Older blog entries for vicious (starting at number 315)

CS costs too much

Apparently computer science is not too interesting and costs too much.  $1.7 mil at University of Florida apparently.  So obviously we cut it, so that the athletic department (costing $99 mil) can get an extra $2 mil a year.  It’s obvious where our priorities are as a society.  Even if nothing got cut, 1.7 vs 99 is pretty bad.

Syndicated 2012-04-23 13:35:31 from The Spectre of Math

XFCE 1, GNOME Shell 0

After a year of using GNOME-shell, I finally got fed up with it. GNOME shell is unfortunately really annoying to use. There are so many decisions it tries to do, that it does some of them wrong. New window placement, the whole status thing in the corner getting triggered when I don’t want it to, the overview getting triggered all the time by mistake, as well as for example custom launcher setup. When I run my script for editting latex it never shows evince and I have to focus it by alt-tab “by hand.” The whole Alt-Tab behaviour is totally nuts. I also really REALLY hate the fact that dialogs are now “attached” to their parents. I often need to look at the original window because I just forgot what I was going to type in, such as “how many pages did the document have again and what pag I am on now” when printing, this happens really really often for me, so gnome shell drives me up the wall. There are just so many little things like that that overall make it a total pain. Some are solved through extensions or change in behaviour, but I use several computers, so learning different behaviour just for my laptop is annoying.

Consistency be damned is the new motto now. From those new and cool interfaces, they are all quite different, Unity, Cinnamon, GNOME shell, (I haven’t tried KDE, I guess I won’t be able to go there out of GNOME loyalty, which was the only reason why I kept using GNOME shell for so long). Apparently rounded corners are more important than working correctly.

So at first I was happy with GNOME shell. Mostly because it seems to be aimed (despite what anyone says) at people who use the command line. People who mouse around will find GNOME shell annoying. For example my wife will not be searching for apps using the keyboard to launch them. Also the fact that it’s impossible to customize GNOME nowdays to a specific purpose easily (using dconf-editor which has totally broken UI, is really not an answer, I wasted lots of time trying to get some things to work). Either ues GNOME shell for what it’s specifically designed for, or use something else. So flexibility is also out the window.

GNOME shell seems to also think that your mousing is very precise, which it never was for me. I commonly press the wrong button, or the mouse will go somewhere it shouldn’t and the interface punishes you for it. See above about entering the overview by mistake (whenever I wanted to hit a menu or the back button or some such).

I tried LXDE, but it’s buggy as hell (at least in fedora). The window list seems to jump around, launchers don’t always work, the battery status doesn’t work, and workspace switcher is totally broken. OK, so no go there. I tried Cinnamon for a few days, but it’s bad in many of the ways that GNOME shell is. Unity is even worse.

I had some trouble with XFCE in the past (on ubuntu that was upgraded a few times, so it might not have been fair to xfce). Anyway, I installed it on fedora, and quickly set it up, and … it works. It’s not perfect, but I don’t need it to be perfect. I want it to just work, and so far it does. It gets out of my way, unlike GNOME shell which kept trying to get in my way. Plus it’s fast.

So kudos to XFCE. I think I’ll stick with it.

Syndicated 2012-04-15 18:50:49 from The Spectre of Math


Two things I saw recently 1) NASA budget for climate research is 1 billion (for all those satellites and all that), 2) Facebook buys instagram for 1 billion.

Now we can see where our priorities (as a society) lie. What I don’t get is, that instagram has software that a reasonably good programmer could have done in a few weekends of binge hacking. It does nothing really new. You could even take fairly off the shelf things. Perhaps the servers and the online setup might be costlier, but still, nothing all that strange. To think that this is worth to us as much as figuring out where the next hurricane will hit, or when will the ice caps melt is “interesting”.

Though it is not totally out of sync with what else is happening. When the entire UC system which is responsible for several nobel prizes and innumerable new cures for diseases and leaps in terms of understanding the world, not to mention educating a huge number of students, when that system has a budget hole the size of one CEOs bonus, and it’s a huge hit for the university. Something is off in priorities. Actually there is a very good likelyhood that this CEO will die of some cancer that wasn’t cured because we don’t fund science enough.

Syndicated 2012-04-13 18:26:47 from The Spectre of Math

Devil’s in the details

It seems that not only did some democrats vote in the Michigan republican primary, satan himself also voted. Check the primary results in Mackinac county (e.g. on http://elections.msnbc.msn.com/ns/politics/2012/Michigan/Republican/primary at least this was the data on wednesday)

The final result in that county was very close. It was by one vote for Romney, but you should check how many votes did Santorum get:

Romney: 667 (41%)
Santorum: 666 (41%)

Syndicated 2012-02-29 20:40:19 from The Spectre of Math

Exponential growth (and CEO pay)

So CEO salary has increased by approximately 9.7% adjusted for inflation every year between 1990-2005 [1] (that is approx 300% increase over that time, so 4 times what they had in 1990). Anyway, that has a doubling time of \frac{\log 2}{\log 1.097} \approx 7.5 years. Now median CEO (among the top 200) made approximately 10 million a year in compensation in 2010 [2]. In 2009 there were about 8.3 trillion dollars in existence [3]. Anyway, approximately a CEO makes a 1 millionth of the money in the world, or in other words, if we had a million CEOs we’d exhaust our money supply. It takes about \log_2 1000000 \approx 20 doublings to get a million. Hence in 20\times 7.5 = 150 years one CEO will make all the money in the world. And this is all inflation adjusted.

But we don’t have to go so far to get into trouble. Now we did talk about the top 200, so when would the top 200 make all the money in the world. Well that requires only \log_2 \frac{1000000}{200} \approx 12.3 years so 12.3 \times 7.5 \approx 92 years. OK, so in less than 100 years, the top 200 CEOs will suck out all the money in the universe.

Anyway, the problem is the following: The companies are not rewarding an individual CEO for good performance. They are rewarding all future CEOs. The thing is, that there is no “starting salary.” A CEO that just started is (statistically) making about the same as the one who’s been around for quite a while. If you would start all CEOs at a base salary, then one particular CEOs salary could rise at 10% a year because he’d be with the company only a fixed number of years, the problem would be managable. Now to whatever extent there is anything like a “starting salary” the increase an individual CEO makes is even higher than 10% a year. Essentially the starting salary is increasing at 10% a year.

Let’s look at even a more realistic example of how quickly do we get into trouble. The CEO salary can easily be even 1% of the revenue for the company [4]. In fact some small private colleges are paying 1% of their budgets to their university president, a group where similar thing has happened. Well, now think about this doubling. If it is 1% now, it will be 2% in 7.5 years, 4% in 15 years, 8% in 22.5 years, 16% in 30 years, 32% in 37.5 years, 64% in 45 years, and we get 100% at less than 50 years. So in less than 50 years the entire revenue would have to support the CEO. Now you say, well but the revenue is also growing. Not so fast, the 10% pay increase is overall, that includes companies that did badly and those that did well. One would think that the growth of revenue on average (including failed companies) is not that much more than inflation. And this is adjusted for inflation. In any case CEO is definitely growing a lot faster than the economy (and hence your average revenue), and hence you hit the wall sooner or later. Even if we lob off another 2% to adjust for growth, the doubling time for CEO pay is still 9 years.

Of course a problem would appear a lot earlier than in 50 years. So it’s not only the “rich get richer” and “things are not fair” argument. This state of affairs is actually unsustainable even in relatively short period of time (within our lifetimes). I think people don’t understand that exponential growth is really really fast. That’s why pyramid schemes never work. It’s why ponzi schemes usually fail far quicker than the perpetrator hoped. 10% increase a year does not seem like much (just like 10% return on investment doesn’t seem like that terribly much).

[1] http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html (better sources exist, but I am too lazy to search further).

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/07/03/business/20110703-executive-pay-revisited-even-higher-than-it-first-seemed.html

[3] http://money.howstuffworks.com/how-much-money-is-in-the-world.htm

[4] http://yourperspective.org/index.php?action=read&value=16a2b99e-4847-102d-bdde-00065b3be33a

Syndicated 2012-02-22 23:17:39 from The Spectre of Math

Diffy Qs notes at 20000 downloads

So the differential equations textbook just reached 20000 downloads from unique adresses. The real analysis textbook is close behind (despite being a year younger) at around 19200. The rate is growing, it started out at around 200 per week for both in the fall and is now pushing 400 a week. As an overwhelming percentage of the hits come from google I think google might have ranked the pages higher. So if you want to help out with the project of free textbooks: link to the books on your blog, page, whatever. And press those social buttons on the page, I guess that also does it.

It’s also interesting to see how ipv6 is doing. So far, 82 ipv6 adresses looked at the real analysis book and 43 for the diffyqs. As ipv6 was active for about half a year on the server, it’s still a very tiny percentage. There were about 6-7 thousand ipv4 addresses looking at the diffyqs book during that time frame and about 8-9 thousand for the real analysis book. But at least someone is using ipv6 (if I could get an internet provider that offered ipv6, I’d use them, but I didn’t find such in Madison).

Syndicated 2012-02-06 00:31:34 from The Spectre of Math

When will the beheading start

It is always good to know when will other people want to cut off your head. Let us look at when were most heads cut off: that was probably the French revolution. OK, what made people want to cut off other people’s heads? Extreme inequality. OK, what was the Gini coefficient? Well, one estimate is 59 [1]. OK, so if we look at the US Gini coefficient it seems to be rising approximately linearly since 1980. In particular, US Census Bureau (via Wikipedia [2]) has the following data:

1980 40.3
1990 42.8
2000 46.2
2009 46.8

Let us do linear regression to obtain:

2020 50.0
2030 52.4
2040 54.8
2050 57.1
2058 59.0
2060 59.5
2070 61.9
2080 64.3

So, I guess people will start trying to cut other people’s heads off around 2058. We’re all safe till then.

[1] Christian Morrison, Wayne Snyder The income inequality of France in historical perspective, European Review of Economic History, 4, 59-83.

[2] Wikipedia.org, Gini Coefficient.

Syndicated 2012-01-21 22:40:35 from The Spectre of Math


So, it was -15 celsius (barely positive farenheit) and snowing this morning, actually it’s still -15 and still snowing. Surely only a complete moron would bike to work today. Actually the ride was pretty good. Yesterday it was -18 and I think I can tell the difference (though it was not snowing). The downside of biking in this weather is that the gears are refusing to shift. The levers just sort of stick and nothing happens. Fortunately, I’m in a reasonable gear right now.

Another downside is that I have these cool hybrid tires on the mountain bike. Sort of like road tires with spikes only on the sides, which is reasonable in terrain and much smoother than regular mountain bike tire on the road. They were really good at the UCSD campus (San Diego) where I’d go off road often and it never snowed. Because they kind of suck on snow.

Syndicated 2012-01-20 22:02:19 from The Spectre of Math

Newspapers will be half the size on wednesday

With the Wikipedia blackout, what will journalists do? There will be a lot less in the wenesdays edition, though on the plus side it will have a better chance to be correct or at least original. Also, all school essays that were due wenesday will be turned in a day late.

Syndicated 2012-01-17 22:53:23 from The Spectre of Math

New chapter in real analysis notes

I finally posted a new version of the real analysis book with the new metric space chapter, it weighs in at 192 pages now (with 12pt font though). It also fixes a now record number of errata; though my standard for what is an erratum rather than just a simple obvious typo has dropped slightly. One thing that makes me feel better about errata is that it seems Rudin’s 3rd edition of principles still has some errata that is essentially the same as what I did (independently, not that I really worry about taking credit for errata:).

The differential equations book nowadays seems to be hitting fewer and fewer problems: 6 errata in the past year, 2 of which have been in new stuff added before the summer. This is despite several people using the books and one ongoing partial translation. So I guess they are rather “correct” by now.

My goal right now is to get them to be correct rather than perfect. So I haven’t really been reordering things or rewriting things that could be improved. I’ve been at most doing small improvements in exposition. The main thing is that I want to spend time doing other things too of course:)

Syndicated 2011-11-18 23:17:13 from The Spectre of Math

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