About Me

When not at work with students, I spend my time in my room either reading, calculating something using pen and paper, or using a computer. I read almost anything: from the pornographic to the profound, although my main interests are mathematics and physics. "When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes." -Erasmus

Friday, December 30, 2011

Do We Really Know Rizal?

It's Rizal day, and one of the things I read while looking at the news is the article Do We Really Know Rizal? Rizal Law Ineffective.by  Mona Lisa H. Quizon.

I guess it's irritation that makes me write this, because I have talked before about how the purpose of the Rizal law was subverted, not just in private schools but in public schools as well. And the ones most at fault are the Catholic Church and the translators.

You don't actually need to read about Rizal. Let him be hidden, so long as his unexpurgated novels be read. I recently bought two copies of Noli Me Tangere, the first one an English translation by Ma. Soledad Lacson-Locin, and the second one being the most popular translation for high school use, the Tagalog translation by the trio Guzman-Laksamana-Guzman.

And here, in the second translation, you can see where the Rizal law has gone wrong. In an effort to get the bill passed, our lawmakers gave in to Church lobbying to allow them to use abridged (read: censored) versions of  Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. I've talked about it before in the blog post Bowdler, Rizal and Scripture, but the examples I gave were based on memory. Meantime, I lost my old copies of these translations, and so decided to get replacements.

I've been rereading these two translations, and making a line-by-line comparison. It's worse than I remembered. And I see the trio's fell hand. Page-after-page of censored passages, all of them aimed at the Catholic church. I've browsed through other translations, and I see the same thing. The Guzman-Laksamana-Guzman translation seems to act like a strange attractor to other translations meant for high schools-- with all its faults duplicated by other texts meant for high schools.

Have you ever wondered why the Catholic church persecuted Rizal? A reading of the expurgated Noli will give you no answer. Even worse, the deleted passages contain the best of Rizal. It's here that you find him at his drollest. In an effort to please the Catholic Church, the translators made a mockery of what Rizal actually stood for. And because this translation is what we make our students read, it's no wonder they get the wrong impression.

So you don't know Rizal? Maybe it's because you've read the bowdlerized translations or worse, relied on the comics versions. Read him uncensored.

New printer

I bought a new printer two days ago, an HP LaserJet P1102. It set me back by PhP 5K. I got fed up with having to go to school just to get some documents printed. I decided to get a monochrome laser printer because I rarely print in color, and  was familiar with this printer. It's similar to the one I use at school, an HP LaserJet 1020.

I had almost no problems getting it to run with my netbook, both in ubuntu and in windows 7. It turned out that I didn't even need the CD, because the drivers were easily fetched by Ubuntu, and seems to be built-into windows 7 as well. I did make a silly mistake when I first tried printing. I tried printing a pdf (an article from Physical Review by Ronald Gautreau) and got two blank pages. To fix it, I did a google search and one of the first things I found is the question "Did you remove the tab at the left end of the toner?". Turned out there was a plastic protector attached to the toner so that it won't leak while in storage. I removed it and got it working.

Although I'm satisfied with the performance of the printer, there are a few things I dislike. It's HP's business model. Take the practice of including a starter toner (that supposedly prints 700 pages) instead of a regular toner (which, if you believe the product claims, can be used for 1600 pages)  when they could have easily done so. This seems to be a common gripe, not just with HP. Samsung also does the same thing.

Another issue is how much the toner costs: approximately three-fifths the price of the printer. I'm not surprised. It's like how Gillette markets its products. You pay a low teaser price for the shaver, and then they gouge you on the replacement razor blades. I understand that it's how HP makes money on printers; I've read somewhere that printers are one of HP's cash cows. But it sure alienates their customers. The printing, if you rely on HP's cartridges, will cost about PhP 2 per page.

Before I bought this printer, the home printer I used was my brother's HP  inkjet. The ink cartridges cost about PhP 500, and it was expensive, and so and my brother decided to get a refill kit. CDRking, for example, has a refill kit that allows you to recycle spent cartridges. Where a new ink cartridge costs PhP 500, for about PhP 200 you can get a refill kit that allows your cartridge to be used for printing about five times (this is a figure drawn out from air, I'm guessing it's an understatement since we've used such refill kits on my brother's printer, and they last for a long long time) what you'd get from the original cartridge. Could something similar be done for a LaserJet printer?  A quick search gave me a Youtube video (it's actually an advert for a toner refill kit) showing how you can refill an HP 85A toner.

One way to reduce cost is to buy replacement toners from CDRKing. If you look at CDRKing's online catalogue, you'll also find a toner cartridge that's compatible with my printer and costs only a third of the price of HP's. But if I could find a reasonably priced refiller, I'd rather go for the refill because of two things: it's a lot cheaper than getting a new cartridge, and also because it's  environmentally saner to do so. If HP had such a service here, with reasonable pricing, I'd go for it. But because they aren't doing the right thing by their customers, they'll have to live with customers who don't get their toners from them.

Friday, December 2, 2011

From Windows 7 to a dual-boot with ubuntu 11.10

Since it was a holiday yesterday, I decided to convert my Windows 7 netbook into a dual-boot, with ubuntu 11.10 as the alternate operating system. I've read about how linux distributions use less system resources, and I wanted to try it. Since my computer does have 320 Gb of hard disk space, all I had to do was use Gparted to repartition my hard disk, and then run the ubuntu 11.10 liveCD.

Of course it wasn't that simple. I had to get the partitions right, and make sure that my windows installation would be unaffected. When I originally set up my netbook on win 7, I created three partitions, one for Windows, the second one for an alternate OS, and the third one for a place that both can access.

I spent 5 hours getting it done (swearing all the way!) for the following reasons:
(1) I am a Linux newbie, especially when it comes to administrator tasks such as installations, and system administration. In order to get things  working, I had to  hop between Google searches and the installation process.

(2) I had to learn about the difference between ordinary partitions and logical partitions, since only four partitions were allowed. Since Windows had to have two of these, only two were left for ubuntu. I'd read about the root needing a separate partition, and another one for the swap space ( the linux analog of the windows pagefile), and then the last one for the other files. It took me a while to realize that I could set it up using logical partitions.

(3) The installation stopped somewhere in the middle. Turns out the Live CD has a bug: if you run it first as a Live CD, and then go back and install, the installation will stop somewhere. To get it running, you should restart your computer and then choose the install now option without going through the LiveCD's "try it first" option.  Once I did that, everything went smoothly.

After the install, I decided to use ubuntu and see if I could do my usual tasks: edit MS Office documents, browse the web, listen to music and watch movies. While doing all that, and downloading the necessary program components, I inadvertently unplugged my laptop. Which led me to another bug. Although I knew that the battery was full, and that while on Windows I could get it to run continuously for four hours, the ubuntu power-manager informed me that I only had a few minutes of power left and it was asking me if I wanted to shut down or hibernate. Naturally, I replugged my power cord and then started searching for a fix.

One workaround involved turning off one of the settings of the power manager. After using the workaround, I decided to see if updates for ubuntu were available. I found around 240 Mb of updates waiting for permission to be downloaded and installed.  So I let my computer to download the updates overnight, and slept. The next morning, I tried going back and restoring the settings back, and see if the update fixed the power manager. It did the trick. 

I've been using ubuntu since yesterday to do all of my regular work, and plan to use windows only when necessary. It feels good, especially when I compare how my netbook performs while running GIMP. On windows, I usually use about 600 to 800 MB of RAM, while the same tasks on ubuntu usually take about half as much RAM. GIMP doesn't feel choppy in ubuntu, compared to how it works wile running windows 7. Since I use GIMP or photoshop for making figures for exams and presentations, it's nice to see GIMP running smoothly even when I have other things running side-by-side. 

Other things I did to see if ubuntu and its component programs worked properly: I opened a powerpoint presentation using LibreOffice Impress, and hook up my computer to a projector. While using windows I had to download a driver to get it working properly; In contrast, in ubuntu, it worked automatically.

I also spent time recording student quizzes using LibreOffice Calc (that's the LibreOffice spreadsheet program, an alternative to MS Excel), and it worked fine.

So most of the things I need to do that's office related, such as manipulate spreadsheets, edit documents, and present powerpoint presentations I could easily do with ubuntu. The only other thing I haven't tried yet is printing documents. I'll see how it goes tomorrow.