Archive Page 2

FTIR touchscreens

A PhD student at the University of Bath recently told me about a (relatively) new type of touchscreen, which relies on “Frustrated Total Internal Reflection”. (see here). Basically, Infra-Red light is shone down the inside of a sheet of acrylic. When something touches the acrylic, the light is reflected away from the object, where it can be picked up by a (slightly modified) webcam.

Found at

This image shows what a webcam underneath the touch screen picks up (Image from This image can then be processed to pick out the bright “spots”, and the coordinates on the touch screen worked out.

The big advantage of using this method to detect interactions with the screen is that you are not limited to just 1 point of interaction at a time. For example, in a paint application, each finger could be a separate pen/ paintbrush. This also means that the number of users that are able to interact at the same time is only limited by space around the touchscreen.

These touchscreens are also relatively cheap to make. The main expense is a projector (which cost around £300), but all of the other components can be obtained for < £100. Someone has blogged their attempts to make a screen.

Below is a demo of a FTIR touchscreen:

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

And a link in case the player doesn’t work.

It also seems like there aren’t too many problems getting this to work in Ubuntu, so I’m hoping that I may be able to build one myself sometime soon :D

Google moon

You should visit and zoom right in…

Better Fonts in Feisty

A friend at work just sent me this link:

It tells you how to get much much smoother fonts in Feisty – I recommend that people try it out.

[Edit: As Gord pointed out, this will only applies to LCD displays]


I have been using irssi for a couple of months now, and I am generally pleased with it. It does almost everything I want, apart from one thing.

I have been looking for a way of getting the window list entry for the terminal to flash when a new message is received in irssi for a while now, and a recent discussion in #ubuntu-uk on has got me searching again. I have managed to find a script that uses libnotify to create popups with new messages, but I don’t want screens full of popup windows.

If anyone knows of an elegant solution, I would love to hear it.

Pimp That Snack

This is one of the best ideas I have come across in a while – people making huge versions of normal snacks.

I think that the Custard Cream is one of the best ones :D

New mootbot soon

I really need to update this thing more often.

Ubuntu Scribes seem to have hit a bit of a slump, and I really need to start working on Mootbot a bit more. I would like to say that I have been  busy, but I just don’t have the energy to code after I finish work for the day.  Andrew Williams has been working hard on the bot, and has managed to get it set up on a decent server (instead of my laptop). I think we have got enough new features to warrant a “0.1″ release – I will write about the new features sometime soon, but first I need to write some documentation (which I hate…)

The activity levels in Ubuntu Scribes seem to have dropped off over the last few weeks, with the number of people in #ubuntu-scribes getting lower and lower. I think that this may be due to a lack of progress with getting people to use Mootbot in their meetings. I am going to try to set up a meeting and get people along to try to revive the enthusiasm there was at the beginning. I will post more details here shortly.

Mootbot code released

After several requests, I have tidied up the MootBot code and released it. It is in the form of an eggdrop script. The code is nowhere near finished, but it has all the basic functionailty that I wanted when I started the project. I hope to have a “proper”, stlightly more stable release in the next week or so – the /devel folder will be updated whenver I make changes, and, as such, is liable to break. Any feedback / ideas about the code would be appreciated.

The code can be found here.

There is essentially no documentation at the moment. If you are familiar with eggdrops, you should know what to do with it, if not, you will have to wait until I get round to writing some documentation in the next couple of weeks.

Ubuntu Scribes (again)

I would like to remind everyone that the first Ubuntu Scribes Team meeting is happening tonight at 2000 UTC in #ubuntu-scribes on freenode. For more information, see this post. If you are at all interested, please come along as we need all the help we can get :D

Cool theme

I have to say that this is quite possibly the coolest theme for wordpress EVER!

Look Here

It can be downloaded here

Windows Vista (Business Edition)

As a student, I am able to get free copies of various Microsoft products to help me with my course. One of these products is Vista Business edition. I have heard quite a few bad things about Vista over the past few months, and I decided that rather than just jumping on the bandwagon and proclaiming “Vista is rubbish”, I would give it a go and form my own opinions.

First of all, the installation was sloooooow. It took well over an hour to get from first inserting the disk to getting a usable system. The longest part was copying the data from CD to the HDD, and as it is spread over 5CDs (4 too many in my opinion), you did have to sit there and swap the disks over fairly regularly. The number of dialog boxes you have to fill in seems to have been reduced, and there is a graphical partition manager, so it is easier to set up than XP was.

When Vista first boots up, you get the impression that they spent a lot of time making it look “better”. Sadly, this seems to be the only thing they have spent time on. Vista runs slowly with the autodetected settings, which gives me the impression that it is tuned to run as much as possible rather than sacrificing a couple of effects for better performance. The problem is, the graphical effects just aren’t that impressive. OS X has had similar effects for a long time, and Beryl on Linux does a much better job than Vista. The effects in Vista seem to mainly be transparency on some parts of the window, and an improved window switcher animation. After using Beryl for a couple of months, this just doesn’t impress me.

A major annoyance is the pop-up box which appears whenever you choose an option on the control panel, and several times during the installation of each program. I know that Microsoft were meant to be making Vista more secure, but there must be a better way than this. I don’t want to be asked if I really want to change the font size. There is the option to disable these pop-ups, but this causes the Security Center to complain and prompt you to re-enable it. If this is the way that Vista hopes to combat spyware, I suspect it will be totally ineffective. Users will still just click through the pop-ups if there is a spyware-laden application that they wish to install.

The new start menu is just completely inconvenient. It is like a small file system explorer, which takes a long time to navigate if the link you want is nested inside more than 1 or 2 folders. I think that Vista would have been better off just keeping the old menu.

I also keep getting reports that “Windows Vista does not support NVIDIA(R) nForce(TM) Audio Codec Interface”, which seems to result in the inability to play certain tracks on my computer – Windows Media Player just refuses to start playing songs. As I almost always listen to music while I am on the computer, I will either have to spend some time trying to fix the problem, or it will seriously impact on any time I spend on Vista.

Overall, I am not impressed with Vista. There isn’t anything that I can do which I can’t do in Linux, and everything seems to much easier to do with Linux anyway. The main improvement over XP seems to be the visual effects and these are unimpressive compared to everything else around at the moment. I’m glad I found Linux when I did, because it beats Vista in terms of useability and features in almost every way (the one major exception being wireless networking). Combine this fact with the closed nature of Windows, and I will choose Linux every time.