Tag Archives: debugging

Freemind Ubuntu Kludge

[ Update: Now unkludged with a greatly improved hack:

comment out the (only) line
“assistive_technologies=org.GNOME.Accessibility.AtkWrapper” in

Now even more confused how sudo helped ]

I’ve been unable to run my beloved mind-mapping tool ‘freemind’ since upgrading my only 64-bit Linux box to Ubuntu 15.10.

I haven’t found the cause yet, but in trying to debug the problem, I’ve found a surprising workaround. At the command line, run the script as SuperUser:

$ sudo -uYourOwnUsername freemind &

It’s Java so I have no idea why this helps. It’s a really bad idea to use sudo when you don’t know why. It does however, on this occasion, seem to allow me to climb out of a rather deep whole I’ve dug. The problem persisted if I manually installed the latest Freemind. The Ubuntu version I’m using, 0.9, was OK before and works fine on my Raspberry Pi 2 and an older 32-bit Ubuntu, so I’m a bit suspicious of 64-bit Java.

I’ve clearly not had much trouble before as it was news to me that

$ DEBUG=1 freemind

dumps information about the Java environment.

Hacking on Apple Hardware

Over the last few days I’ve discussed with a few people the origin of the word “hacker”, meaning someone who makes useful items with an axe. Having recently sharpened an axe, I decided that no phrase can be taken too literally when you only have yourself to amuse. I needed a stake to support a wobbly apple tree we planted at the bottom of the garden, so I decided there was no better solution than to fashion my own from the first hazel branches we cut last year. It turns out that I’m a natural axe hacker; probably all those hours whittling as a lad and the preference I inherited from my Dad to sharpen pencils with a knife rather than a pencil sharpener. I got my hardwood stick so sharp that when I tried to carry everything, I  cut my finger on the point. Never has the phrase “sweat and blood” been more appropriate for a project. At the end, I had confidence that if I was ever lost in a forest with only a sharp axe, within half an hour I could produce a pointy stick with which to defend myself. I suddenly realised that I’ve worked on software projects like that too.

Flushed with my success and with no in-house health & safety accident recording system to slow me down, I determined to complete another hardware hack before bed. I needed to debug why the new water-butt wasn’t filling from the old down-pipe bypass system which had worked faultlessly for a couple of years. I’d had a cunning theory that as the new butt was taller than the old one (“I like big butts and I cannot lie”,) there was insufficient height differential for the water to overcome the bypass system. It had worked, I implemented the butt upgrade and then it didn’t work. It had to be that, NOTHING ELSE HAD CHANGED. I have worked in Information Systems for over 30 years and this thought actually went through my head. I ‘wrote a test’ (disconnected the pipe and put it over a bucket, as low as it would reach.) The test still failed.

I disassembled the water trap and identified the problem. I’m a trained engineer so please excuse any technical jargon: the pipe to the water butt was blocked by a big lump of slimy gubbins. I poked it out with my finger ‘because Real Man’. OK, I didn’t realise what it was in time.

I’ve worked on software like that too. At least, this time, I get free water from the sky to wash away my impure thoughts.