Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Can physics help understand India

I chanced upon a headline that a judgement in a case of bombing in 1994 was expected today. Normally, I would have treated it as routine and moved on.

However, I had seen Sean Carroll the Arrow of Time just the night before. Could it be that entropy was increasing faster in India? We know that if justice is delayed, chaos increases. Hence, the theory seems consistent.

Could there be another explanation? What if the Indian administration was moving at close to the speed of light? By general theory of relativity, time would slow down. That would also be consistent with our observations.

I hope that the the LHC experiment will shed more light on the dark matter which surrounds and invades us and we may be able to rule out one of the two theories and improve the theory so that it matches the level expected by David Deutsch

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Back in College

This weekend has been great. I have a digital photo frame which can play streaming video. I could easily stream images using Mediatomb. Streaming video was much harder - one major issue was getting the video format right. It is incredible how many variations seem possible. While the video would play perfectly fine when I tested with MythTV, the photo frame had problems.

I could get some videos to play. However, the reliability of playing streaming video was low. The display would often freeze or restart from the beginning. I finally realised that my goal was not streaming. It was to relax and watch some videos without being tied to the desktop. I do not like laptops. As the photo frame has a usb port, I decided to copy the video on a usb drive and play it on the photo frame. This worked quite well.

It would have been more fun to stream but I managed to lie in bed, relax and watch some memorable videos from

Aside from the wonderful presentations by J K Rowling and Steve Jobs, I loved Robert Sapolsky's talk about the uniqueness of humans. I was taken back to my college days and the deeply troubling philosophy course on ethics while watching Michael Sandel. I plan to watch all the lectures in that course. It feels like going back to college :)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Weird Keyboard Malfunction

It was a weird experience. I was working on Arch Linux in a VM( Sun VirtualBox) in a remote X session from a thin client. Suddenly, the keyboard seemed to have stopped working. Function and control keys seemed to work partially. But normal keys were totally ignored. Ctrl-alt-Fn also did not behave correctly.

I naturally assumed that the VM must have caused the problem.

I rebooted the thin client - same behaviour. I switched from LXDE to Gnome. Same behaviour. Rebooted the main machine - still the same scene.

The same user worked fine on the main system; however, I realised later that the desktop was KDE.

I then tried KDE and keys worked fine.

I assumed that I must have updated some package which caused the problem. But the last update was four days ago. Hence, that was not a likely cause. Also, I could use the gnome desktop using an alternate account.

After quite a bit of struggle, I found the problem to be related to SCIM. I must have pressed some short-cut keys which caused the keyboard to seem to be abnormal! At least, I assume so because after using the input pad with the mouse and exiting from SCIM, the keyboard has been working fine.

Hopefully, I will find time to reproduce the problem and add an update to this post.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Uploading old articles to web

I finally completed pushing the various articles I had written for Linux for You since 2005 to my web site.

It is amazing how the directories get so cluttered. It took a day to sort and select just 20 files!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Arch Linux - An update

The season for the upgrades has started. Ubuntu 10.04 is around the corner. Fedora 13 alpha is also out. So, it is time to examine what has happened to my parents' system.

Arch Linux has not given any problems. The kernel and OpenOffice on their system is more recent than on mine. The old xorg and intel display drivers continue to work.

An update solved the permissions issue with pulseaudio. The user no longer has to be a part of the audio group. The most recent update has completely replaced policykit package by polkit.

Updates take longer in the absence of something similar to delta-rpm on Fedora.

I wonder how long before delta packages are the norm on all distributions.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Why numbering should start at zero

Possibly because I learnt programming in Fortran and Pascal, starting an index with 0 and the syntax of Python range statement had seemed unnatural to me. So, it was nice to come across Dijkstra's Why numbering should start at zero.

Now, I am a convert and nice to unlearn Fortran.

"Adhering to convention a) yields, when starting with subscript 1, the subscript range 1 ≤ i < N+1; starting with 0, however, gives the nicer range 0 ≤ i < N. So let us let our ordinals start at zero: an element's ordinal (subscript) equals the number of elements preceding it in the sequence. And the moral of the story is that we had better regard —after all those centuries!— zero as a most natural number."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Same solution to all problems

Listening - actually ignoring - the parliamentary debate on reservation, I felt that the only solution our politicians could see for any social ill was reservation!

I was reminded of the following comments by Dijkstra's in Humble Programmer
I have run a a little programming experiment with really experienced volunteers, but something quite unintended and quite unexpected turned up. None of my volunteers found the obvious and most elegant solution. Upon closer analysis this turned out to have a common source: their notion of repetition was so tightly connected to the idea of an associated controlled variable to be stepped up, that they were mentally blocked from seeing the obvious. Their solutions were less efficient, needlessly hard to understand, and it took them a very long time to find them.