Working with the Z shell

Some days ago I thought it would be a good idea to copy the files I have created on my office computer to my laptop. This seems to be an easy task. I just had to find all recently changed files and copy them, if they are newer than any versions found on my laptop. I thought of a combination of the find command with rsync. After a quick look at the manual pages I typed the following command:

rsync -avuR `find ./* -user maha -mtime -300 -type f` maha@sputnik:

This means: first, find all the files (and only files, -type f) that belong to user maha and were modified within the last 300 days, then archive them (rsync -a) with their relative pathnames (-R) to maha’s home directory on sputnik (my laptop) without deleting files or overwriting existing newer versions (-u), and be verbose (-v). This worked fine for all file names which didn’t contain special characters or blanks. But unfortunately, I had quite some file names with blanks, umlaut characters, etc., and the find command does not escape special characters. 🙁

I remembered that I usually use the Z shell on my computers, which makes use of extensive globbing that can tackle with blanks and other special characters. The commands became a lot easier, the only disadvantage being that I had to use two commands to get all files:

rsync -avuR ^[.]*/*(mM-10.u:maha:) maha@sputnik:

This command catches all files in subdirectories not beginning with a dot, since I wanted to exclude files in my .mozilla directory and the like; mM-10 stands for modified within the last 10 months (of 30 days), the dot prescribes that only files are to be transferred and they have to belong to user maha (I later found out that it works even without the u before :maha:).

rsync -avuR ^[.]*(mM-10.u:maha:) maha@sputnik:

This command catches all files in my home directory not beginning with a dot. (The find command ignores dotted files by default, Z-shell globbing doesn’t, which may sometimes be an advantage.)

I find the wildcard syntax of the Z shell quite straight forward. Unfortunately, I didn’t find out how to condense the two commands into one. Anyone got an idea?

It is very easy to avoid complicated find-command constructions in the Z shell. As a comparison of computer shells shows, Bash has caught up a lot, but I still prefer the command line completion of the Z shell and its easy-to-use command history: if I have begun to type a command I can browse through all variants of that command I typed in earlier (by just hitting the up-key). This is very useful for me who always forgets how commands work.

This Is England

This Is England (imdb) is a new British film that I watched last Sunday. It is about Margaret Thatcher’s England, the Falklands War, the Skinhead Movement and the British National Front. The film is not easy at all, but it gives a good insight into the England of the the ’80s (with a suitable soundtrack and British accents which are difficult to understand, if you aren’t used to them).

Interactive Fiction

In my last posting, I told my readers that my first computer game was a text adventure, probably Zork. I have just looked deeper into the matter and my memory, and I’m pretty sure now that it wasn’t Zork, but the Colossal Cave Adventure, running on a Prime Computer under PRIMOS. It was then simply called “Adventure” and was highly addictive, possibly the only computer game I got somewhat addicted to. Fortunately, the addiction didn’t last too long and I managed to finish my Master thesis in the end. 😎

And now comes the good news: You can still play it! There is a Flash version (which seems to me very close to what I remember of the game) and a Java version (with annoying ads). Have fun!

The Chaos

One of the reasons why English is a very candidate for an international second language. Interestingly, most of its speakers are second-language speakers. If we count only first-language speakers, the Romance languages (taken together) are in the second place after Chinese (which is not at all as monolithic as people think); the list of language families by percentage of speakers in mankind is also very outspoken in this respect.

The main flaw of English as an international second language is that if you hear a word, you never know how to write it, and if you read an unknown word, you don’t know how it is pronounced. If you want to test your knowledge of English pronunciation, try to read the poem The Chaos aloud. It is long but worthwhile, because it gets more and more absurd. Even for English native speakers Gerald Nolst Trenité’s poem is quite a task, and possibly an eye-opener. You can even test automatic reading of this text. Have fun and better use Esperanto as a second language for communicating with your friends abroad.

Harry Potter 7

I have just finished the seventh and presumably last volume of the Harry Potter series: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and as with the other books of the heptalogy, I liked it! The story was extremely thrilling and very convincing. Contrary to former parts, it presupposes knowledge about what happened in the sixth book: One has to know what horcruxes are and who the Half-Blood Prince is. I had forgotten about the Half-Blood Prince and wondered who the prince was in the chapter: The Prince’s Tale (which is a funny title, because it’s only function is the reference to the preceding book).

Some people told me they didn’t like the ending of the book. I do not share their opinion. I quite liked the final turn. It is impressive how well the loose ends finally fit together. I would like to criticize only one aspect: The last book extols the traditional family model. In the 21st century, we ought to surpass the straight mind or narrow-mindedness of the traditional family that eludes the characters (and possibly the readers) at the end of the story. J. K. Rowling started out better!

Nevertheless, the last book is by far the most suspenseful of the series and doesn’t lack humor. It is highly readable, especially if you feel at home in the Harry Potter universe.

Camp Talks

Here are some comments on the talks & workshops I attended at the Chaos Communication Camp. If you have missed some or all of them, you’ll be able to watch the camp video recordings that will be ready by the end of the year (and announced on the CCC events blog).

  • The first lecture was Constance & starbug’s talk on the avoidance of surveillance & biometrics which I liked, although it didn’t contain anything new to me, but of course, it was meant for a general public.
  • This talk was followed by Frank & Ron’s contribution on Stasi 2.0. Again, I didn’t learn so much and began to get a bit disappointed, because I had higher expectations. Nevertheless, their talk gave a good overview and will have some follow up at an upcoming CCC event.
  • I went to another talk by Frank (this time with erdgeist) with the somewhat misleading title How to (really) forget your secret crypto key. It dealt with security flaws of flash memory. I finally got some new information, but I recommend the lecturers to do their talks in German.
  • Levien’s lecture on Life & Complexity promised to be interesting. Unfortunately, the lecturer spent to much time on his introduction (more than 40 out of 50 minutes, including discussion time!). Somebody has to tell him that human beings (unlike Shiva) have but two hands, which wasn’t enough for holding a microphone and a manuscript while handling a computer and pointing to slides.
  • Hacking on the Nanoscale was a real highlight of the camp lectures. It has probably stimulated some new approaches to hardware hacking.
  • Dan Kaminsky’s Black Ops was an entertaining contribution to the Camp’s program, but unfortunately Dan hopped from one topic to the next which got me rather confused at about one o’clock in the morning, all the more that switched between his talk and the Taugshow, which wasn’t less confusing.
  • Aleχ’s workshop on Lojban was another highlight of my personal Camp program. I hope he’ll be offering a follow-up too.

As you can see from the program schedule, I missed quite a lot of interesting stuff. That’s why I’m desperately waiting for the video documentation.


Thanks to Pavel’s initiative, I watched Кин-Дза-Дза (imdb) again. It is an outstanding movie! In order to really appreciate it, I had to see it twice. One of the themes is the Soviet Perestroika, but a lot of other themes are treated: friendship, social & cultural rituals, racism, bureaucracy, communication and many others. Moreover, the film is very sound from a Sci-Fi perspective: The machines look a bit old-fashioned, but there is nothing that isn’t convincing. The behavior of the aliens seems to be odd at first sight, but after some time (and esp. if you watch the film more than once) it has a certain logic. The dialogues are very funny. The Moscovites’ strategies how to tackle with the aliens and their culture are quite interesting.

The Wagner Ring in Nürnberg

In the last two weeks I went to Nürnberg four times in order to see Der Ring des Nibelungen by Richard Wagner. The Nürnberg production of Das Rheingold didn’t convince me. Very often the choreography wasn’t right and the orchestra played correctly, but without inspiration and was often too loud. In the ensuing Valkyrie the situation didn’t get much better: The valkyries reminded me of the Nürnberg Christkindl, just like the forest bird (Waldvogel) in Siegfried. Fortunately, the singing was very good from the beginning.

My impression became much more positive with the third opera of the cycle: Siegfried – the staging became better, Brünnhilde looked more like a ‘real’ valkyrie, and the singers’ performance was really extraordinary. They even managed to make the orchestra sound less blasting. Thus, the last opera Götterdämmerung really became the culmination of the whole cycle. I liked the idea to underline the transformation of the characters by their costumes (and hair). Considering all four operas together, I think the Ring cycle in Nürnberg was really worthwhile.

The Last King of Scotland & 11:14

After last week’s numerous activities I spent a more or less quiet weekend: among other relaxing activities, I watched two very good movies: The Last King of Scotland and 11:14. Despite the somewhat misleading title The Last King of Scotland is set in Uganda, and is a fictional story about the friendship between a Scottish doctor and the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. I liked the film mainly because of Forest Whitaker’s acting (79th Academy Awards#Acting), the African music and the plot on how political power can corrupt and make people lose their self-control.

11:14 reminds of Memento or Pulp Fiction, since it is not based on linear chronological continuity. As in a police investigation the spectator has to find the links between seemingly unrelated events that take place in a small Californian town at around 11:14 p.m. That is the reason why the film demands some attention, in order not to miss a crucial detail. The soundtrack is great too!

A Scanner Darkly

Last night I was unusually tired, so I went home rather early and watched a movie. Unfortunately, I chose a film that was quite demanding: A Scanner Darkly (imdb) by Richard Linklater based on a novel by Philip K. Dick. It is an extraordinary movie, first and foremost due to the rotoscope technique. The film contains very many dialogues, so I had to concentrate very much and almost gave up. I liked the scrambling suit which creates a constantly changing simulacron of the person who is wearing it. The film is a little less experimental than Waking Life, but slightly funnier. I think I have to see more Linklater films in the near future. Before Sunrise and Before Sunset sound interesting. Suggestions?