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Archive for August, 2003

Longevity of CDRs 2

Posted by Ed on August 29, 2003

Slightly perturbed by last weeks reports of prematurely-expiring CDRs, I hot-footed it down to my local newsagent to get the full story. Unfortunately the PC Active article was less than completely enlightening. They singled out three brands which were particularly poor (Kruidvat, Mmore and BestMedia), but didn’t identify the best – perhaps because there were insufficient differences between the rest.

A much more useful article is this, in which very thorough testing is described. Again, there’s no simple answer in the form of ‘X is good, Y is bad’, but some useful tips. The test results showed that initial fidelity was a reasonable predictor of longevity:

Degradation was more severe for discs of very poor initial quality than for high-quality samples, indicating that initial recorded quality was important to longevity for multiple reasons.

They conclude by stating that longevity is possible, but requires considerable care on the part of the user as well manufacturer:

CD-R discs are capable of excellent longevity, but achieving that potential requires diligence by both manufacturers and users.

Media handling and storage is very important. Both unrecorded and recorded discs should be archived in clean jewel cases in a stable storage environment of 10C – 15C and 20 percent – 50 percent RH, and protected from sunlight and other radiation sources.

Confidence in longevity can only be achieved by initial testing of drives and media, through proper handling and storage, and by periodic resampling to confirm longevity or to identify a need for duplication while the original disc is still readable. Short cuts do not exist.

Other useful sources of information include cdr-faq and cd-freaks.

As far as I have seen, brands which are most often recommended are: Mitsui, Fujifilm and Kodak (although Kodak may no longer be manufacturing discs).

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Longevity of CDRs

Posted by Ed on August 25, 2003

I’ve just stumbled across this slightly worrying article (Dutch English) from PC Active magazine, about the longevity – or lack of it – of certain CDR media.

Does anybody have any more information about this? I don’t want to come back to my data in two years time, and find all I’ve got is a nice, shiny coaster. Currently, we’re using ‘That’s Write!’ at work. Is it any good?

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Texan gerrymandering

Posted by Ed on August 23, 2003

Gerrymandering appears to be part of the normal political process in the US. Officially, ‘redistricting’ is done every ten years on the basis of the latest census data.

There seems to be an increasing trend now, though, for parties to try to consolidate their grip on power whenever they get the chance by redrawing electoral boundaries. The latest push comes from Senate majority leader, Tom DeLay, who wants to ‘redistrict’ Texas. The NY Times quotes DeLay being refreshingly honest:

Mr. DeLay, a former Texas legislator himself, has been candid about his reasons for pushing for a new Congressional map, telling reporters at one point, “I’m the majority leader, and we want more seats.”

In an attempt to thwart this move, a number of Democratic Senators fled to Mexico New Mexico, making the legislature inquorate. They are now still in exile in Mexico New Mexico, and face arrest upon their return. A letter from one the Senators explains the situation:

I know, it sounds more like a banana republic than the dignified democracy on which we have long prided ourselves. We are effectively exiled from the state due to our unalterable opposition to a Republican effort — pushed by Tom Delay and Karl Rove, and led by Texas Governor Rick Perry — that would rewrite the map of Texas Congressional districts in order to elect at least 5 more Republicans to Congress.

MoveOn has the details, and has started a campaign to ‘Defend Democracy’.

Posted in Politics | 1 Comment »

PLoS preview

Posted by Ed on August 20, 2003

The Public Library of Science has released a preview of its up and coming open access journal, PLoS Biology. Two papers have been published: one about the genetic uniqueness of Borneo elephants, and one about the parasite that causes malaria. Read them here.

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The Guardian kicks aas

Posted by Ed on August 18, 2003

A leader in today’s Guardian announces the launch of a new website, kickAAS, campaigning for the abolition of all agricultural subsidies. This comes in the runup to the next round of WTO trade talks in Cancun, Mexico, which will almost certainly see developing countries stitched up once again.

It is economic and social madness for Europe to be growing, for instance, subsidised sugar beet when its average cost of production is more than double that of efficient exporters such as Brazil and Zambia. It is only possible thanks to ludicrous subsidies, including protective tariffs of up to 140%.

America’s 25,000 cotton farmers received more than $3bn in subsidies last year, equivalent to 100% of the market value of cotton output. This works out at a staggering subsidy of $230 an acre. West Africa, one of the mostdeprived places on earth, happens to be one of the most efficient cotton producers, with an estimated 11 million people dependent on cotton as their main source of income. But it can’t compete with subsidised products from the US, which has 40% of world exports. If subsidies were removed, West Africa, according to IMF figures, could produce profitably at two thirds of US production costs.

From the kickAAS site:

The present system doesn’t even do what it claims to do. According to the OECD less than half of the $300 billion handouts get through even to the most efficient farmers. Even farmers would gain from abolition – by kicking subsidies that have become a dependency habit. Abolishing agricultural subsidies is one of the very few campaigns that unites right, left and centre. Join us and kickAAS.

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MMR and Measles

Posted by Ed on August 15, 2003

Both the BMJ and the New Scientist are reporting on the rise in the number of measles cases in Britain, and the concurrent fall in the uptake of the MMR vaccine. It seems the disease is in danger of becoming endemic, as the ‘reproductive number’ approaches 1.

From the collected data, the team calculated the “reproductive number” (R), a measure of the likelihood that an infected person infects someone else. When R exceeds 1.0, an epidemic is possible because each infected individual spreads the disease to more than one other person.

The study does not prove causality between the drop in vaccination rate and the increase in outbreaks of the disease, but the increase in the reproductive number correlates with the decrease in vaccination.

Dr Jansen said that although the drop in vaccinations coincides with an increase in the size of measles outbreaks, the conclusion that there is a causal connection cannot be drawn from their data. However, the study does conclude that the “reproductive number” – the mean number of secondary infections per infection, which can be used to predict the course of an epidemic – has increased in recent measles outbreaks in England and Wales. The study’s authors say that the reproductive number is “approximately proportional to the fraction of the population that is not immunised.”

The decrease in uptake of the vaccine followed publicity in the press about the safety of the vaccine. A paper in the Lancet in 1998 by Andrew Wakefield suggested a link between MMR vaccine and autism, but this has been refuted by a number of much larger studies. Read my earlier posting on this subject here.

Posted in Science | 1 Comment »

Blog of the Day!

Posted by Ed on August 13, 2003

Feedster very kindly made me blog of the day today. I’m very chuffed. Thanks!

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The neo-cons are still there…

Posted by Ed on August 13, 2003

Just in case anybody thought the neo-cons were quietly slipping into the background again, I would like to point out that The Weekly Standard (editor: William Kristol, PNAC chairman) has now gone daily. This week (today?) they publish an article by Reuel Marc Gerecht, fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, lamenting the increasingly louder calls for a more ‘multilateral’ approach to the rebuilding of Iraq. To see just how distorted Gerecht’s (and we can safely assume, other neo-cons’) views are, read the following extracts:

In the Muslim Middle East, in the age of bin Ladenism, where the rulers and the ruled are constantly assessing American strength and purpose, multilateralism, when it is so evidently cover for a lack of patience and fortitude, is never a virtue.

For the last 300 years in the Middle East, ever since the Ottomans discovered their severe and ever-increasing military inferiority vis-à-vis the West, Muslims have tried to play one Westerner off against another. Englishmen against Frenchmen, Frenchmen against Austrians, Englishmen against Russians, Germans against everybody, Soviets against Americans, and now, inshallah, the European Union against the United States.

See my older postings about PNAC.

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Plug for Biomed Central

Posted by Ed on August 12, 2003

I’ve written a few posts about Open Access in scientific publishing. Shaun has published a few times in Open Access journals from Biomed Central, and here’s what he has to say about it:

Since the 6th June [6 weeks] my article has been accessed 502 times, 65 times in the last seven days. This, apparently, doesn’t include access via PubMed, which according to Biomed Central makes the total accesses something like double their figure, ie. 1000 times for my article. I think that is impressive, especially for an obscure article on Norwegian medical records.

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New Zealand photos

Posted by Ed on August 9, 2003

Recently I was in New Zealand, and spent a couple of days hiking in Abel Tasman National Park. The weather was beautiful, and there were hardly any people (its winter!). Click on the image to view the gallery.

Onetahuti Beach

Posted in Photography, Travel | 1 Comment »