IMAGES & Animations 02

March 31, 2010
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I told myself I wasn’t going to post a link to today’s post on 8bit today, but as usual, some of these are really good, and it takes all of twenty seconds to flip through them.

"Nude 1" by Felipe Cama

Felipe Cama

Illustrations for the December issue of Sports Illustrated Kids by Tomby

Tomby

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Raj, Bohemian

March 31, 2010

Seen via JWZ: this story, called "Raj, Bohemian".

"Is someone paying you to say that stuff?"

She giggled. "Sorry, babe, it just pops out sometimes. I didn’t mean to pitch you. I’m supposed only to do it to my girlfriends."

"What?"

"Ignore me. You know how hard it is to keep track of one’s placements."

"Placements?"

"Placements. Why are you making that face? You’re looking at me like I’m some kind of freak."

"You have a lot of — placements?"

"Oh, don’t get on your high horse. You don’t work, either. What do you do for cash? If a girl doesn’t want a straight job, she has to monetize her social network."

This sounds a little reminiscent of a piece that aired once on Wemmick’s Temporary Sanity (beware: aggressive ads that got spidered by archive.org; you’re gonna need to stop your browser from completely loading the page).

After kissing the wife and kids, I headed off to work. Ninety percent of the population now shares my job, but I can proudly say I was one of the first viewers. Viewers are people who are paid to watch enormous video walls that run commercials all day long. We are allowed to eat, work out, and even play games while we watch, but we must pass a comprehension test before we are allowed to leave at the end of the day.

Is this a real problem as we move into the post-scarcity economy? I’m not sure.

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Obama and FOIA requests

March 31, 2010

Seen on Slashdot: an article claiming that the Obama administration withholds more FOIA requests than the previous administration.

Agencies under the Obama administration cite security provisions to withhold information more often than they did under the Bush administration. For example, the ‘deliberative process’ exemption of the Freedom of Information Act was used 70,779 times in 2009, up from the 47,395 of 2008.

But I’m extremely grateful to an anonymous commentator, who writes:

Misleading framing of numbers. Go get more informative numbers from here [sunshineingovernment.org]. In 2008 56% of requests were granted. In 2009 61% of requests were granted. 2009 also worked to clear up the request backlog. It is a move in the right direction and as others have pointed out Bush was still in charge for part of FY 2009, so he might have skewed the numbers for the year.

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Study finds that 55 percent of newspaper stories are placed

March 31, 2010

Via Suzanne, an article on Boing Boing about journalism as we know it.

A study in Australia found that more than half of stories in mainstream newspapers were fed to them by PR entities: "Many journalists and editors were defensive … Most refused to respond, others who initially granted an interview then asked for their comments to be withdrawn out of fear they’d be reprimanded, or worse, fired."

Regardless of whether this was an effect of the Internet, or whether newspapers have been dead for a long time, this sure does have an impact on the idea that the blogosphere cannot replace quality investigative journalism. What’s there to replace?

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What’s the Matter With Sweden?

March 30, 2010

And closing out this Intellectual Impropriety hat trick, an article on Pitchfork called "What’s the Matter With Sweden?", seen here via JWZ. The article starts with covering the Swedish Arts Council, which grants public funds to musical artists, and goes from there into a survey of other countries with public funding for music and how they interact with the concept of a "social democracy".

The article doesn’t have a strong message and is about a half-hour to read, but does make some interesting points:

  • Lots of countries have programs like this to subsidize their own "homegrown" culture "in the face of American cultural dominance".
  • A major stumbling block for professional musicians is health care.
  • "Dave Hickey, in his 1997 book Air Guitar, argues that art truly worthy of public patronage would most likely be unworthy as art." One commenter on JWZ’s post, however, mentions that lots of funding distributed by arts councils tends to go, rather predictably, to "uncomfortable and edgy impotent commentary on society".
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Warner Bros. looking for a student intern to spy on torrent

March 30, 2010

Via Chiz, an article on Boy Genius Report about a Warner Bros. UK job posting.

During the 12 month internship, duties will include: monitoring local Internet forums and IRC for pirated WB and NBCU content and in order to gather information on pirate sites, pirate groups and other pirate activities; finding new and maintaining existing accounts on private sites; scanning for links to hosted pirated WB and NBCU content and using tools to issue takedown requests; maintaining and developing bots for Internet link scanning system (training provided); preparing sending of infringement notices and logging feedback; performing trap purchases of pirated product and logging results; inputting pirate hard goods data and other intelligence into the forensics database; selecting local keywords and submitting local filenames for monitoring and countermeasure campaigns and periodically producing research documents on piracy related technological developments. Various training will be provided.

Relatedly, this story about lawsuits against 20,000 BitTorrenting downloaders on Slashdot. The referenced article says that this action was taken "on behalf of an ad hoc coalition of independent film producers and with the encouragement of the Independent Film & Television Alliance", but then they cite Uwe Boll as one of the plaintiffs, so who knows?

"We’re creating a revenue stream and monetizing the equivalent of an alternative distribution channel," says Weaver…

The difference between the MPAA’s past approach and the new one being offered by the US Copyright Group could come down to numbers. Weaver says the MPAA took a less targeted approach going after a smaller sampling of infringers in a single suit for multiple films, to send a message that would hopefully resonate to a much larger crowd.

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Judge Nullifies Gene Patents

March 30, 2010

Via Suzanne and Slashdot, this story on a judge nullifying gene patents. Interesting to see the evolution of patents as part of the "intellectual property" meme.

U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet agreed with the civil rights group that the patents were invalid because they covered the most basic element of every person’s individuality. “Products of nature do not constitute patentable subject matter absent a change that results in the creation of a fundamentally new product,” Sweet wrote in a 152-page opinion.

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Rutabagas

March 25, 2010
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The Wikipedia article on rutabagas has a section entitled "Activities involving rutabagas":

Rutabagas are commonly carved into decorative lanterns called jack-o’-lanterns for the Halloween season throughout Britain and Ireland.

The International Rutabaga Curling Championship takes place annually at the Ithaca Farmers’ Market on the last day of the market season.

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MSI Wind U110

March 21, 2010

Subtitle: poulsbo and why you should avoid it.

I recently bought an MSI Wind U110. Linux suffers on this platform as a result of its GMA 500 aka "Poulsbo" graphics hardware. Wikipedia: "GMA 500 support on Linux is not optimal." It’s possible to run Ubuntu 9.10 Netbook Remix, which is what I’m doing now, but it’s not optimal in the following ways:

  1. The wireless is disabled in fascinating ways until you press Fn-F11. Once you do that, it should work out of the box.

  2. You absolutely need to get the psb driver. Without it, you can’t even drive the LCD at native resolution, and life just utterly sucks. I did this by dumping a bunch of PPAs into my /etc/apt/sources.list.d using add-apt-repository. The Ubuntu-Mobile PPA doesn’t seem to have packages for karmic right now; I found relevant packages in the PPA of kalon33: Nicolas DERIVE and the gma500 PPA of lucazade. I’m currently running the packages built by Nicolas DERIVE.

  3. You need to "fix" the driver in some obscure way so that it doesn’t crash when you modprobe it. Bug 406529 documents the fix — see comment 6. Be sure to uninstall the package psb-modules when you rebuild, because it has priority. The psb-kernel-source package unpacks into /usr/src.

  4. After you do the updated-packages dance, the "home screen" thing that lets you select packages doesn’t come up by default, but it does show up if you click the Ubuntu logo in the upper-left. Not sure what’s going on here.

  5. Suspend doesn’t work by default — the backlight doesn’t come on during resume. I’ve successfully suspended from the command line, both by sudo pm-suspend --quirk-vbestate-restore and using the uswsusp package using a command like sudo s2ram --force --vbe_save. It seems that by default, HAL is adding a bunch of quirks that interfere with backlight coming back on. HAL is in "maintenance mode" and may be being replaced by DeviceKit in the future, but for now we have to work with it.

    If you close the lid, you’ll see the quirks that are being added in /var/log/pm-suspend.log. On my machine, these were: --quirk-dpms-on --quirk-dpms-suspend --quirk-vbe-post --quirk-vbemode-restore --quirk-vbestate-restore --quirk-vga-mode-3. It’s --quirk-vbe-post that really messes everything up, but even when I disabled that one, I still had problems with the screen randomly not coming back (but with the backlight on), so I decided to disable all of these quirks except --quirk-vbestate-restore.

    There are at least two ways to do this. One way involves adding a pm-utils script to remove these quirks from pm-suspend calls. The other way involves telling HAL to get rid of these quirks.

    The first way is in some ways simpler, so let’s start there.

    1. Add a file to /etc/pm/sleep.d/05_remove-annoying-quirks with these contents:

      #!/bin/sh
      
      . "${PM_FUNCTIONS}"
      
      remove_quirks(){
        remove_parameters --quirk-dpms-on \
              --quirk-dpms-suspend \
              --quirk-vbe-post \
              --quirk-vbe-post \
              --quirk-vga-mode3 \
              --quirk-vbemode-restore
      }
      
      case "$1" in
              suspend|hibernate) remove_quirks;;
      esac
      
    2. sudo chmod a+x /etc/pm/sleep.d/05_remove_annoying_quirks

    Here’s how you disable the quirks in HAL, which may or may not be a more elegant solution.

    1. lshal | less to see what HAL thinks of your system. You should see, close to the top, something like power_management.quirk.vbe_post = true, and similar for all the other above quirks.

    2. sudo pm-suspend --quirk-vbestate-restore --store-quirks-as-fdi, which writes a file in /etc/hal/fdi/information/99local-pm-utils-quirks.fdi, storing the quirks you just used. On my machine, that looks like this:

      <?xml version="1.0" encoding="ISO-8859-1"?> <!-- -*- SGML -*- -->
      <!-- Created by pm-utils -->
      <deviceinfo version="0.2">
        <device>
          <match key="system.hardware.vendor" string="Micro-Star International">
            <match key="system.hardware.product" string="U110">
              <match key="system.firmware.version" string="AN012IMS Ver1.0E">
                <match key="system.hardware.primary_video.vendor" int="0x8086">
                  <match key="system.hardware.primary_video.product" int="0x8108">
                    <merge key="power_management.quirk.vbemode_restore" type="bool">true</merge>
                    <merge key="power_management.quirk.vbestate_restore" type="bool">true</merge>
                  </match>
                </match>
              </match>
            </match>
          </match>
        </device>
      </deviceinfo>
      
    3. See the <merge> lines? Add some more that match the other quirks, to turn them off.

      <?xml version="1.0" encoding="ISO-8859-1"?> <!-- -*- SGML -*- -->
      <!-- Created by pm-utils -->
      <deviceinfo version="0.2">
        <device>
          <match key="system.hardware.vendor" string="Micro-Star International">
            <match key="system.hardware.product" string="U110">
              <match key="system.firmware.version" string="AN012IMS Ver1.0E">
                <match key="system.hardware.primary_video.vendor" int="0x8086">
                  <match key="system.hardware.primary_video.product" int="0x8108">
                    <merge key="power_management.quirk.vbe_post" type="bool">false</merge>
                    <merge key="power_management.quirk.dpms_suspend" type="bool">false</merge>
                    <merge key="power_management.quirk.dpms_on" type="bool">false</merge>
                    <merge key="power_management.quirk.vga_mode_3" type="bool">false</merge>
                    <merge key="power_management.quirk.vbemode_restore" type="bool">true</merge>
                    <merge key="power_management.quirk.vbestate_restore" type="bool">true</merge>
                  </match>
                </match>
              </match>
            </match>
          </match>
        </device>
      </deviceinfo>
      
    4. sudo restart hal and then lshal | less again. You should now see power_management.quirk.vbe_post = false, etc.

  6. I stuck with uswsusp because resume is a lot faster using it. To enable uswsusp in pm-utils (which is what gnome-power-manager uses), edit /etc/pm/config.d/00sleep_module and add SLEEP_MODULE="uswsusp".

  7. Sound is broken out of the box. The fix is documented on Linux Tipps:

    Sound does not always work without problems. In Karmic 9.10 you have to comment out

    #options snd-hda-intel power_save=10 power_save_controller=N
    

    in /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base.conf.

    options snd-hda-intel position_fix=1 bdl_pos_adj=64
    

    instead helped me as well.

    I’ve been playing with enabling/disabling this option and haven’t seen any clear gains or losses, although I have had sound cut out after resume both ways.

  8. The machine can drive external monitors at 1024×768, 800×600, 640×480, and 720×480, which is about what you would expect from hardware like this.

  9. Like the man says, webcam works fine once you press Fn-F6.

  10. I’m finding that when I try to record audio, I get a massive amount of static and very little input volume. Still working on this one..

  11. Bluetooth seems to work out-of-the-box, but you have to Fn-F11 to toggle it on. (This seems to be a matter of some contention for some people, but on my machine Fn-F11 cycles through both Bluetooth and wireless off, to Bluetooth off and wireless on, to Bluetooth on and Wireless off, to both on, and then back. (00, 01, 10, 11.)

[I'll continue to update this as I discover things about this machine.]

Otherwise, the keyboard’s pretty good and the battery life seems pretty good (as you might expect from the big-ass 9-cell battery).

As far as I can tell, it’s not really possible to run the Ubuntu Lucid alpha on this hardware, and probably won’t be for a while, because Xorg 1.7 is incompatible with the closed-source psb driver. I wrote a post on the thread on Intel’s forum about Linux support for GMA500 summarizing the various-driver situation; it’s possible that in a month, when Lucid finally comes out, there’ll be a better driver situation, or that in six months, Intel will release a better driver of their own. Do people still reverse engineer graphics drivers? Would anyone be interested in doing so for a free U110 or two of their own?

Knowing the things that I know, I’d probably advise against this netbook for anyone hoping to run Linux on it. In today’s day and age, it just doesn’t make sense to buy open-source-unfriendly hardware, even for the sake of a 10-inch screen. Then again, it’s hard to know what hardware to support. The Dell Mini 10, for example, has an Intel NM10 Express graphics card: what does that even mean? Does it have support? Wikipedia has a comparison of netbooks page, but there’s no column for "Linux support", and in general comparing multi-dimensional things like hardware is a real challenge. Anyone have any tips?

[Update: I have been tinkering with the different quirks for suspend. Right now I'm using SLEEP_MODLE="kernel" and removing both quirks --quirk-vga-mode3 and --quirk-vga-mode-3 (one is specified by HAL, and another by the man page..). However, I still haven't solved the problem that periodically my machine will still just fail to suspend. My impression is that SLEEP_MODULE="uswsusp" takes about half the time to suspend and resume, but that it's more unstable, where the failure mode is failing to resume. I don't know what else to try so for now I'm leaving it alone.]

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Marriage

March 21, 2010

I realized recently that my impression of the sanctity of marriage has been damaged most by anti-gay activists attempting to limit marriage to heterosexual couples. The message seems to be, "Marriage isn’t for EVERYBODY who is in love, since some people who are obviously in love can’t be married. Ergo, what else can it be besides a legal mechanism, a tax break/health insurance arrangement we give to some couples but not others?" Of course, as the child of an open marriage maybe I’m predisposed to think something like that.

So then what to make of this story about a man marrying his body pillow in Korea, via Suzanne? One commentator writes, "As long as the guy and the pillow are happy together who cares? I suspect that this is just another ‘look at stupid johnny foreigner’ photo opportunity. If the pillow had a Ph. D. they never would have published it."

Or how about the related stories I found when I was digging up that one: man marries a Barbie doll to appease the spirit of his dead wife, man in Japan weds video game character?

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