Month: October 2010

Installing Fedora 13 on a Toshiba Satellite L670-10K

I quickly needed a new laptop to continue working and I found a Toshiba Satellite L670-10K. It’s a nice entry-level laptop with a dual core processor (I didn’t know Intel was still doing Pentium-branded processors) and a 17″ screen (read the specs for other details). I downloaded the latest Fedora Linux (version 13, 64 bits ; and version 14 is coming soon) and installed it from the LiveCD. Nearly everything was recognized out-of-the-box: screen resolution, graphical card (Intel, with 3D effects), wired network, webcam, card reader, sound card, etc.

The only thing that was not recognized was the wireless network card: a Realtek RTL8191SE. Here is how to install it. On the Toshiba website for (Windows) wireless drivers, it is always associated with the RTL8192SE model. So don’t be surprised if the driver downloaded from the Realtek website is a file with RTL8192 in its name although you clicked on the link for the RTL8191SE-VA2 model. Unpack this file. The LiveCD doesn’t come with some packges so you have to install them (via the System menu, Administration, Add/Remove software). These packages are: kernel-devel, gcc and make. Once it’s done, do a simple “make;make install” as root and reboot the laptop. Your wireless connection is now up and running!

Wireless UFO?

If you want to have Flash on your 64-bits Linux, Adobe released version 10.1 of their Flash player with native 64 bits support. Download Flash player “Square”, unpack the archive and copy the (only) file “” in directory /home/yourusername/.mozilla/plugin, restart Firefox. You have now a Flash-enabled browser!

Finally, I must have done something wrong, somewhere but I kept having the first configuration screen after installation, even after subsequent reboots. After a quick search, I didn’t find anyone with the same issue. YMMV. In order to skip this screen (after you went through them a first time), just add the line “RUN_FIRSTBOOT=NO” in the file /etc/sysconfig/firstboot and voilà!

In conclusion, I’m very pleased with this laptop and Fedora. My Linux desktop was ready in just a few minutes. Let’s work, now! 🙂

A good issue of Nature, obviously!

The October 14th, 2010 issue of Nature is obviously a good one. It had to be a good one! I usually advocate Open Access but it is always nice to reading complimentary issues of Nature which is Closed Access but is also publishing very good articles about science at the same time.

In this issue, I was interested in various topics …

First, there is a serie of articles about the US midterm elections and what (US) scientists feel about two years of Obama administration. Obama promised total transparency in American science, a new era of integrity and more freedom for scientists. From what I read, this isn’t the case yet.

Then, there are two article about publishing computer code from scientific experiment. In a World View, Nick Barnes, director of the Climate Code Foundation takes some concerns about that to pieces. The main reasons to provide computer code is to improve programming skills (the software author’s and others’) and enable others to engage with your research. Don’t be ashamed of the quality of your code. Don’t be afraid of starting the trend if no one around you share their software. Don’t be afraid to refuse support when badly asked for. Don’t overestimate the intellectual property value of your code. Nick Barnes also wrote a blog post about it. And you can comment on the Nature article here.

In a News Feature, Zeeya Merali tells stories of scientists who found themselves in uneasy positions regarding to the software they wrote but, at the same time or later on, realised publishing their software was the best thing to do. Besides formalising one’s training in programming, Zeeya Merali advocates some simple steps to practise “safe software”: use a version-control system ; track sources, data and events ; write testable software ; test the software and encourage sharing of software.

I was also interested in these articles in two ways. First, I also realised the need of a formal training in programming during my Ph.D. and I eventually got a B.Sc. in computer science. In the team and field where I’m now working (Health Economics and modelling of infectious disease), I can clearly see the benefit of having such training. Don’t get me wrong: I meet wonderful colleagues every day who don’t have the training but have lots of skills and can solve lots of problems ; I just often see the ease to grasp algorithms as well as some better procedures and testing that comes with training. And, second, I would like to addd that free software licences are to be considered when publishing your software (for science or not).

In the same issue, there was also a small news about the Europe’s use of research animal. This reminded me of the good-old-days :-). Fundamental biology still account the largest proportion of animal experiments but what intrigued me is the 12.2% of “Other” usage.

There was also a comment on a book, The Professional Guinea Pig, about paid participants in phase I clinical trials. Interesting perspective from “the other side” of trials.

There is also an Outlook on the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. It features interviews with 10 Nobel laureates (it’s always nice to readd their comments on science) and an article about science in the digital age (not yet read but it seems interesting).

Finally, an ad for my previous lab (GIGA ULg) caught my attention, as well as the small article about Science in Belgium. I must however write that this article is a bad summary of the research landscape in Belgium with, for example, mention of only two universities: the KUL and the UCL (we have many more). Souvenirs, souvenirs.

Facebook updates: nothing to fuss about

So Facebook, the current paramount social website, updated its website with the possibility to download all your data (among other updates). I don’t see why people need to fuss about this.

Although maybe useful, the important is not to be able to retrieve your data. After all, if your pictures are on Facebook, they were previously on your computer / camera / whatever. So you should already have them (and Facebook sends them to you in a zip file? what a feature!). Unless Facebook allows you to also download data about you but uploaded by others; this is a bit more interesting from a sociological / academic point of view (what has been posted about you). And then? A “big” step towards interoperability between social websites? Are you joking? For interoperability, you need 2 partners and, to my knowledge, no other websites (social or not) are currently offering the possibility to upload data from Facebook. Will it arrive? I’m sure of it. Is it secure? I doubt it: nothing is 100% secure in IT, Facebook is no exception. But this is still not important!

The important thing would have been to have total control on your data. The ability to post data. The ability to effectively remove data (Facebook policy explicitely states nothing is necessarily physically erased, not even your account if you decide to close it!). The ability to remove data about you posted by others. The ability to control data posted about your children. The ability to have real privacy.

So, why do I blog this? I don’t really get why people are so excited about this feature. Oxford building a new library [1, 2], why and how, this has nothing to do with the topic of this post but this is news!

Bodleian Library: Divinity School
Photo credit: Bodleian Library: Divinity School by Beth Hoffmann on Flickr (CC-by-nc-sa)