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Christmas!

Towards the year-end my computing interests have been a bit of tit-and-dat.

I’ve developed quite a keen interest to finally resolve how to make 3-D graphics (on Linux).

Though it does seem a little bit kinky project, I try to remain stubborn enough to get some kind of object rotating on my screen. The past 10 years have seen GPUs increase their performance and features almost like in a fairy tale. Graphics cards can draw up to about 2-3 billion polygons a second!

As a side-effect I might bump into GTK toolkit, which is a cross-platform graphics palette to do user interfaces in. Gnome (a Linux window manager) has the very elemental and original look of GTK.

I am reading the book about Facebook’s birth and short history. Facebook is a high-profile start-up, perhaps one of the highest profiles in the last 10 years.

(A good by-story, if you got time, is the 1:33hr video on Youtube, about The Facebook Effect)

Another project that I’ve been putting a little bit of time is recording using SoundCloud.com as a storage partner. The relatively new service offers a 1 gigabyte free space for anyone signing up. If you want to share your own experimental music, or just chat around, recording your speech, take a look at SoundCloud. I’ve found it very smooth and interesting. Oh, and by the way, for some reason ‘cheese’ (Linux webcam software) stopped seeing my in-built webcam hardware. I’m only getting a blank screen in the window frame where usually a live webcam picture appears. Digging into it..

Firefox 4 latest beta 8 is interesting. I downloaded the browser yesterday, and have been trying it out.

It’s been freezing in southern Finland. Today, -6F (-21 celsius). It felt baaaaaaad. I took a walk to the city, using – for some wicked reason, the aesthetic me – not the shortest path. At one point I understood my fingers were practically numb. I bought a pair of real fluffy and rugged gloves, specially for the winter times. They are really warm, love them. Seems every now and then a tight winter temperatures remind me of where I live. This is very north. Norway extends more north, but then there’s Finland as a second player (Greenland not accounted for!)

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my odaxi linux host

Home host, the odaxi

For the last couple of weeks I have been working on getting the “odaxi” host up and running. I love Linux, so of course it runs a flavor of Ubuntu. The particular operating system becomes a part of your brain and body, once it is used daily. There is always new things to discover, both within and online.

My network is now speedy 18 mbit/s practically. It gets a dynamic IP number from DHCP server. I run light host-based defense systems also to make sure that intrudes cannot penetrate from within the network.

On the left side you can see an external 19″ monitor. This was a bargain at 110 eur a year ago. Nowadays, of course, there are better prices and sharper equipment. The idea of having an extra monitor for work, status, chat, or whatever you keep there, is something that has to be experienced before one believes it.

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Captain’s Log, year 2000 and Info-Society development

Captain’s Log, 2000 supplemental:

Finland Losing the Grip in Info-Society Development

by Jukka Paulin (18 April 2000)


This text is a historical reproduction, vis-a-vis from the year 2000 homepage writings. I was then a systems programmer on a Java security project, and
blogging about the Possible Future scenarios in IT.

Introduction

I was purely amazed at the news, when I found out that the state of Sweden is strongly supporting the building of a fixed internetwork to the country, while Finland is not.

When I discussed the matter with my friends, I got
answers like “Well, we Finns are a people who like
to drink beer a lot and not care about things so much
anyway, it’s not so important to build an ubiquitous
Internet…” Can you believe that?-) Excuse me,
maybe I am a bit techno-freakkie, but this sounds like
a poor excuse.

Connecting every household with a fixed line would bring a whole new array of services and possibilities at hand.

I personally experienced this when I recently moved out from Leppävaara to Otaniemi campus area and am now
happily connected with a 100mbit/sec line. Compared to the often-disconnecting 56kBps modem, I’m in heaven now 🙂
There is no threshold for accessing a certain service anymore, as there was with the phone line. For example,
the Helsinki City Guide Map is a very handy site, as are the various timetables I can access from the web.
I can read the news of the day, communicate with friends across the globe, read foreign news and expand my
world view, etc. I couldn’t manage without the net anymore, now that I have it. You don’t automatically have to be
a Net Junkie, it’s there when you need it and that’s it.

Finland (in year 2000) is no longer a steam and paper -run society, wake up! The infotech is actually the only thing we
got, and we better hang on to it. It will benefit us all, like the coming of electricity did. Can’t you see patterns
in the history?

Reasons?

Who needs reasons when you got… ignorance? There
certainly seems to be some sort of attitude problem
among both the computer science students and personnel
in HUT. People have not realized the true meaning of being
open and helping others to learn things.

Computer science is seen by some as a
secret trade which shall never be revealed to outsiders
.

These people, unfortunately, seem to take pleasure in seeing that someone else
doesn’t know how to use an awkward, cryptic computer system.

I recently posted into a newsgroup (tik.opinnot.trak)
and complained about the bad user interface and unreliability
of a certain home assignment returning system, and what I
got as an answer was totally unsatisfactory. A student
told me basically that Java is a totally useless language,
it is good only for crashing machines, and Graphical
User Interfaces (GUIs) are not useful, they “belong
to schools of lower level”. The teacher said
that the graphical user interface is just an add-on, and
people should use e-mail as the true means of returning
their assignments. We are talking about an algorithms
and data structures course. By reading countless A4’s
you learn nothing.

By visualizing the algorithms you would definitely boost learning, I’m pretty certain of this. I just can’t sometimes believe
I am actually hearing these sorts of bad arguments from the “futuremakers” of Finland.

I am sometimes pondering whether the teachers have a true interest in seeing their students learn things
or is it just that they’re waiting for their next salary.


The government of Finland makes a big mistake in
not investing in fixed internet network, as Sweden does.

Incomprehensible excuses are offered why this is not sensible, like that
we’re actually concentrating on wireless stuff. Well of course, but still, that shouldn’t be mutually
exclusive with the fixed line project, should it?

Simple corrective action

In My Humble Opinion, (and this applies still as of 2010),

  • cut down the unbelievable spaghetti of bureaucracy in Finland.
    A friend of mine has gone through the process of putting up
    his own company, he surely knows what it is. People are not
    the least supported in making their own living by determined
    action, individuals are flatheaded in this passive system
    called social security, which in addition to devouring
    huge amounts of money produces no activity.
  • less restrictive laws governing just about everything
    There are too many forbidden things conserning eg.
    Internet domain naming, advertising (don’t people have
    a thing called brains to decide what is good for themselves?)
    and copyrighting.
  • cut down the prices of simple electronic transactions.
    WAP and other services will never become popular
    at the current prices. I see a future of ubiquitous
    electronic services at affordable prices.
    It would surely make life easier, why try to make quick
    profits by keeping high prices? Electronic services
    should be affordable for even the less well off.

Articles covering the topic

The Abcnews Technology Section

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Captain’s Log 2006: establishing IT admin business

Captain’s Log, year 2006: supplemental
establishing computer maintenance and administration business in Finland

keywords: T:mi, toiminimi, Jukka, Paulin

My email to a friend; I am living in Klaukkala, Finland, at
the time. And just about having established my own
sole proprietorship in the computer / security and software
maintenance (administration) business.
motherboard

Those laptops sure are nice toys to have around, but one
big grime: the cables! In order to configure a working set
of hardware, you suddenly have at least 10-15 meters of
different kinds of cables! A webcam, broadband modem, mouse,
external keyboard, power cables, the printer… I already
noticed this when my sister was taking home her work laptop,
and setting it up took around 5-10 minutes per session.

The Etera mutual pension fund approached me based on my
action to establish a business. I have so far had about
three, four calls from different service providers regarding
various aspects of business. I am currently looking at a
map at home, and thinking about geographical positioning
in the markets. Cities around population 15,000 up to
metropolitan Helsinki (520,000) will be my prime targets.
In the east I will limit my reach to Porvoo, approximately
64 kilometers from here (Klaukkala).

I am looking for laptops in Gigantti and on the net. I want
the laptop to be equipped with as few wires as possible;
in normal use, only maximum the power cable, nothing else!

Competitors seem to be charging anything from 30 to 100
euros per hour. Fifty euros could be a fair start for
my own company. It makes no sense to dump prices down.
Dumping, in markets, means that one makes very cheap products
or services, and increases aggressively the market share,
but ultimately often ends up with a situation where it
is difficult to satisfy customer needs; and with diminishing
margins.

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Wavemon and lunch porridge!

When you’re tapping a new blog article with a little bit oily fingers, it’s bargaining concurrency versus need to clean up later. I’m doing it right now, though I finished my meal.

Computer people are often (really?) neurotically tidy, what comes to the equipment (you can exclude hair from that, at least in my case 😉

But the hardware, the computer’s outer shield (casing), keyboard hats, rims, are like those of a good sports car: they need to look clean and cool. You remember from childhood, that some friends loaned you media, while others where strict about it. The former are called hackers or techies, the latter are called business jerks – or worse, lawyers!

Concurrent work is my business. I used to the habit ever since I started being an administrator. When you do it for big companies, there’s a kind of killer wave of requests hitting you each day. It may be anything between zero and fifty requests. (By the way, I experienced something like 1 request every 60 days per staff, in prefessional environments; and that is superbly low!)

You seldom actually prioritize them (formally), but instead work towards the goals in opportunistic ways; you remember tasks during the interfacing points with colleagues. The 34 first tickets are mentally in your head, looking like a porridge under control. It is still shallow, pre-lunch smalltalk and everything is going well. But like a surfer who just plays with the small waves, the bigger one is coming. When the other guys and gals hit sushi, you get a major off-site emergency call! Darn!

I don’t currently have a mobile broadband access, so I use one of the three main points of presence in the small town: the library, McDonald’s, or a local academia. The library limits the usage to one hour. McDonald’s supposedly also does that. The school provides free access for as long as it’s open daily (8-17 generally).

Each of the sites have their pros and cons. Library is a vast resource of information and a comfortable environment for quiet work; philosophizing, free spring of thoughts, and there’s a neat cafe downstairs. McDonald’s is the best in providing prompt service, and you can have a meal there.

Just today I discovered a snatchy little utility, called wavemon. Try it!

Wavemon just reads diagnostics information from your WLAN card. It
has those nice ASCII art bars of network signal and strength going horizontally. Wavemon measures the parameters and displays you how your wireless connection is doing.

As I am also part of the group working towards a advanced network for Saab 9-1 model, it’s really useful to get as wide as possible hands-on experience into different wireless technologies. Linux seems to be a perfect operating system for prototyping, experimenting, and developing on – since it’s open, documented, and free from licensing issues.

What do you think about the amount of WLAN access points?

I’m really interested in feedback from your own neighbourhoods. Do you need Wi-fi access, or do you have already some personal network?

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On Learning – neuroscience view

Tronman
BlueInk wall of Yoga

About Learning

During the fall 2001, when attending to Structure and Organization
of Brain -course taught at Helsinki University of Technology, I
decided to jot down some extra-curricular notes, or a learning
diary.

Learning is a fascinating yet still mysterious process. It can be
viewed from a high abstraction point, where the pupils are
tested in standardized tests against the information content
in the subject matter. This is a rather narrow view of learning,
yet often it is kind of the compulsory or most practical one.

Intuitively, I like to think of learning as something you
go through, which thus leaves a mark in your brain, and
after you have learnt something it is very hard, if not
impossible, to truly unlearn it.

You can for example modify your behaviour to supress or exhibit some aspects
to some degree (i.e. you can have a new kind of attitude towards
things by just deciding this, but you cannot easily
change something which is inherently a feature in your native
personality).

Unlearning “information” or
“data” from your brain would be quite impossible, unless
it happened by an accident; a hit in the brain is known
to cause very curious damage in several functional areas
of thought. Think about trauma or psychosis; unlearning certain habits
like being late, or excessively ruminating about matters is hard.

Looking at the wide spectrum of learning

Learning probably happens at an extraordinarily wide scope
of levels. Some learning is mere imitation, like learning
the first steps in a sports. Or learning the multiplication
tables by rote. But what about learning general concepts of
life? How to behave well, how to cope with people, and how
to cope with yourself?

What are the factors leading to true insights? Why might
something suddenly seem so clear and easy, when it was
the most difficult thing to overcome just a moment before?

Real-world example: my first maths part-exam


I was studying in Helsinki University of Technology
for the fourth year. I was taking a maths basic course in
the fall of 2001. Had skipped about 1/2 of the lectures,
and attended no calculation practise sessions. I started
studying on the weekend, 2 days prior to exam.
I had a maximum of around 20 hours time to learn the
required things. I started reading at 5:50PM on Saturday.

o I checked the area of study from WWW pages. Our maths teacher
  has a tradition of always putting the very first words of 
  each assignment in the exam public before the exam takes place.
o Condition preparation: opening the window in my room to have
  CO2 out and O2 in (do not underestimate this), took couple
  of Kisandra food supplements (works with me), and some coffee.
  The dosage of coffee should be continous and incremental, 
  not a single 'bomb' into your stomach after which you are
  just doing the caffeine shakes, multiplexing from task to task
  and not much else. Do not use any stronger and illegal substances
  like amphetamine or the likes. They are no good to you in the
  long run. 
o during the first hour I was both amused and fascinated by 
  mathematics; by its quite abstract and declarative nature. 
The subjects included:
- basic mathematical logic, proving. Predicates, propositions,
  binding, logic theorems.
- matrices (operations: adding, subtracting, taking an inverse, transposing)
- basic algebra

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Historical dreams – mobile world in 2000

Crinus’ Mobile Dreams

From work to centre of Helsinki to Airport

I am blasting near Helsinki with my parents’ car,
en route to the airport to deliver them this necessary
piece of transportation. Frustrated with the sluggish pace
of the traffic and the always-out-of-date information signs
(yes, I’ve taken the hint from Helsinki: cars not welcome)
I get an inspiration to write this text. I don’t know
the impact this has on anything, but it doesn’t (never has 😉
prevent me from writing it. If nothing else, it helps me to let out
some pressure.

Situation: I’m at work 3:30PM, going to deliver the car to my
parents, but before this a couple of friends and me decide to
go to the centre to get some more juggling props (clubs).

First stop: gasoline from the Esso station

Why can’t I pay using my cellular? They always have
queues at the desk, and I’m just too fed up with waiting.
It’s not that my (leisure) time would be that precious, it’s immeasurable
=)

I’m used to having a lot of leisure time, and after a good
work day in the IT-sector I wish to have zero unnecessary
burdens. Another service which I would certainly pay a small fee
would be querying for the cheapest gas station along my planned
route
, say, I would be pinpointed using GSM technology and I would
provide a parameter (radius in kilometers) and the service would give
me the name and driving instructions of the cheapest station (or
one that would meet other criteria, such as level of service).

Second need: which traveling method in the city?

I arrive at the end of the motorway, just about to enter
the city. Traffic slows significantly down, and we begin
a chatter about which way we could get to the juggling store
fastest. Should we continue driving the car, or
should we take the subway, or a combination of public transportation
methods? Guessing, guessing. I want answers, which are
very likely true. The information system I have in mind
would be updateable, knowing of traffic jams, average
traffic densities (where real-time information wouldn’t be
available), road blocks, and the timetables of public transportation.
I could make queries like "I’m at point A, wishing to go
to point B, tell me how to do it". The computations and
databases are quite massive and complex, but the whole idea
of this kind of service would be that the end-user would get
a simple, natural language answer to the question.

The service might answer something like:

Take bus number NNN (in 3 min.) to CENTRE,
followed by SUBWAY to EAST at 10:11AM.
You will arrive in place XXX estimated
10:16AM.

At the airport: parking fee, info snippets

I park the car in
a 30-minute parking lot.
The fee has to be paid using coins (which of course
you don’t have at hand, an evidence of this
is the woman coming right after me and talking to her
husband about the machine not accepting notes).
And still, I’ve more than once spent half an eternity
trying to make a machine believe my notes are valid.
They often keep ejecting the notes several times
before accepting.

I pay the sum of 20 FIM and I get 30 minutes of parking
time. The machine slips me two paper notes:
one which I shall place inside the car for parking
area personnel to see, and the other which reminds me
when my time is up. If this had been done using a
cellular, it would be very handy to get a countdown
meter
of some kind running in the display.

Knowing the totally chaotic situation of air traffic
in Europe, it would be nice to receive little informative SMS-style
messages about current situation
, eg. in my case it would have
been that all incoming international flights are coming through
the second arrival hall (actually the people are coming, not
the planes, I hope). An extension might be that before you arrive
at the airport, you would tell the service which flight you are
waiting for, and you would get information concerning that
particular flight.

Conclusions

All of these services are just waiting to get implemented.
Anyone?

(a sidenote: the text was written in year 2000, in Espoo Finland)