Tech Note: Handheld File Transfer Woes

i-33f56612612f3fa6f467a8d9ac8eaa79-minisd_1gb.jpgFor the past two years I’ve been packing a soap-sized handheld computer named the Qtek 9100. It’s a version of a design named the HTC Wizard, sporting a slide-out qwerty keyboard and running Windows Mobile. The machine’s been good to me, though is has a few annoying quirks & glitches, and I would never go back to carrying anything with lesser capabilities.

As I am phasing out Windows XP for Ubuntu Linux on my machines, one of the 9100’s shortcomings has become an acute problem. It will only let you transfer files by cable using a glitchy piece of Microsoftware named ActiveSync, and this program has no working equivalent under Linux. I listen to a lot of music and podcasts on my handheld. Every time I want to put stuff onto it, several times a week, I have to boot Windows. The same goes for stuff I want to get off the handheld, photographs and pieces of writing. The alternative, to email the stuff over wifi, is an even bigger hassle and unworkably slow. The handheld’s web browser doesn’t handle ftp well, and I haven’t tried installing a dedicated ftp client as it is unlikely to be faster than email.

I’m thinking of a third solution to the problem. The storage medium on my handheld is a mini-SD flash memory card. I could stick it into a reader dongle plugged into my computer’s USB port and hope that Linux recognises it as a drive.

Unfortunately, visits to three computer stores today taught me that mini-SD is not a popular format in this context. They offered me readers for micro-SD and big clunky SD, but to use them I’d need an intermediate adapter plug, which is only sold together with flash memory cards that I don’t need. So I’ve ordered a slightly more expensive (!) dongle on-line. Meanwhile, the Qtek’s headphones socket has just started to lose one channel again, which probably means that it needs repair for the second time in two years.

Dear Reader, I’d be interested in suggestions for two things.

  • Other ways to solve the file transfer problem.
  • A good recent-model handheld computer that functions as a cell phone and doesn’t run Windows.

Update 1 April: Yay, the dongle works under Linux! Too bad my handheld chose this moment to become a monaural audio device.


And by the way, for comprehensive information about the new creationist movie Expelled, see Expelledexposed.com. Because those guys got flunked, not expelled.


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Britney Spears is the High Priestess of Swedish Dance Pop

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It’s a running joke around Sb that the single most popular blog entry on the whole site is one where a scibling calls Britney Spears the High Priestess of something not very flattering. In fact, as Spears’s latest hit demonstrates, she is the High Priestess of Swedish dance pop.

Look at her run of chart toppers.

  • 1998. “…Baby One More Time”. Written & produced by Swedes, recorded in Stockholm.
  • 1999. “(You Drive Me) Crazy”. Written & produced by Swedes, recorded in Stockholm.
  • 1999. “Born to Make You Happy”. Written & produced by Swedes, recorded in Stockholm.
  • 2000. “Oops!…I Did It Again”. Written & produced by Swedes, recorded in Stockholm.
  • 2000. “Lucky”. Written & produced by Swedes, recorded in Stockholm.
  • 2003. “Me Against the Music”. Written & produced by foreigners. Recorded in Georgia.
  • 2004. “Toxic”. Written & produced by Swedes, recorded in Stockholm.
  • 2004. “Everytime”. Written & produced by foreigners. Recorded in California.
  • 2007. “Gimme More”. Written & produced by foreigners. Recorded in California.
  • 2007. “Piece of Me”. Written & produced by Swedes, recorded in Stockholm.

“Piece of Me” is absolutely irresistable. Groovy, catchy and so artificial that it might be a Kraftwerk track sung by a pleasurebot. Still, it’s got Momma Spears’s trademark sex-kitten purr and surprisingly smart lyrics. This singer may not be very apt at handling herself if we believe the tabloids, but her career is handled by all the right people. And largely in my home town.

So, everybody, Britney Spears is basically Swedish. You should take that into account when you judge her behaviour.

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Lind & Mörner Still Mucking Around in Ravlunda

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Local newspaper Ystads Allehanda reports on new fieldwork in Ravlunda by amateur archaeologist Bob G Lind and retired geology professor Nils-Axel Mörner. The last time the two enthusiastic gentlemen interfered with the Iron Age cemetery in question, they were reprimanded by the County Archaeologist. Now they are clearing brush from the site in order to make their imagined Bronze Age calendar alignments clearer.

Future plans include magnetometry mapping. Mörner is quoted as believing that this technique will allow the pair to map individual ancient footprints in the subsoil, because in his opinion, magnetometry maps “compressed earth”. Lind, meanwhile, is no longer content to strip off the top 80 cm of earth across the site, but is now advocating a full meter’s worth.

Asserts Mörner, “Finds show that Greek boats came here to get amber. This was sort of the Hong Kong of the Greeks.” Indeed. And, I hasten to add, Atlantis was in Atlingbo parish on Gotland.

Thanks to LL of Arkland for the heads-up.

Update 14 April: Ground-penetrating radar survey under way, hypotheses still wacky, local press still credulous. Thanks to Tobias for the tip.

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Hayseed Dixie

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Bluegrass music is rootsy acoustic proto-country. 70s heavy metal is bluesy electrified hard rock. Imagine what classic heavy metal songs would sound like if played by a bluegrass band — banjo, fiddle, mandolin, bass… Imagine that. Imagine Hayseed Dixie!

This US quartet has released nine albums in the past eight years. The first one was all AC/DC covers — thus the name Hayseed Dixie. But they record a lot of their own material too, and they rock. Excellent stuff if you like bluegrass, or classic heavy metal, or both!

On Sunday 6 April, at 19:00 hours, the Hayseed Dixie will perform at my most conveniently located rock venue, Debaser Slussen. (Yes, whe have a rock club named after a Pixies song. That’s how cool we are.) Tickets can be had on-line at 165 kronor a pop. The following night, Monday 7 April, the band will play at Kulturbolaget in Malmö.

I’m gonna be at the Stockholm gig, hopefully accompanied by this hot chick I’ve been seeing a lot for the past nine years. Let’s make it an Aard blogmeet! Who’s coming? Hands in the air, please.

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Tap Water is Not a Naturally Occurring Substance

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A couple of recent Skepticality interviews (with environmental engineer Kelly Comstock and environmental toxicologist Shane Snyder) taught me something that may seem obvious, but which was radical news to me. Tap water is an industrial product. It occurs nowhere in nature. Water suppliers use natural water to make tap water according to current scientific understanding of what’s healthy for humans to drink.

To make tap water, you need to remove a lot of stuff, such as micro-organisms, industrial pollutants, organic residues and mineral particles, perhaps also salt and lime. Then you need to add chlorine to keep the microdaddies down, fluoride to improve people’s dental health, perhaps salt and lime to improve the taste of the product. We most definitely don’t want to drink pure H2O.

Being optimised for human quaffing, tap water is far cleaner than it need be for the applications we put most of its volume to. You don’t need drinking-grade water to wash your car, run your dishwasher, flush your toilet, water your lawn or irrigate your plantation.

Recent news stories about the occurrence of trace amounts of pharmaceuticals in tap water appear to have been overstated non-news. It’s actually been known for decades, and the question is really one of how “trace amounts” is defined. Recent improvements in testing methods allow researchers to observe much lower concentrations of many substances than before. What you really need is a defined limit as to how much of a substance you’re willing to accept, which is a toxicological question.

This of course ties in with other recent news coverage of fish and frogs showing signs of weird hormonal influence on their reproductive functioning. Something that came as news to me was that, yes, this is likely caused by hormones in human urine — but mainly by our naturally secreted estrogen, not contraceptives eaten or flushed directly down the bog. There’s simply too many randy primates peeing in certain bodies of water.

Spring water sounds pretty good, huh? All natural spring water. The difference between this stuff and your tap water is that nobody’s checked if there’s anything harmful in it, and nobody’s improved it by adding beneficial stuff. If you get your all-natural spring water in a PET bottle, then you can add a sizeable C02 footprint to the equation. Moving bottled water by truck and ship around the globe is far more energy-consuming per liter than moving it by pipe from your local aquifer.

Turning on the tap to make a cup of tea suddenly seems a whole lot more interesting to me than before.

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Daycare Sociolects

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Childcare is a context where people from different class backgrounds come into intimate contact. Indeed, for as long as there has been childcare, this work has been done largely by working class women, even when the kids in question have been middle- or upper-class. There’s a common literary trope where an upper-class young man has a warm “natural” relationship to his working-class nanny and a cold distant one to his blood mother.

I’ve blogged before about how academic middle-class ideals of gender homogenisation clash with more traditional views among working-class daycare ladies. And Saturday I had a conversation that opened my eyes to the effects of our daycare arrangements on language, too: on sociolect.

Simply put, a dialect is a speech norm typical of a region. Within a region, the dialect is split into sociolects, that have to do with social class and other subcultural groupings. Sociolects often span dialect areas, so that the working-class idiom of Gothenburg shows similarities to that of Stockholm, while each is also unmistakeably regional/dialectal in colour.

An older relative pointed out that my 4-y-o daughter says Vart är dockan?, “To where is the doll?”, instead of dictionary Swedish Var är dockan?, “Where is the doll?”. Our relative, being upper-middle-class with a tendency to see her norms as self-evident, simply viewed this as sloppy speech. (Her people write the dictionaries.) In fact, it’s an extremely common sociolectal marker. It wouldn’t surprise me if most living speakers of Swedish say Vart är dockan?, though dictionaries still forbid it. Similarly, many working-class Swedes say Jag gav han dockan, “I gave he the doll”, instead of Jag gav honom dockan, “I gave him the doll”.

A 1990s humanities graduate, I have been trained to see all norms as socially contingent. My daughter isn’t speaking sloppily, she’s following the norm current at her daycare place. Sometimes I can also hear hints of immigrant speech in her idiom, likely picked up from immigrant kids or her Turkish daycare lady. It’s mainly subtle things like word order in dependent clauses, e.g. Hon sa att hon ville inte ha dockan, “She said that she didn’t want the doll”, instead of according to the norm, Hon sa att hon inte ville ha dockan.

I don’t worry about my kids’ ability to blend in linguistically. If anything, they’re likely to sound a bit too posh eventually. My 9-y-o son, being an avid reader, speaks in polysyllables and abstruse nerdy puns. Chip off the old block.

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Cat Does Experimental Archaeology

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Bajs-Arne (“Shitty Arnie”) is the family cat. Saturday, in a clumsy attempt to check out the view from the kitchen window, he overturned an hibiscus and created an archaeological pottery assemblage. It consists of a complete Swedish 2000s flower pot, a complete Swedish 1940s glazed China soup plate that the pot had been sitting on, and a large sherd of a Chinese 1990s glazed China soup bowl that had been plugging the drain hole in the pot. Shitty Arnie hopes to publish a note on the assemblage in a near-future issue of the Newsletter of the Department of Pottery Technology, University of Leiden.

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Onion Peel Egg Dye

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There’s actually a use for onion peel. Wrap it around an egg, wrap egg and peel in aluminium foil, and boil the egg the usual way. Red onion peel dyes the shell yellow, while yellow onion peel dyes it deeper tones of brown and orange.

A Pox on Both Houses

A reader has pointed out that a propaganda website friendly with the Chinese government and hostile to Falun Gong is quoting a recent blog entry of mine. She suggests that this means that I am aiding the government in its harsh persecution of the cult.

I, of course, don’t see it that way. Two crooks are wrestling here, and I’ve made my opinion known that both combatants are crooks, period. I find it really funny that the propaganda site is blithely repeating my words, “Most people with democratic opinions see the Chinese government as a group of autocratic villains with a history of persecuting good people.” I look forward to the day when the Chinese people no longer suffer either under dictatorial leadership nor religious delusions.