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A Recovering Physicist: Page 2

Journalistic Units of Measure

2011-12-10 19:59

(Added 2011-12-10, 18:52 EST: Wikipedia trumps it, as always: the list of unusual units of measurement features many, but not all, of the units below. Hat-tip to @starc.)

The human hair

"The trick is to fabricate a lattice of interconnected hollow tubes with a wall thickness 1,000 times thinner than a human hair," said lead author Dr. Tobias Schaedler of HRL.
link [ uci.edu ]

The dime

Verbatim Store 'n' Stay USB is Smaller than a Dime
link [ mobilemag.com ]

The credit card

The Planon SlimScan SS100 is a credit card-sized high-resolution color scanner, designed for scanning and keeping track of receipts.
link [ gizmag.com ]    ‣ more…

  

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How To Move A Mailman Mailing List Between Domains Or Servers

2011-09-03 13:11

I have a VPS (virtual Private Server) running CentOS 5.4 and Plesk Web-hosting management software. Under Plesk, Mailman is installed; this mailing-list management package is not necessarily present by default in Linux distributions.

I host a few dozen domains with a number of Mailman mailing lists scattered across them. Recently I had occasion to move a mailing list from one domain to another on the same server. It was not immediately clear how to go about this, and Googling didn’t turn up much that was helpful. So I’m documenting the process here in case it proves useful to others.

The technique, with suitable modifications, works as well to move a list from one Linux server to another.    ‣ more…

  

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Hanging Punctuation in CSS3

2011-07-24 20:25

In the 1980s, I worked for a company in the business of text processing. This was Texet Cor­por­ation — it lived from 1982 to 1987, and it is well-nigh impossible to find any reference to it on the Internet now. (LinkedIn has an ex-employees group.) Texet made a hardware-software system — later software only — aimed at professional doc­u­ment production departments in cor­por­a­tions. For a time I was in charge of the wish­list and require­ments for future versions of the pro­duct.

“Hanging punctuation” was a feature that had been on the list from the beginning of the com­pany, but it was never deemed important enough to bother speccing out, let alone implementing. One quote I read at the time somewhere in the industry: “Two people in the world care about hanging punctuation, and both of them work at the Poetry Foundation!”

Hanging punctuation is a style of setting type in which certain punctuation marks fall outside of (to the left or right of) the margins in fully justified text. The theory behind it is that punctuation marks, being so small and taking up so little of the cap height as they do, break the visual line of justification. For this reason full cap-height marks such as ! or ? are not commonly hung.

   ‣ more…

  

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Luthera Burton Dawson, 1911 – 2011

2011-07-02 21:44

My mother passed last Monday June 27. We had celebrated her 100th birthday weeks before. I have just completed her obituary (PDF); it ran Sunday July 3 in the Portland (Maine) Press Herald and the Knox County Herald Gazette (a.k.a. Village Soup).

Here is the funeral home's tribute site, at which those who knew her can leave remembrances. Donations in lieu of flowers (to a local scholarship fund) can also be made here.

Maine Public Broadcasting ran a short note about her passing. It includes a link to an audio interview (4:19) the reporter conducted with my mother in 2004. At that time they ran a series of short video pieces called Luthera's Lingo, in which she talked about Maine language and expressions.

[ 2011-07-13 ] Here is the order of service (PDF) for the memorial on July 16 at the Thomaston Federated Church, 11:00 am. (It helps to imagine it folded in half.)

[ 2011-07-24 ] Here are the four eulogies delivered at the memorial by Rev. Anne Roundy, Alice Phalen, Roger Dawson, and me.

  

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How New England In February Is It?

2011-02-15 21:05

It’s like this as February wears on in my little New England town. Before our first (freak) 50+ degree day yesterday, it was all “Earth as hard as iron, water like a stone.” The snowplow-wrought mounds lining all the roads are grey with soot and road salt. I captured this lonely sign on the road behind the American Legion hall. The field in the foreground is where the town-wide festival is held in September. The old burying ground, dating to 1655, is to the right in the middle distance. According to the forecast, the next several days will be above freezing: maple sugaring time begins. (Click on the image for a larger version.)

  

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Sorting the In-Laws

2011-01-08 16:12

in-laws

The diagram shows three siblings and all of their spouses, and those spouses’ siblings in turn.

What is Adam’s relationship to George? And how is that different from his relationship to Larry? In conventional parlance, both would be called his “brother-in-law.” Now, all in-law relationships involve one blood bond (a sibling) and one marriage bond (a spouse). The difference in Adam’s relationships to George and to Larry is that in the former case the blood bond is near to him, and in the latter it is far from him.

So: George is Adam’s brother-near-in-law, and Larry is his brother-far-in-law.

These relationships are explicitly not commutative. Because George is Adam’s brother-near-in-law, Adam is perforce George’s brother-far-in-law.

Relationships that traverse three bonds would also likely be called “in-laws” in common parlence. For example, what is Nick to Adam? In my proposal, he becomes the brother of Helen, Adam’s sister-near-in-law.

How about still more distant relationships? Between Nick and Mary one encounters five bonds: three of blood and two of marriage. So from Nick’s point of view, Mary is the sister of George, my brother-near-in-law Carl’s brother-near-in-law.

  

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Did Sophos Free A-V for Mac kill my Time Machine backups?

2010-11-09 13:50

[Update 2010-11-17] Sophos just announced an update to the free Mac anti-virus. Though Sophos did not say as much outright, it looks very much as if the initial release of SAV did indeed kill my (and others’) Time Machine backup(s).

Following our investigations, we have now modified the way in which Sophos Anti-Virus handles infections on TimeMachine backups. This modification was released on 16 November 2010, in the IDE file dloa-dei.ide. All computers that receive regular updates should now have been automatically updated.

[Update 2010-11-12] Graham Cluley posted the following on the Sophos support forum this afternoon:

Sophos is still investigating the issue reported by a small number of users on this forum about Time Machine backups being deleted whilst running Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition. As a precautionary measure, while our investigation continues, we would recommend that, if you detect malware in your Time Machine backup, you do not tell Sophos to clean it up.

From a protection point of view, you are still safe. Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition continues to protect you (through its on-access scanner), checking any file you access for malware, including files restored from backup.

As our investigations continue we will provide further updates.

[Update 2010-11-12] Graham Cluley has answered a few more questions by email to shed light on the workings of Sophos A-V in the presence of Time Machine; reprinted at the bottom (see ). I commend Sophos for their responsiveness to this issue. Bottom line for me: I’m still running Time Machine (on a new disk); I am not running Sophos A-V.

[Update 2010-11-11] One other user of TM and Sophos A-V has reported what may be a similar data loss.

[Update 2010-11-10] A few additions are shown in light type; at the bottom is a helpful response from Sophos’s Graham Cluley (see ).

The title isn’t merely rhetorical; I really want to know. I hope by this blog post to begin a conversation with folks from Sophos and those who know more about the inner workings of Time Machine. My backups are gone — 19 months of irreplaceable data — but perhaps this post and the ensuing conversation can spare others from similar trouble.

First, of course, I should have had a backup of my 500-GB Time Capsule. It’s been in the back of my mind for months to go out and acquire a suitable disk and get that essential job done. So, before we get started, let me just say: mea culpa. Also, once the trouble described below transpired, I uninstalled Sophos AV. Their uninstaller is unusually comprehensive: it seems to have removed any log files along with the software.    ‣ more…

  

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Limitations of the Mac OSX 'locate' Utility

2010-08-26 16:36

[Update 2010-08-28] Some helpful readers on a private mailing list provided clues to what is going on with locate. Click the “more…” link below. The update is at the bottom.

locate is a command-line (Terminal) utility that runs on the Unix underpinnings of Mac OSX. Its purpose is to help you find files, by their name or partial name, wherever they are stored in the file system. But OSX’s locate will not report on files stored in particular locations. It turns out to be a question of file permissions; the limitation may have been sensible on a multi-user Unix machine 20 years ago, but it makes little sense on a single-user personal computer such as mine.    ‣ more…

  

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Time Machine won’t automatically back up after 10.6.4 *solved*

2010-07-05 17:50

[Update 2010-07-07] I got automatic TM backups working again, thanks to help from the Twitterverse, two private mailing lists, and an Apple discussion forum. Click the “more…” link below. Updates are at the bottom.

[Update 2010-07-14] Not completely working as it turns out.

[Update 2010-07-15] The timing (if not the cause) of the vanishing Automatic setting is determined.


Time Machine stopped doing automatic backups on my MacBook Pro, apparently when I updated to 10.6.4 on 2010-06-16.

Each time I enter System Preferences > Time Machine, the switch on the left says TM is OFF and the Next Backup time reads: Automatic backups off. I can turn the switch to ON (the word “ON” does not turn blue, as it should, and Next Backup does not change), but when I exit and re-enter, it shows OFF again.

Automatic backups do not happen. Backup only runs when I initiate it manually, or when the machine reconnects to the home network, after time away or upon reboot.

/Library/Preferences/com.apple.TimeMachine.plist when opened in Property List Editor says “AutoBackup, Boolean, [checkmark].”

I have dragged /Library/Preferences/com.apple.TimeMachine.plist out of its folder and restarted, letting TM recreate it, then re-connected to the backup volume and re-created my list of items to omit from backup. It didn’t change anything about the above behavior.    ‣ more…

  

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US precipitation forecast at a glance

2010-01-07 14:48

Sometimes, especially when traveling, I just want to know what will be falling from the sky in the next day or so. Weather.com provides regional maps of how much precipitation (and what US precipitation forecast thumbnail sort) to expect over the next 24 hours. I have stitched together nine of these maps to produce a US precipitation forecast graphic (about 1420 x 800 pixels; link opens in a new window). The images are pulled directly from weather.com's image server, where they are updated hourly at around the quarter-hour mark.

Weather.com may store regional images at different sizes; they almost certainly have forecasts for areas outside of the US. All this remains to be explored.

Click the “more…” link for details of how to capture a screenshot of this map every hour to produce an animation of the developing and anticipated US weather.    ‣ more…

  

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