Archive for October, 2007

[too] few women in engineering

October 31st, 2007

Okay, it's an old issue and a well known issue that has been systematically raised for decades and I'm not going to replay the usual rhetoric.


Ubuntu Gutsy on the Toshiba U300

October 31st, 2007

Screen resolution too small

The native resolution 1280x800 is not recognized correctly. Bugs #153160, #135169, #136783. To fix it:

echo "deb gutsy main" >> /etc/apt/sources.list
apt-get update
apt-get upgrade
dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg

No sound

The soundcard seems to be recognized, but outputs no perceptible sound. Bug #159045.

The fix is not very obvious, but you need to install Realtek's audio driver for this. This workaround pretty much nukes your alsa installation and messes with ubuntu's configuration, but if the config wasn't working at all, what good is it?

Make sure you have lib32ncurses5-dev installed, or alsa-utils will fail silently.

tar xjvf realtek-linux-audiopack-4.07a.tar.bz2
cd realtek-linux-audiopack-4.07a
sudo ./install

I haven't done any exhaustive testing, but sound output works, at least.

References: toshiba laptops, u300

EDIT: Okay, one problem. Plugging in headphones does not interfere at all with sound output from the speakers, and the two have separate volume controls. This is fixed partially by using:

modprobe snd_hda_intel model=toshiba probe_mask=1

In /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base :

options snd-hda-intel model=toshiba probe_mask=1

I say partially, because what I observe is that sound output is now sent to the right place, but the master volume control does not control the headphones. So if you have the headphones plugged in, you need a separate control for that. Still an improvement.

UPDATE: Discard the above, this seems to fix it conclusively.

ook kleine bedragen pint u gratis

October 22nd, 2007

I saw this note glued on the atm machine in the supermarket and it freaked me out. "Small amounts are also processed without charge." If they just glued that on *now* wtf was the case until now??? :wth:

Isn't that a contradiction in terms, though? "Now you pay for free." As opposed to "Until now you've been paying us for the privilege of paying us"? :wallbang:

The Odyssey

October 17th, 2007

If there's one thing about reading classics it's that they're instantly demystified and reduced to being judged on merit rather than reputation. Quite often this merit does not justify the reputation. So it is also with the Odyssey.

Homer's poem is a long story about a man's journey. He may have set the precedent for contemporary travel programs on tv, basically island hopping in the Aegean Sea. But I suppose what you expect (or I expect) from a classic work is a certain sophistication, a uniqueness, an outstanding quality. But there is little profundity to be found in the Odyssey. It goes along the lines of a fairy tale, expounding on the basic human qualities, but offers little depth.

It also illustrates the limitations of human imagination. It regularly astounds me just how incapable we are of imagining things without seeing in them most of ourselves. A monster with one eye? Not the most creative idea ever. And then you have the mythological gods who are no different from humans in fact, driven by the same urges, the same motives. And the only thing that makes them gods is their immortality and super natural powers, meanwhile mentally they are identical to us. At least our monotheistic religions have gods more sophisticated than that.

So what is it that makes Homer's work earn such a reputation? Other than being an insanely long poem.

sex play in kindergarden?

October 16th, 2007

There's a story making the rounds in the Norwegian media about a certain day care center that promotes "sex play" among the kids. Aftenposten has the story in English (for the record the translation is a bit half assed and doesn't reflect the story completely).

Children, she said, should be able "to look at each other and examine each other's bodies. They can play doctor, play mother and father, dance naked and masturbate.

"But their sexuality must also be socialized, so they are not, for example, allowed to masturbate while sitting and eating. Nor can they be allowed to pressure other children into doing things they don't want to."

The argument here is that sex is a natural and fundamental thing and kids need to learn about it. Since sex play among kindergarden kids is not unusual anyway, it's just a matter of how we respond to it. Pia Friis is the manager for the day care center in question, and she argues that it's harmful to inflict guilt on kids for this kind of conduct. Furthermore, kids should draw their own boundaries. Her position is backed up by phychologist/sexologist Thore Langfeldt.

"The only thing that is absolutely certain is that children, sooner or later, will play sexual games and examine each other at the kindergarten (..)"

It is certainly a progressive thought to permit this in kindergarden. However, there is a wider context to this issue. People like to point out the double standards surrounding sex in our society. There is no doubt that a lot of people (whether it's many or most is hard to say) are interested in pursuing the topic of sex publicly. We are in a sense surrounded by sex. How many commercials and billboards have you seen this week that exploit sex to sell a product? How many movies have seen this month with sexual content? How many sex jokes have you heard? It's evident, people don't want sex hidden away, they want it out in the open. When it's hard to find a movie that doesn't make any reference to sex, it's a pretty clear sign. Meanwhile, a lot of successful tv shows like Desperate housewives and most of all, Big Brother, sell primarily on sex. If there ever was a time when sex was a private issue out of the public realm, it certainly is long gone.

And yet, sex is still a taboo subject. People are mystified by it. It's embarrassment, not a permissible topic. And so people maintain this charade of taboo while they indulge in it whenever it isn't banned. Why is it that the most obvious, tired jokes get laughs as long as they contain sexual innuendo? Because sex remains a repressed topic. People are not free to express themselves openly, it's frowned upon. While I think that sexual behavior is for the most part pretty unrestrained (or so it seems), discussing it isn't. Do what you want, but don't talk about it.

When I read this story my initial reaction was pure skepticism. "What on earth?" It's the same reaction that was quoted in the story.

"Sexual games don't belong in a kindergarten," she declared. "Children don't need more exposure to this in kindergartens. We think it will damage their health."

But that set off an alarm bell in my head. I had formed an opinion without even thinking about the issue. Wait a second, why exactly am I skeptical? Based on what? Based on current norms of society? Norms are completely relative, and they change. Unless there is a solid argument as to why things must remain as they are, it's pointless to argue against change. And what is the argument from this politician? None whatsoever. "This doesn't belong in kindergarden." "We think it could be harmful." How? What studies are you quoting?

If one thing is obvious to me it is that we don't know what to do about sex, how to deal with the subject. Our traditional norms of keeping it locked up have been gradually pushed back to the point where it surrounds us, but we're still not supposed to talk about it. As a society we are extremely immature about it. And most of all, "protecting kids" from sex has been a moral effort. All the while kids themselves are in fact just as sexual and we have a serious disconnect from the point where they are old enough to pursue sex to the point where their parents think they are old enough to acknowledge it.

Perhaps if kids in kindergarden were taught to not to repress their sexuality they would grow up into more mature adults. And maybe then we could do away with the ridiculous double standard and stop surrounding ourselves with sex all the time?

Maybe the kindergarden concept is a good idea, maybe it's not. But we should determine this based on facts determined scientifically. The stupidest thing we can do at any time is to dismiss ideas out of hand because they don't conform to our superstitions.