DIARY 2011















Mon, Jan 10

<18:57 EEST> The spring term at school started today, and with the massive change in my daily routines, I have had much more sleep this afternoon than last night. Everyone else seems equally baffled and worn out from the holidays, which may or may not be the sign of a good vacation. In this period I seem to be facing more confusion and work than ever here at Viitaniemi, though fortunately I am already familiar with most of my students.

Last Friday was a night out in the spirit of good old times. Rigorist was visiting me, and we went to see Cleaning Women at Freetime. The musical creativity was this time enhanced with power drills and the electrical noise of human body; the drills worked their electromagic directly into the EM pickups from a considerable distance, more so with the AC-powered one.

It might have been a good opportunity to see a few more friends, but the noise levels at Freetime were quite unbearable. Even the background music necessitated earplugs, and naturally the live gig had to outdo it, not just with sheer volume, but also with the metallic clanks and grinding. It was OK with plugs, and of course the bodily experience was enhanced with the loudness, but it makes you wonder what the point of interesting, experimental soundscapes is if you need to muffle them prior to listening. Such an experience called for some mellowing down afterwards, and we ended up with some old-school console gaming with my GF.

Sun, Jan 2

<19:58 EEST> Last night I watched a wonderful movie with the following line:

In fact, a recent poll says that at an election, 93% of British people would vote for the pirates rather than the government.
Besides being a nice period comedy from the 1960s Britain, The Boat that Rocked delivers some surprisingly topical messages about the freedom of culture. In fact, this spring in Finland, you can actually vote for pirates. Another interesting "third party" is Muutos 2011, which with its stances on the freedom of speech and privacy is not much different from the Pirate Party. It will be interesting to see whether Finland is ready for actual democracy this year.

Yesterday I updated my silent number cruncher with a Radeon HD5770, naturally a fanless model. The box is now also my media center, since the CPU is good enough for Full HD H.264 material, despite being weaker than its predecessor. (GPU decoding should be possible with these cards, but the current Linux driver + application combinations are not quite complete.)

Recently I have read another book using the Nokia N800, and it is worth mentioning again how nice a reader it is. I certainly prefer something that can be held and operated in one hand, to a heavy hardcover, especially when reading in bed. The form factor is one way in which I think it is better than most of the current e-readers and tablets; while replicating the size of a book's page, they become too cumbersome.

I have already wondered why modern technology tries to imitate the old, and why it is often useless and problematic. The pages of a book are of a certain size, because having lots of tiny pages would be unwieldy. However, in a computer a smaller display may be OK, because you can scroll it much more flexibly. In the case of the N800, the width of the display is fine for the width of text in a book, so you can read by vertical scrolling.

Unfortunately, there are no dedicated Page Up/Down buttons on the N800. These would be much nicer than scrolling with the arrow buttons. The equivalent of PgUp/Dn is possible by tapping on the scrollbar, but it requires two hands and the stylus, which can be inconvenient and a little distracting.

In a dedicated e-reader, there may be a technical reason behind the display size: e-ink only consumes power when its contents change, so frequent scrolling/flipping is to be avoided. In fact, the display may be one of the drawbacks when reading on the N800, as it uses a rather ordinary LCD. On the other hand, at way over 200 DPI, it is much nicer to read than any typical laptop or desktop screen.

Of course, the N800 is not really an e-reader, but rather a general-purpose tablet computer — from a few years before Apple and others invented them ;) These days I mostly use mine as a reader, but as a matter of principle I like to buy general-purpose, openly programmable computers. This is in contrast to Apple's iGadgets and Android systems, where you only have a limited set of programming languages, and the distribution of custom software is strictly regulated.

To make things extra clear, the N800 is an older product and no longer available anew, but the OS and the general idea live on in other Maemo and Meego systems.

Risto A. Paju