Sunday, December 17, 2006

I registered at last week. is a website that keeps track of the music you listen to, using plugins for the most used music players around. When you listen to your music, with your favorite music player, information about the songs you have heard, is sent to the website.
This information is used to make a profile of your listening habbits: what is your favorite artist, what kind of music do you like most, ...
This profile is then used to match you with other people who have a similar taste. You are provided with other music those people like and which you migth like too, as you have a mutual musical taste.

At least that's what the website is telling me. I have used the plugin for a few days now, but it will take a few weeks - according to their website - to build a profile.

BTW: I got the plugin working on iTunes (it keeps track of both the music I listen to on iTunes and my iPod) and on XMMS (Linux).

Saturday, December 09, 2006


It seems the plane on this picture is coming out of a cloud or flying through one, but in fact the cloud is generated by the plane itself. And no, the plane is not on fire or leaking any fluids.

The cloud is induced by the plane flying at a speed near but not greater than the sound barrier. The effect is caused by the Prandtl-Glauert Singularity.
In short: At speeds near the sound barrier and at certain pressure, the temperature drops, causing moisture in the air to condensate and forming a cloud.

Physics can be beautiful. :-)

Friday, December 08, 2006


(The title is in dutch, and can be translated as 'childhood memories'.)

A few weeks ago I heard a song when listening to Studio Brussel, a Belgian radio station. The song was picked up by the DJ on a website of a group called Fixkes.

It seems this band originates from a small town near the place where I grew up. Having left the region for some years now, I was quite pleased to hear their song because it brought back some nice memories of my childhood.

The band members must be of my age, as a lot of elements in the lyrics of the songs reminded me of things that happened when I was younger. The singer sang in his local dialect, which is not very different from mine.

It was quite nostalgic, hearing that song. And I liked it.
(I'm not sure about the title of the song, but you can listen to it on the website of the group)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Lack of time

I just figured out that I need about 3 or 4 copies of myself (or the equivalent of 3 or 4 times the duration of a week) to be able to do all the things I'm interested and occupied in, in a sufficient way.
For instance: I'm a student and I would like to spend all my time on attending courses, making exercices, studying and preparing for the next class, writing papers, doing exams and reading articles and books related to my field of study, which is physics and astronomy, by the way.
But to pay for my living, I'm working part-time as a sysadmin and programmer. This consumes some of my precious time during the week, and all the time I spend working, isn't spend on studying. To combine both and be able to spend all the time I like on my studies, I would need 1,5 times the equivalent of a week.
But I like programming and I program some more in my spare time, as a hobby, so to do everything I would like to do, I would need another week. Which means I would need 2 times the equivalent of a week, to do all I would like relating my study, my work and programming.
And it doesn't end here. I'm a social person and like to hang out with my friends, play games, eat together or go to parties, visit family, ... This would add another half time the equivalent of a week, to do everything right and proper.
And to top it all off, I like to stay current with what's happening in the world: politics, economics, science, culture, ... And I like to read books and going to the theater or musical concerts. This equals another equivalent of a week.
Add to it that I need some sleep and need to wash, cook, eat, clean my appartement and go buy some food and supplies and it sums up to 4 times the equivalent of a week, to get everything done I would like to get it done.

Unfortunatly, it isn't possible to get 4 times the equivalent of a week fit into the period of one week. If you do know how to do it however, please let me know. ;-)
So there are several options to get things done:

  • copy myself 3 times, in such a way that I have a mutual brain of some sort, so that I 'know' what the four of me are doing/have done.
As cloning human beings isn't possible at the moment, this isn't really an option.
  • choose one of the things I would like to do best, and spend all my time on that one, neglecting all the rest for the time being, until I reach a point I get the feeling I have done enough and then start spending all my time on one of the other things.
This isn't a very practical solution, as I need to work in order to pay for my living while I'm studying. And I would stop to be a social being if I spend all my time programming, not to mention what a mess my apartment would become after a while.
So this leads to the more practical solutions:
  • plan the week so that everything gets enough but not all time, knowing that it will take longer (About 4 times longer ;-) ) to reach the same level of completion, compared to when every part gets full attention.
This means making choices and sacrifices, which is what most people have to do, and the way I'm doing it too.

But If I could find a way to do some things more efficient like programming for example, so that it's less timeconsuming, I would be able to spend more time on my other occupations and hobbies.
I'm going to reflect on this last thought and I will write some more about it when I come to another insight.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Google searches based on information on different pages?

Today I was looking for occurances of my real name on the internet using the Google search engine.
At first the results weren't very surprising. I noticed some differences with previous searches, mainly the order of the different pages in the search result differed. No big deal, things change through time, even on the internet.
But I was surprised to find my blog in the search results. Nowhere on my blog have I used my real name, and it is not mentioned in my profile. And my E-mail address, which contains my real name, isn't visible on my blog either.
There are pages on the internet that link my blog and/or nickname to my real name, so now I'm wondering if the search engine of Google combines information on different pages on the internet to create a search result?
If this is the case, it makes Google even more a superior search engine.

BTW: I repeated the same search with some other search engines, but none of them related my blog with my real name.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Google reader

I just found out Google has updated its reader application. It has a new layout, which resembles more what a desktop RSS reader would look like. On the left is a list of feeds and on the right the posts of the selected feed. And a feature to mark all posts as read. It's a lot easier to use than the previous version.

Until now I only used a feedreader on one computer because it is nearly impossible to synchronize feedreaders on different computers: Which post have I read on which computer? Did I read this post already?

For this reason I started looking for an online feedreader, but none seemed to have the same features as a desktop version, the most important one being able to keep track of read/unread posts. When I discovered Google reader, I was happy to find out it could remember which posts I had read already. But it had some flaws (and bugs), so I decided to keep using my desktop feedreader.
Until now. With the new version of the online feedreader, I can abandon the desktop version and use the online one.

Now I can check the feeds I'm subscribed to anywhere and anytime, on any computer or device. I don't have to be at home to do so.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

WPA2: securing my wireless network at home

A few weeks ago I bought a new laptop and soon after that I replaced my old router with a new device with wireless capability.
First I set the device up using WPA, but I only managed to get it working when the laptop was running Windows. In linux, only WEP - an older but much less secure way of encrypting the data which is transmitted between the accesspoint and the laptop - was supported by the tool I was using.
Last weekend I started looking for ways of configuring my laptop to use the WPA2 standard, both in Windows and linux.
After searching some forums I stumbled upon a topic about a tool called knetworkmanager (a frontend for networkmanager). I installed it using apt-get and it worked. I could connect to my wireless accesspoint using WPA in linux.
Then I changed the settings of the accesspoint to use WPA2 and I could still connect using linux.
After I booted in Windows I noticed I couldn't connect to my wireless network. After searching the microsoft knowledge base, I found out that WPA2 isn't supported on a standard Windows XP + SP2 installation. Fortunately a link to an update was provided, which made WPA2 possible.
After installing and rebooting I changed the settings of my wireless connection to WPA2 and I got connected to my wireless accesspoint.
So now all communication between my laptop and the accesspoint is secured and encrypted using WPA2, the safest protocol for home use available at the moment.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

electronic scholarship

Today I applied for a scholarship to study at the university. That's not very special, as a lot of people do this every year, but starting from this year it is possible to do it via the internet.
Over the last few years, my government is putting a lot of effort into administrative simplification and e-government. A lot of government departments are starting to process forms and information digitally, using computer and internet. This means that a lot of information is available through digital databases. Because of this, less forms are needed and the forms that still exist are shorter. You don't have to provide the same information over and over again, as part of it is already available to the administration.
Part of this e-gov wave is the possibility to fill out the tax-form using the internet, for the past 4 years now. Starting this year, applying for a scholarship is also possible using the internet.

I don't have to leave home to submit my application for a scholarship. Using my digital account on the government website I can fill out the digital form and send it electronically through the internet.
The best part is that a lot of information is already filled in, like my postal address and social security number.
In the past I had to prove I could get a scholarship, providing documents of my university, the tax-departement, etc. But due to the e-gov thing, the scholarship department can access this information directly from my university and the tax-database. I don't need to provide this information anymore, which makes it much easier to apply for a scholarship.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Sore throat

I'm feeling ill and I have a sore throat. Or the other way around, but I can't be bothered about what came first or which is causing which.
It started saturday after I woke up. Previous times when I had this it lasted about 5 days before I was healthy again. So this probably means I can pick up everyday activities starting wednesday or thursday.
Until then I'll have to fill my days with sleeping, taking some rest and doing nothing. Maybe I can watch some television or read a book.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Migrated mailbox

Yesterday, when I opened my mailbox, I noticed that it seemed to be corrupted. All folders I use to organise the vast flow of mails I receive every day had disappeared. After checking the university helpdesk, I learned the IT-department had started migrating the current student's mailboxes to the new server that evening. After further investigation of my 'corrupted' mailbox I found a mail (with no subject) which stated that my mailbox was migrated and provided the new settings to be used in my E-mail application.
I was a little relieved when I changed the settings and after connecting to the new server, I noticed that my folders appeared again. But not all. Two of them where still missing. When trying to create the folders in the new mailbox, I found out why they where missing: the folders contained a '@' in the foldername, and apparently this character was refused for foldernames in the new mailbox. This explains why these two folders weren't copied when my mailbox was migrated.
But one of those folders contained over a hundred E-mails I still needed. After copying the original mailfolder, which wasn't yet deleted from the old server, using another server I managed to restore them.

So now I have a new mailbox on a new server, which has a lot of advantages. The old server was getting slow, as it is quite some years of age and has to serve the mailboxes of over 27,000 students at my university. During last semester one had to be very patient when checking E-mail arround lunchtime.
Checking E-mails should be much faster now with the new server.
My mailbox is a lot bigger too and doesn't consume space in my networkdrive.

I'm very pleased to already have been migrated to the new server. But I'm wondering what criteria where used to select which student's accounts where to be migrated first.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Phishing IQ

Phishing (in Dutch) is a technique used by fraudsters, to obtain personal information like addresses, usernames, passwords, credit card information, bank details, social security numbers and the like.
You probably have received several of this type of messages by E-mail, asking you to provide some personal information. A typical phishing E-mail pretends to originate from your bank or credit card supplier, but is not. With clever tricks these kind of mails fool the recipient to believe it is a genuine mail.

Today I came across a phishing IQ test which presents you some real mails, some of which are scams and some are legitimate. You have to decide which are fraudulent and which are not. In the end you get a score on how well you did. If you got something wrong you can look at the explanation why some mail was legitimate or fraudulent.
Doing this test lets you check how good you are at recognising phishing scams. And hopefully you can learn how to see when a mail is genuine or not.

Power failure

Yesterday, a power failure caused that there was no electricity in my block for a few hours.
In the afternoon, lights went out, the radio stopped playing, but what was worse, the refrigerator stopped too, as did my computers.
Having no radio is slightly discomforting, having no lights can be inconvenient, but as long as it's still bright enough outside, not very troublesome. The refrigerator having no power is not a problem at first, but if the power outage lasts too long, it will start to warm up. When this happens the food inside can be spoiled.
The computers are a different story. When a computers halts during a power failure, without proper shutdown can cause several problems like damage to the hardware or contents of the harddrive if they weren't yet written to the disk. It is possible that the computer won't boot after power is restored, or that important data is lost.

Luckily, power was restored after a few hours. Nothing was damaged and the refrigerator was still cool enough when it was restarted, so no food had to be thrown away.
All computers rebooted without problems and only a slight problem with a partition on a harddrive was detected. Fortunately this could be resolved easily.

I don't like it when power failures emerge, but taking into account that the outage lasted only 3 hours and that the previous power failure was more than a year ago, I can't realy complain.
But maybe I should invest in a UPS, to make sure my computers are protected when the next power failure happens.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Zeno's schizophrenia

Last week my new laptop arrived, which was the start of the lengthy process of installing the necessary software and applying some settings, to make it behave like I want it to behave.
The laptop came installed and preconfigured to work on the network of the university I study at.
During the last few days I added another operating system (OS), so I can choose which one I will use, and I adjusted some things so it works on my home network, but most time was spent on securing the laptop as good as is desirable.
You can call me paranoid, but I protected it on several levels with different strong passwords:
Before you can start using the laptop, you are prompted for a password. Then you can choose which OS to use. After the operating system started up, you have to login, using a different strong password.
When the laptop isn't used for about 10 minutes, it goes into standby mode. If you want to start using the system again, you need to provide a password again.

To protect the data, I have some more security measures in place. Booting from CD/DVD, USB or network isn't possible unless you provide a password at startup first (see earlier). So you can't get to the contents of the harddisk by booting with some other software or device.
Taking the harddisk out of the laptop and putting it in another one isn't going to help either, as it is configured to only work with this laptop. The disk won't launch in a different laptop.
And as last safety measure, and I am quite proud of this one, but more on that later, I set up an encrypted partition containing my data. This encryption is not file or folder based, but encrypts the entire partition. This partition can be accessed by unlocking it with a lengthy passphrase.

All security protections, but one, are provided by the laptop or by the operating system. For the encryption off the partition containing the data, I used something called LUKS. The beauty of this system is, that it can be accessed by both operating systems. This way I can always access my data, regardless of the operating system I'm using at a perticular moment.

My setup needs some tweaking to make it more convenient and easy to use, but as far as security is concerned I'm quite pleased already.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Silly climate

It has been raining a lot, today, tomorrow, last week, the whole current month. But last month (July) our country was hit be a heat wave. The weather in this region of the world is very strange and not very consistent. Winter lasted until May this year, as it was very cold and still snowing in April.
Officially it's still summer but according to some trees, fall has started, as those trees are already loosing their leaves. But maybe this was caused by the extreme heat of July.
One might think that the Monsoon season has begun, but the equator is not anywhere near where I live. Probably it's all caused by global warming.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

First post

I was not quite sure about the language I would be using in this blog. I've decided to do it in English, because more people will understand what I'm posting.
Maybe I will start another blog in Dutch (my mother tongue) some day.

This whole blog-thing is a big experiment. I wonder if I will post regularly, or when (or if) I will terminate this blog in a distant future. This being said, I am very tempted right now to end this post and immediately write another one titled 'Last post', just because of the multiple meanings this phrase could have. ;-)
But this would imply the sudden end of this blog, before it even started, so I'm not going to do it right away.