Thursday, December 21, 2006


Alpha and beta are just Greek for a and b. They were, anyway, until 1994, when Netscape accidentally turned "beta" into a World Wide Web buzzword by giving away over a dozen beta versions of its browsers in three years. For Web hipsters, using Netscape's buggy beta features shifted from an option to a requirement. If you don't remember pounding your keyboard over Finnish sites that locked you out with "go install Netscape 2.0b3," you weren't really there.
Valleyway might have lost Nick Douglas, but with posts like this one it doesn't matter too much. Somehow, sometimes, this blog has the ability to make me feel not so bad about throwing away hundreds of dollars in rent. Also, Megan, their party correspondent is super nice so I guess I'll stay subscribed. Melanie will never let me forget that fabulous Christmas party that Vinnie threw, where I met Megan. And Julia :)

I'll be on east coast time next week.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Analog Devices

Driving through San Jose with Melanie, we pass a company called Analog Devices.

Me: Analog Devices... what kind of applications are better done with analog rather than digital?
Melanie: Clocks.

I should have known better than to ask the electrical engineer who is my girlfriend.

Monday, September 11, 2006


Brandon just pointed me to Portal, an upcoming game from Valve. It didn't make much sense to me why Valve would put its engine behind a puzzle game that's illustrated in the instructional video in the first few seconds of the above link, but it made total sense towards the end. Looks like it could be a very cool game.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Free discreet MIDI ringtone!

It feels like I write about something whenever I've spent too much time on it, thinking someone else might do the same stupid thing I tried to do. This time it happened to be searching for a better ringtone. The preloaded ones are never good and I've missed one or two calls when the phone is in silent/vibrate mode, even in my pocket. I ended up trying to make one but I was surprised how difficult it was to find software for OS X that sequences MIDI files. Download.

Monday, August 21, 2006


TechCrunch points to a screencast by Kris (on Flickr, ironically) showing an upcoming feature on Zoomr called Portals. It's pretty neat. Would've been perfect for some notes I added to some pictures on campus (e.g. this one) a while back.

Hibernate Mapping Diagram

If your hibernate.mapping.xml file is the most up-to-date documentation you have, try this XSL document to get a visual feel for how your database tables are related. Put the <?xml-stylesheet ... ?> directive in your mapping file and try opening it in a browser. I'd be surprised if it works in anything other than Firefox 1.5 (it needs to have canvas and XSL support). The XSL is pretty nasty because I wanted to include some portions of to enable you to position the tables manually. Once the tables are in place, try hitting the '#' link in the top-left corner to connect everything together with "arrows".

Facebook RSS

They still don't support it, so here's an attempt to make that happen with the newly launched API. I wish it would at least expose the time a profile was last modified but that's probably like asking for them to publish emails and mobile phone numbers too. If you're daring, just login with your Facebook email/password. I don't know how/if other RSS clients handle HTTP authentication, but NetNewsWire does it very well.


Just the basics. What would be useful? Photos? Wall postings? Thanks goes to Ken K. for some help with the login procedure.

Update: the script is broken so I removed the link to it. I suspect the 'News Feed' feature is 10 times more useful anyway. See comments for more.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Not sure how I missed this in the 2 or so years of Java web programming I've done, but it's pretty huge: Basically, never use instance variables in a servlet!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The moderators at work will sometimes send out outrageous reviews they come across. This is my all time favorite:



Pros: Comfortable, Durable, Stable, Warm
Cons: Stains Easily
Best Uses: Cold Weather, Travel, Casual Wear "JHANAY HARRIS GOT A PAIR", "GO DUMB USA BY JHANAY", "GET HYPHY IN THEM"

(0 of 0 found this review helpful)

Mad props for being able to throw "hyphy" and "bussiness trips" in the same post.

Monday, July 31, 2006

All you people who have ever bought anything from Performance Bicycle, go write some reviews ;) Tell your friends.
I took a quick poll to prove a point - nearly everyone in the room was a product of public school education (myself included). So the opportunities weren't isolated to higher education. (Mr. Jobs followed up to make the reality more painful - showing how few of us were sending our children to public school.)
Jonathan Schwartz, Lunch with Prime Minister Tony Blair

Sunday, July 30, 2006


Firebug is an awesome Firefox extension for web development that I've been late to discover. Recently I found out you could modify the source of a web page in place with the "Inspector" tool. It's handy for tweaking HTML/JS/CSS without having to redeploy/reupload/reload the page or whatever, and also helps when ordering wireless service from Cingular. I tried to get off a family plan and create my own account, but Cingular didn't want to let me register under a different zip code than my family's. The zip code was set in a readonly text input. Firebug allowed me to wipe the attribute, submit the form, and have it my way. Kind of like a disposable greasemonkey script. Never thought I'd use the extension in that context. Thanks Mr. Hewitt for helping me avoid make a call to Cingular support.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Java image manipulation

Achieving anti-aliased images through the standard Java libraries was very non-obvious. No matter what rendering hints or interpolation I used in either the java.awt.image or packages, many edges came out jagged. Finally I found a solution, so I'll send some search engine juice their way, because I generate so much of it.

Update: If you're processing non-sRGB images, expect lousy performance on non-windows platforms (due to lack of hardware acceleration support).

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

You've all seen the transparent desktop pictures. All of you might've seen this as well but I'll post it anyway because it takes the prize.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The academic year is over. What a struggle. Work starts tomorrow.

Lately, I've been getting quite a few emails requesting the Facebook vCard greasemonkey script. Maybe one every 2-3 days. I didn't think there was actual demand for it. I wish Facebook would just change their policy. Of course they don't have to... they get all the traffic they need without having to listen to its users at this point.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Campus eateries. After a year on campus, I only knew about half of these.

Friday, June 09, 2006

I just found out that some kid in Probability took notes using TEK, every single class, and made it available to everyone. Brilliant. Thank you, Joel G.

Monday, June 05, 2006

kill -9

Some of you liked Monzy's So much drama in the PhD that I put on a mixtape a while back. If that includes you, know that he just released a new single, called Kill Dash Nine, and performed it live last Friday. See his blog for other nerdcore tunes.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

JogaTV and Zlatan

vs. Ronaldo
juggling gum

Ironically on YouTube.
In iTunes, why is there not an option when you listen to a [radio] stream to "Buy This Song"? They must know the artist and song since it's being scrolled in the display. I could be one click away from giving them 99c. Instead, it's a couple of clicks and having to copy/paste information. That and I don't have 99 cents to give them for music.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

At one of today's BBQs, Paul raved about XGL/Compiz. This demo gives you an idea of what it does. I don't know how long it's been around. He claims the novelty of the effects hasn't worn off after 2 weeks, but he's also an ubergeek. Most of the usuable stuff already exists in OS X I think.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Robert Scoble points to MapCruncher, which looks very similar to what Steve and I put together except its for MSN Virtual Earth instead of Google Maps. Speaking of which, we "went live" last week.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Another funny Valleywag post

Monday, May 08, 2006

I just had a remarkable interaction with a website. I participated in a focus group for SayNow last quarter, and they asked me to try out their beta. So I did. Part of the sign-up process was to register my phone number. The verification step did not involve the usual typing in a text notification code. Instead, it called me up, asked me to speak my name, and that was it. The cool part was that the web page echoed the exact state of the phone call. The box said "dialing" then switched to "began call" as soon as I picked up and then switched to "speak your name" when the voice instructed me to do the same, and finally "thank you" when I hung up. It was fascinating.

Steve and I generated some Google maps for various schools today:

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Via Subie: Loose Change

...and since I'm fixing some bad HTML that the Blogger widget always seems to cause...

Via Jawed: Pinkey the cat

Friday, May 05, 2006

There's a guy who works at Meyer Library who looks just like Joshua Schachter of

In some vending machines you can put in a bunch of nickles/dimes, hit the "never mind button," and get back most of the change in quarters. Didn't know that.

The dude next to me and I are both scouring MySpace. He's twice my age. I hope he's doing it for class too.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Valleyway puts up some pretty funny posts every now and then. This is one of them.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


I sat in on a class this morning that I might have to take. It's called the Theory of Probability. For fun, the professor had each person in the class guess the number of cocoa puffs in a bowl. The person with the best guess would receive a copy of the textbook.

I had recently read The Wisdom of Crowds, which starts with a story from decades ago where the crowd at a farmers market performed a similar task, except it was guessing the weight of an oxe. The average of all guesses was one pound off the true weight.

The professor may have also read the book because after everyone was done guessing, he brought up the same story. I was one of the last people to announce my guess, so I gave a rough average of all the counts given up to that point thinking maybe this crowd was as wise as the one in the book. But as the professor said, this group of Stanford people did much worse than a bunch of old English country bumpkins. The mean was ~280 and the true count was 522.

Monday, March 27, 2006


This is cool. Time to setup that real/virtual currency exchange.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Came across an optical illusions blog and re-discovered people taking pictures of stuff behind their monitor and making it their wallpaper. Hadn't see the hand-holding-calculator one before.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

I just spent a couple of days programming Cocoa for OS X. Before that, I completed a team project using Python for S60 Nokia phones. Both made it very easy to create good looking results on a platform I had no prior experience on. I feel spoiled. My webpage has links to screenshots.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Nerf Rifle

Eventually MAKE: will start posting these instead of myself :)

Nerf Rifle

Via Gogglemarks, which links to a higher resolution video.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

"SkyBlue Technologies is yet another small, fun, intense, and well-funded startup from the Stanford CS department"

Seen in an email on the cs-careers mailing list. We get at least two of these a day, but still... what kind of pitch uses the phrase "yet another." That doesn't send a very strong message.

I had the fortune of riding in a DB9 today. The automatic shifter is mounted on the panel above the radio.

For the first time since starting to use the Blogger Dashboard widget, I'm seeing the same behavior Matt wrote about, that the writing area doesn't scroll. Instead it increases the height of the widget. Poorly done.

One more week until this quarter is taken care of. Two more weeks until Las Vegas. Three more weeks until Melanie.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


A quick video intro to the Creative Commons license that I hadn't seen before. Nice graphic design.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

P2P lending

Prosper -- "an eBay for services"

Tuesday, February 28, 2006


When I was first introduced to Python, I'd have the hardest time spelling the word. I'd spell 'Pythong' half the time. Another guy on the group I was working with had the same problem.

Today, I was going to look up some documentation and I did it again so I inadvertently went to and got something unexpected. They were nice enough to link me to my intended destination. It must be a pretty common slip.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Friday, February 24, 2006

Top Gear

I haven't watched it yet but my bet is that it's entertaining: Top Gear Winter Olympics

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Blogger Widget

Just testing. Other widgets are available too.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Wired for Speech

I'd just gotten out of a lecture that was partly about how fine tuned our minds are to detecting human speech, picking it out from ambient sounds, etc. I sat down about 20m from a pair of guys, just close enough to hear that they were speaking. I couldn't actually make out any of their words, but it sounded like Swedish. I don't know how to describe that, whether it was which syllables were emphasized or the pace of the conversation or what, but I listened closer and finally heard a word that possibly could've been Swedish. So I walked up to them after finishing my lunch, hoping I was correct or I'd look like a fool, and sure enough, they were from Sweden. This wasn't the first time something like this had happened. Just as our minds are easily able to pick out human speech, is the same true for distinguishing languages of human speech?

I saw the owner of this bike on my way to campus this morning. The iPod was blaring in full effect, coasting down the bike lane.

Update: The professor of the above lecture said today that we are able to distinguish our native language from other languages when we turn 4 days old. Remarkable.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

ICMP echo request

valhalla:~ mhdavids$ ping
PING ( 56 data bytes
36 bytes from ( Communication prohibited by filter
Vr HL TOS Len ID Flg off TTL Pro cks Src Dst
4 5 20 0054 8677 0 0000 30 01 8b0a

What is that all about? Never seen that kind of response from the ping command before.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Facebook announcement pricing

One of the few ways that Facebook makes money, as far as I know, is through their announcements panel. I clicked on an announcement to make an announcement, and found out that it would cost me $15/day to announce something at Stanford. It's variable depending on the school. What determines this rate? The most expensive school is Penn State ($22/day). Does that mean it's based on the number of registered users?

Thursday, January 26, 2006


By the way, MarsEdit is not free. My 30-day trial expired recently.

One of my professors this quarter, Clifford Nass, is the best lecturer I've ever had. Maybe I should say he's the funniest ever, but funny is good, and thereby he's the best. His impression of a rich, white, educated male is even better than Dave Chappelle's. I need to bring in my camera to class and tape this guy. Some of you might've heard him on NPR yesterday. He said he was going to be on one of the programs.

Email is so popular, despite what I think is a pretty bad way of doing certain things it frequently is used for between people. Obviously the social interface is great, but isn't there a way to improve group discussions via email? Something like a temporary news group... to figure out tonight's dinner plans... or decide which color shirt we want to go with for the intramural basketball team.

Update: The NPR bit I talked about showed up in my ITConversations podcast feed. He's not nearly as entertaining as he is in lecture.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


On Friday we had Trivia Night with the CS graduate students. Out of categories such as history, art, computer science, science, the only category our team won (or even placed in for that matter), was TV. Also, I think I must've nailed Madonna's Die Another Day a good 10 seconds before anyone else while the intro was played back. That and accurately guessing CHiPs theme song were my lone contributions for the night. What.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Nokia N70

I show up for a mobile prototyping tutorial series and they hand me a brand new Nokia N70 phone to play with. The the camera is impressive:

Friday, January 06, 2006


Ning is a neat idea but its components are pretty incomplete for being a mash-up "playground." For an example, I put together swivel, which is a silly app to explore the squared circle pool. except I wasn't able to use Ning's own implementation of the Flickr API because you can't retrieve tags. Wtbad. Also, is it just me or is the site sloow?

Update: I switched out the API I was using (phpFlickr) to a new one (phlickr), and it was still rather slow. I've found it much faster to query all photos, instead of a specific group. I don't have any hard evidence that this is the source of the lag, but it's better now. I wanted to try to speed things up since I got a couple of responses from some friendly Ning people. I suspected it was my app rather than Ning itself because other pages loaded fairly fast. Try it again.