Part of a conversation I overheard in the dining hall today, apparently between two maybe third-semester computer scientists:

These information engineers are the worst! I have met them in my CS 2 class! They ask the weirdest questions and they don't even know basic mathematics!

Despite the insult, this amused me. Silly boy, believing anyone here hasn't been tortured with "basic mathematics" for a significant amount of time ;)

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An homage to the famous 1970s arcade game Space Invaders, seen on an office door at the University of Karlsruhe:

Space Invaders

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With my discount card for young people from the French train system, sometimes buying train tickets leads to strange results: This time, because second class tickets were almost sold out (and I was unable to get anything more than a 25% rebate), first class tickets actually turned out to be cheaper:

TGV First Class Tickets

So I will soon be able to give the first class seats in the latest-generation French TGV trains a shot. If you twist my arm, I guess I can resort to this kind of traveling ;)

This will of course only happen if they figure out their little major strike problem soon over there. We'll see.

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Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee made an interesting election commercial featuring nobody less than the actor that all other actors are merely imitating, everybody's favorite idol and the guy whose fists are faster than light: Chuck Norris.

I know what you're thinking now: "Where can I vote for Chuck, and who's that other guy in the commercial anyway?" (after all, you American voters have made an actor president before, and the Californians have made one governor, so this seems to be the logical career step for American actors). Maybe next time he'll have a heart and roundhouse kick his way to the Oval Office?

(Thanks for the link, Tara!)

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A few months ago, I bought a 4 GB USB stick and at the time, I didn't know what it meant that it said "(U3)" in the price list behind it. At home, I realized that the stick had some weird partition on it, resulting in a "CD drive" being mounted along with the actual data partition when I plugged it into a Mac or Linux computer.

After short digging, it turns out U3 is a proprietary software made by Sandisk and others intended to allow portable applications on USB drives. This sounds like a good idea, but drawbacks are numerous: For once, it only works on Windows: When you plug in the USB stick, the computer starts working hard and some sort of software called the "Launchpad" is started magically: The U3 Launchpad starting This is not only slow, but I can also see fellow students killing me for messing with their computer when they just wanted to copy a file real quick.

Luckily, I got a hint that the U3 software is uninstallable, making my USB drive decently usable on all platforms as expected: Click yourself through the U3 site, download the uninstaller and if you want to be nice, even tell them why you uninstalled it ("I needed the 6 Megabytes", funny): U3 Removal

Note though that uninstalling U3 will wipe your entire USB stick, so you better make sure you backup everything valuable before you do this. Afterwards, you and your USB stick can finally live happily ever after. :)

By the way: Quality- and speed-wise, Toshiba USB sticks rock.

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When I read's word of the day today:

aggrandize: To make or make appear great or greater.

... I thought, ah! That must be the same as embiggen!

However, I wonder: Is "aggrandize" a perfectly cromulent word? ;)

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As we established before, X11 on OSX 10.5 Leopard is, at least kind-of, broken.

Gladly, there are numerous community efforts to bring our tragic hero back on stage. For example, like in OSX 10.4 Tiger, it is possible to deactivate the XTerm window starting up every time you start X11. It has just become a little more complicated.

First, this is what has changed with launching X11 on Leopard (as described on

In Tiger, when you launch X11, it runs .xinitrc, and .xinitrc runs xterm (unless you comment that line out).

In Leopard, is just a launcher. All it does is run /usr/bin/login -pf $USER /usr/X11/bin/xterm. In other words, its only purpose is to run xterm (semi-)directly, by itself--it's not the actual X11 server anymore. When xterm starts, launchd sees it, notices that xterm requires X11, and launches the real X11 server (/usr/X11/ automatically.

In other words, there's no commenting out a line in .xinitrc anymore in Leopard. Instead, we need to change the launcher itself (as described in the very useful X11 on Leopard FAQ on macosxhints):

defaults write org.x.X11_launcher app_to_run /usr/X11/bin/xlsclients

Instead of xlsclients, we can alternatively run xprop (thanks, JP!). Both applications have the good habit not to do much (i.e. not to waste a lot of cycles/energy/water/CO2/whatever) and also not to open an annoying window like xterm does.

Hope this helps :)

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Gimp LogoOn our neverending bug journey though Leopard land, here we go with the next episode: in connection with the Gimp.

Apparently, Apple did not find time to test one of the (if I had to guestimate) most used X11 applications on the Mac with their newest version of X11. Therefore, X11 on Leopard crashes frequently with the latest Mac version of the Gimp image editing software.

Also, when you pick, say, the brush tool and move it over an image, the tool pointer sluggishly follows the mouse pointer around until, about 2 seconds later, they meet up again. This looks funny, but makes actually using the Gimp kind of impossible.

Fortunately, the bugs in the shipped version of Leopard can be resolved by installing upgraded versions of libX11 and Xquartz as described on the Wiki. This worked flawlessly for me, but make sure to make a backup of the libraries before you replace them, in case something goes wrong.

By the way: Does anyone know how to remove the XTerm window that always pops up when starts?

(Thanks for the link, Jean Pierre!)

Update: The RC3 version of Gimp from seems to lead to problems, even after fixing X11 as described above. However, until the gimp-app guys release the stable version (currently: 2.4.1), there is a community build available from Nasendackel (German). Good job!

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The recently introduced IMAP feature of Google's GMail seems to get increasingly more popular.

Still, in order to make popular email clients play well with GMail, they need some tweaking. Most notably, the default "Trash" folder assumed by most email clients will just create a GMail tag named [Imap]/Trash instead of actually putting the email into GMail's trash folder.

Though, the good news is, help is near! Lifehacker has an excellent tutorial on tweaks you can apply to Thunderbird in order to solve this and other problems and make the most out of the Thunderbird+GMail combination.

For the passionate Mac users, Jean Pierre describes how to choose the GMail Trash folder in Apple Mail.

On a side note, choosing a special Trash folder is slightly complicated in Thunderbird (editing about:config is pretty advanced, I'd say). Unfortunately, this contradicts the recommendations on IMAP4 implementation (RFC 2683), section 3.4.8 ("Creating Special-Use Mailboxes"), where it says:

In addition, the client developer should provide a convenient way for the user to select the names for any special-use mailboxes, allowing the user to make these names the same in all clients used and to put them where the user wants them.

For "Sent", "Drafts" and "Templates", this is indeed already very conveniently handled in the account settings dialog, yet for the Trash we need to edit special preferences, which is slightly confusing.

Interestingly, there is already a bug on this (and has been for a while). The good news is: According to one of the comments, this is fixed in the trunk, so we can hope to get this feature with the next major release of Thunderbird. :)

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I just noticed that during the last few weeks, through the projects I am working on and classes I am attending now, the number of programming languages I am handling on a daily basis has increased to six:

  • PHP and JavaScript, for AMO and similar
  • Perl, for Bouncer
  • Python, for Kubla CMS
  • C for my Systems Architecture and Parallel Programming classes
  • Visual Basic for an older in-house software project I am maintaining

(Let's not mention the occasional line of Assembler that programming assignments tend to require ;) )

I am excited: More variety spices this all up a little. Though sometimes the drawbacks in the respective languages become all too obvious when only days before you have done the same thing in another language with 2 lines of code and today you need 20 to do it elsewhere. But I guess the motto of the mutt email client does apply to programming languages too:

All programming languages suck -- some just suck less :)

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