June 22, 2008


Svn_authz_mail is a Perl script intended to assist with the maintenance of Subversion source-code repositories. It is common to configure Subversion such that it sends out an email to the project team, upon the successful commit of updated code (via a “post-commit hook”). One good mechanism for doing that is Dave Wheeler’s SVN::Notify Perl module, which provides colorized HTML email to an email list. It is also not uncommon to configure Subversion with access control, so that particular users have read or write permission. The Subversion “AuthZSVNAccessFile” is a good way to configure this, as it allow path and module-based specification of access rights in a fairly simple manner, and separates authorization from authentication (i.e. the AuthZ file doesn’t contain password or other account information).

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May 28, 2008

Lander on Mars

Here's a picture of the new Mars lander, Phoenix, as taken during its descent by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Mars lander
As Cory Doctorow writes: How badass awesome is it to be human? Super badass awesome.

January 13, 2008

PP2One, updated

It turns out that my little utility program, PP2One, has some loyal users. I haven't really been needing it until now, so I never upgraded it to OneNote 2007. However, this was as good of a time as any. Some notable fixes:

  • It now works for OneNote 2007, and PowerPoint 2007. It will NOT work for OneNote 2003 (use the older version for that).
  • The layout of the slides seems to work better now, as they are imported via a table.
  • Because of the improvements in the OneNote API, it will work with WebDAV shared notebooks.
  • File sizes should be better. PowerPoint 2007 can sometimes export gigantic WMF files (bug?), so I switched to importing the pictures as PNG. This seems to work fairly well.
  • OneNote will now do OCR on images. (This was one of the reasons I never bothered to upgrade PP2One until now.) So, you might not need to export the slide text.
  • PP2One now uses the .Net 2.0 framework. (It was compiled with Visual Studio 2005.)

Here is the link: Zip file.

April 21, 2007

Google Reader

I will continue to play my role as shill to Google’s profitable hegemony. Their products seem to fit my informational needs. I’ve been playing around recently with two of their applications:

  1. Google Maps and Google Earth. They’ve published an API for both, which makes it possible to do some really interesting stuff. I've played around with it a bit, and that probably deserves its own post.
  2. Google Reader. I really just started using it, and find that it drastically reduces the time that it takes to read through my "daily" websites. It works really well for "aggregative" feeds, e.g. I have a feed that includes US patent filings by aerospace firms, which has about 50 new postings per day. The keyboard commands are critical, of course. I also like the ability to designate posts as "shared" (shift-S), and have them published to my own feed. (Notice that I’ve linked my Google Reader shared posting page to the index page of my blog, on the right-side under "shared links". That's a good way to see what I've been interested in lately, and is always up-to-date as long as I've been use Google Reader.) Perhaps one loses a bit of the unique style (colors, formatting, etc) from each blog, but I suppose that makes it easier to consume their content. I have two complaints about my RSS reader setup: I can’t use it to consume RSS feeds within my company firewall. And many sites do not publish a complete RSS feed, but only titles or the first couple of sentences.

February 01, 2007

OneNote 2007 With WebDAV over HTTPS

OneNote 2007 is out, and of course I rushed out to get a copy. It was the main reason that I had participated in the Office 2007 beta, and there were a number of great new feature. One particularly great new feature is the ability to have notes stored on a server, with clients syncing up against it. For me, this means that I can use my notes on my laptop at home, or on my desktop at work, without having to manually sync thing. Chris Pratley, the ex-manager of the OneNote team, wrote a very good description of all of the new multi-machine possibilities. Good good stuff: Any WebDAV server can acts as the repository. But..

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January 26, 2007

New Day? (Vista and Office 2007 Launch)

I attended Microsoft's launch of their new operating system (Vista) and their new version of their Office suite (Office 2007), in the LA Convention Center. Both products look shiny. I had participated in the Office beta, and like what they have done. None of my machines have the horsepower to run Vista in a proper way (i.e. a way that puts the operating system into the background and lets me focus on my work), but it too looks like it has some interesting enhancements. It will probably be really really great in a couple of years, after the hardware catches up.

But overall, I was somewhat disappointed by the event. I would have thought that Microsoft would be smoother at running big events like this, but there were a number of unprofessional annoyances. First, I waited in the registration line for about 40 minutes, only to be told that by the registration desk that I should come back after lunch, as they didn't have time to print out the badge. (Later, registration took about ten seconds.) The keynote speech started late, and ran over 30 minutes late. People were walking out near the end, so that they would have time to register (ha!) and go to the bathroom. I attended the developer track, and all they wanted to talk about was SharePoint (a server component that I'm not really interested in), rather than all of the cool new things within Vista and Office. The new stuff DOES affect development, and it DOES affect the kinds of projects that we can undertake now, and I didn't feel like I really learned anything about it. I was kind of neutral on SharePoint before, but after having (somewhat boring) demos and speakers on it for most of the day (when I really wanted to see other content), I kind of dislike it now. The food choices ran out during lunch, as did the drinks. Even the swag was substandard... They gave out license keys to Office Professional (nice!) but they didn't include the media, thus requiring a massive download. (I'm at 15% now, and have about three hours to go.) I expected better.

The most interesting speaker was a gentleman from InterKnowlogy (in San Diego), who used the new presentation framework (WPF) to create a 3D molecule visualization tool for medical research. He was the only speaker that I heard that was even slightly challenging... He asked a question of the MS folks: WPF is something like the 4th presentation framework recently. Why was it, again, that we need another one?

Another interesting demo was how to develop gadgets for the Vista sidebar. I have a couple of interesting ideas worth pursing, I think. There is a danger to those gadgets: They could easily become the next target for crapware. The Vista sidebar is a place where small apps can run and be displayed, and is always on top of the desktop. Things like task lists and note-taking areas are fine areas for this. The demo was of pictures of houses, linked to a realtor's site... IMHO such a gadget is an amazingly poor choice for user-interaction (as people aren't going to want to have pictures of other people's houses rolling by as they do their work), but I'm sure that there will many companies, starved for attention, will try similar crapware apps.

Disappointing overall, but such events are still worth attending. It gives a sense of what issues Microsoft thinks are important, an opportunity to meet some of the other attendees that may have similar interests, and a chance to dream up some new ideas for my own business area.

December 15, 2006

Fujifilm F30 Camera

My Sony DSC-P71 (from 2001), one of my most faithful travel companions, was finally taken by silicon valkyries to the Electonic Valhalla. As the holidays approach, I needed a camera to record the festivities.

This brought up the central issue: SLR or compact? Digital SLRs are approaching reasonable prices, and maybe it would be fun to explore the photography as a more serious hobby. However, they are bulky, and require extra space in the travel bag. Even if one invests in an SLR system, a compact is still a good choice for travel or spontaneous pictures. It was really a no-brainer: A compact digital camera is a necessity.

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December 07, 2006

Display problem with laptops: Mirroring vs Extended Desktop

I was having problems with my Dell Latitude D600 laptop. I had used it in extended-desktop mode for a while, with an external monitor connected. Today, I wanted to use it for a presentation, with the projector mirroring what was on my laptop screen. It failed to work… No matter how many times I pressed the Fn-F8 (CRT/LCD) key, the projector would just become an extended portion of the desktop (not a mirror). PowerPoint presentation mode doesn't quite work right on an extended desktop, so I was reduced to leaving PP in "edit" mode on the projector.

How to fix? This pdf (by Robert Ralston of UC Davis) has the path to the answer, under the heading "PC Laptops With ATI graphics".

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October 22, 2006

Wealth creation

Here's an interesting article on wealth creation. (Via Virgina Postrel.) This was an essay in the book Hackers and Painters, which looks like something that I should have read a long time ago.

October 05, 2006

Coordinate Transformations In Visio

Everybody does coordinate transformations with translation and rotation. There is nothing too challenging there. Microsoft Visio, takes it a bit further, though, and includes translation, rotation, and flipping (mirroring) around the local x/y axes. When working on a recent project in Visio, we needed to find the global page coordinates, given the local shapesheet coordinates. This required a little bit of thought into the coordinate transformations that Visio must use.

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September 18, 2005

Run Maps

I am pleased to be a part owner of Google, as they provide so many interesting hackable internet search tools. At this pedometer site, someone provided a useful way of mapping out running distances using Google Maps. It even allows you to save your route as a URL, so that you can send it to friends! I've mapped out some of my typical running routes in my neighborhood.

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January 10, 2005

Remington Titanium R-9500

In an effort to improve my personal hygiene, my lovely girlfriend gave me a new electric shaver for Christmas: a Remington Titanium R-9500. Actually, it is more than just a shaver, it is an entire "shaving system". I believe that they classify it as a system because it contains several interdependent parts (the shaver itself, its recharging base, and a cleaning device) that are synergistic.

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November 19, 2004

XML Rant

At work, I've been advocating the conversion of some our text datafiles into something with more self-description (and an XML format). I think that a couple of my co-workers (who oppose the idea, on what I judge to be self-conflicting, and maybe even emotional reasons) would enjoy the following article, even if they might not be familiar with the particular tech industry angst from which it grew.

October 15, 2004

Something to try

Google has a new search tool, that includes stuff on one's harddrive. That sounds like something worth testing. A review (with technical content) can be found here. (Full disclosure: I hold Google stock.)

September 21, 2004

Hypergeometric Samples

Once a month, a random sample (of size n) is chosen from a population (of size M). This population might be of student-athletes for NCAA drug-testing, or taxpayers for audit, or some other similar scenario. How likely is it that there will be x repeats from one month to the next month? This is a useful question to ask, as it can help point out systematic problems in the sampling process. Student-athletes, in the hypothetical situation, might be annoyed that they are called for drug-testing many times in a row. Or it might point to the unjust use of the tax audit process for political reasons (assuming, of course, that the tax system could be just at all).

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August 29, 2004

Bling Bling

These can be purchased from Marche Noir.

August 25, 2004

Google IPO (postscript)

I ended up putting a little bit of money into the Google IPO, via my discount broker (ETrade). I'm very pleased with the IPO results (shares purchased at $85 are now over $100). Some post-game analysis can be found at Marginal Revolution, a good economics blog.

The quick "pop" of the shares makes me somewhat itchy to sell, but I do continue to think that Google is a good company fundamentally, especially with its current position on the internet. (See my earlier thoughts.)

I believe that the Dutch auction was a great success, especially for small investors (like myself) that are not Wall Street insiders, and for Google itself. I found it fascinating that people were calling the Dutch auction a failure, but I still believe that Google itself reaped more per share than they would have if they would have let the underwriters handle the pricing. I wonder if much of the pre-IPO spin was due to Wall Street underwriters fearing the loss of their special privileges.

Congratulations, Google team! And use my money well...

August 08, 2004

PP2One, next version

I've updated my PowerPoint-to-OneNote import program PP2One, to be able to run with the release version of OneNote SP1. I highly recommend all OneNote users to get SP1, as it seems to fix a number of errors.

August 01, 2004

Google IPO

Of course, everyone knows that Google is going to make an initial public offering (IPO) of its stock. This is big news both in the finance sector and in the tech sector, so naturally I would tend to have some interest in it. I've gotten an bidder's ID number, from their website , and maybe I'll make a bid on a share or two.

They claimed that the share price will be between $108 and $135, thus claiming that their company is worth up to $36.25 billion dollars. Given their 2004 net income (year ending June 30) of $143 million, that leads to a (trailing) P/E ratio of 253. (Assuming that I calculated P/E correctly, which is not necessarily true. I used their net income, and the total number of common stock outstanding.) This can be compared to Yahoo's P/E of 175 (according to my calculation, which I think may be wrong, because the Yahoo website claimed 121), or the S&P average P/E of about 30. So it looks like Google is somewhat expensive.

Is it worth the expense? I've always been a fan of Google. It is certainly an integral part of the web, right now. They will face competition from Microsoft, in the search sector. (That said, Yahoo has to do the same, and they are still rewarded with a high P/E. I judge Google as more important to the web than Yahoo.) Google knows the web like nobody else, and finds innovative ways of using it. An interesting bit of speculative fiction can be found in Paul Ford's story, which shows how Google could leverage this understanding of the web in an interesting way. (It also is a good introduction to the Semantic Web, which will play a role in our lives someday.)

June 21, 2004

Capitalist Spacemen

Burt Rutan and Scaled Composites successfully completed the first civilian space launch, this morning in the Mojave Desert. Congratulations to Mike Melvill, the first civilian astronaut from a private space program!

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May 02, 2004

PowerPoint To OneNote

PP2OnePP2One is a simple application that automates the importing of PowerPoint presentations into Microsoft OneNote. It copies the presentation into a new OneNote page (in a user-designated section), so note-takers can associate their own notes with the presentation. It is released free-of-charge (but donations are welcome), and the author takes no responsibility for it (but will be happy to discuss it or potential improvements to it).

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March 28, 2004

Wilshire Landmark Concrete Pour

The Wilshire Landmark, located at the corner of Malcolm and Wilshire, poured its concrete foundation yesterday. The trucks began arriving early (about 6am), and work continued through 5pm or so. Wilshire (in the Westwood area) was reduced to two lanes for much of the day, as concrete trucks brought in their loads.

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March 27, 2004

OneNote After Two Months

It has been almost two months since I tried to reimagine my note-taking habits, via Microsoft OneNote. The free trial is almost over, and Im going to have to decide if I want to put up my hard-earned dough for the product. What kinds of lessons have I learned? Should I continue the grand experiment, or tuck tail and retreat to the classic pen / paper?

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March 26, 2004

Air Force Museum

I was in Dayton, Ohio, for a presentation to the Air Force at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, and had a little time to explore the nearby United States Air Force Museum. This free museum had over 300 historic aircraft. The exhibits focused on military aircraft, of course. The museum also had an IMAX theatre and additional development hangar (possibly with a B-2), but I did not have enough time to explore those.

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March 14, 2004

Gas Price Hedging

Gas prices have been high for the last couple of weeks. Because I drive a lot, such things are significant. It would seem possible to construct a "gas price hedge" somehow, in order to reduce the risk of changing gas prices. I haven't figured it all out yet, but I have found some interesting data, and ran some studies.

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February 08, 2004


Rather than getting ready for tomorrows trip to Atlanta, or working my Finance case study, I spent some time playing around with Microsofts new OneNote product. (I am currently in day three of a 60-day trial.) OneNote is (as the name suggests) a note-taking application, which promises to improve a critical process for students and researchers.

OneNotes main competitor is the pen and paper, and I have to wonder if I will be able to wean myself from the yellow pad. The old-fashioned approach is so simple, intuitive, and versatile that I have some concern that I would be giving up functionality.

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January 04, 2004


Various family members, including my mom, have been compiling family tree information over the past several years. This information is interesting from several perspectives: It is nice to know something about one's family, and the structure of the data itself presents several interesting computer-science related questions.

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January 02, 2004

MT-MostVisited Plugin, version 2

I've updated the MT-MostVisited plugin, with some of the features that have been most requested. The updated docs are posted in the original blog entry here, and the zip archive can be downloaded here. (The original docs can be found here.)

In particular, the plugin now is configured via the MT template, rather than by editing the Perl script directly. This should allow for many interesting features, such as multiple blogs, wildcards for log location and filetypes, multiple archive directories, and zipped log files.

Please check it out! I recommend it for all MTMostVisited users, although it will break existing installations (because of the change in configuration method). Editing of the Perl plugin script is simply not a very good way of dealing with user-configuration information, and it had to change.

June 21, 2003

Email Colorizer

A friend sent me an email that I wanted to quote on my blog. I could save the email text to my server, but it would certainly not look appealing on a web browser. So, I wrote a little Perl script that takes email text, and formats it with HTML. Perhaps other with a similar problem will find it useful.

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June 08, 2003

Electronic Toys, followup

My system, as previous described, as been installed. The picture and sound are excellent. (The attached picture is from the movie Gattaca.) Now I want (need?) the surround-sound speakers and subwoofer. Dolby 6.1 or bust.

May 25, 2003

Electronic Toys

I've decided to spend some money on a good home theater system. Some might consider that odd, as I don't really watch that much television. Why spend the hard-earned wages on something that may be somewhat superficial?

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May 18, 2003

MT-MostVisited Plugin

This plugin determines the most popular entries on your blog, based upon the results of the Apache webserver access logs. It makes this information available via the MTMostVisited container tag, which can contain MTMostVisitedCount and MTMostVisitedLink tags, as well as any MTEntry-type tags.

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May 14, 2003

Total Lunar Eclipse

Look for a total lunar eclipse tomorrow night (Thursday). The good part (when the moon enters the umbra) should begin at 8:14pm (Pacific time) and end at 9:06 pm.

More information can be found at the Sky and Telescope site. The above image was taken from the University of Tennessee astronomy page.

March 27, 2003


If I could haul this 75 kg of meat into space, I would do it. But unfortunately, it is too expensive. And given rocket technology, it probably will always be too expensive. What can be done? Answer: Build a bridge.

Continue reading "Highlift" »

March 26, 2003

Software Complexity Metrics

Much of the work that I do involves developing applications that assist in solving engineering problems. Since I do the project management aspects of this (as well as lending a hand in the actual writing), I recently counted the number of lines of code in the largest project. (I was a bit surprised to find that it was almost 200,000, which is quite large by my organization's standards.) But what was I really trying to measure?

I was, of course, trying to measure complexity.

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March 20, 2003


The logs of my web-server recently showed that my site was visited by "spiders" from thunderstone, a web index service. (Spiders are automatic indexing programs that sequentially request web pages based upon links, and then sort those pages for use in search engines.) This, of course, piqued my interest in web indexing applications, such as the mighty (and ubiquitous) Google.

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March 18, 2003

Weather and IP

You might notice the weather sidebar, newly added this evening. It is based upon a Movable Type plug-in by Gavin Estey and can be downloaded from the plug-in directory. While easy to use (once I had the necessary Perl modules downloaded), it took some thought to get the index template configured correctly.

Also note the cute little icon. One of the Weather Plug-In variables contains an image-ready name, and so, if the site author (me) sets up image files, a picture can be displayed. This brings me to today's moral dilemma.

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March 15, 2003


monkey.gifThe common problem of sending private messages through a public channel is surprisingly difficult, and a fruitful area of research.

Throughout history, entities from major governments to private personages have sought to protect their lines of communication. Their efforts seem to have fallen into several categories:

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March 13, 2003

Carpped Out

Beware the mouse. It looks harmless. But it has no loyalty: After working with it for hours on end, you might notice that it has stolen the strength from your wrists.

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March 09, 2003

Webserver Logs

I need to relate one of my annoyances. My webserver is constantly attacked by "script-kiddies", who seek to exploit various IIS security holes. Listen closely, children: I DON'T RUN WINDOWS! Those exploits just fill up my access logs with error 404s. I do have their IP addresses (including reverse nameserver results), so I could inform their ISP's of this rude (and possibly dangerous) behavior.

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March 05, 2003

Prove It - Lunchtime Style

At lunchtime, we emerged from our cubicles, to squint at the warm
southern Californian sun and rest our carped-out hands. About
eight can sit at the picnic table, outside of the Heat Transfer
manufacturing building, and the table was filled with the younger
members of the analysis group.

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