Book Review: Fallout

This graphic novel, subtitled “J. Robert Oppenheimer, Leo Szilard, and the Political Science of the Atomic Bomb”, is a good quick read. It’s hard for my generation, raised with the fall of the Soviet Union, to appreciate how stupendous the atomic bomb really was. But this book does a great job of making the history of that period accessible. The book is not that short–around 200 pages–but, due to its graphic nature, is very easy to read.

Fallout is really divided into two major sections. The first is concerned with the idea and creation of the atomic bomb, starting from Szilard’s ideas in the 1930s and ending with the Trinity test in 1945. The second is concerned with the inquiry into Oppenheimer’s advisory position to the Atomic Energy Commission, which occured in the political climate of the 1950s. Both these are worth reading, but the second one, which has much more text–portions of letters are printed along with the graphics–is a chilling reminder of the craziness of that time.

With 6 different authors listed on the cover (and more in the back pages), the illustrations change often enough that you do have to pay attention to know who is speaking. Additional difficulties arise because there are so many characters. I think the book would be stronger if one author had been responsible for all of the graphic content because the characters would be easier to keep track of.

One very nice aspect of this book is the end notes. At the back of the book, extensive text outlines what parts are true and what parts are surmise. As the front of the book saysm “many of the quotes and incidents that you’ll think most likely to be made up are the best documented facts.” For example, Teller, one of the scientists, denies his similarity to Dr Strangelove, and another, Szilard, devises his own cancer treatment using radiation.

All in all, if you’re in for a light introduction to the history of one of the heaviest subjects, Fallout is a good choice.

“Fallout” at Amazon.

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Eclipse and existing CVS modules

On a project I’m working on, we just made the move from local CVS via a windows share to remote CVS via ssh. I’m a big fan of that, because I was seeing some weird behavior from the drive, and because Eclipse doesn’t support local repositories.

The Eclipse/CVS FAQ had some good information, but I had a bit of trouble importing CVS source into a java project (which is important so you get the command line completion, etc).

The easiest way I’ve found to get things working in Eclipse with previously existing CVS modules is to do this:

  • Make sure everything is checked into CVS using command line tools.
  • Open eclipse.
  • Delete the project(s). When it prompts you “Are you sure you want to
    delete project ‘xxx’?” choose “Do not delete contents” and click “Yes”.
  • For each project:
    • On the menu, Go to File/New Project.
    • Choose “Java Project”.
    • Give the project name you’ve used for the module.
    • On the same screen, choose “Create project from existing source”. Put the path of the directory of the previously checked out file.
    • Click finish.

Eclipse is smart enough to connect to CVS by looking in the CVS subdirectories, although you may need to change your project’s CVS settings. I had to change it from the ext to the extssh connection method.

This was with Eclipse version 3.1.2 Build M20060118-1600 on Windows, with cygwin.

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Google Projects?

Update, 9:57am: Well, I feel a bit foolish. Looks like Google is planning to host some open source projects.

Brian thinks the world needs google projects. Unlike Brian, I am not a committer on any open source project, but I do use a fair number. I also have believed in the principles of open source for years.

Does the world need yet another projects website? As I said above, I can’t speak for committers, but as a user of their work, I’d like the environment to be as productive as possible for them (how generous of me, no?).

But as a user, I can tell you that a real problem is just finding some of the great work that has already been done. As an example, Google and Yahoo had no idea that the CalendarTag library was out there, at least in the first 30 pages of results. Perhaps I was choosing poor keywords, but I had a tough time finding what I was looking for. Perhaps a microformat for open source software projects would help?

SourceForge has flaws, but the fact is that its search found what I was looking for, probably because SourceForge search is by nature limited to software projects. The fact that you have to go through three pages to download a tarball is an annoyance, but not a capital one. It’s overweighed by the fact that SF has a enormous number of projects (126,520, as of today) and is relatively fast.
Brian and I are approaching the problem of a new projects database from different perspectives, but I believe that one very real problem in management of open source projects is location of the appropriate project; search in other words. Sites like CMSMatrix are a start, but don’t work as well for smaller components. And adding Google Projects to the mix isn’t going to solve this problem.

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Moving to WordPress

Well, I finally decided to move to a more modern blogging platform. I have used Moveable Type 2.64 for almost three years, but it was time to move on:

* I had turned off comments because of blog spam. But I’ve recently heard from several folks that they’d wanted to comment. I love comments and the discussion that ensues, so I wanted a more sophisticated commenting workflow.

* I wanted easy support for tagging posts. How Web 2.0&#tm;!

* General cruft from a 3 year old program: MT is well designed and I have had few problems with it, but I wanted to see what the current state of blogging software was.

I don’t know whether I could have had such features with a more modern version of Movable Type, but it certainly seemed to me that WordPress has more mindshare, plus it’s open source. And it is supported by my ISP. So, I moved from Movable Type 2.64 to WordPress 2.0.2. I followed these fantastic directions. and, for importing my 350+ entries with correct permalinks, I followed these directions.

I ran into only a few problems.

* The directions on appear to be for a slightly different version of wordpress and reference import-mt.php, rather than mt.php

* I ended up having to edit my php.ini file to up the memory to import my 1.5 meg MT export. 10M wasn’t enough, 50M was plenty.

* The directions for preserving your MT search engine entries are great, but I ran into one problem. Because I have an old version of Apache, this RewriteRule did not work:

RewriteRule archives/0*(\d+).html /uri/to/blog/index.php?p=$1

Instead, I had to use plain old character classes:

RewriteRule archives/0*([0123456789]+).html /uri/to/blog/index.php?p=$1

Her’s my entire RewriteEngine entry:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule weblog/archives/0*([0123456789]+).html wordpress/index.php?p=$1
RewriteRule weblog/index.rdf /wordpress/index.php?feed=rdf
RewriteRule weblog/index.rss /wordpress/index.php?feed=rss
RewriteRule weblog/index.xml /wordpress/index.php?feed=rss2
# to

RewriteRule weblog/archives/([0123456789][0123456789][0123456789][0123456789])_([0123456789][0123456789]).html /wordpress/index.php?m=$1$2

# to 3
RewriteRule weblog/archives/cat_books.html /wordpress/index.php?cat=3
RewriteRule weblog/archives/cat_java.html /wordpress/index.php?cat=5
RewriteRule weblog/archives/cat_mobile_technology.html /wordpress/index.php?cat=7
RewriteRule weblog/archives/cat_programming.html /wordpress/index.php?cat=6
RewriteRule weblog/archives/cat_technology.html /wordpress/index.php?cat=4
RewriteRule weblog/archives/cat_technology_and_society.html /wordpress/index.php?cat=2
RewriteRule weblog/styles-site.css /wordpress/wp-content/themes/ocadia/style.css
RewriteRule weblog/ /wordpress/

* Users I imported, even if I gave them the Editor role, weren’t able to edit posts they owned. I may figure this out later, but right now I just made every user an admin.

So far I’ve been very happy with my decision, if for no other reason than the built-in comment moderation and the UI advances. Let’s see if WordPress lasts for three years.

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