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Category: Technology

For quite a while, I have been using Family Tree Legends 5 as my main genealogy application to keep track of my family tree, but hit upon a bit a snag recently.

FTL just ceased to stop working, and doing a bit of web searching, discovered that this app does not like running on Windows XP and Vista. I suspect that some Windows update that ran installed something incompatible with FTL.

Well, that prompted me to look to find a new application to use, and after much searching, I settled on GRAMPS, which is a open source solution.

GRAMPS is built using Python, predominantly for Linux, but it also runs in Windows.

Some of the best features of GRAMPS is that it it supports plugins, so if it does not have a feature that you want in it, you can find a plugin for it, or if you are so inclined, you can write one yourself.

To be honest, capturing data is a bit slower than what I was used to in Family Tree Legends, but the other features in the application, such as the tree views more than make up for this.

Installing it in Windows was a bit of a hit and miss affair for me. It requires Python, and a few other dependencies to be installed before it will work. Despite what the GRAMPS 3.2.5 installer claims, I found that it needed specific versions of these dependencies to work.

These are:

I am sure it is possible to get other combinations of these libraries to work, but that would amount to much trial and error.

Once I got it up an running, it has worked like a charm, and I am pretty certain I will be sticking with GRAMPS for quite a while.


With all the kinks worked out of my blog after the move, I am finally happy with how things are working. I had spent the last several months with a free hosting service, and it was not a particularly good experience.

First issue I had was that the site was not particularly reliable in terms of uptime – but that is what happens when you share a server with 30,000 other accounts, on a server with sub-optimal specs.

The other issue is how limited you are in administering your site. Many things that you can do on a normal hosting was disabled, or limited on my hosting. This is one of the reasons my site crashed so badly a few weeks ago, and quickly prompting me to find another solution.

The limitation in question was the fact that WordPress was using a different user on the server to my account I had to access the server, and the permissions on my account was too limited to be able to access the WordPress created files.

This meant that when something went wrong, I was unable to remove, or even modify, the offending files and bring my site back to life again.

In all of this, I cannot really blame the web host. They provided everything they advertised. They clearly stated as well that the free hostings have limitations and offer no guarantees to uptime or reliability.

In conclusion, free web hosting is perfect if reliability is not a requirement, but for anything remotely important, it is much, much better to get a real hosting plan.


Google has come out with the Google Font API, which enables you to use interesting fonts on a web page, without worrying whether or not the font is available on the user’s browser.

All you need to do is add a link to the Google Font API in your page, passing the name of the font you want to use, and then you can use that font in the CSS styling for an element on the page.

The best part, is that it does not require any browser plugins, as Google downloads the font to the browser cache for use within the page, and the supported browsers are also very broad. The code runs on IE6+, Firefox 3.5+, chrome 4.249.4+, Safari 3.1+ and Opera 10.5+.

So, as an example, the code to produce the following text:

Some fancy text


<link href='' rel='stylesheet' type='text/css'>
<div style="font-family: 'IM Fell English SC', arial, serif; font-size:48px;">Some fancy text</div>

Google Font Directory contains a gallery of available fonts for use with the Google Font API


I came across the most incredible post on distractionware today on sub-pixel fonts. It explains how to create a readable 1×5 pixel font.

The technique he uses to accomplish this is based on the fact that each pixel on an LCD screen is made up of a red, green and blue sub-pixel that are next to each other horizontally. Normally, these three components merge to form one normal pixel since our eye does not normally detect the individual components.

That is where the secret of this technique comes in. By clever manipulation of these components – essentially treating each one as a pixel in its own right – you are able to create a (just barely) legible font.

Here is a link to a magnified version of a sample written using sub-pixel manipulation.


When I was a kid, I had a great fascination with electronics – as in how circuits work, not buying consumer electronics. One thing that would have really helped back then would have been a computer program to simulate circuits.

These applications did exist. I can remember seeing an ad for one of them, but they tended to be ludicrously expensive.

Today, I found Logisim, which does exactly what I would have loved to have had 15 years ago, and released as Open Source.

What Logisim does, is allow you to draw logic circuit diagrams with built-in components, including logical gates, timers and other components, and then also run tests on the circuit to see the results.

This app is useful for people ranging from the learning logician to the next computer designer.


My apologies for the lack of blog posts in the last few days.

I have been working a rather large amount of overtime trying to get a project at work running.

As soon as my life returns to normal, I will begin writing again


Bells Labs has been involved in telecommunications since the dawn of the telephone, and along the way many interesting technologies have come out from behind their doors.

Now, it is possible to download the entire catalogue of the a href=””>Bell System Technical Journal in PDF format.

The journal ran from 1922 until 1983, which means the majority of the information contained in the journal is hopelessly outdated, but it still can prove very interesting reading, especially if you are interested in historical technology.