Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Reading on the financial crisis

Here's one via Martin Wolf in the FT: why Paulson is wrong. I've been reading FT alphaville - great fun - and various bloggers, articles etc. At least we are not short of opinions....

Me & Debbie were talking about this last night, like a pair of concerned amateur astrologers trying to understand a comet.... I think our conclusions were something along these lines:

1. Governments face inevitable pressures to protect voters' savings and houses; banks are therefore quite rational in lending irresponsibly.

2. If it goes ahead, the Paulson government bailout will create the conditions for another house price boom in the next economic cycle. This isn't sustainable. The banks are socializing their losses. (But, on a personal note - stay bullish on property in the long term!)

3. Larger banks are more likely to be "too big to fail" and therefore to lend irresponsibly. What is more, there is an incentive to grow so that one becomes too big to fail.

4. One solution might be to tilt the market towards smaller banks, to dampen the incentive towards inefficient growth. (I don't know how this could be done - maybe by offering them favourable interest rates?)

Monday, 15 September 2008

Getting your Creative Live! Webcam to work on Linux

This is for those of you with a Creative Live! Notebook Webcam - which IDs itself as 041e:4068 if you type "lsusb" on the command line - you'll get something like:

Bus 001 Device 002: ID 041e:4068 Creative Technology, Ltd

The issue with this baby is that it sends JPEG-compressed data, which your computer needs to decompress. For older kernels (2.6.24 and before) you can install the ov51x-jpeg driver. This contained JPEG decompression right in the kernel module. However this was only a part-time project (merci Romain) and not a permanent solution.

For newer kernels (2.6.27), there's a newer and less crazy trick - though obviously it would be nice to have things work out of the box so that Linuxhater won't laugh at us. In the meantime, go to this page to understand what's going on. Then download libv4l and untar it in your home directory.

You will now need the kernel headers for your latest kernel version. (That is, you need videodev2.h in /usr/include/linux.) This is probably best done by installing the package "linux-libc-dev" - at least, that works for me on Ubuntu. You can install the package from synaptic or with "sudo apt-get install linux-libc-dev". Make sure, of course, that it is the right one for your 2.6.27 kernel. (At the moment, I have to add the intrepid sources by hand.)

Now you are ready to go. In a terminal, go into the untarred directory "libv4l-0.1" and type "make". If this completes successfully, you should have some nice files ending in ".so" in a new subdirectory called "lib". Next, follow the instructions in the README file, by entering

export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=`pwd`/lib
export LD_PRELOAD=`pwd`/lib/

on the command line. Finally - with your camera plugged in - type "camorama" (or start another webcam application if you prefer - for me, camorama works but "cheese" doesn't). You should now see yourself on screen.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Reasons to vote for McCain

Jonathan Freedland: Obama is "the fresh start the world is yearning for". " If the free world could choose its leader, it would be Barack Obama."

Chris Spurgeon: the Republicans held a rally - just like the fascists - and support strong leadership - just like the fascists. "Only a leader with McCain’s war record and paternal qualifications can help Americans muster and maintain the tenacity necessary to 'drill baby drill,' (even though this will have no influence on oil price or supply) and generate the requisite hate to 'kill baby, kill.'"

Friday, 12 September 2008

OMGWTF Neurotic animals!

From "Genes, Evolution and Personality", Bouchard and Loehlin 2001. Formatting slightly screwed up, sorry, but I know none of you can resist the news that octopuses are neurotic.

Octopus neurosis 1: you change colour, but you think a passing crab may be laughing at you.

Octopus neurosis 2: nervously tangling your tentacles together.

Table I. Animal Personality Factors Based on Factor Analyses of Individual Animals Classified According to the Five-Factor Model
and Two Additional Factorsa
Five-factor model trait names Additional dimensions
Species Neuroticism Agreeableness Extraversion Openness Conscientiousness Dominance Activity
Chimpanzee x x x x x x x
Gorilla x x x x
Rhesus monkey x x x x x
Vervet monkey x x x
Hyena x x x x
Dog x x x x x
Cat x x x x
Donkey x x
Pig x x x
Rat x x
Guppy x x
Octopus x x x

Adapted from Gosling and John (1999); an x indicates that the factor or a combination of two factors was found for that species.