunokhod 1 and they had a strong signal back: “We got about 2,000 photons from Lunokhod 1 on our first try. After almost 40 years of silence, this rover has a lot to say,”. Lunokhod 1  was the first remote controlled robot to land on another celestial object and, after a successful mission, scientists have found a new way of using Lunokhod’s reflector to measure Earth-Moon system.

Below, I paste a little snippet from Wikipedia’s entry about the end of mission and results:

Controllers finished the last communications session with Lunokhod 1 at 13:05 UT on September 14, 1971. Attempts to re-establish contact were finally discontinued and the operations of Lunokhod 1 officially ceased on October 4, 1971, the anniversary of Sputnik 1. During its 322 Earth days of operations, Lunokhod travelled 10,540 metres (6.55 miles) and returned more than 20,000 TV images and 206 high-resolution panoramas. In addition, it performed 25 lunar soil analyses with its RIFMA x-ray fluorescence spectrometer and used its penetrometer at 500 different locations.

Cities I’ve visited

January 30, 2013 at 10:42

It took me some time, but here is a map of the major cities I’ve visited to this date. I’m a little bit stressed about the blank zones 🙂

Apocalypse Z

January 28, 2013 at 22:47

Apocalypse ZI read Apocalypse Z in three days and I can’t wait to read the other two books that complete Manuel Loureiro’s trilogy. I found this novel an incredibly well written piece of zombie horror, but the reason why I didn’t stop reading was the proximity of the action, located in Spain and referencing many places I could identify or I could imagine more in deep. World War Z is the next book in my reading stack, but it can wait for a few weeks: it’s time to order a couple more 😉


To sum up 2012

December 24, 2012 at 15:14

Kiyomizu-dera Buddha

This year 2012 is coming to an end. I must admit it has been hard work getting this far, but I’ve plenty of reasons to feel happy. This is a list of things I did and milestones I’ve reached:

  • I’ve started this blog. I’d like to write more often, but it’s a good starting point.
  • I’ve published my first scientific paper as a second author, I’ve presented two posters in two recognized congresses and I’m finishing my first paper as a first author.
  • I’ve continued increasing my pet projects portfolio: I talked about Zambombator and Glowworm++ in previous posts.
  • I’ve bought a longboard and I’ve learned how to carve.
  • I’ve visited Berlin, Brussels, Finland, Castelló, Santiago de Compostela and Japan. In Finland I slept within the Arctic Circle and in Japan I spent two fabulous weeks with my partner and I even gave a talk at the National Institute of Biomedical Innovation.
  • I’ve started learning Japanese, がんばっていきまっしょい !
  • I’ve cut my hair for the first time in three years.
  • I assisted to Codemotion and BcnDevCon 2012.
  • I’ve started photowalking.
  • I’ve finished the first four Game of Thrones books.

Next year is approaching, new goals, more stuff to do. I hope I can keep myself as busy as the ending year.


December 17, 2012 at 11:16

Zambombator AndroidZambombator is the name of a new Android application I’ve been developing these last weeks with a couple of friends. Zambomba is a typical instrument used in Spain during Christmas time and for those who can’t afford one,  we decided to create a “simulator” for Android devices 🙂

You can download it for free from Google play store. Have fun!