Older blog entries for etbe (starting at number 1020)

Links December 2012

Steven Johnson gave an interesting TED talk about where good ideas come from [1]. He starts by attributing coffee replacing alcohol as a standard drink for some good ideas and then moves on to how ideas develop.

Erez Lieberman Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel gave an interesting and amusing TED talk about the ngram analysis of books that Google scanned [2]. Here is the link for the Google Books ngram search [3].

Clay Shirky gave an insightful TED talk about how the Internet is changing the world [4]. He cites Open Source programmers as the modern day equivalent to the Invisible College based on our supposed great ability to get along with other people on the Internet. If we really are so much better than the rest of the Internet then things must be bad out there. He ends with ways of using Git to draft legislation.

Hans Rosling gave an interesting TED talk about religion and the number of babies that women have [5]. His conclusion is that it’s more about income and social stability and that the world’s population can stabilise at 10 billion if we provide family planning to everyone.

Alexis C. Madrigal wrote an interesting interview with Genevieve Bell about her work at Intel and the way people use technology [6].

Indigogo is raising funds for the “Cuddle Mattress”, it’s a mattress with foam slats and a special fitted sheet to allow your arm to slide between the slats [7]. So you could have your arm underneath your SO for an extended period of time without risking nerve damage. They also show that when sleeping on your side your shoulder can go between the slats to avoid back problems.

Nate Silver (who is famous for predicting US elections gave an interesting TED talk about racism and politics [8]. One of his main points is to show the correlation between racism and lack of contact of members of other races.

Sociological Images has an interesting article by Lisa Wade about whether marriage is a universal human value [9]. In regard to historical marriage she says “women were human property, equivalent to children, slaves, servants, and employees”. The general trend in the comments seems to be that there are so many types of marriage that it’s difficult to make any specific claims to traditional marriage unless you count a tradition of a short period in a single geographic region.

Plurality is an excellent sci-fi short movie on youtube [10].

TED has an interesting interview with Hakeem Oluseyi about his research about astrophysics and how he achieved a successful career after being a gangster as a teenager [11]. He has some good ideas about helping other children from disadvantaged environments become successful.

Paul Dwerryhouse wrote an interesting blog post about his work in designing and implementing a filesystem based on a Cassandra data store with FUSE [12]. Paul also wrote a post about using Apache Zookeeper to lock metadata to permit atomic operations [13].

The documentary “Monumental Myths” provides an interesting and insightful analysis of the processes of creating, maintaining, and explaining monuments [14]. It focusses on some significant monuments in the US and explains both sides to each story. Howard Zinn makes the insightful point that “when people present a certain point of view of history it’s not controversial, as soon as you present the other side they call it controversial“. That happens even in debates about current issues. Howard also says “to criticise whatever the government does is not anti-America, it’s anti-government, it’s pro-America, it’s pro the people, it’s pro the country“. The song that plays during the closing credits is interesting too.

The music video “Same Love” is one of the best presentations of the argument for marriage equality [15].

Chris Samuel wrote an interesting post about systems locked down for Windows 8 and options for purchasing PCs for running Linux [16]. His solution is to buy from ZaReason. I saw his laptop in action at the last LUV meeting and it looks really nice. Unfortunately a byproduct of the extremely thin form factor is the fact that it lacks a VGA port, this meant that Chris had to use my Thinkpad T61 (which is rather clunky by comparison) for his presentation.

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Syndicated 2012-12-11 06:10:29 from etbe - Russell Coker

Returning the Aldi Tablet

I have decided to return the 7″ Android tablet I bought from Aldi last week [1]. I still think that the tablet isn’t all bad, but the main problem I had is the short battery life. The battery can be entirely exhausted in less than an hour’s use. Another problem is the fact that most of the Angry Birds games just abort on startup, as my plans for the tablet involved some recreational use this is a significant problem.

The final factor that made me decide to return it is the fact that Kogan offered a special deal on a Samsung Galaxy S3 [2] for $449. That ended up as $507 per phone for two phones that have PowerCases (which more than double the battery life as well as protecting the phone from being dropped). So a Galaxy S3 increments my Android device count and with a 4.8″ 720*1280 display will compete well with a low-end 7″ tablet that only has a 800*480 display (the Galaxy S3 has 2.4* as many pixels).

Aldi offers 60 days money back, so I’ll return the tablet when my Galaxy S3 arrives.

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Syndicated 2012-12-10 05:45:41 from etbe - Russell Coker


Today Google sent me an invite for Ingress – their latest augmented reality game [1]. The fact that they sent me the invitation while the Google Play store page for Ingress [2] tells me that it’s not available in my country (Australia) is interesting. Google obviously aren’t using their Big Brother powers effectively!

The way to install Ingress if you are in Australia, New Zealand, or other countries where it’s not supported is to do a Google search on the words “Ingress” and “APK” and take the highest available version (1.08 at the moment). Then you will find a web site that offers it with no authentication and the potential of getting a trojan version. Forcing people to install the software in an insecure manner doesn’t seem to be in the best interests of Google.

I first installed the game on my Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 which has a 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8250 CPU and runs Android 2.3.3 compiled by Sony-Ericsson and performance was terrible. It often would fail to respond to the UI effectively, it would process touch actions after I had repeated them because they didn’t seem to have registered, scrolling text at the same speed as playing audio was apparently impossible.

Then I briefly tried running it on my Samsung Galaxy S which has a 1 GHz (ARM Cortex A8) CPU and runs Android 2.3.7 with a CyanogenMod-7.1.0-GalaxyS build. It seemed to be a bit faster but the difference was small enough that I could have imagined it.

I tried it on the cheap Onix tablet I bought from Aldi this morning [3] but it refused to work every time I tried and eventually crashed the tablet and forced me to use the reset button.

Finally I tried it on a Kogan Agora 10″ tablet running Android 4.0.4 with what Kogan describes as a 1GHz ARMv7 CPU and it seemed a lot more usable. I haven’t yet tried actually playing the game on the Kogan Agora tablet, but the fact that I can read the messages from other players is a significant improvement over the experience on the phones. On the phones the poor performance of the UI made it almost impossible to read messages from other players, now it’s merely extremely annoying.

I’m very disappointed with this. Almost three years ago I reviewed the Seer augmented reality software from IBM that performed tasks that are more demanding and did it well [4]. The IBM Seer software ran on a HTC Hero which had a 528 MHz Qualcomm MSM7600A CPU, it’s really disappointing that Ingress can’t run well on modern phones – particularly as the “augmented reality” part of the game which I’ve seen so far is not much different to what Google Maps, Osmand, and other mapping programs do.

The IBM Seer software was good enough to drive the purchase of new phones. When I first got an Android phone almost two years ago I wanted to run such augmented reality software and it was a factor that determined my choice of phone. Unfortunately I still haven’t found anything to live up to that promise. IBM’s software was tailored to the Australian Open even a tennis fan would find it to be of little interest for about 360 days of the year and I haven’t found any other augmented reality software that is useful and works well (please let me know if there’s something I’ve missed).

I find it difficult to imagine that anyone would be inspired to change their phone purchase plans after seeing a demo of Ingress on any hardware that I own. It seems that it will probably be usable on my Xperia X10 and all features should work on the Kogan Agora tablet, but I don’t think that any of them will allow the game to live up to the hype.

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Syndicated 2012-12-05 12:55:45 from etbe - Russell Coker

Cheap Android Tablet from Aldi

back of the onix 7 inch tablet front of the onix 7 inch tablet and cover of manual

I’ve just bought a 7″ Onix tablet from Aldi. It runs Android 4.0.4, has a 1GHz Cortex A8 CPU, 512M of RAM, 16G of flash storage, and a 800*480 display. They are selling rapidly and I don’t know how long they will last – probably you could get a returned one next week if you can’t get one today. But if you like pink then you may be able to get one (the black ones are selling out first).

The tablet seems like a nice piece of hardware, solid construction and it feels nice to hold. Mine has a minor screen defect, but that’s the sort of
thing you expect from a cheap device, apart from that the display is good.

The Wifi doesn’t seem to have as good a range as some other devices (such as my phones and the more expensive 10″ tablet I got from Kogan). This isn’t a
problem for me (the data intensive uses for this device will be in the same room as the AP) but could be a killer for some people. If you have your phone or a dedicated 3G Wifi AP in your pocket while using the tablet then it should be fine, but if you have an AP at the wrong end of your house then you could be in trouble. I found Youtube unusable due to slow downloading even when sitting next to my AP but I can play videos downloaded from iView that are on my local web server (which is more important to me). I expect that I will be able to play local copies of TED talks too.

The camera is bad by phone camera standards, fortunately I have no interest in using a tablet as a camera.

I had no real problems with the Google Play store (something that caused problems for some users of an earlier Aldi Android tablet). Generally the tablet works well.

The people who build Android for modern devices seem remarkably stupid when it comes to partitioning, every device I’ve seen has only a small fraction of the storage usable for apps. This tablet is the worst I’ve ever seen, it has 16G of storage of which there is 512M partitioned for apps of which only 400M is free when you first get the device! It comes pre-installed with outdated versions of the Facebook client and Google Maps (which isn’t very useful on a Wifi device) and some other useless things. If you upgrade them to the latest versions then you’ll probably lose another 100M of the 512M! Fortunately the Android feature to run apps from the VFAT partition works so I haven’t been prevented from doing anything by this problem yet.

In conclusion, it’s not the greatest Android tablet. But you don’t expect a great tablet for $100. What I hoped for was a somewhat low spec tablet that works reasonably well and that’s what I got. I’m happy.

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Syndicated 2012-12-05 07:01:02 from etbe - Russell Coker

Recruiting at a LUG Meeting

I’m at the main meeting of Linux Users of Victoria (my local LUG). A couple of recruiting agents from Interpro [1] are here and have been working the crowd, one of them is on each side of the room and it seems that their plan is to speak to every person at the meeting and ask about whether they are looking for work.

It is apparently difficult for them to find good Linux candidates and they hope to find people here (they are mainly looking for a senior programmer/team leader and an experienced sysadmin). One of my friends is looking for work but he’s got two interviews for arranged for this week so they will have to be quick if they want to get him. I guess this means that the economy must be going well, or at least it’s not too difficult for Linux people to find work (which is what matters the most to me).

Attending the meeting and talking to people is a good business idea for the recruiters and is generally good for members of the group. Before the meeting starts and during the intermission people just hang out and talk, asking them if they are looking for work generally won’t harm anyone and can really help some people. I wouldn’t want to see multiple agencies doing this at every meeting, but I think that having it happen occasionally is a good thing.

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Syndicated 2012-12-04 08:18:53 from etbe - Russell Coker

Links November 2012

Julian Treasure gave an informative TED talk about The 4 Ways Sound Affects US [1]. Among other things he claims that open plan offices reduce productivity by 66%! He suggests that people who work in such offices wear headphones and play bird-songs.

Naked Capitalism has an interesting interview between John Cusack and Jonathan Turley about how the US government policy of killing US citizens without trial demonstrates the failure of their political system [2].

Washington’s blog has an interesting article on the economy in Iceland [3]. Allowing the insolvent banks to go bankrupt was the best thing that they have ever done for their economy.

Clay Shirky wrote an insightful article about the social environment of mailing lists and ways to limit flame-wars [4].

ZRep is an interesting program that mirrors ZFS filesystems via regular snapshots and send/recv operations [5]. It seems that it could offer similar benefits to DRBD but at the file level and with greater reliability.

James Lockyer gave a movingTEDx talk about his work in providing a legal defence for the wrongly convicted [6]. This has included overturning convictions after as much as half a century in which the falsely accused had already served a life sentence.

Nathan Myers wrote an epic polemic about US government policy since 9-11 [7]. It’s good to see that some Americans realise it’s wrong.

There is an insightful TED blog post about TED Fellow Salvatore Iaconesi who has brain cancer [8]. Apparently he had some problems with medical records in proprietary formats which made it difficult to get experts to properly assess his condition. Open document standards can be a matter of life and death and should be mandated by federal law.

Paul Wayper wrote an interesting and amusing post about “Emotional Computing” which compares the strategies of Apple, MS, and the FOSS community among other things [9].

Kevin Allocca of Youtube gave an insightful TED talk about why videos go viral [10].

Jason Fried gave an interesting TED talk “Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work” [11]. His main issues are distraction and wasted time in meetings. He gives some good ideas for how to improve productivity. But they can also be used for sabotage. If someone doesn’t like their employer then they could call for meetings, incite managers to call meetings, and book meetings so that they don’t follow each other and thus waste more of the day (EG meetings at 1PM and 3PM instead of having the second meeting when the first finishes).

Shyam Sankar gave an interesting TED talk about human computer cooperation [12]. He describes the success of human-computer partnerships in winning chess tournaments, protein folding, and other computational challenges. It seems that the limit for many types of computation will be the ability to get people and computers to work together efficiently.

Cory Doctorow wrote an interesting and amusing article for Locus Magazine about some of the failings of modern sci-fi movies [13]. He is mainly concerned with pointless movies that get the science and technology aspects wrong and the way that the blockbuster budget process drives the development of such movies. Of course there are many other things wrong with sci-fi movies such as the fact that most of them are totally implausible (EG aliens who look like humans).

The TED blog has an interesting interview with Catarina Mota about hacker spaces and open hardware [14].

Sociological Images has an interesting article about sporting behaviour [15]. They link to a very funny youtube video of a US high school football team who make the other team believe that they aren’t playing – until they win [16]

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Syndicated 2012-11-26 06:01:06 from etbe - Russell Coker

Geeky Jeans

It’s likely that most people make things like comfort, style, and price the main criteria when purchasing clothes. But there are other things that can be more important such as the ability to fit a phone in the pocket.

My last pair of jeans was from Rivers (one of the more affordable Australian clothing stores which also has online sales) [1]. They were the “long leg” version and have front pockets that are 28cm deep (measured from the bottom of the pocket to the lowest part of the lip) and 15cm wide (a 15cm ruler will barely fit sideways in the pocket).

I’ve just got some new jeans from Rivers which are the regular leg length, they have front pockets which are 21cm deep and slightly more than 16cm wide.

The old pair could fit a Nexus 7 tablet in the front pocket. The new pair should more easily fit such a tablet in the pocket but it might be less comfortable to walk with the tablet in the pocket. I don’t plan to try using my front pocket for a tablet (I’d be more likely to use a backpack or my Scott e vest [2]), but a Galaxy Note 2 (which is about the largest device that most people would want in their pocket) would fit nicely.

I find the Rivers jeans to be quite comfortable and I like the way they look. They also only cost $25 online or $30 in the store. When I bought my first pair before I even had a 4″ phone they were good value and they will be even better value early next year when I get a bigger phone. Even though Rivers jeans may wear out faster than more expensive brands, for $30 it’s easy to just buy a few pairs at a time.

During an email discussion of geeky clothing the issue of women’s clothes having fewer and smaller pockets was raised. Unfortunately I didn’t think to measure the pockets in women’s jeans when I was at the Rivers to discover whether they have big pockets too. I’ll do that next time I’m in the area.

Syndicated 2012-11-17 00:09:33 from etbe - Russell Coker

Rape Apology and LCA 2011

After a lecture at LCA 2011 included some inappropriate slides there was a long discussion on several mailing lists about the issues related to this. In February 2011 I wrote a blog post debunking some of the bogus arguments in question [1]. Of course the matter didn’t end there, at LCA 2012 I was drawn into a few debates IRL about the issues, as long as there are more than a few men who want such porny pictures used in LCA talks the issue can’t be properly resolved.

The most serious aspect of the discussion in question is that of rape apology, the bad ideas that were presented have a real impact on the way people behave, merely making public statements saying that something is OK is going to increase the incidence of it happening. The Geek Feminism Wiki has a good page summarising the issue [2].

The Finally Feminism 101 post about Rape Culture is also worth reading in this context [3].

Recently Valeria Aurora wrote a post for the Ada Initiaive blog about the rape apology issue and how the community needs to act to prevent such behavior [4]. This inspired Matthew Garrett to write about the issue and state the position that “In the absence of an apology and explanation from Ted, I’ll be interacting with him to the bare minimum that I’m compelled to as a result of my job” [5]. I agree with Matthew’s article, everything he writes is logical and I believe that it is all for the benefit of the FOSS community as a whole. I think that most guys have quietly defriended guys who are rape-positive in the past (for example when I was 12 I refused to play D&D with boys who were raping NPCs). But blogging about it, explaining the problem, and giving the offender the possibility to reform is a good idea and it’s something that should be done more often.

Sam Varghese has written about the issue for ITWire [6]. He has taken the wrong approach to this, he specifically claims that “Matthew Garrett has kicked off what could be a damaging episode“. I think that Matthew’s approach is necessary and the situation demands it. If Matthew had been on holidays and I had read the TAI post earlier then I would probably have written a blog post which Sam could have described in a similar manner. So I don’t think that Matthew kicked anything off (I think that someone had to do it). I also don’t think that this has to be damaging – it depends on how everyone reacts.

On her personal blog Valerie says “When I first read Ts’o’s comments, I couldn’t sleep for two nights. I wanted to throw up every time I thought about it. I was furious and frightened at the same time. Every time I think about this, even now, I literally have nightmares. I can’t bear the thought of working with him even over email, much less attending the same conferences” [7]. I don’t think that any of us who are seriously involved in the FOSS community have a way of avoiding this issue, allowing Valerie and other women who have the same understanding of the situation to go through that without any support is not a neutral action. I think we need to consider whether someone who gives other delegates and speakers nightmares should be welcome to attend a conference. Valerie’s post makes sense to me and I can understand why she doesn’t want to associated with Ted, my understanding of the issue isn’t important or even required, I merely note this because I’m sure that there are lots of readers who will ignore anything that a woman might say.

ITWire has a follow-up article with Ted’s response, Ted fails to address all the issues and seems to think that the people who disagree with him merely don’t appreciate his “nuance” [8]. The thing is that the issue of the incidence of rape was raised in discussion to consider the probability that rape survivors would have been in the audience for the Mark Pesce talk in question. None of Ted’s claims indicate that rape could be rare enough that a crowd of 500+ random people could be expected not to have multiple rape survivors so his comments weren’t even relevant to the discussion. Ted seems unwilling to try to understand the position of all the people who disagree with him.

Syndicated 2012-11-07 23:46:27 from etbe - Russell Coker

Links October 2012

The F Word has an informative post about men commenting on Feminist blogs [1]. Most of it applies to any situation where a member of a powerful group comments on an issue related to a minority group. Near the end they say: I’ll also paraphrase and flesh out the most useful piece of advice I ever read, when I made the effort to research white privilege: don’t expect the minority to trust you. Trust is earned, and you’re just another commenter who they can’t tell apart from any other commenter. You’re entering someone else’s space, where different rules apply. You get to have the rest of the world for people to assume you’re a wonderful person. Here, you’re just another one of ‘them’, and given the track record of ‘them’, it’s up to you to listen, learn and prove that you’re being thoughtful and honestly trying to examine your privilege.

Sociological Images has an interesting article on people’s perception of the sky colour – it seems that the “blue sky” meme is modern [2].

Charles Stross wrote an interesting article about the possible uses for future low power computers [3]. He gets a bit over-excited about the possibilities for sensing – making a tiny computer that can sense so many things isn’t going to be easy (DSLRs are big for a reason). But having lots of powerful computers everywhere does provide lots of interesting and potentially bad opportunities.

Martin Bekkelund has an interesting article about Amazon wiping DRM infected books that it had sold to a customer without giving a refund or an explanation [4]. If you want to buy ebooks it seems that the sensible thing to do would be to immediately crack them or download them from The Pirate Bay so Amazon can’t steal them back.

Rebecca Saxe gave an interesting talk about trying to develop methods for conflict resolution through neuroscience [5].

Barry Eisler has written an interesting article about the corruption of journalists [6]. It’s really worth reading, some of the methods of corruption apply to even the more casual bloggers.

Krebs on Security has an informative article about the Microsoft Tech Support phone scams [7]

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Syndicated 2012-10-31 13:57:07 from etbe - Russell Coker

Google mod_pagespeed

I’ve just downloaded and installed the Debian AMD64 package of the Google Apache Pagespeed module [1].

To see if it worked I used the Google PageSpeed insights tool which gave my blog a rating of 93% (and 88% for mobile) [2].

After installing mod_pagespeed I received the same scores. So it appears that Pagespeed isn’t doing any good according to Google’s analysis!

etbe.coker.com.au – - [13/Oct/2012:05:22:31 +0000] "GET /wp-content/plugins/openid/f/W.openid.css,qver=519.pagespeed.cf.Bbu1gxRjUE.css HTTP/1.0" 200 2165 "http://etbe.coker.com.au/" "Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64) AppleWebKit/537.1 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/21.0.1180.89 Safari/537.1" 0
etbe.coker.com.au – - [13/Oct/2012:05:22:31 +0000] "GET /wp-content/themes/atahualpa/js/DD_roundies.js,qver=0.0.2a.pagespeed.jm.4gw5yluag0.js HTTP/1.0" 200 3679 "http://etbe.coker.com.au/" "Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64) AppleWebKit/537.1 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/21.0.1180.89 Safari/537.1" 0
etbe.coker.com.au – - [13/Oct/2012:05:22:31 +0000] "GET /wp-includes/js/jquery/jquery.js,qver=1.7.2.pagespeed.jm.XZwfunyK-6.js HTTP/1.0" 200 33587 "http://etbe.coker.com.au/" "Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64) AppleWebKit/537.1 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/21.0.1180.89 Safari/537.1" 0
etbe.coker.com.au – - [13/Oct/2012:05:22:33 +0000] "GET /wp-content/themes/atahualpa/images/xlogo.png.pagespeed.ic.ICWmaHBME5.png HTTP/1.0" 200 2267 "http://etbe.coker.com.au/" "Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64) AppleWebKit/537.1 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/21.0.1180.89 Safari/537.1" 0

The above sample of web logs shows that the string “pagespeed” is appended to some URLs with a hash of the file contents which apparently allows much longer cache times without making it difficult to change content. So Pagespeed is obviously doing something.

Is Google analysis expected to say that there is no change? Note that my speed scores are 93% and 88% so my site is was apparently quite good before mod_pagespeed was installed – maybe the analysis would report a difference on a site that didn’t perform so well. Now even if mod_pagespeed has given a benefit to real users but not Google tests it still means that I won’t get the SEO benefits that Google apparently gives to fast sites.

Also to make things even more exciting the W3.org HTML validator [3] now says that there’s an error in my blog. So not only has mod_pagespeed failed to improve performance in a way that Google notices but it has also broken something!

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Syndicated 2012-10-13 05:50:59 from etbe - Russell Coker

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