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March 11, 2006

Snow in Bay Area

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Snow on Mount Hamilton - March 11, 2006

The last week we had a very unusual weather in the Bay Area. It started last week-end with some snow showers, and continued throughout the week, although mostly with rain.

Last night (Friday) we had rain and hail, followed by snow, while thunders were hitting the Santa Cruz Mountains. Highway 17 to Santa Cruz was closed because of the heavy snow that caused cars and big rigs to skid. Highway 280 to San Francisco was closed just north of hwy 92 because of the snow and poor visibility. San Francisco also got some snow, just enough to get people out playing.

This morning East Bay mountains were covered with snow, even more so than the days before. I decided to check out the snow there, and around 10am this morning I encountered snow at about 700 feet, according to my car's GPS. The road to the top of the mountain was closed because of the heavy snow that was on the road. The same road had been closed last Sunday, because of the snow that fell during the night.

Posted by ovidiu at 10:21 PM | Comments (0) |

September 16, 2005

Not so wild west

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Mr. Basescu, the Romanian President during a visit in Bay Area

Mr. Basescu, the Romanian President, made a quick stop to Casa Romana in Hayward this evening. He was welcomed by members of the local Romanian community, gathered to meet the president.

During a speech he gave, Mr. Basescu described some of the changes that are happening in Romania these days as being the end of the transition period. He was referring to the transition from communism to a more capitalistic economy, in a country which some describe as Wild Wild East, where everything goes and until not long ago the corruption seemed to be rampant. Mr. Basescu addressed some of the concerns related to corruption and how the current government is fighting against it.

He also talked about the presence of Romanian forces in Iraq, and said a withdrawal will not occur until the coallition forces decide it's time to move out. This is a fairly interesting position, as it risks alienating some of the EU countries, most of which decided to stay away from the conflict or withdrew their forces.

During the visit, he was offered a cowboy hat and told Mr. President, when you go back to Bucharest, you now need to find a horse!

Posted by ovidiu at 01:19 AM | Comments (1) |

July 14, 2005

Amazon.com customer service

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Hanapepe, Kauai - Hawaii

About three days ago, Amazon.com disabled, closed or otherwise made unavailable my account. Each time I try to login or recover my password, their system is telling me the email address I provided does not exist. Maybe parts of their database have been lost or who knows.

*** We're sorry. There are no Amazon.com accounts associated with the e-mail address you entered below. Please make sure that you have spelled and formatted it correctly and click Continue when you are finished. ***

I used to think Amazon is a great shopping site, but trying to reach their customer service seems to be impossible. I searched to no avail for a phone number where I could talk to a human. I sent an email message using their Web form, but didn't hear from anybody. What a poor interaction with customers, I'm so frustrated!

Update (July 16, 2005): I sent another message to Amazon, but still no word from them. However I discovered that my wife's account, to whom I had extended the Amazon Prime benefit, no longer has it. I guess it's because my account, the primary account, no longer exists.

Posted by ovidiu at 01:23 AM | Comments (16) |

April 12, 2005

Bad Comcast Internet service

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Comcast's Internet service has been pretty bad in the past few weeks. It started about 6 weeks ago when they apparently screwed up my modem registration. As a result of this hiccup, for more than a week I had a download speed of about 128kb/sec instead of the 3Mb/sec that I pay for. After repeated calls to the customer service over many days, they finally fixed it. According to one of their customer reps, the problem was caused by an update of their registration server. Duh, all this time they were instead blaming my modem!

Some days ago, their DNS servers were not available for about an hour. As I write this, their DNS servers are down again. I got so fed up with this situation, I setup a caching nameserver on two of my always running machines at home - I should have done this long time ago.

According to CNET's internet connection speed meter, the connection speed I get is about 256kb/sec, nowhere close to 3Mb/sec!

It's time to switch, but unfortunately the alternatives are limited in Bay Area. There are no other cable providers, and with SBC DSL I seem to be limited to 1.5Mb/sec. I'll give it a try though.

Update (April 13, 2005): I did some checks on my setup, and it turns out both my modem and my router/firewall were having problems. I setup a different cable modem and a computer connected directly to it got 4Mb/sec download speed. Through my old firewall the computer with the new modem got only about 1Mb/sec instead. I ran again to Fry's and got a replacement firewall box.

With these new two components and my two home caching DNS servers, things are now running much faster. As Suraj suggested in the comments, I setup an additional DNS server to backup my home ones, should they both fail.

Posted by ovidiu at 07:44 PM | Comments (3) |

March 05, 2005

Motorola DCT 6412 from Comcast

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Yesterday I received the Motorola DCT 6412 DVR from Comcast. I decided to wait few months until the fix the numerous problems people reported with them. Up until firmware version 9.15, people were complaining about numerous lock-ups while the box was recording.

This particular model has dual tuners, so you can watch a TV show while another one is recording, or you can record two TV shows at once. The recordings don't skip commercials, but I don't find this to be a major problem. It has 120Gb of hard-disk space, DVI and component video output, and digital optical audio output, plus USB and Firewire ports, and an Ethernet port which is apparently not used in the current box.

To determine the technical characteristics of the box, you have to tune the two tuners on the same channel, turn off the box, and immediately press the SELECT button on the box. On the TV connected to the box you'll see a menu with a lot of details for the box.

Posted by ovidiu at 02:20 PM | Comments (0) |

February 01, 2005

Prediction: non-hybrid SACD and DVD Audio will fail

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SuperAudio CD (SACD) and DVD Audio were supposed to be the next big thing in audio distribution. I recently got a new DVD player that has SACD and DVD Audio support builtin, so I decided to buy some music in the new formats. I got Steely Dan's Gaucho, Muddy Waters - Folk Singer, Dr Chesky's Magnificent Fabulous Absurd & Insane Musical, to name a few.

The sound quality of most of them is really good, and the surround sound experience for the regular music is excellent. I really liked Dr. Chesky's experiment with surround sound for example.

One thing I didn't realize until I got the CDs is that you cannot rip them on a computer. The SACDs use a different layer in the CD to encode the information, which is not readable by normal CD players or computer drives. Even if it was, it appears that layer is encrypted and cannot be decrypted (nobody has done it AFAIK). The so-called hybrid SACD are a compromise, they have both the regular CD layer and the SACD layer, so you can rip them for enjoyment on your iPod or favorite MP3 player.

DVD Audio uses the regular DVD format, which can be played in any DVD players, and provide the same surround sound experience as SACD. However they cannot be ripped by regular applications, like iTunes, since they're not seen as CDs. A quick search on google shows that ripping DVD Audios is difficult and differs from disk to disk.

This is so disappointing. The music industry has made it hard for regular people to copy their music and store it in a different format. You cannot even back-up your music anymore, since there are no recorders that write SACDs (I guess with DVD Audio you can still copy them - I didn't try).

My prediction is that non-hybrid SACDs and DVD Audio will slowly die as formats, unless there's a way to rip their music and put it on an mp3 player. Listening to music at home only, on an expensive player, with no portable device available to play them, is a major inconvenient. Personally if I am to choose between different versions of the same music release, I'll buy either the hybrid SACD or the plain CD version. I don't want to be stuck with a CD that I cannot listen to on my iPod as well.

Posted by ovidiu at 08:58 PM | Comments (1) |

October 27, 2004

Earthquake in Romania

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A 5.8 quake hit Romania few hours ago. Apparently no damages or injuries happened. According to news on the Web, the quake was felt as far as Istanbul, where people rushed out of their homes. Thanks Goodness nothing bad happened!

Posted by ovidiu at 05:09 PM | Comments (1) |

September 28, 2004

Earthquake

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Yay! Earlier today at 10:15am and then again at 10:19am, I felt the earthquakes. I was in my office, quietly coding and listening to music, when the ground started to shake for several seconds. It felt strange, as if I was dazy; I took off the headsets to eliminate the possibility of having the stereophonic music influence my sense of balance. But there it was, the ground shaking on its own: a quake! Pretty big too, at 6.0 magnitute. It was followed by many after shocks, of smaller magnitudes. No damages whatsoever in our area.

Posted by ovidiu at 12:45 PM | Comments (0) |

September 24, 2004

BBC new series of "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"

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BBC is running a new series of dramatizations of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. These represent the last three of the five books in the series. Each episode is broadcast every week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and becomes available on their Web site for a week after they were broadcast. The actors are mostly from the original crew, except for those that died in the meantime. The show is exceptional, as the previous series was.

Unfortunately the episodes are available only through RealPlayer and not available for download. However you can use WireTap to record the broadcast on your MacOS X machine for later enjoyment.

Posted by ovidiu at 06:35 PM | Comments (0) |

August 15, 2004

O-Zone: Dragostea din tei

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I just heard this piece (RealPlayer) last night at Olivier and Ruxandra, some friends of mine. This seems to be a summer hit in Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland and UK, and probably other countries in Europe. Not exactly my kind of music, but the melody is really catchy. The lyrics are in Romanian and are pretty simple. I love the video-clip, the guys are just great!

Ma-ia-hii Ma-ia-huu ...

Posted by ovidiu at 06:30 PM | Comments (7) |

June 07, 2004

Palm d'Or at Cannes for short films

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This is really cool, Catalin Mitulescu, a friend of mine, won this year's Palm d'Or at Cannes for short films! Check it out here:

http://www.festival-cannes.fr/films/fiche_film.php?langue=6002&id_film=4202949

Congratulations Catalin!

Posted by ovidiu at 10:11 AM |

February 10, 2004

Counting to 25

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Last run

Last evening my son - 4 1/2 years old - was determined to count the number of dominos he was playing with. The only problem was they were more than 10, up until he's able to routinely count. So he asked his mom to help him count, and she taught him to count to 25. She taught him the numbers in Romanian, which are easier than in English. The numbers between 11 and 19 are formed by juxtaposing the digit name, the word spre (to in English), and the word zece (ten in English). The names for the numbers over 20 are composed the same way as in English.

The rest of the evening he spent counting his dominos. Useless to say, they were never 25, but varying between 21 and 25, depending on how many numbers were skipped.

Posted by ovidiu at 11:43 AM |

December 31, 2003

Intuit's deceiving business practices - part 2

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This is a continuation of the story on Intuit's deceiving business practices I posted back in November. As a quick reminder, Intuit charged the credit card they have on my file and sent me Turbotax 2003 for Mac. This was done without my consent, and obviously without myself actually ordering it through the Web or through any other means.

Today I received in mail a package from Intuit. It was sent from Intuit, PO Box 19004, Greenville SC 29390-9004, and it appears to contain a CD. I did not and do not plan to open it, as I want to return it to the sender without paying for additional postage.

I called my credit card company and complained about it. I also filled a complaint with Better Business Bureau. This is outrageous! Hopefully I will be able to get my money back.

Update (January 17, 2003): Intuit contacted me by phone twice regarding my complaint. I was told that when I ordered the software back in February last year, I clicked an auto-renew checkbox on the order page, which caused them to send the new version automatically. I don't remember seeing such an option and I would have certainly not clicked it! I usually pay attention to such things especially when money is involved. Lame excuse...

They refunded me the money and said they removed me from their automatic renewal subscription. I'll keep an eye on it.

Posted by ovidiu at 07:36 PM |

November 21, 2003

Hike at Calico Tanks

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Steven at Calico Tanks, Red Rocks State Park near Las Vegas, Nevada

I've uploaded the only two images I've taken with my digital camera during the relatively short hike Steven and myself took at Calico Tanks in Red Rocks State Park, just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada.

The rest of the shots are on slide film that still waits to be developed. Last night I developed 4 of the 8 films, and this evening I'll do the other 4. I didn't have time to look at the slides yet, I'll be doing this tonight after mounting them.

Hiking very early in the morning is great. Steven and I woke up at 4am to go hiking and take lots of pictures. We came back around 11am, with still plenty of time left in the day to do useful things, including giving my presentation on the Cocoon control flow.

Posted by ovidiu at 10:06 AM |

November 10, 2003

Intuit's deceiving business practices

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Today I received an email from Intuit that confirmed an order for TurboTax Premier Home & Business for Mac for Tax Year 2003. The only problem is that I did NOT place such an order!

I bought the 2002 version back in February. I was totally disappointed by their software and returned it to them for refund shortly after I bought it. And I'm still waiting for the refund to come!

So what happened today? According to their email, I placed an order on their Web site for the new 2003 version of their program. This is amazing, since I did not do such a thing! They charged the credit card I used in February to buy the software, without me giving them such an authorization!

From: Shop_Intuit@intuit.com
Date: Mon Nov 10, 2003 10:40:41 AM US/Pacific
To: email removed Subject: Your Shop Intuit Order Confirmation Dear Ovidiu Predescu, Thank you for placing an order with Shop Intuit today! We have received your order, and it is currently being processed. Your order information appears below. Order # removed Order Date: November 10,2003

Quantity Item Price ----------------
-------------------------------------------- ---------------- 1
TurboTax Premier Home & Business for Mac for Tax Year 2003 w/ free
Encyclopaedia Britannica 2004 / Print Shop
CD-ROM for Mac $79.95 1 TurboTax State for Mac - CA - 2003
DOWNLOAD for Mac $0.00 ----------------
-------------------------------------------- ----------------
Subtotal: $79.95 Shipping: $0.00 Sales Tax: $6.60 Total for this
Order: $86.55

Bill To: Ovidiu Predescu
address removed Ship To: Ovidiu Predescu address removed Shipping Method: Standard Payment Type: removed e-mail Address: email removed We will send you an e-mail when your order has shipped. You can track the status of your order by going to our Order Status tool at http://www.intuitestore.com/store/status. You'll need to have your order number and zip code handy to check the status. Or, if you have a Shop Intuit account, you can do even more with your orders online. Go to http://www.intuitestore.com/store/login to: - View your order history - Track your order status - Change or update your account information - Cancel unshipped orders If you have other questions about your order or need additional help, try checking out our Customer Service section at http://www.intuitestore.com/store/customerservice Thanks again for shopping with us. Shop Intuit Customer Service http://shop.intuit.com Please note: This e-mail was sent from an auto-notification system that cannot accept incoming e-mail. Please do not reply to this message.

It's just amazing to see to what tactics this company resorts to in order to sell its crappy TurboTax software!

I first tried to cancel the "order" I supposedly place with them. The order number however doesn't exist, so there's nothing I can cancel! Their customer service is available 8am to 5pm, when I'm not going to spend my time and my company's time on the phone with them.

I called the credit card company to see what I can do about this. The customer service rep told me they'll be able to act only when the charge actually appears on the credit card. This should happen once they ship the package, another few days perhaps.

I imagine I'm not the only one their doing this to, so I was wondering if there is any way of stopping them from such practices.

In any case, if you ever think of using TurboTax, think twice before giving your credit card to their online shop! Given their deceiving business practices, I would seriously consider doing any business with them! Screw Intuit!

Posted by ovidiu at 07:24 PM |

October 27, 2003

Email problems

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If you have recently sent me email and noticed that it bounces, please resend it. I discovered a broken DNS setup for the server where this site is hosted. This caused email servers elsewhere to refuse delivering to my local SMTP server. Hopefully this is fixed now, but if you notice strange mail delivery problems, please post them as comments to this weblog entry.

The same DNS issues that affected the email server delivery also affected the Web site availability from different locations around the world. It appeared the whole domain didn't exist anymore, although this was obviously not the case.

Posted by ovidiu at 11:23 PM |

September 24, 2003

California Spam Bill

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A new law in California will be in effect starting January 1st, 2004. According to the new law, it becomes illegal to send Californians unsolicited email. Doing so exposes the offender to the possibility of being sued for anywhere between $1000 to $1 million dollars.

Now, I think it's very unlikely that individuals will start sueing spammers, but ISPs will most likely do so. I'm not sure how the law is written, but I hope it holds responsible not only the actual spammer, but also the company the spam email is advertising for. With such a provision, companies would not want to bear the possible financial burdens.

Posted by ovidiu at 08:35 AM |

September 14, 2003

New server

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I've moved the Weblog installation to a new server, with a lot more disk space and bandwidth. Please let me know if you notice any problems with the Web site or have troubles contacting me by email.

Posted by ovidiu at 03:06 PM |

August 19, 2003

Email explosion

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Today I received no less than 430 email messages, generated either by the Sobig.F virus or by mail servers responding to fake messages sent on my behalf. Luckily Apple's Mail junk filter put most of them in the Junk folder. It's incredible however the amount of wasted bandwidth eaten by all these messages: each of the virus generated messages are around 100kb, and I have about 100 such messages!

I also noticed automated replies from Opera's customer support Web application: the poor guys must have their database full with junk problem reports!

After TCP/IP, SMTP is yet another example of a protocol that puts too much trust on the user. I think these protocols have to be redesigned to prevent the kind of attacks that are possible today. Ability to authenticate a sending MTA or MUA could prevent the kind of forgeries that happen today with junk mail, including that generated by viruses.

Posted by ovidiu at 11:59 PM |

July 08, 2003

Matthew in the Valley

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Matthew at HP's garage.

Matthew made a brief visit in Sillicon Valley and I had the opportunity to show him around. We had a very good time and it looks like he enjoyed it. He didn't quite like the high prices at the Apple stores though. And we didn't meet Steve Jobs. Oh well, maybe next time...

Posted by ovidiu at 10:23 AM |

July 02, 2003

Google: weapons of mass destruction

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Search on google for "weapons of mass destruction" and click on the "I'm feeling lucky" button or click on this link to get there directly. It's pretty funny...
Posted by ovidiu at 05:23 PM |

May 07, 2003

Hackers

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Winchester Mystery House, San Jose CA

Paul Graham's Hackers and Painters [via Steve Jenson] is a nice insight into what a hacker is.

Several things that I liked:

  • hackers like to design beautiful software. "Over time, beautiful things tend to thrive, and ugly things tend to get discarded. Unfortunately, the amounts of time involved can be longer than human lifetimes."
  • "When Yahoo bought Viaweb, they asked me what I wanted to do. I had never liked the business side very much, and said that I just wanted to hack. When I got to Yahoo, I found that what hacking meant to them was implementing software, not designing it. Programmers were seen as technicians who translated the visions (if that is the word) of product managers into code."
  • "Great software [...] requires a fanatical devotion to beauty."
  • "At Viaweb [...] when we interviewed programmers, the main thing we cared about was what kind of software they wrote in their spare time. You can't do anything really well unless you love it, and if you love to hack you'll inevitably be working on projects of your own. "
  • "Most hackers don't learn to hack by taking college courses in programming. They learn to hack by writing programs of their own at age thirteen. Even in college classes, you learn to hack mostly by hacking."
  • "The other way makers learn is from examples. [...] Hackers, likewise, can learn to program by looking at good programs-- not just at what they do, but the source code too."
  • "I think hacking should work this way [too]. It's unrealistic to expect that the specifications for a program will be perfect. You're better off if you admit this up front, and write programs in a way that allows specifications to change on the fly.
    (The structure of large companies makes this hard for them to do, so here is another place where startups have an advantage.)"
Posted by ovidiu at 09:05 AM |

April 07, 2003

BitTorrent is slow

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Hazy sunset at San Gregorio State Beach, California

Bill Bumgarner was kind enough to submit etree packages for Fink/MacOS X; in his Weblog article he also has some links to the recording of Grateful Dead's show at Boston Garden in 1973.

On Saturday, I hastily started to install the tools on my Powerbook. After a first unsuccessful try, I pinged Bill to find out that I need to upgrade to the unstable Fink to be able to install his packages. After the upgrade, flac would still not compile. Instead of trying to figure out what's wrong, I decided to install them on one of my Linux boxes at home. Installing the BitTorrent client required compiling and installing wxPython first (I couldn't find RPM for my not-so-old Mandrake system :(, so I had to do that first.

As soon as I had the BitTorrent client compiled, I started the Grateful Dead download. I was unpleasantly surprised to discover that downloading 966Mb would take about 2 days! The download rate was only around 10kb/sec, which is more than twenty times slower than that of a typical download from home! Only by Monday morning I had the show completely downloaded :(

Incidentally, if you like Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia and friends, a much better source for their music is gdlive.com. It includes both shn files and pre-made MP3 which are great for listening on an iPod. If you decide to download the shn files, you'll need to install shntool, shorten and the etree-scripts. The last package contains scripts to make easy burning audio CD using cdrecord. On Linux this is a no-brainer; on MacOS X it should be easy as well, once you have Bill's packages. Otherwise just compile the sources from scratch, it should work just fine.

Posted by ovidiu at 10:17 PM |

March 19, 2003

War

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The war in Iraq has started few hours ago with a strike apparently targeted at a gathering of Iraqi officials.

Ready for the Peace is an interesting commentary about the post-war Iraq reconstruction and the huge interests in the area.

I cannot stop comparing the situation of Iraqi people with those of the Eastern European communist countries, particularly Romania, before 1989. The people that controlled the economy and got rich after 1989 were those in the second-line of the communist party and those in the secret police, who were able to manipulate dossiers of informers, in order to blackmail both the people in power and those in the opposition. National and racial minorities were used to deflect public's attention from the real problems. Corruption spread like wild fire and it was impossible to control, since it appears that everybody's life is touched by it in one way or another. The same confuse situation is there even today, more than 12 years after the regime change.

A similar situation will most likely happen in Iraq. US will have to rely, at least initially, on the former corrupt officials to conduct business. Iraq doesn't have any opposition party, and with no middle-class to influence the economic and political decisions is going to be really tough. Will US do what it did with Germany after WWII to create a strong economy and civic society? Will US find the money and justification to its taxpayers of why it should do this? I think this is the only way for US to keep its promise of liberating the Iraqi people.

Posted by ovidiu at 11:04 PM |

February 20, 2003

Taxes nightmare

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Uncle Sam (no, not that Sam)

The tax season has started and I'm having a terrible time figuring out the right program to use. TurboTax on Windows is spyware, so is simply a no-no for me. I bought TurboTax Home&Business for Mac, but it screwed up by not providing all the forms I needed. I'll return the software for a refund; unfortunately I already spent few good nights entering data and figuring out various alternatives. Intuit clearly screwed up this year with their software, a lot of people are upset about their application. It does all sorts of ugly hacks to your computer to prevent you from installing it somewhere else.

Today I bought TaxCut Home&Business for Windows. It's definitely less user-friendly than TurboTax: you need to know and understand the tax rules to be able to use it. Their help system is almost useless, the questions you have are not answered anywhere. The language they use is even worse than in IRS' publications. TaxCut is also very buggy: going back and forth between fields leaves all sorts of marks in the online tax form. Hopefully they don't mess up the calculations.

I wonder why nobody does a good job of providing a decent program for taxes. I guess programmers, like most people, just hate doing their taxes. They either spend one or two weeks a year with taxes and then forget it, or they pay somebody to do it for them. Maybe because nobody figured out how to have a constant flow of money during the year writing such software? Or simply because taxes are way too boring to be bothered with?

I hate doing taxes...

Posted by ovidiu at 11:54 PM |

January 09, 2003

January 05, 2003

404 error

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I found this funny 404 error message on SDForum's Web site:


Either BOF or EOF is True, or the current record has been deleted. Requested operation requires a current record.

Posted by ovidiu at 11:08 PM |

December 18, 2002

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

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I just got out from the premiere of The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers: Excellent!!

If you haven't read the books yet, do yourself a favor and read them before you see the movie! If you haven't seen the first movie, get the DVD and watch it first! This movie has no time for introductions, it's incredibly packed. Even after reading the books, it's still amazing to see how well the movie flows and how extraordinary well the tension from the book is captured in the movie.

The movie started just after midnight and ran for 3 full hours. Most of the scenes are just incredible, the actor's play, the scenery, costumes and all the armory and special effects are a real work of art. Gollum, a computer generated character is incredibly realistic. Watching the movie completely transports you in the world described by Tolkien in his books.

One thing I thought could have been done better were the Ents and Treebeard. Their human representation is something that I didn't quite like, I would have preferred to see them represented as real trees, with no legs.

This thing aside, it's the best movie I've seen this year! The special effects are by far the best. Check out this article about the making of the battle at Helm's Deep. The techniques used are truly innovative and the quality of the algorithm can be seen on the screen, it's just impressive.

In short, a must-see movie! I'm glad I went to see it at this late hour, it was well worth it. Now I need to get some sleep, I have a long day tomorrow :)

Posted by ovidiu at 04:05 AM |

December 17, 2002

Heavy thunderstorms

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Heavy thunderstorms hit Northern California this weekend, with powerful winds and lots of rain. Many trees, including old ones, were uprooted or simply broken by the strong winds. This weather is expected to last at least until the New Year. More than half a million people were left without electricity during the week-end. Napa Valley, just north of Bay Area, where many wineries are located, was reportedly flooded as a result of the rain.

Posted by ovidiu at 08:31 PM |

December 11, 2002

Quit Slashdot

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I ran across this Quit Slashdot! Web site. Funny thing, I agree with most of what the author has to say, there is a lot of crap on Slashdot. The only reason I read it is that from time to time there is still some interesting stuff and comments; however it's becoming less and less often.

Posted by ovidiu at 02:06 PM |

November 29, 2002

Lost and found luggage

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I just received the second and last bag I've lost while coming back from my trip to the Cocoon GetTogether and the short detour I took to Bucharest.

On my way there, one bag was delayed in Amsterdam, but I received it at the hotel that night. Coming back home, both my bags were missing at the airport. The first one I received the next evening, while the second one took 4 days to receive. Really frustrating, as some of the computer cables and the battery recharger for my digital camera were in the last bag.

Posted by ovidiu at 01:20 AM |

November 12, 2002

How to best use US cell phone in Europe?

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I will be traveling next week to the Cocoon gettogether in Ghent, Belgium, to make a presentation on the Cocoon control flow. I would like to be able to place phone calls and be called on the cell phone while I'm there. What is the best way to do it?

Since here I only had a CDMA phone, which obviously doesn't work in Europe, I went out today and bought an Ericsson T68i phone with a Cingular plan (amazing phones, by the way!). Now the only problem is that their international roaming charges are something exorbitant: $4/minute to receive a call from US while in Europe, and $2.5/minute to place a call anywhere in Europe, again while you're in Europe.

I was looking for a less expensive solution, and Steven told me to look for some prepaid cards. A quick search on Google revealed this site, which has calling card with $0.17/minute from Belgium to US. Now suppose I buy one of these cards. The only thing I don't understand is how will I be able to make use of the cell phone in Europe without being a subscriber to any of the local carriers? How about making calls elsewhere in Europe? It appears such a calling card allows you to call only US.

Also how in the world do I get a European local phone number so I can be called from US or elsewhere?

Could someone please enlighten me?

Posted by ovidiu at 11:59 PM |

November 11, 2002

Ruby or Python: learn them both

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Matthew writes:
Decisions: Should I learn Ruby or Python? I am looking for a scripting language that will allow me to hack-up a few small applications for day-2-day tasks or prototypes. I also want to see if these type of languages can be used in some areas we work in - instead of always writing Java or C++ apps. And the evenings are getting darker...

Learn them both! Seriously, my take on languages is that once you know one, it's very easy to learn another one. The way I learn a new language is by identifying

  • the major differences that require a shift in the mental model about writing programs in that language
  • some of the most used patterns in it

I programmed in a lot of languages including Perl, Python, Scheme, Lisp, XSLT, C, Objective-C, Prolog, JavaScript, Tcl, Java, a bunch of Unix small languages etc. While I may not be able to remember the exact syntax of a particular construction, I do remember the programming style and main ideas of the language, enough so I can go to the reference manual and search for the thing I'm interested in.

I find Python and Ruby to be more expressive and concise than Java, but they may need some time of getting used to. The lack of static typing may be seen as a problem, but in practice I find this to be an advantage.

My dream tool is a Java Web application framework which uses multiple scripting languages to glue or even implement portions of an application. I found most of the Java implementation of popular scripting languages to be as fast as Java, since they get translated to Java bytecodes. But since there's no need to recompile these scripts, writing the code in a scripting language has a lot higher turnaround cycle than the usual edit-compile-run cycle in Java.

Posted by ovidiu at 07:45 PM |

October 26, 2002

JRuby

Java | Random
I was taking a look at Ruby today then started thinking of Java and Ruby integration; then thanks to google I spotted this note on Rajah and the JRuby project. Interesting stuff. Plus its now hard to imagine life without google :-).
[James Strachan]

Interesting stuff, especially JRuby. As it has a BSF interface, Ruby becomes one more language you could script your Java applications in.

Posted by ovidiu at 08:30 PM |

October 25, 2002

Daveed Vandevoorde on C++ templates

Random

Daveed Vandevoorde of Edison Design Group, the only company with a fully compliant C++ parser, gave a talk today to a small audience at HP on C++ templates. I never programmed professionally on C++, and boy, how glad I am I didn't ;)

The language is very complex and focuses on syntax and the semantics behind it a lot. It's completely different from simpler languages like Lisp, Smalltalk, Objective-C, Python and to a lesser extend Java, which prefer to put the power in a powerful runtime system. These languages implement a lot of the language semantics in the runtime system, rather than in the compiler. The less type-constraining a language is, the simpler the compiler, and more powerful the language at runtime. Personally I prefer dynamically typed languages since they allow you to implement very powerful patterns. Lisp, Objective-C, Python and many others: I love them all!

Daveed's book C++ templates is due to appear November 8 on the shelves. Another friend of mine, Andrei Alexandrescu wrote Modern C++ Design, another book which describes patterns in C++. The only thing I wonder though is how many people are still using C++ in new commercial developments.

Posted by ovidiu at 08:32 PM |

October 15, 2002

Open Source and contracting work

Random

Matthew Langham writes:

I am not surre that contracted development is disapearing, but there is certainly more emphasis being put on integration using open source. Which suits me fine. Because that is what we do.

I don't know about Germany, but in the San Francisco Bay Area contracting seems to have totally dissapeared, in sharp contrast with the old dot com days. No company seems to hire professionals to do open source integration, instead they all try to use in-house developers to do it. I'm not sure how well this works in reality, with developers and managers which were not previously exposed to the open-source way of doing things.

Posted by ovidiu at 04:28 PM |

October 05, 2002

Helicopter game

Random
Helicopter high score screen shot

Addictive helicopter game.

Matthew: 412

Steven: 424

Ugo: 1064

Jeff: unknown

myself: 1415, after 35 minutes of play ;)

I've noticed it's easier to play the game with IE 5.2 than with Mozilla 1.1 on MacOS X. The plunges are not so sudden on IE, and the feeling is a lot smoother. Perhaps IE/Flash is slower than Mozilla/Flash.

Posted by ovidiu at 01:29 AM |

September 11, 2002

Remembering 9/11

Random

Very sad day today. Silence, no postings during the day.

Posted by ovidiu at 01:21 AM |

September 04, 2002

Games banned in Greece

Random

In a terrifying move, the Greece government banned all electronic games, either running on game consoles, mobile phones or computers, according to CNET:

The blanket ban was decided in February after the government admitted it was incapable of distinguishing innocuous video games from illegal gambling machines.

Google has a cached version of the English translation of the law, according to gameland.gr, which seems to be down.

The ban seems to cover even innocent games like tetris, and those that come bundled on any operating system. It's really absurd! Whatever the motives behind such a law, the solution is just too drastic and abusive.

Posted by ovidiu at 09:34 AM |
 
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