Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Place in the Sun

I love the sun. (I try to stay out of it, though.) Go to the SolarSoft site to see if there is a tiny solar physicist inside you struggling to get out. Get advance warnings on your cell phone in the event of the sun exploding. No, they don't offer that service. (What good are they, then?) Guess what the "LMSAL" stands for.

Everyone has their own place in the sun--should you choose to have your remains shot into the sun upon your demise. However, they'd probably be vaporized and blown back into deep space before they got to the sun.

Today's award for best (hottest?) background on a solar physicist web site goes to Mauna Loa. This totally beats standing outside and staring into the sun--plus it is available 24 hours a day and night.

Solar is also easy on the retina. Never attempt to examine the sun directly with your eye(s) and a powerful optical magnifier.

You can also check the space weather news if you plan to be "outside" (the earth's atmoshere).

SCIM-Anthy Nihongo Input in Mandiva on the eee pc 4g

I monkeyed around with the little sucker (eee pc 4G) today and finally got the Japanese language input working. I'm not sure exactly what I did, but I never touched the command line. I found some things I may not have installed from reading a post by another Mandriva/Nihongo user. Then I tweaked the many settings in their control panels and tabs until something clicked. I accidentally created some nonfunctional ghost icons in the top menu bar in the process, so I have a new problem to solve.

I remembered that I only tried Mandriva because it supposedly worked best with the eee pc, as reported here, and Ubuntu (Netbook Remix) bugged out on me. I was thinking about the Distro Selectors, and I think simply visiting Distrowatch, popping opn a page for the major distros, opening those in tabs, and then closing tabs as you eliminate options is a simple way to choose. In my case, if I open those options listed in my earlier post, and eliminate those distros which do not meet my other special needs: being multilingual, having Asian language support, and having a build which runs on the ppc processor architecture (too), then only Ubuntu, Fedora, and openSUSE are worthy. Even Mandriva is knocked out--but I'll make an exception since it is so simple (too simple?) and runs so well on the eee. If I couldn't get the Japanese input working, I was ready to trash Mandriva and try Fedora.

Other people probably have the same issues as me. In other words, you may need to stick with a major distro because it's more likely to have the extra functionality you need, altho in some cases you will get that from a customized distribution like eeebuntu. I have to admit flux-flux for eee was the most visually attractive one I've run yet, but some functionality was missing.

I think I'll stick with what I've got and keep an eye on developments in PC-BSD, Moblin, Android/GoogleChrome, and other up-and-coming fringe OSes.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Linux: Live Free or D.I.Y

Perhaps it was because of the report of Google planning to release an operating system that I began to reconsider my Linux choices. I had to stop using Ubuntu on my eee 4g due to sluggish display and a bug that erased all menus. It now runs Mandriva, but Japanese input still is not functional. My eee1000he runs Ubuntu 9.04 OK. I think Google's OS will be a hit since they will have Chrome on Windows, on MacOSX, and they will have their own Linux platform to stick under it, so they don't need to rely on anyone else's good will and will cover everyone who wants to use it --very much unlike the exclusiveness of Apple. The Chrome browser will be the platform upon which to build all other functionality. Having said that, though, I have to admit I threw out Google Chrome (in Windows) for being so huge and for crashing more than anything else. Still, I wish them the best. They will shake up M$ and probably steal market share from Apple, too. Maybe Apple will finally make some urgently needed changes to their closed MacCultOSh mentalITy.

I was interested in the newest Moblin release (see video)(until I found it got some baad reviews and is not ready yet) and learning more about FreeBSD or PC-BSD (more Unix-y than Linux-y)(but probably too advanced for meee). That led me back to some Distro Selectors again (I found a new and useless one) and to look into those other distros more. But I think I will stick with what I have now, or perhaps replace Mandriva with another Linux on the little sucker (4g).

Distro Choosers

Distro Name… Is it free? Geared toward… Runs well on older computers
Vector Yes Intermediate Yes
Ubuntu Yes Intermediate Maybe
Mandriva Yes Intermediate Maybe
We found these matches, sorted by how well they match:
95% Mandriva ( )
May not be suitable because: Your computer may be too slow
Mandriva Linux (formerly known as Mandrake Linux) was created in 1998 with the goal of making Linux easier to use for everyone. Mandriva offers all the power and stability of Linux to both individuals and professional users in an easy-to-use and pleasant environment.
[That's if I say I want to put it on a Mac.
If I say "PC", …
We found the following perfect match(es):
100% OpenSuSE
The openSUSE project is a community program sponsored by Novell. Promoting the use of Linux everywhere, this program provides free, easy access to the world's most usable Linux distribution, SUSE Linux. OpenSUSE delivers everything that Linux developers and enthusiasts need to get started with Linux. Hosted at, the project features easy access to builds and releases. It also offers extensive community development programs for open access to the development process used to create SUSE Linux.
(This distribution also has a "Live CD" you can use to test the distribution before you install it)

In addition, we found these matches, sorted by how well they match:

95% Mandriva
Mandriva Linux (formerly known as Mandrake Linux) was created in 1998 with the goal of making Linux easier to use for everyone. Mandriva offers all the power and stability of Linux to both individuals and professional users in an easy-to-use and pleasant environment.
Visit Mandriva at: May not be suitable because: Your computer may be too slow

95% Linux Mint
Originally launched as a variant of Ubuntu with integrated media codecs, Linux Mint has now developed into one of the most user-friendly distributions on the market - complete with a custom desktop and menus, several unique configuration tools, a web-based package installation interface, and a number of different editions. Perhaps most importantly, this is one project where the developers and users are in constant interaction, resulting in dramatic, user-driven improvements with every new release
Visit Linux Mint at: May not be suitable because: Your computer may be too slow

95% Ubuntu
Ubuntu is a free, open source operating system that starts with the breadth of Debian and adds regular releases (every six months), a clear focus on the user and usability (it should "Just Work", TM) and a commitment to security updates with 18 months of support for every release. Ubuntu ships with the latest Gnome release as well as a selection of server and desktop software that makes for a comfortable desktop experience off a single installation CD.
Visit Ubuntu at: May not be suitable because: Your computer may be too slow
A fork of Mandriva designed to appeal more to slightly-more-experienced users. A power-user's distribution. Perfect match!
An up-and-coming source based distribution. Pardus comes with 3.4 gigabytes on software on one CD, all of which runs faster than normal, thanks to several unique features. Perfect match!
PC-BSD PC-BSD is based on FreeBSD, and comes with everything you need for a FreeBSD desktop. Perfect match!
SAM Linux
SAM Linux is a fork of PCLinuxOS that uses XFCE to be even faster that normal. Perfect match!
Linux Mint
Based on Ubuntu, Mint comes with a more refined out-of-the-box program selection, along with some extra configuration utilities. Perfect match!
If PC is a few years old and you are looking for an easy to use distribution to install on your hard drive then try
Fedora or Suse
Well, alrighty then. I'n not a Pole nor am I ready to polish my skills yet, but I found another opinion:
1. Mandriva Linux
2. Ubuntu Linux
3. openSUSE
4. Fedora
5. Debian GNU/Linux

Summarizing the combined (robot) recommendations::
Linux Mint:_**_____
SAM Linux:__*______

So maybe I'm already trying out the most reasonable options, but those selectors did not ask the questions I need to ask.

Some guidelines I have tried to establish for myself:
• Use Linux wherever possible (install on all computers --to get used to it).
• Maintain dual-boot of proprietary OSs when:
--already bundled for free
--space allows
• Use Windows or MacOSX for access to apps without available equivalents in open-source, such as Garageband or Songsmith
• Use open-source software (or at least cross-platform apps) across all 3 platforms. Prefer Firefox (or Opera) to Safari and Explorer. OpenOffice default office suite. GIMP before PhotoShop.
• Prefer a Linux distro with ppc as well as eee support for maximum compatibility. (as many processors supported as possible, unlike Windows and Apple) -OR- Experiment with 2 different distributions? (if not too confusing?)

In practice, I'm using MacOSX alot since I still prefer Apple Mail to Thunderbird on a daily basis. iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, and iDVD are also quite compelling and hard to replace. The Mac Mini is my desktop and Asus my laptop(s). The Mini will get a Linux install eventually, but I haven't even organized the files on it yet.

Personal Checklist Questions for before and after Installation:
Asian Language Support? (JP)
Keyboard recognized (all keys)?
Japanese Input OK?
Wireless working?
Sound Output OK?
Sound Input OK?
Skype included/working?
MP3 plays OK?
YouTube (flash video) plays OK?
Volume keys work OK?
Brightness keys work OK?
Function keys all working?
Printing works?
Video output works OK?
Sleep/hibernate/etc works OK?
Scanning works?

I found a free Ubuntu book as a PDF. Keir Thomas has a clear writing style and is aimed at beginners. Thanks, Keir!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Chinese Recycling Program

And you thought Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib were bad...

Prisoners of conscience --especially young healthy Falun Gong practitioners-- can be worth $60,000 for just one organ. I'd heard of this before but not looked at the documentation.

The Canadian MP and human rights campaigner didn't have much trouble confirming that Falun Gong (Qi Gong meditation group) members were being executed on demand to fill the needs of foreign visitors paying for organ transplants. You can just call up hospitals all across China and ask them. They will tell you that that is what they do. No problem.

An excerpt:

Phone-call transcripts from the Kilgour-Matas Report

1. Call to Dr. Lu, Nanning City Minzu Hospital, Guangxi
M: "...Could you find organs from Falun Gong practitioners?"
Hosp: "Let me tell you, we have no way to get (them). It's rather difficult to get it now in Guangxi. If you cannot wait, I suggest you go to Guangzhou because it's very easy for them to get the organs. They are able to look for (them) nation wide. As they are performing the liver transplant, they can get the kidney for you at the same time, so it's very easy for them to do. Many places where supplies are short go to them for help..."
M: "Why is it easy for them to get?"
Hosp: "Because they are an important institution. They contact the (judicial) system in the name of the whole university."
M: "Then they use organs from Falun Gong practitioners?"
Hosp: "Correct..."
M: "...what you used before (organs from Falun Gong practitioners), was it from detention centre(s) or prison(s)?"
Hosp: "From prisons."
M: "...and it was from healthy Falun Gong practitioners...?"
Hosp: "Correct. We would choose the good ones because we assure the quality in our operation."
M: "That means you choose the organs yourself."
Hosp: "Correct..."
M: "Usually, how old is the organ supplier?"
Hosp: "Usually in their thirties."
M: "... Then you will go to the prison to select yourself?"
Hosp: "Correct. We must select it."
M: "What if the chosen one doesn't want to have blood drawn?"
Hosp: "He will for sure let us do it."
M: "How?"
Hosp: "They will for sure find a way. What do you worry about? These kinds of things should not be of any concern to you. They have their procedures."
M: "Does the person know that his organ will be removed?"
Hosp: "No, he doesn't."

2. Call to Shanghai Jiaotong University Hospital’s Liver Transplant Centre:
M: I want to know how long [the patients] have to wait [for a liver transplant].
Dr. Dai: The supply of organs we have, we have every day. We do them every day.
M: We want fresh, alive ones.
Dr. Dai: They are all alive, all alive…
M: How many [liver transplants] have you done?
Dr. Dai: We have done 400 to 500 cases… Your major job is to come, prepare the money, enough money, and come.
M: How much is it?
Dr. Dai: If everything goes smoothly, it’s about RMB 150,000… RMB 200,000.
M: How long do I have to wait?
Dr. Dai: I need to check your blood type… If you come today, I may do it for you within one week.
M: I heard some come from those who practise Falun Gong, those who are very healthy.
Dr. Dai: Yes, we have. I can’t talk clearly to you over the phone.
M: If you can find me this type, I am coming very soon.
Dr. Dai: It’s ok. Please come.
M: … What is your last name?...
Dr. Dai: I’m Doctor Dai.

The military, like the health system, has gone from public financing to private enterprise. The military in China is a conglomerate business. This business is not corruption, a deviation from state policy. It is state sanctioned, an approved means of raising money for military activities. In 1985, then President Deng Xiaoping issued a directive allowing the People's Liberation Army units to earn money to make up the shortfall in their declining budgets.

Many of the transplant centres and general hospitals in China are military institutions, financed by organ transplant recipients. Military hospitals operate independently from the Ministry of Health. The financing they earn from organ transplants does more than pay the costs of these facilities. The money is used to finance the overall military budget.

There is, for instance, the Organ Transplant Center of the Armed Police General Hospital in Beijing. This hospital boldly states:

"Our Organ Transplant Center is our main department for making money. Its gross income in 2003 was 16,070,000 Yuan. From January to June of 2004 income was 13,570,000 Yuan. This year (2004) there is a chance to break through 30,000,000 Yuan."

Military involvement in organ harvesting extends into civilian hospitals. Recipients often tell us that, even when they receive transplants in civilian hospitals, those conducting the operation are military personnel.

Somebody should make a data bank of the transplanted organ's DNA and some day the origins of many of these could be cleared up, matched with surviving family members.

I love China (all of the Chinas, including Taiwan, and the whole greater Sino-Tibetan entourage, especially the Dalai Lama;-), but this religious-freedom-suppressing organ-salvaging military-funding transplanting practice should be brought to an end. The report contains very clear and targeted proposals for how Canada et al should respond.

Some people will criticize China heavily for this, but I don't think it's really something to bash the Chinese for. First of all, that's not productive, and secondly, it's the logical result of (1) having the death penalty (like many of the United States & Japan); (2) encouraging organ donation (many countries and states are in the process of trying to make the process 'Opt-Out' rather than opt-in); (3) having policies of rounding up people on the basis of their political and religious beliefs and holding them indefinitely without charges or trial (like the Americans' Soviet-gulag-style camp at Guantanamo Bay which holds, indefinitely and without charge, political prisoners apprehended worldwide who are considered too dangerous to be left free). In other words, it really isn't much different from other beliefs and practices which we accept (and the direction in which other cultures are drifting). It is just combined and extended further. It wouldn't be all that surprising if this becomes the practice in the United States. How does a prisoner guilty of the September 11th attacks repay the victims? If the death penalty is employed, why wouldn't you auction off the organs of the 9-11 terrorists to executives of AIG or someone to raise money to compensate the victims of terrorism? Perhaps Mitt Romney will make it part of his platform when he runs for president. I'm not defending it, just saying we need to see that we are cleaning up our own act at the same time.

Almost like being there…

…only less humid. This is from a little-known maker of 360º Tokyo panoramas, the Washington Post. Zooming is available. This particular panorama is shot at bicycle-basket level.

The link is thanks to Tokyotopia at JapanSoc, which could connect you to this and some how-to-itiveness.

Saturday, July 04, 2009


I had this EP in 1982. This song stuck in my head; I occasionally remember it.