Nov 30, 2010

Wikileaks - the diplomatic dispatches

Wikileaks is releasing 251,287 documents of U.S. diplomatic dispatches (as of November 30th, 272 are released). They reveal a lot about American views of the situation in different countries, about world leaders such as Vladimir Putin, Silvio Berlusconi, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, and Angela Merkel. Interesting reads provide also U.S. strategies concerning North Korea and Pakistan. This latest release brings up many questions related to national security, to the right for information, and how much the governed should know about their government.

Wikileaks released this year already a movie that shows American soldiers kill civilians, documents related to the war in Afghanistan, and the war in Iraq. Some of the documents may not available on wikileaks currently because of an ongoing DOS attack on wikileaks. The latest release, 7 times the size of the Afghan war diaries, are communications by American diplomats that show the inner workings of American diplomacy.

This latest release and the one before about Afghanistan is deeply embarrassing to American politicians and proves to be very controversial when you talk to people about it. International leaders are furious over the cables, except for Berlusconi, called finicky and inefficient by U.S. diplomats, who reportedly laughed. U.S. president Barack Obama warns that this new release will risk countless lives. Meanwhile Julian Assange, wikileaks spokesperson, comes under increased pressure. He faces rape accusations in Sweden, where he tried to find a safe haven for wikileaks and himself, and the Australian government is investigating him for breaching national security. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who as now became public was asking for biometric details about UN officials, claims it is an attack on the international community.

I think it is worth to remind that in July, it was all over the media that wikileaks endangered individuals by releasing information. Defense Secretary Robert Gates called "the battlefield consequences of the release of these documents are potentially severe and dangerous for our troups, our allies, and Afghan partners and may well damage our relationships and reputation in that key part of the world. [..]" It turned out recently - by admission by Gates himself - that to date no Afghans have been harmed or threatened from it.

The NY Times title: "Leaked Cables Offer Raw Look at U.S. Diplomacy." I want to cite from their article:

Clashes with Europe over human rights: American officials sharply warned Germany in 2007 not to enforce arrest warrants for Central Intelligence Agency officers involved in a bungled operation in which an innocent German citizen with the same name as a suspected militant was mistakenly kidnapped and held for months in Afghanistan. A senior American diplomat told a German official “that our intention was not to threaten Germany, but rather to urge that the German government weigh carefully at every step of the way the implications for relations with the U.S.

I found this report by Democracy Now about wikileaks and this release. It includes an interview with Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked documents about the Vietnam war.

Also worth watching I think is the interview with Assange on TED, under the title "Why the world needs wikileaks?"

What's your opinion? Do you think this information is important to people? Is it dangerous to spread this information? More in general, which information should be made public and for which information is it in the interest of the people that it should remain secret?

Update: Changed wikileaks URL to .ch.

Nov 10, 2010

Stockholm Poster

I created a poster about Stockholm, showing off several of Stockholm's and Sweden's particularities on the background of a historic city panorama. Some other items allude to supercomputing and brain, which can be explained by the poster's original purpose, however fit nicely into the computational neuroscience I am doing in Sweden.

On the top you see a reduced version. You can click on the image to see a bigger flat pdf.

I originally created this poster as a draft for the Twentieth Annual Computational Neuroscience Meeting 2011, or short, CNS 2011. It is going to be held in Stockholm, where I am now residing and working at one of the organizing institutes. As a poster, draft it should invite people to come, however other organizers — although mentioning they found it humorous — thought the poster should be more enticing or promotional of Stockholm and modern science. In the end, I think they found a very good poster, but I am still proud of my poster and don't want to let it waste on my hard disk, so I put it on this blog.

The original version is of A2 format. I created it using inkscape. You can see the sources section to see what are the parts, but take your time first to have a look and take guesses. N.B.: If you look at the original poster, depending on the viewer some elements may not show up. I suppose this has to do with inconsistent renderings of SVG files.

All pictures are free to use (mostly creative commons license) and modify and mostly of high resolution. It used to have conference title (in a Gothic font to match the historic Viking theme) and main organizer's logo on top and logos of other organizing institutes below. If you want to use this poster or parts of it, please do so and let me know, but remember to attribute all sources.


My sources are (in not particular order):

I want to acknowledge a valuable contribution by Malin Sandström, who not only criticized and brought in ideas, but also put her hand on the poster in Photoshop to make the appearance more lively.

Please leave comments below. Enjoy.

Ubuntu Maverick for PhD Students

Please see the updated version of this article about installation of software for research in Ubuntu 12.04.

Meerkat. Image credit wikipedia: time ago I wrote a post about Ubuntu for PhD students, where I gave instructions on how to set up programs and libraries relevant for research on the Ubuntu linux distribution. This was for Ubuntu 8.10, so now I think it's time to update the information for Ubuntu 10.10 (codenamed "maverick"), a distribution which I can warmly recommend, by the way.

Software for research

What does research include? In short maybe this list comprehends some (not all) basic tasks involved: reading articles, doing statistics, illustration, writing articles.

I start by listing again some basic free software tools that I think are essential for research. My list cannot be inclusive and I leave out many more programs or libraries that I think are good but not as essential. Please feel free to suggest other programs in the comment section.


  • The ssh server.
  • Google Chromium (Chrome) - because it's very fast and now supports smart bookmarks (at least in linux versions)


Statistical tools

Article writing and reference management




In the terminal, become superuser (sudo su).
For java, you'll have to do first include a new repository:
> add-apt-repository "deb maverick partner"
For chromium, we include the google repository:
> add-apt-repository "deb stable main"
> wget -q -O - | apt-key add -

(If you don't have add-apt-repository installed, you can add the repository manually: echo "deb maverick partner" >> /etc/apt/sources.list)

We update package sources:
> apt-get update
Now let's get on it. Execute this and you will have plenty of time to grab some coffee.
> apt-get install openssh-server build-essential gcc gcc-doc apt-file gcj gsl-bin gsl-doc-pdf gsl-ref-html libgsl0-dev gsl-bin gsl-doc-pdf libgsl0-dbg libgsl0ldbl glibc-doc libblas-dev maxima maxima-share subversion subversion-tools git screen $(aptitude search R| grep -v ^i | awk '{print $2}' | grep ^r-) octave $(aptitude search texlive | grep -v ^i | awk '{print $2}') untex luatex latex-xft-fonts perl fontforge context-nonfree context-doc-nonfree dvipng imagemagick graphviz gnuplot-x11 gnuplot-doc gnuplot libatlas3gf-base kdevelop kate kile vim-gtk vim vim-addon-manager vim-common vim-doc vim-latexsuite latex2html latex-beamer xpdf writer2latex jabref bibutils hevea hevea-doc wordnet cups-pdf djvulibre-bin djvulibre-plugin pdfedit inkscape scribus pdf2djvu pdf2svg python2.6 ipython python3-dev python3-all python2.6-dev python-scipy unrar tofrodos epiphany-browser epiphany-extensions scribes lyx claws-mail claws-mail-i18n claws-mail-doc claws-mail-tools libqt4-core libqt4-gui flashplugin-nonfree ubuntu-restricted-extras regionset soundconverter gxine libxine1-ffmpeg libstdc++5 libmms0 google-chrome-stable
What I don't cover here is the installation of other programs such as Adobe Acrobat Reader, Skype, mp3 codecs, or samba, which you can click-install in the ubuntu software center (in the GNOME menu, usually at the top, under applications). Neither did I include useful Firefox plugins.
I recommend Mendeley for library management (you can find me there).
You might want to see other of my articles for more tips, such as (for a short selection) smart bookmarks for faster web searches, how to synchronize web browser bookmarks on different work stations, personalize the vim editor, set up a revision control repository, and automatically synchronize data.
You can also see the UbuntuScience community page for some additional information.
Enjoy. Please leave more suggestions below.