Month: December 2005

Animal housing unit inspection :-)

This afternoon, the secretary of the university ethics committee came to visit (inspect) our animal housing unit. We (and I) can be proud of our work since he said quite a few times that we have a “model” unit, a unit that is clean, etc. 😀 As I said before, the animal wellbeing is one of the top priorities in the lab. And it is always good to be congratulated for our work (since I am working alone in my unit, it doesn’t happen often and it is even more important for me).

No network at work

Today, internet was down from 8.30 to 15.40 (I don’t know the reason). We were able to work on the local network but not further. No mail, no web surfing, no chat, nothing. This gave us the opportunity to work hard 🙂 Soon after the “disaster”, I looked for incidents on verious support websites. I didn’t find anything. But I do find some interesting graphs about the internet connection. For example:
Belnet Liege connection status
Of course, this link is completely useless if the connection is down (since we wouldn’t be able to access it). And, anyway, it’s again a geek-only concern.

Trying to use libpng

I am currently (i.e. during the night, my only free time) trying to use the libpng in order to open PNG files and process them later. I haven’t read the entire manual yet but, following their example.c, I succeeded in opening a file, check if it’s really a PNG, read all the data and display some basic information about it (width, height, bit depth, …). Next step: process the data (I will probably only be able to do it during the next week-end).

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).