June 29, 2004

Wired: Better Science Through Gaming

Wired News: Better Science Through Gaming

The success of various DNA-sequencing projects promises to make genomic research an exciting new frontier. But studying the data has proved so tedious that some scientists have been tempted to quit.

Posted by johnvu at 03:02 PM | Comments (0)

June 23, 2004

Clinton's new book, a review in NY Times

The New York Times > Books > Sunday Book Review > Book Review | 'My Life': Confessions of a Policy Wonk. Consider this excerpt from a NY Times reviewer of Clinton's new book: When asked to review this big puffy plum cake of an autobiography, I at once agreed, expecting to have the book the next day. After all, we're an A.S.A.P., next-day America now - pretty much everything desirable in the world of goods can be had overnight. But not, as it turned out, Bill Clinton's book. He wasn't finished. He was writing it in longhand. He's still sending in pages to his publisher, I was told. I thought this "art form" died out just like milking a cow to get a glass of milk, or better yet, like building a car pre-Henry Ford. Well, I guess us kids of the digital age will never really understand. I have to say though, a person who writes in shorthand an entire novel in that amount of time, definitely has the clarity of thought to put down in paper exactly what s/he's thinking without the need to have it hacked up in a word processor. This skill is most definitely a skill I wish I had -- with or without a computer.

Posted by johnvu at 10:58 PM | Comments (0)

Who owns shortwave broadcasts?

Wired News: Wilco Pays Up for Spycasts. Consider this, a person, let's call him Akin, sets up a recorder to tape certain shortwave channels. Most of what is broadcast in these channels are gibberish, indecipherable, and enigmatic. No one claims to be the broadcaster. However, Akin now says he owns it. In comes an artist, let's call him Jeff, wanting to sample these sounds in his next creation (i.e. in his song). It's unknown whether Jeff got the sounds from Akin's recording or he actually recorded the same shortwave channel himself. But Akin cries foul and says Jeff has to pay up to use the sounds. If Akin didn't create the sounds himself, does he have a legal claim in owning it? Shouldn't the onus be on Akin to prove that Jeff used the samples from Akin's CD set and not from Jeff's own recorder? Copyright law, you gotta love it.

Posted by johnvu at 12:12 PM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2004

Housing headache -- objective pricing?

Latest News and Financial Information | Reuters.com. Head on over to:

and see for yourself whether or not this housing boom is real or made of cards. Unfortunately, only time can tell if prices will soften and how much. If I had started buying at same the time I started to blog, one after the other and selling progressively after the other, I would no doubt have made more than my salary this year. Having experienced the big dot bomb, have people no fear in housing prices?

Posted by johnvu at 05:18 PM | Comments (0)

Gmail gmail gmail

Gmail. I had to lie, cheat, and steal to get an invitation for gmail. 1GB of disk space is so enticing, it'll be interesting to see if this will supplant all my other email accounts. If I run across any more invites, I could put them up for grabs here, so stay tuned. Put a comment here so I can put you in the queue.

Posted by johnvu at 11:55 AM | Comments (2)

June 16, 2004

UMDNJ's path to linux heaven for bioinformatics

A Secure Bioinformatics Linux Lab in an Educational Research Environment. This is an interesting little read about a group of researchers putting together a network of primariliy linux machines for bioinformatics. There is nothing in the article that mentions the software and tools used for bioinformatics -- it's more of an "hey, look what we've done" kinda piece -- a very network startup-centric essay.

Posted by johnvu at 11:10 PM | Comments (0)

June 15, 2004

Nightmare blog loss

Wired News: Thousands of Blogs Fall Silent. For those of you weblogs.com users, I feel for you. But if and when you finally re-assess what's best for you and what's worth it, I'd suggest you retry your blogging experience NOT with the big standard cookie cutter blogsites such as Xanga or blogger.com (as one commenter gloated in the article). Rather, it's probably more worthwhile for you to start up your own site altogether from rimuhosting.com. At around $20 for 3GB of diskspace and 3GB bandwidth/month, it's the best deal on the web bar none. You can host as many blogs as you want without worry -- but this time backup your information frequently locally on your computer, just in case. Run the blog engine you've always wanted to use such as MovableType or Wordpress.org. And the server runs Linux, so you know it's all good. Best thing to do is band together with a bunch of bloggers and cut your costs down to a measly few bucks a month, very affordable!

Posted by johnvu at 03:43 PM | Comments (0)

June 08, 2004

Manipulating PDF files in Mac OS X without Adobe

iText - a JAVA-PDF library. I wanted to install this iText java library (not to be confused with Apple's iText tool), in a Mac (OS X 10.2) and was having a heck of a time trying to find in google what was required to get it up and running. In the end, it was so simple, that I wondered why it's wasn't easier to find. Anyhow, all you need to do is install the .jar files in the /Library/Java/Extensions folder and you're set! There are a bunch of examples of what you can do with this iText library found in the site above or at sourceforge. If you ever wanted to merge fdf files with the original pdf file, this is the tool for you. Just download the examples zip file from the sourceforge site and extract the merge_fdf.java file. Once you've copied the iText jar files and placed them into the /Library/Java/Extensions directory, you'll then need to compile the merge_fdf.java file with the command (in the Terminal utility/console):

javac merge_fdf.java

It'll create a merge_fdf.class file that you can you use to merge the fdf and pdf files. Copy a pdf file and fdf file in the same directory as the class file and create the merged pdf like so:

java merge_fdf sample.pdf outputpdf.pdf sample.fdf

Merging fdf files is one useful tool; however, iText is chocked full of useful tools beyond this simple example. I'm sure some of you java pros can probably create a jar program that could be run from the gui desktop or create a front-end for it and the many other utilities from iText. Some of these tools are great tools to integrate into a web application (using PHP or Perl scripts) to generate dynamic PDF files. Lots of potential with it, too bad the typical newbie (like me) has to spend so much time trying to figure simple things out, like how to install the dang library just to start out.

Posted by johnvu at 03:23 PM | Comments (0)

June 07, 2004

Dangerous PBDEs in breast milk

The Globe and Mail. US women apparently have the highest amount of dangerous PBDEs in there breast milk -- a growing trend due to increase use of these chemicals as flame retardants in products such as furniture to computer components. According to the article, it's as high as 1,000 parts per billion. The question is: is it high enough that physicians should recommend against breast-feeding?

Posted by johnvu at 11:47 AM | Comments (0)