The Advisory Boar (page 3)
For the last five years, toroid.org has lived on a server
hosted at Hetzner.DE. It has
served me very well during that time (with a disk failure the only major
problem), but I have finally outgrown its modest hardware configuration
(Athlon XP 2000+, 512MB of RAM). The need for a more capable machine was
recently made very clear to me when the Yahoo crawler decided to index
archives.aox.org, and my machine
spent several days swapping things in and out (it worked fine, it was
just very slow and the other services suffered).
Two weeks ago, Hetzner's RP39 dedicated server plan (Athlon 64 X2 5600+,
2GB RAM, 2*400GB disk, for €39/month) caught my eye, and I wrote to
them to ask about upgrading to it. I had two important questions: could
I keep all my existing IP addresses? And could I order an RP39 server
with 4GB of RAM installed? Surprisingly, I received no response for a
week, despite sending two reminders. When I finally heard from them, I
was rather disappointed with the response.
No, I couldn't keep my primary IP address or my IPv6 /64 subnet. I could
move the IPv4 /29 subnet for €99 plus €15/month, which was as
good as not being able to keep it. No, I couldn't order an RP39 server
with 4GB of RAM because… it was no longer available! Sure enough, they
had removed RP39 from their order page before responding to my message.
The only sensible course of action available was to order an EQ4 server
(Intel i7-920, 8GB RAM, 2*750GB disk) for €149 plus €49/month,
accept that I would have different (and fewer) IP addresses, and migrate
data and services the hard way.
I spent a couple of days being disappointed about the disappearance of
RP39, but knew that Hetzner was within their rights to discontinue what
was always described as a limited "special offer". The EQ4 cost a little
more than I liked, and the migration would be painful, but I ordered one
on the 20th of August. Hetzner said they expected it to be online within
24 hours, which I took with a pinch of salt (it took three days for them
to bring up my old server). To my surprise, my shiny new EQ4 machine was
up and running within two and a half hours from the time of my order!
Now to complete the migration quickly…
When I wrote a page about
myself as a birding guide, I asked a
number of people for feedback. More than one person suggested that the
page would benefit from a photograph (or three) of myself, perhaps with
clients. Although I agreed in principle, I couldn't bring myself to do
anything about it—adding a mugshot sounded so boring.
I liked Hassath's idea of using a cartoon much better, but even though I
could imagine a few suitable cartoons, I had—as usual—no idea how to put
them down on paper. So I did nothing, and the weeks passed by.
The other day, I happened to see Rohan Chakravarty's
bird cartoons on
the KolkataBirds web site. The style wasn't exactly what I had in mind
for my own web page, but I liked the illustration, especially the birds'
expressions. I knew Rohan in passing from the delhibird mailing list,
and I decided to ask him if he would be interested. He was.
I explained the style I wanted: black-and-white to fit the fairly sober
mood of the page, more lines than solid areas; something very much like
the New Yorker
cartoons. Rohan and I discussed a few ideas, and quickly settled on
a concept for one wide panel and one square panel, and an approximate
price. I told him I was in no particular hurry, and swapped the subject
out of my mind.
To my surprise, however, Rohan completed the assignment in no time at
all, and the cartoons he sent me the next day were brilliant. I had not
expected the first draft to match what was in my head, let alone improve
on it, but it did; and I was able to use his illustrations without any
changes on my web page, where they look
great even a week later.
Rohan's blog is at
Should anyone I know need the services of a freelance illustrator and
cartoonist, I know whom to recommend now.
In "Women in computing: first,
get the problem right", ESR explains that everyone else just
misunderstood the problems that keep women away from computing and other
technical fields; and that although achieving equality is precluded by
difference in dispersion of the IQ curves, his
insights can help to establish the
large, happy female
minority that is the best we can hope for in its stead.
Talking about prejudice in this context is
lazy, stupid, [and]
wrong, and the real reason women bail out of computing
is that they have short fertile periods, and their biological instincts
tell them not to waste time on the
warrior-ethic ways of
By these and other bold observations, ESR demonstrates the honesty and
speak uncomfortable truths that are
prerequisite to addressing the problem. For example:
I don't mean to deny that there is still prejudice against women lurking
in dark corners of the field.
Prejudice. Lurking in dark corners. Who would have thought it?
I'll file this article away right next to his equally-insightful
"Sex tips for
The Union Cabinet selected a new symbol for the Indian Rupee, designed
by a Mr. D. Udaya Kumar of IIT Bombay. It won't actually be printed on
currency notes, and of course nobody will bother to use it until it is
added to Unicode, but here it is:
The Information & Broadcasting minister Ambika Soni
It is just a symbol, but it apparently allows us to
of countries whose currencies have a
and somehow represents the
robustness of the Indian economy
(R for Robustness?) while being a blend of
modernity and Indian
How dreadfully silly.
I practised drawing the symbol on my whiteboard a few times, and came to
the happy realisation that—if you squint at it just right—it looks like
a (strangely long-necked) raptor in soaring flight, as seen from below.
But maybe that's just me.
I recently learned about Tatsuhiko Miyagawa's
zero-configuration CPAN module installation program that itself needs
nothing more than "wget -O bin/cpanminus http://cpanmin.us" to install.
Once I started using it ("cpanm Module::Name"), I realised that I had
underestimated the extent to which CPAN.pm and friends had encouraged
my reluctance to install CPAN modules (and deal with dependency hell).
I haven't changed my mind, but using cpanminus is pleasant enough that
I can afford to change some of my habits.
I also look forward to having a clean(er) conscience when recommending
the installation of modules I want to use in my programs that are meant
for other people to use (recent examples: AnyEvent and AnyEvent::XMPP).
Seen a few days ago
in the Hindu:
Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Monday upheld fashion designer Tarun
Tahiliani's case that he is an artist for the purpose of claiming
exemption under the Income Tax Act.
How very well put. He's an artist for the purpose of claiming tax
Yesterday brought the
that the Ministry of Environment and Forests has rejected NTPC's
proposal to build the 261MW Rupsiyabagar-Khasiyabara power plant on the
Gori river near Munsiari in Uttarakhand, because of the profound damage
it would cause to the fragile and ecologically important area (which is
to say nothing about how it would affect the people in the fifty-odd
villages along the river that would dry up due to the diversion of
I've been following this project for a while, because I have a special
interest in the area. I have visited a number of times for bird surveys
(and I plan to do more work there in future), and my friends there have
been tirelessly involved in local conservation efforts for many years;
so I can claim to know a little about its ecology. It seems obvious to
me that constructing a large dam there would be a disaster—no doubt it
is obvious to NTPC as well, because they have been spreading
misinformation about it from the very start.
To begin with, the environmental impact assessment prepared for them by
WAPCOS (Water and Power Consultancy
Services) is nonsense. To pick on just one section where I am qualified
to comment, the biodiversity estimates are wildly inaccurate. Where they
list fewer than a hundred species of plants and trees, a few
thousand are documented from the area, many of which occur
nowhere else. They mention only ten species of mammals and eight species
of birds from an area whose checklist runs to about 300, and where I saw
more than a hundred species in three days (and even an
eight-year-old Ammu must have seen a few dozen on her first morning
walk). Then they blithely conclude that the impact on wildlife would be
Disturbance to wildlife
During construction phase, large number of machinery and construction
labour will have to be mobilized. The operation of various construction
equipment, and blasting is likely to generate noise. These activities
can lead to some disturbance to wildlife population. Likewise, siting of
construction equipment, godowns, stores, labour camps, etc. can lead to
adverse impacts on fauna, in the area. From the available data, the
area does not have significant wildlife population. Likewise, area
does not appear to be on the migratory routes of animals and therefore
the construction of the project will not affect the animals.
Anyone who has visited the area and knows anything about wildlife would
be able to see how ridiculous these claims are. The rest of
follows in the same vein (for example, it talks about the advantages of
importing migrant labour amounting to some 77% of the local population
in terms of the "exchange of ideas and cultures between various groups
of people which would not have been possible otherwise").
NTPC has also been hard at work in the area to make sure opposition to
the project is ignored, downplayed, or eliminated. They have used force
to intimidate people who questioned the project, bribed public officials
(and admitted to doing so), and colluded with them to interfere in local
Van Panchayat elections to disallow candidates who opposed the project.
They have held "public hearings" when people from affected villages were
not able to attend (because they were on an annual excursion to collect
medicinal plants at higher altitudes), and refused to acknowledge and
record critical questions at such hearings.
There are many people in the area who support the project because NTPC
is bringing money and promises of development to a poor and remote area;
and because they have no access to information about the environmental
and social record of big dams in India to evaluate the promises, and no
way to estimate the long-term costs to the area and their livelihoods to
compare against the paltry compensation being offered for their lands
Now they might give me compensation…
That's not what I'm chasing. I was a rich man before yesterday.
Now all I have got is a cheque and a pickup truck, and
I left my farm under the freeway.
— Jethro Tull,
“Farm on the Freeway”
It remains to be seen if the MoEF's rejection is binding, or if the NTPC
(which has already invested heavily in land acquisition and construction
in the area), and the other people who stand to gain from the project at
the expense of local inhabitants, will find some way to work around it.
How long can the Gori valley survive such determined opposition?
I've been using Verdana as the preferred text font on this web site for
a long time. I don't particularly like it, but it works well enough and
is widely available.
I didn't pay attention when I learned about CSS3 @font-face definitions,
because I thought that—like so many good things in CSS—it would be
usable only in the distant future. Then I stumbled across
FontSquirrel and the
Google Font Directory,
so I spent a while looking for a clear sans-serif font for text and a
monospaced font (for code listings) that went well with it.
The Supreme Court of India has ruled that the forcible administration of
truth drugs ("narco analysis") and "lie detector" tests to suspects by
and that the results themselves may not be used as evidence in court. In
its very clear
the three-judge bench (K.G. Balakrishnan, R.V. Raveendran, and J.M.
Panchal) observed that, apart from infringing upon personal liberty and
the constitutional right against self-incrimination, the
scientific validity of of the impugned techniques has been
In other words, if you want to use Veritaserum, you know where to find
Of course, this is seen as a “major blow” to law enforcement
agencies, who are understandably upset about the prospect of having to
do some actual investigating for a change.
Pre-marital sex is fine, though
the court (K.G. Balakrishnan, Deepak Verma, B.S. Chauhan) dismissed the
23 ridiculous defamation complaints filed against Tamil actress Khushboo
(for allegedly “endorsing pre-marital sex”), which the
Madras High Court had inexpicably allowed to proceed to that point.
widespread consternation with their entirely unsurprising observation
that consenting adults may choose to “live together” (and,
presumably, have sex) without causing any offence under the law.
How does it concern you? We are not bothered. At the most it is a
personal view. How is it an offence? Under which provision of the
law? the bench asked the counsel. […]
How many homes have been affected can you tell us, the
Bench asked while enquiring whether the complainants had daughters. When
the response was in the negative, they shot back,
Then, how are
you adversely affected?
I wish I'd been there to see the look on the plaintiffs' faces!
A few days ago, I discovered
drop-in replacement for the venerable
uses SIMD instructions to achieve 2–4x the performance of the older
I downloaded, built, and installed it (putting it first in
LD_LIBRARY_PATH), and was pleasantly surprised to find it working
exactly as advertised. I have conducted only a few informal tests on
large images, but it's clearly a great deal faster.