May 2010 Archives

Sinister Facebook

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On Saturday a friend posted a link to on facebook.

Today I looked with my iPhone at my news feed, and his post no longer shows. It does show if I go to his wall. I can see older posts from other people in my news feed. If I was paranoid I'd suggest that facebook have subtly censored his post, but in a manner so that most people won't notice it.

As I am paranoid, that is exactly what I'm going to say!

Sore loosers

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Re-writing history is a time honoured tradition of military victors for many centuries. Take for example 'Australia Day', which is known in some aboriginal circles as 'Invasion Day', or the differences in tone of accounts of the Hiroshima bomb from Japanese sources and American sources. It seems this time though the loosers are trying to re-write history.

gnash has a config file!

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You don't run the adobe flash player on linux desktops. You run either gnash or swfdec. I'm using gnash. Whenever I visit a web page that has flash embedded in it, my CPU usage inevitably jumps up.

This wastes power, and shortens the battery life on my laptop. However if I've just learned that I can create a configfuration file called .gnashrc, and add the following line:
set StartStopped on

So now gnash will still be loaded, but all the flash objects will start paused. Which is great, I'm sure I won't miss the mostly annoying adds that use flash, and I'll enjoy doing my bit for the environment.

That is what I like about free software. It often works the way I want it to, not the way that a commercial company has decided is best for its partners.

Bit Flipping at work

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At work I deal with a variety of problems, and I currently have a long running issue that is kind of interesting.

The short version is that we have a subtle network problem with network connection between two buildings. This problem affects about 0.14% of the traffic that goes over the fibre optic link between those two buildings. We've got about about 20 buildings with network in them. This problem only shows up between two specific buildings.

The long version is quite interesting, but to understand it you need to know two things about how networks work.
  •  The idea of packets
  •  that information is sent as bits
Just like everyone else, at work we use an IP datagram network. Information is sent from your computer as packets of information, and is received as packets. If you load up the company web page, you might send about 110 packets requesting the page, and receive about 176 packets.

When those packets are sent over fibre optic links they are represented as bits, a sequence of '0' and '1' symbols. So if you were watching those symbols fly by you might see '110110011111100001101'. The computers and network switches know what all these 1's and 0's mean, and you get to see a web page.

Now, the problem! After noticing some small irregularities, and doing a great deal of investigation, I noticed that about 0.14% of the time a 1011 sequence of bits is changed to 1111. For some reason we don't understand, one of these bits gets flipped.  I don't know why. Just another problem to solve.

Growing up

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I think that as you grow older, you see things in a new light. You take in more information, you mature, and you consider somethings differently.

For at least the last 10 years I've said that I will never set foot in America. I didn't like how much influence American media had over Australian culture. I didn't like American foreign policy. I didn't like McDonald, or how they spell colour, or how by default my computer uses an American dictionary, how lists of countries have USA as the first entry and then every other country in alphabetical order, how there are websites that offer Arizona as a state for your address, even though you live in Australia.

But now that I'm all super grown up, I can get over all that, and go to DebConf10. It helps that work is paying for me to go.

Why am I telling you this? Because I know you want to give me a hard time about changing my mind. Yes you! How do I know you want to do this? I know because the same holds true for every single person I know. Which doesn't say that everyone I know is vindictive, it just reflects on how often I've said I'd never go to America.

So now that I've had my chance to explain myself, let the flames begin. I can take it. I've grown up.