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Category: stories

artistic and other frustrations

Yesterday, PD1 exhibited some of her paintings in the Antwerp Museum for
. Over breakfast this morning she was in a rare angry
mood. No, she was satisfied with the responses she got on her work, the
room was not ideal (lighting etc.) but that was not what mattered…
Me : So?
She : There was this other work, a
video-performance. I once saw by accident on Arte a short-film and this
performance stole the whole idea of that film, from start to finish! The
whole idea was nicked!
Me : Wake up! That\’s the majority way
of creating art, or science for that matter.
She : But it is so
unfair! Why do people steal ideas ?
Me : Maybe they don\’t see
it as stealing. Maybe they believe they do a better thing with the
original idea than the person who invented it.
She : Nothing
can beat the original! Anyway, I find the most rewarding thing about art
to come up with an original idea and work it out. It cannot be rewarding
to steal other people\’s ideas.
Me (dry) : I think such people
are after other rewards…
She : The same thing happens at
school. Sometimes I come up with a suggestion to use a different
technique or material and then a few weeks later, half of my class seems
to have worked this out too.
Me : So ? You still had the
She : Yes, but the Jury doesn\’t know that!
Me :
So ? After the Jury you can still be confident to come up with new
ideas, these others may fear they will only be able to repeat
She : But is it so unfair!
Me : What\’s
the alternative ? Are you going to lock yourself up in your room to
paint and let nobody see the result?
She : No, but I prefer to
do my painting here at home, on my own with nobody looking over my
shoulder constantly to see whether they can use some of my ideas. I will
paint on my own and only when it is fully finished they may see the
Me : That\’s the spirit girl! You are much cleverer
than I will ever be…

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the cpu 2 generation

ever tell an ICT-aware person that you want to try to set up a
home-network before you understand all 65536 port-numbers and their corresponding
protocols. Here is what happened to me this week. Jan Adriaenssens returned from an extended vacation in New Zealand and I told him
about my problems with trying to set up WebDAV securely. He
stared at me with that look that teenage children have if they
find out their parents dont know how to handle the simplest things on a
mobile such as saving a number, writing an SMS let alone use the
dictionary… and asked ‘now why would you want to do that??? I just
use AppleTalk to connect to my computer securely’. Now I’m not such a
fool that I didnt try this out but I didnt manage to get matrix
mounted on my Desktop. ‘Oh, but thats probably because of the
firewall’ Jan said ‘just send an email to Peter (the guy running the
defenses here) and ask him to open up ports 548 and
427…’ And sure enough five minutes later the problem was
solved and I could trow my WebDAV-plans in the dustbin (although, I
think Ive found a use for WebDAV but will keep this a bit longer to
myself until I checked it out). If you think that was the end of it,
think twice. Never ever point an ICT-professional to your
computer. They then start looking at its firewall-logs and find all
sorts of things such as : ‘I noticed that traffic from port 53
was dropped to the firewall, could it be that you configured the
firewall as DNS-server. If this is the case, you better remove it and it
will increase your network-speed, I think.’ And sure enough that
IP-address was set on my machine as one of two possibilities for the
DNS-server so I quickly removed it and in the process thought that maybe
I should also remove the other one so I did send Peter another email
asking whether that was ok. It turned out that the second IP address was
the genuine DNS-server so I got a sec answer back ‘You better leave
this as it is otherwise not much will work…’ Oh, shame, shame eternal
shame on me!

My only defense is that I still belong
to what I would call the cpu 2 generation (I’m a few years too
old to belong to the more computer-aware generation X). When I
started out doing research in 1980 the single most important command was

cpu 2

which you had to type before you could run any program.
By typing this you asked to be given 2 minutes of central processing
time, so you had to write all your programs in such a way that either
they gave a result back within 2 minutes or to include lots of
output-commands giving you a chance to determine at which parameters you
would restart the program for your next cpu 2. I once computed in
this way all factorial maximal orders in quaternion algebras by spending
a couple of days in the computer room. These days any desktop computer
would finish this task in half a minute. Perhaps the younger generations
will appreciate all the hard computer-work we had to do back then if
they read a bit from the computer history museum page!

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one week blogging

So far I
found it rather easy to post one or more messages a day as I was
installing a lot of software or trying to get things working and was
merely logging my progress for future reference. These notes are useful
to me but probably not to the rest of the world. Another thing I noticed
is that I’m using this blog sometimes as a replacement for my
Bookmarks, merely listing interesting web-pages without too much
personal comments. I will continue to post both install-logs and
bookmark-logs but in addition I want to write (say weekly) a lengthier
post on a specific topic with more background, more details (such as
screenshots) and more personal comments. We will see how this works out
in the coming weeks…

Another thing that slightly
worried me is that people visiting my homepage and clicking on to my
blog may expect entirely different things there. But this cant be
helped, I’m sitting on an OSX-cloud at the moment but no doubt this
will change quickly. Beginning of february I have to give a talk on
Combinatorial Game Theory and soon afterwards the
Non-commutative Geometry Master Class starts in which I’m giving
a couple of courses, so mathematics will become more dominant in this
blog from next month on…

On a
blog-tech matter : I found a quite good editor pMpost
which is meant to write pMachine-blogs offline and upload them by one
click. It also synchronizes categories etc. on login. Further, it has a
spelling-checker but the thing I really like about it is that you can
save texts as a draft and continue at a later time (sadly, it remember
the date/hour when you start your post so when you finally submit it it
will be posted at the starting- rather than the posting-day. Still,
there is nothing that copy/paste cannot solve. I hope to use this
facility when (read if) I’m going for a more in-depth post. Another
matter that I will address to as quickly as possible (probably over the
weekend) is teh layout of this site. The main annoying thing is that the
text doesnt resize when you increase/decrease window width. So I will
address this matter first and probably leave a personal layout and
color-scheme to later. Fortunately, I did find a good site containg a
lot of CSS templates for pMachine weblogs. Another site I’ll have to
investigate over the weekend is pMtemplates. But don’t expect too much from the
layout-side, I still have other projects to worry about : SSL, WebDAV,
streaming iTunes, getting on Ethernet-DVD player to work and so

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internet’s backbones

Did you ever wonder what hardware keeps the web running ?
Fibre-optic cables, cross-continent cables and the like seem to be a
dull subject but in the hands of Neal Stephenson. When he was doing research for his excellent book Cryptonomicon he travelled the continents
following the biggest backbone cable to be laid and wrote down his
journey for Wired Magazine in Mother Earth, Mother board. Here are his opening
lines : “In which the hacker tourist ventures forth across the wide and
wondrous meatspace of three continents, acquainting himself with the
customs and dialects of the exotic Manhole Villagers of Thailand, the
U-Turn Tunnelers of the Nile Delta, the Cable Nomads of Lan tao Island,
the Slack Control Wizards of Chelmsford, the Subterranean
Ex-Telegraphers of Cornwall, and other previously unknown and
unchronicled folk; also, biographical sketches of the two long-dead
Supreme Ninja Hacker Mage Lords of global telecommunications, and other
material pertaining to the business and technology of Undersea
Fiber-Optic Cables, as well as an account of the laying of the longest
wire on Earth, which should not be without interest to the readers of

Probably this long text is a bit tiring to
read from screen so I made a pdf-file of it which should be easy to print out.
Enjoy the read!

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a blogging 2004

As it is probably better to run years behind than to stand
eternally still, I’ll try out how much of a _blogger_ I am in 2004. If
you want to read more about blogging, Rebecca’s
is a good place to
start. She has written an essay on the early days of the
, an
article on weblog ethics and a couple of (pretty obvious)
tips for a better

But let us not talk about ‘better’ or ‘ethical’ at this
moment, I’m just starting out. Give me a couple of weeks/months to
develop my own style and topics and I’ll change the layout accordingly.
For now, I’ve taken the free blog-tool
pMachine which uses only PHP and MySQL on
the server-side so I should be able to get the layout suited to my own
mood shortly. A major advantage of a weblog over a homepage is that you
can feed it to programs called _news aggregators_ by subscribing. The
program can then be tuned so that it ventures out on the net at regular
intervals checking whether any of the blogs it is subscribed to has new
material and reports back with the running title and opening lines. If
more people would turn their homepages into weblogs, the frustrating job
of checking (usually in vain) whether their pages has been updated could
be left to the aggregator. For now, I’m using Rancheros’s
as my Mac OSX news
aggregator. Okay, now it is time to make some final preparations for
endyear, but tomorrow I’ll wake up to become a _blogger_…