Sunday, September 20, 2009

What if everyone became frugal

The recent drive of the government to encourage austerity among its leaders made me recall the project on connected mathematics and how hard it is to make sense of complex phenomena.

If there is a shortage of train seats and those who could travel by plane decide to practice austerity, what happens to the people who could have travelled by train but could not. These people will have the option of travelling very uncomfortably by bus or unreserved train. Or if the task is urgent, they can always experience the luxury of flying which they could ill afford.

It would be great to model what would happen to the society if everyone decided to adopt austerity. I still have to get around to learning and exploring netlogo.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Risks and Moral Hazards

I was searching for some simple problems in finance to demonstrate the use of scipy for such cases. I realised that I needed to understand a lot more and decided to explore the Financial Markets Open Yale course.

The perspective of risk management was quite enlightening, e.g. a few sentences from the 3rd lecture of Prof. Shiller :

  • The problem with long-term risks, also, is that anything that we do to mitigate these risks creates moral hazard.
  • When you manage risks, you create moral hazard. That's why we need invention and theory in finance to minimize that.
  • Everything is evolving, so I'm actually presenting here our modern finance as the outgrowth of socialism, but that's not the usual way to present it.
He quotes the classic example of fire insurance - I get fire insurance on my house and so I behave badly: I deliberately burn the house down to collect on my insurance.

I have, possibly unhappily, known and accepted that people who handle money will earn a lot. Not explicitly mentioned, but I suppose it is implicit in the lecture that if a person is handling a lot of public money, better pay him well or there is the moral hazard of him cheating.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Exit Car Park, Enter Food Court

In the commercial sector 17 in Chandigarh, I often find tables and chairs in the corridors in front of inexpensive eateries. These often disappear - I suspect, when the police 'raid' the area.

It is obvious that the eateries are encroaching on public spaces but who is the real beneficiary?

I take my car and park it for a full day - for Rs. 5 (10 cents) only. Suppose a convenient part of the massive parking area is earmarked for a common food court. Each user can pay Rs. 2 for the luxury of sitting and eating for about half an hour. A person is likely to need 1 sq meter of space in comparison to at least 5 sq meters for a car. It will certainly benefit a lot more people than the car park.

LXDE on Fedora 11 Diskless Machine

I have a five year old machine without a hard disk which I boot using a liveusb.

I have been creating a custom livecd by adding a multimedia components from the rpmfusion repository. I decided to explore the option of lxde on the liveusb after reading an article on Lubuntu in Linux Magazine. I modified the fedora-livecd-multimedia.ks replacing @gnome-desktop group by @LXDE group. As before, I retained mplayer and the gstreamer bad and ugly plugins.

The creation of the livecd and the liveusb was smoothe.

Booting created one problem. Instead of gdm, slim was used as a simple login manager, which would not give me the option to switch from gnome-session to LXDE session. I just created a file /home/liveuser/.xinitrc with one line -

That was it.

Anyway, I normally use this machine in init 3 setting, and usually use it start a remote X session on my main desktop.

Icewm is restrictive. Advantages of XFCE has been diminishing as it has become more functional. So, LXDE does seem to be a very good compromise. I am now also using it as the default session for remote X sessions. The snappiness of the desktop is impressive and ideal for the work I do from the diskless machine.