Archive for February, 2017

Social media are everywhere these days, to the point where they suddenly seem to be more important than any other communication medium. Families and friends use them to stay in touch while on holiday, companies use them for informal meetings and discussions, news media distribute their headlines with them, politicians on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean (and probably elsewhere in the world too) use them to try and set the stage for policy changes.

Privacy questions remain, however. Especially now that the concept of real and virtual walls around nations is rearing its (ugly) head again. So here’s an interesting suggestion from Maciej Cegłowski, in a post titled “Social Media Needs A Travel Mode“:

All I care about when I’m on vacation is posting devastating beach photos that will make my friends jealous. So why do I need to carry the complete list of people I went to high school with, or an archive of messages I exchanged with a chance acquaintance ten years ago?


We need a ‘trip mode’ for social media sites that reduces our contact list and history to a minimal subset of what the site normally offers. Not only would such a feature protect people forced to give their passwords at the border, but it would mitigate the many additional threats to privacy they face when they use their social media accounts away from home.

Reinforced real borders the world all over form a strong contrast with an Internet that has (almost) no frontiers. So I do wonder if we’ll ever see such a thing – perhaps Diaspora could propose a solution?

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Here’s what we needed last Fall to reactivate a 2010 Macbook Pro, model A1278 (MC374LL/A).

The process for resetting the SMC for one of these machines is to:

Step 1: Completely shut down the computer.

Step 2: Attach the MagSafe or USB-C power adapter to your computer so you have a power source.

Step 3: Press the left-side Shift (⇧), Control, and Option keys, along with the power button on your keyboard all at the same time.

Step 4: Release all of the keyboard keys at the same time, including the power button.

Step 5: Turn your computer back on using the power button.


Unfortunately, a few months later even this procedure no longer had an effect. I could try to replace the 16GB of memory with the original 4GB, but if that fails there will be only one conclusion: time to look for a new portable Mac!

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It would be foolish to deny the fact that the current, global economy is different from one or two centuries ago. But it makes me wonder: does that mean that we need official ambassadors to talk to global companies? The Danish government seems to think we do:

Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen. Photo: Nikolai Linares/Scanpix

Anders Samuelsen (Foto: Nikolai Linares / Scanpix 2017)
Click the image to go to the source: The Local (www.thelocal.dk)

Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen revealed the plans in an interview with Politiken newspaper on Friday, saying that companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft “affect Denmark just as much as entire countries”.

“These companies have become a type of new nations and we need to confront that,” Samuelsen said.

Do we really want companies to rule the world? Do we want profit to be the sole motivator of how the world is run? I don’t.

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Just a few days ago, GottaBeMobile published an update on the Android7 news for the Samsung S6 and S7 smartphones: Samsung Galaxy Android Nougat Update Info (2017). For the S7, things seem to be moving – at least in certain parts of the world.


But as SamMobile notes: “The support rep told him that Nougat will be released in that region at some point between April and June 2017. This may very well be the case for the international Galaxy S7 as well“. One of the comments concerns the Benelux, saying that Samsung Benelux started rolling out Nougat to the S7 at the beginning of February. Let me confirm you that until today the upgrade did not yet reach my S7 – and I checked almost every day!

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Note: I wrote this post at the end of September 2016, and could/should have published it then. I did not, for then as well as now, I don’t want my fears for the future (mine and that of my children) to monopolise this blog. But I haven’t read a better explanation for why things happened as they did – even though the article I refer to was written before the presidential election in the US! No matter how you look at it, it is ironic that the age of computing sees such an outbreak of irrationality – or could that at the same time be a reaction of a large segment of the population to an overdose of what is perceived as ‘computer logic’?

* * * * *

Here’s an unpleasant, nay scary, analysis of what you might call “political marketing tactics”: “Brexit and Trump: When Fear Triumphs Over Evidence” (on the Scientific American website).

We also know that emotions, particularly fear, can have a profound impact on decision making. When we are afraid, or asked to focus on arguments based on fear, we generally shift into something called peripheral processing. […] When pundits argue that people don’t need experts, they are actively trying to push you from using central processing to a peripheral approach. They are asking you to turn off your logic and turn on your emotion, because they know that it is difficult to use logic once fear takes over.

I see similar phenomena outside the UK or the USA: why would a real democracy need soldiers in the streets, like in Belgium? Why do French politicians dare to think about changing their constitution for the sake of banning a piece of clothing from the public space?

But I do understand: when you grow up and live your life in fear of some formidable god/devil combination, fear is the thing you know best when it comes to making decisions. Too bad that in the end facts and their logic will triumph – always.

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It’s something I need to remember: how do I install an old PyUSB package on Xubuntu (or a similar Debian-based OS). Why, you ask? Because I need that old version 0.4.3 for the little script that reads the solar energy numbers from the SMA Sunny Beam.

Image of the SMA Sunny Beam monitor for our solar panel installation

The SMA Sunny Beam monitor for our solar panel installation

Luckily, it isn’t too hard to do. This is my context:

Step one is to make sure you have the required header files to compile the PyUSB package. So you open up a terminal session and execute

sudo apt-get install libusb-dev
sudo apt-get install python-dev

Step two: Extract the root folder and all the files from the PyUSB archive, and make that folder your current directory in the terminal session.

Step three: compile and install the package with this command:

sudo python setup.py install

That’s it. When all goes well, you’ll be able to verify the existence of two new files on your system, in a directory called “/usr/local/lib/python2.7/dist-packages“:



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Not even two weeks ago I wrote about Einstein, or about Brian Greene, to be exact. Since then I did finish William Gibson’s “The Peripheral“. The reviewers of that book must have been better, faster readers than me to call this a brilliant book. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a dazzling book. It challenges your brain to see the world painted just by words – Gibson certainly has a vivid imagination.

Cover of the paperback edition of William Gibson's 'The Peripheral'

Cover of the paperback edition of William Gibson’s ‘The Peripheral’

But I will have to read it again to get a better grasp on what the story really is about. It’s not an whodunnit, that’s for sure. And it’s not your classic scifi either. It sets your brain to work, just like Greene’s. Isn’t that what books are supposed to do?

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I am a bit ashamed to admit it, but the numbers on the energy production of the solar panels on our house are finally stored in a spreadsheet. At last, after seven years! I suppose no one was really paying attention to them, because I did find a few errors in the summations in my report (and even in some of the monthly totals)…


Anyway, as of today the numbers have been verified, corrected and found to be in concordance with our Sunny Beam monitor. In reality, the errors in my reports were minor and did not have an impact on my previous conclusions. But I don’t like making mistakes, especially not such basic mistakes in sums. Oh well.

Having everything in a spreadsheet meant I could add seasonal overviews, extending the list of meteorological summers to all seasons. You’ll find them at the bottom of the page.

By the way: January 2017 was a good month, with a production clearly above the average. Let’s hope 2017 does better than 2016 when it comes to sunshine.

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