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Frederic Crozat: Honey, I've DSLed my mom

Sun, 02/10/2008 - 16:20
After about 18 months of additional delay (over initial estimate), ADSL is, at last, available for my mom house, in Lozère. And I was able to guide her to install her new DSL box (Freebox, which is running Linux internaly) using my GSM tonight. It tooks about 1/2h to get DSL Box up and running with phone over IP, mostly to tell her where to plug each type of cable, check twice the phone cable (both RJ11 and French plugs are mixed) and an additional 1/4h to get her to configure IP connectivity on her Mandriva box :
  • first you plug the usb cable from Freebox to PC (I didn't install a ethernet card on her PC, it will be done later)
  • then, you log in as usual, you go to "System / Administration and Configure your Computer"
  • you type your administrator password
  • you choose Internet, then "Configure a new Internet connexion", you choose Ethernet (since it is usbnet) and you click on the Next button until you are done.
  • You insert requested CD to get dhcp client installed
  • et voilà
Oh, maybe I forgot to tell you my mom didn't knew how to use a mouse three years ago (or a GUI system) and has been using Google quite often for about 6 months now (over old analogic modem). And she is running Mandriva Linux with GNOME ! Isn't it wonderful ?

Frederic Crozat: PDF and cairo/gtk love, Metisse job and funny UI

Sun, 02/10/2008 - 16:19
PDF and cairo/gtk love
While investigating why Beagle wasn't finding some PDF files in my Download directory, I tried to create a PDF file from scratch to check if PDF indexing was working properly. So, I launched gedit and write a small test file and printed it to PDF. Unfortunately, I discovered its text output was garbage. I thought : it might be a cairo problem, did more tests and I saw my mistake : gedit (in fact, gtksourceview, see bug 375886) is still using the old libgnomeprint(ui) library, which is not generating text-readable PDF, unlike cairo PDF backend. Same think for gnome-dictionnary (fortunately, evolution has been ported). So, this is a call for maintainers : please, please, try to port your applications to GtkPrint from gtk+ 2.10.x, it give better consistency to GNOME and moreover, your application will generate text parseable PDF files !

And for those wondering if I find out about my beagle bug, not yet.. It is probably caused by using a non-UTF8 locale (I'm old school), with directory using non ASCII / locale-encoded filename. Epiphany has also a similar problem (not reported yet, I'd like to cook a patch) as well as Baobab (see bug 437478).

Good news on Metisse front : Insitu got funding (through INRIA) for a Metisse job position. Sorry for non french people, it is more for young graduated folks, located near Paris. More informations are available (in french) on Inria website here (job position) and here (more general informations about this kind of job). Hurry up, application must be sent before May 23, 2007.

Funny UI
Thanks to Martin, I hear last Wednesday about Reactable. This is very interesting and moreover, it is free software. Too bad they didn't come last year to do a demo at GUADEC, since this team is located in Barcelona :(

Frederic Crozat: Google Reader hacks, Velib', Spring

Sun, 02/10/2008 - 16:18
So, it has been about 6 months since I've switched to Google Reader (from Planet) and I enjoy it a lot. But I have still some issues with it :
  • it is almost unusable with n800 web browser, because of its intensive javascript usage,

  • it isn't possible to have a offline version of Google Reader.
Why offline, would you ask ? Well, for severals years (must be about 7 years now), I've been using my Palm as an offline web browser to read various news during my commuting time (with is about 30 minutes every morning). At first, I was using AvantGo but I switched to JPluck, associated with Planet, to generate an offline database of webpages to read every morning. It was ok, until I switched to Google Reader, since I still needed to keep Planet running and synced with Google Reader feeds list. Fortunately, some people have been documenting Google Reader unofficial API and this weekend, I took some time to play with it to grab a feed of unread items, just like Planet. And it is really too easy to be true :

First, you need a Session User Id from Google, where you authenticate :
SID=`curl --silent -d service=reader -d "" -d Passwd="Your_Password" -d source="lens" -d continue="" | grep ^SID= | sed -e 's/SID=//'`then you just query Google Reader for the items on your reading-list, excluding already read items :
curl --silent --cookie "SID=$SID;;path=/;expires=1600000000" ""And you'll get a nice Atom feed. It would have been nice if JPluck was able to use Atom feed, but it only supports RSS, so I used XSLT stylesheet to convert Atom to RSS 2.0. Et voilà.

So, what is left to get my perfect offline feed / web reader :
  • migrate from my Palm T3 to n800 : I could use FBReader but my initial tests weren't very conclusive, since FBReader doesn't fully support keyboard navigation (I don't like using stylus in the bus, I prefer to keep using hardware buttons) and I'm getting used to n800 browser.

  • replace JPluck with something else : this is probably the way to go and I'm thinking about wget and/or some perl script to strip any unwanted html (javascript, applet, flash). It should be easily doable by parsing Atom feed, running wget on the various links, and generating a summary webpage from Atom feed using XSL

  • moving the entire process on n800 : wouldn't it be nice to just choose "update feed" on n800 and have it doing the entire job. I'm not sure it will be possible since Perl isn't available on Maemo but I guess I shouldn't be wondering about that now. Instead, I should do the previous steps first ;)
Paris City has decided to install low cost bike rental system, called Velib' which looks quite interesting : 1€ per day, 5€ a week or 29€ a year, constraint being each ride must be less than 30 minutes (or there is additional fee required), available 24h a day and with 20 000 bikes over 1500 stations by end of 2007. I'm not a bike person but this might push me to try using them from time to time. Work has begun for building bike stations (launch is for Summer 2007) and I took this opportunity to test Google "My Maps" feature to get a map of in-progress bike stations. And I must say it is really easy to create customized maps with their UI. I'll try to update this map when new building sites are added on Velib' website.

Mandriva 2007 Spring
Month of March and beginning of April have been crazy for me (and everybody working on the distro) but I'm quite happy with soon to be released Mandriva 2007 Spring (I don't have the exact date, should be in very few days). If you want to know what to expect from it, take Spring tour, but I can give you a secret : GNOME 2.18 is in it ;)

Frederic Crozat: n800, nabaztag, Métisse and FOSDEM

Sun, 02/10/2008 - 16:15
So, like other GNOME hackers, this is a mandatory n800 post. Thanks to Nokia (and whoever selected me) for developer discount. I didn't wait very much (about 1 or 2 hours) to order it and I got it one day after (Nokia shop is really fast). I'll also take this opportunity to thanks Quim Gil for giving developer discounts to two Mandriva kernel hackers (Samir and Arnaud) who are both doing a lot of maemo development on their spare time. I've take many pictures of the various themes available for n800 here.


As most of you already know, I'm a geek (and most of our are geeks too :p ) so for Christmas, my mom offered me a wifi rabbit, called Nabaztag. It is really cute and there is a nice community of people with such devices, customizing them, doing some reverse engineering of the device (it isn't opensource, even if Violet, a small french startup doing it is quite open and is using Linux and Java for the server part of Nabaztag). More photos of my nabaztag and his friends (and some nice customizations doing by PetiteCane) are available here.

I've been extremely pleased to see reactions about Metisse. We thought it is an interesting technology to promote and it appears we were right. I did a lot of presentation at Solutions Linux show, two weeks ago and response from the public was huge. Things are moving nicely in the entire community, with David Reveman implementing Input transformations in X server (something which is still unique to Metisse and allows interaction on any transformed window) and Quinn Storm, Beryl author, dropped a nice hello on Metisse mailing list. I'm hoping, in near future, all those modifications will be merged upstream so we could run any compositor, like Metisse, Compiz, Beryl or metacity+libcm, without any hacks needed on X server. I strongly suggest interested people have a look at Metisse research paper which is easy to read but very informative. Oh, don't be fooled by screencasts available on Mandriva website, some very interesting features of Metisse aren't demoed yet. If you downloaded screencasts by bittorrent, I suggest you look at Facades demo (research paper about Facades is here).

I'll be at FOSDEM next week-end in Brussels and there will be a lot of Mandriva people (both community members and company developers) and we also have a developer room. I'll be doing a presentation about Metisse (not too much technical) in GNOME developer room on Sunday at 9h15. I just hope I won't be alone in the room, because of early schedule ;)

Frederic Crozat: Ceci n'est pas a 3D destkop

Sun, 02/10/2008 - 16:09
I repeat "Ceci n'est pas a 3D desktop"... More on this later ;)


Wii has landed in Europe last Friday (and we did a Wii session at lunch time at Mandriva so everybody could test it easily) but it is still very hard to find for people (like me) who didn't book it before launch, with effective availability supposed to be end of december. So, today, I went to a shop to get a coupon for my old GameCube and to book a Wii for end of december. And guess what ? Manager gave me a Wii directly from booked Wii stock (because one booking was canceled), without me even asking for a favor. Nice, isn't it.

Frederic Crozat: Metro by night, 400D, Google Reader

Sun, 02/10/2008 - 16:08
Paris Metro by night

Two weeks ago, I was able to participate to a very special night, organised by RATP (Paris public transport company, in charge of bus and metro) and Ademas (association of fan of Paris metro) in Paris metro. For one night (from 23h30 to 5h30), we visited a lot of Paris metro stations, including some ghost stations (station which were never opened to the public, such as Haxo or Porte Molitor which doesn't have any stairs to exit station) or closed ones (which are no longer used like Croix-Rouge or Saint-Martin, or used for non public purpose like Porte des Lilas Cinema, used for movie or advertising shooting). The tour was extremely interesting, with a lot of informations on metro history and heritage. Moreover, the tour was done with a single train which was autorized to change from one line to another (something impossible in Paris metro). All my photos for this tour are available here.

Google Reader
As many other people, I've tested the new version of Google (feed) Reader. I tested first version when it was launched some months ago and it was unusable for me (and incredibly slow). For some years, I've been using Planet as my personal aggregator : it is easy to use if you have your own webserver but it is a little too much memory hungry and cpu intensive when refreshing feed and for me who is switching PC between work and home, I need to remember what was the latest entry I read before I switched PC. But I must confess I really enjoy the inverse chronological order associated with a merge all feed style. Moreover, I can fetch aggregated feed on my Palm for offline reading every morning easily. I tried Netvibes but their way of managing feeds doesn't really scale when reading a lot of feeds. So, I tried again Google Reader, not expected anything usable but I was wrong : sorting and merging is done just like I was doing with Planet, automatically mark as read when an article is scrolled is a very smart feature, allowing to star a article (for later reading) is also very useful. And it is not slow (and it works on my 770 too). I've been using it for three days now and I love it. I'll probably continue to use Planet at least for offline aggregation but I might have found the perfect online RSS reader (at least for now).

Canon 400D

After wondering for some weeks on camera and lenses, I offered myself for my birthday a Canon 400D this week, with both a Sigma 18-200 and Canon 50mm f1.8 lenses. Pascal did took the exact same decision on the camera and main lens one day after me (and both bought camera at from one net vendor and lens from another net vendor). And we discovered this coincidence only on monday when, on Mandriva internal irc channel, I said postman delivered my order at home :) Today, after rain decided to stop, I was able to test this brand new camera (and my first reflex) in Bois de Vincennes, around Lac Daumesnil where I do my running session. And I'm quite happy with the result, for my first contact with this camera. Sigma focal range is great (coming from 28-100 on my Powershot S60) for a decent price (even if it isn't stabilized). If you are curious, you can look at those photos here.

Frederic Crozat: Mandriva 2007.0, RTL, Lozere

Sun, 02/10/2008 - 16:07
Mandriva 2007.0 is out
I guess most people already know about it but Mandriva Linux 2007.0 is available for everybody now, and it is the first distribution to ship GNOME 2.16 (yay). Moreover, if you (or your friends) just want to test it without installing it first, you can now grab Live CD in both GNOME (yay) and KDE flavors, which can later be used to install the distribution on your system. And remember, if you don't like Ia Ora theme colors, there are always 3 other flavors (colors) available.

While fixing some Ia Ora bugs with vmware and gnomine, I tested it with RTL languages (such as arabic, hebrew and farsi). I knew I didn't had time to do those tests before 2007.0 but better later than never ;) Anyway, there were some bugs, which are now fixed and after discussing with Bedhad, I also changed light direction on theme when used in RTL, so light is now coming from the right side, inversing shadows and horizontal gradients. Result looks a little strange for non RTL readers but I think most RTL languages readers will be pleased. The only thing I didn't change is Metacity theme, since it doesn't support RTL and I didn't want to add 4 other metacity theme just for that (and I'm not sure other OS switch WM buttons positions).

And of course, screenshots (with help of TheWidgetFactory, click for full resolution) : LTR (as reference) and RTL


I'm taking a two weeks vacations in my native soil. I'm usually not spending a lot of time there because I really enjoy Paris (which is now my home) and I can't do much things in country land (and after staying there for 18 years, I know there isn't much things to do) but I'm expecting something different this time. Aside upgrading my mom computer to latest Mandriva, I'll be visiting countryside as a tourist (something most people never do) and testing my new 400D at the same time. Let's hope I'll do nice photos ;)

Frederic Crozat: GUADEC post-op

Sun, 02/10/2008 - 15:43
No, Ross, you're not the last one :)

I wanted to blog only when I finished processing all photos I took at GUADEC (since this time, I tried using RAW) but my Gimp-fu and Ufraw-fu is still a little low so I'm still not finished (but the first photos are online here). And next UFRaw release is scheduled today, with noise reduction and full color management, so I'll probably need to re-process my old photos.

Anyway, it has been a great week in Birmingham, very instructive (I was able to attend 33 talks !) with wonderful people all around (a special thanks to organization team).

It seems Mandriva / GUADEC USB key was well received, even if we found some bugs (like no boot on two laptops, including Frederic one or incorrect informative message reported by Hub). Another information regarding startup on the key : you can disable the "welcome" webpage after logging by GNOME editing session property.

But I want more feedback !! So, if you haven't formated your USB key yet (or even if you did ;) , tell us if you like it or not, bugs you found, features you miss, everything. Either comment on my post or blog yourself and add a trackback here.

Vincent Danen: hddtemp wrapper for Nagios

Sat, 02/09/2008 - 07:52

I was bored tonight so I wrote a wrapper for hddtemp for Nagios monitoring. I have a bit of a quirky setup for Nagios where I run the local system checks on remote systems via netcat, ipsvd, and a script to handle the query. This allows me to monitor remote drive space, current users, total processes, and current load. Using hddtemp, I can now monitor the temperature of the drives in those machines (which also gives me an idea of how hot/cold the server room itself is).

This may need some tweaking to work with other Nagios setups, but shouldn’t be too hard to adapt. One of these days I’ll do a writeup on my Nagios configuration. Anyways, the wrapper script is as follows. It could probably be optimized a bit more, but it works well enough. Wordpress doesn’t handle the indents very well, so keep that in mind.


usage() {
echo "${0} -w [warn] -c [crit] [drives]"

if [ "${1}" == "-h" -o "${1}" == "--help" ]; then
exit 0
if [ "${1}" == "-w" ]; then
exit 1
if [ "${1}" == "-c" ]; then
exit 1
while [ "${1}" != "" ]; do
drives="${drives} ${1}"
if [ "${drives}" == "" ]; then
exit 1


for drive in ${drives}; do
stats=`/usr/local/sbin/hddtemp ${drive}`
model=`echo ${stats} | cut -d ':' -f 2`
temp=`echo ${stats} | cut -d ':' -f 3 | cut -d ' ' -f 2`
dev=`echo ${drive}|cut -d '/' -f 3`

if [ "${temp}" -ge "${warn}" ]; then
if [ "${status}" != "2" ]; then

if [ "${temp}" -ge "${crit}" ]; then

if [ "${temp}" -gt "${htemp}" ]; then

smsg="${smsg}${dev}=${temp}C; "

case "${status}" in

echo "HDDTEMP ${wmsg} - ${smsg}|hddtemp=${htemp};${warn};${crit};0"

The output, in Nagios’ status view looks like:

HDDTEMP OK - hda=22C: sda=24C: sdb=24C:

It’s called as “hddtemp-mon -w 30 -c 35 /dev/hda /dev/sda /dev/sdb”.

Vincent Danen: libcdio and package auditing

Fri, 02/08/2008 - 19:01

There was a vulnerability in libcdio that we sat on for quite a bit because I had accidentally found another way to crash iso-info. Took some time to figure it all out, but we were persistent and Gustavo came up with the fix for all supported libcdio versions.

I don’t normally blog about the security stuff we do, so why is this different? Well, this one was more interesting than your run-of-the-mill patch-test-release cycle. We actually got to do some testing and fixing on our own which, while not a first for Mandriva, is certainly rare. Usually we’re the recipients of other people’s patches. This time, we found something, and we fixed it, got to submit it upstream, etc. This might be a normal thing for maintainers, but not so normal for the secteam.

Anyways, I’ve always wanted to be able to have the resources to do more “research” in looking for vulns to fix things proactively. This gave me a taste of it, and I like it. =) Too bad the resources aren’t there to do more of this sort of thing.

It’s also nice seeing your name associated with upstream fixes. The patch information gives Mandriva credit for the fix, which is great for us. Also lets Gustavo puff his chest a bit with a job well-done. My name is in there, but didn’t need to be… I guess that’s the benefits of being a middle-man/proxy/manager sort.

At any rate, it’s back to the usual grind, but this was an interesting little side-track. I guess the next “big thing” isn’t so much package auditing, but is a departure from the normal grind… get to figure out how to setup and use iurt to build security updates. Should be interesting.

Jerome Soyer: \o/ Rien d'autre a dire \o/

Thu, 02/07/2008 - 09:00

Adam Williamson: Multiple external monitors, on a laptop, on Linux, with Tritton See2 USB video adapter / sisusb

Thu, 02/07/2008 - 06:02

I decided today that I really hadn’t had enough crazy hardware hackery in my life lately.

I’ve been planning for a while to buy a new desktop, replacing the laptop I’ve been using as my only client system for the last year and a half. This was mainly due to a few irritants with the laptop:

one, it overheated all the time
two, the CD/DVD writer doesn’t work
three, I can’t have two external monitors on it as it only has one VGA port
four, intel driver bug causing periodic screen blankings that only a reboot can fix

In the end, though, I’ve decided to try and address these problems with the existing system, which is really a fine system if I can just deal with these things.

So first I tackled the screen blanking bug, which has been driving me nuts. Turns out to be related to a new feature of the intel driver since 2.2.0, called framebuffer compression. Disabling framebuffer compression fixes that problem. This is being addressed by the intel driver developers currently, so hopefully 2.2.1 (or 2.3.0, whatever they call it) and later releases will work fine.

Today, I tackled the overheating and external monitor problems.

Overheating turned out to be easy, once I stopped being pissed off by it and started looking for a solution. One, I did a couple of good hard blows in through the vent where the heatsink is located. That knocked an easy 10 degrees C off of my temperatures. Two, I bought one of those janky ‘laptop coolers’ - basically a chunk of plastic with a couple of fans in it that you sit your laptop on top of. The fans are powered by USB. Okay, it’s janky, but it works; my temperatures are 20 degrees down from where they were, and I can now actually compile things without the system hitting 100C and shutting itself down.

Having two external monitors on a laptop with only one VGA connector is, heh, somewhat more fun.

The most obvious thing to look for is an ExpressCard graphics adapter.

ExpressCard is the successor to PCMCIA / PC Card, for those who don’t follow the laptop hardware scene very closely. It’s basically a 1x PCI Express socket in a different form factor.

Inexplicably - given the amount of laptops with only one external display connector and no upgrade path - there does not seem to be such a beast.

Back at the start of 2006, Asus announced something called the ‘Asus XG Station’, which is basically an ExpressCard to PCI Express adapter specifically designed to house a PCI Express graphics card. The idea is to sell it with a mid-range card for $300 or so, but it’s really just a generic adapter, the card could be swapped out (with due consideration given to power and cooling issues). However, it’s still not on the market. And anyway, the price doesn’t really ring my bell; I’d prefer to pay $100 for the adapter and buy a cheap card. I don’t need any 3D capabilities.

Aside from this, there’s nothing except a workstation-class thing I found (can’t find it again) which looks like exactly what I want, with the minor drawback that it costs $800. Which is about how much I was going to spend on the *entire new desktop system*.

The second most obvious thing to look for is a mini-PCI graphics card.

Again somewhat inexplicably (though slightly less, given the trouble you’d have with connectors given that mini-PCI is conceived as an *internal* form factor), none of these seem to exist either. MSI apparently made (or, at least, listed) one - possibly only usable with a specific set of MSI motherboards - with an ATI Rage chipset, back in 2002. Since then, nada.

The next thing I came across was something Matrox make, called the DualHead2Go. This, in some way, converts a single VGA output into two (there’s a TripleHead2Go as well). I imagine it relies on the underlying hardware actually supporting multiple outputs, and just tricks it into forcing them all through one physical port, or something. I don’t know if there’s any Linux support for it, because I quickly lost interest when I found in the specs that it doesn’t go past 1280×1024 resolution per monitor. I had my heart set on dual 20″ 1680×1050 monitors.

So the final, least obvious but actually (more or less) working solution is…

a USB video card.

Yes, you can stop laughing now. These do in fact exist and - miraculously - actually work. More or less.

The one I got is branded a Tritton See2, but I think there’s really only basically two types in existence. This one looks like this and pops up under many names and several color schemes, but always looking basically the same (a slightly curved, rounded chunk of plastic around the size of a mouse, with a USB plug on one end and a VGA port on the other). Here’s another example. From what I can gather, it basically contains a cheap USB->PCI bridge and an equally cheap SiS graphics chipset. Mine has the USB ID 0711:0900, and identifies via lsusb as a “Magic Control Technology Corp. SVGA Adapter”.

The alternative is this. This is built on a system called DisplayLink. It seems to be a rather more sophisticated setup which actually uses customized hardware and has custom drivers which use a lot of compression tricks to substantially increase performance. The drawback is that there is, as far as I can tell, no Linux support at all for this hardware. I have contacted DisplayLink and also the mailing list to see if they know anything at all about each other, we’ll see where that goes.

So, as the DisplayLink option seemed to be a non-starter, I decided to go with the more janky alternative, and picked up the Tritton See2 thing (which, rather amazingly, my local retailer -, AKA Netlink - had on hand at their local branch).

To my considerable surprise, it actually works more or less as advertised with a minimum of faffing about. It uses a kernel module (sisusbvga) and an driver (sisusb). With an appropriate xorg.conf, it just works like any more conventional graphics card.

The fun came in trying to get it working along with my laptop’s internal chipset, an Intel i945. The intel driver is one of the first to be using the new RandR 1.2. It turns out that trying to do a multi-adapter setup where one of the adapters uses an RandR 1.2 driver and one uses an RandR 1.1 driver just won’t work. And the intel driver has no option to disable RandR 1.2 (it has no RandR 1.1 fallback, it relies on RandR 1.2 to work at all).

So I mailed the X mailing list to complain about this (boy, those guys sure love me today!), and devised Plan B.

Plan B is, basically, going back to the old-school iteration of the Intel driver, known as i810.

Again surprising me (I was planning on *at least* two days of fun-filled poking before I got this all working), this works fine. With a fairly basic Xinerama xorg.conf (setting up Xinerama is documented in tons of places on the Web, and in man xorg.conf), dual displays - one connected to the USB adapter, one to the internal Intel adapter - was pretty much a snap to get working.

So, problem solved, right?

Well, not quite. One, RandR 1.2 is really nice. Without it, I can’t just disconnect my laptop and walk away any more; I have to switch xorg.conf files and restart X if I want to go from the stationary dual-external-head setup to the mobile one-internal-head setup. It would be far nicer if RandR 1.2 drivers played nice in a multi-adapter setup with RandR 1.1 drivers. Or if RandR 1.2 drivers played nice in a multi-adapter setup with *other RandR 1.2 drivers* (apparently this doesn’t work either, though I don’t have the means to test), and sisusb was ported to RandR 1.2.

Two, those of you who know much about hardware may have already guessed this one: doing graphics over a USB connection with no compression is not exactly an exercise in pure speed. AGP 1x had more bandwidth than a USB 2.0 connection, so you can imagine what AGP 8x has. And PCI-E 16x. That’s not even thinking about latency. And the sisusb driver is not accelerated in any way. This means…it’s slow. Redraws are noticeable in just about all operations. It’s not a deal breaker for me, as the monitor connected to the USB connection is basically going to spend 95% of its time showing Evolution. But you should take it into consideration if you’re thinking about a similar setup. Playing video, for instance, would be just a complete non-starter. The DisplayLink option would be much better in this area, if it worked in Linux.

Three - and this one surprised me the most - the quality just isn’t great. The quality of the display from the USB adapter is massively worse than the one from the internal Intel adapter, at 1680×1050 (and 1440×900, I tested that too in case it was better). Basically, it’s very slightly fuzzy and colors are just not well separated. Even after tweaking the monitor settings extensively to make the best of it, using Evolution with the Clearlooks GTK+ theme, when looking at the mail list - where each line is supposed to have a slightly different background color, as lists do in GTK+ these days - you can’t tell the two colors apart. Each line just looks white.

In the end I switched to the Darklooks theme. The adapter seems to do a bit better with dark colors than light ones, and using this theme, the quality is acceptable. It’s still obviously inferior to the quality on the other head, though. So that’s something else to take into account.

Still, overall this is an acceptable solution to the situation of wanting another external VGA connector on a laptop that only has one. And probably to several other situations where you want another video adapter in a system which has no spare PCI, AGP or PCI-E slot. These adapters *do* work rather easily in Linux, they’re reasonably widely available, and not expensive (I paid CAN$80 for mine). So it’s an option, and it’s out there.

The only other real reference I could find that said “yes, I have one, and it works” was a guy in Japan (in Japanese) using one on his OLPC. So I figure this should act as a useful bit of Google bait for anyone in a similar bind. If you want to ask any questions, feel free to post a comment, and I’ll answer as best I can.