dave: January 2006 Archives

More on Google.com.cn

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According to Paul Butin, Chinese Google filter only works if you can spell.

google.cn image search for Tiananmen: Gate of Heavenly Peace.

google.cn image search for Tianenmen, Tienanmen and Tiananman: Tanks, tanks, more tanks.

(via.)

Google in China

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Google officially comments on their decision to censor search results from www.google.com.cn: Google in China.

It's pretty much what I expected they'd say, but this is an interesting bit:

And yes, Chinese regulations will require us to remove some sensitive information from our search results. When we do so, we'll disclose this to users, just as we already do in those rare instances where we alter results in order to comply with local laws in France, Germany and the U.S.

Now, the reference to France and Germany is that local laws in those two countries prohibit certain materials relating to Nazis, White Supremacists and other scum.

Just what restrictions are in place in the U.S.A.? It turns out (following a quick google.com.hk search), that:

(See the full article here: Localized Google search result exclusions.)

You can see the full list (assuming that Google reports everything) of excluded items here: ChillingEffects.Org.

Avian Flu

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There's been more news of dead H5N1 infected birds in Hong Kong. This brings the grand total of cases to two wild birds.

Remarkably, and quite unlike the SARS era and the recent WTO coverage, the media isn't attempting to whip things up into a panicked frenzy. Perhaps they've taken the large amount of criticism over the WTO reporting to heart. Or maybe they just haven't found a bio hazard suit to fit Emma Jones yet, like that silly stunt with the TVB reporter in the crash helmet at the WTO frontlines. (Tom Grundy, the guy in the chicken suit.)

Given the enormous impact of the whole SARS fiasco on the Hong Kong economy, I wonder would the news media jump on an Avian Flu bandwagon quite as quickly as they played up SARS? SARS turned out to be no more dangerous than any other form of pneumonia, but the WHO declared it a potential pandemic and we all know what happened then. I know people who sent their kids to distant relatives in other countries, or who left Hong Kong with the clothes on their backs, never to return. Meanwhile, several countries refused to accept travellers from infected countries, and there was a massive hit to Hong Kong's economy which we took years to recover from.

Come Here, Fat Boy!

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er, I think that should read Kung Hei Fat Choi!, the traditional geeting at Chinese New Year.

It's the Hair — sorry — Year of the Dog so, according to ancient tradition, you are now allowed (and required!) to sniff the bottoms of anyone who comes to your house.

Bush denies reality

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Not that this is surprising, but the anti-scientific bias of the Bush Administration is revealed again in this article on DailyKos. Bush to NASA Climate Scientist: Play Ball on Global Warming!

Global Warming is not a controversy these days; it's a very well accepted scientific fact. There are those who try and deny the growing evidence; but for some reason they seem to be either paid by the oil industry (like VPOTUS Cheney) or Right-Wing Regurgitators[1].

[1] You know the type: constantly parroting the latest talking point from whatever right-wing source their wingnuttery stems from. In email, they're the kind who pass on every chain email they ever get and get upset when they're debunked. They believe whatever is the craze of the month, even if it conradicts last month's nonsense.

UPDATE: Other links (because I know some will immediately reject any link to DailyKos):

BBC Snark Guide

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BBC Style Guide; deliciously snarky.

Hot Pot

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It's that time of year:

Time for Hot Pot!

20 Years after Challenger

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20 Years ago today, Space Shuttle Challenger exploded on take-off.

BBC Historical article: On This Day: 7 Dead in Space Shuttle Disaster.

(See this BBC Slideshow of the Challenger Disaster.)

Yet the Gods do not give lightly of the powers they have made.

And with Challenger and seven, once again the price is paid.

Though a nation watched her falling, yet a world could only cry.

As they passed from us to glory, riding fire in the sky

(Extract from "Fire in the Sky", by Jordin Kare.)

Google

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Local blogger Glutter is featured in this BBC article (Chinese bloggers debate Google) about the way Google is censoring search results on google.com.cn.

(Hmmm, I can't use google.com.cn, I guess it's a China only service, and Hong Kong doesn't quite count.)

A more exhaustive analysis of what's censored is shown in this article: What Google Censors in China, found on news.google.com.

Britons unconvinced on evolution, says the BBC, based on a survey of Britons with regards to Evolution.

(via.)

Over 2000 participants took part in the survey, and were asked what best described their view of the origin and development of life:

  • 22% chose creationism;
  • 17% opted for intelligent design;
  • 48% selected evolution theory;
  • and the rest did not know.

Intelligent Design is just another attempt by the US Fundamentalists to force Creationism, and hence their fundamentalist agenda into public schools.

It has nothing to do with a basically theistic, but also scientific view of the universe. i.e., that some sort of Supreme Being created the universe and it runs on observed and testable scientific principles.

Science tells you How The Universe Works; religion tells you Why The Universe Is, (according to your flavour of religion and need or desire to be so told, of course).

The fact that it's becoming a mainstream belief in Britain is worrying. Religous fundamentalism is an evil thing. A requirement to believe that sheperds 3,000+ years ago could write a detailed scientific account of the formation of the world is clearly nonsense. To insist that people must believe it in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary is a sure sign of fanaticism. To insist that it should be taught in lieu of actual science is a major step towards schools which don't actually teach but merely indoctrinate their 'students' (or victims) with propaganda.

It also has another impact: teaching kids the 'scientific method', i.e. that a theory can be tested with an experiment and verified, is clearly dangerous to a fundamentalist regime. The notion that everyone can test out the theories for themselves and prove that they work removes power from the pulpit and gives it back to the people. After all, I don't need to believe or trust in a science teacher about gravity; I can test it for myself with a stopwatch, a stepladder and a stone in a simple experiment. Even though I may be critical of the teachers lessons, I can easily prove or dispove them for myself.

Suppose, for example, that a travelling Science Teacher comes to my town and insists that the acceleration due to gravity is 5 metres per second per second. I can take a stop watch, a stepladder and a stone and disprove his claims in, oh about enough time for a rock to accelerate at 9.81 metres per second per second and for me to calculate that rate.

To insist that I shouldn't be allowed to question the roving Science Teacher is to deny the scientific method. To deny the Scientific Method is to deny personal choice while insisting that taught beliefs are inherently correct and must be followed without reflection. Fanaticism, in other words.

Eeewwww!

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Firefox Hacking

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Recently, I've been having problems with Firefox extensions not uninstalling themselves, despite Firefox being shutdown completely. Also, extensions weren't installing correctly. I've found out why this was happening.

The XUL cache (XUL.mfasl) and the extensions.rdf files seemed to get out of sync or corrupted when I upgraded to Firefox 1.5. The solution? Delete both of these files. Quite simple really.

Both of these files are located in /home/[username]/.mozilla/firefox/default.r19 if you're on a unix-like system like Linux, or MacOSX. In Windows, they'll be somewhere under /Documents and Settings/[username].... Probably best to search for the filename extensions.rdf.

Shut down Firefox completely — you can check that there's no traces of it running by checking in the Task Manager — and delete both files. Restart Firefox. Check your extensions, and all of the stuff which was supposed to uninstalll after a restart should be gone. Firefox will then rebuild the two files mentioned above.

David Brin

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I just found out that the noted author David Brin has a blog: Contrary Brin.

How to make wealth

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Here's an interesting essay: How to make wealth, by Paul Graham.

I do think he's wrong on one point though:

There is one other job besides sales where big companies can hire first-rate people: in the top management jobs. And for the same reason: their performance can be measured. The top managers are held responsible for the performance of the entire company. Because an ordinary employee's performance can't usually be measured, he is not expected to do more than put in a solid effort. Whereas top management, like salespeople, have to actually come up with the numbers. The CEO of a company that tanks cannot plead that he put in a solid effort. If the company does badly, he's done badly.

In my experience, just because someone is a highly paid manager, doesn't mean that he is at all competent at his nominal job. He may be riding on the coat-tails of hard-working employees by taking credit for their successes and blaming them for failures; or his real job may not be his nominal job.

What do I mean by the last? Well, look at the case of Michael Brown, head of FEMA during the recent Hurricane Katrina Disaster. He was clearly not all that good at heading a disaster management organisation. Perhaps his real job was to be a known crony of the Bush administration, and thus a useful contact towards getting further government contracts. (See this comment at Making Light.)

Dell Sucks

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Dell Sucks.

I have a Dell Workstation (Precision 220 to be precise), which is quite an old machine now. It's a dual processor. 1Ghz Pentium 3 box, with 512Mb of RDRAM and is a perfectly capable office machine, but modern games stress it a bit much, so I decided to upgrade it with a decent mid-range graphics card, an Nvidia 6600GT (The AGP version).

<ASIDE: this is my Windows box, which I mainly keep for playing games on. It isn't my primary workstation, which is a Linux box, nor is it my secondary workstation, a Mac Mini.)

That should be an easy enough expansion — unplug the old card and plug in the new one (after attaching the extra power connecter these more recent cards need) — but complications were to follow.

The first complication was that the power supply isn't powerful enough to power the card. Nvidia reccomends 300 watts and the Dell only has 235 watts.

"Fine", I thought, "I'll just go out and get a nice beefy power supply. They're cheap and a standard component. In fact, I have a 300W power supply in my pile of spare parts somewhere. Hey?! What the?!"

Yep - Dell uses non-standard power supplies in it's workstations. I can't just buy a third party item - I have to order one direct from Dell at a cost of probably much more than the entire computer is worth, Honestly, the cost of redesigning standard Intel motherboards to use non-standard power supplies much grossly outweigh the extra revenue from people having to buy power supplies from you.

So, this is a bit frustrating. an Nvidia card will start up in a reduced-power mode if it can't get enough power to run at full-throttle:

so I can still use the card and play games. It's just that some games will override the power manager, grab full power from the PSU and crash the PC. Still - Quake III based games are rather nice looking and churn over at 90fps (frames per second) which is OK.

One day, while trying to tweak my Linux box a little, I had a thought - why not move the Linux disks to the Dell, and move the Windows bits to the home-built PC with the 400W power supply? After all, the Linux box is also a dual-processor 1Ghz PIII box, it has more RAM (768MB) and it is a standard ATX board in a standard ATX case. Basically all that's involved in a brain transplant like that is moving the disks and graphics cards.

So, last night, I strip the Dell down to the bare bones and do the same for the Linux box and then I discover something truly annoying: the Dell has non-standard 5.25" bays! There's a sliding mount for CD-drives which screws on the bottom of the drive on the outside. The standard brackets for mounting a 3.5 inch hard drive don't work! As there's five hard disks in the linux box and only two available mounting points in the Dell, clearly I can't continue with putting the disks in the Dell case.

Perhaps if I move the motherboard? Nope, that's non-standard too! I can't even buy a standard motherboard for two Slot 1 Pentium III chips, as they only have one heatsink between them, which is finely fit for the exact size and layout of the (non-standard) motherboard!

Gaah!

Dell Sucks

Chinglish @ classifiedpost.com

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The SCMP online edition maintains its usual high standards of English:

KCRC

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Over the past few days, there's been a spate of incidents on the KCRC, Hong Kong's second railway company:

Now, of course, all of the incident are caused by the discovery of some cracks on the trains. This led the KCRC to switch to manual operations to relieve stress on the trains, and this led to a reduction in the quality of service (to a level which is still vastly superior to anything you might find in, say, England).

Why on earth is a manual system less stressful to the components than an automatic system? Do the automatics have only two settings, Full Speed Ahead, and Dead Stop? Given that that's how most Hong Kongers — at least those who drive minibuses, taxis and buses — drive anyway, it makes no sense that manual operations would be less stressful. From my own experience, having been on the KCRC many times, it does have gentle acceleration and deceleration. It's probably a lttle better than the MTR. The whole thing seems like quite a lot of fuss over a relatively minor problem.

I wonder how much of this fuss is related to the upcoming merger with the MTRC? There's no need to talk down the share price of the KCRC as it's government owned, and likewise, most of the MTRC is government owned, so there's no real need to talk their share price up.

A stream of safety incidents and lack of reliability on the part of the KCRC will go a long way towards convincing the public that the KCRC should be absorbed by the MTRC, however. (Not that public opinion seems to matter all that much in Hong Kong, but sometimes it can be important.)

Loss of innocence

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I, dear reader, have lost an innocence I would have sworn I would always keep. I have participated in something which goes against everything my ancestors stod for, fought for, and died for.

I have par— Oh God, it's almost too embarassing to admit.

Deep Breath...

OK, I have participated in Morris Dancing.

Stop! Stop! Don't all run away! I only morrised a little. I can give it up. It's not like I own trousers with bells on, or something! All I did was wave my hanky around like a spazz while someone else played an accordion.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must learn the words to "Gathering Rhubarb".

Big Al's Speech.

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Al Gore makes a speech in which he rightly accuses The Shrub of illegal spying on Americans. (via.)

Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol? Is the world more dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with tens of thousands of missiles poised to be launched against us and annihilate our country at a moment’s notice? Is America in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march-when our fathers fought and won two World Wars simultaneously?

It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it is up to us to do the same.

We have a duty as Americans to defend our citizens’ right not only to life but also to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is therefore vital in our current circumstances that immediate steps be taken to safeguard our Constitution against the present danger posed by the intrusive overreaching on the part of the Executive Branch and the President’s apparent belief that he need not live under the rule of law.

It sounds like Big Al is winding up for another Presidential Run in 2008. Well, he won the last time, but never got to take office thanks to a packed Supreme Court and Republican Corruption in Florida.

Best of luck to him if he does run - I'm rooting (although not in the Australian sense!) for a Gore/Clark ticket.

Hyperdrive!

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bath-blogging

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ln what is probably a first for a Hong Kong blog, I'm blogging from a nice hot bath, thanks to my Palm TX and a wireless router.

Don't worry - there'll be no pictures!

The palm is a relatively capable internet device, with a 480x320 display and an 802.11b wireless link.

It'll also handle a reasonable amount of audio and video, as it has a reasonably fast processor for a handheld. There's also no Windows overhead, which suits me fine.

I'm just using the standard MovableType interface to enter this, and it's ok -- given the input limitations of the palm, of course. I have a Bluetooth keyboard for more intensive text entry, but that's a little awkward for the tub.

New Macs

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The new Intel Macs are finally here, and boy do they look good. They have Intel Core Duo, or dual-core Pentium-M chips. These are low power, dual processor chips. The Pentium-Ms make Centrino laptops really fast; about as fast as a Pentium 4 desktop with twice the processor speed, in my experience. They appear to smoke the G4 and G5 chips as well, with even Jobs claiming that they're 2-3X (for the iMac) and 4-5X (for the MacBook Pro) the speed of the PowerPC Chips. I was sort of hoping that they'd be 64-bit as well, but I guess not.

Google Earth for Mac

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Yay! It's finally here! Google Earth for the Mac

It's a bit slow and clunky on a 1GB Mac Mini though.

Nerdiness

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I am nerdier than 97% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

More Lies

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Left, not right, deceives

Paul Serfaty confirms the contention that anybody who disagrees with his or the left's position is "Gestapo-like". ("Wide dislike of neocons", January 5).

His comments about the Geneva conventions are specious, as no one advocates abandoning these principles. It is a safe bet that he knows this, but chooses to assert a neoconservative juggernaut, as it neatly fits into the left-leaning world view. I guess it is far easier to set up a straw dog to easily knock down, so that one can appear to be compassionate and reasoned.

Perhaps, to many on the left, results don't really matter, but, rather, good intentions and, more importantly, how others feel about you. Given the reality of terrorism, it is no wonder that people around the world are increasingly rejecting the dangerous and irresponsible mentality of self-absorption and appeasement.

Mr Serfaty says that those who are moderately Churchillian would never support what he asserts the "neocons" (read conservatives) are pushing. Newly declassified documents directly contradict this assertion.

Examples of prime minister Winston Churchill's approach include: he thought that if Hitler were caught he, like all Nazi leaders, should be executed immediately, and he advocated destroying three German cities for every one they destroyed. This doesn't sound "middle-of-the-road Churchillian". No member of the administration of US President George W. Bush has ever advocated such far-reaching measures.

Mr Serfaty says that those advising President Bush lead by deception. Wrong, it is those on the left who think that, we, the common folk, are "too stupid" and in dire need of their "sophisticated" leadership. This brand of leadership is usually some form of outdated European socialism. The comment about a lack of appreciation for 2,000 years of "political progress" in Europe bears witness to an arrogant and elitist mindset. The wailing and gnashing of teeth is not coming from conservatives, but rather those elitists on the left who realise that the market for socialism is shrinking.

GARRY HUNT, Mid-Levels .

Yet more gibbering right-wing bullshit from Mr. Hunt.

Small but perfectly formed.

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http://www.sealiesoftware.com/pssh/ is really cute - SSH access from a palm device.

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