Archive for November 2008

Most embedded mobile devices have an option to automatically lock the interface when idle to prevent accidental access, and the Android-powered G1 is no exception. Interestingly, some people actually want to disable this feature. There’s no direct interface to this setting, however. While tinkering with the Setup Wizard applet, I may have stumbled upon a hack.

  1. using AnyCut, create a shortcut to the activity “Setup Wizard”
  2. launch “Setup Wizard”
  3. unplug+replug the battery and power on the device

The applet apparently disables the lock and re-enables it when it finishes. I wanted the screen lock back so I simply ran “Setup Wizard” again, this time completing the procedure.

Note that this method also disables the manual lock triggered by pressing the End button.

December 29th, 2008: Incidentally, other people have noticed strange effects after a botched Setup Wizard. The folks at xda-developers have experienced similar effects, but their connection to Setup Wizard is at the moment unconfirmed.

History is, and has always been, misunderstood. Retrospectively, we view history as a linear progression that leads logically from event to event to event, from fact to fact to fact. While such a simplification is often necessary for historical instruction, it masks the true complexity of history.

When we study history, we often ask, how did we get here from there?, where here is the state that we are in now and there is some state that we were in previously. Rarely do we ask, starting from there, where could we have gone? Historians do not concern themselves with possibilities; what could have been is not nearly as important as what has been. As far as we know, there is just one timeline linking our very beginnings to now, and we invest quite a bit of effort into linearizing our account of the past. If it did not happen to us… if it did not happen in our universe, we should not care. After all, we are a selfish people.

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I’d known from the beginning that KDE 4 libraries and applications could be installed on Windows. I hadn’t actually tried installing them on Windows because I’ve been warned that they’re unstable (Windows support is new), bulky (there’re many dependencies), and inefficient (KDE is not just a widget library). I’ve also heard reports of excellent integration and ease of installation, so I decided to give it a try. The test system is a virtual machine running Windows XP SP3 with no theme.

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WebKit support in Konqueror is coming along nicely in the form of a KPart called webkitkde. If you’re running Konqueror on Ubuntu 8.10, it’s really easy to try WebKit without disrupting your usual workflow:

  1. install webkitkde
  2. when viewing a Web page in Konqueror, select from the menu: View > View Mode > WebKit

It’s beta-quality software, but it works alright. Konqueror defaults to KHTML whenever navigation occurs, so you have to manually select WebKit for each page. Now you can do some basic WebKit-compatibility testing using Konqueror.

I bumped into a former classmate from middle school yesterday. We talked about what we did after graduating… then he started asking some interesting questions.

Dude: You’re telling me you’re studying biochem? Whoa, that’s interesting.
Me: How come?
Dude: Well, I’ve been writing quite a bit lately. Mostly detective stories, you know.
Me: I love detective stories.
Dude: Yeah well, I was wondering if you could help me. Know any good ways of killing someone? Like a poison, maybe.
Me: I don’t exactly study this stuff, but we were talking about arsenic and cyanide poisoning in class the other day.
Dude: Oh, those are classic. How do they work?
Me: Well, arsenic inhibits some important enzymes in the aerobic respiration pathway. It also affects the oxidative parts of some other pathways, which backs them up and keeps them from working. Cyanide works sort of like arsenic in that it affects energy metabolism, but it’s more acute; it binds to cytochrome oxidase in mitochondria and blocks aerobic respiration. Basically, it keeps cells from using oxygen and suffocates them.
[I explain in a lot more detail.]
Dude: Ah, now that’s all very interesting, but how would you actually use these?
Me: Erm… I’ve heard of people getting sick from drinking arsenic-contaminated water. But cyanide can be used as hydrogen cyanide gas or cyanide salts.
Dude: Awesome! I might have to call you up later for details… but I’ve a quick question for you. Do you know where one could obtain arsenic or cyanide in a place like New York City?
Me: … erm… I gotta go to class…
[I retreat into the nearest convenient lecture building.]
Dude: Hey! What’s your phone number?

Traditionally, installing fonts on Linux meant creating directories, copying files, and refreshing the font cache. Today I discovered a neat Windows-y font installer in the form of the fonts URL scheme. Open the file manager to fonts:/ and installing fonts should be as easy as copy and paste; removing fonts is just as easy. Through this mechanism, one can manage both personal fonts and (with sufficient privileges) system fonts.

Excited about the discovery, I decided to have some fun. A while ago, I’d purchased a disc full of fonts. My Kubuntu setup comes with some 400 system fonts, but I wanted to find out just how many my laptop could handle. After I copied in several thousand TrueType and OpenType fonts, I fired up OpenOffice.org and the GIMP for a quick test. While OO.o was not able to use the OpenType fonts, everything was pretty smooth. But the real test was just about to begin. The disc included some 150000 font files, and I proceeded to install all of them.

At the moment I’m taking a break at 56398 fonts (4.0GB). It takes a couple of minutes to load the desktop after logging in, and many operations have slowed drastically. So uh… I guess installing lots of fonts does affect performance. It would be interesting to perform the same experiment on Windows and Mac OS X.

November 13th, 2008: I now have 124479 fonts (8.1GB) in my personal fonts directory; I figured this is as slow as I could tolerate, so I’m going to stop here and revert to the original state of zero fonts. That was fun!

The 2008 College Puzzle Challenge will commence in fewer than eight hours! Every year, Microsoft employees stage a puzzle-solving game at colleges across North America. During the event, teams of four strive to solve the largest number of puzzles within a twelve-hour timeframe. To those who will be participating today: good luck and have fun!

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I’ve been experimenting with WordPress-Facebook integration, since I use both WordPress and Facebook substantially. WPBook looks like an interesting plugin to play with — it makes a Facebook application out of your WordPress setup.

Amidst the triumphant cries of the Barackians, I cannot help but feel the community spirit. The well-oiled American political machine has entered a new phase. Congratulations, Mr. Obama; God bless America.

I bought a bunch of DVD’s last night at the video store. When I tried playing them on my computer, I found every one of them unwatchable. Naturally, I was concerned about the health of my DVD drive, but it was able to play some other videos just fine. Then it hit me that the discs that I just bought were intentionally corrupted for copy-protection. So I took the defective discs back to the store for a refund; but the employees noted that the packages were opened, alledged that I had copied the discs, and refused to accept the products. Now I’m sitting at home with a bunch of broken discs that I’d wasted good money on. Would the next logical step be to circumvent the copy-protection and generate clean, watchable copies? Perhaps it would save time in the future to visit the bay for pre-cracked videos rather than the store for defective merchandise.

It’s perfectly reasonable to spend money on videos and encourage the production of more high-quality products, but I love how DRM (digital rights management) is forcing lawful individuals into shady dealings. When someone buys an item, he/she expects it to work and has the right to use it in any way. DRM violates that right and often trashes an otherwise-fine product. It treats legitimate customers as pirates and stomps on the work of artists. Meanwhile, the real pirates continue to traffic their warez. Isn’t it time people realized that DRM doesn’t work?

A few hours later: I now have DRM-free copies and a bunch of shiny-new coasters. Yay?