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26 March 2008

Paid Military Service Suggested by Amir Peretez

This law passed in the initial vote, though I think it has a snowball's chance in hell to survive and become reality. Minimum wages for people who serve in the IDF.

I think this is a very good idea. In the dream world where this could actually happen it might be followed by the army becoming more efficient and competitive, layoffs for people that are not needed and just scratch their balls all day long - the end of the IDF as we know it today and the birth of something better.

Of course the money for all this will never come because of political reasons, even though in the long run this law actually saves money. But come on, it's Israel, what politician exists that gives a shit about the long run?

25 March 2008

Prepare For Summer

You know those ads "prepare your car for the winter"? Well, your computer deserves some attention as well.

The summer we've been having this March took its first victim - the thermic paste of my old Intel CPU fan has died, causing my computer's core temperature to get to 90+ degrees and shutdown a few seconds after boot. The fan itself was working OK, but without the conductive thermal layer it was useless. Also, the pins that hold it together to the CPU were not in great shape, and the guy at the hardware store said this could happen again in a month or two.

Since this is only fucking March and we have a long summer ahead of us (plus moving from Haifa to the hot Herzliya), I decided to give our computer a treat and purchase a powerhouse of a fan - the Thermal Take Blue Orb.

The installation of this fan requires removing the motherboard. I tried instead to take a shortcut and juts remove the back panel.

But no good. So, I disconnected all the MB cables,

and took out the motherboard

Consulting with the manual all the way through

And fighting off both our cats

Applied some fresh thermal paste (very important step!)

Screwed the fan back on the top of the MB

Fought off our other cat Nano

And voilà:

The result: my computer is summer-ready :)

23 March 2008

Cool GreaseMonkey Scripts

After Eran sent me this funny video today explaining GreeseMonkey (I knew it before, but it's still funny), I looked up a few user scripts from this list. These are the ones that look most useful to me:

  • LookItUp - look up stuff in Wikipeida by highlighting text and pressing 'w'.

  • Google Account Multi-Login - Change "Logout" button in Gmail to "Switch Users". Didn't work for me and some other recent users, but seems cool if it works.

  • Google Image Relinker - Google Images search results now has links to the images themselves, instead of to the containing webpage. Very useful.

  • Script Updater - Auto Update your scripts

למה צריך לאכול כשר

לפי הרב משה ביגל, מאכל מזון לא כשר יהפוך אותנו ללא מוסריים.

21 March 2008

19 March 2008

Robot Dog

A bit scary, but very cool.

17 March 2008

Joel on Web Standards

A mile long article by Joel Spolsky. He explains why he thinks IE8 should not force standard conformance, contrary to the popular opinion.

The On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences

I was trying to answer this question - how many labeled rooted trees with n nodes are there?

A quick search didn't find the answer (I'm sure a more detailed search would have). Then I had this idea - find the answer for small values of n, and look in the OEIS. I typed 1,2,9,64 in the search and quickly found the answer (which is n^(n-1) for those interested). I thought about it for a couple of minutes but still hadn't come up with an answer as to why this is true.

World Crops in Danger


This reminds me of a good book I've read once, The Death of Grass (or ככלות העשב in Hebrew). Basically the grass/wheat of the world dies, then animals who depend on it, then the human race comes to cannibalism and rioting.

Better stock up on food while you can...

13 March 2008

EPS conversion

Anyone using LaTeX will sooner or later want to embed images in his paper. LaTeX only accepts EPS files - no standard support for jpg or png images. In order to use such images, you must first convert them to EPS. I'm using ImageMagick's 'convert' utility for this.

The problem was I was converting a 20kb png file and got a eps file over 1 megabyte in size! Reducing resolution and quality didn't help. Today I found the source of the problem - it appears that the eps format has 3 versions, and the default version is 1 - a very old format that pretty much saves everything as uncompressed ASCII. Once I told 'convert' to use EPS 3, the result was a 20kb eps file :)

Usage is simply:

convert fig.png eps3:fig.eps

Google Publication Fumble

Update - it appears the link I gave is simply a table of contents of an ACM symposium. So where is the actual paper?


One of the feeds I recently subscribed to is Papers Written by Googlers, (the web version is here). Apparently every link on the page is to some Google search instead of a definite link to a paper. I wanted to check out a paper titled Towards Temporal Web Search, by Marius Pasca and got a strange result page containing totally unrelated papers. Only the focused search I ran myself for the exact title gave me the actual article.

12 March 2008

The Little Things

Rarely do we appreciate enough the little things in life. I believe this sentence is true on many levels, and today I want to focus on one of our basest assumptions. We live in this physical universe, and are gifted with the unique ability to influence it. Firstly, this universe has a dimension of time to it, our lives are not static, boring, never changing. Instead they are dynamic, changing for good and bad, giving us a steady flow of new experiences. This is a basic requirement for the very definition of good and bad, because in a constant universe there is no differentiation, and everything is just plain zero. Living in a dynamic universe, we give meaning to each experience in relation to the previous ones and to the experiences that follow, and are thus able to observe and appreciate these changes, and enjoy at some of our moments in time, in contrast with other, worse moments.

Secondly, we are not simply watching our lives go by as if it were a movie playing in a theater. We are conscious, living beings, who can act of our own intent and purpose, and bring change to the physical world surrounding us. I'm not talking about grand plans and designs, I think we should be grateful about our simple ability to pick up an object, move our hands and feet, throw a ball and marvel at the effects we cause. The simple Newtonian rules of cause and effects govern our day to day lives and give us the simple pleasure of mobility. Furthermore, we wield tools to our every whim, and can rule over other physical objects. Of course this causes problems sometimes as some people forget that other people are not merely objects but willful beings of their own, and their will conflicts ... but I digress.

Before thanking God, chance or math, whichever you believe is responsible for creating this universe (I believe that physics is a subset of math) for gifts like wealth, happiness and health, remember to first appreciate the more basic qualities of our existence, without which there would be no questions of health, illness, happiness or sadness.

Interstellar Economics

For those of you not subscribed to my Shared Items, here is some silly research on the economics of interstellar travel.

First Fundamental Theorem of Interstellar Trade: When trade takes plaec between two planets in a common inertial frame, the interest costs on goods in transit should be calculated using time measured by clocks in the common frame, and not by clocks in the frame of trading spacecraft.

Second Fundamental Theorem of Interstellar Trade: If sentient beings may hold assets on two plaents in the same inertial frame, competition will equalize the interest rates on the two planets.

10 March 2008

Worm-Free Lettuce

I'm considering doing my grocery shopping online, and I'll probably use this website (Hebrew). I was browsing it today, when I came across this - they charge you 1 NIS more to ensure your lettuce is worm-free.

05 March 2008

Shared Items Feed & More

Hello guys, today we have several topics:

Shared Items

I finally really settled on Google Reader instead of a desktop feed reader. The advantage of being able to read RSS everywhere without any hassle outweigh the downsides. Also I get the benefit of easily exporting a Feed of Shared Items (both RSS and Email.

I think I will stop/reduce posting links to interesting items that I find on my RSS and instead just mark them as shared, so if you want to keep using my information filtering services be sure to register :)
In addition, here is a link to all previously shared items.

Google Notebook
If you've recently Googled you may have seen the "Note this" added to every link.

It's a useful new very useful. Upon clicking it copies the current content of said web page into your Google Notebook, a cool service that organizes your web clippings.
It opens up right on your search result page and has a full page interface as well.

Unfuddle free SVN hosting
If you're doing any non-trivial software assignment with partners, you should consider using source control. So far, I've used source control for large projects of course, but never in an assignment from Technion - back when I was an undergraduate student I was largely oblivious to source control and I didn't take any programming courses in my 2nd degree - until now. Now I actually have a few non-trivial homeworks at Managing Data on the WWW (writing an http proxy is one of them), and so far I didn't take up the trouble of setting up a source control. Well, it appears it is no hassle at all, at Unfuddle you can setup a project page, SVN server, RSS and email updates on checkins, project management and more in less than 5 minutes and no cost. Unlike some alternatives, putting your code there doesn't mean it's now open source and free to the world, you get control over who accesses your code.

03 March 2008


This is a cute math game I'd recommend to anyone learning addition, and in general :)
You shoot two's and three's at numbers trying to subtract from them and get exactly zero.

02 March 2008

User Generated Content

Now, on the map. Check out these three services:

Aya's Birthday

We've only had time this year to celebrate Aya's birthday with our families so far. We went to the Haifa Science Museum and then pick-nicked at Afek Reservoir. Here's how I had fun in the museum playing Tower of Hanoi in 40 seconds:

And for comparison:

The photos are on Facebook, for whoever wants to see:

UPDATE: Updated the link so people who aren't registered to Facebook can still view photos. Annoying how this is not the default, but inside the photo album there is a link that allows this.

Researchers Discover Gene That Blocks HIV

At Slashdot

Read one guys comment as he tries to explain the other techies why this is not yet a cure for AIDS:

*sigh* he's saying that this is one thing we might change on the program. A patch for the human code, say.

We only have a small problem ... the program is stored in a few trillion copies (all of which need to be changed), of extremely complex molecules (which we can't reliable modify (we can't even reliably read them) even when we have only 1 outside of the body).

Let's say it's this way. We have a patch for a flaw in your windows. Except it's on paper. And the computers won't boot until the patch is applied, so we need to take out the hard drive and *manually* change the bits on it. We have an electron microscope that *sometimes* has been used to change some random bits on the harddrive, which has once or twice resulted in a "mostly" correct change. Oh yes, and we have a billion computers, all of which still need to be operational after the change.

That's where we are. We know what to change (or so we hope), it's just ... "a bit" hard to get to the bits.