Sunday, December 31, 2006

Moon over Andromeda

From the Astronomy Picture of the day here's a wonderful composite of the moon and M31, the Andromeda Galaxy by Adam Block and Tim Puckett.

Most folks don't realize the immense apparent size of this galaxy, i.e., how big it is on the sky! Note how much larger it is than the moon!

Sadly, this also points out that galaxies are simply dim. Really dim! We can barely see our own and we are inside of it. The same goes for more distant galaxies.

The space scapes with bright galaxies glowing in the sky or the space craft view port simply don't exist in real life.

HDTV Resolution Explained

I was looking for a simple mapping of HDTV resolutions to screen/pixel resolutions, and found this excellent summary of HDTV resolutions at Cnet.

Here's the Wikipedia article on HDTV which has plenty of information, I think.

Then there is this nice list of LCD misconceptions at the LCD Buying Gude.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Major Award

It's a major award! Maybe a bit late for this Christmas, but maybe next time.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Google-NASA Partnership

From CNN: Google Teams up with NASA

MOFFETT FIELD, California (AP) -- Google Inc. and NASA Ames Research Center said Monday that they have finalized an agreement to deliver more of the space agency's imagery and information through the Internet's leading search engine.

The collaboration marks another step in a partnership announced 15 months ago when Google unveiled plans to build a 1 million-square-foot campus at the NASA center, located a few miles south of the company's Mountain View headquarters.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Linux Memory Allocation

This is a very nice article on Linux memory allocation at O'Reilly.

Snowflake Magnified 36000x

This image, purportedly of a snowflake magnified up to 36,000 times takes a long time to load but is quite fascinating.

Raising Skinny Elephants is Utterly Boring!

Nice! Here are a couple of ways to reboot (as gracefully as possible) a hung Linux system. Just remember, Raising Skinny Elephants is Utterly Boring!

Patents On-Line!

Google has now put the US Patent collection on-line! When I was at Ga Tech, I used to enjoy looking up patents in their collection. One of my favorites was 3,359,678.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Music Video Amateur by Lasse Gjertsen

Here's the music video Amateur by Lasse Gjertsen made entirely by editing. He says he can't play. I think there's an interesting philosophical argument there…

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Interview About Steve Wozniak

In this webzine interview with Gina Smith who co-authored Wozniaks recent book, here's an interesting excerpt.

GS: When I first started interviewing Steve, I said to him, “What should this book say?” And he’d say, “I hate reading anything about Apple. It’s all wrong. It’s all wrong!” And I’d ask what was wrong, and he’d just kind of brush his hand and say, “It’s all wrong! Everything ever written about me is wrong.” So I did a lot of research and I’d bring him stories and articles from throughout the years — “Is this wrong? Is that wrong?” And, in fact, a lot of the stuff out there that had been written about him was wrong. One common myth is that he was kicked out of the University of Colorado. He wasn’t kicked out. He’d run up so many fees from computer usage that he was afraid to tell his dad. So he chose not to go back the next semester and instead went to De Anza community college… With his 200 IQ and the perfect college board scores…

Another misconception that bothered him was the idea that he and Steve Jobs had designed the Apple I and the Apple II together. The sole designer of both those computers was Steve Wozniak. The sole designer. And that’s not to say that Steve Jobs isn’t an engineer in his own right; he may be. But he had nothing to do with the design of those two computers. He was the business guy there.

RU: And then there’s the myth that it was developed in a garage.

GS: It wasn’t done in a garage — that was HP. HP was started in a garage several decades earlier but not Apple! Steve Jobs worked in his bedroom of his parents’ house and Steve Wozniak was on the kitchen table.

RU: I guess some final tweaks were done in a garage.

GS: I think at the very end, when they have their first order of a hundred some units; they were actually just popping chips into sockets — some of that was done with Steve Jobs’ sister, and Dan Kottke, an early friend. Dan Kottke is a good example of one of the early employees who had everything to do with the success of these first computers — the Apple II, the first personal computer with color and sound.

Gmail Can POP Mail From Other Accounts

Now Gmail can POP email down from other accounts.

NASA World Wind 1.4

A video demo of NASA World Wind 1.4 on YouTube.

Here's an official link that seems to only feature version 1.3.

Servers, Hackers and Code in the Movies

This is another Slashdot pointer to an article on Servers, Hackers and Code in the Movies. It's mildly entertaining and a couple of nice lists. They certainly are not complete (e.g., the Colossus from Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970) is missing) . There are no computers from Star Trek.


An interesting article on Slashdot, RV Processes Own Fuel on Cross-Country Trip.

I have to say, the very top picture in the article does look a little like a flux capacitor…

Quoting the Slashdot quote:

“Frybrid has realized the dream of Dr. Emmet Brown's Delorean: putting garbage directly into your vehicle, and have it be turned into directly into fuel. This past fall, Frybrid installed a system into a 40' luxury RV that sucked up waste vegetable oil from the back of restaurants, removed the water and filtered it, and then burned the dry and cleaned vegetable oil as fuel. The family drove their converted RV from Seattle to Rhode Island on $47 worth of diesel fuel. Plans are underway for a smaller version of the system to fit in the bed of a pickup truck.”

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Email Ideas

Here is a smattering of ideas (not originally mine!) on email approaches that avoid spam and offer other advantages.

White list only

I've used this for years now with great success. You only receive email based on a white list. Period.

Sender stores email

All that is ever emailed is a link and the email client/recipient retrieves the email from the sender at the time they read it. There's no (or not necessarily) local storage of messages and sender validation is inherent. Also you have the added benefit of being able to modify (including fully retracting) a message after sending it. Storage is also ultimately efficient, only one copy in the universe. (Of course recipients can save their own copy). Downloading attachments integrates nicely and easily with pretty much no need for a size limitation.

Security is also nearly trivial! To secure the email, make the retrieval channel SSL. You're done.

If you want to limit delivery to authorized individuals, require authentication to retrieve the message. This could be made “invisible” in the background by employing certificates and doing the authentication on the fly.

Fully closed systems

For an organization's internal email (which I propose accounts for a large percentage of work-related messages), use a closed system like a forum/BBS with no connection to the outside world. Messages are stored once, organized into topics, security is inherently (approaching) perfect. Messages can be edited and retracted after sending. There is no spam, at all, ever. This is what LearnLink would be if it was disconnected from the Internet. I've been using a forum in this way for more than a year or two and have found it works extremely well.

I like the idea of a closed system for internal email and a separate email system for external messaging, perhaps Google- or Yahoo-based.

Also note that MySpace is exactly such a system on a vast scale, combining also the above white list idea with their implementation. I've noted that my kids, and their friends and family are using Myspace for communication more than email.

Update on James Kim

Alas, he didn't survive.,0,471422.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Ubuntu Groff A4 Paper Size Problem

This gets me every time! (Well, it did twice). By default, groff on Ubuntu is configured for the A4 paper size. This means that printing man pages, e.g.,

pod2man mydoc.pod | groff -man -l

prints out pages that are missing the top header line. The solution to this is to make sure the string “letter” is in the file /etc/papersize.

echo letter >/etc/papersize

It's just that simple!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Disk Stats and Utilization

Here is an excellent article by Adrian Cockroft, “What does 100% Busy mean?” regarding disk stats and utilization.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Fantastic Solar Videos

Here are fantastic videos of solar surface activity including developing prominences. If you look carefully, you can actually see how the plasma in the prominences is moving down toward the sun along magnetic field lines.

More on prominences.

James Kim Missing

This is disturbing news that Cnet senior editor James Kim and his family are missing. I only know of him because he did the video review on the Sansa e250 MP3 player that we bought.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Super Hi-Res Mars Pictures

HiRISE, Noted on the Bad Astronomy Blog.

Swiss Army USB Knife

In case you need more USB flash memory:

Hidden XP Goodies

Cool, Sixteen hidden XP goodies.

I like this one: The XP installer music is at:

Start > Run > "C:\Windows\system32\oobe\images\title.wma" > Ok

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

First Gamma Ray Clock

This story of the first gamma ray clock found keeps popping up in various places, so it finally got my attention.


Astronomers using the H.E.S.S. telescopes have discovered the first ever modulated signal from space in Very High Energy Gamma Rays -- the most energetic such signal ever observed. Regular signals from space have been known since the 1960s, when the first radio pulsar (nicknamed Little Green Men-1 for its regular nature) was discovered. This is the first time a signal has been seen at such high energies -- 100,000 times higher than previously known — and is reported November 24th in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Sniffer Bees!

Here's an article about the new (bomb) sniffer bees. This is incredibly clever and fascinating but also hilarious!

Unlike sniffer dogs which require three months training, it takes 10 minutes to train the bees.

After training three or four bees are put in a shoebox-sized "sniffer box", held in position on plastic mountings. Air is sucked by a fan into the box via plastic tubes and wafts gently over the bees.

If they detect explosives in the air, the trained bees all stick out their proboscises together.

A miniature video camera in the box is trained on them and is connected to a computer programmed with movement recognition software. As soon as the movement of the proboscises is detected, an alarm sounds to alert the security operator.

To avoid false alarms from rogue results, a single bee sticking out its tongue does not set the system off.

Google Using Domain Key Signatures

I just received an email message from Google (since I signed up for Google Base yesterday) and noticed it was signed with a DomainKey-Signature header entry.

DomainKey-Status: good (test mode)
Received: from (
by with ESMTP id kAT49pg2026142
for ; Tue, 28 Nov 2006 20:09:52 -0800
DomainKey-Signature: a=rsa-sha1; s=beta;;
c=nofws; q=dns;

In the “extended header” it said:

Sent by:
Signed by:

The “test mode” designation is interesting, too.

Well, looking further at Wikipedia, Google has been using Domain Keys since 2005 and actually went live with them shortly before Yahoo (who developed the concept).

Cool, so here's show you look up the public key to verify (the above) message. The s=beta is the selector. You prepend that to the _domain subdomain, and that to the sending domain

> set query=any

Non-authoritative answer: text = "g=\; k=rsa\; t=y\;

Here's a nice slide show from Eric Allman.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Install MythTV on Ubuntu Edgy Eft

Supposedly the best guide for installing MythTV onto Ubuntu 6.10 Edgy Eft according to Digg.

In the Digg comments, people list others, too.


These are all about Thanks. There are two interesting links here. One is the link to a Thank-you from Phil Plait on his Bad Astronomy Blog. Then he, in turn, links to this really cool video thank you by Ze Frank on his blog.

Okay, Ze Frank's video blog is funny. I just watched the 27 November entry about Scrabble. Hah!

(But caution, there is some PG-17 language and maybe more).

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Python Tutorial

I am first and foremost (these days) a Perl programmer. Nonetheless, here is a nice Python tutorial pointed to via Digg.

Update on Leonid Meteors

I didn't enter an update here regarding the Leonids. I watched the sky from about 23:30 to 0:00 EST and didn't see a single meteor. Granted, I was standing and looking up (the worst mode for observing meteors) instead of lying in a lounge chair.

Actually the time period was early for meteors since the radiant had barely risen at that point, i.e., we had barely rotated around to the side of the earth that would encounter the meteoroids.


This story on Slashdot about nanosilver prompted me to read more about it. I've never heard of nanosilver which apparently serves as a disinfectant, even in antibacterial socks! Fascinating.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Leonid Meteor Shower

Don't forget the Leonid meteor shower.


In North America, for the Maritime Provinces of Canada, New England, eastern New York and Bermuda, the Sickle of Leo (from where the Leonids appear to emanate) will be above the east-northeast horizon just as the shower is due to reach its peak. But because Leo will be at a much lower altitude compared to Europe, meteor rates correspondingly may be much lower as well. However, this very special circumstance could lead to the appearance of a few long-trailed Earth-grazing meteors, due to meteoroids that skim along a path nearly parallel to Earth's surface. Seeing even just one of these meteors tracing a long, majestic path across the sky could make a chilly night under the stars worthwhile.

Unfortunately, for the central and western United States and Canada, the Leonid outburst will likely have passed before Leo rises; at best, nothing more than the usual 10 or so Leonids per hour will likely be seen.

Keep in mind that for New England and U.S. East Coast, the peak is due locally on the previous calendar day, Saturday, Nov. 18, at 11:45 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (For the Canadian Maritimes and Bermuda, the corresponding time is 12:45 a.m. on Sunday, the 19th. For Newfoundland it is also on the 19th, but at 1:15 a.m.).

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sun BME and HME Interface Names

Where did the names BME and HME for the Sun interfaces come from?

Amanda says:
Actually, it *is* a Sun engineer joke. The 10 Mbps predecessor was a chip called the "Big MAC Ethernet" -- in this case, it was a mere pun, since MAC stands for Media Access Control, i.e. the Ethernet data-link layer. When they designed the 10/100Mbps chip later on, they decided to turn the pun into a full-out joke, and they called it the "Happy Meal Ethernet."

On a Solaris machine, the interfaces are named by the driver type, so instead of "eth0" you'll see something like "hme0" instead.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

China Responds

More about the submarine incident has surfaced. In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu says, “China has always had a defensive national defense policy.”

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Nice Chinese Surprise

Here's a nice little surprise from China (from the Washington Times).

A Chinese submarine stalked a U.S. aircraft carrier battle group in the Pacific last month and surfaced within firing range of its torpedoes and missiles before being detected, The Washington Times has learned.

The surprise encounter highlights China's continuing efforts to prepare for a future conflict with the U.S., despite Pentagon efforts to try to boost relations with Beijing's communist-ruled military.

Machine Gun Robot from Korea

Also on Slashdot this morning, a machine-gun bearing robot in Korea. And you thought Samsung just made things like cell phones.

As far as I can tell from the video, they've developed a robot that will shoot Big Foot.

Dolphins Sing Batman

From Slashdot, scientists teach dolphins to sing the Batman song

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Video4Linux2 Series at LWN

This is an interesting series of articles at Linux Weekly Newsletter on Video4Linux2. This master page links to subsequent articles as they are published.

Your editor has recently had the opportunity to write a Linux driver for a camera device - the camera which will be packaged with the One Laptop Per Child system, in particular. This driver works with the internal kernel API designed for such purposes: the Video4Linux2 API. In the process of writing this code, your editor made the shocking discovery that, in fact, this API is not particularly well documented - though the user-space side is, instead, quite well documented indeed. In an attempt to remedy the situation somewhat, LWN will, over the coming months, publish a series of articles describing how to write drivers for the V4L2 interface.

V4L2 has a long history - the first gleam came into Bill Dirks's eye back around August of 1998. Development proceeded for years, and the V4L2 API was finally merged into the mainline in November, 2002, when 2.5.46 was released. To this day, however, quite a few Linux drivers do not support the newer API; the conversion process is an ongoing task. Meanwhile, the V4L2 API continues to evolve, with some major changes being made in 2.6.18. Applications which work with V4L2 remain relatively scarce.

V4L2 is designed to support a wide variety of devices, only some of which are truly "video" in nature:

  • The video capture interface grabs video data from a tuner or camera device. For many, video capture will be the primary application for V4L2. Since your editor's experience is strongest in this area, this series will tend to emphasize the capture API, but there is more to V4L2 than that.

  • The video output interface allows applications to drive peripherals which can provide video images - perhaps in the form of a television signal - outside of the computer.

  • A variant of the capture interface can be found in the video overlay interface, whose job is to facilitate the direct display of video data from a capture device. Video data moves directly from the capture device to the display, without passing through the system's CPU.

  • The VBI interfaces provide access to data transmitted during the video blanking interval. There are two of them, the "raw" and "sliced" interfaces, which differ in the amount of processing of the VBI data performed in hardware.

  • The radio interface provides access to audio streams from AM and FM tuner devices.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Buying a DSLR

Here's a slashdot article on buying a digital single lens reflex camera. Here are my comments on their main points. Granted, they suggest that a DSLR is not for everyone.

My experience is based on my Olympus D-40. (Not a DSLR).

Also note that I write this as a former SLR user for more than 25 years. I loved my Olympus OM-1 and miss it in many ways. (I still have it, I just don' t use it any more). Still, I think the digital medium has advantages that don't require going back to the old SLR format. I

Creative Control

My camera has all the controls mentioned, aperture, shutter speed, in camera sharpening, white balance, flash sync. I'm not sure it has a contrast setting. These all require using menus so I bet a DSLR may make some of these easier, but I can do them.

Superior Sensors

I'm not sure that I buy that a larger sensor (CCD?) is necessarily better. It will inherently have more pixels, but I definitely have enough pixels already with my 3.8 Mpx. My smaller sensor means my lens and camera can be smaller. Larger might be better but I'm not convinced.

Less Noise

I'm not convinced of this one either. I would need to see an objective spec on what the noise actually is. I have not experienced noise as a problem except in very low light situations. My camera does have a low noise setting.


I concede this point. I really wish my camera at least had a way to attach and/orat least synchronize a flash. (I know you can sync with a slave of some type). I don't really feel the need to have lenses outside my zoom range (which is roughly equivalent to 35mm camera 35mm–100mm). A longer zoom range on a camera would be nice.

No shutter lag

This is huge and my greatest complaint about my camera. Newer, non DSLR cameras solve this problem though. A lot of it, I believe, has to do with the time it takes to unload the CCD and write to the memory device. So I don't think this is an advantage exclusive to DSLRs, but just to newer cameras.

Instant Startup

Maybe. This isn't that important to me. My camera starts up in three our four seconds. That's probably equivalent to taking a D/SLR out of a bag and removing the lens cap. (My camera fits in my pocket).

Higher Build Quality

Maybe. My camera does have a lot of plastic. It probably wouldn't withstand some abuse a more professional camera would. Still, it's pretty sturdy.


My viewfinder zooms to match the lens. I grant that it's not perfect. The LCD provides a perfect match and I think the LCD is very useful as a viewfinder (though I typically don't use it unless I need to). An D/SLR viewfinder is a beautiful thing, but mine works pretty well.


You need to learn my technique for holding a small digital camera. Thumbs up with your left hand. This creates a very stable platform with your left hand to support the camera. It also keeps your fingers from blocking the lens. Control the shutter, etc., with your right hand.


No way. DSLRs are cheaper that DSLRs used to be, but always more expensive than the other digital cameras.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Steampunk Jetpack

Steampunk Jetpack

Enough said.

Another Angle on the Web as Desktop

No sooner do I publish my own descant on the web OS, desktop, etc., than Digg points to an article that expounds a similar view from a different angle.

The Next Big Thing

I remembered! I think. The other day I thought I had an epiphany of what the next big thing would be. Maybe it's not that big but I think this may have been it:

With LEDs becoming absurdly bright, with high-resolution display technology becoming absurdly small and cheap, and with more powerful devices in our pockets, I expect that in the near future, the device in our pocket will become quite powerful video projectors.

Imagine that you take out your pocket device (assuming you ever actually put it away), check your email and voice mail, make a call, and then it's time for the meeting to start. You tap on a couple of spots on it's interface, set it down on the table and a large, bright display is projected on the wall. It's corrected for the geometry of the projection and the wall so there's no distortion. You don't have to worry about all the tilting, propping, focusing, and repeatedly pressing a keystone button.

You advance your slides, control your movie, or perhaps live video feed from another conference room with either someone else's hand-held device, or a remote of some kind that's IR or BlueTooth. Or with voice commands.

Parakey Web OS

Hmm. Parakey Web OS. Interesting at Slashdot. Reading the Slashdot comments on this one is interesting because Blake Ross, the young guy the article is about, is fully engaged in the discussion there. (Or at least someone that says they are him). Fascinating!

BTW, I think this is on the right track. From using Google apps (the word processor and spreadsheets) I can see this. Your world is on the web and is accessible from anywhere. Folks that say “Bah!” to the idea of a Web OS are missing the point. Yes, it's true the Web OS is not about interfaces to hardware and interrupt handlers. But this is about what's on the screen in front of your face. What's on the screen moves from being housed in the box on or under your desk to the cloud that's the web.

That's initially a fearful thought, but consider that the box on your desk is already part of that cloud, so it's not that much of a shift as you might think. With easy encryption of data, it can be protected and just as protected as it is (and should be) on your desktop computer.

With Google and Microsoft rapidly converging on this idea of a web-based OS, the idea of network computing and the network as the system is about to happen with a vengance that exceeds the wildest dreams of Sun Microsystems.

With Google apps I've already experienced the one-click sharing of stuff and it's very cool, along with the capability of collaboration.

Whither the desktop computer? I think the desktop computer may be soon on it's way out. Maybe not the screen and keyboard. The screens will probably get bigger (wider and taller) and flatter (thinner). I guess they'll ultimately just be “paint on the wall.” But the thing the screen and keyboard talks to will become portable. We'll carry them in our pockets and they'll connect to the screen and keyboard when we need them to. They'll handle phone calls, news articles, Slashdot, blogging, picture taking, music and movies, etc. They'll also project our images (movies, whatever) on any reasonable white wall or surface we can find—large screen anytime!

Based on this article, if they pull off Parakey, it will be open-source Parakey vs. cool Google vs. the dying Microsoft (trying to hang on as the world changes underneath it) in this so-called Web OS world. Microsoft will be too old and unable to change quickly enough to keep up. Microsoft will hang on to it's entrenched corporate user base for a while as Google and Parakey invade from the bottom up the way Linux and Firefox have.

In that future, I imagine that (sadly) Google will become the giant, evil corporate entity that we love and hate, (“No one ever lost their job by choosing Google”) , and someone, perhaps Parakey, will be the cool, new open source solution that competes.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

GConf configuration system

GConf configuration system

This is a configuration system for user config data. It's probably worth keeping in mind. Apparently there's a daemon running on one of my Sarge boxes, at /usr/lib/gconf2/gconfd-2.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Google for My Domains 2

I signed up for Google Apps for My Domains a second time (for another domain). This time the process was different I think. Instead of waiting for (presumably) human review, it asked me to validate I owned the domain by adding a CNAME.

That was the second option and was easiest for me to do. The first option was to put a particular web page on the domain web site.

I've pointed the domain's MX records there and I'm now waiting for them to update in DNS.

I had immediate access to the domain manager panels at Google and was able to set up the login page, accounts, etc.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Upgrading Ubuntu to Edgy Eft

Approach with caution. Some folks are reporting problems upgrading from previous versions of Ubuntu, e.g., Dapper Drake, to Ubuntu 6.10 Edgy Eft. Others are reporting no problems.

Since Dapper Drake is Ubuntu 6.06 LTS (long term support), I will probably stay with it for a while on systems that I rely on.

I may experiment with Edgy Eft for fresh installs and systems that aren't critical.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Right now, the home of Fedora is, which is mainly a wiki.

Fedora Max Spevack Interview

I'm reading an interview on Slashdot with the project leader of Fedora, Max Spevack. Here are some interesting excerpts.

Red Hat retains legal liability for the Fedora Project. The Fedora Project is not a separate legal entity or organization. The Fedora Project receives a tremendous amount of resources (people, money, infrastructure, etc.) from Red Hat.

I'm really glad this question was asked, because it gives me a chance to try to bust the NUMBER ONE MYTH about Fedora -- that Fedora is "just a beta for RHEL" or that "Fedora only exists to make Red Hat money" or "Red Hat doesn't care about Fedora, it's just a dumping ground for half-tested code". I hear all of those things from time to time, and *none* of them are true.

Let's back up for a moment -- the Red Hat Linux/Fedora Core split took place in 2003. And while I wasn't at Red Hat during that time, I think it's fair to state that there were some unfortunate choices made internally about how Fedora was positioned, and because those statements were made with a Red Hat voice, it helped to create a very strong perception that Red Hat abandoned the community, and that Fedora wasn't "good" for anything, or was a rejected part of Red Hat. Many mistakes were made by Red Hat with regard to the "birth" of the Fedora Project -- there is absolutely no debating that.

I think there were some people within Red Hat who were afraid that the "admission" that Fedora was production-quality, or that Fedora was anything more than beta-quality, would cause difficulty for the people trying to sell RHEL. Three years later, and that perception is still very strong in certain places -- without fail there are a few comments about that in every Slashdot story that mentions Fedora.

And that's fine. Red Hat had a part in creating that perception, and so Red Hat will have to work particularly hard to undo it. We have been, and we continue to do so.

The real story of Fedora, of course, is entirely opposite from the "beta code only, not production worthy" stance.

Our mission statement is clear, and is one that I think any open-source developer would appreciate.

Fedora is about the rapid progress of Free and Open Source software.

That's it. We strive to produce a quality distribution of free software that is cutting-edge, pushes the envelope of new open source technology, and is also robust enough that it can be relied on for server or desktop use. One of the terms that I really like, and that I think we're doing better and better of making a reality is that of Fedora as an "open development lab". As a user, if your priorities are cutting-edge technology (without the nicks and cuts of a blade) and freedom, Fedora is a great disto to use.

The second half of the story, as it relates to Red Hat's desire to make a profit, is equally simple in my mind. Fedora is upstream of RHEL. Fedora is also upstream of various other derivative distributions.

So when someone says "Fedora is beta for RHEL" they are stating only a very small part of what Fedora is. Fedora is the best of what works today. RHEL is the best of what will work for the next seven years. And the users can decide what is best for their needs.

Saying that Fedora is the beta for RHEL, and that Fedora is *only* a beta for RHEL, is to take a purposefully narrow view on the truth. Fedora's upstream relationship to RHEL is simply one aspect of the Fedora Project, which stands on its own as a distribution.

I feel very strongly about this particular question, and I will state my opinion bluntly:

Anyone (Red Hat or non-Red Hat) who tells you that Fedora isn't suitable for a production server is wrong. If someone tells you that Fedora is "just a beta for RHEL", they too are wrong.

Either the person is insufficiently informed about what Fedora is (and it's our job within Fedora to do that), or the person is purposefully misrepresenting Fedora and neglecting to tell the whole story, in which case it's our job within Fedora to call them out.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Quote of the Day

I saw this in someone's signature on Slashdot:

There are 10 types of people in the world. Those who understand binary and those who do not.

Earthquake Shakes Telescopes

Astronomy magazine reports that the earthquakes in Hawaii shook the telescopes on Mauna Kea. I didn't even think of that!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Fixing a RealOne Player Database

My RealOne player database is corrupt. Here is one site I found with instructions on blowing it away and rebuilding it.

Error Message:

RealOne has detected a corruption in the RealOne database and needs to restart.


The RealOne player maintains its own database regarding the songs on your PC. This database may, in some instances, become corrupt and require some repair.


According to Real, you can normally click the Fix It button to solve this problem. If, however, you receive this error message regularly, you may want to create a new database from scratch. To create a new database, close RealOne and open My Computer and navigate to the proper folder below:

Windows XP: C:\Documents And Settings\username\ApplicationData\Real\RealOne Player.
Windows NT: C:\Winnt\Profiles\username\Application Data\Real\RealOne Player
Windows 98/ME: C:\Program Files\Real\RealOne Player.

Replace username with your Windows username. You should see a folder labeled RealPlayerDB or DB. Rename this file RealPlayerDB1. Start RealOne and select Scan Disk For Media from the file menu to repopulate a new database.

To salvage your playlists, copy Playlist.cdx, Playlist.dbf, Playlist.fpt, Playtrax.cdx, and Playtrax.dbf from the RealOneDB1 folder to the newly created database folder.

For more information, see answer 3179 in the customer support FAQ area on

Monday, October 16, 2006


This article in Slashdot points to an interview with Chris Crawford about his new computer game/computer story telling development environment.
Chris now has a company (Storytron), a business model and a business plan, a creative team, and three key pieces of software in varying stages of development. There is also, of course, a web site ( where anyone interested in interactive storytelling can join the forum, read the tutorials, and download the current version of the Storyworld Authoring Tool.
As I neared the end of this article, it started looking like it could be more than a way to write new computer games. The business about errors not crashing the program but being handled in an interesting way, and the statistical approach to testing that's built in both caught my eye. This looks interesting on the surface. Similar things have probably been done elsewhere, but this may have some potential.


LWN has a nice article on OpenID.

Here's the main OpenID site.

Technology Epiphany!

Sometime in the past 24 hours (maybe last night or yesterday some time) I had an epiphany about one of the next big things in technology and maybe computers. Of course I can't remember what it was now. Maybe it will come back to me…

World On-line Web

Wow! Since I'm overusing that word in this blog (I just realized) it also occurred to me that it would have been nicer had the web been called the World On-line Web. Then URL's would all have looked like which is easier to read, write and say!

Animating Facial Expression

Wow! Mike sends along this interesting story about capturing facial expressions in computer animation.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Royal Society Journals from 1665 Online

Wow!! The Royal Society Journals, dating from 1665, are online and free though November 2006!
The Royal Society Digital Archive is easily the most comprehensive archive in science and contains some of the most significant scientific papers ever published. The development of the digital archive means that the Society's online collection now contains every paper ever published in the Royal Society's journals - from the very first peer-reviewed paper in Philosophical Transactions - to the most recent interdisciplinary article in Interface.

Seminal research papers include accounts of Michael Faraday's groundbreaking series of electrical experiments, Isaac Newton's invention of the reflecting telescope and the first research paper published by Stephen Hawking.

The Archive provides a record of some key scientific discoveries from the last 340 years including: Halley's description of 'his comet' in 1705; details of the double Helix of DNA by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1954; and Edmond Stone's breakthrough in 1763 that willow bark cured fevers, leading to the discovery of salicylic acid and later the development of asprin.

It also contains papers documenting the discovery of new planets, the first descriptions of organisms through a microscope, and the first account of photography. Early papers contain fascinating descriptions of how Captain James Cook preserved the health of his crew aboard the HMS Endeavour and the astonishment of 18th century Society at the performance of an eight year-old Mozart.

Lunch Box Linux Cluster

A lunch box Linux cluster.


I can't remember when I've enjoyed something as much as this.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Nintendo In Your Browser

Fascinating. You can play Nintendo games in your browser at

Two important hints.
  • Click “English Language Games” to get the menu of games.
  • After selecting a game, double-click the screen to make the keys work.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Great Programmers Answer

Great programmers answer a young programmers questions. He basically emailed a set of questions to some fo the most famous programmers of our time and collected their answers. It's an interesting read.

Hm, I don't do surveys' much but I thought I'd answer these myself.

- How did you learn programming? Were any schools of any use? Or maybe you didn’t even bother with ending any schools :) ?

I first learned to program by reading a brochure on an HP-25 calculator which had a program for something, maybe parametrically plotting a circle. Later, as a college student I owned an HP-25 and later HP-25C, calculators and learned to program them. I also took FORTRAN and a number of other programming classes in undergraduate school.

- What do you think is the most important skill every programmer should posses?

I think it's the ability to figure out an algorithm for solving a problem, then converting that algorithm into a program. Over time, one builds up a collection of learned algorithms which can be applied over and over.

I also think being able to break a problem into manageable chunks is important.

- Do you think mathematics and/or physics are an important skill for a programmer? Why?

I personally think both are since almost all of my education is in physics with the accompanying math. I use them both on a regular basis in my work. Solving systems problems is very often a matter of collecting and analyzing data. Knowing how to manipulate data, and plot it, and how to do things like integrate over particular variables, etc., are important in getting to a picture of what's going on.

- What do you think will be the next big thing in computer programming? X-oriented programming, y language, quantum computers, what?

I think computers may change in a very fundamental way, in the way the personal computer somewhat changed our world. I'm not sure what the next thing will be, but I suspect it will have to do with being small, portable and ubiquitous. Cell phones, MP3 players, PDAs and UMPCs all seem to be sort of moving toward something. I think what they are moving toward may be the next big thing.

In actual programming itself, I'm not sure. OO programming was a major shift in how to think about things for me. Something along that line would be big but I'm not sure what it would be. Some new paradigm.

- If you had three months to learn one relativly new technology, which one would You choose?

I might learn more about the world of Java and the endless variety of tools that surround it.

- What do you think makes some programmers 10 or 100 times more productive than others?

I'm not sure about this, really. Probably things like having a good set of patterns in their head that they can draw on, familiarity with a number of tools, knowing their environment and tools well—being skillful at using them. Having good collections (libraries) of reusable code!

Once you have all of these things in place, you can assemble new programs by just putting the pieces together and you can do it reliably and quickly.

- What are your favourite tools (operating system, programming/scripting language, text editor, version control system, shell, database engine, other tools you can’t live without) and why do you like them more than others?

  • OS: UNIX, Linux, currently Ubuntu
  • Programming lang: Perl
  • Scripting lang: Perl
  • Text editor: GNU Emacs
  • Shell: Bash
  • dB: MySQL
Ubuntu gets the desktop right and it's built on Linux which is a form of UNIX. I've never enjoyed a programming language as much as object-oriented Perl. GNU Emacs is the most wonderful editor.

- What is your favourite book related to computer programming?

The book that probably had the greatest impact on me was Niklaus Wirth's original book on Pascal, User Manual and Report. I fell in love with Pascal reading that book, and with structured programming in general. Years later, Turbo Pascal on an early PC was a wonderful programming environment.

Another book that had a great effect on me and my career was Kernighan and Ritchie's C book. I actually read it twice before ever writing a C program, because I didn't have access to a UNIX system or C compiler.

- What is Your favourite book NOT related to computer programming?

There are many. I always liked 2001: A Space Odyssey.

- What are your favourite music bands/performers/compositors?

I like all kinds of music ranging from classical to jazz to progressive and popular rock and pop music. My favorite band of all time is Emerson, Lake and Palmer. I also like Pink Floyd and Yes, the great progressive rock bands of the 70s. In the classical genre, my favorite is Baroque music, e.g., J.S. Bach as composer. Also Aaron Copeland. Many, many others.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Free Technical Books Online

I found the below Java Intro book via a web site that has Free technical books online!!

Introduction to Computers, Programming and Java

Here's a free intro to programming and Java online:

What I read was pretty well done. This is written as an introduction for an undergraduate class for non CS majors (I believe). I have some doubts about starting right into object-oriented programing and about using Java as a first language. However, I'm sure that Java is a better choice than C or C++!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Emergency in Apex, NC

Okay, there was a very serious fire and cloud containing chlorine in Apex, NC forcing evacuations earlier this morning. However, is it just me or is there something terrribly wrong going on here…

“Authorities had to move their command post three times to get downwind of the explosions and gas plume.”

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Holy Hand Grenade

Dano's newsletter quotes are always entertaining. From Monty Python and the Holy Grail...

Arthur: [holding the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch] How does it, um-- how does it work?

Launcelot: I know not, my liege.

Arthur: Consult the Book of Armaments!

Brother Maynard: Armaments, chapter two, verses nine to twenty-one.

Cleric: And Saint Attila raised the hand grenade up on high, saying, 'O Lord, bless this Thy hand grenade that, with it, Thou mayest blow Thine enemies to tiny bits in Thy mercy.'

And the Lord did grin, and the people did feast upon the lambs and sloths and carp and anchovies and orangutans and breakfast cereals and fruit bats and large chu--

Brother Maynard: Skip a bit, Brother.

Cleric: And the Lord spake, saying, 'First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then, shalt thou count to three. No more. No less. Three shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, nor either count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once at the number three, being the third number be reached, then, lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it.'

Brother Maynard: Amen.

Knights: Amen.

Arthur: Right! One!... Two!... Five!

Galahad: Three, sir!

Arthur: Three!

History of Apple, NeXT and OS X

I'm almost surprised at how many folks have never heard of NeXT and how many (particularly Mac fans) are oblivious to the exsistance of NeXTSTEP roots in OS X. To us old-timers, logging into a modern Mac is just like being right there back in 1991 on a NeXT machine.

Here's a nicely written, brief history of the evolution of Apple, NeXT, and OS X and how they all tie together. One minor warning: This is really a commercial for a book. Since I was a witness (as a user) to all of this, it's good to see it explained reasonably well. This is just an overview, not a deep exploration of history.

Google Word Processor

I found the Google word processor. It's called Writely and is at (Actually it's another product purchased by Google).

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Wireless Hacking Computer


A small security firm has made a portable computer that is capable of scanning 300 networks simultaneously. Dubbed the "Janus Project", the computer also has a unique "Instant Off" switch that renders the captured data inaccessible.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

3-D Wiggle Pictures

After seeing a cool 3-D picture of a dinosaur made with a “wiggle effect”, and talking to Mike about it, I tried it with my cell phone and The Gimp on my office cube. Well, everthing takes practice I guess.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Lost Windows Admin Password?

If you lose the Windows admin password, here's one way to fix it (there are others) by making this bootable disk.

I think this works with XP (but I admit I haven't tried it).

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Autumnal Equinox

The autumnal equinox this year will be Saturday 23 Sep at 0:03 EDT.

History of Java

Hearing Gosling speak last night at Atlantic Station Regal Cinema inspired me to go back and read some of the history of how Java came to be. I think I've read much of this before, but parts of the story are still fascinating.

Here are some interesting excerpts from the last one on the birth of the Green project…
Thus, McNealy was more than ready to listen when a well-regarded 25-year-old programmer with only three years at the company told him he was quitting. Patrick Naughton played on McNealy's ice hockey team. Over beers, Naughton told McNealy that he was quitting to join NeXT Computer Inc., where, he said, “they're doing it right.” McNealy paused for a second then shrewdly asked Naughton a favor. “Before you go, write up what you think Sun is doing wrong. Don't just lay out the problem. Give me a solution. Tell me what you would do if you were God.”
Also this one on the development of their hand held prototype…

The team wanted a working box, small enough to hold, with batteries included. To build one, the members trotted out what they call “hammer technology”; as Naughton describes it, this involved finding “something that has a real cool ‘mumble’ (a neat piece of hardware). Then you hit it with a hammer, take the mumble off, and use it. We got a consumer-grade Sharp minitelevision, hit it with a hammer, and got an active-matrix color LCD. We put a resistive touch screen on the front, making sure there'd be no moving parts on the system, no buttons, no power switches, nothing,” Naughton explains. The team then wanted to add stereo speakers inside, but couldn't find any to fit the case. “We went to Fry's and bought a dozen Game Boys, played like mad for about three hours, then broke them open—that's where the speakers came from.”

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Gosling on Solaris as Blunder

I found this to be an interesting excerpt from an interview of James Gosling by Eweek, in answer to the question “What would you say has been Sun's biggest blunder in terms of software?”.

As for blunders, boy, one of the ones that has always gotten under my skin is the whole BSD [Berkeley Software Distribution] versus [UNIX] System V Release 4 merge that we did. That marked the transition from SunOS to Solaris. That set our whole OS [operating system] story back like two or three years.

That was a really tough one to do. There were a variety of business reasons why we wanted to do it, but it was really hard for me to believe that the two or three years that it cost us were worthwhile.

But it's the kind of thing that at the time just felt really dumb. Now that we have a bunch of new perspective on that transition, it's worked out reasonably well. But also it sort of worked out to be somewhat pointless because the BSD side of the universe has survived pretty well, and the whole System V universe has pretty much died. And we were trying to make peace between those competing camps.

At some level what we didn't know was one of those sides was going to die, and it was pretty hard to predict which side was going to die. So we tried to do this other grand, unique thing. And we mostly succeeded at that. But in retrospect technologically it was somewhat pointless, and we would probably have been ahead of where we are now. But interestingly we're still pretty far ahead. We lost a bunch of ground, but we gained a lot of ground.


I wasn't sure what a CAPE was, but I could tell from the units it was energy per unit mass of air. Here's a definition from typing “define:cape” into Google.
Convective available potential energy (CAPE) is the amount of energy a parcel of air would have if lifted a certain distance vertically through the atmosphere. CAPE is measured in joules per kilogram of air (J/kg). Any value greater than 0J/kg indicates instability, and the possibility of thunderstorms.

From today's weather forecast discussion:

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Analyzing 20k Passwords

This was an interesting article called Analyzing 20,000 MySpace Passwords where the author takes passwords from a site that collected them by phishing MySpace users. The author then analyzed the passwords and email hosts.

An interesting side effect of this was seeing what email service people used which resulted in the above plot.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Zoho Word Processor

In a recent review (which, alas, I can't find the reference to, but I read it via Digg) of AJAX office applications, Google's Gmail, Notebook and Spreadsheets received the highest marks.

However, the best of breed word processor was Zoho Writer. Try it out, it's amazingly capable! The main thing I noticed so far, is that it seems to be geared toward producing HTML more than printed pages. Maybe I haven't tried it enough.

The Steves

Jobs and Wozniak in 1976. This is from Silver Mac.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Quote for the Day

From today's AWAD:

The nice thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from.

—Andrew Tannenbaum,
computer science professor (1944– )

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Rocket Plane Racing !?

Flash Gordon is real.

While reading the new Tech Topics Ga Tech alumni magazine this morning I learned that there are companies like XCOR who are making commercial rocket planes! Yes, their intention is to use them for suborbital flights. And they also race them in the Rocket Racing League! Here's a cool video of a plane.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Holographic Poster from Terminator 2

Okay, this is just cool: a holographic poster from Terminator 2.

Google Revealed

Information Week has an interesting article, Google Revealed: The IT Strategy that makes it work. It includes interesting side bar articles as well.

Google has between 200,000 and 450,000 servers spread among up to 65 data centers, depending on how you define them and who's doing the counting. And those numbers continue to rise.

Google organizes its machines, which run Linux, into ‘cells,’ which DiBona describes as a kind of disk drive for Internet services. (Not to be confused with Gdrive, the long-rumored Google hosted storage service. ‘There is no Gdrive,’ a spokeswoman insists.) Software programs reside on racks of inexpensive computers, and programmers decide how much redundancy to give them. The cells take the place of commercial storage equipment; DiBona says Google's cells are cheaper to create and maintain, and he hints they can handle more data, too.

(The underline/bold is mine).

Top 500

The Top 500 is a web site and project that...

The TOP500 project was started in 1993 to provide a reliable basis for tracking and detecting trends in high-performance computing. Twice a year, a list of the sites operating the 500 most powerful computer systems is assembled and released. The best performance on the Linpack benchmark is used as performance measure for ranking the computer systems. The list contains a variety of information including the system specifications and its major application areas.
Here's The Current June 2006 List of top 500.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Freenigma Encryption Plug-in for Gmail!

Here's a GPG-based encryption plugin for Gmail (and others) from Freenigma!

Equinix Co-Location Center Tour on Cnet

This is an interesting “tour” of a data center belonging to Equinix. The article and tour make it sound like all Internet companies use Equinix for their data storage, etc., but I don't believe that is true. What is probably true is that this is one of the data center co-location providers that many of them use.

The tour spends most of it's time focusing on power, and touches a tiny bit on cooling and security. It doesn't mention networking at all, etc.

Still, it's interesting if you aren't familiar with facilities like this, and entertaining if you are.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Amazon S3

I guess I'm behind or not paying enough attention. I didn't really know about Amazon S3 from Amazon Web Services. Actually I vaguely recall pointers and news notes, but didn't follow up on them.

So that makes one wonder, does Google plan to offer a similar form of web storage? It didn't take much searching to turn up rumors of GDrive:

Whoa! Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2)

Get a cluster of Linux servers from Amazon, on the fly, as needed. This is amazing! The cost is 10 cents per machine-instance hour!
You have complete control of your instances. You have root access to each one, and you can interact with them as you would any machine. Each instance predictably provides the equivalent of a system with a 1.7Ghz Xeon CPU, 1.75GB of RAM, 160GB of local disk, and 250Mb/s of network bandwidth.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Nice IBRIX Document

Since we are looking at the IBRIX file system for the new HPCC (high performance computing cluster), here's a nice document from HP on IBRIX.

Monday, August 14, 2006

OpenSSH Key Management

Here is a set of three articles which do a decent job of explaining OpenSSH and key management.

How Does SecureID Work?

Here's one explanation I found which seems adequate.

This was posted on Firewall Wizards, in the archive, by Vin McLellan (

Glad to help. All versions of the SecurID use RSA's patented
technology to synchronize the use of Current Time in a SecurID token and its remote authentication server, what RSA calls the ACE/Server. (Typically, as you know, the link between the token-holder and the ACE/Server is through an intermediary -- an ACE/Agent or RADIUS agent -- which intercepts an authentication call and relays it to the ACE/Server for processing.)

The classic SecurID, for 15 years, used a proprietary algorithm to hash a token-specific 64-bit seed and Current Time. The new SecurID -- introduced at the beginning of 2003 -- uses the AES block cipher, in standard ECB mode, to hash:

- a 128-bit token-specific true-random seed,
- a 64-bit standard ISO representation of Current Time
- a 32-bit token-specific salt (the serial number of the token), and
- another 32 bits of padding, which can be adapted for new functions or additional defensive layers in the future.

Conflated and hashed by the AES, these inputs generate the series of 6-8 digit (or alphanumeric) token-codes that are continuous displayed on the SecurID's LCD, rolling over every 60 seconds. (The standard mode of use, as you know, requires two-factor authentication: the token-holder is required to provide both a SecurID token-code and a user-memorized PIN to the remote ACE/Server.)

ECB mode in AES is executed on 128-bit blocks, of course, so it is obvious that RSA had to pad the standard 64-bit expression of Current Time with another 64 bits. Using a token-specific salt blocks any attempt to pre-calculate a library of possible token-codes for all 128-bit seeds. That means that any brute-force attack on the AES SecurIDs would have be focused on a particular token.

Friday, August 11, 2006


When someone asked me a question about udev the other day, I realized I didn't know much about it. I had recently finished the Linux kernel driver book so I thought I should have remembered something. Looking back at the book, I found that the book predates udev and so I really hadn't read anything about it (other than references at LWN and such).

So I went to the udev web site and read the OSL 2003 paper (pdf), which explains udev nicely. I strongly recommend reading it!

IBM PC Birthday

The IBM PC is 25 years old on 12 Aug 2006. Remember how the lowest-end models came with a cassette player interface (for saving programs onto tape) and booted directly into BASIC. You could get one or two 5.25-in floppy disk drives which, I'm sure, is how most models were sold.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

MP3s in my Car

Okay, it's probably a sign of age but walking around with permanent ear buds is something I just can't get into. Maybe I'll get there some day or maybe not.

I listen to music in mainly two environments: (1) at my desk (home and office) and (2) while driving. The first of those has been well taken care of for a long time. It's the second one that's the problem now. I'd really like to avoid carrying around CDs in the car, even copies of my CDs, so that's where I need an MP3 player.

Thus my real question is, why do I need a cassette adapter (which isn't an option since my car only has a CD player) or FM transmitter (which I haven't read anything good about)? Why can't I just adapt an MP3 player directly to my car system? All MP3 players have line-level outputs and I'm sure my car has line-level inputs. In fact my car has an auxiliary input for a CD changer and an AX (aux) button on the panel.

Well, I just came across this site,, which looks promising.

TV Interview with Mark Shuttleworth

Here's a TV interview with Mark Shuttleworth. Oh, he's the creator of Ubuntu.

What is Space?

Over the years I've observed that people are often confused about how space and astronomy are used as categories. Obviously they are related and pretty much overlap. However, in popular usage, they refer to fairly different things.

Space is a place you go. It describes an enviroment and is occupied by an industry, mostly government-based, that involves engineering, rockets, satellites, spacecraft, and such.

Astronomy is a science. It's the study of things above the earth's atmosphere (well, okay, things in space). Astronomy involves scientists, telescopes and observatories, theories, data and computer programs.

You could make a good case for the distinction being artificial, but it is real. Space and astronomy involve two very different cultures, in the same way that physics and astronomy are two different cultures, although most astronomy is physics.

James Van Allen

(Dr. William Pickering (director of JPL), Dr. James Van Allen, and Dr. Wernher von Braun holding up an Explorer 1 model, the first successful satellite launched by the US on 31 Jan 1958).

James Van Allen dies at age 91. One of the original space pioneers, his Van Allen Belts were big news about space when I was in elementary school.

I didn't realize his involvement in the International Geophysical Year (1957) which the NYT article says was “born in his living room in Silver Spring, Md,” in 1950.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Curt told me about this cool web site,, which links to and allows users to rate tech-type articles. The voting/rating system makes this a very interesting resource for reading.

They say
Digg is all about user powered content. Every article on digg is submitted and voted on by the digg community. Share, discover, bookmark, and promote the news that's important to you!
Fascinating idea!

Arizona Highways Photography

Wow!! Amazing photos are at Arizona Highways. I found this while reading this interesting article on digital camera resolution.

Blackjack! ...21 Years

I missed it! Yesterday was my anniversary of 21 years at Emory. I'm not sure what to think about that…

Hello Ubuntu, Good-bye Red Hat?

In his article, Why Red Hat will go bust because of Ubuntu, Tony Mobily predicts the demise of the Microsoft of Linux. Discussion is on Slashdot. His story tracks my own experience precisely.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


According to Clark Howard the sweet spot for HDTVs will be 32-in LCD at $500 this Christmas. All technologies (Plasma, DLP) will be under $1000 by then. Expect 32-in LCDs to be around $200 by the following Christmas (2007).

He also advises not to by hi-def DVD players for at least another year.

Friday, July 28, 2006

MP3 Player

We got one of our teenagers an MP3 player for her birthday. Based on reviews and such, I'm pretty excited about this one. It's the SanDisk Sansa e250. The price wasn't outrageous and the functionality is just right.

Navigation is with a mechanical wheel, four buttons and a center button. It has the requisite blue LED lighting effects which looks (the requisite) cool. The screen is large, nicely hi-res and bright. A battery charge is claimed to last about 20 hours. It has a built-in FM radio (which you can record from of course), video player, and picture viewer. You have to convert video and images into a special format before loading them onto the player. It works with WMV and MP3 files (and many others through conversion), and it's compatible with subscription services like Yahoo and Napster. It's nicely small but very cool. Also the plastic front is said by reviewers to be a much harder plastic than that used by ipods and others which scratch easily. The back is metal.

You can change the modes it uses when plugging it in so it either talks to Windows Media Player or it just looks like a USB disk/memory device. I used the latter mode, plugged it into an Ubuntu machine and the mounted disk popped up on the desktop. It was trivially simple to drop music folders into it. (You can include album-cover art, too, but those images have to be converted as mentioned above). When you unmount the USB device it rebuilds it's music database automatically. It also recharges via the USB connector.

What I really like is that there's a microSD slot so you can add more memory (we got the 2-GB version but there are 4-GB and 6-GB). As microSD's get larger this provides a way to grow the player's capacity. Also, and this is very important to me, the Li-Ion battery is user-replaceable!

The main problem now is everyone in my house wants one instead of the lower-cost MP3 players they have now. My problem is that I'm last in the line for MP3 players, probably after the dog…

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Kernel Vulnerability

Ack! Watch out for this Linux kernel vulnerability.

From Debian:

Kernel vulnerability

The kernel vulnerability that has been used for this compromise is referenced as CVE-2006-2451. It only exists in the Linux kernel 2.6.13 up to versions before, and 2.6.16 before The bug allows a local user to gain root privileges via the PR_SET_DUMPABLE argument of the prctl function and a program that causes a core dump file to be created in a directory for which the user does not have permissions.

The current stable release, Debian GNU/Linux 3.1 alias 'sarge', contains Linux 2.6.8 and is thus not affected by this problem. The compromised server ran Linux

If you run Linux 2.6.13 up to versions before, or Linux 2.6.16 up to versions before, please update your kernel immediately.

Here are some postings at LWN starting on 13 July. The discussion revolves around this vulnerability being labeled as leading to a DoS attack but, in fact, it's a root vulnerability.

Ubuntu closed this pretty quickly.

More on MySpace

Another note on the MySpace outage.

Monday, July 24, 2006

New Google Site

A Cnet reporter finds Google's new site (physical, not web).

Note the MASSIVE COOLING equipment on top of each building.

MySpace Outage

I read about the MySpace outage on Slashdot this morning. Here's some additional information.

Cursor Kite

Curt showed me this page about a cursor kite! 8-)

Running Dapper Drake

I did it last week. I installed an Ubuntu 6.06 Dapper Drake instance on my main workstation (which is a Fryes GQPC ($170)). I started using it and haven't gone back to the Hoary Hedgehog (Ubuntu 5.04).

To get it all working required setting up some details, things like copying over my book marks from Firefox and address book from Thunderbird.

One thing I had a terrible time with was getting a file manager icon on the top icon bar. On Hoary it was an app called File Manager and it was simple to add. On Dapper it's actually Nautilus and I finally had to create a customer app launcher to put it there. The binary is nautilus.

Another annoyance from this morning is that, when in Firefox and I Save Image..., Firefox insisted on saving a PNG image as a .cgi file. That's a little messed up and different from the behaviour of Firefox on Hoary. I'm sure it's a trivial fix and it might be a decision vs. just an oversight of some sort, but I won't take the time to dig down into what's going on.

Bill Vass on Virtualization

In a recent email from Sun, here are comments by Bill Vass on virtualization and grid computing. They serve as a very high-level, “executive summary” on the topics.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Future of Computing

From Slashdot,
Penn State computer science professor Max Fomitchev explains that computing has evolved in a spiral pattern from a centralized model to a distributed model that retains some aspects of centralized computing. Single-task PC operating systems (OSes) evolved into multitasking OSes to make the most of increasing CPU power, and the introduction of the graphical user interface at the same time reduced CPU performance and fueled demands for even more efficiencies.

“The role of CPU performance is definitely waning, and if a radical new technology fails to materialize quickly we will be compelled to write more efficient code for power consumption costs and reasons,” Fomitchev writes.

Slow, bloated software entails higher costs in terms of both direct and indirect power consumption, and the author reasons that code optimization will likely involve the replacement of blade server racks with microblade server racks where every microblade executes a dedicated task and thus eats up less power. The collective number of microblades should also far outnumber initial “macro” blades.

Fully isolating software components should enhance the system's robustness thanks to the potential of real-time component hot-swap or upgrade and the total removal of software installation, implementation, and patch conflicts. The likelihood of this happening is reliant on the factor of energy costs, which directly feeds into the factor of code optimization efficiency.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Amazing Space Shuttle Videos

Seth sends this link to amazing video. This one is forward looking (basically up along the shuttle during launch). It's also interesting because, after spashdown, you are looking down into the water and under water where you can see the parachute.
Subject: STS-121 Discovery -- Space Shuttle Mission
Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2006 09:24:22 -0400

Booster cam on the recent shuttle launch. Somewhere past 3 minutes, the booster separates and falls back to earth.
Sometime around 6.30 minutes, the chute stabilzes the descent and at 7.30 minutes the booster hits the water.

Curt also sends this link. This video is backward-facing so you can see the trail and water during the ascent and you are looking down at the clouds and water during the descent. This is what it would be like to ride on the outside of the shuttle!
REAL Video- 12+ mins


1:00 launch
1:30 Good view of Cape
3:00 SRB sep & tumble (blue, black, blue, black...)
5:30 Parachute must've deployed (no more black--all blue)
7:30 splash
These are additional videos pointed to in Curt's note.
Launch, SRB sep, descent, splashdown

7/4/2006 launch

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

TSM on FC5

Hah! I finally got dsmc for TSM to run on Fedora Core 5. Here's what I had to do to get the library it needed.

Dsmc was specifically looking for It turns out this library is in some compatibility rpms. Actually I'm not sure which one did the trick since I installed both, in this order.
  • compat-libstdc++-296.i386
  • compat-libstdc++-33.i386
I'm sure those are GCC version numbers, so it's almost certainly the second one that probably overwrote the first that fixed it, now that I look at this (as I write about it!).

What's New?

“Sea over llama.”

Monday, July 10, 2006

Dm-crypt LUKS Howto

What seems to be a straight-forward HOWTO for dm-crypt and LUKS.

Dmcrypt and Cryptmount

Looking at the links from Wikipedia, dm-crypt and cryptmount look like interesting, current implementations.

More Disk Encryption

Wikipedia also has what appears to be a well-done article on disk encryption and software.

Cryptographic File Storage

Here's a bit of information on cryptographic storage.

This article at Security Focus has a nice intro and covers file encryption.

Here are some examples of so-called “volume encryptors”.
  • PGPDisk
  • Secure File System (SFS)
  • Linux CryptoAPI
  • ScramDisk
According to the above article, “Volume encryptors use the device driver layer to encrypt and decrypt information to and from a physical disk.”

Saturday, July 08, 2006

WX Via Google Search

Here's a Google tidbit. Search using the word weather and a city. For example:

weather Atlanta, GA

Friday, July 07, 2006

Real Self-Driving Love Bug

Okay, here it is! A self-driving car
On a race circuit, it drove itself faster and more precisely than the VW engineers could manage - and can accelerate independently up to its top speed of 150mph.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


When specifying the size of a device in bytes (for example) typically we see a number, we'll call it P here, and a symbol K, M, G or T (and there are more). The problem is that folks allow their definitions of the above symbols to vary.

The actual number of bytes (or whatever) will be represented by N.

Generally, all possible meanings can unfortunately be expressed by:

N = 103n 210m P

where n + m = k.

For the symbols, k has the following values.

K k = 1
M k = 2
G k = 3
T k = 4

Hopefully, n = 0 and m = k but, sadly, that frequently isn't the case.

I think the best and most unambiguous solution is n = m = k = 0 and N = P!