More Java hair tearing

February 4, 2013

Another episode in the war between Apple and Java, with Mozilla/Firefox joining in. I almost wrote “The Alliance”, or maybe “The Axis Powers”. Who are the bad guys?

Late on Friday I got an email from the nice support folk at Liverpool Telescope, warning me that their Phase 2 GUI tool might stop working for me. Checking out their news item, its an issue for anybody using a Mac, and anybody using Firefox. They link to some news items here, here, and here. As usual, not only did Apple do this very suddenly, they did it WITHOUT TELLING THEIR CUSTOMERS. Stuff just stopped working.

My geekier readers will remember an earlier possibly somewhat alarmist post by moi, within the comment stream of which it became clarified that the problems concerned the Java plugin for web browsers, not regular Java Apps using the JRE.  Now the LT GUI is not an in-browser thing – its Java Webstart, which is just a fancy way of providing a link to the latest version of a Java App. Brief panic while I tried out Topcat and Aladin. If Topcat stops working I am fucked. (This is Mark Taylor’s evil plan of course). However, T&A are fine.

It seems Apple stopped any webby-Java things work using the Xprotect list, including webstart. I have no idea what Xprotect is. Alex, you now have permission to pontificate. I hear a dark rumour that if you know which plist to edit you can work round this.

Meanwhile, I have a virtual machine running Debian and the delightfully spartan Enlightenment window manager, and I can carry on loading up more PanSTARRS transients into the LT database…


Update Monday evening. Gets more confusing. The LT folk sent round an email saying that Apple had released a software patch, explained here, and available through the usual Software Update tool. However … no such update was offered to me…  After consulting a few users, it seems people 10.8 never saw a problem at all; those with 10.6 were totally blocked, but are now fixed by the patch; but those of us with 10.7 have not been offered a patch ?

Meanwhile I am playing with about eighteen different Linux window managers to see which one I like best.


RAE games

April 6, 2009

These are grim times for Welsh astronomy. The cancellation of Clover follows on from a surprisingly bad RAE result for Cardiff. Peter Coles has analysed the RAE results several times over. In this first post, he listed straight weighted mean scores (in which Cardiff came 35th). In a second post, he introduced “research power”, meaning volume times score, which brought Cardiff up to 22nd. Then on January 29th, when HEFCE announced its funding algorithm (7,3,1,0 for buckets 4,3,2,1 respectively) he gave another league table showing expected relative funding, with Cardiff now 27th. (Note however that the Welsh and Scottish funding councils have not yet announced their funding algorithms…)

Last week the RAE published the sub-profiles on which the final profiles were based – i.e. we now have separate profiles for research outputs, for environment, and for esteem. I downloaded the UOA19 (Physics) table, scraped the numbers, and played plotting games with Topcat. To help you play your own games I am attaching a .doc file which is really a CSV file in disguise … Unfortunately WordPress won’t let me upload a VOTable (its XML) or even a plain .txt file, but it does allow .doc files. You can convert the .doc file into plain text, and then Topcat or Excel will read it in.

So here is one interesting thing that jumped out at me – environment scores seem to have been quite crucial. The figure displayed here shows the research outputs score (bue dots) and the environment score (red dots) plotted in turn against the overall score. Compared to research outputs, environment shows a larger range, a larger dispersion, and gradient which is distinctly larger than unity. The red dot way off the correlation is Loughborough – environment score 1.1 even though it scored 2.66 on research outputs. On overall score, Loughborough came 32nd. If its score had been as good as its outputs score it would have been 14th. Cardiff was actually slightly rescued by its environment score; it scored outputs=2.22 and environment=2.74. (Edinburgh had a fairly consistent 2.8 and 3.0).

Results from RAE

It wouldn’t be wise to overinterpret individual scores. But it does look like the panel had more marked opinions about the quality of research environment, or perhaps allowed themselves bolder judgements. Any other patterns emerging ? Read the rest of this entry »


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