DIARY 2003















Thu, Jan 30

<03:15> Using distcc to split compilation work between my two machines, works great. No need to imagine a Beowulf cluster of those. Which reminds me.. a Beowulf cluster isn't really well-defined (like Mosix) and both of these machines are already named after mythical beings. Bored? Perhaps, to the extent that I wrote up a few lines for my SETI@home member profile, now that I'm actively contributing again. Amazing how the P2-350 is twice to thrice as fast as K6.3-400, probably due smaller cache and total lack of optimization for the latter. Listening to dvusMedia. Mind is blank.

Thu, Jan 23

<03:29> Zardoz was on telly, and while the basic setting of a 1970s B-scifi movie starring Sean Connery seemed mildly interesting -- I missed the first half-hour at the sauna, as the film didn't seem that important -- it turned out quite something: the Matrix of the hippie age.

Mon, Jan 20

<01:22> Sometimes there's so much synchronicity in the world that I feel I can't take it. I've been making sick jokes about biowarfare and smallpox because everyone and their dog seems to have an agonizing case of flu. And this night I saw the film Epidemic by Lars von Trier. A quite dark piece of meta-storytelling that was.

<23:32> S-C-S-I, it's fun to mispronounce, S-C-S-I... (tune of YMCA, VMTL, DMCA, PRKL et al)

..and that was said by a PC SuperStore salesman so it must be right. No scuzzies there apparently. I was asking for a 2.5'' laptop drive to 3.5'' cable adapter, and he asked if it was S-C-S-I. They didn't have Ethernet female-female extension adapters either. Fortunately they guided me to the nearby Systematic shop; it was closed on Saturdays but the owner happened to be around and he provided me with both.

As a result I've put the IBM laptop HD (the noisy one) into Prkl to serve media files via http (members only, you know) and NFS into Willow. I had a nice hack with the adapter cable, it was meant to go into the IDE controller directly, but I needed to connect it as a slave device. I got a male-male adapter from Bebek but it wasn't enough. Basically, I had to swap the two rows of pins; I did this by splitting the cable into adjacent pairs and twisting each of them around, and re-crimping the connector.

Also, I now have a sound card in Prkl. Works in Linux but problematic with DOS, read more at the page.

Fri, Jan 17

<02:43> Reread Neuromancer, this time in its Finn-ish incarnation. I don't usually do this, but now I wanted to focus on getting the story itself; the English original has such intense chromed-up language. Of course the translation loses quite a bit, and makes a few obvious mistakes. For instance squid, it's not some sea mollusc but superconducting quantum interference device, as anyone who's studied quantum information should know ;-).

Thu, Jan 16

<04:27> How fascinating it is that two consecutive books I've read had both been objects of particular anticipation. Maybe yet another case of synchro...superstition. Esko Valtaoja is Da Man and the book's title Kotona maailmankaikkeudessa (At Home in the Universe) is already quite revealing. It's like my saying 'the world is a beautiful place' and the bulk of the text goes well in parallel with my thoughts. Thus it has very little left for a review, which is probably a good thing in the light of previous reviews.

In fact the book left a somewhat hollow feeling for me, because of the lack of new ideas. There was no distinct conclusion, but the book does convey a message which is more important than separate factoids. It is a worldview scientifically critical with a child-like sense of wonder and intrigue. A direct opposite of the atomically narrow human-centred view shared by so many seemingly clever people.

I think Valtaoja is being equally arrogant to Dr. Deutsch, but it doesn't show quite shockingly because of his relaxed Finnish style. Behind a huge cultural difference in verbal appearance there is a common frustration of being an intellectual in the world of common people. Fortunately this is only explicit in a few highlights which do not impair the flux of big ideas through the pages.

Thu, Jan 9

<05:01> I've never intended to do artwork reviews. Probably said this before but wanted to emphasize it here. I was curious when I heard of Etanat (Snails), the first novel of Markku Pääskynen, because of its slight Illuminative tones. I was also somewhat daunted by the rumours that it makes so many references to other books that a classical literary knowledge is almost essential to grok it.

Now that I've read it, I'm quite glad of all the references, resources it used. Because this is one of the closest things to Illuminatus I've come across in Finnish fiction. Still I don't think the subtle referencing goes too far. The book is well balanced, not under or over estimating the reader.

Etanat is a book about synchronicity, one of the themes in Illuminatus but more central here. I almost expected to have some personal synchronistic connection with the events, but still it struck me quite hard that it took place in March of 1992, and mentioned Friday, March 13 1992. That is a date I will remember forever so it was immediately verified as a valid date.

The book is short and the plot and setting very small compared to its intellectual parents like Illuminatus and Ulysses (I really should read that too). But this is also nice because it makes a rather self-contained book, and of course the plot is not nearly as important as the general message it conveys. Which, not surprisingly, is left a bit vague but one possibility is the realization that, in this universe, stuff happens, get over it. Don't ask why, Don't assume you're in charge. Enjoy the ride.

<05:30> After installing my old, classic 8-bit Soundblaster into Prkl, I've had great fun playing Llamatron and Stunts in DOS. Even beat one of my previous records in the latter. Probably because I now have a driving license.. which means it's been quite a while since I'd last played it. Also done some Koules on X.

I didn't intend to tell this first. Not because I want to hide it, but it didn't seem very relevant or interesting. However, I've just found some interesting points behind the fascination of simple, old games, from this node.

"The more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play." -- James Tiberius Kirk

Tue, Jan 7

<02:53> There is a filesystem in my desk. I'm not talking about anything computer related here. It's simply a drawer where you can store combined sets of A4 data in an ordered manner. A file system.

The desk is, guess what, from the surplus auction already mentioned. We also got a number of shelves (two of them at my room) and other furniture, and another computer (besides Prkl), a PPro that's going to a friend to replace a 486DX2.

That makes three decent computers in my geek lair. I should probably feel thrilled but it's also quite a burden. For instance Prkl is a little too noisy for some occasions, especially now that Willow has a silent HD, but everything in the known universe is still quieter than Willow's cooling fan.

Somehow the increased amount of stuff in my room, now fairly well organized, makes me feel cozy as it makes the place less empty, but the burden is mainly a philosphical one. I should be getting along with a minimum of possessions.

Well, it's not a big thing so I can't really say "it ALL started when" Dad mentioned the upcoming auction as a source of dirt-cheap computers. I thought it's a great opportunity, even if I didn't have a desperate need for one. Besides who knows what use this pII will eventually find, and by whom?

While it's not that old a machine, I went quite retro installing DOS there in addition to Real Operating Systems. FreeDOS and DRDOS, both of which are free from the net. Initially I needed it for some hardware tweaks (like BIOS upgrades) but I realized since this is a hack-around machine I could try out some good old games as well. I haven't gone into it much yet, not having a sound card.

But the retrospectroscope doesn't switch off there. In fact I feel this time of living at home has been a big regression analysis. Guess it's natural to look back at your past at such a stage in life.

<05:02> Today's piece of synchronicity: Prkl's hard drive model is IBM-DTTA-350430. My customer ID at Bebek Electronic is 35043.

Mon, Jan 6

<02:45> More on David Deutsch's Fabric of Reality. His explanation of time travel is where the many-worlds interpretation really shines. It's not a new idea that changing the past requires an alternate past, i.e. parallel tracks of time. This is neatly incorporated into the many-worlds interpretation, but also with virtual realities; remember that our perception is equivalent to a virtual reality. In a sense, time travel can be treated as a VR trip because it is a separate continuum of reality.

One of the more general points he makes is that the book is based on existing principles within the four disciplines. It's just that he is taking them seriously enough. For instance, quantum information has only been seriously considered/developed since the 1980s, although the necessary ideas and tools have been around in quantum mechanics for almost a century. Lesson being to explore the untapped potential in our current resources, instead of making up new theories just for novelty's sake. Delta Force does not necessarily mean blind futurism...

Sun, Jan 5

<03:13> I can't stand not writing any more! I don't mean anything specific I should write about, it's rather that I should keep up some practice of creation and free association.

It's funny and sad that my current writing urge comes from a note from William Gibson who said that he's been writing all the time that most people spend watching TV... and now I want to tell about a film I saw on telly.

The Sixth Sense is not a horror film, it's a rather beautiful story. It's not a particularly grand movie, rather like an X-files episode. I simply loved the story and didn't let Bruce Willis and other good actors underperforming bother me too much. I would very much compare it to The Others.

When a person claims to see past events directly, it brings to mind the idea of temporal convolution. If relativity works (you probably know now that I don't take it all that seriously) and our spatial perception often does some smearing, then why not sense of time as well?

This might get into an endless muddle of philosophies concerning The Fabric of Reality. In fact it's a book by David Deutsch which turned out exceptionally inspiring and intelligent for a popular science book. I loved it when it started out saying that the particle physicists' "theories of everything" means almost nothing in the grand scheme.

Deutsch layed out powerful analogies between the four apparently distinct disciplines: quantum mechanics, computation theory, evolutionary biology, and theory of knowledge. A theory of everything would unify these, and there were interesting hints of this unification.

For example, computation theory is meaningless as an isolated science, because computers are limited by the physical reality. On the other hand, our experience of nature is essentially a virtual reality, which could just as well be produced by computers. Jacking into the Matrix are we?

I've read between the lines and drawn my own conclusions. So I'm not sure if Deutsch would agree. Consider these:

That probably didn't explain much. Now I must remark that Deutsch is a firm proponent of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, and he does have some valid arguments. IMHO this is like the existence of Dog (like my dyslexic Christian friend might have put it ;-) and can't be properly proved either way. One of his points is to ask: because a quantum computer can make bazillions of calculations simultaneously, where do all the operations take place? Surely in a quantum multiverse? My obvious answer is, they take place in this one universe which is, you know, behaving quantum mechanically.

Aside from the content of those theories, Deutsch does have new, general ideas on science and its evolution. For instance he clearly explains why science does not use any kind of induction when formulating its theories. Basically, since you can't induce general laws from isolated events, those events can only serve as an inspiration to abstract theories. Then, you can deduce expected outcomes of experiments based on those theories, but that's the only direction you can use logic in science.

The nature of science also gives one powerful analogy, which relates to the unity between the big four. Theory (genes) gives predictions (creates organisms) that can be tested against experiments (environment). The theory that best fits the experiments will survive. There is no induction from experiments (environment) to theory (genes).

Sat, Jan 4

<04:39> So much to write and so little time.. of course it's a matter of priorization, not really time limitations. After all the time spent tweaking and studying Prkl, I also got the PCMCIA-IDE adapter box I'd ordered. Switched the old HD back into Willow as it's more quiet and stable. A tough lesson learnt here, apparently fdisk doesn't work properly for PCMCIA disks -- the partition table was messed up.

Fri, Jan 3

<01:47> Prkl is online again. This is the new/old P2-350 which has turned out quite nice for its age. Hosting this site and crunching distributed.numbers for now.

Wed, Jan 1

<03:21> The world is full of Things in the year 0x7D3, and I'm staying in geeking out. I think some people did this back in y2k: sitting home hacking on old computers.

It's merely a coincidence that on the last day of 2002 I got a new sandbox machine which comes, again, from my dad's employer as they purge their reserves. Cost me next to nothing for those specs.. older than Willow but outperforms it.

Or is there some deep synchronicity behind the fact that I'm starting the new year installing a new system? Like those human definitions of date have any cosmic meaning. Anyway, I'll probably be posting more about the beast as I keep hacking.

Risto A. Paju