Saturday, December 25, 2004

HOWTO: Install Fedora Core 3 Linux on a Sony Vaio PCG-TR2A Laptop

I've installed Fedora Core 3 Linux (the freely-downloadable version of RedHat Linux) on my Sony Vaio PCG-TR2A laptop. It detected and configured correctly for everything except for the odd size (1280x768) display screen and the Intel Centrino-based wireless network interface. Based on my perusal of hints others had left at Linux on Laptops for this and other variations of the PCG-TR* model and for other Linux distros, here is how I got things working. There are still a couple of things left to do, like hotkeys and the integrated video camera; I'll add what I found after I find it/figure it out.

X Configuration

Download the 1280patch, compile it, and then install it:

$ gcc -o 1280patch 1280patch.c
$ su
# mv 1280patch /usr/X11R6/bin
# cd /usr/X11R6/bin
# ./1280patch

To make sure this patch is loaded each time the machine is rebooted, append the line


to the bottom of file /etc/rc.d/rc.local. Next, modify your X configuration file /etc/X11/xorg.conf by adding the line

Modeline "1280x768" 80.14 1280 1344 1480 1680
768 769 772 795

(all on one line) to the "Monitor" section. Don't forget to comment-out the HorizSync and VertRefresh lines or else this won't work:

# HorizSync 31.5 - 37.9
# VertRefresh 50.0 - 70.0

Then, in each of the "Display" subsections of the "Screen" section, add


(including the quotation marks) first in line, prior to the other listed screen resolutions.


It may or may not be necessary, but this is where I ran up2date. You might skip this part. It may or may not affect the rest of the process.


To get sound to work, open the GNOME ALSA mixer using menu items "Applications" > "Sound and Video" > "ALSA Mixer Control". Deselect the "external amplifier". You might also want to mute the microphone ("mic") to keep from getting feedback screeching.


Under menu "Application" > "Preferences" > "Fonts" I chose "Font Preferences" = 9, 9, 9, 9 and "Font Rendering" = "subpixel smoothing (LCDs)". This seemed like a nice compromise between screen readability and getting enough information display on the small 10.5-inch X-Brite screen.

Wireless LAN


$ /sbin/lspci

to see that the Linux (if not RedHat) has detected that the computer is using the following wireless LAN NIC:

02:0b.0 Network controller: Intel Corp. PRO/Wireless
LAN 2100 3B Mini PCI Adapter (rev 04)

Based on this information, download the following RPMS: driver, kernel module, and firmware Verify that you are running the i686 kernel, which is the latest at the time of this writing, by typing

# uname -a

Now, as root, install these packages:

# rpm -ivh
# rpm -ivh kernel-module-ipw2100-2.6.9-1.681-
# rpm -ivh

(Again, each command should be written all on one line. It is reformatted to fit on the this web page.) Then reboot. Kudzu will detect the WLAN card now. Let it configure the card. Choose DHCP instead of trying to configure a static IP address for it (if you're WLAN access point is a DHCP server. Which is what it almost certainly is. You're on your own if it isn't.) Once the computer has finished rebooting, use

# /sbin/lsmod | grep ipw2100

to verify that the ipw2100 kernel module was really loaded. You can configure your IP interfaces either using the menu "Appliations" > "System Settings" > "Network" or you can configure the relevant file directly:

file /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth0


file /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth1


Note that I had previously configured my wireless access point to use channel 1 in order to avoid interference from neighbors using other channels. You should change this file accordingly.

file /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/keys-eth1


Now restart the network using either

# /etc/init.d/network restart


# /sbin/service network restart

Then verify that the wireless link works by typing

# /sbin/iwconfig eth1

and observing the response. It couldn't hurt to verify that your Firefox web browser can still load web pages... ;-)

I will add more as I get additional items working. Remember, "it said use Windows XP or better, so I installed Linux!"

Monday, December 20, 2004

Vector Graphics Software ... and It's Open Source!

Today I heard about an interesting software project known as Inkscape. This is open source software and versions are available for Windows, as well as Linux. Unlike The GIMP, which is open source software designed to compete with Photoshop, this is drawing software, something like Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw. It is a fairly new project, being only up to version 0.40 after about a year since forking from Sodipodi, but it seems to work nicely!

When I first started using personal computers at work, we used a popular Windows drawing package called "Arts & Letters" and I got to the point where I was fairly good at it. The publisher seems to have sputtered at some point so that, as far as I know, almost no one uses it in its present incarnation. On the other hand, somebody must be buying it because they're still in business. But it isn't widely used and, at approx $140, it is much cheaper than Illustrator but is still a bit expensive for me. Until now, however, I could not find a decent replacement. Since this is an early alpha version, even though it appears to work well, there is still a lot of development to go. I have installed it on my PC and will almost certainly use it. I lust after Illustrator but it costs five hundred bucks!

12/26/2004 EDIT: Here's a link to a review of Inkscape.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

First Snow of the Season

We're currently receiving our first dusting of snow for this season, only a few days before Christmas. Sheena the dog likes the snow and, when there's a bit more of it, likes to have snowballs thrown up in the air for her. She doesn't seem to mind the fact that they disintegrate when she catches them. What a good dog!

Website of the Hour: Arts & Letters Daily

Arts & Letters Daily is one of my favorite web sites. Originally associated with the late great Lingua Franca and now with the Chronicle of Higher Education, it is run by Denis Dutton down in New Zealand. It is a wonderful site consisting of many links to interesting recent articles posted on-line, web sites for the world's most important newspapers, magazines, book reviews, columnists, and on-line radio news and music. Being the son of two English teachers, it appealed to me right away. I simply love it. Geared to appeal to liberals arts types it is, ironically, infinitesimally right-of-center. But that may be an incorrect impression on my part: it has no overt opinions posted and I only think I can detect this slight editorial tendency. I am little more certain that it is US-centric in outlook. Okay, I can't tell any such thing, but this is how I would like to imagine it being. Don't spoil my fun.

President Bush is Man of the Year

President Bush has been named Time Magazine's Person of the Year. Mr. Bush has turned out to be a helluva President, something that would have surprised me during the Republican primaries of 2000. I voted for John McCain in the Maryland primary in spite of the fact that the nomination had been clinched by that time, late in the season. I did NOT want another President George H.W. Bush, for whom I voted in 1988 because Ronald Reagan endorsed him, but against whom I voted in 1992. Some who know me may characterize my antipathy toward the first President Bush as that of a frustrated conservative. I may or may not be willing to concede that point.

But with the events of September 11, 2001 and after, "Dubya" has, to my way of thinking, demonstrated a constancy of policy in hunting and killing the terrorists worldwide. Unlike his father, the current president has a grim determination to see this war through and I very much back him in that. Relentless pursuit of Al Qaeda and their enablers, in Iraq and elsewhere, is how this war is being prosecuted and how it will be won.

Wolfram's "A New Kind of Science"

I just took advantage of a sale at Wolfram Research to buy Stephen Wolfram's A New Kind of Science bundled with the companion software A New Kind of Science Explorer. The bundle is available for about the same price as the book alone at, say, Border's, which never heard of discounting the price from the MSRP. I am enjoying the book, reading some sections carefully and skimming others. The software, based on Mathematica, is limited to what is done in the book but it is organized nicely so that it is easy to read about a topic in the book and the immediately go to the relevant section of the software, indexed by page number, to try it out and experiment a bit with variations in initial conditions, depth, or what have you. Highly recommended.

I wrote (enthusiastically) about Mathematica in a previous post. It is also worth noting that Wolfram is not universally popular among his peers. Compelling ideas served alongside jealous gossip: what could be better?

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Defeating the Communists Again

Here is an amazing article in the UK's Guardian newspaper on an alliance of US Republican and Democrat internationally-oriented party organizations, the US State Department, and, gawd help us, George Soros, training people for nonviolent civil disobedience to challenge stolen elections in former Soviet "republics." Very often these countries (e.g., Georgia and now Ukraine) have come back under the thumb of former communists and others loyal to the Putin government in Russia. These, well, cabals have been trying, and sometimes failing, to legitimize their authoritarian governments in dishonest elections over the past few years.

"With their websites and stickers, their pranks and slogans aimed at banishing widespread fear of a corrupt regime, the democracy guerrillas of the Ukrainian Pora youth movement have already notched up a famous victory - whatever the outcome of the dangerous stand-off in Kiev..."

Kudos for the link go to Instapundit, natch. Credit blogs once again.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Pamphleteers and Bloggers

One of the books I am reading right now uses a quote that appealed right away:

"The indispensible catalyst is the word, the explanatory idea. More than petards or stilettos, therefore, words — uncontrolled words, circulating freely, underground, rebelliously, not gotten up in dress uniforms, uncertified — frighten tyrants"

The reference given is Ryszard Kapuscinski's Shah of Shahs, which is a book about the fall of the Shah Reza Pahlavi in Iran at the hands of the Khomeini revolutionists. And while I recognize that that story is one of a tyrant being overthrown by another tyrant, one whose venom is even still, a quarter of a century later, poisoning the world, the quote has resonance here in the United States in the election year that we have just finished. Several of those who are smug, self-satisfied, and elitist have been toppled by the modern-day pamphleteers, the bloggers. What a refreshing development that the preening anchor and management at CBS and the nominee of the Democrat party and the Republican former Senate majority leader have found, to their cost, the power of free speech and the Internet. I have put links to a couple of my favorites, Instapundit and Power Line, in the list to the lower right. Even now blogs are being used to document the electoral standoff in Ukraine and in the unfolding Oil for Food scandal at the UN. We live in interesting times and, for once, that is not meant as a curse: Sometimes the good guys win!

Dan Brown's Fevered Brain

Heh! The National Review has published a piece on that piece by that piece Dan Brown. Take a look and be prepared to chortle!

"A telephone is ringing in the darkness — a tinny, unfamiliar ring. I fumble for the bedside lamp and turn it on. Squinting at my surroundings I see a plush Renaissance bedroom with exquisite Louis IX furniture, hand-frescoed walls, and a mahogany four-poster bed with a person in it, who is me, Dan Brown, the master storyteller and a bestselling author whose talent for dialogue and depth of characterization exceed even Tom Clancy at his finest. The jacquard bathrobe hanging on the bedpost bears the monogram: HOTEL RITZ PARIS..."

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to join Opus Dei. But then you knew that, didn't you?

Monday, November 15, 2004

Drones pick off 'rats' of Fallujah

Think piece from Australia:

"The last hours of the mujaheddin are terrifying. With the city they once ruled with the absolute authority of medieval caliphs now overrun by US and Iraqi troops, they have to keep moving. To pause even for a few minutes can mean instant death from an unseen enemy..."


Thursday, November 11, 2004

Carole Simpson's 2004 Slave States

Here's a video of Carole Simpson's nuanced analysis of how all the red states in the 2004 election were antebellum slave states. Truly despicable. After seeing the video you'll know pretty much what it takes to blunder into a highly respected position in the vaunted fourth estate.

By the way, every time I see this marionette appear in the past few years she looks more and more, um, improved. Just how many surgeries has she had? How many more to achieve gravitas?

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Pray for Our Troops In Fallujah

At this moment, US troops have punched their way into Fallujah and are in the midst of heavy fighting. Our Army and Marine units are taking casualties but they are also killing terrorists. Say an extra prayer tonight to keep our troops safe and to help them destroy the enemy.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Sheena Helps Rake Leaves

Sheena the dog is shown here hunting around in leaves that still needed to be picked up. Many of them were picked up today, with critical assistance from Sheena. I needed my best dog to help with the mission and she got a treat afterwards for her selfless sacrifice for the greater good.

A Neocon Schism, Reportedly

An article by one Danny Postel on a claimed schism in the neoconservative school of policy has appeared. It was published on a few days before the election and it smells like a contrived wedge issue or tool intended for the Democrat effort to unseat President Bush. Parenthetically, the “wedge issue” is what the left was so quick to label concerns expressed by the right on current social mores and values. Postel’s article demonstrates that there are those who picked up the grenade and hurled it back over the line. In spite of my cynicism there are a few interesting quotes and I am taking the opportunity to repeat them here. I do not express an opinion about which side is right or whether I think either is right. I believe I will leave that ambiguity be. My tendency sometimes is to absorb arguments without an interest in being drawn into the debate and when interest has been lost, to move on to other things without wasting energy debating who won. Alas I probably could not make a living as a columnist or controversialist.

The public spat is in the form of dueling essays between two prominent neo-conservatives, Francis Fukuyama and Charles Krauthammer. Part of my skepticism about the article arises from my skepticism about whether Charles Krauthammer should be considered an intellectual instead of just another syndicated columnist. Krauthammer is often interesting to read in the morning paper but he strikes me as more than a little smug and can be tiresome, especially now that the heat of the just concluded election is dissipating. He makes his living as an influential columnist and influence can be had by being a controversialist as well. Climbing into the ring of foreign policy journals is good for business because it generates attention from the class of published Washington writers over a protracted period of time.

“[Fukuyama says that] of all the different views that have now come to be associated with neoconservatives, the strangest one to me was the confidence that the United States could transform Iraq into a Western-style democracy … [If the US can’t eradicate poverty at home or improve its own education system] how does it expect to bring democracy to a part of the world that has stubbornly resisted it and is virulently anti-American to boot? … [America] needs to be more realistic about its nation-building abilities, and cautious in taking on large social-engineering projects in parts of the world it does not understand very well … [he sees it as inevitable that the US will get] sucked into similar projects in the future [and America must be] much better prepared [for a scenario such as the] sudden collapse of the North Korean regime.”

(Emphasis added.) The article frankly provides little description of Krauthammer’s counter arguments, which is the reason that I am suspicious whether the intent of Postel’s article is to incite rather than to inform.

“Krauthammer once quipped in a radio interview that the only way to earn respect in the Arab world is to reach down and squeeze between the legs. (His exact wording was slightly less delicate.)”

See what I mean?

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

(Parts of the) Web Shine on Election Night

The web, not counting many of the blogs, was a far more valuable resource than television for information during election coverage last night. Fox News Channel was amateurish. CNN was boring and pretentious. (Tom Shales called Aaron Brown “pompous.” Heh!) MSNBC, as far as I am concerned, is irrelevant after the months of Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann straining for ratings of any kind. Pandering to Democrats is not the same thing as delivering objective news reports. But then they knew that, didn’t they?

The main reason for my frustrated constant channel flipping was the nearly complete lack of substantial NUMBERS being available at any time. We are in an age of spreadsheets and that was probably what I was after. For example Fox News, when they weren’t showing the wrong graphics, would call races, usually after agonizing over whether they were going to get it wrong. But here in Maryland they announced the winners of the Presidential and Senate races immediately after the polls closed. And that was it: “Kerry and Mikulski won” was all we got. Okay, how about some percentages? Admittedly they were basing their projections on exit polling, something they probably didn’t want to admit. All sides were ridiculing the exit polls by early evening. I really felt sorry for the Democrats having their hopes dashed as the night wore on. But it was rough on the Republicans during the afternoon.

Fortunately the CNN website had constructed a very nice election page that had everything: maps, percentages, projections. All one had to do was mouse-over the parts that were of interest and it was then possible to drill down to get the latest updates on the elections that mattered: Daschle in South Dakota, Vitter in Louisiana, Martinez in Florida, etc.

The blogs were interesting but were by their nature not keeping up very well with the news at a useful pace. They were good mainly for moral support for the worriers sitting at home. But they were being hammered and consequently often ground to an unusable state. The outstanding exception was National Review’s The Corner. That blog reacted to events – especially the crappy exit polling – quickly, cogently, and in an entertaining fashion. Republicans reading the NRO blog could not help but be cheered up in the early afternoon before the exit polling started becoming more realistic.

To summarize, kudos to NRO and the CNN web site (but not the CNN cable television channel). An old fashioned Bronx cheer to all the rest on television and much of the web.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Accumulating Books

Here is an article, "My Own Private Library," by Thomas H. Benton that expresses the love of accumulation of books better than I have read before. Here are some quotes:

"I wonder whether I am afflicted with something more than a 'gentle madness' ... You see, I spend more on books than I do on food ... In my home office I estimate there are more than 2000 books on the shelves and another 300 in a pile on the floor ... There are about 50 books on a shelf next to my bed. Those the ones I intend to read soon ... I troll eBay and, looking to fill the gaps in my collections ... Just as it did in graduate school, book collecting alows me to take a vacation from my scholarly writing without feelings of guilt ... Book-collecting academics are often expert procrastinators ... Perhaps my book acquisitions reflect some psychological disorder, an unresolved trauma of my youth. [But] maybe my behavior is no different from adults who collect Matchbox cars, teddy bears, or baseball cards."

Very nice article. I have lately been phrasing the habit as "book accumulation rather than book collecting because I can't possibly read all the books I buy." My collection is nowhere near as large as Benton's and probably never will be. But I have the (mis)fortune to live near Daedalus Books, which is a remainders store and which has a superlative buyer. Very few shovel-ware books, which is what I term biographies of Princess Diana, crossword puzzle books, and romance novels. They sell them of course, but the vast majority of the store contains serious books mean to be read by serious people and I nearly always come away with five or ten new hardcover books bought for an average of $5 or $10 apiece. And, being in the Washington, D.C. area, there are a number of good used book stores. Since I found Daedalus, I don't browse Second Story Books as often as I did, say, Half Price Books while at college in Austin.

It's nice to know that others have this joy of being surrounded by books full of interesting ideas at all times, waiting and available for me. No, I can't take them with me when I die of old age, but I'm going to hang on to them while I'm here and hopefully something similar will be available in the next life.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Toward an Increase in the Vocations

Yesterday in our parish we had an unfamiliar priest say Mass. Turned out that the guy was a representative appointed by Cardinal McCarrick to encourage vocations to the priesthood. Unfortunately he, having spent a couple of years as a Catholic chaplain at George Washington University, turned out to be embarassingly "hip". The best likeness I can think of is the feckless "Pastor Dave" character on That 70s Show. Yes, I do realize he was addressing the young men of high school and college age in his recruiting sermon, but it was more than a little much. Instead of trying to sound knowledgeable about "keg parties" and such, would it have killed him to mention the perceived crisis in Catholic Seminaries? He mentioned parents' attitudes encouraging or discouraging the young men who feel they might like to take Holy Orders but he could have put parents' minds a little more at ease had he addressed - specifically - whether or not there is in fact a widespread "gay subculture" in American seminaries. And, if so, which ones? And again, if so, why is it not being suppressed? And, just what the hell is being done to deal with the pederasty crisis among the clergy? We have, after all, no guarantee from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that it is being systematically combatted in the nation's dioceses. Remember that a Bishop in his own diocese has no effective check or balance on his actions, or lack thereof, other than an intervention by the Papacy. And that is not always effective. For example, in George Weigel's book, The Courage to Be Catholic, pp. 136-137:

"[In April 2002], the Pope had lunch with several American cardinals who were in Rome for the annual meeting of the Papal Foundation ... Conversation had naturally turned to the unfolding scandals in the United States, but the cardinals present - Anthony Bevilacqua of Philadelphia, William Keeler of Baltimore, and Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C. - did not seem to convey a sense of crisis. This was, they said, a time of 'purification' from which the Church would emerge stronger."

If this blind stupidity doesn't make every Catholic mad enough to spit nails, add in this ingredient: Cardinal McCarrick has repeatedly declined to deny communion to Catholic politicians who stubbornly advocate abortion "rights", stem cell research, and homosexual "marriage". One of the ways our own little "Pastor Dave" could have appropriately discharged his responsibilities from Cardinal McCarrick would be to specifically state whether the Cardinal believes there are ANY Catholic teachings that are worth defending.

Kerry Runs Against His Religion

The Catholic League put out a news release today about John Kerry's self-professed "Catholicism". Maybe I'm beating a dead horse, but if John Kerry were not calling himself a Catholic, it's hard to believe that anyone else would either.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Jacques Derrida's Deconstructionist Philosophy

Jacques Derrida (pronounciation guide published in more than one place: "deh-ree-DAH") has died. Arts & Letters Daily provides a number of links to obits. I am, of course, not a philosopher and have never tried reading Derrida's work. The base material for my commentary in this short posting is based entirely on my reading of the obits. The description of deconstructionism provided by the Wall Street Journal is:

"But even if deconstruction cannot be defined, it can be described. For one thing, deconstruction comes with a lifetime guarantee to render discussion of any subject completely unintelligible. It does this by linguistic subterfuge. One of the central slogans of deconstruction is il n'y a pas de hors-texte, i.e., "there is nothing outside the text." (It sounds better in French.) In other words, deconstruction is an updated version of nominalism, the view that the meanings of words are completely arbitrary and that, at bottom, reality is unknowable."

If this is an accurate rendering of the theory, it would explain the widespread hostility toward the post-modernists in the conservative community: There would then be no absolute truths, meaning is meaningless, God is dead. But here's how the Washington Post described it:

"Language, he said, is inadequate to provide a clear and unambiguous view of reality. In other words, the fixed meaning of an essay, a book, a personal letter, a scientific treatise or a recipe dissolves when hidden ambiguities and contradictions are revealed. These contradictions, inevitable in every piece of writing, he said, reveal deep fissures in the foundation of the Western world's civilizations, cultures and creations."

Well, sure. Language is inadequate for precise description and analysis of concepts that are even a little more complex than Monday Night Football. That's why mathematicians are so careful to create a "language" that can more precisely describe what they are trying to say. But the trade-off is that only a few initiates, even among the fairly small body of those who are mathematicians, can understand what any particular researcher in their midst is doing. In contrast, languages used by most in the more familiar world - law, politics, commerce - are useless for the "hard" sciences. This is why, for example, we need the courts to interpret the constitution (and why they so often bungle the task). No one has successfully found a way to describe philosophy or social sciences or any of the other "soft" sciences using the English language. Some might argue that is why the soft sciences are useless and are practiced by third rate academics, even in first rate institutions. And why no one, absolutely no one, takes them seriously.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Bush Wins Second Debate

The President stated his case much better than he did in the first debate. He obviously practiced this time. Too bad he didn't last time or he might have preserved his lead in the polls. Polls being announced up to the beginning of the second debate had the race tied, but Bush has been sliding all week and no one really knows if that would have stopped at the tie or would have continued to slip. If my political instincts are worth anything, he should at least stop the slide... IF anybody was watching! Why was this debate held on a Friday night? Perfect for homebodies like me but most people are busy Friday nights.

One of the pundits after the debate pointed out that Bush was following a strategy of de-emphasizing "flip-flopping" - reasoning that most of the useful mileage has already been obtained from it - and now emphasizing the "L"-word: "liberal". What I didn't hear anybody point out is how Kerry didn't seem ready for it. I have nothing concrete at which to point, but he didn't seem to effectively reply to the twice-made charge that Kerry is "the most liberal member of the Senate". Hmmm.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Christopher Hitchens and the Neocons

There is an interesting interview of Christopher Hitchens on the blog which, with the accompanying commentary, is a lamentation about Hitchens’ shift to and understanding of, if not sympathy with, the neoconservative rise to power in the current U.S. administration.

"To many of Christopher Hitchens' old friends, he died on September 11th, 2001 ... On September 10th, he was campaigning for Henry Kissinger to be arraigned before a war crimes tribunal in the Hague ... He was preparing to testify in the Vatican - as a literal Devil's Advocate - against the canonization of Mother Teresa ... And then a hijacked plane flew into the Pentagon ... Within a year, Hitchens was damning his former comrades as 'soft on Islamic fascism', giving speeches at the Bush White House, and describing himself publicly as 'a recovering ex-Trotskyite' ... He explains that he believes the moment the left's bankruptcy became clear was on 9/11. 'The United States was attacked by theocratic fascists who represent all the most reactionary elements on earth. They stand for liquidating everything the left has fought for: women's rights, democracy. And how did much of the left respond? By affecting a kind of neutrality between America and the theocratic fascists' ... He believes neoconservatism is a distinctively new strain of thought, preached by ex-leftists, who believed in using US power to spread democracy ... 'We cannnot back tyranny in the [middle east] for the sake of stability. So we have to take the risk of uncorking it and hoping the more progressive side wins.' He has replaced a belief in Marxist revolution with a belief in spreading the American revolution. Thomas Jefferson has replaced Karl Marx."

At the end of it all, Johann Hari wants Hitchens to come back from the dark side.

“I don’t think Hitch is lost to the left quite yet. He will never stop campaigning for the serial murderer Henry Kissinger to be brought to justice, and his hatred of Islamic fundamentalism is based on good left-wing principles. But it does feel at the end of our three-hour lunch like I have been watching him slump into neoconservatism. Come home, Hitch – we need you.”

Hari writes much more on the Hitchens-neocon axis of evil that is worthwhile reading. I first became interested in Hitchens while reading the 2002 book Koba the Dread by Martin Amis. Koba describes the crimes of Stalin and a major segment of the book remonstrates with the left in general, and Hitchens personally, about their support of Communism over the decades in spite of the (nose on their faces) abundant continuing evidence of the crimes of Communism. The next time I remember Hitchens coming to my view was when I saw him give a pro-intervention speech about Iraq on C-SPAN. Now there was a contradiction and I began reading some of his articles on the web as they appeared.

Hitchens writes a regular column on Slate. Hari's blog posting appeared on 23 September 2004 in The Independent newspaper in the UK.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Catholic Polling May Be Trending to Bush

Based on a sample space of two, the Washington Times is reporting that two different recent polls are showing that President Bush is being solidly supported by Catholics. The Pew Research Center is showing that Methodist Bush is beating "Catholic" Kerry by a margin of 49% to 39%. Another poll, conducted by some evangelical Christian polling firm I never heard of, is giving Bush the lead by 53% to 39%. Nevertheless I find this reassuring. Kerry opposes Church doctrine on abortion, stem cell research, and homosexual "marriage" and still has the gall to call himself a practicing Catholic. President Bush is considerably to the right of those appearing to have the upper hand within the Methodist Church. Heck, give us President Bush, the Methodists can have Kerry (please!). EWTN, which has developed highly effective Catholic television, radio, and a web site services, and which is definitely loyal to the Pope and the Magisterium, has an interesting page of links to information for Catholic voters who are trying to decide what the right thing to do might be.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Is This Relevant?

Several web sites, including Drudge, are breathlessly speculating about whether Kerry broke debate rules by bringing in a "cheat sheet". The reasoning is that Kerry had notes to jog his memory during the pressure of the debate and Bush did not. So the conclusion would be that Kerry looked better than he otherwise would have looked and ... Bush looked worse? No, that's can't be right. The conclusion is that Bush's effort could have looked less crappy had HE come in with a cheat sheet? I guess. Look, if John Kerry cheated to make himself look better, that would be crummy and it should be splashed across the blogosphere. But it doesn't change the fact that Bush did a bad job of preparing for the debate. I heard on C-SPAN radio this morning that Bush didn't actually rehearse/prepare, he just went over a few times what he would say. And that he didn't practice over and over again ('cause that is what it takes, duh!) against an aggressive and hostile debating partner. What, nobody had nerve enough to tell the emperor that he had no clothes?

Edit: Jay Nordlinger is saying pretty much the same thing over on National Review Online. If I had seen this I might not have ranted over three different posts. "Pursed and annoyed" hits it directly. I wish I'd thought of that.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Post-debate polls start to come in...

Did President Bush escape with his lead in the polls intact? Newsweek says no. Rasmussen says yes. Powerline has a somewhat heartening post pointing out that Newsweek may be playing games with its statistical sampling. Thank goodness for blogs. All I can say is, Dubya had better do a hell of a lot better in the next debate. Keep your fingers crossed and I'll continue my nervous wait for more poll results to be announced.

By the way, check out the Current Electoral Vote Predictor 2004 in which the electoral vote situation is mapped out from day to day. It is unclear to me whether the current numbers (Bush 296, Kerry 238) reflects any post-debate polling yet.

Kerry Wins First Debate

I watched the first presidential election debate Thursday night and believe that Kerry "won", whatever that means. I don't understand the people who said it was a draw; they have quieted since Friday morning. The first fifteen minutes consisted of a cutting, thrusting, aggressive onslaught that rocked Bush back on his heels. There were two problems. First, Kerry is an obviously accomplished debater. Second, Bush is obviously not. More than once, Bush simply stopped talking for several seconds and stared at the moderator or the camera. Was he tired? Maybe. Was he flustered? Yes. Was he just inarticulate? For this particular 90-minute debate, yes.

But this was only one debate and I will still vote for President Bush. Primarily for the reason I keep coming back to: the relentless pursuit, capture, and killing of the terrorists. But I have to admit that I felt a lot less hostile towards Kerry afterwards - he seemed intelligent, reasonable, and certainly articulate. But that does not change his record, that of a leftist opportunistic politician, with all of the negative connotations one might associate with both "leftist" and "politician". How would things look right now if the Democrats had nominated Lieberman instead of Kerry?

(FYI, there's an mp3 sound file of the debate available for downloading using Bittorrent.)

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Re: Blame It On Neo

There is an interesting op-ed piece on the Wall Street Journal Website. Here's the first paragraph to whet your appetite and hopefully you'll click on the link to read the rest.

Last week Pat Buchanan appeared on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," and liberal host Jon Stewart bonded with his paleoconservative guest over their mutual opposition to the liberation of Iraq. Mr. Stewart smiled and nodded while Mr. Buchanan derided "neoconservatives" four times in the course of the six-minute interview. In his efforts to promote his and his guest's common agenda, Mr. Stewart didn't ask Mr. Buchanan what he meant by "neoconservatives." It was clear that the Jewish Mr. Stewart didn't realize that Mr. Buchanan was using what has become an epithet for "Jews"--an epithet employed most often by the left.

I was aware of the pejorative association of "neocon" with "Jewish conservative" and can see the original intent of using "neocon" to describe former liberals who have seen the light. However I usually employ it the same way as mentioned in the article: as an "interventionist Republican". In this way, I've been thinking of *myself* as a neocon, albeit one who is Catholic and sympathizes with traditionalist Catholic agitprop. I flatter myself to see myself in the company of Kristol, Perle, Krauthammer, et al. I am glad to associate myself with them and continue to think of myself as a neocon.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

It Must Really Suck to Be Dan Rather Right Now

There is a possibility that Dan Rather has let himself be duped by pathetic forgeries in an effort to discredit President Bush's National Guard service during the Viet Nam war era. The best summary at the time of this writing can be found on the Powerline blog. We might be watching the process of Dan Rather (and John Kerry, for that matter) learning what the Soviet authorities learned during the 1991 coup attempt: Either get your facts straight or cut off access to the Internet. If John Kerry loses this election, whether or not it is close, it may not be so unreasonable to say that blogs brought him down to earth. Heh.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

John Kerry 1971 Testimony Before Congress To Be Aired on C-SPAN Tonight

C-SPAN will be showing the 22 April 1971 testimony of John Kerry, then a principal of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It will start at 8:05 pm, Eastern Daylight Time, after a showing of the latest Swiftboat Veterans ad at 8:00 pm. C-SPAN has shown the debate between Senator Kerry and John O'Neill on the Dick Cavett Show from 1971 at least twice (that I know of). During the course of that particular Dick Cavett show, I saw him make scurrilous accusations against his "Band of Brothers" and their commanders and U.S. war policy at the time. We all know the claimed nature of that scurrility so I won't bother repeating it now. I understand that he behaved similarly in his Senate testimony. It is that testimony that is claimed by the Swift Boat veterans to have led them to begin their advertising campaign against his presidential candidacy now, 33 years later.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Sheena the Dog


Just in case you're wondering about the "Dog" part of "A Boy and His Dog", her name is Sheena and she's probably the best dog there ever was. She keeps me company, she demands to be taken for her daily walk the instant I get home from work, and she starts pestering me when she thinks I've been sitting in front of the computer long enough.

Seti@Home Seminar Video Available


If you're a participant or merely curious about Seti@home, you might be interested in a video newly available for download (31MB .wmv file). It is a half-hour seminar given by Dr. David Anderson, Project Director of Seti@Home and developer of the BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing) software intended to replace the client. BOINC allows the user the option to divide his spare compute cycles among different distributed computing projects, including SETI, Climate Prediction, and others. If you're not familiar with Seti@Home, this is a terrific way for the interested home amateur to participate in important science projects that require an otherwise-unavailable amount of number-crunching computer power. Running the Seti@Home or the BOINC client does not interfere with the performance of your home computer. They run when your computer is idle. If you just leave your computer on all the time, it can look for ET while you're at work during the day or asleep overnight.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

A 12-Minute History of John Kerry and Iraq

The Republican National Committee has produced a video history of John Kerry's statements and votes in the Senate concerning Iraq since before the Gulf War of 1991. He is shown to have spoken plainly and repeatedly but is also shown to have drastically changed his mind on the subject on two important occasions: during the aftermath of the first Gulf War and at the peak of the Howard Dean Presidential campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire.

It covers his views expressed during the years-long national debate on the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and on specific U.S. military and diplomatic actions actually taken against that regime.

The piece is unfortunately marred slightly by the inclusion of a few seconds of the "Flipper" TV show music theme but if the viewer can look past that, the piece is a worthwhile account of what Senator Kerry has said and how he has acted. You should be concerned about this and I urge you to view it. It'll probably take a broadband connection to view satisfactorily, but if you're on dial-up you might as well try it.

It can be viewed by going to the RNC site and clicking on the "Top Story". It is available for both Windows Media Player and Real Player.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Mathematica is Beautiful Software

Is there any way a person with a reasonable command of the English language can refer to mere software as "beautiful"? I've run into a number of professors and teaching assistants who would talk about "beautiful" equations. But English was a second (or third) language for them and I think they would have used the word "elegant" if it had come to them at the time. However I think that the word is appropriate forMathematica.

When I was a graduate student in the Aerospace Engineering Department at the University of Texas in the summer of 1983, I was working on developing equations of motion for a Kalman filter. The application was an air-to-air missile tracking a target airplane using bearings-only measurements. This essentially involved analytically integrating second-order equations to obtain equivalent first-order equations for 6x6 and 8x8 systems. I did it with a pencil and paper and took over a month to integrate them, correct errors, code them up in Fortran, and check for accuracy by comparing results against numerically integrated equations. Numerical integration is much faster for the programmer to code but analytic ("closed form") integration is much faster for the computer to crunch.

In the late 1980s, when I had gone to work as an engineer at The Aerospace Corporation, I was deriving equations to enhance 3-degree-of-freedom ("3DOF") equations of motion for high-fidelity computer simulations of launch vehicle trajectories. The enhancement was to add terms to the equations that would make them look more like 6DOF equations and, hence, more like the real world. I found Macsyma , an early symbolic computation package developed at MIT and the US Department of Energy. This package was extremely useful in helping me derive my equations quickly and with many fewer human errors creeping into the process, which would only have to be found and fixed later on. In fact, this work led to two papers (here and here). And I couldn't help thinking, maybe even obsessively, about that time and pain I invested that summer at UT working on my Kalman filters. Macsyma would have saved me a lot of time --- pretty much all of it, in fact. Alas, Macsyma was probably not invented then, or at least it wasn't available to me at the time.

The first version of Mathematica was released in 1988 but I did not hear of it until around 1990 when a colleague bought it and put it on his Macintosh computer at work. I was struck as soon as I saw him working with it. Mathematica was and is the most --- yes --- beautiful software I have ever seen. My jobs and schoolwork since then have never really called for the use of Mathematica, although I continued to play with it, especially when I returned to graduate school in the Electrical Engineering Department at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. I even took a non-credit short introductory course on Mathematica and how to apply it to engineering problems.

But now I work for the government (ours) and the site license they have negotiated with Wolfram includes free home-use licenses for employees. This is wonderful! Mathematica is quite expensive: approximately $1500 for Windows and Macintosh versions and around $3000 for Linux/Unix versions. So now I have it on my laptop computer and can play for with it any time I want. And it really is play for me. (I sometimes wish I had majored in math in college instead of engineering.) There is also a nice companion website for recreational Mathematica users known as MathWorld and it contains extensive material on all kinds of math topics. In many cases supplementary Mathematica notebooks are available to download free of charge so that the interested hobbyist may investigate the topics further.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Upcoming Movie About Saint Thérèse of Lisieux

I just heard about a new Catholic movie that will open in theaters October 1. Coming on the heels of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, it is interesting and encouraging that a new film has been produced about the life of Saint Thérèse. (That link is for the movie and here is more information about Saint Thérèse.)

What a refreshing change! What a welcome break after the constant pounding on the Catholic Church by the media over the past few years with more than a few movies and books, the motivations behind which are all too easy to guess.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Bishop Fulton Sheen Audio Files

If you like watching Bishop Fulton Sheen's television shows on EWTN, there's a fan web site which has about fifty of his shows in MP3 format. You can download them and either listen to them right away on your computer or you can burn them to CD-R disks and listen to them on a CD player. I am not old enough to remember his show on television but maybe you are. After watching his show on EWTN on Friday nights it is easy to see why he was popular. He was a compelling speaker and had things of worth to say; he was also a bit of showman. Based on the shows I've seen so far, he seems to always begin with an anecdote and then seques to an extended monologue that lasts twenty minutes or so. It seems easy to tell when he begins moving toward the conclusion of his talk by noticing his voice as it begins its long and dramatic crescendo.

Bishop Sheen died in 1979 and lived long enough to see the first year of the pontificate of Pope John Paul II.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Human Life Apparently Begins at Conception

Brace yourself for another flip-flop, er, nuanced opinion from the best the Democrat party has to offer. John Kerry now says that life begins at conception but doesn't want to legislate his "Catholic" religious beliefs for Protestant and Jewish Americans. Never mind that evangelical Protestant Christians are one of the two most visible components of the Pro-Life political movement. In any event, this is why he's voted against the ban on partial birth abortion, expressed support for research using new lines of embryonic stem cells, and opposes bans on even third trimester abortions? Sonograms that everyone can see for themselves be damned. Besides, sophisticated thinkers such as John Kerry who hold nuanced opinions on topics of such importance would never call them "partial birth abortions". They're "dilations and extractions", thank you very much.

The point is that John Kerry must now believe that something wrong is going on when an abortion at any point in the pregnancy occurs. An obvious question is, why doesn't the Senator from Massachusetts step up immediately and do something to put a stop to it?

Let's extrapolate the logic and apply it to a historical situation back in, say, the 1850s. Using John Kerry's way of thinking, famous abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison was actually WRONG for having forcefully advocated the immediate emancipation of the slaves held in the southern United States at the time. Harriet Beecher Stowe was an irresponsible war monger for writing Uncle Tom's Cabin and unnecessarily inflaming abolitionist sentiment in the northern United States. How could it be otherwise when she was skewering an institution self-righteously held by the political aristocracy of the antebellum South to be irrelevant to the debate on the nature of decent human society. After all, they were talking about subhumans, each of whom was only three-fifths of a person.

It's lucky we have Senator Kerry of Massachusetts to help us sort out the morality of the everlasting abortion debate. I'm sure denying the humanity of a third trimester fetus and a refusal to call that fetus a baby is nothing like considering a human being to be three-fifths of a person. I'm sure all analogies like these are facile and simplistic and simply unrelated. Thank goodness for great men like John Kerry.

Why doesn't John Kerry lead, instead of following the winds of the Democrat party political and intellectual aristocracy like NARAL and Emily's List? I think you know the reason why.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

The American Press in Iraq

I found a link to Eric Johnson's j'accuse of a specific reporter heading up the Washington Post Baghdad bureau on Instapundit and thought it was important enough to echo in my own blog. Johnson, a Marine Corps reservist who served in Iraq, and is also a writer, points out the fecklessness of this particular person, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, and the tendentiousness of the, um, news stories being filed from that Baghdad bureau. I recognize that articles like this just reek of the post-Kaiser "stabbed in the back" bitterness found in Germany in the interwar years. But we didn't lose the war, we are winning it. And note that the article essentially validates what Paul Wolfowitz said (and later inexplicably apologized for).

With apologies to the shade of Harry Truman, I'm sick of babying the fifth-columnist press corps. Hurrah for Eric Johnson and the others like him. Unlike Chandrasekaran, Johnson knows (first hand) that we are fighting in a real war against terrorism. This is a war against an organized tenacious enemy that really exists, something that the Washington Post and the New York Times and many others don't seem to acknowledge. We are fighting terrorism in what ever form it takes, whether Al Qaeda or Baathists or al Sadr's Mahdi "Army". Nobody is asking the Post or the Times to be Pravda or Izvestia but for God's sake, at least TRY to be honest in your reporting. Make your point in the editorial pages. And to our political leaders, for God's sake stop apologizing to these people.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Dear Senator Leahy...

You remember what Dick Cheney said to you today? Well, you pretty much deserved it.

Do Ya Like Blogs?

Or do ya want to find out more about them. Read this article: "Meet Joe Blog" from Time Magazine.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Internet Chess Club Launches New Site

If you're a chess player, check out their newly redesigned site here: ICC. ICC is the chess server I use to play online and enjoy it. Their Windows client Blitzen is getting a bit long in the tooth, but it works well. The new site includes a relaunch of Internet Chess Radio, which, if you're a geek, is WAY COOL! Looks like there is also a new section with free chess videos available for viewing.

Cool Site of the Hour:

There are a number of open source software documentation projects out there, including Doxygen and Docbook. But if you happen to be an aficionado of the computer typesetting software LaTeX and/or TeX (I am this type of person), then you may have heard of WEB, including CWEB, Noweb, FWEB, etc. WEB was devised by Don Knuth to help him write TeX and he now uses CWEB for his other programming. Like Doxygen and DocBook, WEB is a documentation system in which both the code and the documentation reside in the same file. This is a tremendous boon to the process of coding. Text formatting and diagramming can be accomodated and are obtained by processing the same "filename.cweb" input file differently. My own (admittedly limited) experience has been with CWEB in which an input file "filename.cweb" is processed by "ctangle" and "cweave". ctangle produces a compilable filename.c file from the filename.cweb input file, and cweave produces a LaTeX input file filename.tex. An executable is produced in the usual way, "gcc filename.c" and (beautiful) printed documentation is produced using "latex filename.tex".

After this long-winded introduction, I have happened across a very good web site, which has been put together by an individual over the past several years. He has collected links, documentation, software, and has produced Microsoft Windows verions of much of that software from code that was originally written for a Unix system.

Highly recommended. You heard it here first.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

"John Kerry's 'Religion Outreach' Director is a Gem"

Oh. My. God. Take a look at what the Catholic League has found about John Kerry's 'Religion Outreach' Director. You can't hold political candidates responsible for the nut jobs that support them, but when they HIRE them ... this HAS to be publicized. I promised myself I wouldn't post blatantly political stuff that is best handled on Free Republic or, but this is too much.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Catholic Art at the National Gallery of Art

Enthroned Madonna and Child, 13th Century, National Gallery of Art Posted by Hello

I've been to the National Gallery of Art in Washington a couple of times recently to see the exhibit of Catholic art in Italy in the 13th through the 16th centuries. You can see a web presentation of the exhibit at here. I must admit to knowing little about art but it is heartening to me, as a life-long Catholic, to periodically witness reminders of the incredible history of the Church. Two thousand years of philosophy, theology, art, and science is impressive, significant, transcendant. This can be useful in these times of scandal and disbelief at the spectacle of the awful dereliction of duty by Catholic leadership in the United States ... "This too shall pass."

Wireless LAN on a Fedora Linux Box

Okay, I've set a new goal for myself. I am running Fedora Core 2 Linux (2.6 kernel) on my desktop box (Athlon 2600+ CPU, 1 GB RAM, 125 GB hard drive, assembled it myself last year) and currently access the net through the onboard Broadcom chipset-based NIC on the Asus A7V8X mainboard. But I want to connect using a wireless networking card I bought some time ago so that I can set up anywhere in the house without having to string CAT5 cable. At the moment, my cable modem is in the basement, so that is where my desktop is. But I've been having such wonderful use out of my Sony Centrino laptop, running WinXP, that I want to duplicate the experience with Linux.

Here are the particulars: After doing an /sbin/lspci, I see that my WLAN card (D-Link AirPlus XtremeG DWL-G520) is sporting an Atheros chipset, specifically the AR5212. Now to go to googling...

Warning: I obsessed on how to get direct rendering going under Fedora Linux for my ATI Radeon 9500 Pro card for quite a while before finally solving the problem. My friends at work can tell you how tiresome it got, listening to me blather on about it. It was easy under Gentoo Linux but I've since switched to Fedora (nee Red Hat). In other words, this could take a while. You heard it here first.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

President Reagan Has Died at Age 93

President Reagan died yesterday, apparently of pneumonia and other complications of his ten-year losing battle against Alzheimer's disease. Those who know me well know the very high regard with which I hold him. My enthusiasm for his political leadership and goals began during the 1976 campaign for the Republican nomination against Gerald Ford. I was only fifteen years old at the time and I heard a snippet of a speech he made about the Panama Canal Treaty which Carter had signed with Omar Torrijos, then the strongman running Panama. He (Reagan) pointed out that he was opposed to "giving the American canal in Panama to a tin-horned dictator." Probably not a practical expression of American foreign policy, given what that dictator would have done had we not agreed to transfer the canal to his control. But that simple expression of what everybody deep down knew to be the truth made me sit up and take notice. By the time of the Republican convention, which was, back in those days actually broadcast on network television I was hooked. The first presidential election for which I was old enough to vote was 1980 and it was a triumph.

His passing is in a way the closing of a chapter in U.S. history. Certainly it is the closing of a chapter in my own life. But there are many more chapters to come because it really was "morning in America". May he rest in peace.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Roger Ailes Eviscerates LA Times Editor

Check out Drudge in which he quotes about half of a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Roger Ailes. I was able to read the entire article but we get news feeds at work and unfortunately, reading the WSJ online requires a fee. Drudge gets most of the flavor but it was delicious to read Ailes fire back with both barrels at the Los Angeles Times editor who, out of nowhere, said some really harsh things about Fox News Channel, the viewers of Fox News, and, by implication, pretty much everyone who WOULD watch Fox News. There's something awe-inspiring about watching a master cutting a bombastic pompous ass off at the knees. I don't have any love for O'Reilly (for essentially the same reasons) but you gotta be careful when you fool with someone like Roger Ailes. Ailes was a Reaganaut from the 1984 election, in which he helped disembowel, figuratively speaking, Walter Mondale at the polls. He is a very sharp guy and taking him on for no reason was NOT smart!

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

17-Year Cicadas in the Eastern U.S.

The cicada "skins" or "shells" or whatever you want to call them. These remnants are all over the place and they stink a little bit. Posted by Hello

Every seventeen years, the cicadas apparently come out for a few weeks in the eastern United States. I wish the videos I took were small enough to email, but at 30 MB, they're obviously not. But they could give you some sense of the terrific howling sound they are making during the day.

They seem to be mostly in the trees, as I'm not getting swarms on the side of the house the way some other people are describing at work. But here you can see their shells that they apparently molt out of before going on about their business. Gives a sense of just how many there are.

NY Times: For Some, the Blogging Never Stops

Here is an interesting article in the New York Times about blogging and how it seems to take over the lives of some people. It's by Katie Hafner, author of Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet and Cyberpunk: Outlaws and hackers on the Computer Frontier. It describes the vast majority of blogs as "abandonware" with a few being compulsively added to by people who seem, well, compulsive. I suspect I will fall in the middle, a person who periodically adds more content, but who forgets about it a lot of the time. However my New Year's resolution (displaced by only five months) is to try to do more than that with my blog.

Remember, you read it here first...

Writing this from Fedora Linux!

I'm posting this entry from my new Fedora Linux Core 2 installation. If you've ever been tempted to check Linux out, you've got a couple of first-class - and free - solutions available to you right now: Fedora Linux Core 2 and Mandrake Linux 10. Both are free for the downloading and both have the latest and fastest Linux software. If you're going to download, I recommend using BitTorrent and if you'd just like to skip that and buy these inexpensively, take a look at In the case of Mandrake, once you decide you like it and are going to use it, it's probably best to buy it in the stores or go to their website and join their club. Mandrake just emerged from the French-equivalent of Chapter 11 and need the boost.

Sunday, May 23, 2004


TheOpenCD is a CD full of open source software for Windows. The idea is to make Windows users aware of Open Source and, hopefully, interest them in eventually trying out Linux. Open source software differs from commerical software, like that produced by Microsoft, in that it is free of charge to use and, since the computer source code is also available, those who are interested may contribute back bug fixes and enhancements. The vast majority of users simply consume, they don't write computer programs; this is understood by all and is okay.

One can download a CD image and burn it to a CD to pass around to his friends but what I've been doing is simply downloading the individual programs that interest me. For example, I recently installed PDFCreator, which allows the "printing" of any document from any Windows program to Adobe Acrobat format. I use the free Adobe Reader to view the resulting pdf ("portable document format") file and avoid having to buy the Adobe Acrobat software suite, saving a few hundred dollars.

OpenCD software is categorized as "Office & Design", "Internet & Communication", "Multimedia & Games", and "Utilities and Others". To see the software, click on the "The Programs" link on the main web page.

Friday, May 21, 2004

First Things Magazine

Have you seen First Things magazine? I recently subscribed and received my third issue just today, which is the impetus for this blog entry. It - the magazine - describes itself as "published by Religion and Public Life, an interreligious, nonpartisan research and education institute whose purpose is to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society." This ecumenical publication is actually largely Catholic and the nonpartisan perspective generally leans slightly to the right. Since these coincide with my own tendencies - Catholicism and a slightly right of center set of opinions - I was intrigued when I first ran across the web site. I also read somewhere that Robert Bork (President Reagan's Supreme Court nominee who ended up outrageously "borked" in the 1980s) considers it his favorite magazine.

Last issue included a very good article by Avery Cardinal Dulles, the son of Eisenhower's Secretary of State John Dulles, on "The Rebirth of Apologetics". Apologetics is a topic that has come to my attention for the first time recently and is, essentially, a refusal to remain silent in the face of attack or ridicule of the Catholic faith. I listen to EWTN radio regularly and there is a weekly program on coaching ordinary Catholics to deal with the questions raised by, typically, evangelical Christian co-workers. But lest I give the impression that I consider the evangelicals opponents ... I do not. They are an important ally in the cultural struggle with the left in this country. Nevertheless that weekly EWTN program is valuable but I would like to hear a similar program on how to deal with the condescending atheists, a problem that I encounter more frequently.

Finally, each issue has a section called "The Public Square" that is an expanded editorial page and actually spans a good number of pages. The Public Square is written by the magazine's editor, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, who is, I believe, a Jesuit (although I've just paged through the magazine trying to verify that but have come up empty). The subtitle is "A Continuing Survey of Religion, Culture, and Public Life" and consists of a large number of essays, each ranging in length from a paragraph to a few pages. Taken collectively they seem almost to be a stream-of-consciousness effort. For example in the May 2004 issue the topics include (1) "The Catholic Reform", (2) "Believing in Evolution", (3) "From Common Culture to Culture Wars", and (4) While We're At It, a collection of untitled paragraphs covering a wide variety of topics.

Highly recomended. Check out the web site First Things where a couple of the articles in the current issue are posted, as are all articles in previous issues.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Scilab is an Open-Source Clone of Matlab

If you're a Matlab user you may be interested in Scilab. While the user interface is not as polished as that of Matlab, it is a first-rate numerical computational tool that, almost certainly, will allow you to do for free in Scilab what you've been doing for a price (thousands of American dollars) in Matlab. You also don't have to worry about ridiculous licensing and installation procedures. If you're a college student, you can buy student editions of Matlab for relatively little money (approx $100?) but consider the open source option too. The reason MathWorks sells cheaply to students and faculty is to grow demand at work when the students move onto gainful employment. (Yes, eventually you will graduate, I know it doesn't seem that way right now!)

Scilab is open source and binaries are available for download for free unices and for Windows. Source code is also available, of course.