Month: December 2005

My webcam is working (again)!

A capture from the webcamMy webcam is finally working with Fedora Core 3. Thanks to Luc Saillard’s page on Philips USB Webcam Driver for Linux, I was able to download and put a new module for my webcam (a Logitech Quickcam Pro 4000). I first tested it with GnomeMeeting and it worked fine. Thanks to camE, I was able to take this snapshot (and get rid of any unnecessary GUI ; snapshot is a reduced version of what I get).

Now, two things:

  1. I was able to use my webcam “out-of-the-box” with one update of my Fedora Core 3. I don’t know what went wrong but, when I re-installed it, everything was broken. So, now, I know how to do it.
  2. You won’t see a kitch webpage with my webcam refreshed every 30 seconds. But I’ll try to do useful things like monitoring what’s happening in my lab, etc..

Liege is a top criminal city (following an european urban audit)

Following an urban audit from the European Commission, Liege (the city where I am living) is one of the top criminal city in Europe (detailed results here)! In 2001, they counted 256 crimes for 1000 inhabitants. In Belgium, Bruxelles has 153 crimes and Charleroi, a city one often refers as a mafia city has only 144 crimes for 1000 inhabitants. Even big capital cities like London has a lower scores than Liege (146) …

Well, do I feel insecure when I am walking outside, at night? Not particularly. Of course, there are part of the city where I don’t want to go (and have nothing to do, anyway). But I thinks that’s the same in every city, isn’t it? My brother-in-law and sister-in-law really hate Liege (they had very bad social experiments here, I think). But, in my laboratory, some foreign scientists (from UK, Germnay, Canada) find Liege pretty and cosy (maybe they don’t want to disappoint us).

Apart from that, there are some interesting points I’ve learned ..

  • Liege had, in 2001, only 184604 inhabitants. That means that it wasn’t considered as a “big city” anymore (it has to have more than 200000 inhabitants for that).
  • There are only 6% of non-EU nationals.
  • Unemployment rate is one of the highest in Europe, with 24%.
  • The median disposable annual household income is only 16748 &euros; (we even don’t have that with a Ph.D. grant!) but it’s also in the middle of what people earn in other European cities.
  • Finally, in 1991, only 21% of resident population have a secondary education (and only 5% have a tertiary education, despite the fact that there is a university in the city).

Mixed feelings …

Caffeine enhances short-term memory

Caffeine is currently the most widely used stimulant in the world (it can be found in coffee, tea, soft drinks and chocolate, e.g.). For the first time, researchers have directly demonstrated that caffeine modulates short-term working memory.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), Florian Koppelstatter (Medical University Innsbruck, Austria) and his colleagues determined the effects of caffeine consumption on brain activation in a network of modules subserving short-term memory of healthy adult volunteers during a working memory task (working memory represents brain activity required to remember things for a short period of time). When given caffeine (approximately the amount in two cups of coffee), the volunteers demonstrated a tendency towards improved short-term memory skills and reaction times during the given task. The fMRI showed increased activity in brain regions located in the frontal lobe and the anterior cingulum. This shows that caffeine modulates a higher brain function through its effects on distinct areas of the brain. What is exciting is that by means of fMRI, they were able to see increases in neuronal activity along with changes in behaviour.

But, although they have shown that caffeine exerts an influence on the function of the normal brain, we still have to learn more about caffeine’s effect on mental resources. Don’t go to the coffee shop right now …

Looking for C/C++ free source code?

If you are looking for free (as in “free speech”) C/C++ source code, could be interesting for you. Apparently, Robert Schultz spent one year using various tools to enter millions of lines of C/C++ code from free software in a database. Most of the code come from software under GPL (more than 40% ; see all the licences parsed and all the packages used). And results are color-coded for the pleasure of your eyes.

The server looks a bit overwhelmed this night. But it could be interesting to compare the Linux kernel swear count with a similar search on this database. More seriously, this database can become an invaluable tool when people or companies are pretending some free software project stole code from their closed-source projects (although I don’t think csourcesearch archive old versions of software packages).

Oxford resumes work on animal lab

Oxford University is building a new facility to replace and regroup all its laboratories working with animals. In July 2004, after a campaign of protest from animal rights group, works stopped. They are now resumed (BBC story).

I am working with animals in my laboratory and, if I can understand some arguments from the animal rights activists, I can’t understand why they are going that far. A big part of the “modern comfort” that Europeans and North American are used to comes from and needs animal experimentation. For example, if we take any drug, it has to be tested on animal first before coming to the market. Of course, you can use in vitro cells but the complex behaviour of an animal (including the human) won’t be there. Animals are a collection of cells; but these cells are not the same in the arm or in the brain: they are specialised. How can you be sure that a general in vitro cell will react in the same way as an animal (including the human)? If we completely abolish animal testing, will you still go in court if a drug have side effects (that would have been spotted if tested first on animals) on you?

Now, I do not accept that one do anything with experimental animals. I am handling my rodents from the first day in the animal housing facility to the last one. I cannot tolerate any harm. I am trying my best to reduce the number of animals needed in my experiments. I also try my best to reduce pain and stress while doing these experiments. The amount of administrative papers is huge. The university ethical committee includes members from the “outside world” (even from animal rights groups, I think). The quality of external control is very high and strict. I think it’s the same (or even better) in Oxford University. So please let controlled scientists do their job!

Firefox dans le journal "Le Monde"

(For once, this post will be in French since I am refering to a French newspaper)

Dans son article intitulé "Firefox souffle 18 bougies et poursuit sa mue", Eric Nunès parle de la sortie de Firefox 1.5, de ses parts de marché (notamment face aux autres navigateurs), de la fondation Mozilla Europe et du projet de loi français interdisant tout système de diffusion de connaissance n’intégrant pas un procédé technique de traçage de l’utilisation privée (HTTP, FTP, SSH, etc. ; certains diront que c’est la fin des logiciels libres, d’autres que c’est la fin d’internet …).

Juste une petite remarque qui me fait bondir à chaque fois : un logiciel libre n’est pas un logiciel gratuit ! C’est vrai que je ne connais pas de logiciel libre qui ne soit que payant. Mais la gratuité financière n’est pas inscrite dans la définition d’un logiciel libre.