Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Worlds Most Powerful Flashlight

The Torch created by Wicked Lasers is being reviewed by The Guinness Book of World Records as a candidate for the worlds most powerful flashlight. At 4100 Lumens, it is capable of melting plastic, igniting paper or even frying an egg. The Torch eats batteries for breakfast, they only last 15 minutes with this monster.

Here's some videos of it in action.


Monday, 28 January 2008

Weird Brain Trick

Try this little experiment, while sitting down (also works standing up), lift your right leg and start making clockwise circles with it. While doing this draw the number 6 in the air with your right hand. You will notice that your foot changes direction, you cant seem to control it either. Weird.


Scientists Create Synthetic Genome

Scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute have managed to create the worlds first synthetic genome. It was bound to happen sooner or later, but I am surprised at how quickly things have progressed. The next step is the creation of a fully synthetic life form.

They have achieved this feat using yeast to stitch together strands of DNA belonging to a bacteria known as Mycoplasma genitalium.

The scientists plan to insert the new synthetic DNA into a host cell and make it produce new synthetic cells. They have already successfully demonstrated the transplanting of DNA from one bacteria to another. This is a little bit like changing the operating system in a computer and rebooting it, effectively changing the cells identity.

The aim of the research is to determine the smallest number of genes needed for life. Once they have created a synthetic bacteria, they can begin stripping off genes to determine which are essential for life.

Eventually, the scientists hope to be able to create organisms which can do things such as produce bio-fuels or clean up toxic waste.

This new technology has the potential to be hugely beneficial but also poses big risks. Rest assured there isn't going to be outbreaks of new man-made super viruses any time soon.

J. Craig Venter Institute

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Linux Kernel 2.6.24 Released

The latest version of the Linux kernel has some very cool features, 2.6.24 includes CPU "group scheduling", memory fragmentation avoidance, tickless support for x86-64/ppc and other architectures, many new wireless drivers and a new wireless configuration interface, SPI/SDIO MMC support, USB authorization, per-device dirty memory thresholds, support for PID and network namespaces, support for static probe markers, read-only bind mounts, SELinux performance improvements, SATA link power management and port multiplier support, Large Receive Offload in network devices, memory hot-remove support, a new framework for controlling the idle processor power management, CIFS ACLs support, many new drivers and many other features and fixes. Here is a list of some of the cool features of this release.For a more detailed list of changes check out the link below.


Friday, 25 January 2008

We Hold These Truths to be Self-evident

Mathematical proof is the closest thing you can get to absolute certainty. The idea of mathematically proving something seemed alien to me when I first encountered it. I was amazed that no amount of brute force can invalidate a mathematical truth. It doesn't depend on the amount of evidence in support of it like physics for example. Take Golbach's conjecture, which states that every even number greater than 2 can be expressed as a sum of two primes, has been verified for hundreds of trillions of numbers but that still does not prove the conjecture to be true since there are infinitely many numbers. A proof must demonstrate that a proposition is true in all cases to which it applies, without a single exception. One of my favourite proofs is Georg Cantor's demonstration that there is a whole hierarchy of infinities, a mind boggling idea.
There are a lot of ways to prove things, here I have listed some of the methods mathematicians use.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Ubuntu Tweak

There are a lot of things that you can configure and customise in Ubuntu, unless you know your way around Linux, you have to spend time searching the net to find out how to tweak and configure certain things. I can remember when I first started using Ubuntu I spent a lot of time searching around for simple things like how to put the deleted items folder on the desktop. If you have used windows, you may have come across TweakXP or TweakVista, well now there's something similar for Ubuntu. Ubuntu Tweak tries to collect some of the useful tweaks and configs in one place. This little time-saving app is great for people who are new to Ubuntu. Here's some of the things it can do:
  • View of Basic System Information(Distribution, Kernel, CPU, Memory, etc.)
  • GNOME Session Control
  • Show/Hide and Change Splash screen
  • Show/Hide desktop icons or Mounted Volumes
  • Show/Hide/Rename Computer, Home, Trash icon or Network icon
  • Tweak Metacity Window Manager’s Style and Behavior
  • Compiz Fusion settings, Screen Edge Settings, Window Effects Settings, Menu Effect Settins
  • GNOME Panel Settings
  • Nautilus Settings
  • Advanced Power Management Settings
  • System Security Settings

Update: The software is now at version 0.3.5 and has many new improvements in the interface and support for more third party apps.

Ubuntu Tweak

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Elisa: Ubuntu Media Centre

The Ubuntu Media Centre Team have decided to use Elisa as their core infrastructure to push the free software media centre effort forward. Elisa is a open source cross-platform media centre, designed to be as simple to use as possible. The software is in its early days and so is still quite basic in terms of features found in other media centre solutions. However, the project is gaining momentum and is improving rapidly. Here's a list of some of its features.
  • Elisa supports a wide range for media formats through the use of the GStreamer multimedia framework, including but not limited to Ogg Vorbis, Ogg Theora, Matroska, MPEG 2, MPEG4, Quicktime and Windows Media. Commercially licensed plugins that work with GStreamer and Elisa are available from Fluendo.
  • Elisa supports playing both local music files and web radio stations. So if your media center is connected to your hi-fi system you can use it as a web radio tuner or you can use it as a jukebox for your own music files.
  • Elisa supports any remote control supported by the linux infrared control project, this includes many of the most popular infrared remote controls out there.
  • Elisa can view photos and images in all the most common formats used like jpeg and png. Elisa can also do simple manipulation of the photos like rotating photos that are taken in portrait mode.
  • Elisa supports playing back DVD’s
  • Elisa is cross platform allowing you to install it on both GNU/Linux and Unix systems, but also on Windows systems.
  • Elisa supports DLNA compliant upnp multimedia devices. This means photos, music and videos shared from such devices are available in Elisa. Elisa is also able to share its own files to upnp enabled devices.
  • Elisa can act as a DAAP client so as to browse and play music files shared on the network by iTunes, Banshee or Rhythmbox
  • Elisa is also able to browse and display pictures shared on Flickr

Here's some screenshots of it in action.

Here's some planned features to make Elisa a fully fledged media centre solution.

  • Full TV viewing and PVR capabilities, including features such as time- shifting
  • Full integration and compliance with Intel’s ViiV devices
  • Trick mode support, both client and serverside. Offering features such as fast forward, slow motion and reverse playback.
  • DAAP music sharing support for iTunes, Banshee and Rhythmbox integration.
  • Videoconferencing and Voice over IP. We will add support for videoconferencing and voice over IP to Elisa.
  • Elisa is a very flexible and themable system. We expect a wide range of user developed plug-ins to be available for it allowing people to add features to their hearts desire.
Update: A new version is available, Elisa 0.33 includes some of the following additions:
  • Important improvements of mouse support in the interface
  • Playback from DAAP shares support (iTunes, Rhythmbox, etc.)
  • New YouTube plugin
  • Coloured and synchronised visualisation when playing music
  • Faster startup and more efficient memory usage
  • Better detection of media thanks to GStreamer
  • Simple playlist support

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Ron Paul Owns Fox 'News'

Fox 'news' never ceases to amaze me, I find it incredible that they're allowed to broadcast at all. They are nothing more than a propaganda machine for the extremists in the Republican party.


Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Adsense Code in Post Page Blogger

I have found a way to display my adsense ads on my posts while your viewing the individual post page and not when your on the home page. As you may know blogger doesn't give you control of the template for each page, I have found a very simple way around this. Before I show you how, I want you to go over to Tips for New Bloggers, there you'll learn how to actually put ads on your posts. Once you have your code simply add the following two red lines and your done.

<b:if cond='data:blog.pageType == "item"'>
Your code here


As you can see it's working fine on my site, let me know if it works for you.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

KDE 4 Screenshots

I have never been a big fan of KDE ever since I first used it in openSuse. I used to think it was childish and a bit all over the place. However, KDE have redesigned everything for version 4 and from what I've seen so far it looks beautiful. It will come with a new icon set called oxygen and a new user interface dubbed plasma. Plasma also comes with a widget engine. KDE is not just getting a new facelift but is being designed to run faster, use less memory and be more efficient overall. Here's some screenshots of it.


Saturday, 5 January 2008

Installing Software from Source in Ubuntu

Have you ever come across software that doesn't have a deb file or isn't in any repositories? Well don't be put off, because compiling and installing from source is pretty straightforward. The software packages will either be in tar.gz or tar.bz2 form. There are essentially four steps you need to take to install your software. For this example I will be using pkg as the package name and me as my username, so just replace these two. Open up your terminal and follow the steps below.


You can download the package to anywhere you want, I'm going to be using /home/me. If your software package ends with .tar.gz use this command:

tar xvzf pkg.tar.gz

Or, if it ends in tar.bz2 use this:

tar xvjf pkg.tar.bz2

Now your software is unpacked and is stored in a newly created folder in the same directory you stored the software package e.g /home/me/pkg. We need to cd into that folder using this command:

cd pkg

The following should work for most cases. if it doesn't you should consult the README or help file for the correct command.


Hopefully that will configure without any errors so you can move to the next step.

If you have successfully configured it, there should be a MAKEFILE created. You use this file to build using the following command.


Finally use the following to finish installation. You will be prompted for your password.

sudo make install

During the installation process there are some files created, after installation they are useless and you can safely delete them using this command :

make clean

To uninstall you will need the makefile and this command:

make uninstall

Now your software should be installed and ready to use. For a safer way to install from source have a look at checkinstall, which lets you create .deb files from your source packages. This allows you to uninstall using synaptic and is also better for when upgrading to a newer version of Ubuntu.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Million Dollar Problems

In year 2000, at a meeting in Paris, the Clay Mathematics Institute (CMI) announced that seven $1 million prizes were being offered for the solutions to seven problems in mathematics. A hundred years earlier in the same city, David Hilbert announced a list of 23 problems to drive forward mathematics into the new century. Here is the introductory speech that Hilbert gave at the International Congress of Mathematicians:

Who among us would not be happy to lift the veil behind which is hidden the future; to gaze at the coming developments of our science and at the secrets of its development in the centuries to come? What will be the ends toward which the spirit of future generations of mathematicians will tend? What methods, what new facts will the new century reveal in the vast and rich field of mathematical thought?

The problems had a tremendous influence in 19th century mathematics and it is hoped that this announcement by the CMI will do the same for this century.

Some of Hilbert's problems were solved, some are still unresolved or inconclusive and one is in this new list. Known as the millennium prize problems, they were chosen by a panel of international mathematicians, among them was Sir Andrew Wiles, who solved Fermat's last theorem.

So what are the problems? Here in no particular order is the list with a brief description provided by the CMI.

Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer Conjecture

Mathematicians have always been fascinated by the problem of describing all solutions in whole numbers x,y,z to algebraic equations like

x2 + y2 = z2

Euclid gave the complete solution for that equation, but for more complicated equations this becomes extremely difficult. Indeed, in 1970 Yu. V. Matiyasevich showed that Hilbert's tenth problem is unsolvable, i.e., there is no general method for determining when such equations have a solution in whole numbers. But in special cases one can hope to say something. When the solutions are the points of an abelian variety, the Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture asserts that the size of the group of rational points is related to the behavior of an associated zeta function ζ(s) near the point s=1. In particular this amazing conjecture asserts that if ζ(1) is equal to 0, then there are an infinite number of rational points (solutions), and conversely, if ζ(1) is not equal to 0, then there is only a finite number of such points.

Hodge Conjecture

In the twentieth century mathematicians discovered powerful ways to investigate the shapes of complicated objects. The basic idea is to ask to what extent we can approximate the shape of a given object by gluing together simple geometric building blocks of increasing dimension. This technique turned out to be so useful that it got generalized in many different ways, eventually leading to powerful tools that enabled mathematicians to make great progress in cataloging the variety of objects they encountered in their investigations. Unfortunately, the geometric origins of the procedure became obscured in this generalization. In some sense it was necessary to add pieces that did not have any geometric interpretation. The Hodge conjecture asserts that for particularly nice types of spaces called projective algebraic varieties, the pieces called Hodge cycles are actually (rational linear) combinations of geometric pieces called algebraic cycles.

Navier-Stokes Equation

Waves follow our boat as we meander across the lake, and turbulent air currents follow our flight in a modern jet. Mathematicians and physicists believe that an explanation for and the prediction of both the breeze and the turbulence can be found through an understanding of solutions to the Navier-Stokes equations. Although these equations were written down in the 19th Century, our understanding of them remains minimal. The challenge is to make substantial progress toward a mathematical theory which will unlock the secrets hidden in the Navier-Stokes equations.

P vs NP Problem

Suppose that you are organizing housing accommodations for a group of four hundred university students. Space is limited and only one hundred of the students will receive places in the dormitory. To complicate matters, the Dean has provided you with a list of pairs of incompatible students, and requested that no pair from this list appear in your final choice. This is an example of what computer scientists call an NP-problem, since it is easy to check if a given choice of one hundred students proposed by a coworker is satisfactory (i.e., no pair taken from your coworker's list also appears on the list from the Dean's office), however the task of generating such a list from scratch seems to be so hard as to be completely impractical. Indeed, the total number of ways of choosing one hundred students from the four hundred applicants is greater than the number of atoms in the known universe! Thus no future civilization could ever hope to build a supercomputer capable of solving the problem by brute force; that is, by checking every possible combination of 100 students. However, this apparent difficulty may only reflect the lack of ingenuity of your programmer. In fact, one of the outstanding problems in computer science is determining whether questions exist whose answer can be quickly checked, but which require an impossibly long time to solve by any direct procedure. Problems like the one listed above certainly seem to be of this kind, but so far no one has managed to prove that any of them really are so hard as they appear, i.e., that there really is no feasible way to generate an answer with the help of a computer. Stephen Cook and Leonid Levin formulated the P (i.e., easy to find) versus NP (i.e., easy to check) problem independently in 1971.

Poincare Conjecture

This believed to have been solved by Dr Grigori Perelman, here is the description.
If we stretch a rubber band around the surface of an apple, then we can shrink it down to a point by moving it slowly, without tearing it and without allowing it to leave the surface. On the other hand, if we imagine that the same rubber band has somehow been stretched in the appropriate direction around a doughnut, then there is no way of shrinking it to a point without breaking either the rubber band or the doughnut. We say the surface of the apple is "simply connected," but that the surface of the doughnut is not. Poincaré, almost a hundred years ago, knew that a two dimensional sphere is essentially characterized by this property of simple connectivity, and asked the corresponding question for the three dimensional sphere (the set of points in four dimensional space at unit distance from the origin). This question turned out to be extraordinarily difficult, and mathematicians have been struggling with it ever since.

Riemann Hypothesis

Probably the most famous unsolved problem in mathematics, this was also in Hilbert's list. Some numbers have the special property that they cannot be expressed as the product of two smaller numbers, e.g., 2, 3, 5, 7, etc. Such numbers are called prime numbers, and they play an important role, both in pure mathematics and its applications. The distribution of such prime numbers among all natural numbers does not follow any regular pattern, however the German mathematician G.F.B. Riemann (1826 - 1866) observed that the frequency of prime numbers is very closely related to the behavior of an elaborate function

ζ(s) = 1 + 1/2s + 1/3s + 1/4s + ...

called the Riemann Zeta function. The Riemann hypothesis asserts that all interesting solutions of the equation

ζ(s) = 0

lie on a certain vertical straight line. This has been checked for the first 1,500,000,000 solutions. A proof that it is true for every interesting solution would shed light on many of the mysteries surrounding the distribution of prime numbers.

Yang-Mills Theory

The laws of quantum physics stand to the world of elementary particles in the way that Newton's laws of classical mechanics stand to the macroscopic world. Almost half a century ago, Yang and Mills introduced a remarkable new framework to describe elementary particles using structures that also occur in geometry. Quantum Yang-Mills theory is now the foundation of most of elementary particle theory, and its predictions have been tested at many experimental laboratories, but its mathematical foundation is still unclear. The successful use of Yang-Mills theory to describe the strong interactions of elementary particles depends on a subtle quantum mechanical property called the "mass gap:" the quantum particles have positive masses, even though the classical waves travel at the speed of light. This property has been discovered by physicists from experiment and confirmed by computer simulations, but it still has not been understood from a theoretical point of view. Progress in establishing the existence of the Yang-Mills theory and a mass gap and will require the introduction of fundamental new ideas both in physics and in mathematics.

The Clay Mathematics Institute
Great maths puzzle 'solved' - BBC News

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Metal Foam with Memory

Researchers at the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) have developed a porous foam made out of an alloy that can return to it's original shape after being deformed by physical of magnetic force. The material known as "magnetic shape-memory foams" consists of a nickel-manganese-gallium alloy. The material can deform up to 10 percent under a magnetic field, it retains the shape after the field has been turned off but returns to its original form when a 90 degree rotated magnetic field is applied. The phenomena is known as magnetic shape-memory. The technology has many applications ranging from biomedical pumps to uses in space and in cars.


Hardy Heron Features

The roadmap for hardy heron has a pretty big list of features, most of them, although very important, are technical and a bit uninteresting. Some of them should have been in Gutsy but couldn't meet the schedule. Hardy Heron is going to be a Long Term Support release, so there's also going to be a lot of fixes for existing features. So without further ado, the features which I'm anticipating the most are.

Install on an existing filesystem without overwriting /home
When I moved from feisty to gutsy, I decided to do a fresh install. One of the things I had to do was back up my home folder, and when I finished installing gutsy I just copied it back onto my computer. This new feature will allow people to install the new version of Ubuntu without it overwriting their home folder.I'm sure this will come in very handy for people who like trying out different distro's.

Hardy Hardware Detection
This is more of a bug fix than a new feature. Gutsy already has excellent hardware support and the plan for hardy is even better and more robust detection of hardware. Sounds good to me.

GDM Face Browser
One of the changes I made to my gutsy is the GDM. I replaced the old one with something that allows me to just click on a picture of my username and login. This will hopefully be the default for hardy.

Auto Detection of Monitor Frequency
While I was testing gutsy beta I had to manually configure xorg.conf to get it to the right resolution. It wasn't fun. This should be a thing of the past with hardy as it will automatically detect everything for you. Huzzah!

Apt Authentication Reliability
Have you ever had an update fail for no reason? Well it actually fails because of 'transient network failures'. The aim is to make hardy more robust against these errors.

Redesign Restricted-Manager Code
They want to expand the role of the restricted manager and change it so that other distro's can share the joy.

Handling Full Disks

I've never had this problem with Ubuntu, but if your disk gets full, things can get quite ugly. They plan to add a notification and disk clean-up tool when your running low on space.

Desktop Effects
Make compiz fusion more robust and easier to use.

New Theme
Hardy Heron will be getting a shiny new theme, I hope they move away from the brown theme and choose something lighter and more fresh.

Easy File Sharing
To allow people to easily share files over a network. Not more I can say about this.

Dual/Multi Monitor Support
Currently you have to manually tweak Ubuntu if you want to use more than one monitor. They want to fix this for hardy.

Integrate Prefetch into Ubuntu
I noticed a slightly increased start up time in gutsy compared to feisty. Hardy will use file prefetch and other optimisations to speed up boot time.

Automatix-Ubuntu Team Collaboration
Automatix was extremely helpful for me in feisty. Although I don't use it in gutsy, its good that they are collaborating with the automatix team.

Single Click Install
Installing software is already pretty straightforward in Ubuntu. They want to make it even easier to install third party applications. I'm not complaining.

Apparmor Integration
This is already a part of gutsy, the plan is to increase integration to make Ubuntu even safer.

Make it easier for users to configure their firewall.

Third Party Apt
Now when you install third party apps, you have to manually add the software repository to the sources.list. This spec makes it easy for users to install third party software and have it update automatically.

Revamped Logout Screen
They want to streamline the options you have when you click that big red button, to make things less confusing.

Better Integrated Wine
Better Wine will make it easier for Windows users to convert, thus helping to solve bug #1.

Xorg 7.3
This is one of the features that missed the gutsy deadline. This should make manual configuration of xorg.conf obsolete. Another much anticipated feature is Bullet Proof X, which will go into a graphical safe mode if anything goes wrong with X.

Slick Boot
To improve the boot and shutdown process and also make the things look nicer.

So that's my list, if there's any other features which interest you let me know.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Nokia Iphone

I found this video on youtube showing a Nokia phone which looks a lot like the iphone. If this is real it will most likely have the new Symbian OS. This device will apparently be released sometime this year.

Deleted Items Icon on Desktop

With Ubuntu you get the trash bin icon on the panel as default. I personally like it on the desktop, here's how to put it there. First press Alt F2 to bring up the run application window. Then type in gconf-editor and click run.

This will bring up the configuration editor window. Now using the folders on the left, navigate to Apps>Nautilus>Desktop and then put a check on 'trash_icon_visible' box. Close the editor, you should now have the Deleted items icon on your desktop.