FOLLOW-UP: Apple Knows Your Heart Rate

This isn't a follow-up in that there's more news on this issue specifically; it's just that another article (Graeme Wood, The Atlantic) regarding prisoners wearing tracking devices as opposed to being stuck in prisons reminded me of what I had written about earlier with regard to Apple monitoring people's voices, faces, distances from devices, and heartbeats. I feel like Apple and its iPhones and iPods (of course, with a lot of the other cool features disabled but with the scary monitoring features enabled) would be the prime candidate for this kind of thing; if they detect that the person has moved too far away from the device, they could immediately alert the police (also, this would work if they detect a different face, voice, or heartbeat than the criminal in question). Heh, heh.


Review: Chakra 0.2.0 "Jaz"

Main Screen
After a couple of news-related blog-posts, I wasn't finding any news particularly post-worthy. As I was looking at DistroWatch, I saw that a new version of Chakra (0.2.0 "Jaz") had been released. I was intrigued, as it's the release immediately after the first official "Phoix" release and the branching off from Arch. As Chakra is supposed to have changed a lot with the release of "Phoix" (and the last version I tested was Alpha 5 v4), I was curious to see how much better it has become since the last release. Unfortunately, I wasn't especially impressed. Read on to see why. (NOTE: This test was done in VirtualBox on my new laptop with 1 GB of RAM allocated to the guest OS. This is probably how all future tests will be done.)


Review: Blogilo 1.0.1

This is not a typical review for this blog, as it is a review of a specific application (rather than of a desktop environment or operating system). However, I figured I should publish this anyway, as Blogilo is a desktop blogging application for KDE (though it works in GNOME as well, provided the Qt libraries are present).
I was going to write and publish this entire review from Blogilo. It seems nice enough, and it has many rich text features present in Blogger's online client. However, it doesn't yet have support for Blogger labels. Most importantly, however, it refused to publish this post to this blog (or, more accurately, it crashed when trying to do so). Hence, while Blogilo looks like a very promising project, I cannot as yet recommend it for actual publishing.

On a slightly related note, this blog now has a Facebook fan page! The Facebook box is on the sidebar (and a few things have been rearranged). If you enjoy the content of this blog, I would greatly appreciate it if you "Liked" this page on Facebook or subscribed to the RSS feed (or subscribed by email). Thank you!
(UPDATE: I have submitted this blog to a few indexing sites like Technorati. I am simply republishing this post to complete the indexing process. The Technorati code for this blog post is ZRH2VH7EDPKM.)

Apple Knows Your Heart Rate

You're probably thinking, "No it doesn't! That's ridiculous!"
It is ridiculous, but it might come true soon.
I was going through some news articles when I came across an article in the EFF linking to this gem of a patent filing. Apple, in a move to counter the government's new rules permitting the jailbreaking of phones for non-copyright infringing purposes (among other things), still wants essentially total control over the products they sell to consumers. This patent basically details all of the ways that they plan to catch unauthorized users from using the product and unauthorized software (e.g. copied music) from getting onto the product. It includes ways of identifying unauthorized users or usage such as proximity sensors, voice recognition, facial recognition, and heartbeat recognition. WHAT?
I can use other people as cover for the proximity sensors. I can change my voice/tone to fool the voice recognition. I can even wear masks to avoid facial recognition. But how am I supposed to mess with my heartbeat? The worst part in that is that Apple isn't using the heartbeat sensor to detect changes in a person's heartbeat (that could quickly turn for the worse); it's using those sensors solely to prevent people from using Apple products in ways that Apple doesn't like.
People, please vote with your wallets and stay away from Apple products! Apple seems to have no reservations about turning such data over to the US government, and with the US government (initiated by the MPAA, RIAA, and other such organizations and companies) looking to implement even more draconian restrictions on users' technology and files, the consumer is being demonized here. If people continue to buy Apple products, Apple will then have enough money to make new iPhones and iPods that are able to detect users' heartbeats (among other things); if you also think that this is ridiculous and somewhat creepy, stay away from Apple!

Review: KDE 4.5

The Desktop with some Notifications
My last review of KDE 4.X was a bitter disappointment, as KDE 4.4 refused to work. Period. Follow the jump to see if this version of KDE works out any better.


Moved In!

I have moved into my dormitory at MIT. It happened yesterday. I'm really excited about college life and all of the things happening this year!


Comparison Test: Newbie-Friendly KDE Distributions

In anticipation of my new laptop, I decided to test 5 major KDE distributions to see which one could work best on my laptop. As it happens, I ended up testing all of these on my old Sony VAIO desktop and installed Linux Mint 9 GNOME on my laptop. Go figure.
Each of these distributions aims to provide a hospitable and workable environment for the new user/Windows migrant. As such, there are a few features I expect to see included out-of-the-box. One of these is Firefox. A lot of implementations of KDE provide Konqueror instead of Firefox; while Konqueror may be faster and doubles as an excellent file manager, in terms of extensibility, ability to handle pretty much any webpage, and name recognition, Konqueror doesn't come close to Firefox. Along with this, I expect to see proprietary codecs included out-of-the-box. The story is similar for KOffice versus OpenOffice.org, so I also expect to see OpenOffice.org present and integrated nicely with KDE. I also want to see good hardware support (as tested by checking for support of my Logitech Quickcam Communicate STX USB webcam) out-of-the-box. The distribution shouldn't be too sluggish in live mode (but before that, it should have a live mode so that the user can try the distribution out first before taking the shot in the dark that is the installation process). In essence, the distribution should have Firefox (well-integrated), OpenOffice.org (well-integrated), hardware support (as per my webcam), and a reasonably fast live mode.
Although the newest version of KDE is 4.5, all of these distributions come with 4.4, which isn't a whole lot worse as far as I know. The distributions are openSUSE 11.3 (live CD), PCLinuxOS 2010.07, Sabayon 5.3, Pardus 2009.2, and PC-BSD 8.1 (live CD) along with a mystery contender that shall be revealed at the end of this post. Many of these distributions implement KDE specifically to better serve the new user, as many of these distributions are based on other distributions that are notoriously hard to work with.
As I was running low on blank CDs and DVDs at this time, I decided to try to put each of these distributions on my USB stick as a live USB. Only Sabayon and PCLinuxOS cooperated, so I decided then to test all of these distributions in VirtualBox. All of the impressions I have written are from these tests in VirtualBox; Sabayon and PCLinuxOS's performances as live USBs have not crept into this post (I hope).
With these things in mind, follow the jump to see how each contender fared. (NOTE: There are a lot of pictures after the jump, so your browser will probably slow down a bit. Please continue reading, but keep this in mind.)


Programming is Creative

I was reading FSDaily (or something like that) a few days ago when I came across this submitted article.
The blog author posits in this article that the reason software shouldn't be patentable is because it is, at its core, a very large binary number. The author elaborates by saying that if one was to create a program that wrote a random series of binary digits to a file in an infinite loop and this program was repeated ad infinitum, eventually every program ever devised in the past, present, and future would be (re)created.
Upon reading this article at first, I was taken by the argument and by its simplicity. However, [this information is strictly private], I realized that this particular argument against software patents falls flat. This is because of the Infinite Monkey Theorem. (Wikipedia is an excellent resource with regard to this. For the readers who choose not to trouble themselves with clicking on another link, the Infinite Monkey Theorem states that if a monkey typed at a typewriter continuously for all of eternity, eventually the monkey would type out every work mankind has ever written. Traditionally, this is stated as "the monkey would eventually type out all the works of Shakespeare", and I will go with this statement for argument's sake.)
One could similarly posit that all the works of Shakespeare are merely very long strings of characters from a set of 27, and that they could similarly be taken at random. Yet this seems to make Shakespeare less of a genius.
Similarly, calling a computer program "just a number" demeans the work a programmer must put in to actually arrive at that "number".
Of course, this doesn't mean that software should be patentable. All this means is that programming is a creative work and programs aren't "just numbers" any more than books are just very long strings of letters, spaces, and punctuation; hence, the argument against software patents should not rest on calling software "just a number".


New Laptop!

It's an Asus U30J-series laptop. I'm really excited to have it now (after not having a new computer for the last 6.5 years)!
Also, you may see a new post (which I've spent a few days on) coming soon; that post was done with regard to this new laptop.


Preview: Crunchbang ("#!") Linux 10 "Statler" Openbox (Alpha 2)

The default Openbox desktop. Aside from the Debian swirly logo, the desktop looks pretty much the same as in 9.04.01.

I am back at home, so I have more time to write reviews (until I need to move to my dorm room). Yay!
This is the first time I am previewing a distribution before its final release. As such, I have tested this distribution in VirtualBox rather than making a Live CD/USB of the ISO file.
You may remember that I tested #! 9.04.01 a while back, and that I was highly pleased with its lack of bloat combined with its full feature set. Unfortunately, I have to say that while this one is a good release (and please keep in mind that this is still an Alpha build based on Debian 6 "Squeeze" Testing), it isn't quite as nice as 9.04.01.
Follow the jump to find out why.


Does Canonical do Enough for Linux?

Please feel free to have your say on this in the comments section. You don't have to read my opinion on it, but if you choose to do so, read on. I got this topic from this (Sam Varghese, IT Wire (note that the article is split into 2 pages)) article.
I am of the opinion that Canonical does in fact do a lot for Linux, and that this should be appreciated more. Sure, its contributions are not of the technical sort; I have seen the statistic before that Canonical only contributes to 1% of GNOME's development (despite Ubuntu being very much a GNOME-centric distribution; the primary contributors are Red Hat, Novell, and volunteers). The statistics are similar with regard to contributions to the Linux kernel.
But really, the whole argument is undermined by the very first sentence itself:
Ask anyone which GNU/Linux distribution one should recommend to would-be users and the answer is generally always one word: Ubuntu.
They have made Ubuntu the most popular Linux distribution among newbies and have introduced Linux to the masses. Isn't that enough?

Should Media Companies Expose Corruption?

Please feel free to make your thoughts on this known in the comments section. I got this question from a TV news program a few days ago in the wake of the media exposing Indian MP Suresh Kalmadi's corruption with regard to his handling of funding for the Commonwealth Games to be held in Delhi.
At first, I thought the answer was obvious: in the US, the media's investigative journalism led to the resignation of a sitting president, so of course it should! But now, I have my doubts.
I believe that even if the US justice system isn't perfect and can have its low moments, if a public figure is exposed as corrupt, that person's career is effectively finished forever due to the combination of the [strength of the] rule of law and the ensuing public disgrace. In India, on the other hand, corruption is pervasive in all levels of public office — from the common cops to the members of parliament. Media exposure won't really get to the root of the problem — it will just lead to corrupt politician after corrupt politician and resignation after resignation. To fight corruption, top-down approach won't work because the people lower down the hierarchy will still support corrupt practices, while a bottom-up approach won't work because the higher-ups' behavior will encourage corrupt practices to continue.
I remember reading in The Undercover Economist that as bad as sweatshops in developing countries are, they are one of the ways for such a country to become richer and develop homegrown businesses, as that is what happened in South Korea and is what is happening in China. Does anyone know of a similar story regarding corruption — a country that experienced some kind of change that drastically reduced the prevalence of corruption? Please do tell me in the comments — I would love to know!


Book Review: "Fermat's Last Theorem" by Simon Singh

(Sorry, this time I don't have a picture of the book, though the owner is the same relative who lent me the books The Undercover Economist and Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya.)
And with this, I have read all of Simon Singh's books. Yay! (I think.)
I really enjoyed this book as much as his other two books. The passages talking about the cracking of the Enigma encryption system were like déjà vu after reading The Code Book. I also enjoyed reading about all of the tension and drama surrounding the various developments and failures leading up to the proof of Fermat's last theorem (though there seem to have been an awful lot of people who took their own lives in the process, unfortunately). It reminds me very much of Big Bang, as the material is presented in a very accessible format, and the focus is more on the developments and characters involved (as the end result is already known from the start).
I would recommend this to anyone even remotely interested in math, history, and puzzles. For readers in the US, however, note that while the UK edition is called Fermat's Last Theorem, the US edition is called Fermat's Enigma.


Das U-Blog Turns 1!

It has been exactly a year since I started this blog! Yay!
To all readers of this blog, thank you so much for reading these posts (and even occasionally commenting on them too). I hugely appreciate the time you have spent reading these posts.
So this post is for you, the readers. And I have a question for you: is there anything else you want me to write about? Please let me know in the comments section.
Thank you!


Movie Review: Inception

This is the first time that I've watched a movie in a theater in a while. I had a really nice time watching the movie.
The story itself was really imaginative and creative. It may initially seem like a generic sci-fi action thriller, but I really like how it involves ideas which people frequently experience (e.g. dreams within dreams, lucid dreaming). I'm still a little confused as to whether Fischer finally does dissolve the company (I guess it's implied), but that's OK.
Yeah, even though I enjoyed the movie, I don't have a whole lot to say about it. Even so, I highly recommend it for anyone to watch (aside from young children).