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Monthly Donations: Free Software Foundation and the “Last Chance” Foundation

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Festivities done, the end of December is nigh, so it’s high time for the last round of donations this fine year.

This month I’m yet again making a donation that’s long-deserved, to an organization which had a great influence in shaping the free software/open source movement into what it is today — the Free Software Foundation, established by Richard Stallman back in 1985.

Currently, the Foundation is collecting donations to build up their budget for 2014. Chip in if you can!

As usual, I’m also sending a donation to a charity organization that is not related to technology, and this time I’m supporting the “Last Chance” Foundation, which runs an animal shelter near my home town of Rawa Mazowiecka. It’s the second time that I’m donating to them, the first one was in June last year when I virtually adopted a dog named Michał (yes, we shared the same name). Now I’m also virtually adopting a dog that goes by the glorious name of Emperor.

I wish all the best and a Happy New Year to the people of the Foundation and all the animals under their care.

Monthly Donations: VLC and the Pegasus Foundation

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Ah, what a fine day… for science! I mean, for my monthly donations.

Today I’m supporting VLC, the fantastic open source media player (actually, it’s much more than just a player) that I use both on my Linux desktop and on a MacBook. VLC has been around since early 2001 and through the years has gained well-deserved reputation as the player that can play any media file (which is thanks to the numerous decoding/encoding libraries included with the program). It’s developed by the VideoLAN project team — thanks guys, great job!

The second donation that I’m making this month is to the Pegasus Foundation, devoted to rescuing horses bound for slaughterhouses, and generally helping animals in need. I supported them in December last year, and this time I’m making a donation for a little 5-year-old dog named Jinx, who was severely hit by a car, had undergone surgery and now needs to go through long and extensive rehabilitation to recover. Stay strong, Jinx!

Monthly Donations: Git and the “Sfora” Foundation

Monday, September 30th, 2013

September is coming to an end in just a couple hours, so it’s high time for me to do the monthly donations.

The open source project that I’m supporting this month needs little introduction, at least to programmers, as it is Git, the extremely popular version control system originally created by Linus Torvalds. I’ve been using it for a couple years now, both for my personal projects and for work, and it’s hard for me to imagine how I could have ever lived without it.

The second of this month’s donations goes to the “Sfora” Foundation in Warsaw, who operates an animal shelter, finds new homes for stray and mistreated dogs, and organizes sterilization campaigns. I already supported them last year, and I’m happy to do it again — thanks to the “Sfora” Foundation crew for their efforts!

Monthly Donations: GIMP and the “Abandoned Doggie” Foundation

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

Again, I’m writing a post about my monthly donations at the very last moment before the end of the month, but I have an excuse of being badly sick from food poisoning for the last couple of days (there’s a certain Tex-Mex restaurant nearby that won’t be getting my business ever again, I tell ya). Today I’m finally feeling better and can get back to functioning normally(ish).

This month I’m donating to yet another open source project with a long history (of more than 17 years) — the image editing tool GIMP (which stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program). Ever since Linux became my primary operating system something-teen years ago, GIMP has been my go-to application for photo editing and graphics design work (really primitive graphics design work, as I’m definitely not an artist). And speaking of Linux, what I find an interesting historical fact is that the first publicly released version of GIMP was used to create Tux, the penguin mascot of Linux. Thanks, GIMP developers, for a great piece of software!

The charity organization that I supported this month is the “Abandoned Doggie” Foundation, a group of volunteers that runs a small dog shelter in Józefów near Otwock. I decided to do something different this time, and instead of making an online donation or virtually adopting a dog, I bought three big packs of dog food and delivered them to the shelter. Here’s a few pictures of the dogs that I took on that visit:

Bon appetit, fellows!

Monthly Donations: Midnight Commander and the “Unwanted and Forgotten” Foundation

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Geez, it’s already the end of July and we’re halfway through with summer? How did it get so late so soon? Obviously it’s the last day for me to do the traditional monthly donations, so let’s get to it.

I realized there’s one project that I’ve been using on a regular basis since my first experiences with Unix and Linux more than fifteen years ago, so it deserves a donation like no other. This project is Midnight Commander, the console file manager conceived as a free clone of Norton Commander, which was hugely popular in the ancient times of DOS. If you remember those times, the two blue panels of Norton Commander must look familiar:

Fun fact: when I first used Norton Commander the panels weren’t even blue, as it was on a PC AT equipped with a monochrome Hercules graphics card and the only color that I was blessed with was amber.

The two-panel concept is an excellent example of a simple idea that stands the test of time — I’m still using Midnight Commander exactly the same way as I used Norton Commander back in its day. For many file operations, and especially for quickly browsing through a large directory tree, it’s my preferred solution over any GUI tool. Thanks and congratulations to the developers!

My second donation goes to the “Unwanted and Forgotten” Foundation, located in Łódź, dedicated to helping homeless animals (I already supported them precisely a year ago). I’m virtually adopting a young female dog by the name of Melissa, who was rescued (along with her sisters) from terrible living conditions by the Foundation’s volunteers. Best wishes to the Foundation and to Melissa!

Goodbye Old Dell

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

In my apartment, there’s a deep dark closet that serves as a morgue for old computers and other electronic crap that I no longer use. A few days ago I decided it’s time to clean it up a bit and get rid for good of some of the junk, including a few ancient laptops. One of those laptops brought back many good memories, and I decided it deserved a little memorial in the form of a blog post.

The machine was an old fat Dell Latitude XPi CD, with a 150 MHz Pentium CPU and some ridiculously little RAM. I ran Slackware Linux on it, and since the system was rather slow, I couldn’t really work comfortably with a GUI, so I mostly lived in Emacs. At that time, it was my one and only programming editor, as well as mail/Usenet client (courtesy of Gnus).

Not having a bunch of windows around was actually a productivity boost, as it meant less distractions — there was just me and the code on the screen (and usually some documentation in a hidden buffer). A Zen mode of work, as it tends to be called these days.

The laptop accompanied me on a few snowboarding trips, when I was spending most part of the day cruising the slopes, then in the late afternoon grabbed a beer and did some coding. I remember on one of these trips I wrote MIXemu, the MIX computer simulator. Snowboarding, beer, and programming was my idea of sex, drugs, and rock and roll back then — ah, good old times.

Here’s a last, pre-mortem photo of the machine, looking as majestic as it possibly can:

Rest in peace, my crappy old laptop, you won’t be forgotten.

Intergalactic Transition

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

I recently replaced my phone, an old first generation Samsung Galaxy S that served me for the past three years, with its latest successor, Galaxy S4. Here’s a short account of how the switching process went.

My “Galaxy S to S4 Transition Kit” consisted of:

  • Two USB to micro USB cables
  • A pair of scissors
  • MacBook Air
  • A credit card (with at least $50 available)

The purpose of each of these items will be revealed in a moment.

The first thing I did was remove the SIM card from the old phone and, well, fail to put it in the new one, because it turned out S4 needs a micro-sized SIM. I decided my scissoring skills were sufficient to trim the card by myself, so I did, with great care and making sure to stick out the concentration tongue. I slid the microfied card into the slot, it clicked in nicely, and the phone greeted me with a PIN input screen. So far so good.

Of all the stuff I had on the old phone, it was the contacts and SMS/MMS messages that I couldn’t leave behind and wanted to transfer to the new device. I didn’t need to copy all the apps and their settings, in fact I preferred to reinstall and reconfigure them one by one to have a clean start.

I googled around to find out what my options were for copying contacts and messages. An obvious first choice was the application made by the vendor — Samsung Kies. There was no Linux version of the software, just Windows and Mac OS X, so that’s when the MacBook came in handy.

I installed Kies and it recognized both phones, but it quickly turned out it was only good for transferring contacts. While it did allow me to extract the messages from the old phone, it didn’t offer the option to put them on the new one.

Looking for alternative solutions, I came across MobileGo, which seemed to be a solid contender, per numerous recommendations. Again, it wasn’t available for Linux, so I got the OS X version. Unfortunately, the software didn’t even recognize the S4, it just kept saying the device was sleeping (it wasn’t) and had to be woken up. There were some suggested fixes, but neither of them worked for me. I thanked MobileGo for its efforts and uninstalled it.

I then found an app called, promisingly, Backuptrans Android SMS+MMS Transfer. Of course, no Linux version, installed it on the Mac. Much to my joy, it did recognize both devices, retrieved all the messages from my old phone, and copied them to the new one! Actually, just the first twenty messages were copied, since it was a trial version and the cheapest license was over $45 (the listed price was $29.95, but they also make you pay for “Registration Backup Service”, whatever that is, and some tax). At this point, after two hours of struggle, I just wanted to get this over with, so I bought the license. An hour or so later, all my messages were happily transferred to the new phone.

I proceeded to reinstall the apps, which went nice and smooth, so I don’t have anything to rant about and won’t go into the details. To summarize, the switching operation took me a few hours, some handcraft, and a considerable amount of money. That’s way more hassle than it should be, in my humble opinion. I would expect a company as big as Samsung to provide a straightforward way to do something as common as copying messages, without the customers having to pay for third-party solutions. Maybe it was just my problem, as I was making the transition from a rather old phone (three generations old) and maybe it’s easier with S2 or S3, I don’t know. But still.

Anyway, I like the new Galaxy so far, and I’m really glad I can finally test apps and JS code on a real Android 4.x phone, and not a lousy virtual device.

Monthly Donations: DAViCal and the “Friends to the Animals” Foundation

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

I’m back from a week-long snowboarding trip to the Stubai glacier in Austria — I had a great time, feel refreshed and have lots of energy to work on my projects. But first, let me take care of this month’s donations!

The project that I’m supporting this month is DAViCal, a calendar sharing server that implements the CalDAV protocol, written by Andrew McMillan. I’ve been using it for a few years to synchronize calendars on several workstations and mobile devices, and have nothing but praise for it. Thanks and congratulations to Andrew and the contributors to the project!

I’m also sending a donation to the “Friends to the Animals” Foundation in Katowice to help one of the dogs that they rescued — an elderly dog named Max. The dog suffered a car accident a few years ago, had one of his legs amputated, is deaf, and requires costly treatment and constant supervision by a vet.

It’s actually my second donation to the “Friends to the Animals” Foundation, as I’ve already supported them last year. My previous donation was for Manio, a cat that fell out of a window on the 10th floor and miraculously survived. I contacted the Foundation recently to find out how Manio was doing, and was very happy to hear that he’s all fine and has a new home! Here’s a photo of the lucky cat with his new owner:

All the best to Manio, Max, and all the people of the Foundation!

Monthly Donations: c:geo and the WWF Poland Lynx Campaign

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Monthly donations strike yet again! Today I’m making a donation to c:geo, a geocaching application for Android devices. In case you haven’t heard of geocaching, it’s a modern-day technology-driven treasure hunt game (I encourage you to find out more and try it!).

I’m not a particularly active geocacher (so far, I only found forty-something caches, over the course of a few years), but when I do have the rare opportunity to play the game, I very much enjoy it. One of the contributing factors to this enjoyment is the c:geo app, in my humble opinion the best geocaching application for Android (and I’ve tried a few). Thank you, c:geo developers, for your continuous efforts to keep it that way!

The second donation that I’m making today is to the Lynx Campaign of WWF Poland, which is an initiative for the revival of lynx population in my home country. Years of hunting and habitat loss have reduced the number of lynxes in Poland to just about two hundred, and the campaign’s plan is to increase that number by relocating animals from Estonia, where the population is stable. So, make yourselves at home, Estonian lynxes, and, well, repopulate away!

Monthly Donations: LibreOffice and The Pegasus Foundation

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

It’s the jolly festive time of year and I’m mostly spending time with my family and consuming lots of pierogi, but at this very moment I’m taking a break from that to take care of the monthly donations.

This time I’m donating to LibreOffice, the free and open source office suite. It’s the Phoenix that arose from the ashes of, when the latter fell prey to the behemoth Oracle, and it’s yet another open source application that I use almost every day. The Document Foundation, which is the organization behind LibreOffice, is currently collecting funds for their 2013 budget, and my little contribution is going to support that.

My second donation is to The Pegasus Foundation, based in Warsaw, dedicated to saving horses bound for slaughter. The Foundation is in operation since 2002 and has rescued more than 170 horses, giving them a new life in children hippotherapy centers or allowing them to live out their remaining years in a safe place.

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