OpenMoko is growing

I just took a quick look at the statistics for the OpenMoko project and it made me happy.

Currently there is 3500 revisions in the svn repository and bugzilla has reached 1022 bugs, 241 of them are still open. The wiki has 3685 pages and 6090 registered users, and maybe more impressively, projects has 1507 developers and 81 projects registered.

The IRC channel on freenode has stayed at around 320 people for the last six months and there's a lot of interesting discussions going on. It's a friendly atmosphere and people interested in the project are encouraged to drop by. Usually, they get pointed to the right place in the wiki, where most questions have already been answered. A good page to read if you want to know what is going on in the project is the Community Updates page. Right now it has not been updated in over a week, but I'm sure it will be soon.

Unfortunately, a hardware bug in power management with GTA02v4 has required a fifth revision of the hardware for GTA02. It's a bit of a shame that the release will be delayed even further, but I'd rather have good hardware later, than something broken right now.

The most interesting code changes in OpenMoko recently involves gsmd, PhoneKit(pdf) and the dbus interface to it. The dialer and sms handling is also being worked at in a furious pace by the OpenedHand guys. Since about a week, calling has worked without any problems for me. Power management has been improved and the phone should last at least a day now.

Also, some guys from Ixonos have been working on an alternative to gsmd, gsmd2. I haven't looked at the code, but they have some very nice documentation and a detailed specification. Still, lots to be discussed it seems.

The GPS binary driver is still not available for download. OpenMoko have been promised by Global Locate that they will be able to distribute it, but the legal terms are not yet set. Hopefully this will be solved soon.

All in all, a lot is going on and the software will be in pretty good shape for when the GTA02 is released.


Our future climate concerns me

A few days ago IPCC (United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) released a document they "succinctly" call Policymakers' Summary of the Synthesis Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment. It's a complete summary of all the data on climate change, densely packed into 23 fact filled pages. (The full reports are much longer.)

The summary quickly showed up everywhere in the news, even at my favorite Ars. Reading through the document does make you think about the future of our climate. 11 of the last 12 years rank among the 12 warmest years ever measured since they started in 1850. For me personally, it has been some great warm and long summers and not a negative thing. For people living in northern Europe like I do, global warming will mostly make things better. The forests and crops will grow better, warmer summers, less freezing winters. The only downside for us will be an increase in precipitation. Most places will not be this lucky.

Although the temperature will increase the most at the poles, it's the places that are already dry and hot that will get the most serious problems. Serious droughts will follow, an increase in wild fires and agriculture and livestock will suffer. That might eventually lead to malnutrition and on top of that, clean drinking water will become a problem. The number of cyclones and storms is likely to increase too, and in low coastal regions and river deltas, increased risk of flooding.

Global increase in temperature for 2099 compared to 1999

The study also expects that in the long term, if the warming continues, the ice caps on Greenland will melt completely and raise the sea level with about 7 meters. This will take some thousand years or so, but it will be a noticeable increase just in the next 100 years.

Fossil fuel is the pink fields in these graphs

The primal cause for the emission of green house gases (GHG) is the use of fossil fuels. The concentration of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere is exceeding by far the natural range seen in the last 650,000 years. We need to cut down on the green house gas emissions on a global scale right now, and even using the most optimistic scenarios still points to an increase in global temperature.

A global increase of 1.5-2.5 degrees Centigrade would endanger 20-30% of the species assessed of global extinction. Most scenarios in the summary suggests a much higher increase in temperature...

If all future investments in infrastructure and energy plants are shifted to get the lowest possible CO2 emissions, the additional investment costs would be around 5-10% higher. That's not much at all, and simply increasing efficiency of energy supply and industrial processes would do a lot to stabilize GHG emissions on a global scale. It's good to see that UK is helping China to get started on this.

Maybe we have no choice in lowering our oil consumption. A recent article in Wired states that most likely we will be unable to maintain the current consumption because we just can't pump the oil up fast enough. Some says 10 years more is all we have.

My personal opinion is that oil based fuels are way too cheap. If prices were at least doubled, maybe driving around in a petrol car won't be the cheapest way to travel medium distances any more. Electric or hydrogen fuel cell cars, although still very expensive, would become a more viable option. Flying is also cheaper than it should be, and even though it's nice to be able to afford to fly away for vacation, I wish there was a less polluting option for long trips. I really do.


Memory and learning

I've been thinking a lot about learning and memory lately and there's been no shortage of interesting articles to read or videos to watch.

Over at wondr.net Jamin has started his Memory Month. He posts a new article every day, teaching you useful tricks for remembering everything from shopping lists and numbers to names of people you've just met. These methods will probably work great, but I'm to lazy to really sit down and do it since there's so many other things distracting me right now.

I don't believe in the old myth that humans only use 10% of the brain, but I do believe that there's a lot about the brain we don't understand at all yet, and maybe we never will. At Google Video they have some very interesting documentaries regarding the brain, for instance this documentary from Channel 5 in 2005 about Daniel Tammet or this one about Kim Peek. These savants have enormous counting skills huge memory capacities, but the brain power comes at a price. From mild autistic tendencies like Asperger's to completely anti-social autistic behavior.

It's been noted that these types of disorders are getting more and more common, especially in academic families and it's even been called The Geek Syndrome by Wired. The latest studies says that something between 3 and 20 genes are involved in causing these disorders. Incidentally this also seems to affect maths and science skills in a positive way. Abnormalities in the cerebellum, the "little brain" responsible for motor control and filtering sensory input and passing it on to the right part of the brain, is common in autistic persons. Kim Peek for instance, has a damaged cerebellum and no corpus callosum, the connection between the two halves of the brain, at all.

The brain is a pattern matching machine and it seems to me like it's automatically filtering the continuous flow of information washing over us, but if it's not filtered enough the person might be classified as slightly autistic. If the brain filters too much, parts of it just doesn't get used enough and will dwindle away. Of course this is an overly simple way of looking at it, but I'm certain it's a part of the puzzle.

I'm also convinced that the brain is a lot more flexible than people used to believe, even in grown ups. New born babies have twice the number of nerve cells they need, but the ones that aren't used just dies off. Usually this happens in two periods, first at a young age, then again around puberty. But the brain is not "frozen" after that at all. A recent study on mice shows that the nerve cells move around and stretch "in a highly dynamic fashion".

It's never too late to learn something new, but I think it's harder to really focus on learning just one thing when you're grown up compared to when you're still a kid. There's just too many things to think about and too many distractions, and so much interesting to learn.

Wish I didn't have to sleep so much, but a completely unscientific experiment on myself made me notice that when I sleep less then 6 hours per night, my memory isn't as good as it usually is. Things just don't stick. Also, I've noticed that I remember things I read in the evening better than the things I read in the morning. I imagine that my brain is working through the input from the day while sleeping, trying to keep only the seemingly important memories.

It's getting late, I'll go read a book.

Update: Great article about memory in National Geographic