August 31, 2004
The Pursuit of Ignorance
This was one of the few good excerpts from “The Pursuit of Loneliness.”
…they (people) are seldom able to resist putting crucial power into the hands of administrators.
This is a violation of democracy’s first rule: never delegate authority upward. It’s a rule violated by liberals more than anyone else, since liberals are most uncomfortable with the demands of communal existence. Cooperation is so irksome to individualistic natures that they spend half of their political lives giving power to centralized governments and the other half fearing for their personal liberties, without ever considering the contradiction.–Philip Slater
My recommendation is, don’t bother reading this book. I have just relayed the only redeemable paragraph of the entire work.
August 26, 2004
–H. L. Mencken
August 25, 2004
Speech Recognition on Linux
Five links related to speech recognition (SR) software on Linux. Non of them seem very impressive (especially considering IBM no longer supports Via Voice on Linux) but hopefully they will improve.
- CVoiceControl -Formerly known as KVoiceControl. Includes a basic voice SR engine and command line trainer. Compile works but sound card support is prehistoric.
- Xvoice – Interface for Via Voice SDK software. Requires an old Licensed IBM Linux version of Via Voice.
- FreeSpeech -Has its own SR engine but unable to compile because of old gcc requirements.
- Spinx4 -Currently most active Open Source SR software available. Has a couple corporations working on it (although not necessarily actively.) Entirely Java based. No front end available yet.
- NICO Toolkit -A general purpose toolkit for constructing neural networks and training through back-propagating learning algorithms. Has some SR capabilities. Usable for more than just SR.
A chicken and an egg are sitting in bed together. The chicken is smoking a cigarette and has a very content look on his face. They egg is laying there all tense with a huge scowl. The egg leans over to the chicken and says…
“Well, I guess we know the answer to that question!”
August 24, 2004
We are the young
This article by The Christian Science Monitor talks about the growing trend of young adults to be more conservative than the previous generation. This is not an unknown trend (as most social and political observers have been commenting on the steady advancement of conservative ideology for almost the last decade) but what is surprising is the numbers of students. The article cites a UC Berkeley study that found 60-70 percent of college students and teenagers support conservative social initiatives (like prayer in schools and limits on abortion.) Some of the reasons cited for this conservative “groundswell” are rejection of baby boomer generation social excesses and reaction from excessive campus liberalism.
I can certainly empathize with the students interviewed in the article. I strongly believe that the liberal political excesses of the 60′s and 70′s are responsible (in large part) to negative social stresses in our culture. Currently, I am of the opinion that progressive social change is a good thing, but it must be done is relation to the current state of a given society. I also firmly believe that social progressiveness is (in the long run) a good thing; but political progressiveness it ultimately the single most corrosive element to a free society.
In an semi-related story a study by UCLA analyzed the neural activity of Republicans and Democrats. What they found was the (in general) democrats had a more active amygdala gland compared to their Republican counterparts. Amygdala gland activity is a indicator for our brains gut response mechanism, generally operating below conscious control. This would seem to reflect some commonly held stereotypes about liberal vs. conservatives, i.e liberals have a tendency to be more “feeling” and less “thinking” than conservatives. What the study really does is show that feeling is as much a mental facility as thinking. The study also points out that amygdala gland development is influenced equally by environment and as well as by genes.
August 22, 2004
I didn’t know (or maybe didn’t want to believe) that spammers had rules. Well, I was wrong. That pretty much sums up everything I have experienced from spammers.
August 19, 2004
Free Will and Suffering
I just got finished reading ”Brave New World” and am starting to formulate some thoughts about Aldous Huxley’s world. In addition to the book, last night was my Renew group meeting were we discussed the scripture for next weeks Roman Catholic Mass. It a great example of the cosmic order of things; both the book and the Bible readings covered much of the same material, only from a couple different directions.
Fundamentally I don’t believe that the dichotomy that “Brave New World” sets up is the one that Aldous Huxley believed he set up. The author (in his intro and the comments from the re-release) talk about the trade-off between what he calls “real emotion” and social stability. The dichotomy that I saw was one of free will and social stability. While I agree to some extent that things like tragedy, bravery, and passion are not possible in a world without strife; without difficulty. Huxley goes on to promote the idea that the cause of social strife is from desire (an extension of popular eastern religious philosophies) and that by removing desire by providing absolute fulfillment of all of our desires; we can “short out” that loop. I call it a loop because desire (at least desire beyond our animal instinct level) is an emotion; thus emotion producing desire, producing strife, producing emotion etc. ad infinitum. I believe that Huxley is partially wrong. I believe the cause of social strife if free will. Ultimately the civilized people of “Brave New World” were not lacking in emotions, or even desires. Through social engineering they effectively had their free will taken from them. In part this conclusion is reached by Huxley himself when (at the end of chapter 17) the Controller says to the savage, “…you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.”
This discussion ties into the scripture reading in that they discuss the place of God in human suffering. The point that was made in Renew is that God does not cause evil in the world, he allows evil to be done in the world. It is humans (and their ability to choose freely) that cause evil and suffering. If God was to remove all suffering from the world, he would (in effect) have to remove free will. Without free will, life has lost the intensity that makes it worth living. The passion with witch I pursued my wife gave me a greater love for her. The ability to choose which people I dated eventually gave me an intense respect for how wonderful my wife is but it also meant that I suffered though some really awful woman. Free will means the possibility of greater value in life, but it guarantees nothing. Experience, good and bad, is value. What would Shakespeare be without tragedy?
Ultimately, I guess my point is that free will is a gift. A great gift. Probably the greatest gift that has ever been given to mankind. But a gift of such value also has great consequences. For even if I choose to live a good and respectful life; free will means other people have the ability to NOT live such a life. Actions have consequences to more than just the person who makes a given decision. Its not fair, but the alternative is to live in a “Brave New World.
August 17, 2004
The University of Oklahoma Office of Human Resources. Job postings for those interested in working for the University of Oklahoma in Norman. Includes employment applications and listings of available jobs,.
Tuesday Morning Dump
Pork Tornado is running a list of the 10 worst album covers of all time. They range from sad and pathetic to downright disturbing. My favorite is “Devastatin’ Dave (The Turntable Slave)” and his epic work “Zip Zap Rap.”
If you have a spare computer laying around here is are step-by-step instructions on getting Looking Glass working on a Linux box. Project Looking Glass is an open source 3D interface being developed by Sun. The project looks promising but has a long way to go.
August 13, 2004
Abortion vs. Death Penalty
Recent debate has exploded concerning the place of Catholicism in politics. Senator John Kerry is the first Catholic presidential candidate sense the Roe vs Wade decision in 1973. Historically, Rome has held abortion to be the single greatest moral & social issue in modern history (placing it in similar category as the Holocaust.) Senator Kerry is a strong supporter of Roe v. Wade, supporting it through all 3 trimesters (including “partial-birth” abortions), and even supporting minors right to abortion without parental notification. This position sits “badly” with many practicing Catholics who see Kerry’s duality as an affront to the very institution they hold dear.
There are, however, a number of Catholic voters, who disagree with Roe v. Wade, that consider Kerry’s position on abortion to be an unfortunate downside to an otherwise superior candidate. A position that effectively must be pursued to even be considered as a candidate for nomination in the Democratic Party. These Catholics often don’t see the abortion issue as a deal breaker; citing other Catholic issues of importance that are supported by Kerry; but not supported by President Bush (like the death penalty and the war in Iraq.)
At first the abortion vs. death penalty (or Iraq for that matter) comparison seems ridiculous. More abortions happen in 3 hours than all the death penalty punishments carried out in an entire year. How can the two position possibly be compared, let alone be used as justification for ignoring Senator Kerry’s abortion position? But the comparison is made and even defended. The argument goes something like this 1) murder is murder; 2) whether a state murders one person or 100 people, its still murder; 3) therefor, its not the number of murders thats important but the fact that both candidates support state sponsor murder.
Well, my wife has convinced me to stop telling people, who make this argument, what kind of moron they are and actually bring doctrine proof of their moronity. The best resource I have found (besides New Advent which I have mentioned previously) is The Holy See, the on line location of the Vatican Archives. It contains links to just about every public statement any Pope has made in the last 30 years. Anyone doing Catholic research on abortion should (at the very least) read Veritatis Splendor and Evangelium Vitae. No doubt I will be writing more about this topic later. Considering that one out of every five people in America consider them selfs Catholic, it will no doubt be a bigger and bigger issue in the upcoming election.
August 12, 2004
All is Quite
Two of my favorite literary quotes of all time come from “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque. I ran into them a couple days ago and thought I would share:
Where is GRUB when you need it
Ever wanted to know how to reverse engineer an embedded device? Two spectacular articles by Jim Buzbee walk you though getting system level access and installing alternative services on a Linksys NSLU2. The articles do a great job of teaching you the ins-and-outs of accessing Linux based embedded devices. You can follow future progress (and future tutorials) from Jim’s NSLU2 website.
The other great link gleamed from the NSLU2 tutorials is to Dan Kegel’s Cross Platform build chain script. Historically building cross-toolchain for use in embedded systems development was frustratingly difficult. Dan has this process fairly easy. With two-thirds of embedded devices running Linux , the two tutorials and Dan’s script make for a perfect introduction into the world of embedded systems.
August 11, 2004
knocking on port knocking
Port knocking has the potential to be an additional layer of protection available to highly security conscience network administrators. However, just like any innovation, it is not without its weaknesses. The author of the following article discusses some of the problems that can occur with port knocking. The primary issue the author identifies is the use of new definitions for existing security concepts that are already well researched. This has caused some administrators to fail to identify the natural security limitations of port knocking.
August 10, 2004
Iraq and Bin Laden
Two articles that I ran into today, the first is a campaign piece from myway news. In it Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry admits that he would have voted for the war regardless of WMD. The statement actually improves my opinion of Senator Kerry because it was obvious to anyone who read his Iraq opinions prior to the election campaign that he was a big supporter of the war. By making this statement he shows some honesty on this topic (something I have long sense given up finding in a Democratic President.)
The second article was sent to me by Jason Mical. Its a report by Alan Cullison on his discovery of an Al-Qaeda computer hard drive (actually two of them) in late 2001. After reading some of the letters written by Abu Abdullah and Osama Bin Laden it is amazing these people were able to organize a trip to the telephone booth let alone the largest terrorist attack in American history.
and what did he ever do for us?
–Babbage said this with regard to his Analytical Engine, thus becoming the world’s first programmer.
August 9, 2004
Now to build my army
Little did I know that Linux can be used to take over the WORLD.
August 7, 2004
August 6, 2004
AES Cipher System
The successor to DES encryption approved by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology is called AES. The basis for AES is a wonderfully interesting block cypher called the Rijndael algorithm. If you are interested in Rijndael or block cypher encryption you can find out more about it here. A great place to find brief outlines of several of the more common types of cryptography can be found here. If you want to understand the basic structure of public key cryptography, this is a good place.
While I am on the subject of cryptography, let me post my public key information. Anyone interested in secure contact with my can use my publicly listed 1024 bit DSA key (ID: DC430CA6).
August 5, 2004
On a regular basis I am asked market share questions. This is mostly in relation to software usage and is used to make application development decisions. Two of the best (or most commonly quoted) usage statistics sites are w3schools and Google’s zeitgeist. Either source has their strengths and weaknesses; but combined they make for a very useful informational tool.
While I am on the topic of market share IDC has predicted that Linux has moved into the number 2 slot on the desktop OS market. Today the Mac, tomorrow the world…