Monday, 23-Dec-13 19:15
A word to the wise wife

If the husband is always wrong, he can never state this.

You see, if the husband admits that he's always wrong, that would mean that he'd be right (in admitting that he is always wrong) and hence could not be always wrong. Which would make him wrong in stating that he's always wrong, which is contrary to the original premise that he'd be always wrong. Thus would form a logical impossibility, which would create a vortex that would suck in all of the humanity and destroy the universe.

You see, that's why when your husband can never admit he's wrong, even when he clearly is. He's just protecting the universe. Because Vortex Of Impossibility.

(Feel free to swap any other word to replace "husband" meaning the significant other in a partnership. I just really hate to write husband/wife/partner/polypartner/a partner of indeterminate sex in all places, 'cos, you know, that kinda takes the punch out of any text.)

Wednesday, 11-Dec-13 09:44
The Great Silence

You know, if I did game reviews - or pretty much reviews of anything - news like these would probably make me turn off the sound of any gameplay or ringtones or anything that might make sound. Just in case someone might slap me a copyright lawsuit within the next, oh, 150 years or so. Because if it's not being done today - copyright law has a nasty way of becoming retroactive, the inherent problem in any property law - it may be done tomorrow when the law changes.

So perhaps this will lead to The Great Silence, where most documentaries, videos, etc of our era will be made silent, just in case, because nobody wants to deal with the possibilities. In the example above, a guy has been making sweating to make stuff for the past several years, and suddenly someone can come in and claim 100% of their revenue based on the fact that there is a ten-second clip of their music audible at some point. There is no way this could be in any way constructive to anyone - but that's the way the law just is. So perhaps its better to simply turn the volume down on the computer or TV when you're playing and embrace the Great Silence.

Saturday, 02-Nov-13 10:15
So long...

Sometimes I dream that a big honking alien spaceship appears suddenly and puts itself on an orbit around the Earth. Then they just send a simple message: "Don't mind us, we're here just waiting until you destroy the planet and then claim it as salvage under galactic law. Dibs!"

Perhaps that would be a trigger for people to realize that there is something fundamentally wrong in how we're living.

(Yes, I know, this is a childish deus-ex-machina wish. We're not renting this planet, it's ours to destroy or to make prosper.)

Saturday, 05-Oct-13 19:58
Random fanboi moment

We were watching the 9th Season of Stargate SG1 (yeah, I know, it's eight years old by now, but there's only so much time so I'm badly lagging. Also, they weren't available before Netflix...) and I had my belated chuckle which all other geeks probably had eight years ago: Claudia Black's character comes and says to Ben Browder's character: "I don't think I've ever seen you before."

Of course, these two were the main characters of Farscape, one of the top TV scifi series of all time (which was inexplicably cancelled when it ended on a cliffhanger). So glad to see them together again.

(fairly sure quote is incorrect, but I have kids hanging off my left hand demanding stuff. that is why I tweet more these days than blog, that I can do onehandedly.)

Thursday, 26-Sep-13 12:49
Internet of Thongs

I'll rant a bit incoherently now, sorry.

There's now a tweeting refridgerator. Unsurprisingly, nobody cares about what happens inside the refridgerator. An inanimate thing - so far - has very little actually interesting to say, which is really my problem with the whole "Internet of Things".

Now, a massive portion of the internet traffic is already from things talking to other things - all sorts of automated alerts, checks, gossip is ongoing where machines are trying to keep track of other machines, and only a tiny percentage of those messages are ever shown to a human being: a machine will check the state of another machine, and only when it crashes, is a human alerted to go and fix the thing. In some cases, really smart systems can tell the human ten minutes in advance that it's going to crash, and we consider that progress. But this is all just stuff that engineers have developed to make their lives easier - and I'm seeing a lot of that in the Internet of Things as well.

So I'm a bit - well, not even a bit - sceptical about whether the Internet of Things really changes anything. Yes, surveillance becomes easier. Yes, your life becomes a bit more efficient. But that's just progress. The benefit of the phone in your pocket wasn't because phones could talk to each other - it was because you could talk to some other human being. Connecting people, as they say. So I just can't really see why things talking to other things would be disruptive, because they just don't have anything interesting to say.

What the Internet of Things needs to evolve to is the Internet of Stories: Creating an emotional connection between humans and machines. Become the real, first step towards the post-singularity period - 'cos if we don't make the machines care about us, they will overrun us in the name of the efficiency we have been teaching them. Our things should be able to tell stories about themselves and their relation to the world: who owned them, who cared about them. I don't want to see furry dolls talking to each other in incomprehensible code; I want them telling who they are and how they played with their last owner. In my mind, the proper model for the Internet of Things is "Toy Story", not "Matrix".

But anyway. Just a smallish rant for the bemusement of those who actually work on this stuff. I'm sure this isn't a new opinion, but I'm too lazy to google for references today.

Sunday, 15-Sep-13 18:29
Moar scientific experiments

I've wanted to do this for a long time, but really haven't gotten around to doing it. Now I finally went ahead and tried mixing vinegar with baking powder - a fairly basic chemistry experiment. Bumped it up a bit for the kids, and here's the result :)

Idea shamelessly stolen from a set of science cards I got from the local science store.

Monday, 22-Jul-13 14:07
Red Men

I heard about Red Men by Matthew De Abaitua first through my Twitter feed (probably through Mr. Jones), and I figured it might be a good read. Turns out Twitter was right.

Red Men is a story about a post-singularity world, where humanity is trying to cope with an artificial intelligence that seems hell-bent on replacing humans with simulated versions of them, but has also figured out the commercial aspects of such an endeavour: If you could have a copy of all your best workers working tirelessly inside the computer, wouldn't that just make economic sense for any large corporation? The main character, Nelson, is just a family man with enough wit to be important, but not enough of a bully to be a manager - so he works hard in the crosspressure of corporate life, bosses with issues, an AI nobody really understands, and family. For a scifi novel, it's surprisingly easy to identify with. In fact, I think I had a few flashbacks to Nokia...

The book has film rights already sold, and there's a pretty cool short film of the first chapter already out there (watch it!). The slightly weird bit is that the different editions of the book have been through quite a bit of editing, so the version you read may not be the same as what other people read. I read the Gollancz edition on Kindle, but based on the excerpts some people might enjoy the earlier edition more.

(And yeah, this was a deliberate attempt at writing a bit more. I'm on vacation, so I'm getting more rest and clarity, though of course any free time from work is immediately enveloped by family. It is a bit easier though when you only have three people vying for your attention instead of a dozen.)

Friday, 07-Jun-13 09:13
PS3 Media Server & YLE subtitles

Finally figured out how to get DVB/YLE subtitles working when streaming the original .TS -file (also known as .REC) from my Mac. There is a lot of info on this on the internets, but they're mostly about "I have this .SRT subtitles file that came with this illegally downloaded program, how do I show them" -variety. Not a whole lot of info on how to get it working if you grab the original media stream from the air and just want to have it nicely playing back. The thing is - YLE uses DVB subtitles which are embedded within the TS stream itself, unlike all other Finnish channels who just burn it the texts directly into the media stream (which means they can't be turned off, so this simplicity comes with a cost). Unfortunately MEncoder and FFMpeg just sort of assume that subtitles are for extreme nerds who understand intimately the structure of MPEG2 transport streams.

After trying out a myriad of extremely obscure command line options for MEncoder and FFMpeg, I ended up just disabling everything else and going with VLC. Hover on the image for further info.

That's it! Restart server, and browse to your collection with your PS3. You should now see a text "[VLC]" behind most of your media files (except the ones that can be streamed immediately).

I used PS3 Media Server 1.81.0 and VLC 2.0.6.

Monday, 03-Jun-13 14:15
Deletability - my new favourite mangled word

My recent phone conversations with magazine sales menseem to go pretty much the same route.

"Hi! I have some happy news! I'm calling you to offer you this free magazine as a thanks for being our customer! Would you like X or Y?"

"No thanks. I'm not interested in any of those."

"But it's... free!?!"

"Save your money. Use it to make them better 'cos right now I don't want them even for free."

There's enough papery stuff delivered in my mailbox already, so I'm not adding any new stuff unless I actually want it to be there. Yes, I still do subscribe to paper versions of magazines because of the convenience (compact size, enough to read so it's worth carrying them to places, no big loss if they're used in garden games by two-year-olds). However, getting rid of physical objects is a burden, even if the trip to the paper recycler is just a few meters. I still need to actively do something to get rid of the "free" stuff, and suddenly it stops being free. Time is money, etc.

However, if they offered me a sampler PDF directly to my inbox, or a magic code to get 7 days of access to their online site, I might take it. I want my crap to be digital, 'cos I have the tools to deal with them, and I can deal with a larger amount of crap and samplers and ads on my computer than I can physically. The delete button is less than five centimeters from my right pinkie...

The more stuff there is, the more important disposability and deletability become.

Tuesday, 23-Apr-13 20:28
Dark day

You may have noticed the black popup covering this site today, calling you to sign a petition to make some sense to Finnish copyright legislation. Well, for those who don't know about this, Finland has a law which says that "if 50,000 people sign a petition, the government must take it seriously". Unfortunately, what it actually really means is still up for debate, but to get 50k people to sign something in a country of less than 5M eligible voters is quite significant (especially if you're an MP who cares about being re-elected).

Anyway. The real reason why my blog and plenty of other sites went all black was that few people realize that the copyright struggle is a three-party thing. There's the content creators (like the artists), the content consumers (like me), and the middlemen (like record companies). For the most part, the middlemen like to play the creator's side, but when it comes down to actual profit - well, there's a saying in Finland: "The artist pays."

You have to think about it this way: who gets the most out of strong copyright? The middlemen do not create or consume anything. Yes, they do facilitate, and as such they are a valuable part of the ecosystem, but strictly speaking - they're not necessary. However, since individual content creators often lack the resources to enforce their copyrights - and the content consumers don't care - there is a spot in the ecosystem for companies which have the money and the interest to police copyright - and there we find the middlemen.

This is why we're in this fight. Not because copyright is a bad thing (it isn't! It's a great thing!), but because it's no longer in the hands of people. New copyright legislation is dedicated to removing rights from both consumers and creators and concentrating it in the hands of middle-men corporations, because they have the money to write the laws, and lobby them incessantly until they get what they want.

This is why this site is black. To support a copyright law that does not make corporations force the police to seize laptops from 9-year olds. To support a copyright law that allows artists to have a say on whom to sue. To support a copyright law that says that people must be listened to.

Please do support the petition.

Wednesday, 06-Mar-13 13:13
A couple of OSX tips

I've recently been plagued with OSX performance issues - tasks using a lot of CPU, and inexplicable beach balls popping up, machine getting stuck and making life miserable in general. So here's what I have learned:

SystemUIServer eating all your CPU

TL;DR: Kill it, it's safe. Run "killall SystemUIServer" in your Terminal whenever that happens. It will restart itself.

Longer story: sometimes an application which is occupying your menu bar can get stuck doing network traffic, and this may appear as SystemUIServer getting stuck in a loop. You can either get rid of the offending menubar app, or just kill the SystemUIServer process, which will be respawned by OSX, but in an unstuck state this time. It will get stuck again sooner or later if you don't get rid of the app, but it doesn't happen that often. More information.

System slow, disk activity even if I have plenty of memory, apps show spinning beach balls often

TL;DR: Disable swap memory with

sudo launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/
and reboot.

Longer story: As stated in this article OSX virtual memory handling, Spotlight and problems in HFS compound sometimes to the state that the system spends way too much time swapping perfectly good bits from disk to memory and vice versa. So, you can go ahead and kill the swap with the above command. This has made my Mac a lot faster, but the downside is of course that you need enough memory (8G or more) so that your system does not die suddenly. This isn't without its risks, but so far I'm very happy that I did this.

Saturday, 23-Feb-13 14:49
Pencil-and-paper -programming

While cleaning up some old cupboards I found an old booklet from 198-something. At that tender age of fifteen-ish, instead of going to hockey practice or hanging out with other kids in the mall, I wrote Z80 assembly language programs with paper and a pencil; something that I had completely forgotten. I didn't have money for an assembler, so I painstakingly looked up the hex code equivalents for the mnemonics and then wrote a BASIC program to write those into memory.

My bedtime reading at the time was "The Complete Spectrum ROM Disassembly" - a book full of commented machine code. Which, in retrospect, was a bit sad, but on the other hand, it gave me a very complete understanding of how a computer works. And that has been very useful in my career.

Hover over the image for more.

Tuesday, 12-Feb-13 23:24
Running Java programs over SSH/X

Sometimes you need to run Java GUI programs over an SSH tunnel. However, this can be excruciatingly slow, because X's and Java's understanding of how to draw stuff just doesn't seem to be very compatible.

Here's what I do to make it tolerable, if not pleasant.

First, use a fast cipher like blowfish with SSH (assuming these aren't your default options):

   ssh -C -c blowfish

Second, when starting the java app, use something like this (invocation may be slightly different depending on your environment):

   export JAVA_OPTS="-Dsun.java2d.pmoffscreen=false ${JAVA_OPTS}"

This turns off the offscreen pixmap support as detailed in JDK6 documentation, and makes for a significantly faster experience.

Tuesday, 15-Jan-13 19:40
Fallacy of value of work

One thing that constantly pops up in copyright discussions is that "people must be paid for their work." While I appreciate the sentiment, this is wrong and harmful. The correct form should be "People must be able to ask for money for the work they perform. It must then be equally possible for the employer to say no."

Now, this sounds awfully freemarketlibertarian, yes. However, that's not where I'm aiming at. I recently came across a discussion (in Finnish) where a teacher voices a strong concern about the availability of teaching material devaluing the work of teachers - when material is available for free online, why should the school pay the teacher for his/her time to make material? I know a lot of people - especially computer savvy people who are familiar with Open Source - like to laugh at this, but in fact I think this is a real fear which shouldn't really be dismissed like that.

The underlying problem is quite well defined by Cory Doctorow in this piece on the Guardian: "Just because something has value doesn't mean it has a price." (Seriously, read it. Understand it. Become a better person by internalizing it, even if you disagreed with it.)

The feelings that teachers are going through are nothing new - in fact, the almost exact same fears were voiced when Richard Stallman started working on free software back in 19omnomnom. "Who will pay for my time if I create something which is free?" "Why would I spend hours on something I'm not paid to do?" "By hoarding information I become important and cannot be fired." The answer to all of these questions turned out to be "It'll be okay." Now, I don't know enough about teaching, but I can answer how it all turned out in my profession:

"Who will pay for my time if I create something which is free?"

Everyone. Many people who contribute to projects in Apache or Github or Linux or any of the zillions of other open and free source projects are either hard-core programmers or will be shortly. There's nothing that improves your skill like public review, and good Github or Stack Overflow account is a sure-fire way to get yourself hired.

Also, since the freely available software is so good these days, many companies are actively paying their programmers to participate in these projects, because they realize one truth:

If I put in an hour of my time, and 99 other people do the same, each of us gets 100 hours done for the price of one hour.

"Why would I spend hours on something I'm not paid to do?"

Ward Cunningham, the man who invented wikis, told me once (paraphrasing from memory): "I was showing my wiki to a lot of people. Everyone, who asked 'why should I contribute, what's in in for me' didn't get it. It's not about 'me'. It's about 'us'. The right question is 'what's in it for us'."

Turns out people have a lot of motivations to distribute their work freely. Some people want comments from colleagues. Some people use it as a way of advanced backup. Some people just think it's easier to manage in public (because over the years, we programmers have honed some of our tools to work much better on the internet than on our desktops). For some, it's an ideology. Some people want to pay back for all the stuff they've received. For some, it's just a hobby and they like the interaction with others. Some aspire for fame and greatness. Many reasons, but all benefit the same.

"By hoarding information I become important and cannot be fired."

This is the fear, isn't it. Well, turns out that this is rarely true. If you become a liability to your employer, you will go, no matter what you know. 'cos even if you can't, your boss can look further ahead than you, and she/he should be able to see what is good for the company in the long run. Maybe they'll hurt for a few months after you go, but really, nobody is irreplaceable.

Sharing won't make it easier for you keep your job either. But, it does protect you in two, very important ways: first, if you do a good job, all of it will be visible. And that means that getting a new job is a lot easier - if you're good and can show the code, you're probably hired the next day. Second, you get to keep the stuff you worked on. In many companies, once you go, you lose access to all the work you did and have to replicate many things in the next place. Not so with open source - anything you contributed is available there: you can keep working on it, apply what you learned at the company, and continue to do so in the next place.

Now, especially when it comes to education, I strongly believe that openness is the way to go. Teaching and research are two sides of the same coin. We wouldn't be where we are now if the alchemists hadn't put aside their secret tomes and agreed to share their research with each other. Newton said: "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." If there's a group of people who should really, really appreciate this, it's teachers.

Thursday, 10-Jan-13 15:01
Ten years

Wow. This blog just turned ten. OK, so it's entering puberty a bit early, being quiet and pouty (and on occasion, eclectic), but still - ten years. Not too bad.

A lot of the early entries would now be material for Twitter or Facebook, but I guess that's true for most of us oldtime bloggers. Microentries go to microblogs, and the old blog is now a place for longer thoughts.

But that is fine and as it should be. Here's to another ten years!

Wednesday, 02-Jan-13 14:29
Bluetooth audio problems with 10.8

Upgrade my Macbook Pro to OSX 10.8 (aka Mountain Lion) recently. Frankly, it's not much of an upgrade from 10.6, though I like the new login screen. I'm having trouble adjusting to some features, like the disappearing scroll bars (mostly because the horizontal scroll bar always appears on top of the item I actually want to click, causing endless confusion and minor enragement).

I also think Finder was better in 10.6, mostly because I used the "latest changed files" feature heavily and it seems gone in 10.8... Oh well. Also, for someone who makes a living writing Java code, the hassle of getting everything reinstalled is a pain.

The good thing however (and the major reason why I wanted to upgrade) is that the Bluetooth stack seems a lot more stable than it was in 10.6. It hasn't caused a major freeze even once so far, and unlike the old one, it no longer wants to put my BH-905i headphones into headset mode, but accepts that A2DP is what I mostly want from my headphones, not the crappy headset profile...

However, I did have some issues with the sound quality: terrible popping noise; not loud enough to make sound unbearable, but just enough to annoy me all the time. So after some googling I found a magical command line setting you can use:

defaults write "Apple Bitpool Min (editable)" 53

Restart music player and Bluetooth (turn it off and on again) and you should be set.

Wednesday, 12-Dec-12 21:31

Finally! The last one of these darned ambiguous dates that have given me headache, well, for a long time. One of my first blog entries back in 2003 is reproduced here under permission:


Two things about the date (even though the date is gone): First of all, I was trying to configure a new software, and it was using some sort of a strange US date format. So, I go to Preferences, and try to set it to our normal dd/mm/yy. I am presented with these options:

Please choose your date format

  • 03/03/03
  • 03/03/03
  • 03/03/03
  • 03/03/03
  • 03-03-03
  • 03-03-03
  • 03-03-03
  • 03-03-03

Um. Err. Do I actually have to wait for a frigging day to figure out which one of these is the day and a whole month to figure out which one is the month? This kind of a configuration might have been useful in the last century, but certainly not now... Well, at least I can choose whether I want to have a dash or a slash as the separator :-).

The other thing: when my (probably never-to-appear) grandchildren ask what I did on this grand day, at 3:03, I can tell them that I was sitting on the toilet. Hooray for magic dates.

For the record, when my grandchildren ask about 12/12/12 12:12:12 I can tell them I was looking at the world in infinite detail, bending it to my will. Or to be precise, tweaking ThingLink's source to do something I've never attempted before. Then again, most of software development is doing stuff you've never done before - or possibly nobody has ever done that before. Which is precisely which makes it so interesting and frustrating.

Private comments? Drop me an email. Or complain in a nearby pub - that'll help.

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"Main" last changed on 10-Aug-2015 21:44:03 EEST by JanneJalkanen.

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