Middle East, not so simple as it seems…

July 23, 2006

Hello, after reading lots of against-Israel posts in planet.gnome.org, and other websites and watching local media (Buenos Aires, in case you wonder what “local” means), I’ve decided it’s about time I do raise my voice and say something too.

I’m very sad to hear about what Israel is doing, they are certainly off-target with their behaviour, however:
I’m sick of hearing anti-Israel posts/news everywhere which forget about the missiles Hezbollah (Lebanon) throws over civilian targets (I wonder if there’s any military target on Hezbollah’s missiles). Does this (well meant, I must say) post forget that the body count (400, 350 out of which are Lebanese) doesn’t distinguish between nationality, age, creed, sex?

I’m sick of hearing Nuremberg-judgements are deserved by the people involved in this wrong doing, and nuclear war phantoms, and things like that. You cannot compare non-comparable things of any kind. Period.
I’m sick of people forgetting about history, and how many times the UN had to propose a partition scheme to make a homeland for us jews and the palestinian people in what today is Israel + Jordan + the occupied (some not anymore) territories, and us jews accepting all proposals (even the ones that left to-be-Israel cut in 3 or more pieces) while the palestinians only shouting (until today): we won’t stop till all the zionisits (jews) are thrown to the sea! Dead to them all!

I’m sick of arab leaders in general having their people living in (complete?) ignorance thus making them more easily manageable (this idea seems to have been borrowed by/from the USA and the EU and being implemented in other parts of the world too: Central and South America, Africa…)

I’m sick of hearing mothers proud (and with a few thousand dollars on their pockets) of their “bomberman” children. Which mother in her sane judgement will praise the death of her children?

Have you noticed that only people in Israel (the only democracy, which seems to be the world accepted regime for countries to rule themselves, in Middle East, BTW) are the ones talking about a cease-fire? Take for example, this article from Rabbi Lerner in Israel. I’ve never, ever, heard arab erudits talking about peace, I’m very sure they do exist, but it seems that the hatred voices are louder than theirs.

To try to understand a bit, you have to take history (the subject I never loved while in school, mind you. I’m not a history expert either) into account too. It doesn’t really matter now who threw the 1st stone, what matters now is to show signs that you want to seat with the other to speak about peace, which right now no side seems to be willing to do.

To Israel leaders: please cease fire unillateraly at least for one day or a few hours to show us that at least you think about a peaceful solution.

To arab leaders: stop using your money to buy luxuries and weapons and start thinking about your people and how to use that money (mostly coming from petrol) to give your people education.

To world leaders: keep asking Israel and Hezbollah (Lebanon) to STOP this nonsense.

To US and UK leaders: stop throwing your shit outside your “perfect” countries to have the illusion they are perfect and start behaving like human beings who REALLY CARE about the rest of the world.



The Desktop Computer I’d Like to Have…

April 29, 2006

While looking for a card-reader (of the types used by digicams), I've seen there are Flash media with 1GB, 2GB, 4GB and even 8GB storage space, and also memory "sticks" (or "keychains", or whatever you prefer to call them) with 1GB and 2GB at "affordable enough" prices. All these are USB2.0 devices with a transfer speed good enough to be used as spare disks… that's when all began.

Immediately after that, I've started wondering if those could be used not as spare disks, but as main disks, and I think the answer is a big YES.

Using one of the many available Linux distros that can run completely from USB "keys" (I wonder if they run from CF cards too, and I guess the answer is also "yes"), and one of those, say, 2GB devices one could put not only the OS, but also many useful programs like Internet suite (Mozilla Firefox and Mozilla Thunderbird, for example); Office suite (KOffice 1.5 or OpenOffice 2.0); development tools, games (yes, they are useful sometimes), plus one's personal files, all in a portable, small, lightweight, use-almost-everywhere device.

Then, I've started thiking that portability (even if one of the strongest selling points of such devices) wouldn't matter to me at all, I'd like the thing to be used on my desktop system, for every-day usage. Of course, one of my main interests is reducing the noise generated by my computer. The hard disk together with the CPU and case fans are the main sources of noise, if I could remove the hard disk… I guess I'd have a less noisy system, so below is a list of what the desktop computer I'd like to have could have:

  • Processor: a fast and quiet CPU, wether 32 or 64 bits should do. I'd trade Mhz for less power comsumption and less noise (smaller fans). I prefer say, 1Ghz less, but lots of noise and power compsumption less too. For everyday work, there is little to no difference between 2Ghz and 3Ghz in my very humble opinion, and if I'd need more processing power, well, I could settle for noisier, power hungrier CPUs.
  • Memory: a minimum of 512MB DDR RAM. The more the RAM, the better… however, save some money to buy a bigger Flash memory device for "permanent" (as oposed to main memory's "volatile") storage. Generally speaking, 1GB should be enough for main memory.
  • Storage: no hard disk at all, but a 2GB Flash memory device. Also a DVD recorder is a need, think of backing data up in those ~5GB disks.
  • Video, sound, etc.: decent enough hardware, take your pick. Needless to say, a super powerful video card with a processor on a match with a Pentium III or IV, with a noisy fan is out of the question, a 128MB 8x AGP with 3D hardware acceleration video card will suffice. Most modern quality motherboards come with onboard NICs (sometimes, even 1Gbps ones) and onboard sound hardware that is "decent enough".
  • Motherboard: one of the most important, and sadly very often overlooked, components of a computer. It's the "thing that binds all the hardware together", and it's usually the thing that receives the less attention at shop time. The only real requirement is USB ports, which all new motherboards have. Stick to branded, fanless, motherboards of (very) high quality. You could aim at "Platinum", or "De Luxe" editions of some motherboards.
  • Case: Again, any decent enough one, with a 350 to 400 Watts power supply (the smaller, the less noise, but also the less hardware one can add), and a good ventilation system. By good ventilation I don't mean big, noisy, fans, but a well thought ventilation path, requiring little or no fans. Add to that, sturdy and lightweight.
  • Keyboard and mouse: Pick your preferred ones here. BTW, I'd favor wired over wireless, because I'd hate not being able to control my computer in the middle of important work (or play) just because the batteries of the wireless mouse and/or keyboard are discharged.
  • Monitor: anything of 17 inches as a minimum should do. With faster LCDs (low response time, in the 5-15 ms range), LCDs are a viable option for everyday usage for any task.

To many the system characteristics above might sound impossible or science fiction, but do your (small) research, and you will find it's neither. All the components described are available today at affordable prices.

To push the thing further a bit more, and for people with more than one system at home (needless to say, this also applies to an office), I'd add a low processing power (not to be confused with low quality) system with one or more 200GB disks as a NAS system, to provide enough storage space for multimedia "space hungry" files. There are even Linux or (Free)BSD solutions for dedicated NAS systems and even for systems with more than NAS services, like firewall, gateway, directory, etc.

Please note that I didn't include makes, nor models, of any hardware and software mentioned above. I did so on purpose for two reasons: not to "offend" anyone's law department, nor preferences; and to stimulate your research spirit. For hardware, there are many good places like Tom's Hardware Guide, and for software I'd recommend DistroWatch. I'm including these pointers from my personal experience and as a start point on your research journey, I'm not affiliated to any of them in any way.

Feel free to throw your comments and ideas in.

Remote control (wired) for Canon EOS (d)SLRs

April 9, 2006

After reading lots of articles on the Internet about how to build a wired remote control compatible with Canon's RC-60, I've decided to build my own.

Below you have the schematics for the remote control: the schematics and the principle of operation are very simple, even for people without a degree in electronics. It's just two push button switches and possibly a third one for bulb mode (not drawn, neither built yet. Will update this post later when I add that function to my remote).

Canon Remote dSLR Control (schematics)

And the mandatory picture of the built remote control

The RC-60 Compatible Remote Control Finished

It's not very fancy, I could have spent more time and money on materials to build it, it just works.

The principle of operation is rather simple: connect the remote to your EOS camera (I've built it in a way that I can use a wire as long as I want, within cable-lenght limits – which I don't really know at this time, I've built a 3 mts cable); press the "Meter & focus" button (blue one on the diagram, black one on the built unit) to have the camera auto-focus and evaluate exposure settings; finally press the "Take picture" button (red one in both the diagram and the built unit) to take the photo. If you build the bulb switch option, instead of pressing the "Take picture" button, you just flip the bulb switch and then flip it back when you want to finish exposure (within bulb-mode exposure time limits).

The materials used are: a 2.5mm stereo plug, two push-button switches, stereo-headphones-like wire, and an used 35mm film canister as the remote control's housing. Add to that a 3.5mm stereo plug and jack to be able to use a wire as long as you wish for the remote and a bit of solder and patience, and you are set. The tools are pliers, a cutter, a 6.5mm drill (the actual diameter you need depends on the push-button switches you have) and a soldering iron.

I've seen some IR remote control circuits for Nikon's D70 digital SLR, I'd love to know if there are some circuit(s) available for Canon's SLR to replace Canon's RC-1 and RC-5… if you know of something like that, please let me know.

Flickr Photos, Starting To Discover Its Fun

March 29, 2006

What a nice site Flickr is!

You can upload your photos there for the world to see! You can also set privacy options so only family and/or friends can see the photos, and also licensing options among restricted copyright and a variety of Creative Commons licenses.

Photography is fun, and flickr is a fun site to use and browse, and a perfect way to share your photos.

You can visit my photo page on flickr, in case you are wondering how bad my pictures are… needless to say, you are welcomed to leave comments on them too.

Windows XP Desktop Install Guidelines

January 20, 2006

Updated on: 2006-04-06

Here is a simple checklist-type Windows XP install procedure, to be used as a guide while installing XP Professional on a machine to be used as a desktop machine.

  • Boot from the XP CD and proceed with installation formatting partitions with NTFS and quick format.
  • Install AVG Free Edition from http://free.grisoft.com, and then update it until it says there are no more updates to install. Please, have in mind that there might be times when updates cannot be performed due to Grisoft’s servers overloading: you get what you pay for…
  • Install SpyBot S&D from http://www.safer-networking.org, and then update it selecting all possible updates.
  • Install ad-Aware from http://www.lavasoftusa.com/software/adaware/ , and update it.
  • Install XP Service Pack 2 from http://www.microsoft.com, and reboot the machine when asked to (it does take some time, even to prepare the install, so be patient).
  • In the security center that appears after rebooting, enable all options (firewall, antivirus, automatic updates).
  • Use the table below to disable not-needed services (adapted from BlackViper’s table), having in mind that certain configurations might need some services listed there enabled, for example a machine sharing resources (files, printers,…) does need the Server service. Use at your own risk.
  • Done, you can now install the rest of the software you want/need/like, taking extra care with toolbars (do not install them) and the like, spy/ad-aware-prone software.

Windows XP services table

(Note: The table was updated on 2006-04-06 for Windows XP Service Pack 2; please have in mind that some network-related services might be needed for machines that are part of a LAN: typically a corporate LAN with SMB file and printer sharing).

Display Name Default SAFE
Computer Browser Automatic Disabled
Distributed Link Tracking Client Automatic Disabled
Error Reporting Service Automatic Disabled
Help and Support Automatic Disabled
IMAP CD-Burning COM Service Manual Automatic
Indexing Service Manual Disabled
Net Logon Manual Disabled
NetMeeting Remote Desktop Sharing Manual Disabled
Performance and Log Alerts Manual Disabled
Portable Media Serial Number Manual Disabled
QoS RSVP Manual Disabled
Remote Desktop Help Session Manager Manual Disabled
Remote Registry Automatic Disabled
Secondary Logon Automatic Disabled
Server Automatic Disabled
Smart Card Manual Disabled
SSDP Discovery Service Manual Disabled
TCP/IP NetBIOS Helper Service Automatic Disabled
Uninterruptable Power Supply Manual Disabled
Universal Plug and Play Device Host Manual Disabled
Web Client Automatic Disabled
Windows Time Automatic Disabled
Wireless Zero Configuration Automatic Disabled
WMI Performance Adapter Manual Disabled

Some performance enhancing tips

After you have installed XP, you can apply the following performance-enhancer tips, presented in no particular order. As always: use at your own risk.

Disable Eye-candy

We all know eye-candy is great… but it also consumes a lot of RAM. In computers with less than 512MB (and even in computers with that much, or more…) it is advisable to disable all eye-candy, meaning: no nice window borders and buttons, no nice menu bars, task bar, … only the “good old” gray windows and buttons and menu and task bars, with a single-color blue title. To do so, right click on My Computer, select Properties from the pop-up menu, open the Advanced Options tab, and click on the Settings button of the Performance item. Then, in the Visual Effects tab, select the adjust for better performance option. As an alternative and “in the middle” solution, you can select the Custom option and (un)check the items you want in the list.

Disable System Restore

The system restore function of Windows XP is great, allowing you to revert a change that made “damage” to your system (you have to be able to boot your system AFAIK) … but it also can take lots of disk space, depending on how often you (un)install software (and how much). To disable system restore, right click on My Computer, select Properties from the pop-up menu, open the System Restore tab and put a check mark in the 1st option. An alternative is to change the limit (system-dependent) to use for the system restore function with the slider in the middle of the window.

Keep Your System Updated

I already hear you crying “I do keep my system updated”, or “updated, why?”. Well, an updated system is supposed to be a more secure system than an outdated one, and also updates come with bug fixes (and with new bugs) too. Do install all updates proposed by the automatic update feature (the little world with the windows logo icon on the taskbar).

Use Free Software

Kiss Outlook Express goodbye, and Internet Explorer too, and MSN too… you get the idea. Free software, formerly available only on free OSes like Linux, is available for Windows too: GIMP, Mozilla Firefox, Mozilla Thunderbird, GAIM, Inkscape, OpenOffice, Apache, MySQL… to name just a few. I won’t tell you here the advantages of free software, you can read more about free software at the FSF site. I will just tell you that you should prefer free software over proprietary software whenever possible and that you should check sites like The Best 46 Freeware Utilities to have an idea of all the free (and excellent) software you can get for your Windows system: use it.

Black and White Digital Photography

November 23, 2005

Following Camille’s article on B&W photography, I wanted to share with you some thoughts.

Digital B&W cameras have a louzy algorithm to shot in B&W, so it’s always better to shot in colour and then apply the method described there, or manual methods which involve colour desaturation, channel mixing, etc. to get a decent B&W picture.

However, after doing some tests, I’ve found out that, if possible, it’s best to shoot RAW in order to convert to B&W afterwards. Here’s why: JPEG compression artifacts are more visible in B&W photos. Yes, JPEG compression artifacts show up very clearly in B&W photos in the form of a discrete degradé (that is, a degradé that is not continuous, it jumps from one tone to the other in big steps), mostly in areas of light colour.

Shooting RAW and converting to a non-lossy format (like PPM, TIFF…), compressed or not, and then performing B&W conversion, is the best way to achieve higher quality B&W pictures.

If you don’t have the possibility to shoot RAW (for example, you own a point&shoot digicam), try to take your shots with the minimum level of compression, meaning maximum image quality and also maximum file size, in order to reduce compression artifacts.

I still have to test B&W picture printing in photographic paper at a lab (the ideal test would be to compare the same, or at least similar, B&W shots from film and digital).

BLOG Starting

November 10, 2005

Hello there, this is my first blog post. I’m new to the blog world, but not new to computers.

Let’s find out what all this is about…