I found a Force11 reference on Google+ to a NYT article. The article is entitled “How to Share Scientific Data”, which is a topic I am interested in both privately and also professionally as part of my W3C work (publishing scientific data on the Web is coming to the fore as a major area of Data on the Web). The NYT article is, actually, “just” a short overview of a more detailed paper, written by F. Berman and V. Cerf, on ”Who Will Pay for Public Access of Research Data”, and published in Science. Because the NYT has duly put a reference, I followed it. That is only a reference with the abstract; there is a separate link to the full text. But then… I am asked to subscribe to Science to access the paper which is is about 100$ for an annual subscription! In effect: one would have to pay 100$ to access a paper (o.k., possibly others, but that is the one I am interested in right now!) that looks at public access of data: isn’t this ironic? Sigh…
August 15, 2013
August 11, 2013
December 24, 2012
October 12, 2012
First World War, somewhere in France or Germany, two brothers are on the front line. The unusual fact is, though, that they are facing one another: one is enrolled in the French army, the other in the German one. Luckily, they both survive the War and do not have to kill one another.
About 25 years later, one of the brothers is enrolled, again, into the German army to defend the Reich on the Rhine; his son joins the French resistance movement. Father and son are many miles apart, luckily, but in opposing armies nevertheless.
Jump ahead again about 35 years. The former French partisan lives in France, works for the local subsidiary of a German company, travels back and forth between the two countries; he believes (and says) that a new war between France and Germany is now unthinkable.
Unrealistic story? Far from it. The two brothers had a third brother, who happened to be my grandfather. They lived in small villages in the North-East of France in a region called Lorraine; part of this region (together with another one called Alsace) have changed hands between France and Germany four times in a century. The tragedy was that the two brothers happened to live on different sides of the artificial border, hence were enrolled in opposing armies.
This was Europe for a long time. It was also a Europe with borders, with an iron curtain (which also played a significant role in my life), with latent and dangerous tensions that could have led to new conflicts. But all this is history. Our children, in many ways, do not even understand this past; stories like the one above seem unbelievable and unrealistic to them. And this is the main achievement of the EU. It is not perfect (far from it), it currently has economic problems and tensions to solve; but every time I pass a border without even noticing it on my way from Amsterdam to Budapest or Paris I should (and I often do) remember the ordeals my own grandfather’s generation went through. It is therefore more than fitting that the EU, as an organization, has just received the Nobel Price for peace. A war-torn, suffering continent closed a terrible period by creating it; as one of my colleagues, Phil Archer, said on twitter: we can be proud of being European.
May 28, 2012
First round of parliamentary elections in France. Starting this year, as a French expat, I can also vote via the Web. This is really great. So I did it today. However…
- Give up on Mac, go to my wife’s machine (Windows 7, also kept up-to-date). Start up Firefox, it makes all the checks but… fails. It turns out that the Java plugin for Firefox was disabled: indeed, Firefox, at some of the previous updates, disabled it, because it had a security issue. Go to preferences, enable the plugin (to be disabled later). Hurray, it works, I could cast my vote!
- My wife also wants to vote, of course. So… restart the voting page on Firefox. Surprise: it replies that we do not have the right privileges to start up the page any more. FTH? Classical windows reaction: quit Firefox, and then restart it again. And it works… she could also vote.
I have only one question: are computers illeterates also supposed to vote on line, too? Or is it reserved for experts?
March 31, 2012
Here is the story. A high profile politician in a democratic country has a PhD. This also means that he also proudly displays the “Dr” as part of his official name; indeed we are talking about a country where it is the tradition to use that title, and this usually highly respected by society at large.
However, a problem occurs. The rumor is that the PhD has been tainted by plagiarism, i.e., that a substantial part of the PhD thesis is not original work, but had been copied verbatim (though possibly translated if the original was in another language) from other scholarly works. In academic circles this is not considered acceptable; the high standards of academic publishing, let that be a thesis or an average publication, requires the published work to be original. To be blunt: the politician in question is accused of having cheated by transgressing those standards.
Because this is a high profile person, this issue is taken seriously, further investigation follows and it turns out that the rumors are indeed well funded. As a result, the University, that has originally issued the PhD, strips our politician from his title.
How does that affect our politician? Well, you think you have heard this story if you follow the news: indeed you may thing of the (former) defense minister of Germany, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, whose PhD title has been annulled by the University of Bayreuth. Mr. zu Guttenberg (and not Dr. zu Guttenberg any more) has done the only thing a politician of his stature should do: he resigned. A decent choice in a decent, democratic country.
However… not all politicians are equally decent. The very same story happened with the current president, no less, of Hungary, Mr. (and not Dr!) Pál Schmitt. Rumors on plagiarism, public inquiry… and the Semmelweis University of Budapest annulled his PhD because the rumors were indeed well funded. Does he resign? No. He sees no reason to quit. Indecent choice in a, hopefully, still decent and democratic country, but with an increasingly indecent political leadership.
March 16, 2012
I found a nice quote in book written by a Dutch writer called Geert Mak on the European Union (“De hond van Tišma”). The quote is attributed to Dag Hammarskjöld, the second secretary general of the UN. The quote is as follows:
“It was not created to bring us to heaven, but to save us from hell.”
This quote is highly relevant for the European Union, too. Unfortunately, it seems that many of the politicians all around Europe, from Hungary to France and from the Netherlands to Greece, forget that, turning the EU into the scapegoat for all our problems. There are of course many issues with the EU that should be solved, but it would be wise to remember the reasons for its creation, and not to forget the history of the past 50 years and beyond…
December 30, 2011
I have made use of the winter recess to install Mac’s Lion on my powerbook. I must admit I hesitated for a while (I was not sure that it was worth the trouble) but then, partially driven by sheer curiosity, I did it. And, as usual, there are pros and cons… Maybe others will find my experiences useful.
1. The Good
My tactic of waiting, i.e., not to install Lion when it was still a cub, paid off. I have seen many stories on the Web, mostly dated back in July, about installation difficulties (e.g., issues about the installation of Xcode). Well, none of these for me. It installed easily, relatively quickly (after download, the installation process was about an hour, with an additional round with the installation of Xcode). Most of the things worked without further ado, although I did have to update some programs (e.g., iTunes, Safari, mercurial, some additional tools for Mail like GPG or Mail Act-On). But these were to be expected and otherwise the system worked smoothly. For example, my local apache server started and worked as before, in contrast to the stories I saw on the Web. There were also some user interface adjustments I had to make (sorry Apple, I do not like the “natural” scrolling, and I also like to have the scrollbar always on), but the web is full of references to the necessary tricks to do these.
The system is faster. Not hugely, but faster in booting, in logging in, and also some applications, like Safari, got some speed improvements. That is always a welcome feature!
I quite like Mission Control. I used “Places” on Snow Leopard, but mission control is nicer, and works well with the full-screen feature. B.t.w., the full screen feature is also great.
I use Mail App as my primary mailer and there are (as far as I am concerned) two major improvements. On the one hand, it has a nice “conversation” feature; the particular aspect I like is that it manages conversations and “related” mails across mail folders (and I have loads of them) regardless of the fact that I use IMAP. This is great. The other nice feature is the improved search, both in speed and in the various options it gives you. Mail is my everyday workhorse, so such improvements made the upgrade to Lion already worthwhile.
I love the fact that, at last, I can resize my windows easily. I change screens often (I have an external screen at home, another one at my institute, and they are different in size…) and the fact that, on Snow Leopard, I had to grab the lower right hand corner of a window to resize it was really a drag.
At this moment I am not at my usual place, meaning I am without an external screen; I can just refer to what I read, namely that handling external screens became smoother in Lion, too. I hope that is true, the old way of closing, restarting, whatnot, was also a pain.
There are a number of additional small improvements (e.g., better spellcheck in Safari; really helpful as I write these lines:-). I am sure I will find out more as it goes.
2. The Bad
Of course, not everything is nice and rosy:-(
I miserably failed with iCloud. I tried to use it to synchronize my iPhone and iPad easily with my Mac. It simply did not work reliably as far as the calendar was concerned. I regularly ran into the problem of adding an event to my calendar on, say, my iPhone, and the result was not visible anywhere else (I tried explicit synchronization when it was clear how to do it, wait for half an hour, etc; no success). I tried it through the built-in calendar application on the iPhone (which I do not particularly like, b.t.w.) as well as some other calendar apps, to no avail. After a while I just gave up, and reversed back to my previous self, i.e., using iTunes’ synchronization. Taking into account that, with IOS 5, one can also sync from iTunes over the Wireless, it is so easy to synchronize that it does not really bother me. It is, nevertheless, surprising that Apple comes out with such a much heralded feature that simply does not work properly.
I did run into some awkwardness in the user interface of the Mail App, too. For example, one would think that this application is a prime candidate to be used full screen. However, beware: if you reply to a mail in full screen mode, you cannot switch windows (e.g., you cannot reply to two mails in parallel, stuff like that) which might make it awkward. In a sense it is understandable, but it was a surprise nevertheless. Another issue is with the conversation feature: I display my mails with increasing date order but, within a conversation, Mail keeps on using decreasing dates; I have not found a way to change that…
And then there is Launchpad. Having it is a great idea, in fact. If set up properly, it gives you an easy way to get to applications, it reduces the size of the Dock (which can be an issue on a small screen), etc. If set up properly, that is. But… I did run into several issues. Some examples:
- At the start I saw loads of duplicate entries. This is because I organized my Application collection to my own taste before, with subdirectories, aliases, etc; I have too many applications to leave them as a flat list. This led to a bunch of duplicates. Which is understandable, but it is fairly difficult to remove application from Launchpad: although the “official” version is that one can do the same as on an iPhone (pressing an icon, and using a big X on it), but this method did not work for most of the applications. (No idea why.) Fortunately, I have found a program called Launchpad Control, which can do that for you (thank you, Andreas Ganske!)
- There are missing entries. Hence the big question: how does one add an application to Launchpad? Answer: no idea. I have seen proposals on the Web (e.g., move the application’s icon on top of the Launchpad icon on the Dock or create alias and put it to ~/Applications): none worked for me (Maybe if I restart? I did logged out and in again, that did not change, and I did not want to restart the computer only for this.) For the time being, I gave up on that.
- Launchpad is the typical case of an application that asks for a keyboard shortcut to start. I have found, after all, a way to do it; but does it have to be that complicated? (Actually, I saw some notes on the Web that the keyboard shortcut will disappear after reboot. I hope that will not be the case…)
Bottom-line: although I will use Launchpad, probably, it is not what it should be. Hopefully later releases will improve this.
3. The Ugly
No new item here, just a remark: it is really surprising to me that Apple would come out with such unfinished products like iCloud or Launchpad. It is perfectly o.k. to come out with Lion, add these programs in the state they are in, and make it clear to people that this is work in progress. Everybody would understand that. But doing it this way simply reduces the credibility of Apple… Pity.
December 20, 2011
Kim Lane Scheppele published an analysis in the New York Times on “Hungary’s Constitutional Revolution”. A, in my view, very good, and fairly depressing analysis of the current situation in Hungary. How can a country possibly slide into some sort of authoritarianism dominated by one single ideological view, following a path that is perfectly “legal” (though morally objectionable) at every step of the way. A sad example:-(