Thursday, May 28, 2009

Analog random number generator

With my new projects I had to use -and abuse- of (pseudo)random generators. I remember my first classes of statistics when the teacher used simple examples of probabilistic events with coins or dices. After going serious in random generations, you can see a lot of research in this area. From computer algorithms to real probabilities, random is anywhere (specially in data validation, a common task in this new age high throughput biology).

The problem with random generators is you can never be sure is totally random, then some approaches use less sophisticated but effective random generators like this:

In this case, is a special machine for a games company named, as you see, they automatically roll dices and take a picture, then a computer process the image and return the numbers.

I must confess, I have a 8-Magic-Ball (Eragon edition) in my desk to answer the important questions in my life.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Hi, real human interface

I like more the concept of a mouse inside the CPU, but this is a great video:

Hi from Multitouch Barcelona on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Installing Mandriva 2009.1 in the EeePC 1000H

Finally I have a netbook, the Asus EeePC 1000HA, a nice mini-laptop in white pearl.

The hardware specifications are:
  • Intel Atom 1.6GHz processor
  • 160GB 5400 RPM Hard Drive
  • 1GB of DDR2 RAM (667MHz)
  • 10” WSVGA LED-Backlit 1024 x 600 LCD
  • Ports: 3 USB 2.0, 1 VGA monitor out, headphone jack, microphone input, SD card reader (SDHC compatible), lock slot, Ethernet 10/100
  • Webcam (1.3 MP)
  • Speakers and microphone built-in
  • Battery: 7.4v 6600mAh 6-cell battery (3.5 - 7 hrs)
  • Wireless: 802.11b/g
  • Size: 25 cm (W) x 19 cm (D) x 3 cm (H)
  • Weight: less than 1.5 kg
The worst part is the SO, I don't understand why this model is exclusively sold with the almost-dead XP, so I installed the latest Mandriva release.

Because this system require an external drive to boot an installer, I download the image for the official mirrors (inside /MandrivaLinux/official/2009.0/i586/install/images/) named all.img, this is a prepared image to copy in a USB drive and includes a boot-loader and the basic tools for a network (NFS, FTP, HTTP, ...) or local installation from a drive. For more information go to: Mandriva Wiki.

To create the USB drive just use the dd command: dd if=all.img of=/dev/sdb1
(Caution: the data in the USB will be lost, and check the drive twice, don't delete your disk).

Then just put the USB and turn on the EeePC, the manual said you need to press ESC at boot to access the boot menu, wrong, this BIOS version requires you press F2 to access the BIOS configuration, I check the boot device order and put the external devices as first option. Wrong again, when you connect an USB storage drive, the BIOS assign it like a drive, so you need to switch the disk order (put the USB as first drive and the hard drive as second). I lost about a hour discovering this peculiarities.

After boot correctly the Linux installer, you need to select your installation method, I use HTTP from a Canadian mirror, the installer download the packages and start the installation. Of course the configuration is simple, I choose Gnome as desktop and manually partition my drive. The disk was already parted, the first partition is the Windows part (~70 GB), the second is an empty "user space" (~60 GB), the third is the Windows Restore part (~3 GB) and a small partition for the BIOS update.

I use the second partition with this table configuration:
  • / - Ext4 - 10 GB
  • SWAP 2 GB
  • /home - Ext4 - ~50 GB
The rest is to wait to the installation ends, few configurations (root password, users, time zone, boot loader) and you're done.

I rebooted the system and check if there are any problem: NONE, all the hardware is correctly recognized and configured, webcam, WiFi (with atheros drivers), kernel laptop mode, sound, graphics, screen, keyboard, touchpad, kernel sensors (temperature, battery, cpu-scaling) ...

The only problem I see is the sensibility of the touchpad, too much sensible, but it also happen in the XP, later I'll search the web for the xorg configuration and adjusted it.

I totally recommend Mandriva 2009.1 for this computer!

Monday, May 4, 2009

The biggest cults in tech

Infoworld reveals the biggest cults in tech:
  1. The Way of the Palm
    Established: 1996
    Gathering of the tribes: The Palm Forums
    Major deities: Jeff Hawkins, Donna Dubinsky
    Sacred relics: Pilot 1000 and Pilot 5000
    Mantra: The Pre will set us free
  2. Brotherhood of the Ruby
    Established: 1994
    Gathering of the tribes: RailsConf, RubyConf
    Major deities: Matz, DHH
    Mantra: MINSWAN (Matz is nice, so we are nice)
  3. The Ubuntu tribe
    Established: 2004
    Gathering of the tribes: Ubuntu Developer Summits
    Major deity: Linus Torvalds
    Minor deity: Mark Shuttleworth
    Animal spirit guides: Breezy badgers, dapper drakes, feisty fawns, gutsy gibbons, hardy herons, intrepid ibexes, jaunty jackalopes
  4. The Commodorians
    Established: 1982
    Gathering of the tribes: CommVEx, C4 Expo, World of Commodore
    Major deity: Jack Tramiel
    Minor deity: Jim Butterfield (1936-2007)
    Sacred relic: Commodore C65
  5. The Order of the Lisp
    Established: 1958
    Gathering of the tribes: International Lisp Conference
    Major deity: John McCarthy
    Minor deities: Paul Graham, Peter Norvig
    Holy Scripture: "Paradigms in Artificial Intelligence Programming"
  6. Monks of the Midrange
    Established: 1960
    Gathering of the tribes: Common 2009
    Major deity: Dr. Frank Soltis
    Holy scriptures: The IBM Redbook
    Sacred relic: Original AS/400
  7. The Tao of Newton
    Established: 1993
    Gathering of the tribes: Worldwide Newton Conference
    Major deity: John Sculley
    Minor deities: Too many to name; many are listed in MSU's unofficial Newton Hall of Fame
    Holy scripture: The Newton FAQ
    The Antichrist: Steve Jobs
  8. Windows
    Established: 1995
    Gathering of the Tribe: InfoWorld and other magazines that pretend that everything except Windows is a "cult"
    Major Deity: Bill Gates
    Sacred Relic: 30-letter authorization keys
    The Antichrist: Linus Torvalds
  9. Cult of free software
    Established: 1985
    Major Deity: RMS
    Sacred document: GPL
    Antichrist: !GPL'd software
  10. Cult of debian
    Established: 1993
    Major Deity(s): Bruce Perens & people called Ian
    Sacred relic: Debian 1.0 discs
    Antichrist: ubuntu
Note: 8, 9 and 10 are mentioned in SlashDot, I just added to the list.

I'm safe by now.