Under construction…

Ich bin am umstrukturieren, daher sind in Moment ein paar Links kaputt. Das wird in den nächsten Tagen in Ordnung gebracht.

Generate your own QR-Code

When I was in Japan, I loved the fact that there were QR-Codes all over the place – QR-Codes are two-dimensional bar codes that can be "scanned" (i.e. photographed) with any cell phone with camera. The camera would then decode the QR-Code and visit a URL, call a phone number, etc.

There are QR-Generators online, and the code shown here is for jastram.de. I found this on PDA Geek.

Ubuntu: Problem with international Keyboard Layouts

Well, I finally managed to fix the problem. For whatever reason, the keyboard layout database got corrupted, and there is no straightforward way to fix it (e.g. by reinstalling a package). So instead I dumped the following directory: /etc/X11/xkb and replaced it with the same directory from a clean Ubuntu installation. That did the trick.

I was lucky that I had a fresh install lying around on another computer, but what a pain in the neck.

Installing X.org on Ubuntu

Issues I encountered were:

  • A number of development packages needed to be installed – I didn’t keep track on which ones, but the error messages are pretty trivial.
  • I needed to install two patches that I found on the Gentoo website. Apply “MMX GCC4 compile fix” and “fbmmx-gcc4-compile-fix”, in this order.
  • The install failed, because /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/xkb/symbols/pc was a file and not a directory. I just removed it.
  • Configuration: Now /etc/X11/xorg.conf must be tuned. If you screw it up, it can be regenerated with dexconf. If nothing works, start with replacing the driver i810 with vesa, to get a slow but working GUI.

Bushido – the Soul of Japan (Book Review)

Before I begin, I want to point out that this book, as well as the Book of Tea are now in the public domain, and the links I provided above lead to the full text of these books!

Some background, that Nitobe provides himself in the book: He is a converted Christian. In the chapter entitled “The Training and Position of Woman” he excused the fact that the woman was serving the man by the fact that she is thereby ultimately serving god: “In the ascending scale of service stood woman, who annihilated herself for man, that he might annihilate himself for the master, that he in turn might obey heaven. I know the weakness of this teaching and that the superiority of Christianity is nowhere more manifest than here, in that it requires of each and every living soul direct responsibility to its Creator. Nevertheless, as far as the doctrine of service – the serving of a cause higher than one’s own self, even at the sacrifice of one’s individuality; I say the doctrine of service, which is the greatest that Christ preached and is the sacred keynote of his mission – as far as that is concerned, Bushido is based on eternal truth.”

This passage shows two things about this book: First, it is specifically written for the Westener, to understand the Japanese. And second, it’s written from the late 19th century perspective. Feudalism was just abandoned in 1870!

I want to talk about a few things that I experienced today in Japan, in 2005, that made so much more sense to me after reading this book.

Commerce

Samurai didn’t engage in commerce. “Of all the great occupations of life, none was farther removed from the profession of arms than commerce. The merchant was placed lowest in the category of vocations, – the knight, the tiller of the soil, the mechanic, the merchant.” – I was surprised to hear this – but separating commercial power (money) from military power (arms) was probably doing a lot of good to the country. “Montesquieu has made it clear that the debarring of the nobility from mercantile pursuits was an admirable social policy, in that it prevented wealth from accumulating in the hands of the powerful.” Isn’t it tempting to contemplate for a minute about the fact that, while we do have separation of power, the commercial and political forces these days tend to grow closer together? Would we be better off to disallow alliances (e.g. by prohibiting lobbying altogether)?

From this book I learned, that Japanese commerce had a bad reputation for a while, shortly after Japan was forced to open up its market. Nitobe acknowledged this, but explained it by the fact that, as mentioned above, merchants were of the lowest social standing, and as such attracting some shady characters. But he also points out that over time, Bushido ideas were gaining momentum: “Now-a-days we hear comparatively little of (…) dishonesty in trade. In twenty years [Japan’s] merchants learned that in the end honesty pays. Already our merchants are finding that out. “

Harakiri

Harakiri, ceremonial suicide, is one of those things that is fascinating in a creepy way, and somehow we want to know more about it, even though we don’t want to admit it. Nitobe starts off with pointing out that suicide is not unknown in the West, and even though the Church condemns it, there are many cases where it was respected, or even accepted.

Nitobe provides two graphic eye-witness accounts of harakiri. It’s the very deliberate act of stabbing oneself below the waist, drawing the dagger all the way across and up, and pulling it out again. This procedure doesn’t kill immediately but is extremely painful, and often the deliquent is beheaded after the operation to shorten his suffering.

Giving one’s live for honour or a greater cause was not seen as such a big deal – in the end, we all have to die, so may as well die for something worthy, especially as there was no stigma attached to suicide. In fact, due to the glorification, harakiri was committed for reasons entirely undeserving of death: “Life was cheap—cheap as reckoned by the popular standard of honor.”

Personally this reminds me of the suicide wave that Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther created. I also have been intruiged for a long time by Socrates’ death, which I would categorize as suicide. Nitobe picked that one up as well: “If suicide meant no more than dying by one’s own hand, Socrates was a clear case of suicide. But nobody would charge him with the crime; Plato, who was averse to it, would not call his master a suicide.” Fact is, nobody wanted to put Socrates to death, and he was given many options to escape that fate, which he stubbonly rejected. I believe that he knew that only by dying as a matyr, he would become immortal. Had he not drunken the poision, he probably wouldn’t be remembered the way he is being remembered today.

And more…

This book has been a great aid for me to understand Japan – I encourage you to browse through the book online, or pick up a copy. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

Sun & SOA

SOA is an ambiguous term – Suns sees it as follows: “we are talking about SOA as it relates to integration and composite applications” – very high level statement, but certainly makes sense and is powerful – if executed correctly.

As far as execution goes, acquiring the company SeeBeyond was a step in that direction, which provided them with a sales force that understands SOA. This is complemented with a suit of tools – Java based, of course. Interesting is that Sun doesn’t want to focus too much on vertical integration – a route that IBM took – quite successfully.

Applied Minds – Paradise for Geeks

I spent only half a day there, but some of the things described in the article I’ve seen, like the interactive map-table. Cool place! Should I ever consider moving to LA, this is where I would consider working for free!

1400×1050 with Intel Mobile 915GM

I started off with a clean Suse 9.2 installation. After various dead ends, this is what I did so far:

  • Reinstall X.org (X11R6.8.2) from the sources. This seems necessary to compile the Intel drivers.
  • Install Intel’s linux driver. Without recompiling X first, this kind of fails, but still seems to do something to the system. After the above reinstallation, the installation succeeds without an error.
  • Run “modprobe intel-agp” before starting X. Obviously, this should be automated, once everything is working.
  • Set 1400×1050 as a legal resolution in the Video Bios using 855resolution. However, this doesn’t seem to work with my Bios.
  • I guess I’ll have to update 855resolution. That doesn’t seem so difficult after all. the trick seems to be to make the video bios writable by talking to the right ports. Fortunately, the Intel 915GM Specification is freely available. Thanks, Intel!
  • It turns out there is a tool that tweaks the 915GM!!! The tools is available on Steve Tomljenovic Geocities site (thank you, Steve!!!), and I got pointed there by Christian Zietz on the XFree86.Org Developers Mailing List (thank you, Christian!!!).
  • The tool 915resolution must run on every start – just put the following in /etc/rc.d/boot.local: “915resolution 5c 1400 1050” (on Suse)