What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say


Since my days of doing grass diversity research in the communal grazing lands adjacent to the Kruger National Park, I’ve always felt that the world needs top down impetus and proactiveness, but bottom up implementation. So in short, help from the wealthier people at the top, with the doing being done by people on the ground who understand the real issues the community they’re working in face.

Imagine a big truck pulling up and dropping your choice of aid (food, clothing, computers, seeds) to “help”, and the ensuing chaos and strife that would create. Now imagine the local people working with other local people, to grow and sell/barter food in local markets, make clothing, teach people how to use computers, show people who have lost their forefathers knowledge how to plant crops and manage water again… Which of those scenarios has a better longer term, sustainable, future?

So where am I going with this? Why the dramatic title?

Well, today I spent lunch today at the Commonwealth Club close to Embankment Station, with the team from the Ubuntu Education Fund, and a bunch of South Africans living in London, and I’ve come away more inspired and pleasantly surprised than I have ever before, after meeting NGO type people. I’m no NGO guru, so my experience is limited, but I’ve seen and heard enough to know that a lot of aid to the developing world is poorly conceived, misplaced and badly executed.

The people involved just seem to have the ingredients right, and after 10 years of doing this quietly in their own community of Port Elizabeth, they’ve got some impressive stats to show for it, as well as a community that has bought into what they’re doing, and is working with them to improve their lives. It’s awesome to see, and awesome to hear of how they’re being innovative and resourceful to solve problems that seem insurmountable.

They are a true startup success story, except they’re changing people’s lives fundamentally, which in many ways is truly, truly noble.

So in few words, they didn’t need to say much, what they are doing, on the ground, says enough. Hats off. I’ve been looking for an organisation that I could help out in some way, for a long long time, and I’ve always come up short of what I wanted on their side. Now I’ve found it. No need to re-invent the wheel, only to replicate and deploy in time.


As an aside, this is what I’ve been thinking the last hour:

  1. get to PE, watch, learn and understand what they do on the ground. Based on that:
  2. make a 1 or 2 week long secondment for everyone in my team, strongly encouraged, every year
  3. mentor a few school leavers to help them get ready for the big wide world
  4. employ the relevant youngsters coming out of university that have the right attitude
  5. grow those youngsters into leaders in their own rights, over a 5 year period, then send them off into the world to be successful for themselves
  6. put % of profit aside, to donate to the fund

All thoughts now, but I’m amped – gonna do this ;-)

A quote from Desmond Tutu


Desmond Tutu spoke at my school once, and he was awesome. Always enjoyed his sense of humour and pragmatism towards the issues we face.

Came across this, this morning, and wanted to share:
“A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”

Jaunty Jackalope upgrade issues – evolution, window decoration, workspace switcher, ALT-TAB not working


Anyone having any issues with evolution, their keyboard shortcuts or window decoration, after an upgrade to Jaunty Jackalope? [updated: my solution, at least for now, at the bottom]

Am finding the following so far, with visual (desktop) effects set to normal:

  1. there doesn’t seem to be a window manager working if I choose not to use compiz – windows all load top left and don’t have the usual minimise, maxmise, close buttons you’d expect (a launchpad bug)
  2. alt-tab doesn’t work and switching between workspaces doesn’t work
  1. after evolution got an upgrade, I restarted it, it asked for some backup files stuff which I gave, then before I could say “superfly” my mail was gone.  Like, gone, totally borked.  Good thing I backup regularly.

Tried removing .gconf* .gnome* and .config*, with had no effect.
This is super disappointing in some ways, in others you take it as it is ‘cos it’s free and you love it! ;-)

Day 2 of the upgrade saga and it looks like there are loads of peeps with the same or similiar issues – primarily around ATI driver support with Jaunty….  still working on it.  Incredibly frustrating now, and hard to believe this slipped thru… ;-(

Day 3 now, and I’ve got email back (moved to Thunderbird out of frustation), and running Compiz so that there is window decoration and the alt+tab and workspace switching works.  Problem is I still have to set that up each time I reboot….  so trying to figure that out, amidst getting email and contacts working properly on TB.  .xsession-errors seems to have something going on there, so looking into that now…

Seems there are people with the same problem – just needed to know what questions to ask Google ;-( Still no solution that works for me yet, so the search goes on.

Right, now I’m even more convinced something fishy is going on here – my gnome settings that I’ve been changing as I’ve been doing stuff have not been saved… which implies there is a gnome / gconf session saving issue.  Still digging.

Final update (I hope):
Ok, seems that there is a fix of sorts, which is working for me so far (restarting fine). Found this thread on the Ubuntuforums, which has led to the following:

To get Metacity working, the dirty hack is to add:

metacity --replace

to the list of startup applications, which seems to work fine if you’re set against compiz.

I was, but after trying it a bit the last two days it’s much much better than when I last tried it a year ago, so I’ve taken most of the gee whiz out and kept some of the usable stuff.

So to use compiz, I’ve installed all the relevant Compiz packages in synaptic, as well as “Compiz Fusion Icon”, which actually turned out to be the missing link, as well as adding:


to the list of startup apps.  So now I have the Fusion Icon in the Notification area next to the volume applet, but most importantly my windows have decoration / borders, I can alt+tab, and switch between workspaces (each one has a diff purpose for me).  I’m prepared to take a small performance hit if it means I can do that, and hey, my machine might actually start to look sexy, especially after setting up Gnome-do properly… ;-)  I’m also going to take a look at some emerald themes to see what they have to offer.

Evolution problem “Summary and folder mismatch, even after a sync”


Been getting a weird error message on Evolution, “Summary and folder mismatch, even after a sync” for my Sent items folder, which seems to have been sorted out using the following solution. I couldn’t find the “~” file in gnome terminal (ls -la revels nothing, ls -ld * same), and problem seems to have been sorted out by deleting the summary file alone…

Still love Evolution – way better than Outlook IMO ;-)

Using IMAP for GMail with Evolution, and working offline


Evolution seems to show some mails and not others…. am finding that txt emails, or small emails, are viewable offline, but other not…. The search continues….


Frequently of late, I’m finding I’m not online, so getting through email has not been an option with IMAP, using Evolution on Ubuntu with default settings. So after some reading these are the steps to make it work by downloading mail for offline use:

1. Go to your email account settings dialogue in Evolution: Edit > Preferences > email account > Edit (on the right)
2. Go to “Receiving Options” tab
3. Untick “Automatically synchronise….” at the bottom
4. Then go to the folder you want to be available offline, right click, select “Properties”
5. Tick “Copy folder content….” and “Always check for…..” if you want Evolution to do that
… And that should do it… ;-)

I deleted all IMAP folders on my local machine for my GMail account first, then set it up again doing the above, and it worked like a charm. There is a delay while Evolution gets all your mail to sync to start. You may also want to restrict which GMail folders / labels are available to IMAP so you don’t download *all* your mail…. You may have to deal with this bug, but it’s not a big price to pay for offline mail…

VirtualBox hack for accessing USB / external drives


If you want to access an external drive or device in VirtualBox, and you’re either not using USB in VirtualBox, or don’t have it working yet (as I don’t – in time tho’…), then simply create a symlink in your VirtualBox shared directory (I’m sharing my whole /home/gareth directory with VirtualBox) to your external device ( ln -s /media/BKP-320-M /home/gareth/lacie-320 ), and you should be able to access it no problem…