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ZOMG! I’m a typical blogger. January 29, 2007

Posted by yosstheg33k in HTPC Geekiness, Linux0r.
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How many months was that again? Shocking. Well, I do have something of an excuse; I’ve been working on a paper for Journal of Neuroscience (which came back declined) from my MSc data, and I’ve just started work on my PhD (for which I just scored a scholarship! Yay!)

So, I tried GB-PVR (yes, I *am* going to post as if there hasn’t been a hiatus as long as Moses’ wanderings between entries) and found it a little too simplistic for my taste. What can I tell you? I’m something of a crow when it comes to eye-candy.

Instead, I installed Windows Media Center and set about hacking the guide to accept local .xml data (curse sky and their damnable monopoly!) The end result? A nice-looking incredibly functional media center that suits my needs perfectly. Yes, I sold out.

To counterbalance my turn to the dark side, I also (because I’m a masochist, and I *love* fiddling with this stuff) installed the latest release (Edgy Eft) of Kubuntu on my laptop (did I mention I scored a free laptop?). Linux has come a *long* way since I first used it. It recognised the touchpad and media keys out of the box (!), but alas, Linux’s wireless support is still something of a grey area (not the fault of linux – thank the windows-centric hardware developers). However, along comes NDISwrapper – a tool that will let one use a windows driver to drive hardware under linux. Not the easiest thing to configure, but I got there in the end. No more windows on my lappy!

Now, if only there was a way to avoid paying the Microsoft tax when buying a laptop….

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More HTPC goodness. October 6, 2006

Posted by yosstheg33k in HTPC Geekiness.
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So, I got myself 5.1 sound. A set of Logitech X-530 5.1 speakers, to be exact. They’re awesome.

 What’s not so awesome is the AC’97 onboard sound I’m currently running them through. Fortunately for me, my new Audigy 4 arrived today. I sense a test drive of LOTR coming on.

 This HTPC is awesome; I get the W.A.F for all my new electronics purchases!

On another note, I’m currently running Meedio as my default media shell software, but given that it’s been sold to Yahoo!11!1 for eleventy million dollars, I’ve decided to shop around. I tried Media Portal, but found it a nightmare to configure. Next stop is the locally (New Zealand) produced GB-PVR. Looks promising; I’ll update later.

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PVR Geekiness October 6, 2006

Posted by yosstheg33k in HTPC Geekiness.
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After an extended up-till-3am-zomg-when-will-the-hurting-stop? complete rebuild of my recently assembled HTPC setup, I’m finally happy with the result. I had no end of initial setup problems with the setup: it consists of

 A Socket-754 AMD Sempron 2800+                                                                                   

512MB of DDR400 RAM

an Albatron K8N800-754 (IIRC) motherboard

an ASUS Nvidia 6200A 128MB AGP Graphics

two Hauppauge PVR-150 TV-tuners

 1x 160GB Maxtor PATA, 1x 250GB Seagate SATA HDDs.

Initially, the setup would blue-screen reboot after about half an hour of watching live TV in both Windows MCE and Meedio 1.41. I finally tracked the problem down to the nasty, nasty VIA chipset on the motherboard. Apparently, running the AGP port at 8x signs the computer’s death (or at least, reboot) warrant. I knocked it back to 4x and all seemed rosy. However, every so often the system would reset itself back to 8x AGP, and the system would reboot endlessley.

 Knowing what the problem was, I decided to give it the old fresh-install treatment (I’d monkeyed with a whole lot of stuff during troubleshooting that was generally being a pain to track down). Fine. I started the reinstall at about 9:30pm Saturday night (Yes, Saturday night. +10 e-geek points!) all seemed to go swimmingly until the MCE setup reached “installing devices”. Bam, hard reboot.

Shit.

Unperturbed, I started the setup a second time. 20 minutes later, hard reboot. Now starting to be a little concerned (at both the misbehaviour of the system and the increasing lateness of the hour, and hence probability of castration by freezing by the significant opther increasing proportionally), I tried to install RC1 of Vista. No rebooting, but no installing either. Instead, freezing about 2/3rd’s of the way through. Back to XP – no dice.

 Having no idea what the problem was, I decided to start pulling componentry and reinstalling MCE. Out come the TV cards; no go. Out comes the soundblaster – same story. RAM changes slots – predictable outcome. As a last resort, I pull the 160GB HDD that was the main install drive, and make a partition of the 250GB Media drive.

Success.

The two HDDS were too close together, I assume, in the tiny m-ATX case I’m using and they were causing each other to overheat when there was a lot of disk activity. All of this took until roughly 2am, and I spent the next hour and a half installing drivers, installing Meedio, setting up the tuners and getting the EPG working.

 Pain and suffering and four hours sleep.

Undergraduate education is worthless. I rant about it. Funtimes. September 23, 2006

Posted by yosstheg33k in Uncategorized.
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Before I begin, let me clarify that the views presented below are mine, and are most assuredly not sanctioned by any tertiary body, least of all the one by whom I am employed.

Right, now that I’ve cleared that out of the way, I’ll begin. Are you sitting comfortably children?

Observation Eins: Undergraduate degrees in this country are not worth the paper they’re written on. They’re handed out to middle class white kids as a means of securing their place in the ol’ socioeconomic pyramid in perpetuity, not as they once were: as a mark of scholastic achievement. Undergraduates leaving this university are a mixed bag, but there are a significant body of students passing classes that they have no business being credited for.

Allow me to elaborate: University has been traditionally seen as a somewhat elite institution where a specific breed of exceedingly nerdy people go in order to immerse themselves in knowledge for the best part of their lives. University today has been turned into a “degree mill” in which undergraduates feel that, because they’ve paid their money, they’re entitled to a piece of paper proclaiming them to be “educated”.

 Sadly, this often isn’t the case. As I wade through the pile of undergraduate reports I have to mark this weekend, I’m struck by a single shocking observation; they haven’t learned a single thing over the course of an entire semester. The English is still broken, essential facts are still omitted, reports are still obviously written in a massive rush the night/morning before the deadline with a minimum of effort. You see, I’m in a unique position to assess this; the course that I demonstrate has two sets of assesment which are identical in terms of style, and differ only in content. I’ve marked the reports of these same students once already this semester; I’ve written copious feedback about style (or lack thereof) once already. I’ve failed at least 4-5 students from each of my two classes of 25-odd last time, and you know what?

I’m seeing the same damn errors this time. The same number of students or (god forbid) *more* will “fail” this time.

It’s patently obvious that they haven’t learned a thing. Yes, this could be a failing of mine as a teacher. Such a suggestion would almost be a relief; but I believe the problem runs much deeper than that. At least, the feedback I get from my peers is the same frustrated resignation at the seemingly overwhelming resistance put up by the students to actually learning anything and improving their skills. The attitude that “C’s get degrees” that was prevalent when I came through my undergraduate training seems to have pervaded undergraduate life to a scary extent. I’ll tell you why, and it has a lot to do with the definition of words such as the one I’ve enclosed in quotation marks above.

Failing means nothing. I guarantee that the students to whom I award a stunning 35-40% over the course of their 30% internal assessment this semester will “pass” the paper. How is this possible? Well, one explanation is that they all do exceedingly well on the final exam. As much as I’d like to believe this to be the case, it’s with sad resignation that I admit that it’s not. You see, the scores of students in their written assesment correlates exceedingly well with their performance in the test, which is the same format as (and therefore, one assumes correlates equally as well) the final exam. So, what’s the problem?

The university is afraid to fail people. When I award students 30-40%, I’m making a judgment about the merit of their work not relative to the students in the class, I’m making a judgment about whether that particular piece of assessment is the level of quality which is acceptable for first-year university. 30% is a clear message that you aren’t performing well enough. I’m unafraid to grade people as low as they need to be graded. I don’t want to be the student’s friend, I want to be the means by which they *learn* something.

So what’s the problem? I’m known as a hard marker in the department. My mean awarded grades are often borderline too low to be acceptable. As demonstrators, we’re unable to make absolute judgments about the merit of work. Instead, we must mark to a distribution which encourages mediocrity. We must squish the data until the mean grade is acceptable. Then what happens? The university squishes the data once more. The problem is that they don’t squish the data in any normal fashion, they squish it so that students are scaled  relative to each other. Students are getting dumber, trying less hard, putting in less and less effort, and the university is encouraging it.

This is the real problem. If the 30% grade I give a student meant that they might need to repeat the semester unless they work harder, there exists a damn good chance they’ll work harder. If, on the other hand, that 30% grade I give a student magically metamorphoses into a 51% grade the student doesn’t learn such a lesson. Do you know what they learn instead? The lesson is that putting in minimal effort will get a passing grade, so they can safely turn off their brain and coast through their undergraduate degree.

What’s the upshot of all of this? The value of an undergraduate degree is cheapened. This isn’t in *anyone’s* best interests; not the university which tries to offer a quality education, not the student who works hard and achieves highly, and certainly not the student I’ve described previously who learns that putting in just enough to scrape by is acceptable. What’s the root of this sickness? It’s the attitude of the university that the student is somehow a “customer”, and that they’re offering a “service”. To be seen as offering a syllabus that is difficult or that fewer people pass is to be seen as less attractive; to be seen as less attractive is to attract fewer students, and to attract fewer students is to garner less funding.

I have only one question: since when did a $40,000 bank balance entitle someone to a degree?

See? There’s my rant. It’s over, I feel better. I’ve successfully postponed the pain that is reading these reports for an hour or so. Win-win!

Mein arbeit sind Schon. September 17, 2006

Posted by yosstheg33k in Uncategorized.
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It is. Evidence:

Psyc dept 2

Psyc dept

Sakura are awesome.

Beer = the answer to the world’s energy problems. September 17, 2006

Posted by yosstheg33k in Uncategorized.
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No, not ethanol fuel.

Upon contemplating the toilet bowl at 4am this Saturday I was struck with a revelation that can only come to the drunk.

Allow me to clarify: If the law of gravity is “what goes up must come down”, the law of beer is “what went down must come up”.

I’ve discovered the antigravity drive! I’ll be rich!

Or possibly just hungover. I mean, can you imagine a world where the only way to drive is drunk?

Oh no! I’ve left the Irony on! September 15, 2006

Posted by yosstheg33k in Uncategorized.
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Apparently, the board game *Monopoly* has been recently updated in a “Here and Now” (Yeah, that edition’s not going to date!) edition; the new additions? The brand names of several large multinational corporations, Starbucks, Toyota and McDonalds among them.

 Nice one the free market!

Correlation != causation case# 357 Or; How I learned to stop worrying and love the stats. September 15, 2006

Posted by yosstheg33k in Sciencey-type stuff.
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According to stuff.co.nz, a new study out of the University of Leicester demonstrates that:

“Almost 38 per cent of hip-hop devotees and 29 per cent of dance music fans were more likely to have had more than one sexual partner in the last five years compared to just 1.5 per cent of country music fans.”

Not only are you more likely to shag like a rabbit if you’re partial to a bit of the old bump ‘n grind, you’re more likely to commit a criminal offense.

However they were also more likely to have broken the law, with more than 50 per cent of both hip-hop and dance music lovers admitting committing a criminal act. “

Then the article goes on to drop this absolute gem of a quote:

Surprisingly there have been very few studies on how people’s age, sex, socioeconomic status and personality relate to the music they enjoy listening to,” North said. “

Hmmmmm! Call me a crazy radical if thou wilt, but if you didn’t control for those variables, don’t you think there’s just the *tiniest* amount of room for a confound?

Seriously, can anyone spell sensationalism? (I know I almost couldn’t; thanks dictionary.com!)

On a lighter note: “A quarter of classical music fans have tried cannabis while 12 per cent of those who liked opera had experimented with magic mushrooms.”

Who knew that you’re statistically likely to own a Beethoven CD *and* a bong?