Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Have a nice Space Trip @astro_paolo !!!

Tonight @ 20.09 CET, italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli will liff-off from Baikonur along with Dmitri Kondratyev and Catherine Coleman onboard Soyuz TMA-20 heading to the ISS.
This launch will mark the beginning of the first ISS long duration mission by an Italian astronaut. Paolo will stay at the Station till May 2011 performing maintainance work for the space outpost and also many experiments which take advantage of microgravity environment.

You can follow Paolo on Twitter @astro_paolo where we expect to see wonderful photos from above in the coming months!

Is also online, on the ESA website, the official magISSstra mission page:
Here you can also watch the live webcast of the launch!

If you could not wait and want to have a more detailed glimpes of what Paolo will do during these 6 months onboard, you can find a cool presentation video here:

Surfing the web for that beautiful photo of Paolo you can above... I have also found, by chance, a photo of me and my friend Teo attending a lecture by Paolo in PoliMI in 2008 about his Shuttle mission for the installation of Node2-Harmony on the ISS.
It was a great lecture! Unfortunately we didn't manage to take a photo with Paolo, anyway, the web shows its awesomeness once again and thanks to pamoroso on flicker I found at least this photo of us ;-) Thank you!

Then, Paolo have a nice trip and enjoy your long stay on that beautiful piece of engineering which is ISS! We will be here on Earth sending our greetings to you, every time we will see your new home passing above us, enlightened by the Sun just after sunset or just before dawn!
See you soon... from space! ;-)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Time of troubles - HTPDATE: Time Syncing under Proxy

Yeah, you know, in Europe last weekend we changed the time. In Italy we switched from CEST to CET.
Well, KDE4 is smart, as I remember giving the possibility of setting the time via NTP time servers. Also, no matter what desktop environment you use, on every Linux distro are available NTP utilities... but what to do if you are connected under proxy?

No way, if port 123 is closed, NTP won't work. So how to sync the time automagically without this amazing service?
The answer is HTP the "HTTP time protocol" which of course permits to sync under proxy, even if with less accuracy than NTP.

In archlinux HTP is available via the AUR via the htpdate package. Here you are the steps for its installation and use.

1) Go to the AUR to get the package tarball. and search for htp or htpdate
You'll find this package page:

2) Download the tarball

3) Extract it in your favourite folder

tar -xzvf htpdate.tar.gz

4) Make the package

cd htpdate

It will be created a ".tar.xz" file. That is your Archlinux package you can install with pacman -U

5) Install the package

sudo pacman -U htpdate-1.0.4-2-i686.pkg.tar.xz

Now you have htpdate installed... let's play with that...

6) Sync the time under proxy
It's very simple. Via the -P option you can tell htpdate your proxy address and port. If you want to see more output messages you can specify the -d option. Then with the -q option you submit only a time query without setting the time. With the -s option, instead, you will set your system time according to what retrieved from the specified host. As http server I used which should be well synced itself givend the service it supports ;-)

htpdate -dq -P proxyIP:proxyPORT httpSERVER

in order to set the time system wide you may need to be root

sudo htpdate -ds -P proxyIP:proxyPORT httpSERVER

Pay attention to this, the time which will be set is just your system time.
Following I'll show you how to set also the hardware clock preventing the time to be restored to the old one.

7) Set the hardware clock according to the system time


will show you the current system time (it should be correct because just set with htpdate)


will show you the current hardware clock time

With this command you can set the hardware clock according to your system time

sudo hwclock --systohc

Now your time is synced and you are happy!
You can further try to run htpdate as a deamon... Here you are the web version of the manpage and a good page on the gentoo wiki:

I think that's all ;-)

Be on time!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Upended trees: with skyward roots...

It happened, a few days ago, waiting for the shipment of my first telescope ever. I took an old book of mine, dealing with astronomy thanks to sky maps and complete descriptions. It was given as a present to me when I was a child. At first I used it only a couple of times, since I was more interested in its fluorescent ink of the star charts than in the explanation of what the different regions of the sky contain... Later, it was enough for me to be able to recognize some constellation thanks to its sky maps...

This book, it was neither one of the ones which literally made me dream with eyes wide open, being responsible for the choice of my studies and for my fondnesses. This book simply was there, sometime flipped through, but never really read.
It happened that, for the first time, I ran into the words. And I found in the preface an idea which clarifies to me something I always felt gazing the stars.
It's true: the books are patient friends! These words waited for me on that page, only to come to me years later.

These words are by Hubert Reeves who I discover to be (God bless Wikipedia!) a French-Canadian astrophysicist and popularizer of science... with a likeable face. He wrote a simple remark on why it's worth to look at the sky, and how let us enter in harmony with the cosmic dance which is just in front of our eyes if we want to see it...

... the knowledge of the sky has also a further dimension, linked with Man's roots. The changes in lifestyle, caused by the pressing rythm of the technological advances, lead to a lack of identity in Contemporary Man. A reaction against this feeling of alienation caused by the present world it could be found in a renewed interest in regionalism. Everyone feels the need to belong to something. Man seeks desperately his own roots, even at the point to invent them.

Nowadays, one of the reasons of the popularity of astronomy stands, I think, in the link it shows between the Man and the Stars. Far from being extraneous to the Universe, as existentialists teach, the latest discoveries of astrophysics place us as a part of everything shines in the sky. We will owe forever to the stars, because inside them the very atoms that make the molecules of our eyes gazing them were created.

The feeling of belonging we need so much, it's given to us by astronomy in a way far more satisfying than by our history books. Before being French or Italian, black or white, male or female, we are earthlings, sunlings, people of the Milky Way, daughters and sons of the Universe. Our roots are in the stars.

This awareness is important for the human being as a whole. But it remains confined to the mind; it doesn't gain its actual dimension. It's required, nevertheless, that this awareness is proven with the physical observation of the sky. To rationality, has to be associated the emotion of find again the Orion nebula - star formation region - or Antares, generator of carbon and oxygen...

It's with this spirit I want to look at the sky. Always. This is why an humble dobson "cheap but yet good" is my ideal companion. It doesn't take nothing to let it hop from one star to another with the levity of a dancer. Without any claim, without any coordinate dial, without the noises of the go-to mountings, but humbly, silently, with all its limits, it stands underneath the night sky showing to me the wonders of the cosmos.
This is the point: let us be amazed. Let us be impressed. In the very same way our retinas do.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

AMZ Live! @ Villa Litta, Lainate

Hi all!

Back from my summer wanderings I'm proud to announce the first Ammazzacaffè performance since Teo was back from USA ;-)

It will be for sure an awesome moment, at least for us! Here you are the info:

Sunday September 5th, 2010


Cortile Nobile di

Villa Borromeo Visconti Litta

Lainate (MI)

Music with Ammazzacaffè

in collaboration with Job Caffè

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Italy, the country of scientific sensationalism

Hi all,
starting from a comment I made to a buzz of a friend of mine, I take the opportunity to write a couple of things about a "sensational" article published on Repubblica's online edition on July 15th 2010.

"Newton was wrong
gravity doesn't exists"

In the US restarts the debate about the principles outlined by the famous scientist thanks to the works of a Dutch physicist: "His theory is an illusion". Erik Verlinde binds his criticism to the strings and holographic universe hypoteses

If you understand Italian, here you are the link to the article:

I would like to know what is your reaction to this title, apart from the strings theory and the holographic universe (named in the subheading as the perfect background to the main overstatement, as if the journalist himself is accustomed with those new theories which seems to ridicule classical physics).

What was my reaction? I was ashamed to be a reader of that stuff. I was ashamed of Italian scientific sensationalism. I was indignant for the stupidity and ignorance with this journalist (just to be read) makes fun of Newton an moreover about his studies on gravitation!

I don't want to defend the dear old Sir Isaac as a physics totem, such a new Aristotle versus a new impertinent Galileo... mine is a defense of a right scientific information and a refusal of the sensationalism which upsets the core of research.

Isaac Newton by Godfrey Kneller - 1689
Not many words are needed in order to understand how a title like that is in open contrast with the spirit at the foundation of any scientific and cultural progress. The fact I have to cite Sir Newton himself about this, makes me more angry about the ignorance of the journalist even if this quote raises suddenly the level of the discussion, leaving the overstatements to what they are.
So wrote Isaac Newton about Optics matters to Robert Hooke on February 15th, 1676:
"What Descartes did was a good step. You have added much several ways, and especially in taking the colours of thin plates into philosophical consideration. If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants."

Newton himself was one of those Giants. We know that. He knew that. Anyway this is the naked truth he recognized: we all due the starting point of any research, to our predecessors. This is the deep humility only the great people are able to maintain even when they are aware of the extraordinary contributions to world's knowledge given by themselves.
This understanding generates respect for the predecessors, even if our new theory fits more reality revealing the mistakes and the errors of the previous one.

But we are different! We like controversy! We like gossip! And "our correspondent" il Mr. Federico Rampini well knows that. He doesn't stop to copy, adapt and translate this article published only 3 days before on the NYTimes (like this I could be an "our correspondent" too :-D).
He choose a stupid title which bring his article we below the lever of the original one: more precise and less controversial. By the way it's very funny to read at the bottom of the page © RIPRODUZIONE RISERVATA (reproduction limited)... but... that was a plagiarism itself !!!

The bitter conclusion is that we don't really know what is the cause and what the effect.
We cannot state if it is the ignorance in science, many Italians are subjected to, the cause of this insane arrogance or if it's the opposite: because of daily stupid discussions or worse, because the spread of rubble called "science" (TV shows like Mr.Giacobbo's Voyager) true science information in the right tones doesn't interest the people and even less the young generation.

Cassini Saturn Orbit Insertion
In our country truth is a personal opinion, even in science. We are not only free to think what we want about "gravity" but if we think our theory is better than Newtons we can insult him without any problem.
It doesn't matters that Newton's equations let us place spacecraft in incredible orbits around Saturn!
The outcome of this article is that, if the gravity will be demonstrated as an effect of entropy.. then Newton can be called "a great idiot"!
Even if it was the second half of the 17th century.
Even if he was so honest to understand the honor to start his research from what he could see "standing on the shoulders of giants."
Even if the scientist who proposed this new theory didn't insulted Newton in that way.
Even if who wrote that article speaking loudly of strings theory  and holographic universe probably finds hard to remember the universal gravitation equation and what a revolution it was for physics.

In Italy gossip takes the place of information. That it's unbelievably true for scientific information too. And this happens on one of the media which denounce everyday the "cultural drift" of this country.
That's really sad.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

kdemod4 doesn't work after latest Arch update

Hi all!
Here I am with a post on the fly!

UPDATE April 12th 2010: this post has become useless since the last update of qtmod to version 4.6.2-2

DISCLAIMER: on the net they say symlinking ssl libraries is never a good idea for security issues(!?!). As always... the choice is yours! In this way it simply works, but everyone of you should know the risks he can afford. Another solution is the downgrade of openssl to version 0.9.8, waiting for the next kdemod update ;-)

As the title says, few second ago I couldn't make it work kdemod4 after the latest Arch update.
After some troubleshooting finding that Xorg alone was working, I checked the kdm log file:
$ tail /var/log/kdm.log

and this was the answer:

    (WW) warning, (EE) error, (NI) not implemented, (??) unknown.
(==) Log file: "/var/log/Xorg.0.log", Time: Sat Apr 10 20:54:38 2010
(==) Using default built-in configuration (30 lines)
(EE) Failed to load module "vesa" (module does not exist, 0)
(EE) Failed to load module "fbdev" (module does not exist, 0)
The XKEYBOARD keymap compiler (xkbcomp) reports:
> Warning:          Type "ONE_LEVEL" has 1 levels, but has 2 symbols
>                   Ignoring extra symbols
Errors from xkbcomp are not fatal to the X server
/usr/lib/kde4/libexec/kdm_greet: error while loading shared libraries: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

Then I checked libssl finding that its package (openssl) had been updated to version 1.0

Hence the solution is a simple symbolic link in order to let kdm_greet launch the 1.0.0 version looking for the 0.9.8 version

$ cd /usr/lib
$ sudo ln -s

... all done?!?! NO :-P because after the next kdm restart I got this variation among the same theme:

    (WW) warning, (EE) error, (NI) not implemented, (??) unknown.
(==) Log file: "/var/log/Xorg.0.log", Time: Sat Apr 10 21:00:53 2010
(==) Using default built-in configuration (30 lines)
(EE) Failed to load module "vesa" (module does not exist, 0)
(EE) Failed to load module "fbdev" (module does not exist, 0)
The XKEYBOARD keymap compiler (xkbcomp) reports:
> Warning:          Type "ONE_LEVEL" has 1 levels, but has 2 symbols
>                   Ignoring extra symbols
Errors from xkbcomp are not fatal to the X server
/usr/lib/kde4/libexec/kdm_greet: error while loading shared libraries: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

which says it's needed another sym link, this time for libcrypto:

$ cd /usr/lib
$ sudo ln -s

And today, again, the day is safe... thanks to log files ;-)

keep on hacking!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Remmirath - Reprise

Hi all!
As someone of you (the "aficionados"!) can notice, Remmirath has a new look. Hope you like it!

Last time I wrote a post was in November 2009.

Many things happened since then...
some of them have been sad,
some of them have been beautiful.
But what's important is that what's going on in my little corner of space-time is still LIFE rather than "a succession of days".

Since November I've been putting in order...
Tonight it was time to tidy up this corner of the web as well, with the hope to restart blogging sooner or later. Definitely I will try!

So far... that's all folks! Thanks for all your comments, thanks for all your visits, especially when there wasn't anything new on these pages.

keep on dreamin' and see you soon!