Older blog entries for etbe (starting at number 1097)

Clothing and Phone Cameras

In 2012 I wrote about my jeans from Rivers that fit the largest available phones (and the smaller tablets) in their pockets [1]. Those jeans are still working well for me, I can add the fact that they don’t wear out quickly to the list of positive attributes.

Recently my sister asked for advice on getting a new phone, she was considering the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (the phone I’m using now) because it apparently takes better pictures than the Nexus 4 she’s using. I’ve used both those phones and I hadn’t noticed a difference in picture quality, but there is some variation in manufacturing and it could be that I’ve got a below average Note 2 and a better than average Nexus 4 – so I’ll assume for the sake of discussion that my sister would actually get an improvement in picture quality by using a Note 2.

If you have a phone that doesn’t have the picture quality you desire then one option is to buy a phone with a better camera, but you will be limited by issues of physics. A thin phone has a short focal length which means that the lens has to be small and therefore the amount of light that gets to the sensor is small. The Nokia Lumia 1020 has some of the best camera hardware that you’ll find in a phone, but it’s still only 14.5mm thick where the camera is and that will limit the quality a lot.

Any “compact” camera should be able to beat all phone cameras in terms of picture quality in most areas. The Samsung Galaxy Camera [2] is also worth considering, it has more features than a typical compact camera and good GUI that allows novice photographers to take advantage of it. Also being able to blog your photos directly from the camera could be a useful feature. But the big down-side of a “compact” camera is that it’s not that compact. Most people won’t find it convenient to carry a compact camera with them at all times and therefore they might miss a good opportunity to take a photo. The Galaxy Note series of phones also suffer in this regard because they are larger than most phones. If your phone won’t fit in your pocket and you have it in your backpack when on the move or on a bench at home then you will probably miss some good photos.

As I was at a Rivers store recently I tested my Note 2 in the pockets of women’s jeans. Rivers scored very poorly in this regard, one pair of women’s jeans had fake pockets (this is just wrong for working clothes) and of the rest only one pair could fit a Note 2. The pair that fit a Note 2 didn’t completely enclose the phone, one corner was sticking out, this would probably give a risk of having the phone fall out of the pocket and cause some discomfort to the wearer. I have a pair of shorts with similar size pockets and find it very annoying with the Note 2 in the pocket (for about 10 months of the year I wear jeans so this isn’t a big deal). Rivers jeans only count as “geeky jeans” for male geeks. It’s disappointing that with about a dozen different styles of women’s jeans there didn’t seem to be a single one with pockets of comparable size to the men’s jeans.

I had to recommend that my sister not get a phone from the Galaxy Note series if taking pictures is a priority due to the apparent difficulty in getting it to fit in a pocket and the probability that she would miss good photos due to this.

In past discussions of phone size there have been mentions of the possibility of getting clothing altered. Does anyone have a good experience in getting clothes altered to have bigger pockets or in the case of women’s clothing to have fake pockets replaced with real ones?

Related posts:

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Syndicated 2014-02-04 14:01:56 from etbe - Russell Coker

The Movie Experience

Phandroid has one of many articles about a man being detained for wearing Google Glass in a cinema [1]. The article states as a “fact” that “it’s probably not smart to bring a recording device into a movie theater” which is totally bogus. I’ve visited a government office where recording devices were prohibited, they provided a locker for me to store everything that could be used for electronic storage outside their main security zone, that’s what you do when you ban recording devices. Any place that doesn’t have such facilities really isn’t banning recording. The Gadgeteer has the original story with more detail with an update showing that the Department of Homeland Security were responsible for detaining the victim [2].

There are lots of issues here with DHS continuing to do nothing good and more bad things than most people suspect and with the music and film industry organisations attacking innocent people. But one thing that seems to be ignored is that movies are a recreational activity, so it’s an experience that they are selling not just a movie.

Any organisation that wants to make money out of movies really should be trying to make movies fun. The movie experience has always involved queuing, paying a lot of money for tickets ($20 per seat seems common), buying expensive drinks/snacks, and having to waste time on anti-piracy adverts. Now they are adding the risk of assault, false-arrest, and harassment under color of law to the down-sides of watching a movie. Downloading a movie via Bittorrent takes between 20 minutes and a few hours (depending on size and internet connectivity). Sometimes it can be quicker to download a movie than to drive to a cinema and if you are organising a group to watch a movie it will definitely be easier to download it. When you watch a movie at home you can pause it for a toilet break and consume alcoholic drinks while watching (I miss the Dutch cinemas where an intermission and a bar were standard features). It’s just a better experience to download a movie via Bittorrent. I’ve previously written about the way that downloading movies is better than buying a DVD [3], now they are making the cinema a worse experience too.

I sometimes wonder if groups like the MPAA are actually trying to make money from movies or whether they just want to oppress their audiences for fun or psychological research. I could imagine someone like the young Phillip Zimbardo working for the MPAA and doing experiments to determine how badly movie industry employees can treat their customers before the customers revolt.

Anyone who watches a Jack Ryan movie (or any movie with a Marty-Stu/Gary-Stu character) obviously doesn’t even want to experience the stress of an unhappy ending to a movie. It seems obvious that such people won’t want the stress of potentially being assaulted in the cinema.

In terms of economics it seems a bad idea to do anything about recording in the cinema. When I was 11 I was offered the opportunity to watch a movie that had been recorded by a video camera in the US before it was released in Australia, I wasn’t interested because watching a low quality recording wouldn’t be fun. It seems to me that if The Pirate Bay (the main site for Bittorrent downloads of movies) [4] was filled with awful camera recordings of movies then it would discourage people from using it. A quick search shows some camera recordings on The Pirate Bay, it seems that if you want to download a movie of reasonable quality then you have to read the Wikipedia page about Pirated Movie Release Types [5] to make sure that you get a good quality download. But if you buy a DVD in a store or visit a cinema then you are assured of image and sound quality. If the movie industry were smarter they would start uploading camera recordings of movies described as Blue-Ray rips to mess with Bittorrent users and put newbies off downloading movies.

Related posts:

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Syndicated 2014-01-30 01:52:08 from etbe - Russell Coker

Links January 2014

Fast Coexist has an interesting article about the art that Simon Beck creates by walking in snow [1]. If you are an artist you can create art in any way, even by walking in patterns in the snow.

Russ Altman gave an interesting TED talk about using DNA testing before prescribing drugs [2]. I was surprised by the amount of variation in effects of codeine based on genetics, presumably many other drugs have a similar range.

Helen Epstein wrote an interesting article about Dr. Sara Josephine Baker who revolutionised child care and saved the lives of a huge number of children [3]. Her tenacity is inspiring. Also it’s interesting to note that the US Republican party was awful even before the “Southern Strategy”. The part about some doctors opposing child care because it’s “the will of God” for children to die and keep them in employment is chilling.

Jonathan Weiler wrote an insightful article about the problems with American journalism in defending the government [4]. He criticises the media for paying more attention to policing decorum than to content.

Tobias Buckell wrote an interesting post about the so-called “socialised” health-care in the US [5]. He suggests that Ronald Reagan “socialised” health-care by preventing hospitals from dumping dying people on the street. I guess if doing nothing for people until they have a medical emergency counts as “socialised” health-care then the US has it.

Kelvin Thomson MP made some insightful comments about climate change, the recent heat-wave in Australia, and renewable energy [6].

Iwan Baan gave an interesting TED talk about ways that people have built cheap homes in unexpected places [7], lots of good pictures.

Racialicious has an interesting article by Arturo R. García about research into the effects of concussion and the way the NFL in the US tried to prevent Dr. Bennet Omalu publicising the results of his research [8].

Stani (Jan Schmidt) wrote an interesting post about how they won a competition to design a commemerative Dutch 5 Euro coin [9]. The coin design is really good (a candidate for the geekiest coin ever), I want one! Seriously if anyone knows how to get one at a reasonable price (IE close to face value for circulated or not unreasonably expensive for uncirculated) then please let me know.

When writing about Edward Snowden, Nathan says “Imagine how great a country would be if if it were governed entirely by people who Dick Cheney would call Traitor” [10]. That’s so right, that might make the US a country I’d be prepared to live in.

Andrew Solomon gave an interesting TED talk “Love No Matter What” about raising different children [11].

Aditi Shankardass gave an interesting TED talk about using an ECG to analyse people diagnosed wit severe Autism and other developmental disorders [12]. Apparently some severe cases of Autism have a root cause that can be treated with anti-seizure medication.

George Monbiot wrote an insightful article about the way that Bono and Bob Geldoff promote G8 government intervention in Africa and steal air-time that might be given to allow Africans to represent themselves in public debates [13].

Daniel Pocock wrote an informative article about racism in Australian politics and how it is bad for job-seekers and the economy (in addition to being horribly wrong) [14].

Aeon Magazine has an interesting article by Anne Buchanan about the difference between scientists and farmers [15]. She has some interesting points about the way that the lack of general knowledge impacts research, but misses the point that in most fields of study there is a huge problem of people not knowing about recent developments in their own field. I don’t think it’s a pipe dream to be well educated in humanities and science, but I guess that depends on the definition of “well educated”.

Brian Cox gave an interesting TED talk titled “Why We Need the Explorers” about the benefits of scientific research [16].

Yupu Zhang, Abhishek Rajimwale, Andrea C. Arpaci-Dusseau, and Remzi H. Arpaci-Dusseau from the University of Wisconsin-Madison wrote an interesting paper about ZFS corruption in the face of disk and memory errors [17]. One thing to note is that turning off atime can reduce the probability of a memory error leading to corrupt data being written to disk, run “zfs set atime=off tank” to fix this.

The comedian Solomon Georgio celebrated Martin Luther King day by tweeting “I love you” to racists [18]. It’s an interesting approach and appears to have worked well.

Related posts:

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Syndicated 2014-01-25 05:33:21 from etbe - Russell Coker

Dr Suelette Dreyfus LCA Keynote

Dr Suelette Dreyfus gave an interesting LCA keynote speech on Monday (it’s online now for people who aren’t attending LCA [1]). One of the interesting points she made was regarding the greater support for privacy protection in Germany, this is apparently due to so many German citizens having read their own Stasi files.

The section of her talk about the technology that is being used against us today was very concerning. I wonder whether we should plan to move away from using any hardware or closed source software from the US, China, and probably most countries other than Germany.

We really need to consider these issues at election time. I have previously blogged some rough ideas about having organisations such as Linux Australia poll parties to determine how well they represent the interests of citizens who use Linux [2]. I think that such things are even more important now. Steven Levy wrote an interesting summary of the situation for Wired [3].

At the end of her talk Suelette suggested that Aspies might be more likely to be whistle-blowers due to being unable to recognise the social signals about such things (IE managers say that they won’t punish people for speaking out but most people recognise that to be lies). It’s a plausible theory but I’m worried that managers might decide to avoid hiring Aspies because of this. I wonder how many managers plan to have illegal activity as an option. But I guess that having criminals refuse to hire me wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Syndicated 2014-01-08 00:37:20 from etbe - Russell Coker

Length of Conference Questions

After LCA last year I wrote about “speaking stacks” and conference questions [1]. In that post I did some rough calculations on the amount of conference time taken by questions and determined that anyone who asks one question per day at a conference such as LCA (with about 600 delegates) is going to be asking more than 1/600 of all questions. That doesn’t necessarily mean that someone shouldn’t ask more than one question in a day, but they should carefully consider whether their questions are adding value to other delegates.

Another issue that I’ve noticed is the length of questions which seems to be a separate problem and it seems that we should consider keynote speeches separately as they involve all delegates. The regular conference lectures involve 4 to 6 streams running in parallel which means that in aggregate more questions can be asked.

LCA has one keynote for each day including the mini-conf days, so that’s 5 keynote speeches in total. If each keynote has 20 minutes of question time (and most keynote speeches probably have less) then there’s 100 minutes of question time for the entire conference. For a genuine question (IE not a statement) that is non-trivial (anything that has a yes/no answer probably isn’t interesting to the whole audience) the answer is probably going to be about three times as long as the question. Given some overheads for applause etc that means that the amount of time spent asking questions would be something less than 20 minutes at keynote speeches over the entire conference.

If every delegate asked one keynote-speech question in the entire conference then that 20 minutes of questions would allow each delegate to spend 2 seconds asking a question. If 10% of delegates each asked one question and no-one asked a second question then each question could take an average of 20 seconds. Given the acoustic issues of asking a question from the back of the hall it seems unlikely to get a speaking rate of much more than a word a second, so 20 seconds of speaking would be in the range of 25 words (one tweet) to 50 words (if you speak at the typical speed of audio books according to Wikipedia). I think that audio-book speed isn’t going to work well so a question asked at a keynote speech should probably be of a length that would fit on twitter.

So if a question wouldn’t fit on twitter then maybe a blog post or a discussion after the lecture would be a more suitable option.

Before Asking a Question

I think that before asking a question at a keynote speech people should consider whether that question would fit on twitter. They should also consider whether it is strictly a question and whether it will be of interest to other delegates.

If your question is significantly longer than something that would fit on twitter then the next thing to consider is whether you are more important than other delegates. Because when someone asks more or longer questions than other people it will be interpreted as an implicit “I am more important than you” statement by many other delegates.

Some Disclaimers

Firstly I’m not making any suggestions here for people who run conferences. I’m making suggestions for delegates who are considering how they should act.

The next disclaimer is that the educational benefit of the conference has the priority. If you have a question that really helps other delegates learn something which takes a little longer to ask then that’s OK.

Finally I apply the same criteria to my own decisions. There were several questions I considered asking at the keynote this morning, but I decided that none of them met the criteria of being short enough and generally interesting enough. There is one issue I will discuss with the speaker privately and I’ll probably write at least one blog post related to the lecture.

Syndicated 2014-01-06 06:29:27 from etbe - Russell Coker

Sound Device Order with ALSA

One problem I have had with my new Dell PowerEdge server/workstation [1] is that sound doesn’t work correctly. When I initially installed it things were OK but after installing a new monitor sound stopped working.

The command “aplay -l” showed the following:
**** List of PLAYBACK Hardware Devices ****
card 0: Generic [HD-Audio Generic], device 3: HDMI 0 [HDMI 0]
  Subdevices: 1/1
  Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 1: Speaker [Logitech USB Speaker], device 0: USB Audio [USB Audio]
  Subdevices: 1/1
  Subdevice #0: subdevice #0

So the HDMI sound hardware (which had no speakers connected) became ALSA card 0 (default playback) and the USB speakers became card 1. It should be possible to convert KDE to use card 1 and then have other programs inherit this, but I wasn’t able to configure that with Debian/Wheezy.

My first attempt at solving this was to blacklist the HDMI and motherboard drivers (as suggested by Lindsay on the LUV mailing list). I added the following to /etc/modprobe.d/hdmi-blacklist.conf:
blacklist snd_hda_codec_hdmi
blacklist snd_hda_intel

Blacklisting the drivers works well enough. But the problem is that I will eventually want to install HDMI speakers to get better quality than the old Logitech portable USB speakers and it would be convenient to have things just work.

Jason white suggested using the module options to specify the ALSA card order. The file /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base.conf in Debian comes with an entry specifying that the USB driver is never to be card 0, which is exactly what I don’t want. So I commented out the previous option for snd-usb-audio and put in the following ones to replace it:
# make USB 0 and HDMI/Intel anything else
options snd-usb-audio index=0
options snd_hda_codec_hdmi=-2
options snd_hda_intel=-2

Now I get the following from “aplay -l” and both KDE and mplayer will play to the desired card by default:
**** List of PLAYBACK Hardware Devices ****
card 0: Speaker [Logitech USB Speaker], device 0: USB Audio [USB Audio]
  Subdevices: 1/1
  Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 1: Generic [HD-Audio Generic], device 3: HDMI 0 [HDMI 0]
  Subdevices: 1/1
  Subdevice #0: subdevice #0

Syndicated 2013-12-27 03:35:13 from etbe - Russell Coker

Political Advocacy in Clubs

One topic that often gets discussed when it’s near election time is whether clubs and societies should be “political”. Some organisations are limited in what they can do, for example in some jurisdictions religious organisations can theoretically lose their tax exempt status if they advocate for one party. In practice any organisation that has a wide membership will have a variety of political views represented so a policy of directly supporting one candidate or party is likely to lose some members.

A common practice among some clubs is to send questionnaires to parties before elections. This might cause a policy change in the parties that do whatever it takes to get votes (as opposed to the parties who devise policy based on principle). But it also provides members a list of how the parties compare on the basis of the criteria that matter to the club.

I think that organisations such as Linux Australia [1] and the Linux Users of Victoria [2] should send such questionnaires and publish an analysis of the results. I previously suggested a few questions that could be asked [3], the last one received some negative comments for being too tabloid but the others got some agreement. But obviously there would need to be some discussion about which questions are in scope and how they should be asked. Such a discussion would take a while and would need to be started well before an election was called, I think if we start now we should be able to get it done before the next federal election is called.

There is one Australian political party that has a consistent record of having IT policies that are in line with the general aims of Linux Australia and which also has policies that meet the social standards that are generally agreed by most of the membership (EG opposing discrimination). But I know that there are some members of the Linux community who advocate various forms of discrimination and would vote accordingly so advocating for that party would get some negative reactions. But if someone wants to vote for a party that advocates discrimination against minority groups I don’t think that there’s any harm in providing information to allow them to vote for a pro-discrimination party that has a reasonable IT policy. In any case it doesn’t seem likely that we can get most of the membership of an organisation like Linux Australia to agree on what parties are unacceptable, so sending a questionnaire to all parties avoids that debate.

I would like to see this sort of thing done by LUGs for all state and territory elections. I will be involved in the process with LUV for the Victorian elections, but I have to just hope that my blog posts inspire people in other states and territories – if anyone has already started on this then please let me know. I will also be involved with getting this done for the federal elections with Linux Australia, hopefully this post will help get people interested in that.

Syndicated 2013-12-23 11:45:21 from etbe - Russell Coker

The Nexus 5

The Nexus 5 is the latest Android phone to be endorsed by Google (and manufactured by LG). It’s getting good reviews and the price is good for the specs. I just bought one for my wife, I got her the 32G version because when I bought her a Nexus 4 at the start of the year [1] I chose the 8G version and regretted it ever since. The size of apps is always increasing (some Android games need more than 1G of storage) and higher resolution screens drives the use of high resolution video.


back of Nexus 4, Nexus 5, and Samsung Galaxy Note 2 front of Nexus 4, Nexus 5, and Samsung Galaxy Note 2

Above I have pictures of the Nexus 4, the Nexus 5, and the Samsung Galaxy Note 2. The photo of the phone backs captures part of the sparkling pattern on the back of the Nexus 4 and it looks much better in real life (IMHO) because it shimmers as you move the phone. The Nexus 4 looks so good that there’s even a transparent case specifically designed to show off the rear panel [2]. It doesn’t seem likely that anyone will design such a transparent case for the Nexus 5, it’s a good phone to cover up IMHO.

The Note 2 isn’t the most attractive phone, but I think it has a streamlined elegance of being optimised for it’s function. The Nexus 5 has it’s camera sticking out, it would be better if they had just made the entire phone thicker and given it a bigger battery but for people who don’t want good battery life I guess it’s a way of providing a better focal length without making the phone thicker. Sticking the IMEI number on the back of the phone will be useful on rare occasions (and might be a security issue on more occasions) but it definitely makes the phone less attractive.

Full HD

The quality of the Full HD (1920*1080) display is obvious. The text is slightly clearer when viewing maps and the graphics in Ingress look nicer. Before I used the Nexus 5 I didn’t think that there would be any benefit in having such a high resolution in a phone but now I realise that I was wrong. The higher resolution is clearly better.

Chris Chavez wrote an article for Phandroid about a rumored Samsung phone with a 2560*1440 display [3]. If such a device had a 6.6″ display (IE a new version of the Galaxy Mega) then it would have the same dot-pitch as the Nexus 5. If such a device had a 5.5″ display (like the Galaxy Note 3) then it would have a 15% greater DPI than the Nexus 5.

It seems that a higher DPI provides a real benefit and this is probably the biggest reason to choose the Nexus 5 over the Nexus 4 and most other Android devices.

Comparing with the Nexus 4

The Nexus 5 has the same amount of RAM (2G), a slightly larger display (4.95″ vs 4.7″), higher resolution (a big deal), faster CPU and GPU, and optical zoom. Faster CPU isn’t usually going to be a big deal (apart from the fact that more CPU power is needed as well as more GPU power to drive the higher resolution display).

The Nexus 5 can come with 16G or 32G of storage while the Nexus 4 has options of 8G and 16G. If you want more than 16G of storage then that’s a real benefit for the Nexus 5, but if you only need 16G then it’s not an issue.

It seems that when playing Ingress on a Nexus 5 it’s more likely that running another program (such as Google Hangouts) will cause Ingress to be reloaded than it does on a Nexus 4 or a Galaxy Note 2. While I haven’t done a good comparison of the Nexus 4 and the Nexus 5 in this regard I’ve compared the Galaxy Note 2 and the Nexus 5 well. My Galaxy Note 2 (which has many daemons running) is much less likely to cause a reload of Ingress (IE have run low on memory and terminated Ingress) than the Nexus 5 my wife is using (which has very little running). So it seems that the OS build on the Nexus 5 uses more memory than the Galaxy Note 2.

The Nexus 5 has Gorilla Glass 3 vs Gorilla Glass 2 on the Nexus 4. As my older Android phones with Gorilla Glass 1 (Galaxy S and Sony Ericsson Xperia X10i) didn’t get any scratches that matter I don’t think this is a benefit for me. Maybe if I lived near a beach I’d care more about this.

I think that the most significant benefit of the Nexus 5 over the Nexus 4 is the higher resolution display. The optical zoom should provide a theoretical benefit when taking photos, whether that results in better pictures in practice would probably depend on how you hold your phone, the available light, and other factors.

I think that if it was possible to buy a Nexus 4 at a sensible price (IE something less than the $250 that Google last charged) then for most people the Nexus 4 would be a better choice than the Nexus 5. But as ebay is full of Nexus 4 phones selling for a higher prices than the Nexus 5 it seems that buying a Nexus 5 is the only option. The range of phones that Kogan sells [4] doesn’t have anything for the same price that compares on features.


The heat produced by the Nexus 5 is significant and noticable. After some light Ingress playing on a cold day my Galaxy Note 2 with a gel case (that keeps it warm) reported itself as having a battery temperature of 34C. My wife’s Nexus 5 reported a temperature of 43C. While the thermometer in the phone might not be the most accurate I don’t think there was an accuracy problem, holding my wife’s phone was unpleasant and felt like it could burn my hand if I held it tight (40C is the minimum temperature for burns).

It seems that a Nexus 5 isn’t a good choice if you want to play Ingress in a warm part of the world (EG most of Australia in summer). Also heat dissipated is directly proportional to power use which is going to be a problem for a phone that doesn’t permit replacing it’s battery.


I’m quite disappointed with the Nexus 5. I expected it to be at least as good as the Nexus 4 in every way and better in many ways. Instead it’s not always as good as the Nexus 4 and the ways that it is better won’t necessarily provide benefits for everyone.

The heat and power use problems are really going to hurt the use of it. But I guess we can always hope that Google release a new Android build that reduce power use, they might even have a new build that uses less RAM too.

I would not consider getting a Nexus 5 for my own use. For my use the Note 2 is clearly more suitable, the larger screen more than compensates for the clarity that the Nexus 5 gets from it’s high resolution display. Also I REALLY like having a hardware home button. I’ll probably get a Note 3 when the price drops, I’m not interested in paying $649 for a phone and I’m also not interested in replacing a phone that’s less than a year old. So maybe I’ll get a Note 3 in the second half of next year.

Syndicated 2013-12-23 09:32:40 from etbe - Russell Coker

Links December 2013

Andres Lozano gave an interesting TED talk about the use of electrodes inside the brain (deep brain stimulation) to treat Alzheimers disease, Parkinson’s disease, and depression [1].

Daniel Pocock wrote an interesting post commenting on some bad political decisions being made in Australia titled “Evacuating Australia” [2]. You can read that as a suggestion to leave Australia or to try and make Australia better.

Marco Tempest gave an interesting TED talk about Nikola Tesla [3]. The presentation method is one that I’ve never seen before so I recommend watching the talk even if you already know all about Tesla.

Charmian Gooch gave an interesting TED talk about global corruption [4]. I think we need people to send the information on shell company ownership to organisations like Wikileaks. The punishment for leaking such information would be a lot less than Chelsea Manning is getting and the chance of getting caught is also low.

Rich Mogul wrote an interesting and insightful article for Macworld about the Apple approach to security problems [5]. To avoid the problem of users disabling security features they work to make the secure way of doing things EASIER for the user. That won’t work with all security problems but it’s something we need to think about when working on computer security.

Ray Raphael gave an interesting TED talk about the parts of the US revolution that don’t appear in history books [6]. He warns the listener to beware of the narrative forms, but another way to interpret his talk is that you should present your version of history in the narrative form that is best accepted. That lesson is well known and it’s easy to see history being deliberately distorted in most media outlets.

Will Wright gave an interesting TED talk about how he designed the game Spore and his ideas about games in general [7]. Spore is a really good game.

Chris Lintott gave an interesting TED talk about crowd-sourced astronomy titled “How to Discover a Planet from Your Sofa” [8]. He referenced the Zooniverse.org site which lists many crowd-sourced science projects [9].

Jake Socha gave an interesting TED talk about flying snakes, you have to see this to believe it [10].

Nikita Bier gave an interesting TED talk about his webapp to analyse economic policies [11]. Apparently 60% of people were going to vote in their best economic interest before seeing his site and 66% would do so afterwards – that could change an election result.

Anya Kamenetz wrote an interesting article for Salon about The Iliad Project which aims to use Indigogo to help identify new anti-biotics [12]. The current ways of discovering anti-biotics aren’t working, lets hope this one does.

Peter Finocchiaro wrote an interesting Salon article about how right-wing politicians in the US were opposed to Nelson Mandela [13] – racism meets anti-communism. Katie McDonough wrote an interesting Salon article about Rick Santorum and Bill O’Reilly comparing “Obamacare” to apartheid while supposedly honoring Nelson Mandela [14], Katie also notes that Nelson enshrined universal healthcare in the South African constitution – something all countries should do.

Mary Elizabeth Williams wrote a Salon article about Susan Boyle’s announcement about being diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome [15]. Not a surprise though, some people can be diagnosed with Autism by merely watching them on TV.

Amelia Hill wrote an article for The Guardian/The Observer about the educational results of Home Schooling [16]. Apparently Home-Schooled kids learn significantly more and “home-educated children of working-class parents achieved considerably higher marks in tests than the children of professional, middle-class parents and that gender differences in exam results disappear among home-taught children”. Wow, Home Schooling beats gender and class problems! I’m sure it’s even better for GLBT kids too.

Robert Reich wrote an interesting Salon article about the way rich people in the US give tax-deductable (taxpayer supported) donations to “charities” that benefit themselves [17].

Dan Savage wrote a very funny review of Sarah Palin’s latest Christmas book, one classic quote is “why should I have to read the whole thing? Lord knows Sarah Palin didn’t write the whole thing” [18]. He makes a good point that we should use the term “happy holidays” instead of “happy Christmas” just to show that we aren’t assholes.

Related posts:

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Syndicated 2013-12-21 23:58:42 from etbe - Russell Coker

Dell PowerEdge T110

In June 2008 I received a Dell PowerEdge T105 server to run in my home for a client [1]. That system has run well for over 5 years for the purposes of my client and also as my own home fileserver and as a workstation. But now it’s getting a bit old, while it was still basically working the cooling fans were getting noisy, faster systems are available, and it was crashing occasionally which could have been due to hardware or software.

On the 7th of November I got a new Dell PowerEdge T110. It’s got a i3-3220 CPU (speed of 4218 according to cpubenchmark.net) which is a lot better than the AMD 1212 (speed of 982). It takes up to 4*3.5″ SATA disks (as opposed to 2 disks) and has more options for memory expansion. Next time I run out of disk space I’ll add another RAID-1 pair of disks instead of buying new disks.

Generally this system is much the same as the one it replaces. It’s a cheap server which unfortunately lacks sound hardware and usable video hardware. Sound is a problem I already solved with USB speakers but for the new system I bought a PCIe video card. Fortunately the system has PCIe*16 sockets (which apparently only have PCIe*8 wires) which avoids the problem I had in the past trying to obtain a suitable video card.

The crashes turned out to be due to BTRFS and now that I’ve made some tweaks everything is running well.

I’ll probably buy another Dell PowerEdge in about 5 years time.

Related posts:

  1. Dell PowerEdge T105 Today I received a Dell PowerEDGE T105 for use by...
  2. New Dell Server My Dell PowerEdge T105 server (as referenced in my previous...
  3. Cheap SATA Disks in a Dell PowerEdge T410 A non-profit organisation I support has just bought a Dell...

Syndicated 2013-12-15 10:41:34 from etbe - Russell Coker

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