T-Mobile WiFi Hotspot login script

T-Mobile’s WiFi Hotspot service, thankfully, forgoes a proprietary authentication mechanism for a solution that while cross platform (i.e. it works with Linux), can be extremely annoying. On opening a web browser and attempting to go to any website, you’re required to login on an SSL-protected website with your account username and password before you can use the connection. If your web browser automatically tries to open many pages on startup, such as when you’re using the Session Saving extension for Firefox, you get T-Mobile’s Hotspot login page in every tab–extremely annoying!

I’ve written a small Python script that can login programatically without use of a web browser.

India's rejection of the OLPC $100 laptop

India’s Ministry of Education has said that India will not take part in the $100 laptop project [The Register]. Quoting the news article:

Education dismissed the laptop as “pedagogically suspect”. Education Secretary Sudeep Banerjee said: “We cannot visualise a situation for decades when we can go beyone the pilot stage. We need classrooms and teachers more urgently than fancy tools.”

The Playground, as well as many Internet commentators, think this is “fair reasoning.” I don’t see how–who ever said the laptop would replace teachers or classrooms? How exactly would they do that–is this supposed to make any sense?

Yes, the $100 laptop is a “fancy tool.” It is a fancy tool to facilitate a new age of electronic learning. Funds used to purchase these laptops should not be taken away from providing facilities and teachers, but instead on school supplies such as paper, pencils, and textbooks which themselves are generally expensive.

While India and much of the developing world may need more teachers and classrooms, yes, it’s a completely different problem that the $100 laptop isn’t meant to address. I’m waiting to see if there is valid criticism from India’s government in the future.

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A quick shell include for setting paths for programs installed in non-traditional locations

A page in the Beyond Linux from Scratch manual describes environment variables that should be set when installing software in a non-traditional location (e.g. your home directory).

I've written a sh/bash include that can be included from .bashrc to set these variables, as well as PYTHON_PATH for separately installed Python libraries:


#!/bin/bash

PREFIX=$HOME/usr

export PATH="$PREFIX/bin:$PATH"
export PYTHONPATH="$PREFIX/lib/python2.4/site-packages:$PYTHON_PATH"
export MANPATH="$PREFIX/man:$MANPATH"
export INFOPATH="$PREFIX/info:$INFOPATH"
export LD_LIBRARY_PATH="$PREFIX/lib:$LD_LIBRARY_PATH"
export PKG_CONFIG_PATH="$PREFIX/lib/pkgconfig:$PKG_CONFIG_PATH"
export CPPFLAGS="-I$PREFIX/includes $CPPFLAGS"
export LDFLAGS="-L$PREFIX/lib $LDFLAGS"

The philosophical difference between math and science

Contemporary society lumps math and science as one thing, but they are not the same. Reading a passage in Simon Blackburn’s Think, I saw some insight about this, which I will paraphrase and expand on here.

Math is based on abstractions, and relationships between abstractions. Abstractions in math are generally absolute truths, meaning it is impossible that the abstraction is not true. Very few things that are accepted in mathematics get retracted later. New abstractions can be formed from existing ones, usually from those that are absolute truths, and these new abstractions can be formed by simply sitting at a desk and thinking about it long enough: there’s an adage, a mathematician is a machine that turns coffee into theorems.

The basis of science is empiricism. One observes something about the natural world, and tries to create their own model of how it works or occurs–they try to turn it into math. When the conversion is successful, we can use the new math to create technology, to invent and engineer new things.

Verification of a model is usually not absolute, and through repetition and logic something is “believed” to be true when as far as anyone can tell there’s no evidence that it is false. The only way to verify something in science is to repeat it: you’re not going to get the next scientific breakthrough by only sitting at your desk. Because science is often not based on absolute truths, many things in science that are once accepted get retracted from days to centuries layer.

This philosophical difference I think explains how there can exist child prodigies, and their distribution among math and the sciences… There are many children who are math prodigies, fewer who are prodigies of physics, and almost none of chemistry. Child prodigies in biology and the life sciences are completely unheard of.

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