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March 30, 2010

What the Nose Knows

What the Nose Knows: The Science of Scent in Everyday Life What the Nose Knows: The Science of Scent in Everyday Life by Avery Gilbert

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This is a popular science exploration of scent. Unfortunately the author does a better job of the popular part and not enough with the science. Each chapter is vaguely connected around a theme but is filled with cheap jokes and digressions to make the central point hard to follow. While there are nuggets of information scattered throughout the book, I found it a chore to read. By the end I wasn't at all interested in any of his philosophical points of view around the future of scent technologies.

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Tags: books

March 29, 2010

100% Duct Tape Lunch Bag

I'll start off with a little history. In June of 1996 I started my first cooperative education experience working as a system administrator for the Systems Group of the College of Computer Science at Northeastern University. Being a college student I was trying to save money so I frequently brought my lunch to work and I kept reusing the same paper bag to carry my lunch. This worked great until one lunch leaked a little bit. For whatever reason (maybe early eco-friendly behavior) instead of throwing the paper bag out I put a little piece of duct tape on the bag. Time passes, another lunch leaks, another piece of duct tape. After a few more cycles of this, one of my co-workers joked I was going to end up with the enter paper bag covered in duct tape. This prompted the idea of skipping the paper bag entirely and going straight to nothing but duct tape.

One weekend I sat on my studio floor and painfully created a lunch bag made entirely out of duct tape. I say painful because I had trouble getting the duct tape to do what I wanted without it sticking to me and everything else. The exact details are a little lost to time but I persevered and ended up with a functioning lunch bag that lasted me from sometime in the fall of 1996 until last Friday. While at a friends' house an overly curious dog smelled some leftover food in my lunch bag and played with it a little too much. To be fair for the last few months my lunch bag had been looking a little ragged. This unfortunate event served as the catalyst to make a new lunch bag. Below are pictures of my process.

My old lunch bag:

In particular you can see the layers peeling apart from each other:

This time I decided to use a crude guide to make working with the duct tape easier. I straightened out 4 coat hangers and bent pairs at 27 and 29 inches. This works out to a 5 x 7 x 11 inch lunch bag:

I taped the coat hanger together to form a crude square. I used clear packaging tape so I wouldn't get confused later on:

I marked the edges so I would know where to start and stop laying duct tape:

Using a light touch, so it wouldn't stick to the table, I laid down strips, slightly overlapping, for the long side and then covered those with strips for the short side to create a cross:

With the help of my make shift guide it was easy to flip the entire layer over:

I then laid the long side. You want to hold the strip tight that is going sticky side to sticky side, otherwise you get messed up lines:

I repeated the same process for the short side:

Flipping it over you can see I didn't get everything quite right, but this helps give it some character. The sticky sides visible after flipping will be hidden later:

After cutting the cross out of the guide, I used a sturdy book to help join the edges. I put half a piece of duct tape on one edge, aligned the connecting edge, and joined them:

I repeated the process the for the second edge:

And finally the remaining edges. The excess at the top I just cut off:

Next to reenforce the inside edges I placed a piece of duct tape folded over a ruler sticky side out:

And using the bottom of the ruler as a guide I jammed it into the bottom inside corner and folded the two sides over it. The excess at the top I cut and folded over the top:

I cut strips of duct tape to length and folded them over each top edge of the bag to clean it up a bit. Lastly using a small square of duct tape attached to each bottom corner, I cut the excess in half and folded the two pieces on top of each other:

The final result folded and ready for lunch tomorrow. Not bad for a couple hours of work:

Let's hope this bag lasts me another decade.

Tags: ducttape life lunch

March 23, 2010

Museum of Science Book Group

The recently defunct Museum of Science Book Club for the Curious has risen from the ashes in a new location but with the same mission. Now hosted at the Cambridge Innovation Center the next meeting will be May 13, 2010 for a discussion of
From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time by Sean Carroll. Full details can be found at the Museum of Science Book Group Google Group Site.

Tags: books links mos

March 14, 2010

Ideas for Adobe Flash Platform

Got an idea for an Adobe product in the Flash Platform that isn't quite a bug? View and rate ideas at: http://ideas.adobe.com/.

Tags: adobe ideas

March 13, 2010

Programming Language Trends

One idea that "The Passionate Programmer" recommends that I've always been intrigued by is the idea of mapping hot technologies along an early, middle and late adoption trend and seeing where the technologies you work with fall. It is a subjective exercise but does help you think about what is out there. Turns out for programming languages (not frameworks or toolkits) TIOBE Software has for some time now been producing a Programming Community Index that ranks programming languages. They have a methodology that I'm inclined to call good enough for most cases.

Tags: data programming

March 12, 2010

NoSQL Live Boston

Yesterday I attended NoSQL Live Boston and participated on the NoSQL in the Cloud panel. During the day I captured some notes for myself which are after a brief recap of some of the points I tried to make during the panel discussion.

Q: What benefits and pitfalls have you found with your use of NoSQL in the cloud?

Based on having used Amazon's SimpleDB service over the past 18 months.

Benefits: pay as go is great for starting off, zero maintenance, zero setup, scaling by spreading data across multiple domains, SimpleSB manages data replication and high availability

Pitfalls: new mindset required to use eventually consistent model, increase impact of network latency, keeping SimpleDB's limitations in mind (size of domains, attribute count, etc.)

Q: How viable are these solutions and what is hampering there adoption?

Viability: SimpleDB has a 2 year track record and recently added consistent reads and conditional puts/deletes opening up new classes of application possibilities.
Adoption: Need body of knowledge, best practice patterns and use cases are still emerging

* Welcome to NoSQL Live (Dwight Merriman)

Defines NoSQL as: No joins and light transaction semantics
Makes scaling horizontally easier
Key questions that all NoSQL products need to answer are what are the differences and what kind of consistency model is being used

* Crossroads, Inroads, Pitfalls Bylaws: Peering into NoSQL's Conceivable Future (Tim Anglade)

Database market is big, clearly room for NoSQL
Crossroads: just moving out of the startup only world but the focus is still on early adopters, NoSQL hype is about to peak, most NoSQL projects are at various states of usefulness.
Inroads: Still need to make the technology better, need better marketing of the NoSQL brand, must focus on education, for many database = SQL
Pitfalls: education disrupts current RDBMS market so existing companies will fight back, overlooking the need for education
Bylaws: For some industries innovation is a liability, junior developers trying to work without training very hard
When NoSQL reaches the point that its search term frequency doesn't drop off during the December holiday season, then we know its gotten into the corporate world.
How to fix things: make inroads in education, create a NoSQL book of knowledge, form an interest group to act as a liaison to the world, host two annual conferences start with US/EU.

* Scaling with NoSQL (Bradford Stephens moderator, Mark Atwood, Doug Judd, Alex Feinberg, Ryan Rawson, Ryan King)

Myth that NoSQL maintenance is easier. NoSQL usually has more operational overhead due to the intersystem dependencies for horizontal scaling. Failure modes require less scrambling, no need to wake up at 2am if a node fails.
Hadoop is hard to get up and running.
Murder is a BitTorrent based software deployment package.
Most of these NoSQL solutions have issues with more data than RAM.
Testing NoSQL scaling really needs at least 5-10 nodes before things get interesting.
HBase and others don't handle random reads well due to underlying HDFS usage.
NoSQL scaling bound by CAP Theorem
memcached suffers from lack of dynamic scaling
cassandra rebalancing has issues with hot spotting
hypertable uses masters with hot standby to avoid SPoF

* Full Stack JavaScript (Jim Wilson)

Run JavaScript from top to bottom to avoid language impedance mismatches.
JavaScript on the server solutions: node.js, narwhal, rhino

* Schema Design with Document-Oriented Databases (Durran Jordan moderator, Eliot Horowitz, Bryan Fink, Paul Davis)

Many to Many is hard
Solutions make use of soft links for following data to allow sharding

* The Evolution of the Graph Data Structure from Research to Production (Marko Rodriguez moderator, Peter Neubauer, Borislav Iordanov, Sandro Hawke)

Graph database are geared towards modeling relationships. Think of it as the graph is the index.
HyperGraph concept isn't that popular but offers multiple edge connections.
Neo4J property graph with directed edges and key/value on edges and nodes. Think of it as a multi-dimensional linked list with full ACID support and fast path traversal. Working to ad replication, removing SPoF, better scaling.
RDF is like JSON but with loops. RDF Schema or OWL add constraints. Most RDF implementations are not designed for performance but complex pattern matching. ELMO has JavaBean to RDF mapping. SPARQL standard for querying RDF.
Gremlin is a graph database programming language.

* Toward Web Standards for NoSQL (Sandro Hawke)

XML is on the way out (but it will never die)
JSON became IETF standard
Standard bodies are not always needed, look at popular open source programming languages, they are creating there own standards that everyone can contribute due to its openness.
Hard to do that for some segments, there won't be only one open source web browser, so that is where standards bodies help.

* NoSQL Lab

XMTP mapping of MIME/SMTP to XML.
Qi4J AoP on steroids

Tags: nosql notes

March 9, 2010

The Company of Myself

If you are a fan of Braid, The Company of Myself is an awesome little Flash game that uses the replay your actions concept very well.

Tags: flash game