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Ask Slashdot: Books for a Comp Sci Graduate Student?

Yaztromo Re:"Science" == "Argumentum ab auctoritate" ?!?!?! (162 comments)

Cite Knuth... This is, of course, good science.

Well at least Professor Knuth is still alive, and I don't [YET!] need to refer to the poor man as spinning in his grave.

AC posted an excellent response here.. In the event you're filtering AC's, take the time to read it, as it's completely on point.

I would add is this: if you've never completed a Masters thesis or Doctoral dissertation, just try submitting one to your committee without adequate citations. If you write somewhere "I used well-known algorithm ABC because of XYZ" and you don't have a citation for that algorithm, you'll be sent back for rewrites pretty quickly to add appropriate citations.

By way of example, in my Masters thesis several years ago, I mentioned Unix diff , without a citation. Why would this need a citation? It was mostly mentioned in passing, and every computer scientist under the sun knows what diff is, right?

Committee came back asking for further citations on a few things, including diff (which, for the record, is "Hunt, J. W., and McIlroy, M. D. An algorithm for differential file comparison. CSTR, 41 (1976).")

Using citations isn't an appeal to authority. It's akin to using an existing library call in programming. Just as you wouldn't roll-your-own quick sort algorithm when coding, someone writing a scientific paper doesn't re-invent every algorithm ever derived. You find someone who has already done that, and you cite them. The AOCP is useful in this regard due to the sheerly massive number of algorithms Knuth describes. It's hard to go through a Computer Science program and not use one of these algorithms. Knuth himself likewise cites all of the algorithms in the AOCP, so it's not an appeal to his authority, as he delegates that out to others appropriately. It's simply useful because instead of having to track down papers written in the 1960's on your own, you can cite Knuth who cites those papers for you. This is why the AOCP is useful for a graduate student.

FWIW, I cited Knuth. I needs an algorithm to calculate variance, and another on the Box-Meuller transformation. Art of Computer Programming had one for each, which I adapted for my needs, and cited appropriately.


7 hours ago

Ask Slashdot: Books for a Comp Sci Graduate Student?

Yaztromo Re:knuth's art of computer programming (162 comments)

They're kind of dated, because few people do sorts and list manipulation at that level any more. I have both an original edition and a current edition of vols. 1-3, but haven't looked at them in years.

Sure, for the average programmer these days who relies on existing libraries, these probably aren't all that useful.

As a grad student working on a thesis and other papers however, Knuth's books are invaluable for citations. Need to defend the use of a specific algorithm? Cite Knuth. His books were invaluable citation material for when I wrote and defended my thesis a few years back.

This is, of course, good science. You may not need to use Knuth to program your own B* tree, but you have a pretty much universally accepted reference for citation if you use one in your research.


9 hours ago

ARIN Is Down To the Last /8 of IPv4 Addresses

Yaztromo Re:Wasn't allocation always the problem? (279 comments)

I call BS, it would only take that long if it was a low priority job. If they were told in no uncertain terms to sort it out or be kicked out of the internet I'm sure they could deal with it much quicker than that.

Perhaps, but it's still potentially going to be a very large, costly job, which probably won't gain enough addresses to make it worth anyones while. It would still take them at least a few months.

The problem here is how many organizations with a large allocation (like a /8) have allocated these addresses within their organizations. Typically, they don't go around doling out the addresses in a completely contiguous manner -- they may have done something akin to setting up a /16 for each building (they would have received their address block before CIDR, and thus would have had to spit things along glassful lines), out of which different labs may have got a /24 to use however they wanted. Readdressing all of these and setting up new routes for all of these subnets is a big job for a large organization like MIT. You'd have to combine subnets together, which would change the routing topology, and compress everything down into a few /16's to make the returned address space contiguous.

You could return non-contiguous space, however this has a serious negative impact on world-wide routing tables. You can't just add a few million /28's to the global routing table (that is, you can't just say "hey, here's a few hundred thousand non-contiguous groups of 16 addresses we aren't using, let's give them back!").

And after putting all that effort into making their address space more contiguous (while still allowing room for future growth), they'd probably wind up with enough addresses to extend IPv4 for a month or two at best -- at which point, they might as well have put the effort into migrating to IPv6 instead.

Giving unused address space only slightly delays the inevitable. It does't postpone it indefinitely. If you're going to do the work, you might as well do it right the first time and get everything running on IPv6.



ARIN Is Down To the Last /8 of IPv4 Addresses

Yaztromo Re:About time! (279 comments)

Once we finally move on to IPv6, can we all have our own static IP?

That's a good reason to push it.

Actually, you get a prefix -- either a /48 or a /64, from which you can assign your own addresses. A /64 is enough to give you more addresses than the entire public IPv4 Internet. How you use them internally is up to you.



ARIN Is Down To the Last /8 of IPv4 Addresses

Yaztromo Re:About time! (279 comments)

if anyone back then had seen this coming that clearly, they'd have just used 64 bits to start with and we'd be fine for the next thousand years.

Exception that on a 8-bit computer running at only a handful of MHz, using a 64-bit address right off would have entailed a performance penalty. There would be more packet overhead, and more address processing required.

This may not seem like a bad compromise for clients, but you have to consider what would have happened to routers in the 70's and 80's had 64-bit addresses been the norm. Won't anybody think of the routers?



Jenny McCarthy: "I Am Not Anti-Vaccine'"

Yaztromo Re:Bloody Idiot (588 comments)

How long have we been vaccinating kids for? How long have we known about "autism"?

History of Autism

"Autism" as it is currently used was defined in 1938. The first vaccines were developed in the late 1700s, however, the first of the components of what are now the MMR vaccine were introduced in 1963 with the first measles vaccine (Timeline of Vaccines)


They tried that crap on my own kid who didnt behave well in school. Instead, I tried more discipline and a stricter policy and now he's a "Straight A" student.

Really, so how many times a day should I beat my autistic daughter who is completely unable to speak because of her condition? Do you recommend using paddles, straps, or electrocution? Maybe I should just lock her in a closet and feed her a bucket of fish heads once a week? Please Doctor Anonymous, share your wisdom!


about two weeks ago

How the Internet Is Taking Away America's Religion

Yaztromo Re:Knowledge (1037 comments)

Well, not necessarily. There is no scientific way I could think of that lets us tell what happens with our "soul" after death.

Of course not. You'd have to prove the existence of a soul scientifically before you could even start to answer such a question.

It would be no different than asking a zoologist about the mating patterns of the one eyed, one horned, flying purple people eater. All research is built upon the foundations of prior research; as there is no scientific evidence for a one eyed, one horned, flying purple people eater, there is no logical place to start in trying to deterring what it's mating patterns might be like.

You have to be careful with such statements, as they're the sorts of arguments people of faith like to try to use against science (i.e.: "But science can't prove/disprove X", where X is some construct for which there is no scientific basis in the first place, but which the speaker treats as a given). This is a fallacious line of argument, one which nobody can ever actually learn anything from.


about three weeks ago

Should programming be a required curriculum in public schools?

Yaztromo Re: Wouldn't work (313 comments)

I could never manage more than 1...I was just unable to force myself concentrate on what I was being asked to do. I'd read 500 pages per night from library books but couldn't force myself to read more than 10 out of the 100 I was expected to read from my assigned reading.



about 1 month ago

Why Copyright Trolling In Canada Doesn't Pay

Yaztromo Re:Better encourage rather than confront (98 comments)

I was using unblock-us for a while, and it worked flawlessly. I only stopped as there wasn't enough additional content on US netflix for me to justify paying for it.

IPv6 tunnels are fortunately free. And as I mentioned, if you have router support for it, then every Mac, PC, and Linux box in your house will automatically be provisioned for end-to-end IPv6 access to Netflix (and anything else IPv6 accessible on the Internet), along with any set-top boxes which may use IPv6 (Apple TV apparently does, but I don't own one to be able to confirm this).


about 2 months ago

Why Copyright Trolling In Canada Doesn't Pay

Yaztromo Re:Better encourage rather than confront (98 comments)

Canadian Netflix is pretty crappy compared to the American version and we don't have much else. It's not like the content companies want to sell their products here, at least in an easy to purchase downloadable format

Pro tip:

Netflix is fully IPv6 enabled, which is actually great news for Canadian Netflix users. Just setup an IPv6 tunnel to the nearest Hurricane Electric tunnel server farm (if you have a router that supports this, you can enable IPv6 invisibly for your entire home quickly and easily. Apple's routers all support this out of the box, for example), and presto -- you'll have US Netflix.

Note that this only works on IPv6-enabled devices, of course, so your set-top box or smart TV may not benefit. And you have to ensure the browser you're using properly supports Happy Eyeballs so as to ensure it will prefer IPv6 over IPv4 (Safari on Mac OS X since Lion uses an algorithm to prefer whichever connection is fastest in responding, which can cause it to initially load Netflix via IPv6, showing all the US content you can't otherwise see in Canada, only to be blocked when you actually try to view it if OS X switches down to IPv4 for optimization purposes).

As I have IPv6 tunnelling enabled right at the router, there is no software to be installed or anything that needs to be configured anywhere once this is setup, unlike VPN/proxy solutions. It's also fast -- even though the IPv6 is tunnelled, I can't perceive any speed issues when watching content this way.



about 2 months ago

Canadian Court Tries to Dampen Copyright Trolls In P2P Lawsuits

Yaztromo Re:That's only part of the story. (60 comments)

$5000 per infringer (not per infringement) is the maximum. The minimum is $100, and I've heard word that the court is more likely to impose the minimum. The plaintiff either has to prove actual damages, or can apply for statutory damages, between $100 - $5000 at the judges discretion. The copyright act stipulates that the judge needs to consider whether the infringement was for non-commercial purposes, whether it was for private purposes, and whether it would constitute hardship for the defendant to pay.


about 2 months ago

Canadian Court Tries to Dampen Copyright Trolls In P2P Lawsuits

Yaztromo That's only part of the story. (60 comments)

In addition, the court also found that Voltage Pictures has to pay TekSavvy for all costs associated with gathering the data, and that they'll be limited to $5k in damages per person found to infringe.

May sanity reign!


about 2 months ago

A Mathematical Proof Too Long To Check

Yaztromo Re:SAT is not a brute force loop (189 comments)

SAT is clearly NP complete, and clearly the existence of good SAT solvers is not a proof that P=NP. This means that there will be relatively small problems that SAT solvers won't be able to solve.

Enjoyed your post, but have to correct a small quibble.

From a mathematical standpoint at least, being NP complete doesn't imply that there are some problems that are unsolvable; merely that they won't be solvable in any reasonable amount of computing time. If you have a few hundred billion years of compute time available, a SAT solver might be able to solve even those small problems you mention. Of course, from a practical perspective, none of us are going to be here to get the result in those situations, making them unsolvable from a practical standpoint.

(On the other hand, once the billions of aeons roll by and the machine goes 'ding' and spits out an answer, we do know that we can verify it in poly time. Huzzah!)

While all of this may seem ultra-pedantic, there is enough confusion about NP out there that someone reading your post may get the idea that things that are NP-complete are unsolvable. They're not unsolvable -- we can typically fashion algorithms to solve them, simply that those algorithms run in nondeterministic polynomial time, and thus may have runtimes exceeding the expected lifetime of the solar system, even with every cycle of compute time ever invented pushed at it.

...unless, of course, someone comes up with a proof that P = NP, in which case all those NP-complete problems can be transformed into P problems. Sure, they might still take a few hundred billion years to get a solution, but at least we'd know how many hundreds of billions of years would be needed to get a solution!


about 2 months ago

Windows 8 Metro: The Good Kind of Market Segmentation?

Yaztromo Re: Bullshit (389 comments)

It's really funny to think that Mac OS X, an OS for whom many Windows users think is primarily aimed at and is used by the least technically proficient users in the world, has had virtual desktops for seven years now. So if Apple can figure out how to provide this feature, why can't Microsoft? Yaz.

about 2 months ago

Whatever Happened To the IPv4 Address Crisis?

Yaztromo Re:For anybody paying attention... (574 comments)

But the thing that sticks out the most is - why the hell is it such a crisis that IP addresses are doled out where they are needed, instead of what I am sure you would consider "fairly" to everyone? Is there now a social justice aspect to the IPv4 "crisis?"

Thanks for making it obvious you have no idea what you're talking about.

I have no problem with the disproportionate amount of /8's ARIN has assigned to it However, having such a large pool means that:

  1. Many of the organizations that want an IPv4 address block (of whatever size) probably already have one. Indeed, due to pre-CIDR allocation rules, many of them have way more than they actually need to use,
  2. There are more opportunities for addresses to be shuffled about. ARIN has assigned/controls over 1.3 billion addresses, for a population of roughly 530 million people. You have a lot more flexibility when you have nearly 2.5 addresses for every man, woman, and child in your registry area.

As such, you can't point to the pool with the largest number of addresses, and then imply(as the /. article does) that there is no address shortage issues. APNIC and RIPE NCC are already exhausted. The fact that North America has a historical address advantage means that effects in North America will be delayed -- not that they simply won't happen.

With that out of the way, if you know anything about routing, you would know that there is a technical crisis in doling out addresses wherever they are needed. Anytime you break up a contiguous address space, you'll generally need two (or more) additional routing table entries to handle the situation. In pre-CIDR days, the situation was fairly simple (although I'm simplify it a bit to make it easier to communicate): a router only had to look up where to forward a packet based on the value of the first octet, which would only have 255 possibilities (actually less, due to reserved address spaces, such as the unused Class E space). The packet would follow the route until it reached the router in charge of the value of the first octet, which would route based on the second octet, also with a maximum of 255 values. Each hop would hit a router with a table with a maximum of 255 entries, until you got to the destination host.

Post CIDR, the address space could be broken up at pretty much arbitrary locations, so knowing the next hope required ever expanding tables. As soon as you geographically break up, say, 213, into geographically separate ranges (say, for simplicity, a series of /16s), what used to be one routing entry is now 256 routing entries. Break up some of those /16s into /24s, and each of those /16s that are broken up become 256 other router entries.

This is how we've got to the point where there are roughly half a million forwarding entries. Maintaining all of these entries in a constantly changing network, storing them, and searching them is getting to be extraordinarily computationally expensive. If you continue to break them up such that no two contiguous addresses are on the same physical network, you could wind up with roughly 3.7 BILLION routing entries.

IPv4 wasn't designed to be broken up this way. In the early days of CIDR, it was expected that such routing difficulties were far in the future, and that we would have moved to a newer, better protocol by then. Turns out the problems aren't as far into the future as they may have expected, and we've done pretty much squat at doing anything about it, other than throwing more compute power at packet routing.

So yeah -- you can't just throw addresses where they're needed anymore. Every /8 block from the IANA has been assigned to RIRs, and any transfer of a block smaller than a /8 is going to add yet more entries to the global routing table. Just try to think of how a network is supposed to route to the United States, but to China. Yes, we can make it work -- but every time you break apart contiguous addresses like this, you need yet more routing entries to deal with the exception. The problem isn't ever going to get any easier with IPv4 -- it's only going to get worse. And that's why you can't just put addresses where they're needed. An address is useless if you can't route to it.


about 2 months ago

Whatever Happened To the IPv4 Address Crisis?

Yaztromo For anybody paying attention... (574 comments)

For anybody paying any attention over the past few years, this shouldn't come as a surprise.

The IANA ran out of IPv4 address space available for doling out to the Regional Internet Registries (of which there are six) three years ago. APNIC (Asia Pacific) and RIPE NCC (Europe) went below a single /8 three and two years ago respectively. The IPv4 address exhaustion has already begun.

ARIN (North America), however, has 82 /8s. If you consider that there are only 221 /8s in total (the IANA keeps 35 for reserved use), this means that ARIN has 37% of all usable Internet addresses assigned to it, for roughly 8% of the worlds population. More than a third of all possible addresses for less than a tenth of the worlds population.

Even still, ARIN now only has about 1.3 /8s free. Projections have them running out next year. They've always been estimated to be one of the last RIRs to run out (with AfriNIC being last, as they still have just over 3 of their nearly 13 /8s free) due in part to the huge number of /8s already in use in North America (way out of proportion to the population of the continent).

I feel really ashamed every time this topic comes up on /. at the complete and rampant ignorance of the issues surrounding IPv4 and IPv6. We will run out of IPv4 address space, but address space is hardly the only problem with IPv4. The bigger problem is ROUTABILITY -- the IPv4 routing tables have become seriously unweildly, they are getting progressively worse (in part due to InterRIR transfers of address blocks now that Europe and Asia have run out of addresses), and they continue to need more and more compute power thrown at the problem just to keep up. The number of BGP forwarding entries has doubled from roughly 250k to nearly 500k in just the last six years. The algorithms used for determining routes in IPv4 are complex. The computability is difficult, and it's slowing down the Internet today.

IPv6 solves a lot of the routing problems inherent in IPv4, making routability a lot easier to compute. IPv6 packets have a simpler header, routers don't need to provide fragmentation services, and there is no header checksum. IPv6 also avoids the routing anomalies present in IPv4 due to things such as the switch to CIDR. We know a heck of a lot more about packet routing now than we did in the 60s when IPv4 was first defined, and these improvements are available in IPv6.

This is why I cringe whenever I see a post in an IPv6 address exhaustion related /. story complaining about a lack of backwards compatibility in IPv6, or anytime anyone says that NAT is good enough for everybody. As the address space fragments even further, and historic /8s and /16s are broken up into ever smaller units which are then distributed to diverse geographies, the routing table in IPv4 is going to continue to blow up, becoming ever uglier -- it simply wasn't designed to scale in the manner in which we're using it. IPv6 brings sanity to global routing again, in a way that no backward-compatible solution could achieve.

The IANA is out of addresses. RIPE and APNIC are virtually out of addresses (with only enough reserved to aid in IPv4 - IPv6 tunnelling and translation services). ARIN is down to less than 1.5 /8s, and survives purely on the fact that it has a disproportionate number of /8s compared to the population it serves. And worst of all, IPv4 routing is an absolute mess that requires a ton of processing power and compute time to maintain. Remember these things before you post something silly about being pro-NAT, pro-some-untested-IPv4-address-extension-proposal, complaining about backward compatibility, or how people have been predicting IPv4 exhaustion for the last 25 years (just because you see the train coming towards you way off in the distance doesn't mean you won't eventually have to get off the tracks).

/. users, hang your head in shame. You used to be so much better than this. For those of you who do understand the issues involved, bravo on continuing to try to educate the idiot masses about why this is important. I just wish you weren't so few and far between.


about 2 months ago

Super Bowl Ads: Worth the Price Or Waste of Time?

Yaztromo Re:Radio Shack Ad Best So Far (347 comments)

That's probably one of the reasons they closed in Canada. Radio Shack used to be the place to go when you needed some components (which they stopped selling). the 200-1 electronic kits, the Armatron, I miss those kind of things...

Nope -- technically, they have never really closed in Canada, but it's a strange story.

RadioShack was operated in Canada by a company called InterTAN. They weren't owned by the US RadioShack at all -- the stores were licensed under an agreement. In 2004, Circuit City in the US bought InterTAN, and one week later RadioShack sued in the US (claiming breech of agreement) to have the licensing agreement cancelled. All Canadian RadioShack stores were then rebranded as "The Source By Circuit City" (which IMO was always a terrible name).

But wait -- there's more. In 2006 RadioShack US then opened 9 stores in the Toronto area running under the "Radio Shack" name. After only a few months in business, they closed all of them down "to focus on core US business".

In January 2009, Circuit City in the US went out of business; however, as "The Source By Circuit City" in Canada wasn't doing too badly, instead of being shut down with the US stores the entire thing was sold to Bell Canada, who renamed the stores "The Source", and who continues to operate them to this day.

As such, many/most of the pre-2006 RadioShack stores haven't actually closed -- they were simply renamed, first to "The Source By Circuit City", ad then just "The Source", which still operates today. InterTAN didn't go out of business -- it's just been swallowed up.

Of course, the product selection has changed over the years -- you're probably not going there anymore to get your zener diodes. They still have some parts, but it's not like back in the heyday.

(Refs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RadioShack#Operations_in_Canada, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Source_(retailer))


about 3 months ago

EU Secretly Plans To Put a Back Door In Every Car By 2020

Yaztromo So... (364 comments)

Does that mean only hatchbacks will be permitted in the EU going forward?

(Note to eds: bad titles are bad, and will be mocked.)


about 3 months ago

Apple Devices To Reach Parity With Windows PCs In 2014

Yaztromo Re:Can't directly compare PC and phone sales ... (511 comments)

It was the last of the plastic MacBooks, self identifies as "Early 2008". The CPU is a Core Duo and is 64-bit capable but Apple did not write 64-bit drivers (or something like that) for this system. It is not compatible with the 64-bit versions of Mac OS X. That makes it a non-64 bit machine regardless of what the CPU is capable of.

Your system runs a Core 2 Duo, and is indeed 64-bit capable.

Here's the rub, however -- your machine only has a 32-bit EFI, which means it can only boot in 32-bit mode. In OS X, this means it can only boot the 32-bit kernel and associated kernel modules. The 32-bit kernel can still run 64-bit applications -- but you'll still have the various limitations of a 32-bit kernel (although as the OS X 32-bit kernel implements PAE, you can still bust the 4GB addressing limitations you see in 32-bit versions of Windows client OS's).

The most recent OS X releases ship with only a 64-bit kernel; systems running with a 32-bit EFI are thus left out of the cold.

As such, it's not that your CPU can't handle 64-bit computation, or that Apple didn't write suitable drivers for your system. It's a boot issue due to the 32-bit EFI. So now you know.


about 3 months ago



Asia Pacific now out of IPv4 addresses.

Yaztromo Yaztromo writes  |  about 3 years ago

Yaztromo writes "It's official: after the IANA ran out of IPv4 addresses back in February, today APNIC was the first of the Regional Internet Registries to have run out of IPv4 addresses for general consumption (a single /8 has been reserved for use in IPv4-IPv6 links; qualifying service providers can only get 1024 addresses from this space at a time)."
Link to Original Source

Nortel and Vonage settle patent disagreement.

Yaztromo Yaztromo writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Yaztromo writes "CBC.ca is reporting that Nortel and Vonage have decided to settle their patent dispute amicably. According to the story, Digital Packet Licensing originally filed the suit, but after Vonage picked up some of their patents, they continued the suit against Nortel. Nortel (predictably) countersued. This agreement provides a cross-licensing solution for all the patents involved, with no money changing hands. Too bad Vonage hasn't been able to reach such agreements in other patent cases, but at least this is one less pending patent suit against them."
Link to Original Source

Yaztromo Yaztromo writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Yaztromo writes "

I've been running Firefox 2.0 beta 2 since its release (and beta 1 before that), and was just notified on my Apple PowerBook by Firefox's built-in Software Update facility that FireFox 2.0 RC 1 is now available for download. Huzzah!




Today, I am an inventor in two countries!

Yaztromo Yaztromo writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Rewind back to 2000. While everyone was taking a breather after Y2K turned out to be a relative non-event (thanks to hard work from the technical community everywhere), I was coming up with ideas. Ideas for things. Things that would do stuff.

Some of these things caught the attention of my then-employer (a company often associated with the words "big" and "blue"), and the slow wheels started grinding them towards some patents. Two of them in particular made their way through the internal grinder, and became actual applications: "Executing Native Code in Place of Non-Native Code", and "Dynamic Generation of Program Execution Trace Files in a Standard Markup Language".

Then that company gave me the boot.

Over the years since, I've kept an eye on my ideas through online databases. Both were filed in both Canada and the US, with the US applications appearing to be "links" to the Canadian patents. I'd look in on the CIPO database here in Canada every few months, generally to see the only "progress" being that my former employer had paid some yearly renewal fee.

This changed briefly back in 2006, when ""Dynamic Generation of Program Execution Trace Files..." was listed in CIPO's database as "dead". You win some, you lose some.

Ever since, nothing has changed...until I decided on a lark to take a peek today, to find:


So I decided to do a quick search of Google's Patent Database to see if it shows up there too, only to find an unexpected entry instead:

...so I have been an inventor on a patent since 2007, and didn't know it. The one that was marked as dead in Canada turned out to have been issued in the US. So not only was I surprised today to find out that one of my inventions was just issued a Canadian patent, but that another one was granted a US patent nearly two years ago.

Regardless of what I might think about software patents, this is still a pretty happy day. Both of the ideas patented in these two patents are in use in the wild (and presumably without a license from IBM), and I personally hope it stays that way. I have no say over how my old employer uses these patents (I technically didn't have any say in them applying for these patents either), but it feels pretty good to have these two added feathers in my cap today. It's been a very long wait, and I had long ago given up on anything ever being granted, so this has been a rather pleasant surprise for me.



Good 1000Base-TX card for Debian Lenny-AMD 64?

Yaztromo Yaztromo writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Last month, I finally decided to upgrade my old Celeron 550-based home server to a modern system, and found a pretty sweet Core 2 Duo-based system from Compaq available for just under $300 CDN as a factory refurbished unit. I quickly unpacked it, put Debian Lenny on it (Sarge was a bit too old to recognise some of the hardware, particularly the built-in network adaptor), and copied all the data from the old file server. It's most compute-intensive task is to run pyTivo, and moving from a 550Mhz system with 256MB RAM up to a C2D at 2.xGhz with 2GB RAM was a huge improvement -- we went from about 4fps up to about 60fps (at which point it would pretty much saturate the 100Mbps network connection). It was beautiful to behold.

Last week, after three weeks of flawless operation, I started getting a huge pile of network timeouts, and ultra-slow transfers from the new server. Slower than the old Celeron 550Mhz box it replaced. An order of magnitude slower. So I decided to do some simple diagnostics. In the end, it turned out there were two independent failures in two different pieces of hardware: firstly, the hard drive in the new server was crapping out already. More insidious however, and the actual cause of the slowdown I was trying to diagnose, is that my old 100Mbps switch appears to be having significant problems.

This switch was what most of our wired network devices are plugged into. We have a Tivo, and Playstation 2, the file server, and two Vonage phone adaptors wired into the network, and usually try to have one spare cable for times when the wireless network in our building goes crazy, and we need to plug one of the laptops in. This, of course, is more plugs than the 5-port switch could handle, so we also have an old LinkSys BEFSR41 router, set to switch mode plugged into the switch to offer yet more ports.

The new server is in getting its drive replaced (I wanted an empty drive, but they absolutely insist on putting Vista on it, even though the first thing I'm going to do is reformat/repartition it). As for the networking problem, I decided to leapfrog the issue altogether. The whole reason for having the 5-port switch was because our main routing device is an 802.11g version of the Apple Airport Extreme, which only has one ethernet LAN port on it. So, in an attempt to be a bit more forward-thinking (not to mention allowing me to use 802.11a or 802.11n to hopefully bypass the problem we have with too many wireless devices in other units in our part of the building -- I can usually see at least 12 other SSIDs from our unit), I bought a new Apple Airport Extreme, 802.11n edition, which comes with four built-in gigabit ethernet ports.

Now unfortunately, between our old 802.11g-based Airport Express and my wifes 802.11g-based PowerBook, I probably won't get to take advantage of the 11n speeds all that often. I'm willing to live with that for now. However, the possibility of some really fast transfers on the wired portion of the network by adding a gigabit ethernet adaptor to the server once it's back from being repaired would be fantastic.

My current plan is to continue to use the BEFSR41 as a switch/hub for those devices which are only ever going to be 100Base-TX, such as the PS2 the Tivo, and the Vonage boxes (which will fill it up right there), and other than the BEFSR41 itself, use the Airport Extreme's ports for Gigabit enabled devices (the fileserver, once so equipped, and the spare cable for my MacBook and work MacBook Pro when I bring it home). All of which hinges on finding a good Gigabit adaptor for the fileserver.

Any recommendations on a good Gigabit card for running with Debian Lenny? The board has some free PCI Express x1 slots, and thus a card supporting this would be preferable. Any ideas?



Defence tomorrow

Yaztromo Yaztromo writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Well...this is it. After three years of work, I'm defending my Masters thesis in Computer Science tomorrow. Entitled "Optimizing Synchronization Cost for Mobile Devices: The Expedient Trickle Sync Algorithm", my research revolved around coming up with a set of heuristic algorithms which could intelligently manage the synchronization of mobile devices in order to reduce the overall cost (where cost involves two opposing factors: the cost of data transfer across the network, and the more conceptual cost of potentially basing decisions based on out-of-date information; thus the trick is to synchronize at times and frequencies to try to guarantee that the users data is up-to-date when they need it, while minimizing the frequency of synchronization, the amount of data transferred, and the use of expensive networks).

The research turned out to be significantly bigger than it should be, and I'm very proud of it, however some of my committee members have been a bit of a PITA. Regardless, I'm going to survive tomorrow, come out the other side, and kick some ass and take some names along the way ;).



Running on Empty

Yaztromo Yaztromo writes  |  more than 5 years ago

This weekend I spent both days riding around the city on my new e-Bike. The sun was out, the weather was fine, and it felt god to be out and one the road and bike trails here in Victoria. Saturday I happened upon a Ska festival down at the inner harbour. Today I was one of the few to join in on an electric bike brigade ride along the coast.

Both days, unfortunately, I wound up having to do some serious pedalling as my batteries started running dry. Today was worse, in part because I had a passenger with me during the brigade ride (the young son of the woman who started the brigade ride really wanted to ride with me, so I let him jump on the back) -- by the time I got home, the battery was pretty much dry, and I had to pedal up a moderate grade on the way home, as the motor didn't have sufficient power to move the bike uphill on its own (and it wasn't giving me much help, either).

Fortunately, this bike has an optional second battery which goes under the seat, however I haven't spent the $90 for this option -- yet. But this weekends rides have got me thinking about power issues to extend the range of my bike.

Purchasing the secondary battery seems like a no-brainer, but like virtually all rechargeable batteries, it has a maximum lifetime, and it's probable that my usual home-to-University (and son home-to-work) trips won't really need it. Charging it as part of the system without ever discharging it will reduce its lifespan (the secondary battery doesn't run in a parallel circuit with the primary battery -- you actually have to switch the key to a different position to use it). I suppose I can simply switch which battery I use on a day-to-day basis, to "level" them equally...

Other thoughts go toward perhaps exploring some sort of portable solar charging system -- in the summer when it's hot and sunny at least, when the bike is sitting parked somewhere for several hours, I should be able to take free advantage of the sun's rays to give the battery some sort of boost. The trick here is that I'd want something ultra-portable (Canadian Tire has some neat foldable panels, but they don't generate much in the way of watts, don't output the correct voltage, and don't have the correct sort of interface) that can simply be plugged into the existing charging socket. Something that can go into the box at the back (or perhaps under the seat, which currently has lots of room as I don't have the secondary battery, although if I do get the secondary battery this space will probably disappear) would be ideal.

Or, perhaps I should just be a bit more sinister and take advantage of "public" power outlets. Today I spent several hours at a BBQ at a city park, near the outdoor stage. The stage has power outlets for use in staging public music shows, and I could have taken my bike up there after the show this afternoon, plugged it in in a corner, and locked it up (setting the alarm) and just leech my 15 worth of power from the City. I didn't do this, naturally, but the thought did cross my mind (especially as the thought of having to pedal home wandered through my brain. While you can pedal it, in reality the pedals aren't positioned to emphasize optimal body mechanics, and the bike is heavy, and it only has one gear, so pedalling it without the electric motor over long distances isn't particularly enjoyable. Some of the people I met at the e-Bike brigade today have actually removed their pedals altogether, as they simply never use them, but I guess they aren't doing 3 - 4 hour tours like I have been this weekend :P).

I need to take the bike in this week for some minor warrantee maintenance (they told me to come back to get the brake cables tightened, and there seems to be a minor switch malfunction where the emergency off switch won't actually disengage the power when switched off every so often...), so I think I'll pick up the secondary battery then. Anyone have any ideas on the use of solar panels to charge a 48V battery?



The new YazMobile

Yaztromo Yaztromo writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Gas prices here on the island have finally surpassed $1.50/L, thanks in part to the new BC Carbon Tax coming into effect on July 1st (which, FYI, I fully support). As I'm driving a '97 Chevy Lumina V6 Sedan with a 60L gas tank, if I were to drive everywhere our gas budget would be huge. Never mind the fact that parking is pretty expensive at the University. As such, for the past 6 months or so, Gigi and I have been taking the bus whenever we don't need to transport a sufficient quantity of goods (such as doing a big grocery trip). This works for us right now as we're still registered as grad students at the University, and have a bus pass included in our tuition that is significantly cheaper than the usual pass.

The bus, however, isn't exactly a speedy way to get around from our place. You waste a lot of time walking to the nearest bus stop, then waiting for the bus, riding on the bus (as it stops at nearly every stop to let people on or off), transferring to one or more other buses if we're trying to get anywhere more interesting than the University...etc.

I'm finishing up my thesis this month (defending in late August is everything goes well), and have accepted a full-time development job here on the island starting August 5th at a location only about 6km from our place, and so I decided to take a look at alternate forms of transportation. I settled upon and purchased a GWEV Super 8 electric scooter. And let me tell you -- this thing is just so much fun to drive around the city I keep looking for excuses to get out on it. I've been using it between home and the University for the past week, and its significantly faster than the bus, with less expense (or hassles) that driving the car (and nearly as quick so long as I don't have to get on a highway). As the Province of BC classifies it as a Motor Assisted Cycle, it can be driven anywhere you can ride a bicycle, and can be parked anywhere you can park a bicycle. It only costs about 15 to fully charge the battery from empty, and in our case we're not even paying that -- our building management has given us a special underground, secure parking spot next to a concrete support pillar with an electrical outlet for free -- so they're paying for the electricity.

Some people do look at me a bit oddly now and then -- mostly people who mistake it for a gas powered scooter and think I can't park it on sidewalks and such. It's also less than whisper-quiet -- even under power, about all you can hear is the sound of the rubber meeting the pavement.

When I bought it, as the dealership is downtown, Gigi and I went in the Lumina, but as the bike is too big to put into the car, I had to ride it home. The dealership had it fully charged and ready for me, so Gigi and I left at the same time (me on the bike, her in our car). We had a ~6km trip home each -- she taking the roads, and I taking an old railbed which has been converted into a cycling trail through the city. We got home at exactly the same time.

I can't recommend this gem of a vehicle highly enough. Obviously, it's mostly useful in an urban area with good cycling infrastructure (and legislation which permits you to ride it anywhere a bicycle can). I keep looking for excuses to get out and go for a ride, and now that I don't have to worry about paying for parking or the cost of use, I find myself wanting to go downtown more frequently.

Our only issue now is getting one for Gigi so she can join me [0] :).


[0] - Technically, the vehicle does have room on the seat and the necessary foot rests for a second passenger, but apparently only children under 12 can ride as a passenger in this configuration. Still, we have tested it and it will physically work, but we're just not up to testing law enforcement on this one. Besides which, we don't have a second helmet for her at this time.


Re-branding self.

Yaztromo Yaztromo writes  |  more than 5 years ago

This summer, I'm expecting to finish up my Masters thesis, and wind up my role as a student in a formal educational environment for many years. Gigi is also finishing off her Masters project, and should be finished with her studies at the same time.

Education has been expensive. I've been fortunate that I've been able to teach some undergraduate courses (I'm teaching a 4th year software engineering course starting May 5th) for income, but with rising food and fuel costs, we barely scrape by. As such, I'm interested in moving straight from school back to the work environment with minimal delay; putting food on the table pretty much requires such. So I've been applying for jobs.

Flashback nine years ago when I finished my undergraduate degree. My initial desire was to do my Masters degree right away. I had just finished releasing the very first feature complete version of the jSyncManager (which is celebrating it's tenth year of development this year, FWIW). However, I also had no less then seven job offers from companies in both Canada and the United States (and took the one offered by IBM Canada, where I worked for nearly 3 years) six months before graduating.

Fast-forward back to today and I've got nothing. I have significantly more experience under my belt (my work at IBM, my time in the Canadian Forces, a consulting gig with the Faculty of Medicine at UBC, three courses worth of University level teaching experience, conferences, publications, four patent applications (with IBM), not to mention nearly a dozen Open Source projects (some obscure, some successful)), but getting my foot in the door anywhere just doesn't seem to be happening.

As such, I'm trying to re-brand myself. My first step is to re-design my personal homepage to be more of an interactive Curriculum Vitae -- a one-stop shop listing my research, publications, patents, teaching experience, work experience, and OSS projects. I'm going to hit my university's Career Services office to see what they can provide.

Has anyone else here gone through the process of self-rebranding? If anyone has and useful insights, please share them below.



Married, at last.

Yaztromo Yaztromo writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Gigi and I have been in Istanbul for the past two weeks, and last night, in her parents living room we got married. Huzzah! Honestly, after more than 13 years of first dates (also known as "last dates") ending with "You're nice, but...", I didn't think such a day was ever going to come. But here it is -- now, along with all my other titles and accomplishments, I can now add "Husband".

Mind you, oddly enough our marriage isn't really "official", so we're being quiet about advertising it in some quarters. Our wedding last night was a simple traditional Muslim religious wedding which, while recognized by Gigi's friends, family and surrounding community, isn't legally recognized here in Turkey (and thus, from what I understand, isn't really recognized by Canada either). For the sake of her Canadian Permanent Residency application, we're calling it a "commitment ceremony", and we'll pursue an official wedding in 2009, once her PR is approved (as she can't leave the country while it's in progress).

Still, I feel married. Our series of weddings and receptions and such may not be traditional (in either of our two countries of origin), but it's uniquely ours, and we're pursuing it together, so I couldn't be happier, and am proud to introduce Gigi as my wife and partner for life.



An Athiests Guide to Ramadan: Day 9

Yaztromo Yaztromo writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Well, I've survived through eight full days of my first Ramadan, and so far I've maintained the fast. So this is a quick status report.

First off: I'm freaking hungry! Please, oh please, someone send me some food!

Okay -- that's not exactly fair or accurate. Indeed, our home is chock-full of food right now. The problem right now is that we spend 14 hours not eating or drinking any of it, so most food items are lasting longer than they would otherwise. We have two meals a day -- dinner (which is now at about 1920), and "breakfast" (at around 0430, and really should be renamed from "breakfast" to "gobble-up-all-you-can-cause-the-fast-starts-...now!"). We snack almost constantly in the evening, but because of the fast (no energy during the day or evening (until the first food is mostly digested), and the need to get up early the next day), Gigi likes to go to bed early. So this snacking doesn't last all that long.

Most days I either feel like I'm seriously hungry, or like I'm going to be sick. One morning I felt I was close enough to tossing all my cookies that I stayed in the bathroom for at least half an hour until the urge subsided. And on the days that I don't feel sick, I feel like I'm unable to work on anything requiring any significant concentration (which has been a problem, as I'm supposed to have been working on two papers these past 10 days, one of which is only now 95% complete (and it was at least 85% complete before Ramadan even started), and the other of which I haven't even started. The teaching is working out fine (fortunately) -- in fact it's usually the two times during the daylight hours in the week that I feel my best (as my mind is sufficiently occupied I forget about how hungry or crappy I'm feeling).

Fortunately, my difficulties with Ramadan and the fast haven't affected Gigi and my relationship at all -- even though she's always telling me I should stop the fast, and that I don't have to do it, I know that she's glad we can do it together. Which is really the whole reason why I'm doing this in the first place.

Fortunately (and unfortunately) Gigi is going away to the mainland on a training source all next week. It's unfortunate because I'm going to miss her every moment she's away (and I know she will too), but it's fortunate because I can eat again. There really isn't a whole lot of reason for me to continue while she isn't here.

However, at this point I haven't quite decided wheter I should give up or not. I'm not the type of person to give up on hard things just because it's convenient to do so, and while Gigi tells me she knows I'm not that sort of person, I want her to see it for herself. Still, I need to get some serious work done toward finishing this Masters degree, and being able to take the quiet time when she's not here to concentrate at my fullest to finish off my survey paper (which is written, but I want to improve the conclusion and my use of references in the text), and writing up a new proposal paper (more on this in a future Journal entry) -- and being well fed is integral to thinking clearly and being able to concentrate on the task at hand. So at this point it boils down to whether my practical side or my stubborn side wins out.

Fortunately, for five of the days of the week nobody cares if I sleep in past noon. If Gigi didn't already know better, I'd have to invent some sort of fake Canadian festival/holiday where you're supposed to pull down your pants and slide on a frozen lake in the middle of winter, as a form of revenge ;).



An Atheists guide to Ramadan: Day 1

Yaztromo Yaztromo writes  |  more than 6 years ago

As those of you who have followed my Journal probably already know, I'm an atheist, and Gigi is Muslim. Beyond the whole God issue, however, Gigi and I perceive the world in much the same way -- she isn't so much religious as she is spiritual. She doesn't pray five times a day (or even once a day) or anything -- she just feels that there is a Supreme Being, it initialized the Universe a long time ago, sent a prophet, sends bad people to hell after they die (and good people to heaven), but otherwise stays out of the affairs of humanity. Some sort of cosmic voyeur I suppose. We've agreed to disagree on the subject, and get along fantastic.

Yesterday was the beginning of Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic lunar calendar. Gigi's family back in Turkey has always observed Ramadan (just as my parents have always observed Christmas in a secular way), so she has a cultural attachment to it that I can honour and appreciate.

Now for those of you who don't know, one of the central practises of Ramadan is the fast. From dawn through to the end of dusk, you're not allowed to eat anything (unless you're too young, too old, or your health simply doesn't permit it), you're not allowed to have sexual contact, and you're not allowed to swear or have bad thoughts (at least in the manner in which Gigi and her family practise the holiday). As Gigi practises things, she can't even hug, kiss, or brush her teeth during these times. Of course, once the sun is down the feast begins, and we can stuff ourselves until the sun rises again.

"She" isn't exactly the right word -- what I really mean is "we". I didn't think it was particularly decent of me to be doing any of the things she can't (read: won't) do during the daylight hours: it wouldn't be particularly understanding of me to be eating in front of her 80% of the way through a long day of fasting. So I'm observing Ramadan as well.

We're just finished day one, and here's the basic schedule:

  1. Wake up at 0400: Last chance to eat before the sun comes up. I was up earliest, so I made us a big breakfast. We had to be finished by 0448, and once we were (and after a quick tidy), it was time to...
  2. Go back to bed at ~0500: we were tired. I pretty much didn't sleep at all the night leading up to breakfast, so it was my chance to get some sleep.
  3. Avoid eating, drinking (even water), swearing (something I never do anyway), having sexual contact (difficult when our workplaces are ~10km apart anyhow :P), or having evil thoughts for about 14 hours, until:
  4. Dinner at 1939: Let me tell you, after 14 hours of nothing to eat or drink (with at least a dozen instances of me walking to the 'fridge to pour a cool drink, only to remember I can't do that and head back to my laptop thirsty and dejected), I was ready to pig out. We had a pretty good sized meal (although just prior to working on this post I had to have a bowl of late night cereal because I'm hungry again), but if I'm going to fast all day every day for the next month, I'm going to need dessert of some sort. We didn't have the time (or too many ingredients) to make anything tonight. We are however trying a number of Turkish dishes I've never had before (Gigi found this brilliant website of traditional Turkish dishes, written by a fellow Canadian (and Turk) here, so we're giving them a go. Tonight was "Kadinbudu Kofte", but as we didn't have egg noodles, we did the very, very Canadian thing and substituted Kraft Dinner instead).

Wash, rinse, repeat.

Now the good bit of news: fortunately, as it is September, the days are getting shorter. In fact, every day we start breakfast two minutes later, and dinner two minutes earlier. By the end, we'll be fasting for approximately two hours less than we had to on day one. Whew!

I know I'm a really lucky guy to have Gigi in my life -- she's the sweetest, gentlest, silliest, and most loving entity I've ever encountered, and I'm more than happy to support her during this special time. I know that participating with her means to world to her, so I'm going to keep it up, and refuse to let her down. Still, if I did believe in $SUPREME_DEITY, and if we were also doing the traditional prayers, I can imagine that by the third round of prayers, I'd be praying for $SUPREME_DEITY to send down a truckload of tacos, or maybe some cedar planked salmon or some-such.

So day one is finished. It's just after 0100 local time, Gigi is sleeping soundly, and I'm going to have yet another bite to eat before I join her. The next 28 days are basically going to be repeats of today, but I'll post up any interesting tidbits as we continue.

(And I haven't forgotten about my promised review of the Weird Al Yankovic concert we attended on Tuesday -- I'm still amazed and happy that we got to meet him, shake his hand, and thank him for the amazing show).



Going to see Al.

Yaztromo Yaztromo writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Gigi and I are going to see Weird Al tonight. I've been following Al's music and career pretty much since he started issuing albums in the early 80's, but I've never actually been to one of his concerts. Gigi found out about it earlier this summer, we bought tickets right away, but were still only about to get 9 rows from the front, right against one side. Oh well -- I'm still excited, and I still expect it to be a really good show. I was tempted to try to e-mail Al to offer him $5 and a bag of doughnuts if he'd only play Nature Trail to Hell, but figure the guy gets bugged by enough strange people as it is. But here's hoping...;).



We're getting married!

Yaztromo Yaztromo writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Just a quick note to let everyone know -- Gigi and I are getting married!

We were both surprised that, after two months of grumbling, her father gave us permission to wed two weekend ago. So we're starting to make plans. First up has been shopping for an engagement ring -- she's picked out a nice one, and we're just waiting for the diamond we're looking at to arrive (it's in a white gold version of the ring she likes, but if she wants it we'll have them set it in the same model, but in 18K yellow gold/platinum instead).

All of which means I need to get a move on and finish up my research work so I can graduate. We're flying to Istanbul this December for the official engagement ceremony (and I've already bought the airline tickets), and hope to be married July 2008.

So little time, so much to do. I really should be wasting less time here and spending more time writing the papers I've started, but between the engagement, teaching, and trying to get over a nasty summer head cold, and other projects I've been rather busy. But I can't complain -- I've had a lot more money than I do now, but I've never been happier. Isn't the adventure of it all grand sometimes?



Mini-review: Transformers

Yaztromo Yaztromo writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Gigi and I decided to get out and see a movie tonight, and caught "Transformers" on its opening night here in Victoria.

I can't say that I've had a really good time at the movies for a while. It has just taken me 10 minutes to remember the last movie we saw (Pirates of the Caribbean 3), and I have no recollection of what we saw previous to that. Movies have just been so forgettable as of late.

But Transformers was fun. The special effects were top-notch. My main complaints (which don't really detract from the fun factor) are:

  • It was sometimes hard to follow combat sequences due to the fast motion and really short camera sequences.
  • Due to the fast motion, there seems to be motion blur involved with some of the Transformers. I'm not sure if this was intentional, or a side-affect of the cold I'm suffering affecting my visual acuity somehow, and
  • The signals analysis/"hacking" scenes. Yeah, they Hollywooded-up the computer displays and the overall process in a manner only a really hard-core systems nerd would notice is just plain wrong

Something to watch for: the use of Macintosh computers and displays everywhere, and not hiding the fact (I'll note here that other series use a lot of Apple hardware -- the new Doctor Who series being a good example, but in many such cases the Apple logo, especially on laptops, is covered over with a circular sticker). I wonder what Apple paid for that product placement.

Overall, however, we had a lot of fun. It's probably the first movie in a long time that I'd actually be tempted to go and see again, if seeing a movie didn't cost a significant portion of my income (and as it is, Gigi has to see the new Harry Potter movie next week -- we've already bought our tickets for it). I don't buy a lot of movies, but I might be tempted to pick this one up on DVD when it is released.




Yaztromo Yaztromo writes  |  more than 6 years ago

For the past few days, Gigi and I have been completely unable to send e-mail from our Mac laptops at home. Mail.app will try to send messages, but by and large they don't go anywhere. I have been having a certain amount of luck using Gmail's SMTP server, but it's a minor pain to try to send a message from one of my University accounts (which I use for the third year OS course I'm teaching this term), or from my .Mac account (my mail personal account), only to get an error dialog a minute or two later asking me to select a different server. Gigi hasn't been so fortunate -- she can't send anything at all.

Tonight I decided to look into this, and as it turns out, without announcement or fanfare two or three days ago my ISP decided to block all access to external port 25 requests. Thus, I had to try and find alternate ports for my .Mac and University servers. .Mac supports SSL, so that wasn't too hard to find, but the University only lists port 25. After some experimentation trying some SSL and SSL alternate ports, I discovered by chance that they also accept SMTP connections on port 26 (which might be new to allow people around the local cable monopoly's port 25 blocking, in which case they ma not be advertising the new port yet).

In the end, everything is working again. The cable company claims it's being done to try to fight spam, but really it seems to me that if more providers do this, there will be organizations that instead of implementing SSL and authentication for SMTP simply do what the University has done and make the service available on port 26, simply shifting the problem to a different port. And even with SSL and authentication for SMTP, does anyone think its going to be difficult for botnet creators to simply query the necessary connection credentials from Windows users Outlook settings and just use them?

Thanks a smegging bunch-a-roonie, Shaw Cable. You've just caused problems for millions of customers for absolutely nothing.

My box is fixed. Gigi's box will have to wait until tomorrow so I can get her to authenticate so I can change her SMTP settings.



Do you still use optical media regularly?

Yaztromo Yaztromo writes  |  more than 6 years ago

I just finished up a rather large project implementing a robotic blimp. We based the system on at Atmel AT90USB Key device, which is a really flexible little development board with a ton of connectivity. We wired in motors, sonars, a digital compass, and a 2.4Ghz radio. We started off with absolutely no software, so we wrote a Real-time Operating System, device drivers for all the hardware, a protocol stack for the wireless radios, an RS-232 driver, and even an ANSI/VT-100 driver. We built the blimp ourselves (a company donated a massive roll of mylar), and even made our own tool for sealing mylar sheets together.

As you might be able to imagine, this resulted in a lot of output. We wrote tons of documentation, tons of code, had reams of experimental output, and even had a set of digital videos showing various parts of the system in action throughout development (you can see web-friendly versions of them here).

So today, with my team and myself finishing up the last of the documentation, I decided to put it all on a DVD. I grabbed what's left of the spindle of single-sided DVDs, and took them to my G5 in my lab.

I recall my first CD burner -- a 4x4x16 Yamaha SCSI CD-RW drive (I still have it, installed and running in an old machine). Back when I got it in the mid-late 90's, it was just barely on the cusp of becoming a semi-common peripheral. A year or two after I got it, suddenly every computer manufacturer was tripping over themselves to include a CD writer.

These days, the vast majority of systems sold come with CD/DVD burners. They are everywhere. The media has good capacity, and is easily and cheaply available.

And yet today, as I burned the first DVD, I really couldn't remember the last time I had burned a disc. That spindle of DVDs I brought to the lab with me has been in my possession for at least a year and a half, and I'm still not all the way through them.

Thinking about it, I don't have much need for optical media anymore. There are only two cases where they come in useful: burning video DVDs (such as I did today, and burning the occasional MP3 CD for my car MP3 CD player. Both are very infrequent events. For everything else, I use either my laptop, a USB flash key, iPod, or network storage. For files that I need easy access to anywhere, I can put them onto my iDisk. For large capacity, I have a file server with 300GB of storage. Ten years ago I was so excited at being able to store 650MB on a single disc, but now I rarely even use optical media for much of anything (even though I have a dual layer DVD burner at my disposal, and hence can store 8.5GB of data on one disc).

So how about you? Do you burn as many optical discs as you once did, or are removable disc media a rarity in your life as well, supplanted by network storage, USB keys, and iPods?



Implementing an energy efficient apartment: lighting.

Yaztromo Yaztromo writes  |  about 7 years ago

I've been making a very conscious effort since I moved to BC back in 2005 to make my home more energy efficient. To start, I should note that I have things comparatively easy -- Gigi and I are living in a one bedroom apartment. However, as we're on the ground floor, with no balcony, and with a balcony directly above the living room window, with a ~3m cliff wall only about 4m away from and parallel to the windows, we get virtually no direct sunlight, thus artificial lighting is pretty much a must for rooms we're using for tasks that require light (which is pretty much anything short of watching the TV or sleeping).

Shortly after I moved in back in the late summer of 2005, I started my mission to replace every light in here with energy efficient lighting. The first to be replaced were the three frosted glass ceiling lamps -- one in the bedroom, and two in the hall, each taking two bulbs, for a total of 6 bulbs. They had primarily 60W bulbs in them, which I replaced with 13W CF bulbs. I also replaced the light in the range hood with the same 13W CF bulb. Two of these Noma branded bulbs also made their way into a desk lamp that also had a 60W bulb in it, and a table lamp of mine that was designed for a 150W tri-light bulb.

The bathroom required decorator globe lamps, so I bought 4 of these, replacing four 40W incandescents with four 9W vanity bulbs made by Globe.

The dining room has a single-bulb suspended ceiling lamp, which had a 100W globe bulb in it. It's on a dimmer, so I replaced it with a 26W CF bulb from GE. This bulb has since died (well within its 4 year guarantee), and I've replaced it with a really old-style fully enclosed CF bulb I've had for 15 years or so, which I don't know the wattage or manufacturer of (post-preview check: it's an 18W SL-18 lamp from Phillips).

The latest replacement was a 300W halogen torchiere floor lamp. Gigi and I got a great deal on a brand new 55W CF torchiere which, after sale pricing and an instant rebate from the electric utility, cost us $35 (CAN). As there is no built-in lighting in the living room, which is our main lamp -- if someone is home, it's probably on. Switching to CF is probably going to save us roughly $60 a year based on my rough usage calculations, so we're going to hopefully see a net savings from this acquisition pretty fast (and if we can sell the old one for $15, we'll have paid off the lamp in savings in about three months time).

The kitchens main lighting has always been via CF tube lighting. I'm guessing it has two 30W bulbs in it, however as I haven't taken apart the fixture to find out (and probably won't), I don't know for certain.

So, from a rough back-of-the-envelope calculation, we've decreased our energy usage in these lighting fixtures from 1190W down to 234W.

We're not quite finished, however. There are still 5 incandescent bulbs in our apartment:

  • A small 40W desk lamp, that takes a type S bulb,
  • A second halogen floor lamp. This one is smaller, with a flexible head, and is rated for a 20W G4 connector bulb (I can't tell if this is the wattage of the bulb in there, mind you),
  • The lights in the refridgerator and oven, which are standard 40W appliance bulbs, and
  • The current heavyweight, a 250W infrared heat lamp in the bathroom. As the bathroom has no heater of any sort, this built-in ceiling lamp is the heating system. We virtually never use it.

I'd love to replace the 40W desk lamp bulb with an LED bulb, but I have yet to find anywhere where I can buy one with a type S connector. I'd also love to replace the 'fridge bulb, as it is a heat source, so not only does it use more energy than necessary, the bulk of that energy then needs to be used again by the refrigeration system to remove that heat again. But I haven't found a CF or LED appliance bulb anywhere either.

The over light is probably the hardest to replace, as I'd think the temperatures reached in there would be too excessive for most CF ballasts to handle, and would melt the plastic in LED lamps. Besides which, any heat lost is typically useful in this scenario (as rarely is the light ever turned on when the oven isn't in use anyhow).

The heat lamp is probably impossible to replace. The only way I can see any energy savings from it while still allowing it to do it's job would be to find something that emitted more IR light -- even though the bulb is marked "Infrared", it still emits a lot of visible white light (enough that you can use it as the only light in the room if you wanted to). We virtually never use it, so replacing it with something more efficient would mostly be "because we can", rather than for any actual energy savings.

It's been difficult to measure the savings, due to both the staggered deployment over the course of two years, and what with Gigi moving in back in January (someone is now typically home much more often than before, so the lighting is used more often, and the electricity usage has changed). I'm billed 6 times a year, and the last bill would have only included about two weeks of usage of the new torchiere lamp (our single biggest energy saving replacement to date), so the next bill should hopefully be more en-"lightening".

Next in the series: replacing the old mechanical thermostat with a digital setback thermostat (the apartment uses all electric heating). I'm hoping the next bill will show whether or not this has also made an appreciable difference or not to our energy footprint here in Chateau Yaz.



Best Valentines Ever.

Yaztromo Yaztromo writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Gather around everyone, for I have a story to tell.

As regular visitors to my irregular /. journal probably recall, I spent last summer working very closely with a woman visiting from Germany (whom in the past I've identified as Rose (not her real name)), together with whom I spent all my social time with outside the office as well, and for whom I was very emotionally attached. You'll also remember the pain I was going through in September after she left.

Let's rewind a bit for a moment, and talk about when she first arrived. She came to Canada knowing nobody here early last March, and I was assigned to show her around. Around the same time, I started dating a woman I had met online, whom we'll call Gigi (not her real name, of course). Gigi and I went out three times, and things were really going well when, without warning, she told me she didn't want to see me anymore. I felt really down, in large part because I had gone through 13 years of first dates which were also last dates. Rose and I were becoming good friends, and she was there for me when I felt really low, with Gigi (apparently) losing interest with no explanation.

Fast forward to the beginning of last October. Feeling depressed having lost Rose, I suddenly get a message from Gigi, to tell me that I was the nicest man she'd ever known, and that she was interested in being friends. Hungry for some companionship (and always having had really liked her), I invited her over for a movie one night in early October.

I expected nothing, but by Thanksgiving weekend a week later (Canadian Thanksgiving, celebrated at the correct time in October :) ), we were officially an item.

Kismet is now making up for lost time. The last 4+ months have been the absolute best in my life. Gigi is an international student (studing for her Masters in a different faculty, so we never bumped into each other at the University at all), with a significantly different cultural background than my own (I'm Canadian, she's Turkish), and when we first got together late last March and hit it off so well, she got somewhat scared, and backed away. However, she had spent the entire summer daydreaming of our short time together. She had never been in a long-term relationship before, and was somewhat scared by the concept, but apparently it grew on her, and I was the guy who was on her mind.

She moved in at the beginning of January, after coming home to Toronto with me for the holidays. Every day since has been domestic bliss. My home is now so full of love and joy that it has completely transformed me. We are hoping to get married for the summer of 2008 (although there are a number of issues for us to deal with to make that happen -- she's not a Canadian citizen (but wants to become one), and she wants to get married in Turkey (so her parents can attend -- they don't have the resources to come to Canada, and don't speak any English)).

Every morning, I wake up, and see her beautiful, peaceful face, and wonder how I went from 13 years of rejection and loneliness to absolute bliss. She does so much for me (as I do for her). I made sure this Valentines Day I gave her all those things I had dreamed of being able to do for all those years (a lot of the cliché things, as she has never had anyone do anything for her for Valentines Day). Every day, I'm so excited to be able to go home.

Including today. I'm at a pretty dull conference right now (I'm here because some people in my research group at speaking here later today, and I'm speaking here tomorrow afternoon. Maybe then I can shake things up ;)), and can't wait to get home and cook her dinner (we don't subscribe to archaic gender roles when it comes to household chores -- I do the vast majority of the cooking, for example).

Every day, I wake up the luckiest man in the world.




Yaztromo Yaztromo writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Tonight I needed to get a new pair of pyjamas out, so I dug into the drawer to get a pair of bottoms and an old t-shirt out. Tonights selection is a very old t-shirt I have that was given to me in the early 90's with an image of a painting by Robt. Williams called "The Mystic Rabbitmaster".

I've owned this shirt for a long time, and due to its age it's relegated to pyjama-shirt status. Parts of the image and text are a bit faded, but otherwise it's clean, and the stitching is fine, and there are no holes of any sort, so it suffices for the task.

However, in the 15+ years I've owned it, I never really knew anything about the painting or the artist. It was given to me as an impromptu gift (someone gave it to the general manager of the company I was working for at the time, and he gave it to me). So tonight, putting it on, I decided to see if I could learn anything about the painting and the artist in question.

So I typed in "Mystic Rabbitmaster" into Google, and it spat out one result. There are no pictures online unfortunately (at least not anywhere I can find), and no other information about the painting other than the fact that it was included in a card collection called "Crimes Against the Eye". The artists name, painting title, Colloquial title, and Museum Catalog Title are all printed on the back of the shirt (as apparently they were printed on the backs of the cards).

I always find it interesting in this day and age when I type something into Google and find one (or no) results at all. It's rare, but it's always interesting to find those corners of the realm of data that aren't online.



Vista Experiment, Stage 1: Vista Upgrade Advisor

Yaztromo Yaztromo writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Okay, so it took me a bit longer than I had expected, but I got home a bit early today, my SO isn't home (SO? WTF? Yeah -- I'm saving that for another journal entry one of these days. Sorry gang!), so I decided to sit down and get the Vista install rolling.

I popped in the DVD, and the first thing it prompted me to do is to check and see if my system is Vista compatible. So I started it up, only to discover than instead of starting the upgrade advisor as I had expected, it started Firefox instead so I could download the advisor. There are nearly 2GB of free space on the Vista Business Edition DVD -- why couldn't they put the program on the disc itself?

Anyhow, a minor PITA, but not worth complaining about too much. I'm more interested in the results. So after running for 10 minutes or so (WTF was it doing???), the results have popped up. I haven't read them yet (I figured I'd get this journal entry started), so I'm interested to see what it has to say.

System Requirements
  • Before you upgrade to Windows Vista, there are some system issues you need to address on this computer (2).
  • Some system issues might prevent you from using all of the features in this edition of Windows Vista (1).
We recommend you review your device issues (1).
We recommend you review your program issues

Hmmm. Sounds a bit ominous. Let's see what the issues are:

  • CPU: The upgrade advisor recommends a minimum 800Mhz CPU.
  • RAM: The upgrade advisor recommends a minimum 512MB of RAM
  • Free hard disk space: I can't upgrade from XP, because the boot drive is only 9.1GB, with only 3.8GB free, and Vista requires 15GB (15GB!!!). It does say I can install to drive G:, mind you, which has 40GB of free space.
  • Video Card: It won't run Aero. I wasn't expecting it would.

So, Vista Upgrade Advisor basically recommends I need a whole new system. Let's see what else it says:

  • ATI 3D Rage Pro AGP 2x: Not supported.
  • Jungo WinDriver: Not supported. I'm not sure what this is, but I think it was installed as part of the Iomega parallel Zip-100 drivers I installed, which...
  • Iomega Legacy Parallel Port Drive ...is also not supported!
  • Macronix-based Ethernet Adapter: Not supported.
  • Sound Blaster 16: Not supported.

What on this system is supported?

  • Intel Master IDE Controller
  • Intel PCI to USB Universal Host Controller
  • LSI Logic Device (my UW-SCSI adapter)

So, looking at all of this, my CPU, RAM, video card, ethernet adapter, audio card, and old Zip drive aren't supported. I don't care about the Zip drive (I hooked it up to see if it still works), but it's hard to run a system with no video card or ethernet card. On the bright side, if all I wanted to do was run SCSI and USB devices apparently I'm golden (with the problem of CPU and RAM being insufficient, mind you).

Okay, so this looks like a bust, and perhaps an end to the experiment. But let's look at the rest anyhow:

  • J2SE Runtime v1.5 may have minor compatibility problems after the upgrade,
  • Windows Messenger may have minor compatibility problems after the upgrade (huh?)

So, there it is. The experiment might just die right here. I might try to see if I can image the XP drive somehow and try the installation anyways, but the advice from the Vista Upgrade Advisor certainly isn't all that rosy. Not that I was expecting great things to start with, but as this system does run XXP, I figured it should also run Vista with all of the extra video eye-candy turned off. This system runs XP and Ubuntu just fine (well, it installs and runs Ubuntu fine if I give up one of my drives -- the installer doesn't like the fact that I have both SCSI and IDE drives in it).

Fortunately, my computing life doesn't depend on Windows, and doesn't depend on this machine. So for now it will stay an XP machine for those times when I need to do Atmel microcontroller development, and I'll be happy doing the rest of my work on the shineyness Mac OS X Tiger (which has had those fancy video effects and GPU-offload features for more than 3 years now).



Experiment: Vista on an old PC.

Yaztromo Yaztromo writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Well, my University's MSDN Academic Alliance finally put Vista available for download the other day, so I grabbed a license, downloaded the Business Edition DVD, and will be installing it later tonight. The catch? I'm a Mac guy, but do still have a few PC's laying around, one of which has been running Windows XP SP2 for the last few months. And that system is a P3-450 box from the late 90's.

Here's the hardware:

  • Pentium-3, 450Mhz
  • 384MB RAM
  • 8MB ATI Rage Pro (AGP)
  • Symbios-based UW-SCSI adapter
  • 40GB IDE drive
  • Sound Blaster 16 with WaveBlaster (ISA!)
  • 2.88MB floppy, 1.44MB floppy, DVD-ROM, CD-RW, and parallel Zip-100 drives

Now back in the day, this was one rather impressive machine. Lots of drives, and a very fast primary hard drive. Today, however, it doesn't really have much going for it. My laptop is three years old, and has a 1.33Ghz processor and 1.25GB of RAM, and an 80GB hard drive.

A bit about the current software installation (as I'm intending to do an "upgrade" installation first): XP was installed for one reason only: to run some Atmel microprocessor development tools for their AT90USB device. As such, the system has the following installed on it (and nothing else):

  • XP SP2 with all the latest updates
  • IE7
  • Microsoft Windows Defender
  • Windows Media Player 11
  • Firefox 2.0
  • Open Office 2.0
  • Atmel Studio and FLiP
  • Grisoft AVG Free anti-virus
  • TortiseSVN

That's it. Most of this software has never been used, and almost every other piece of junk XP installed has been removed (like Outlook). I've never run OpenOffice on the machine, nor have I ever run Windows Media Player. IE7 has only been used for Windows Update. I don't use the system to surf the web -- Firefox is just used to read some HTML-based documentation for the hardware I've been coding against.

As such, this is a pretty pristine Windows XP install. It was installed from a clean drive (previously the system was a Debian box, but Debian and Ubuntu both started to have serious issues with the UW-SCSI drive when I installed the 40GB IDE drive). This XP system is probably going to be a whole lot cleaner than 99% of the XP systems Vista would be installed over.

I'm not expecting Aero to run (of course), but I'm curious to see how it performs otherwise. I don't know if the Atmel tools will work on Vista, and I'm interested to see how other items react. Will the system thrash due to only 384MB of RAM? Will other, non-Aero effects run slowly due to the 450Mhz processor? Will this near pristine XP system upgrade cleanly?

I don't care to run Vista -- I think Microsoft's software design is terrible. I don't like anything they've produced since "Decathalon" for the original IBM PC. But I am curious to find out if things are going to be as bad for old PC owners as some people seem to think. I'm not going to complain if my old system won't support some of the more fancy aspects of Vista -- but will it continue to work as a workstation for my microcontroller programming projects, and some basic web browsing?

Stay tuned. I'm burning the DVD tonight, and will be installing it within the next few days (as time permits).



Did you notice what was missing in today's keynote?

Yaztromo Yaztromo writes  |  more than 7 years ago

While everyone is excited and talking about the products Steve Jobs announced today (the iPhone -- and I'm excited about it myself), nobody seems to be talking much about what wasn't announced: a new iLife Suite for 2007. iLife has been announced at MacWorld each of the last 3 years, and most people felt this was a slam-dunk prediction.

Maybe they want to integrate new features into the 2007 edition that work specifically with Leopard, and that we'll hear about it when Leopard is launched in the new few months.


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