The boring rants of a lazy nerd

Friday, April 29, 2005

Personal - Hmmm

I went with my parents to a family friend's 50th birthday party. Despite being a classic civil engineer (exasperatingly pedantic) working for the national telco he's a good guy. I was prepared for a rather dull evening, but party games for tispy 45 to 55 y/o ex-Soviet engineers and their wives turned out to be funnier to observe than I'd imagined (and I didn't even know anyone present!).

I got cornered by the birthday-boy's elderly uncle (who I later found out was a physics professor or something) with the "I've been told you're good with computers, could you please help me out with this small problem I have" line I know so well (I briefly regretted not wearing this shirt). He introduced himself as a total dummy, but as he was explaining his problem in bits and pieces, it turned out he wasn't clueless at all - he was editing his registry and he'd switched to Firefox etc. I honestly believe he was proving himself or something by "testing" me. Way more cool than my grandparents, anyway.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Web Tech - JavaScript/DOM performance

I've done some extremely unscientific and informal comparison of Firefox 1.0.3, Opera 8.0 and Konqueror 3.4 running my dynamic table script on 100K of data and I have to say I'm very impressed with Opera. It feels like the code is JIT-compiled while KHTML feels like it's running in an emulator (I'm talking about being 50 times(!) slower while crawling DOM etc.). There are things where Konq. actually does better than dear old Gecko, though compatibility is definitely not one of them (I had to code around many KHTML issues). Opera's choice of when to actually reflow the DOM changes is a bit weird, but it might be doing the right thing performance-wise.

I'm working on getting the browser from Redmond to work in QEMU, will update here when I have more info.

ETA: It's working, but I can't really do any performance comparisons.

ETA #2: KHTML 3.4.1 bugfixes should allow me to remove a few lines of code. It's my policy to only support the (near) latest version of each browser engine. There's no good reason to still use IE 5.5, pre-1.0 Mozilla (or even pre-1.0 Firefox, which is Mozilla 1.7), Opera 6, etc. I expect the UA to either have full support of the W3C DOM and CSS DOM and things like Array.push (so no IE 5.0) or be treated like Lynx, but I won't use Mozilla 1.8b2's proprietary Array.ForEach (although it's brilliant!). For the people stuck with the version of KDE/Mozilla they have on their binary distro: too bad, you probably don't use Konq as your primary web browser anyway. :-)

HP Fandom - update

Since there is no FFDB (yet), I'll keep posting updates.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Web Tech - marketing gimmick of the year?

After the SpreadFirefox counters (never had one of those buttons myself, but I did tell everyone I know to use it ever since I switched to Phoenix 0.4) and other Firefox publicity, and the imminent release of IE 7 looming overhead, the Opera people probably decided to have a splash of their own. Literally. I think it's a bit much, but drastic measures are probably the answer if you want to continue to compete (successfully!) with both Microsoft and the Free/Open community.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Personal - Update

  1. Last week my team got a replacement for the member we stand to lose in a few months. Training a newbie (the guy was literally two days out of basic training when we got him) takes years when he's not a self-trained computer geek (we weren't that lucky) and I suspect it's going to be partially my job. He spent more time reading Asimov than the C# book we gave him, but that might turn out ok too.

    "Mother," said Miles, "calls it my great gift. Tests are a gift, she says, and great tests are a great gift. Of course," he added thoughtfully, "it's widely agreed my mother is a bit strange…"

    The Warrior's Apprentice, Lois McMaster Bujold.

  2. The weather is stifling. You constantly feel as if you'd just exercised hard and had not yet have the chance to catch up your breath. It gets better only after 8PM. Being cooped up in a hermetically sealed room breathing air conditioner air is not much fun either, as it appears to have a lower oxygen level than the real thing.

  3. Ate a lot of really delicious food in two get-togethers on the same day. I was afraid I'd be sick I ate so much. Then I walked for more than an hour on the way home.

  4. The "new" officer arranged for us to do some target practice on the laser trainer (because of bureaucracy, we're not supposed to be using it). Stationary targets feel the same since the mechanics are preserved (or rather simulated), all except for the recoil (but you barely notice it anyway), meaning the barrel moves up when you cock the trigger etc. (it can even simulate jams!), but the best part is there's moving targets mode. It's probably as close as I'll ever get to the real thing though for obvious reasons it feels more like a really cool game with the mouse replaced by what feels like standard issue firearms than actual life threatening situation (which is the only situation you're allowed to use weapons). Surprisingly, I'm better with an Uzi than with an M16A1. At least at close range, anyway.

  5. While we watched the building's lobby being cleaned up after an enormous soap bubble spill (a huge ankle thick puddle of white foam, reminded me of Gred & Forge's escapades in OoTP. It looked like the stuff used to control fire but people said it was just soap) a crowd began gathering on the other side. Turns out a guy wanted to jump off the roof of the mall across the street. Police and firefighters took two hours to get him off the roof, while a huge crowd gathered to watch, impeding traffic. People are odd about other people jumping off buildings: Some watch fascinated, some cry, others offer suggestions and critique his choice of location. The various reactions are not clear cut between the sexes.
    Reminds me I wanted to post a few pics so you'll get to see my new (temporary) office…

  6. Have been thinking more about FFDB. Who here wants to help gathering a bit of info on fics you like?

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Evils of LJ - N.S.F.W.

So, I was scrolling down my friends page and my mother comes into the room (the door was ajar, can't blame anyone but myself). The post visible on the screen was (Don't click it!) this, by jwz. How do you explain the non-selective nature of LJ Friends Pages to your technophobic and rather Victorian mother? I think I'll email this to a guy from work who might enjoy it, though...

Cinema - "Don't judge a book by its movie"

This review of the new Hitchhiker's Guide film by Douglas Adams' biographer reminds me of Alec's raving about Peter Jackson's Orcish ancestry after watching LoTR:FoTR for the first time. Let's hope it's just that, or it will be very sad.

Hardware Shopping - NF4 and low exch. rate!

Continuing the recurring theme of shopping for PC hardware (with other people's money, of course), we take the availability of nVidia's newest chipset (actually, it's a single-chip solution for mainboard logic, but anyway) and the drop in USD to ISL exchange rate into account to produce the following budget-oriented (but fully-featured!) setup:
HardwareRecommended ComponentUS PriceISL exchange rateUS price in ISLIL price inc. 17% VATripoff rate
ProcessorAMD Athlon 64 3000+ 512K 1.8GHz 90nm for 939$1424.3361586039.8%
MotherboardMSI K8N Neo4 Platinum (s939, nForce4 Ultra)$14060686041.9%
MemoryBrand 512MB PC-3200 CL3 x2$10043364047.8%
Video CardPine XFX 6600GT PCIe 128MB GDDR3$172745106042.8%
Hard DriveSeagate Barracuda 7200.7 160GB SATA w/ NCQ$10043360038.5%
sum: $6542,8324,02041.9%
Again, it's not a full computer, it's not necessarily the best offer in any way, the prices are from an unspecified vendor (including shipping but not assembling) and I take no responsibility for anything you do with this information I do not even guarantee is true.
  1. The entry-level CPU was chosen because the 5%-10% advantage offered by the next step up isn't worth the money.
  2. A non-SLI motherboard was chosen because buying a second video card is not a real option (notice it's the priciest item!).
  3. CAS-3 memory was chosen because of the price premium for CAS-2.5 (not to mention CAS-2!), and hearsay stating it often works in CAS-2.5 timings just as well.
  4. The 6600GT is the current sweet-spot (overly drawn discussion of reasons why isn't worth typing up). Because the motherboard is of the newer PCI-Express varienty (instead of the dying-out AGP), we take the PCIe version.
  5. The 7200.7 NCQ has the best performance and warranty conditions (3 years full + 2 years limited warranty). The newer 7200.8 behemoth is slower, the Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 and 10 have a really crappy warranty by the Israeli importer and the Western Digital is outperformed (hasn't happened in years!). Just take care to get an NCQ part - the same model exists without NCQ, which is a vital feature for heavy multitasking performance, as recently shown by Anand Lal Shimpi.
Of the 42% difference between US and IL prices, 17% goes to the government. The other 25% is for shipping and someone's kids' college.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

HP Fandom - Amor Vincit Omnia?

Theowyn's "Harry Potter and the Enemy Within", Chapter 18: Hogsmeade, wherein Harry and Snape's great and t00by love has successfully overcome their first major fight, all thanks to Harry's infinite capacity to love everyone, even those who'd wronged him (aka "the power Voldemort knows not"). And on the H/G front? As usual:

he spent most of this time with Ginny, either flying or taking walks. Ron had given them a curious look one afternoon as they left the common room together, but ... Harry hadn't given it another thought.

Barely a mention, and it still seems Ginny is "one of the guys". Sigh.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Nerdery - metanerdery

As a kid, I used to browse encyclopedias and watch the local channel 8 (Science/Art/History/Culture). Now, I can easily spend a whole night on c2, E2 or wikipedia. My other time-wasting hobby obsession is Harry Potter fan fiction. I never combine the two, but seriously discussing Shipping and using metasyntactic variables when describing ship naming conventions is just so ├╝ber-geeky I can't resist blogging about it! Apparently, the fandom is better documented than I guessed: Cassie is now part of history. Anyone else?

Found on the web - Virtual Tourism

Via jwz, a very cool blog with satellite photos of interesting places in North America as found in Google Maps.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Linux - I'm such a n00b

Do you have any idea how long it takes to build the Ximianized version of on a P!!!-733? I don't either (because I can't be bothered to check the logs), but it's a long time. So how did I feel when I found out after a whole night of crunching, an error message saying emerge failed because of an IO error on a copy operation? Confused. Dismayed. Angry. And finally, curios. df -h showed I had 1MB left free on the root partition. du -hx --max-depth=1 on / and then on /root showed I've been neglecting some housekeeping business since the last time I logged in as root to recover from my tinkering. A few judicious rm -r's later, I had enough room to try again. I really have to repartition...

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Personal - Up & Down

The previous post was down. This is up.

I've had a perfectly good time this past weekend. Got to talk at length with a guy I had known for two years whom I've never taken the time to really talk to before. He turned out to be the kind of fellow I can pleasantly disagree with. He's a religious nationalist, a rather rare thing in military high-tech. Talking to him made me more conscious of the needs of the observant minority in service (with whom I sympathize) and of my own beliefs (which today I can formulate at best as "I'm pro separation of morality from religion"). We've agreed to continue the conversation through the mail.

The most recent batch of IT-girls, or at least the sample I got to talk to, was really sub-par. I got a very strong feeling of channeling Prof. Snape. Extreme mediocrity, incompetence and professed complete lack of interest in the subject matter is infuriating. How am I expected to work with those? Sure hope for some responsibility from the people handling their assignments.

Last week got stressed out because of some "legacy" blunder at work. Legacy systems/code/support is a terrible thing and I fully intend to do everything in my power to modernize the things and ditch the ball and chain, ASAP (meaning "in the next three years"). Thankfully, I have my CO's complete support.

Have been working on an unusual skunkworks project. This time it's educational, and most of the work-hours went into a PowerPoint presentation (a first for me). It's highly technical and is intended to get my colleagues to think about certain technicalities I believe code monkeys should be aware of, but was astonished to find out nearly none are. I tried to make it less boring by appealing to their competitive spirit. I hope to find out this week if I succeeded. The general theme is "contemporary microprocessor and compiler technologies", and full disclosure will follow presentation at work.

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