Older blog entries for BenFrantzDale (starting at number 27)

25 Feb 2003 (updated 25 Feb 2003 at 06:02 UTC) »

I got new glasses. Finally. Now I can see clearly, but everything looks small. I'll get used to it, but it's always weird.

Why is it that FedEx doesn't update it's tracking information in realtime? I apparently had a package delivered today but I didn't know 'till it was too late to get it. I want my camera :-)

I have galeon2 running. It's very cool, especially with all of the nice Bitstream Vera fonts. It is anoying that ctrl+N makes a new window when I'm typing in a text widget, rather than moving me down a line.

One thing really annoys me about browsing the web. Many pages, the Advogato diary page included, fill the width of the browser. This means lines are like 22 lines long, which is far too long for regular reading. I've found this is a good use for the browser sidebar — to make the page narrow enough to read.

I've been trying to figure out how to make a good shot of espresso. I have a low-end Krups espresso maker, which works all right but I never get a good crema. I did discover today that it really is important for it to take about 25 seconds to pull a shot. This requires tamping the grinds fairly hard, but it definately tastes better.

21 Feb 2003 (updated 21 Feb 2003 at 04:30 UTC) »

That was a long week.

I am working on a robot project with the Palm-powered robot from Acroname. Unfortunately, they are not particuarly gcc friendly. I need to figure out how to make the palm compiler dynamically link against palm libraries. I'm sure it's in the docs somewhere.

Photography is Dead. Long live Photography.

I'm going to be getting a Canon PowerShot G3 digital camera for a graduation/birthday present. The day after I learned that I wound up borrowing the CS department's G1. I must say: Wow. I've done analog photography for quite some time and I really don't follow the consumer electronics market as much as many CS majors. I really hadn't realized just how good digital has gotten. The roll of film I have in my camera now may well be the last roll of film I have processed in several years. With digital, in adition to being able to control apature, shutter and focus manually (or automatically), I can jump between film speeds at any time. Plus I can look at the picture when I take it so I know if it came out right. Also, flash ram is less than a dollar per picture and is rewritable. (Obviously.)

I'm sure I this all sounds silly. I knew all of this technology was there, I just had no idea how cool it was until I could play with it. I'm eagerly awaiting my camera. :-)

This got me to finally set up my USB port. It turned out all I neded to do was apt-get a few things. Now I have my optical mouse working simultaniously with my TrackPoint, both with a good refresh rate, and with the scroll wheel working. This makes me very happy.

Feature idea for presentation software: Give an estimate of presentation time. Simply t = A×NumSlides + B×TextLength + C×NumPictures + D×MediaLength + E. The constants would have to be determined approximately. If the user were able to give feedback (as in “it took 20 minutes and I'm only to slide 12”) then the constants could be adjusted to match the user's style. (Or polite suggestions could be made regarding the style of the user's presentation.)

No. Of course I didn't see an overly-long powerpoint presentation today.

21 Jan 2003 (updated 21 Jan 2003 at 19:02 UTC) »

I am now back at school. My classes start this afternoon.

I finished Gödel, Escher, Bach last night on the plane. If you havn't read it, do.

Another good book is A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider. In a way it's a helthfood book, but that doesn't do it justice. It is all about making food that tastes good. It's full of ways to improvise and isn't afraid to use bacon fat when that's the best way to flavor things.

I had a great vacation, including getting to visit some monkes from Ximian in Cambridge with whom I played GTA:Vice City for the first time. I have never been a gamer, but I have always loved ritch computer worlds and good graphics. This has both.

I got my mom off of AOL. She now uses Outlook Express which she already likes much more. (If only there were Evolution for Windows.) To those of you with friends on AOL, my own experience was that it was easier than I expected to move over.

I am strongly considering switching distros from Debian to RedHat. While I love what Debian is doing in general, I've found it hard to keep a reasonably-stable bleeding edge GNOME build using Debian's packages. I think I'll be able to be more productive doing my part to help the GNOME project if the only thing I have to worry about is breaking GNOME.

Fun fact: According to NPR [real audio], the word “acronym” is often misused. According to that segment, things like radar, laser, and GNOME are all proper acronyms — words formed from the letters of a longer phrase. However, when the resultant “word” is said letter-by-letter, as in GTK, KDE, or TCP/IP it is technically an “initialism.” The definition is fuzzy, and some things like SQL often go both ways.

17 Jan 2003 (updated 17 Jan 2003 at 05:38 UTC) »

A suitemate of mine from college won't be returning in the Spring. He's a Marine and is going off to war. Politics has never hit so close to home. Wow.

I went winter hiking for the first time today and climbed a few thousand vertical feet. That was quite fun; the view was beautiful.

It got me thinking about experiences. In particular, I think I've been trying to enjoy experiences that are non-trivial to enjoy. This is true from food to experiences. For example, hiking at less than 10 degrees Fahrenheit today expanded my sense of what is enjoyable; I think this is essentially because it was non-trivial. The same goes for things like martinis mentioned in my previous post. While I really can't say I like martinis, after having a few (not in the same evening, mind you) I am starting to understand what people like about them. And with food, if some population thinks some food is worthwhile, I really want to know why. After going from hating to loving mushrooms (among other things), nothing is sacred. I have started to come around on broccoli; beef with broccoli is quite good, for example.

This leeds me to consider the difference between saying “I don't like x” and saying “I cannot appreciate x.” My tentative stance is that the later is a sign of closedmindedness, as long as x is not dangerous and is appreciated by some group of people. I'm curious what others think about this.

Word of the day: shank (with reference to shoes): The part of the sole beneath the instep connecting the broader front part with the heal. Apparently these used to be made of metal which made for terribal insulation in old hiking boots.

15 Jan 2003 (updated 17 Jan 2003 at 05:16 UTC) »

I just got directed to Googlefight. Give some a try. Some entertaining ones: free software v. open source, Debian v. Redhat.

My grandfather pointed me to this:

I like to have a martini,
Two at the very most.
After three I'm under the table,
After four I'm under my host!
   — Dorothy Parker
and this:
There is something about a Martini,
A tingle remarkably pleasant;
A yellow, a mellow Martini;
I wish I had one at present.
There is something about a Martini,
Ere the dining and dancing begin,
And to tell you the truth,
It is not the vermouth—
I think that perhaps it's the gin.
   — A Drink with Something in It by Ogden Nash

I visited RPI today; I spent my freshman year there. It was good to be back, but I'm glad I transfered. I'm glad to be going to the school where people put this bar monkey together.

Winter Break: Good. I'm doing less computer stuff than I though I would be, but that's probably a good thing.

I'm almost done with GEB. It's still a great book.

I've been listening to lots of music and watching movies.

Music: I Baught Operation: Mindcrime by Queensryche. It's from 1988 (15 years ago now) so it's a bit of a guilty pleasure being an '80s hair band, but it's great none the less.

I also baught Images & Words by Dream Theater. This is also quite good, although their Scenes from a Memory is better IMO.

Operation: Mindcrime made me think about concept albums. Thinking about them, I've really liked every one I've heard. I like how the concept removes any expectation of a sensable story for a song, that way any hokeyness in a song's story can be discounted as part of the overall story. (At least that's how I see it.) Another cool concept album, though I've just heard some of it, is Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by the Flaming Lips.

As for movies, I liked Two Towers quite a lot. I also liked War Games (which I finally saw), Y Tu Mamma Tambien, and Donnie Darko.

We keep getting a dusitng of snow every night, which is great.

I'm home for Christmas. I havn't quite had enough of a break to do serious Gnome stuff, but I hope to.

I am attempting to learn Dvorak. I've gotten to the point where I don't have to see a key, but that doesn't mean I can type fast. Still, I do get the feeling that it requires much less finger movement.

16 Dec 2002 (updated 16 Dec 2002 at 03:45 UTC) »

Finals are upon us; I have lots to do before I go home.

Now that I have a handle on it, OpenGL programing is lots of fun.

I am loving Free Software these days.

I recently installed GAIM out of CVS, which gives me a panel docklet agin. It is just so nice. I've been talking with Sean Egan, one of the GAIM developers I met at the GNOME summit this summer. I encouraged him to change the default name colors from #ff0000 and #0000ff to something more gnome-like. Apparently he got two response: one “I think the old colors were much better” and one “Why does Gaim hardcode the colors at all?”. I tend to agree with the latter of those. If only the widget they use supported stylesheets of some sort...

The fact that Mozilla finally looks like GTK is great! If only the Debian galeon packagers would point Galeon to the “classic” Mozilla theme.

I also got Gimp1.3 installed. More wonderful GTK2 goodness. Plus, it's handling of selections seems much easier to get used to for those new to the Gimp.

I also have been using Rhythmbox. Unfortunately it's still crashing some (I submitted bug reports, of course). It does look cool, though. I'm really ready for something other than the Winamp interface used by XMMS.

I'm trying to experiment with Evolution 1.2's meeting planer, but wombat keeps crashing... (More bug reports.)

I took the CS GRE on Saturday. Something about not intending to go to grad school next year (and maybe not in CS at all) made it much less stressful.

The old techno instrumental song “Popcorn” is cool.

11 Dec 2002 (updated 11 Dec 2002 at 21:56 UTC) »
mathieu, what are you wondering, exactly? If you are looking for general information, try: The first two of these are particularly good and very concise. If you do much writing and care about how it looks, I would recomend all three.

While I'm on the topic, Edward Tufte's three-part series on visual explanation is also great.

...and my favorite pet peve: If you mean “to” by a dash, as in “1–10”, use an en-dash (– in html, “--” in TeX). Otherwise you get this ugly thing: “1-10.”

Cool stuff:

I got Gaim out of CVS yesterday. GTK2 Gaim with a panel docklet is sweet.

I got rhythmbox going yesterday too. Also cool, 'though I had some stability issues.

Put this in your makefiles:
grep -C2 -n -i fixme *.{cpp,h}

That way when you compile you get

setup.cpp-259-  *CCM = translate;
setup.cpp:261:  // FIXME... LookAt isn't fully implemented, but it isn't used by the
setup.cpp-262-  // viewer program anyway.

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