Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Not the end of the world

I wish people who didn't know what they were talking about would just shut up about Large Hadron Collider (LHC) going to be the end of the world. One of the latest is from a fairly believable source Oxford University who published this study. The argument is basically that since they were able to find errors in the calculations they've done to reassure us how can we possibly trust anything the people from LHC says.

Here is the scoop though, everybody can just chill. The reason for this is that the energies that shows up when using the LHC exists in the natural universe. They aren't common, or speaking quantum speak they are very improbable. However, if you take the volume of the Earth and a couple of eons they will have occurred tons of times during our history. And if all it took were a couple of freak super heavy particles to be created to swallow up a body like the earth there wouldn't be anything left but black holes anywhere in the universe.

So basically, since we are here now, there isn't anything to worry about with the LHC. All it is doing is making events that occur naturally (even though very rarely) occur in a more predictable fashion so that they can be more easily studied.

The only argument against the LHC I can think of that actually have some merit is if it is worth the cost. I think that in the long run it probably is, a lot of basic research on particle physics seemed pretty useless at the time it was done and is now providing us such neat things as faster computers, faster networks and more energy efficient technology.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Can we? Are you sure?

Watching the inauguration of Obama earlier this week and the near hysteria that seems to surround everything he does and says these days I can't help but think that most people who like him are in for a huge disappointment. Don't get me wrong, I like Obama. I also think from what I've seem so far of what he has done since getting elected he is showing promise of becoming a great president too. The problem is just that it seems that expectations of what he can accomplish are just completely out of proportion.

The amount of inertia in the whole Washington establishment is just too big for any one man to make that much of a difference. Just look at the most recent election to the senate where in two cases only by the narrowest of margins two convicted felons just barely were not reelected (One republican and one democrat). How can a body so badly out of order that you can almost coast to reelection even when you have been proven to be corrupt be expected to get anything sensible done. On that note I find it ironic that in most states you are not allowed to vote when you are a convicted felon, but apparently there is no problem to run for office.

There is also way to much money being spent on legislation everywhere in the US. Lets face it special interests are the ones who set the legislative agenda. The line "By the people for the people" is just a bad joke these days. I don't really have any good way of solving the problem though. I would love it if they passed a law that only allowed people to donate to political campaigns (No corporations), but since the people who are getting rich from the systems are the ones that need to abolish it this change will probably never happen.

There are a few things things that I do think Obama can probably fix pretty fast though. For instance the most egregious violations of human rights and the constitution can probably be stopped pretty fast (Guantanamo Bay and large scale domestic wiretapping for instance). I also think the time might have come for public health care in some sort. I don't think there is going to be any major shift in how stuff gets done (Or not done) in Washington though unfortunately.

Can you prove me wrong?


First brush with Mac OS X

The Apple juggernaut seems unstoppable these days and where ever I turn I seem to run into people asking me why I'm not running a Mac. That said a few days ago I had the opportunity to work for a little bit with an iMac by myself. I had a very simple task at hand. I needed to print a couple of flight itineraries that I had in an web mail account. Here are my impressions that I came away with.

First of all there is that whole bull shit mantra that "Mac always works". First Firefox locked up on me within 5 minutes and then Safari locked up after a little while after that. My problem is that I don't know how to kill an app on OS X so after the last of them locked up I was effectively done. I have way better mileage with browsing on Windows than this regardless if I use Firefox, IE or Chrome.

I really hate the whole menu at the top of the screen thing they have going on Mac. I'm sure in some ways you probably get used to it, but I also dislike it on a philosophical level. The problem with it is as your screen starts to fill up with documents it is very disconcerting to have the menu end up sometimes far from your actual document. I also dislike the fact that the menu has a mixture of global and application items. I also don't like the buttons on the left hand side of the window without icons in them. I'm sure you learn this, but which of red, green and yellow means maximize window. Perhaps it's me, but it just isn't obvious in my mind.

Also very annoying is that Mac doesn't remember your last used print settings. Every time I tried to print something the page size was reset to a CD sleeve (Which I'm sure is something that Johansson had set up somewhere). On any other modern OS the print dialog simply remembers what the last settings you entered in the print dialog was.

Then there is the issue with the mouse. I can see that one mouse button can be easier to use for a novice. But the way they have apparently done it on an iMac is that it looks like there is only one button, but you can still press it as a right and left mouse button (And have different actions occur). That is just plain retarded, and how can that possibly be construed as simpler?

Also, during the entire time I was using the computer there was also this weird quiet chirping sound coming from it. I assumed that it had to do with IM or something like that. However when I asked him about it he didn't know either, but he guessed it was a problem with having too many USB devices connected to the computer. User friendly indeed!

Finally I have the number one gripe with this whole mess. The keyboard layout! What the hell kind of idiot decided that the Swedish layout of the keyboard shouldn't match what is actually printed on the keys (It was a Swedish keyboard)? I could never figure out how you got a '@' character on the Swedish keyboard. It was printed as being on the equivalent of AltGR+'2' which is the same as a "normal" keyboard. However, that didn't work. In the end I had to switch to an English layout for this one character. I later learned from Johansson learned that it was located on something like AltGR+'รค'.

Before I did this I had basically always thought Mac's had kind of cool hardware (Off course except for the glide point which would just have to go) and the slick UI based off of a unix kernel appealed to me too and that I would probably have liked running it as long as I could for work. Now I know not to believe the hype and when I don't have to run Windows anymore I'll be switching back to Linux.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

You now need to pre-apply for a Visa when travelling to the USA

I got a slight shock today as I read online that starting today new rules apply to traveling to the US. According to the new rules if you intend to go to the US under the "Visa Waiver" program you now have to apply before hand at least 72 hours prior to departure (And up to 2 years).

You apply by going to this US Customs & Border Protection site. If for some reason you are denied you then need to apply for a normal Visa at the US Embassy.

The reason why I was so shocked when reading this is that it is today around 40 hours left until I am about to board a flight to the US and this was the first time I've heard about it (You would think that the airline would have told you about it). Fortunately though after a frantic call to the US embassy here in Stockholm I was assured that since I have a work visa this doesn't apply to me.

All you people planning on coming to visit though, don't forget to register in advance.