May 2011

Brain dump and Knowledge management and The Web and Writing13 May 2011 at 0:23 by Jean-Marc Liotier

Using this blog for occasional casual experience capitalization means that an article captures and shares a fragment of knowledge I have managed to grasp at a given moment. While this frozen frame remains forever still, it may become stale as knowledge moves on. Comments contributed by the readers may help in keeping the article fresh, but  that only lasts as long as the discussion. After a while, part of article is obsolete – so it is with some unease that I see some old articles of dubious wisdom keep attracting traffic on my blog.

Maybe this unease is the guilt that  comes with publishing in a blog – a form of writing whose subjective qualities can easily slide into asocial  self-centered drivel. Maybe I should sometimes let those articles become wiki pages – an useful option given to  contributors on some question & answers sites. But letting an article slide into the bland utilitarian style of a wiki would  spoil some of my narcissic writing fun. That shows that between the wiki utility and the blog subjectivity no choice must be made : they both have their role to play in the community media mix.

So what about the expiration date ? I won’t use one : let obsolete knowledge, false trails, failed attempts and disproved theories live forever with us for they are as useful to our research as the current knowledge, bright successes and established theories that are merely the end result of a process more haphazard than most recipients of scientific and technical glory will readily admit. To the scientific and technical world, what did not work and why it did not work is even more important than what did – awareness of failures is an essential raw material of the research process.

So I am left with the guilt of letting innocent bystanders hurt themselves with my stale drivel which I won’t even point to for fear of increasing its indecently high page rank. But there is not much I can do for them besides serving the articles with their publication date and hope that the intelligent reader will seek contemporary confirmation of a fact draped in the suspicious fog of a less informed past with an author even less competent than he is nowadays…

Jabber and Mobile computing and Networking & telecommunications09 May 2011 at 14:02 by Jean-Marc Liotier

I have owned an an HTC “G2″ Magic for almost two years and one of my biggest disappointments with the Android operating system has been my inability to find a decent Jabber client. On the desktop, my love of Psi has been going on for half a decade but my encounters with mobile Jabber clients have been nothing but disappointments.

On Android in the past two years I have tried them all, including notables such as Jabbdroid, Beem, Jabiru, Yaxim, Emess and many others not even worth citing. Some of them are hampered by a slow graphical user interface, some deplete batteries in a hurry, some lack features I consider essential, some even crash on receiving a message and not a single one is capable of remaining connected while the radio segment hops from GPRS to UMTS to Wi-Fi and back again… They won’t even try to reconnect – leaving me slack-jawed at the lack of such a basic feature when there is even a standard Android class that notifies applications when network connectivity changes.

Enter Xabber – it does everything I expect from an Android Jabber client. Yes, it really does – you can drop that unbelieving face. I’ll spare you the whole features list… Let’s just focus on what I was looking for :

  • Permanent tray icon as link to contacts lists
  • vCard based avatars
  • XMPP priorities
  • Groups
  • Contacts list management
  • TLS/SSL support
  • Full Unicode support
  • Chat history
  • Parameters for just enough customization
  • Multi User Chat – you can even join multiple rooms
  • Does not deplete the batteries too quickly
  • Reconnects promptly after each disconnection while the radio segment hops from GPRS to UMTS to Wi-Fi and back again

As a bonus it publishes geographical location, but I have no idea where it gets it from, nor if it is supposed to implement XEP-0080.

Don’t you love the feeling of discovering a new application and finding that it behaves the way you expect, as if the developers had been reading your mind and making helpful suggestions about the fuzzy parts of what they had read ? On Android K-9 Mail is the only other example I can think about… Yes, Xabber is that good.

The only downside of Xabber is that the code is not free… The site does not even mention a license. So you don’t know what lies hidden inside, you can’t modify it and you are at the mercy of the developer changing his mind and starting to ask for money for further versions. But even as a Free software fanboy I’m willing to live with that for now – I’m so relieved to at last have something that works.

From now on, expect to find me online while I’m on the move !

Edit 20130130 – Xabber is now Free Software !

Cooking and Health and Meta09 May 2011 at 13:03 by Jean-Marc Liotier

I used to be the worst local emitter of greenhouse gases. This was not just a matter of occasional mild annoyance for a few unlucky individuals in my immediate vicinity, it was a permanent Bhopal-scale industrial catastrophe unleashing wide-area soul-rotting pestilence on hapless populations… Who did not run away fast enough from the invisible abomination was left twitching on the ground, gasping for non-existent air. Needless to say, my apartment was a strictly non-smoking area.

I was also an expert at going on as if nothing happened while feigning to ignore the origin of the pollution, so credibly playing innocent that some of my co-workers suspected an actual problem with sewer piping in our high-tech office building – the Camorra’s illegal toxic waste disposal operators would be proud. But contrary to widespread rumors, none of my co-workers has ever been spotted bringing a canary along to his workplace.

Anyway, I’m relieved to come out with apologies and a hopeful announcement that those days are past… Afters years of unsuccessful experimentation with various remedies and diet alterations, I have finally found the cause…

Activated charcoal had no effect, anything else my physician prescribed had no effect, antibiotics given on occasion of some intestinal infection did help temporarily but there was the collateral damage of killing all intestinal flora – and antibiotics are not a long-term solution anyway. Contrary to most suspicions, the humongous volumes of vegetables I ingest daily were not the cause – nor was my high-fiber diet. My physician was short of hypothesis to test and even less of potential solutions.

Gone on a personal crusade against intestinal methane-producing bacteria, I ended up systematically eliminating food classes from my diet, each over a week-long period, and noting the incidence on my flatulence. The conclusion of my research : I have become lactose-intolerant.

Eliminating all dairy consumption from my diet reliably reduced flatulence to negligible levels – it took less than two days for the effect to become manifest. I have also long known that dried fruits such as apricot are notable contributors, but the effect if marginal compared to what lactose does to me. For a while I had put the blame on breakfast cereals, but that was the result of a mistake in my experimental protocol : eliminating the breakfast cereals reduced milk intake at the same time.

It feels a bit strange – I had become so used to the permanent bloating, intestinal rumblings and disturbed lower intestinal tract that I had forgotten how life is without them – especially as they had notably worsened in the last years. The feeling of relief is simply awesome and a big cause of the smile I have been harboring for the past few days. As a bonus, I suspect that lactose may have been a contributor to some of my mild knee pains.

Anyways – enjoy the good news and if you have a similar problem, be sure to check that you are not intolerant to lactose. And if you suffer from an ailment for which no one finds the cure, despair not – take the matter in your own hands and start experimenting… After all, no one knows you as well as yourself. So there, a message of hope – sometimes the solution has always been in front of you, waiting for you to see it if you make the effort of looking for it with even the slightest amount of scientific inquiry.

Meanwhile, I’m now enjoying the wonderful flavours of rice milk, almond milk, soy milk, horchata de chufas, spelt milk, quinoa milk and many other sorts of grain milks and vegetable milks – all different and all tasting great. I liked them before ending my cow milk consumption, but I was finding them a bit pricey… Now I have the perfect pretext to splurge on better quality food ! In addition, that fits nicely with my health policy of reducing consumption of animal proteins in favour of  proteins from vegetable sources. Did I mention I’m happy ?