Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sorry for the tardiness

I haven't been able to post on this blog lately because my time is currently being swallowed by getting the dang ssh server to work. It stopped working altogether and I'm going crazy trying to find a way to get it working again. Of course, the usual thing is, I apologize for being inactive, then I say to expect more inactivity, but the period right after become super-active. That might end up happening again. But don't be very surprised if either happens. This will be a pretty tough problem. I'll update the tutorial after I find out what the heck is wrong with ssh.

Monday, May 28, 2007

What's wrong with trash-diggers?

Ok, I have always been a great champion of recycling. If you ever throw away recyclable material in front of me, I WILL object. Well, the LA Times has a very intriguing article on scavengers (people who go through trash looking for recyclables). Here in California, we have a pretty huge refund for recycling, and it just got bigger. 5c for cans/bottles and 10c for bigger bottles, up from 4c and 8c, respectively. Because of this huge raise, more people are competing to get recyclables. However, they're still really nice people, and there even seems to be an honor code where they cooperate and understand each other's territory. However, as more people start scavenging, these are getting more and more disputed, but they still manage to work it out.

Now, I don't care what anyone else says, these people should be honored members of society. Even though it's purely for money, I love them for helping recycle what the rest of us are too lazy to do. Unfortunately, even this isn't enough, and we still fall short:

In California, redemption rates remain below the state mandate of 80%; in 2005, Californians recycled 61% of the bottles and cans covered by the redemption program, according to the California Department of Conservation.
So, we need more of these wonderful people, or we need to get off of our fat lazy behinds and recycle for ourselves.

Ok, now, you might be thinking that people who go through your trash aren't the type of people you want in your neighborhood. But, these people really are polite and friendly. There are several examples:

Yoli Sheridan, also of Windsor Square, leaves her bottles and cans in a cardboard box outside her trash bin to make it easier for scavengers to get to. She usually finds them gone hours later, with the box neatly folded.
Isn't that nice, they even folded the box back after they took the bottles. Heck, my best friend probably wouldn't do that if I gave him something worth much more than a couple of bottles and cans. Heck, I probably wouldn't see that box again. I also have my own personal anecdote. Every morning, when I walk to my bus stop, I pass by someone who wakes up bright and early to sort the recyclables he collects. I have never failed to say "Good Morning" to him. It might mean more if I said, "Buenos dias" but the principle still stands. As far as I know, he's a positive contributor to civilization, and a really nice guy. And someone who gets up at 7:00 has to be a good guy, right?

Ok, this was awkward, because it's my first post on social commentary. I feel like I rambled. Oh well, it's my blog, I get to praise people who I want to praise.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Bye Virtual Timeline

I'm sorry, but I am afraid I cannot continue maintaining the virtual timeline. There has been absolutely NO participation by a community, and I no longer have AP World History. Therefore, I do not need it anymore. If anyone would wish to adopt the timeline, I will be happy to give it away. Unless of course, an uproar occurs for people who would like to see the timeline updated and improved. But, I highly doubt that's going to happen.

How to turn your computer into an SSH server

After being consistently pestered after converting my Desktop into an SSH server, I've decided to put up a guide on how to turn your computer into an SSH server. The first step is to get openSSH for your particular computer. Most distributions have a way of installing: For Ubuntu, it's "sudo apt-get install openssh-server", for others, I don't know. Look in your documentation. If your distribution does NOT have a way to install openSSH (I don't believe you), the source can be found here.

Officially, this is the end. Congratulations, you now have an ssh server. How do you use it? Who cares, you have an ssh server. However, having a server and not knowing how to use it is kinda useless. So, here's a brief synopsis of how to connect. There are a lot of different ways to connect to your computer via ssh. One is through your local network (typically 192.168.x.y) x and y depend on your network. Another way is though your ip address (you can find that out at ipchicken). However, for most home users, your ip changes every time you log on to the internet, so that's not very practical. A way you can circumvent this is by using a Dynamic DNS service.

Dynamic DNS basically gives you a host which keeps track of your ip address instead of you having to. Some popular ones are DynDNS, no-ip, zoneedit, and easy DNS. I personally use no-ip because it sounded cooler, but be creative. If something else works for you, leave a comment! So yeah, basically all you have to do is sign up. After that, you'll get a chance to download a program. Do it! You should get the tar.gz file. After that, unzip it, and do the configure, make, install cycle (or, whatever you do to install from source, or follow this guide). If you don't want to install from source, you can get the no-ip program from the ubuntu respository. However, the direct program calls itself noip2, while the ubuntu one calls itself noip, so make that distinction. After you install it, log onto the no-ip web site. In the left-hand column, you'll see Hosts/Redirects, then add. Click add. For Hostname, put whatever you want your hostname to be called (mine is cactaur). Pick a server, particularly one you can remember easily (I chose bounceme.net. After that, leave the rest as defaults and press "Create Host".

Now go to a terminal, and type in "sudo noip2 -C". You'll be prompted for an e-mail, put the one you registered on no-ip with. Same with the password. This sets up noip to get your ip address, and all other network information. After that, type "sudo noip2" to set up the daemon. Now (ideally), you can ssh into your machine by putting "youraccountname"@the.host.address (for me, it would be gregory@cactaur.bounceme.net). Now, you want to run no-ip every time your machine boots, first type "whereis noip2". This tells you where the binary is located (typically /usr/local/bin/noip2). Next, use that location in this command "echo '/usr/local/bin/noip2' >> /etc/rc.local" Now, it should (ideally) work. But if it doesn't, don't act surprised, I probably can't even troubleshoot most ssh problems.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Clear the Bandwidth!

We're now going into chapter 3 of Linux from Scratch. This chapter is basically a list of things you need to download to get things done. These include both programs and patches. Be sure you download both.

The list of programs looks extremely intimidating, but they really aren't that big. However, some links are broken (the ones that have notes), so you'll have to download from the Linux From Scratch FTP server. But, don't overuse it. Only download what you need from the server, because I don't think it's meant to take that much of a beating.

The patches are all working and are straightforward.

The next chapter, we'll be doing a lot of compiling. So, stick around (and I need to actually do it).

Friday, May 25, 2007

Bye Phil!

Ladies and Gentlemen, Phil Plait has left the state (haha, that rhymed). But seriously, the Bad Astronomer is now moving to (I believe) Boulder, Colorado. Us Californians are going to miss you, even though I never met you. There goes a prized intellectual of California. Well, I hope you make it well in Colorado and become a successful author (I'll try and help you on that). Well, goodbye!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Is Ubuntu for You?

Spurred by the adoption of Ubuntu computers by DELL, Wired ran an article titled "Is Ubuntu Linux for You, too?". It is a fairly good guide to the people who have questions on Ubuntu and linux in general. I congratulate the people at Wired for covering such a story. They also address the most important and probably most asked question:


Why would I want to install Ubuntu -- or any form of Linux?
Linux is free -- in many senses of the word. It costs nothing, and it's also free of corporate control and restrictions on how you can use your media. That recently prompted digital-rights advocate Cory Doctorow to switch from Apple Computer software to Ubuntu. He was concerned, for example, about Apple's proprietary software locking up his personal data. "Every day, I add thousands of e-mails to my e-mail repository," he said. "And for so long as Mail.app is using proprietary stores, that's an ever-growing liability."

Compared to Windows, Linux is also relatively free of malware attacks. For example, security company Panda Software records about 300 pieces of malware targeting Linux systems, versus more than 100,000 for Windows machines.


This is a very important question, because it answers, "Why bother", and this answer is fairly accurate and I would probably say something like this. However, something to add is that it gives you total control of your own computer, and by using it, you'll learn a huge amount about how your computer works. If you look, linux reveals the intricacies of how your computer works, and by the nature of open source, you see how many other things work. In proprietary software, you have no idea how it was built. All you have is an instruction manual which tells you how to use it. However, the instruction manual may be sufficient for basic usage, but in order to tinker and improve, you need to be able to get INSIDE. That is my $.02.

If I were an atheist...


You scored as Scientific Atheist, These guys rule. I'm not one of them
myself, although I play one online. They know the rules of debate,
the Laws of Thermodynamics, and can explain evolution in fifty words or
less.
More concerned with how things ARE than how they should be,
these are the people who will bring us into the future.

Scientific Atheist


92%

Apathetic Atheist


83%

Spiritual Atheist


83%

Agnostic


67%

Theist


42%

Militant Atheist


25%

Angry Atheist


8%

What kind of atheist are you?
created with QuizFarm.com


However, I am not quite one. I still go to church and have some theism left in me (42% apparently). I think it's funny that I would be extremely calm if I were an atheist. My #1 is Scientific, a fairly obvious one. My #2 is Apathetic, so if I was, I would really care (seems a bit like me also). Militant and Angry are wayyy down on the list. Yay, my years of being a Gravyist have paid off. I'm not really that angry.

(Thanks to PZ for finding the survey.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The journey begins

I have decided to document my project of creating a linux system from scratch. I can't do anything to clarify or expand on the given steps, because the guide is so well written. However, I'll give commentary on my personal computer experience and how the heck I might get out of some problems I may have. So, since Chapter 1 is an introduction, lets start with Chapter 2:

This chapter is basically setting up the filesystem. There are several ways to set up a linux system if you build it yourself. You aren't confined to one partition, in fact, you could set up several linux installations in the same partition and they'll coexist peacefully (however, I think you'll need to know quite a bit of GRUB editing).

So yes, the first step is to actually set up your linux partition. I am lucky, in that my hard drive is already partitioned ideally. I am setting up the linux partition in /dev/hda4. The next thing is to create a swap partition, something that has also been already done, and that is /dev/hda5. There, the planning is done.

The next step is to create a filesystem on the partition. I'm doing this from within Ubuntu (a REAL enthusiast would probably work entirely clean, probably from a Knoppix Live CD). However, I'd rather stay inside Ubuntu, so I do. Now, the filesystem that is given by default is the ext3 filesystem, the most popular one in linux. However, I feel extremely bold, so I'm doing ext4. The steps to upgrade are detailed in the June 2007 edition of Linux Magazine (the article is not uploaded). However, I'll do that AFTER I build it. So yes, the creation of the filesystem was successful, and fortunately, as warned on the page, Ubuntu didn't do anything crazy to the filesystem.

Now, we mount the filesystem we've created. In here, we store a path in the variable LFS. They chose /mnt/lfs. I chose /mnt/scratch because I was feeling kinda contrary. So yes, this marks where the new filesystem will be, so it's fairly important, and it's easier to type $LFS instead of /mnt/scratch. Again, Ubuntu thankfully didn't do anything weird.

So yeah, next will be Chapter 3. I hope this was entertaining.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My Afternoon at UCLA

Now, I'm not an ardent UCLA fan, however Bruin does run in my family (read mom and brother), so I do have a bias. However, I was not there to be a UCLA fanboy. I was there to talk to Dr. Richard Guy, a professor of computer science-y stuff, and head of the UCLA Linux User Group. For the past couple of weeks, I've been bugging him about finding me something to do with Linux over the summer. Well, yesterday, I went for a casual interview. It turns out, he works with the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing (CENS), which does some really cool stuff. Namely, it's purpose is to design data sensors (things that collect data, like temperature and humidity or camara's, a whole bunch fo things) that can interact and collectively identify data deficiencies and possibly collect the missing data via a mobile sensor. However, there are a couple of practical problems stand in the way, such as power management and other techncial stuff. But overall, it is super cool. So yeah, I spent part of my afternoon with him and learning about this. Now, unfortunately, there isn't really much for someone like me to do at CENS, but he said he'll try, so I won't despair.

While I was there, I also happened to walk by the room of the UCLA LUG, and the door was open. So, I walked in and there was a student there, doing his own thing. I introduced myself and we started talking about Linux and what he was able to do with it. Now, this guy (Dan, I believe) is REALLY advanced, I'm serious. He uses Gentoo (which there are several jokes about its usability), which is all about source code. He also gave me a tip to REALLY learn linux well, Linux from Scratch. It's basically all about building your own linux operating system completely from scratch. All you start out with is a blank partition (and an existing installation or live CD to work from), and you build up from there. To me, that sounds like a totally awesome project. In fact, I think I'll post my progress on this blog from time to time.

You know, I think I might start visiting LUGs over the summer. Unfortunately, for some reason, all the LUGs around me meet on Tuesdays, and I can never make Tuesdays. However, I might try to work something out over the summer. This is definitely a community I want to be a part of.

Well, that was cool

Apparently the celebrations still haven't stopped. In fact, they just started today in school. It was today in 3rd period (at 1:45) when it was announced over the intercom to the whole school that I won the Alliance for Science essay contest and $300 (though what I REALLY wanted was the subscription to SEED). Boy, did that catch me by surprise. My 3rd period class burst out into applause just because of that. All I could do was laugh (which is what I usually do). The rest of the day consisted of people congratulating me. That's not to say I didn't like it, I relished the attention. It's probably one of the first really big, positive things that people knew me for. Wow, I probably could've won 500 piano competitions and still not have felt as good as when this happened. I really owe a big thanks to the Alliance for Science. I sure hope they're able to fix their web site, it was actually pretty cool before.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

DANG PZ!!!

I just had a look at my hit counter (at the bottom of the page), and couldn't believe the number I saw. So, I had to check Google Analytics, and on the day PZ linked to me, I recieved 782 hits. That's probably three times as many hits as the rest of my blog's history combined. PZ, I underestimated your powers of linking. I am now in total awe. So yeah, just felt like putting that out there.

Something of the Week

Hmmm.....I've noticed that most good bloggers have something they do on a regular basis. I was wondering, what would you readers like me to do on a periodic basis. I mean, maybe something like distro of the week, or astronomy picture of the month. I don't know, I think something to make me look forward to a particular day would be pretty cool. So far, I've been looking at distro of the week, but I'd actually have to INSTALL it and evaluate it. I don't want to do that unneccessarily though, so, if you support distro of the week, or something else, say something, please. Thank you.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Five Second Rule? More actually

This is possibly the most practical and groundbreaking discovery in science, ever... The five second rule has been verified and extended. For those of you know don't know, when you drop a piece of food on the floor, you call "five second rule" and if you pick it up before five seconds, it's still good to eat. And yes, the rule is now scientifically accurate, and is renamed the thirty second rule (even if your food is wet).

The basics of the experiment, a sample of wet food (an apple slice) and dry food (a Skittle) were used. The foods were dropped on a floor of a food court and swabbed at intervals of 5, 10, 30, and 60 seconds. Turns out, after one minute, the apple picked up bacteria, so that's the top bar. And the skittle, well, you have five minutes.

After years of people castigating me for picking food back up and eating it, I finally have proof that it is safe. I feel so right now! Beware...

(Thanks to Sciguy)

AP Test is over!

I finished the AP World test today, and I am extremely relieved. It wasn't all that bad. The multiple choice was very easy (or, that's what I say). I can't go into detail on the essay questions for two days, but I must say, it was QUITE an experience.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Essays are now up

The moments of apprehension are over. The winning essays are up. Thanks to Dick Lessard for posting the comment to notify me.

Wow, after reading some of the other essays, I learned some more. I never thought of symptoms being actual evolutionary adaptations, but now that I read it, it smacks me in the head, "DUH!". Well, this contest has been a real experience for me, and I'm glad the Alliance for Science hosted it. Thank you!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Chicken revisited

Ok, if you've been visiting my blog for a while now, you'd remember a post I made LONG LONG ago about a few articles in the Annals of Improbably Research, one of which was an article made up entirely of the word "chicken". Well, it turns out that the author of the article "Chicken chicken chicken" has elaborated on his work with a lecture, as is shown here. Enjoy:




Thanks to Wired Science for finding the video.

Monday, May 14, 2007

I won!

I'm absolutely amazed that I won the Alliance for Science essay contest. Apparently, I did write a good essay. For those of you who don't know, I submitted an essay for the Alliance for Science essay contest in late March about "Why I would like my Doctor to have studied evolution." I must say, I did have some fun writing that essay. I learned a lot about zoonoses, which are diseases that are transferrable between species. If you want to know what that has to do with the topic, you'll have to read my essay, which should be online at some time. If you can't wait, contact me via e-mail or IM, I'll send you a copy (and be sure to tell me whether you can handle open-document-format, so I know if I should send you a .odt or .rtf, the .rtfs aren't so pretty, unfortunately).

I'll give you some behind-the-scenes commentary. I had a super tough time cutting that essay within the word limit. I had to get rid of an entire section about the Tripoli Six (Six foreign doctors Five foreign nurses and one foreign doctor [Thanks for olvlzl at Respectful Insolence for spotting this] in Libya sentenced for infecting kids with HIV, even though new research found that it was impossible. For more detail, search scienceblogs.com, they'll have more detail than you can ever use). Even then, I had to kinda get rid of a few adjectives in that essay. I believe the final word could was 3 under the maximum. I never thought I would have so much to say.

So yeah, the prize is $300 and a free subscription to SEED (what I REALLY wanted), plus a bunch of stuff for the school. Well, here I am, bringing glory to the Los Angeles Unified School District. However, my achivement is kinda dwarfed by El Camino Real, but some potential glory at school might not be so bad (of course, I can't show off my OWN glory). And what do you all think I should do with the prize? My current plan is to deposit it in a bank account until I can come up with something to do with it. That way, I still make interest off of it, yay!

Ok, I know this post is getting kinda long, so I'll cap up by saying, I love you all! Oh yeah, and there's also my teacher to thank, Ms. Chung (who I then spent a week with in Costa Rica, which was a very good break from this). She helped revise and polish the essay, which I think made a huge difference. And I'd also like to thank PZ Myers, 'cause, he's awesome, and I wouldn't have found out about the contest without him. Oh, and my parents, for making me revise it, like 20 times. The Panda's Thumb was also an invaluble resource for this essay, thanks for covering the Michael Egnor affair so well (I found out about PZ's Egnor superlist AFTER I submitted the essay, unfortunately). I swear, he was so well timed. Now I'm wondering if anyone else used him as an example.

Ok, I'm ending it for real this time. Thanks to all the people I cited in my essay (duh, that's what citing is kinda for). OH! and the Understanding Evolution web site was extremely helpful. Wow, I never knew I had so many resources. Ok, well, bye everyone, and make sure your science is open source (?!) Hey, that could be my new motto. Or, make sure your open source is scientific. Meh, I like the other one better. Oh, and Fundies Say the Darndest Things, of course (does anyone else get an RSS feed for them, I think mine's broken), for uplifting me during times of stress, and making me laugh my face off. I swear, that place is funnier than any comedy show ever. Ok, now bye!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Ctrl+Alt+Del

No, I'm not telling you to restart your computer. I'm telling you about the new online comic series I found, and am in love with. It's called Ctrl+Alt+Del. I managed to get through the entire archive in a weekend. So much for studying for AP World. Well, I love it! To put it bluntly, it's another one of those comics about young computer geeks who live together. If I were to describe myself as a character, I would be Scott. Here's why:

#1. I use linux.
#2. I'm not that big of a gamer.
#3. Very few people know that much about me.
#4. Uhhh......yeah.

Here are some thing's I'll need to work on.

#1. I need to meditate.
#2. I need to wear sandals.
#3. I need a beard.
#4. I need a penguin.

I wish I had a penguin.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Punctuated Equilibrium

Ok, I guess I do have some extra time, so, here's a science post, we haven't had one of those for a while.

A new book is coming out, called Punctuated Equilibrium written by Steven J. Gould. Steven J. Gould is a palentologist who writes a lot about evolution and all that stuff that I love. However, he's kinda dead right now, so you may be wondering, how is he writing a book? Well, I'll tell you, or else, what'll be the point?

So, when he was still alive, he wrote a book called The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (which I have). However, this book is freaking ginormous. It's over 1,400 pages (I'm on like, page 400), so there's a lot of content in this book. As far as I've gotten, it's basically a description of all of the contributions to evolutionary though (it was much more than just Darwin), with a pretty detailed description of nearly every contributor (and even some opponents). So yeah, this book, Punctuated Equilibrium, is basically chapter 9 of The Structure of Evolutionary Theory.

I can't tell you anything about the book, since I kinda didn't reach there. I got discouraged on the way, but now maybe I should continue again. So, if you wanna learn about punctuated equilibrium, buy that book. If you wanna learn every-freaking-thing about evolution, but buy The Structure. If you're able to get through that book, I will admire you.

[Nod of gratitude to PZ Myers, one who I admire]

AP World break

Sorry for the delay in posting. I've been quite busy over the last week, preparing for the AP World History test, which is going to be on May 17. After that, it'll be heaven. No more pressure. Yes! So, yeah, if I manage to scrape up enough time, I'll post something, but don't be surprised if nothing comes up.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Dell and Ubuntu

It's now rather official. Dell is going sell Ubuntu computers preinstalled. Yes, that means no more worrying about hardware, you don't have to be the geek who builds and installs Ubuntu him/herself. Now, Dell is doing it for you. Does this partnership give us linux users a sign that linux is, in fact, growing in popularity among the desktop market? I don't know, but look at this logo:


I personally would prefer my own computer to a Dell one, but hey, I know a lot of people who shop at Dell. I'm sure it'll make preaching much easier.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Capitol Steps

On Friday, I went to an amazingly hilarious show called Capitol Steps. It is basically a show that parodizes the world of politics (the performers work in Congress, so it's ok). It is basically a series of songs that are re-adapted to make fun of current events. I thought of it as absolutely hilarious. If they're ever in your area, GO SEE THEM! They'll floor you. I'm serious.

If you're still skeptical, they have samples of their songs on their web site, which you can hear for free. If you're still skeptical, they've put some of their videos on YouTube, however, they're much better on stage than on the computer. On stage, they add certain things that are much funnier.

One of the best acts is Lirty Dies. The speaker basically gives an entire speech, but flips the beginning of some words, sometimes having hilarious consequences.

We left to shee a sow, and we ended up thrying bee DCs. And as far as I can tell, they've been a date greal. As you nalready ow, I righly hecommend this show. You don't be wissappointed.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Never Mind, my fault

Turns out, the problematic DVD drive was not some sort of evil OS problem. I somehow knocked loose the wire that connected it to the motherboard. I just pushed it back in and it was all right. I hate it when I solve my own problems.

Return of the CD drive

Ok, out of nowhere, my CD drive problem returned!! And this time, it's worse. My workaround of manually mounting the drive is now rendered null and void, because I can't find the cdrom in /dev, Which is immensely frustrating. I'm thinking about a reinstall if a solution doesn't pop up, 'cause this is crazy.