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Journal Journal: Reporters Without Borders planning net demo 2

Reporters sans frontières is organizing a 24-hour online demonstration against Internet censorship, starting next Tuesday, 7th of November, 11am Parisian time (that's 10am UTC and 5am EST for the Anglo-Americans out there).

You connect to their server and, if I understand the press release correctly, try and Slashdot sites belonging to oppressive governments. Or however else clicking can 'help to change the "Internet Black Holes" map and help to combat censorship'. I sure do hope they have enough server capacity themselves to withstand a Slashdot effect, but if not, someone will probably summarize what's going on in time.

With governments everywhere using terrorism as an excuse to crack down on civil liberty (China, United States, and starting November, Indonesia), it is up to the concerned among us to speak up while we still can. Make your voice heard!


Journal Journal: How... British 2

This reminds me of those Yes (Prime) Minister episodes I have been watching for the past weekend, with the entire establishment playing rear-guard Humphrey-an style...

A woman architect, and from a minority culture/religion too... presumably she does not build the phallic-shaped monstrosities one requires to get a peerage in Britain.

From the Independent:

Spurned at home, British designer wins architecture's 'Nobel prize'

By James Burleigh

22 March 2004

A female architect who is based in Britain but has yet to win a commission in the UK has been awarded her profession's equivalent of the Nobel prize, it was announced yesterday.

Zaha Hadid, 53, is the first woman to win the coveted Pritzker Architecture Prize in its 25-year history. Now a British citizen, the Baghdad-born designer's relatively small collection of Modernist works has already vaulted her into the top league of a profession dominated by men. She is the third Briton to have been awarded the prize.


Ms Hadid has not had any of her projects completed in Britain and her career in her adopted country has been marked by several high-profile setbacks. Most notably, political in-fighting scuppered her radical design for the Cardiff Bay Opera House in Wales in 1995. In November last year she narrowly missed winning the chance to design a new classical-music headquarters for the
  BBC at its otherwise dreary White City complex.

In a recent interview Ms Hadid said that she had been stigmatised in Britain, where her firm won plenty of competitions, but rarely saw them into reality because of "dodgy" rules that allowed organisers to take a different course.

The citation from the Pritzker jury said Ms Hadid's path to worldwide recognition had been a "heroic struggle." Lord Rothschild, the chairman of the jury, referred to "the forces of conservatism" being responsible for her inability to complete a building in London.


The Media

Journal Journal: Spanish bombing politicizing backfires on Partido Popolare 9

Socialists took over the Lower House in Sunday's parliamentary election in Spain, after two terms in office for the People's Party, which was previously expected to win the election.

The PP was criticized by Basques for politicizing the bombing, for instance by immediately blaming the ETA even when evidence to the contrary mounting up, until the announcement that Moroccan terror suspects have been arrested in connection with the terrorist act. The PP-organized marches employed banners promoting the constitution, instead of democracy, which was perceived to be an attack on moderate Basques promoting peaceful means of achieving constitutional changes.

It should also be noted that the outgoing PP government sent troops to Iraq from the beginning, despite over 90% of the population being opposed to the invasion; Turkey, in a similar position, refused to allow US ground troops to invade from its territories. This might just be a delayed backlash; the socialists certainly ran on an anti-war platform, promising to pull out troops by June.

Regardless of whether war in Iraq is justified (I believe an invasion is justified, lying to get one is not, on the other hand), this election provides an inspiration to democratically-minded people everywhere: politicians, lie and ignore public opinion at your own perils.

If only I could be this optimistic about the upcoming Indonesian legislative elections...


Journal Journal: Anticipating a late night 2

I predict I'll be sleeping quite late tonight, for two reasons:

  • The Democratic Super Primaries are on, my time zone is 12 hours ahead of EST, and the cable guy just tuned the family satellite receiver so I could watch C-SPAN :)

    Snicker away, but with my Internet connection being as it is, only a Zen monk could watch the Real stream.

  • Dad's new PC has finally been troubleshot - a backhanded compliment to Asus for switching to AMI for its BIOS, and AMI for making such a flaky BIOS; the 'Legacy USB' feature that allows one to emulate PS/2 keyboard/mouse when using USB ones caused Memtest86+ and Linux to freeze.

It's a good thing I used Memtest; it froze consistently (double beep after 6 seconds with clock frozen for 1 second, another double beep at 9 seconds, one after 20 seconds or so, and a longer freeze at 3:20; if it does not stop here it'd stop at 5 minutes or so), pointing the finger at some mobo+BIOS+RAM combination, but while I thought of underclocking the CPU, RAM, and finally replacing CPU, RAM and motherboard, the idea that a mere USB mouse was behind this eluded my mind - and the guy at the hardware shop.

With that sorted, it's now time for various upgrades and burn testing - I'll probably just use Folding@Home though.

And that just reminded me of something. If anyone could recommend a chess program that runs under *n*x/BSD and supports openings, do let me know. Thought I might learn chess properly after years of amateurish stumblings. Thanks.


Journal Journal: AMD is dead, long live AMD 3

How's that for a catchy subject line? It's not that AMD is dead - Opteron/AMD64 is probably its best line of CPU ever. For the first time AMD does a big innovation (x86-64) and executes it well (show up hands if you were excited by pre-release K5 and K6 only to be disappointed when benchmarks came out).

But AMD has got to improve its distribution network in Asia! For the price of an Athlon64 3200+ in Malaysia and Indonesia you could get a dual-capable Opteron Stateside, representing a premium of about 100%, compared to the normal premium for Intel CPUs of about 10%.

Similar situation with motherboards, though less extreme: the MSI K8T retails at $175 here, as opposed to $128 in the States (37% premium).

At this price I could visit my friends in Singapore, do some tech shopping there, and came back!


Journal Journal: Tribute to Apple graphics programmers 2

Having used the full registered version of Stardocks' WindowFX for the past two days, I must admit to having new-found respect for Apple's graphics guru.

Together with ObjectDock I have a desktop that has almost as many bells and whistles as Mac OS X. Only it's slow as molasses, and applications are more prone to crashing. The experience on an iBook 600MHz with the now-ancient OS X 10.1 was better than on a P4/2.4/nVidia GeForce 4MX !

Of course, what I'm *really* waiting for is Keith Packard's new X Server. About time Unix desktop computing gets a facelift, and this from the guy that brings you XRENDER :)


Journal Journal: SFU download frustration^Wannoyance 7

Most people interested in Windows-UNIX interoperability (yes, if you still dual-boot *n*x with Windows, you are included) should have heard of the big news of last week (since I was told the week starts on Sunday). Microsoft's Services for Unix (which some people rightly commented should have been called Unix Services for Windows is now available as a free download, at a healthy 200 MB reminiscent of a full Service Pack.

Which is as should be; this is a complete replacement of the anemic POSIX subsystem MS put into NT 3.1 for buzzword compliance, and comes with lots of neat features - NFS browsing from Windows Explorer, compilers and userland tools from BSD, etc. as you could read from the linked articles (hint: the Slashdot article is actually more instructive).

Now, I don't mind having to log in to Passport to be able to download, but when even trusty Getright fails to grab the download link from IE, things are getting just a *bit* out of hand. Presumably the need for profiling outweights the need for efficient download speeds.

Which is where my plug for Mozilla Firebird comes in. It gives you the full URL of the link in the prompt window that asks whether you want to Open or Save a hyperlink. You just need to highlight the visible part of the download URL and it will automatically scroll, which is actually... kind of neat.

No, I am not disclosing the URL here. Might break some EULA, though I don't see it written anywhere. If you need SFU, why don't you... install Firebird first? It's a small 7MB download, after all...

How ironic.

The Media

Journal Journal: Russian election prediction 4

One feels an unshakable sense of déjà vu upon hearing about the recent train bombing near Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia. The more cynical, or paranoid, amongst us might be tempted to point the finger at shadowy security services - we are talking about Russia, after all, with oblique behind-the-scenes machinations. And one certainly cannot doubt that Putin did well out of the 1999 apartment bombings, just as GW Bush gained political capital out of 9/11. I would like to stress that I condemn all these attacks, and in no way sympathize with anti-American, anti-Israeli conspiracy theories that either CIA or Mossad planned the 9/11 attacks.

Regardless of the identity of the perpetrator, it seems likely that the Kremlin's announted party, United Russia, would gain political mileage out of security fears and patriotism. Less certain is the relative position of the opposition parties in the new Duma. Many analysts seem to be of the opinion that the liberals - in Russia encompassing both the neo-liberal economists at Union of Right Forces as well as Grigory Yavlinsky's social-democratic Yabloko - would be decimated and the Communist party reduced in strength. The Kremlin, and Putin, would thus be stronger than ever.

I would respectfully beg to differ. First of all, Union of Right Forces was pro-Putin after the '99 election, while today there is talk of its merger with Yabloko (another déjà vu here, reminding one of the absorption of the Liberal Party into the Democratic Party of Japan, though in this case it would be intriguing to see who absorbs who - URF is larger but more discredited, Yabloko has integrity but not much support). And demographics would continue to plague the Communists - they are in a similar position to the Conservatives in the UK, limited to an ever-graying support base. The closure of independent media outlets, on the other hand, might hurt the liberals more, simply on the strength of name recognition.

What, then, might happen today? I predict an increase in support for United Russia, though short of obtaining a two-thirds majority; a rout for the Communists, a slightly less steep decline for URF and a slight decline for Yabloko - its supporters have nowhere else to go, really, and the recent arrest of Khodorkovsky might play into the liberals' hands as much as it helps United Russia - those hankering for a strong state would desert the Communists for Putin, those wishing for a liberal democracy's respect for due process voting for Yabloko. The Kremlin would thus command roughly the same amount of parliamentarians, but this time they would be even more beholden to the President than ever before.

Update - my prediction seems to be almost spot on, at least when it comes to popular vote. Alas, one neglected to take in the impact of the 5% threshold - thanks to Yabloko and SPS' failure to come together for the election, they were both almost wiped out.

In any case, one wonders how much their planned election pact would have helped - it certainly would help in the first-past-the-post constituencies, but whether an election pact carrying 8% would result in its members receiving proportional seats is a rather technical matter.


Journal Journal: Theme oddities

I don't run Mandrake, but in the course of browsing VMware newsgroups I come across to this reference:

I get corruption in the guest OS, much like memory errors in a real world.
I'm using Mandrake 9.2 rc2, kernel 2.4.22-10mdk and VMware-workstation
4.0.5 (also used 4.0.0 previously). Filesystems used xfs, but switched to

The guest OS is Redhat 7.3.

Below is the error message that is the most frequent. At other times I get
a kernel OOPS in the guest system. Also I'm using virtual disks.

Errors can crop up quickly or after several hours.

And the solution? Uninstall the Galaxy theme engine. Why a theme engine would interact with a program running on the computer, I don't know. This certainly is not the kind of thing one expects.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Journal schizophrenia

I have not been updating this journal much recently, due to my whole-hearted embrace of RSS-enabled blogging. Apologies all around, but hey, I have friends that want nothing to do with Slashdot too, and submitting a journal entry twice is a hassle.

Slashdot-type material will keep getting posted here though.


Journal Journal: HOWTO: Share iTunes on the *same* PC 6

Some people want to know if they could share their iTunes folder between multiple users on the same PC. It is quite simple if one is used to Unix and using soft links, but for non-Unix types out there, here it is...

Note that the source and destination folders need to be on NTFS volumes. Some XP OEMs bizarrely ship their PCs with FAT32 volumes; convert is your friend.

The Internet

Journal Journal: TinyURL rediscovered 2

Are you sick of posting URLs in emails only to have it break when sent causing the recipient to have to cut and paste it back together? Then you've come to the right place. By entering in a URL in the text field below, we will create a tiny URL that will not break in email postings and never expires. is a really nice, free, Internet service, especially for people like me who posts to mailing lists where HTML mail is frowned upon. Basically it provides a free Internet redirection service, and if you have ever had a link being broken because it was too long and became split inadvertently when the e-mail is forwarded, you could use TinyURL.

Discovered it last summer, promptly lost the link to it and could not recall the name, and after fruitless Google searches - try free redirection service and see for yourself - stumbled into it being used by Bruce Schneier in his excellent Crypto-Gram security newsletter. Thanks Bruce!

Having thus found it in a security newsletter, it just occurs to me that there is no way to tell a 'good' TinyURL link from a 'bad' one. And with spoofed e-mails and hijacked e-mail lists one could not even trust e-mails from known trusted addresses... no evading reading something carefully before impulsively clicking links, really. And oh, don't use the Outlook+Internet Explorer combination :)


User Journal

Journal Journal: Current goings-on in life 16

Did my GRE General Test last Monday, and was pleasantly surprised to receive a double-800 for Verbal and Quantitative. Currently preparing my applications - writing curriculum vitae certainly does not get much easier, especially not after a hiatus of several years, but what must get done, shall get done.

Still waiting for my Linux programming books to arrive too. Understanding the Linux Kernel, 2nd ed. by Daniel P. Bovet and Marco Cesati in particular. Can't wait starting to port NTFS' transparent encryption to ext3/xa. Funny how I did not manage to set aside the time for serious hacking projects while doing my undergraduate studies. Ah well.

In preparation for this, I started playing around with BitKeeper. It's much more impressive once one starts using it, rest assured. Even for a bleeding-edge Linux user, BK's distributed nature lets you easily track more than one Linux kernel trees. It certainly has its critics, but well... it's free (as in beer) for open source development, and while the situation is superficially similar to the pre-millenial Qt licensing debacle, one could certainly migrate from BK to some other source management system (e.g. SubVersion or Arch) with much more ease than one could replace a toolkit.

Do find the BK Kernel Hacking Howto here. Excellent outline by Jeff Garzik from Mandrake. Note to self, need to start using my Advogato diary...


Journal Journal: Linux-Kernel Mycroft/Sherlock plugin

Courtesy of yours truly, and Adam Roben for his Google Linux plug-in I used as template - the Google Kernel plug-in!

Tracking the Linux-Kernel mailing list from your favourite Mozilla browser (Mozilla and Firebird currently) has never been easier... :p. What did you just say? You use IE? Oh dear...

PS: Would be nice to be able to tag this entry with more than one category...


Journal Journal: Behind the reduced mandatory reboots of XP 2

As pointed out by 0x0d0a:

From now on, failures in moving or deleting files and directories would be silent. Furthermore, to provide the user the illusion of his operation succeeding, XP's Explorer will even remove the directory's icon from any open windows. However, it is not actually deleted, and upon refreshing a window showing the directory's icon, you will notice that the icon returns.

Yikes. Guess I'll continue to reboot XP after biggish installs even when not told to - when I have to use Windows, that is. Which reminds me, the family PC needs a reinstall. Its XP set-up is deteriorating to the point that I could not set Mozilla to be the default browser because it mysteriously failed to appear on the menu.

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