October 2006 Archives

More Fedora Core 6


For help in setting up stuff which is non-free, but practically compulsory for day to day use, see Fedora Core 6 Tips & Tricks.

Cactus World News


Oh look, Cactus World News have a website.

Something Musical


Firefox 2 on Fedora Core 6


Fedora Core 6 is all well and good, but it lacks Firefox 2.0. The following will install it properly.

[root@gizmo ~]# wget http://remi.collet.free.fr/rpms/fc6.i386/remi-release-1-1.fc6.remi.noarch.rpm

[root@gizmo ~]# rpm -Uvh remi-release-1-1.fc6.remi.noarch.rpm

[root@gizmo ~]# yum --enablerepo=remi update firefox

Via: Remi Collet.

UPDATE: One of the nice things about the new firefox is the way is saves your tabs, so that you can restart with whatever you were looking at after a crash. This is really useful because Firefox2 seems to crash about every ten minutes.

Core 2 Duo Mac Book Pros


They're here! The Core 2 Duo Mac Book Pro was launched October 24 and adds a faster processor with 64-bit technology as well as Firewire 800 to the MAcBookPro lineup.

That high pitched noise you may have been hearing overnight is the delighted squeeing of the Mac Fanboys.

Hopefully the Macbook (and Mac Mini) upgrade is coming soon. They have to come before the Leopard Launch anyway, so that Apple can have a totally 64-bit lineup to match their 64-bit OS.

More Shek Kip Mei Public Housing Estate


This is a montage of a few shots into one of the ground floor flats. This is the *entire* apartment.

small flat

The were about 120 square feet in size, with shared bathrooms. This is why Hong Kongers think a 350 square foot flat is an acceptable amount of living space; they may have grown up in a place like that pictured.

And a little Chinese social history for you: Notice that the bed appears to be some sort of bunk bed? Traditionally, the children would have slept up above while the parents slept below. Beds like this are still common in rural China.

(The horizontal shadows are related to shooting with flash through thin slatted windows. I should really have brought something wider than 28mm...)

Shek Kip Mei Estate


Shek Kip Mei public housing estate was the subject of many artists last week...

shek kip mei housing estate

Excel Annoyances


English, as we all know, is written and read from left to right.

The needles on the gauges in vehicles generally go from left to right.

'Loading' bars go from left to right.

so why does Excel add new tabs to your workbook in the opposite order?

It does the same on a Mac too. Is it just the usual shoddy Microsoft Usability, or is there an actual reason for it?

(Images on the extended entry part.)

Shifting the blame


How can Hong Kong promote safe cycling?

In his letter (Talkback, October 17) David Newbery states that the government was warned a year in advance of the potential hazards of allowing a large number of cyclists to race in a country park using both sides of a narrow road while not segregating the cyclists from normal traffic.

It appears therefore that the organisers and participants were fully aware of the potential danger to racers and other road users but decided to go ahead. They must accept responsibility for their actions and should not blame the government for the misfortune that befell one of them.

Colin Campbell, Mid-Levels

Colin, are you seriously saying that the death of a racing cyclist due to an illegal overtaking manouevre by a minibus was the fault of the *race* *organisers*?



Updates have been pretty slow around here for a while. Part of it is due to work, but a large part is that my outrage meter appears to have burned out.

Normally, the news that the Republican party appears to be self destructing in an orgy of sex scandals (Mark Foley), security revelations (Iraq) and corruption allegations (all of the above) would incline me to post on it, but it's happened before (Gannon/Plame/Katrina) and the American public just seem to blindly accept whatever Fox tells them and continue to vote for the Fascist Party.

Recently, the US Congress voted to approve a law which gives the President power to declare anyone and unlawful combatant and hold them without trial, without habeas corpus and without the oversight of the Geneva Conventions. Surely that would make the US People rise up and throw these guys out of office? If Abu Ghraib didn't, will anything?

It looks like a propaganda campaign is underway to justify a pre-emptive war with Iran. The American public swallowed lies hook, line and sinker for the Iraq debacle, why shouldn't they accept this next one?

Plus, it's no fun making fun of the letter writers to the SCMP, if they don't turn up and try and defend themselves in fractured English.

And speaking of Hong Kong, our Chief executive recently announced some ludicruous non-binding happy thoughts about a minimum wage. "It would be nice to have one", he said, "but we won't make it law, because then the Heritage Foundation might not award us a meaningless 'freeest economy in the world' award every year."

(It's not like there's a proposal to give toilet cleaners HK$50,000 per month. They're currently paid about HK$13 per hour.)

Foreigners don't eat lunch

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(Or The Annoying Bigotry of Weird Expectations.)

"Foreigners don't eat lunch", my client said, "but we're taking one of the consultants to lunch and he's a foreigner too, like you, so you should join us."

"What?! I eat lunch every day!"

"No you don't."

"You came over yesterday, when I was having my sandwich!"

"That's not *lunch*, that's just eating food in the middle of the day. Lunch is when we heui yum cha."

"OK, OK, I'll come. But any chicken's feet, and I'm going to order the Kangaroo Curry."

"But they're so cute!"

"And so very, very tasty!"


And the foreign consultant? A Shanghainese living in Montreal. Oy.

(And just in case anyone at work is reading this: my dramatic license is #1023887, and I am a registered smart ass in the State of Queensland.)

Edit: just tidied up the last part a bit - not very relevant.

More Security Theatre

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I see from Bruce Schneier's blog, that the US TSA No-Fly List is being investigated by CBS "60 minutes": Bruce Schneier: No Fly List.

This part caught my eye:

"Gary Smith, John Williams and Robert Johnson are some of those names. Kroft talked to 12 people with the name Robert Johnson, all of whom are detained almost every time they fly. The detentions can include strip searches and long delays in their travels.

"Well, Robert Johnson will never get off the list," says Donna Bucella, who oversaw the creation of the list and has headed up the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center since 2003. She regrets the trouble they experience, but chalks it up to the price of security in the post-9/11 world. "They're going to be inconvenienced every time … because they do have the name of a person who's a known or suspected terrorist," says Bucella. "

Robert Johnson? Robert Johnson, the Blues Musician? I can see why you wouldn't want him to fly; hehad a "Hell Hound on my Trail!". Perhaps it was his song about a Terraplane:

Bush: "It's like terra, on a plane! heh-heh!"

But probably they mean Robert Johnson the Democrat? Can't allow the political opposition to travel, now can we?

So much for that

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Well, so much for the going down to see the fire dragon thing. Approximately 7 million people had exactly the same idea. But just to add insult to injury, apparently every basket ball player in Hong Kong had arrived early and there was a ring of six-footers at the front of the crowd, so that, excepting some freakishly tall Watusi and a few giraffes, the only way to see anything was to hold the video camera over your head and angle the screen down.

Viewing an event through a periscope wasn't going to be any fun for me, let alone two small children, so we gave it up as a bad job. Just 5 years ago, we were able to get up really close to the dragon, but now it's just another mass event complete with policemen enforcing order.

Mid Autumn Festival


So, it's Mid Autumn Festival now and, living near Victoria Park, we thought we'd bring the kids down to see all the lanterns. We get down to Tin Hau, across the road from the MTR station and we see the queue to get in, which appears to start inside the MTR station itself and wind around Park Towers the long way. The queue is about ten abreast and moving very slowly. I'd guess you're looking at 20-30 minutes to get from the MTR station to the entrance to the park, so that you can share the wonder with all 7 milliion Hong Kongers, all pushing and shoving.

No thanks.

Some quick distraction and we bought some lanterns for the kids, then grabbed a taxi back. We'll take them down to the Tai Hang Fire Dragon tomorrow.

Greed is Good


From Thursday's SCMP:

Let profit be our guide

It appears that free-market practitioners find it difficult to articulate their environmental position. Maybe a layman can help.

As we know, Hong Kong's success is built on its accomplishments in business. Success in business comes from strict adherence to the principle that greed, counter-intuitively, benefits mankind, whereas compassion (as in discredited ideals such as socialism and communism) does not. The key point is that the free-market system needs little maintenance, and any misguided meddling by populist lobbies has disruptive effects.

Once this concept is grasped, it becomes blindingly clear why calls for business morality are actually counterproductive. Pollution is neither good nor bad, only profitable or unprofitable. If business cannot profit by reducing air pollution, it will profit by creating it.

I would therefore suggest that our free-market practitioners carry on as they were and our nattering prophets of doom on global warming mind their own business.

JIM SWAN, Kowloon

On the one hand, part of me thinks that this is evil. "Compassion does not benefit mankind". If that were true, we wouldn't be human. We would be Kif or Vulcans or some other race where we would leave our children out to starve and only the strong ones would come back to us.

On the other hand, a part of me (a very small part) admires the succinct way the argument has been presented in pure market terms. It's boiled down a complex argument to the balance sheet and demonstrated why corporations are not reacting to global warming.

But on the gripping hand, it also highlights a shortcoming of the free-market system as it exists today. It only looks at the extreme short term and it ignores external effects or costs which can be passed onto others. "There is no profit to be made from recycling, cutting carbon emissions, or curtailing deforestation *today* therefore we will not take action".

But what about a longer term view? If nothing is done about air pollution now, what happens when it makes working and living here impossible? All of those businesses who ignored it will go under. It turns out that a decent environment is actually a critical long-term consideration for business, but it has no apparent immediate profit.

If the cost of cleaning up after themselves was imposed on corporations, they would behave more responsibly. As it is, they behave like sociopaths, ignoring the costs of their actions on others as long as they percieve some benefit to themselves.

The short-sighted view of the free market Mr Swan espouses ignores some of the inputs to making a free market work. The market won't work if there are no people to work it, no air to breathe or no place to live. In short, the free-market is not independent of a functioning society or a healthy environment, no matter what the Randroids would have you believe.

Of course, the key point that "the free-market system needs little maintenance" isn't true either. Any market needs regulation to prevent abuse. Unrestrained free trade (laissez-faire) leads to monopolistic abuse.

Star Ferry Star


It's not compulsory to carry a star on the Star Ferry, but...

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