peteg's blog

Die, X11, die...

/hacking/mac | Link

This whole Unicode fiasco has finally killed X11 as a viable option for me. I wouldn't have thought it was so very hard to provide a complete set of easily-usable Unicode fonts, but there it is.

So, on André's advice, I've switched to:

  • Aquamacs, GNU Emacs with a shiny-happy Mac OS X face. Apart from a lot of minor irritations that come with losing about a decade's worth of XEmacs configuration, it seems quite slick. I tried Carbon XEmacs but it doesn't support Unicode out of the box, and I refuse to spend (more) hours fiddling with it.

  • Terminator, an xterm-alike written in Java, is possibly the best thing ever to run on the JVM.

  • A new bash from MacPorts that speaks Unicode better than the crusty old one that comes with Mac OS X 10.4.x.

Of course I'll still need X11 for sundry old-school things like Isabelle, but there the pain is much less.

So, why Aquamacs rather than a fancy closed-source editor? Well, TextMate crashed on me after about twenty minutes of use — I tried to open a file while saving-as another one, and was madly switching programs trying to navigate the directory tree — and so I recall the cardinal rule of editors: anything less than twenty years old hasn't been tested enough. Whether the (relatively shallow) differences that Aquamacs has to GNU Emacs matter is something I will soon discover.

/AYAD | Link

Cử kindly ran me through a game of Chinese Chess after lunch. As is his wont he played both sides of the board, emphasising strategy and the need to discern the opponent's goals. In his gentlemanly way he engineered a win for me after a bit of back-and-forth.

(This post is also an attempt to get Unicode working. I'm in the market for a Unicode-savvy Mac OS X editor... more later. This entry was brought to you by Apple's TextEdit, which I would almost be satisfied with if it had XEmacs-style M-/ completion, didn't wrap lines, ... oh, OK, it falls fair short. André suggested Aquamacs and TextMate. All I know is that setting up X11 is beyond my patience.)

Full Metal Jacket

/noise/movies | Link

/AYAD | Link

The first casualty of the tropics came as a surprise to me; apparently the CCDs in Canon PowerShot A75s are prone to humidity and heat issues. This morning I trekked out to the Canon service centre, where the guy took one look at it and told me to come back tomorrow.

The second casualty of the tropics was my throat; I'm having a re-run of (something resembling) that awful green-muck-inducing respiratory disease I had in Canberra. The doctor prescribed some antibiotics, and with all those health warnings we got, I think I'll be taking them this time. Now, to sort out the insurance paperwork...

Vietnamese Traditional Massage Institute

/AYAD/Disability-Projects | Link

I have no clear idea what this place is called; the above is from the Lonely Planet. Apparently there is a tradition in many towns in Vietnam for visually-impaired people to be employed as masseurs, though the profession has a somewhat sullied reputation here more generally. This particular establishment is run by the local Association for the Blind.

I went there with Mike after lunch, before playing badminton, which may have been less than ideal. Like many other people I had a less than satisfying experience; it appears to depend a lot on who you get.

Vietnam gets thrashed, Hồ Chí Minh City goes ape.


Even after a heavy 4-1 loss to Japan in their final Asia Cup pool match, the streets of Hồ Chí Minh City were abuzz with merry people waving the national flag and honking their horns like they were preparing to overtake the world. Tomorrow will be a national hangover, and I'm sure there'll be a RJL Hawke figure somewhere saying "Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum".

Panorama from Mike's apartment building.


Mike shot this panorama of District 1, looking south from his apartment building, which I think is called the "Mieu Noi Apartments". There are some great photos of the area here, and some stomach-churning images of the canal.

I stitched this together quickly and roughly with DoubleTake, hence the big "DoubleTake". Perhaps I'll redo it with something free, one of these days...

/AYAD/Disability-Projects | Link

Loan, with her cousin, took me to the Sakura Hoa Anh Dao café, where each of the waiting staff are mentally impaired in some way. Cutely they put a stuffed animal on each table to ease the burden of remembering where things need to go to.

iPhoto Script Export

/hacking/mac | Link

This thing is magic: one can readily write a little script to (in my case) copy images from iPhoto into a Blosxom-friendly location, and output the requisite tags.

Hồ Chí Minh City for plane people.


I'm still too busy-lazy to do a decent write-up of what's been happening this last week-and-a-bit, so here are just a few pointers for the curious (and my future reference):

  • Google Maps doesn't have a decent map of this city; apparently this is as detailed as it gets. Vinacarta is much better but their geocoding is not that great and the map is not insanely detailed, neither of which come as a surprise to anyone who has tried to find a decent map of HCMC. Here's an attempt at embedding:

    I'm staying in a hotel on a lane around about the "o" in Pham Ngu Lao, near the top-left, and the DRD (Disability Resource and Development) office is somewhere on Ho Hao Hon street, which is in the centre at the bottom. I would've marked these in Vinacarta but it doesn't seem to work with FireFox.

    Pham Ngu Lao is the backpacker district, so things are a little pricey around here and the touting gets old fast. Conversely it is quite convenient to the downtown, and as the room itself is quite decent I'm content to sit tight for a while yet.

  • The taps in my hotel room are Swedish-style.

  • These are my fellow DRD workers, whom I met on Monday. From left to right: Huy (my counterpart for web development), Loan (fingers in may pies), Cử (employment-related stuff, funny man), and two shy ladies who I need to get to know better.

  • I still have no idea how to enter Vietnamese characters into XEmacs or HTML documents, even after some serious googling; the MacBook is of course happy provided I stay in Mac land. The future is doubtlessly Unicode, but the present looks like a mess. So, sorry for the lack of decorations, things will improve in time.

  • There are loads of Vietnamese-English dictionaries around, e.g. vdict. If I have time I want to convert one of these dict-friendly ones to the Apple format.

I start work proper tomorrow, with hours 8am to 11:30am, 2pm to 5pm (I think). The massive thunderstorm tonight will hopefully make it easy to catch up on some sleep.

First of the big questions.

/AYAD | Link

Is the tap water in Hồ Chí Minh City drinkable? All the tourist sites claim it is not, but the doctor at our training week in Canberra claimed that, with some filtering that would not be considered paranoid in Australia, the water in South-East Asian cities is drinkable. Does anyone know?

The most encouraging comment I can find is here:

Hồ Chí Minh City is one of the places that you CAN drink the tap water - thanks to the US Government, during the American War, and recent massive upgrades using Japanese technology and plastic water mains pipes.

I'd be prepared to give it a go if I can lay my hands on an active-charcoal filter (or better); the photo he showed of a mountain of used plastic water bottles was pretty disheartening.

Update: I spoke with Pat, another AYAD working on urban water quality issues somewhere around here. He claims that the tap water still contains gastro-inducing bacteria.

/AYAD/Disability-Projects | Link

Today I got to see the JICA project that aims to rehabilitate people who have suffered some loss of brain function. They (the medical staff, mostly physical therapists, and Loan and Bich from DRD) took a group of young adults to Dầm Sen Park, in much the same way as I used to help Barb do with the Up! Club. Note the mechanic doing on-the-spot repairs just off the edge of the dodgem car arena.

Peodair on Temptation.

/noise | Link

Yes, he's been at it again. For those of you who missed it:


/noise/movies | Link
At The Ritz with Jen. Product placement runs deep in this movie; I laughed a lot at the references to eBay seller ladiesman217, but was disappointed (You've got) The Touch didn't make an appearance.