Back yard safari

Environment

The dog brought a bug inside the house, which I now can identify as a Green Shield Bug, thanks to Hania's and Hans' pages on the garden animals (also available in Dutch). The nicely illustrated site gives an amazing overview of what little monsters are living in the Western European back yards.

Our new resource crisis

Environment

Imagine that we are beyond the energy crisis, in that we are used to paying double or triple prices for what in the previous century was a small part of the family budget. Now we are faced with a new shortage that taps another precious resource : water only comes through the tap fours hours a day and we are forced to pay ten to hundred times what we paid in the 90s.

Welcome to the world of privatized water, where fresh water is treated like a commodity, traded and sold in the international market to the highest bidder. No longer can you assume a God-given right to drink from a mountain spring. Instead you will have to pay a toll to drink from Enron Springs, Monsanto Wells or receive tap water from Bechtel Water Works.

I encountered the Monsanto name in Mr McDougall's rant about America. Most people already know about the enormous powers some chemical multinationals have, and how it may well be that they are the real institutions who rule world politics.

Global consumption of water is doubling every 20 years, more than twice the rate of human population growth. According to the United Nations, more than one billion people already lack access to fresh drinking water. If current trends persist, by 2025 the demand for fresh water is expected to rise by 56 percent more than the amount of water that is currently available. Multinational corporations recognize these trends and are trying to monopolize water supplies around the world. Monsanto, Bechtel, and other global multinationals are seeking control of world water systems and supplies.

Fink

Apple

Some months ago I had the chance to play a bit around with the Fink project. I first thought it would be an attempt to port Xfree86 and KDE to the Darwin environment, but it's more than that. I inmediately noticed that some of the Debian utilities, such as apt, where ported too.

In short, Fink lets you download either precompiled Darwin-PPC binaries for your iMac, or you can automagically download the source -with all required extra libraries- and compile it yourself. All this with one command : fink install Program. If you own a Mac OSX, you really should give it a try.

And now, the Fink, Gentoo,and DarwinPorts projects announced the formation of a cooperative development alliance forged to facilitate delivery of freely available software to Mac OS X. Under this new alliance, the projects will share information and coordinate efforts for porting software to Apple's Mac OS X and Darwin operating systems. Members of the alliance will share information using the www.metapkg.org Web site, which will provide a home for this cooperative effort. This will be a great boost for Free Software on your Mac.

Analemma

Astronomy

If you took a picture of the Sun at the same time each day, would it remain in the same position? The answer is no, and the shape traced out by the Sun over the course of a year is called an analemma. The Sun's apparent shift is caused by the Earth's motion around the Sun when combined with the tilt of the Earth's rotation axis. The Sun will appear at its highest point of the analemma during summer and at its lowest during winter.

Adventures in Linux

Linux

Last week has been in the focus of playing with Linux. I installed a proxy masquerading firewall for a collegue, based on the Alcatel USB SpeedTouch modem, using the Open Source drivers of Benoit Papillault. It took some time to properly tuning the stability of the modem driver, but in the end, I managed to get a very stable box. It was based on Debian, of course. Unfortunately the stable Debian release, which new version is imminent... for several months now. As a result, stable has become archaic with its 2.2 kernel. I upgraded to a 2.4 kernel for USB support and used these pages to install and configure the modem. If you want to do the same, I advise you to use the 20011007 drivers (with pppoa3) and this HOWTO for the ppp setup.

After that, it was my machine's turn. First off all, I decided to fix the side effects of my unstable NVidia drivers, and upgraded my filesystems to ext3. Then I upgraded my NVidia drivers, only to found out that they were as unstable as the earlier release. Well, at least, ext3 was doing its job ;) I Googled a bit around, to found out that the following setting may be the solution : just add


Option "NoRenderAccel" "on"

to your XF86Config-4 file, and the crashes should be history. Looks like that fixes everything...

It is unbelievable how performant the Low Latency patch is for Linux desktop systems. Whereas a vanilla Linux 2.4.18 kernel is horribly sluggish on my 128 Meg based system, the LL patch really boosts things up. I first tried with the PreEmptable kernel patch, as it is now default in the 2.5 kernel series, but after giving unsatisfying results, I added the LL patch too. At least, my MPlayer is now again playing without glitches, while my Seti@Home is crunching in the background.

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