Archive for January, 2006

Sudo upgrade from debian-security changes env handling

If you’ve recently update to the latest debian security release of sudo (1.6.8p7-1.3) which amongst other bugs fixes CVE-2005-4158: Insecure handling of PERLLIB PERL5LIB PERL5OPT environment vars then you’ve probably started getting errors like the following:

  • E138: Can’t write viminfo file $HOME/.viminfo!
  • dircolors: no SHELL environment variable, and no shell type option given

Sometimes I wish the changelogs would be clearer and maybe every so often a debconf message would save the hassle of an hours googling vim error codes. “Reverse the environment semantic by forcing users to maintain a whitelist [env.c, Bug#342948, CVE-2005-4158]” isn’t really that informative.

Anyway, the quick fix option is adding Defaults env_reset in /etc/sudoers.

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Upgrading to Xen 3.0 Testing. What not to do.

Until today I hadn’t taken the time to upgrade to the latest Xen 3.0 testing. Here’s a quick note if you keep getting this error and can’t figure it out: ERROR: Xen will only load images built for Xen v3.0.

Make sure you have:

kernel /xen-3.0.gz dom0_mem=262144 com1=38400,8n1

instead of:

kernel /xen-3.0-devel.gz dom0_mem=262144 com1=38400,8n1

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Sweet-Sour Fruit

One pink-colored tablet is made of three miracle fruit berries, Shimamura said. When people eat or lick the fruit’s red berries, any sour thing they eat or drink a minute later tastes sweet for about two hours. This is because the protein miraculin firmly binds to sweet receptor cells in a person’s tongue when sour substances are present. The protein then transmits a false message to the brain, resulting in a strong, sweet taste. Information on the tablets is available at

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Missing Petrodollar?

Some commentary on the Petrodollars.

Between 1973 and 1981, Opec spent just 52 per cent of its oil revenues on imports. Today, with larger populations and undeveloped infrastructure, Opec member countries are attempting to spend productively at home rather than save abroad.

What of the remaining $125bn? An amazingly small proportion has gone into US Treasuries – just $10bn, according to official figures. However, other data suggest something in the order of another $25bn has been spent on US equities, corporate bonds and government agency debt.

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The Economist: Danger time for America

Via the New Economist:

As a result of weaker job creation than usual and sluggish real wage growth, American incomes have increased much more slowly than in previous recoveries. According to Morgan Stanley, over the past four years total private-sector labour compensation has risen by only 12% in real terms, compared with an average gain of 20% over the comparable period of the previous five expansions. Without strong gains in incomes, the growth in consumer spending has to a large extent been based on increases in house prices and credit.

When house-price rises flatten off, and therefore the room for further equity withdrawal dries up, consumer spending will stumble. Given that consumer spending and residential construction have accounted for 90% of GDP growth in recent years, it is hard to see how this can occur without a sharp slowdown in the economy.

The big question is whether the rest of the world will slow too. The good news is that growth is becoming more broadly based, as demand in the euro area and Japan has been picking up, and fears about an imminent hard landing in China have faded. America kept the world going during troubled times. But now it is time for others to take the lead.

Comments off Beware how you meddle with climate change

In Beware how you meddle with climate change, Robert Matthews reports on new research that highlights the complexity of environmental science.

This is not a product of trees and plants rotting, which everyone already knew was a source of methane; it is an entirely natural side-effect of plant growth that scientists had somehow missed. Yet it is by no means trivial: preliminary estimates suggest that living trees and plants account for about 10 to 30 per cent of the methane entering the atmosphere.

In fact, evidence pointing to huge holes in the science of atmospheric methane has been circulating for years. In 1998, Nature carried a study showing global increases in methane were mysteriously levelling off. Now it seems that deforestation – that bête noire of the environmentalist movement – may have helped combat the rise of this greenhouse gas.

Everyone knows fossil fuel power stations are hefty producers of CO2 and need urgently to be replaced. Yet they are now also recognised as hefty producers of aerosols – tiny particles in the atmosphere that play a key role in reflecting the sun’s heat back into space.

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Business Week Online: Parsing China’s Trade Surplus

Nicholas Lardy talks about the link between Yuan and China’s Trade Surplus in Parsing China’s Trade Surplus. Included are interesting statistics on imports vs export and foreign company trade figures in China.

What’s driving China’s trade surplus?
The big driver isn’t on the export side but on the import side. Export growth fell a bit, but import growth was barely half what it was in 2004, so there has been this ballooning of the trade surplus.

Based on the data available so far, it looks like the biggest decline in imports is in machinery and equipment. Parts and components that go into export processing are still growing at 25% to 30% annually. But machinery and equipment is running at about a third the rate of 2004 — that’s to say at 10% rather than the 30%-plus growth seen in 2004. So what we’re seeing in 2005 was some slowing in the pace of domestic investment.

And a lot of those goods are produced by Western multinationals exporting from China, right?
About 55% of all exports are from foreign-owned companies or joint ventures. That share has been growing about 1 or 2 percentage points annually in recent years but may be stabilizing now. It looks like foreign capital coming into China in 2005 is going to be down slightly — the first time in many years that it will have fallen. That may mean the share of foreign-produced goods won’t grow as fast as it has in the past.

But even if you take out all the foreign-owned exporters, Chinese domestic companies have been growing their exports. Their share has been declining, but many companies are exporting more and more. And a lot of people don’t recognize that about half of all the goods produced by foreign companies in China are sold in China. The auto sector is the best example — 95% of the autos sold there are made by foreign companies or JVs.

How much would a further revaluation of the Yuan affect the situation?
I’ve been in the camp that has said the Chinese currency is undervalued and that the adjustment last July was far too modest. But even if China were to revalue its currency significantly, it would continue to have a trade surplus with the U.S. The fact is, most of the goods that are produced in China used to be made somewhere else. If you look at the overall U.S. trade deficit, Asia’s share has been declining.

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Getting Things Done

Nice summary by Matt Vance of Getting Things Done. Link originally from No time to read?

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The Broobles Pack

Another interest post from Broobles, which I’ll have to follow up later, is 15 Essential Tools – “The Broobles Pack” his version of the Google Pack. Other than Great News, these two  SyncBackSE and Copernic Desktop Search look worth investing.

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Feed Reader

After trying several feed readers been using Sharp RSS Reader for quite a while. Today, after added the Simple Tags plugin I checked the plugin author’s blog. I note this post about Moving from RSS Bandit to GreatNews.

After just a few minutes with Great News from Curio Studio, I can give it my “this is the Shiznit!” label. With features like: Full page reading, custom labels, and a sane ompl import tool it greats full marks.

Of all the readers I’ve tried this is the only one that gets out my way and presents the news from feeds the way it feels it should be read. It does some smart stuff, like ignoring archiving (to disk) options, instead added buttons so the user can quickly archive to the hive mind (to web). The only extra I can see myself want now is some sort of bayesian, this is interesting button.
I’m uninstall Sharp Reader now.

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