Thursday, November 29, 2007

College Course on Mobile phone in Japan

A sign of things to come?  While attending virtual college has many disadvantages over the buzz of being with real people, it will certainly play an increasing part in future education.  The Open University have been doing it for years and many traditional further education establishments are opening up a virtual arm. 

People are taking more control of their education, wanting to do one module from one university and another elsewhere.  Attending virtual university gives wide choice to students with affordable internet connections and create the possibility of offering highly specialised courses, when the potential students can be anywhere.  Fancy course on, well almost anything really...

Monday, November 19, 2007

War on Cancer - Stalemate might be better

Immune system can drive cancers into dormant state
A multinational team of researchers has shown for the first time that the immune system can stop the growth of a cancerous tumor without actually killing it.

I read an article some years ago talking about our fondness for the use of war metaphors, particularly in science - can't find the original, but this sums it up: The war against war metaphors
...militaristic language pops up in almost every scientific domain: conservation biology ("invasive species," "biosecurity"); global warming ("global war on global warming"); and biomedicine ("killer cells," "hitting multiple targets").
...Scientists who frame problems in a militaristic manner also likely have a drastically limited perception of the problem and how to tackle it... also talks of how unhelpful the phrases "War on Cancer" and "War on Terror" are.  They imply there is one big enemy and that a decisive victory is the only way forward.  Stalemate would been seen as losing and therefore not an option.

Also reminded of a book on complexity in the workplace that stressed the importance of a project team developing their own language to create a coherance in the way the group work together.  Great book: The Intelligence Advantage - Organizing for Complexity by Michael D. McMasters.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

What People Say May Not Be What They Know

Not going to comment as I'm supposed to be doing my tax return, but interesting....
What a person says is not necessarily an indication of what that person knows because speech is motivated by social circumstances and the desire to influence the listener

Monday, November 12, 2007

Toys influence on children?

I wonder how much influence the toys we play with as children have on our grown up mentality? I just say a TV ad for a supermarket checkout till, in plastic, aimed at 5-6 year old girls, that prompted them to "put through the milk now", "now put through the red item", "well done!". And this was an educational toy! At first I thought this was aimed at the number one pastime of younge people today, shopping. But no, the child is not shopping, they are operating the till. In my day nobody wanted to grow up to work the tills in the shops, I hope things havn't changed so much that this reflects the aspirations of todays kids.

On a related theme, I read an article somewhere that was asking if electronic toys were any good for children. The conclusion was that those that just commanded them to do things were not, being told what to do it not play after all, but that any toy that the child could control and use as part of their imaginary world was just fine. Makes sense to me.

Barclays again

I had to contact the dreaded Barclays again and they informed me, as if they had read my last post, that as I had banked with them for 17 years (which makes me only 34!) I was eligible for a special savings account! Lucky me. I wonder if I would also be eligible if I had only banked with them for a year, or is that being too cynical?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Review of Godaddy


Very good service and support, until now.

Have been using godaddy for domains for some years and always found them very good.  When I registered a domain with the wrong spelling, I called them up and the they sorted out a refund immediately.

 They I got a Virtual Private Server and spend the whole day setting it up.  Today it's gone!  Aparently there was a hard disk failure and they had to replace the drive, and due to bad timing there was no backup.  These things happen but I think a refund of some sort would be in order.  I will give them a couple of days to see if they offer me anything and then give them a prod.  Hopefully, they will continue to provide a good level of service.

Rated 3/5 on Nov 09 2007 by Phoebe

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Do we go for a big fix for reducing carbon dioxide?

At what point, if ever, do we say that the risks from climate change are so high it is worth the risk of trying human intervention on a massive scale? We do not have a very good record when it comes to our tampering with nature. Introduced predators get out of hand, coral reefs made from tyres disintegrate. We just don't understand the natural world well enough to know what the side effects will be. But at some point will it be worth the risk?

He is a possible solution on a grand scale, increasing alkalinity of the oceans by accelerating natural weathering:

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Setting up new Godaddy VPS

Mods to linux:
1. Modified .bashrc in my home directory and root and added:

alias rm='rm -i'
alias cp='cp -i'
alias mv='mv -i'

alias ls='ls -laF --color'

(used vi, ugh

2. installed emacs

yum install emacs

3. Copied previously zipped domain code from old server using ftp mput


and unzipped into domain directories


and change ownership

chown -R pbright *

4. Setup locate database

Checked not already in cron

crontab -l

Added /etc/cron.daily/mlocate.cron to run daily using Plesk
Ran script to get it started
sh /etc/cron.daily/mlocate.cron

5. Used to having domains in /home so put in dynamic links

ln -s /var/www/vhosts/

6. Get mysql server accessible from desktop

cd /home
7. Transferred data from mysql databases using Navicat and for each database create new users.

7.5 Create Domain template and User Phoebe Bright

8. For each domain
In domain part of godaddy
- setup nameservers (
- in nameserver put in new names, eg.
- modify index.php for this domain so I can tell when/if transfer takes place

9. Install ZendGData
- downloaded and installed in /usr/include/php/ZendGdata
- amended /etc/php.ini include
include_path = ".:/usr/include/php:/usr/include/php/ZendGdata"

10. Customised php.ini
- display_errors on
- log_errors off
- safe_mode off

11. Fixed default safe_mode on

For each domain, when setting up make sure the safe mode tickbox next to the php tickbox is set to off. There are domain specific settings for php in
# /var/www/vhosts/
# /var/www/vhosts/
can modify these manually but likely to be overwritten.

Commercial FabLab - BUGS

Here is a FabLab type idea that enables anyone to make electronic gadgets without skill. Still basic but good to see the type of innovations we are used to in software moving into the physical world.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Review of Sean the Sheep

Sean the Sheep

Favorite TV programs of the week at the moment, Sean the Sheep and Top Gear. Not sure what this says about my unsophisticated taste in TV!

Visitors to the house are all won over by Sean including wwoofers from US and spain.  But beware, the intro can start playing in your head all day, "It's Sean the sheep, it's Sean the sheep......".

See bootleg copy here

Also recommend the dvd as a gift (,5,,1,1195,shaunthesheep&ivtype=dvd:video&htxt=IG1VeLV49uxkcoqRxeOP2gAcoxOjQqmDtqGPRdvtNqo2yvXYKSUnj8UQ3BpcwNnjlmvn91qG2wUZ%0AJVx3A9NxTQ%3D%3D) already a success with my grandfather and plan to distribute far and wide this coming christmas.

Rated 5/5 on Nov 05 2007 by Phoebe

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Review of Broken Shackle 2006

Broken Shackle 2006

White wine from Australia. Verdelho Chennin Blanc Trebbiano. Very drinkable white wine bought from Drinagh Superstore in Skibbereen.

Label claims it is a wine of fresh grapefruit and tropical fruit.  The clean crisp palate is enhanced by subtle honey flavours and a soft dry finish.

Rated 4/5 on Nov 05 2007 by Phoebe

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Food Security no longer just for scare-mongers

I can remember a meeting on food security being held by Growing Awareness in Skibbereen years ago and it seeming very sensible to want to have a basic self-sufficiency in food, but not an idea that was likely to be popular any time soon.

But times are changing. In the (Cork) Examiner last friday there was an article on Japan's aim to increase their own food security. Here is a quote from another reference:

While Japan faces the possibility that large quantities of foreign agricultural products will penetrate its markets in the future, there is a strong public outcry for raising the nation's food self-sufficiency rate. In fiscal 1965, Japan's calorie-based self-sufficiency rate was 73 percent. By 1998, however, it dropped to 40 percent and remained at the level ... through fiscal 2005. The government seeks to raise the rate to 45 percent by the end of fiscal 2015.

In a December government poll, about 80 percent of those surveyed expressed worries about Japan's food supply in the future because of possible changes in the world situation.... The largest segment of those surveyed, 49 percent, put the desirable self-sufficiency rate at 60 to 80 percent.


While the Examiner article (from the farming section) seems to broadly support the plan, more sites online see it as anti-globalisation (see reference aboe). Full text of Examiner article here.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Barclays again

Need to urgently transfer back some money to my cousin, so went to

So I don't have the pin to go with the card sentry thing that the online banking system wants, so I click on "No got your card sentry?" link and it asks for my date of birth and connect card details. So I go out to the car and get my wallet and the card and fill in the details and it says "If you want access to accounts then please call us on 0845 600 2323*"!!!!! So what exactly was the point of entering that data?  

I am writing this as I am on hold for the number above.  Apparently all the advisors are busy as demand for this service is extremely high at the moment.   What a surprise.
Still holding.
It's 21:02 on a sunday.  I wonder if the long wait is due to a lots of frustrated people trying to use online banking or that barclays call centre staff are sensibly at home on a sunday.
Can Barclays get away with this because
a) most people are too lazy/busy to change their bank.
b) other banks provide a similar service
c) customers have run  up huge loans/overdrafts with barclays that no other bank would take on
d) Barclays are actually better than other banks
So if I hang up now will I have a longer and more expensive call tomorrow morning?
"We are sorry for keeping me waiting."
Just worked out how to use Leopard spaces.  Cool.  I going to have one space just or mail.
21:15 I give up.  Not going to have my Sunday ruined by another Barclays frustration.
To be continued (unfortunately)....

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Thursday, November 1, 2007

For those who like making things

While pricing horse walkers I came across a site that describes how to make things - site makes great use of popups too:

These are my favorites so far:
Ongoing discussion on motors for horse walkers:
Popup for the kitchen
Personal Power Plant (want that FabLab!)
Wind Turbine from a Pringles Tube
Fruit Fly Trap
Waffles - European style, which like English Muffins you only find in the US