Innovations in Emacs Touch Interfacing

I’ve long attempted to hack some touch interfaces for laptops in non-keyboard configurations.

The sad thing is that there aren’t really any good solutions in GNU/Linux. If you want to be able to respond to more complex events like “two finger drag”, you have to hack GTK and use Touchégg, and then it turns out that doesn’t really work on Wayland, and then most of the events disappeared from the X driver, and then…

In short, the situation is still a mess. And then my lug-around-the-apt-while-washing-TV-laptop died (ish), so I had to get a new one (a Lenovo X1 Yoga (2nd gen (which I had to buy from Australia, because nobody would sell it with the specs I wanted (i.e., LTE modem if I wanted to also take it travelling (the 3rd gen has an LTE modem that’s not supported by Linux))))):

And now, with Ubuntu 18.04, everything is even worse, and I’m not able to get any multi finger events at all! All the touch events are just translated into mouse events! Aaaargh!

After despairing for an eternity (OK, half a day), I remembered another touch interface that I quite like: The Perfect Reader.

It’s a bit hard to tell here, but the idea is that you divide the screen into areas, and then you just tap one of the areas to have the associated action happen.

Surely even Linux can’t have fucked up something so basic: It must be possible to get that kind of access.

And it’s possible! Behold!

Er… What’s going on on the other side of the backyard?

Eeek! Kitten! Go back inside!

That’s not a safe place to play! … *phew* It sat down, and turned around and went back inside. *heart attack averted*


The idea is that there’s one action grid overlay when Emacs is in the forefront, and another when the mpv video player is.  All the events go via Emacs, though, which controls mpv via the mpv socket interface.  (And, by the way, I have to say that I’m really impressed with mpv.  It has all the commands you want it to have.  The documentation is somewhat lacking, though.)

Here’s a demo:

Basically, I’m just reading the output from libinput-debug-events (which outputs everything that goes through /dev/input/event* (so you have to add your user to the input group to access them)), and then execute things based on that. libinput is allegedly the new hotness, and replaces libev and the synaptics X driver, and is supposed to be supported on both Wayland and Xorg, so hopefully this attempt at an interface will last a bit longer than the previous ones.

I wrote the controlling thing in Emacs, of course, and you can find it on Github. I’ve been using an Emacs-based movie/TV viewer since 2004, and I’m not giving up now! So there.

I can haz mp4?

Let’s Encrypt was so ridiculously easy to install on my private web server that I wondered whether I could switch to mp4s for gifs. I mean, video snippets. I can’t do those directly on, because does not support controlling where mp4 videos appear in email posts.

So let’s try!

Did it work? Huh? Huh?

[Edit: It does seem to kinda work, but not in Chromium? And the snippets don’t autoplay, even if the WordPress pages says that’s supported. So once again, like for the nine thousandth time, I’m struggling with I should move my blog off of this site and host it myself… *sigh*]

Innovations in Web Scraping

I added event descriptions to my Concerts in Oslo a few months back. It mostly worked kinda OK, but it’s using heuristics to find out what “the text” is, so it sometimes includes less-than-useful information.

In particular, those fucking “YES IT KNOW IT”S A FUCKING COOKIE!” texts that all fucking web sites slather their pages with now fucking get in the way, because those texts are often a significant portion of the text on any random page. (Fucking.)

But I added filtering for the those bits, and things looked fine.

Yesterday I was told that all Facebook events are basically nothing but that cookie warning (in Norwegian), and that’s because the Facebook event pages now contain nothing but that text, plus some scaffolding to load the rest as JSON:

To build the Facebook event page, about 85 HTTP calls are done and 6MB worth of data is loaded.

I contemplated reverse-engineering the calls to get the event description via the graphql calls (since Facebook has closed all access to public events via their API), but then it struck me: The browser is showing me all this data, so perhaps I could just point a headless browser towards the site, and then ask it to dump its DOM, and then I can parse that?

Which I’ve now done.

I know, it’s probably a common technique, but I’d just not considered it at all. A mental block of some kind, I guess. I’m so embarrassed. Of course, it now takes 1000x longer to scrape a Facebook event than something that just puts the event descriptions in the HTML, but whatevs. That’s what you have caches for.

I’m using PhantomJS, and it seems to work well (even if development has been discontinued). PhantomJS is so easy and pleasant to work with that I think I’ll try to stick with it until it disappears completely. Is there another headless browser that’s as good? All the other ones I’ve seen are more… enterprisey.

Stamped Box

Hey! I got a package from France with the most stamps ever!

Just look at it! Such variety! I’m very impressed.

The contents are even better. It’s the Éric Rohmer bluray/DVD box set. The Intégrale. That sounds much classier than “complete edition box set”. I mean, if that’s what it means? The French are so classy.

I was completely unaware of Rohmer until last year (I think), when I happened upon a DVD of one of his films in a used DVD store somewhere. I liked his name, so I bought it. I think it was An Autumn Tale, and I was blown away by its subtle silences. It reminded me of a Nouvelle Vague film, only less showy. I was surprised to find out that that’s what it was, basically: He was part of that wave of filmmakers, and never stopped making films.

So I’ve been looking for his films the last few months, and I was overjoyed when I found this box set on the web. And the reviews alleged that there were English subtitles on them, but I’ve been burned by that before, because the French really hate pandering to foreigners by putting (optional) subtitles on their DVDs.

Each film in this beautiful box set is on bluray and DVD, and I’ve done spot checks on a few, and they all turn out to have English subtitles! Yay!

But only on the film itself. The supplementary material, which there is a lot of, is subtitle-free. Boo!

And there’s the nerdiest tech specs ever. “Encodage MPEG-4 AVC”. Mais oui.

I also got the Agnès Varda today which… isn’t as lavish.