Technical Difficulties from on Top of the Mountain
2005-06-29
  I hate travelling
I hate the particulars of travelling so much that even when I'm not travelling, its sometimes on my mind.

While I'm good at travelling (possibly because I expect the worst and am sometimes happily surprised), I am perfectly happy staying at home as much as possible. But being that I live in Flagstaff (the opposite point from the center of the tech universe), I have to go out and see what's happening in the world and remind my boss that I exist so that he doesn't forget about me.

Going out the Bay Area means either travelling on the last flight out and arriving in the middle of the night (in SF), and waiting an hour an a half for the car rental because there's only one guy working and he has to do everything (and for some reason, he has to do it really slowly); or get up at an ungodly time of the morning and catch the first flight of the day. Someday, maybe, I'll learn how to fly my own plane; but for now I'm stuck with the two evils.

Besides the actual horror of getting up early (I'm not a morning person), I have to deal with the anxiety of oversleeping. Since normally I don't use an alarm, they're not very effective when I do use them. Even worse, my back brain can function enough to disable the alarm and go back to sleep without waking me up. Several witnesses have even testified that it can carry on half a conversation on the phone for a few minutes without disturbing me. So, knowing that the back brain is just waiting to thwart my plans, another part of my brain is laying in wait trying to wake me up before the alarm goes off.

So for a 7am flight (which would require me to be out of bed at around 6:10, as thankfully the airport is literally next door), I instead find myself hunting for the clock and discovering that I have been woken up at 4:10am. I can go back to sleep, but usually what will seem like 2 hours later will only be 10 minutes later, and so it goes for a while until I convince myself to get up and wander around downstairs like a zombie until its time to leave.

Even though I'm not travelling for two weeks, my brain has already started pysching itself up. Last night it did some warmups, running me through a couple of doomsday scenarios while I slept. Like its 8am, and my return flight (in the city now) leaves at 8:30am and the airport is 20 miles away, and there's no hope that I'm going to make it. My brain is just so helpfull.

 
2005-06-28
  Great imagery
Business 2.0, like Red Herring was one of those magazines to ride high during the bubble, turing out mammoth 700 page magazines at the height of the craze, and another who faced death at the end and has lived to tell about it.

While hunting down more details about Mercora, I hit an article on the B2 blog, and was particularly struck by the graphic at the top.

This robot is a great little icon, and the Flash animation on the site is even better. The gears turn, the light flashes, and it spits out cash like there's no tomorrow. I suppose we can guess what kind of future they're hoping for over at Business 2.0.

 
2005-06-16
  Turning the wheels of the mind
I like puzzles. Unlike Games, they don't rely on luck or manual dexterity. They're almost completely skill & persistence. A long time ago, when my Quadra was a hip machine (with its 64mb of ram), besides compiling lots of pascal code, I'd use it to play seahaven towers (there was also a version for Xwindows as early as 1989 with a handy auto-solver module).

Unlike other solitare type games, this was more of a puzzle, as all the cards were exposed, and the game was usually winable (occasionally when I didn't think it was, the X-windows solver was good at producing a more authoratative ruling, though not always in my favor). Sometimes the solutions were especially tricky, but I was persistent and almost always would solve one in about twenty minutes.

I haven't played seahaven in a long time, but recently, I ran across a pointer to a new puzzle called SuDoku.

[puzzle]

You start out with the red numbers only, and the rules that each row, each column and each 3x3 square can only use each number (1-9) once. From there, logic dictates where all the other numbers must go. Sounds easy, and some of the puzzles are pretty much that easy. But some of them aren't. You get to a point where the easy answers have all been found, and you have to start looking more far afield for the solution. There are plenty of sites that talk about strategy, so I won't get into it too far here, but some supposed "medium" puzzles really had me straining my brain to find the answer.

I had filled in quite a bit on this puzzle, but had reached a point where I had to fill in something in the lower right square, and was just racking my brain trying to figure out what the answer was. I even broke down and used the solver at the Daily SuDoku draw page to check my answers so far and to tell me what the next step was. It told me the next step was a 1 in the middle bottom of that square. But How? Finally I scored up everything I knew about that square from the others and this is what I saw:

So each of those other four squares had two possibilities, but more interesting, was that those four numbers had to go in those four spots. So that left the other square for the number one. I finally convinced myself of that logic, and the rest of the puzzle solved itself, but what a reach. We'll see if I can pull it off next time without the computer helping me. Today's puzzle wasn't much of a challenge.

[links]
the Daily SuDoku featuring a puzzle a day, archives going back several months, a solver, and good links to other sites.
BBC: The puzzling popularity of Su Doku
Wikipedia: a good introduction and many links & references

 
2005-06-14
  Reaching deep into my bag of tricks
If your looking for documents, or images, or vendors selling something; then Google has you covered. But what if you're looking for sound effects?

[note]

On of the excuses for having 1,600 pages bookmarked, is that eventually I'll need those things. Like this weekend when I needed the sound of a click. Your average search engine is not very good at that kind of thing, but it just so happens that there are a few audio search engines, and one or two that help with finding sound effects. So after searching my bookmarks folder for a couple keywords, I finally found it: FindSounds, and I got my sound effect.

[ogg]

That, and OggDrop and I was in business.


 
2005-06-01
  Internationalization from the other side
Most of the time its us Americans being given a hard time for assuming that the entire world reads english (or can at least make some attempt). However you can occasionally find small niche suppliers in other countries finding international demand for their products (isn't the internet great), and using their imagination in trying to help their customers.

SuperMagnete of Germany found an international demand for its magnets, and instead of translating its site, instead provided a idiot's guide to reading German. Its full of all sort of useful definitions, like shapes:

German Description

English Description

Kugeln

Spheres

Scheibenund Stäbe

Discs

Stäbe

Cylinders

Quader klein

Little blocks

Quader gross

Big blocks

Würfel

Cubes

Other helpful hints help you check out, including Land ändern ( changing your country ), the code for USA : Vereinigte Staaten von Amerika and checking to make sure something is in stock: Verfügbar.

If you get that far, they do accept Kreditkartes ( VISA ) and PayPal ( PayPal ). Then you just have to accept their terms of sale by clicking: Ich habe die Allgemeine Geschäftsbedingungen gelesen und akzeptiere diese. ( I have read the terms and Conditions and accept them. ) which of course you haven't because you don't speak German. But you don't care, because nobody reads the terms on websites even when they're in english; so you click Bestellung Senden and your order is sent.

Of course if you use this guide, you might be able to actually order some magnets. But if you use babelfish you can experience the entire site in a dialect of english rarely heard. I was especially entertained by some of the customer letters:

"my colleagues were very much inspired just like my pupils."  P.G.
"yesterday I got your first supply. Things are like that geil! Now their me angefixt - and few my colleagues likewise "  J.W.
"today I received the package with the magnets. But hello! How heisst's nevertheless in the Hustenpastillenwerbung? ' they are too strongly, unbelievable to you too weakly '... simply the Dinger!"  B.K.
"Our New Year's Eve Party went unfortunately somewhat beside it. Hardly I had the magnets on the table, began nevertheless smoothly all men to play."  H.L.
"I am also a convinced fan of the magnets, my credit cards useless of course made now, would like however gladly still which to order."  R.H.
"Best thanks also for the free Proebchen - I can need those always well, if the dear friends sit up over my magnets made and the treuherzigen "give me but in!"  R.H.
"One can stick it everywhere. And one can thereby charms."  C.
If that was not enough, you can read more customer comments here. Sure shows all those doubters that say machine translation is not ready for prime time.
 
Life in the middle of nowhere, remote programming to try and support it, startups, children, and some tinkering when I get a chance.

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Blogroll
Paul Graham's Essays
You may not want to write in Lisp, but his advise on software, life and business is always worth listening to.
How to save the world
Dave Pollard working on changing the world .. one partially baked idea at a time.
SnowDeal
Eric Snowdeal IV - born 15 weeks too soon, now living a normal baby life.
Land and Hold Short
The life of a pilot.

The best of?
Jan '04
The second best villain of all times.

Feb '04
Oops I dropped by satellite.
New Jets create excitement in the air.
The audience is not listening.

Mar '04
Neat chemicals you don't want to mess with.
The Lack of Practise Effect

Apr '04
Scramjets take to the air
Doing dangerous things in the fire.
The Real Way to get a job

May '04
Checking out cool tools (with the kids)
A master geek (Ink Tank flashback)
How to play with your kids

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