Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

Unrepeatable Insights

December 29, 2010

Kevin: A coworker of mine wrote some software that was subsequently classified. She was later asked some questions about how the software worked. When she asked for the source code to refresh her memory, she received a listing with the classified portions – which she had written – literally cut out of it.

William: Well, I suppose one moral to this story is always keep copies of everything one does that is of value. And yet I suppose to keep copies of such work without the express permission of the employer is unethical and perhaps illegal. A different moral is to heavily document all work so that even if it becomes classified, anyone with clearance to access it would be able to follow the documentation. On the other hand when writing very complex code it becomes cumbersome to maintain accurate documentation since the task of documenting impedes creativity and imagination. If one suddenly has some insight, it often takes a long time to put that insight into a narrative documentation which can be followed easily by others. I think we have all had the experience of writing something which seems rather inspired and unique and then losing track of the only copy and which point one realizes that it is impossible to recreate the exact same words. I sometimes feel that the mind’s creative imagination is like a kaleidoscope which is constantly refocusing and once a particular configuration passes out of focus one can never return to that exact same configuration.

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I worked for two years as a programmer in RPGII at Stone & Websters Engineering in Boston in what they called “The Treasury Department” which handled payroll and other accounting related tasks. Each programmer would be given an assignment which might take only a day or might take several months. After the programming was completed it would take a day or two to complete flowcharts and documentation. There was a full-time “librarian” who did nothing but file and monitor all documentation. I remember several times getting a program to do what was necessary and test out but losing sight of HOW the entire program actually worked. It was observed back in the 1980s that the IBM OS mainframe operating system was the most complex of all human creations. At any given time that operating system had a constant number of “bugs” that hovered around 1000. No matter how many bugs were “fixed” there were always new bugs. It was like trying to smooth out the wrinkles in an infinite carpet which of course was a never-ending task of Sisyphus. Perhaps if I possessed a higher caliber intellect I would not have produced working programs which escaped the full grasp of my understanding. Many old software programs and operating systems had layer upon layer of redundancy built into them to make them backwards compatible with older techniques. CICS on-line real time programming was said to be like that. Some huge programs had been maintained over the years by many programmers of varying skill levels. Sometimes a programmer was under pressure to implement a change or fix a “bug” in a hurry and so they would simply write something to BYPASS the old code and perform the task in a way that they could understand and control. I found it was ALWAYS easier to start a program from scratch and make it work rather than to take an old program, understand its design and modify it. Some programmers were more adept than others at demystifying old programs. I do wonder how open source programs like Linux deal with such issues. It took me years to realize that I did not really possess all the skills necessary to be a good programmer.

Problems with Facebook Accounts

November 22, 2010

UPDATE: I see that Sam Shopshire’s Facebook page has vanished. He is no longer listed as an Admin in either of his groups. All of his old email messages to me have disappeared. Apparently this is what can happen if the Facebook BOTS somehow flag your account as a SPAMMER.
This is why it is important also to be wary of opening attachments or spoofing links which may take over your Facebook login and begin to spam.

I have just now spoken to Sam Shropshire who is very popular (at the 5000 FB friends limit) and who has created a GROUP called Sam Shropshire Group.

BOTTOM LINE- The Facebook BOTS have shut down his personal account on the grounds of SPAMMING.

Now, it may be that Sam inadvertently clicked on a phishing link which took over his account and began spamming people. Sam changed his password within 30 minutes.

OR it may be the faulty design of the new Facebook Groups: Whenever you add someone to a group, the DEFAULT setting is for Group Messages to be FORWARDED to that persons E-mail. As a result, Sam added a number of people who are not experienced enough with Internet or Facebook to know how to go to the group, click on GROUP SETTINGS and uncheck the Email Notification box, or reduce notifications to ONLY THREADS I SUBSCRIBE TO.

As a result, people who feel frustrated may possibly click on messages as SPAM. Once the bots (robotic programs) see enough spam reports, they shut down your account for a certain period of days. Facebook SHOULD have designed Groups so that the DEFAULT setting is NO email notification, and then allow experienced users to go into the group and increase the level of notification if they so desire.

I am tagging those people who are very active in Facebook, groups, pages etc so they will be aware of this potential issue.

OBVIOUSLY Facebook has millions of users so the only way it can be policed or administered is by BOT (programs which monitor keystrokes and usage) HENCE anyone who values their Facebook account must be aware of the dangers of losing it. IF it is programmaticly shut down then it is doubtful that one will be able to appeal to a live support representative (though I could well be mistaken in this.)

Computer algorithms

July 11, 2010

Barbara:
There’s an amazing paper by what’s his name MacKenzie about the multiple definitions of “0” that computing has brought us to. Read it late last semester and was much impressed with his skill-set — for a SSK guy he really did his homework.

Here’s the abstract and citation: “The first part of this paper discusses floating-point arithmetic, as performed by
computers and advanced digital calculators. It shows that different computer arithmetics have been proposed, and that the nearest approximation to a consensual computer arithmetic – the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ standard for floating-point arithmetic – had to be negotiated, ratherthan deduced from existing human arithmetic.
The second part of the paper discusses mathematical proof of the correctness ofprograms and hardware designs, which is increasingly being demanded for systems crucial to safety or security. It argues that this extension of the domain of application of mathematical proof involves the negotiation of what a proof consists in. In 1987, this argument led the author and colleagues to predict a legal case concerning the nature of mathematical proof. Such litigation took
place in 1991; the key point at issue is described. More general disagreement about proof as applied to computer systems is also discussed. A further prediction is made: that there will be litigation concerning not just what kind of argument counts as a proof, but over the internal structure of formal proofs.”
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MacKenzie, Donald. “Negotiating Arithmetic, Constructing Proof: The Sociology of Mathematics and Information Technology.” _Social Studies of Science_ 23, no. 1 (Feb. 1993): 37-65.

William replies:

Barbara, thanks SO MUCH for taking the time to post this interesting abstract which I have read several times. I remember some time in the 1970s hearing about some space program failure due to a floating point inaccuracy in a compiler. For some reason you post has reminded me about http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypercomputation and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halting_problem

I was also reminded of certain debates as to what constituted an admirable mathematical proof (the complaint that the 4-color proof was inelegant for using so much computer output or that Wiles’s 300 plus page proof of Fermat’s last theorem is simply too long.)

The litigation aspect is very interesting as well as disputes over intellectual property.

Morris Kine’s books is useful to inspire all these thoughts. I wonder if being/reality/universe is ultimately knowable in some reductionist sense in that it can be precisely digitized in some Grand Unifying Theory, or is the task of the mathematical-physician endless meaning that being/reality is something holistic which comprises more than all its seeming individual parts.

Furthermore, our insatiable desire to KNOW via dangerous experiments like C.E.R.N seems Faustian in that we are willing to risk destroying this world which we have in the hopes of completely understanding a world which we have destroyed through our process of analysis and industrial revolution.
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When 9 children wearing green sneakers encounter one child wearing white sneakers, hatred, ad hominem, bullying and ostracism or even physical violence ensues. Each of our faculties has some natural purpose which promotes our survival. I believe it is the 4th Psalm which says something like “Be angry and sin not; weep upon your bed for what you say in your hearts” (from the Greek Septuagint version.) Ancient theologians point to this form of anger as righteous. But each of our faculties taken out of context and moderation and proportion becomes something very destructive; hunger becomes gluttony, natural desire becomes lust; curiosity and inventiveness become overweening pride.

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Those who choose to take seriously the Judaeo-Christian scriptures cannot ignore the assertions therein that 1.) the poor shall always be with you and 2.) until the last days their shall always be wars and rumors of war. These two facts (if they are indeed facts) are puzzling in the face of injunctions to the virtue of peace-making (that they are blessed) and alms-giving (to provide comfort to the poor.) We know from the commandment “Thou shalt not steal” that private property and hence capitalism is scriptural and communism in its purest form is not (by the way the 900 page Catholic Catechism stresses this point about private property.) We see from the Book of Revelation that up until the very last there shall be merchants who bemoan the lack of sales, which implies that there is free-market capitalism until the end. AND YET, we notice that small infants seem to love and trust indiscriminately and we are told that UNLESS we become LIKE these small children we shall in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven (and kingdom implies that heaven is not a democracy.)

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Kant was the very first to conjecture that some “stars” are actually entire galaxies of stars. Some suggest that the results of quantum and relativity prove Kant wrong in his assertions regarding space and time. I am intrigued by something that Sartre says somewhere to the effect that if it were not for NOTHINGNESS (and perhaps undecidability) then everything would be such a plenum that freedom would not be possible; hence we are DOOMED to be free. Now Talmudic thought takes a similar tact in the notion of Tsim-Tsum or “divine withdrawal;” namely, that G-d is such a fullness/completeness that G-d must CONTRACT or withdraw to make a MAKOM (place) for being/reality. This is why it is written that G-d is not IN the universe; rather G-d is the PLACE (Makom) of the universe.

Somehow undecidability and indefiniteness and uncertainty are at the heart of our existential freedom. The ball is ALWAYS in our court and the buck NEVER stops.

I once blogged about mortality and discord as survival advantages of our species. If we were all capable agreeing upon one single important issue then we might not have chosen to wander and diversify into every ecological and ideological niche. And the fact that individuals die (are mortal) means that there will always be idealistic youths whose kaleidoscopic and infinitely varied imaginations will always see the same old things in new and different ways.

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I am glad. I spoke at some length with my Filipina Catholic wife about your concern for this Muslim woman and your anti-abortion stance as well as your conservative political views. I imagine you share much in common with her since she goes to Mass every day and prays the Hours of Divine Office (I may be inaccurate in this phrase). And I mention that she is from the Philippines because anyone who knows that culture knows that for the majority Roman Catholic piety is deeply ingrained in the very fabric of their character (just as Theravadin Buddhism is for a majority of Sri Lanka and Hinduism is for a majority of those in India.)

I realize that I am very much to the Left and perhaps not most logical choice for your FB friends list, but I would jump to the assistance of anyone with a need or question such as yours regardless of their political or ideological affiliation and I do feel it is most constructive for EACH of us to seek out the association of those who greatly differ from us in important regards rather than to surround ourselves only with those who are in like-minded agreement with us. It is only the tension of our diversity which sparks and inspires us out of the rut of our complacency.

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William:

Does mathematics deal with independently existing “Platonic” eidetic reality OR is mathematics merely the byproduct of human conceptions, constructions and methods of axiomatic predication?

http://math.stanford.edu/~feferman/papers/deciding.pdf

Justine writes:

Do you mean “do numbers and their relationships exist independently of human consciousness?” Given the interaction of subatomic particles to make up elements, I would say yes, though it does not seem a very useful question. (Rather like does the tree falling in the woods make a sound?)

William responds:

Justine, I appreciate the spirit and good intention with which you post and the relativistic koan-like problems inherent in language, but the very human enterprise of model theory and the quest for a G.U.T. (Grand Unifying Theory) and string theory are very real and will ultimately result in a positive resolution or else a Godel-like demonstration that a such a resolution is impossible, but the likes of you, Justine, and I, William, … the likes of us are not of sufficient intellectual stature to realize such a resolution on our own steam. We shall only appreciate the truths which a select few have fully comprehended while watching a Nova episode or someone like Carl Sagan. BUT, Justine, I suspect that the intellectual character and stance of those who DO succeed in such a resolution will share more in common with MY essential nature than with YOUR essential nature since, with all due respect, you content yourself with dismissing the importance of some question which bothers you through a casuistic maneuver and then you remain right there resting upon your tinsel laurels, while my nature is to always ignore people like you and Gorgias and like the Energizer Bunny I just keep on going (trying.) Now I know what I have said will seem a bit harsh or unkind but it is my desire to address ideas and not individuals and I have no Dale Carnegie aspirations to “win friends and influence people.” But I do value your interest and readership. Thank you!
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link and read the article carefully.

One of the most important questions raised in the above link is:

Is human understanding unlimited?

Anyone who feels this question is trivial or impossible to discuss is not really fit to enter into the discussion. Socrates put it in a nutshell when he said that those who presume to already know the answer or all the answers will not make a sincere effort at inquiry.

I went through 4 years of St. John’s (and I would do it all over). I met a few people who were truly intellectually honest and would directly and aggressively take a stand on something important. But I met a lot more phonies who made it through 4 years just wrinkling their nose in seminar and saying “but I dont GET it, how can you say….”

All of the world is basically divided into a few LIMB CRAWLERS and a multitude of LIMB SAWYERS.

A limb crawler has the courage and ambition to crawl way out on a limb, and TAKE A RISK, assembling together many and various points and passages in order to assert something new, something important.

LIMB SAWYERS are a parasitic species. They cannot exist without a LIMB CRAWLER. They hack away at whatever constructive effort the limb crawler is making. If they succeed, what they succeed in is simply refuting the limb crawler.

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Jay writes:

I always felt that questions of existence were ill or vaguely posed. What would be the criteria to meet in order to “exist” in the eidetic reality?

Steven writes:
Ms. Saracen and Mr. Hales seem to have a point, and Mr. Buell (despite being spot-on)should seem more contrite as a result.

William replies:
personal friendship between Einstein and Kurt Godel. Search on articles which explain the fundamental difference in the way that Einstein saw mathematics vs the way Godel saw it. I read a lot of that a long time ago and it helped me to see some things. Godel definitely held the Platonic view that the objects of mathematics had some ideal existence (like Plato’s FORMS) and that somehow reality was a shadow or penumbra. Einstein had the opposite view. Einstein also made one off-hand remark which I find utterly intriguing. Einstein said that “it is impossible for anyone to inductively arrive at the theory of relativity from empirical observations” (I am paraphrasing from memory what I read many years ago.) This means that although the existence of rabbits in no way violates the principles of quantum physics, one cannot study rabbits and inductively intuit quantum. Poker obeys the laws of statistics and probability but one would not study statistics and probability to learn how to play poker. I may be totally wrong in how I took Einstein’s off-hand remark, but here is how I took it. The human imagination is a kalaidescope of non-being (horned rabbits and unicorns) which can churn out a countless number of different axiomatic systems. Suddenly one day someone, or perhaps several people simply STUMBLE upon an odd coincidence in mathematics which closely resemble some empirical observations. Next they get something which kind of seems to work, (like Ptolemy’s epicycles)… you can make a lot of accurate calculations (up to a point) but THEN the question becomes, DOES OUR MATHEMATICAL model reveal something about the underlying nature of the observed phenomena (Ptolemy called in “sozein ta phainomena” saving the observations). Ptolemy got close, Copernicus closer, Kepler closer still, Newton seemed to be right on the money, but then things break down on an inter-galactic or sub-atomic scenario, Einstein gets closer still… but…. well, I think you get my point (and if you DONT get my point by now, then you dont have the foundation to even read about this stuff.) I am not the person to put a bib on anyone and spoon-feed them because I am intellectually and academically limited… in fact I am an over-achiever since I do not really have the credentials or training to speak authoritatively on these things…. THE MISTAKE that many people, younger people, make is to think that the they can find a thread like mine and then say…. so what, I dont get it, show me…. THAT IS NOT WHAT YOU ARE SUPPOSED to be doing with your life.. YOU are supposed to be digging deeply into all thats available and YOU are supposed to be giving ME a hand and helping ME out of the darkness of Plato’s cave reality and let me step into the light of pure being… so if all you can do is wrinkle your nose, say I dont get it, and ask me a few questions, then you are wasting your life and time.. you should go do something more constructive (what I don’t know… so dont ask me)…. One of my posts this week has to do with a mathematician with some work on an equation who met a physicist and he saw that it was closely related to quantum energy states…. THAT is an example of what Einstein was talking about I suspect…

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No Steven, read what I just wrote, get your ass in gear, stop being a limb-sawyer (we have enough in the G.O.P) and start being a limb crawler… cause listening to negative people like you is not going to get me anywhere

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Steven: Negativity is relative. To agree with you makes me a drone, to disagree with you makes me a sloth? I reject both options. I believe in careful reading. I even re-read JayJay’s and Justine’s responses to ensure that they weren’t sawing limbs. My assent prompted me to write those words, not a desire to gainsay what you had uttered. At the risk of sounding dronish, I agree with all the rest that you are saying, by the way.

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William:

I dont care whether you agree with me or disagree with me. I want you to stand on your own two feet and say something ANYTHING that does not depend on what I have said and dissect my previous statements and play petty word-games like the pre-Socratic sophists. Don’t you GET it? Don’t any of you EVER look in the mirror and read everything you have ever written for the past 10 or 20 years and see how empty it is. Do you think Christopher Hitchens has made great contributions to knowledge. I do not. I dont give a CRAP about what any of you agree or disagree with. Say something on your own. Go out on a limb. Take a risk! Tell me how it really is without quoting something I have said back to me. Boggle my mind! My mind is fairly puny so that should not be too much of a challenge, but at least TRY .. at least make the effort. Don’t be a bunch of parasites.

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Steven:

No student should ever be required to defend his ignorance (some of us are assembled here to overcome that, and not because we like the sound of our own typing). )I know a lot of people with puny minds. You would not guess that they are independent because their intellects are no greater than mine. It must be that “puny” is a relative term as well, and that in order for this puny mind to grow, I need the assurance that you don’t truly think of me as a parasite. I knew what you meant, but was not given the heads-up that this is a timed test.
I understand your frustration. Some just don’t get it. But if a thing is knowable, then, I believe, a teacher can guide the way to knowing it only if he recognizes the potential barriers to learning.

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Penny:

Oh for pitys sake, dont rage at them William, its counterproductive.

Personally I believe mathamatics operate outside human conceptions despite being defined by them. Take imaginary numbers for example. What is the purpose of them? To describe something we cannot see, much less hope to understand. Yet someone had to think ‘what if’ before they could be discovered, defined and accepted.

Math as a whole follows rules wether we want it to or not, as any child sitting in a classroom looking to the black( *ahem* i meant, of course, green)board will tell you. It is a tool, a language, and a state of mind all at the same time.

Anyone who wishes to master it has my well wishes, and ultimately my respect.

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Jay:

Yes, I feel like “what do we mean by eidetic existence” is interesting and worth considering, although I have thought about it a bunch and not come up with anything very coherent or persuasive (I’m in a math program). I actually thought that the zen koan had a lot of relevance to this as it seems to raise the question of how important independence from the observer is with regards to granting existence to an object. There is perhaps some solid thought related to this observer/object existence question done in the particular case of existence of Schrodinger’s cat in 3+1 dimensional space etc. etc.

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William:

I was thinking about Schrodinger’s cat. Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead attempted to place all of mathematics on a logical foundation with “Principia Mathematica” but failed so I am told for reasons that are connected with Godel’s Indefiniteness theorem. Bertrand Russell personally knew Wittgenstein and openly admitted that he felt dwarfed by Wittgenstein’s towering intellect.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tractatus_Logico-Philosophicus

This proposition 7 comes to mind for obvious reasons:
Where (or of what) one cannot speak, one must pass over in silence.

I suspect that human understanding IS limited but I am no mathematician or physicist.

I do remember the first time I learned that Andrew Wiles solved the Fermat problem and quite literally tears of joy and wonder streamed down my face.

Regarding my earlier remark about Tsim Tsum you might one day enjoy reading “The Life of Pi” novel (by Yann Martel) which is built around the notion of “divine contraction” and, I suppose, Jain Anekantavada (multipointedness).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_of_Pi

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William:

Oh yes, I should have mentioned my thought about how Kant wanted to PUT AN END to any future metaphysical speculation in his Prolegomena. Hegel dreamed of a time of Absolute Knowledge where history (time) would cease since there would be nothing new. I suspect both Kant and Hegel considered the human capacity for understanding to be unlimited.

Morris Kline’s book about mathematical uncertainty seems to suggest both the imperfection of mathematics and also that mathematicians will never be unemployed in their Sisyphean task (like smoothing the bumps out of an infinite carpet and they always pop up somewhere else.)

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http://www.superstringtheory.com/history/history4.html

http://library.thinkquest.org/04apr/01330/media/timeline.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Big_Bang

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_everything

Theory 1: God produces the universe. God creates the universe so we understand why there is a Universe but why God, what is God, where did God come from.

Theory 2: There is no such thing as God or purpose, but there is all this universe stuff which just happened and furthermore just HAPPENED to produce conscious beings who puzzle about all this.

Theory 3: The universe PRODUCES God. Bear with me. Big bang, stars, planets cooling evolution, intelligence, science, the sentient beings gradually BECOME as God, creating life, creating other universes, black holes, finally destroying everything which becomes another big bang to start all over again.

Theory 4: Take theory 3 and have in happening in black holes tucked inside black holes tucked inside black holes. This is like a Buddhist dependent co-arising on a grand scale. The God thing is prior to being/non-being/space/time/eternity. Universe constantly begets God which constantly begets universe. IF one could speak of the EXISTENCE of God then God would become part of the causal matrix and be subject to Aristotle’s Anangke necessity. Hence God is prior to being and non-being and time. God cannot EXISTED in the universe, so God contracts, Tsim Tsum, and a place (makom) is created for the universe to happen, a place where God IS NOT. So on the quantum level, every sub atomic particle wavering/flickering/pulsating between being and non being is an entire cosmos. These countless “worlds without end” emanate a kind of morphic resonance which affects and synchronizes each other.

… (just saying…)

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaiah_Berlin

Berlin argued that Johann Georg Hamann was one of the first thinkers to conceive of human cognition as language – the articulation and use of symbols. Berlin saw Hamann as having recognised as the rationalist’s Cartesian fallacy the notion that there are “clear and distinct” ideas “which can be contemplated by a kind of inner eye”, without the use of language – a recognition greatly sharpened in the 20th century by Wittgenstein’s Private language argument.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Private_language_argument

If the idea of a private language is incoherent, then it would follow that all language is essentially public: that language is at its core a social phenomenon. This would have profound implications for other areas of philosophical study. For instance, if one cannot have a private language, it might not make any sense to talk of private sensations such as qualia; nor might it make sense to talk of a word as referring to a concept, where a concept is understood to be a private mental state.

In order to count as a private language in Wittgenstein’s sense, it must be in principle incapable of translation into an ordinary language [note: compare this to the Muslim concept of Qur’anic non-translatability] – if for example it were to describe those inner experiences supposed to be inaccessible to others.

The private language being considered is not simply a language in fact understood by one person, but a language that in principle can only be understood by one person. So the last speaker of a dying language would not be speaking a private language, since the language remains in principle learnable. A private language must be unlearnable and untranslatable, and yet it must appear that the speaker is able to make sense of it.

A recurrent theme in Wittgenstein’s work is that for some term or utterance to have a sense, it must be conceivable that it be doubted. For Wittgenstein, tautologies do not have sense, do not say anything, and so do not admit of doubt. But furthermore, if any other sort of utterance does not admit of doubt, it must be senseless.

Jailbreaking and Crack/Warez

May 22, 2010

I do realize that many people “jailbreak” their phones, but give the cost of repair/replacement and the intimate relationship between hardware and software and service provider, I am hesitant to play such games. I am equally hesitant to use illegal crack/warez copies of software not simply because it is stealing but also because the time I would invest using the software or operating system is more valuable than the price of a legal copy. Just some thoughts. Perhaps others will disagree or see a flaw in my thinking.

Did you try out the latest ver. of Ubuntu?

May 3, 2010

A Facebook Friend just asked me this question:

Reply:

Noel: I spent literally 100 hours installing and reinstalling Ubuntu 9.1 on an old 280 gig Gateway that my step-daughter was kind enough to donate. I documented blow by blow each and every miserable step of the undocumented way at my blog

https://williambuell.wordpress.com

When I finally got it working, I foolishly tried to implement a backup procedure which proceeded to trash my entire system making it unbootable. I began the re-install procedure at 12:01am Saturday morning. By 7:30am I had a working install. So, because I documented every miserable step of the way on WordPress, I was able to re-create in 7 hours what originally took me 100 hours. AND, had I been clever enough to do a backup (tarball) of the Ubuntu Evolution email client, then I could simply have restored that in 10 minutes and avoided the hour to muddle through POP3 stuff.

I decided that there is no point to really back things up. If this Ubuntu install becomes unusable then I will simply download and burn the latest stable Ubuntu install.

If more people would donate more machines, then I might experiment with installing more recent versions of Ubuntu. But the one I have (9.10, Karmic-Koala I think) is super fast compared to my Dell Windows XP. It needs no antivirus or firewall as far as I can determine. It regularly updates itself in a way that is less annoying than Microsoft updates. It connected to my Verizon DSL through Belkin Wi-Fi. I was able to install Google Chrome Debian easily, and have it synchronize my bookmarks with my gmail account. My Blackberry is also synchronized with my Gmail account. So I can forget about nasty old Microsoft Outlook desktop.

My latest project is to master Microsoft Office Word 2007 because it seems radically different from what I have which is Word 2003.

Facebook’s New Interface – Stability

February 16, 2010

I am surprised to hear of these problems. I have an Ubuntu machine and a Windows XP machine. I am in FB in Firefox all day long. In Ubuntu my browser includes add-ons like Greasemonkey and No-Script. My windows machine has a firewall (On Line Armor by Tall Emu) and Avira Antivir. I am having no problems with the new FB interface. In face, some things seem to have improved (e.g. the notifications used to be at the lower right, and would scroll off the screen; now they are at the upper right and have no scroll problem). Perhaps if you changed browsers just to experiment? Try Chrome or Internet Explorer just to see if it makes a difference. Make certain the browser is up to date. Perhaps even re-install. The ONLY problem I noticed with the new FB interface was the first and second day, I had some IM chats which were unusually sluggish. But, for the amount I use FB on different machines, I am impressed that it does all it does as well as it does. Just trying to help. Not trying to irritate you.

I wonder why more folks use IE than Mozilla, or do they? I didn’t know about NOSCRIPT until my Ubuntu Firefox update asked if I wanted it. But it certainly seems like a safety net for malicious scripts. I did find that batch photo uploads worked more smoothly in IE than in Firefox. I basically use IE as a last resort. I haven’t tried Chrome yet because of my “if it aint broke dont fix it” mentality.

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I had to do that sort of thing all my life, because I was basically self taught in everything I did (except for the 4 years at St. John’s). I saw a Lutheran church poster once with some old women sweeping and polishing the altar and the caption read “all work is honorable.”

Even in the street, if someone walks by peddling something annoying, my first thought is that they are only trying to survive the best way they know how. Even when I see rats scurrying in the subways (a frequent sight) I remind myself that they are trying to survive just as I am in the best way they know how.

A biologist once exclaimed that God must have an inordinate fondness for beetles since there are more varieties of beetles in the world than any other creature.

The object of life is to get through it, somehow, anyhow.

The Open Source Movement

January 13, 2010

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html

Giri writes:

We both know that we can call ourself as free software advocate because we both know the role of F/OSS in today’s world and we also understand clearly the importance of F/OSS and Linux for everyone.

I believe F/OSS and Linux will help to change the world to a better place and I imagine where everybody with different circumstances or people with difficulties can share the same knowledge as we do.
Richard Stallman the president of GNU has write a definition about Free Software

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html

from the link above i understand that Free is not always about Money but Free in Free software is like free as in Freedom.
Open Source offering flexibility in design. Eric S Raymond in his essay

http://www.catb.org/esr/writings/cathedral-bazaar/cathedral-bazaar/cathedral-bazaar.ps

said that Open Source development is A’la Bazaar which means that every software has to be like a cathedral, built together with care.

But there’s something bothering me about this F/OSS movement.

In my opinion F/OSS can never fulfill it’s aim if there’s no cooperation between software developers, GNU and international organization. we can look at the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project or the cooperation between UNESCO and GNU to promote F/OSS usage.

From my opinion above, I want to know what you’re thinking. please add some points that I missed. And I want to know if U.S government ever promote the usage of F/OSS and Linux in educational institutions in America? Is there any Linux Adoption

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linux_adoption

in America? If yes, what’s the result.

Creating and storing passwords

January 4, 2010

Here is my trick for creating long, strong, memorable passwords. Lets say you like history. You pick 1066 for the Battle of Hastings and you pick Caesar’s “veni vidi viki” (this would also work with the Gettysburg Address or Lords Prayer and
the prime numbers) now veni1vidi0viki66 and to make it even stronger veNi1viDi0viKi66, capitalizing each third letter. If you need to change passwords monthly, you can rotate through the Lord’s Prayer, taking three words at a time and merging with the year you were born.

Or, you can get a free account at clipperz.com
pick some sign-in name like cinderella or superwoman and a long strong memorable password (using technique described above). Now you can store hundreds of passwords, links, email addresses, notes. It is encrypted on your client side BEFORE it is sent to their server. Clipperz people dont know WHO you are or what you store. You can invoke its random password generator.
You can access it from anywhere on the Internet. You can also download a read-only version to a memory stick or hard drive for when you are off line. And there are 2 methods to back up and restore.

2nd Attempt Ubuntu Multiple Local Sites Apache2

December 2, 2009

Note, my user name is always bryan, because he gave me his old machine, with a password on it, so I just keep everything the same, for convenience.

Step 1:
Terminal
sudo chown bryan /var/www

Step 2: having given myself rights with that above chown command
I should be able to create folders withing /var/www
e.g. /var/www/proj1

and then invoke the 1st pg of the application by typing into the browser

localhost/proj1/report.html

I shall test this, and place the exercises from Head First PHP MySQL into a folder /var/www/proj1 and see if the exercise works

The only question that remains in my mind is whether the exercise pages will work unchanges, honoring /var/www/proj1 as the root, or whether I need to issue some other command to MAKE proj1 the default directory, or whether I have to hard code paths into all the exercise pages, which, if I do, would kind of defeat the purpose of developing a project in a folder, and then transparently moving it to some other location.

What follows is the raw text from the IRC channel where I asked my questions. I sorted through it to come up with the above, step-by-step procedure to achieve my goals.

+++ the steps WORK AND here is my email feedback to the person that gave me the valuable guidance:

You saved me HOURS of grief, and made it possible for me to now make rapid progress with my HEAD FIRST book. And Yes, I want to pay $60 for the paperback, because I want to be able to take it in the bathroom or on the subway. I want to really let all this PHP MySQL stuff sink in, and become second nature, for the simple reason that I am sick and tired of years of bondage to Micr0$oft and products like Access (or worse VISUAL FOXPRO which they finally dropped as a supported product). I figure that php mysql apache is the best choice for me, because I can kind of understand whats going on, and there is tons of documentation to make it work, but forum and IRC support (like YOUR excellent patient help).

You are CORRECT, THAT YOU did tell me what I need to know, but you did not realize that as a beginner, I cannot recognize the right answer UNTIL certain concepts sink in. Once I did the CHOWN trick you showed me, then I could navigate with the GUI, to /var/www and create a folder, proj1. Then I could navigate to my Desktop to a folder where I put two of the Head First exercises, but with the word TEST inserted in each field, so I would KNOW that it was these executing, and that I was not somehow executing the same original pages in /var/www . Now, I could NOT get Desktop/testwww/report.html to run and then correctly post with report.php and see the added record in the MySQL database with phpmyadmin.

BUT, as soon as it dawned upon me the simple steps you were saying, I copied to cloned files to /var/www/proj1 went to my folder and entered localhost/report.html, actually SAW the cloned version come up with TEST prefixed to each field, I entered data prefixed by TEST so I would see it in the mysql table,… pressed submit, and BINGO, when I did localhost/phpmyadmin and signed in, there was the new record in the sql table.

SO, you see, for a beginner, the Head First book leaves out a VERY IMPORTANT CONCEPT, about creating folders for projects in /var/www and doing the CHOWN trick once, up front, to allow access.

THANKS! And, as you will notice from my blog, when I asked the same question in IRC last week, someone thought that I wanted to do that
http://www.debian-administration.org/articles/412 complex business (which was CORRECT, if I wanted to access separate projects from some remote client, BUT unnecessary for my simple desktop purposes).

And here is the RAW irc chat to illustrate what a beginner may have to do to sort out the proper answers from a technically savvy person trying to help.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I am trying to set up several websites on my desktop ubuntu under Apache 2, and I have a detailed tutorial, but it says I need my IP address, but

sudo ipconfig gives me an internal, and

whatismyip.com gives me an external, any clues as to which is required, thanks

[04:08] WilliamBuell: what IP address? where do you want to reach them from?

(the answer, as it turns out, which I did not make clear to the IRC channel, is that I only want to make this stuff work from my DESKTOP, not from some remote client on the internet, which might require some ip address)

[04:08] thanks I am following this excellent tutorial on apache2 multiple sites

http://www.debian-administration.org/articles/412

[04:09] I have Ubuntu desktop with LAMP installed, but can only get php pages to work in /var/www

[04:09] I want to be able to have several projects i.e /home/proj1

[04:09] WilliamBuell: that’s where they should go

[04:09] why not put them in /var/www?

(this turns out to be an EXCELLENT QUESTION!)

[04:10] the tutorial mentions IP address but does not indicate whether it is EXTERNAL from whatismyip.com or local from

sudo ifconfig

[04:10] BECAUSE I would need a different name for each html and php page

[04:10] WilliamBuell: where are you trying to access them from? you shouldn’t need an ip address at all most likely

[04:11] suppose I am following several tutorials, with several pages with same name, they cannot BOTH be in /var/www

[04:11] why not /var/www/proj1, /var/www/proj2?

[04:11] and i dont know how to access some search path that would support /var/www/proj1

[04:12] or does apache2 lamp automatically honor any folder within www

[04:12] yes, automatically http://localhost/folder

(above is the KEY CONCEPT that I needed)

[04:12] and, if so (i am total beginner) ….

aha…. localhost/folder seems to make sense to me

[04:13] next question in TERMINAL does it matter HOW i create those folders, i mean do i have to be sudo or root

[04:13] do permissions matter?

[04:13] what would the proper command be to create the folder in /var/www would it be mkdir /home/www/www.example.com
[04:14] with sudo mkdir /home/www/www.example.com

[04:14] except it would be sudo mkdir /var/www/www.example.com

[04:14] if i follow along with this one tutorial

[04:15] but that tutorial is talking about MULTIPLENAMEHOST

[04:15] WilliamBuell: you can cheat and do sudo chown USER /var/www

( the above is the OTHER KEY CONCEPT that I require.. and if it works, then I can navigate in a GUI file folder system and create project folders at will, without fussing with sudo permissions)

[04:15] it sounds like you are saying if I simply create a folder in /var/www/proj1 that it will work from localhost/proj1

[04:15] WilliamBuell: only on a desktop though
[04:16] WilliamBuell: correct

[04:16] i am a 60 year old total beginner, so i dont need hints like “you can cheat” I am truly lost

[04:17] so i should say from TERMINAL sudo chown bryan /var/www but… HOW DO I MAKE THE FOLDER PROJ1
[04:17] i mean the chown command is changing rights or something

[04:17] chown changes the ownership of the file
[04:17] nothing else

[04:17] WilliamBuell: oh, one you own the folder, you can go into /var/www and make whatever you want 🙂

[04:18] in other words, from terminal, what is the command to correctly creat /var/www/proj1 with all the proper user rights for apache2 to work

[04:18] BUT, whenever i go into /var/www it doesnt let me do stuff i dont think unless i am root admin

[04:18] WilliamBuell: the support here is not too great… might want to try a support channel

[04:18] WilliamBuell: yeah, that’s why I suggested owning the folder

[04:18] yeah, but you guys know this like the back of your hand

[04:19] once you do that, you can mkdir in /var/www all you wnat

[04:19] and you just cant give a beginner the command to create the folder

[04:19] WilliamBuell: if we did we would have told you straight away

[04:19] so, you say , create the folder, and then use chown to change ownership?
[04:19] and then everything will be honkey dory ok

[04:19] WilliamBuell: no, chown /var/www, then you can create all the folders you want without sudo

[04:21] ok so sudo chown bryan /var/www gives me the rights, then i should be able to navigate with the gui and create proj1

[04:21] WilliamBuell: yep 🙂

[04:21] aha… now that is making sense to this beginner brain
[04:22] and i WONT need to mess with that other tutorial
[04:22] since i only want stuff to work locally…

[04:22] WilliamBuell: right no apache configs 🙂

[04:23] BUT, second question,…. if i make a bunch of php html pages in /var/www/proj1 do I need explicit paths to the other pages, or will they default to that local directory

[04:23] and is there some command i need to issue to make /var/www/proj1 a local directory for that session

[04:23] WilliamBuell: not sure I’m following

[04:23] WilliamBuell: not sure you’re sure what you’re asking
[04:24] http://localhost basically loads what’s in /var/www

[04:24] ok… you are telling me if i do all this then from browser .. i type localhost/proj1/report.html and it comes up

[04:24] yep

[04:24] but INSIDE report.html it is going to POST to report.php

[04:24] if you have /var/www/proj1/report.html

[04:24] yeah, default is current folder

[04:24] but, it will know enough to look in var/www/proj1 without
[04:25] well, it looks in http://localhost/proj1/report.php
[04:25] or rather posts to

[04:25] aha, and the very act of launching the project as localhost/proj1 is sufficient to make that the local directory for the entier project session

[04:25] which should correspond to /var/www/proj1/report.php
[04:25] if so, that makes sense

[04:25] WilliamBuell: not sure you quite get URL vs local path
[04:25] it’s not for the session

[04:25] in other words, i dont have to HARD CODE specific addresses in each html and php…

[04:26] that’s just how it it

[04:26] WilliamBuell: that you have to do
[04:26] i want to develop something in /var/www/proj1 test it , but have it work if i move it somewhere else

[04:26] WilliamBuell: why not just have a .php file?
[04:26] why have anything .html?

[04:26] well, i dont know enough to understand your hint

[04:26] WilliamBuell: a PHP file can have HTML and PHP in it

[04:27] because, the tutorial book i am following starts with report.html posting with report.php… but now i see what you are saying

[04:27] WilliamBuell: what book?

[04:27] but, php or html, is not germain to my path question at hand

[04:27] it is a great book called HEAD FIRST php mysql, which leads you step by step, including cookie sessions

[04:28] i have in my blog links to the book

[04:28] i am buying the book for $60 tomorrow, and i already downloaded a zip file of all the source code exercises from the publisher

[04:29] WilliamBuell: do you have any programming background and are you interested in mysql>??

[04:29] i started programming in 1979, through the 1980s, with stuff like cobol, rpg, then basic, then pick

[04:29] WilliamBuell: BTW, you know you can get it as an ebook for $36

[04:29] i am not a moron

[04:30] i just have some simple questions which in reality have very simple answers, but getting straight answers from techie types is like pulling teeth
[04:31] WilliamBuell: do you like head first series?

Sending Email from PHP in Ubuntu Desktop

November 28, 2009

http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=135397

Re: Path of Sendmail
Open synaptic and search for sendmail. Then install it from there.

Sendmail will then be found in /usr/sbin/sendmail

; For Win32 only.
;sendmail_from = me@localhost.com

; For Unix only. You may supply arguments as well (default: “sendmail -t -i”).
sendmail_path = /usr/sbin/sendmail -t -i

or possibly:
sendmail_path = /usr/sbin/sendmail -i -t
or
sendmail_path = /usr/lib/sendmail -i -t

MY PHP.INI file is located in /etc/php5/apache2

I go into TERMINAL and type

sudo gedit
It prompts me for the root password
and then I am in gedit with superadmin rights and I can navigate to the php.ini file and change it. The very first thing I ever did was to open php.ini and do SAVE AS to original.php.ini so I can always revert back to the default.

http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=331137

NOTE: THE synaptic mgr install of POSTFIX will remove SENDMAIL.
what worked for me was:
apt-get install postfix

and then edit php.ini
Relevant lines in /etc/php5/apache2/php.ini:

[mail function]
; For Win32 only.
SMTP = localhost
smtp_port = 25

; For Win32 only.
;sendmail_from = me@example.com

; For Unix only. You may supply arguments as well (default: “sendmail -t -i”).
sendmail_path = /usr/sbin/sendmail -t -i

and edited /etc/postfix/main.cf and put my correct external smtp server
relayhost = smtpauth.earthlink.net

restart the services that had configuration changes

During the postfix installation, I chose the Internet Configuration. If you hover the mouse over the choice field, a tool tip will explain all the choices. I noticed that it offered me bryan-desktop as a name for the system, so I stuck with that, since it might be required, and I have no idea how to find the name of my system.

Now all I need to do is TERMINAL sudo gedit

and edited /etc/postfix/main.cf and put my correct external smtp server
example – relayhost = smtpauth.earthlink.net

(but mine will I THINK be smpt.gmail.com

restart the services that had configuration changes

OF COURSE, the first thing I do when I gedit main.cf is to
SAVE AS original.main.cf, close, and reopen main.cf

When I make the above mentioned chage to the file, I find:

# See /usr/share/doc/postfix/TLS_README.gz in the postfix-doc package for
# information on enabling SSL in the smtp client.

AND HERE IS WHAT I FIND IN THE README FILE, NONE OF WHICH SEEMS VERY HELPFUL:

There are some significant differences between the Debian Postfix packages,
and the source from upstream:

1. The Debian install is chrooted by default.
2. Dynamically loadable map support.
3. For policy reasons:
a. SASL configuration goes in /etc/postfix/sasl
b. myhostname=/path/to/file is supported (and used) in main.cf
4. smtp_line_length_limit defaults to 0, instead of 990, in absolute
violation of the RFC. Note that mailers in the path will still
potentially split the line, though. This will be removed at some
point in the future.
5. IPV6 support is enabled: postfix listens on ipv6/ipv4 by default,
(see: inet_protocols)
6. TLS/SASL support is enabled.
7. rmail comes from sendmail, not from postfix.
8. The upstream main.cf is delivered as /usr/share/postfix/main.cf.dist,
rather than cluttering /etc/postfix/main.cf with comments.

Known caveats:
1. The dynamically loadable modules are not found in the chroot.
Therefore, proxy maps may require you to copy the appropriate shared
object into the chroot if you chroot the proxy service in master.cf.
2. Some map types (and SASL support) require some extra configuration
(beyond what upstream indicates) to run inside the chroot. The simplest
solution for the maps is to use the proxy service, which is not chrooted.
SASL is a bit more complex, and is on the TODO list…
3. Note that the chrooted daemons open /dev/log before chrooting, so if your
syslog daemon is restarted, the daemons will be unable to reconnect to the
syslog socket, and hence being unable to log. The postfix package provides
a config snipped for the rsyslog daemon in /etc/rsyslog.d/postfix.conf to
also open a socket in /var/log/postfix/dev. For other syslog daemons, you
will also have to restart postfix after restarting the syslog daemon, or
configure it to open an additional socket.
a. For sysklogd (the default in Debian versions prior to Lenny), add
SYSLOG=”-a /var/spool/postfix/dev/log” to /etc/default/syslog.
b. For inetutils-syslogd, add SYSLOGD_OPTS=”-a /var/spool/postfix/dev/log” to
/etc/default/inetutils-syslogd.

HERE IS A LINK THAT LOOKS MORE HELPFUL

http://behindmyscreen.newsvine.com/_news/2006/12/31/501615-configuringubuntu-postfix-and-gmail-in-101-easy-steps