Comments closed (hopefully temporarily)

April 3rd, 2007

I was getting about 200 spams a day to this blog, so I’ve turned comments off, hopefully temporarily. Sometime when I have more time, I’ll get a better solution in place (I’m out of school in a month, so probably then).

What distro to install on my laptop?

March 23rd, 2007

I recently got a new* laptop that I’d like to put linux on. I already run a gentoo box that I’ve had no problems with, but I’d like to try something different so I can get more experience. Current thoughts include some random other stock distro, some random other stock distro that runs KDE or XFCE, something running SELinux, or trying out OLPC’s Sugar interface (though that would probably be impossible).

Does anyone have any recommendations, from that list or otherwise? Keep in mind this is entirely to be used as a learning experience, so I can put as much work as I need into it. The only criteria is that it should be something I’ll find useful in the future.

* Not new, but new-to-me. Exactly how not new? It has a sticker on it that says “Designed for Windows 95″.


February 16th, 2007

Average weight of human lungs: 234 g

Average capacity of human lungs: ~6000 cm^3

Density of air: 1.293 g/L

Density of helium: 0.1786 g/L

Weight difference of 6L of air and 6L of helium: 6.686 g

Verdict: No, human lungs will not float if you fill them with helium. :-(


February 2nd, 2007

So apparently, no, my body cannot handle giving blood and playing laser tag in the same day. Or it can, it just doesn’t like to.

Reflow Branch!

December 13th, 2006

Woooooooooooooo Reflow Branch!

(Proof dbaron is awesome: I didn’t even notice for 6 days.)

Describing thought?

November 26th, 2006

How do children learn to understand what thinking is, what the word “mind” means? Because I was just thinking about it, and I realized I could not adequately explain either. I know what they are for myself (in that I know when I am thinking, not that I actually know how thinking works), but I’d have no way of explaining what they are nor anything to point to, like I could describe a chair or point to the color blue.

So how do we learn what thoughts are?

Math and Haiku

November 20th, 2006

A book about haiku I’m reading for school says that haiku is different from other forms of written art because while other forms have to be read through, and the experience is gradually built up, haiku is short enough that it can be experienced instantaneously. It does take a few moments to read it, but where with an eight or even four line poem you get one half and then the next, with a haiku you read the entire thing, then the seeing it comes all at once.

I realized today that math gives you both the gradual, drawn out experience of a longer poem or novel and the instant experience of a haiku at once. A proof may take a while to go through, building up step by step, but when you’re left with, say, aⁿ + bⁿ ≠ cⁿ, you have that same instantaneous understanding as with a haiku.

Math is so beautiful.

Ogg Flac

November 14th, 2006

Whee! Both mplayer and gstreamer (which rhythmbox uses) both had their ogg flac decoding bugs fixed recently, and it should be fixed in the next release of both. I can finally stop decoding my music to wav before playing it!

Thank you, OED

November 13th, 2006

So today I was looking through my firefox search bar’s history, and along with things like “how to raise your iq by eating gifted children” (it’s a book apparently) and “fraught with all manner of spiky-haired cute things” (no results, this page will be the first), I found ‘quercivorous nepheliad’.

And of course, I immediately recognized what I was doing when I searched for that: “Hey, it’s a googlewhack! I wonder if it still works.”

So I tried it, and it almost worked, except the passage it was written in had been quoted a bunch of times. But I also noticed that google suggested “quercivorus” instead of “quercivorous”.

Obvious choice of action, test it out and see which one gets more search results. Which I do, and see quercivorus gets 500 results, and quercivorous gets 15300. And wow! My blog is at the top of the results for quercivorous! That’s awesome! But wait… these look like mostly just word lists… the results for quercivorus looked a lot more scholarly… yeah, they do. And oh… 15100ish of the 15300 are all one site.

GAAH. I misspelled my own favorite word, and it’s at the top of google’s results for it to boot.

So I went and edited my post. Made a note about my misspelling it, and corrected the spelling for the future, in hopes of google putting me back high in the rankings for the right spelling.

But just before submitting, I thought to myself “I wish I had my OED, so I could check what it says.” Of course, I don’t, because no one brings their OED to college with them, at least, not anyone studying computer science.

But maybe the library has one. So I walk over there, and yes, it does! And then I look it up… And it says I was right all along! It really is spelled quercivorous! Yes!

A bit more research shows that there are 4 species (probably of insect) named Something quercivorus. Removing those, there are practically no results. I cancel the edit to my old post and write this one.

The moral of the story: The OED may not know everything. But in its niche, it’s smarter than even google.

Random thought

November 12th, 2006

How would the stock market react to us suddenly finding martians?

November 2nd, 2006

The soda machine here lights up and makes noise when you walk by it.

I don’t like being marketed to.

The scene:

October 19th, 2006

The scene:

  • Grey clouds on top, light blue sky in the middle, hills underneath.
  • One bare tree in the midleft, and to the right another bare tree, with an evergreen behind and slightly farther right.
  • In the front and center, illuminated by sunlight, a tree, bright yellow with its fall leaves.

It may be rather gloomy and brown, but it is stunning.

Namespace syntax in HTML

October 9th, 2006
  1. We need namespaces in HTML.
  2. We need a syntax for declaring those namespaces in HTML.
  3. A very good, fitting syntax has already been invented for use in XML, and is understood by a significant number of authors.
  4. That syntax has been corrupted through misuse by many pages. Is it worth trying to save, or do we need a new one (or is one of the premises wrong)?

September 21st, 2006

I keep rediscovering that when I take a walk, I’d rather have dirt and grass under my feet than pavement.

Software Freedom Day

September 17th, 2006

Today was Software Freedom Day, and while I certainly could have done more to publicize it, I did take it to heart for myself and my computer.

Today I finally uninstalled the last bit of proprietary software I was using, Flash, and am compiling gnash to replace it. This will certainly be a bit of a drop in functionality—there’s a long list of things unimplemented—but it’s worth it to finally have my computer clean. Macromedia/Adobe hadn’t released any version of flash for linux since 7 anyway, so I was already starting to get locked out of sites. I just hope my game site doesn’t accidentally detect it as me cheating—I’ll probably be the first person ever to use it on their site. :P

(I also got rid of a few old (unused) java plugins that were lying around. I still have some games installed that I can’t see the source for; I treat those as media, the same as music, and while I don’t listen to music from companies I don’t like (read: any RIAA member), I don’t restrict myself to only openly licensed music if the money’s going somewhere decent. Feel free to try to convince me that I’m wrong (or right) about that.)

Enabling encryption in vsftpd

September 12th, 2006

For the past few days I’ve been struggling with enabling SSL (actually TLS) encryption in vsftpd. I followed the directions, but every time I try to connect it gives the message

Connected to xx.xx.xx.xx:21
220 (vsFTPd 2.0.4)
USER anonymous

530 Anonymous sessions must use encryption.
Disconnecting from site xx.xx.xx.xx

(Several hours later)

Apparently it’s not a problem with vsftpd. ftp -z ssl xx.xx.xx.xx works fine. It’s just the ftp clients I tried (gFTP and Filezilla) don’t encrypt the connection. For gFTP I found an FAQ entry that says

You must add the public key of your self signed CA to your OpenSSL certs directory.

but I’ve done that, because I had to put it there for vsftpd to use it!

Edit: Firefox apparently doesn’t have support. That’s annoying.

Phew! My babies are safe.

September 10th, 2006

From Gentoo’s default /etc/conf.d/rc file:

# Set to "yes" if start-stop-daemon should attempt to kill
# any children left in the system.


With settings like that, how can you not use Gentoo?


September 7th, 2006

According to my dentist, flossing is now more important for the health of my teeth than brushing is. While I really should be doing both multiple times a day, flossing often, brushing occasionally is better than brushing often, flossing occasionally. This is very nice, as I can keep floss at my desk, and do it while I procrastinate^W think of what to write, instead of having to get up and go to the bathroom to brush my teeth.

Also, the floss I’m using has surprisingly strong mint smell/taste, much more so than the previous mint flosses I’ve used (even though it’s the same brand and type…). Yum.

This is not medical advise. It’s entirely possible I misheard or something like that.

One week of college

August 28th, 2006

I’m now at college. I’m at Vermont Technical College, in Randolph Center, Vermont. So far it’s gone pretty well, with some complaints but not many.

My courses are Java 1, Calculus 2, English, History of IT, ECT Orientation, and Computer Networking. Java is all right; I’d rather be taking C, but I’ll get to that next semester; most of it so far is familiar, but that’s 4 classes’ worth and I expect there to be new stuff later on. Calc 2 I’m retaking, as I haven’t taken any organized math in three years; it should be, and has been, very easy. English is not actually English, it’s Pseudo-Philosophy From the Context of Literature, like nearly all “English” classes are; it bores me to tears, but so far I’ve actually done all the work. History of IT is very fun; having spent my life around computers I know > 1/2 of it anyway (so far closer to 90%, actually), but the teacher is very good and it’s nice to rehear some of it. ECT Orientation is a once-a-week, one hour thing, which is boring, stupid, useless, and required; there is no work, no tests, you merely have to show up and listen to people talk at you for an hour; perhaps I’ll bring textbooks and do some reading then. Computer Networking looks to be fun, like Java and History of IT; I’ve known everything in it so far, but I expect it to get new soon too.

The people and food both average to mediocre, but have enough high enough above that average that I’m okay, the rooms are all right. The internet connection is faster but more restrictive than I’m used to (no bittorrent, even for legal things, and although I’m used to external ping being blocked, now I can’t even ping computers on the network). Other than that, everything’s about normal

Because they’re taking my rights, that’s why.

August 3rd, 2006

If you ever buy me a CD, please first make sure it is not released by a member of the RIAA. Thank you.

I’m happy to report that although approximately 1/3 of my CD collection is RIAA-affiliated, not a single one of those was bought by me. In terms of how much I actually listen to them, it’s more like 1/10, soon to drop farther as I finish putting the rest of the independent CDs on my computer.