Book Reviews

[Day Permalink] Friday, November 1, 2002

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'Oldest' star found in galaxy: "This is the oldest star in our Milky Way yet observed by astronomers. It could date back to the beginning of the Universe, about 14 billion years ago." [Google Technology News]

[Item Permalink] Native SVG in Mozilla -- Comment()
I have been using OmniWeb as my principal browser, and Mozilla as my secondary choice. The advanced features of Mozilla are making me use it more and more. Today I learned about the native SVG in Mozilla:
The Mozilla SVG implementation is a native SVG implementation. This is as opposed to plug-in SVG viewers such as the Adobe viewer (which is currently the most popular SVG viewer).

Some of the implications of this are:

  • Mozilla can handle documents that contain SVG, MathML, XHTML, XUL, etc. all mixed together in the same 'compound' document. This is being made possible by using XML namespaces.
  • Mozilla is 'aware' of the SVG content. It can be accessed through the SVG DOM (which is compatible with the XML DOM) and manipulated by Mozilla's script engine.
  • Other Mozilla technologies can be used with SVG. XBL coupled with SVG is a particular interesting combination. It can be used to create graphical widgets or extend Mozilla to recognize other specialized languages such as e.g. CML (chemical markup language). There are samples of these kinds of more advanced usage patterns on

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Cheats Wreak Havoc on SETI@home: Participants: "As the race to contribute the most computing power to the SETI@home distributed computing project enters its final two-month stretch, participants are accusing project administrators of ignoring claims of cheating. The sudden gains made by relative newcomer SETI@Netherlands, which have helped it rapidly close the gap between it and current leader ARS Technica-sponsored Team Lamb Chop (ATLC), are arousing suspicion. IT professional and SETI@home expert Max Nealon notes that some members of Team Netherlands are returning 5,000 work units (WUs) every day, but estimates that it would take a 1 GHz PC devoted to SETI@home processing six hours to complete just 1 WU. The idea that team members could possess 1,250 GHz of processing power dedicated solely to the project is dubious, he explains. Adding fuel to his argument are allegations reportedly made by SETI Netherlands' team manager, claiming that cheating is common and that 41 percent of the team's work is invalid."

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Mac OS, SCO, Tru64 Are Safest OSes: "The Apple Macintosh, SCO Unix and Hewlett-Packard Tru64 Unix operating systems are the platforms least prone to hacker attacks and damages from viruses and worms, according to a study released Thursday by security firm mi2g." [Google Technology News]

[Item Permalink] Books on SVG -- Comment()
Selected books on SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics), details from
SVG Essentials (O'Reilly XML)
by J. David Eisenberg
Paperback: 364 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.97 x 8.98 x 5.99
Publisher: O'Reilly & Associates; ISBN: 0596002238; 1 edition (February 2002)

SVG Programming
by Kurt Cagle, Michael Bierman
Paperback: 624 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.49 x 9.28 x 7.48
Publisher: APress; ISBN: 1590590198; 1st edition (July 12, 2002)

SVG Unleashed
by Chris Lilley, Daniel J. Ayers, Randy George, ch Wenz, Andrew H. Watt
Paperback: 1152 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 2.24 x 9.00 x 7.42
Publisher: Sams; ISBN: 0672324296; 1st edition (September 20, 2002)

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MetaFilter writes: "Recreational mathematics and fractal graphics continue to stimulate the mind and foster student interest in mathematics. Some favorite authors & books in this area include: Martin Gardner's books (like The Colossal Book of Mathematics and The Night is Large), Cliff Pickover's books (like The Mathematics of Oz and The Zen of Magic Squares), Calvin Clawson's Mathematical Mysteries, Ian Stewart's books and puzzles, and Ivars Peterson's writings (like Islands of Truth). What are your favorite books and web sites in this area for stretching the mind and eye?"

[Item Permalink] SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) -- Comment()
I saw today an impresive demo of an SVG-based www application. SVG is an XML-based format for publishing scalable (and scriptable) graphics on the web. On Mac OS X, Mozilla (versio 1.2a) managed to show and print SVG without downloading any additional plug-ins. For IE you probable need to download software from Adobe.

The best feature of the format: you can generate SVG files from your programs, and also post-process and combine SVG files using XML tools. The new versions of FreeHand and Illustrator can edit SVG files. You can also render (with freely available tools) SVG graphics into JPEG, GIF, or PDF files, if you want. But many features (such as zooming, scripting and editability) are then lost. Here and here you find some SVG examples. There is also SVG FAQ. And you can test the SVG rendering of your browser.

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Cracking Cancer: "Thus the war on cancer, rather than turning into a rout as some scientists had hoped only a few years ago, remains a grueling battle of attrition. So far, targeted drugs have produced dramatic advances for only a few less-common forms, including leukemia, certain stomach tumors and a subset of breast cancers. The major killers--tumors of the lung, colon, prostate and pancreas-have resisted targeted therapies." [News Is Free: Popular Items]

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Shamed Scientist's Work Fills Web: "The discredited findings of former Bell Labs scientist Hendrik Schon -- who was exposed for fabricating research results and fired in September -- lurk online, not marked as fraudulent. What's a webmaster to do? By Kristen Philipkoski." [Wired News]

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Developers release Linux for clustered computing: "It's designed to let users connect together low-cost PCs to handle the kind of complex computational tasks usually tackled by expensive supercomputers." [Computerworld News]

[Item Permalink] Windows is a cult? -- Comment()
Yesterday I talked for some time with a senior university researcher I have known for several years. He asked questions on how to get certain Unix codes running on Mac OS X (the codes used OpenGL for graphics).

The researcher mentioned that he was unable to get help from the IT support people, because they were a kind of cult, familiar with only the Windows world. They were unable to cope with anything outside their scope. I'm not sure how usual this is, but perhaps there is something cult-like in the Windows support in many places: "I'm the expert and I know how things have to be done."

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Mathematicians Prove Tetris Is Tough: "Now scientists have shown mathematically that the problem posed by Tetris's descending tetrominoes is one of the most difficult to solve, even if you know which pieces are coming next. Erik D. Demaine, Susan Hohenberger and David Liben-Nowell of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology determined that Tetris qualifies as an NP-complete problem. That is, although it's relatively easy to check whether a solution to the problem is valid, there is no efficient way to optimize any of the game's objectives." [News Is Free: Popular Items]

[Item Permalink] Floating-point arithmetic -- Comment()
The following article by David Goldberg is a classic in computational science. I have cited the article numerous times, for example in our textbook on numerical analysis (available in PDF, in Finnish). The article is essential reading for all who are interested in computational science. Floating Point Arithmetic: "David Goldberg. What every computer scientist should know about floating-point arithmetic. ACM Computing Surveys, 23(1):5--48, March 1991." (Thanks to Lambda the Ultimate.)

[Item Permalink] Google tips -- Comment()
JD's New Media Musings writes about Google search tricks:
Or combine: "california" filetype:xls site:gov intitle:state to get spreadsheets from .gov sites that contain the word California and have the word "state" in the title.
Here is a different example from the previous US-centered one: linux filetype:html site:fi intitle:kirjasto. This searches Linux-articles in HTML in Finland, with the word kirjasto (= library) in the title.

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rebelutionary points to a Java book by Sarah Michelle Geller: Data Structures & Algorithm Analysis in Java. My first question was: Who is this Geller, but the cover picture of the book made it clear. Nice Amazon spoof!

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How Apple Is Expanding Its Universe: "OS X is good, but its promise is even better. Think of Apple's new operating system as a launch pad for an arsenal of new technologies. These features will change not only Macs but PCs, too, as their makers follow Apple's lead in innovation." [osOpinion]

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Ruling Scheduled in Microsoft Case: "The federal judge overseeing the Microsoft antitrust case will issue her decision Friday, determining whether to impose sanctions on the company beyond the proposed settlement. By Amy Harmon." [Headlines From The NY Times]

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Biotech Company Plans Trials on Gene Therapy for Anemia: "A biotechnology company hopes to begin clinical trials next year on what it says will be a cheaper and more convenient way to provide the anemia drug erythropoietin. By Andrew Pollack." [Headlines From The NY Times]

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Coffee linked to mental abilities in elderly women: "Elderly women who drank relatively large amounts of coffee over their lifetimes appear to out-perform less frequent coffee drinkers in certain tests of mental abilities, according to new study findings." [Reuters Health eLine]

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Seb's Open Research writes: "Just when you thought you could have no more fun with Google, along comes Googlism. I like what it says about me, even if it's a little dated... :)" (via Brad Choate's blog.) [Halavais: News]