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Archive for August, 2011

Topic Exhaustion

There is this thing about blogging which almost everyone who blogs has experienced at one stage, especially after blogging a lot (in the past 5 years I wrote over 15,000 blog posts). There is an understandable reluctance to write about something which was covered before and can therefore be addressed by linkage, unless things have changed considerably since it was written (in most cases, linkage with a small corrective remark would do). When that phase is reached, one tends to observe the news and look for new material to ‘feed on’, so to speak (putting it crudely).

This blog had published about 1,000 posts before I started writing in another blog (the main blog I write for is still Techrights). My personal life and tricks for management of work are already thoroughly covered here (available through the archives) and other bloggers seem to have followed similar trajectories because other people care about events and ideas, not people. Once there is an exhaustion of subjects to write about regarding one’s life, a writer would naturally write about his/her surroundings. Making critical assessments of different things in the world does not take much effort, but it does take perseverance. There is usually little or no incentive in it. So what is it that motivates people to read the news and remark on it? Sheer boredom or media hype? Whatever it is, the more the issues are brought up, the more a person is likely to become emotionally attached to them and then seek a solution. At the moment my goal is to help abolish software patents. There is never a lack of work to be done in this area and progress is always made towards attaining this goal.

Have topics been exhausted then? Never.

Social Networks/Content Hosting Always Evolved

Back in the days, people created Geocities-hosted Web sites. Well, Yahoo! has axed it, shortly after getting abducted by Microsoft in fact, so Geocities is no more (although many sites similar to it still exist). I created my site there in 1997/1998 and a few years later I got interested in Open Diary, which in some sense resembles Live Journal. Further down the line there was the phenomenon of blogging, which started in particular sites like Blogspot and Blogger, among many more (some of them are not surviving well). Free software like B2 and WordPress soon filled a gap and enabled more and more people to take control of their blogging platform and also register their own sites for the purpose. Around the same time, sites like MySpace grew, but they soon perished mostly because of competition which included an extension to ‘people-indexing’ services (resembling classmates reunion sites). Facebook was prominent among those. For news and discussion people had Digg, Reddit, and several more large sites, Many experiments emulating the above failed miserably for reasons that would require a separate long post. Later on, in recent years, celebrities joined Twitter and helped it grow very quickly, along with Free software clones such as Identi.ca. What joins together many of those services and pieces of Free software one can download to substitute the hosted prison is that they provide people with a place to express themselves and also find out what others are thinking. The thoughts of others are sometimes expressed by citation (news) or multimedia. It all helps weaken the cetralisation of so-called ‘mass media’ and it empowers people. This is one of the better achievements of the Web — that alongside wikis such as Wikipedia, but that’s another category of sites and a subject for another day.

People’s blogs have become somewhat less active and more people choose to post material under other people’s platform (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on). Journalists too failed to evolve (for the most part) and their occupation dying, mostly to be replaced by PR. One has to transition constantly. The world today is inventing and progressing faster than ever before, especially on the Web which is relatively new.

Caught Up and Running a Server at Home

FINALLY, after nearly a week since taking and returning from a break, I received the server I have been waiting for. It arrived on Monday afternoon and today I finished configuring it, running alongside the triple-head workstation which I will use to do computer vision jobs and other development/admin work. The research requires a lot of screen space and sometimes the RAM/CPUload goes rather high, which helps not at all unless there is a second motherboard at hand (and a fallback machine.

Triple-head setup

The server and the stereo beneath the lefthand screen

Triple-head setup

Frontal view

Triple-head setup

Over the shoulder

At Times of Unrest

The United Kingdom has come under a wave of violence. For those who are living under a rock, financial markets all around the world are trembling yet again, just like in October of 2008. A stampede-like motion away from the markets in every country characterises this seemingly-irreversible trend. Here in Manchester we don’t have riots, quite surprisingly in fact as Birmingham and Liverpool joined London in this insanity which is violence against the state. Whether it relates to the markets or not is irrelevant but these two issues are concurrent and there is an atmosphere of emergency here. Even parliament is scrambling to do something. Those whose property got vandalised or looted soon realise that this crisis affects also those who are part of the workforces and are outside the stock market. In a society which is not civilised this becomes just collateral damage and in days to come it will become a little clearer whether those riots are a temporary nuisance (they do not have goals, it is not a protest) and whether the stock markets are poised to suffer the second large dip which mirrors what happened 3 years after the events acting as a precursor to the great depression (1929 was the market crash, but it took a few years more for a total collapse).

People’s greed and endless sense of endless entitlement has had them assume that they can take crazy loans and/or offer crazy loans (the bankers). Now we pay the price for decades of deregulation. In some ways, the so-called ‘stimulus’ (bailout) of 2008 may have made things worse because it assured that the inevitable conclusion would be more severe. But it gave bankers another 3 years to hoard bonuses.

GNU/Linux on the Server Side Helps ‘Desktop Linux’

The Network Effect in action

Network spheres

The myths about “desktop Linux” are mostly associated and tied to “easy of use”. Many people, mostly ones with next to zero experience when it comes to GNU/Linux, have blindly decided that the slow growth of GNOME and KDE is due to an inherent problem other than marketing. But perceptions are changing when people discover that they are surrounded by GNU/Linux, even if their own client machine does not run a Free/libre operating system.

Whenever I perform scientific experiments, I entirely separate my work machine from the computational machines, which are dedicated to a particular task and are optimised for uptime, resilience, and good memory management. These machines exclusively run GNU/Linux, for technical reasons of course. In addition, soon enough one of the Windows clusters will be converted into dual-boot, permitting even more computational power to be amassed from remote nodes, provided one is not a Windows drone. In this modern age when just about any large cluster or computational server runs GNU/Linux, what can a Windows or Mac OS X user do to justify a choice of non-homogeneous platforms, wherein there is basically disharmony and inconsistency between the back end (server) and the desktop/workstation? There is a time penalty associated with moving a program from a proprietary desktop environment to GNU/Linux at the back room. It is not surprising that more and more people in my field are moving to UNIX or Linux on their desktop.

To what extent might the rise of Android impact people’s feelings towards GNU/Linux on the desktop? It does seem like iPhone has already managed to persuade some users to replace a Windows desktop with an OS X desktop. I see examples of this all the time, although as proof it’s merely anecdotal, not statistical.

Radiation and Smoke in the Workplace

X-ray

Having discussed the subject with half a dozen people over the past week or so, it seems clear that the threat of radiation is underplayed by companies that make business out of it (X-ray for the most part, if not nuclear energy too). The crux of the argument is that, just as people are increasingly not allowed to smoke in pubs due to people who work there (not always out of choice), in places where radiation is abundant, e.g. scanning facilities in hospitals and airports, people’s right to deny and avoid exposure to radiation should be respected. In companies where CT scanners are tested, even software developers are required to be exposed to radiation (my siblings) and sign a sort of waiver that removes liability. In more and more airports not only suitcases are subjected to X-ray treatment but humans too; they are not even given alternative options, except not work (in the former case) or not fly (in the latter case). The attitude ought to change. As someone with doctoral qualifications in the area of medical imaging, I occasionally try to raise the issue (not confront) those who are victim of this status quo (e.g. hospital workers who spend hours in particular rooms and particular airport staff standing adjacent to high-power scanners), but it is not easy to reach a solution which does not leave both sides with relative discomfort.

The solution one might propose here is a legal requirement for companies to bear full liability in case staff develops cancer (tumours that can be shown to have their causality within the workplace) and people who enter X-ray scanners should be both advised/alerted and also require to sign a form of waiver in case an X-ray-free gate is not made available at an airport (like in Manchester Airport). It is bad enough that the problems with cellphones are de-emphasised; here we talk about modalities whose effect is orders of magnitude higher and in late 2009 a study was published in a respected journal having managed to show the correlation between CT and cancer to be far greater than previously stated, possibly in industry-funded studies.

The GE-owned MSNBC used to tell us how wonderful and safe nuclear energy was. That was before the GE-designed Fukushima facility suffered a disaster that would probably kill hundreds of thousands, over time, with agony.

People used to think smoking was harmless. People used to smoke in places where non-smokers were the majority. Why is radiation still treated differently?

Last Time in My 20s

Roy

I am well past my prime time (shown in the linked post is 2005, even though the prime was around 2002 when I was 20), but while I’m still in my 20s I manage to find time to do exercise, currently with a folding keyboard and a PDA on my lap (between sets). The above photo is days old and it is totally unedited (taken with an iPhone). Since I never took illegal substances like steroids it might not impress those who are accustomed to seeing so-called ‘body builders’ (where the name of the game is consuming as much/many steroids as humanly possible before passing out or passing away). Anyway, the above was the first time in 6 years that I took photos of myself flexing muscles and it may be the last time before I’m in my 30s. I will never exceed in terms of strength or stamina what I reached at age 20 not just because of physical limitations that accompany ageing but also the excess amount of time spent on the computer and other activities. Diet too has gotten a lot worse, but there will always be the memories.

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