Archive for January, 2010

Global warming, global schwarming?

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

*Disclaimer: I am not a trained journalist although I spent some time at University to deal with Communication Science. Seriously researched articles or maybe even posts should come with sources and maybe footnotes. Unfortunately, my mind is pretty slow and I have a busy schedule. Until I get around to writing a post I usually don’t remember in what newspaper, channel or website I have seen or read something and therefore it’s just not possible for me to always include references. You have my promise though that I’m not making things up!*

During those two really cold weeks in January apparently a lot of people doubted whether global warming and climate change really is taking place or not. There were articles in newspaper as well, maybe not so surprising given the amount of snow that fell in Northern Europe.

Does that mean global warming is off? Personally, I don’t think so. Climate change and global may lead to higher average temperature and that may be only a couple of degrees Celsius but weather patterns will get more complicated and extreme. I wouldn’t be surprised if that cold weather front was just a glimpse of what’s to come which will have a heavy impact on agriculture in Europe. Whereas humans may be quick to adapt, plants will have a much harder time. Flowers and trees blooming in March (instead of May or June) may not sound drastic if March is followed by an extremely cold April, a lot of insects and blossoms will die, resulting in heavy loss. And if the summers keep getting warmer…

To me, winter should be cold from December to February. That’s what winter is all about. If you don’t like the cold, move somewhere else but don’t prey for more global warming. Humanity is already f***ed enough, the changes are just too faint yet to count as proof but our grand-grand-children will not be able to believe how reluctant measures were taken up. Oh, that is, if we’ll ever make it to have later generations who can afford to luxury of doing research instead of fighting for survival.

BTW, did you hear about the fish swarms coming back around the coast of Somalia? The pirates are scaring off illegal trawlers and the fish population who were on the brink of extinction are slowly catching up and coming back. I’m not rooting for those pirates at all but a good side-effect is always welcome.

Transcend MP860

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

My trusty Samsung MP3 player is starting to show its age and as 500mb diskspace is not sufficient anymore, I’ve been looking around for an apt replacement for quite a while.

My requirements were:
-Has real buttons so I can skip files pressing the buttons while the player stays in my pocket
-Works on Linux as well
-File transfer and battery charging via USB
-Supports .ogg and .flac files (I ripped all my CDs to .ogg)
-Diskspace > 500mb
-Comes with a lock button that actually works
-Is not an iPod or Zune or some similar crap
Options were:
-No additional features such as radio, video playback etc. The simpler, the better!
-Supports multiple display language and file names

While there are quite a number of players that support .ogg files, not many work on Linux. After buying an external USB-disc manufactured by Transcend which works with Linux (supported on Kernel 2.4 and higher) I found the MP860 on their website
Some reviews found via google revealed that users were basically happy with the device and when I found the MP860 in a shop nearby I couldn’t resist. I’ve only used it for a couple of days but there are a couple of things I can tell you already:

-Works well on Linux (Ubuntu 9.10 in my case) as well as on Windows XP and later. Ubuntu recognizes the disc and mounts it automatically but I don’t know which filesystem it uses. The manual states you should explicitly specify dos when manually mounting the device
-Charging until the battery is full takes quite a while
-File transfer is quite slow
-Sound is not bad (I don’t really have a definition of “good” sound via headphones – I can hear the music which is good enough for me)
-The lock button works
-Interface language can be switched between several languages incl. Japanese
-The MP860 is really light-weight and feels like a plastic toy. To me, that’s a tad negative though

So far, all is quite well. I’ve discovered one drawback though: If you copy over a complete folder, the files are added in random order even though they are properly named starting 01_…, 02_…, etc. So far I have not been able to figure how they are sorted or how this behaviour can be influenced.
UPDATE: Transcend released another firmware upgrade on January 15th 2010 which I installed. Of course *arrgh* this must be done on Windows *sob*. After the Firmware upgrade I re-formatted the internal memory and copied the folders containing the .ogg files back on to the MP860. This time the files are listed in alphabetical order. Question now is, is that because of the new firmware or because I copied the files on Windows? I’ll have another look tonight on Ubuntu.
Also, the device comes with playlists but the handling is quite fiddly and creating a playlist (actually a podcast shoutlist) created on Rhythmbox copied over is neither recognized nor playable. Same goes for .m3u play lists.
UPDATE2: Just checked it on Ubuntu – still the same problem. The correct alphabetical order of files in folder in the internal memory was due to the files being copied over from Windows. What a letdown… 🙁

UPDATE 3 & Solved (?)
It looks like copying files via cp -r <folder>/ <targetfolder>/ rattles the files into a random order on the MP860 which can play the files only in the order they were copied onto the device. Here’s a workaround though: instead of copying files via Nautilus or cp -r <folder>/ <targetfolder>/, try cp <folder>/* <targetfolder>/ – the wildcard expansion apparently queues the files in correct alphabetical order and copies them one by one.
Technical support at Transcend was friendly but not so helpful. Thanks to Salvatore for the hint about the wildcard…

I haven’t contacted Transcend about this yet but if you know something, please let me know….

The lock button does what it’s supposed: If the device is locked, it can’t be turned on (accidentally or on purpose). Apparently this was fixed in the first firmware upgrade which was already installed when I bought the MP860.
The MP860 can also play back videos (the converter tool only works on Windows) and it comes with a radio. As long as these features don’t kill the battery life I’m happy without using them.



HSK level woes

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Another day, another failure…
In my quest to conquer another language I started learning Mandarin two years ago. I’ve taken an introductory course two years ago and am working on a second textbook which will soon be finished. So it was time to find a new textbook and I’ve decided on a textbook based on the HSK curriculum – but the research prior to acquiring the textbook was not sufficient.

What happened?

Taking a quick look at HSK in wikipedia I grabbed the info that there was a Elementary level. Thinking this level might suit me fine I ran off to a bookshop to order a textbook because I couldn’t find anything appropriate on Amazon. They ordered the book for me and I picked it up this weekend. By the way, between ordering the book and handing it over to me, the price was raised 5%. I think I will call them about this… Anyway, thumbing through the book I felt somewhat intimidated – the content looked quite tough. Many unknown words, long sentences – this is Elementary? I thought, suited for beginners (association: elementary school)

Some more googling revealed the following: HSK is divided into four levels: Basic, Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced where as Elementary and Intermediate are grouped into one. Unfortunately, the lowest level is not Elementary but Basic.

Looks like I’ll have to get a different book…

For the time being, from this page you can download vocabulary for the different levels in different formats, even pre-formatted for Mnemosyne, my favourite educational vocabulary tool:



Cross-language oddities

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

One of the more interesting points about different languages is that sometimes words in one language mean something completely different in a different language.
In languages from the same family the meanings are naturally often just variations since the languages have the same origin but cross-family comparisons can be very entertaining although (you guessed it) they are just plain random.
Long time ago I came across the Japanese verb 塗る(nuru) which means to apply paint, to apply a ointment etc. All Japanese verbs have a -te form, in this case the pronounciation is “nutte” which in German means “whore, prostitute”.
Another example that unfortunately doesn’t work both ways is 脚気 (kakke) which translates to Beriberi, a sickness caused by vitamin deficiency. In German however, this means “shit”. Both things less than wonderful…

One more oddity is Schinken (in German “ham”). Those who know Japanese already know where this is heading… 真剣 (pronounced “shinken”). Meaning “serious, earnest”. Without doubt, ham is one of the most serious pieces of meat there is…

Do you know any other examples? Let me know!


Lost (in) Translation

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Two things:
I started this blog a week ago, full of enthusiasm. I’m still enthusiastic but realistically speaking with all my activities outside work I’ll probably only have time to write entries on the weekends. I guess I could work on drafts in the train but that would make me look like a hyper-nerd (even nowadays) and I think occasionally I need to spend some time not in front of a screen

Sadly over the last two years I forgot quite a number of hats, caps, gloves in trains, trams, buses… *argh* But this one hurts: I lost/forgot my trusty, beloved Canon Wordtank G50 somewhere on the public transportation. There’s hope somebody delivered it to Lost+Found as it is a rather special gimmick – I guess not a lot of people have much use for Japanese to English electronic dictionary (it’s actually made for Japanese people).
Although there are newer models, I’m not much impressed with those. What I like about the G50 is that it boots quickly (later models are much slower), there’s a several dictionaries included (nothing special there I guess), you can bookmark works and even use it as a learning tool. Later models tend to have speaker where you can have words pronounced but with English/Japanese I don’t really need that.

Hopefully I’ll be able to get it back…
*keeping fingers crossed*

UPDATE: Got it back from the Lost&Found office. As previously assumed, not many people have a use for an English-Japanese Canon Wordtank G50 with pictures of myself at the back in a run-down case and re-chargeable batteries! *cheer*

Multilingual Posts

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

One of the requirements for my blog is the ability to post multilingual posts. Encoding is already UTF-8 so maybe this works without adding anything further…



Und natürli no e anderi Schprach womer susch au nöd so hüüfig gsehd im web….

*keeping fingers crossed*

1,2… 1,2… is this on?

Friday, January 8th, 2010

So… after carefully thinking on how to continue, I convinced myself I could give a blog a try… Let’s see how long I can keep this up 🙂

You’ve probably noticed that my real homepage has not been updated for quite a while – reason is, it was too much manual work. Hopefully this is easier to keep up. (edit from the after putting the blog up: ironically putting the blog up and adjusting my site was not even that much work, a couple of links in txt files, one new .gif file  et voilà. we’re there. but still maintaining the links to the older pages is still cumbersome as they are all textfiles while cute little bloggie here pulls everything out of a database…)