There was a rant that bounced up and down the tubes of the internet this week, talking about how one poor fellow migrated all of his important data into google services, only to have google pull the digital rug out from under him by deleting his account after it was algorithmically flagged. This sucks, but one thing I have always been pestered about is the importance of regular backups. Just because google is “the cloud” doesn’t mean your data is in a deadly limbo state of potential destruction if you don’t back it up. The problem is, backing up a machine you control is damn easy, while backing up your cloudified data is not. Continue reading
So, after my machine ran out of battery power while suspended, I booted it up to be greeted with the most strange bug I’ve ever seen on a linux machine: All my text was screwed up. In every application, including GDM. It disappeared after I ran an apt-get upgrade and rebooted. Has anyone else ever seen this bug? I’m running Ubuntu 10.04, for the record. Screenshot after the jump.
I’m a huge redditor, and one of my favourite little-known subreddits is r/battlestations. It’s a nifty page where people show off their computer/desk areas and compare notes for cool monitor setups, epic workstations, and efficient office layouts. Check it out if you want to kill some time and drool over other peoples offices. That was a short lame-o link post. Sorry about that, I’ll be including vouchers for free nothing in the next post.
Sorry about the late post, I was out far too late yesterday evening, and I missed the last train out of down town. I had to bike for 2 hours to get home, ugh. Anyways, as I’m sure many of you are aware, Amy Winehouse died today, at the age of 27. There is a semi-common urban legend that for celebrities, and musicians in particular, 27 is something of a cursed age. Jimmi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, and others all died at age 27. I was intrigued by this idea. It’s entirely possible that 27 is just the median age in a distribution of ages for celebrities dying from drugs and alcohol, and that this has been picked up on in the pop culture. So, I figured I would do some back-of-the envelope type research to see if this idea is plausible. Continue reading
I consider myself to be a pretty rational person, and try to avoid the cognitive pitfalls that, as a human being, I am prone to falling into. One logical fallacy that always seems to get me, no matter how much I try to banish that mode of thought, is the sunk cost fallacy.
This fallacy is the idea that you’ve already invested enough time/money/whatever into something, so to stop now would be a waste. It has its root in a number of frailties, from loss aversion to simple pride. It is a fallacy though, because how much you have invested so far in a venture has no bearing on whether that venture is going to be a success or not. If you wouldn’t have started it, it is wasteful to continue it, rather than the opposite.
Despite knowing full well the fallacious nature of it, whenever I am making a big decision, it always creeps into my head. How about you, dear readers, what logical fallacy have you had the hardest time keeping out of your mind?
Short post today, I overdid it and started a much longer post I can’t finish tonight, and I’m getting mighty tired. Instead of that, let me point out a bit of exciting tech news from today: Lenovo has release an Android tablet that actually looks like I might buy it. A Thinkpad Tablet!
Avast, a post! My first in over a year – Ben has been putting me to shame of late. I was in Dublin this past week visiting my Grandparents. I had a day in town to “see the sights”, but as I’ve been to Dublin several times I wasn’t interested in hitting the standard tourist attractions (Guinness Brewery, Book of Kells, Grafton St. etc) which I have already seen. I did a quick Google search for more obscure Dublin attractions, and happened upon Marsh’s Library, the first public library in Ireland, opened in 1701 by Archbishop Narcissus Marsh and “one of the very few 18th century buildings left in Dublin that is still being used for its original purpose”.
The library is quite a treasure – All of the original shelves and books are on display, dating back to the 18th century. Also on display are the wrought-iron cages in which scholars would be locked with certain valuable tomes. The whole thing reminded me of The Archives at The University of Imre. Most astonishing, the library is still a working library – the majority of the books are still available for perusal by scholars or interested members of the public.
In addition, they had two exhibitions (on The Bible, and on Medicine), with display cases showing books and passages relating to the subject. One piece in the Medical exhibition caught my eye in particular – a glorious Satyre entitled “Solid Reasons Humbly Offer’d to the Consideration of the Publick for Castrating Physicians, Quack-Doctors, &c.” published in 1725. I have posted this below, with the kind permission of the Marsh’s Library Keepers. What is remarkable is how relevant this piece remains in our era of dishonest “Alternative Medicine” practitioners on the one hand, and iniquitous Medicine-for-Profit on the other (so long as you can look past the distasteful reference to violent colonialism in the first paragraph).
This evening, after our regular hackerspace meeting, we got together for the Calgary Dorkbot meeting for July. And let me tell you, it was like being 9 years old again. So much fun. If your city has a Dorkbot, do yourself a favour and head down to their upcoming meeting. You will only regret if you suck. Continue reading
Most right-thinking people today consider the preservation of endangered species to be an ethical imperative. The underlying assumption (correct in the vast majority of cases) is that the endangered species have been brought to the brink as a result of careless human activities. Habitat destruction, hunting, pollution, and other aspects of the modern industrial age have stressed the biosphere so heavily that some ecologists consider it to be a mass extinction event. One of the many animal species facing extinction in coming years is the Tasmanian Devil. However, unlike many others, the Devil is going extinct because of a naturally occurring pathogen: Devil Facial Tumor Disease. This raises an interesting question: Should human beings always seek to prevent the extinction of animal species, regardless of the cause of that extinction?
Short post tonight, as I’ve spent the day just reading and relaxing (AND FREAKING OUT ABOUT THE STUPID WATERMARKS IN TELESCOPE IMAGES THAT THE GOD DAMN REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA REQUIRE SCREWING UP MY RESEARCH).
As some of you, dear readers, may be aware, I enjoy carousing among the various steampunk hangouts of the internet, and making my own projects from time to time. One of the big bitchfests I see whenever someone posts some new steampunk projects is that it looks like you just glued some fucking cogs onto something. Now, I too find that a pair of plastic Nike sneakers with gold paint and strips of fake leather hanging off to be a bit straining on the imagination’s attempts to picture said artifact as something from an alternative industrial revolution. However, I think that the complaint is actually two complaints, cleverly mashed together into one ugly Harvey-Dentesque complaint. First, there is the complaint that the work is ugly. Now, we all agree that beauty is subjective, etc, etc. but the whole idea in having an aesthetic category like “steampunk” is that the things in that category share common features. And dripping hot glue is not one of those things. I would be glad to see a world free of ugly things! Secondly, there is the complaint that what has been added adds no functionality to the original item (or in the case of scratch-built items, is useless). Also, no complaints from me!
However, I think the complaint is only really fair if it is leveled at both aspects simultaneously. There are plenty of works out there (Jake Von Slatt’s keyboards are a perfect example) of beautiful modification that takes a mundane object and elevates it to a piece of art. And I don’t want to see that kind of work go away. There are also wonderfully clever bits of automata and other lovely bits of technology that are fiendishly clever at what they do, yet still seem a bit cobbled together. I don’t want to see that go away either. Prototyping is important, and often form must follow function.
So, if you find yourself burning with the urge to glue cogs to your hat, stop. Ask yourself: am I doing this to make it beautiful, or am I doing this to make it work better. If the former, it better damn well be beautiful. If the latter, it has to actually do something. Of course, don’t take this as a discouragement to go tinker! Just think of it as a bit of an explanation if people don’t fawn over your latest creation.