Setting Emacs Custom Splash

Since there were some inquiries about this one… This is actually built-in function of Emacs.

emacs-homebrew

First, prepare a graphic file for it. Any size probably will do as long as it’s small enough that fits on the screen. Default graphic is 270×217, so you may want to choose it. Any format that Emacs supports will do. Perhaps XPM will be the best choice.

Now, go into the customize screen using M-x customize

customize

Typing in fancy splash, and it should filter entries to the single one. If it says Default, flip it to File, then specify full path to the graphic you have prepared earlier, and save.

fancyset

Then it should be displayed when you go in by C-h C-a.

Have fun!

Why I Love LaTeX

My History with LaTeX

I have been using LaTeX and its variant (mostly pLaTeX variant, for doing Japanese documents) for about 10 years now. Back when I was in school, I have used to take a note in real time. (Back around that time, Org-mode was still about to be released. If I’d do anything differently today, I’d take a note in Org-mode, and perhaps export it to LaTeX or other formats.) I even negotiated, for some class, that I can submit assignments in PDF output from \LaTeX, which I did get favorable responses from all I asked. As a premise, most others submitted non-coding assignments on paper — some submitted electronically, presumably with Microsoft Word format. (How they can live with formula editor on Microsoft Word, is outside of my comprehension…)

Why You Should Use LaTeX?

To me, LaTeX is a superior document creation tool compared to other forms of document creation.

Flexibility in Toolchain

Essentially, working on a document using an office suite is pretty much take-all-or-nothing. If you are completely sold to an application software you are using, that’s great, but if not, you either have to continue working in an environment you are not satisfied with, or should you choose to integrate process using another method, such as alternative softwares — that’s when things get very awkward. While most of office suite applications provide some support for interfacing with other applications, which could be through set of APIs, or scripting, but because of the complexity of the software, customizing those environments could well be a full time job of its own.

LaTeX file is essentially a plain text format with markup. Any text editors can handle LaTeX files. If the editing LaTeX file, learning LaTeX commands are not your cup of tea, then there are many “IDE for LaTeX” systems you can use instead. One such application I’ve used in the past is called TeXnicCenter which provided menus and toolbar access to many of commonly (and some obscure) commands available in LaTeX. If you are being intimidated by the markup nature of LaTeX, you may want to try it, or many other editors around.

Because of a text based workflow, it integrates very well among other tools. For instance, I use Org-mode to create a document. Org-mode is a very versatile tool that can be used for many forms of data management and authoring. Perhaps because Carsten Dominik, the original author of Org-mode is an astronomy professor, Org-mode is designed so it works very well with LaTeX system.

This provides multiple export path as well. While I prepare a document as a document, the same document also can be used to output as an HTML page. (It is also worthwhile to mention that the HTML output from Org-mode is clean enough that it validates as XHTML strict.)

Clear Separation of Style and Contents

You may have come across the documents that are horribly formatted. I have seen a document that the heading was merely done by change of font size, spacing between paragraph being adjusted by an empty line of different font size; the list goes on and on. This comes from overemphasis of so called WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) concept, where what you see on the screen is what you get as a result. For instance, when you print out the document, the result will be what you see on the screen. (While some may disagree with this notion, but it was premise as marketed back then.)

Even after sociological emphasis is shifted from circulation of document as a paper, and electronic transmission, collaboration, and management, mindset of users were never shifted, and as a result, poorly formatted documents are being produced, perhaps in a degree of hundreds of Terabytes per seconds world wide.

Bad formatting was, perhaps, acceptable when paper trails were the center of focus; after all, noone really cared how data that resulting print was originated from, as long as it is legible.

LaTeX in nature, often enforces document markups, which makes it much harder to do it wrong way. It is still possible to format document in LaTeX wrong way, but either makes getting what you want done more challenging, or will cause errors.

Better Version Control

LaTeX document is a text file, so the document can be version controlled as easily as computer program codes. Difference between version can be inspected easily. This is fundamentally different from how many of Office Suite applications record changes; essentially they are keylogger system where user actions are recorded into the document. If this feature is not enabled when the document is being written, or information is lost for some reason, recovering difference information between two document often provide inaccurate information. Moreover, merging difference from multiple sources are often very difficult because of the nature that style information often interleaved within the document.

Want Try It Out?

Installing LaTeX to your computer is easier than ever, as there’s installation package called TeX Live which includes most of programs you will need to get started. Depending on your preference, you may want also install aforementioned editing software, but your favorite text editors should do a trick.

Fun With Wi-fi Monitoring Above 10000 ft

This was my first time flying on the airplane with Wi-fi service. The service was quite expensive so I did not purchase it.

Instead, I’ve decided to see what I will get if I do some magic using Wireshark. I’ve configured the wi-fi device into monitor mode. (in this mode, I am not connected to any wi-fi access points, and this only reads open communications, to prevent infringing both legal and usage term issues.)

What this provides are communications information between access point and device, and device information. Which means, as long as the devices are turned on with Wi-fi enabled, I would see something about it.

This essentially provided popularity votes on the plane:

  • iOS devices: 46
  • HTC: 1
  • Motorola, Microsoft, Nokia, Asus: 1 each
  • LiteOn: 1 (this seems to be mobile wireless access point, I don’t think it’d be useful inflight…)

Probably a lot of phones were turned off or were in an airplane mode, unless he/she was using the service, so this probably discounts any phone device pretty heavily. But 46 iOS devices… wow.

Something I’ve noticed about security:

  • One should use VPN or SSL while on the public non-secure networks. This is quite obvious.
  • Devices polls for previously connected access points, which means a device actually sends out SSID in plain text. This means, a device is essentially leaking SSID information, some of which I observed was internal networks of some of well known companies, as well as hotel and airport networks. This potentially can be used for social engineering attacks. Companies should use SSID that has no relationship with a company name.
  • Some people use their name as their system name, in which in conjunction with the above, someone can get pretty good idea about where he/she works for, and where he/she has been.

Why Windows 8 Will Be Support Nightmare (Especially in Small Businesses)

Windows 8 offers a radically new interface for computers, with new features like new Metro (what do they call it now? Windows 8 interface?) and other features, or non-features like lack of the Start button.

So why this is bad for small businesses? Simply put, it is bad for small businesses, unless whoever taking charge of IT in the organization is a Microsoft fanboy. In the context of small businesses I’m talking here, it is a size of around 3 to 10. (If the company is small enough, that it is only by yourself, or with just one other person, this is probably less relevant as IT administration is more of personal user than business users.)

So what small businesses lack that bigger corporation don’t? Usually, it comes down to more unstructured, and unorganized IT policies and privileges.

To name a few:

  • Smaller companies lack well defined upgrade path. Upgrade happens whenever the system gets updated. If the company is not big enough to take advantage of volume licensing, upgrade paths are often tied to the system being replaced.
  • Generally speaking, smaller businesses do not have access to downgrade privilege.
  • IT human resources for small businesses may not necessarily be dedicated. They may be wearing more than one hat beside IT. This means skill set of IT staffing in smaller company may be motivation driven — for instance, one who are investing more time on Linux or Mac may not be willing to improve their support ability in the new aspect of Windows 8 even when they are already knowledgeable in general know how.

I am maintaining IT assets for company size of 4 people, and it has been already bad enough when I have to support iOS devices — often I have to resort to unhelpful response, “I don’t know, I don’t use iOS.” Being a LibreOffice user (with a copy of Microsoft Office 2007 installed on the VM for occasionally compatibility, that I rarely boots up) I am more comfortable supporting Microsoft Office 2003 than what’s offered in those “ribbon interface” which makes it very difficult to support the application as well. (After all, I consider myself to be a computing expert, not vendor expert.)

So, yeah, this is pretty scary when it is time to upgrade a machine in the office is newer device. Hopefully, configuration of those devices is close enough that Windows 7 would be enough.

Freenet as a Network Node Heartbeat Monitor

While real application of Freenet is for anonymous, censorship tolerant network. I am experimenting its usefulness as poor man’s server heartbeat monitor.

The idea is, I’d configure each node as Darknet only mode, and only exchange keys with nodes to monitor the server. Participating nodes can monitor status of server by whether it is available or not, and there are unique advantages in this setting:

  • The system does not require global IP — NAT traversal works seamlessly with Freenet.
  • Completely decentralized — you do not need dedicated server to monitor.
  • Freenet runs on just about any operating systems.
  • Not only you can get information about whether you can connect the A node to the B node, but you can also figure out if the B node to the C node connections are available. The Friends page on Freenet makes itself evident if one of leaf node has access to other. (In smaller network, you could exchange a noderef among each node. Bigger set of servers probably will require more coordinations.)
  • Possibly expandable using FCP. For example, you can set each node to push out reachability report every once in a while to be retrieved from monitoring systems, for example.
  • The load on the network is light in Darknet settings.
  • No plain text transfer.
  • N2NTM feature makes it easy to transfer small segment of text or a file across the node, and it is encrypted, too.

Setting up a Darknet node without extra plugins makes it very lightweight, in my test environment, taking as little as 60MB of RAM, which seems to make it an ideal solution for small scale network environment where setting up a server monitoring system unpractical.

A Statement Regarding Interview by NHK of Japan About Tor Technology

This is a document originally written on September 20th, regarding interview about Tor conducted by NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation)

Written on 9/20/2012

I’ve received inquiries from NHK (Nippon Housou Kyoukai) regarding interview they want to do with me. As they will be having a discussion of anonymizing technology in their show called Science Zero to be aired on October 7th, they wanted to do a segment with me, in the topic of why use Tor.

I maintain information site for GnuPG in Japanese and advocacy of information technology is a big thing for me, thus, I accepted their inquiry to appear on TV.

The interview itself was conducted over Google Hangout, for about an hour. Being myself not used to those press interviews, there were times I have explained things for quite a bit of time. (They wanted something simple.)

And this is what happened so far.

So answering their questions, why use Tor, first point is that it is useful when searching for “questionable” matters. (For instance, I am interested in military technologies, like submarines) I feel it is a real threat as in post-9/11 era, information that used to be public is now obscured. Also, eavesdropping capability of NSA is improving in recent year, it is a real fear my activity online would be interpreted in pieces, causing misunderstandings. Another point is simply that the importance of this type of technology only increases over time. I am not sure how they will be using my interview footage, but I wanted to write few words about it.

I am in a stance that information itself should never be incriminating. It is more of the statement that what matters if what action people take with these information in hand, and it’s not the information itself that is a crime. This is also related to freedom of the speech, but regulating information itself will inevitably infringe such freedom of the speech. This is because globally speaking, the only way to protect your own free speech is to also protect someone else.

It is very challenging to describe question of why use Tor without myself sounding like a conspiracy theorist. In practicality, deep webs, such as Hidden Service and Freenet are also important to cover, but as a scope of this interview, I mainly explained it in context of Tor use in public web. (As deep web is not easily perceived by the general public, it would require its own session to explain about it.)

These technologies are in surge of being more important, and I am looking forward to see how this is covered in the show.

More opinions to come after viewing the show.

[ Updated 9/24 ]
NHK just wrote to me that they had to cut my segment due to time constraints. Bummer, but oh well.

An encrypted version of this document is released first and key will be released on certain days (when they have the show listed with the topic on their webpage) so everyone can decrypt. For verification, a passphrase for decrypting encrypted version of this document as follows:

gOsuUwhhUPb6FUBvBW

http://int.tumblr.com/
http://google.com/+HidekiSaito

This document is released under Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported (CC BY-ND 3.0).

Errata

  • Grammatical changes but overall meaning should be same.
  • Terminology fix: Darkweb -> Deepweb
  • Few hyperlinks are added.

Why I Rather Want to See Linux Desktop Succeed

Linux Desktop looking better and better…maybe more so when Windows 8 is out.

Because Windows 8 is One Step Away from the Operating System…

Face it, Windows 8 is a mess. It mostly trying to push their agenda. (which Mac OS X in certainly guilty on some count of this) Those both platforms are trying to make PC into a jail, with scaled down interface on Windows, and now they are starting to lock down their system using Secure Boot feature and launch restriction.

Better Out of the Box Experience

If you grab a copy of Ubuntu (free, indeed!), you immediately have access to just about everything to get started. No need to buy another hundred (or two) bucks to get Office Suite; it’s already there, waiting for you to use it.

Better Accessibility

One thing Microsoft hasn’t address for over its lifetime is a biggest accessibility topics in the world. That’s language support.
Windows still don’t have language pack available as a standard feature. Yes, if you buy top of the line Ultimate edition, or the localized version; which is not readily available unless you live in the country that the language of your choice in use, you can have that feature. But that means, if you pay more than $200 when it should be basic accessibility feature. Ubuntu can be used in at least 40 languages without purchasing additional language pack, and Mac OS X ships with 28 languages. It’s 2012 and Windows still speaks only one language! (Granted unlike when it was era of Windows 95, at least you can display/input those languages, but full language integrations are not there unless you buy Ultimate edition, or localized version which is not usually available outside of a target region, let alone for consumers.)

Ubuntu Control Panel in Japanese
Ubuntu Control Panel in Japanese

Games

Traditionally, Linux has been left out of the loop for many games. Not any more. Humblebundle, for example, periodically push out very nice games that works on Linux, and now Steam is developing for Linux, prospect is pretty good for games.

Unfortunately, despite effort of those parties, this probably remains weakest aspect of the Linux as viable operating system. After all, myself being in the industry, it would be actually quite difficult for me to push for development for Linux, let alone with smaller company. Nonetheless, it is nice to see there’s some additional efforts being put into this area. Hopefully people at Valve will constructing the way to Linux gaming. (Linux don’t have to dominate the market, it just need few 10%s. Just like a browser, having small, but substantial chunk of the share is enough to make sure it won’t be ignored.)

How about Mac OS X?

I actually use Mac OS X at my work, and it is quite pleasing system to use. It is probably most friendliest system that is well-supported yet allows access to Unix core. It insulate a lot complex part of Unix core and put really nice interface to it — users don’t have to worry about any Unix aspect of the system at all for general use. One thing I have been noticing while using Mac OS X is that it works very good if you are willing to stay within its eco-system. If you try to deviate out from it, then it start treating you bit harsher; it’s won’t be flexible as Linux.

After all…

If you know me, and especially if you know my past, I’m bit biased. Around 1996 my only computer was Linux box. Around that time, Microsoft vs. Linux was much more of heated debate, and in fact, I have yet to shed distrust I have developed against Microsoft during those susceptible years at the time. (only difference is that now I do use some Windows system — but still have 3 other systems that running Linux.)

It is ironic perhaps I’m a victim of my own success that I’m known around me for being troubleshoot most of general computer issues (including Microsoft product, ahem), and, I actually made some money doing that, but that’s not because I know the software, but rather I know general computing… and unfortunately, that’s not what a lot of people get it. Sometimes frustrating, but what can I say.

Why I decided to get Galaxy Nexus and go back to Vanilla Android

I have been Android user since T-mobile released their first Android phone, T-mobile G1 (HTC Dream), back in 2008. Couple years after that, I’ve moved to Nexus One, then on Sensation 4G (HTC Sensation) then recently, I’ve decided to move to Galaxy Nexus with vanilla Android.

Of course, Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) was one of many reasons I’ve decided doing this, but there are more, inherently what I feel broken with manufacture/carrier customization to a device.

Yeah, I’m talking about HTC Sense, yeah, I’m also talking about other pre-installed softwares like T-mobile TV that I haven’t, and don’t use.

Why did they remove useful features?

Couple of months ago, T-mobile pushed out 4.0 updates to Sensation 4G. Which I was happy with — Google Chrome finally ran on my phone (it is only supported 4.0 and up) and the system was overall much more stable. (more to the stability later)

But one thing I haven’t understood, and I still don’t is, why did HTC remove some useful feature from vanilla 4.0. One example is the fact that you can’t uninstall application by dragging and drop from the application menu to the top of the screen. As far as I know, it was first introduced in 4.0, which could have been very useful feature. (and in fact, my 4.0 Acer tablet does it just fine.) While this is such a minor small detail, considering relatively small storage size of HTC Sensation was issue when I want to experiment with different application. Being able to uninstall application by moving icons around certainly beats inconveniences of navigating through Applications menu. (and try doing it for 10 different applications you are trying to uninstall!)

Another thing was small, but visual styling on the operating system. I thought it’d be that cool 4.0 look, right? Nope, it’s same old “round button” style. Couldn’t they give at least an option to change visual style?

To me, these seem like clear indication that designers at HTC are more on the ball of trying to push their own mobile experience than bringing the best and current experience on the Android platform.

Address book: Polluted

One of the big issue I had with HTC Sense was its address book. When I see number of contact, I see something like following inserted to my memo section of Google contacts.

Notes: xxxxxxxid:xxxxxxxxxx/friendof:xxxxxxxxxx

It looks like this is meta data for their account linking. Why?

It appears like it decided to pollute 200 of my contacts this way, and to get rid of them, I have to go one by one. (or perhaps I can write a program that talks with Google Contacts API and do that…)

It is came to my attention when I used dialer/address book feature is much nicer than I recalled when I was back in vanilla 2.3 on Nexus One. Even though I already had Android 4.0 on HTC Sensation, I did not see those changes because of HTC Sense.

2.3 launcher instability

Stability of the HTC Sense launcher was joke back in 2.3. It apparently got garbage collected way too many times, which if you try to do anything useful on your phone, and go back to launcher, then you will be greeted with green HTC logo on white screen for 20 seconds, which you can’t do anything. If you need to make a quick call after browsing a web for while? Nope, you’ll have to wait 20 seconds. It was annoying. Fortunately, they fixed most of these problem on 4.0.

Bloat and delays

Complaining about bloatwares (or “pre-installed softwares” to put it nicer way) maybe have nothing to do with device, rather choice of retail channel, Those pre-installed software have been bit of nuisance to the platform. The mere fact if they are on the device, will take up your storage should you choose to update it, and if you don’t, Play market will nag you to update, and renders “update to all” function unusable as pressing that button will also update the application you don’t want update. (at least they have fixed this issue starting 4.0 update by making it possible to disable applications you don’t use — which makes them disappear from the launcher, and stops update detection.)

Also looking how some “application such as wi-fi calling” contributed delay in ICS update, it is now clear that those pre-installed softwares are now affecting release timeline of update, not just because of manufactures, but because of carriers they are involved with.

I’m not against carriers developing a software for their customers, I’m just against those being pre-installed. All of the problem can be prevented by just distributing those Google Play.

In summary

I’m not necessary bashing HTC Sense here. HTC Sense might have played much more relevant role introducing relatively friendlier interface compared to vanilla Android in the past. Perhaps back in the day of Android 1.6, it was still augmenting vanilla Android quite a bit (I’ve briefly used HTC Sense running on Android 1.6 on my colleague’s phone), but in my opinion, they stopped innovating there. Did Android 2.3 with HTC Sense any different from one that was running on Android 1.6? No. Was it different on Android 4.0? Nope!

Probably HTC Sense cater more to those prefers no changes; actually, let me rephrase it, refusing changes. I can imagine a lot of support calls for such change distracting a lot of users, but still, insulating improvement on this major operating system was most disturbing fact that I realized once I moved to vanilla Android 4.1. I guess it is side effect of Android platform is so prolific that now is becoming commodity. When the platform is spread to many class of people, their common denominator is set to those who just seek for more consistent, but in turn, boring (to those seeking active improvements) experience. It’s just like early days of smartphones. Was Windows Mobile 6 so different from Windows Mobile 5? What about versions of Blackberry? The gap is that Android is still evolving platform and that what makes the platform great. It is such a shame that 90% of device out there seems to be intentionally left in vacuum just because customers wants it? (or manufactures/carriers think so?)

Clearly Google doesn’t want manufacture from “reskinning” the phone (not that they can stop it, considering the open nature of Android platform.) Now Android has caught up to the point it doesn’t need custom interface to accomplish anything you can with those custom interfaces.

I think I know what my future phones will be from now on.

SKK Package

Since DDSKK’s official site is down for a week now, for those who needs installation file for SKK, I’ve created SKK package that can be used to install SKK. It has everything you need to install. This contains SKK package as well as some, but not all, dictionary files, as recent as two weeks ago.

Here is the list of dictionaries within this distribution:

-rw-rw-rw- 1 hideki None 14069 Jan 4 2006 SKK-JISYO.JIS2
-rw-rw-rw- 1 hideki None 3055 Apr 4 2007 SKK-JISYO.JIS2004
-rw-rw-rw- 1 hideki None 224791 May 19 14:00 SKK-JISYO.JIS3_4
-rw-rw-rw- 1 hideki None 4490621 Jun 8 17:10 SKK-JISYO.L
-rw-rw-rw- 1 hideki None 1388041 Jan 21 2011 SKK-JISYO.fullname
-rw-rw-rw- 1 hideki None 2857024 Feb 19 2006 SKK-JISYO.geo
-rw-rw-rw- 1 hideki None 629605 Feb 3 16:10 SKK-JISYO.jinmei
-rw-rw-rw- 1 hideki None 497649 Feb 19 2006 SKK-JISYO.propernoun
-rw-rw-rw- 1 hideki None 513848 Jan 4 2006 SKK-JISYO.station

Hope this helps.