Good luck, USA!

I am not really paying attention to the presidential election in the US, but from what I have seen so far, it seems the American people have to make the unenviable choice between plague and cholera. No matter what they choose, they're fucked! No wonder so many people don't bother to vote!

Would you trust Donald Trump with a five dollar bill? Me neither! What about Hillary Clinton? Maybe a dollar, but definitely not five! Trump will take it and the lie to your face. Clinton will frame it on someone else or convince you it never existed in the first place. Now imagine leaving these two clowns alone in your house for an afternoon... Then imagine them controlling the most powerful nation on earth - and nuclear weapons...

Seriously, with so many millions of people in the country, why does it seem that only the obviously corrupt and outright nutcases can run for office there?

For a country I used to admire, I am truly horrified at the state it's currently in. If you can't elect decent people to office, you don't have a working democracy. You have a pseudo-democracy, which is potentially even worse than not having a democracy at all. The USA is a great country - for now. But something is seriously wrong - and it needs to be fixed!


A tribute to a secular Syrian girl with an attitude

Common sense seems to be the one ingredient lacking in practically everyone in the "European migration crisis" or whatever they call the Syrian (or thereabouts) refugee problem these days. I have been relatively quiet about the whole affair as I felt I didn't know enough about the background for the crisis to talk about it. The doesn't seem to bother any politicians on any side of the political spectrum, however you slice it, nor the media.
Few people dare suggest practical solutions, because the solutions may not be considered politically correct - and guess what happens when people can't talk about the problem? Like a veil of silence over a now nearly theoretical freedom of speech, the problem persists.

In the midst of politically correct stupidity of discussing whether they should give a golden ticket to 7 or 8000 refugees here and there, while a similar number daily walks into Europe after having discarded their passports before the border, while a million others are living in tents in a muddy Turkish plain and the most vulnerable are being lynched by religious lunatics inside Syria - in the midst of all this, I heard a voice of reason. And what gives it credibility is that the voice is from Syria. Not recorded in Syria, but it originated there. Of course I don't take everything she says as truth. Every claim must stand up to scrutiny. But I commend her for speaking out while nearly everyone else seem to have passed out.

What gives her even more credibility though is the fact that she seems to understand that secularity is the only way to create a stable prosperous country where everyone are safe. It's ironic really that the best way to protect religious people, to allow them to perform their rituals in peace and safety, is having a non-religious government. But that is the fact, and she, presumably having experienced it, knows.

This is it:
#RefugeeCrisis: What The Media Is Hiding, Help #SyrianRefugees Go Home: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHFnvFbThDE
Here on an Australian TV debate: https://youtu.be/GrEPadG0pQk

So I gave her this comment, and used the opportunity to blow off some steam:
Well done getting your point across here. The #1 thing a country needs to prosper is freedom and safety for its inhabitants. You can't get that for everyone without a secular government. Assad may not be the ideal leader, but considering the alternatives, he's the best for now. Let's knock down these barbaric extremists and get the country back to secularism and peace. We can deal with Assad later. It'll be much easier than dealing with ISIS or Al-Qaeda! The Russians either understand this, or have a more or less hidden agenda that in this case happens to benefit the Syrian people - well, apart from the bombing that is. Of course you can't get much help from the US, because 80% of them still believe they have an imaginary friend in the sky, that cares especially about them, hears their thoughts and watches them in the bedroom, and about half of them believe that the earth is less than 10000 years old. They can laugh about people who believe in prophets flying to heaven on flying horses, and the 72 virgins (or was it raisins?) awaiting suicide bombers in an imaginary sky brothel, but seriously, look at yourselves! Grow up already! Indoctrinated morons support other indoctrinated morons. They all think that it's easy to convince someone from another sect (because let's face it, Christianity and Islam are basically two huge sects based on the same stories) to believe their version of the nonsense - and they may be right, but they know that it's damn well impossible to convince a secular non-religious modern man - or woman - to start believing in fairy tales, whether they're one-and-a-half or two millennia old!  The people in power in the US have great difficulty dealing with their secular constitution, they can't just erase it, even if they would prefer a theocracy themselves. So they fight proxy wars on other people's land in the name of the supernatural, their childhood indoctrinations and pseudo-science. I don't know if it's ironic or sad, well no, I do - it's definitely sad, that it's the Christians that suffer the most in Syria, and who don't receive help, when they are the ones that are most compatible with the Americans in the first place. You could probably airlift them all to the US or Europe and they would integrate in months and become tax paying citizens before 2016 is over - but no, they's rather take the people who screams the loudest, and who in most cases aren't Syrians in the first place! And who is likely to live off social welfare for the rest of their lives because they're totally incompatible with the society they end up in. Great job, guys! Picking and choosing refugees to make sure the receiving country doesn't end up as the country the refugees came from is not acceptable to the politically correct elite. The Eastern Europeans don't seems to mind though, but of course those ex-commie savages are not PC enough yet... Of course Saudi Arabia don't like Syrians, or Israelis for that matter, free prosperous people who live (or at least used to live) in relative harmony without the need for religious nut cases to push medieval nonsense down their throats (and cut off the same throat - and the head above it - should they insult their imaginary friend) is a threat to their very existence, which is based on blind faith, and not much else. Religion really does poison everything! It may be too much to ask to rinse it off the face of the earth, and I don't really care what people believe behind closed doors, but in the name of freedom, liberty and prosperity, keep it out of the government - ANY government!


Have the Nigerian scammers moved to China now?

To: Recipients <quanhan1953@aliyun.com>
From: quanhan1953@aliyun.com
Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2014 15:59:01 +0800
Reply-To: qhan500@yahoo.com.hk
Subject: Re

Compliments of the day to you and I believe all is well. My name is Mr. 
Quan Han and I work in bank of china,Beijing. I have a transaction that I
believe will be of mutual benefits to both of us. It involves an 
investment portfolio worth(eight million,three hundred and seventy 
thousand USD) which I like to acquire with your help and assistance. 
Yours sincerely,
Quan Han.

Indeed, it seems they have!


How do I contribute to the open source community, where do I start?

Today I got this email, which puzzled me at first because I couldn't even remember what I had fixed, until I looked up the launchpad bug. I decided to publish my answer just in case someone else is wondering about the same thing, and happen to stumble upon my humble blog.

On 22/03/14 22:29, Ignesias Tan wrote:

Just wanted to say thanks for your bug-fix on launchpad for bug 788626, it worked like a charm thanks for contributing!!

Quick question though, im a noob at programming and linux etc.. and i was wondering how you went about figuring the bug fix out??  I understand the concept behind the encrypted home folder and long filename problem, and i am familiar with how your fix works, but i was just curious about what you do/ how you go about figuring this stuff out.. i want to be able to debug stuff myself at some point and contribute also, but am clueless on where to start.. any help (even brief intro) would be greatly appreciated!  thanks!

Hi Ignesias,

first of all, it's nice to know that my temporary hack helped somebody else too. I had the issue myself, which is why I made the temporary solution. My motivation for writing answers like that is two-fold. If I don't write it down, I might get the same issue later and have to figure it out all over again - that's wasted time. If I write it down in a public forum, then I might save someone else's time as well. Just like I save time so often when I find that someone else already found a solution to the issues I'm having.

This one is so long ago, I barely remember how I went about figuring it out. My guess is I searched for the file name and found it more than one place. Knowing the issue was with encrypted homedirs, the obvious solution is to move the files away from it, but there was no configuration option for where to store this resume file, so moving the files would be pointless, as they would just be recreated in the same place. At this point, it helps to know a bit about how the Linux file systems (in this case, ext3) work. The symbolic link is a wonderful piece of functionality. When the program looks for the directory to store the resume file in, the file system tells it "yeah, here it is!", but behind the scenes, it actually redirects it to somewhere else. The program doesn't even know it, unless it specifically checks, which is pointless in most cases because it simply doesn't matter.
If you come from Windows, you'll be used to a pathetically featureless file system and probably do not know about symbolic links. I also came from Windows, but it's a decade since I switched, and you learn a bit in that long time. It probably took a couple of years before I used symbolic links myself, and even longer before I understood what to do with hard links. But just like important new knowledge in any field, doors open once you get the concept and start using it. I'd recommend reading about symbolic and hard links, then try to use them. Reading about something is good, but it's much more powerful if you actually use your new knowledge. And use the command line as much as possible in order to force yourself to learn more. I always copy files with cp, rsync or mcp and move (rename) with mv, rsync+rm, or mmv. You'll be able to do most user activity just fine without ever using the shell, but you won't be able to fix many issues, and thus contribute back to the community. And by learning how to manage your own computer from the shell (console), you'll also learn how to manage your own server(s), which can be on the other side of the earth, so you have no monitor access to them. ssh is the thing to use then. That gets you the shell of another computer. One more thing: man. This command is very valuable. Most command line programs have a manual entry. If you want to know about rsync for example, type "man rsync" into the console prompt. That's my first point of call. The second is Google or duckduckgo.com.
Don't worry about not being able to contribute directly yet. There are many ways to contribute, including simply reporting issues, giving debug information (log files, etc) to people who can help, and what you just did, saying thanks.



Making of the children of tomorrow

I made a post over at tumblr about something I care deeply about - making sure that the next generation grows up to be "world citizens" and humanists, people who do not discriminate on race, class, sex, religion or nationality. People will rarely fight or do wrong to their own kind, so if their view of what is "their own" is widened to include all of our species, as well as other species for that matter, the wars from the past can no longer happen.

My tumblr post actually started out with a photo of my son, playing on his computer in a otherwise very rural environment. It looks somewhat out of place, but not for him. This made me think about how he has experienced the world, which led me down the path to how our children are experiencing the world as the diverse place it is rather than the single sided view nearly everyone in the past had, simply because they couldn't move around like we do now. And how this makes them better adapted to changes, more inclusive and more culturally aware.


Philippine customs - unpredictable as usual! But in this case, it's a good thing...

Living in the Philippines is nice, but it robs you of some great advantages more "civilized" countries enjoy, such as predictable customs and postal service.
It's not abnormal for the customs in the Philippines to delay any package for more than a month, while they supposedly check it, without telling anyone. The result of such check could be that they decide to charge you more than the package is worth in fees and duties, or it could be that they just give it to you. They could sit on your package for 6 weeks, or 1 week, or not at all.
If they decide to charge you a fortune in import tax, you can go to them and bargain the fee! I kid you not, it is actually negotiable! Although that sound great, I think the discerning reader can figure out what really is going on - they're just trying to get you to pay as much as possible (which surely they will pocket themselves), with no regard to what the actual customs duty or tax really is. Also, it's not consistently negotiable of course, only sometimes, and sometimes only after you tell them they can shove the package where the sun won't shine...
Whether you get the package right away or have to wait until they've examined it for a few weeks or months, and whether you have to pay or not, seems almost random. I've read that the customs in the Philippines regard any package sent from abroad not the ownership of the recipient until they have released it. Apparently it is a privilege, not a right, to receive packages from outside of the Philippines. They also, apparently, though not consistently, calculate the import tax based on their assumed retail value - not the purchase price. To me, that's the weirdest way to calculate import tax that I've ever heard of!
I have noticed though that lately it has become better. I'm not sure if this is because they've learned that I'm going to put up a fight if their fees are too high, so they don't bother, or if they've actually got some guidelines to follow, including a minimum value, where packages below that value should not be delayed and just forwarded right away. Or maybe the post office here in Magalang, who are very friendly, simply told the customs to stop messing around with my packages as they have other things to do!
In any case, I am now happy to confirm that for the first time I've received packages from abroad (one from Singapore and one from China) which both arrived only around 10 days after being shipped, using regular mailThey were both low cost electronic components (not consumer electronics, but electronic components that a normal person would have no idea what to do with, or even what they are). That could also be why they didn't bother - they were of no value to them, so there was no hope that I'd just abandon it to them because I refuse to pay their ridiculous fees.
However I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt, so unless proven otherwise I'm going to assume that the customs have improved and are now on the way to becoming like the customs in industrialized countries. If this is the case, commerce in the Philippines will benefit greatly!
As a result of this positive surprise, I've now ordered loads of stuff from eBay. Obviously, they're all things that I need for my electronics projects, but had delayed for a long while because I was uncertain about what kind of problems I'd get in customs. I will pay close attention to how long each of the packages take to arrive here.
Here's the customs declaration the sender used on the last package I received:

UPDATE (2019)
After the Duterte administrations demands for modernisation of the BOC, they have now raised the minimum amount that will trigger VAT/customs duty from 10 pesos to 10 000 pesos! This means that all packages from abroad valued at 10k or less, there won't be any customs fees or delays.

Ebay/PayPal - to make is easy for you, we're going to waste your time by splitting your order...

Lying is not going to make customers less annoyed! Quite the opposite!

I recently bought more than 40 items from eBay in a single shopping cart. I had collected them there to prevent having to enter my PayPal password 40 odd times. When I finally checked out, I got the a message like this:
To make it easy for you, we have split your order. Please pay for there items first. Don't worry, the other items are still in your shopping cart. (my highlighting)
I ended up having to enter my PayPal details not only twice, but three times. It seems that they don't support more than 18 products a time. How is splitting my order making it easier for me? I don't get it! It's exactly the opposite.
I think this is just a blatant lie, the real reason being some technical issue. Couldn't they just tell the truth? "Unfortunately our system can't process more than 18 products at a time, so we have to split your order. We're really sorry about it and we're planning on improving this soon. In the meantime, some of the products you have ordered will remain in your shopping cart so you can check them out later."

I don't understand why they feel the need to sugar coat it so much that it transforms into a blatant lie.
If they just told it as it was, I wouldn't have anything to write a blog post about... It's acceptable to have limitations. It's not acceptable to try to hide it behind lies.