Wednesday, December 26, 2007

/home sweet /home

Last night, I encountered a very horrific situation. I was working on getting Sabayon to actually WORK CORRECTLY, and if you don't know my hard drive layout, I share my /home directory between Ubuntu and Sabayon (this is because it's on a different hard drive). The problem I had with Sabayon was that the application list was gone. I had to run applications by going Alt+F2 (which opens up the "Run Application" dialog box) and typing in it's name. I didn't want to do that, so I set out to figure what was wrong. I started out with a reinstallation of the partition (/home wasn't touched). When I booted back, the applications were still gone, so I decided that the problem lay in the /home partition. Now, I decided to do something that could have gone better. I did a clean reinstall from another partition, and copied all of the contents from there to my /home. Now, many of the programs I had were preserved, but it also overwrote a couple of configuration files that Ubuntu kinda wanted. However, I got many of the applications back in the menu, which was good.

Let's fast forward to when I boot into Ubuntu. Everything initially goes normally, however, once I log in, Gnome looks like crud. I'm missing the top panel and title bars, and there's an error saying that Gnome couldn't find some file. The theme was reverted back to the minimal one, and nothing really worked. I was worried, however, I worked on servers a week ago, so I knew my way around the command line (sorta). So, I go into what's called a virtual terminal (Press Ctrl+Alt+F1 through Ctrl+Alt+F6) and logged in. These are basically ways for you to log in if your GUI goes kapoot. From there, I used irssi to get to IRC (boy am I getting dependent on that) and get some help! Luckily, there was someone (Kr0ntab on #ubuntu-california) who knew how to restore a /home directory. And this is what I'm going to lay out now.

1. Unlock the root user
sudo passwd
and pick a root password. Be sure you do this and not sudo su, and LOG IN as root in a virtual terminal (Ctrl+Alt+F[1-6]).

2. Log out from your user. This means both from X, and any virtual terminals you might be in (type "exit" without quotes).

3. Move your home directory to some backup location:
mv /home/*user* /root/backup
where *user* is your username.

4. Now here comes the fun part, get rid of your home directory:
rm -rf /home/*user*
As always, be careful when you use rm -rf. MAKE SURE you didn't mistype anything.

5. Make sure your home directory is GONE. Do an "ls /home" (without quotes) and make sure that it's not there.

6. Copy a skeleton home directory to your home directory:
cp -r /etc/skel
/home And rename it:
mv /home/skel /home/*user*
7. Now log back in to X and your home directory should be reconfigured to its original state. If you can log in to something that looks like you just installed Ubuntu, you're good so far. Now re-lock the root account for security reasons:
sudo -l
And log out of root.

8. Now you're wondering how you're going to get the settings you worked so hard to tweak. Well, some, you're just going to have to do by hand, but most you can get back. Remember when we backed up the original home directory? Well, go back there and move back files that you know weren't a problem (you wouldn't want to restore that file that broke you system, would you? So be aware of what you're moving back).

After this, it's just a matter of copying and pasting (or dragging and dropping, depends how you like it). Most program configuration files (such as .gaim or .xchat) ought to be fine, and you should be able to replace them. However, try not to replace configuration files (like files that have to do with X), because you might replace the wrong file; and plus, those are settings you could tweak back easily. Don't take that chance.

Well, this is how I saved my home directory. I hope this guide will be of help to you if you ever need it. Hopefully, you won't. And for those of you who enjoy it when I screw something up on my computer, I HOPE YOU'RE HAPPY!!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holiday!

No, I'm not being a politically-correct corporation which doesn't want to offend anybody. I'm celebrating the Pastafarian holiday of Holiday! The timing of this announcement just HAPPENED to coincide with Christmas. But now, you know the real reason. So, be sure to eat all of the pasta you can this next few weeks, to celebrate his noodliness.

Friday, December 21, 2007


All right everyone, this blog is going to go through a period of spartan looks while I upgrade the blogger template. I started out formatting this blog using just HTML, but now technology has caught up and I'm upgrading to Layout mode, so I can do a lot more interesting stuff without having to know the extreme technical background. However, upgrading deletes all of your customizations, so I'll have to redo them. If I miss something, leave a comment and I'll get back to it. Thanks for your patience!

The Dangerous Book for Boys

Today was the Christmas Shopping day. It was when the stores were getting desperate to sell their goods, and marked many for HUGE sales. However, today, we went to Toys R Us, because there were some small kids who we were looking to buy gifts for. That entire process went well, and we got (what we think) are the perfect gifts for them. However, a certain book at Toys R Us caught my eye, and I looked through it while we traversed the isles. It was called The Dangerous Book for Boys, by Conn and Hal Iggulden. Now, a title like that just begs a passerby to ask "What's so dangerous about it?" And I wasn't an exception.

I opened up the book expecting to find some popular claptrap of modern culture which would be ephemerally lost to the jaws of time after a few years (don't I sound intelligent). But instead, the page contained information about the Battle of the Alamo. I was intrigued, and decided to investigate this book further. Sure enough, the chapter was on major battles of history. I thought that this book seemed to be a beacon of intelligence in an otherwise indifferent store whose wares shifted with the populous's opinion. I looked further in the book, and found that it contained many different types of information, history only being one of them. It had several guides, such as how to fish or tie a knot or even play poker. There was information on meteorology, astronomy, and grammar. There were several topics which I had tried to find information on, that were all compiled in this small, easy-to-read book. They even covered some details of the opposite sex (I found that I need some sports. Being computer-oriented is apparently not as attractive. Well, I didn't say it was PERFECT). I found this book to be an extremely well-compiled guide to being a respectable intellectual!

Unfortunately, I did not buy it. As helpful as it would have been when I was young, I found that I did not have a need for it. And did not know of any others that did (plus, it was pretty expensive. I'd recommend using a coupon on it or getting it on sale). However, for those of you who haven't come up with the perfect gift, consider this. It's the ideal book to give to a budding intellectual. Maybe you need something for a girl: try The Daring Book for Girls. If it's anything like its companion (and the customer reviews say it is), it'll be a great gift.

Now, I shall wait for the intellectual properties of that book to wear off. That's how amazingly edifying it was.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


During the winter break, I decided to go back to doing work at CENS, and over the last two days, I've had a great deal of training with RAID systems, and I'll probably get some more over the break. For those of you who don't know, RAID stands for "Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks". The basic purpose of RAIDs are to protect against disk failure. If you're running an array of disks, and one of the disks becomes corrupted, your data is still safe and your computer will keep running. However, you're urged to replace the hard drive, and once you do, everything will be backed up and well until another hard drive croaks.

There are several types of RAIDs. However, the type we did was a RAID1, which involves two hard drives, and one mirroring the other. That way, if one hard drive fails, the other will be an exact copy and can take over. The higher levels of RAIDs involve more complex means of restoring data such at parity and will make for an interesting discussion later on. But now, we're sticking to RAID.

The background of the project is a RAID1 on a Linux Server (A SUN server, I might add). The first part basically entailed getting used to the Linux RAID tool (mdadm) and finding out why one of the hard drives was removed from the RAID. It turned out, when you remove a hard drive, you have to manually re-add it after you put it back. And once you do that, it has to manually rebuild the mirror for an hour or so. So, removing hard drives to test out the RAID is something we quickly decided to do very rarely. The next time we did it was with the second step, getting GRUB to work on it.

The second thing turned out to be much easier than we expected. In order to get GRUB to boot off of a RAID, you just have to put a copy of GRUB on the Master Boot Sectors of BOTH hard drives. And they both have to reference (hd0), because if one is taken off, then the other will be called (hd0) because the first one isn't detected. So we didn't have to even differentiate that between the two GRUB menus. It was much easier than expected.

The third thing is a bit more private, and being done in progress. We're basically re-designing the hard drive to extreme modularity. There are entirely separate partitions of data some of which will be RAIDed, others which will not be. It's quite confusing, and I'll probably have more detail about that later on. But, I hope you enjoyed this update, and yes, I managed to put a picture in a post. Hooray for me!

Friday, December 14, 2007

2007 Environmental Scorecard

Several weeks ago, the California League of Conservation Voters, a powerful lobbyist group in California for the protection of the environment published the California Environmental Scorecard of 2007 (pdf file). This booklet has all of the information about the environmental measures that took place in the California government, and provides a rundown on ALL of the representatives in the California legislatures. Some features are the worst of 2007, which involves budget threats, indifference to the Central Valley Air Quality, and politics which involved the Fish and Game Commissioner being dismissed for sharing research on the impact of lead ammunition on condors (However, lead ammunition hunting has been banned in habitats of the California condor). For more optimism, there is the Best of 2007, which features cleanup of ports, more environmental friendliness among Republicans (but the subject is still HEAVILY partisan), even stronger support among Democrats for the environment, and improvement in organizing people to contact their representative (MAC campaign).

After the best and worst, come the numbers, which are essentially facts about the people of California and their representatives. To see the extreme partisanship in this issue, there were NO republicans who scored ABOVE 50% in the State Assembly or Senate. Meanwhile, there are only 2 Democrats who scored BELOW 50% in the Assembly and only 1 in the Senate. Next comes a list of the bills, which can be read by you. After that, comes the really interesting part. Individual scores for every senator and assemblyman, and the governor. I'm glad Schwarzenegger (I'm now able to spell that correctly the first time) had an improvement of 13%. Now, my senator (Mark Ridley-Thomas) and assemblyperson (Mike Feuer) both have perfect ratings, so I'm happy about that. If you live in California, take a look at this, and see how your senator/assemblyperson does. If they're good, that's great. If they're not, you have some action you can take. And if you don't live in California, well, you can see how the eighth largest economy in the world treats the environment in great detail. I hope you find it at interesting as I did. If you want to have this guide mailed to you, feel free to join the California League of Conservation Voters.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Sun at Ubuntu Live

I recently stumbled upon this podcast on the Sun Developer Network Channel with interviews of key speakers at the Ubuntu Live event last year (technically this year, but you know what I mean). Unfortunately, I haven't had the opportunity to listen to them, but I felt like putting them out there. How can a mixture of Sun and Ubuntu EVER be a bad thing?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

More Good Science Videos

This time, Fresh Brainz has a collection of videos that discuss "Why do people laugh at creationists?". Of this eleven part series, only three are hosted on Fresh Brainz. Those three have to do with Solar System formation, false probabilities, and the fine-tuning argument. Of course, you can watch all eleven by searching "Why do people laugh at creationists?". Enjoy laughing at them!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Geeky Drug Videos

Wired Science has collected a couple of videos found on YouTube about drugs (the medical ones, not the illegal ones).

The first one is a video about a psychopharmacologist. This follows the traditional path of the science song by taking a well-established song (from Gilbert and Sullivan), and changing the lyrics. It's fairly entertaining, despite the repetition in it.

The second one deviates more from the traditional science song. This makes it a bit more interesting. It's called Paxilback and is based off of a more recent song (Justin Timberlake's Sexyback). So, anyways. See Wired Science for more of the details.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Alliance for Science, Part 2!

The Alliance for Science is having a 2nd essay contest about evolution. And no, I'm not going to be submitting this year, I find it to be better to have some new blood in the voice for evolution.

This year, there are going to be two topics: one is Evolution and Climate, the other Agriculture and Evolution. So, there's much more choice in this year than in the previous one. And plus, these topics are not very nailed down, you can vary quite widely in them. Just be sure not to write an essay on Linux and evolution, or something like that. I don't think that would float too well with the judges, as interesting an idea as that may be.

As I've heard, this year the Alliance is going to be more efficient and organized. Last year was a bit of a last-minute thing. The cash prizes for these year are the same, $300 for 1st, $200 for second, $150 for third, and $100 for fourth. Unfortunately, I haven't seen the subscriptions to SEED on the list of prizes. I hope they include that later on, it was one of the things I was most excited for. Well, with this post, I say, GOOD LUCK to the future entrants!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Scalzi visits the Creation Museum

I just started going through my RSS feeds again, and found that I missed some really fun articles. One was that John Scalzi finally went through with his promise and visited the Creation Museum. Actually, he was bought for $5,118.36 (which was subsequently donated to Americans United for the Separation of Church and State).

The report is actually a two-parter. First is the visual part; a snarky and sarcastic (not to mention highly entertaining) tour through the Creation Museum. At first it looks like a daunting 101 photos, but they go really fast. Once I reached the end, I wished that there was more sarcastic wit to go around. If you have enough time, and /or want some more fun wit, read the comments too. They're often sources of great insight and humor.

The next is the written part. This is basically Scalzi's reflections on the Creation Museum and what it says about our society. The esay is just as, if not more entertaining than the visual tour, so I highly recommend reading that also. This report was highly anticipated, and its composition is more than appreciated.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Back to Ubuntu

Ok everyone! I'd just like to inform you that I'm back on the computer and it's in a state of convalescence. Slowly but surely I'm getting my files and programs back and my computer is reaching as I say, it's former glory. However, due to this ordeal, fetching these programs and files is very time-consuming. So, I'll probably be inactive in blogging for another while. I'm so sorry, but that's the way I goes I guess. However, I am going to show you some of the things which I decided to improve from the previous installation.

More modular partitioning- Once my computer got fscked and my data died, I decided to just totally wipe it and start from the beginning. Now, I have two hard drives in my computer, only one of which I used. So, I decided to use both and make the design much smarter. So, I took my first hard drive, which had 120 GB, and made it my /home partition, which was what I intended to do before my computer got fscked. Then, I took my second hard drive which had 300 GB, and made a Ubuntu partition on it (I later realized that I DID make a backup and stored it on the second hard drive, but once I remembered, it was too late and it was overwritten. Too bad). Now, whenever I want to install a different OS, I can just add a partition to the second hard drive and have my /home files on it. So, I accomplished my goal anyhow.

Less mess- My previous installation was filled with programs which I compiled from source the manual way, before I used checkinstall. I think this caused some performance problems and did manage to screw with the OS a little. So, this time around, I'm going to be much more organized and not going to have files which are never used around. I've even noticed that I haven't even been hit with a kernel panic yet, so I'm hoping that will continue.

So, these problems have been fixed. However, the road to this installation was also a bit rough. I initially decided to install via Feisty, whose CD I had, and upgrade to Gutsy. That did not turn out very well. In addition to taking forever to upgrade, a lot of things were not functioning correctly. XGL was the worst. Certain sections of the screen would be garbled for a while and this got very annoying. Even worse, compiz would not run. After a while, I just gave up and decided to install Gutsy directly. However, I did not want to wait, so I decided to download it off of Torrents (which is about all I use it for). That download was SUPER-FAST, and I had the CD within a couple of hours. After that, everything went well. So, lesson for today, install EXACTLY what you want, try not to do unnecessary upgrades.

Monday, November 05, 2007


Ok, I have horrible yet somehow humorous news for all of you. I obliterated my Ubuntu system. Yeah, I know it's a really serious subject, but it's so laden with irony that even I'm cracking up. So, it began like this:

I decided to make a separate /home partition for myself, so that if anything were to go wrong (cough cough), my science music and general settings would be preserved. That way, I could even share the /home folder with other distros. So, I decided to get started on this, so I rebooted and popped in a Ubuntu Live CD. All was going well, until I decided to start GPartEd. I choose my repartitioning scheme and it started partitioning. However, it gave me an error and recommended that I check the filesystem in my Ubuntu partition. I thought that it wouldn't hurt, so I did so. I ran a nifty little tool called fsck (Filesystem Check, get it?). Well, it gave me a standard warning that I shouldn't run fsck on a filesystem which is mounted, because problems are just about guaranteed to result. But, I don't remember mounting the partition so I go ahead. After that, it gives me problem after problem with the filesystem, I didn't recall Ubuntu being so corrupt. Well, I just chalked it to my filesystem being old, however the prompts to fix things got so annoying, I decided to just put a roll of quarters on the key and leave it. Once it finished, I went back to GPartEd, and saw that recorded the partition being mounted at /mount/disk. That's when the though, "OH CRUD!!!!!!" Went through my mind. I looked through the filesystem, it was decimated. Hundreds of thousands of folders, all empty.

Luckily, I installed Sabayon Linux on a DIFFERENT partition which was safe, but I failed to transport my /home folder to. So, thank Sabayon, and its wifi capability that I am able to communicate with you right now. However, getting to Sabayon was not a piece of pie either. With the operating system scrambled, the MBR couldn't find the /boot folder. So, I had to bust out Super Grub Disk, and use it to have the MBR choose the Sabayon GRUB menu instead of the Ubuntu one. Well, and that's where I am now. Thanks to fsck, my Ubuntu partition is unreadable, and thanks to Sabayon, I'm still connected to the internet. However, it's not all bad, I think my system had one too many weird updates, I was thinking about reinstalling it anyways. So, I guess I'll now GET to it. The only thing I regret is not backing up my music. But that could probably be replaced over time. Well, if I don't post in a while, you'll know why. So, that's how I got "fscked!"

Thursday, November 01, 2007

What's wrong with you people?

I unfortunately did not have the time to post on this blog for quite a long while. I'm sorry, I was slightly somewhat extremely busy with stuff from school and such. At least, lets assume I was. However, you wouldn't be able to imagine the scare once I checked Google Analytics a couple of days ago. I was shocked to find out that during my period of inactivity, traffic SOARED. Well, not really soared that much, but was still significantly bigger. Here is the Google Analytics graphic:

As you can tell, the last post was on October 20. A couple of days after that, there was a huge spike in the number of visits which maintained pretty steadily afterward. Compare that with the beginning of October and you'll see why I was so surprised. Well, I'm going to try and keep up with the posts, but unfortunately, there's just way too much to do, I haven't even been keeping up on my RSS feeds very well, so I can't guarantee anything. But stick around if you can.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Compiling pidgin

After upgrading to Ubuntu Gutsy, I was shocked to see that the upgrade broke pidgin. The IM client which previously worked wonders crashed on startup with this message:
pidgin: symbol lookup error: pidgin: undefined symbol: purple_core_ensure_single_instance
I tried reinstalling via Synaptic. No avail. I read through this thread, and there was no known solution. So, the only apparently solution was to install Pidgin via source.

[UPDATE: There is now a solution to this without recompiling Pidgin. Taken from this thread. Go to /usr/local/lib and delete these files:,,, and So, essentially:
cd /usr/local/lib
sudo rm
And the next time you run Pidgin, it should work. You might not have all of these files, but it will remove the ones that you do have, which is what is important.]

[NOTE: This guide was plagiarized adapted from here
The first thing you want to do is remove the installed version of pidgin. That can be done via:
sudo apt-get remove pidgin pidgin-data
Next thing, you download the source code.

After that, you unpack it and move into the folder (Firefox downloads things to my Desktop, so I'm using the code to do that):
cd ~/Desktop
tar -jxvf pidgin-2.2.1.tar.bz2
cd pidgin-2.2.1
Next you start the build cycle. Unlike the guide that was linked to, configuring without any options worked fine for me, so that's what I did:
Next, you use make (you don't HAVE to be root to do this, but you can):
Lastly, you can end with the traditional, sudo make install, but I choose not too. It's far too messy for me. I use the checkinstall tool, which compiles the source into a .deb which is then listed in Synaptic. However, just doing "sudo checkinstall" does not work. This is where I'm thankful for that guide. The successful command goes like this:
sudo checkinstall --exclude=/etc/gconf,/usr/bin,/usr/lib
Congratulations, pidgin should now be installed and able to be successfully run. However, I recommend doing the fix described at the beginning of this post. If you install from source via checkinstall, the Update Manager will keep bugging you to upgrade to the version of pidgin in the Ubuntu repos, which still have that problem. However, if you fix the Ubuntu version as described, it won't bother you. Well, I hope this guide was of help to someone, and if it wasn't, too bad. It was a help to me!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Countdown to Gutsy

That's right, the Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon release is coming in fast. It's set to come out on October 18, 2007. I'm not going to put a specific (2 days left) because that'll be obsolete in one day. But here's a nice little script that will keep up in real-time.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Now this is what we have that Iran doesn't

I'm not sure if you remember the fiasco about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visiting Columbia University to speak. I saw the actual speech, and I was extremely surprised at how he was attacked in the introduction. However, invited George Bush to speak at an Iranian University, and said he would treat him much better than he received. Ahmadinejad comes out looking like a hero and champion of free speech. However, I have yet to see something like this come out of Iran.

Now THAT'S free speech!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Most amazing song evar!

The Beatles, eat your heart out!

(Many thanks to Greg)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Risk and Java (changing your compiler)

I've recently been playing obsessing over a program which is essentially the game of Risk. For those of you who don't know (there have been a surprising number of people who didn't), Risk is essentially a board game where the objective is to dominate the world. You play against any number of players to try to capture territory and hopefully take the entire board. However, to me, it's HARD!!! I am utterly horrible at it and get beaten every time by the Easy AIs. However, I'm trying to get better.

Anyways, getting this baby to run was a long and arduous process (as have been most java programs on Ubuntu). However, there's always that one quick and simple solution that you've never known about which makes that horrible task easy as pie. And I believe I have found it. When running Risk, I noticed that for some reason it's broken in Java 1.4.2. However, for Java 5 and 6, it works perfectly. From the graphical perspective, it's easy to run a .jar file with a different compiler, just right click and select "Run with Sun Java 6". However, from the command line, I've always been plagued that the "java" command brings up the 1.4.2 compiler. I've searched everywhere in vain for a solution to this, because the typical process of linking the binary to the /usr/bin folder didn't exactly work, and something always went wrong. Well, I gave up for a while, until about, ohhhh..... twenty minutes ago. Then I decided to do a search on the Ubuntu forums, and sure enough, someone found a way to switch the compilers. And I'm going to show you how to do it now.

It's all done with a nifty tool called update-java-alternatives. Now, in order to use update-java-alternatives, you'll need to be root, so prepare your "sudo"s. Probably the first thing you want to do is check out what types of Java you have, you do that by typing
sudo update-java-alternatives -l

This will show you what different compilers you have. Here's an example from my computer:
java-1.5.0-sun 53 /usr/lib/jvm/java-1.5.0-sun
java-6-sun 63 /usr/lib/jvm/java-6-sun
java-gcj 1041 /usr/lib/jvm/java-gcj
I'll show you how to change it to Java 6. As you can see, the name for Java 6 is "java-6-sun". So basically all you have to do is type
sudo update-java-alternatives -s java-6-sun
And voila! Your compiler and libraries will all change to Java 6. Now, if I ever get stuck again, be sure to point me to this post. And I hope this was useful to you all too.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

A Trifecta!

Sorry I haven't blogged for almost a week now. School is now taking up a large chunk of my time (it's true, things DO get harder). So, to make up for it, I'm gonna talk about three different articles I found particularly interesting. Enjoy!

Have you ever been annoyed with the Completely Automated Turing To Tell Humans and Computers Apart or CAPTCHAs (yes, I know it's a horrible acronym). If you don't know what a CAPTCHA is, it's basically the distorted text most web sites ask you in order to ensure that you're human. Well, this technology is being used by the folks at Carnegie Mellon to digitize old books. Here's the problem: old books are typically not in the best shape. Traditional text-recognition methods do not work on words of especially bad quality. So, the words that can't be deciphered are sent to participating web sites so that people can help decipher these books. Sounds pretty good, sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and StumbleUpon have adopted this technique (known as reCAPTCHAs). And as an added bonus, these are words that are guaranteed to be unreadable because they haven't passed the test.
Now, if you're like me, you're probably wondering what the words are compared against, since the word is only defined by what the user says it is. Well, apparently you're given two CAPTCHAs, a known CAPTCHA and a reCAPTCHA. You fill in both, and if your CAPTCHA is correct, the web site will believe your reCAPTCHA. It then compares your answer to another person's answer, and if they agree, it accepts them. If they don't, it sends it to others and that's how books are digitized. So, what is the total benefit of these reCAPTCHAs?

Given that it takes about 10 seconds to decipher a reCAPTCHA and type in the answer, this represents the equivalent of almost three thousand man hours a day spent deciphering words that CMU's computers find illegible.

(Thanks to Wired Science)

Ok, next is a continuation on the JPL/NASA lawsuit (Apparently I didn't cover it. Read about its start at Bad Astronomy). Anyways, a federal judge denied their request to block the security checks imposed by the government. What were the judge's conclusions?
The argument that plaintiffs will suffer irreparable harm by signing an authorization form is without merit,'' U.S. District Judge Otis Wright wrote in a 17-page order
and also
"I don't want to see these employees hurt ... but I want the security of this nation preserved,'' Wright said Monday. "I don't want any sleepers infiltrating NASA or JPL.''
Eh, I don't know how much of a threat someone in JPL could be. I mean, what are they going to do, hijack the mars rovers? And at the rate NASA is moving forward, it would be much smarter for someone to monitor China. They're making far more progress than we are.

And lastly, Greg Laden elaborates on the spirit of Linux. And there's nothing I can do but wholeheartedly agree. I went through a similar process about a year-and-a-half ago. I put Ubuntu on my hard drive along with Windows, and basically got hooked onto it. It used to much, that my Windows partition corrupted from disuse (which was only like, a couple of months). And as I think every day, thank goodness I'm out of that loop. And I'm glad I've been able to be blessed with Linux.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Ubuntu as "The Other Windows"

I just received wind that Ubuntu was featured on a prominent news station called KTLA (It's a CW station). It was a segment by Kurt the Cyberguy. He does a really good job at explaining how Ubuntu is rising to be a competitor of Windows. He also addresses how most people associate money with quality, and how Ubuntu (being an open source program) breaks that particular generalization. (There are also parts of an interview with Mark Shuttleworth in there)

The analogy he uses that is actually pretty accurate likens Ubuntu to a giant gumbo. People who want can add their ingredients to the gumbo and make it better for everyone. However, it also has the choice that if there's something you DON'T like in the gumbo, you can remove it easily and be happy. Overall, I'm surprised that Ubuntu has gotten this popular, and I hope that it spreads even further.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

NSS responds to Weinburg's criticism of Space Program

Earlier this month, Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg delivered an amazingly cynical critique on the manned space program. He called the space station an "orbiting turkey". And notes that:
"Human beings don't serve any useful function in space," Weinberg told "They radiate heat, they're very expensive to keep alive and unlike robotic missions, they have a natural desire to come back, so that anything involving human beings is enormously expensive."
In addition to addressing the practicalities of spaceflight, he takes on the misplaced priorities that has often accompanied NASA due to its goals of manned spaceflight:

Weinberg pointed to NASA's treatment of its Beyond Einstein program as an example of the agency's misplaced priorities. Beyond Einstein consists of five proposed space missions designed to build upon and expand Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity.

"Only one of them is slated to go ahead, and given NASA's record, if we suddenly run into extra expenses in the manned spaceflight program, that will be put on the back burner, just as has been done time and time again by NASA," Weinberg said.

Here is the response of the National Space Society, an organization dedicated to promoting the spread of humanity into space. To counter the manned spaceflight program being a waste of money, they list a number of technologies that were developed due to manned spaceflight, "...such as kidney dialysis machines, fetal heart monitors, programmable heart pacemakers, to name just a few that help Americans every day."

And they continue on to show that both theoretical physics and manned spaceflight have both done good to humanity, and it wouldn't be fair or wise to scrap one for the other. I'd recommend reading them both.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A Scary Future

I personally find this (somewhat sarcastic) future of gaming very frightening. If you have about six minutes to kill, I'd recommend watching it. Here's my take on how the open source community will react. However, this is just as speculative as the original show.

Despite the very debatable aspect of having nearly the entire world hooked on Halo, there is something much more disturbing about that future. It actually starts in 2007, the domination of the company who produces Halo. That's right, Microsoft. Microsoft acquires Sony and Nintendo and incorporates them into their gaming division (and would maintain two monopolies) But it doesn't end there. In 2011, with the release of Halo 4, all other media will be busy creating CDs for Halo 4. Of course, there will be some open source insurgents who won't stand for that. Representatives of Canonical and Red Hat, angry at the seizure of their CD writing facilities, gather members of their representative communities and launch the largest security attack on Windows computers Microsoft has ever seen, and regain their facilities. However, since most people are busy playing Halo, the headline quickly slips into oblivion.

In 2016, Halo 6 would have been spread across several media, including movies, television, books, etc. With the number of members in the open source community dwindling, a few experienced programmers create a reverse engineered copy of Halo, and try to gain members there. They make little success. Due to the overhaul of education by Halo and Microsoft, the number of students who end up using Linux and other open source operating systems shrinks to 1% of its current size. With J Allard as president, Microsoft engages in legislation to persecute those who use free software in the United States. All open source activity stops in the United States and is now concentrated in Europe. Red Hat is relocated to France in order to escape suffocating regulation in its Red Hat Enterprise Linux 10.0.

In 2021, with the release of Halo 7, the open source community has now shrunken throughout the world. It is composed of only a few hundred members who live in hiding and continue to program despite the universality of the game. This community slowly diminishes due to an unacceptable amount of progress. By now, all of the major Linux companies have gone bankrupt, including Mandriva, Novell, and RedHat. Strangely, Sun Microsystems has managed to be a powerful force in this new economy with its new line of SPARC chips which are used in the new XBoxes. It still retains the openness which was initiated by its long-past CEO Jonathan Schwartz (you knew this was coming)

In 2026, the open source community is all but gone. They have been caught and killed in the crossfire of the Halo mob, and there is no one left to navigate the massive yet ultra-efficient linux kernel 4.128.36. All documentation had been lost in the blackout.

In the present day, with the rebuilding of civilization, a few rogue scholars depart from the construction of the Halo and analyze an old linux hard disk that survived the Halocaust. They try to piece together the ancient language, C, which once was....

How was that? I hope it was fairly entertaining at least.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I knew war was expensive, but DANG!

Ok, I know this story is kind of old, but it's still as shocking. PZ Myers did the calculations and found out that we spend $4 million in Iraq every 40 minutes or so. Why is this important? The Arecibo Observatory has the threat of being shut down because the National Science Foundation can't find an extra $4 million over three years to keep it in operation.

This is sad because the government is not only THINKING about this choice, but is choosing the side of war. The Arecibo Observatory has long been a symbol of advanced radio astronomy, and plays a vital part in mapping the Milky Way and detecting Near Earth Asteroids. To let this observatory die would be wrong in so many ways. To let this observatory die because of misshapen priorities on war and science is wrong is even more ways. I hope Arecibo makes it through this time and isn't forced to close.

I'm hating this war more and more as time goes on....

Monday, September 24, 2007

Open Source, meet the environment...

Today, Sun just launched OpenEco.Org, which serves to be a community of businesses to track, manage, and compare their carbon footprints with each other; all with an open source philosophy. Why? Here's what Sun says:
The accounting tool is a big step forward in assessing GHG emissions. That's because GHG analysis is frequently conducted with proprietary tools and often requires significant internal resources or outside consultants. Provided all the relevant utility data is available, members can assess their carbon emissions in a matter of minutes.
For one thing, it makes finding data and calculating your emissions MUCH cheaper. With the open source and all that. Plus, the more people that join the OpenEco.Org community, the more data companies will have, and they will be able to plan much more realistic goals. And when more realistic goals are implemented, they're more likely to be met.

And if you'd like, here's a link to a video Sun made about this very community:

Thursday, September 20, 2007

JONATHAN SPEAKS! (about Microsoft)

You may have read my take on the Sun/Microsoft agreement. Now, Jonathan Schwartz explains the purpose and advantages of the agreement. And it appears I was correct:
Customers have more choice - and to be clear, we are committed to doing everything (everything) at Sun in the free software community (even without a statue). This agreement does nothing to change that.
The point of the agreement was to expand Sun's share in the server market by including Windows as an option. The free software community at Sun is not affected by this deal in any way! Oh, and by the way, he managed to answer my question (a bit):
And although we've built a billion dollar annual runrate in the x64 business, we still hear objections - the biggest? "Your competition says you're not serious about Windows." Now of course, that's just silly - SQL Server screams on products like our x4500.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Intensions were right, but....

There is a web site called Blackle which essentially attempts to be Google but with a black background. The basic premise is that white is a power-hungry color for monitors, and black uses less power. It seems reasonable, but Google blog took note of it and duly noted that this was not in fact the case. According to Bill Weihl, the "Green Energy Czar" of Google:
We applaud the spirit of the idea, but our own analysis as well as that of others shows that making the Google homepage black will not reduce energy consumption. To the contrary, on flat-panel monitors (already estimated to be 75% of the market), displaying black may actually increase energy usage. Detailed results from a new study confirm this.

[Links in original]

However, Weihl does give tips for saving energy, such as:
  • turn on the power management features. Virtually all computers today have the ability to switch into low-power modes automatically when they're idle; very few computers have this capability enabled! Here's how to do it on computers running Windows XP.
  • turn off your monitor and computer when you're not using them
  • turn down the brightness on your monitor
  • make sure your next computer meets the efficiency standards of Climate Savers Computing (an efficient computer uses up to 50% less energy than a conventional one)
  • to find the most efficient PCs available today, look for the words "EnergyStar 4.0 compliant."

Here's how to enable power management in Ubuntu. Go to System>Preferences>Power Management. There you can adjust when you want to set your system to sleep (which can be useful) and when you want to set your monitor to sleep (which is what we're looking for). After reading this, I set my monitor to sleep after 15 minutes (from 40 minutes). I can imagine what I would be doing that would require inactivity for more than 15 minutes, but even then, it'll just be a nuisance but I'd still save power. So, I hope this post has taught you something. And I'll see you the next opportunity I get to make a post.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

GIMP wants to hear from YOU!

Ok, so this is a really cool idea the GIMP folks have done (for those who don't know, the GIMP is an open-source photo-editing program, I'd say even comparable to Photoshop, but I don't do hardcore image manipulation). Anyways, they have a blog up where they are brainstorming the new user interface. They're essentially taking ideas and suggestions for the new reworking of the user interface. If you regularly use the GIMP, and have some suggestions, be sure to drop in a line. Here's their summary for what it's for:
This is a visual brainstorm, the channel for everybody to contribute to the GIMP UI redesign process. It is moderated by the GIMP UI redesign team, consisting of professional interaction and usability specialists. We do not post mock-ups here ourselves, we ‘listen’ to what you show us and broaden our horizons.

To keep things easygoing + fun around here, there are some rules:

Explain your idea in an image or two. Only these images will be published, so make sure any needed explanation is inside them. Images must be in jpg, gif, bmp or png format, maximum 8MB each.

Your images should show your idea in a clear way, but they don’t have to be glossy and polished. Plain vector drawings or even scanned pencil sketches should also work.

Send your image to us, put the word ‘GIMP’ in the title of your email (to avoid spam, emails without GIMP in the title or without an image attachment will not be opened).

We will not publish your name or email address, if you want to be identified with—or even contacted about—your contribution, place your name or email address discretely in your image.

All further text you place in your image can only be used to explain your own idea. Keep it short, point out what is innovative. If you feel you need a lot of text to explain, then maybe your idea is not working on an user interaction level.

Do not write in your image about other people, other people’s ideas or why GIMP sucks, because…

…polemic kills brainstorming, hence there are not going to be discussions or comments in this blog. If you want to vent, use the usual channels. If you have got a better idea, simply show it to us.

If you want to respond to a contribution, by all means take the image, modify it with your own ideas for improvement and send it back to the brainstorm. Visual dialogue: it is allowed and encouraged by the CC licence on this blog.

We are pretty liberal Europeans, but anything obnoxious will ensure that your image does not get published here. We will not modify your image in any way, so either it is fit to be blogged or it will be discarded.

Our team will label your contribution and sometimes we will write a few sentences of analysis, if we are not too busy working on GIMP.

Your contribution has to be compatible with the license of this blog. Speaking of…
(Hat tip t' Greg)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Why Linux is better!

I found a site called "Why Linux is better". It seems to me to be fairly well written and comprehensible. It's not drenched in detail, but gives you the points BANG BANG BANG! I'd most definitely put it on a list of reading for people interested in Linux.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

CSE's going too far

Creation Science Evangelism (CSE) is Kent Hovind's "ministry" which is now kinda out of his hands while he's paying his debt to society. However, they're getting more active to clearing Hovind's image and keeping away criticism of his wacky science. Hovind has his videos on creationism and his brand of Christianity online, on YouTube and Google Video. He explicitly states that there are no copyrights to these videos and can be distributed freely, which they have been for many many years. However, there have been other videos floating around which show Hovind's videos but have refutations spliced in. All of the sudden, CSE has been going around YouTube and flagging the videos as copyright violations, and (apparently) by law, YouTube must remove them even without doing a review on the veracity of the copyright claims.

Now, why do I say they've gone too FAR? As if censoring the modified Hovind videos weren't bad enough. CSE actually had the gall to flag one of my favorite videos. Now, the thing that ticks me off about them removing this video is that it was mainly original content. What about a mainly original video with a few clips of uncopyrighted material makes it flaggable? I hope YouTube finally sorts this out.

UPDATE: Oh, I guess not. I was wrong. There WAS no uncopyrighted material in my favorite video. It was 100% original (link is not of good quality. See here for original quality). Well, this is getting much more interesting. This is a pretty strong piece of evidence that CSE is just bluffing and trying to get criticism out. Now I'm REALLY interested in how this turns out.

Sun and Microsoft Agreement

Yes, you read that correctly. If you saw that and immediately expressed disbelief, you're just like me! However, it's true, but not anything that really affects us open source zealots directly. The agreement is essentially that Sun will become a Microsoft Server OEM. There are basically five different points which are addressed in this agreement, nothing really dealing with open source. But since I'm a Sun paparazzi, I'll go over it anyways.

1. Windows Server OEM agreement

Essentially, this means that you'll be able to choose Windows Server 2003 as an operating system when you order a Sun server (I don't know why you'd WANT to do that, but it's a choice). According to the audiocast, all of Sun's customers run Windows along with Solaris, so it makes sense to offer it too. Yeah, that's kinda hard to believe, but I'm sure Sun knows what it's talking about.

2. Sun x64 Systems and Storage

This basically means that Microsoft and Sun will work to get Windows Server 2003 to work on Sun hardware (I don't if any amount of work on Windows could improve it very much, but I'd like to see them try).

3. Solaris and Windows Virtualization

This is fairly straightforward. Microsoft will work to make sure that Solaris could be virtualized on Windows Server 2003, and Sun will make sure that Windows Server 2003 could be virtualized on Solaris. I personally think Microsoft will have to work harder on this, because virtualization is built-in to Solaris. I'd like to see a sort of competition in features between the openSolaris community and the Microsoft developers (I'm sure you can guess who I think will win).

4. Expanded IPTV partnership

This is kinda confusing. So far, I've been able to glean that Windows Server 2003 has a piece of software called Microsoft mediaroom IPTV, which basically is able to stream internet TV. I have NO idea why this is so important as to merit a separate point. But it seems like having a good piece of Microsoft software running on extremely good Sun hardware will make streaming internet TV much more efficient.

5. Expanded Investment in Interoperability

This basically means that Microsoft and Sun are going to build an Interoperability Center, which is basically a lab where Sun/Microsoft employees will try to improve Windows Server 2003 performance on Sun hardware (and this'll give Sun employees a reason to be on Microsoft grounds, hehehe).

So yeah, this agreement is not at all threatening to the open source community. However, I'm still wondering WHY? I understand why Sun is offering Windows Server 2003; it's because most people end up installing it on Sun hardware anyway. But I don't understand why people WANT Windows Server 2003. What does it have that Solaris doesn't? If anyone has an answer, please, leave a comment and tell me.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Spider Solitaire

Ok, I've waited a long time to write this post. It's a reflection back to Arizona where I played large amounts of Spider Solitaire. Most of the time, I played it on easy, with only one suit. However, I decided to move up and tackle medium. I must say, it was quite a switch, and it took me a while to find out the secret of doing it. And I'll reveal that secret right now.

But first, here's something I call one of the fundamental problems of computer science (in reality it's probably not so grandiose, but to me it's extremely intriguing). Lets say you have two objects and you wanted to swap them. The only way to do it is by having a temporary space to move one object, then to move it back. Here's a graphical example of it (forgive its horribleness. I can't draw, even on a computer):
Here, we start out with our two objects, out of order. Now, what we have to do is move them. However, we can only do this with the temporary space: as shown by the next slides (if you could come up with a way to do it without the extra space, you'd probably be able to win an important prize of some sort).We moved X into the temporary storage slot. Now we swap Y.We moved Y, and now we move X back, and they're in order. As you can see.
See, now the objects have been swapped and are in order. However, if you just look before and after, the temp is empty. However, the seemingly unused temp area is integral for the ability to swap the two elements. However, it's not just swapping which needs this. Anyone who has tried switching the name of two files has encountered this, because two files cannot have the same name. So, in order to do it, you need a temporary name for one file while you rename the other file.

Now you're wondering how this connects with Spider Solitaire. Well, in Spider Solitaire you're going to have to eventually mix red cards and black cards, you can't keep them separate for very long. However, Lets say you have a six of diamonds on a seven of spades on an eight of diamonds (8D/7S/6D). Then all of the sudden, an eight of spades turns up (8S). You'd like to put your 7 on there, but you can't directly. However, if you have an empty column (a temp), this impossible task becomes very easy. You move the 6D to the temp, then the 7S onto the 8S, then move the 6D back onto the 7S. So, you'll end up having the more orderly 8S/7S/6D. And your temp will be empty to accept a new card. Now you can do it over and over until you stop having cards in this position. Now, if you have TWO temps, you can go deeper. For example, if that 8S was a 9D instead, you can move the 6D to one temp, the 7S to the other, the 8D to the 9D, and move them back. You're left with the two black columns again. Now, this strategy does NOT guarantee you will win (my victory rate was about 50%). However, gaining this concept is essential to being able to beat Spider Solitaire past the easy level. Heck, if you apply this to the easy level, it's pretty much guaranteed you'll win. So, I find it funny that I was able to gain a fundamental insight in computer science, and even the physical world by playing a simple card game (one by Microsoft too). And that's my lesson for tonight! Don't expect more original picture by me.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Conan Walker Texas Ranger Lever

To remain in the spirit of Chuck Norris week, here are several clips of Late Night with Conan O'Brien when he had the "Walker Texas Ranger" lever. If you have a lot of spare time, go ahead and watch them. I promise you won't be disappointed. Note to NBC: Keep up the lever!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Chuck Norris Week

I've just been informed that this week is officially Chuck Norris week on the Ubuntu Forums. This is in honor of the Chuck Norris meme which has been very dear to the internet, especially Chuck Norris facts. Here's a taste of what people have done, just on day 2 of Chuck Norris week:
andExpect more goodness. I'm also getting into the celebration, but my photo editing skills are very sub-par. So, if you see me on IRC, note that my name will be changed during the week from "cactaur" to "chucktaur". Have a great Chuck Norris week.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Dawkins Disproven

Yes, it's true. The most demolishing review of Dawkins's book came. Seemingly out of nowhere. It looks like the New Afascism movement is going to be stopped abruptly to a halt.

In addition, other reviews of the New Skeptic movement by the same authors have also seemingly posed intellectual problems for those who doubt witchcraft.

(Hat tip to PZ)

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Week recap!

Ok, first (half) week of school is done. I'm now stuck on this horrible weekend away from that heaven of learning. Ok, don't have that much to say, except about AP Calculus and AP Physics, which were exceptionally fun! Most the other classes were still about getting used to the setting and going over the class requirements and all of that boredom.

So, AP Calculus was pretty fun. It was a review of functions, namely the "mother functions" (it took me a while to get that too). They are y=x, y=x^2, y=x^3, y=1/x, y=|x|, y=sin x, and y = cos x. I think that's all of them. But yeah, that was what was so interesting.

AP Physics was more fun! I look forward heavily to this class in the year. We did some examples of Fermi problems, which are essentially problems where you have to estimate to get the correct answer, because finding the actual answer is impractical or impossible. For example, "How many notes does the 'typical' radio station play in a year?" You can't count or call up the station, your best guess is to estimate. And the best way to do this is with the factor-label method. This is basically, you start out with an assumption, lets say a station can get through 200 songs in a day. You start with that, then you keep converting that until you get to notes per year. It goes like this:

200 songs/day * 700 notes/song * 365 days/year

You end up with 51,100,000 which is about in the ballpark of what we did in class. Of course, other students used different values, some more reality-based than others. But they were all in the ten millions range, pretty close for estimates like that. We had a lot of fun with those. So that's some of the stuff we did in that class. And, uhhh, can't think of anything else to write about.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

School started

Ok, school started yesterday for me. So, until I get readjusted to the schedule and rediscover my free time, I probably won't be blogging except on weekends or whenever I have time. Sorry. For those of you who are curious, my classes are:

AP US History
AP English Lang
Academic Decathlon
AP Calculus AB
AP Physics C
Advanced Orchestra
Spanish 2

Shutup about Spanish! I procrastinated, so what? Any of you young'uns reading this blog, don't put off a foreign language.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Party Delayed

Due to a personal schedule change, I will not be able to make the party at 6:00. I'll probably drop in at around 7:30. However, you can still go on time and get chummy with the other LoCo IRC members. Heck, plan a surprise party or something. Sorry.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Firefox blocked

Greg Laden has a post up about a certain web site which blocked all visits from Firefox browsers due to an extension known as Ad Block which is able to filter out the ads on web sites. However, it spews out this little gem:
Demographics have shown that not only are FireFox users a somewhat small percentage of the internet, they actually are even smaller in terms of online spending, therefore blocking FireFox seems to have only minimal financial drawbacks, whereas ending resource theft has tremendous financial rewards for honest, hard-working website owners and developers..
First of all, Firefox users being a small minority is just not true in just about any way you look at it. Greg posts up his stats on his site, and Firefox users are the majority. Of course, as you can guess, my stats are EVEN MORE skewed:

1. 67.66%
2. 23.35%
3. 2.99%
4. 2.40%
5. 2.10%
6. 1.50%

Except for Internet Explorer, all of the top five are open source browsers. This is most certainly not a minority for me. And if I had ads, I most certainly wouldn't want these users to be blocked at all. So, this is not the solution. And this isn't an entirely novel problem. The web site quotes this excerpt from the blog Internet Technology and the Law:
Like free television broadcast content supported financially by advertising, much of the content on the Internet today is distributed free to end-users for an indirect exchange of advertisement revenue. When a user loads an ad-driven copyrighted website, he produces a copy of the work due to the inherent architecture of the Internet. If this user is using Adblock to screen out annoying advertisements, he is creating an unauthorized derivative work analogous to skipping television commercials. By the letter of copyright law, this practice would most likely be seen as an infringing use.
They decide to use TV, I'll counter using TV. Using Adblock is a personal preference. It's analogous to recording a program on TV, then fast forwarding through the commercials. According to this post, people who record should be sued for making unauthorized copies and not watching the commercials. Of course, that's silly. It's the same with Ad-block. The ad-free page is designed for each user of Adblock and that copy is used for personal use only, it isn't going to be archived then distributed as ad-free content. If other people wish to see the content, they will still go to the original ad-full source. Well, that's my $0.02. Why can't the ad companies be more like the spam companies? Instead of complaining, just make it more difficult to detect.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

"Welcome back" party

Ok, I'm sure you were wondering what the previous page about IRC Parties were. Well, it was supposed to be a template for instructions for reaching #ubuntu-california. We decided to have our first party as a welcome back party for me. I'm really anxious about the turnout. Well, for those who don't know. The party is Tuesday, at 6 PM PST, on #ubuntu-california on You don't have to be part of the LoCo team. You can introduce yourself even if you don't live in California. You'll be acquainted with a group of people who KNOW about Ubuntu, and that's pretty helpful. So, I look forward to seeing a bunch of new people there. Consider this an engraved invitation!

IRC Party!

On the agenda of the second meeting of the Ubuntu California LoCo team a resolution was passed to unequivocally allow IRC parties on the channel (ok, I'll quit sounding important). Anyways, there can be parties on IRC in #ubuntu-california. This page is supposed to function as a way for people to find their way to the party. There is no map, just directions.

If you have an IRC client and know how to use it:

That's great. The party is in #ubuntu-california on You should be able to find your way.

If you want an IRC client:

There are several IRC clients. The major ones are XChat for linux (not to be confused with xchat-gnome. Don't get that.) and mIRC for Windows. If you have pidgin, that can also be co-opted to do IRC, but keep in mind that it's not entirely meant for that. To learn how to use it, consult your client's (whichever one you choose) documentation. Then go to #ubuntu-california on If you don't feel like doing it, just type in the text box:
/join #ubuntu-california
Those are two separate lines. Those commands will get you there no matter what client you use.

If you don't want to install an IRC client, but still want to attend:

You can use a web-based client, this Java applet one is one that I recommend, and is one that I survived on in Arizona. It's best for just dropping in temporarily. If you wish to remain in IRC, it's highly recommended that you use a client.

If you want to do it the 1337 |-|aXX0r way:

If absolutely desired, I may allow you to ssh into my machine and use irssi (a text-based client) to join. If you would like to do this, contact me. I'm not putting my machine stats on the internet. And it'll help if I actually KNOW you. This method is highly discouraged.

Bullet Proof X

There's going to be a new feature in Ubuntu Gutsy called Bullet Proof X. It's a really cool thing. The basic idea is that if the X server breaks, you have another independent and less intensive GUI to fall back on and fix your X server. A demonstration is here.

What usually happens if your X server breaks is you get a message (not a BSOD because your computer is still operating) which basically says your Xserver is broken:
After that, it would drop you at a command-line. You're expected to type "dpkg --reconfigure xserver-xorg" to reconfigure it. However, a new person would not be expected to know this. Generally you only know what to do AFTER it happens to you and you fix it. This is a fairly common solution to a fairly common problem. However, to make Ubuntu more intuitive, and not have people asking for help every time the X server breaks, this is where Bullet Proof X comes in. Instead of dropping the user on a command line, it gives the user an explanation of what happened, and the option to reconfigure the X server graphically. I think this is a really good step of progress, and has a lot of potential for other methods of handling X errors. We'll see what happens once Gutsy comes out.

(Hat tip to Greg)

Friday, August 31, 2007

I'm back

I'm back from Arizona and and home in good ol' Los Angeles. In case you were wondering, I had 4 letters, 1 magazine, 15 software updates, and 221 unread RSS feeds. Now time to get back to reading!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Another Nice Visitor

If you remember, a couple of weeks ago I had a view by a FreeBSD guy. We gave him(/her) a warm welcome. Well, I did. But now....... we have an even more welcome visitor from an operating system that I revere and adore. If you can't guess it by now, and you've read my blog for quite some time, I'm ashamed of you. Well, I'm not going to spoil it by saying anything. You know what they say, a picture is worth a thousand words:
Of course it's SunOS, what did you think? By the way, the stats fell even more with Windows users getting an even larger share of the views. However, it might be because I'm looking at my blog FROM a Windows computer (darn Arizona). I hope that statistic soon equilibriates to acceptable levels when I get back.

Project Open Doors

Sun recently (and I DO mean recently) published an article about their Project Open Doors initiative. Project Open Doors is Sun's way of giving back to the community. They have volunteers who do things like outreach, donating money, and even working on environmental issues. It started when a Sun facility in Brazil opened its doors to school children from poor communities, and showed basically what Sun does. Of course, some students were inspired and went on to get educated and work at Sun. Now, in the article, there's mention of Sun headquarters opening their doors to Menlo Park students. Now, Menlo park is in California (Northern). I live in California (Southern). It would SOOO be worth the trip up there to see Sun. I wish I could've gone. (Pssst.....Sun, you know you want to bring us from LA up there, right?)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I'm part of a planet!

Ok, I am now officially part of the Teens On Linux planet. Hi guys (and girl). BWAHA! All part of my plan to take over the internet!

AiG Research Essay Contest 2007 winner

Yes, I know, I'm about a month late on this story. But I'm in Arizona, so there's my excuse. Now shut up!

Well, anyways, Answers in Genesis held another essay contest for kids to "refute" some aspect of evolution in some way (accuracy optional). Bay of Fundie deals with this issue, and I will too. However, I'd like to mention that as of the writing of this post, I have NOT read Bay of Fundie's arguments. These refutations are entirely my own. This is to take some of the burden off of the adult bloggers who might be hesitant to attack a (homeschooled) high-schooler's essay. So, this is teen-to-teen. And plus, I feel obligated, I mean, winning an essay contest ON evolution should imply that I know what I'm talking about. So, I'll stop delaying and get to it.

The grand prize essay by Karin Hutson is essentially trying to refute the claim that evolution can account for morality. And evolution is leading to a breakdown of America's youth, yadda yadda. However, quoting is going to be rather difficult because AiG stored the paper as an IMAGE! Which makes text selection impossible. So, I'm going to take standard quoting procedures here, and any mistakes that are made without the little "[sic]" thing are mine. So here is the basic premise of the essay:

Darwin in Descent of Man claimed that if evolution were true, it has altered us not merely physically but morally (Horgan 149). Can Darwinian
evolution adequately account for an uphold human morality? This paper concludes
it cannot. Within a naturalistic worldview that denies absolute truth, morality
has no standards. Ethics then denegrates into fickle opinions and conflicting
preferences. Hence, evolution supports amorality, not morality!

Ok, so, there's the basic premise for the essay. Seems rather straightforward. So, lets move on to the actual essay. It starts out with a description of the Columbine shooting, with one of the shooters, wearing a shirt that said "Natural Selection", asking a girl if she believed in God. She said she did, and he shot her. As sad as that may be, that's a red herring. Mental stability is a much more accurate measurement for determining if someone is going to on a shooting rampage than if that person believed evolution. "Sociopath" or "deranged" is used to describe people who have done this, not "evolutionist".

Lets move on to the next section, "When evolution is taught". This page starts out with the no evidence for "macroevolution". Of course, a trip to Talk.Origins can deal with that. Which also answers that evolution is supported because it works, not because of any worldview that it bolsters. However, she believes the worldview that evolution supports is "Naturalism" (Pssst.. SCIENCE supports naturalism). She then says that the Creation worldview is just as valid as the Naturalism one because they both look at the same evidence, but have different interpretations (such as fossils implying both Noah's flood, and geologic gradualism depending on how you look at it). This is unfortunately wrong because gradualism supports the fact that rock layers do not have homogeneous distribution of organisms, but are stratified by TIME! Flood geologists try to accomodate that, but haven't succeeded much. So, the difference is, one FITS the evidence much better. She then gets to:
If creation offers just as valid answers for life's origin as Darwin, which Evolution Exposed reveals, why is it banned from public schools?

Ignoring the premise which has been dismantled, it's because it's religious. 1st Amendment for the win! If evolution was proved false, you'd still have to show that it was God that did it, not Allah or the FSM (I'd like to see the moral implications of THAT, heh). Anyways, she moves on to slandering the names of some good scientists:
Although our founding scientists--Galileo, Kepler, Newton--experimented from a
creationist perspective (Patterson 20), twenty-first century school officials
unfairly regulation evolution to the classroom as science and creation to
the church as religion.

Well, first thing, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton lived BEFORE evolution was discovered. Second, their line of work had NOTHING to do with creation/evolution. They worked in physics, not biology. Third, they also all believed in astrology; this argument would make more sense for astrology, but would still be wrong. And the twenty-first century school officials are correct in their regulation.

So, we're moving on, slowly but surely, to "...morality is undermined". This starts with how evolution is supposed to explain how morality evolved. She picks the "selfish gene" theory, "reciprocal altruism", and "kin-selection". She then paraphrases Daniel Dennett to say that altruism isn't found in mammals. Unfortunately, I don't have Darwin's Dangerous Idea to check for quote mining, but I highly doubt he would hold that point. I point that Rhesus monkeys care more for each other than humans. Hutson then goes into a quandary about the explanations which account for moral codes. I have a simple explanation for explaining morals, "empathy". I don't steal, because I wouldn't like to be stolen from. I don't kill, because I don't want to be killed. That's a very basic and quite solid foundation for morals. Let's take one case Hutson makes:
One society may believe that "sending airplanes into skyscrapers is evil and
wrong, and another may believe it is pleasing to God an correct (Ramsey, Get

Let's apply my reasoning. I wouldn't like it if some country sent an airplane into my skyscraper, so I won't do it to another one. See, it's quite easy and effective. Now, I'm not saying this is a bullet-proof argument or that it ACTUALLY happened. I'm just saying this is a reasonable alternative to having morals come from a divine force. All of the arguments Hutson makes toward the end of this section can be explained by simple empathy except for two, cheating on tests, and marijuana. First, I'd like to know when God said, "Thou shall not smoke pot". It think that's an example of moral decision that society came up with on its own because marijuana is considered harmful. As for cheating, this may just be my perspective, but a test is considered a measurement of your knowledge. If you cheat, you've thrown off the measurement and wasted your time on it. Good job!

Now on to "Response of Evolutionists". Hutson uses a quote from Richard Dawkins when he was told that many people don't accept evolution because they think it leads to a breakdown of morality. He replies, "All I can say is, That's [sic] just tough. We have to face up to the truth". I agree with him. If these people need to be deluded to behave, then that just scares me. Once the delusion is popped, they'll go psycho. If they don't learn how to empathize (which most people learn to do at around 13), they'll be a ticking time bomb. Hutson then quotes R.C. Sproul Jr. who essentially advocates a sort of dualism, where we are more than our genes and nerves. PZ provides a good rebuttal on the mechanical view of altruism. Hutson eventually comes to the conclusion that evolution = nihilism (???) Ok, let's move on to "The Nihilist approach"

Hutson how tries to argue that evolution makes life meaningless, and quotes Sproul (who I'm starting to get really annoyed at) saying:
We either have God with meaningful morality and meaningful lives, or we have no
God, and all of life is meaningless, without any trace of hope.

Now, that's just unjustified right there. Ask a mother if her life was meaningless. Heck, ask Charles Darwin if his life was meaningless. They were not. Both had an impact on the future. That's certainly meaningful. A mother did raised a child, something that could not have been done without her. Darwin came up with his oh so popular theory of evolution. Every evolutionary biologist will attest that his life had a ton of meaning to them. This kind of thinking makes me sick. Hutson concludes this section with:
While evolution doesn't directly cause sin, it's naturalism presents a good
excuse because it denies that morality is universal, that sin is sin, that a
Judge will requite! Hence, studies show moral decline among those who accept

Yeah..... and here's anothing thing that empathy explains well. According to the "research" that was cited, morality is not accepting premarital sex. If people are like me, and have empathy deal with their morals, they understand that what goes on in people's bedrooms is none of their business. Heck, I think it's quite immoral to try and control people's intimate lives (there we go with the moral relativism again). So, what makes the commanding nature of God more moral than the tolerant nature of the FSM? Morality still isn't universal even if you have the Ten Commandments (Sorry, I just had an "aha" moment right now).

We now go to "The Creation Answer". Hutson notes that creationism ADDS morality because we come from God. We were made in God's image (who an FSTDTer might say is a xenophobic, genocidal control freak) so we should feel proud and blessed, unlike those darn animals. Ok, I paraphrased, but she DOES say "... a creationist student knows she is fundamentally unlike animals". She also compares it to naturalism and says, "[A creationist student] is not a heap of atoms evolved from a crock-pot of amino acids but uniquely designed by a Creator God". First I say, as opposed to dirt? Secondly, that's not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, it took four (or fourteen, depending on how far back you go) billion years to make ME. I find that pretty awesome. More than being a toy of some supreme being who can't even design a decent body. Oh, and here's my favorite part:
Therefore, life is intrinsically valuble. Suicide, euthanasia, abortion, and embryonic stem cell research are no longer ethical dilemmas to debate in an ethics class but utter evils. Human dignity and rights are not mere ideals extolled in word by politicians but worth bestowed on every culture, race, gender and individual.
All life is valuble. However, if that's what she really believed, I would understand that. However, an EXCEPT is kind of missing. All life is valuble, unless you're an adulterer, gay, a witch, a disobedient child, someone who eats seafood, someone who works on Sunday, and so on. In which case, you deserve to be stoned and be sent to hell. There goes the value of life. Hutson moves on to say that creationists know they will be judged and thus act accordingly to get into heaven. I repeat that I am afraid of someone if the only thing keeping them from killing everyone is a ticket into heaven. They haven't seem to have matured to gain that sense of empathy. Hutson now asks the question, will teaching creationism cure us of immorality. And she thankfully answers no. There are still things that could be done, and she also says:
The answer to Fyodor Dostoyevsky's question is no, man cannot be good
without God.

Ok, she just pulled Dostoyevsky out of nowhere. After that initial thought, I think, "Where is there an example where man HAS been good" Without that data point, you have no reliable data to determine whether you need God. I mean, at least SETI has one data point, us, as an example of life, and even that's statistically useless. There are no conclusions you can draw without an example of a civilization that was good. After that, it's apologetics.

Finally, we reach the conclusion. She talks about how in order to spread morality, evolution must be eliminated. Of course, by this time, we ought to know that it's not true. Thanks for sticking through this with me.

[EDIT: I almost forgot an important part. Here's one positive thing about her. I compliment her on her appearance, she does look good. At least that's what I think.]

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

No New Content

Ok, I don't think any original content is going to be posted while I'm in Arizona, because I don't get any research done over here. I haven't been keeping up with the science. And since I'm not on linux, I have no programs to talk about. So, whenever I'm devoid of ideas, SUN VIDEOS!

Here is one that's just plain cool:

JavaOne: Open Possibilities

And this one is cool, fascinating, and informative:

A Helping Hand - Real Time Java

Have fun!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Pastafarian Values!

Ok, I think I've gotten much more sane by now (or not). But I am tempted to comment on a trailer I saw for the new VeggieTales movie: The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything. Now, I haven't watched Veggie Tales, but I think they're highly associated with Christian programming and have been mainly used to promote values and such (The last movie was about Jonah, I'm pretty sure the same Jonah who was in that whale (or giant fish)). When I saw pirates, I immediately thought, FSM! Also, in the story on the web site, it states:

The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything--A VeggieTales Movie continues the hit series'
values-based lessons on teaching kids what it really means to be a hero.

Hmmm...... since the movie is so overtly pro-Pastafarian and tries to teach values, it makes me think Pastafarians actually have values! Heh, just kidding. But I just found this to be a decent dose of irony.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Thoughts from Windows

Ok, as you know, while I'm in Arizona, I am using a Windows laptop to do all of my computer-related stuff. I've forgotten what it was like to use Windows XP, and I must say, I miss my Ubuntu computer. Now that a slim majority of my readers are Windows users, I'll have to be more fact based. Attacks like "Winblows" or "Windoze" or "Micro$oft" don't cut it anymore. So, here are some of the problems (from my perspective) of using a Windows computer.

One thing I greatly noticed was that Windows programs tend to be HIGHLY obtrusive. For example, my dad needs Microsoft Live Messanger on this computer. Something that really ticks me off is that it by default runs when the system boots up. If an open-source program did that, that feature wouldn't remain very long. If that program was a real tangible thing, I'd slap it. The thing that really ticks me off is that it starts like that BY DEFAULT. And there's no way to stop it from starting at bootup (at least not one I could find in the help files). [EDIT: Ok, after enough searching, I was able to find something that looked remotely like a menu bar, and was able to find the button to disable that feature. Though a menu bar would have been a lot of help] I'm sure there's a way to do it via some registry editing (which I'm also not too fond of), but you have to actually hunt around for that. Now I know that you do a lot of hunting in open-source software. But you should hunt if you want to ADD a feature. If you have to hunt all over the internet to REMOVE a feature that could be considered obtrusive and inconvenient, there's something wrong with the program. For example, pidgin has a feature that lets you start it at startup, but that's DISABLED by default. And I, as the computer user, would like to keep it that way. I find it really annoying when I start up the computer to get windows in my face, especially MSN news. Uggghhhh.....

Another thing, when I want to install a program, that's EXACTLY what I want to do. Install THAT program. For this, I'm mostly looking at Yahoo!, but there are several other companies which also do this. If I want to install Yahoo! Messenger, that's all I want to install. Not Yahoo! Toolbar, just Yahoo! Messenger. Merely asking me if I'd like Yahoo! Toolbar would be OK. However, you ask if I'd like it, and have the check box already checked. That check makes a big difference. It's the difference between asking if I'd like to install your product, and imposing that product on me. If I wasn't really paying attention (cycling through the next buttons which I'm sure many of you do), I just installed a piece of software on my computer without really knowing it. That's really sneaky. Again, if someone did that in the open-source world, they'd deserve a slap. Of course, it's also much more difficult to install a separate program in the open-source world namely because it's simple to catch, and the ./configure, make, make install cycle is much more involved. You're not asked for input unless it's REALLY needed.

The next thing that ticks me off is Internet Explorer. Yes, I know most Windows users have evolved past the point of Internet Explorer. But there's still that 18% of people who read this blog who still use Internet Explorer. Now, let me tell the truth: It's a piece of crud. I'm not even going to get into the security issues because those are more in depth. Right now, I'm just talking about the cosmetic and usability issues. For one thing, IE7 tries to look like Firefox, but fails. Miserably! The tabs are a joke! One thing that consistently ticks me off and makes me laugh at the same time is when you open up a new tab. You get an HTML file that says, "You've opened a new tab!" I'm just like, "NO DUH!". I pressed Ctrl+T or went File>New Tab. Of course I've opened a new tab. Then it starts talking about all the benefits of tabs, blah blah, yadda yadda. Also, the classic browser view is gone. For some reason, Microsoft decided to stick the address bar between the forward button and the refresh button. That was kinda confusing. And the search bar, in addition to being a blatant ripoff of Firefox, is very poor. You can only search MSN or Yahoo! I'm not sure, but it seems like they left out the most powerful search engine for their own anti-Google agenda. [EDIT: You can get it, but you need to work for it] Oh, I've gotten really conspiracy-theory-minded now. I better stop before I get a stroke or something.