Friday, September 30, 2005

The real deal

I have accepted a position at Google, working in Partner Services as a Web Applications Engineer in Mountain View, California. I start February 6, but will be out there the first of February probably.

I'll be giving my dad my car and buying a new car in California. Plus I get to rent a car for a month - probably an SUV for getting things.

I don't know where I'll live yet, but they provide a furnished apartment for up to a month. Shashi has an extra bedroom - so that's a possibility.

I am very excited :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The disappointment of Carnegie Mellon West

Carnegie Mellon West sounded really cool to me. I mean, being able to continue studying at Carnegie Mellon on the west coast, 2 miles from my job? Hotness.

But check out their schedule. It's a professional masters in software engineering. No offense, as I will be a software engineer, but I really would like a professional program that has some theory classes.

So I guess if I want to study while working, the solution's really Stanford. Shucks.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Again more things that need to be fixed in computers

Arabic is a little buggy on the Mac. It may have "just worked" to get it installed, but the directions of the right and left key swap when the keyboard's backwards.

It's like no one who programmed it actually uses it

I've noticed similar things from Google Arabic too.

Monday, September 26, 2005

My new background

Try the full resolution - I just really enjoy this picture

Saturday, September 24, 2005

And in other news

And in other news, I finally got my first ticket for parking in Pittsburgh.

No Parking - street cleaning

Reminder to self: when the parking spot seems too good to be true at midnight, it probably is.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Things that are random

I got Paul van Dyk's new 2 cd set, called The Politics of Dancing, Vol 2.. The first volume (The Politics of Dancing) was one of the first electronic CDs I got. It is amazing. I highly recommend it as an intro to trance or dance.

I preordered the CD 3 weeks ago. Today I got the CD, and I got two disc 2s. Amazon has this really cool return system though; you can print out a return label and mail it back in postage paid. I think they're shipping out the replacement before I even send the original back.

E-Commerce has really gotten a lot easier than its early days.

As a side note, I'm off to Boston tomorrow. Had to buy new shoes and a garment bag, but I think the garment bag will come in handy throughout life.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Taking an inventory

When I was working on my resume, I realized it had a lot of fluff. I had jobs whose bullets were obvious from the title, I had many bullets I didn't need.

So I thought about it, and I realized that I needed to figure out what I wanted my resume to say, then get rid of everything that didn't contribute to that. Instead of "TA for database course" having 3 bullets, it got 0. I didn't want to explain what I'd done, I wanted to show that I know what I'm talking about with databases. Jobs from 2000 didn't need 3 bullets, as I've done those things later in life.

But basically, condensing what you want to say down into a few major points is really powerful. As much as you live every day exhibiting these traits, taking an inventory and making them stronger, more pronounced, will stengthen your conviction. And it will surprise you how cool you are.

There are many ways ticketmaster sucks

... and it's not just how they charge too much in fees.

This summer, I'd go to the Ticketmaster site, search for events around "Durham." It would then say "Which Durham do you want?" I'd select Durham NC. Then it would bring me back to the front page, Durham auto entered for the region I wanted to search around, without the state. I'd be ambiguous, it would get specific, and then it would cause me to get back to the same error. Cruel UI design.

Just try it: go to Ticketmaster's site, search for events in the next 14 days for Durham, and feel my pain. Plus, it would tell me The House of Blues in Myrtle Beach was in the Raleigh area. It's 4 hours away.

So I'm thinking of moving to the California Bay Area. (Also thinking of Boston, Austin, etc) I want to see what kind of arts are in San Francisco - how often San Francisco has musicals, plays, etc. So I enter San Francisco, and it spits out Northern California/Northern Nevada. Technically it's only three and half hours to Reno, but I see no way to limit regions more specifically than this. They used to have a "x miles from" feature on their search. Yes, Ticketmaster has gotten progressively worse and less usable over the years.

They could do so much, instead, they are lazy with $10/ticket fees and a monopoly.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Learning from domain specific compression

There are two compression techniques I know of basically - one compresses every character based on its frequency - if 'a' is used a lot, it could be '01' while if 'x' is rarely used, it would be represented as '100101' or something long. This is called huffman coding.

The other type is LZW encoding - it has to do with a fixed length code, but variable length of what the code represents - so if we've seen "aaaaaaa" a lot before, it could be encoded in only 8 bits.

So here's one for you - music encoding. Let's say we're encoding notes. So we might have "bs3q" or something like that - b sharp, 3rd octave above the lowest octave we'll encode, quarter note. We could use LZW for this - it might be nice if we see a lot of notes in one octave. Huffman might be a little naive - if all the notes are in one octave, there would be plenty of overhead to keep entering bits for the octave.

So think about music - sheet music is fairly sparse compared to the representation I described. At the beginning, it says which octave it is, which notes are sharp, and the time. If we could encode that only once, it might be useful.

But that's not the point - I could write the desnsist representation of music ever, and then run huffman and or lzw over it. But the beauty of XML is readable markup - so how do we compress this extremely densely while having the original being uber readable? How do we use smarter compression algorithms than Huffman & LZW?

I'd love to check into "smarter" compression techniques - not necessarily ones tuned for music or another format, but ones that take into account how humans like to represent data (ie: not referring to an external table, but having all information available at their point of focus) and seeing if there's a better way to compress data meant to be read by humans - based on how the mind really likes to work, and how humans actually write naturally.

Just for fun.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Warning: nerd post

The general idea behind Google's ranking (and the other major search players) is that a page's rank is directly proportional how much time someone who randomly clicks links would spend on that page.

It's called the random surfer model - if I click around and spend 1 second on every page, but spend 5000 seconds on and 5 seconds on, then Yahoo's rank is 1000 times greater than stupidpage's.

But all of this is neglecting how people use the web now. Who actually surfs? Is there a better way to rank pages, having to do with how emails, IMs, and away messages fly around for faddish cult favorites? What about with the fact that searching is how I get to most pages, not browsing?

Don't get me wrong, PageRank works pretty well, but I'm starting to get annoyed with some of the automated properties of it: like how the top result on lyrics search invariably starts the JVM and tries to do a java exploit

Okay, so until next time, keep sending me your questions, and I will keep making fun of your punctuation and spelling. I mean, answer them.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Hey Tim - Thanks for the quote

Bill Maher Excerpt

New Rule: America must recall the president. That's – that's what this country needs. A good, old-fashioned, California-style recall election! Complete with Gary Coleman, porno actresses and action film stars. And just like Schwarzenegger's predecessor here in California, George Bush is now so unpopular, he must defend his jog against…Russell Crowe. Because at this point, I want a leader who will throw a phone at somebody. In fact, let's have only phone throwers. Naomi Campbell can be the vice-president!

Now, I kid, but seriously, Mr. President, this job can't be fun for you anymore. There's no more money to spend. You used up all of that. You can't start another war because you also used up the army. And now, darn the luck, the rest of your term has become the Bush family nightmare: helping poor people.

Yeah, listen to your mom. The cupboard's bare, the credit card's maxed out, and no one is speaking to you: mission accomplished! [laughter] Now it's time to do what you've always done best: lose interest and walk away. Like you did with your military service. And the oil company. And the baseball team. It's time. Time to move on and try the next fantasy job. How about cowboy or spaceman?!

Now, I know what you're saying. You're saying that there's so many other things that you, as president, could involve yourself in…Please don't. I know, I know, there's a lot left to do. There's a war with Venezuela, and eliminating the sales tax on yachts. Turning the space program over to the church. And Social Security to Fannie Mae. Giving embryos the vote. But, sir, none of that is going to happen now. Why? Because you govern like Billy Joel drives. You've performed so poorly I'm surprised you haven't given yourself a medal. You're a catastrophe that walks like a man.

Herbert Hoover was a shitty president, but even he never conceded an entire metropolis to rising water and snakes.

On your watch, we've lost almost all of our allies, the surplus, four airliners, two Trade Centers, a piece of the Pentagon and the City of New Orleans…Maybe you're just not lucky!

I'm not saying you don't love this country. I'm just wondering how much worse it could be if you were on the other side. So, yes, God does speak to you, and what he's saying is, “Take a hint.”

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Sometimes, things just work on a Mac.

Today, I wanted to see how hard it would be to type Arabic on one of my computers. On my Windows XP desktop, I can't do it yet because I don't have the Windows CD. Apparently Apple decided OS X should install with Arabic support by default, and now I can switch quickly between US-English-QWERTY and Arabic-QWERTY.

Maha and Yasmine spent a bit of time this morning helping me properly type several Arabic words I know already - like Shukran (thanks), Qatar, and habeebety (female sweety).

There are a few things that don't work so well right now though - Apple decided to overload AppleKey + Space, so I can't use that to switch keyboard types. Switching between english and Arabic has some really weird properties. Backspace going to the right also bugged me at first. TextEdit just doesn't behave "right" with Arabic - sometimes artifacts are left after characters are deleted.

But all in all - chatting with my friends in Adium in Arabic works pretty well! Unicode is a good thing!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The next thing I hope to see from iTunes...

The next thing I want to see from iTunes is the ability for easy synchronization between two computers under one account through direct connection (LAN, whatever, Apple doesn't have to give bandwidth).

I, right now, use ourTunes to download one library from one computer to another - but it's not easy to grab just the new or updated files, and it doesn't update meta-data (play count, etc). Another friend uses CVS for this task - same issues, and a little heavyweight for what I want to do.

Just downloading files also won't update the playlists and the podcasts on another computer. So right now - the work flow just is awkward - this really is an important feature Apple should get to. I really enjoy iTunes, but having two computers that should have the exact same files and playlists (but don't) is very annoying.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Growing up

Some parents add themselves to college packing list

Key Excerpts
[Two parents] said they would be talking to [their freshman daughter] often, at least once a day, but more likely two or three times daily.

[One parent] expected to be in almost daily contact with the student-affairs office as well - as she was for her first daughter - to work out the kinks.

Today's college students are e-mailing their papers home for their parents' inspection before turning them in. Their parents in turn are stepping in to solve roommate problems, helping students pick out courses and demanding improvements to their rooms.

[One student] said parents want to attend their children's adviser sessions.

[The director of counseling at Colby] said the urge is strong among baby boomer parents to smooth away the issues.

This seems like an interesting article - especially in light of the whole parents not letting their kids fail issue. Let them bump their heads - we never will feel real joy until we feel real pain. And what about when parent can't solve things for their kids anymore? How will the kid cope? I say really poorly.

Mark Stehlik delivered a great "last lecture" on failure and its importance in life. The abstract is
American society has become increasingly failure-averse. Nowadays, in order to feel good about oneself, one has to be successful, virtually at everything. I argue that our greatest successes often arrive on the heels of an epiphany-relaying defeat and that failure is both a barometer of our desire to take risks and a data point on the yardstick by which we can measure our success. Put another way, is success without risk of failure really success? And what does this mean in a university context where failure is not thought of as productive?

So parents: go away. No, seriously. We'll call home once a week, and we'll struggle through bad roommates, picking classes, finding food, buying clothes, editing our papers, and getting hung over. We have school help for that.

You want us to be happy? We'll never feel prouder at graduation than if it's something we managed on our own, when we've made it through the trials, the failures, the heartbreaks that are inevitable in a college experience. We'll forge true bonds with the friends that helped us through it. We'll know how to handle work, life, living with a partner better that way. We'll love you for giving us the space to run. We'll grow up to be stronger.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Bah Hahbah

I was thinking about how to make computers pronounce in dialect - do you spell how you want something pronounced, or do you program the dialect in to the speech system?

So then I got thinking to an old story about automated voices and how good they are.

About 6 or 8 years ago, NOAA Weather Radio switched from a live person giving the forecasts and a computer reading them. The guy used to be a good old down east person - he had a great Maine accent. It sounded perfectly normal to me (it wasn't til I got to college that I realized my dad has an accent).

When they switched, the computer pronounced the town name Bar Harbor as Bar Harbor, which if you've ever been to Maine you'd know is not how any local pronounces it. They all pronounce it "Bah Hahbah". (Don't worry - we understand the conservation of letters law and just add the missing Rs to other words. Like our capital, Auguster. Though I'm not sure all the Rs are appropriately transferred - we talk a lot about lobstah, stahtin ahhh cahs with cah keys, and we love ahhh beeeah.)

So they had to program into this new fangled computer system the ability for the town to be pronounced "Bah Hahbah" so the locals wouldn't laugh at the voice too much, and more so that people knew what area the report was actually for!

Friday, September 02, 2005

New Orleans

We have troops that can be anywhere in the world in under 24 hours from 0 warning, and you tell me that we couldn't get food, water, medicine, and troops to New Orleans in 4 days?

This disaster recovery has been one of the most embarassing, worst failures of the US Government, in the history of this country.

Even New Orleans' mayor says so.

How does one specify a mandatory evacuation but not help the people actually evacuate?