Tuesday 8 November 2005

The virile way to the Macintosh…

This spring I was almost psychologically ready to buy myself a Mac mini. Then Steve Jobs announced the switch to the Intel processor. Can’t spend 500 EUR for a soon to be obsolete PPC machine, no can’t do. In August the new 10.4.1 Intel/PCC developer kit OSX was leaked, patches were produced to run the OS on some specialized PC hardware and/or virtualizers like Vmware or more generic PC systems. It is now possible to run 10.4.1 OSX on a PC with practically all the features of the Apple Developer kit with.. 1) a SSE3 Celeron/P4 processor (with a Prescott Core), 2) an Intel 915 chipset motherboard (now sadly discontinued, but mobo still available, the best seems to be the Intel GUXL with a 775 socket) 3) generic hd/dvd/dvd-rw/case/psu Even a SSE2 CPU (but not lower) and a non 915 chipset mobo will do, but with lower performance, especially in the graphics department. For the details on how to do it a very good starting point is www.osx86project.org and www.win2osx.net. I built myself a good “hackintosh”/”macintel” system with: a 60 EUR Asrock P4 Dual 915-GL a 70 EUR socket 478 2.8 GHz Celeron D CPU, two 35 EUR 512 mb DDR DIMMs, a 30 EUR stylish but cheap iTek case  and an ‘old’ 60 gb IDE HD and DVD reader. I’ve also tried a Sparklan WL-660GS  wireless nic as an almost plug-in Airport replacement (it uses the same broadcom chipset)  with good enough results. I chose the 478 socket over the newer 775 socket because I’ve mostly 478 machines at home and at work I can eventually cannibalize something from – the Asrock mobo has a strange PCIX-AGP combo slot in addition.


I can use (a bit slowly) most PPC OSX apps with the Rosetta emulation – Office, Macromedia Studio, the Adobe suite all run. All the HW (sound, ports, networking, and usb) works. The newer universal binaries run very fast, the lowly Celeron clearly outperforms the Mac mini. I’ve doubts about the longevity of the whole hack – the 915 chipset, being discontinued, won’t appear in retail Intel Macs, and possibly won’t be supported by the new, final Intel OSX, newer builds of OSX for Intel have added protections against running on standard Intel hw (tough rapidly developing work is being done at least for the latest 10.4.3 build), but it’s a great way to test and play with the Macintosh system anyway. If the ‘hackintosh’ won’t be able to run OSX in the future, it will always be useful as a second or third PC, and newer and better Mac minis (hopefully minis you don’t need a special tool just to open them) will be on the market. Here are some photos. The wireless keyboard/mouse is an el cheapo Nortek system (the mouse eats battery power like a McDonald punter, the keyboard is still running on the included batteries), the screen is 15’’ LG LCD monitor.


Thursday 22 September 2005

Spenglerian pessimism

The always interesting Steve Jobs gave recently this interview to MacWorld. Besides the joke (or was it ?) about pirates 'burning in Hell' this passage struck me as  interesting:

“Apple does that better than any other company in the world. What makes us different? Most of our competitors don’t have engineers anymore. Everyone else designs in the Far East.”

They don't have engineers anymore. Of course they haven't been actually manufacturing anything for more than a decade, now. And to-day they're not even designing anything. They just live on marketing the stuff, apparently - support has been outsourced to India, of course.

Sunday 11 September 2005

Local 'remote' Mathematica Kernel on Mac OS

Say, you run Mathematica 5.x locally on a system (Mac OSX 10.4.1 for intel with Rosetta, for instance) where communication between the frontend and MathKernel has problems. You can work around the problem running remotely the local kernel. Here's how:

- create a /sbin/math.sh file with this one line of text

/[path to Mathematica /directory/Mathematica 5.2.app/Contents/MacOS/MathKernel $@

- chmod +x /sbin/math.sh

of course. Of course you have to know how to use the Terminal and some basic unix knowledge.

- ssh-keygen -t rsa

you have to be logged on as the user you use normally (not root)

- Enable remote login in System Preferences - Sharing - this enables sshd

- Start the fronted, go to Kernel, Kernel options, add a new remote kernel using /sbin/math.sh 2&>/dev/null as remote command, localhost as remote host. Define the defaults at your will. Upon launching the kernel you should be asked for the user password, but at last the frontend should communicate normally with the kernel.

Friday 29 July 2005

Half-homemade wi-fi antenna with built-in extension...

I'm currently in München  for a few weeks. Among others, I enjoy my lodger's Wi-Fi Internet connection. I live in a dépendance and the signal strength is always low, weather-dependant (that pesky, ever changing german weather), and subject to interference from other WLANs in the neighbouhood (those pesky, überrich Germans). I have to think of something if I want to waste time on the net even in Germany. The simplest thing would be putting the PC on the window...

Mmmm, nee, nee. Perhaps the lodger won't be too happy. At the local Saturn I've found a very handy coaxial extension for Wi-Fi antennas, for only 19.99 € (those pesky, ultracheap German prices). It's a D-Link product, whose packaging is this:

The only problem: while the card-side connector fits perfectly, the antenna side screwable connector doesn't fit my detachable antenna, and no other Wi-Fi antenna I've seen. So what do you do ? You cut the connector, split the cable in order to expose the inner copper core, for a length which must be the same as the normal Wi-Fi antenna. You get a perfectly working, even if quite fragile, wi-fi extension with a built in antenna. Of course one can build himself the whole cable without buying the D-Link extension, with the right connector and coaxial cable, and make a more solid antenna, but I'm here with only a screwdriver, a cutter, and little time. For now, this hack workssss....

Wednesday 20 July 2005

TravelMate's wireless networking not working ?

after swearing and tireless trying,
the damn thing still gives you but nothing ?

You've checked the WEP, you've changed the speed,
and lo! your centrino is still in dire need,
don't despair old friend, that's what you shall heed:

Saturday 16 July 2005

The Beginning of Petrophobia!

Notes on The End of Suburbia by Greg Greene 

I’ve stumbled more or less by chance on this documentary shot in 2004. I’ve seen it several months ago, and I highly recommend it – I don’t think it’s available in languages other than English, but the DVD is region free, it plays everywhere.

The 78’ film is about the so-called ‘Peak Oil’ phenomenon. If you don’t know exactly what ‘Peak oil’ is, then browse these sites: www.peakoil.net, or look it up in the Wikipedia, whose relevant English article is in my view a good starting point to delve deep into the matter.   Google’s first pick ( http://www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net/ ) is the website of an attorney-turned-peak oil-activist a little bit too derivative and too alarmist for my tastes. In a few words, Peak Oil refers to the theory that the global oil production will be reaching its maximum output in a few years, or even sooner, and then decline inexorably. The implications of this phenomenon for the western and especially the American way of life are potentially enormous. The documentary was evidently created on the wave produced by the 2003 USA and Canada blackouts, and the rise in oil price of the following months. It is even more relevant today, with oil prices hovering on the whereabouts of sixty dollars per barrel. The American Way of Life always struck me as a caricature of western civilization, overblown cities, overblown riches, overblown industries, overblown houses, overblown people, both physically and mentally. The introduction of ‘The End…’  with the history of the creation of the suburban sprawl where allegedly 50% of the American population currently resides is another confirmation of my idea. The development of public transportation, streetcars, buses, metros, even railways where systematically hampered, because of a few developers and big government fellows who saw an opportunity in driving middle class citizens out of the cities in newly constructed country houses, reachable only by car on newly constructed highways, which also lead to newly constructed malls. Public transportation is not viable in areas with a very low population density like the suburbs. The result: in 60 years after the end of WWII Americans consumes double the amount of resources of their European counterparts just to drive to work, to buy groceries and to heat their homes. Inner cities have been spoiled; larger and larger rural areas have been converted into soulless housings. The problem: all of this depends heavily on the availability of cheap fossil fuels, which are allegedly becoming scarcer and scarcer. Enter the experts: the juiciest part of the documentary is a series of interviews with several personalities who have written books on the subject. The documentary is in a nutshell a primer on peak oil. The interviewees are, with some possible exception, reputable personalities in their field. It doesn’t seem we’re dealing with plain quackery or conspiracy theorists here, that’s why I recommend the movie and got interested in the subject. James Howard Kunstler is a journalist turned writer – he speaks vehemently on the decline of American values and on the threats to globalised commerce posed by the impending energy crisis. Matthew Simmons is a renowned investment banker specialising in the energy industry – he has been warning the international community about the scarcity of fossil resources for a while. Colin Campbell is a retired American geologist living in Ireland who a few years ago has published an article in Scientific American about the real size of world oil reserves, finding that the generally accepted opinion that a peak is to be expected only a little before the middle of this century is probably wrong. Kenneth Deffeyes and Ali Samsam Bakhtiari are two other geologists who have come to the same conclusions. The latter works for the Iranian government, the former teaches at Princeton and has recently published a book on the perspective of energy production after peak oil.

Richard Heinberg could describe himself as a ‘cultural ecologist’, teaches at the not too terribly renowned http://www.newcollege.edu/ but has written a number of very interesting books with some compelling views. He’s rather pessimistic about the chances of solving future energy problems, advocating even ‘some way of reducing world’s population’ [before it will violently reduce itself in Malthusian ways] The only real dubious character is Michael Ruppert, an ex cop turned journalist after a hiatus of many years. He links the current energy problems to the Bush-Cheney-Neocon policies and wars in the Middle East. So do all the others experts, but especially after having browsed ‘Crossing the Rubicon’, his book I think that his opinions should be taken with a grain of salt. What about hydrogen, bio diesel, nuclear power, solar energy and all the other tricks that according to the general media should save the world in the improbable case oil would run out? According to the experts there are serious limitations to every of these solutions. Changing our (especially theirs, that is, the Americans’) lifestyle would be much better, and some potentially very hard troubles lie ahead anyway. The limit of this documentary honesty lie in the fact that no opposite point of view (which of course exist, not everybody thinks doom is impending) is shown. Nevertheless, this a very, very good documentary, much better and less manipulatory than Michael Moore’s for instance. It’s not as fun as the other 2004 gem – Super Size Me – but probably even more nutritious food for thought.  

Wednesday 13 July 2005

Die Deutsche Jugend – 2004:2004

Anmerkungen über den Film  Die Nacht der lebenden Loser“ von Mathias Dinter mit Tino Mewes, Manuel Cortes, Collien Fernandes.

Die dunkelhaarige Schauspielerin C. Fernandes ist zu hübsch. Der beste Teil dieses Films. Wunderbares Madchen… But I digress. Es ist amüsant, dass ich diesen Film nach „Napola“ gesehen habe.  Zwei Filme, 2004 waren die beide gedreht, über junge Leute. Napola ist über die Jugend des Nazi-Regimes, „Die Nacht…“ ist (mehr oder weniger) über die Jugend der heutigen Bundesrepublik.

„Die Nacht der lebenden Loser“ ist eine – so kann man es sagen –   Teen-Horrokomödie. Dinter parodiert echte amerikanische Horrorfilme wie „The night of the living dead“  amerikanische Black Comedies wie “Death becomes her”  aber besonders amerikanische Teen-Movies wie “She´s all that”  oder “10 things I hate about you”  Die Umgebung ist deutsch, aber   in der Tat ist der Film eine deutsche Nachahmung eines amerikanischen Films. Es gibt so viele solche Europäische Filme, besonders in Deutschland, und auch in Spanien (ich denke an „Tuno Negro“ zum Beispiel)

Die Geschichte ? Nach einer schwarzen Messe, drei nicht so erfolgreiche und populäre  Jungen sterben in einem Unfall, aber sie wecken als Zombies auf, weil sie waren früher mit einem Zombi Staub gedeckt geworden. Sie nehmen Rache an seinen alten Feinde, sie gewinnen Wettkämpfe, ein von ihnen erobert das schönste Madchen der Schule. Aber sie entwickeln einen Hunger für Humanfleisch (ein von ihnen isst seinen Turnlehrer mit Ausnahme seines Fuß) , und seine Körperteile   beginnen zu fallen wie in „Death Becomes Her“. Das nicht-so-schöne (aber jedenfalls hübsche) Madchen der Schule hilft seine Freunde um seine normale Forme wieder zu nehmen.

Der Film ist nicht böse als Komödie, es gibt viele Gags, er hat einen amüsanten verrückten Geist.

Aber, ich frage mich was besser ist. Diese idiotische Kerle mit seinem Denglisch  und mit seinen bunten Kleidungen, die seine viel idiotischere entsprechende amerikanische Teenagers nachäffen. Oder die junge Leute aus der Welt des anderen Film ?  Aber die Idioten von heute, natürlich. Silly me.

Nicht zu vergessen: ich muss sofort weitere Filme mit der Fernandes suchen..

Tuesday 12 July 2005

Die Deutsche Jugend – 2004:1942

Anmerkungen über den Film  „Napola - Elite für den Führer“  von Dennis Gansel, mit Max Riemelt, Tom Schilling, Justus von Dohnany.

Napola  bedeutet Nationalpoltische Erziehungsanstalt. Sie waren Institute der Nazis, die den Auftrag hatten, die künftige Elite der Herrenmenschen (die „Gauleiter für Moskau und Chicago“) auszubilden. Friedrich Weimer ist ein junger Knabe aus Berlin-Wedding: er boxt gut, und wird von Heinrich Vogler, der „Deutsch und Boxe“ in einer solchen Schule unterrichtet, bemerkt.

1942 meldet Friedrich sich an dem Institut an,  gegen den Wille seines Vaters. Dort befreundet er sich mit Albrecht Stein, der Sohn des Gauleiters Heinrich Stein (historisch eine ganz erfundene Person).

Albrecht ist schwach, ein Dichter, und er mag keine militaristische Ausbildung. Ein anderer Junge nässt noch das Bett, er wird gestraft, und endlich bringt er sich um mit einer Handgranate. Der Gauleiter überzeugt Friederich, Albrecht und andere Schüler  um einen Einsatz gegen fliegende Russische Kriegsgefangenen  auszuführen. Die Gefangenen werden erschossen. Albrecht ist so schockiert, dass er sich ertränkt wahrend einer Übung. Friedrich sollte ein Wettbewerb für sein Institut gewinnen, aber lässt sich besiegen. Er wird aus der Schule verweisst.

So der Film vom jungen Regisseur Gansel. Er hat gesagt „So war es, genau so“ (napola-artikel.jpg) aber ich habe das Gefühl dass, er nicht so historisch korrekt ist. Übungen für 17jahrigen mit echten Handgranaten ? Wahnsinnig, auch für die Nazis. Alte Schlösser waren nur für die Ordenburgen der SS belegt.

Dieser Leserbrief eines ehemaligen NaPoLa Schülers gibt weitere Informationen darüber. (napola-leserbriefe.jpg – diese zwei Stücke waren aus der Seite http://www.ralfkruegerprivat.de genommen)

Keine Einzelheiten aber der Geist der Nazi-Kultur ist vielleicht gut gemalt. Die Ideologie, die Obsession mit der Rasse, der Militarismus, die Disziplin  usw. sind da. Die echte Gabe des Films ist aber in meiner Meinung nicht im historischen Urteil des Nazi-Regimes sondern im guten Drehbuch und in den verschieden guten Schauspielern. Schilling ist besonders gut, und so ist Von Dohnanyi (Das Experiment, Der Untergang). Das Drehbuch ist ein perfektes Beispiel von „Bildungsroman“ in einer Institut. Diese  Napola konnte auch das pseudo-Eton von „Another Country“  oder das amerikanische Prep School von „Dead Poets Society“  sein. In den letzen Jahren haben die deutsche Filme ziemlich sich verbessert. 

Monday 11 July 2005

Mémoires de la chute.

Cette année, on célèbre le soixantième anniversaire de la fin de la guerre civile européenne  e du suicide du personnage le plus amusant du 20éme siècle, Oncle Adolf Hitler. Les livres et les documentaires télévisés sur ce thème sont désormais innombrables. Il y a eu aussi un événement médiatique d’importance plutôt élevée, c'est-à-dire  le film « Der Untergang » avec Bruno Ganz (un des meilleurs films allemands des dernières années), dont j’espère écrire une petite recension quand j’aurai fini d’examiner le double DVD de l’édition spéciale en VO.

Une contribution sûrement mineure mais assez intéressante à ce déluge hitlérien est le livre de mémoires « Dans le bunker de Hitler – 23 juillet 1944 29 avril 1945 » Cette œuvre a été écrite et publiée pour la première  fois en Français par Perrin, mais l’auteur (aidé par François d’Alençon) est le général allemand Bernard Freytag von Loringhoven. J’ai vu Loringhoven plusieurs fois dans beaucoup de documentaires à la télé allemande. Il m’a toujours frappé avec son allure, son élocution et sa lucidité, remarquable pour un homme âgé de plus de 90 ans, c’est pourquoi que j’ai immédiatement acheté son livre quand j’en ai appris. A l’époque des faits Freytag von Loringhoven était aide de camp des généraux Guderian et Krebs.

Il s’agit d’une livre agile, de presque 200 pages. Loringhoven écrit qu'il s’origine à partir de quatre « wartime logs », des journaux écrit pendant sa captivité après la guerre. On ne parle pas seulement des jours entre le dates du titres : ça c’est plus ou moins l’argument de deux chapitres. L’ancien général raconte sa vie de noble allemand baltique en difficultés financières, obligé à laisser ses études de droit pour commencer la carrière d’official dans la Wehrmacht. Les chapitres suivants regardent ses expériences sur le front russe et pendant l’attentat à Hitler du 20 juillet. Un cousin de Loringhoven était entre le groupe de conspirateurs et il s’est suicidé quand le projet a échoué. Il n’y a rien d’éclatant ou d’exceptionnel ici, mais la description du milieu des hauts officiaux allemands est véridique, avec des détails curieux. 

La description du dernier Hitler est en accordance avec autres œuvres que j’ai lu, comme le livre ‘maudit’ « Hitler’s War » de David Irving : un homme névrosé, éprouvé et envieilli, mas « pas du tout fou » : les traits négatifs selon Loringhoven sont surtout les plusieurs erreurs de stratégie et tactique, et la monstrueuse habilité manipulatrice de l’ancien caporal. On ne parle jamais de l’extermination des Juifs, parce que selon l’auteur, on en parlait jamais dans l’état majeur.

Beaucoup des hautes officiaux de l’OKW reçoivent un traitement peut-être pire : il y a des traiteurs comme Fegelein, beaucoup des fanatiques nazis, et des hommes trop serviles, comme le général « Lakeitel ». 

L’avant-dernier chapitre concerne la fugue à travers la ville de Berlin envahie par les troupes russe, et la successive captivité dans un camp de prisonniers anglais. C’est frappant la simplicité avec laquelle Loringhoven raconte d’être été torturé (et après d’avoir être aidé par « Oughton », c'est-à-dire Hugh Trevor-Roper !). Cette dignité et cette sobriété rarement se trouvent dans les livres écrits par les victimes de l’armée où Loringhoven a milité. Sa conclusion à également le don de l’équanimité : « Le retour lucide sur le passé ne doit conduire à un mea culpa généralise et permanent par les générations futures, mais il participe d’une obligation de vigilance »

Une narration simple, intéressant, honnête : comme j’ai déjà écrit, rien d’exceptionnel, mais une contribution sincère entre milliers de portraits souvent inexacts et caricaturaux. 

Thursday 30 June 2005

Sistemare i dizionari, per sempre

In questo periodo sto riordinando la mia collezione di dizionari elettronici... Una serie piuttosto valida e molto economica è quella dei ‘Dizionari per Sempre’, uscita qualche anno fa insieme a diversi numeri de La Repubblica e poi riproposta in una sorta di cofanetto sempre dall’editoriale l’Espresso. Di buono c’è lo Zingarelli, il Ragazzini e il Boch in versione minore. Poi un dizionario etimologico, uno mitologico, un dizionario di latino alquanto elementare, un dizionario tecnico-scientifico. Pessimo è il CD tedesco-spagnolo-italiano. I lemmi sono talmente pochi da renderlo virtualmente inutilizzabile.

Il software di interrogazione è il solito ZANREP Zanichelli. I CD non sono protetti, ma non è prevista l’installazione su CD. C’è anche un autostart scritto in Director che annuncia con un bel vocione l’avvio del CD, fa pubblicità ad altre opere multimediali de L’Espresso, e soprattutto fa solo perdere tempo. Odio tutto ciò. Per rimediare basta qualche decina di minuti, il Daemon Tools, un programma di masterizzazione in grado di produrre immagini .ISO (io ho usato Nero, ma vanno bene praticamente tutti a parte qualche software molto economico consegnato a volte insieme a certi masterizzatori), il Notepad.


  1. Copiare il contenuto del CD su disco rigido. Annotare il titolo del CD (per il Boch ad es. è FRA_INT_B00)
  2. Eliminare i file inutile dell’autostart: devono rimanre ZANREP.EXE, ZANREP.HLP, ZANREP16.EXE, ZANREP16.HLP, AUTOSTART.INF e il file .DAT principale da qualche centinaio di mb.
  3. Su Windows 2000 e precedenti, non su XP, è necessario accedere alle proprietà di AUTORUN.INF e togliere la spunta dall’attributo di protezione in scrittura.
  4. Modificare AUTORUN.INF con notepad e cambiare START.EXE in ZANREP.EXE
  5. Creare un’immagine ISO dal programma di masterizzazione, dovrà contenere i file di cui sopra ed avere come titolo quello annotato al punto 1. Monosessione e con nomi file Joliet.
  6. Montare l’immagine ISO da Daemon Tools. Partirà automaticamente lo ZANREP e non lo stupido autostart – volendo eliminare l’autostart basta evitare di masterizzare autorun.inf.
  7. Ho notato qualche conflitto usando più dizionari insieme, si tratterà eventualmente di disintallare le immagini ISO che non interessano, se capita.

Wednesday 29 June 2005

GI Loescher su CD-ROM - come fare un backup..

Recentemente (perchè ? beh, ho sempre desiderato averne uno...) ho speso la bellezza di 89 eurozzi per un dizionario di greco antico, il Montanari GI della Loescher. E' più aggiornato e facile da consultare dello standard impiegato per decenni nei licei classici d'Italia, il Rocci. Così mi dicono, almeno. Il vero motivo per cui l'ho preso in realtà è il fatto che il dizionario viene fornito con un completo CD-ROM, che si appoggia sullo stesso software di interrogazione usato da tanti dizionari Zanichelli, oltre che dal dizionario italiano-latino/latino-italiano Castiglioni-Mariotti, edito sempre per i tipi di Loescher.

Come la maggior parte dei dizionari su CD, il GI è protetto dalla copia mediante lo standard Securom della Sony. Non è possibile copiare il disco con successo usando un normale software di masterizzazione, e quel che è peggio non è possibile installare il dizionario su disco rigido.
Questo stesso problema affligge gli altri dizionari Zanichelli che usano il software ZANREP.EXE di interrogazione. In tempi di dischi da 300 Gb a poco più di 100 euro questo è chiaramente inaccettabile. Sarebbe troppo bello avere qualcosa come i dizionari a standard PC-Bibliothek usati in Germania (1 solo software intercambiabile di interrogazione, dizionari installabili liberamente su HD, decine e decine di titoli...)

La soluzione ? Un emulatore di CD tipo Daemon Tools, che consente di usare CD virtuali a partire da file immagine che rappresentano il contenuto del CD. Il file immagine si genera tramite un programma di 'backup CD'. Per questa versione 2004 del GI va bene l'ultima versione di Blindwrite e/o l'ultima versione di Alcohol 120%. Si tratta di abilitare la copia su immagine con il salvataggio del subchannel, a una velocità di lettura bassa (8x o anche 1x), o direttamente con le opzioni 'Securom NEW'. Non è pirateria, l'utente ha diritto ad avere una copia di backup e a "migliorare l'interoperabilità".

Una volta salvata l'immagine BW5 su hd basta installarla da Daemon Tools e usare normalmente il dizionario dal CD emulato. Solo una volta mi è apparso un messaggio 'conflict with cd emulations software detected', ma è bastato riavviare.