March 29, 2008

Earth Hour haters strikes back

Earth Hour was today at 8pm. I turned the lights off, and happily gamed away in the dark. Not many people appreciate the point of Earth Hour, one of them is Tim Blair. I came across his "opinion" page in the paper today. I have to say it is one the more short sighted, idiotic, and crass piece of "journalism" I have ever read.



Tim thinks that lights makes "makes dangerous places safe." That is true, to a point. Flooding an area with light just creates deeper and more numerous shadows for criminals to hide in, and also make their evil doing easier when no one is looking. Earth Hour isn't against lighting, its against the overuse of lighting. Tim Doesn't Get It.



Tim complained that USYD was closing streets so they can turn off the lighting for those streets. He argues that if you can't use those streets safely in the dark, then the lights are essential and shouldn't be turned off, and somehow USYD is sacrificing safety for Earth Hour. The problem with this argument, is that there are a hundred different ways to get from A to B inside USYD. Tim doesn't seem to knows this and we must forgive him - he probably never been to USYD. Now if you have a hundred ways to get from A to B, do you (a) light every single one of them or (b) light the main thoroughfares which most efficiently utilises light? Tim would have us choose (a), while USYD and Earth Hour chose and advocated (b). Tim Doesn't Get It, and we need to forgive him - he is probably scared of the dark still.



Tim asserts that Earth Hour is against progress and freedom. He thinks that Earth Hour is against the technology that lets us have electric lighting, and thus against technological progress. And since Earth Hour is apparently somehow forcing everyone to do its bidding, its freedom. Tim must be a card carrying, foil underwear wearing, paranoid conspiracy theorist to be able to draw conclusions like this. I will just repeat again that Earth Hour isn't against lighting, but against overuse of lighting. Tim Doesn't Get It.



Tim reckons the symbolism of Earth Hour is empty and meaningless. For an apathetic like him, I would say everything is empty and meaningless. The kids who ran past my house yelling at my neighbours to turn their lights off though, well Earth Hour means plenty to them. The point is to raise awareness of the fact that 1. we don't need so many lights to get by 2. night and darkness isn't something to be afraid of. Evolution has taught us the night is dangerous, and light is good. But we are no longer living in the wild amongst tigers and leopards and other fear some creatures. How about we embrace our environment and the beauty of heavens? Over come your fear of the dark Tim, and I checked under your bed: no Swedish nurses, werewolves, Milton Orkopoulos or a prowling moonlight delegation from the Wollongong ALP. Really.



At this point I confess, I am tired of Tim's feculent words. He likens Cate Blanchett's theatre to the Scary Countries (read China and Cuba, apparently Tim is stuck in 80s where these countries are still boggy ean), and then accuses wax companies of setting up Earth Hour so they can sell more wax. You can read his tirade yourself, but don't say I didn't warn you.




Cheers,

Steve

March 28, 2008

eeepc, likes and dislikes

Likes:



  • nice and small

  • all the hardware works, including sleep/suspend

  • runs debian based OS by default

  • can run an external monitor at decent resolution



Dislikes:


  • uses fastinit which only boots into single user mode, so user "user" is always logged in. Endless frustration playing with X11 startup in vain to get a multiuser login screen
  • when kmixer shows a speaker with a cross on top, it means built in speakers will be used. When it is a speaker with no cross on top, it means headphone jack will be used. Talk about counter-intuitive.

  • keyboard truly sucks



Cheers,

Steve

March 15, 2008

esd and esdrec under OS X Leopard

If you try to use esdrec under OS X, you will find it will simply exit with the following printed to stdout:


usage: program_name [address][:port]

The reason for this is because libesd checks for ipv6 capabilities and if it is present will use it. It prints the above message when it can not connect to the specified host via ipv6. Strangely enough, the default host is "localhost" which is just another name for the ipv4 address of 127.0.0.1. The solution is then to tell esd to bind to ::1 and to tell libesd explicitly to connect to ::1 as well. Thus you need the following:



esd -tcp -bind ::1 &

esdrec -s ::1 | <whatever>



Cheers,

Steve

March 10, 2008

Cyberpunk - get it right damn it

I have been reading the Whole Wide World, and I am finding it difficult. It is not that the plot is boring or the characters uninteresting, it is the mere fact the author gets the technology wrong. It means I can cruise along with the main character, immersed in the world for a few pages, and then bang! A technical mistake strikes you between the eyes and you are left reeling, wondering why the author hates you so.



A good example of this, is when the author writes all the links are returning 404 because the server has been trashed. But 404 is an error code sent by the server!??!#$@$%@#$^@$%& Is it really so difficult for a publisher to get someone who has an ounce of clue to proof read these cyberpunk novels before hand?



Errors like these are excused in movie because of the medium, but in books I really really can't accept them with the same zen like calm and detachment and allows me to enjoy movie riddled with 3D graphics and large text boxes saying "ACCESS DENIED". So please for the love of god and the cyberpunk genre, get a clue about the subculture and technologies behind the Internet before setting a story in it. The cyberpunk genre deserves as much attention to detail as historical fiction and hard science fiction (diamond hard, like Schild's Ladder by Greg Egan), so please give its due and allow readers like myself enjoy a smooth satisfying ride.




Cheers,

Steve

March 02, 2008

Science, its not part of economics

The Australia 2020 summit is a great idea, but at the same time it goes to show why Australia isn't a great country for developing revolutionary technologies or making breakthroughs in science. There are 10 special interest groups in australia2020, and not one of them dedicated to Science/Technology. Sure it is within the scope of the Economics interest group, but only in the context of keeping and attracting highly skilled people - and throwing more money at them, the economics solution, isn't going to cut it.



This illustrates a fundamental problem within Australia - the economics driven agenda. We are not willing to do science for science's sake, nor develop technology which don't yield economic returns. Our universities are ran like businesses, responding to what business of today want, not what the world of tomorrow demands. As a result, most of what we do is refine current methods and ideas to increase the bottom line. Short term economic gain rules our thinking, blinding us to the shining prospects in the future.



No one body can be blamed for this. It is a fundamental attitude that needs to be changed from the bottom-up. Our government and universities needs to fund projects and courses that are revolutionary, support educators who are willing to explore new ideas and directions, and not merely respond to economics developments around the world, but act decisively to anticipate future trends.



An example of anticipating the future is MIT's Centre for Bits and Atoms. They are not reacting to the digital divide, but anticipating that it will heal itself and acting to anticipate a future where everyone has access to the internet and what it means for personal fabrication. To this end they have facilitated the development of fab-labs where one can make almost anything by manufacturing custom parts in one-off quantities. This is the kind of revolutionary technology Australia needs to nurture and develop in order to become a country to scientists flock.



Until then, we can only hope that those chosen for the economics specialty group realise this also, and push for an Australia whose science and technology centres are places where the future is built, not just places to making better mouse traps.



Cheers,

Steve