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posts for august 2009.

while talking with a friend about learning programming, i searched for course material for the best programming course i ever had so far, namely dibo‘s “programmierkurs java” (which i praised so often when it comes to this topic). while looking, i found a new website by dibo, called programmierkurs java, which features the lectures (both slides and video recordings!) and exercises. in case you want to learn programming and understand german well enough, take a look there!
ok, so much for advertising. when taking to the friend, another topic was “what is the right programming language to begin with?” in this case, the canidates java and c++ were named. i would definitely go for java, even though i prefer to use c++ myself for most things i program, as java is more allergic to programming errors: if you try to access an array out of the boundaries, it will throw an exception and will not result in unexpected behaviour. moreover, it is widely available (for free!) and easy to set up, there is a huge amount of (good and bad) literature about it, it is not too far off from the real world programming languages which one might use later (in case one wants to learn more than one language, it might also be a good idea to start with something more esoteric, like functional programming). moreover, it can be used both imperatively (which is in particular useful in the beginning) and object oriented (which one shouldn’t touch too early, in my opinion).

posted in: computer thoughts

i got another external hard drive today. the main reason is that i want to encrypt my (current) backup harddisk, which requires reformatting the disk. but if i do so, i’m left with nothing but the original data on the laptop, and no backup. in case something goes terribly wrong, i’m screwed. i just created an encrypted partition on the disk; this is really pretty easy and not much command line typing is required, in particular if everything is set up: then linux will ask me for the password as soon as i plug the usb cable in, and automatically mount it using that password. that’s how it should be. and so far, it works perfect.
currently, rsync is mirroring my home directory onto the disk. as soon as it is done, i will copy some stuff from the other backup disk over (like my server’s backups) which i don’t have on the laptop’s harddisk (which is 180 gb smaller than each of the backup disks), and after that, my old backup disk will be reformatted as well and also filled.
after that, i will deposit one of the backup drives somewhere outside my apartment: in case something goes wrong (like house burns down, someone decides to break in, …), i still have a backup somewhere. and, as it is encrypted, nobody but me can read it. (even if someone breaks in here, and steals both laptop and backup, they can’t access the data without my password. and yes, i am aware of xkcd.)

after watching shakespeare’s a midsummer night’s dream, we walked around on prince’s island park, near to the shore of the bow river. the shore area is really nice, it is green while being mostly deserted from mankind. lots of green corners, where one can hide, even though the surrounding freeways are still audible.
here are some impressions:

on friday evening and saturday afternoon, i witnessed two performances of with shakespeare in the park, namely romeo and juliet and a midsummer night’s dream. the performances took place in prince’s island park, which i already displayed twice in this blog. both plays were near to the original text, but in a modernized setting. i enjoyed both a lot!
i did not have my camera with me while watching romeo and juliet, but i had it with me for a midsummer night’s dream. here are some impressions:

last saturday, i was spending the afternoon and evening with a guy from the netherlands who is vegan. hence, for lunch and dinner, we tried to find vegetarian/vegan restaurants. he brought a list from happy cow, and for lunch we decided to go to a vietnamese place called white oak ii. it features a large variety of vegan vietnamese and chinese food, often things which originally contain meat, but where the meat is replaced. this was really amazing. the restaurant is placed in a small vietnamese mall, not obvious to find. i definitively have to go there again.
for dinner, we went to the coup, a vegetarian place at 17th avenue. this was a bit more pricy and stylish, but also very good. a place i also have to go to at least one more time. i had a vegetarian burger there, in fact the first vegetarian burger i ever had: it was really good! as was the spiced (in the sense of chili!) iced chocolate shake (hmmmm) and a cocktail called the “malibu barbie colada” which, despite its funny name, tasted fantastic. for dessert, i had a piece of organic chocolate torte, which in fact is vegan.

last week tuesday, i attended the first non-classic concert this year, namely the calgary instantiation of the progressive nation tour 2009, featuring dream theater, zappa plays zappa, bigelf and scale the summit. originally, pain of salvation and another band should have played instead of bigelf and scale the summit, but unfortunately they had to pull out due to some side effects of the financial crisis. too bad, i would really have liked to see pain of salvation.
i decided to spare my energy in particular for the last two bands, and hence skipped scale the summit. the announced timing for the concert was perfect, and so i arrived directly when bigelf began to play. they were ok, but i was more waiting for the next band. and the very bad part of the evening started during their gig (maybe even before, but i wasn’t there), namely some [insert your favorite curse word here] potheads started smoking weed. it was not as bad as last year, but still very annoying. why can’t these idiots smoke somewhere where they don’t annoy anyone? at least there was no moshpit and the crowd’s density was really pleasant.
after hearing so many good things about them, i was really happy to finally see zappa plays zappa, which is not just another frank zappa cover band, but founded and lead by one of zappas sons. (not that this makes a difference to me, as i have no comparism of zappa plays zappa to other frank zappa cover bands.) i really enjoyed their performance – even though the potheads annoyed the hell out of me.
finally, dream theater entered the stage. they played several songs from their new album, but as usual also a lot older songs, everything including some improvisation and extensions, and several solo performances between the songs.
the concert was really good, even though the potheads repeatedly tried to ruin the whole thing to me. the only way to make it better would be to throw the potheads out and re-add pain of salvation (and maybe reduce to three bands, all of which can play a bit longer in that case).

the last two weeks were pretty much packed with two conferences and a summer school. on august 13–14, i.e. thursday and friday, the selected areas of cryptography conference was held in calgary. then, the week after that, the ecc summer school was held from wednesday to saturday, and from sunday afternoon to wednesday the 13th workshop on elliptic curve cryptography was held. (in fact, this was the sixth ecc workshop i attended, beginning with the one 2004 in bochum. and the second ecc mentioned in this blog; apparently i was too busy to write something about the 12th one held in utrecht last year.)
in addition to these things, several more things happened, some about whom i might write a few words in some more posts.

as you may have noticed, i use wikipedia a lot – both for linking to descriptions of terms i use in this blog, and for looking up stuff myself which i encounter somewhere, may it be offline or online. usually, chances are good that wikipedia offers at least some kind of description which answers my questions, or at least helps me getting an idea. but from time to time, it happens that you try to look something up on wikipedia, only to find out that such an article existed but was deleted – for example, because it was “not relevant”. i can understand that people do not want to see wikipedia flooded by biographies of john doe and jane roe – only a handful people are interested in these, probably most notably john doe and jane roe themselves.
but there are cases where i simply can’t understand the decision. for example, there is the chilenian doom metal band mar de grises, which i discovered by chance in zurich’s now deceased knochenhaus. according to the wikipedia deletion log, it is “not noteable” and failes some guidelines. so, who decides what is noteable and what is not? and, after all, the simplified ruleset explicitly mentiones

ignore all rules – rules on wikipedia are not fixed in stone. the spirit of the rule trumps the letter of the rule. the common purpose of building an encyclopedia trumps both.

i can pretty well understand that not every small band hobby band project should be mentioned – in particular the ones which sound bad and dissolve quickly with none or almost no productions. but that’s not the case for mar de grises. besides that, the deletion log also mentiones other problems with the article (namely, being badly written and failling to provide references for some claims), but why not throw these parts out or reduce the article to a stub?
two other examples, this time from the german wikipedia, are sinnlos im weltraum and lord of the weed, two fandubs. according to the english wikipedia, sinnlos im weltraum (a redub of a star trek series), dating back to 1994, is one of the first such projects, essentially starting the whole genre of fandubs. i don’t know how many people know it, probably a huge number. lord of the weed (a redub of the beginning of 2001′s lord of the rings) is also rather well-known; i don’t remember how often i saw it – at least ten times. well, it is obviously true that these movies haven’t been shown in movie theaters or on television – as they contain copyrighted material (i.e. the original movie), used without permission. for the same reason, they haven’t been shown on film festivals, you can’t buy them on dvd. they are also not listed on the imdb. but – so what? does that make them not noteable? irrelevant?
on the other hand, a lot of totally trashy movies – which, compared to sinnlos im weltraum and lord of the weed, are really crappy and lame – are featured on media, two good examples are a music video by grup tekkan and the infamous star wars kid, making a fool out of himself. these are pushed by media as “youtube movies you have to see” or are even shown on tv. and they can be found on wikipedia. even though they are real crap. in the case of star wars kid, the really embarrassing movie was uploaded by “friends” of its actor and will probably haunt him for a very long time. to make this even better, a lot of online versions of famous newspapers or magazines feature this video as well, showing it to an even wider audience. and i thought the use of a pillories are outlawed in modern countries.
anyway. i’m still using wikipedia, even though of these reasons. and i even created an account at the english wikipedia and started writing an article about infrastructures (number theory). as so far, nobody else dared to write something on this subject, and a google search only gives documents featuring other kinds of infrastructures, or scientific articles about this subject, i thought it would be time to add something to the web. i’ve started a series of posts on my math blog on infrastructures, but as google usually ranks wikipedia articles higher, i decided to also add something to wikipedia. so far, it is more a stub and far from being a complete article, but at least provides some information and several references to literature.