Flame Challenge: Can you explain a flame?

This is extremely interesting.  Alan Alda offers a challenge: Who can explain a flame to kids?

Here’s a link to get started:



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Indian Coral Bean Tree in California

At the Oakland Zoo.  These trees are important calendric markers throughout the Pacific.  I do not know what species this tree is, in the Oakland Zoo Parking Log.  See the photo in the header of this blog, from Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands.


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Saving comments to the exif file of jpeg images

I am using GNU/Linux.  I use several image viewing, organizing, and editing tools.   Having spent hours and hours organizing my photos in one utility, for example, Gthumb, a fairly straightforward tool, with comments, these comments are stored in an invisible dot file, accessible only from that application.  For years, I’ve wondered “How can I save these comments in a permanent manner?”

I have just made a little progress on this issue.  So I will post a BRIEF description of what I have found.  There is more to learn, and maybe I can get around to this another time.

There are at least two metadata standards:

  1. Exif:
  2. IPTC: the International Press Telecommunications Council standard.

Tags saved with Gwenview is only possible within Gentoo GNU/Linux when it has been compiled with certain USE flags.  I won’t get into this now.   Also, I don’t know how to go about doing this, yet, with Ubuntu or other distributions.

I finally experimented with tags today.  They were apparently saved as IPTC tags, not visible in the utility “exiftags” which I think is hardwired for a standard set of tags, to allow reading and maybe manipulation of exif tags of a few types in image files, maybe to change a date, I don’t know.

Another application is “jhead.”   With jhead, I was able to add an exif tag, “Comment”, with my own comments.  This tag is readable in jhead, at least.  And jhead also saw the IPTC tag I stored in the same image using Gwenview.

Other programs I am using are

  1. shotwell — good for importing files into a date tree from an SDCard
  2. Picasa — good at organizing, but has those sad volatile meta data.  Unfortunately Google, written originally in GNU/Linux, has not provided native GNU/Linux ports of this.  It runs on top of Wine.   Not completely acceptable yet.  Maybe good for uploading, if I get into that.
  3. gthumb
  4. digikam — I will experiment, but previously had some issues.  First, will it import to the same tree as shotwell?  I saw a comment on the Inet that Digikam uses IPTC metadata.  Interesting.
  5. gwenview (KDE4) — does a lot, and because it’s local (on the HDD) and is native, it is pretty attractive.  It’s gymnastics with tags are so far useful.   Saves tags in IPTC format.
  6. some gnome tools?

Here are some commands with jhead:

  1. to add a comment:: jhead -ce <path to file>
  2. to read the metadata (exif and IPTC):: jhead <filename>
  3. to see other options:: jhead -h

Here are the comments from an image I worked on today:

  ~/WB/org $  jhead  ~/Pictures/2012/03/22/img_0592.jpg
File name    : /home/deckert/Pictures/2012/03/22/img_0592.jpg
File size    : 130820 bytes
File date    : 2012:03:22 08:38:06
Camera make  : Canon
Camera model : Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS
Date/Time    : 2012:03:22 08:38:06
Resolution   : 2048 x 1536
Flash used   : Yes (manual, red eye reduction mode)
Focal length : 18.6mm  (35mm equivalent: 117mm)
CCD width    : 5.72mm
Exposure time: 0.017 s  (1/60)
Aperture     : f/14.0
Focus dist.  : 0.45m
ISO equiv.   : 100
Whitebalance : Manual
Metering Mode: pattern
Comment      : Tripod used, Crab Cove
Comment      :

======= IPTC data: =======
Keywords      : tripod


A more complete readout of standard exif tags is found with “exiftags”.  No custom or comment exif tags were seen.

~/WB/org $ exiftags ~/Pictures/2012/03/22/img_0592.jpg
Camera-Specific Properties:

Camera Model: Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS
Equipment Make: Canon
Camera Software: Picasa 3.0
Maximum Lens Aperture: f/4.9
Sensing Method: One-Chip Color Area
Lens Size: 6.20 – 18.60 mm
Firmware Version: Firmware Version 1.00
Owner Name: Alan and Fe

Image-Specific Properties:

Image Orientation: Top, Left-Hand
Horizontal Resolution: 180 dpi
Vertical Resolution: 180 dpi
Image Created: 2012:03:22 08:38:06
Exposure Time: 1/60 sec
F-Number: f/14.0
ISO Speed Rating: 100
Lens Aperture: f/14.0
Exposure Bias: 0 EV
Flash: Flash, Compulsory, Red-Eye Reduce
Focal Length: 18.60 mm
Color Space Information: sRGB
Image Width: 2048
Image Height: 1536
Rendering: Normal
Exposure Mode: Auto
Scene Capture Type: Standard
Unique Image ID: 5b5bfc656e8e1824c2814e2936491976
Focus Type: Close-Up (Macro Mode)
Metering Mode: Evaluative
Sharpness: Normal
Saturation: Normal
Contrast: Normal
Shooting Mode: Manual
Image Size: Unknown
Focus Mode: Single
Drive Mode: Single
Flash Mode: Red-Eye Reduction (On)
Compression Setting: Normal
Macro Mode: Macro
Subject Distance: 0.450 m
White Balance: Custom
Exposure Compensation: 3
Sensor ISO Speed: 160
Image Number: 100-0592




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Revisiting Linux Mint: Google dustup

Linux mint has worked pretty well for me over the past couple of months.   Linux Mint 12 is perhaps a more graceful step into the world of Gnome 3 than the jolting encounter with Unity in Ubuntu.

Now, however, Linux Mint has taken an unacceptable turn: the firefox search box has been rebranded with a Mint page that generates income for Mint, at a cost in my workflow that is unacceptable.   The willy-nilly changes in user interfaces has been a huge roadblock that has been encountered from time to time over my 18 years or so of using GNU/Linux.

Just as one fine tunes his work flow a new wrinkle is encountered—sliding eventually down a slippery slope toward more reliance on GUIs and ease of use, at the expense of the greatness / efficiency of GNU/Linux overall.   Gnome, for example, leaves much to be desired; however, there is a certain facility and beauty, not to mention ease of use, that has led me to a perhaps unhealthy dependency on.  I have developed workflows for various projects based on my reliance upon Gnome, for example.

From time to time, the work flow has been broken.  Oftentimes, it is me myself and I who initiate this disruption, looking for a better experience from, perhaps, KDE, or Fluxbox, or other “window managers.”   I recognise the “window manager” infrastructure has clung far to closely upon the Windoze model.   That “start” button was masterfully commented upon by Andy Rooney.   I can hardly express my disdain for Windoze.  So I won’t waste more of my time on it.

In recent years, KDE, and most particularly, KDE 4, have been the chief competition for Gnome in my mind.   What brings me back to Gnome is my habits, and how easily I can personally do the things I need to do within that kludge space.   What happens to me with something like Gnome 3 is utter disruption of my life.   I cannot handle it.  I won’t do it.

What does that leave me?  For now, I have Mint 12, that enables my work flow to closely adhere to that I have used for so long with Gnome 2, with a hybrid interface to Gnome 3 that enables me to use the panels that I rely up.  Panels are crucial for me.   Mint, however, has taken a turn that has marooned me, once again, in an unfamiliar world in my trusted Firefox browser.

Mint has obfuscated the search box with an insidiously proprietary “branding” page that excludes google search, in an attempt to extort/squeeze/blackmail Google into moving with Mint’s business model.  Harkening, in a most insidious manner to the days of shareware, and the new “app store” models that threaten our very lives.

At first I have tried to sidestep Mint’s jijacking of the search box, following some recipes found “online.”   They didn’t work, or worked cursorily, and I haven’t the interest in following it up any longer.  I am a blue blood.  I would rather jump ship than conform to a process that foils my ability to get things done.

Linux Mint, I quit.   I am now installing Gentoo on a spare partition or two.   Who knows what windows manager I will or will not use?   In the interest of clarifying (at least for myself) what this google embargo of Mint has done to harm me, here’s a short list of what I’ve noticed:

  1. Google is not available as a search engine, out of the box.
  2. Duckduckgo is the new standard (huh?)
  3. It is possible, with a good deal of trouble, to circumvent this, and get google installed as a search engine in the box.   I discovered at least two or three different ways to do this.
  4. Wait until you use Google Scholar!
  5. This is the kicker for me, the reason I quit Linux Mint: I cannot edit preferences for google scholar to enable bibtex citation output.   This is unacceptable.

This is just another case of the butterfly effect.  I will rename this Mint installation as “butterfly” and it will fly away.


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Mangroves in the Philippines

During my first trip to the Philippine Islands, I flew straight to Butuan CIty to join Fe and William, who had been there a few days.


Just ran across a blog post by the Philippines Field representative from Seacology, about a Seacology project at Malhaio, Cebu, Philippines: A Covenant for Malhiao’s Mangroves .

Malhaio is located on the W. Coast of Cebu, facing Badian Island.   The project involves and exchange of promises: Malhaio will implement a no-take zone of 73 hectares of mangroves, while Seacology will fund the building of a boardwalk and viewing deck to support the development of tourism.   Jobs are involved, for enforcing the no-take zone.


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Linux Mint

We got a new refurbished laptop for Fe, an HP Pavilion G7.  The Pavilion G6 I am now using has been running Mint Linux for a while: I like Mint, it is clean, it works well, and I was able to upgrade to kernel 3.0.1 (and now 3.0.4) with driver available for the ralink wireless adaptor.  I had trouble installing Ubuntu GNU/Linux on this laptop, mostly due to cluelessness on my part.   Some gymnastics were necessary, first trial and error for some days before I was able to get past the BIOS (F10 would have been good enough, had I known), to boot reliably from the Ubuntu CD; then having to compile the driver for the ralink adaptor.

Mint solved this problem in a roundabout way: deb packages were available on line for the aforementioned kernel, with full support for this adaptor.

Fe’s laptop is an HP G7, with a larger screen, for the most part indistinguishable from the G6.   It does, however, have an AMD processor and ATI graphics adaptor.   It seems quite responsive.   The installation of Mint 11 went without a hitch, once I had repartitioned: shrunk the main partition by 1/2, deleted the HP tools partition, installed 3 logical partitions for a swap space (right in the middle of the HDD space, which I still persist in believing will reduce the travel time of the HDD arm); the root partition of Mint, /; and /home.

Right away the wireless networks were detected, a clue that this machine did not have a ralink adaptor.   In fact it has a broadcom adaptor.  Historically, Broadcom has been a can of worms for linux users; however, within recent times Broadcom relinquished its stranglehold, at least in theory, and linux developers have generated some drivers, some at least by reverse engineering.   The upshot: Linux Mint with a 2.6 series kernel is working with this HP G7, right out of the box.   Proprietary drivers are listed as available:   FGLRX video for the ATI, and the broadcom wireless adaptor.  However, the machine is working ok without either of them.

The big news here is Linux Mint is quite workable.  It is based on Ubuntu, but has now gotten out from under that cloud by generating a newer branch, the LMDE—Linux Mint Debian Edition.   I have not tried it yet.  I am toying with the thought of moving back to Gentoo, or something similar.  I really like Gentoo, just don’t want to spend so much tweaking time.   I’ve got work to do… that’s always been when Free Software, and GNU/Linux have been about, for me.



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A “Daddy Long Legs” in Texas



A close up also.  This is not a spider.  A wonderful blog had a discussion of these creatures.



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