Going to FOSDEM 2015

Tomorrow I am flying to Brussels to attend FOSDEM for the 8th time!
It is amazing to see how much the event grew in these 8 years and I am looking forward to having another great weekend of interesting presentations, meeting old friends and sipping tasty beer.

I need to thank CERN for making this trip possible and if you want to find out about my current project there (soon to be announced), do let me know.

See you in Brussels!

FOSDEM

Happy 2015!

Helena and I have just come back from the holidays with our family in Portugal and I would like to tell you how 2014 was a very good and special year in our lives. The big event that will make us never forget this past year was of course the birth of our daughter Olivia. Everyone who has kids will tell you how nice it is to have them and they’re right! All the tiresome, stress and lack of sleep is forgotten when we see her smile every morning.

Helena and I love to travel and have made at least a big trip every year for a few years. With the baby, those trips have to be shorter but since she was born we’ve been already to Portugal (twice), Spain (visiting our old colleagues in A Coruña) and the U.K. (more particularly London). That thing that people tell you about how having a child changes one’s perspective on many things is also very true for traveling. Olivia can be very easily awaken by noises so now we realize how noisy some cars and motorcycles are… London was awful in that regard. The underground was noisy as hell, including the very loud voice warnings. Also, as a big European capital, I was expecting its public sites to be accessible but even in the emblematic Victoria Station there was no elevator to access the underground. The sad thing is that while the stroller is a temporary annoyance for us, people in wheelchairs have to cope with that permanently.
We’re very curious about visiting Berlin with the baby to check those annoyances in there (because I seem to remember the underground being more silent and accessible) so that’s a trip we might do this year.

The book count kept low this year: I read 3 books and started another one which I haven’t finished yet (REAMDE by Neal Stephenson).

Even with the lack of time due to the baby, thanks to my wonderful wife I still keep playing squash and attending the CERN Micro Club once a week. Despite the awkward name, this is one of CERN’s many clubs and is concerned with technology, having several sections. I am part of the Robotics section in the club where we’ve been building a 3D printer.
This means less time for my side projects so this year, unfortunately there was only a couple of versions of OCRFeeder and no new version of Skeltrack.
I think that the only solution for OCRFeeder is to eventually have new contributors if there is an interest in keeping the project alive.

About Skeltrack, although its development was stalled during most of 2014, my friend Iago keeps improving it for his Master’s Thesis, and I had a lot of emails from people who are using it. I even visited one of them at EPFL who is using the project with his own 3D cameras which means that having a device-agnostic library was a good decision.

As for my job at CERN, I am finishing what I have been working on so I hope to talk about it in more detail soon.

This year’s donations went to the following places mainly (apart from the EFF, to whom donate every time I buy a Humble Bundle):
Wikipedia: don’t think I need to explain its relevance;
GNOME Builder: because this great guy was bold enough to quit his job in order to make an awesome and long needed IDE for GNOME (maybe you can still donate!);
Chão dos Meninos: an association from my hometown who helps children in risk — I always used to donate to big international projects such as Wikipedia and EFF but last year I realized that, since I don’t pay taxes in my country (because I live abroad), one way of contributing a small bit is to donate to an association such as this one.

I still do not know what 2015 will bring but I do hope that the tendency continues and it turns out to be a great year again!

Have great 2015 everyone!

photo 2

OCRFeeder 0.8.1

Taking advantage of the holidays, I have been dedicating some time to my side projects so today I am giving you OCRFeeder version 0.8.1!

The last OCRFeeder version had a very important change which was the port to GObject introspection and I was already expecting a few bugs to pop up here and there. That proved to be true and so this version is mainly about bug fixing.
Specifically there was an issue related to GDK’s threads which caused the application to abort. Besides that, exporting a document or saving/loading a project was not working correctly due to unicode issues (because Python is very nice but working with unicode is sometimes more annoying than it should be, at least in versions prior to Python 3).
Anyway, all that should be working correctly now!

Besides squashing bugs, I also made some long due changes: made the Preferences dialog smaller (by adding its contents to a scrolled window) and migrated the application and engines’ settings to the XDG user configuration folder as opposed to .ocrfeeder.
Yes, I know that I should be using GSettings for the application’s settings by now but there were more critical changes to be done.
Besides a small change in the widgets that set a box’s type (from a radio button style to a non-indicator, grouped pair of buttons), there are no other UI changes but I really like how much more polished OCRFeeder seems with the nice recent GTK+ styles.

ocrfeeder-0.8.1-screenshot

Future

I have a number of ideas to make the application better not only in terms of UI/UX but also in terms of features. The detection algorithm hasn’t been touched for years and I am sure it can be improved not only in terms of performance but also in terms of accuracy.
One cool feature I’d love to see implemented is to have a quick way of translating a document’s contents. This would be helpful e.g. to users living abroad who might need to translate letters to a language they speak.
Nonetheless, as mentioned in my previous post about OCRFeeder, it is indeed not easy to find the time and motivation to dedicate to the project these days with all the work, life and other side projects so I don’t know when I will have time for it again. In that regard, if you want to give me a hand, you’d make me very happy as there is a lot of work to be done.

Happy holidays everyone!

Source tarball
Git
Bugzilla

Two Weeks in Japan, Part 6: Tokyo vol. II

This article is part of the “Two Weeks in Japan” series and follows Two Weeks in Japan, Part 6: Tokyo vol. I

For our second day in Tokyo, August the 19th 2012, we first visited the Sony Building in the fancy district of Ginza. The building has several floors, each one with a bunch of Sony gadgets. It is not very interesting unless you’re into technology and you like Sony.

Tokyo Imperial Palace

After that, we tried to visit the Kabuki-za theater nearby but it was, unfortunately, under construction so we had lunch in a rāmen place nearby.
After lunch, we visited the Imperial Palace in the heart of Tokyo. Of course we could not enter the actual palace but just seeing the surroundings is nice, especially because I remembered the place from some documentaries I had watched.
In there, another very Japanese anecdote happened: we had stoped for a minute (it was hot as hell), and when we were already leaving, we realized we had lost our map (just a regular paper map but it had our itinerary) so we went back to the little security guard cabin to ask if they saw it and they had it! They saw it flying around, picked it up and kept it in case the owner came back :)

Kyoto's Imperial Palace

Yours truly in front of the Tokyo Imperial Palace

Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Tower

The next step in our trip schedule was to visit the Tokyo Tower, and go there by foot. It seemed to be so close to the Imperial Palace in the map but with the heat and our tired feet, although it took us just about 1 hour to get there, it felt like much more.
We might have waited around 15 minutes in the line before going up. With 333 meters (2 meters more than the Eiffel Tower), the view over Tokyo was awesome and it even had a window in the floor so you can stand on it and imagine what’d happen to you if you fell :)

View from the Tokyo Tower

Yoyogi Park

After the Tokyo Tower, we headed to the Yoyogi Park. This park is world famous for the rockabilly style dancers performing in there but this wasn’t the only interesting thing that it had. It is very big and a lot of people were doing different activities in there, from a drums group, to lousy music bands and group gimnastics or dancing. When we were watching the rockabillies’ performing and taking their photo, there was a drunk japanese old man taking photos of western tourists, including Helena’s. Later, walking through the park, we saw how he would try to participate in every activity he passed by. He was kind of screwing the group dancing session so what did the group leaders do? Instead of telling him to go away, they kept moving the group of around 20 people away from the guy, several times. Oh, and the guy was drunk and drinking beer can after beer can but he had a bag of trash with him and kept all the cans, never littering. Gotta love Japanese education.

Rockabillies in Yoyogi Park

Roppongi Hills

The night was finished in the rich area of Roppongi Hills. It was like a fancy mall, with expensive stores, live music and restaurants here and there. We went the cheap way instead, got our food from 7-Eleven and had dinner in a nice square with chairs and tables that didn’t belong to any restaurant.

Roppongi Hills

After dinner we went to the hotel, a different one than the previous couple of days. It was called Chiyoda Inn, located in Arakawa and it was a bit more expensive (about 85 €/night) but much better. The next day would be a very special one to me and any anime fan: we would visit Akihabara!

Akihabara

I have mentioned in previous articles that going to Japan was a childhood dream for me and an important part of that dream was to visit Akihabara. If you don’t know about it, Akihabara is the electronic district of Tokyo, a paradise for any video games/electronics/anime fan! As a proof of her love and patience, Helena agreed to spend the whole day in there. So basically we arrived at around 10AM and confirmed the view that I expected to find in there: massive buildings, covered in ads for video games and anime outside; inside there were usually several floors, each floor with a different theme/purpose. For example, comics stores had usually one gender or demographics per floor; including hentai for all the tastes (I will leave the details to your imagination).

I felt like a kid in Akihabara. I lost count of how many books, games, electronics and anime stores I visited that day. I especially loved to see the action figures for anime TV series I loved when I was a kid. Unfortunately those were very expensive so I didn’t buy any (around 80 € for a small one).

Picture of buildings in Akihabara

Buildings in Akihabara

Some of the buildings’ floors were actually amusement arcades with a great variety of games, from classics like Dance Dance Revolution (in which the local players completely blew our minds with their speed and accuracy) but also more modern ones like guitar hero or some XBox dancing game using the Kinect. Helena played her favorite video game — Tekken — hitting the buttons so hard that the other players around us thought Godzilla was coming to town again. I just played some Guitar Hero clone.

In the evening we also went to a Maid Café — a café where the waitresses are dressed in traditional French maid costumes and treat customers as their “masters”. We were heading to some less expensive one that was mentioned on our guide book and found a “maid” in the street getting people to go to her café. I thought that she would take us to the one I was looking for but she took us to a different one on the other side of the block instead. So once inside the café, there was a minimum consumption policy of around 15 € — if I remember correctly — and, obviously, prices were high. We were hungry so we asked for a menu that included a drink and a piece of cake only to find that the juice we ordered was in a very small glass and the cake was okayish in size but the price was rather “justified” by the anime drawings made in topping on the dishes as you can see in the picture. The maid was “pleasing us” just when she delivered the cake and made us mimic some “kawaii” gesture and words to magically make the cake more tasty.

Picture of a cake with Shin-chan drawn in topping.

Only Shin-chan could save us from this ripoff!

The feeling was very strange. I love a lot of things in the Otaku culture that might seem strange to people but maid cafés is not one of them.

In the end of the day, we bought some souvenirs for our family (I bought a Japanese whiskey bottle for my father which was not expensive at all but was really good!) and went back to the hotel but our geek journey wasn’t finished for the next day we would visit Odaiba but that’s a story for another day.

to be continue…

OCRFeeder 0.8 is out

After a long time without a new release, OCRFeeder 0.8 is out! The previous version was released in February 2013 from another continent :) After that a lot of things happened in my life (very good ones) and I didn’t really have much time to devote to the project.

What’s up?

This version represents one big change: it was ported to GObject Introspection (and thus GTK+ 3)!
This is also related to the delay (because GooCanvas’s GI, a dependency, was not usable in the beginning). Also, after the port started, a few things were deprecated in GTK+ — like Stock items — but this will only be updated on a future release.

I didn’t want many new features in this version as I wanted it to be basically about the port to GI. This way, “eventual” bugs are likely to be about this change and not about unstable new features. I included a small novelty however: support for multi-page TIFF images.
There are, of course, some other small improvements that were developed, as well as a number of bugs that were fixed.

Future

Work, life and other projects make it more and more difficult to find the time to work on OCRFeeder. I would nonetheless be happy to help anyone interested in contributing to it to give the first steps. I believe that OCRFeeder is a useful project and not only for accessibility purposes (although this is a great reason on its own!) so, if you like Python, GTK+, and want to help make this project better, drop me an email.

I need to thank one more time to the awesome GNOME i18n team for keeping OCRFeeder available in many languages and to my dear friend Berto for keeping the Debian package up to date and for the useful bug reports!

Source tarball
Git
Bugzilla