April 2008

Systems13 Apr 2008 at 14:30 by Jean-Marc Liotier

Fan failure is a common life-ending event for electronic hardware, and so did I send my three years old HIS Radeon 9800 Pro IceQ to the retirement drawer when overheat crashes helped me discover it was not pushing much air anymore since the fan motor seized.

This was an excellent pretext to acquire a faster graphical adapter. I chose a Sapphire HD 2600 XT AGP 512 DDR3 (reference 100229L) because it is currently an excellent performance for money at €85, and also because that is one of the few remaining choices for upgrading my aging AGP system significantly. It is such a rarity that I can’t even find a decent review to link to and the picture shows the 256 MB version which nevertheless looks exactly the same.

With Linux, all is mostly well : the RadeonHD driver provided me with the basic functionality I need, and I was hopeful it would make me forget the lacking Xorg 3D support with my former card. But alas for now RadeonHD does not support 3D for graphic adapters with a PCIE to AGP bridge – and that includes the Sapphire HD 2600 XT AGP. Users are ranting about the lack support for ATI HD 2600 AGP support so at least I am not the only one. In that conversation, someone with apparent insider information noted that “Linux support for AGP HD2xxx cards has not yet been released, but is being worked on”. So maybe I’ll have Linux 3D some day…

I then executed ATI Catalyst installer to upgrade my dusty Windows XP drivers in case we manage to throw a LAN party for the first time in months since we all let family and professional duties creep on our schedule, I was faced with this message : “setup did not recognize compatible drivers”. And the installation process would abort.

The Wikipedia entry for the Radeon R600 series mentions this issue :

Note that Catalyst drivers 7.10, 7.11 and 7.12 do not yet support the AGP versions of Radeon HD 2000 series cards with RIALTO bridge. Installing Catalyst drivers 7.10, 7.11 or 7.12 on those cards will yield the following error message: “setup did not find a driver compatible with your current hardware or operating system.” The cards, which are yet to be supported, with their PCI vendor ID are listed below:[46]

GPU core Product PCI device ID
RV610 Radeon HD 2400 Pro 94C4
RV630 Radeon HD 2600 Pro 9587
RV630 Radeon HD 2600 XT 9586

Niiice ! ATI lets manufacturers produce hardware it does not provide drivers for… At least this teaches me that they can even do worse than their proprietary binary drivers.

The solution is to head to Sapphire’s archive of old drivers which contains the 10th March 2008 release of the “Hotfix Driver for AGP version of ATI RADEON HD 2400Pro/2600Pro/2600XT/HD3850 Windows XP(32-bit)” which contains the old AGP support I needed.

On installation, the system complains about that driver not being “Windows certified”. The lack of that fairy dust does not hinder normal operation the slightest bit, but it does hint that this driver was rushed as a stop-gap.

I was competent enough to sort it out, but this is the sort of problem I would expect from cutting edge hardware, not from a mass market product designed to appeal to the value-for-money segment which is less technically aware than the free spending enthusiast segment. I can imagine many better ways for ATI to show respect toward its users.

Code and Social networking11 Apr 2008 at 11:12 by Jean-Marc Liotier

As far as I have looked, is no working FQL console application (I just tested the four FQL consoles that are published in the applications directory on Facebook but they either don’t load or crash on query). Although Facebook mentions that one is supposed to exist in the “Tools” page, there is actually none there at the moment. I guess I’ll have to build a small PHP application for playing with FQL.

My immediate practical goal is to be able to select members of two different groups. The query should be something like ‘SELECT uid FROM group_member WHERE gid=my_gid AND uid in (SELECT uid FROM group_member WHERE gid=my_other_gid)’ – for example to cross special interest groups or geographical areas.

There is plenty of potential for useful data mining that is not exposed by Facebook’s default interface. Search with multiple criteria of the same category is an obvious need for finding interesting people. Maybe did Facebook decide that the cost of additional clutter was not worth it for the average user. Or maybe they would prefer that the users don’t realize how much information can emerge from mining their data…

Politics08 Apr 2008 at 11:40 by Jean-Marc Liotier

48 police vans, 65 motorcycles and more than 200 security personnels, around the flame (one would almost forget the flame bearer drowned among them with an uneasy smirk while Chinese flame guards frame him) dozens more riot police vans at various locations along the way, 3000 police officers dedicated to the event on foot, horseback, roller blades and boats, full mobilization of local security forces for maintaining the outer security perimeter, helicopters… I had never saw such extensive measures in Paris. Was anyone taking notice that the olympic flame was not welcome in Paris ?

So why did I wait for the flame just to shout my displeasure at it ? First, let it be known that it has nothing to do with Tibet, nor with Chinese internal political life. I support the freedom of people and individuals when the struggle is within my reach, but I also recognize the diplomatic need for Realpolitik. I like my cheap Chinese goods and I am fully aware that they cost lives. At the moment we, as a nation-state, do not have the means nor do we really have the will to impose our values on China. We do have an influence, but let’s not delude ourselves about it.

Here are a few interesting items from the fundamental principles of olympism enumerated in the olympic charter :

2. The goal of olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.
4. The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising port, without discrimination of any kind [..]
5. Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.

Human dignity, absence of religious or political discrimation ? Am I the only one who believes that the IOC is being more than slightly hypocritical ?

While our relationships with the Chinese government are diplomatic and commercial links between equals, the IOC is an international body and as such it must be considered fully accountable to its members. So my message was not addressed at China – the intended recipient were the IOC and my own government, to put pressure towards an organization of the games more in line with international ethical standards.

Respecting the spirit of olympism within the sport events is one thing I support. I can also understand the economic needs of sponsors and the career stakes of athletes. But I won’t stand for our governments surrendering all diplomatic leverage. We need a strong symbol to express our political views while not needlessly sabotaging the event. I therefore believe that we should be absent from the official ceremonies, while letting our athletes participate as they see fit. As for the sponsors, I wish them all the negative publicity they deserve.

I witnessed with satisfaction the flame being extinguished and the crowd showing hostility toward the traveling circus. I am grateful toward Reporters Sans Frontières for actively expressing ideas I share with them – I donated to them in the past and I am not disappointed by their enduring passion for press freedom. And I salute the anonymous people of Paris who did not let this propaganda event unfold unopposed.

But I am more than displeased about the way our government handled the event. Was it so difficult to recognize the public mood and choose a low key ? Was it absolutely necessary to push through in force, making the torch convoy a ridiculous police caravan ? And most of all, who did order the police to rip the Tibetan flags and RSF olympic flags away from the hands of those who were waving them ? This is an utter disgrace ! Since when is it illegal to wave a flag in our country ? Do we really have to do the bidding of the Chinese police state ? I am outraged at the attempts of the police, reported by multiple persons along the flame’s path, to remove the flags while the Chinese flags were flying. Not that I care that much about one nation annexing another when the interests of my nation state are not even remotely concerned : my outrage is about freedom of speech in my own country and respect of the law there by its own police force.

I do not know if the governments will listen, but I wish there will be a joint Euro-American action so that the message will be effectively passed while not letting China single out specific countries for retorsion. Once more we dream about the European Union coming of age – but meanwhile let’s hope we can at least coordinate our diplomacy somewhat.

Now we pass the olympic torch to our comrades in San Francisco and beyond… Why should only the Chinese use the relay as a propaganda event ?