Thursday, 28 February 2008

Google Android Handset with Street View

Here is a video of a demonstration handset showing what android can do. The device is a 3G phone running on a 300MHz processor. Applications seem to load pretty fast and the browser looks really responsive. There is a demo of Quake to show the 3-D capabilities. This is also the first time that Google's street view has been shown on a mobile device with zooming and panning capability just like the desktop version. Android is still in the early stages of development but it seems to be coming along quite nicely. Check out the video.

Ubuntu Brainstorm

Ubuntu have launched a new site which allows users to suggest new features/improvements for ubuntu and also to vote on other peoples ideas. Ubuntu Brainstorm will give the community more power to control the future direction of Ubuntu and allow developers to focus on the most pressing issues affecting users.

Its quite similar to, if you like a particular idea you can vote it up, giving the idea a higher position in the list and a higher priority for the developers.

An idea in brainstorm can easily be linked to Launchpad to create new blueprints or bug reports.

The site was inspired by Dells's IdeaStorm. As you may know that it was ideastorm that led Dell to distribute Ubuntu with some of their products.

I think this is a good thing as it will bring the community and the developers closer together, which will hopefully result in a better and more popular Ubuntu.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Large Hadron Collider

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), currently under construction on the Franco-Swiss border, will be the largest and most powerful particle accelerator ever built. More than 80 countries are involved in this mammoth project. It will usher particle physics into the terascale era, reaching energies above 1 TeV or a trillion electron volts. It is hoped the LHC will shed some light on some of the biggest mysteries in particle physics.

The LHC is a 27km circular tunnel located 100 metres under ground. Protons will be sent hurtling down this tunnel at almost the speed of light. The beams of protons will then smash together, 30 million times a second, spewing out thousands of exotic particles. Among those, physicists hope to find the elusive Higgs boson. This hypothetical particle is believed to give other particles mass. According to theory, the universe is filled with something called the Higgs field, disturbances in this field as particles move through it cause objects to have mass. It is the only Standard Model particle not yet observed. The discovery of the Higgs boson may help explain the the gravitational force is so weak compared to the other forces and it would also be a significant step in the search for a Grand Unified Theory.

Other important areas of research include:
One of the most interesting sections of the wikipedia article on the LHS is about the safety concerns. One of those concerns is about micro black holes, some extensions of the Standard Model predict that the LHC will be able to create micro black holes. Now, according to the Standard Model these black holes should decay away very rapidly due to Hawking radiation, however Hawking radiation is still debated among physicist and it is not yet experimentally verified. So it is possible that these tiny black holes accumulate and eventually devour the earth. The other concern is strangelets. These are hypothetical form of matter that is more stable than normal matter. If strangelet come into contact with the earth (or any other matter) it can convert that normal matter into strange matter.

I would not lose any sleep over these concerns if I were you. We already know that cosmic rays can have energies greater than 1020 eV, far larger than anything the LHC can produce, and we have yet to detect any strangelets or black holes appearing from nowhere. There is a far greater probability of you dying from putting your pants on than any strangelet.

The LHC is expected to start operation in May 2008.


Convert IMG to ISO in Ubuntu

I downloaded a file the other day thinking it was in the .iso format, but it turned it to be .img file instead. I couldn't find any programs that recognised it. I was about to delete the file when I came across some commands that can convert img, nrg and mdf to iso format for easy burning.

First thing I did was to install the commands.

sudo aptitude install nrg2iso ccd2iso mdf2iso

Then you can use the following simple commands for converting to iso. Make sure you are in the same directory as the file you're converting,

For img to iso:
ccd2iso file.img file.iso

For mdf to iso:
mdf2iso file.mdf file.iso

For nrg to iso:
nrg2iso file.nrg file.iso

Once you have converted your file you can easily create an image disk using K3b or GnomeBaker.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Blogger Custom Domain Web Forwarding

I have had my custom domain for a while now, however it is only recently that I figured out how to set up web forwarding so that anyone who types in without the "www" will be forwarded to I am not the only one who has had difficulty doing this, Google groups is filled with people asking about web forwarding, most probably posted by me.

I bought my domain from and their web forwarding system is not the most intuitive process. I emailed 123-reg three times before giving up and experimenting with different settings myself. The only problem with doing this is that it takes about 24 hours for you to find out if your new settings are working or not.

The reason it took me this long is because I was a bit nervous about messing around with DNS settings. My first attempt resulted in the site going offline for three days. I haven't been very active with the blogging for over a week now so I decided to experiment with the DNS settings again and luckily I managed to get things working.

So here's how I did it:


Under Settings>Publishing I have the following:


Under Manage DNS I have:

Name    Type      Content
@             A   
WWW        CNAME

You should have a different IP address for your 'A' record, to find out just reset your DNS settings. Hope that helps someone.

Monday, 18 February 2008


Could this be the long awaited phone/PSP hybrid? I really hope this is real because it just look so cool.

Now if you'll excuse me I'm gonna wipe the drool off my face.

Edit: Aah nuts, it turns out this is actually fake. Its a mock-up from an issue of Stuff magazine. Oh well, I knew it was too good to be true.


Tuesday, 12 February 2008

The Scandal Behind the "Scandal of Scientology"

If you have ever doubted how vicous and evil Scientology is, then continue reading the incredible story of Paulette Cooper.

The Scandal behind "The Scandal of Scientology"
By Paulette Cooper

You may not believe this, but you can write something that some group doesn't approve of and then have a quarter of your life almost ruined. I know because it happened to me.

I haven't previously written about this from beginning to end because it’s still painful, but here goes. In 1968 I was a struggling New York freelance writer, searching for an investigative story that would make a difference. I was already used to controversy -- and publicity -- when a year earlier I had successfully stowed away on an ocean liner and wrote an article (and sold movie rights) about it that had appeared all over the world.

But when I next decided to expose a then relatively unknown organization called Scientology (and the related Dianetics) I ended up falsely arrested and facing 15 years in jail, had 19 lawsuits filed against me all over the world by Scientology, was the almost victim of a near murder, was the subject of 5 disgusting anonymous smear letters sent to my family and neighbors about me, and endured constant and continual harassment for almost 15 years.

I had obtained a master’s degree in psychology and had studied comparative religion at Harvard for a summer. So I became interested in researching a newly-popular quasi-religious mental-health cult founded by science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard. I started by writing an article exposing Scientology for the British Harper/Queen, (now Harper's Bazaar) and expanded this into a book.

In it, among other things, I stated that the crux of Scientology their e-meter which they say acts like a lie detector produced questionable results; that Hubbard had lied about his credentials; that Charles Manson had called himself a Scientologist; that some auditors had behaved improperly toward their "parishioners"; that some who left may have feared being blackmailed; that some defectors claimed that they had been psychologically damaged by Scientology, financially ripped-off, and/or harassed when they tried to leave or speak out. I got used to telephone death threats, harassing calls -- and lawsuits.

I was followed, and people seemed to be trying to gain access to my apartment. Then, in the basement of my small building, I discovered alligator clips on my phone wires likely the remnants of a phone tap.

Next, my cousin who was also short and slim like me-- was& in my apartment alone when a man arrived with a “flower delivery" for me. When she opened the door, the intruder pulled a gun out of the flowers and put it to her temple. Fortunately, the gun jammed, misfired or was empty. The man then began to choke her, and when she pulled away and screamed, he ran off. The police said afterward that they were mystified, because there appeared to be no motive for the attack.

I quickly moved to a safer doorman building. But soon afterwards, 300 of my new neighbors received an anonymous smear letter about me, outrageously describing me as a part-time prostitute with VD!

Then, a few weeks later, I received a visit from a pompous FBI agent named Bruce Brotman. He said the spokesman for the Church of Scientology in New York, James Meisler, claimed to have received 2 anonymous bomb threats and named me as a likely suspect.

I didn't take it seriously until I was called to appear before a federal grand jury--and was shocked to learn that I was the target (suspect). I had to hire a top law firm (I chose one headed by Charles Stillman) who required a $5,000 retainer on my meager freelance income. Little did I realize that they would ultimately cost me $28,000 (like $75,000 today) and they would unsuccessfully sue me after the case was over for even more money!

Even worse, during the grand jury, the prosecutor, John D. Gordon III, told me that if this Grand Jury decided that I had sent Scientology the 2 bomb threats, I faced 5 years in jail for each letter, 5 more for perjury for denying it, and $15,000 in fines.

He showed me the letters, and I truthfully testified that I had never touched or seen them before. Then Gordon dropped the real bomb. “Then how did your fingerprint get on one of them?” he asked.

I was so shocked I think I momentarily lost consciousness because the room turned upside down. I then rightly explained that Scientology could have obtained a blank piece of paper that I had touched, and typed threats on it afterwards.

But Gordon was unconvinced. On May 9th, 1973, I was indicted on all 3 three counts by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. And 10 days later I was arrested, released on my own recognizance, and forbidden to leave the state without the court's permission.

For months, my anxiety was so terrible I could taste it in my throat. I was in a total panic. I could barely write, and my bills, especially legal ones, kept mounting. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I smoked 4 packs of cigarettes a day, popped Valium like M&Ms, and drank too much vodka.

I worried obsessively about the possibility of going to jail. And also about my career. I had been doing extremely well. I had 4 books out and I wasn't yet 30. But once these accusations came out at trial, what editor would give an assignment to a writer believed to have sent bomb threats to the people she wrote about? I had wanted to be a writer since I was 8 years old, and my dream life was about to be over.

I was also very concerned about my parents. They had adopted me from an orphanage in Belgium when I was 6, and I had always tried to make them proud of me. However, I knew they would soon be humiliated when the trial started.

The sexual revolution was going on then, and young people were also experimenting with pot, considering horrifying by adults (and jurors no doubt!) in those days. As a single photogenic woman involved in a bizarre case, I knew I would become a page 1 scandal for the tabloids during the anticipated 3-week trial.

I tried desperately to prevent a trial. I made a writing barter arrangement with a private investigator, Anthony Pellicano the same one in jail and in the news now -- but he did nothing. I also volunteered to take lie-detector tests to prove my innocence. But they returned contradictory and inconclusive results, although not surprisingly, they did show me to be highly stressed.

My state of mind got worse when the man I had been dating for a year and planned to marry, a lawyer named Bob Straus, left me. Most of my friends also stopped calling because I was so obsessed with the horrors that were happening that it was all I could talk (or think) about.

On July 26th on my 30th birthday, I decided to end it. Fortunately, an editor friend at the New York Times stuck by me and called me. She kept me on the phone for hours to stop me from continuing to take the entire bottle of Valium I admitted that I had started to take that evening.

Another loyal friend was a new one, a short smiling redhead named Jerry Levin. He was sympathetic to what was going on and moved in with me late that summer. Since I was too depressed to go out much, he did my errands and walked my dog Tiki while I compulsively watched the Watergate hearings.

Occasionally, he would persuade me to go up to the rooftop pool with him at night when no one was there. He was a gutsy guy, and he would leap up to the 33-story high ledge and try to get me to join him. “You have to be brave if you’re going to take on those bastards,” he'd say. But I huddled below, a shadow of my former adventurous self.

Toward the beginning of September, I was in such a bad state that I even became slightly suspicious of him. When I questioned him, he turned on me, berating me for not even being able to trust my closest friend any more. Then he too walked out of my life, leaving me alone to face the trial.

The court date, October 31, 1973, was approaching when, a Professor and researcher from Scotland, Dr. Roy Wallis, came to interview me. Earlier, he had interviewed others who had left Scientology. including L Ron Hubbard Jr., the son of the founder who I suspected was involved in my frame-up.

Boastfully, the son gave Roy a letter he wrote to his father, saying he could "bring the enemy to their [sic] knees” - -- and he suddenly purchased an expensive house right after I was indicted. Roy brought this and other information he had gathered on Scientology's dirty tricks to Gordon, who had a growing file I had also given him on Scientology’s “fair game law”: That stated that an “‘enemy’ of Scientology” such as me ”May be injured by any means by any Scientologist May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed..”

But no prosecutor wants to give up a high publicity case. So I started searching for a doctor to give me a truth-serum test. After months of barely eating, I had gone down to only 83 pounds, and my health had deteriorated from the stress. Doctors refused me, saying I could die from the anesthesia. But I didn't care. I had decided to kill myself right before the trial rather than humiliate my parents (and myself) once the news stories came out.

Finally, a neurologist, Dr. David Coddon of Mount Sinai Hospital, agreed, and after several hours of questioning me while I was out, he was so convinced I was innocent, that he said not only would he testify for me, but he would chain himself to the courthouse steps if they proceeded with this case. (Just what I needed; more publicity!)

On Halloween day, 1973, the government postponed -- and ultimately canceled -- the trial, agreeing to file a nolle prosequi. I went into therapy for a year, and the depression lifted somewhat. But the threat of a trial and scandalous publicity remained over my head, because the government could still try me, and the press could still discover that I had been arrested for sending bomb threats and ruin me.

So for four long years, I was bitter--and broke--feeling that everything I had done was right and it had all come out so wrong. Strangers from all over the world continued to call me for help on Scientology, unaware of what I had just gone though. Since no one else was doing anything or speaking out against them, I continued to try to help Scientology's many victims (free), including those they were suing or who were suing them.

So the Scientologists therefore kept suing following and harassing me.As one example, when they found out I had seen a shrink, they broke into his offices and stole my records to find out what I had said during therapy--then sent excerpts of what I had said about them to my friends and parents. Nice, eh?

And then in July of 1977, I was shocked -- and thrilled to read front-page stories in the Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and in fact news papers all over the world stating that documents had just been seized from inside Scientology revealing that they had once framed a writer critical of them -- me.

It seems the FBI had raided 3 Scientology offices and seized their internal memos and “dirty trick” papers. I was so happy; at last I would be able to prove my innocence, which had become an obsession with me. But it took me 4 more frustrating years (during which time they sent more lawyers and unscrupulous private investigators against me ) before I at last saw those documents.

And then I spent 3 months in Washington D.C., reading all the nasty stuff they had done not only to me but to anyone who had ever said or done anything against Scientology. As I later told Mike Wallace when I was on 60 Minutes discussing the frame-up: "Scientology turned out to be worse than anything I ever said or even imagined."

For example, one series of documents dated 1976 was a plot of theirs against me called "Operation Freakout." to get me "incarcerated in a mental institution or jail or at least to hit her so hard that she drops her attacks” on Scientology. It seems that after the first frame-up--a plot they apparently called "Operation Dynamite"--had failed to imprison (or silence) me, they plotted again to make it look like I was making bomb threats against them and others with fake threats sounding eerily like the '72 ones.

Mysteriously, there was also an anonymous diary someone wrote of what I did each day during the “frame-up” period, and how close I was to suicide. “Wouldn't that be great for Scientology?” the person wrote.

And then I realized the writer could only have been Jerry Levin. He must have been a Scientologist whom they sent to spy on me and help Scientology set me up. He and his friends, Paula Tyler and a woman calling herself Margie Shepherd (who may be Linda Kramer from Boston, who married and may be Linda Kobern), had been in and out of my old apartment back when the threats were sent. And they had access to paper on which Scientology could have obtained my fingerprint and then typed the threats.

Even now I still wonder: why did Jerry want me to go up on that ledge with him? If he had pushed me over, everyone would have simply assumed that in my depressed state of mind, and rather than face a trial, I had committed suicide. Operation Freakout indeed.

A new grand jury in New York spent 3 years investigating my frame-up. Alas, the case went nowhere because the Scientologists refused to talk about what they knew about the frame-up. One, a Charles Batdorf, was even jailed for months for refusal to speak but still wouldn't talk.

Indirectly, through the lawyer who handled this settlement, I became reacquainted with Paul Noble, a New York TV producer, whom I had dated in my 20's, long before this all happened and we have been very happily married for 19 years now. I went on to write 11 more books, win 6 writing awards (including 2 for "The Scandal of Scientology,") do some travel writing, and have a newspaper column on pets. True, it's not as "glamorous" as the investigative reporting I did with Scientology, but at least dogs don’t harass and cats don’t sue.

I also quit smoking, barely drink, and try to forget what happened. Try. But when I see the news, or my e-mail, I’m often reminded of the years of torment I endured. Whenever I hear about litigation,or depositions, I remember the years (and money) I spent fighting the 19 lawsuits they filed against me from all over the world that I had to defend--not to mention that I was subjected to 50 days of depositions.

Or I read about something like prosecutor Nifong's going after the innocent Duke soccer players and I am reminded of what it was like for an innocent person to be prosecuted. Me. Or someone will send me inside information from a higher-up who left, like the affidavit from Margie Wakefield swearing that: "The second murder that I heard planned was of Paulette Cooper, who had written a book critical of Scientology, and they were planning to shoot her”.

Other names keep bringing me back as well. My useless private investigator, Anthony Pellicano, is all over the news. My former attorney Charles Stillman often defends high-publicity clients. like the Reverend Moon. Bob Straus, the boyfriend who left me, went on to head a large New York organization that investigates judges. John D. Gordon III is with the high profile law firm of Morgan Lewis.

Bruce Brotman retired from the FBI and I was pleased to read negative news stories that appeared about him. It seems he left the FBI and became head of security at an Airport and the local papers reported that he was fired when he refused to go through the security system, reportedly saying, “I make the rules.”

Dr. Roy Wallis committed suicide in 1990, blowing his brains out when his wife left him. Dr. David Coddon died in 2002. And while I’ve never heard further of James Meisler or Charles Batdorf, I heard that Jerry Levin which I'm sure waas not his real name is still a Scientologist.
Yes, I often wish I had never ever heard the word “Scientology,” But despite all that happened, I would still have done the same today, because no one else was speaking out or working to expose them then. I would not have been capable of remaining quiet because I learned too many scary things and talked to too many people who were being hurt to turn my back on them. Nowadays, thanks to the Internet, others are speaking out. And fortunately Scientology is not as litigious or vicious toward their critics. But if you think there's nothing bad happening to (former) members and/or critics, go read,, & for starters.


Saturday, 9 February 2008

Perpetual Idea

Thane Heins has an experimental set up consisting of a generator and magnets which seems to be defying the laws of physics. I should mention that the creator is being very careful not to label it as a perpetual motion machine.

Heins started with the idea of using magnets to improve power generators back in 1985, it wasn't until 2006 while tinkering with a particular set-up that he noticed the strange behaviour. What he did was to connect to the drive shaft of a electric motor a steel rotor with small round magnets lining its outer edges. He then placed a coil next to the magnets, effectively creating a small generator. To create some current he connected the coil to a load, like a light bulb for example. By overloading the generator he expected to see the motor slow down and eventually stop, however the exact opposite occurred, the motor started to accelerate.

The law of conservation of energy basically prevents perpetual motion machines from existing. The law states that the total energy in a system remains constant and that you cannot create of destroy energy but convert it from one form to another. One consequence of this is Lenz's law which applies to motors and generators. Lenz's law says that the currents induced in a coil will create its own magnetic field that will oppose the flux that created it. Think of it as a form of magnetic resistance, the higher it is the more power is required to maintain a constant motor speed.

Try to imagine what would happen if the field generated by the coil didn't oppose the magnetic flux creating it. As the north pole of a magnet approached the coil there would be a south pole induced in the near face of the coil. The attractive force between the two poles will accelerate the magnets approach, thus increasing the current induced which will further strengthen the field, increasing the attraction between the poles and accelerating the magnet, and so on. As you can see this is a runaway effect. This seems to be the exact thing happening with Heins setup.

Heins later realised that the steel rotor and driveshaft were conducting magnetic flux from the coil and transferring it back to the motor, he thinks that the back EMF is somehow boosting the field of the motor and so accelerating it.

You may have heard about an Irish company called Steorn which claimed to have created an over-unity device, they even planned to demonstrate it at the Kinentica Museum in London, however due to 'technical difficulties' they cancelled the demonstration. There have been many such claims in the past and it's a guarantee there will be more in the future.

As an electrical engineer I am highly sceptical of any such claims. Unfortunately I don't have the time or resources at the moment to investigate this further. I have found this video on youtube showing the thing in action.

Potential Difference Inc.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Deluge: BitTorrent Client

I have recently replaced uTorrent with Transmission as my BitTorrent client. However, although Transmission is very light and easy to use, it is a bit too basic and I miss some of the features found in uTorrent. I personally don't like running windows apps in Wine, I'd rather run a native application. While browsing the net, I came across a program which seems to meet all my specifications.

Deluge is a full-featured BitTorrent client which is available for Linux, Windows and Mac. It features a collection of plugins which provide most of the functionality of Deluge. One of its nicest features is encryption enabled as default. Here is an overview of Deluge's features.
  • Web UI
  • BitTorrent Protocol Encryption
  • Mainline DHT
  • Local Peer Discovery (aka LSD)
  • FAST protocol extension
  • ĀµTorrent Peer Exchange
  • UPnP and NAT-PMP
  • Proxy support
  • Web seed
  • Private Torrents
  • Global and per-torrent speed limits
  • Configurable bandwidth scheduler
  • Password protection
  • RSS
  • And much more!

You can grab a copy for yourself here

Sunday, 3 February 2008

SuperPi for Ubuntu

I have recently come across the Linux version of superpi. SuperPi is a popular program among the hardware and overclocking communities and is used to test the performance and stability of computers. It calculates the value of pi up to specified number of digits after the decimal point and displays your computers performance. You can get a copy from here

Once you've downloaded it just unpack and use the following command to run it.

./super_pi 20

Here's a screenshot of my results.

Try it for yourself and post your results in the comments.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Ubuntu Hardy Heron Alpha 4 Released

The latest test version of Ubuntu 8.04 was released earlier today. Alpha 4 includes some important new features. From now on you should be able to see significant differences between Gutsy and Hardy. Here's what's included in this release.

Xorg 7.3
The latest version of the X Window System includes better auto-configuration.

Linux kernel 2.6.24
The newest version of the Linux kernel is included, read more about it here.

PulseAudio is an advanced open source sound server, which can handle audio for all your devices and applications. Some of its cool features include changing the sample format or channel count and mixing several sounds into one.

With policyKit it is possible to fine tune user access privileges. The aim is to eliminate entire programs running with full root privileges. It will provide more security and flexibility to the end user. Follow the link to learn more about it.

Firefox 3 beta 2
Firefox 3 has been designed to run faster, lighter and have better integration with GNOME.

The current GNOME BitTorrent downloader will be replaced with the more popular Transmission client. I have recently replaced utorrent with this program.

The new Vinagre VNC client is installed by default in Alpha 4, replacing xvnc4viewer. Vinagre allows the user to view multiple machines simultaneously, can discover VNC servers on the network via Avahi, and can keep track of recently used and favorite connections.

This is a cd/dvd burning applictaion which will replace the current Serpentine audio cd burner.

World Clock Applet
Hardy will come with a new clock-calendar app that will not only show time from other locations in the world but will also display the weather forecast.

The new GVFS will replace the ageing GnomeVFS. GVFS will make it possible to fix shortcomings of Nautilus such as the inability to restore files from trash, pause and undo file operations, and make it possible to escalate user privileges for certain operations using PolicyKit for authentication. It also brings a significant performance boost to many operations.

Gnome System Monitor
The new system monitor comes with better looks and displays resource information more smoothly.

As you can see Hardy Heron is shaping up to be the best Version of Ubuntu yet and there's lots more features yet to be included. As always, this is a early test version and is aimed at the more knowledgeable users out there, you should expect some of the new features not to be fully functional yet.

Official Announcement

Friday, 1 February 2008

Barack Obama

Ever since Bush came into power I have viewed the American political system as a bit of a joke, there seems to be corruption and ineptness everywhere. You only have to look at people like Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and even Hillary Clinton to know what I mean. Some of the things they come out with beggars belief, it's like they'll say and do anything to win. You'd expect politics like this from some rogue third world country. Mind you, the politics over here in the UK isn't that great. However, there is one candidate that seems to be different from all the rest. Barack Obama appears to be above the petty politics of some of the others, he is brave enough to stand up against the corruption that has infested American politics. Obama is very popular in the internet and has been doing well in the recent polls. I have found these videos of him while surfing the tubes. The speeches are some of the most inspiring I have seen in a long time. Every country needs a candidate like him.

Barack Obama