Ebola Has Made It To the United States
Maybe people have pointed out that Ebola is not very contagious and is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids. However, the Ebola Reston strain is airborne though only dangerous to monkeys.
The current strain in Liberia and other places is Ebola Zaire, and is not airborne, but there is nothing preventing its mutation into something that is more contagious like Reston, so we should be cautious.
Ramanujan's Deathbed Conjecture Finally Proven
The summary suggests that Ramanujan wrote down some results that were conjectures until now. He wrote down many results, few if any on his deathbed, and most of them have already been verified for years, though some were still open until recently. Apparently the actual article is about the closing of the last few ones only.
Ramanujan's Deathbed Conjecture Finally Proven
The summary is actually referring to other conjectures from his notebooks and other notes, not 'the' Ramanujan conjecture as proved by Deligne, so the summary is not really incorrect, just misleading. It should be noted that these other conjectures are in fact not unusually important and certainly not even close to the Weil conjectures, but are nevertheless interesting.
Ramanujan's Deathbed Conjecture Finally Proven
Actually, he was unusually gifted in mathematics and certainly much brighter than the average mathematician, at least in terms of raw power and intuition. Evidence of this can be found both in his work and in the comments on him by G.H. Hardy, the eminent English mathematician who helped Ramanujan come to England and who collaborated with Ramanujan for years.
Call for Questions: Rasterman, Founder of the Enlightenment Project
Do you think there is any substantially new feature to be added to desktop environments? In particular, do you think the desktop environment in 20 years will be different than those of today?
Ask Mark Shuttleworth Anything
Hi Mark! It seems based on your blog and other sources that an Ubuntu tablet is definitely planned and should be in the works at least sometime in the next year. When do you think consumers will be able to walk into any decently-sized electronic store and pick up an Ubuntu-based tablet?
The Computer Science Behind Facebook's 1 Billion Users
The print version is available.
I don't recommend reading it. There is absolutely nothing in this article about the actual engineering problems behind scaling for this number of users and how these problems are solved. In fact, there is nothing technical at all in this article except for some vague descriptions of the "bootcamp".
Decentralized Social Networking — Why It Could Work
I had high hopes for Diaspora, but the problem with it is that it doesn't replicate certain features of Facebook that would be a necessary condition for people to switch to it. For example, it doesn't have an event creation and invite feature, and that is really the only reason why I would join a social network in the first place.
Diaspora shifted focus a while ago to concentrate on organising internet discussions amongst people with common interests rather than focus on interactions with real-life acquaintances. With this goal they will never overtake Facebook, which is not what they want to do any more anyway. Now they are just closer to Google+, and in my opinion not terribly appealing especially since the interface is irritating.
It is unfortunate because I'm sure the two goals could exist in a decentralised network, but it was apparent from the beginning that the Disaspora team did not have the raw coding power to create this possibility.
Ask Slashdot: How Many of You Actually Use Math?
Despite my username, I am a mathematician, and I can say doing mathematics definitely affected the way I think. Of course I do math as my job, but I also think of the rest of my life in very mathematical terms.
For instance, to measure my productivity I have created a detailed spreadsheet of my progress and the hours that I work. I view my efforts as a dynamical system, and potentially I can use this to clarify and understand the periodicity in my productivity using differential equations.
I view my purchases at the grocery store as an economic system and I have often come to rational decisions about money management using decision theory.
When I drive I think of minimizing the time of my route using traffic models. I probably haven't gained much on my travel time but looking at everything mathematically has clarified my view of the world.
My point is that every problem I encounter my mind can't help but look at it from a mathematical perspective, and the act of formulating problems in a precise way with all the necessary hypotheses have helped me solve many problems, even those that don't require heavy mathematical machinery. Mathematics isn't just solving specific problems but looking at a question from all perspectives and formulating thoughts in an extremely precise manner. These are things I of course did not do before I started to study mathematics.
The effects on me are pretty apparent because I have been doing mathematics for so long but I believe even a little bit can be very useful.
Slashdot Launches Re-Design
Thanks. This is much better. The fixed bars are extremely annoying.
Between Christmas and New Year's, I'll take ...
Am I the only one who has no idea what this poll is about?
Peer Review Highly Sensitive To Poor Refereeing
Letting technical writing people doing the writing won't work. A large part of the scientific writing is the discussion of the experiment, which not only helps the scientist clarify his or her own thoughts and gives insight into future experiments, but also really only is worth reading if the scientist or members of the experimental team do it themselves. Technical writers really only would have the ability to write the experimental procedure, and even then it would be hard. Since science is so specialized you'd have to have technical writers for thousands of subdisciplines, etc. This goes especially true for mathematics, where the writing procedure is very closely related to doing mathematics.
Already because of this, no time for the scientist would be saved. A Google moderation system would have two problems. First, it wouldn't save any time because you still have to have some person doing the reviewing, and secondly you have to have someone qualified doing the reviewing whom you can trust to some extent to review in confidence, for otherwise if there are certain major problems with the paper but a few good ideas, they can be "stolen" by others, which may become a problem.
GNOME 3.0 Delayed Until March 2011
Time travel, and it runs in Emacs now.
Apple Implements the CalDAV Standard For MobileMe
Even in a seemingly anti-apple place like this, I don't think there's much negativity towards OS X. It started with the iPod and continued with the iPhone/iPad because they're not open enough.
I dislike the iPortables because without modding I can't open a terminal and browse the filesystem, install arbitrary software, and look at the source. I suspect a lot of geeks want something that 'Just Works' AND is open. The anger comes from the thought that IF only Apple opened the iDevices then geeks could finally have this.
IMO the n810 which I am typing on now (and similarly the n900) is pretty damn close if only more developer efforts were directed towards it. Sadly few people care about open source so right now devices like the n810 show promise and the fade away into obscurity.
Hopefully Nokia with MeeGo will come a bit closer.
How are porn and strip clubs unethical?
Washington Wants 10,000 Web Surfers
This thing doesn't look at your surfing habits, and it's not available to those who download more than 30GB/month, which probably excludes many Slashdotters.
Wikileaks Was Launched With Intercepts From Tor
Please tell me you don't think Tor is secure in the manner you suggest?! It's not meant to be. Tor is for anonymity, not security for your information.
To put it more concretely, you want to use Tor if you don't want someone to know _you're_ doing something, which is not necessarily bad I should add. For instance, if you want to blog about what you saw last night in the alley. Tor isn't for sending information you don't want _anyone_ to read.
Anonymity protects you, not your data. So, you should use Tor for complaining about the government, and not to broadcast the location of your buried treasure!
Rumor of Betelgeuse's Death Greatly Exaggerated
Well, 640 light years ought to be far enough for anyone!
Next Ubuntu Linux To Be a Maverick
28 is a perfect number. It is the sum of all of its proper divisors. 1 + 2 + 4 + 7 + 14 = 28.
France Bans Use of 2.0
How about just not visiting Slashdot for a day? The fact that you're so annoyed means that you'd probably benefit from less internet for a day. The internet doesn't matter that much. Who cares? It's just silliness.
thePsychologist hasn't submitted any stories.
Adobe Reader For Linux Uses GTK
Adobe has released Adobe Reader for Linux, version 8.1.1. What's important is that it now fully works with GTK 2.0, so the interface is consistent with the rest of the GTK apps. It has subpixel rendering, unlike every other PDF reader out there for Linux (Poppler has an experimental patch that is very bad. Someone told me kpdf has this feature, but the one from the Feisty repository does not). Read an article about it.
The downside is that it's bloated and slow, but I would trade fast response to a slight lag for superior text rendering any day. This is wonderful for Linux users with LCD screens.
Random Thoughts of the Day
Why doesn't Fluxbox have shading on mousewheel scroll? (Yes I know there's a hack patch somewhere)
Why is the eight hour work day so commonplace? Why not six, or nine, or five? And why is it 9-5 for so many (or around this time)? I'm thinking that a hell of a lot of gasoline would be saved if there was no rush hour traffic. Think of all those idling engines. Do most people really need to be at work at a specific time for their respective corporations to function, or is it just a bunch of ridiculous overhead and stupid idiots running the place?
And don't use the argument that all fossil fuels will be used up anyway, so it doesn't matter. The rate at which fuel is burned does matter, and does affect our health.
Linux: One Step Closer To The Desktop
Linux has gotten much better now. Why? Well wireless networking was really painful before. Now it's not. Sure there was stuff like knetworkmanager, and the network-manager packages for GNOME/KDE, but those were packages that either required panel applets or lots of libraries.
Panel applets are not for me since I run Fluxbox, and the network managers were always a bit finicky anyways. Enter wicd, perhaps the best program for Linux ever. It's so simple. It just connects to networks. It allows automatic connection. It plays nice with command line apps. It doesn't require a panel applet and can connect to my WPA wireless network.
There's a time for the command line: when it's much faster and more efficient to use it. Connecting to networks is not one of those times. It's useless and irritating to have to type "sudo wpa_supplicant -Dmadwifi -c/home/blah/config/wpanetworks.conf -iath0" every time I need to connect.
Updates To The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
The US president and friends want to update the FISA in order to make spying easier. The full article is available here. Bush said in a statement:
Protecting America is our most solemn obligation...
I'm not really questioning the validity of this bill since I have no idea what these "updates" are (not in the news bulletin), but am I the only one who thinks that Bush trying to "protect" America by increasing spy "intelligence" is like trying to protect yourself from a huge swarm of bees with a rocket launcher, instead of simply going inside your cabin?
Simple Find Files Script
Tired of searching your hard drive with GUI programs with too many features? Here's a handy script that will get the job done on any decent Linux setup. First type this in a terminal:
find -xdev / >> ~/dbase.txt
If you want other filesystems searched too remove -xdev. Anyways, this will output an entire list of files into a file called dbase.txt in your home directory. Put it wherever you want though if you care.
If you want even more useless junk searched put a sudo in front of that command to get some protected files (not useful).
Now that you have a static database of almost all the files on your computer, write up a script like this:
if test $# -eq 1
grep -E -i $1 ~/dbase.txt
if test $2 = -h
grep -E -i $1 ~/dbase.txt | grep "/home/`whoami`"
echo "invalid option"
Make it executable and put it in a scripts directory. Typing "isolate junk" will isolate all filenames containing "junk" (case insensitive). "isolate junk -h" will just use the home directory. Use any regular expression.
I found this kind of script very useful because I know where any of the files I use that change often are, and when I need to search I only need to find files which stay in the same place forever. The advantage is that it takes less than a second for queries and there's no space taken from a program, and of course it can be used in text-only mode.
More Funny Amazon Reviews
A review for an IWC watch for 204000 USD (save 36000):
This watch is horrible! Do not buy it, under any circumstances! This watch ruined my life, and I'm sure it will ruin yours too.
How did it ruin my life, you may ask me. Well, it is not due to a lack of money. The price of this watch meant nothing to me. I've been in contact with so many Nigerians within the past few years and helped them so much with their uncle King Abazarujabahad-ruh that they each send me approximately $50,000,000 per month for my efforts. What did end up ruining my life, however, was the way the watch worked.
See, the watch doesn't work using a normally charged battery. Nor is it one of those fancy "charge-as-you-move" watches. No, this watch actually works at the level of your soul. Positioned at just the right distance from your hand, this watch sits flush with your soul. Every 44 hours, it has to recharge itself with your soul. It does it while you're sleeping, so you don't even notice!
You may be wondering why I wear the watch when I'm sleeping. The answer, is that it has a self-soldering clasp on it. Once you put it on your wrist, it solders itself together, so that nobody can steal the watch from you, unless they chop off your wrist and slide it off. Unfortunately, if they do that, then they can't get it onto their own wrists, unless they chop it off too.
Anyway, back to the soul stealing - every few nights, this watch saps your soul, bit by bit, until one day, when you wake up, you're in Hell! I awoke just this morning to the smell of sulfur and brimstone. Upon opening my eyes, I realized I was in Hell, without a soul. I was astounded! I hadn't deserved to be down here. But, alas, I was. All because of this stupid watch. The only nice thing is that Satan himself loves my watch. He has been serving me all day, just so that he can get glimpses of my watch.
I did notice that on the side of my watch, there is a small etching which says "666". I'm not sure what exactly that means. I'm assuming that it means I have the 666th watch created in this collection. However, I cannot be sure.
Despite stealing my soul and destroying my life, this watch is absolutely horrible at keeping track of time. It loses a second of time for every second passed. I bought it at 4:00pm a few weeks ago, and it appears to still be 4:00pm on that very same day. Hmmm, perhaps that is why I went to Hell. Perhaps I broke free of the space-time continuum, and landed inside Hell. I may try my best to break free of it again and see if I can get back onto earth. If I can figure out the powers of the watch, I may be able to sell this thing on Ebay for much more than I paid for it! Then I can buy me even more of these watches. Perhaps I will give one to each of my Nigerian friends. They can break free of time and see their dead uncle Abazarujabahad-ruh. That would be splendid!
Alas, my time is running short. The time is about up for my watch, so I must go to sleep and let it recharge. If this works well, I will certainly change my review to a 5-star. But for now, a 1-star will suffice, until I can understand more the working complexes of this magnificent watch.
Thank you for allowing me to purchase this watch, thank you for allowing me to go to Hell, and thank you for giving me this wonderful deal on the watch. I love it, but I will certainly miss my SD friends.....at least until I can break the continuum again, once and for all.
Amazon: More Than A Bookstore
You can get some pretty expensive stuff on Amazon.com. Enter the Cartier Ladies Tank Francaise WL4081KF Watch. Brace yourselves because this one goes for $225000! Read some of the reviews; they're hilarious:
I was buying my dog's caviar (he only eats Sevruga; Beluga gives him gastritis) when I saw this watch in the jeweler store. Of course I immediately bought it and placed it on my husband's account. It's a fine looking watch. Matches the color of my Rolls-Royce Corniche Convertible which I got for this weekend's party. Next week I'm ditching both for a Bentley Azure Convertible Mulliner combined with a $1M Chopard watch I'm getting for myself as a birthday present. Oh dear! Isn't it hard being the wife of a billionaire?
Most of the reviews are by people who didn't buy it of course. I wouldn't be surprised if no one bought it. But imagine that, a watch that costs more than three times than my house. It better come with a time machine.
Okay, get this, there's more. This one isn't as expensive as the watch: Super Bowl XL Opus MVP Edition (Leather Bound), a book (yes, a book) signed by some football players. Price, $40000 dollars. This thing costs more than twice as much as my tuition for my entire undergrad degree. And it weighs eighty pounds.
For the finale here's something useful: a friggin' diamond. Who knew you could buy a 6.65 carat diamond on Amazon? And only for $867790! Make sure to turn on 1-Click ordering!
(All Prices In US Dollars)
DAQ Card Works (Sort Of)
It's a Friday, and it's quiet around here in the office except for the occasional chat and typing. I thought I might see if I could get the drivers installed on Windows XP to test the card out. I'm more of high level software guy than a hardware hacker, and I'm really not very interested in hardware and driver programming.
About half an hour later, I get the Windows drivers installed and I can read data from the card using the test utility. So it actually does work. Drivers working/not working is a manufacturer thing, so I don't consider it much of a point towards Windows. However, it would be very nice to have a nice GUI utility on Linux with options like:
- listing all detected interfaces
- reading raw data from any interface (dump of some kind)
- list of associated drivers for the device
Sort of like a graphical frontend to utilities like modprobe and lspci, with the ability to do raw dumps of signals from the devices. I seriously don't know if this last requirement is possible, but it would be nice, if only to verify that everything is plugged in properly.
It would also be nice to have drivers that work with any major kernel version, like installable 2.6.x drivers. I wonder if a modification like this is possible. Maybe some kernel hackers and app developers will read this post as a hint to what a casual Linux user would like.
DAQ Cards On Linux
A data acquisition (DAQ) card is an interface from a computer to a device that collects some kind of data. Recently at work I was tasked to make an Advantech PCI-1735 PCI card work with a Skinner box for behavioural monitoring.
I chose to try Linux. I did also try the driver on Windows, although it did not install properly.
There's actually quite a bit of information on DAQ cards out there. The first place to go is the Comedi (Linux Control and Measurement Device Interface) website. They have support for 396 different DAQ cards. The only problem is getting it to work.
There is no actual support for the PCI-1735 (PCI-1734 supported!), but I think the drivers should be similar enough to get it to work. Over the next few weeks I'm going to try and set up a fully functional system that reads data from the Skinner box using the PCI-1735 card on Ubuntu linux.
So far I've tried to compile the source, and I actually got it to work, but unfortunately I'm still stuck at getting the drivers to work properly.