Science Addiction

A dormant blog by Devanshu Mehta

Category: Miscellany

Google Juice

I’ve run a Star Wars web site called GalaxyFarAway.com for 11 years now. For the first year of its existence, the web site was hosted on tripod.com. It was devan1.tripod.com. GalaxyFarAway.com is on the Google front page of results for many Star Wars related searches, but I just realized that so are some pages of my old tripod site (that I was updating for only about 8 months).

I guess it has seniority in Google’s mind– it is about as old as Google, after all. So last week, I put a notice on the Google-popular page that the site had moved. Something I should have done 10 years ago.

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XBMC on the Xbox

Years ago, I chronicled my efforts to get Linux on my (1st generation) Xbox on this blog. Well, I did end up succeeding. Though I never actually used the Xbox much after that. It was like climbing Mt. Everest– what do you do after you’re up there other than be able to say that you got up there?

In any case, I now have XBOX Media Center on my Xbox. XBMC is a nifty media center software that originated on the Xbox, and is now available for many other platforms. But not officially supported for the Xbox. Which is why they’ve tried to rebrand themselves as XBMC, like BP not wanting to be associated with petroleum or Altria not wanting to be associated with lung cancer.

In any case, I now have it working on my Xbox. I can watch videos, photos, music, stream from the network stream from the Internet, CBS.com. NBC.com, YouTube, Picasa, Flickr, and dozens more. But not Hulu. Hulu and XBMC don’t get along.

The process of installation, in short, involves:

  • Obtaining a game that has an bug/exploit (original Mechassault, 007, Splinter Cell)
  • Loading a “saved game” for that game, which is really a way to install the hack/softmod.
  • Now you have an Xbox with FTP access and some other nifty tools.
  • Obtain the XBMC build from these folks who call themselves T3CH.
  • FTP the build to your Xbox E:apps directory.
  • Launch it from your hacked dashboard.
  • Profit!

Of course, there is also a lot of cursing, fingers crossed, and general irritation along the way. And I’ve glossed over all kinds of details. And now I’m back at the top of Mt. Everest. The view is great, and I even got a blog post out of it.

Now what?

Find Creative Commons Images using Google Image Search

Great new tool:

Today, we’re launching a feature on Image Search to help you find images that you can use for free, while respecting the wishes of artists and creators. This feature allows you to restrict your Image Search results to images that have been tagged with licenses like Creative Commons, making it easier to discover images from across the web that you can share, use and even modify. Your search will also include works that have been tagged with other licenses, like GNU Free Documentation license, or are in the public domain.

via Official Google Blog: Find Creative Commons images with Image Search.

American Exceptionalism

A bit of 1940s truth-telling, as my meditation for this 4th of July, from Ernie Pyle after the US Armys humiliating loss to Rommels army in Tunisia:

Personally, I feel that some such setback as that — tragic though it was for many Americans, for whom it would always be too late — was not entirely a bad thing. It was all right to have a good opinion of ourselves, but we Americans were so smug with our cockiness. We somehow felt that just because we were Americans we could whip our weight in wildcats. And we had got it into our heads that production alone would win the war.

Ernie Pyle Death PhotoHe goes on:

As for our soldiers themselves, you need not have felt any shame or concern about their ability. I saw them in battle and afterward and there was nothing wrong with the American soldier. His fighting spirit was good. His morale was okay. The deeper he got into a fight the more of a fighting man he became.

Ernie Pyle was an American journalist, who later died of sniper fire in Japan and is one of the few civilians killed during the war to win the Purple Heart.
[via Armchair Travel]

We Have Just Killed Gandhi Again

Amit Varma reprints a poem by Salil Tripathi to his mother, about intolerance in the name of religion.

After reading what I’ve been writing over the years,

Some folks have complained that I just don’t get it.

I live abroad: what do I know of India?

But I knew you; that was enough.

[via ‘My Mother’s Fault’ – The India Uncut Blog – India Uncut.]

The poem has references to specific (and shameful) Indian events from the past 20 years, look them up if you’re curious. For me, the poem hits close to home.

The Politics of Swine Flu

We all have our bogeymen, the thing we blame for everything. For some it’s immigrants, for others it’s Cheney and for still others it’s the French. Similarly, we all have our panaceas, the thing we believe can solve all problems. For some it’s Obama, for others it’s the free market and for some others it’s covering-your-ears-while-shouting-lalalalalala-i-cant-hear-you.

Swine flu has brought out the worst of these tendencies. So far, I’ve seen the following:

  1. Susan Collins, Republican senator from Maine, has been put on the defensive for negotiating to remove pandemic preparedness from the stimulus approved by Congress. aka The Republicans are to blame for swine flu.
  2. A caller on NPR’s On Point yesterday tried to connect the spread of swine flu to illegal immigration. As if people didn’t legally travel between the Mexico and other countries. aka I have a sad life, can I blame an illegal immigrant?
  3. To prove that even people on the left see the world through ideological goggles, another caller on NPR’s On Point said that maybe if we had Obama’s universal health care, we wouldn’t have the epidemic. aka I have this great hammer, and all I see are nails!
  4. Yet another caller, said that maybe factory farming is to blame. aka I buy groceries at Whole Foods, why don’t you?

In another context, I may agree with each of these points to different degrees. But I also find such ideology driven comments for every unrelated national news story as knee-jerk and self-centered.

You Can’t Ban it If You Can’t Define it

Thesis #1 of my 95 theses was about reclaiming the language. You can’t avoid it if you don’t know what it is.

$$ Not Defined

I’m sure something profound could be derived from the Firefox error I just got while on CNN Money: Read the rest of this entry »

Four Conditions for the End of Torture

For the discussion on torture in this, or any other democratic country, to ever be satisfactorily complete, the following conditions must be satisfied.

  1. We must be absolutely certain what we mean when we use the word “torture”.
  2. Once defined, we agree that we do not torture.
  3. The decision to reject torture does not depend upon the effectiveness of torture.
  4. We are prepared for the worst possible outcome of not using torture.

Any discussion that does not deal with each of these issues to their logical conclusion is incomplete and will only force us to repeat the past. We find ourselves playing word games, debating how flexible our morals are and at what point we would give them up. Rule #3 and #4 are especially difficult, but our constitution is strongest only if we stick with it in the worst of times.

AT&T Goes After Sling

You know your company is doing something right when AT&T inserts a phrase in to their terms of service to block you:

This means, by way of example only, that checking email, surfing the Internet, downloading legally acquired songs, and/or visiting corporate intranets is permitted, but downloading movies using P2P file sharing services, customer initiated redirection of television or other video or audio signals via any technology from a fixed location to a mobile device, web broadcasting, and/or for the operation of servers, telemetry devices and/or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition devices is prohibited.

Sling for the iPhone, you must be doing something right. If you get past the iTunes App Store gatekeepers, AT&T is setting up another gate right behind them.

[via TUAW]

UPDATE: That was quick. AT&T has apologized for the modification to the ToS:

“The language added on March 30 to AT&T’s wireless data service Terms and Conditions was done in error. It was brought to our attention and we have since removed it. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.”

Behold the power of the Internet.