Older blog entries for BenFrantzDale (starting at number 48)

I'm having a lot of fun at SIGGRAPH. I've wanted to go to this conference ever since I first heard about it years ago. It's lots of fun, 'though I havn't had time to breathe. I got some pictures so far, 'though I don't yet have captions on them.

I'm looking forward to some down time this weekend.

17 Jul 2003 (updated 17 Jul 2003 at 03:11 UTC) »

I've cleaned my appartment all the way for the first time since moving in. Cool.

The accadent at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market today is really disturbing. This was basicly the same intersection at which pople were in line for the Apple store on Friday.

I moved onto a new computer at work. I now have a dual 1 GHz G4 with 1.5 GB of ram. Fun stuff.

I wish the iPod supported OGGs.

I've used my phone's “wireless web” feature as a yellow pages/mapquest. But the interface should really be: “I'm on the corner of Pico and Lincoln near 90401. Tell me how to get where I'm going.” And then it should give bracketing cross-streets along with the address of the destination.

I am considering moving my bloging elsewhere since I havn't been doing much Free Software stuff recently, and since I generally ramble on about quazi-technical stuff rather than discuss productive things. On the other hand, I'm hoping that once I get a new computer I'll have some space to actually do some development.

The cable modem was installed yesterday. Yeay!

I made Pad Thai today as per the Joy of Cooking. It turned out pretty good. I look forward to making more Thai food. The spicy lime/basil/cilantro flavors it uses are almost Baja style, but totally different. Yum.

I went to the local Whole Foods Market to get some real maple syrup and wheet gluten (which is desirable for making bread). One thing I learned was that the clasic tan plastic syrup containers, even out in LA, are made by Sugarhill, a company from Western Mass (where I grew up).

For some reason that Whole Foods doesn't have gluten. I did find Xanthan Gum which is apparently a gluten-free substitute. In addition, it is a common ingredient in commercial salad dressings because it keeps them emulsified. I'll be interested in trying it, particularly since I just tried with great success to make salad dressing the other day. Vinegar, garlic, mustard, salt, and oil. Easy.

As for technical things, last week I spoke with a consultant to the #1 producer of CD-Rs in the world (according to him, they have 52% of the world CD-R market). Here's what I learned:

  • DVD-Rs and CD-Rs cost exactly the same to produce. The only difference is the speciffics about the tracks. The technology is identical.
  • Kodak, Fuji, and Memorex DVDs all come out of the same factory—they are identical.
  • There is no difference among colors of CDs. Gold versus silver versus purple—colors are cool, but it's all just marketing. The laser (being a laser) is only in a very narrow color band.
  • As the cd tracks spiral out, they wiggle from side to side. The read head tracks along with this and uses that as timing information which reduces the cost of the CD drive.
  • The core of a CD drive costs as little as $14 to manufacture.

I think I'm onto something for reducing CCD noise in digital photos by moving into HSV space and selective-bluring the H channel as well as using perceived brightness as the value rather than simply the value. I'll investigate that more.

I finally got a bed. Yeay! $330ish for a queen-sized spring futon with a nice, simple frame. I had good night's sleep for a change.

I'm off to Vancouver on Wednesday. That should be fun.

I rebuilt and lubricated the drive of my bread machine.

A friend pointed me to a band named Evanescence which I am really enjoying.

I discovered a kitchen store, Sur La Table, which also does cooking classes. They are very tempting. We'll see.

It's been a busy few days.

I flew into LA on Sunday and managed to find and move into a nice apartment by Tuesday afternoon. I started work on Wednesday I set up my work computer with OSX , X11, and Fink. I actually got my feet wet in some code yesterday.

The office is debating which coffee machine to get. We got a demo yesterday of a spiffy one that makes strong, though uninteresting, coffee by the cup. The grounds and a filter come individually packaged in something akin to a large half-and-half container. The technology is cool but it's fifty cents a cup rather than “basically free” for normal coffee.

Wednesday night I had an endless trip to IKEA. They are in Burbank and close at nine. Knowing exactly what I wanted I left at eight. I got into the store at about 8:40. I took the shortcuts to the warehouse, grabbing a few small things on the way. I asked for help finding what I wanted, a 46.5" table. The guy in the warehouse said he needed an exact description and sent me back through the maze to the showroom upstairs (about a quarter-mile away). With the exact information I came back and asked for it, but alas the “Effektiv” series comes in components that need to be ordered upstairs for pickup. By this point it was closing time. I ran back upstairs, finding the table again and got it ordered. By the timeI payed and went to get my car it was probably 9:30. I waited a bit more and picked up my table at about 9:45.

Then the fun began.

A 46.5" tabletop in it's box does not fit into a sedan.

A 46.5" tabletop without it's box still does not fit into a sedan.

I decided to put it on the roof, but first the car was dirty and I didn't want togrind a few months of LA grime into my roof, even with cardboard on hand to pad it. The only source of water was the windshield wipers. Fortunately I had an old newspaper in the car I could use to wipe with. Eventually I got the roof cleaned off.

As for attaching the table, at this point IKEA was closed, locked, and had no lights on. Fortunately I had a length of rope in the car which was there totally by accident, but which I will always keep on hand in the future. Now the problem: how do you secure a round table? After a few tries tying it directly, I put the tabletop back in it's box and on the car. Even then, geometrically constraining it seemed a long shot. The final solution was to put dozens of holes along the edge of thebox and lace the box onto the car. The stability of this depends on thin rope notripping cardboard. I decided City streets would be the best solution. The trip back took about an hour; Sepulveda a nice drive late at night.

I still need to get at least 2 chairs, 1 bed, 1 couch, silverware, and maybe a coffeetable.

My friend who'd been in Iraq is now back. Him being on the left cost and me being East means I havn't gotten stories yet, but I've heard his voice, which is very good.

I was in Boston yesterday. It's a really cool city; I miss living around there. I got to see my brother's appartment and such, as well as visit tmrc.

I've been thinking, we are told “drive defensively”. I think a more appropriate motto would be “drive decisively”. I have no data to back this up; it's just a theory. Still, would you rather be on the road with someone going 90 but using their blinker to change lanes, or with someone going 60 in the middle lane with their left blinker on? Similarly, enterance ramps are for getting up to speed to merge. I suspect it is much safer to get up to speed and perhaps have to break to enter traffic than it is to stop for a gap in traffic.

After commenting to Snapfish that they didn't do as well as Shuttefly with a print (mentioned in an earlier diary entry), they said it was a fluke and that I should try again. I did, but with the same results. The pine tree is grass-green and there are chromatic issues around small details. Shutterfly continues to do well, plus it ships faster and integrates with Gallery.

I've started reading The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Having always seen it as a self-help book, a genre I've had a poorly-grounded distaste for, I was a bit aprehensive. However so far the ideas it expresses are sitting well with me. It does have it's down-sides. In particular it was written in 1987, so the words it helped to popularize like “proactive” and “paradigm shift” seem a bit dated now. Still, it appears to be a good book so far.

I have found many parallels between Seven Habits and Fight Club, particularly with regard to the “human sacrafice” scene in Fight Club. I'll have to re-read and re-watch Fight Club. It just keeps getting better. :-)

I saw 13 Conversations About the Same Thing. It was reasonably good and reminded me of Magnolia in some ways.

After way too much looking around (I was on vacation), I decided to get a Samsung SPH-A460 with Sprint. Unlimited Sprint-to-Sprint was the clincher in the end, although they make you pay $5/month extra for that if you don't get a two-year contract.

I took several pictures through the airplain window of Arazona and New Mexico on the way home. (The pictures aren't online at the moment.) They turned out pretty grey at first, between the window grime and the haze, but using The GIMP to stretch out the value range all the way made for a vivid print. The histogram tool makes it easy to see how much you can adjust to get the full dynamic range.

With regard to printing digital pictures, Shutterfly continues to out-do Snapfish. I ordered from Shutterfly on Wednesday night. The pictures shipped around noon on Thursday and got here today. I ordered from Snapfish on Thursday night and the order just shipped tonight. This is just one datapoint, but Shutterfly has been winning every time.

23 May 2003 (updated 23 May 2003 at 07:25 UTC) »

I spent the evening looking for cell phones. Again.

I was realizing that the crux of the problem is that, unlike most purchase decisions, cell phone packages are high-dimensional. Consider the monthly payments, the number of anytime minutes, the coverage, reception, and service quality. Then there's the phone. Not all phones work on all networks. Not all phones have the same cool features. The same phone on different networks costs different amounts. Yuck.

All this prevents me, I think, from being able to apply my fundamental rule of purchacing: “If I were an expert in the field, would I buy this?” (BTW: That rule works wonders to avoid Sharper Image catalogs and other trendy gadgets. I may write some more on this topic later.)

I wish there were a good way to display some of this information so I could actually think about it rationally.

It does look like Amazon is a good place to get cell phones, though, particularly if you want to go with T-Mobile.

I'm finding that it's suprisingly easy to get used to a 28.8 modem again. Scary.

I learned today that, as I suspected, the process Ritz uses to develop normal print film is now all digital. That is to say your print is a third-, not a second-generation print. I don't really mind now that I'm just shooting digital, but it seems pretty deceptive to me for them to switch the process on people without telling them. If I bring in film to print I want a copy of it, not a copy of a copy of it. The artifacts are pretty clear if you look closely, particularly the quality of the noise in regions with very-high or very-low spacial frequency.

I just graduated college. Wow. I'm now looking for a place in Santa Monica so I can work for 3i, a company doing digital microscopy. There I'll be doing “graphics programing and algorithm development”. It should be fun.

Amazon recently had a deal: $175 for a 1GB CompactFlash card. Now I have crazy amounts of storage on my camera. (Did you know that Compact flash is exactly as thin as a floppy disk?)

I got The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint by Edward Tufte. It's a bit of a rant, but it has a very good point. It basically says of PowerPoint: “the emperor is naked; projecting a series of bullets onto a screen is no substitute for a good speach.” Take the 6×6 rule for making slides: “6 lines of text, 6 words per line.” Tufte gives this quote from a 1950s book to show just how trite 6×6 is:

Jane said, “Here is a ball.
See this blue ball, Sally.
Do you want this ball?”

Sally said, “I want my ball.
My ball is yellow.
It is a big, pretty ball.”

Giving a real talk as opposed to a 6×6×n PowerPoint talk is a high order. I'll see what I can do. My research presentation used PowerPoint (Prosper, actually) only to show a title screen and to show pictures. That's a good start, I guess.

I've been looking for a cell phone. Between seeing what's available with that and my digicam, I must say, technology is amazingly cool.

I saw this sign at PHL on the way home. I can't decide if this piece of art was intentional, but it is the most profound piece I've ever seen in an airport.

I finally figured out how to get a LaTeX table of contents to look the way I want, with no dot leaders and with the page numbers just to the right of the section titles.

  \ifnum \c@tocdepth >-2\relax
    \addvspace{2.25em \@plus\p@}%
      \parindent \z@ \rightskip \@pnumwidth
      \parfillskip -\@pnumwidth
       \large \bfseries #1~~\hb@xt@\@pnumwidth{\hss #2}\hfill}\par
  \ifnum \c@tocdepth >\m@ne
    \vskip 1.0em \@plus\p@
      \parindent \z@ \rightskip \@pnumwidth
      \parfillskip -\@pnumwidth
      \leavevmode \bfseries
      \hskip -\leftskip
      \mbox{#1}\nobreak\nobreak\hb@xt@\@pnumwidth{\hss #2}\par

\setcounter{tocdepth}{1} % Only show sections and higher \def\@tocline#1#2#3#4#5{% \ifnum #1>\c@tocdepth \else \vskip \z@ \@plus.2\p@ {\leftskip #2\relax \rightskip \@tocrmarg \parfillskip -\rightskip \parindent #2\relax\@afterindenttrue \interlinepenalty\@M \leavevmode \@tempdima #3\relax \advance\leftskip \@tempdima \null\nobreak\hskip -\leftskip \mbox{#4}~~#5\hfill \hfill\par}% \fi} \makeatother

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