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August 17, 2010

20x2x20

Over the last year since graduating I've succumbed to a hedonistic lifestyle. That really isn't me. At this point though I'm really out of practice of about focusing on something. As such I'm going to try a little strategy that revolves around setting aside an hour a day for "me time".

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Tags: life plan

May 1, 2010

Choices

Choices, I have too many. It seems every day I run across something else that I want to learn and play with. Attending BarCamp didn't help. Reading blogs and newsgroups isn't helping. Buying more books definitely isn't helping. I've only got so much free time and right now a good portion of that is being used up training for my upcoming bicycle trip. I'm beginning to wonder if there is some other underlying reason for all of the intellectual angst. Too bad I'm not disciplined enough right now to actually list out and rank everything and just focus on something.

Tags: ideas life

September 6, 2007

Ignite Boston

Tonight I attended Ignite Boston. This was the first "the attendees make the conference" conferences I'd been to. From a single stage, a wide variety of short (5 minute) technology focused talks were given (full speaker list from the above link). The majority of speakers had their talks geared towards the format. Taking place at a bar was good for the social aspects, but the resulting background chatter overwhelmed some speakers that were not as adapt at speaking into the microphone.

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Tags: boston ignite

October 21, 2006

Privacy

Much has been said around the lose of privacy particularly in this growing world of identity theft. People have been thinking about trust and computers since the beginning. Scott McNealy once said "You have zero privacy now. Get over it" (the PC Week "Quote of the Week," Feb. 1, 1999). The ACLU is fighting against the lose of privacy as are many other groups. Now I learn of a site called Abika (part of the Intelius network) that will not only lookup background information for a fee but also will compile physiological profiles. If that site doesn't suit your needs try one of the many others available.

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Tags: life privacy

September 12, 2006

Art Project Idea

I don't really have the time or more importantly the interest but I think you could do a really neat art project making a photo mosaic out of beer bottle caps.

Tags: art ideas

September 11, 2006

Urban Tribes

It isn't often that I read a book that I find truly speaks to me. Some books are engaging in that I find the material of interest while other books are written well and I find myself wanting to see what happens next. For a book to really speak to me it has to be something different. After reading an article in a magazine I went to buy Urban Tribes by Ethan Watters. At the same time I ended up picking up What should I do with my life? by Po Bronson, since it was mentioned on the back of Watter's book. I hoped Bronson's book would speak to me. It didn't.

Urban Tribes ended up sitting on my bookshelf for months with other books I had hoped to read or thought I was going to read. While packing for my drive to Virginia to attend Dave Fried's wedding I was trying to decide what I should bring along to read. I picked up Urban Tribes as it seemed about the right length and attending yet another wedding this year made it seem that much more relevant. Turns out it was and it really spoke to me.

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Tags: books gilmanmanor life

June 29, 2006

AS3 Code Coverage

Note A code coverage tool is now available at http://code.google.com/p/flexcover/.

This maybe a little crazy but I'm going to throw it out there. I've been thinking about a way to get code coverage reports for Actionscript 3. We make heavy use of FlexUnit at work, but I'm always curious just how much of our code is really covered with the tests. I've not found anything about code coverage tools with the few Google searches that I've run hence my search for other solutions.

My current idea is to leverage the Flex debugger. Something along the lines of creating a break point on every line in ever file that you want to check coverage of. As the break points get hit, remove them. Once all of the test code is done running, see if there are any break points that haven't been hit.

This isn't elegant by any means but it should be possible to test the theory with a few hours work. If someone knows of a tool that already does this I'd love to hear about it. Otherwise I'll see how my hacking goes.

Tags: as3 fdb flex testing

March 20, 2006

Configuration Migration

I'll admit I haven't looked. Part of the reason is that I'm not that concerned. It was just that today as I setup my new work machine the issue of configuration came to the forefront again. I know many applications have the ability to export and import various settings, but that means you need to pop into and out of each one to really transfer your environment from one machine to another. Unless you are methodical, I suspect that you will miss at least one application. Granted that one missed application will probably be one you use less often, but it's just as likely to be an application you installed a long time ago and forgot that you spent an hour one afternoon tweaking it.

You've gotten to think 'Of course that's how it behaves out of the box'. You've been using it that way for the past six months. Who can remember you spent that time tweaking it. One hopes that the need to go back and reconfigure everything isn't a common occurrence. But when it does happen, you really forget how much of a pain it is. I think it would be great if one of two thing happened:

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February 26, 2006

Designed to Effectively Frustrate

This past Thursday I went to Northeastern to hear Tarleton Gillespie from
Cornell University give a talk entitled "Designed to Effectively Frustrate: Technical Copyright Protection and the Agency of Users". Below are my notes from the talk.

The politics of technology are coming to forefront in our society.
It is becoming common to find regulation through technology.
The growth of copyright has increase rapidly in the past 20-30 years.
This has been driven by a shift in the role of information.
As a result the principles of copyright have also shifted.
It is no longer a question of "use" but has become one of "access".
Technology is changing copyright enforcement from punishment (if you violate) to preemption (making violation impossible).
As such the key is designing to limit access.
DRM (Digital rights management) is already in DVDs, digital music, and digital broadcasts. May make its way into distance learning, inter-corporate communications, etc.
It used to be that copyright was enforced by "calling in the force of the law".
You can own expressions but not ideas.

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February 6, 2006

Experiment

Since it's been a hot topic at work recently, I figured I'd experiment with Google Ad Sense. I've only added it to the individual archive pages for the time being. For some of my longer entries it does a really good job of matching ads to the content. Let me know if you have any thoughts on this.

January 9, 2006

3312

The subtitle for this entry is "Or how I spent part of Sunday". There have been a few harmless cube decorations happening at work over the past couple of months. Some of this has been a result of stress (layoffs and uncertainty about funding), holiday giddiness, and just good natured fun. It started one Friday with a cube getting adorned with Ruckus posters and other promotional material. A week later Santa visited my cube in the form of a bean bag chair hung from the ceiling above it. In between there was also some innocent tape placed over a LED mouse sensor. Then a cube was boxed in by filling in the missing wall with a borrowed cube segment. Another cube was decorated in celebration of a coworker's birthday. Just before NYE a cube was decorated with tons of junk collected from the office. This included a hundred business cards, a half dozen empty wine bottles, an old laser printer, about 50 CDs, 30 floppy disks, and other random crap.

I will freely admit to helping with the cube wall placement, especially since it was part of my cube that was commissioned for the event. I also decked out the cube with all of the business cards and helped move some of the others items like the laser printer. Besides that my involvement in all of this was mostly passive. That is until I had an idea, well a variation on an idea. The idea of filling a cube with stuff like balloons or ping pong balls is commonly mentioned. The problem I've always found with either of those ideas is that takes many more balloons and balloon blowing then people realize or that ping pong balls are very small and expensive. A quick back of the envelope calculation says that a typical cube is 8' x 6' x 6' (apx. 497,000 cubic inches). If you figure a ping pong ball takes up 1 cubic inch, that's about half a million ping pong balls. Balloons on the other hand do blow up nicely to fill a lot of space given their initial size, but you need either a machine to help blow them up, or many volunteers. I had neither.

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October 20, 2005

Web Memory

Laziness has kept me from implementing / installing a feature related to the web that I've wanted for some time. I want to record and save every bit of traffic I send over HTTP. I don't care if the data was sent securely or not, everything should be saved. I assume that the storage mechanism will provide safe guards against unauthorized access. Unlike the cache that a browser uses which eventually gets filled, nothing in my store would be removed. I'd also want to save all of the meta-data associated with the data such as the raw HTTP headers etc. Everything, including those pesky ads should be saved.

Why would I want such a thing? Despite the use of such lovely features as bookmarks and history in Firefox combined with del.icio.us and other such sites, I don't always capture what I want to in a way that makes it easy to find it again. Case in point. I was recently involved in a discussion of higher education, the rising costs, and benefits. I know over the few month I read of series of articles in the Economist about that which I previously forwarded to someone (while I still had the physical magazine to easily look up the issue number) along with a couple of NY Times articles (which I only read online).

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February 12, 2005

Notes from New Standards for Elections

Notes from New Standards for Elections

The variety of perspectives offered by the panel helped ensure the discussion ranged over all of the problems facing election standards. Besides some initial logistical issues with not properly cutting off speakers at 10 minutes and the room being a little too warm, my congratulations to the organizers for putting on a top notch program.

Below are notes I took during the various speaker presentations, along with some personal interjections. I'm going to separately post my thoughts on the topic sometime in the next couple of days. These are not direct quotes and most likely don't accurately capture what they said. If I've completely missed the point on something let me know. Please see the evote-mass.org site for general program information and speaker bios.

Merle King
There isn't much awareness for the P1583 effort. I for one had never heard of it before this.
Various parties all want their hands in the new election standards. 3000 election officials want the status-quo since it works for them now. Vendors what the standard to position their product favorably so they have a jump on the gun once it is released. Activists and researchers are also bringing various agendas to the table to promote their cause or work.
Important not to ignore the economics of elections. While this point is valid, I don't think it should be the focus.
Need to be careful of a standard that limits what can be done (prevent thinking outside the box). I view this as a balance between a rigid standard and a minimum set of requirements (which vendors can individually improve upon to distinguish their product).
EAC should be serving as a national voice for these issues but it is slated to disband in the near future.

Rebecca Mercuri
Voting is still a state issue, nothing has really been enacted at the federal level.
New standards were not used until 2003. This led to grandfathered systems and systems purchased with funding tied to new standards that are not compliant with those new standards.
Key issues include security, auditing, reliability, and potential issues with COTS products (ala Windows).
While the standards may include tests, quite often the tests are bad, or not open enough to allow new faults to be found that would allow revoking certificates since most receive a lifetime certification.

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February 4, 2005

Why American Idol Works

Why American Idol Works

One question that I hear every time someone starts talking about American Idol is "Where do they find these people?" or something alone the lines of "They have got to be paying that person to audition!". The PDF linked to is entitled "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments". The items I found most interesting were as follows:

  • The bottom quartile inflated performance the most.
  • The top quartile underestimated performance.
  • After reviewing the work of peers, the bottom quartile ranked performance the same, while the top quartile upped performance rankings.
  • After training both the bottom and top quartile better estimated performance.

Granted I've not watched much American Idol, but the really bad singers are always amazed that they are judged so poorly while the good ones are modest and surprised by the kind remarks. I'm also reminded of the one very bad singer who found five other people out on the street that said he sounded good (blind leading the blind).

It's a good read.

February 2, 2005

Mirror Everything

The world wide web has ushered in a new era of information sharing. The lonely fanatic must no longer toil in obscurity, he can now publish his masterpiece for all to find. However, as is the want of man that which once was may no longer be. 404s are the potholes along this information superhighway. As a result I've started mirroring anything that passes my threshold of usefulness. I've stared down one too many dead links and probably created my fair share, to not take matters into my own hands.

November 17, 2004

Beowulf Talk Notes

Random notes from the BLU Beowulf Talk

Kurt Keville

The old formula for possible cluster speedup didn't account or map to what ultimately was observed.

Linpack still used

The Space Simulator Cluster

Low latency is still key, different topologies, machine design versus OTSC.

MIT Roofnet

Flash Mob Computing

Co-processor

Cluster administration is still one of the biggest problems

The Aggregate

MPI, custom NICs, Interprocess communication, MOSIX, SMP, RapidIO, Enfuzion

Differences in Theory, Building, and Simulating clusters

File systems PVFS

Green Destiny low power cluster.

Cluster in a box software: OSCAR and HA OSCAR

General information: Beowulf (the original), Linux Clustering, Cluster World,

September 3, 2004

Better Blog Skinning

I just had one of those "idea" moments. One of the cool things about b2evolution is the fact that you can create your own skins. However, after looking at the various files involved, it isn't really for the faint of heart. That's when the simple thought hit me. If ever there was a good use for XML and XSLT, this is it. Have the engine produce the information that could appear on the page in XML and the skin, using XSLT, formats it.

Maybe it's because I don't find XSLT that daunting, but I think it would be much better suited for what's going on then these HTML heavy PHP pages.

August 22, 2004

Watermarking Redux

After a few failed attempts at actually watermarking my images, I had to abandon Gallery's built in support. This was primarily driven by problems that I encountered with Gallery using the same watermark on both to the original and the sized version of an image. This meant that the watermark, if fitted for the sized image, hardly covered any of the original image. If the watermark was instead sized for the original image, the sized version only got a small portion of the watermark, based on how big the original image was. It seems Gallery doesn't recreate the sized image after applying the watermark to the original image. The one behavior that I did like about Gallery was that it didn't look like it tried to watermark the thumbnail version of the image.

What I ended up doing was to use the general principal of what Gallery was doing, but tweak it a little. I started off creating a bunch of differently sized watermarks in Adobe Photoshop to closely match the size of my original images. I saved them using the png-24 format, used 30% opacity for my text, and made both horizontal and vertical versions. I used the pnm tools to convert the png into a pnm and an alpha only pnm.

I wrote a little script that performs each of the following actions on every image:


  • Determine size of source image

  • Pick either a horizontal or vertical watermark

  • Resize the watermark and its alpha file to match either the horizontal or vertical dimensions of the source image

  • Convert the source jpg to pnm

  • Combine the source image with the watermark using the alpha channel file

  • Convert the combines pnm back to jpg and transfer over any exif information contained in the original jpg

  • Clean up all the temporary files

In keeping with the Gallery behavior I don't watermark the thumbnail or highlight photo for a particular album.

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August 6, 2004

Watermarking

It's a sad state of affairs when you need to start being concerned about image copyrights for simple little photos that you post online. Ever since I've had a website, I've had an online photo gallery. It has morphed over the years as the number and quality of the pictures I've put up online has grown. I'll never claim to be a great photographer, but ever now and again I manage to capture what I think is a really great shot.

Between the magic of Google and my own web logs, I've managed to find some of my pictures turn up in unique places. In most cases people have just been linking back to my site. While that does increase my bandwidth usage, it at least gives someone a way to find out where the picture came from. The really considerate people usually even ask if they can use an first. However, it now seems that not everyone wants to play nice, which of course leaves me with a few choices:


  • Remove my pictures from the web

  • Limit access

  • Watermark


Given that a big catalyst of the web was to share information I hate to remove them. Limiting access prevents the randomness of people I've met in the past stumbling on them and sending me a message. Watermarking it is then. Thankfully Gallery now has built in support for this. For anyone looking for an online photo maintenance program, Gallery rocks. The newer versions are just packed with options and it just keeps getting better.

Creating a decent watermark ended up being a lot harder than I had hoped it would be, especially since I needed a visible watermark. As always a little searching on the web produced some great samples and a couple of howtos that let me piece together something reasonable. A couple of things that took me a little while to figure out was the need to export the watermark as a png-24 and that to make it look decent you really need ones sized appropriately for the image being watermarked. Having a horizontal and a vertical image also helps.

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