Monday, October 27, 2008

Acer Aspire One and Fonic UMTS

Sorry for these uninspired titles of computer related posts. I picked them for search engine optimization since I had not been able to find information on these topics easily in google and at least want others to have a simpler life.

So this post is about how I managed to hook up my shiny new (actually there are already the first few spots on the keyboard...) netbook to the inceadible Fonic UMTS flat rate. They offer a USB stick (a Huawai E160 internally) and a SIM card for 90 Euros. There is no further monthly cost and you only pay 2.50 Euro per calender day you use it. That includes the first GB at UMTS speed per day, if you need more it drops down to a GPRS connection.

The fact that you can read this post is proof that I got it to work as I type this in the departure lounge of Schönefeld airport waiting for my flight to Munich.

Basically, there are two pieces of software that are required: usb_modeswitch which turns the stick from a USB storage device to a serial device. I wanted to compile it myself which lead me to learn (I didn't expect that) that the GNU Linux of the Aspire One comes without the C compiler and I had to manually install gcc. Furthermore, this had to be selected from the list of packages since just selecting the "development environment" of the grouped package selection lead to a version conflict that the stupid package manager (I was complaining about before) was unable to resolve. But once gcc is there, compilation is a matter of seconds. I also had to move the config file to /etc and change a few semicolons which are the comment markers to activate the sections that refer to the E160.

So now, to make a connection I turn on the Aspire One and insert the Fonic stick. Then, as root, I run
usb_modeswitch -c /etc/usb_modeswitch.conf -W

The actual connection is made with umtsmon. I have to wait a few seconds after running the usb_modeswith as otherwise the stick will not be detected. In the config the APN has to be set to and the checkbox noauth as to be ticked while "replace default route" has to be unchecket since the version of pppd that comes with the Aspire One does not understand this option (which apparently was introduced by SuSE and adopted bey Debian). Then you click connect and it should work!

Update: I forgot to mention that because you had to disable the "replace default route" option, the default route (if existent) will not be disabled. Thus you either have to do it by hand (using 'route') or better just make sure you don't have already a network connection running when trying to connect eg. WiFi (and why would you want to connect UMTS if you already had a better newtowrk connection???)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Why gold?

I have seen this being discussed in several newspaper articles: In view of the financial crisis people withdraw their money from the bank and buy gold. They do this to such an extend that Germany's main internet gold coin dealer has stopped accepting orders. Amazing. What do they think they are doing?

Ok, you don't trust your local bank XY anymore and, depending where you are, you either have so much money that you are beyond the limit or you even don't trust the banking guarantee system anymore. Therefore, you don't want to leave your money in your account. Fine, you are a pessimist.

But why on earth are you buying gold? Obviously you are so afraid that you are willing to renounce the interest you could be getting for your money. But why don't you keep your money in coins and bills and put it in a save place (safe, mattress, cookie jar).

But that's not good enough for you. You don't even trust your (or any other) currency anymore and want to avoid the risk of inflation. That is you don't trust that somebody is willing to give you enough real stuff for your bills. That is, you mistrust your complete local economy.

You really want to make sure. Therefore you buy gold. Because that keeps its value. That you know.

But why on earth do you believe that? Why do you think that the value of gold is in any way less symbolic or just based on common agreement than the agreement of many people that you will give you food if you provide them with enough pieces of paper on which somebody printed the portrait of some former president in green color?

I have bad news for you: You cannot eat the gold, at least it has zero nutrition value (see wiki article linked above). You can use it for electric contacts that will not corrode. And yes, you can make jewelery from it (as it is done with a third of the gold that is mined). But again, the value of the jewelery is just that "everbody knows gold is precious". And this is only the case as long as everybody believes that. But there ist not much you can actually do with gold that you cannot for example to with copper or palladium (which is an excellent catalyst for many reactions involving hydrogen by the way). The value of gold is only high because everybody believes that. But that's the same for dollar bills or any other currency (leaving out the Icelandic crone for the moment).

And it is not beyond historical example that people stopped believing that gold has high value: As pointed out buy my history teacher in high school this was the main strategic mistake of the Spanish crown: not realising that you can destroy the marked if you suddenly have a lot of it. The Spanish kept importing huge amounts of gold that they had found in the Americas without noticing early enough that the others lost their interest in gold as soon as the Spanish suddenly had so much. At the same time, others found that it's a much better to invest into the real economy.

It took some more years to understand that the value of a currency is not so much based on all the gold that the central bank holds but much more on the economy that backs it.

And of course the telephone desinfactants that stranded on the earth in our past as told by the hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy also had the great idea to use leaves as bills. Which lead them to burn down all their woods.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Aharonov Bohm phase from self-adjointness

This week started the course in "Mathematical Quantum Mechanics" that I am co-teaching with Laszlo Erdös this term. Since I had to rush a bit in the end of yesterday's lecture, I composed some notes on how to extend the momentum operator in a self-adjoint way for the particle on the interval and how one can see an Aharonov-Bohm phase being the ambiguity of this procedure.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Seen it all before

You thought you saw something new? Watch this:

Unbounded operators are not defined on all of H

I am looking for an elementary proof of the fact that an unbounded operator cannot have the whole Hilbert space as its domain of definition. In the textbooks I had a look at this follows from the closed graph theorem which then is proved using somewhat heavy functional analysis machinery. What I am looking for is something that is accessible to physicists that have just learned about unbounded operators and that could be turned into a homework problem. If you know such a reference or could give me a hint (in the comments or to I would greatly appreciate it!