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Ask Slashdot: How Many (Electronics) Gates Is That Software Algorithm?

beachdog Fascinating problem, approximate solution? (365 comments)

It is more than 30 years ago I learned digital logic from Blakeslee's Digital Design with MSI and LSI. These days I program an Arduino. I have my hands full just reinventing the spokes of a 20 year old wheel.

I think you have a fascinating problem. Suppose you treat your computer program as a black box where you feed pages of data into one end and you get pages of output data out the other end. Suppose you say each page of data is an x,y grid of image values. You could say, your problem is for a central pixel in the image, you want to write a truth table. An initial truth table is the values and locations of the pixels from the immediate preceding image that when always present always result in the specific value of that pixel.

Your image processing process probably uses data from several preceding images to come up with the result. If it takes five preceding images, then the truth table for a single pixel picks up five more blocks of data about the state of the surrounding pixels. No matter how wonderful the computer program may seem to be, it is still a finite state engine. The present state of the image or output (we hypothesize) should be dependent on the some number of previous states of the image.

The process is a classic series dance steps for extracting the essential predecessor logic states. The Blakeslee book models this better than I can remember after all these years. The steps are normalize, simplify, flag all the dont't care states and gracefully conceal or wrap the data to handle the physical edges . When you have one of these cubic things, you go through a simplification process. first, you normalize the input data which means remove the numerical clutter and have a single number. Another feature of the extraction process is you sort the truth table output column and input columns and you try to mark as many of the input columns with does-not-matter as possible. A third thing is, you set a limit on the depth of the input data and that means the possible values for an output point are limited because the permuted possibilities are capped, and that cap is usually an exponent like 2^N.

The resulting gadget will be a truth table that grinds out something like x=1 for a=1, b=0, c=1, d=0 and on and on.

Unlike rewriting the software and putting it on a programmable gate array, This is an approach at writing a state table that produces an approximate pixel based on looking at a chunk of images containing that pixel.

about 8 months ago
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Hearing Shows How 'Military-Style' Raid On Calif. Power Station Spooks U.S.

beachdog Re:Not the point (396 comments)

Regarding How has this changed over the decades?

Well there are two answers. There are the usual sources of information like newspaper stories.

  But a second change is the recent rise of behavior examples that emphasize a different kind of relationship to time and the passage of it. First player shooter games emphasize pressing the trigger button as fast and as often as possible. A sports tennis shoe maker advertised "Just do it." or a sport drink maker may have advertised "Grab it and go.". All of these are modeling the process of skipping over the deliberation phase of mentation. The shoe maker and the sport drink maker should have said "Just buy it."

How is time, timing and the passage of time represented and modeled when a human learns motor skills? Studies of infants beginning to speak have shown some children are speaking quite well except that the pace of vocalization is much faster than the parent expects. When slowed down by electronic means, the baby babble sometimes is intelligible as speech.

Compare that with any young adult precipitous action like shooting at transformers or shooting at a school. If you could "slow down the clock" of the young person's behavior by a factor of 10x or 20x, the destructive content would be reduced or eleminated.

From another angle, the young adult who eventually engages in a precipitous action mentally went through numerous alternative scenarios while they were stewing or deliberating or grieving at some perceived personal event. The young adult's machinery for evaluating alternate scenarios has got stuck on a bad action. What part of the action is the bad part? I am proposing that the problem has something to do with time or timing being locked. The person feeling the grief or anger can't escape from some kind of locked state.

about 8 months ago
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Hearing Shows How 'Military-Style' Raid On Calif. Power Station Spooks U.S.

beachdog What to teach to avoid destructive actions? (396 comments)

From the incident story, it appears to be two persons who chose a property damage target for the purpose of minimizing the risk of prosecution for any construction or prosecutorial exaggeration regarding the potential or accidental killing of a guard or workman.

The recent tactic being developed after school shootings is for the responding authority to promptly engage the apparent assailant by the use of gunfire directed at the assailant. For those assailants who are arrested live, the district attorney spares no effort to describe the crime in such a manner as to prevent any sympathy for the alleged assailant by the public nor the jury.

It is my feeling that we have a growing 10 or 20 year pattern where young people in the 18 to 30 year old age group are to a moderate extent misbehaving and to a very tiny extent engaging in extreme misbehavior like school shootings or power station property damage. There has been a reciprocal escalation of the police response as what was once streaking or knocking over mailboxes is now .01% zero tolerance alcohol while driving punishments and now imprisonment for insanity to be followe by 15 years in jail when the insanity is resolved.

I don't believe listening to the district attorney nor the police department is going to give us the understanding to move away from the imprisonment culture we are now living in. The approach I am pursuing is this: Young adults are problem solving animals. The young adult years have a number of difficult emotional griefs and transitions.

What we are seeing is young adults who are settling on problem solutions that are "fast and final". Unlike most young adults, the persons who do school or power station shootings are prisoners of the material physical execution of a violent act. Stories from surviving assailants indicate grievances that are not too unusual. It appears to me that most people dissipate their similar grief or grievance by abstraction or play or ignoring the event.

My thinking has reached this point: What can we teach in school that will help each individual to have knowledge or understanding of their own mental processes? The words "self knowledge" is too general. A very specific part of the mental problem solving action planning mechanism is becoming latched onto a bad action. These young people are able to do the problem solving process, and they need the specific ability to recognize when their brain has latched onto a bad action.

The actions and teaching needed are probably simpler and more mundane than what one might think. It appears to me that teaching social dance in the early middle school years might help head off certain social anxiety processes. Supervised working with disabled peers can be a gateway to understanding the undisguised bases of human behavior. The US high school football culture with it's awful color scheme was OK for preparing young people for WWII military service, and perhaps that institution needs to be replaced with a new game and instructional culture.

about 8 months ago
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Winners and Losers In the World of Interfaces: 2013 In Review

beachdog Much appreciate the debunkers. (116 comments)

I found the original post article fascinating and then eventually trailing off into 5000 too many words.

I appreciate the multiple effective Slashdot commentators accomplishment at semantically flensing the formerly elegant carcass of the OP missive.

What however is the low energy high quality of life and strife relieved peaceful future that the Internet and connected humans need to facilitate?

The author's OP missive at least noted some of the major twists in the confused battle. By my estimate, the now 20 year old failure of Yahoo mail to permit POP message downloading for free is the little tiny failure that no user interface redesign can correct. I am within a hair's breadth of taking my local mailing list for parents of disabled children elsewhere, thanks to the stupid Yahoo re-design.

The author's description of Google's chrome-cast and Netflix binge watching are both interesting developments in the struggle to get media and infomation moving without the exhorbitant charges of patent licensing and copyright fee collection.

A side comment that a paper newspaper is more energy efficient than a free newspaper furnished over the Internet is an interesting assertion worth exploring. I am concerned that the Internet system burns more electrical energy and has a larger fixed term in the y=mx +b linear equation of value than is recognized.

about 8 months ago
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How the Lessons of Columbine Saved Lives At Arapahoe High School

beachdog Teach self-knowledge; Blind DA Bias (894 comments)

The first point is: The main source of information about this school shooting and many prior crimes is a police department or district attorney (DA). The DA has a built in agenda of convicting every person accused. This results in a rhetorical climate where killing the perpetrator is not a matter of much importance because the alleged shooter should be convicted of the most extreme possible crime anyway. The DA's professional business is to make criminals.

So I argue to you, the news report has viewpoint bias. Except for the bare facts, this news is only supposed to build public acceptance of an immediate armed gun response as the best solution to the ongoing school shooting activity.

I propose that what we need to do is develop a high school level course in "self knowledge" and care for oneself and others when one goes through the emotional and intellectual ups and downs of youth and young adulthood. Now bear with me on this: The thing that is malfunctioning in some of these extremely antisocial events is the pace of time. The resolution of inner issues changes in pace from "take a bath and go for a walk" to "do something extreme and final."

The point I am making is bad things happen when a person's inner clock or sense of pace slips. The use of lead pellets moving at 5000 feet per second is resolving an inner grief or distress too fast. Compare, one could also do a comparable motor skill activity using the arms and fingers and aiming ability by throwing a basketball at 50 feet per second. An afternoon struggling to shoot baskets would equally resolve the inner problem with much less damage.

In this context, a food ad saying "Grab one and go...Do it!" Really is the wrong thing. The point I am making is: Some kinds of antisocial behavior are toxic variations of normal behavior needed by relatively normal people that are made toxic by a slipping or loss of timing or pace.

The underlying neural mechanism is during the toddler years a child explored the world and built up a basic set of neural images and another set of motor skills.
Somewhere at the exit point from high school, we develop multiple sets of alternate motor skills for solving problems. "Take a warm bath." and "Go shoot up the elementary school." are alternate behavior models.

So the thing I propose we should try and teach in high school is an introduction to self knowledge. The specific self knowledge I see is young adults have well developed motor skills but they aren't able to distinguish the griefs and pains of isolated solitary usually lonely young adult life in America.

A fellow Youshock who took a chainsaw and pipe bombs to a high school was sentenced to mental hospital confinment to be followed by a long prison sentence. The psychologists will probably write a thorough analysis of his views and his parents will grieve at his loss. It would have been so much better if he could have understood his personal young adult pains and switched to other problem solving activities.

about 8 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: DIY Computational Neuroscience?

beachdog One non-academic job with interesting values. (90 comments)

I work with severely disabled children as a classroom aide. While the job is an aide position, I am also privileged to have weeks and even months of exposure to a specific disabled person.

If your computer career is declining due to age, education or platform problems I mention this kind of employment as a kind of work that may provide you with many observations that may provide problems or ideas regarding computational neuroscience.

It is my opinion that observation of motor actions and neural operation in most people is hindered by an illusion of completeness. The components and expression that lead to an illusion of completeness are a study in artistic analysis themselves. A less able person will unfold and express an action over a considerable span of time. Understanding the sequence, organization and simplifications of the less able action is a fascinating exersize.

My study in information theory and activity in ham radio has led me to focus on quadrature phase demodulation as a candidate for some kinds of neural function.

My study of embryology at St. John's suggests to me that there is an initial layout of the nervous system.
From topology and paper folding I have a feeling that folding and surface tension processes are involved with what later appears as a tiled surface of processing layers wrapped around an inner device that stores motor motion plans.
  Suppose one explores the hypothesis that nerves start out a lot alike. Clusters appear around neurons due to a diffusion limitation. What else about the layout of the brain can we determine from embryology?
Extracting information from nerve pulses is done in layers. If the layers weren't connected during the cellular development phase, how do the layers later pass information around? Are the folds of the brain part of this?
How does the recently reported glial cell expansion and contraction fit into the connection scheme? Eventually the abstractions are reorganized into motor impulses that move muscles.
Look at just one bar of a Mozart piano concerto. The pianist moves his fingers eight or nine times. It is interesting how ideas have an association with movements.

about 9 months ago
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Interview: Ask Limor Fried About Open-Source Hardware and Adafruit

beachdog Adafruit business direction versus global warming? (139 comments)

I am worried that the USA is not going to figure out how to reduce CO2 emissions fast enough to avert an global warming and oceanic acidification crisis. I have a daughter a few years younger than you. I worry that 8 years of jellyfish oceans and hurricane/drought summers will exhaust everyone's stash of brown rice.

I think part of the excitement about AdaFruit is the business sells the tools and toys of a low CO2 emission future.

So how goes the battle at your level?

  Have the investment bankers got hold of your priorities yet?

What direction do you want to go with AdaFruit to make the crusty old assumptions fall away?

Would you agree, the rate of change is inversely proportional to the debt level of the business and it's employees?

about 9 months ago
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WikiLeaks Releases the Secret Draft Text of the TPP IP Rights Chapter

beachdog Copyright and patent value delusion in the treaty. (212 comments)

One reason the treaty has been kept secret is the copyright and patent privileges do not have socially redeeming intrinsic value matching the legal measures proposed.

My point of view as a citizen bystander is it appears that copyright and patent privileges are becoming too inflated in their value. The organizations that hold or depend on copyright and patent privileges are aggressively and systematically are trying to use law and trade treaties to close all the ways in which others might evade paying for the use of their privileges.

The point I wish to propose to Slashdot readers is: The intrinisic worth or value of the fact or accomplishment underlying a copyright or patent privilege is a modest dollar amount. What is happening in our society is the percieved value has undergone an enormous inflation. The companies are effectively policy prisoners.

In previous centuries, novel and plausible arguments about the intrinsic worth of things has set off revolutions. Adam Smith instantiated time, money and energy beginning with his Theory of Sentiments. Karl Marx redefined another similar set of relationships and launched a political restructuring.

Consider the level of corporate belief in the value of their copyright and patent privileges. Some corporation decided to invest in tipping the trade treaty towards their business benefit. Lets estimate, each well qualified lawyer dispatched to edit and ammend the international trade treaty costs $2m dollars per year. Suppose one company sent one lawyer and they budget 3 years of lawyering and 1 year of waiting. For their 6 to 10 million dollar expenditure, how much gross sales do they require to recover their expenditure?

On the other side, suppose we look at taming the financial stupidity of "charge all the market will bear" patent and copyright licensing. What model to use? Well the Uniform Commercial Code is a body of business law that is a model of fairness. I would start with that.

To estimate the "intrinsic value" of a patent, we could first figure the labor and material cost for the first embodiment. How about one engineer year plus some electronic equipment; $250k. For the next 12 patents, lets cost those at $250k for all 12. Suppose we say a fair profit is 100%. That makes $1m/13 = $77k each for a bundle of 13 patents. Suppose we license the entire industry of 10 companies, each company paying $7,700 each for a lifetime of the patents license.

about 9 months ago
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Microsoft To Can Skype API; Third-Party Products Will Not Work

beachdog Gmail phone and change terms of bandwidth sale. (330 comments)

As previous posters have mentioned, if you open a web browser page to your Gmail account, there is a telephone option. If you have a suitable headset and microphone you can type in a landline phone number. In the USA, calls are free to USA locations.

I use the Gmail phone for every possible call I can make from my desk because local toll and long distance calls are charged on a per-minute basis. The deep advantage of all the internet communication methods is the connection is per packet, not per minute.

I played with the Asterisk scriptable phone and communications engine (also known as a PBX or private branch exchange). I was looking for a fast local and free communications solution for facilitating just-in-time ride sharing. There are little fragments of the solution scattered around.

At the risk of being a little impolite: Except for amateur radio (which is very circumscribed in its usage), the American communications game consists of continually figuring out more and more mutually incompatible and progressively more expensive ways of selling tiny dribbles of two way communication bandwidth for progressively higher and higher prices.

It seems to me that a series of communication solutions could exist. The key is to change the terms of sale of cell phone bandwidth. Present policy, I guess, sells a radio band x geographic area x population to the highest bidder. What the people would benefit from is selling the reciprocal of that relationship: The federal price would go down as the total bytes transmitted increases. The user charge would be an asymptote like function that as usage increases the price approaches the basic cost: (cost is like: price of transmitter electricity + amortized cost of transmitter + monthly fiber optic access + profit) divided by count of users. Dollar sums point to a cell site: $20,000 per month, 5,000 users; $5 per month each.

  At present, jaw dropping sums of money have to be bid by huge organizations of national scope to get a communication franchise. With this fixed annual cost, franchise winners have to charge for every byte transmitted. The franchise winners have to charge a spectrum of prices that avoids the perception they are charging "all the market will bear". Remember all that linear programming you studied in college? The bandwidth is chopped into a blather of services that obscure the basic price per byte. How much does Tracfone pay for a three minute call thorugh an ATandT cell tower? That manufacturing cost recovery reality in turn means no anonymous users and no free data transit. Unlike the land line phone, incoming calls are not free in the cellphone business.

about 10 months ago
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The Case Against Gmail

beachdog OP is asking wrong questions. (435 comments)

I have been thinking about pushing Gmail aside if I could find a better replacement. No outlook for me! Lets think: about a better Internet future.

Need a secure email. Suppose instead of me talking about encryption schemes, suppose we say we want an email where the computational price for any snooper to read the mesage is 10^5 or 10^6 more than the sender and receiver pay. The computer time required to snoop is sufficient to cause snoopers to snoop only on valuable targets.

Need a mail system that supports machine-to-machine exchanges with a new level of clarity and authenticity. Microsoft spoiled the entire field of email exchanges with the easily hacked html files and worse that launched spy programs on client computers. I still get the creeps when I see an Internet Explorer web browser start running. Has anybody got a redesign of multipurpose mail extensions (MIME) available? The stability and clarity of double entry accounting money management still has not reached the Internet.

The original post was talking about little tiny errors and omissions from Gmail. Gmail email is a success because it is simple and stable in appearance. Beyond email I would say are still are a few good open source ideas and implementations waiting to be released.

about 10 months ago
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Charlie Stross: Why Microsoft Word Must Die

beachdog Wish list for open source better than Word (479 comments)

Much as I disapprove of Word and it's complicated underlayer of kluge programs, the problem for open source software is how to coordinate and document multiple word processing sub-systems to put together a clean, balanced, and powerful word processing performance suite.

Like Eric Raymond's model of the Cathedral and the Bazaar, the problem for open source software is to pull together small parts of a superior system from many independent authors and coordinate the accomplishments into districts and describe what each module does in a way that makes sense to the wide variety of visitors.

For my wife, a very busy fast working touch typist, there needs to be a pushbutton "Word mode" to make the word processor behave keystroke by keystroke just like Word of the Office XP vintage. With her, she always is facing deadlines, writing furiously and always exchanging .doc files.

For me, the problem with Libre Office is I am stuck with a version I downloaded outside of the Ubuntu Debian package system. I have lost track of the re-union of Open Office and Libre Office. Big embarassment for me, I don't have time to straighten it out.

So how can open source free software move away from Word and become the clarity, quality and power leader?

            I really like the observation earlier that the office suites need specific development by area experts.
            The user documentation for add-in modules needs to be very good. That means OO or LO need a documentation system that can pick up new chapters and new cross references when a additional package is added to the word procesing suite.
                          I would like a 8-up card module, a mailing list module, a bulk email response tracking module, a wall-poster module, a fill in a scanned blank form module, a Google Docs module, a google blogger editor, a music quoting module, a classical greek quoting module, a school-teacher-class-student-parent database module, an rsync remote mirror and a paragraph checksum integrity module.
                        Another half of the battle is the suites need good example files. How about identical example files in American English, Dutch, German, French and classical Greek, Japanese, Chinese, Hindi. These language files would model how to set up OO in each of the languages. I would like to see example files of a short book, a term paper, tables, photos, movies, mathematical formulae and music notation with linked audio.
            Finally, another area where open source software is lacking is in the conversion from screen image to printed on paper image. There is a point where the WP program dumps data into the printer driver and control and knowledge about sheet size, ink and pixel size is embedded in some unknown place.

about a year ago
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Slashdot Asks: How Does the US Gov't Budget Crunch Affect You?

beachdog Republicans need a fresh human agenda. (1144 comments)

It seems to me that Republicans overlook many aspects of the health care plan being enacted are design features created in response to Republican criticisms.

The system that is being enacted is not single payer, it doesn't end the business deductibility of health insurance for employees, it is not a socialistic giveaway, it isn't a state system like Canada or Britain. All of these "isn'ts" reflect decades of Republican and political conservative editorializing and theory spinning.

The fact is that health care expenses have been destroying American families for decades and this proposal is going to slow down the destruction of American families by medical bills.

What I would like to see is Republicans start paying attention to the two big individual American problems. Your average American is in debt most of his or her adult life and your average American is a petroleum slave obligated to burn typically 1 or 2 gallons of gasoline per day to get to work to make payments on his or her debt. There is plenty of room for changing the economic rules of the game away from debt and the commuter rat race.

In short, a Republican that works for the benefit of the common man exists. Health care has arrived. Time for Republicans to move on.

about a year ago
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Automatic Translation Without Dictionaries

beachdog Another way of understandling language translation (115 comments)

"Vector spaces" is the heart of the Google proposal. Previous posters have disassembled the weaknesses pretty well.

The thing a "vector spaces" analysis needs is specific vector mapping based on the sounds of speech, the rythmns of a language, the breathing of the speaker and the physical proximity parts of the brain associated with hearing and parts of the brain associated with speech.

Multiple languages exist because the growing infant's brain organizes the sounds it hears by passing the neural sensations through many layers of pattern forming and recognition processes. Multiple languages and the ambiguities in languages means the language learning process within a developing child has some features that are quite consistent, like saying "ma ma". The rest of language aquisition spreads out in the physical vector space of the topology of the brain. Italian has been noted as wonderful for singing, Spanish as good at expressing emotion. Perhaps these languages follow slightly different paths in the brain.

An idea I picked up from digital ham radio tutorials is quadrature phase demodulation. It extracts data from a carrier signal, it looks simple, it looks like you could do it with nerve cells and it associates nicely with known large scale brain electrical activity.

I work with severely disabled kids. Language aquisition or finding work arounds for missing or weak parts of the language pathway is an interesting challenge. A fellow who stone facededly ignored my spoken words laughed at me and smiled when I began signing to him in pigin half made up American Sign Language.

about a year ago
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Martha Stewart Out To Exterminate Patent Troll Lodsys

beachdog There really ought to be sane patent licensing. (150 comments)

At the heart of the patent licensing issue is the relatively unlimited ability of the patent holder to ask for exhorbitant patent license fees.

To turn that around, the legal design problem is to define a reasonable statutory patent license fee that can reasonably fit with the public purpose of the Constitution's patent clauses.

Taking the F.O.B. wholesale price of any product (such as a cell phone or computer), I think the fair statutory patent license fee is 1.5%. That 1.5% would be shared equally with each of the agents for each patent listed in the headerfile or nameplate. If the product is free software, no fee is collected. If somebody sells the software, then the 1.5% fee would be due.

Why is the the patent license fee so low? The novelty of a patent is over when it is published. Patents in the software and business systems realm deteriorate as fast as any business software system. Massive parallel re-invention is very common because of the many documentation types and source code languages used to describe software and business systems. Reciprocally, massive over claiming of patents is very common because any patent attorney can add plausible extension language to any patent no matter how limited or constrained the scope of the original reduction to practice.

about a year ago
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California Becomes First State In Nation To Regulate Ride-Sharing

beachdog A useful low carbon society maneuver (184 comments)

Ride sharing is an important social innovation for moving to a low carbon emission society.
The global warming benefit of ride sharing is when you raise the number of people riding in a conventional commuter automobile less CO2 is emitted per passenger mile. The financial aspect of ride sharing is substantial amounts of personal cash are released when cars are not driven.

I live in California and I have seen that free ride sharing services like 511.org mostly do not work. There are many reasons why these ride sharing services do not work. The Lyft business model addresses some of the social needs that must be met for ride sharing to work. The California State law echoes the Lyft safety requirements. The State law apparently formalizes some of the social and safety issues that ride sharing needs if it will be a major activity.

I have been studying and writing about the California public bus system for many years and I am absolutely delighted to see Ride Sharing beginning to get started.
http://lessco2essay.blogspot.com/

about a year ago
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Book Review: The Chinese Information War

beachdog Fourty years ago: Nixon went to China (139 comments)

About 40 years ago, sitting US President Richard Nixon went to China. The plane landed in Shanghai China and there Nixon did some business regarding the Shanghai Accords. The Shanghai accords were a written document that organized or stabilized the enormous gap between Communist Chinese political ideology and American political ideology.

I highly recommend John Adam's opera Nixon In China. Fragments are available on Youtube and Wikipedia has a very helpful series of entries that describe the historical visit to China.

The opera reveals a series of cultural mysteries: The oblique standoffish ideas of Kissinger, the amazing cultural impact of the wife of Chairman Mao, the feelings and warmth that developed as Pat Nixon visited a poultry farm, the frankness of Nixon and Mao realizing their own limitations as leaders.

What is happening today with theft of secrets, electronic intrusion, removal of manufacturing to China needs to be balanced with the realization that the white hot ideological differences between the US and communist countries has developed into a new oblique engagement where the line of contact has become a huge blur.

If anything, the joke is on both parties. Coming up on both the American and Chinese societies is a threat that both societies are equally completely unable to defend against, namely global warming.

about a year ago
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"Dramatic Decline" Warning For Plants and Animals

beachdog A real low point in Slashdot thinking. (696 comments)

I give the Slashdot posters a collective D- failing grade.

          The early posters get a D- for their really weird inability to say three fresh and funny things about the OP.

          The middle posters, get a D- because 90% of the posts are tired sighs.

            The tired sighs of many previous posts are an important sign that the global warming problem is a slow moving massive event where the principal indicator of it's progress ( CO2 levels) has not gone down even though we have been through a 5 year economic depression. The abating economic depression did not slow down society enough to affect CO2 levels. (There was a little decrease in the rate of increase, but not in the fact of increase.) The sighs reflect the disappointment and fatigue of many people on this list who have tried to reduce their CO2 footprint and see that all the effort produced no result. CO2 increase is an intractable, slow moving, massive problem.

                And lets issue another D- to everybody that cites an expert and therefore excuses themselves from engaging with the global warming problem. If you live a typical drive to work life you are contributing 3,000 to 10,000 pounds of CO2 to the atmosphere every year. Could you possibly reduce your CO2 emission to the level of a 1776 pre steam engine individual? In this case, the phrase "massive problem" means exactly that: a large amount of human generated mass. No matter how subtle the argument, 3000 pounds turned into infra-red absorbing Carbon oxygen bonds is about the mass of your car. Rhetoric is not enough.

          Welcome to the lonely world of social change. The problem in front of us is still how to emit 1/2 as much CO2 every day for you, your wife and your kids without losing the happy and fun mechanical conveniences we enjoy and maintaining economic and social stability.

      (I am not a chemist, but 2 gallons of gasoline x 7 lb per gallon x 365 days => about 5000 lbs, not counting the weight of Oxygen from air making CO2.)

about a year ago
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Ask Slashdot: Open Source For Bill and Document Management?

beachdog Re:I wrote a script to do exactly what you are say (187 comments)

Here are some pieces of a scan to ocr script I am developing.
First I am scanning a multicolumn document and to preserve the sense of the document text, I scan even pages twice and odd pages twice.
Second, the scanned images must be rotated. Pieces of the "convert" command appear in the perl fragments here.
Third, I am using the open source tesseract OCR program. Some of my documents have grayed areas that contain text. So I am running tesseract twice on the source files and picking the output file with the most text characters.
Forth, the basic program is just a big loop with a menu where I input file names or page numbers.

Here goes:
# my $scanprog = "/usr/bin/scanimage --resolution 400 >";# print "$scanprog \n";
# Scanner settings for pages top of book at left of scanner StylusScan 2500
my $scanoddleft = "/usr/bin/scanimage -l 30mm -x 190mm -y 235mm --resolution 400 >";#for odd pages
my $scanoddright = "/usr/bin/scanimage -l 0mm -x 190mm -y 235mm --resolution 400 >";#for odd pages
my $scanevenleft = "/usr/bin/scanimage -l 30mm -x 190mm -y 235mm --resolution 400 >";#for even pages
my $scanevenright = "/usr/bin/scanimage -l 0mm -x 190mm -y 235mm --resolution 400 >";#for even pages
# OCR commands and parameters
#tesseract test1.tif test1 -l eng;
#scanimage -l 26mm -x 166mm -t 10mm -y 125mm --brightness 3 --resolution 400 | pnmtotiff>test1.tif;eog test1.tif;convert -rotate 90 test1.tif test1.tif; eog test1.tif; tesseract test1.tif test1 -l eng
my $tesseract = " tesseract ";
my $language = " -l eng ";
my $brightness2 = " --brightness 2 ";
my $brightness3 = " --brightness 3 ";
my $convert90 = " convert -rotate 90 ";
my $eog = " eog " ;
my $charcount = " wc -c " ;
my $scanpage = 1; # Range is 1 to 183

about a year ago
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Ask Slashdot: Open Source For Bill and Document Management?

beachdog Super simple Linux based document scanner. (187 comments)

Super simple scanning system using Linux.
Make directory called scans, make another called taxes
Have a text file of scanning hints with an easy to remember name.
in a terminal, print the scanning hints file and use the Linux mouse copy feature to construct a scan instruction
The scanimage application requires sudo or you can find a tweak using google search to alter the scanner's USB files and make it run from an unprivileged user.
cd scans
cat filewitheasycommandstocopy.txt

Typical contents of my hint file:
sudo scanimage -l 0mm -x 90mm -y 66mm --resolution 400 | pnmtojpeg >cprcard.jpg
# make files non-overwritable
# chmod -w ~/scans/*.jpg

Verify each scan with eog viewer.
Organize scans like this:
Make long filenames with agencynames, recipientnames, and documentnames all in lower case.
use the mouse to copy an old file name for re-use.
      this groups similar documents together.
use ls -lr to show most recently scanned items.
use ls -lr *keyword*.jpg to show selected classes of scanned items.
use locate in the distant future to find those oddball items like certificates or letters of recommendation.

locate certificate | grep rabies

about a year ago
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Ask Slashdot: Programming / IT Jobs For Older, Retrained Workers?

beachdog Write back in a year and tell us how it went. (215 comments)

As I read the posts, one of the sub texts is that there are a bunch of career opportunities for you.

The opportunities are geographically spotty and some of the opportunities might be within the company you work for now.

One way of looking at the problem is first is one of your underlying assumptions that you are going to stay in your present home? OK yes. So how many companies within a reasonable drive are there and why not make a sorted list of the nearest and most desirable. Out of that list pick a few companies to use for practice. Research the companies and slowly do one informational interview. Solve the problem of being well dressed, driving up in a presentable car, knowing all kinds of stuff about the company, and developing a model of what kind of automation strategy they are following, what equipment and software they have used, and how strong they feel about their success in automating. Then, having researched the kind of stuff the company ought to be doing or having determined how the implementation process is going, seek an informational interview with an internal affairs executive.

When you have the small things working, like having some printouts and flow charts in a briefcase. Do an informational interview with a high value candidate for your next career move. There are two reciprocal motions taking place, you are solving the problem of presenting yourself as a plausible high and equal status problem solving player on a specific field of activity. Yes I said 'status'. See the last quarter NY Review of Books article reviewing Tom Wolfe's books for a discussion of status. Or this article http://observer.com/2012/10/tom-wolfe-has-blood-on-his-hands-back-to-blood-reviewed/ The second problem is having well tuned and thought provoking questions for your interviewee.

I am 65 and I transitioned out of a lacklustre computer career and I am holding a low pay school aide job for at least 4 more years and probably as long as I can keep working. Well money isn't going to be my legacy for the kids so I have compromised for a dual strategy: I am going to be an aide of excellence and then to give my kids something to be proud of, I am running for a minor elected position in my community. The HR departments can take their age bias and eat it. Changing your status and acquiring the competence to support work at that level you can do.

There is always the z axis if you want to change your plane of operation.

about a year and a half ago

Submissions

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Intense rainstorms could flood parts of California

beachdog beachdog writes  |  about a year and a half ago

beachdog writes "Megastorms Could Drown Massive Portions of California

Huge flows of vapor in the atmosphere, dubbed "atmospheric rivers," have unleashed massive floods every 200 years, and climate change could bring more of them"

Link to Original Source
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MITx, offering an open source online electronics course from MIT

beachdog beachdog writes  |  more than 2 years ago

beachdog (690633) writes "From the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: "MITx will offer a portfolio of MIT courses for free to a virtual community of learners around the world. It will also enhance the educational experience of its on-campus students, offering them online tools that supplement and enrich their classroom and laboratory experiences.

The first MITx course, 6.002x (Circuits and Electronics), will be launched in an experimental prototype form. Watch this space for further upcoming courses, which will become available in Fall 2012."

For the past few years, MIT has been putting materials from it's college courses on the Internet and copyable with few limits. It looks like MIT is now taking a further step of enabling students to earn a certificate of course completion."

Link to Original Source
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Homebrew Your Own Supercomputer?

beachdog beachdog writes  |  more than 2 years ago

beachdog writes "The ham radio magazine QST (membership or library) carries a short article about a 144 core microcontroller being offered by www.greenarraychips.com. To quote the wee bit overenthuiastic article first sentence: "Whoever says that "old guys" can't keep up with technology has never heard of GreenArrays." The Chairman and CTO of GreenArrays is the co founder of Forth, Inc., 1973. That is, 39 years ago."
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How secure is a typical home Linux desktop?

beachdog beachdog writes  |  about 3 years ago

beachdog writes "How secure is a typical home Linux desktop system against intrusion, data theft and hacking? Have the intrusion artists yet developed a really good hack against the Linux desktop?

          I would like to set up some friends with a Linux desktop like
Ubuntu. I know that if the password is reasonable and I block the raw Internet with a home router then some parts of the system are fairly secure.

          But what about the rest of the desktop system? I can warn the users to ignore phony bank email password trolls, but what about the remaining intrusion pathways? Are there intrusion paths through the Internet interface, web browser or email applications that still penetrate a Linux based desktop computer?

        I see Javascript running on the web browser as an obvious and easy attack pathway. I know Javascript can lock up the browser. Have the hackers developed Javascript
into a genuine intrusion? Can other files like pdfs and Jpeg
images launch an attack when opened on a Linux computer?"
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What applications will help Middle East freedom?

beachdog beachdog writes  |  more than 3 years ago

beachdog (690633) writes "What Internet and computer applications would help the millions of Middle East citizens seeking social justice and honest government?

I mean which free and open Internet apps can help countries and people move to better governments without warfare and fratricide?

  I mean serious applications that can facilitate voting, constructive partisan organization, democratic government and economic re-balancing?"
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Slashdot Poll submission

beachdog beachdog writes  |  more than 3 years ago

beachdog (690633) writes "Poll questions:
Have you ever spotted a friend or colleague on a Slashdot discussion?
I have identified at least one acquaintance from High School.
I have identified a professor or teacher I knew in College.
I have identified someone by his distinctive politics or philosophy.
I frequently see my identical twin posting on Slashdot
I can tell when the poster is from my country.
I can tell when the poster speaks my native language.
I can tell when a post is by a famous or rich nerd.
It is all monkeys pounding on typewriters to me."
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Ask Slashdot DNA sample and disclosure

beachdog beachdog writes  |  more than 4 years ago

beachdog (690633) writes "My health insurance provder wants me to provide a saliva swab DNA sample and possibly a blood sample for a medical research study.

The problem I have is, how do I consent to the research and also require the knowledge found to be disclosed in a free manner?

I need a simple sentence I can insert into the consent document that will ensure that important findings are published to ensure this area of study is not tied up with patents or proprietary medical solutions.

The research side of the study looks like just the kind of science a big, busy, non-profit medical care provider might do. Their consent form is very detailed about the care they will take to keep my medical data private. But there is not a word about how they will use the resulting study data. Are they going to publish, patent or sell the data? They say nothing."

Link to Original Source
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What if DARPA vehicle challenge went open source?

beachdog beachdog writes  |  about 6 years ago

beachdog writes "I note that every vehicle entered in the DARPA autonomous vehicle challenge uses a different setup of sensors, computers and software. None of the vehicles use the same data structure, none of the vehicles can share data, none of the vehicles can help each other.

So I ask Slashdot readers: What would happen if the DARPA challenge competitors collaborated and created open source software instead of the present many isolated efforts? What if the competitors worked together and created an open data structure to describe the vehicle path segments, if they had an open test data suite, if they had a vehicle-to-vehicle data exchange protocol, if they had a Google maps-for-autonomous-vehicles data service, and if there were open source vehicle control programs?"
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beachdog beachdog writes  |  more than 7 years ago

beachdog (690633) writes "I am puzzled at how my experience upgrading my Ubuntu distribution is not being reflected in reviews or news.

My experience as a long time Linux user is: Ubuntu 6.06 LTS has enough configuration errors that it shouldn't be offered as an end user distribution yet.

I upgraded from the 5.05 "Breezy Badger" Ubuntu to the 6.06 "LTS" about 6 weeks after LTS was released. After a news report mentioning a bug with the X windows driver I waited 3 weeks. Nope X was still broken.

The xserver package was still broken. It immediately broke my X display. From the ubuntu forums I got instructions to push the xserver package version back. Four hours later I got my X display back.

What has happened since then is one little application after another is coming up broken. Mostly minor changes are breaking applicatons. I have not found a single major improvement in 6.06 that compensates for the 16 hours wasted. I haven't messed with ticky tacky stuff like this since the RedHat C-compiler version problem of 5 years ago.

The agony is I am a bloody desktop user doing Craigslist job search and Rails. I actually need Google Earth to "just work".

I really am the wrong guy to back up and futz with problems like "the openGL graphics functions for the mga driver seem to be broken." For a long time now, I have depended on the Debian package system to set things up right.

The upgrade water torture ticky tack list for LTS:

- Local printing broken - required delete and reinstall printers.
- Adobe acrobat no longer being called as a firefox plugin (still broken despite messing with Preferences)
- Google earth now showing OpenGL error message (still broken)
- Matrox mga video driver, can't tell if the opengl functions needed by Google earth are working.
- mplayer stopped, requires an obscure edit to /etc/mplayer.config
- sound for YouTube videos now requires opening a new alsa package and futzing with mute settings. Desktop sounds are gone. (configuration for alsa-mixer changed).
- Firefox closes all windows (or crashes) when certain web pages are closed by the server."

Journals

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Mini review of Couchdb: The definitive guide

beachdog beachdog writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Mini-review of:
Couchdb: The Definitive Guide âoeTime to Relaxâ
by
J. Chris Anderson, Jan Lehnardt and Noah Slater
Published by
O'Reilly Media, Inc., Sebastopol, CA.
Copyright 2010, ISBN 978-0-596-15589-6, Price $39.99.
reviewed by Lee McKusick
02/24/10

Couchdb is an open source free document oriented data storage and retrieval system.
It stores data in key:value blocks. It is a looser storage style than a relational data base.

It uses the http protocol to send instructions and data to couchdb. The administrative interface futon is a web page.
The data returned by couchdb is usually formated in the Javascript object notation (JSON). An example is {"ok":true}

It is part of a series of Apache.org programming projects to provide free software tools for large scale web computing

Couchdb: The Definitive Guide is an open book. The text can be read at http://books.couchdb.org/relax

Couchdb can be set up on a single server and it is designed to scale up to serve many users and run on many server computers.

In a relational database, there is indexing, sorting and selecting as the feature operations.

For parallel computing, as Couchdb provides it, the indexing and sorting job is split into two parts.

  First the program maps the job out to all the individual computers. Couchdb does the map step by means of a special view document. This view document is sent out to each individual computer. The view document document uses a meta language to specify what will be selected and sorted in this particular view of this particular grouping of documents. The view document tells each individual computer running an instance of Couchdb how to sort and index the specific data on that computer.

The second part of the parallel computing task is to collect up the indexed data from the individual computers and reduce the multiple lists down to one list.

  (Now I am not sure if I understand couchdb yet, but here is my guess). Couchdb does two things, first couchdb organizes data items by version. Both the original and the modified version are kept. One thing couchdb does is it sends the latest version of a file out to all the machines that do not have the latest version. Couchdb synchronizes all the copies of the data. Does it actually merge index files from different computers? I don't quite understand yet.

A related and complimentary system is Hadoop, which is a free and open source implementation of the map and reduce parallel computing system that has been patented by Google

The recommended method of installing couchdb is to get the pre-compiled packages for your particular version of Linux or Mac computer.

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FreeBSD compared to two Linuxes: Which is a good secure desktop?

beachdog beachdog writes  |  more than 4 years ago

I set up one of my home computers with FreeBSD 8.0 and the Gnome desktop. I wanted to determine if it would be practical to offer a computer loaded with FreeBSD as a "very secure home computer". I also have installations of Ubuntu and CentOS (and of course Windows XP) for comparison.

The question I was exploring was which of these three open source operating systems and desktop would be the best combination of secure, supportable and livable if I handed the system off to a typical computer user.

While in the middle of this comparison, I received a pfish email based on my Facebook entry. There is a lot of trickery on the Internet that bypasses the most secure computer. Security requires an alert user . Part of a secure system must be helping the user recognize the phishes and other tricks.

While comparing systems, I note that my choices ultimately reflect my experience, not the absolute technical merit of FreeBSD or Linux.

The conclusion I have reached is not about the security or merits of the three systems ( FreeBSD, Ubuntu and CentOS ) rather it reflects my years of experience. I have 10 years with Red Hat based systems, 6 years with Debian based systems and 3 weeks with FreeBSD.

All of these secure desktop systems need a home router (like a Linksys WRT54G) and a UPS with power filtering. Last time I looked, sophisticated probes were hammering on the ethernet jack provided by my ISP (Comcast). The Linksys device blocks this stuff pretty well. I attribute getting 11 years with no motherboard or disk failures to the 11 year old APC brand UPS ahead of the PC.

First choice for a secure desktop: CentOS .

I installed from a CD. CentOS is like RedHat, it is slightly tilted for a business model where users do not perform system administration. I like the CentOS install CD. One reason is it can be written and read by the same "Windows quality" defective Sony DVD drive that messes up Ubuntu compressed files. The automatic update seems to work very well. The major distribution versions change fairly slowly. The CentOS forums and help pages are similar in competence to the FreeBSD forums.

Second choice for a secure desktop: Ubuntu.

I feel Ubuntu is slightly less secure than CentOS because the user can do all the system administration tasks with only the one user password. I have had enormous difficulties because a Sony DVD drive I owned wouldn't properly read or write the Ubuntu Install CD. In my experience, Ubuntu version upgrades come a bit too fast for my administrative energy level. For a slow to upgrade user (like me), the deliberately faster upgrade cycle isn't worth the intrusion on my schedule. Ubuntu has a good manual and a forum system that reflects energy and enthusiasm with a bit more inexperience.

Third choice for a secure desktop is FreeBSD.

I used a FreeBSD version 8.0 install DVD. FreeBSD replaced the CentOS boot sector programs with it's two boot menus. The first menu carefully provides boot service to an existing Linux system. The second menu provides boot options and rescue modes for the FreeBSD system.

The process of installing FreeBSD went quite rapidly up to the point where I had a classic command line Unix screen. My lack of experience began to show as I worked to install X and the Gnome desktop. FreeBSD offered during the install process to install hundreds of programs from a menu. I couldn't figure out what was required for X and Gnome. I used one computer with a working web browser to read the FreeBSD manual and then I manually typed in the package install commands on the FreeBSD console as the root user.

It is really interesting working with FreeBSD. They have a system for installing software from packages (pkg_install) and they have another system for installing software from source code (ports). The short story is I more or less installed X and Gnome twice. To finish the FreeBSD desktop install required a couple of file edits and Google searches on two error messages. The FreeBSD forums are orderly and have a number of very useful how-to guides. A neighbor who works with FreeBSD said it generally takes about a day of fiddling to get a graphical desktop running on FreeBSD. My time was a more than a CentOS install reflecting my inexperience.

There are aspects of the FreeBSD setup that are still unfinished. The desktop needs OpenOffice. Regarding the user level internet "security" that was the original goal of this project, I will have to do a good deal of study to understand the many fine points of FreeBSD security configuration.

Putting FreeBSD third on my list is not a judgement about FreeBSD. FreeBSD has long been known as a security oriented server operating system. In contrast Ubuntu is highly optimized to install a desktop with no configuration and CentOS also delivers a desktop as part of the basic install too.

The most time consuming part of the FreeBSD comparison was repartitioning a CentOS system to make space for FreeBSD. I had to repartition a 160 Gigabyte disk drive that was dedicated to a CentOS system. The disk had a stable Centos 3.2 installation with about 90 Gigs of space used. Repartitioning required 4 steps. First, the /boot partition had to be made larger. That was pretty easy. Next, the single ext3 file system had to be reduced from 155 Gig to 100 Gig. That can be done with a bit of research. Third, the main disk partition had to be reduced to end at about the 110th Gig. Fdisk did that. The fourth step was to tell the CentOS extended file system the new sizes of the new smaller partitions. I got hung up in a too-familiar error message. So I skipped on to installing FreeBSD. I have to go back and eventually repair the boot process for the CentOS installation.

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Ubuntu falters; The lethal bug they call a feature

beachdog beachdog writes  |  more than 4 years ago

One of the reasons Ubuntu isn't getting the desktop penetration it is worthy of is the Ubuntu Install CD disk is (in my opinion and direct experience) extremely fragile.

        I have seen the kernel and the free applications go through astounding development over the years. But the Ubuntu Install CD has been destroying perhaps 30% of the community of new users for 2 or 3 years now.

          The Ubuntu Install CD is made with a very elegant and efficient compressed file system. The beauty of it is it packs a huge bundle of software ready for demo or install. The bad part of the compressed file system is a substantial number of Windows computer CD drives make an error when uncompressing huge compressed files.

        You have probably seen the bug: You stick a Ubuntu Install CD in, you choose a demo or install, you hit go, the process starts, and then the machine just sits there.

      So, Ubuntu has something like an invisible lethal mutation. To the proud programmers, compressed files are impressive and elegant. To both me and Joe Firstime, I have never had a problem with my Fry's Sony DVD drive until now, therefore I'm not spending another $50 just in hopes of running a Ubuntu Install CD.

        Incidentally, The Centos and the other Red Hat Install CD's do not have the "uncompress" failure because they have no compressed files on their Install CD, except for a few trivial files. But the Red Hat family of Linuxes is not a good choice for a home desktop. Ubuntu should be the best desktop.

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Review of Natural Language Processing With Python by...

beachdog beachdog writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Natural Language Processing with Python.
Analyzing Text with the Natural Language Toolkit,

by Steven Bird, Ewan Klein and Edward Loper.

Published by O'Reilly Media Inc., c. 2009, price $44.99

Reviewed by Lee McKusick

07/22/09

Natural Language Processing with Python is about scanning text samples of human languages like English, or Persian or Chineese with computer routines and doing tasks like counting word frequencies, parsing sentences, and further analyses that begin the difficult task of finding limited kinds of meaning in pieces of text .

The book has a matching website www.nltk.org.

This book is addressed to a broad academic community:
        One audience is liberal arts students..
        The second audience is the computer science based student.
        The third audience is teachers and researchers worldwide.

This book tries hard to be a high quality introduction to natural language processing.

Natural Language Processing itself is one of the great problems of computing. One of the enjoyable things this book does is the authors carefully outline some of the great problems in computer science that are central to natural language processing. These problems are described starting with the texts and programs provided in the toolkit. The liberal arts students are included right at the start. The discussions include further reading references to the classics of the field, like Knuth.

Natural Language Processing is also a field of some interest and utility to linguists, critics, historians, students of language and rhetoric and students of 20th century philosophy. This dimension is also covered with a good sequence of examples and references.

I remember reading the philosopher Wittgenstein (his writings vintage 1943) where he did thought experiments of putting words in a tray. This way of thinking about meaning is a provocative way of thinking about meaning that could lead to some interesting Toolkit projects.

The fourth audience for this book might be the programmer seeking an interesting opportunity:

        Is this a book that might help me write a project specific text analysis engine? I have been wishing for a way to clarify and reorganize the Ubuntu Forums website with a structured language query tree.

        Would the NLTK be useful if I wanted to write a search engine?

              Good news item one is the executable code of the NLTK is licensed under the Apache license. This means the components can be used in a new project. The web site of the natural language toolkit is licensed under a Creative Commons license. A link to both license statements is:

http://code.google.com/p/nltk/

                        Good news item two is there already exists a site scraper project that has NLTK lead author Steven Bird as a contributor. The Google Code web site for this Site Scraper is:

http://code.google.com/p/sitescraper/

        Would the NLTK be useful if I wanted to figure out the vocabulary used by a specific group of people to talk about a specific subject? A really fascinating item in this book in chapter 6 is the "Maximium Entropy Classifier". Here is the first occurrence in print of a formula for entropy that I can understand and duplicate with a pocket calculator.

                Entropy is a key concept discussed by Shannon in his classic information theory article. I sometimes feel very disappointed that computers are not doing much with information. Rather, computers and the Internet are moving data very well. But the computers are not doing much in the way of "information processing".

                Does the Natural Language Processing Toolkit summarize the state of the art in natural language processing on a computer?

          This tool kit embodies the divide and conquer approach to language processing. Some of the tasks being worked on in the later chapters include making connections between two sentence statements, attempting to pick out fact phrases from text, attempting to parse symbolic logic text statements.

            8-10-2009. Corrected this journal entry to note the Apache license and the Google Code URL links. A copy of this review is posted on the O'Reilly web site, reviews section.

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Consumer and Business Fair Data Access Law ... draft

beachdog beachdog writes  |  more than 5 years ago

This is a draft of a legal approach to improving the value of all software. One of the most common practices in the consumer and business software business is to sell software programs with proprietary data storage structures.

          Word processing and video data are commonly wrapped in data structures that are not disclosed by the application publisher. This practice prevents the creator of the data from fully utilizing the data they create. (enumerate more examples).

          The practice deprives the owner of the value of portability, inspection and editing. The practice inhibits commerce, by interfering with the exchange of data and further manipulation of the data.

                Consumer and Business Fair Data Access Law

        It is contrary to the public purpose to permit consumer and business software to operate on consumer and business data without provision for the software to export and import the data in a fully described data structure. It shall be fair use for other consumer or business software to read and write data to the same structure.

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What is a secure and hack resistant Linux setup?

beachdog beachdog writes  |  more than 5 years ago

What is a secure and hack resistant Linux setup?

The recent story about the Dali Lama and 106 embassies being penetrated by snooping malware show there is a real need for a reasonable and secure desktop computer setup.

What is available that I could offer as a consultant to a user who was ready to be relatively secure, using available hardware and software?

The four problems I see are:

- Prevent Internet intrusion through any port.
- Ensuring the browser doesn't run any kind of JavaScript or Java spyware.
- Having a secure password scheme. No passwords in plaintext.
- Get a reasonable approach to physical hardware security.

Here is my draft setup:

1. Battery UPS.
2. A LinkSys WRT54G to block most port scans. Large password.
3. The computer will be a PC running either:
        A. Centos 5.2 with security on.
        B. Ubuntu
4. The browser will pose an intrusion risk due to JavaScript or Java programs.
        A. How to secure the browser?
5. Evolution mail only.
6. Encrypted file for all user passwords and login urls.
7. User training for secure passwords and spotting Javascript problems.
8. Intrusion discovery solution. What kind?

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Automotive SPICE in Practice ... what is it? A pico review

beachdog beachdog writes  |  more than 5 years ago

A short review of

  • Automotive SPICE in Practice Surviving Interpretation and Assessment

, by Klaus Hoermann, Markus Mueller, Lars Dittmann and Joerg Zimmer. Published by Rocky Nook Computing, c. 2008, $54.95.

SPICE is an acronym for "software process improvement and capability determination".

Automotive SPICE is a book about organizing an automotive related software business to apply for the ISO/IEC 15504 standard recognition.

According to the Foreword in Automotive Spice: "ISO 9001 certifications in the '90's have not led OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to have true confidence in the processes of their development partners."

So, without using acronyms: This is a book about organizing a business that develops automotive software to produce quality software. In particular, this book is addressed to people that are involved with creating the quality structure and the people who work as assessors, determining if the specific quality activities are accomplished.

But this is a book with loads of acronyms. That stuff we might call "quality" software depends upon a structure that surrounds the stuff that is written. Rather than remember and recite how to do some of these quality activities an acronym is created. Some of the acronyms that really do this well incude:

          EITVOX Entry criteria,Inputs, Tasks, Verification, Outputs, exit Criteria
          FTA Fault tree analysis. (Sounds like a good one to know, yes?)
          GQM Goal Question Metric

  Automotive software differs in several ways from other software: the product goes into cars, it could have been written by a supplier, there are lots of embedded applications, lots of software becomes obsolete with the annual model cycle but the application software could be responsible for safety for many years after production ended.

One of the interesting things about the Automotive SPICE project is the membership. The members are European automakers plus Ford. Car makers that are not named as members include General Motors, Chrysler and no Japanese and no Chinese and no Indian and no Korean auto makers.

The Automotive SPICE project has a website.

http://www.automotivespice.com/index.html

The text of the Automotive Spice assessment model and process reference model are available for download, registration required

http://www.automotivespice.com/automotiveSIG_PAM_v24.pdf

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Building Embedded Linux Systems a comment heavy mini-review

beachdog beachdog writes  |  more than 5 years ago

  • Building Embedded Linux Systems, Second Edition

by Karim Yaghmour, Jon Masters, Gilad Ben-yossef & Philippe Gerum, published by O'Reilly, $49.99 c. 2008.

This is a mini-review with lots of comment.

I have a couple home projects in mind and I looked at Building Embedded Linux Systems to determine if this book is the guide I need.

Building Embedded Linux Systems is mostly about setting up a cross compiler environment and describing the various software changes available to make desktop Linux much smaller, boot faster, run in real time and run with various kinds of volatile and non-volatile memory and do various kinds of networking and communication.

The strength of Building Embedded Systems is if you do any kind of software development for any kind of Linux embedded system, and if you are employed at this work, this book will say enough things to be worth your while.

Building Embedded Systems is not a book about system design and it is also not a book about specific embedded system hardware. The book has the editorial focus and intensity of other O'Reilly books... this is a book mostly about putting together the development environment, file system choices and compiler outputs that are loaded onto a hardware board to make a Linux based embedded system.

These are the weaknesses, reasons why on my modest projects I am unlikely to add Building Embedded Systems to my library:

* For my spinning clothes dryer I will continue to use a Basic Stamp with some thermistors, power transistors and push button switches. Embedded Linux still isn't needed for a project with one measured value, one motor and no more than $.30 per day energy savings.

* For my autonomous electric wheelchair conversion project, I am going to stick with my Dell Inspiron 1200 running Ubuntu. This is a project where finding and integrating software pieces is the real problem. I already have a working web cam and a working GPS and a working wireless link and a working USB-serial port.

For the autonomous electric vehicle project I see doing embedded Linux as trying to do hardware development and software development at the same time. Embedded development puts me in the situation of dealing with hardware problems and operating system software and application software development at the same time.

So my feeling about Building Embedded Systems is not so much a criticism of the book as a comment on the state of the art. Presently embedded systems require a rather elaborate setup: You have to commit to a specific target hardware. Then you have to assemble a dedicated development system to write and compile software builds for the target system. Then you have to be prepared to make further investments in hardware and software debugging.

So for me, I see the better path for my projects is to avoid formal embedded computing.

I will use the Basic Stamp I have on hand for simple switch and motor control and feed back loops. If I need more micro controllers, I will get some Arduino devices, they have a simple A-D input and open source software and some boards support a USB interface.

For the autonomous wheelchair project, I'll develop using a laptop. I feel once I have a running and testable software stack, the design problem will be to study adding solar panels and reducing energy usage. Migrating to a tiny or embedded CPU will be a less important design priority.

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Mini review of Google Apps Hacks by Philip Lenssen

beachdog beachdog writes  |  about 6 years ago

All the basic pieces of a personal computer word processing, spreadsheet, presentations, images and email desktop are available on the internet through Google's Apps.

Google Apps Hacks by Philip Lenssen, published by O'Reilly, price #29.99 is a guide to Google's Internet application suite.

If you go to google.com and click on the top row item "more" you see the top layer of Google Apps. To explore further, you must sign up for a Google account. If you have email on Google, you have an account.

The advantage of the Google Apps Hacks book is it is a nice stable book that you can read and annotate.

I find it very helpful use the table of contents and simply focus on the specific hacks that I see will immediately serve my communication purposes.

For example, I have a Google blog. I used the Google Apps Hacks book as a starting point for deciding to use the Google blog application. I have embedded a graph from a spreadsheet, using the book as a starting point.

See: http://lessco2essay.blogspot.com/

There has been an interesting side effect showing how the apps are interconnected. The photos and drawings I uploaded to my blog also appear on the Google image site Picasa as a photo album.

The state of Google Apps is the apps are changing as I write. On the word processing side, one requested feature is "import and edit PDF files." I didn't expect that photos and images from my blog photos appeared on Picasa as a photo album.

But all I can say is, that is great. I have been exploring a discipline of creating a photo to match every blog entry. I really enjoy seeing the images aggregating into a restatement of my blog.

Presently, my wife has made off with my copy of Google Apps Hacks. My wife does consulting with clients in other states. She is your classic Microsoft Word user who is migrating to OpenOffice and Gmail. She already uses gmail.com as her storage area for documents she receives and sends.

Right now, I feel there is more utility and less direct cost to migrate to Google Apps and away from the venerable Microsoft Office the CD product.

Presently Microsoft Office is offered at $250 in the Small Business edition or $90 in a student and home edition.

The contrasting expenditures for accessing Google Apps is first a book ($30, optional). The next expenditure is a portion of our internet access charges, I figure $30 a month. Finally, Google Apps warrants an investment of time and thought.

Here are the limits or edges I feel Google Apps presents:

        Google Apps sharing: The model and way in which sharing, posting and editing privileges work isn't really clear to me. For my wife, we need to enable sharing based on email addreses of messages she gets to her gmail account. I'd like to enable sharing based on some kind of time limited key that I could send to a group of people. Alternately, how about if I could select a group of my documents and share them to anybody I send a document-group-key?

        Google Apps has a primary personality as an extension of a personal computer desktop. It doesn't directly support a group structure like a small business where you would want to add and delete users and have functional areas like accounting and sales. Only a few business type applications are supported in the spreadsheet templates group.

          Google Apps doesn't seem to have much available as a programmable or scriptable environment. There are some intriguing possibilities: You can create a form that inputs data into a spreadsheet. (This may be the innocuous opening into Google Apps that javascript presents to web applications). The rudiments of this are covered in Google Apps Hacks.

          There are a lot of interesting things that could be done with the ability of Google Docs to roll back a document to previous versions. I find roll back invaluable when working with Google spreadsheets.

          Another thing I haven't yet found in Google Apps is a way to tag everything with a name or URL. Blogger offers url naming, but it is not a featured service like some other blogging websites.

          So I am guardedly delighted with Google Apps, and I credit the book Google Apps Hacks with changing my entry into the blogosphere. To a certain extent, my home desktop is now redundant. I feel a little bit uneasy that Google Apps is free and my data is being stored for free.

So with those concerns stated, I post this review.

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What unit for measuring CO2 emissions?

beachdog beachdog writes  |  about 6 years ago

What is a appropriate unit of measure that we should use for describing the global warming effect of a fuel or a product?

How should we label a product or an energy commodity for embodied CO2 (CO2 emitted by the factory that made the product) and CO2 that will be emitted when the product is used?

It seems to me that if we want to bring the global CO2 burden on the atmosphere caused by human activity under control we need a small set of correct and consistent units of measure.

Right now the process of measuring and controlling our individual carbon footprint or contribution to the global atmospheric CO2 load is a disorganized mess.

Consider the "energy star" label that was applied to computers and monitors. It was a sticker with no numeric content.

Example: Automobiles are labeled with miles per gallon. A furnace is labeled in BTU per hour, a refrigerator is labeled in dollars per year.

Common CO2 emitting energy sources are all labeled in traditional ways that don't reveal the actual CO2 gas that will be released when the fuel is used: kilowatt hours for electricity, therms for gas, gallons for gasoline.

The first candidate I suggest is grams of CO2 gas emitted.

There are some chemical complications that may lead to a little more sophisticated measure, "equivalent grams of CO2". I understand, methane gas in the atmosphere has more warming effect than the same methane perfectly burned to CO2.

So the summary question for you is: What is the unit and method of labeling products and fuels that would enable you to consistently make incremental changes in your life and the way your business works to reduce your Carbon footprint?

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Micro review of Fine Art Printing for Photographers

beachdog beachdog writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Fine Art Printing for Photographers - Exhibition Quality Prints with Inkjet Printers by Uwe Steinmueller and Juergen Gulbins is a guide to the art and technology of making large impressive prints of photographs.

The audience addressed is the advanced amateur and the beginning professional photographer.

All of the software discussed in the book is for Windows or MacIntosh computers.

The big disappointment I find with Fine Art Printing is it omits open source software. No mention of the Gimp graphics editor and no mention of the Gimp printer drivers.

Another disappointment is the book discusses only the newer 6,7 and 8 cartridge dedicated inkjet photo printers.

As an open source software user here are the strengths of this book:

            --- The book describes a lot of interesting papers for inkjet printing. Even if you use open source software, the discussion of printer papers will prepare you to buy and try different printer papers.

            --- This book talks about the "workflow" of the process you use to generate a quality print. Well if you use open source software the workflow is the same. Quality prints are the outcome of plenty of tests and very careful handling of the final print.

                --- This book talks about "color spaces" and the calibration of printers so that the image is mapped in the artistically and aesthetically desired way onto the paper. Here is an area Gimp users should study and develop. Gimp sort of has some of these resources and capabilities. There is a real need for making a Gimp based procedure to map the brightness and colors of an image to the brightness and color of the image when printed onto paper.

   

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Review of RailsSpace and two web design guides

beachdog beachdog writes  |  about 7 years ago

Review of three books for web application development, by Lee McK
08/21/07

RailsSpace Building a Social Networking Web Site with Ruby on Rails, by Michael Hartl and Aurelius Prochazka, published by Addison-Wesley Pearson Education, c. 2008. $44.99 US.

I have already invested about 10 hours reading and working with this Ruby on Rails web site construction guide. Last month I reviewed the very similar Apress book Practical Rails Social Networking Sites.

See review at: http://slashdot.org/~beachdog/journal/177633

Both "RailSpace" and "Practical Rails Social Networking Sites" are second books for a person who has worked through one or two introductory Ruby on Rails books. The authors of RailsSpace point back to Agile Web Development with Rails by Dave Thomas and others as the most widely recognized first Rails book.

The authors of RailsSpace tell the story of how both of them have gone through about 10 years of web site development projects. They were both college graduate students that came upon an available web server. They moved from static html pages, then they embedded calls to Perl scripts in their html, then they worked with Philip Greenspun's Arsdigita Oracle database scripted in TCL running on the Aolserver web server, then they worked with the Python based Zope website system. That trail of experience leads to Ruby on Rails.

One of the things I like about RailsSpace is the authors take the time to very carefully focus on some of the conventions and features of the Rails environment. One of the first things you do with Rails is run "script/generate controller ...".

This book takes the time to point out the important things this action does. This script creates a file structure, some skeleton programs, skeleton display pages and writes some Ruby code snippets.

So RailsSpace spends more time at the beginning explaining the environment that Rails creates. More than being just a powerful script, the authors begin showing how Rails has constructively moved past the agony, the verbose code, and the blizzard of ticky tacky details that are common in the older development environments.

I liked the explanation approach because it has helped me to push on to developing my own idea of a social networking web site. I don't want to be a script copier, I want to prototype and experiment with a different design in parallel with working through the book.

Something I have found missing from the cook book type Rails books is assistance with the rhetoric, psychology and philosophy of designing a social networking web site. I like the formulation from Donald MacKay's Information, Mechanism and Meaning book; information is that which changes people's readiness for action.

The design problem of making a website that prepares a person for the action of buying something is thoroughly explored by many ecommerce web sites. The design problem of preparing a person for action to improve the quality of preschool childcare is not well developed.

Two books for the design problem:

Deliver First Class Web Sites 101 Essential Checklists, by Shirley Kaiser, published by SitePoint Pty. Ltd., c. 2006. $39.95 US.

This is a guide to designing and delivering a web site project. This book bridges the gap between a customer who wants to hire the construction of a web site and the web site creator.

The first two chapters frame the extremely difficult customer side problem of who is the audience, what is the purpose of the site and what is a realistic budget. The way the book works is each of these questions is filled out with additional questions, recommendations and commentary.

This book has the continuous clang! of experience acquired at great expense by a lot of other organizations and hopefully not your organization.

My wife who is not a programmer, but who is a veteran of other communication projects, recognized that this book is what she will need when her employer updates their existing static web site.

The value of this book for a web site builder appears in three places. First it sets the customer up to clarify to you a lot of things about the site before you cut code. Second, there is good advice about domain name acquisition and branding and use of copyright images so the customer can decide to head off domain squatters and traffic thieves before the site attracts attention. Third, there is a lot of clearly expressed technical, html, color and design advice to push you away from obsolete and inappropriate programming practices.

The difference between "Deliver First Class Web Sites" and an early web design book like Greenspun's Philip and Alex's Guide to Web Publishing is ten years of development of the vocabulary and mental landscape that describes a web site.

The Principles of Beautiful Web Design - Design Beautiful Web Sites Using This Step-by-Step Guide, by Jason Beaird, published by SitePoint Pty.Ltd., c. 2007. $39.95 US.

I am reviewing this book because I have done prototype websites with creepy color and ugly graphics. Long ago, I did take art classes and I blended water colors and did drawing projects with the Golden section.

Well, I figure with a little conceptual help I can make some headway in getting my CSS stylesheets and page layouts working better. This looks like the book.

I have found the default page layouts coming from my recent Rails prototypes to have a big problem with scaling gracefully when I enlarge the type sizes using the browser's Text Size menu. Hey, that completely sucks when you are over 40 years old and looking at an old 15" monitor. Anyhow, my next web project has to play well on web enabled cell phones too.

Therefore, this book looks like the third book I am going to use for my next development project.

If you live near San Mateo, California, you may be interested in attending our upcoming PenLUG meeting on Thursday August 23 . The books reviewed here will be at the meeting and available for review.

Meeting title is: Securing Web Applications in the LAMP Environment - Qualys

Meeting URL: http://www.penlug.org/twiki/bin/view/Home/WebHome

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I thought I saw a problem with Ubuntu

beachdog beachdog writes  |  about 7 years ago

The Ubuntu distribution is failing due to not enough high level maintainers.

The failures are amplified because it appears to me that Google has dropped human intervention in the indexing process for Ubuntu or Linux related queries.

And so the observation points right back to me, your typical anonymous user. What should I do, what can I do?

I entered this weekend aiming to restart a Rails program project. I decided to make disk space by copying a couple gigs of jpeg photos to DVD. So I was going to install a $25 Emprex brand DVD writer, a sale item from Fry's.

The DVD writer inside the box was actually a Sony brand drive. It reads and writes CDs fine. Eventually I determined that a dvd writing application called growisofs was not working right.

So at that point I had a plain application software problem.

One step I took was to search Google for solution.

Google isn't returning helpful results as it seemed to do in the past. In the past I have used Google to search for solutions to software problems. I have had the feeling that I was getting excellent results because somebody had edited the search results to force the "answer" to show up at the top of the search results.

Another step I took was to search the Ubuntu forums for a solution.

Ubuntu forums has lots of earnest people but important information about application failures isn't reaching the responders.

By exerience, I find I have to search the forums carefully for well phrased questions and quality answers. It turns out that in the Ubuntu forums, "DVD" is the last item in the most searched for word list. Going straight to the "DVD" item, there was a very reasonable 250 forum posts, so I reviewed the ten pages of posts and read the most plausible 20 support exchanges for my particular problem.

Somewhat against my instincts, the most plausible Ubuntu forum posts said that problems like mine were best solved by doing a distribution upgrade. I have been sticking with "Dapper 6.06 LTS" and the posters recommended moving to "Feisty 7.04".

Lacking a quality answer about the specific application I know is failing for apparent lack of memory, I reluctantly accepted the low quality answer of "do a distribution upgrade". The upgrade is stuck at a character terminal and I'll spare you the gory details. I would laugh except it hurts too much.

So it looks to me like those few elite programmers who intimately understand the Ubuntu distribution are not involved enough with the failures that accumulate as the kernel evolves and applications and hardware details fall behind.

I can't say with my bare face hanging out that Ubuntu is a productive environment for me at this time.

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Review of "Practical Rails Social Networking Sites"

beachdog beachdog writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Mini review: Practical Rails Social Networking Sites by Alan Bradburne, published by Apress, Berkeley, California 2007. US $44.99

Reviewed by Lee McK

Practical Rails Social Networking Sites has a cover subtitle "Learn how to implement a modern social networking web site using Rails, from design to deployment."

This book walks the reader through the steps of setting up Ruby and Rails software on a Linux or Windows (or BSD or Apple) computer and then designing and setting up several of the well known modules that appear in social networking websites like myspace.com and pbwiki.com.

The skill level expected by this book is you have worked through several chapters of an introductory Rails programming book. The back cover names two Apress Books as an introduction: Beginning Rails: From Novice to Professional. Also from Apress, Beginning Ruby: From Novice to Professional.

A book I used that prepared me for Practical Rails is Agile Web Development with Rails by Dave Thomas and David Heinemeier Hansson. I probably invested 4 weeks or 50 hours doing the tutorials and then building two prototype web sites. (How much time I admit to spending depends on whether my wife is listening.)

I think this book is a really good tool if you have explored Rails and your aim is to develop a database backed website with users, blogs, email, user created pages, user uploaded photos, and use of published API services such as Google Earth.

My experience so far with Rails kind of came to a stop when I built a prototype website using a Gem called Goldberg (I think that is the name). This gem made it easy to create the frames and pages I wanted. So I jumped immediately to the core of my problem which required components for uploading global positioning system data and displaying the data on topographic maps. I got bogged down with geographical information systems problems and used up my development time. I shelved the project. Practical Rails: Social Networking Sites may be the casebook of examples that will help me restart this project.

Now this is where Beginning Rails: From Novice to Professional. comes in as a guide. The author Alan Bradburne has divided the social networking website problem into about 10 components. For each component he walks through the classic Rails module development steps: you specify the requirements, sometimes you download a gem, then you create the model, the controller, the view and the tests.

This book is partly recipes. The website described in the book appears at http://railscoders.net

This book is in larger part an experienced developer showing the beautiful and powerful Rails "model view controller test" program design discipline.

For instance, one component is building a photo gallery. The author shows the classic Rails development steps as you modify the data model, you add processing in a controller and add display layouts in views and finally you write tests so you can promptly find out if later changes break earlier code.

07/25/07

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Ubuntu 6.06 LTS, many small failures

beachdog beachdog writes  |  more than 7 years ago

I am puzzled at how my experience upgrading my Ubuntu distribution is not being reflected in reviews or news.

My experience as a long time Linux user is: Ubuntu 6.06 LTS has enough configuration errors that it shouldn't be offered as an end user distribution yet.

I upgraded from the 5.05 "Breezy Badger" Ubuntu to the 6.06 "LTS" about 6 weeks after LTS was released. After a news report mentioning a bug with the X windows driver I waited 3 weeks. Nope X was still broken.

The xserver package was still broken. It immediately broke my X display. From the ubuntu forums I got instructions to push the xserver package version back. Four hours later I got my X display back.

What has happened since then is one little application after another is coming up broken. Mostly minor changes are breaking applicatons. I have not found a single major improvement in 6.06 that compensates for the 16 hours wasted. I haven't messed with ticky tacky stuff like this since the RedHat C-compiler version problem of 5 years ago.

The agony is I am a bloody desktop user doing Craigslist job search and Rails. I actually need Google Earth to "just work".

I really am the wrong guy to back up and futz with problems like "the openGL graphics functions for the mga driver seem to be broken." For a long time now, I have depended on the Debian package system to set things up right.

The upgrade water torture ticky tack list for LTS:

- Local printing broken - required delete and reinstall printers.
- Adobe acrobat no longer being called as a firefox plugin (still broken despite messing with Preferences)
- Google earth now showing OpenGL error message (still broken)
- Matrox mga video driver, can't tell if the opengl functions needed by Google earth are working.
- mplayer stopped, requires an obscure edit to /etc/mplayer.config
- sound for YouTube videos now requires opening a new alsa package and futzing with mute settings. Desktop sounds are gone. (configuration for alsa-mixer changed).
- Firefox closes all windows (or crashes) when certain web pages are closed by the server.

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