From Ekiga to Twinkle

I’ve been using Ekiga (formerly Gnomemeeting) for several years. Among free software phones it was exceptionally stable and well usable since about its 1.0 version. But it supported only the H.323 protocol which became a big problem during the time. H.323 is usually not supported by VoIP providers, it is poorly supported by the Asterisk PBX and generally it has no future. That forced me to use the development branch of Ekiga which contains SIP support.

A development version is naturally not a stable version. Ekiga snapshots suffered from occasional freezes, automatic deregistrations and other problems. I’m tired from all the problems related to Internet telephony, so I looked for a well working free software phone with SIP or IAX support. That was not easy, most of the phones are not well usable.

I’ve recently switched to Twinkle. It is stable and provides additional nice features not present in Ekiga, such as two phone lines, better user interface, user script invocation on incoming calls or logging SIP messages. A very important advantage of Twinkle over Ekiga is that calls are much less jitter-prone when something runs on the computer. The only Twinkle drawback I’ve met so far is that it is a Qt application which means it doesn’t work very well with a systray when using Sawfish.

Linux printing sucks

There were old good times when one could install magicfilter on his GNU/Linux system and send a file to a printer and the printer printed the file as expected. Since I started to use CUPS a few years ago it’s no longer true. Whenever I send some PostScript or PDF file to my printer, I’m full of tension about what the printer will produce. Sometimes I receive output looking like printed at 50 dpi, sometimes the page content is scaled by factor 2 horizontally and/or vertically, sometimes characters kernings are broken. Whether it is an e-mail, a Web page or a PostScript document, I’m never sure that I can print it usably. I often start printing by printing a test page, because what I can see in gv may not be what I receive on the paper.

I can understand that new drivers need debugging, which is the case of printing images with Guttenprint for example. I appreciate the hard work of people who try to provide their best, equipped just with incomplete specifications (if any specifications are available at all) and with testing and reverse engineering reports from voluntary testers. But I really don’t understand why people invent new great things which simply can’t work as before, which produce the same broken result on any printer and won’t get fixed for several years.

If you laugh now and point to other operating systems, calm down. I’ve recently tried to install Epson Stylus Photo R220 drivers on a Windows system and tried to perform nozzle check from it. When I perform nozzle check using the printer’s buttons or with Guttenprint on Linux, the printer just prints the testing pattern. Not so with the Epson Windows drivers, which add (without warning) an extra action before printing the pattern: an excessive head cleaning which wastes about 6% (!!) of the complete ink amount of full cartridges. Now I can understand why so many people complain that Epson printers waste a lot of ink.

Grain in scanned images

There has been an interesting discussion on comp.periphs.scanners recently about scanners, film grain, noise and aliasing. I wondered why my 2400dpi scanner produces very grainy scans in comparison with prints (and the scanned images are of much worse quality than pictures from my 2Mpix camera because of the grain) and why the grain is more visible in dark areas. Now it’s more clear to me (I hope), especially thanks to the Web page mentioned in the discussion. Basically, grain doesn’t match well with digital technologies and you need a very high resolution device to cope with it.

Sestry Steinovy

I’ve recently listened to the album Můj tanec by Sestry Steinovy several times. This album is one of those which may sound as somewhat simple first, but later you can find it’s very nice and interesting. Based on two voices, two guitars and often ironic but thoughtful lyrics, complemented with typical Jablkoň sound, it’s really a good piece of music. Recommended, as well as many other less known artists from the Indies Records label.

Price cheating

I’ve been already annoyed enough by computer web shops that present their prices without VAT and one has to click more to find out the real price. Now, when recycling fee was introduced several months ago, some of the shops present prices in an even more confusing way. Recently I was going to buy a UPS. I found a good offer on CYBEX and as I’ve already ordered some things from them previously I started to order the UPS device. Suddenly, the final price has increased by more than 100 Kč! The recycling fee was presented only before making the final confirmation of the order! Of course I cancelled the order and I won’t buy anything from those cheaters anymore.

So beware. I recommend buying at shops where final prices are presented clearly. My personal local favorite is ALFA COMPUTER, they have good prices, working web shop, the presented prices are final, including both VAT and the recycling fee, and I’ve got good experience with their salesmen (just don’t expect them to give you advice on whether something works on Linux).