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.



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

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.


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

What a year!

What a crazy year this was! In 2013 many important events happened in my life that would make this a very busy year.
To start, I began the year looking for a new job after 4 years working for Igalia. This meant that I had to travel a lot and move (with Helena) from the place I felt like home (the city of Coruña), having to say good bye to many good friends.

This search also took me to the U.S.A. for first time where I met a very interesting company and people. Since Helena and I didn’t do our traditional travelling this year, going to San Francisco was definitely the most interesting trip of the year for me. I really want to visit it again some day together with Helena.
Then I ended up joining Red Hat, where I kept working with GNOME technologies — mainly on the Wacom related pieces — together with some of the best Open Source developers in the world. I also moved to Berlin, the city I am in love with, which meant fulfilling a dream we had for a few years. My dear friend Chris Kühl helped make this move smoother so I have to thank him here again.

After just a few months in Berlin, I received the positive result of an application to CERN that I had done before all this and I had to make yet another decision. We decided to do it and we moved out of Berlin just shortly after knowing that we will become a family of 3 next year! Our little girl Olivia will be born next March and we cannot express how excited we are about it!

Life in this region is very different from Berlin’s (not bad, just different) but CERN is a very unique place and I am enjoying the experience.
Our arrival here was also easier because of Quim and his wife Ana Marta, a couple of friends from University who really couldn’t have helped us more. Together with our good friend Nacho, they are really “5 stars” as we say in Portuguese :)
I need also to mention my parents who not only helped us with moving out of Spain but also drove all the way from Portugal to France in order to visit us and bring us our stuff.

Technically, I live in France, in a small town called St Genis Pouilly, close to CERN on the French side of the border but it’s really still Geneva’s area. A curious thing about Geneva is that its largest foreign community is the Portuguese. I hear more people speaking Portuguese at the supermarkets in here than in Algarve :)
One of the things I miss from Berlin is the possibility to easily ride a bike anywhere. In here it is dangerous (drivers are crazy and there’s no bike lanes) and less convenient (Berlin is flat, here it isn’t) but I found another physical activity to compensate a bit my sedentary job: I started playing squash and I love it!

As a result of all these changes, my personal projects got a bit neglected. I released only one new version of Skeltrack and OCRFeeder (actually I got a new version of OCRFeeder almost ready to ship) and I did a couple of quick hacks with the Leap Motion Controller.
The number of books I read was also lower than ever this year. I read a couple of books by Cory Doctorow and a spy thriller called The Shanghai Factor.

Not all things in 2013 were as great as my words might indicate. My grandmother (to whom I was very close) passed away a month ago. It was a very sad event, but she lived a long life and had her family beside her in every moment.

About 2014, my biggest wish is that everything goes well with the baby and Helena. I think I will probably have to miss some of the Open Source events I usually attend but I got a good excuse, right?
I hope it’ll be a quieter year than 2013 in terms of moving and that I can still dedicate time to my personal projects.

2013 was a year I will surely remember all my life. I am a lucky person to have had the opportunity of different experiences, to have friends in many places and to have my wife and family supporting me all the time.

I wish you all an excellent 2014!

Olivia in Helena's belly!

OCRFeeder 0.7.11 released

Here is 2013’s first version of OCRFeeder, version 0.7.11.

For this version, a number of bugs were fixed, especially some that were affecting saving and loading projects.
Some small improvements were also made such as being able to load multiple images at once and being able to choose the OCR engine from the command line interface version of OCRFeeder (using the -e option).

Now for the main feature, I developed something that had been requested by a good number of users: being able to easily choose the language for the OCR engine.
When I developed OCRFeeder, I wanted to make it easy for users to use system-wide OCR engines from the layout analysis that OCRFeeder performs but I also wanted it to remain powerful and that’s why the engines are configured in a general, abstract way, as if from the command line.
Some OCR engines support setting the language in order to get a better recognition and while, users could already set the language of an engine manually using the OCR editor dialog, they wanted to have a nice drop-down list with the languages instead.
This represented a real challenge: to keep the old and flexible configuration and, at the same time, offer a high-level way of choosing the language.

OCRFeeder's new configuration
So here is how it works. There is a new special argument keyword $LANG that will be replaced by the new field “language argument” and the currently set language. Since engines support different languages (or none) and call them different names (e.g. Tesseract expects “por” for the Portuguese, others may expect “pt”) there is another new field called “languages” which should be a map between the language code in the ISO 639-1 and the name of the language of the engine expects, as shown in the screenshot.

Languages combo
To show the languages, there is a new tab in the areas’ editor called Misc (in lack of a better name for a tab that’s holding more stuff in the future) with the languages combo. This combo shows a check on the languages that the currently selected engine recognizes as seen in the screenshot.

There is also a new setting in the preferences dialog with the default language and the first time the application runs, it will assign it to the user’s locale.
One thing must be taken into account: even though Tesseract supports an extensive list of languages, the users must have those packages installed in their distros, otherwise, recognition will of course fail.

To finish, related to my recent job search, I have spent this week in San Francisco getting to know some people from an exciting start-up and despite the jet lag, I managed to finish this release so I can now say that least part of OCRfeeder was designed and developed in California :P

Source tarball