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Presentation for the Prague IETF 80 Transport Area Open Meeting

March 28, 2011

I’m on the agenda for the Transport Area meeting of the Prague IETF meeting.  In it, I have 30 minutes to try to convey the gist and severity of the bufferbloat problem to that audience. I have had the opportunity to present this presentation three times in preparation; once at BattlemeshV4, and twice internally in Bell Labs, so it is much more polished than the original Murray Hill presentation.

Due to the preciousness of meeting time at the IETF, I had to choose what to elide from the much longer original presentation, which includes information of how to mitigate bufferbloat and much additional detail.  On the other hand, I will attempt to be speaking more slowly at the IETF, so it may be more understandable to people listening (or so I hope!).

If you are attending IETF 80, I urge you to attend, and not just those who are interested in transport.  Bufferbloat is terribly damaging to applications (particularly interactive and low latency applications) and general network operations. The draft of the talk itself is already available and the audio and should be available as well as part of the IETF 80 activities. It is currently scheduled (subject to change) for Wednesday morning (Prague time) in the Congress Hall III room. I’m sure hallway conversations will cause me to tweak the talk before I present it Wednesday, but it’s getting close.

Time to do something else. (and typewriters aren’t so bad…)

February 9, 2009

As you have likely heard, OLPC is having a tough time. I’m one of the many casualties.  If you know of an opportunity that I’d be interested in, please do let me know.

Most of the last month since then went in a different direction having nothing to do with anything of general use and of limited interest:  filling out forms for my kid’s education, and helping my wife with the kids while she dealt with finishing up her master’s degree for middle school math teaching. Andi had Lyme disease in December,  so that had to get finished up, along with our taxes and all this paper work.  Ugh…

While these forms were primarily for my daughter’s secondary school education, I’m amazed that in 2009 the systems can possibly be so painful.  The only part of this that seems remotely standardized across schools are recommendation forms.

Since we’ve long since either given away or lost the one typewriter we had, filling out forms was a PITA.  Doing it by printing longhand wasn’t reasonable either, as both my daughter and I have terrible handwriting.  You might have thought schools would have automated this by now, or at least be using PDF forms so that you could fill them out electronically (like even the U.S. government has done for many of its tax forms….

I finally found a laborious (much more than what filling them out with a typewriter) method that was esthetically acceptable, even if time consuming.The other cookbooks didn’t do quite what I wanted. To help others out with similar pain (and so I wont’ forget myself in the future), I document it below…

I converted PDF’s of the forms to PNG images using ImageMagik

convert -density 300×300 -resize 2550×3300 $1 $2

This gets you a 300dpi png image (if the output file name is .png, anyway), without the horrible artifacts of scanning paper.

  1. Then, in OpenOffice 2.4, I created a new document.
  2. Now we set up styles.
  3. Format->Styles and Formatting (F11); Brings up a dialog; select page style; the terrible dialog has a little page icon.
  4. Create a new style; give it a name, such as page 1.
  5. Select the background tab.
  6. Background as graphics; browse and find the page image you want as a background and use it as the page background
  7. Go to the page tab, and clear out the margins; otherwise your page image will get chopped to the margins
  8. Repeat the process (and have page 1’s style then invoke page 2’s style using Organizer->Next Style

Then, go back to the document, and “Insert->Manual Break->Page break” for each page. Then you can use the graphics tools to put text fields wherever you need them; you can expect lots of fussing to try to get the paragraph spacing to match the underlying form.  And more fussing to make it neat.

So you then can finally have a presentable document that some other mortal might be able to read. If you have one of those old things called a “typewriter”, I recommend that over what I had to do…

There are possibly/probably other tools that might make this easier (scribus??), but this is the method I figured out.

Give one, Get many…

November 17, 2008

Here’s a way you can give something to everyone while getting something for yourself (other than our nice machines for your kids, or for you to use at the beach, or when traveling, ….).

Last time I blogged, it was about adopting and amplifying good ideas for the free desktop in general. One project I mentioned, the Façades idea, is of particular importance. Free software is often built by, and used by experts.  Since the Gimp is so easy a target, I’ll pick on it (though it has improved its usability over the years considerably, it has a good way to go).

One of the precepts of OLPC and the Sugar environment is “Low barrier to entry; no ceiling”. While I don’t think we succeeded at avoiding a number of gratuitous ceilings (our choice of window manager comes to mind, which we plan to fix), the fact is we have wonderful software like the Gimp which is too complicated for an 8 year old to use.  We do have nice things like TuxPaint, which is a (child) crowd pleaser; but those do not scale up as the child grows.

As Façades applied to the Gimp demonstrates, any application that is built using at-spi (the accessibility framework), in concert with Composite in the window system, alternate (in this case, simplified) user interfaces can be built.  More speculatively, one can see how to build applications that are literally “composited” together out of piece parts, if something like UNIX pipes can be arranged.

This would allow us to build much more tuned interfaces for particular paths; simpler interfaces for children, better use by the disabled, who may not be able to use certain UI elements effectively, etc, that are now not feasible.  While GUI builders have had this promise, in practice, they seem not to have actually succeeded at delivering this promise (you have to know too much to use them, and many applications have been built without them); maybe Facades can. As a child grows, (s)he could add features as they age, without having to switch tools altogether and start over.

Taking Facades ideas from research prototype  to the free desktop would be a real case of “Give one, Get Many”, for you personally, the children and any disabled people in your life.