Review: CentOS 7.0 GNOME

A little over two months ago, I reviewed Scientific Linux 7.0 GNOME. The results weren't too pretty. A commenter on that post suggested that I try CentOS 7 to see if the problems are related to the whole Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL)/CentOS 7 family or to Scientific Linux 7 specifically. This review aims to do exactly that.

For those who don't remember, CentOS is essentially the free (as in beer) community branch of RHEL. It used to be a separate distribution whose developers took great pains to expunge any mention of RHEL from every part of the distribution, as they did not want to officially license the RHEL trademark. Now, though, CentOS is officially part of RHEL, which should hopefully make life a bit easier for the CentOS developers.

I tried CentOS 7.0 GNOME on a live USB made with UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see what it's like. (As will become clear soon enough, there are no pictures in this review, and for the same reason, this review will be relatively shorter. Suffice it to say for now that the distribution basically looks identical to Scientific Linux 7.0 GNOME from screenshots.)


Stuff in Between Monopoly and Competition

It has been a while since I've ranted about an economics article, but there was one by Peter Thiel (cofounder of PayPal and Palantir) in the Wall Street Journal that caught my eye, so it is the subject of this post. In it, he argues that monopolies are not always the bad entities that people make them out to be. In particular, he argues that Google's dominance in the search market has allowed it to expand to other markets such as advertising, robotics, and phones, and in all of those it is far from a dominant market player. He also argues that firms in perfectly competitive markets are too caught up with staying afloat to be able to innovate in any meaningful way, so real innovation can only come from firms with dominant market positions (such that they have money to gamble on such an innovation). Follow the jump to see my reaction to this.


Featured Comments: Week of 2014 October 19

This post is delayed (I would usually put it up on Sunday) because I was out of town for the last few days. There was one post that got a handful of comments, so I'll repost most of those.

Review: Scientific Linux 7.0 GNOME

Reader Admiral Vinogradov said, "It is no longer a CERN project; it is now a Fermilab thing. Unpleasant news and that's where my interest in the distro ended."
An anonymous commenter responded with the following clarification: "From Cern's pages (link at end): What is Scientific Linux (SL) ? SL is a Linux release put together by Fermilab, CERN, and various other labs and universities around the world. And Scientific Linux CERN (SLC) ? SLC is an SL variant that is built on top of the genuine SL and it is tailored to integrate within the CERN computing environment. - http://linux.web.cern.ch/linux/scientific.shtml"
Another anonymous reader said, "[...] My experience with SL7 is entirely positive. I agree however that many packages are not availabe. But I compiled octave , pari-gp, maxima, ecl without any problem. Packages like smplayer and audacity I also had to compile from source. [...]"
Yet another anonymous commenter had this suggestion: "Given that SL is largely (minor tweaks and branding changes aside) a recompile of RHEL, the problems you encountered may very well stem from upstream and not SL per se. (It would be interesting for you to test CentOS 7 - if you haven't done so already - and see if you have the same problems.) Also, while historically SL used to be a scientific-customised version of RHEL (e.g. including scientific packages), the trend in recent releases (SL6, SL7) has been to keep closer to RHEL and have any additional packages be installed from optional repos. CentOS, meanwhile, now that they are under the umbrella of RH, will actually be deviating MORE from RHEL - including updated packages, etc. And, since SL follows RH's new extended lifecycle, if SL7 isn't for you then you can keep using SL6 until 2020-11-30 (a full six years from now)."

Thanks to all those who commented on that post. Again, now that I am halfway through my first semester in graduate school, things are busy enough that my posts will be rather infrequent (though I will try not to let a month go by without posting something or the other). In any case, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


Review: Scientific Linux 7.0 GNOME

It has been a while since I have done a review (almost 3 months, in fact). It has been significantly longer since I have looked at Scientific Linux (over 3 years, in fact). Given that, I figured it might be worthwhile to make this review about Scientific Linux 7.0. I'm just glad that I did it before the time elapsed for something else to come up (around 3 minutes, in fact — OK, I just made that one up to match the other statements).

Main Screen
For those who aren't familiar or don't remember, Scientific Linux is a derivative of Red Hat Enterprise Linux which is meant to make installation of scientific computing software easier (though such software may not necessarily be included right away). That said, a lot has changed in the last 3 years. Most notably, CentOS, the "community version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux" (I realize there may be some technical distinctions but I won't go into them), has now come under the purview of Red Hat. This means Scientific Linux's role could have the potential to shift a bit in the near future (or it might not, who knows). Even with that aside, there are 3 years of software changes to look at in Scientific Linux, so I'm doing that now. I tried it by writing the live DVD ISO file to my USB drive using UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see what it's like.


A Month into Graduate School

I realized I haven't posted anything here for this month, so the least I could do would be to provide a quick update. I've settled into my apartment nicely. Classes are going decently: I'm taking ELE 511 — Quantum Mechanics with Applications, PHY 504/514 — Electromagnetism/Statistical Physics, respectively, and ELE 568 — Implementations of Quantum Information. More exciting though has been attending seminars that professors have given about their research, and being able to talk to those professors one-on-one as well. I even have a small side-project that could lead into full-time research with one of the professors with whom I'm interested in working! All in all, this is shaping up to be an exciting semester, and I can't wait to find out more about the research opportunities in the department and ultimately pick an advisor.


Reflection: 2014 Summer

This summer, by design, I was able to relax basically the whole time. I was able to attend graduation parties, visit relatives in India, attend a wedding in New York, spend time with family & friends, and not worry about work a whole lot. Of course I was able to get a bit of work for my old UROP done too, especially as I'd like to turn it into a paper, but I didn't really feel pressure to be working on it all the time. In fact, working on that and a few other projects was mainly how I filled my downtime, but I never let those things get in the way of relaxing and having fun. Anyway, this summer is about to end, and that would make it my last formal summer break ever. In two days, I will be moving to Princeton to start a PhD program in the Electrical Engineering department; it'll likely be about photonics, quantum optics, or Casimir physics, but I have a semester to figure out the details. I'm really excited to be starting that, and I hope the journey will be a good one overall (though I have no doubt that there will be both ups and downs). If you're starting school, college, graduate school, a new job, or any other sort of new venture, good luck!


Featured Comments: Week of 2014 August 10

There was one post this past week that got two comments, so I'll repost parts of both of those together, as they are both long and from the same commenter.

How-To: Use KWin in MATE

An anonymous reader said, "Just wanted to say that, coincidentally, I've also been toying with these things past week. Normally a KDE user, I tried to give Xfce a spin on my better machines. Of the two main desktops running Mageia KDE, one is able to use Compiz perfectly and on the other it just doesn't work. I seem to recall a problem with a gtkrc file, but I'm not really sure; maybe it has something to do with gconf (there's a lot of messages when I try compiz --replace), because I don't use Gnome. Anyway, an easy trick I found is to install and use the "Compiz Fusion Icon" which becomes an icon in Xfce's "Notification Area". I suppose Mate would work likewise. Right-clicking on that icon it's easy to switch among some WM options -- ate least in Mageia... toggling between Kwin or Xfwm4 becomes easy. Now, what I'd like to say is about a point on which I'd rather have XFwm4 than KDE. It's about automatic tiling, that action of dragging a window to the border and having the WM change its size. Normal Windows-like working is to maximize when dragged to the top of the screen and tile it to half-screen when moving sideways. Very well. Kde does better and has quarter-screen tiling when on drags the window to each one of the four corners (Kwin does that, as I understood). Even better, it allows one to drag the window to the next workspace after a delay. This is very convenient. Xfwm4 does 2 things: one good, one bad. The good one is tiling half-screen to the top (the window becomes half-screen in height and full-width). The same happens to the bottom of the screen. I've wishing that Kwin did that, but it maximises the window instead. A workaround would be using quarter-screen tiling and then right-clicking on the titlebar's maximise button. These things are important e.g. when comparing spreadsheets. And I can live with maximising windows by double-clicking in their titlebar. Xfwm4 doesn't do quarter-screen tiling but I'm betting this is rather an infrequent need. The bad thing is that Xfwm4 does not allow dragging windows to the next workspace if auto-tiling is activated. For the moment, I'm using the "workspace switcher"/pager to move windows among workspaces. It's not very easy because it's small. I'm using the linear workspace configuration instead of the traditional 2x2 matrix, but the idea of having a "B I G" pager has ocurred to me -- inside a second auto-hiding panel. Let us see. Good article as always, btw! Neko Nata PS: Mate was an option, too, but I found difficult to find some settings -- specially single-click (maybe it's a Mageia omission, I don't know). I found it in dconf-editor, but there were some warnings about how things would never work again in my life, so I got back to Xfce. 8-P", later adding, "Just want to add that: 1) after that pager idea (btw the second auto-hiding panel worked), I tried and saw Kwin "show all windows" function (usually Ctrl+F8) can be used to move windows, just as well and 2) there is an equivalent third-party utility for Xfce, it seems, called Skippy-XD. Must try some day. Also, Xfce is a little "whimsical"... if a maximised window is dragged off-border, it restores to normal size, but when dragged to top it fully maximises. To get half-screen zoom, it seems necessary to release the window for a brief moment. Finally, I realize you're after all the nifty desktop effects Kwin has; I agree it's beautiful, but I'm just trying the speed of things on my 2GB RAM machines. For the 64-bit versions, it seems Xfce really makes everything go faster. Surely, given more RAM, KDE would probably would be as fast... and more featureful. Neko Nata".

Thanks to that commenter for those long and detailed comments. I have a review coming up for this week, but I don't anticipate having much else. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


How-To: Use KWin in MATE

KWin in MATE
If you've read any of my reviews over the last several months, you'll know that I've bemoaned the effective death of Compiz. (I guess it's more like in a vegetative state: technically it still exists, but it doesn't actually work.) Since then, I've accepted the fact that for my next distribution upgrade, unless I come to the point of being comfortable with KDE and all of its applications, I will likely stick with MATE or Xfce in conjunction with Devilspie or a similar program for improved window management. That said, out of curiosity, I wanted to see if it would be possible to use KWin with MATE or Xfce, because KWin is even more powerful than Compiz in actual window management, and it comes with the same level of eye candy. Plus, KWin, being an integral part of KDE, is likely to be maintained and developed well for the foreseeable future. Indeed, I found several tutorials explaining how to combine Xfce with KWin. However, there were none for MATE, so that's what this article is. This was tested on a Linux Mint 17 "Qiana" MATE live USB made with UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see how it's done (in this distribution — other distributions may name their packages differently).


Featured Comments: Week of 2014 July 27

This post is two days late because I was out of town until yesterday. There was one post last week that got a few comments, so I'll repost all of those.

Review: Linux Mint 17 "Qiana" MATE

Reader Etescartz said, "What is up with the screen turning black while I'm watching a movie in full screen?!!! It's killing me that such simple things are so damn annoying on linux. I had caffeine installed and configured as latest guides instruct.. I even had the screensaver removed . I tried scripts running on crontab to budge the mouse just so I cand get through a 30 min tv show without the screen blacking out... It's killing my mood to even boot linux. (I'm dualbooting with "that other OS" so I can play Borderlands 2 on it)"
An anonymous commenter had this response: "https://sites.google.com/site/easylinuxtipsproject/mint-mate-first Linux Mint 17 Mate has some aggresive power-saving features enabled by default, such as a short suspend/hibernate time, also you could turn up, (or disable), the standby timeout on your display, disks, ... BTW, why would you remove the 'Screensaver'?, you should have just simply disabled it, in the the 'Control Center' settings These settings, and many more, are ALL in the 'Control Center' [...]"
Another anonymous reader had this bit of support: "Thanks Prashanth, (for the tip on Redshift).  A couple of my friends are recent XP refugee's. I spent a bit-o-time looking around for the best drop-in replacement for their home PC's, and this 'Mate' edition fits the bill perfectly for them. -as you mentioned: ALL the necessary codecs, extra lib32 libraies, are already there, just add skype, frostwire,.... The only caveat was AdobeReader, googletalk-plugin, and teamviewer which I installed for them, via the respective '.deb' sites. Now, all I hear is how much faster Mate is, than XP ever was.  -I luv a good ending. :)"

Thanks to all those who commented on that post. This week, I may have a review out and maybe one other post, but depending on what work I need to get done, those may have to wait until next week. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


Review: Linux Mint 17 "Qiana" MATE

Main Screen + Linux Mint Menu
I've been out of the country for 2.5 weeks, explaining the lack of posts in that time. Before that, I was busy trying to finish a rough draft of a paper outlining the work I did at my UROP before graduation. Now that I'm back and tired from jetlag, I have a little more time to do a review like this, which I wanted to do in June itself.

I'm skipping most further introduction because none is needed for Linux Mint here. All I'll say is that there is no "LTS" label on this post because now all Ubuntu-based Linux Mint releases are based on the LTS releases, starting with this one; this is a move that I support because it should give more credence to the idea that Linux Mint is a stable system that newbies can comfortably use. I reviewed this as a live USB system made with UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see what it's like.


Featured Comments: Week of 2014 June 29

This post is a day late because I was out of town and didn't return until yesterday. The previous week had one post with one comment that I will repost.

Trying out Julia

An anonymous reader had this funny trollish comment: "The matrix has you, unplug now or you will be forever lost in its grip. An mature mind cannot be freed from the matrix, it has trouble letting go."

Thanks to that reader for that comment. This coming week, I don't have anything planned, and I'll be out of town for a few weeks after that. Following that, I should have a review or two out; I've been procrastinating on reviewing the latest release of Linux Mint so that I can continue wrapping up my UROP work, so that'll have to wait until August. Anyway, if you like what I write, please keep subscribing and commenting!


Trying out Julia

This is a fairly quick post, though I previously considered making it longer and more trollish. A handful of my friends have told me about Julia, the amazing programming language made for numerical computations and other scientific computing uses. For the 14.15 — Networks final project this past semester, one of my group partners used Julia to simulate large ensembles of 10000-node random networks, and it worked far quicker than MATLAB. I vowed to get a bit more familiar with Julia (the programming language, not a woman [yet]) this summer. It was actually pretty quick to get used to, considering its syntactical similarities to MATLAB, to which I am more accustomed. I was even able to use it to port over the MATLAB code used for data analysis in 8.13/8.14 — Experimental Physics I/II to Julia. The only issue that I have consistently run into has been plotting. For some reason, the plotting packages that interface with Julia do not work in the ways that I want: Winston is too basic, Gadfly doesn't work at all (which is unfortunate because it has all the features I need and more), and Gaston being a frontend for Gnuplot while having to deal with the quirks of Julia's plot execution order means that I might as well use Gnuplot itself. Indeed, that is what I've done: I've been able to write Gnuplot scripts to plot processed data that Julia outputs into a file. Although Gnuplot's syntax is a little arcane, it is so powerful that I'm OK with using it from a script of commands and changing only a few things here and there as needed. Other than that, Julia works like a charm; its speed is fantastic, and I really like how much structure it brings compared to MATLAB (including things like types and indexing). Plus, it combines the great features of both procedural and functional programming. Given that course 18 has largely switched over to Julia, I wonder when course 8 will do the same....


Review: Pinguy OS 14.04 LTS "Papercut"

Main Screen + GnoMenu
I have now graduated college, so I am back home for 2.5 months this summer. In that time, I have many more opportunities to do reviews that I couldn't do during the same semester. This was originally supposed to be a comparison test against Antergos, which is another distribution that ships GNOME 3/Shell and aims for new users to Linux. Unfortunately, Antergos refused to boot. Therefore, what is left is a typical review of Pinguy OS, albeit with some more critical remarks than usual about how well it really caters to newbies (left over from when this article was a comparison test). Follow the jump to see what it is like.


Featured Comments: Week of 2014 June 1

There was one post this past week that got a comment, so I'll repost that.

Reflection: My Undergraduate Experiences at MIT

An anonymous reader asked, "please for a mint cinnamon review".

Thanks to that reader for that comment. As of two days ago (from this writing), I have graduated MIT with a degree in physics! I am back home for basically the whole summer, so my posting frequency will increase during that time (with a few exceptions). Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


Reflection: My Undergraduate Experiences at MIT

Commencement is a few days away, so I don't have too much more time on campus. I've finished all four years of my undergraduate education. It has been a really wild and amazing ride, and now that things are marginally quieter, I think I could use a little reflection on those 4 years (or, at least, the highlights, learning experiences, and more recent parts that I remember). I am no poet, so a lot of this may sound repetitive, awkward, or stilted; believe me when I say this is really how I feel. Follow the jump to read more.


Featured Comments: Week of 2014 May 25

There was one post that got a few comments this past week, so I'll repost all of those.

Review: KaOS 2014.04

Reader David A. Spicer asked, "Skype? Seriously?"
To that, an anonymous commenter responded as I would have done: "A huge number of people depend on it for work and family communication. More often than not, there's no alternative to Skype, like it or not."
Reader Barnaby left this tip which is unfortunately no longer up to date (though this is certainly not his/her fault): "You need the static package for Skype, it has worked without fail on my Debian machines for about 18 months now, even when upgrading to Sid."

Thanks to all those who commented on that post. This coming week is the week of commencement, so I will have a post reflecting on my time as an undergraduate either this week or next week. After that, I will hopefully be posting the usual reviews and other articles more frequently during the summer. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


Review: KaOS 2014.04

It's been a while since my last review. Now I'm a bit more free because the semester ended over a week ago. At the moment I'd really like to get my hands on the official release of Linux Mint, but that isn't out yet. In the mean time, though, I'm going to check out KaOS.

Main Screen + KDE Homerun Kicker Menu
This distribution caught my eye from a DistroWatch review. That review concludes that it isn't clear exactly what the goal of this distribution is. Looking at the website more, I can't say that it's any clearer to me either. All I can glean is that this distribution aims to please more experienced users with a rolling-release model, maintain a small base of packages so that those will be polished before use, and target newer computers by using KDE and only 64-bit releases. I'll have to try this distribution out to see if there is any more information regarding the target audience of this distribution. I tried KaOS on a live USB made with MultiSystem. Follow the jump to see what it's like.


Done with 8th Semester!

I'm done with my eighth and final semester of my MIT undergraduate semester! (Actually, I was done on Sunday, May 18 around 3pm upon completion of my last problem set, but I didn't get around to writing this until today.) It was extremely satisfying to see a bit about nanoparticle scattering of infrared light in a new UROP project and write about that in my thesis, along with getting excellent results for my ongoing photonic crystal UROP project and writing about that too. My thesis gave my the most trouble in the two weeks leading up to its submission on May 9, though I started writing during spring break itself. In terms of classes, I had the most trouble in 8.334 — Statistical Mechanics II (Statistical Field Theory), as the problem sets and exams alike were quite challenging, and the final project was an 18-hour marathon on Friday, May 16. Also annoying was 14.15 — Networks; it wasn't taught or organized very well, and the final project gave me and my group partners a fair amount of stress too. More manageable was 8.962 — General Relativity, which only had problem sets, and most of those were quite reasonable and straightforward. Anyway, I don't have any final exams this semester (by design), so I'm really done, and all I need to worry about now is commencement! (I will have a longer post reflecting on my time at MIT in the coming days, so stay tuned for that.) After commencement, I plan to spend most of my summer time relaxing and picking up small projects at home; I may also travel for a bit too.


Featured Comments: Week of 2014 May 4

This past week, there was one post that got a few comments, so I'll repost all of those.

Review: OpenMandriva Lx 2014.0

An anonymous reader suggested, "Thanks for the review! One thing I question, is why you use unetbootin to make live usb, when dd works fine and gives you the menu OM wants you to see... Even couldn't be simpler to do: https://wiki.openmandriva.org/en/2014.0/Release_Notes#via_dd Just make sure to wait 5-10 minutes for the iso to actually be fully transferred to the usb-key."
Another anonymous commenter had this hope: "Good review, thanks. Of special interest is the memory usage, as I have machines with 2GB of RAM. Rather than the usual mudslinging seen in Libreoffice/Openoffice, I wish for some fraternal cooperation between OpenMandriva and Mageia, if not for advancement then for greater savings, at least."
Reader Mechatotoro said, "First of all, Prashant, good luck with your thesis and exams.
It is good to read another one of your useful reviews again, thank you! I installed OpenMandriva Lx 2014 and found some interesting points related to Home Run, which I will soon write about. Again, good luck!"

Thanks to all those readers for commenting on that post. This coming week is the last week of class for me. I will have at least one post about the end of the semester, but that's all I can guarantee because it's a busy week. After that, though, I'm hoping to start doing more reviews than just one every month. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


Review: OpenMandriva Lx 2014.0

It has been a while since I've done a review, and I apologize for that. This week isn't actually getting any less busy for me; last night I finished my undergraduate thesis and submitted it to my thesis advisor, and hopefully there aren't too many major revisions that I would need to make. Beyond that, though, I still have problem sets, a midterm exam, and final projects to finish. I'm just doing this review now because finishing the thesis was exhausting, and I need a short break before I can get back to work. In that time, I'm reviewing OpenMandriva Lx 2014.0.

KDE Homerun Menu
As the name might suggest, OpenMandriva is related to the old distribution Mandriva, which went out of business. The first fork of Mandriva was Mageia, which preserved the traditional KDE 4 interface. After that, Mandriva changed its GUI from standard KDE to the ROSA customization of KDE, which I reviewed a little under 3 years ago here. Following that, ROSA forked as a distribution from Mandriva to showcase its customization of KDE; I reviewed that almost exactly 2 years ago here. Since then, another fork has arisen from ROSA, and that fork is OpenMandriva.
I tried this distribution as a live USB system made with UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see what it's like.


Thesis and Papers and Projects, Oh My!

I realize I haven't been able to post anything in...a month, actually. That's because most of my time has recently been devoted to finishing my undergraduate thesis (due in 1.5 weeks), 2 final projects (due in 2.5 weeks), the work for a potential paper for my UROP (hopefully soon), problem sets (all the time), and exams (sporadically, though thankfully I have no final exams). I hope to have more posts (including a few reviews) out in the coming weeks when I'm a little more free. In the meantime, enjoy this nugget of crazy physics: apparently it's possible to derive asymptotic freedom in QCD from classical statistical field theory.


Review: Linux Mint MATE 201403

Main Screen + Linux Mint Menu
It's been a while since I've done a review. In fact, it's been a while since I've posted in any form, because this semester has turned out to be a lot busier than I anticipated. It likely will remain so until it ends; the only reason why I can post a review right now is because of spring break, and even that has been busy for me. Anyway, I initially wanted to do a review of Frugalware because it looked intriguing, but I couldn't get the live USB to work. I'm reviewing this (which I had planned for later) instead. If you've passed by this blog, you've probably already seen my thoughts on Linux Mint, so I'll skip the introduction. I tried this updated ISO file as a live USB made with MultiSystem. Follow the jump to see what it's like. There isn't too much that has changed since last year, so I will simply link the review from then, point out any changes, and put out any other thoughts that occur to me about this.


Green's Functions and Correlations

I had the idea of writing this post a couple of weeks ago, but I didn't feel like I had enough stuff to write here at that time. Now I do, so here goes. (Also, here's hoping that inputting LaTeX into this post works once more.)

When I took 18.03 — Differential Equations in 2010 fall, one of the topics covered was linear time-invariant systems. The general system of interest was $Lu(t) = f(t)$ where $L$ is a linear time-invariant operator. The technique of course is to find a weight function $w(t)$ where $Lw(t) = \delta(t)$, and once that is done, the solution is $u(t) = \int_{-\infty}^{\infty} f(t') w(t - t') dt'$ which is a convolution of the input $f$ with the weight $w$. The professor mentioned that it is essentially akin to inverting the operator $L$, but while I could see the general utility in this method, I never quite understood why it might be considered inversion on any deeper level.

Last semester, I took 8.07 — Electromagnetism II, and there we discussed Green's functions a little more in the context of electromagnetism & electrodynamics. In a static situation, the Green's function comes up in solving the Poisson equation $\nabla^2 \phi = -\rho$. In this case, $\nabla^2 G(\vec{x}, \vec{x}') = -\delta(\vec{x} - \vec{x}')$ is solved by the familiar potential of a unit point charge $G(\vec{x}, \vec{x}') = \frac{1}{4\pi |\vec{x} - \vec{x}'|}$. I started to see a little more clearly why this worked, because if a general charge distribution was some superposition of point charges, then a general potential distribution should be the same superposition of point charge potentials. However, it still wasn't entirely clear to me how this was "inversion" per se. Follow the jump to see what changed.


Back Online After TOS Violation due to Malware Issue

For the last day or two, this blog was taken down again, this time due to a terms of service violation. I could not for the life of me think of what I might have written or done here to account for that. Today, I looked into it, and found that although this blog had been restored after the malware attack, the malware itself had not been removed. After removing a lot of third-party code, I found out that the issue lay in my Archives page, where the third-party code allowing the "Archives" widget to be displayed as a separate page had been infected with malware. I'm starting to be a little more wary of how Google handles things now, and while I do intend to stay with Blogger for the foreseeable future, I'm not counting a move entirely out.


Eighth Semester at College

I'm at the home stretch! This is my eighth and last semester as an undergraduate at MIT. Classes start tomorrow. I'll be taking 8.334 — Statistical Mechanics II (which is really statistical field theory), 8.962 — General Relativity, 14.15 — Networks, and 8.THU — Undergraduate Physics Thesis. The cool thing is that 8.334 — Statistical Mechanics II and 14.15 — Networks will have a bit of overlap in some places, as both discuss graph theory, collective phenomena, and phase transitions to varying degrees. More importantly, 8.THU — Undergraduate Physics Thesis is basically going to be my UROP, formalized into credits contingent on me producing a thesis at the end of it. That's also how I can start a new UROP project on nanoparticle absorption and scattering of infrared radiation. Even though I'm only taking 3 classes besides my UROP and [as far as I can tell] none of them have final exams, the semester will still keep me quite busy, but this will be the last semester where I can take more random classes that I want to take, as graduate school will likely only let me take classes related to my research interests. Here's hoping that my last semester of my undergraduate career turns out to be the best one yet, and good luck to everyone else for the new semester!


Featured Comments: Week of 2014 January 26

There were two posts this past week that got a comment each, so I'll repost both of those.

Revisited: Linux Mint 16 "Petra" KDE + Xfce

An anonymous reader had this vote of support: "welcome back prashanth ji.............." [following the takedown of this blog for a large portion of the month of 2014 January].

Review: Pinguy OS 13.10 Beta 3

Another anonymous commenter suggested, "Elementary OS, with all the stability you need. :)"

Thanks to both of those people for leaving those comments. This coming week, I will have a post about the semester ahead. After that, the semester will start and will certainly become busy, so I likely will drop the frequency of posts after that, as I have done in past semesters. Anyway, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


Reflection: 2014 IAP

This IAP was quite a bit more hectic near the end of it. I was starting to wrap up my current UROP project on photonic crystal enhancement of spontaneous emission and start learning about a new project on nanoparticle absorption & scattering of infrared radiation. Also, especially in the last week, I was doing a lot for making a video for the MIT-K12 project. Finally, there was organization to be done for the SPS Lightning Lectures on the last day of IAP. Overall, it was quite productive. At the moment, I am still awaiting graduate admission results (except for one positive one so far). And I await and anticipate one last semester of classes and research as an undergraduate at MIT!


Review: Pinguy OS 13.10 Beta 3

Main Screen + GnoMenu
Several weeks ago, I reviewed a couple of distributions in the span of a week. I initially thought one of those reviews would be of Pinguy OS, but then I saw that I had last reviewed Pinguy OS when it was at version 12.04 LTS, so I figured I would only review LTS releases. Then the lead developer of this distribution asked me in a comment on another post to take a look at Pinguy OS soon, and I thought I would do that much earlier this month. Then of course this blog went down and didn't reappear until a little over a week ago. Now I can finally review Pinguy OS. I've reviewed it enough times (even in GNOME 3/Shell guise) that I can safely skip the introduction. I will say though that this is labeled as a review rather than a preview because there will never be non-beta releases of non-LTS versions. I tried Pinguy OS as a live USB made with MultiSystem (because for some reason using UnetBootin produced a non-bootable live USB system). Follow the jump to see what it's like.


Revisited: Linux Mint 16 "Petra" KDE + Xfce

KDE: Main Screen + KDE Kickoff Menu
Aaaaaand...we're back! This blog had been taken down for about 2.5 weeks and didn't come back up until late last week. Because of that, I couldn't make use of the extra time I have during IAP to post any of the reviews or other stuff that I wanted to do. Now I have to sort of make up for lost time and do & post those things. That starts with a review of the latest KDE and Xfce editions of Linux Mint. I tested both as live USB systems each made with UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see what each is like.


FOLLOW-UP: Gibbs Entropy and Two-Level Systems

As a follow-up to this post, I'm going to briefly discuss what two statistical mechanics professors (who shall remain nameless) I talked to about this had to say. For those who don't remember or are too lazy to read through, the issue is that a new paper publicized by the MIT news office claims that by adopting a view of entropy as per Gibbs as opposed to Boltzmann, negative temperature can be removed from statistical mechanics. I pointed out many issues I had with the arguments for that, and I would thereby cast doubt on the paper and premise as their wholes. Follow the jump to see what information I was able to learn after talking to those professors. (It appears that rendering LaTeX on this blog no longer works right after the takedown, so I'm enclosing any useful LaTeX formulas in dollar signs for you to copy and paste into a LaTeX renderer, if you so choose. The rendering of LaTeX in past posts is inconsistent, just as a heads-up.)


Back Online After Malware Issue

You may have noticed that this blog was inaccessible for the last 2.5 weeks. That's because it, along with a whole bunch of other blogs on Blogger, was apparently hit by malware (though I don't know whether that really happened or if it was a false flag). Anyway, this blog is back online, and I intend to get back to writing in this space as I had originally planned. In the meantime, I'm going to be carefully backing up all the data here.