Monday, August 24, 2009

Airline Passenger Bill of Rights

Another group of passengers got stranded on the ground in a plane for 6 hours, were forced to pay for food and water while stranded, and still the plane was out of food and water by the time the passengers were allowed to depart. Being out of water can be dangerous for people with certain medical conditions. While not as extreme as the flight that was kept prisoner on a plane over night, this points out the need for a passengers' bill of rights. Between the airlines' lack of respect for their customers and the government's security theatre, flying has become very unpleasant in this country.

Amtrak works well, though.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Humor, Brasero Style

I was burning a backup DVD this morning on Ubuntu 8.04LTS using Brasero 0.7.1, and, as I added files to my project, got the oft seen 3.10GB follows 3.9GB error. I always thought something closer to 4 than 3.10 would follow 3.9, but whatever. Then I burned the backup disk. The drive slid open after burning, as usual, and so I closed it for the verification. Except, instead of verifying, an alert popped up saying that Brasero was unable to eject the disk, and so it then didn't attempt the verification. Did I miss something? When the the tray slides out, isn't that ejecting the disk? This was a backup, and so verification is critical. Fortunately there's diff. It's the old tools that work, though wc has been messed up because somebody decided it should adapt to character sets rather than just count bytes, which I guess is the right choice, but breaks it on some installations. I wrote my own wc in response, and it actually runs without warning and error messages. Other Brasero glitches are that, for data disk projects, it defaults to burning a DVD, but it also defaults to a drive that doesn't burn DVDs. Dumb. This could be Windows software.

Monday, August 17, 2009

LaTeX to XML

There's a LaTeX to XML converter called Tralics which is used by the folks at Inria. Expect a posting on experiences with Tralics real soon now.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Speaking of False Positives, Sales, Catching Terrorists

Go Figure

BBC has a columnist, Michael Blastland, with an excellent (based on a small sample) column entitled Go Figure: Different ways of seeing stats. A few pieces in particular that I'll recommend are
  • The problem with junk stats? It's you which discusses the problem with self-report in survey data.
  • A scanner to detect terrorists which discusses the problem of false positives in the context of detecting terrorists. A number of people have pointed this problem in a number of contexts, but policy makers and reporters, in particular, just don't get it. Companies selling face recognition systems and data mining software for detecting terrorists probably do get it, but sell the government junk nonetheless.
  • Just what is poor? explains how the poverty line is set.
Good reading. It appears to be published every two weeks, and there's an RSS feed.