The Lumber Room

"Consign them to dust and damp by way of preserving them"

Archive for October 2007

Does RMS have a Gmail account?

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Random funny image I remember saving from ages ago:

screenshot-gmail-rms

Google wants me to “Invite Richard to Gmail”.

Written by S

Tue, 2007-10-30 at 07:38:02 +05:30

Posted in funny

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My “megabyte” rant

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Read this.

Quoting from the NIST site:

Once upon a time, computer professionals noticed that 2^10 was very nearly equal to 1000 and started using the SI prefix “kilo-” to mean 1024. That worked well enough for a decade or two because everybody who talked kilobytes knew that the term implied 1024 bytes. But, almost overnight a much more numerous “everybody” bought computers, and the trade computer professionals needed to talk to physicists and engineers and even to ordinary people, most of whom know that a kilometer is 1000 meters and a kilogram is 1000 grams.

Then data storage for gigabytes, and even terabytes, became practical, and the storage devices were not constructed on binary trees, which meant that, for many practical purposes, binary arithmetic was less convenient than decimal arithmetic. The result is that today nobody knows what a megabyte is. When discussing computer memory, most manufacturers use megabyte to mean 2^20 = 1 048 576 bytes, but the manufacturers of computer storage devices usually use the term to mean 1 000 000 bytes. Some designers of local area networks have used megabit per second to mean 1 048 576 bit/s, but all telecommunications engineers use it to mean 10^6 bit/s. And if two definitions of the megabyte are not enough, a third megabyte of 1 024 000 bytes is the megabyte used to format the familiar 90 mm (3 1/2 inch), “1.44 MB” diskette. The confusion is real, as is the potential for incompatibility in standards and in implemented systems.

Really, please just read this.

Links:

  1. http://physics.nist.gov/cuu/Units/binary.html
  2. Mathew Somebody, A plea for sanity
  3. Markus Kuhn, Standardized units for use in information technology
  4. Wikipedia, Binary prefixes
  5. Pidgin, my tiny contribution :-)
  6. Random forum, my probably pointless contribution

Written by S

Tue, 2007-10-30 at 06:32:12 +05:30

The X-Y problem

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Here, here, here, and even (for now) on Wikipedia.

Written by S

Sat, 2007-10-27 at 02:26:42 +05:30

Bill Gates on Speech recognition: A history

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There’s a summary here, by Matthew Paul Thomas who wrote the famous 48 hours of Ubuntu list.

Written by S

Sat, 2007-10-27 at 01:21:28 +05:30

Gmail has IMAP!

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Finally. Many thought this would never happen.

And just like Free software usually, it seems to be the handiwork of someone scratching an itch.

Notes:

  • IMAP folders are Gmail labels. Gmail labels show up as folders in your client, and moving a message to a folder in your client simply adds that label in Gmail.
  • In particular, be careful creating folders, and avoid making a mess. Try reusing the default Gmail labels: Set your client’s drafts folder to “[Gmail]/Drafts”.
  • Messages with multiple labels appear in each of those folders. So there is some duplication at the client end, of course, but this is unavoidable; the price you pay for forcing a tagging philosophy on software that has different beliefs.
  • Conversely, if you want to apply multiple labels to a message through your client, you can use the “poor man’s tagging” that has always been possible — copy the message to each of those folders.
  • If you delete a message from a “folder” (other than “[Gmail]/Trash” and “[Gmail]/Spam”), Gmail only removes that label. It is still present in “All Mail”. To actually delete, move to “[Gmail]/Trash”. What happens if you delete email from “All mail”?
  • Recommended IMAP client settings: Don’t save sent messages on the server; any mail sent through gmail’s smtp is automatically copied to “[Gmail]/Sent Mail” folder.
  • In general, actions sync neatly; see the full table.
  • IMAP and POP work with messages, so if you move only one message from a thread to a folder, only that one will get that label, but the Gmail web interface will show the entire conversation with that label. Note that this is only a display thing — it’s not that opening Gmail will give all the messages the label, and when you reopen your client suddenly things are different. (I need to actually check this.)
  • You still have Gmail’s amazing server-side spam filtering.
  • Some things don’t work.
  • Some other things are alleged not to work that I don’t even understand
  • Everything.

They got everything in order, made all those pages, and turned on IMAP without making any advance announcement…

Written by S

Fri, 2007-10-26 at 04:29:14 +05:30

Vulgar language

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[This should have been another "Film I saw" post, but I don't think this deserves one.]

I saw the fifth Harry Potter movie on Sunday night. It was awful.

Also, I’m not sure I heard this, but I think at some point in the movie, Cho Chang said “Anyways”. Which reminds me…

I have (or had) a theory about Indians and a cultural linguistic inferiority complex. We see a fair bit of hypercorrection when it comes to English — and many (too many!) misinformed, well-intentioned people finding fault with perfectly cromulent words and often offering invalid replacements. In addition, there is a tendency, upon hearing a “foreigner” say or use a word differently, to change one’s own usage; it disturbs me how frequently I hear “skedule”. And I nearly cried when I heard “soccer” even on DD.

This brings us to “anyways”, a “word” that has successfully leapt from illiterate, rustic Americans (“dial. or illiterate” — OED) into India’s fashionable shopping malls. I literally cringe every time I hear it, but I promise that it has nothing to do with my considering the film awful.

[I used "vulgar" in the title; am wondering if I could have said villainous, or would that have been too much of a stretch?]

[Non-update: Need to find some place to put this article!]

Written by S

Tue, 2007-10-23 at 10:06:15 +05:30

Film I saw

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The LSC plays movies every weekend, to which I get free admission, and I usually watch all the films, no matter how bad I expect them to be :-)

Yesterday I saw 1408. It is a horror film based on a Stephen King short story. (It is about room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel, where…)

The movie isn’t bad at all. It even has a happy ending. (The director’s cut apparently doesn’t.)

I saw a poster that said it

ranks with The Shining as one of the best Stephen King adaptations ever.

Obviously, the guy forgot about The Shawshank Redemption.

One might argue that Shawshank wasn’t a horror movie, but then again, neither was The Shining.
Really: Watch the trailer, it’s hilarious:
[Created by Robert Ryang. A contest-winning entry.]
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by S

Mon, 2007-10-22 at 04:30:59 +05:30

The Microsoft Sound

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The Microsoft Sound from Windows 95.
Actually evokes some sort of nostalgia :D

Made by composer Brian Eno, who describes it thus:

The idea came up at the time when I was completely bereft of ideas. I’d been working on my own music for a while and was quite lost, actually. And I really appreciated someone coming along and saying, “Here’s a specific problem – solve it.”

The thing from the agency said, “We want a piece of music that is inspiring, universal, blah-blah, da-da-da, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional,” this whole list of adjectives, and then at the bottom it said “and it must be 3ΒΌ seconds long.”

I thought this was so funny and an amazing thought to actually try to make a little piece of music. It’s like making a tiny little jewel.

In fact, I made 84 pieces. I got completely into this world of tiny, tiny little pieces of music. I was so sensitive to microseconds at the end of this that it really broke a logjam in my own work. Then when I’d finished that and I went back to working with pieces that were like three minutes long, it seemed like oceans of time.

There are many compilation videos on Youtube, such as this one.

Written by S

Sun, 2007-10-21 at 00:22:31 +05:30

Probably the most interesting blog I’ve seen

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I’m afraid to look at it, because I expect I’ll get tempted into spending hours and hours reading all the old posts: Strange Maps

Written by S

Mon, 2007-10-15 at 19:31:17 +05:30

Random quote

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Sleep.

“The important thing is to get your eight in no matter what. If you don’t, you turn into one of the walking dead. And then you get killed.”

From Connie Willis’s Hugo and Nebula awards-winning shortstory/novellete Firewatch.

Written by S

Sun, 2007-10-14 at 09:11:18 +05:30

Posted in Uncategorized

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Random quote

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To be nobody but yourself, in a world which is doing its best to make you everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.

– e.e. cummings

BTW the typography was a marketing thing, not his own idea.

Written by S

Sun, 2007-10-14 at 09:08:23 +05:30

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Film I saw

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Yesterday I saw A Mighty Heart. It is about Daniel Pearl, the American journalist who was kidnapped in Pakistan. Angelina Jolie plays his wife. It’s hard to make a good film where everyone already knows the ending, but it’s a pretty good attempt. Everything looks authentic. (Although the outdoor shots were shot in Karachi, the indoor shots — including everything involving Jolie — were in Pune.)If you pay attention, you can find the scene where the police carry out a raid and confiscate the “computer” — a monitor.Jolie did a good job, I thought. Moving film.

Written by S

Sun, 2007-10-14 at 03:26:27 +05:30

Posted in entertainment

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Al Gore has NOT joined George Bernard Shaw

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I want to be pedantic here.

George Bernard Shaw used to be the only person to have both a Nobel (Literature) and an Oscar (Screenplay). Now Al Gore, who had earlier allegedly won an Oscar (Best Documentary), has won a Nobel (Peace). And unlike Shaw, he’s won an Emmy as well. And been vice-president, and almost-president.

An impressive list of achievements, no doubt, but the first part isn’t true: Al Gore didn’t personally win an Oscar; the film featuring him did (it won two, actually). The director called him on stage during the acceptance speech and Gore even spoke; that’s probably the reason for the confusion.
Full details:

  • The 2006 Academy Award for Documentary Feature was awarded to “An Inconvenient Truth directed by Davis Guggenheim”.
  • The 2007 Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Television Primetime Emmy Award was Awarded to Current TV
  • “The Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 is to be shared, in two equal parts, between the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr. for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.”

(BTW: An Inconvenient Truth also won the Academy Award for Best Original Song: “I Need to Wake Up” – An Inconvenient Truth Music and lyrics: Melissa Etheridge. Apparently, it is the first documentary to win 2 Oscars, and the first to win a best original song Oscar.)

As for Shaw:

  • The 1925 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to George Bernard Shaw “for his work which is marked by both idealism and humanity, its stimulating satire often being infused with a singular poetic beauty.”
  • The 1938 Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay was awarded to Pygmalion – Ian Dalrymple, Cecil Lewis, W.P. Lipscomb, George Bernard Shaw from the play by George Bernard Shaw.

Note that this is a 1938 film, not My Fair Lady. (That one was nominated in 1964 but didn’t win, and Shaw was dead by then and had nothing to do with the film. He had forbidden any of his plays from becoming musicals, so the musical My Fair Lady could be made in 1956 only after he had died in 1950.)

Written by S

Fri, 2007-10-12 at 20:58:35 +05:30

Biovisions at Harvard: The Inner Life of a Cell

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Old news, but I was just digging up old files (specifically, I was going through my music collection, and found this mp3 file I had ripped from):
This stunning, breathtaking, enchanting animation (or here). The music is great too, but I have not been able to find out what it is see below.

The animation was created by a company called XVIVO, commissioned by Harvard University’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology. (Look here.) Also look at XVIVO’s site, for stuff like this.

An article here. An interview here:

We had to figure out how to take a cell that is so packed with molecules and to edit out visually about 90 to 95 percent of those molecules.

The entire video depicts what goes on inside one white blood cell

a cellular-motility theme and what happens to a white blood cell patrolling the capillary when there’s an inflammation outside the capillary

The full 8-minute video, with explanation, is here. Scroll down on the main page and look at some other (less polished) animations too.

Oh, and David Bolinsky, one of the founders of XVIVO, gave a talk at TED.

Update: I finally know what the music is, thanks to (of all places) a YouTube comment. It was composed by the company Massive Productions, specifically Matt Berkey. This music won an award (no surprise), a 2006 Telly award for Best Music Composition for a Non-Broadcast Film or Video. (Click here and scroll down, or look here.) Further Google-searching after knowing this led to this guy, who has been similarly interested. There’s a link on that post to here, which has a ripped-from-Youtube version of it. He contacted the composer and got a response (the music was available for $25), and an ad-filled mp3 of the song, and, in one of the comments, a higher-quality rip.

Written by S

Tue, 2007-10-09 at 00:36:46 +05:30

Canon

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“No Woman, No Cry” by Bob Marley
“Sk8ter boy” by Avril Lavigne
“Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia
“With or without you” by U2

They all have Pachelbel’s Canon in them?

From watching (Rob Paravonian’s Pachelbel rant.

Written by S

Mon, 2007-10-08 at 23:10:15 +05:30

Why was there so many sick animals in Vietnam?

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Ali G interviews a veterinarian:

Ali G is incredible. More videos:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by S

Mon, 2007-10-08 at 22:44:03 +05:30

Restarting Airport from the command line

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Something is wrong with the network in my dorm; DHCP negotiation sometimes fails (or takes a long time). So the usual thing to do is to turn Airport off and on, and hope it works this time.

To do this from the commandline, here’s a simple trick I found:
Go to System Preferences β†’ Network, then in Location choose a New Location and create one called “Airport-Off” (or anything you like). In the Show menu choose Network Port Configurations and turn off Airport.

After this, you can do scselect Airport-Off to turn it off, and scselect 0 (for Automatic — or choose whatever other location you want) to turn it on.

Edit [2011-10-03]: You can also do this:

sudo networksetup -setairportpower "Airport" off
sudo networksetup -setairportpower "Airport" on

Written by S

Mon, 2007-10-08 at 01:51:44 +05:30

Posted in compknow

Tagged with , , , , , ,

Che: the icon

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A BBC article, and an old nytimes article on the icon. The BBC pictures are nice.

Neither of them mentions Maddox or Che Wearing Che T-shirt T-shirt. :-)

Written by S

Sat, 2007-10-06 at 11:59:10 +05:30

Tech secrets of overprolific alpha-geeks

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Cory Doctorow’s running notes from Danny O’Brien’s presentations:

here, here, and here.

Covers habits many of us seem to have picked up: Using shells, using plain text, using one app (JWZ’s law), private blogs for organising stuff, those embarrassing scripts in ~/bin.

The third is more high-level:

The thing everyone wants to know how to implement this [GTD] and not
get trapped putting things in folders all day long.

“Improved focus can be achieved through activities such as meditation, yoga and turning off Instant Messaging” – Ulrich Mayr, U Oregon.

I use a proxy that replaces all my web-sessions after 10 min with a page that says DO YOU REALLY WANT TO LOOK AT THE WEB OR DO YOU HAVE WORK TO DO.

the tragedy of the task bar where sixty apps all try to tell you your wireless card is working.

One day I’ll get more coherent…

Written by S

Sat, 2007-10-06 at 07:13:43 +05:30

Posted in compknow

Tagged with ,

Checking mail

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I’ve started to check my mailbox every few hours — more than twice a day. This is too frequent, is stupid, I should stop.

If that doesn’t seem too frequent, let me clarify that by “mailbox” I mean the pigeonhole (?) on the ground floor.

Written by S

Thu, 2007-10-04 at 09:04:19 +05:30

Posted in Uncategorized

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