No Food for Thought

Food is something you should provide to your brain long before coming to this blog. You will find no food recipes here, only raw, serious, non-fake news for mature minds.

Goodbye Sun, Hello Freedom!

admin Sunday April 28, 2013

I installed Debian countless times. So when I installed wheezy on my new desktop, I was following the usual routine of adding non-free sources then installing Adobe Flash Player and Sun Java, when I realized that the routine didn't work anymore - Debian no longer distributes Sun (Oracle) Java. So what should I do? Before I resigned to go back to java-package, it came to my mind that Sun Java's removal from wheezy was not new. How did my laptop work?

I had a nice realization checking that. I actually never installed Sun Java in the last install on my laptop, a year ago. I must have hit the problem then and delayed finding a solution, or chose to try IcedTea instead.

Whether this was intentional or not, it's time to realize that one doesn't "need" a proprietary Java anymore. Whether this is mainly due to IcedTea's quality or to a declining use of Java, it's now more than a year without proprietary Java, and I didn't even notice.

Improvements which you fail to notice are the best kind. Thanks to everyone who made this failure possible!

On the relativity of shipping (or why I won't order from DirectCanada anymore)

admin Thursday April 25, 2013

After some emotion with my first order from DirectCanada, the story was too good to stop so early. The second episode from that sequel is on shipping.

So - of course - free shipping can't be perfect. You don't select the transporter and you get the cheapest - Purolator. And as it's free, you can't really add a few dollars to get Canada Post. You'd have to pay a full normal shipping fee for that, which kind of beats the purpose of ordering from DirectCanada. So DirectCanada ships via Purolator, I'm not home when the shipments arrive, Purolator brings the shipments back to the other end of the town, and we have the setting for this great sequel.

The story begins 3 business days after my order when I receive a mail claiming that "[my] Order has been shipped". As I took care to select only items in stock, that's not what DirectCanada's "Fast delivery" slogan would evoke, but the real story starts in that mail's content. The mail refers to 2 shipments, Shipment #1 (marked as shipped), and Shipment 2, marked as Pending.

The next day, DirectCanada says my order was shipped again... OK, so when DirectCanada says your order was shipped, what they really mean is that part of your order was shipped.

But which part? That's the question; the mail indicates the products you ordered - but not those shipped. Nothing tells you.
In my case, the second mail referred to a pending "Shipment #3". Purolator attempted to deliver shipments 1 and 2 quickly after, while I wondered what would be in shipment 3. Later that week, Purolator started to nag me so I would come collect my shipments (even though I didn't know their contents). Reluctant to spend an hour just to collect some of the shipments and having to go back just after, I waited until Friday evening. At that point, all I knew was that part of my order was shipped and part of it was still missing (the website suggested the CPU might be missing, but that turned out to be me being misled by some kind of bug). I decided to call DirectCanada to be told that there was no Shipment #3. Shipments 1 and 2 were it. Something had been wrong with my order's status (something which persists 2 weeks later), and I had been waiting for a shipment which wouldn't come eek

Now, to be fair to DirectCanada, shipments 1 and 2 indeed contained all of my order's products, and these worked perfectly (except for 1 or 2 glitches). And, although I called in the last hour of DirectCanada's business week, my call was answered after 2 minutes.
For these reasons, I'm not going to discourage you from shopping there. DirectCanada is a good choice if you're looking for an amateur reseller.


admin Thursday April 4, 2013

The first PC I bought online was my third (OK, the first PC my parents bought online). I bought it from NCIX, despite the distance between British Columbia and Quebec. My next 3 PCs also came from NCIX. After an epically bad experience with months of delay, I bought my seventh PC at Future Shop. Last weekend the time to buy my next PC came and I came close to buy it at NCIX, but my friend Xavier suggested considering DirectCanada instead. In the end, I decided that was the better choice.

The good

  • Prices appear to be lower (compared to NCIX).
  • Total price is even lower as DirectCanada offers free shipping for most orders.

The bad

  • Website as flaky as NCIX's
  • Product categorization is basic - more than NCIX's
  • Product categorization is incorrect - my RAM stick and many more are considered as "Physics card" eek
  • No price matching (unlike NCIX)
  • Product catalog might be slightly inferior to NCIX's

The really bad - almost

After completing all checkout, I was about to place my order when I had a last minute idea. I replaced an item in my cart in a different browser tab and came back to my checkout tab, which of course showed the outdated cart. I then clicked "Go Back". But instead of going back, my order was placed! Thankfully, the system ordered my current cart, so it did what I meant to do, even though that's not what I requested. In a sense, that's worst - the system not only ordered when I said to go back, but it ordered something other than what it offered me. I'm still struggling to believe it.

But what is DirectCanada?

I was amazed to realize that only 1 out of the 7 items in my NCIX shopping cart was unavailable at DirectCanada - I simply had to take a somewhat slower CPU. After noticing so much similarity between NCIX and DirectCanada, I realized they're actually associated. I'm not sure of the exact nature of this relation, but they essentially share the same products, website engine, physical location and policies. I wonder why they're not the same - perhaps history.

Now that the easy part is done, let's hope the hard part won't reflect cheapness too much and DirectCanada won't be a topic again on this blog rolleyes

Penguin euthanasia - A villain idea

admin Thursday October 4, 2012

Man is born with a number of potential emotions - affection, pride, passion, hope - some of them negative - jealousy, hatred, etc. Maturity helps him control his emotions. But maturation never completes, and no man can entirely free himself from jalousy, or even hatred.

One particular emotion man fails to free himself from—despite the best efforts of modern society—is empathy. Pure apathy remains unattainable, even in our times. One will often fail to control natural empathy when faced with animal suffering (think of a struggling penguin) or terminal suffering. When these 2 situations are combined, even wise geeks will let their natural emotions prevail.

The desire for euthanasia is as natural as empathy. The former is simply a severe symptom of succumbing to the latter.
That being said, this writer is human, and is apprehensive of having to combat his natural emotions the next time he boards an aging Airbus.

Launches and updates

admin Saturday August 25, 2012

Around 1997, when I entered high school, I learned HTML (version 3!) and started LinkOPlaza, a website whose purpose was to share links to the webpages I liked. Although I found nice background pictures, and great horizontal rules designs, I never launched LinkOPlaza (if you find any reference to "LinkOPlaza" today, these are unrelated to the real LinkOPlaza, which Angelfire must have gotten rid of at some point - disk space for polychrome images is so costly!).

On my eighteenth birthday, Tiki 1.7 was released. This was the first CMS I downloaded and tried. At that time, I was working for Ido. Tiki was a great tool so I could build a website focusing on its content, rather than on its implementation. However, IdoWiki, my project to create a central website about Ido, was a lot more ambitious than LinkOPlaza. There was also a new technical difficulty - as a PHP website, I needed to find a real host. The free hosters wouldn't do, and I was on the low budget of a student working for practically minimal wages in the summer, so this was an important barrier to launch IdoWiki.

The final element against IdoWiki was… Tiki. I hadn't realized the tool I had chosen, which was not even 1 year old, was more beta than production software. I started working on improving Tiki, and I found that more rewarding than building IdoWiki. In the end, I effectively became a Tiki developer and abandoned IdoWiki. I would abandon Ido altogether soon after. This episode would concretize my taste for software development and determine my career choice. Yet… I still hadn't finished any website.

Today, I'm launching a true personal website using Tiki as www.philippecloutier.com (succeeding my minimal static personal homepage). This project was a lot more reasonable than IdoWiki - much smaller in content, and based on a tool which will soon have 10 years of maturity. Still, this site is not quite finished - a few pages are too long and probably not accessible enough. The translation to French is also just started.

The Tiki project now released version 9, highlighting its maturity by making its first serious commitment to support. Tiki 9 will be supported for 3 years, until at least November 2015.

I am proud to present my personal website using Tiki 9. This site currently presents my interests, projects, and this new blog. It simply uses blogs and wiki pages.

I must thank my long-time friend Xavier Douville for offering to host this website free of charge (on his Debian server). I must also thank all my Tiki colleagues for making Tiki 9 possible, helping me to create this website. I hit my fair share of bugs creating this site, but the good news for you is that I contributed fixes for most of these!

So, 15 years after starting LinkOPlaza, I am finally launching for the first time my own website, and after hundreds of commits to Tiki, I am becoming a real Tiki user! In fact, I am also becoming a mere Tiki user. After 3 years of freelancing, it was time to try something different. Since July, I am working fulltime as a developer for a Quebec tour operator. The Tiki experiment was worth it; I learned a lot as a freelance and it was much fun. It's sad to stop it entirely, but one has to make choices, and my new workplace has new challenges. I have had much less Tiki time for several months, and I'm only making my new status official by announcing that I'm resigning from Tiki's security team.

The golden opportunity I had would not have been possible without Tiki, the community of developers behind it, and the community of users which allows developers to work on Tiki. Thanks to my colleagues and customers for your trust.

Finally, I hope you appreciate the result of all my efforts and experiences. If not, I've enabled comments on blog posts (if this goes well, I'll do the same on wiki pages). And if you do like it, feelbe free to use it. Oh, and the same is true for Tiki 9. If you'd like to try it, it's free to try, and equally free to adopt. Enjoy!

Afghan schoolgirls, mass psychogenic illness and sources of conflict

admin Monday July 9, 2012
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote:
Misunderstandings and neglect occasion more mischief in the world than even malice and wickedness. At all events, the two latter are of less frequent occurrence.

There is a lot of truth in Goethe's remark. But a list of sources of conflicts couldn't be complete without imagination. We all know that imagination can create fear. From there, there is only a small step to say that imagination can cause conflicts. A confirmation seems to come from an unlikely place - Afghan schoolgirls.
From Slashdot:

A number of incidents at schools in Afghanistan, especially girls' schools, have been attributed to poisoning by the Taliban. The World Health Organization has investigated 32 of them but found no poison. "Mass Psychological Illness is the most probable cause," they conclude, the Telegraph reports. The Taliban has consistently denied poisoning schools and have even consented to allow the education of girls in a deal with the government which allows significant Taliban control over the curriculum.

Linus Torvalds awarded the Millennium Technology Prize

admin Wednesday June 13, 2012

So, for the first time, the 2012 Millennium Technology Prize was awarded to both laureates, among which Linus Torvalds, for creating "the Linux kernel, a new open source operating system".

It is certainly sad to notice that even Technology Academy Finland still has such a poor understanding of what Linux is and how free software development works (at least, I honestly didn't expect the academy to call Linux "new").
Thankfully, the feeling of sadness is definitely neutralized by the thought of how Stallman must be reacting lol

ADHD = Young?

admin Thursday March 1, 2012

Have you ever read on a mental disorder and found its description to be incredibly vague? Some diagnosis procedures look so relative that it's hard to believe diagnostic opinions can be trusted. If you ever wondered whether some diagnoses were handed out because something's wrong, or simply because some parameter was above some arbitrary threshold, you need to read ADHD may be overdiagnosed in youngest classmates.

Thankfully, even though I was born in August, I haven't been diagnosed with ADHD (so far, but then if the study is right, that's getting less likely at 26). As the study brilliantly analyses:

Although the alternative interpretations that underdiagnosis takes place in older children or that the social pressures on younger children amplify the symptoms of the disorder must also be considered, the evidence of a relative-age effect in our study raises the concern of overdiagnosis and overtreatment of ADHD in younger children within a grade. [...] Inappropriate diagnosis of ADHD in a child born late in the year might lead parents and teachers to treat the child differently or adversely change the child’s self-perceptions.
[...] Our data underscore the dimensional and developmental nature of the symptoms of ADHD and the impact of contextual expectations on the likelihood of the diagnosis being made. Age-corrected rating scales and developmentally appropriate evaluation are therefore essential, but such a strategy may not be enough to fully eliminate the relative-age effect. Confounding influences may still exist, such as the expectations of parents and teachers, or the child’s self-perception in the classroom. For example, inadvertent reinforcement may magnify the apparently inattentive, distracting or impulsive behaviours of the youngest children in a class, such as escaping from a difficult academic task (negative reinforcement) or receiving attention from teachers and peers for disruptive behaviour (positive reinforcement). A previous study found that teachers’ perceptions of child behaviour were more strongly related to a child’s age within a grade than were parental perceptions, suggesting that
[T]eachers’ opinions of children are the key mechanisms driving the relationship between school starting age and ADHD diagnoses.

Either ADHD needs to be seriously revisited, or the impact of classes on children has been seriously underestimated. Whatever the issue(s) is/are, let's actively prevent a defect of attention from this disorderly state of affairs.

How Doctors Die

admin Friday December 30, 2011

From Slashdot:

Dr. Ken Murray, a Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at USC, writes that doctors don't die like the rest of us. What's unusual about doctors is not how much treatment they get when faced with death themselves, but how little. For all the time they spend fending off the deaths of others, they tend to be fairly serene when faced with death themselves because they know exactly what is going to happen, they know the choices, and they generally have access to any sort of medical care they could want. 'Almost all medical professionals have seen what we call "futile care" being performed on people,' writes Murray. 'What it buys is misery we would not inflict on a terrorist. I cannot count the number of times fellow physicians have told me, in words that vary only slightly, "Promise me if you find me like this that you'll kill me."' Feeding into the problem are unrealistic expectations of what doctors can accomplish. Many people think of CPR as a reliable lifesaver when, in fact, the results are usually poor. If a patient suffers from severe illness, old age, or a terminal disease, the odds of a good outcome from CPR are infinitesimal, while the odds of suffering are overwhelming.

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