Monday, September 24, 2012

Distances from Bonn

I came up with the strange idea of sorting European capitals by how far they are from the town I live in (Bonn, Germany) and found that half a dozen of foreign capitals are nearer than the capital of Germany.

City Country Distance in km
Luxembourg City Luxembourg 142
City of Brussels Belgium 195
Amsterdam Netherlands 234
Paris France 400
Bern Switzerland 425
Vaduz Liechtenstein 437
Berlin Germany 478
London United Kingdom 510
Prague Czech Republic 527
Copenhagen Denmark 659
Vienna Austria 726
Ljubljana Slovenia 755
Bratislava Slovakia 779
Monaco Monaco 779
City of San Marino San Marino 857
Zagreb Croatia 857
Budapest Hungary 942
Dublin Republic of Ireland 957
Warsaw Poland 976
Oslo Norway 1047
Rome Italy 1065
Vatican City Vatican City 1065
Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina 1143
Stockholm Sweden 1181
Belgrade Serbia 1195
Vilnius Lithuania 1300
Riga Latvia 1308
Podgorica Montenegro 1347
Madrid Spain 1421
Minsk Belarus 1430
Tirana Albania 1432
Ankara Turkey 1447
Skopje Macedonia 1463
Tallinn Estonia 1474
Sofia Bulgaria 1522
Helsinki Finland 1530
Bucharest Romania 1583
Chişinău Moldova 1639
Kiev Ukraine 1648
Valletta Malta 1745
Lisbon Portugal 1845
Athens Greece 1931
Moscow Russia 2086
Reykjavík Iceland 2257
Tbilisi Georgia 3034
Yerevan Armenia 3106
Baku Azerbaijan 3469

If you find this idea interesting what about composing a similar table for the location you live in?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Obtaining Tweeted Images in Original Size

An increasing number of tweets contains images uploded to twitter. Here is one example:
A particular example

I assume that you know how to find out URLs of images that are used on a web page.

The URL of the image you see in the tweet is with the dimensions 600px × 428px (scaled to 435px × 310px).

If you click on the image to obtain a larger version you are presented with with the dimensions 1,024px × 730px. This still isn't the original image.

I then made a well-educated guess and tried and it actually worked; I got the original size image with dimensions 2,048px × 1,460px.

So all you need to do to obtain an original size image is to append »:orig« to the URL of the small version of the image.

Note that this only works for images uploaded to twitter not for images hosted on flickr.

Here is one example: shows a nice photo of a blue moon; the 3 MP image can be found at

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Polar Sea Ice Page Updated

I had to update the Polar Sea Ice page because it referred to the record ice extent as data of 2007 while in reality the record extents (minimum in the Arctic, maximum in the Antarctic) are currently being updated every day (as of writing this on 2012-09-02).

I originally did not expect this to become necessary so soon. The reason for this misjudgement of mine is the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation. Back in 2008 I learned that it should currently be counteracting the effect of global warming on the Arctic region.

A BBC article of 2008-05-01 puts it like that:
The Earth's temperature may stay roughly the same for a decade, as natural climate cycles enter a cooling phase … A new computer model … suggests the cooling will counter greenhouse warming. However, temperatures will again be rising quickly by about 2020 …
In contrast, a recent BBC article (2012-08-27) has this to say:
A recent paper from Reading University … [estimated] that between 5-30% of the recent ice loss was due to Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation - a natural climate cycle repeating every 65-80 years. It's been in warm phase since the mid 1970s.
Allow me to call this difference in description a little strange.

NASA: Arctic sea ice reaches record low

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Asteroids Missing Earth: What Means “Close Call”?

Every now and then you read about asteroids passing Earth in a certain distance but nobody gives you a feeling of how close such an encounter is. Allow me to fill in this gap.

Say an asteroid passes in a distance x from Earth, the radius of which we will call r. We now can ask how likely it is that an object that hits a disk of radius r+x also hits a disk of radius r provided that it any point on the larger disk is hit with equal likelihood.

The likelihood then is p = A(r)/A(r+x) where A is the area of a disk of the given radius, In other words p = πr²/π(r+x)² = 1/(1+x/r)². If we now define ξ=x/r (which is the distance in units of Earth's radius we get a quite simple formula: p = 1/(1+ξ)².

Using ξ is advantageous as it is a value you actually find in tables. Let’s try a couple of values; LD means Lunar distance and is the distance in terms of the average distance between Earth and Moon:

Distance inξp in %
1.65614636619.77100 0.098
0.49684190985.93 30 0.104
0.16561 63661.98 10 0.826
0.04968 19098.59  3 6.250
0.01656  6366.20  125.000
0.00497  1909.86  0.359.172
0.00166   636.62  0.182.645
0.00050   190.99  0.0394.260
0.00017    63.66  0.0198.030

Please note that the closer an encounter is the less meaningless this rough estimate becomes as the asteroid by no means randomly hits the disk of radius r+x but follows a clearly determined path.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Termtter, a terminal-based Twitter client

Termtter is a terminal-based Twitter client written in Ruby that can be installed as a Ruby gem. In the easiest case you simply type in
gem install termtter
and you are done with installing the program, otherwise see How to Install.

Once termtter has been installed you can simply  run it provided that you do not need to use a proxy; in that case see Configuration. However, like any other Twitter application, termtter needs to be authorised in order to function properly.

Therefore, at the initial run, termtter will provide you with an authorisation URL.

First launch of termtter

Once you visit this URL, you will be asked whether you want to authorise termtter to use your Twitter account.

Visiting authorization URL

If you choose to authorise the application (i.e. termtter) you will provided with a PIN.

Obtaining PIN

After having obtained the PIN you need to enter it in termtter. Copy and paste will not work because the PIN is shown as an image.

Entering PIN

Now that termtter has been authorised you can use it at your liking.

Termtter at work

Michael Geist at INTA Workshop

If you want a brief explanation what is wrong with ACTA this video is an absolute must.

The full text of the report can be found at

Friday, March 2, 2012

Easily Brighten Underexposed Areas of a Photo

In Overlay an Inverted Layer Onto a Photo to Brighten Underexposed Areas, PetaPixel shows how to do precisely that. I applied the method to a quite arbitrary underexposed photo and this is what I got:

Original image

Lit up using overlay method

Lit up, white balance applied

White balance only

A nice method indeed and it should work with any image processing program that's worth being used – in the article it's Photoshop while I have been using the Gimp.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Send in the Copyright Demolition Squad!

A video detailing what a scientist faces if he wants to publish a scientific article made me share some short, rather polemic thoughts on copyright on Google+. I then realized that they are worth being put on this blog. So here we go:

It is a well-established lie that copyright is a means for creators of art, music, scientific papers and other works to protect their intellectual property against people who want to prey on it. Little could be farther from truth. Copyright is regularly and habitually being perverted into a means to dispossess creators of their intellectual property so that they do not obtain a fair payoff.

In my opinion, those who fight the ever worsening, dreadful state of copyright are no enemies of the authors. They surely are enemies of those parasites who prey on these authors' works but fighting this vermin definitely is a just cause.

Joe Scientist comes face-to-face with
the scientific publication business

Friday, February 3, 2012

Copyright Claims vs. Hatsune Miku Youtube Videos

As you may know, I am a member of the German pirate party. An important reason for joining was that I disapprove a system where the mere claim (without the need for providing any evidence) that certain content infringes copyright is sufficient for its takedown. Not only does this approach collide with my view that guilty until proven guilty should be a universal principle not just for penal codes, it also makes the abusive use of false claims way to easy.

In the case of YouTube’s automated system things are even worse. Not only can false claims be made – they can made by anybody, not just by persons who are authorized by the copyright holder to do so. I am a huge fan of vocaloids in general and Hatsune Miku in particular and while I have an account at nicovideo (the site where most vocaloid music is uploaded), I prefer accessing them on youtube because there you can build a virtually infinite number of playlists.

I now learned that there seems to be a concerted action to have high-ranked Hatsune Miku videos removed from youtube by making false claims of copyright infringement which not only results in those videos being removed but also in accounts being closed due to such claims and the three strikes rule.

The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku from YouTube
This is incident is sad in may ways including:
  • A means created for a just cause is abused for a hidous one (first and foremost copyright is not about making money but about empowering creators of content so that they have a say in how it is used – this is so central that German law does not even allow you to give up this right).
  • Damage is done to the community because many Hatsune Miku songs usually are happy ones that brighten your day.
  • As vocaloids allow every hobby composer to use vocals without having to paying quite a lot of money on a singer or having to find people willing to sing without payment, they allow talents that would otherwise have been lost to give a world-wide audience delight.
For more please visit Recent Copyright Claims Affecting Miku Youtube Videos at Vocaloidism. Please help spread the word about this attack on wonderful music created for what likely is the oldest reason to make music: the fun of making it and listening to it.

Fittingly, the song that you hear as BGM for the above video is The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku.

I wonder if the incident may have to do with the top position at Singers You'd Like to Perform at the 2012 London Olympics Opening Ceremonies

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I can't has lolcats?

Do you love lolcats? If so, the following image is for you.

I has a sad tewdai

PIPA, SOPA and other FU-KYA ideas may mean that you will no longer be able to see any more lolcats.

The Day The LOLcats Died
For more see cheezburger’s This is Your Internet … after Congress passes new censorship laws. For tweets and the like there is a short URL you may like to use:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

3D printed zoetrope

Meet the awesome 3Drehkino, an improved zoetrope. Improvements are:
  • It uses flashing LEDs and the stroboscopic effect instead of a slit.
  • It has electronics to sync the flashing with the rotation of the disk; the animation therefore works for a wide range of rotation speeds.
  • It uses 3D objects rather than flat ones, making it look much very realistic.


If you ask me the obvious next step would be painting the objects. Via A Hack a Day.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Toccata and Fugue in D minor on a Glass Harp

The Toccata and Fugue in D minor (BWV 565) is a piece of organ music attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach and one of the most famous works in the organ repertoire. Hear it performed on a glass harp:

Toccata i Fuga d-moll J.S. Bacha - Festiwal Muzyki Kameralnej w Bolonii (HD)

Mr Bean and the European Anthem

Allow me to share this performance of the European Anthem by Mr. Bean who runs out of text and improvises one of his own using German loanwords and the like. I laughed so heartily that I had tears in my eyes ☺

Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean)
European Anthem - 'Beethoven's 9th Symphony'

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Google Maps: From The Shire to Mordor

This is what happens if you as Google Maps how to walk from The Shire to Mordor.

From The Shire to Mordor

Notice that you do not only get the iconic “One does not simply walk into Mordor.” but also the hint that the given route has tolls.

Youtube Videos: Navigation by Numbers

You can use the number keys 0 through 9 to move to certain locations in a youtube video:


Allow me to use Big Buck Bunny as an illustration:

Skipping through Big Buck Bunny

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Adblock plus showing ads?

You may have noticed that recent versions of Adblock plus do not filter out certain ads. Here is how to get rid of this “feature”:

First you go to Tools → Addons → Extensions → Adblock Plus to open the Adblock Plus preferences and click on Filter Preferences…

Adblock Plus preferences
Alternatively you can right-click on the Adblock Plus Icon (an octagonal stop sign with the text ABP on it) to open its context menu and select Filter Preferences… or use the Ctrl+Shift+F shortcut. No matter which method you use, simply open the Adblock Plus Filter Preferences window.

In this window go to the Filter subscriptions tab and uncheck Allow some non-intrusive advertising.

Adblock Plus Fiter Preferences:
Filter Subscriptions → Allow some non-intrusive advertising
That's it.

Monday, January 2, 2012


FxIF (Firefox exIF) allows you to view meta information data contained in JPEG images. Most digital cameras add EXIF data to all images you take and much editing software adds or allows you to add more informations on the picture and you the creator.

Install order for Firefox add-ons

Allow me to suggested an order in which to installing Firefox add-ons. Note that you typically need not restart the browser after installing each and every add-on. However, I cannot guarantee that not doing so will not run you into trouble.

First of all you should ensure that you keep the configuration free from unused options. In order to do so allow me to suggest that the first add-on you install is one that helps you with this (i.e. before you mess up the config).

Note that if you manually modify config settings it may be a good idea to document what you did. Otherwise you will sooner or later forget for what purpose you made which modification and it may even occur that you altogether forget that you made a certain modification – and chances are that you will need to recall precisely that forgotten detail.
  • Preferences Cleaner - Restart after installing this add-on to make sure that it is in place before you install anything else.
Now you should add some protective measures:
Once the above add-ons (or at least the ones in bold) choose from the other add-ons listed on this page. Allow me to start with a set of suggested add-ons that aim at tuning Firefox:
The purpose of the next bunch of add-ons is providing features to Firefox that are not site-specific:
This bunch of add-ons improve the GUI:
The next bunch is for looking up words and phrases:
Finally here is a bunch of quite site-specific tools:
You may wonder why I am so insane that I wrote this text. Actually this has little to do with sanity – the above documents in which order I actually added the listed bunches of add-ons after my Firefox config had gotten too messy ☺

2012-01-02, 17:46 UTC: I removed Easy App Tabs from the list as its feature is provided by Tab Mix Plus.
2012-01-02, 18:3 UTC: Added GoogleReaderPlus (forgotten)

Quick Locale Switcher

Quick Locale Switcher allows you to quickly switch to a different language (User Interface, Spell Checker Dictionary and Website content) in your Mozilla application.