Winter Weather

Posted by Eric Sun, 19 Jan 2003 00:00:00 GMT

Vermont is locked deep in the grasp of winter. This December, the Conneticut River Valley received about three feet of snow (quite remarkable in these days of global warming). The snow has reflected sunlight back into space, causing the temperature to drop far below our winter average. But this Saturday, the weather got seriously cold.

The temperatures in Manchester (to the east) and Burlington (to the west) didn't go much below -5F (-20C) on Saturday morning. But a cold air mass lodged itself in the river valley, and those of us near Lebanon saw morning temperatures below -20F (-30C). To give you some idea how cold this is, my breath freezes to my beard at -5F. But at -20F, my eyelashes froze together.

This was, of course, the same morning we planned to go snowshoeing at 9am. The first half-hour of hiking was rather unpleasant, but after that, we warmed up and began to sweat. The woods were beautiful.

Back on the Slopes

Posted by Eric Sun, 19 Jan 2003 00:00:00 GMT

In high school, I loved to ski. But for the past 8 or 9 years, I've stayed away from the mountains, thanks to procrastination and cold toes. Last Sunday, I tossed my skis in the car and drove 20 minutes to the local mountain.

Skiing is like riding a bicycle; you don't forget. The turns, the feel of the snow, even the dull rattling sound of the chairlifts--it all comes back. The physical conditioning, unfortunately, takes a bit longer. In the winter of 1994, I worked out 8 to 10 hours per week. Today, I write software for a living and make it to the gym rarely. So I have the skiing skills of an aggressive high school athlete, and the body of an all-to-sedentary adult.

But as you get older, you learn a trick or two. One of the most valuable tricks is to ease up on the brute force, and to use your strength wisely. Everything's easier if you let the mountain do the hard work. Don't jam your skis into the turns; adapt to the rhythm of the mountain.

Today I made a small breakthrough in skiing the bumps. My skis are 198 centimeters long, with a very shallow sidecut--not an ideal mogul ski in a world of 165 centimeter parabolic skis, which create ridiculously tiny bumps. I've never been able to turn my skis in the narrow grooves between the moguls. But today I tried going faster, and learned that each bump would give me enough power to get my skis airborne (clear of the groove), and turn them before hitting the next bump. It's a tiny victory--I can't ski more than half a dozen bumps before my legs start to burn, and I'm the merest novice--but it feels like a dance with the mountain. This is why I pay too much for ski tickets.

Wireless Weblogging

Posted by Eric Tue, 31 Dec 2002 00:00:00 GMT

On impulse, I drove to the computer store today and picked up a Cisco 350 series wireless networking card. It appears to work fine with Linux. I'm currently participating in an ad-hoc wireless network relayed through a laptop with two wireless interfaces--one to serve the local net, and a long-range card to relay traffic to a nearby building. Slick.

I still don't have a particularly good grasp on this technology--there's a lot of strange parameters and configuration options, especially under Linux. But it works.

Hardware Fun With Linux

Posted by Eric Tue, 31 Dec 2002 00:00:00 GMT

I run Linux on a Sony VAIO PCG-FX200 laptop. For the benefit of other Linux FX200 users out there, here's a summary of my hardware experiences.

The laptop itself works fine. The screen is good, the battery will keep the laptop running for about 2 hours (under Linux), and the hard drive is fairly quiet. The CD/DVD drive burns CDs and plays DVDs (using Xine). The built-in Ethernet works fine (using the e100 driver, not the eepro driver). At one point, I had the i815em video card displaying 3D, but this appears to be broken at the moment.

Despite the respectable battery life, power management is a bit dodgy. In particular, there's no APM support, and I can't get the laptop to sleep or suspend using ACPI.

In the past few weeks, I've added a bunch of peripherals: a Cisco 350-series wireless card, a Maxtor 80GB external FireWire drive, and a PNY USB 1.1 SmartMedia drive. These all appear to work correctly.

Open Source Consultants

Posted by Eric Sun, 15 Dec 2002 00:00:00 GMT

Most large open source projects have a "core team". Members of the core team often have consulting businesses. These folks known a lot about the project (they wrote it), and they tend to be productive programmers. If you need help, hire them. This is one of the best support options money can buy.

Contractor Hiring Tips

Posted by Eric Wed, 11 Dec 2002 00:00:00 GMT

Do you need to hire a programmer for a small-to-medium contracting job? Do you want a fighting chance of success? Here are some tips.

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wxWindows Experiences

Posted by Eric Tue, 10 Dec 2002 00:00:00 GMT

wxWindows is a portable C++ GUI framework. My employer has a portable C++ application, and I'm getting tired of maintaining all the custom GUI code. So we've begun an ongoing experiment: porting our application to wxWindows. Here's what we've learned so far.

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Lightweight Languages 2 Conference

Posted by Eric Sun, 10 Nov 2002 00:00:00 GMT

This Saturday, I attended the LL2 conference at MIT. LL2 is dedicated to "lightweight" programming languages, a delibrately loose category including (1) any pleasant, easy-to-use scripting language and (2) any academic language which makes it easier to prototype and write software quickly. LL2 is a small, informal workshop with audience participation. The attendees are a diverse bunch, and enjoy goring each other's sacred cows. You have been warned.

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Weapons-grade uranium

Posted by Eric Mon, 30 Sep 2002 00:00:00 GMT

Turkey seizes weapons-grade uranium. This time it was 15kg, seized from a taxi. Last time it was 1kg, and that was sold to undercover officers. Update: CNN claimed last night that initial reports were wrong--they say that there was only a small amount of uranium (several grams) and the purity is still being analyzed.

Fromberger spam filtering paper

Posted by Eric Mon, 30 Sep 2002 00:00:00 GMT

Michael Fromberger has written a nice formal analysis (PDF) of Paul Graham's Plan for Spam.

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