May 31, 2007

Narrowing your search

Suppose that you're searching for pictures of, umm, Angelina Jolie using Google's image search. You get a lot of full body photos (yum!), red carpet photos, pictures of her children, etcetera. Right? Well suppose you wanted to refine that search so that you only saw images containing Angelina's face. How would you go about that? Here's how:

  1. Go to Google.
  2. Click on the "Image" link to limit your search to pictures.
  3. Type Angelina Jolie and click on "Search". You will see a URL in the address bar of your bar that looks like this one:
  4. Now append the string &imgtype=face to URL in the address bar of your browser. It should look like this:
  5. Hit the "Enter" key.

Pretty cool, huh? I believe that it also works with the string &imgtype=news. That search should return news articles relating to whomever your searching for.

Thanks go to someone mailing in a tip to Lifehacker.

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May 22, 2007

A furry family member in need

My week started off with a bang. Around 4:00 a.m. Monday morning, one of my dogs awakened me with some ferocious barking. To be sure, Diego is very protective of his yard, house and family. He will bow-wow at people across the street in their backyards, just so they know that they aren't welcome. But to us, he's just a happy 90+ pound puppy.

Anyway. I stepped out back onto the deck and saw Diego barking his head off and dancing around part of the fence about 20 feet away, trying to get at something. All I could see in the dim light was something furry, but I could heard snarling, growling and spitting. I thought at first that it might be a bobcat, so I flipped on the backyard light. Instead, I saw the angriest raccoon that I've ever seen. A second later, it jumped off of the fence onto my dog's head.

I might have mentioned that Diego is a big lovable puppy, albeit a protective one. This tactic caught him off guard for a brief instant, during which the raccoon bit him on the muzzle and jumped back onto the fence. I started chucking heavy things at the raccoon; I've got a pretty good arm, but I didn't score a direct enough hit to knock the damned thing off. However, when it raced along the fence towards me, I smacked it pretty good with a deck chair, at which point it raced away.

I called my dog over to check him out. Except for the blood on his muzzle, he seemed fine. And I knew from his calm demeanor that Osama bin Raccoon had left the building. As I cleaned off his wound, though, it hit me: the raccoon that bit my dog must have had rabies. So I confined him in the garage and called animal control.

The AC guy who came out was quite sympathetic to our problem. He also informed me of my options in the matter. For those of you not living in Virginia, those options might be different, but my guess is that they're similar. And they are:

  • Euthanize the bitten or scratched animal
  • Isolate the possibly infected animal for

    • 90 days if vaccinations are up to date
    • 180 days if they've expired

Since nothing says "I love you" to someone quite like killing them because it's the easiest way out, I'm looking at option number 2, or more specifically 2a. As it turns out, Diego's vaccinations were a couple of months overdue. What's even worse is that we had an appointment at the vet's office for Tuesday morning.

I spoke to the health department and they sent me a copy of the requirements for the pen within a pen. I'll be headed to Home Depot with the plans to figure out what the cost of materials will be. Doesn't really matter, as I'll be building the effing thing regardless.

I asked the Animal Control guy if any places around here could house an isolated animal for 6 months. He mentioned that the pound could do it, but that his boss would be unlikely to approve such a request due to the large number of animals flowing through the pound. So it's on to construction of a big fucking cage that my dog will, best case, have to live in for 6 months without any of the family being able to touch him. Considering how gregarious he is, Diego could suffer some serious emotinal traumua because he'll think that he's being punished. Or he could be fine when he comes out and still want to give me some of his good loving kisses which, truthfully, I don't feel that I deserve right now.. Worst case, of course, is that he goes rabid anyway and I'll have to put him down.

So that's where I am. A crazy ass animal attacks a four-legged member of the family and gets away, and the victim gets rewarded with long term isolation and possible execution. And my family will get to watch him suffer in a cage during that time without being able to rub his tummy and make him feel better.

I just want him to be okay. He deserves better than this.

Update: Anyone else in the state of Virginia would be well advised to read this document and the associated attachments.

Update: I found this article from 13 years ago in which a family puppy was bitten before the mandatory vaccination had been given. The family member volunteered for 3 post-exposure rabies vaccines so that she could play with the dog and keep him people friendly. I've left a message for the public health supervisor about the article, inquiring in that would be a possibility for me. Yes, I know about the entire series of shots and where they're administered, but I'm perfectly willing to go through with it if it will keep my dog happy while he's incarcerated. To be fair, it would make me happy to be able to play with him, too. Hopefully that hasn't been outlawed yet in the interest of "protecting the people".

I'll provide updates as they occur.

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Taking no prisoners

Lileks offers some analysis of the immigration bill like only he can:

I. (7) (3.14) There shall be a fence stretching 356 miles. The fence shall be three feet high. Paper mache crocodiles shall reside on the other side, arrayed in a threatening manner ($400,000 shall be appropriated to determine the optimum angle of the opened jaw; the final crocodile shall represent a consensus among herpetologists, and reflect a crocodile who is defending his position but showing his teeth to warn off, and not necessarily threaten violence.) Every nine miles, there shall be a sign that reproduces the FBI warning that precedes all DVDs and videotapes and warns of criminal liability for breaking the copyright law. (It has worked so well thus far the language might as well be used intact.) The fence shall be raised to four feet in the event the population of any state becomes 51% undocumented Xenonationals. The fence shall be raised to five feet in the event GOP presence in the Senate drops below 4 seats. The fence shall be raised to ten feet after a nuclear device is smuggled in from Mexico, providing the yield of the bomb is at least 4 (four) kilotons. A bomb with a yield between 3 and 3.99 kilotons will be a sufficient trigger to raise the fence only if the attendant radiation is carried by prevailing winds a distance greater than 20 miles.

Even better, Lileks reivews the season finale of 24:

UPDATE: THERE MAY BE A MOLE IN CTU. There might also be a prize in each of these specially marked boxes of Lucky Charms. I suspect the rotting corpse of Edgar, using neural implants from the graveyard.

UPDATE: Stupidest question of the year, or ever, from Nadia. “Jack escaped? How?” By using the Power o’ Bauer, lady. If they were smart they’d spell Power P-A-U-E-R. But they don’t, because the covert community is institutionally incapable of public manifestations of gratitude, man.

Update: Dave Barry also reviews the last 2 hours of 24.

UPDATE: Hard to believe such a foolproof, well-thought-out plan could have gone wrong.

UPDATE: "It blew!" Yes, it did.

UPDATE: Just to recap: CTU, the nation's crack counterterrorism unit, which has a huge staff and vast computer capacity as well as helicopters and satellites, and which knew exactly where the bad guys were going to strike, was once again easily defeated, this time by two guys in wetsuits and a motorboat.

UPDATE: I still can't believe Melinda got voted off American Idol.

UPDATE: Another White House scene. Padpadpadpad.

UPDATE: The old Bloomfield Oil Platform! That's IT.

UPDATE: Three Hummers! He's still in the plot!

UPDATE: If anything bad goes down on the oil platform, the actors can just grab chunks of dialog and use them as flotation devices.

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May 21, 2007

Nuking fish in a shot glass

Glenn Reynolds, the easiest-going puppy blending fool on the planet, has finally had enough of Excitable Andy's incessant caterwauling and arguing in bad faith. In short, he's finally come to the same conclusion that the rest of us reached a long time ago:

I've tried, honestly, not to get in these pissing matches with Andrew, but apparently he can't help himself with this stuff. But to be clear: I'm against torture. I'm also against moralistic, dishonest, self-righteous preening about torture. Andrew is a repeat offender in the latter category, and it's gone beyond embarrassing to pathetic.

Various people in and out of the blogosphere have wondered exactly when, how, and why Andrew lost it. But lost it he has.

Dan Collins wonders when the rest of us thought that Andrew had lost it. For me, I think it was the incessant Andrew vs. Andrew posts, wherein he completely contradicted himself in ways that allowed him to screech hysterically about things of which he once approved. I'd be glad to have given him a pass because everyone's allowed to change his or her mind. But the dishonest prick would simply pretend that he'd never taken his prior position and that the rest of us were simply lying.

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May 18, 2007

I'm glad that I'm not a registered Republican

It saves me the trouble of having to re-register under a different party affiliation.

I was so pissed off last night that I everything I thought about posting consisted entirely of Amanda Marcotte type Tourettes style posts:


Then I waited a while, thought about it some more and became even more incensed. Ace succinctly states what I've been thinking:

Whichever. I'm not voting for anyone supporting this sell-out, and no, I am no longer worried by the threat of a Hillary! or Obama presidency enough to carry the water for the Republican Party. We've done the go-along-to-get-along thing for years, and it has earned us merely greater contempt and scorn and nonresponsiveness from our "leaders."

That's it for me. I don't give a fuck if Hillary is President. At least if a Democrat is pursuing liberal policies I don't like, I'm not responsible for that, and the conservative movement isn't damaged further by acquiescing to them.

If our Republican congressmen and President are carrying out the Democrats' agenda anyway, I say give the keys of government to the Democrats so that at least they'll be responsible for the consequences.

Sometimes a party needs to be brought to the brink of extinction before it changes its policies. After six years of Bush and the godawful overspending Republican Congresses, I think that time is just about now.

Kim du Toit, someone who I respect a great deal has long railed against people who want to teach the GOP a lesson. His point is that you never give control of the government to Socialists. Here's where I think that he misses the point: the GOP leaders are socialists, just a small-s version instead of the big-S version that the Democrats represent. Continually supporting the slightly less liberal Republicans over the Democrats because "the Democrats are worse" is completely the wrong attitude. In fact, supporting the GOP when its leaders are forcing its nominal base to drop trou, bend over and beg for more only emboldens the Republicans to do whatever the fuck they want, which always entails more spending, more government control and more ass-fucking of the the voting base. I waited my entire life for the Republicans to control the House, Senate and presidency at the same time, and all I got was more spending, less border control and more Democrat-style programs. So tell me again why I shouldn't entertain the thought of giving the Republican leadership the finger?

Vox Day made the point during Bush's first term that he thought George Delano™ would do more damage to the Republican party and conservatives than any Democrat could do. It turns out that he was entirely correct.

Update: From Vox:

When Hillary gets elected, I'll be the one pointing and laughing at all of your sad Three Monkey faces. Nice work losing the House and Senate, you politically astute "pragmatists". Well done putting the Lizard Queen on the Cherry Blossom Throne, all you "he's only doing it in order to unveil his double-secret super-conservative plan to save the nation" voters.

Maybe you will all finally see and hear some evil once your party finishes its third trip to the guillotine. I know you'll certainly be speaking plenty of it.
Bush is such a disaster, the Democrats don't even want to impeach him anymore. But after the 2008 elections, I bet there will be a lot of ex-Republicans who will wish they had.

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May 17, 2007

What he said

Bill Simmons delivers some body blows to the league known as the NBA:

So here's my defense on the NBA's behalf ...

You can't blame them for the Stoudemire-Diaw suspensions because they correctly interpreted a stupid, idiotic, foolish, moronic, brainless, unintelligent, foolhardy, imprudent, thoughtless, obtuse and thickheaded rule. Can you blame them for having that rule in the first place? Yes. But you can't blame them for the actual interpretation -- after all, Stoudemire and Diaw did leave their bench during an altercation, just like Tom Brady's right arm was still coming down as Charles Woodson popped him in the Tuck Rule Game. Everyone knows about the leaving-the-bench rule. It's been around for more than a decade. It's the reason assistant coaches spin around during potential fights and hold their arms out like bouncers at a nightclub. It's the reason a really good Knicks team got bounced from the '97 playoffs (robbing everyone of a much-anticipated Bulls-Knicks Eastern Conference finals). It's also the reason why we haven't had a bench-clearing brawl since the rule was invented.

Here's the problem with that stupid, idiotic, foolish, moronic, brainless, unintelligent, foolhardy, imprudent, thoughtless, obtuse and thickheaded rule: It's currently designed as a black-or-white law that leaves no room for interpretation. As Barkley pointed out on TNT, Stoudemire and Diaw stopped after a few steps and never escalated the situation. In a way, it played out as poorly as the tuck rule did. In that playoff game against the Raiders, Brady pumped the football, brought it back down, got popped by Woodson and coughed up the ball. It should have been a fumble, but because of the stupid, idiotic, foolish, moronic, brainless, unwise unintelligent, foolhardy, imprudent, thoughtless, obtuse and thickheaded way that the tuck rule was designed, the play was interpreted correctly, the Patriots kept the ball and ended up winning in overtime.
Three incidents/story lines from this year's playoffs inadvertently illustrated the deeper dilemma here:

1. Let's say you're one of the best seven players on the Phoenix Suns. You love Nash -- he's your emotional leader, your meal ticket to the Finals, the ideal teammate and someone who makes you happy to play basketball every day for a living. He's killing himself to win a championship. His nose was split open in Game 1. His back bothers him to the point that he has to lie down on the sidelines during breaks. He's battling a real cheap-shot artist (Bruce Bowen) who's trying to shove and trip him on every play. But he keeps coming and coming, and eventually everyone follows suit. Just as things were falling apart in Game 4 and you were staring at the end of your season, he willed you back into the game and saved the day.

Suddenly, he gets body-checked into a press table for no real reason on an especially cheap play. You're standing 20 feet away. Instinctively, you run a few steps toward the guy who did it -- after all, your meal ticket is lying on the court in a crumpled heap -- before remembering that you can't leave your bench. So you go back and watch everything else unfold from there. Twenty-four hours later, you get suspended for Game 5 because your instincts as a teammate kicked in for 1.7 seconds.

Think about how dumb this is. What kind of league penalizes someone for reacting like a good teammate after his franchise player just got decked? Imagine you're playing pickup at a park, you're leading a game 10-3, your buddy is driving for the winning layup, and some stranger clotheslines your buddy from behind and knocks him into the metal pole. Do you react? Do you take a couple of steps toward him? I bet you do. For the NBA to pretend it can create a fairy-tale league in which these reactions can be removed from somebody's DNA -- almost like a chemical castration -- I mean, how stupid is that?

2. One of the running debates of these playoffs: Is Bruce Bowen a cheap player? I love the fact that anyone's actually debating this -- if your answer is "no" or your answer is "I'm not sure," then you've obviously never played basketball in your life. Bruce Bowen is a cheap player. There's no debate.
Now here's where the NBA failed: For a league that professes to be concerned about dirty play and any situation that could lead to a brawl, the league has curiously looked the other way with the single dirtiest player in the league. If he pulled this crap on a pickup court, or even in college intramurals, somebody would have punched Bowen in the face and broken his jaw. In the NBA? He gets to keep doing his thing and putting other players in danger. In the Phoenix series alone, he tripped Stoudemire from behind on a dunk in Game 2, kneed Nash in the groin in Game 3 and tried to knock Nash off balance in Game 4 as they were running back upcourt (causing a frustrated Nash to elbow him in the chops). The league penalizes two Phoenix stars for instinctively running toward an injured teammate, but they don't penalize a perpetually dirty player who's eventually going to trigger an ugly brawl before the end of his career?

How the hell does that make sense?
So don't blame the NBA higher-ups for the way they interpreted that stupid, idiotic, foolish, moronic, brainless, unintelligent, foolhardy, imprudent, thoughtless, obtuse and thickheaded rule. Blame them for having the rule itself. Blame them for allowing the league to morph into something that doesn't quite resemble basketball anymore. Blame them for a league in which basketball players aren't totally allowed to think and act like basketball players and teammates aren't totally allowed to think and act like teammates. Blame them for an ongoing double standard in which the Bruce Bowens of the league can willfully endanger other players, but a roundhouse swipe on an attempted block can get someone ejected if they miss by a scant 10 inches while moving at full speed. Blame them for dubious officiating that's compromised the playoffs to the degree that an increasing number of fans are wondering where the WWE ends and the NBA begins.

Bruce Bowen probably makes the original Bad Boys from Detroit go, "Dude, tone it down a bit." Except for Bill Lambeer of course, because he was a cheap shot asshole.

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May 16, 2007

Please God, no!

A Sex and the City movie?! Seriously? The reason that you make a movie from a TV show is to do, say and/or show things that the audience hasn't seen before. Absolutely none of that applies to the aforementioned show. Crap, I think that I'm more familiar with Kim Catrall's vaginia than her gynecologist. And what hanging storyline is there left to wrap up? SJP landed Mr. Big, Charlotte got her baby, the redhead was happily married and Catrall was happily boinking some guy who turned out gay on Brothers and Sisters. Maybe the studio thinks-wrongly- that everyone is dying to see another $40k spent on ugly ass shoes.

To be fair, I remember Kim's role as "Lassie" in Porky's quite fondly, I think that Kristin Davis is pretty hot and I've like Cynthia since The Manhattan Project. And moonbat that she is, I've always been fond of SJP's work. So if you really want my money, have the four of them go at it buck naked in a vat of Jello for and hour and a half. THAT might be worth parting with some money to see, but that's about it.

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Pizza flavored beer

'Nuff said.

Thanks go to Dave Barry for the link.

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May 15, 2007

Managing your digital downloads while away from home

I will admit to using Bittorrent. It comes in quite handy when I'm away from home and forget to record a TV show that I wanted to see. However, if I forget to start a download before I leave for work in the morning, I can't watch the show that I've downloaded until the next day, as it takes a bit of time to download even a single hour of episodic television.

Why do I bring up my geekish habits and shortcomings? Because some enterprising souls have created a way in which I can manage my Bittorrent downloads when I'm away from my home. I give you WebUI. Excerpt:

You're a BitTorrent freak, so why should you let a little thing like being away from your home computer stop you from getting your fix? Using the popular, free uTorrent client, you can control your BT downloads from anywhere using a full-featured web interface.

With uTorrent's WebUI, you can add, remove, and manage the downloads you've got running at home no matter where you are.
First, you'll need to grab a copy of uTorrent if you don't already have it. It's a standalone executable, so just put it wherever you like, give it a run, and let's get started.

Next you've got to grab the WebUI files (the first link in the post). Here's a direct link that should work for now, but I can't guarantee it'll always be the latest, so you might want to check the first link to make sure.

I love technology.

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RIP, Jerry Falwell

Allah reported earlier in the day that Falwell had been found non-responsive in his office. Apparently, he has passed away.

I'll be honest: I always found Falwell a little bit disturbing and creepy. And I say this as one of those evangelical types in good standing with my church. He deserves the credit, as James Joyner rightfully acknowledges, for helping bring religious conservatives into the realm of politics And I actually met the man once, on the day of my graduation from college. It turns out that his daughter was graduating from VCU/MCV's medical school that day and he had parked right next to my sister's car; we all arrived back at our vehicles at the same time.

What's the point? I don't really have one. He seemed nice enough in person, but I never much cared for him. However, he has left family and friends behind who love him and I know that they're grieving. They have my condolences.

Update: Not surprisingly, the sinestrophe side of the blogosphere is popping champagne corks and celebrating. I haven't seen that much happiness from the perpetually aggrieved since Reagan died which, I guess, shows how completely vile, heartless and full of shit those people are.

Update: I know that John Cole, much like me, never liked Falwell, but he's taken the high road:

You all are better than that. And the thing that people need to remember is that despite what we may think of him, a number of people are grieving. If you can’t muster the sympathy to behave decently for their sake, well, I got nothing.

Sadly, not everyone can be bothered to extend sympathy for those who've just lost a loved one. Sadly, but not surprisingly.

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Power searching

Ever wish that you could use multiple search engines at the same time for the same query? The late and lamented notwithstanding, you've usually started with your favorite search engine and worked your way through the list until you found what you wanted. Now, though, you can receive your query results from the following search engines with the stroke of one mouse button using Zuula: Google, Yahoo!, MSN, Gigablast, Exalead, Alexa, Accoona and Amfibi. If you're in the mood for image searching, you can replace the last five with Picsearch and Flickr results. Similar specific results exist for searches about jobs, blogs and news.

Anyway, go check out Zuula and power up your searches.

Posted by: Physics Geek at 11:25 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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May 12, 2007

Free Ice Cream Day

And it's on May 15 this year. The only two flavors are Cinnamon Dulce de Leche or Sticky Toffee Pudding, the latter of which is really delicious. So go next week to your local Haagen-Dazs.

Update: Date corrected to May 15.

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May 10, 2007

My lost weekend

Okay, it was only about 35 minutes, not a whole weekend, but I had my role as navigator revoked as a result. I'm still not certain if the revocation is permanent or not.

Anyway. My buddies and I drove down to Raleigh recently for the World Beer Festival. The weather was pretty much perfect for an outdoor festival: it was sunny and the temperature was in the low 70s. And there were lots of breweries, most of which had beers which ranged from good to great. Abita, Sierra Nevada, Chimay and lots of others besides. Also, there was a lot of good food, which proved useful in washing down the beer.

So we sipped and supped for a few hours, being careful to not become drunk because we had to drive back home to Richmond, and then we hiked back to the car and got started on our return journey. And this is where the... fun began.

I remember getting into the front seat and relaxing, closing my eyes a bit while the three of us started some chit chat about Highlander cards and-

I DID mention that they were friends of mine, right? You shouldn't be surprised at nerd games being discussed. Probably none of you are.

- then everything kind of blanked out for a while. For me. To me, I was asleep. Oddly, and unfortunately for my friends in the car with me, I continued to speak. According to them -and I have no reason to doubt- I even waved my hand in front of the driver's face a couple of times to see if he was awake.

I know what you're thinking: this sounds like something that I could be mocked about, but no real harm done. That's where you'd be wrong. In my somnolent, yet conversant, state, I apparently replied a couple of times to, well, here's a sample of what was said:

Driver: Are you sure that we're going the right way?

Me: Sure, you're fine.

Well, the statement was true as a point of fact. Jeff was fine and dandy. Physically. However, we were NOT going the right way. In fact, we were going in what would best be described as the opposite of the right way. We wanted to go north and we were seeing signs for US-1, south, which sort of tipped us off. And by us, I include myself because I finally woke up. Despite assertions to the contrary, my higher brain functions were not working during that period. You could make the argument that they never work, but that's a different argument. In any event, we stopped at a Quickie Mart or something and asked the guy how to get to I-95. He wasn't sure, but he did laugh out loud when we told him where we wanted to go.

To the backseat I went. Being fully awake now, I made some comments about which exit to take, which lane to be in; my sister lives in Raleigh and I'm more than little familiar with the area. To each comment, Jeff asked, "So other guy not named Physics Geek, which way do we go? Or is the cause of our 1-1/2 hour delay in getting home actually correct this time?"

The mocking is certain to follow me to my grave, but it's well deserved. I'm still curious as to how I managed to give the appearance of being awake while not actually being so. It would allow me to catch up on my sleep at work. Then again, sleeping next to the Big Red Button would get me fired, so maybe I'll think on it a little more.

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May 09, 2007

Test drive Ubuntu without removing Windows or using a Live CD

An idea for our time: Wubi. It allows you to run the latest version of Ubuntu without booting from a Live CD or partitioning your hard drive. Excerpt from the FAQ:

Wubi Internals

How does Wubi work?

Wubi adds an entry to the Windows boot menu which allows you to run Linux. Ubuntu is installed within a file in the windows file system (c:\wubi\harddisks\ubuntu.hd), this file is seen by Linux as a real hard disk.

Is this running Ubuntu within a virtual environment or something similar?

No. This is a real installation, the only difference is that Ubuntu is installed within a file as opposed to being installed within its own partition. Thus we spare you the trouble to create a free partition for Ubuntu. And we spare you the trouble to have to burn a CD-Rom.


What are the system requirements?

If you can run Windows XP, you will have no problem running Ubuntu, since Ubuntu has lower system requirements than Windows XP. As for disk space, the installation requires a minimum of 3GB. This space is mostly used by the virtual hard disk file.

What platform is supported?

For the moment Wubi will only run on Windows XP, but the back-end is quite flexible and it can support multiple platforms as hosts and guests (provided they are debian-based).

What is the performance?

The performance is identical to a standard installation, except for hard-disk access which is slightly slower. If your hard disk is very fragmented the performance will degenerate.

Can I run the images within an emulator?

Yes, but you will have to use other software to do that. The intended use of Wubi is to provide an installation which is as close as possible to a standard one with minimal fuss for the user.

Anyway, for those of you interested in as painless a test drive of Ubuntu as possible, this might be the way to go. Check out Wubi.

Update: However, if you're dead set on moving away from Windows, here's an article which will take you through the move, step by step, up to and including suggestions on porting your emails and making your Open Office files compatible with your Windows compatriots.

Remember: embrace the Penguin.

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May 08, 2007

Dogma as science

I'd like to add one more thing to this post. Technically, it can't be considered an update as the source is several years old. However, there is a passage that I consider relevant:

Cold fusion’s detractors call themselves skeptics. But there is a real difference between skepticism in the true sense and the almost religious belief in scientific orthodoxy that masquerades as impartiality. Marcello Truzzi, the founding co-chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, eloquently described this distinction. According to Truzzi, a skeptic is an agnostic, a doubter rather than a believer. Doubt is not denial, merely a recognition that a claim has not been proven. The burden of proof of anomalous observations rests with the claimant at all times. Once that burden is satisfied, as with cold fusion, the skeptics must either accept the findings or provide another explanation. If they choose the latter course of action, then by definition, they become claimants with respect to that alternative explanation. As such, they can no longer express doubts about the validity of the evidence without first examining the evidence themselves. They must master the literature and become familiar with the experimental methods and metrics common to the field. In the case of cold fusion, this means becoming fluent in calorimetry. They must then perform the experiments according to the protocols that have been established over the last fifteen years. They must identify mistakes in technique and misinterpretations of results. If those mistakes and misinterpretations are material enough, the original hypothesis may be disproved and the alternative hypothesis put forward. Only after all of these steps are taken will the skeptics be in a position to honestly express doubts about the original claims.

"...the almost religious belief in scientific orthodoxy that masquerades as impartiality." Sounds a lot like the proponents of man-made global warming. Their religious fervor precludes the possibility that they might be mistaken, and causes them to impugn the integrity of all who question their methods, their data and their results. It's a lot easier, apparently, to think someone else is evil than it is to think that you might be wrong.

Update: Scientific American and Nature continue to poo-poo the very idea of low temperature fusion, which is certainly their right. However, bragging that you don't actually read anything which might controvert your beliefs isn't something to be proud of:

Scientific American has mainly ridiculed these subjects lately, in both the print edition and the on-line blog by the editor, John Rennie, on August 24, 2006:

Let's be finicky in our application of the phrase. For example, Newtonian physics did not get sent to Pluto. It was shown to be a valid approximation of Einstein's relativistic physics for objects moving well below the speed of light, and as such was incorporated into the newer theory. And cold fusion, N-rays, Velikovskian planet billiards and similar crackpottery weren't sent to Pluto either because they never enjoyed a significant period of acceptance by the scientific community (perhaps they all reside on another planet... Uranus?).

Note that Rennie takes pride in the fact that he has read no papers about cold fusion. He claims that his views are based on the majority opinion and the "consensus," as if science were a popularity contest. Rennie boldly told us it is not his job to understand the technical issues or offer a falsifiable argument. He thinks the public does not expect that of him. A normal scientist would be ashamed to admit he harbors such strange ideas, but Rennie brags about them.

Interesting idea of what being a scientist really is. I wonder how he travels anywhere, though. His maps probably contain lots of "Here Be Monsters" sections.

Posted by: Physics Geek at 01:44 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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Funny, but a bit sad, too

I've filed this under the humor tag, but find some of the changes to be a bit sad. Anyhoo, here's a list contrasting 1973 with 2007. Excerpt:

Scenario: Pedro fails high school English.

1973: Pedro goes to summer school, passes English, goes to college.

2007: Pedro’s cause is taken up by state democratic party. Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that teaching English as a requirement for graduation is racist. ACLU files class action lawsuit against state school system and Pedro’s English teacher. English banned from core curriculum. Pedro given diploma anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a living because he can’t speak English.

Scenario: Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers from the 4th of July, puts them in a model airplane paint bottle, blows up a red ant bed.

1973: Ants die.

2007: BATF, Homeland Security, FBI called. Johnny charged with domestic terrorism, FBI investigates parents, siblings removed from home, computers confiscated, Johnny’s Dad goes on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again.

Posted by: Physics Geek at 08:15 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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Linux vs. Windows, revisited

Here's a pretty good list of Things that I can do in Linux that I can't do in Windows. Excerpt:

  1. Update every single piece of software on my system with a single action. This is one of the main reasons I run Linux. Sure, Windows has Windows Update, but that only updates the operating system, Office, and a few other things. For every Linux distribution I've used (Gentoo, Red Hat, Suse, Ubuntu), updating is simple. When you update, you have every application, every library, every script - every single piece of software upgraded automatically for you. And on most of them, they will check for updates automatically and notify you. This is great for security, fixing bugs quickly, and getting the latest in features.

  2. Update nearly everything on my computer without a reboot. On Linux, there is only one thing that requires a reboot after updates. The kernel. And even then you can continue to run on the previous kernel. You just need to reboot to get the benefit of using the new kernel (say, if it has a bug fix or a new feature). In Windows, many of the updates to even non-critical software require reboots.
  3. Run an entire operating system for free without pirating software, and without breaking the law. Most Window's users seem to accept that breaking the law is okay, because it is pretty much required. Either you break the law, or spend countless thousands of dollars on the software you need. You may not think it is a big deal, but if you own a home like I do, you are putting it at risk. While unlikely, the potential is there for software companies to come after you just like the RIAA has come after countless people. With Linux, this isn't necessary. You can run the software you need without paying for it, and without breaking the law. I know I sleep better at night.

  4. Take my settings with me where ever I go. In Linux, all your personal settings are stored in your Home folder, most in folders that begin with a period (like .gaim). So, I can copy all these settings from one computer to another. I can put these settings on a USB drive. When I switched from Gentoo to Ubuntu, I kept all my settings. On Windows, some settings are under your home folder and some are in the registry. So your settings are not portable.
  5. Run thousands of great pieces of software that only run on Linux. Just like Windows, Linux has software that doesn't run on Windows. Great pieces of software like Amarok, Bluefish, Neverball, Gnumeric, K3B, Beryl, gdesklets, and MythTV. I know this is a chicken-and-egg point, where Windows has the exact same situation. Too often I hear "I can't switch to Linux because it doesn't run [insert Windows software]". My reason for pointing it out is just to make it clear that this is a two-way street.

  6. Learn about, support, and appreciate the value of free software. I believe free software is important to us all. Even if you use non-free software, the free software movement ensures checks and balances on non-free software by offering an alternative. By running a free operating system and becoming involved in the community, I've contributed to free software, even if only in a small way.

The whole article is worth reading.

Posted by: Physics Geek at 08:10 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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May 07, 2007

Keep hope alive

Instead of updating this post, let me instead direct you this article. Excerpt:

Cold fusion, the ability to generate nuclear power at room temperatures, has proven to be a highly elusive feat. In fact, it is considered by many experts to be a mere pipe dream -- a potentially unlimited source of clean energy that remains tantalizing, but so far unattainable.

However, a recently published academic paper from the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SPAWAR) in San Diego throws cold water on skeptics of cold fusion. Appearing in the respected journal Naturwissenschaften, which counts Albert Einstein among its distinguished authors, the article claims that Spawar scientists Stanislaw Szpak and Pamela Mosier-Boss have achieved a low energy nuclear reaction (LENR) that can be replicated and verified by the scientific community.

And that's been the rub for the last 18 years. No one has been able to reproduce on any type of consistent basis what Pons and Fleischman reported to have achieved. Now, apparently, the test appears to be one which can easily be verified or disproved. If true, my career could take an interesting turn over the next few years.

Hat tip to McQ.

Posted by: Physics Geek at 12:47 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
Post contains 201 words, total size 2 kb.

May 04, 2007

And the farewell tour continues

If you haven't been reading Annika lo, these many years, you've been missing out. Anyway, her blogging is circling the drain as she heads towards her new career- after the bar- as a lawyer. I'll miss her posts, her pictures and her sense of humor. And I'll never forget that she was the first blogger to leave a comment or add me to her blogroll. Not because I deserved the attention, mind, but just because she's cool like that.

In any event, here's a post in which she links to the Round Mound of Retard, and then makes a pretty cogent observation about SloMoRo:

There is no convincing one who has abandoned all reason and logic in exchange for fear and superstition.

I think that she left out the part about the parasite attacking Rosie's tiny brain, but otherwise the comment was spot on.

Posted by: Physics Geek at 03:10 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
Post contains 154 words, total size 1 kb.

Calling all geeks

I guess what's scary is that I figured out the number in my head without really thinking about it.


Posted by: Physics Geek at 02:25 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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