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Journal Journal: Today, I am an inventor in two countries! 3

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: 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.


User Journal

Journal Journal: Good 1000Base-TX card for Debian Lenny-AMD 64? 2

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?



Journal Journal: Defence tomorrow 1

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 ;).



Journal Journal: Running on Empty

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?



Journal Journal: The new YazMobile 7

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.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Re-branding self.

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.


User Journal

Journal Journal: Married, at last. 2

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.


User Journal

Journal Journal: An Athiests Guide to Ramadan: Day 9 1

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 "!"). 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 ;).


User Journal

Journal Journal: An Atheists guide to Ramadan: Day 1 5

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).


User Journal

Journal Journal: Going to see Al. 3

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...;).


OS 9

Journal Journal: Mac OS 9 Diehard? 2

My sister has been a Mac user since 1988. She uses her computer all the time and notably in her business (she's a self-employed graphic artist).

She's pretty knowledgeable when it comes to computers. She's installed RAM and hard disks herself (unlike me).

However she does have some quirks. She's not keen on software or OS upgrades. Enhancements really truly have to wow her to be worthwhile. She's had been typically 2 versions behind when it comes to Adobe Photoshop (and that was pre-OS X) and hasn't upgraded her Word Processing software (WordPerfect for Mac) in years (and WP for Mac doesn't even exist anymore).

She bought her most recent Mac in 2003. What was the first thing she did when she got it running? She reformatted the hard drive and installed OS 9.

She hates OS X. She says "it's too much like Windows".

I've tried to explain it's closer to Unix than Windows (from GUI to guts), but she didn't buy it.

Only in the past year or so has she started using OS X (and probably not the latest version), but only for "some applications"(she dual boots). I'm assuming she's using it with newer software that's only written for OS X.

But there's the catch - "some" applications". She's still using stuff that was written for System 8...

Do you feel this way about your OS and upgrades? Are you by choice 2 or more versions behind?

Are you a Mac OS X user who misses OS 9?

Inquiring minds want to know...


Journal Journal: We're getting married! 6

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?


User Journal

Journal Journal: Mini-review: Transformers 1

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.


User Journal

Journal Journal: Grrr.

For the past few days, Gigi and I have been completely unable to send e-mail from our Mac laptops at home. 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.


User Journal

Journal Journal: Do you still use optical media regularly? 2

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?


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In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle