Archive for July, 2017

Ars Technica introduced me to the inventor of the equals sign. I was surprised to read that it was a 16th century Welsh scholar who came up with this symbol, since so much of our algebraic foundations was passed on through and from Arab scholars in the Middle Ages. Anyway, here’s a quote from the man we’re talking about:

And to avoide the tediouse repetition of these woordes: is equalle to: I will sette as I doe often in worke use, a paire of paralleles, or Gemowe lines of one lengthe, thus: = , bicause noe .2. thynges, can be moare equalle..

More about the life of Robert Recorde can be read in the Wikipedia, of course. He must have been quite a character: he taught mathematics in Oxford in his youth, went on to study medicine, then became a “controller of Mint” in several places. He also wrote the first English book on Algebra, called “The Grounde of Artes“, and later followed up with a book that introduced the equals sign (his invention) as well as the symbols for plus and minus that were already in use in Germany.

Click on the image to go to the original text of Robert Recorde

Click on the image to go to the original text of Robert Recorde

One of the commentators on the Ars article says the text of this 1557 work is transcribed in the Gutenberg Project; unfortunately, that’s wrong. A copy of “The Whetstone of Witte” can be found in the Internet Archive.


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The title of the article on this German motorcycle website is not exactly correct, but it may well point to something that will soon be a reality: “Südtirol sperrt ersten Dolomitenpass. Experiment am Sellajoch“. No, this alpine pass, the Sella Pass, isn’t permanently forbidden for all traffic. But local authorities are experimenting with an interdiction for all cars and motorcycles powered by combustion engines: this summer, only cyclists and electric vehicles – and horses – can travel over the pass on Wednesdays. I can appreciate the words of Reinhold Messner, one of the supporters of this measure, as quoted in the article:

Damit die Berge wie vor 200 Jahren genossen werden können: Der Berg ist ein Ort der Langsamkeit und des Schweigen, nicht der Geschwindigkeit.

Translated to English: “That way, the mountains can be enjoyed like 200 years ago: the mountains are the realm of slowness and silence, not a place for speed“.

Photo by Klaus Nahr (CC BY-SA 2.0) on Flickr

Some cities have already set the first steps into a future with more electric vehicles, and now the mountains could well be next in line. I understand the rationale behind that strategy, even if it means that I can no longer wait too many years to try a few mountain passes myself (or invest in an electric motorcycle, of course).

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A while ago my iPad played up, forcing me to reinstall it through iTunes. Since I do not keep much data on the device itself, this wasn’t much of a problem, except for the time lost with a bit of tinkering and figuring out how to do it correctly – it was the first time I had to resort to this measure.

In the course of the procedure I was asked to enter my “iCloud Security Code“. I take great care to register all my passwords, as I explained in “Minding your own password business“. But my files showed no knowledge of such a code. Strange: could I have forgotten to write it down?

Searching on the Internet helped to clarify things. Matthew Green is a well-known cryptographer, and his article titled “Is Apple’s Cloud Key Vault a crypto backdoor?” not only tells you that the iCloud security Code is (usually) identical to you iPad passcode. It is, in fact, a rather comprehensive yet clear overview of how Apple handles your passcodes and crypto keys in the iCloud Keychain. Good reading material for when you have a clear mind ;-)

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Just a quick notice, to inform all SGS7 users in Belgium that Samsung made a system update available in Belgium. This update brings Android on the SGS7 up to the Android security patch level of June 1st, 2017. We can only hope that Samsung will increase the number of updates in the near future. Oh, and they might offer us Android 7.1 as well, of course – if they wait much longer I will be requesting Android 8 rather than 7.1 !

This is what my machine now tells me about the operating system

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Isn’t there a saying about the truth coming from a child’s mouth?

“I stood in front of them and said, ‘If someone is mean to you online, you have to be meaner back,’” an almost verbatim echo of Sanders’ and Melania Trump’s discourse. Aftab wanted to see how the kids would respond. “This one girl with bright red hair took her books from her lap and slammed them on the floor. She said, ‘No, it’s wrong, it’s just wrong!’ And I said, ‘Well, why is it wrong? We do it in New York.’ And she looked at me and said, ‘Well this isn’t New York. This isn’t the United States of America. This is Canada, and we’re nice to people here.’”

Aftab laughed. “We need to listen to that fifth-grader and remind ourselves about what’s right and what’s wrong. … Feeding fire with fire just means you’re going to burn down the town.”

It’s worth reading the whole article titled “How the Psychology of Cyberbullying Explains Trump’s Tweets“.

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On June 16th, 2017, the Aboriginal Art Museum Utrecht (Utrecht, Netherlands) closed its doors. The AAMU was a private initiative, started by a few collectors, and supported by a few sponsors and lots of volunteers. My wife and I visited the AAMU last year, and appreciated it for its wide range of works. According to the last annual report, there wasn’t enough money to keep the museum open, and an arrangement was found to transfer the collection of some 800 works to the National Museum for World Cultures.

Just a sample of one of the works of the AAMU, as shown on the remaining homepage of the site today…

Sadly enough, such a transfer of the collection ignores the fact that the AAMU was so much more than a collection. The museum also included an art shop, a small video theatre, and a little bar plus terrace. Not to mention the fact that it was located in the historical centre of Utrecht, smack in the middle of the busy centre of the town. We had intended to go back to the AAMU, to check out the new offerings of the museum ánd the shop. That plan will no longer work. I guess we’ll have to return to Australia…

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The weather was very dry last month in Belgium, and our farmers don’t like that. In terms of sunshine, the month was rather average. Our solar panels registered 102% of the average solar energy production for June over the previous 7 years: better than expected after the low numbers so far this year, but far from exceptional.

On to July and the summer holidays!

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