April 30th, 2007

The youtube video’s on the nest

Dear Barry,

I hope you don’t mind me extending the reach of the keys you gave me. I got a bit annoyed by WordPress screwing up youtube tags that I looked for a solution. So, I installed the WPvideo plugin, which was was a blaze btw, just putting one .php file somewhere and activating the plugin. The next video is simply posted as (think {} as brackets)
{video download = “no” title = “no”}http://youtube.com/watch?v=MrelPOP518g{/video}

It only advertises itself. Fair enough. I might even get the hang of WordPress ;)

April 29th, 2007

The time machine

Who hasn’t seen Arecibo in Puerto Rico, the massive radio telescope suspended on the rim of a volcano over a large limestone sinkhole. It shined in a James Bond movie (Golden Eye) and my all time favorite movie “Contact“. It also provides the data for SETI@home, piggybacking their antenna off center of the main focal point. The 1964 build telescope is the biggest radio telescope in the world with it’s 305 meters (1000 feet) dish. Or is it? Well, that depends on how you look at it. My country has a reputation to keep when it’s about radio astronomy. In 1956 a 25 meter (82 feet) dish was build, at that moment the largest in the world, and in 1970 a whole new technology was put into practice, linking 14 relatively small dishes to form a virtual dish three kilometers in diameter. It is still a prime system in its kind. But now, look at this picture.

LOFAR Antenna

Massively unimpressive huh? Some kitchen-style electronics in a piece of rain pipe and some wires. Now imagine 25 15.000 of them, scattered in a spiraling pattern in about 100 77 locations over an area with a diameter of 350 kilometers (217 miles). Everything will be linked by fiber optics and massive computing power will synthesize the signals to the desired imagery. Now that will be a nice radio telescope. It’s resolution will be a 100 times better than current systems. Last week, the first 96 were put in operation and the first images were collected.

Added: Here is a link to the project itself (sorry, Dutch), Maybe this one is better, as it’s the foundation operating it.

April 28th, 2007

The Dame Evelyn Glennie

Trough TED, a wonderful sparkling website I will be visiting a lot, I ran into a 30 minutes talk from Evelyn Glennie. I was struck in awe. If you can spare 30 minutes, please do run this video. I promise you, you won’t regret it. She‘s a hell of a performer, speaker, thinker, educator, stimulator and a top class percussionist. Oh, and she’s deaf.

Evelyn Glennie in the Guggenheim

Added: Added more links above. I just ordered the DVD, the Touch of Sound (USEUR)

April 27th, 2007

The death penalty (aka murdered by your own government)

Amnesty international published its statistics about captial punishment. Let me quote a bit.

At least 1,591 prisoners were executed by their own governments in 25 countries last year, while 3,861 new death sentences were issued (in 55 countries). Over 20,000 prisoners currently languish on death row across the globe.

91 per cent of all known executions in 2006 took place in six countries: China, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Pakistan and the USA.

“These hard core executioners are isolated and out of tune with global trends,” said Ms Khan. “The figures are inexcusable, but even officials in Iraq and China have spoken of their desire to see an end to the use of the death penalty.”

Note: I have a distinct feeling my Chinese friends will not be able to look at amnesty’s website. As I am a small fish that is probably not blocked, I am attaching the relevant page here as a pdf hosted on the nest. The report says about China:

Based on public reports available, AI estimated that at least 1,010 people were executed by the Chinese government last year. These figures are only the tip of the iceberg, with credible sources suggesting the real total is closer to 8,000.

To make sure we all know what we’re talking about, here is the list of execution methods for the top 5 countries. If you decide to follow the links, you will find that i.e. “hanging” can mean either a drop (more or less instant kill) or hoisted with a crane, insuring a long and extremely painful death struggle. Shooting in most cases means a head or neck shot.

  • China: shooting, lethal injection
  • Iran: shooting, hanging, stoning
  • Iraq: shooting, hanging
  • Sudan: shooting, hanging, stoning, crucifixion
  • Pakistan: hanging, stoning
  • USA: lethal injection, electrocution, hanging, lethal gas

p.s.: don’t give me the humane killing discussion bs please, nor the male/female rates. It’s entirely irrelevant. Thanksikoni

April 26th, 2007

The distortion of world maps

All maps are inheritly wrong. One way or the other, the curved earth must be projected to flat paper, with inevitable distortions, especially at the edges. Mapmakers need to balance that act somehow. Bringing in one property inevitably creates larger distortions in other properties. As you can imagine, the larger the area covered, the larger the influence of the curvature of the earth.


Our best know world map is made using the Mercator projection. It’s most important property is that it is angle-stable: a straight line on the map will represent a constant compass angle all along the trajectory, a very important property for navigation. It is not that strange Mercator was devised in 1569, as mainly a navigational map. A side effect of the Mercator projection is a disproportional size distortion. Greenland is roughly the same as Africa, while in reality, Africa is 13 times bigger. Europe and the United States are conveniently larger than “developing” areas, as compared to reality. Note that in most maps, a part of the bottom is cut off, psycologically “centering” the Northern hemisphere further.

Peters world map

Peters world map, which is size accurate (but not shape) has drawn a lot of controversy, but it’s quite shocking to see.


Goode projection is sorta kinda best of both worlds. Adjust your world image please and give this map a good look. Might be humbling a bit.

Note: there are literally hundreds of different projections, each having their strength and weaknesses.

April 26th, 2007

The temperature

I live in a small, rather wet, moderate climate country. While the pro’s will argue it’s all statistics, we are experiencing insanely high temperatures. See the last 3 months of my weatherstation (thanks again Great Grey).


To give you an idea, when I was a kid, January meant skating. The government agency responsible for water management (my country is for a serious part below sea level) announced it will increase the water level in the major inland water body with one inch, creating an extra 13 billion gallons of water reserve. It hasn’t rained in weeks and it probably won’t for a while. Nah, global warming is just statistics.

Mildly related: it was announced today that Boeing estimated that based on US and New Zealand studies a shalow water body of algae the size of Maryland (or Austria) in a warm climate could provide the fuel for the entire worlds aviation, essentially reducting it’s CO2 emissions to zero.

Added May 6th: We’ll have a little bit of rain tonight after a recordbreaking 30 days dry period. Ground water levels and flow rate in the river Rhine are at an all time low, water temperature at an all time high.

Added May 7th: Rain! Might even go up to 20mm (0.8 inch). That will put a little dent in the shortage, which is not only bad for nature and agriculture, but also affects the stability of the numerous dikes.

April 26th, 2007

The letter from high-school

Yesterday, my kids reported it was announced on the school PA that all classes were cancelled after their 6th hour and that all teachers were to come to their meeting room to be addressed by the president of the school (one level up from the principal of the location, which provides high school education to aprx 1300 high school students, partly bi-lingual). As you can imagine with kids in this age-group, rumors exploded withing minutes, especially on MSN. Today we received a formal letter from the school. Turns out that there is suspicion that a student was sexually intimidated (you’d probably say harrassed) by one of the teachers. At the first signal, the teacher was suspended and after some internal investigation, the school saw enough grounds to put the matter into the hands of the police.

The name of the teacher, nor of course the student, were reveiled, but I give that less than 24 hours to surface. Again, rumors are already pretty clear on that matter. It appears to me the school did handle this correctly as far as I can seen now. What is told to us indicates it is probably true, but I think we should tell our kids to keep an open mind, in other words, “innocent until proven guilty”. Only after some thinking it occured to me the incident could be entirely true, but it wouldn’t be the first time a teacher is wrongly accused by a student, breaking their carreer.

April 25th, 2007

The polish on homosexuality

Today, the European parliament took stand against (memberstate) Poland’s policy against homosexuality, especialy a proposed law to criminalize “homosexual propaganda in schools”, whatever that means. The proposal was triggered by an anti-aids campaign organized in Krakow by a gay group about safe-sex. In the leaflet was a picture of kissing men. The response of the Polish representative shows exactly why this move is more than neccesary.

Homosexuality is a joke to the laws of nature and it destroys families. We must help end cure homosexuals, because it’s possible. If not they mean the end of Europe

Emphasis by me. Mind you, we have a few fundamentalist-Christian groups preaching homo-curing too. But this is state sponsored. Kudos to the EP.

Added: explanation of what was meant by the propaganda.

Disclaimer1: I am not gay.

Disclaimer2: the quote is double-translated, which might be inaccurate. I will happily post the official words.

April 19th, 2007

The Ubuntu OS

I have owned a few laptops in my life. The least troublesome being a PII Acer 166 MHz, although the screen hinges started cracking. It looked shit with glue and thin metal sheets around them, but it was a charm. My current Dell Inspiron 5100 is a dream, especially the sturdiness and the 1440×1050 15 inch screen, but I guess after 4 years of intense but loyal service, it’s getting old. I will buy a new one soon.

The one between those is a Fujitsu Siemens P650. Nice machine. I managed to get it on XP; it is a Win98 machine. It is intended for the kids to do browsing and basic work processing, but it has never been very stable since. I had to reinstall XP several times until after maybe a year I decided the kids would have to wait till I got enough from myDelly. It’s hard t part though from old loyal friends.

So tonight, reading about the latest Ubuntu Linux, I decided to give the Fujitsu a second chance. Delly downloaded the iso file and burned it to a standard CD. Now you have to know I have basic knowledge about Linux, but I really wanted to make this a no brainer machine, Linux biggest flaw, and Ubuntu is said to be just that. As long as it would be stable, run Firefox and OpenOffice.org, this beast would be my friend. This document is going to be my experience report.

  • 9:13:PM I booted the little rat
  • 9:25 PM Tataa music (try to boot XP from a CD). The screen looks clean and tranquil. Promising so far.
  • 9:36 PM A gnome error message pops up. I am playing dummy and try to click Close, the only choice. The system is still VERY busy, esp the CD drive. The mouse doen’t even move. Hmpf, but it is still boot-from-CD. I am determined to at least get through till it boots from hard-disk to get to e remotely fair comparision.
  • 10:28 PM Screen goesto background color only.
  • 10:35 PM Screen goes black. It’s still plowing on the CD.
  • 10:47 PM Uh oh, it’s rebooting
  • 10:48 PM error message on X server, do I want to like to see the server output to diagnose? Erm, yes. Nu useful info. It’s stuck.

I am giving up for the day. Sign. Maybe it’s the hardware after all.

*** Next day ***

As it MIGHT be a hardware problem, I decided to swap my Delly’s hard disk and give that one a go. EASY!!! The thing booted from CD in less than 4 minutes to a working state. I played Solitaire for 5 minutes to see if the User Interface was feeling “normal”. Then I hit “Install”. It took 4 minutes to answer a few questions and then another 17 minutes to completely install and do a few automatic downloads. This was all done without any user intervention. The machine rebooted and voila. It already came with OpenOffice.org 2.2, FireFox, runs VNC and RDP clients etc. I installed Skype (a breeze, although a 1.x Debian non-video version) and flash (required some terminal typing) to run YouTube. After some fiddling I managed to get my internet radio stations running. That required some plugins that were not automatically installed by the player; the movie player could though. Printer installation was a breeze too; it even recognized my USB connected color printer, while it was off!

The User Interface is calm and professional. Performace seems comparable. To make this work for me there is one hurdle to take, and that is a Lotus Notes client, as that is my professional thing. Ubuntu is not supported, so maybe it works, maybe it won’t. More about that later.

Added:  It seems Dell will start shipping Ubuntu as an alternative soon. Too bad I justordered my new (Deel) laptop, but still: good for them! (Thanks BoingBoing)

April 16th, 2007

The socialisation of networks (reposted with update)

On a completely different line of things. Today, I managed to get my “La Fonera” online and I am an official “linus”. What does that mean? It means I share bandwith of my DSL line to the FON community.

FON is the largest WiFi community in the world. Our members share their wireless Internet access at home and, in return, enjoy free WiFi wherever they find another Fonero’s Access Point.

If you own a specific type of wireless router, it can be flashed to become a FON router, or, as I did, you can get one for $/EUR 29 plus sales tax at FON. I like this initiative and humbly suggest every reader to at least read the proposition and hopefully jump in.

Tech stuff: If I had to name one problematic issue, it would be that as the “La Fonera” does not have a LAN connector, so when accessing the private network, one still goes through (NATTED) routing to the cable, usually your wired LAN. That kind of makes accessing cabled devices such as network printers and shares a tad harder. Flashable standard routers are:

- Linksys: WRT54G (pre-v5), WRT54GL, WRT54GS and WRT54GSv4.

- Buffalo WZR-RS-G54, WHR-HP-54, and WHR-G54S.

Not sure if these serve a private closed network like “La Fonera” does.

Update: Yes they do, but the Linksys and Buffalo’s put the two different BSSID’s on the same SSID’s which confuses quite a few drivers. The “La Fonera” also broadcasts both separate. My advice is: go for the dead cheap “La Fonera”.

Update: The “La Fonera” has gone up to EUR 44.95 including tax and shipping. BUT, any Fonero can give 3 away for EUR 20 a piece. I have one invitation left. Who wants one?

Send each invitation to a friend who is not yet a Fonero. All you need to do is enter the information and we will send your friends an invitation they can redeem in the FON Shop. Then they’ll need to register as a Fonero, enter their address and we will send them the La Fonera WiFi Router for just €/$ 20 (offer valid only in the European Union, Norway, Switzerland, US and Canada), including taxes and shipping.