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February 28, 2006

Dual Monitors

With a new video card for my Mac and a good deal on a second monitor, I now have dual LCD monitors setup on my desk at home. It's pretty sweet, I think. I have a bad feeling I may need to tweak the video settings as I think the new monitor is giving me a headache, which is strange as I've used this same monitor in the past without any problems. Maybe it has something to do with being attached to a different video card, or maybe it's all in my head. For the time being, I'm loving the expanded screen real estate.

February 27, 2006

Modern Marriage

Some facts from the January/February 2006 issue of Details p120:

  • Married men earn between 10 and 40 percent more than single men with similar education and job histories.
  • 73 percent of married men say that their sex life is better since getting married.
  • Between 13 and 20 percent of married women outearn their husbands.
  • 1 in 3 men take off their wedding rings when they go out without their wives.
  • According to a 1990 report in the "Journal of Marriage and the Family", unmarried men are five times more likely to die in any given year than married men at any age.
  • 80 percent of cheating men get caught.
  • A study done at Queen Mary's College of The University of London found that cohabiting is best for men's mental health, but marriage is best for women's.
  • According to a french study, being freshly divorced or newly separated boots the risk of a road accident by 400 percent.
  • Only 26 percent of american households consist of what most people think of as a traditional family - a married couple and their children.

Wow, I knew single men weren't as lucky, but that's a little scary (5 times)!

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.

DRM works because of encryption.
Now it is used to design technologies to act as chaperons (limit activities) and attach rules to the content.
In the future it might standardize encryption and rules and allow micro-payments.
This is a switch from "East coast code" to "West coast code" (law code vs. source code)
The big question is can technology regulate like a law?
What is being lost in the translation from the law code to the source code?

Key issue is around "fair use".
Difference between leak proof and curb high protection.
Industry is now considering the average user a threat.
The translation to technology is losing the meaning of the original copyright law.
Author's compensation, public access, and re-use. Idea was to allow the author to gain compensation for the effort to create the expression but then to allow the public to benefit, re-use, expand, continue to grow as a society through these contributions.
Cut-copy-paste is a breach in encryption, which is why technology is hampering "fair use".
Key players: technology, licenses, laws, markets, and norms. They are changing due to this shift in thinking.

Licenses demands designers of technologies to be chaperones.
EFF: security for owner vs. security against owner. [need better context for quote]
Some technologies invite the ability to tinker. Cars have a hood. While you might void your warranty, you still have the ability to tinker "fair use". Newer technologies prevent that.

Intellectual property versus physical property.
You usually have exclusive right to physical property (i.e. tract of land).
Laws provide recourse if you do things on that property that effect society (pollute, zoning, etc.)
Can't easily apply physical property laws to information
Science, culture, and democracy need input to function. Newer technologies are preventing information from flowing to help provide that input.

February 25, 2006

The Journey of Man

Spencer Wells "The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey" explores the role of genetics in tracing the history of human expansion across the world. The primary means of accessing this spread is various markers on the Y-chromosome. Since these markers don't change except through rare mutations, by looking at the concentration of specific markers throughout the world it is possible to trace the human population back to a genetic Adam. There is an equivalent genetic Eve, but the data isn't as good. This is later attributed to the paternal nature of most human societies, in that the woman traveled to the man's village thus causing more dispersion of genes.

Overall I enjoyed the book and feel that the author presented a very compelling case that humans did originate in Africa and then spread out across the rest of the world at various points through time. More importantly, that spread occurred in a very short amount of time, compared to the age of the earth.

Some interesting notes I captured while reading:

Herbert Spencer actually coined the phrase 'survival of the fittest'. [11]
People previously used the genetic differences to claim superiority, which manifested as the Eugenics movement. [11]
The majority of genetic differences are found within the same population, up to 85%. [17]
Ockham's razor (parsimony) is used frequently when looking at genetic history and the migration of humans. [22]
Genetic diversity first started 200,000 years ago. [32]
Homo erectus didn't evolve into Homo sapiens. While they did share common traits, they diverged a long time ago and Homo erectus eventually died out. [38]
The creation of the Sarah desert caused a forced migration and isolation that helped create certain branches of the genetic tree. [108]
Humans started leaving Africa about 50,000 years ago. [125]
Having grandmothers helps family since they take care of children while more able bodied adults do other tasks. [132]
About 15,000 years ago the first humans entered America via Siberia. They would become what are known today as Native Americans. [140]
Between the invention of agriculture (about 10,000 years ago) and 1750 the human population grew from 10 million to 500 million. [151]
Hindu castes show clear evidence of this pattern, with much greater Y-chromosome than mtDNA divergence between castes, suggesting that women could move between castes while men were locked into theirs. [176-177]

If you happen to get the book, page 182 has a wonderful world map that show the Y-chromosome genes that spread out over the world and the approximate years each branch was created.

February 24, 2006

Young Inventors

Yesterday I went to a talk by Anne Swift founder of Young Inventors. The title of the talk was "From Idea to Entrepreneur". Below are my notes.

Note the Inventing the Future Conference is being held Mar 4th at MIT.

She started off with a 10,000 foot view of important areas a young inventor or entrepreneur will need to consider:

  • Business Plans

  • Technology Markets

  • Intellectual Property

  • Venture Funding

  • Building Teams

Next she delved into specific areas. The first dealt with Finding Opportunities.
1. Where to find: Look for pain either from a business or technology standpoint. Look to university technology transfer offices. Federal grants or programs. Use online resources like Flint Box.
2. Get to know people.
3. 50K competitions such as MIT's 50K or Northeastern's Innovation Fest.
The important thing to remember is that "Ideas lie with people".

Once you have an idea you need to Analyze It and do Market Research.
You have to do market research.
You must have somebody who will buy it.
Potential market share isn't everything. Even 1% of a 500M market isn't that good if it is dominated by large companies or has long lead time.
Look at annual reports of similar companies and potential competitors.
Check out cash flow (particularly outflow) and distributors.
This is when you really want to have more than one person to help divide up the work.
Focus on SWOT and PEST. Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Political, economic, social, and technology (how they will influence you).
Identity three potential customers and profile them, determine their motivations for wanting what you plan to sell, do, etc.
Look to assembly an advisory board that can help with ideas etc.

If you've come up with a great idea you need to start to worry about Intellectual Property.
Can be anything from copyright, trade secrets, trademarks, service marks, and patents.
Research your idea with the US PTO and other countries patent databases.
Maybe you can improve upon an existing patent.
May need to consult IP lawyer (expensive).
Patent and trademark agents (less expensive, may not be as full service).
One thing to keep in mind in the obfuscated language used in patents (obvious search terms may not apply).

With some revenue and further along you may need Venture Funding.
First look to your own savings.
Get funds from friends, family, fools, and faculty.
Angel investors usually in the 250K - 1m range. Look for them in Inc and NVCA.
Venture capital for 1m plus. They will look for IP, revenue stream, and the team. May want to bring in other people to help.
Some people may not sign an NDA even if you want to go in depth about your plan. You need to trust.

Develop a good Elevator Pitch.

Mentors are an invaluable resource.
Your relationship with a mentor can vary. Touch base every few months. Maybe just see them at conferences.
Don't be afraid to write a letter to someone asking if they would be your mentor.

That's all that I have. This only skims the surface, but I felt it provided a great base to start thinking about all that is involved.

February 23, 2006

Multi-Touch Interaction Research

The demo video for Multi-Touch Interaction Research blew me away. It was inevitable that touch screens and the backing software would start to approach the Matrix or Minority Report level of interaction, I was just not aware what state of the art in the field had gotten to. The ability to visualize and manipulate data in such an intuitive fashion fills me with excitement of the future possibilities.

February 22, 2006


Lately, I've started playing a Tetris clone again. Tetris is a simple game but has lots of subtle nuances to it which you only pick up if you've played it way too much. I like it. I think I need a better Tetris clone though, the one I have has a funky speed advancement system.

February 21, 2006

Broken Meters

When did the broken meter limit change to be less than the meter limit? I got a parking ticket for a broken meter. It was a two hour meter, however, I've since come to learn that the broken meter limit was one hour!? Ignoring the fact that I was probably parked at the meter for three hours, I'm still unhappy about the discrepancy in allowed meter time.

February 20, 2006

Long Weekends

I love long weekends. It seems that while a two day weekend is great, a three day weekend lets you enjoy life that much more. I often find my weekends are filled with projects, events, or domestic tasks (read laundry) and as such don't often get as much time as I'd like to just relax. With the extra day thrown in I got to enjoy a couple of movies, do some cooking and baking, read more than I usually would, and in general feel accomplished on many different levels. It is the scarcity of long weekends that make them treasured.

P.S. For those of you that didn't have today off, I hope you at least enjoyed a less hectic commute.

February 19, 2006

Upgrade Note

An update to my previous upgrade note. I run postfix as my default mail server. During the upgrade I uninstalled the package as recommended until I was done upgrading the OS. While I was in single user mode most of the time, when I eventually brought the system back up, sendmail started as the default mail server. This wouldn't be a problem if I had ever configured sendmail to work on my system. Alas I never did and as a result all sorts of mail related things broke. Most notably mail to neophi.com bounced since it didn't match the FQDN. Blah.

Lesson learned, either 1) upgrade postfix while still in single user mode, 2) configure the default sendmail files, or 3) block port 25 while you are in a state of flux. Thankfully sendmail logged who send the bounced messages, so I was able to contact those people and have them send the message again.

February 18, 2006

NeoPhi Upgrade

I spent most of today upgrading NeoPhi from OpenBSD 3.4 to OpenBSD 3.8. When I had the box in the colocation facility I wasn't too keen on attempting a remote upgrade and based on today's experiences that turned out to be a good idea. The first problem I encountered was that my server doesn't have a cdrom drive in it. It's only a 1U rack unit and the cdrom space is taken up by a second hard drive and RAID-1 controller.

I popped the case hooked up a cdrom drive and attempted to boot off of the OpenBSD 3.5 cdrom. The first time the boot hung. All subsequent tries it went into a reboot loop. It would start to boot from the cdrom and then reboot the machine. I also tried the 3.6 cdrom and didn't have any luck. At that point I switched to the less recommended in-place upgrade. After boot into single user mode I removed all of the packages I had previously installed. One of the upgrades I was planning changed gcc versions which was sure to introduce some incompatibilities. After removing about 60 packages I started the upgrade process.

I was very pleased with the instructions. Even for all of the warnings that they give you, the process is straight forward. Really the only tricky part comes in merging changes to /etc, which isn't that bad if you haven't done that much customization. I've tried to follow good practices with keeping my changes in .local files or linked somewhere else entirely. As a result I only had a few changes that I had to manually fix in /etc.

Since I was planning on using the boot images and just on-the-fly downloading of install files I had to side track for a bit to pull down the files for OpenBSD 3.6, 3.7, and 3.8. I already had 3.5 from when I previously looked at what was involved in upgrading. Thanks to pair.com for having a fast OpenBSD mirror. Each version upgrade required two reboots and a bunch of waiting for files to unpack. Besides that it was pretty smooth (minus the /etc merging) and I think it only took about two and half hours to do the four upgrades.

At this point the machine was in a state that I could get core services like sshd up and running. Considering that my machine was reporting a system temperature of 60 degrees, I was happy to get out of the basement and back up to my normal computer. Which was when I had my first scare. I couldn't connect via ssh. Back down stairs I quickly found out that my problem was that I had uninstalled the tcsh package, so I had no shell. I grabbed that and added that package. Now that I could really log in remotely, back up to the warm part of the house.

Since the versions changes on many of the packages I previously had installed and I like having a local copy, I spent the next hour just downloading updated packages. Some of the dependencies had changed (yes I should use the automatic dependency handler, but I'm still leery of those for some reason) which meant downloading additional packages to complete the install of the ones I already had. That ended up taking another couple of hours. At this point I had all of the software I was supposed to and just needed to make sure everything still worked.

Happily most things just did. Jumping all the way from 3.4 to 3.8 did produce these problems:

  • /usr/local/bin/safe_mysqld became /usr/local/bin/mysqld_safe
  • ntpdate handling in /etc/rc.local changed
  • /usr/lib/apache/modules/libphp4.so changed to /usr/local/lib/php/libphp4.so

The next big problem I had was this nasty error message trying to send email to a mailman controlled list:

"/usr/local/lib/mailman/mail/mailman post test". Command output: Group mismatch error. Mailman expected the mail wrapper script to be executed as group "_mailman", but the system's mail server executed the mail script as group "nobody". Try tweaking the mail server to run the script as group "_mailman", or re-run configure, providing the command line option `--with-mail-gid=nobody'.

I double checked that I had grabbed the correct packages. In this case it was mailman-2.1.6p1-postfix.tgz. Searching didn't turn up anything on interest. The only thing that I ran across was a comment in /usr/local/share/doc/mailman/README.OpenBSD:

Problem: I use Postfix for my MTA and the mail wrapper programs are logging complaints about the wrong GID. Solution: Install mailman with the following command: % FLAVOR=postfix make install

I pulled down the ports package and can see that in the mailman Makefile, if the flavor is postfix that is sets up "--with-mail-gid=nobody". Since there wasn't a non postfix mailman-2.1.6p1 package I decided to pull down the 2.1.6p0 package. That installed and ran fine. I now need to look into what was changed going from p0 to p1 and also figure out why the gid stuff changed. Maybe I missed a mod to /etc along the way?

Update It turns out I'm not completely following the standard install, probably since I upgrade instead of doing a fresh install. My mailman aliases were merged in with my regular aliases. Since postfix looks at the owner/group of the aliases file to determine how the wrapper script gets run, this was leading to the problem. I must have missed in the docs where this was spelled out. Anyway I put my mailman aliases in a different file and followed the setup instructions and everything is working with the latest mailman package.

With mailman now working, I had one last issue. A custom compiled httpd was failing to start. A configtest against it said everything was okay. There were no error messages when trying to start it up or in the logs, yet nothing was running. Finally when I tried to run it in single threaded mode it core dumped. At this point I figured that some of the libraries had probably gotten out of sync enough that it just needed to be recompiled. Since it also needed SSL added to it I figured now was as good a time as any.

After pulling down apache, mod_ssl, and mod_perl I went through the standard combination build. Patch apache with mod_ssl then build it all from mod_perl. No dice. Trying to build it shared gave me unresolved symbols in mod_perl and the resulting httpd also core dumped. I ended up having to do a mod_ssl and apache build and then doing an APXS build of mod_perl. Weird stuff. One thing I did run across was the need to set the SSL_BASE when building. In a bash shell something like "SSL_BASE=/usr ./configure (...)" should do the trick.

Needless to say the upgrade took the normal 80/20 rule. What I thought was going to be 80% of the pain ended up only taking 20% of the time while the last 20% took 80% of the time. The end result is that the system is upgraded and everything appears to be working fine. Yay!

Tags: neophi openbsd

February 17, 2006


A neat puzzle game with cows.

February 16, 2006


A few more restaurants and places to try if you have the chance:

Kaze a newer Shabu-Shabu restaurant in Chinatown.

Skipjack's good quality seafood. Some of the best calamari I've had in awhile.

Martsa’s on Elm Tibetan food.

Monday Club one of many great upscale places to eat that is part of Upstairs on the Square.

Ruby Room great lounge in the North End, part of the Onyx Hotel.

Eat, Drink, and Enjoy!

February 15, 2006

My Car

I really shouldn't own a sports car. My IQ seems to drop too many points when I'm in my car. This is not good since the 350Z has more than enough to easily get you into trouble. Which surprises me that I've not gotten into more trouble. I think I'm testing the patience of whatever guardian angel is looking over me.

February 14, 2006

Demand the Truth

Sign the ACLU's petition to demand the truth about illegal government spying on Americans.

February 13, 2006

A Million Little Pieces

I've mostly been reading scientific non-fiction. While I love doing that, it was time for a change. I heard about an upcoming book discussion about A Million Little Pieces by James Frey and I figured given the recent controversy about that book that would be a nice change of pace. Originally billed as a memoir it has since been determined that the author changed much more than one should to be able to still call it non-fiction. These transgressions were summarized in a reader's note that will be included in all future publications of the book.

With that said, the book itself is a great read. Frey is a great author and his narrative style moves the book along. One stylistic trait I found odd at first but came to like was the lack of punctuation detonating conversation. There isn't a quote mark to be found. The repetitive elements I found helped draw me into the addicts mindset and understand the difficulty of the healing. How much of that was real versus embellished I'm almost inclined to ignore as it helps makes the story work. I do agree that if it was fictionalized it should be marked as such, but I think the core of the addiction healing process is what captivates.

One simple sentence echoed out at me as having double meaning in light of the falsifications. "I hate the memories and I hate myself for creating them." [275]. In the original intent it concerns the reflection he is having on his life and how his addictions caused him to act poorly and mess everything up, thus creating many painful memories. In a more cynical view, it can be read that he has made up his memories and hates himself for having done that.

In the end I'd recommend the book provided you first read the "a note to the reader".

February 12, 2006


Snow. Lots and lots of snow! I've not looked at anything official but it say it was a good couple of feet based on how covered our backyard is and the amount of snow that was on my car. It was light and fluffy snow. Not very good for making anything in the snow, but fun to walk through and easy to shovel. I uncovered my car. I'm not quite sure why. It will take a couple of days for the roads to clear enough for me to even think about driving. Thankfully I don't really need my car.

February 11, 2006

Johari Window

John pointed me at this and I think it is a neat idea. The Johari Window was invented by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingram in the 1950s as a model for mapping personality awareness. If you know me, I'd be curious how you would describe me.

February 10, 2006


Somerville seems to have a lot of skunks. At least once every couple of months on my walk home from the T, especially if it is later at night, I see a skunk. Thankfully it is usually on the other side of the street, but when my eye catches one I always stop dead in my tracks. They are a beautiful looking creature. The white strip down their backside and the long wispy fur has an inviting allure to it. Some claim that if de-scented they make wonderful pets. My problem is that the ones that I pass on my walk are not de-scented. In fact they are very potent. A skunk sprayed in the neighborhood this evening. The scent found its way into the room I was reading in. Nasty. I spent most of the rest of the night reading with a scented candle burning to combat the smell.

February 9, 2006

This Blog

Today I've been thinking about this blog. Over the couple of years that I've had this blog, I've managed to write more than I thought I would. This is a good thing. I believe that in order to get good at something you need to practice. I've always struggled with the English language and while I do okay, I know there is room for improvement. When I see something particularly well written, I'm in awe.

My reason for thinking about my blog though is more about liability. I mean, a friend got fired for his blog recently. In general I focus on more personal stuff and occasionally try to return something to the community. Given that I love the work I do, I sometimes find it hard to check that enthusiasm with non-disclosure agreements, trade secrets, and the like. As a result I probably focus on personal musing more than I should.

A Google search for my name lands you on one of my pages. I hear that it's increasingly common for employers, or at least some of the more technically inclined people that you might interview with, to do Google searches on a candidate's name. Which ties back to the issue of liability. Have I written something, done something, or believe in something that a potential future employer might find objectionable?

I think that while I may have occasionally shared too much this blog maintains a personal but professional tone. I maybe naively idealistic but because of that professionalism, I think that should someone find my site questionable, they are probably not someone I would want to work for.

February 8, 2006

Duct Tape

I came into work this morning to find that my cube had been completely covered in duct tape. It was well done and mad props to the perpetrator. Unfortunately, he didn't cover his tracks very well and left a receipt with his last name on it in one of the adjacent cube trash cans.

I was planning on leaving it up for a day, but the fumes coming off of the six or so rolls of duct tape used were giving a few of us headaches, so we took it down before lunch.

February 7, 2006

The Day The Music Died

Today I got some news. They have decided to close the Boston office. Effective Mar 15th I will be laid off. Time to start looking for another job. And here I thought this might be the one.

February 6, 2006


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.

February 5, 2006

Buddy Icon Maker

A friend of mine has put together a nifty Buddy Icon Maker. You can crop and zoom an image in real-time through his site and then generate an image suitable for a buddy icon at the end. I thought I'd mentioned it before, but I guess not.

February 4, 2006

Ceiling Fixes

The guy we had hoped would come and patch the ceiling this morning didn't show. After talking to wise parents we decided to try it ourselves. Since the area being patched isn't directly visible we chose to take the less costly route and do something that could be more easily done by us. Yes we are starting to become that house on the street. I've got PVC extending a drain into the back yard and now we have plywood covering a hole in the ceiling. The thinking was that someone would probably redo the entire room if they were going to redo anything so why spend a lot of money of fixing a bad ceiling.

Some measurements and a quick trip to Home Depot later the ceiling is fixed and hopefully we have put this little home issue to bed.

February 3, 2006

Out of it

I just realized that the Super Bowl is this Sunday. I don't even know who is playing. Both of these make me happy.

February 2, 2006


A friend of mine got dooced today, man that sucks.

February 1, 2006

The High Price of Materialism

I've been referring to this a bit lately, but The High Price of Materialism by Tim Kasser is a great book. As I previously mentioned John highly recommended it. I agree. This is a must read book if you are at all interested in the effect of materialism or really the effect of commercialism and/or capitalism. The basic theory throughout the book is that the pursuit of wealth and possessions might actually be undermining our well-being [9].

The author walks through various aspects of peoples lives and how materialism can have a negative impact on each of them. These include: self-acceptance, affiliation, and community feelings [6-7]. The causes of this condition are varied but include issues such one's environmental circumstances such that an environment that fails to provide security and safety increases the tendency for materialistic tendencies [37]. This materialistic pursuit then leads to bad relationships and feelings of insecurity, among others [73].

The book ends with the author's view about what can be done to combat this problem at an individual, family, community, and global scale. One of the key pieces of advice is to focus on autonomous activities, those that are done for their own sake instead of driven by an outside force [76].

While I believe that I don't suffer from sever materialism I can easily point to various aspects of my life that are indicative of it. One of the key ideas I'd encourage everyone to do is practice Living Below Your Means.

I'm also very happy to be writing this little synopsis as this is the first book I've actually managed to finish reading in many months. Now to do that with a bunch more books.