Archive for November, 2011


Friday, November 18th, 2011

For documentation I do at work I occasionally use LaTex to format formulas for display or print. Like most markup languages, LaTex is extremely powerful, but requires a certain level of programmer-esque skills to use. I use it rather infrequently, so I’m constantly looking at various sources for reference on how to make a certain symbol or format a certain function.

This is a classic example of when a typical text based (e.g. Google) search falls short. How do you search for a symbol who’s name you don’t really know… or has such a common name that it’s hard to distinguish the one you want?

Well Daniel Kirsch made it happen. Today wasn’t the first time I used Detexify but in a moment of work avoidance I played around with it a bit more than I had in the past.

Here’s an example of what it does:

So yeah, you draw a little skull and cross-bones and it uses the power of some kind of (probably) neural net examination and finds the symbol you needed.[1] Try it out, it’s sort-of fun just to play with. You can also go to the symbols page and pick one to ‘train’. You then draw the image by hand (mouse?) and it adds it to its training pool.

He’s working on a new version that also does Unicode characters. It will also offload some of the searching by running the algorithm on the client side using Java. Pretty impressive that such a search can be done in a reasonable amount of time using Java in a web browser.

  1. No, I did not have a particular reason to put this symbol in my documentation… but boy did I want to find one! []

ISS Timelapse Videos

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

If you liked my previous link to the International Space Station (ISS) video, you’ll like this montage even better. 18 separate passes with shots of city lights, atmospheric glow, aurora, and thunderstorms. Thanks again to the Bad Astronomer for pointing this out.

Earth | Time Lapse View from Space, Fly Over | NASA, ISS from Michael König on Vimeo.

Make sure to select HD and full screen. There’s a list of where the passes are below the video, but see how many you can identify without the list.

But does it go to 11?

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

At the rather arbitrary time of 11 seconds past 11 minutes past 11 hours[1] on the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year after the (end of) the last millenium, I was transferring files to my new PC.

What? You weren’t staring at your digital watch, glorying in the one-ness!?

Nope, I was in the final throes of the several iterations of recovering backup files that were eventually required to get the new box up and running.

For the bit-heads, here are the stats of my satisfyingly powerful knee-of-the-curve modern PC:

Reused Components:

  • GIGABYTE GV-N98TSL-1GI GeForce 9800 GT 1GB Silent
  • 250GB Western Digital SATA HDD
  • Windows 7 Professional 64 bit

At this point the previous machine is idle, and probably will be for a while. Although it still contains a 60GB SSD and a 250GB IDE drive that I haven’t incorporated. I stuck one of my older silent video cards in it, in case I need to boot it up, but the Win7 license is no longer legal (since I’ve reactivated with this hardware).

Windows tells me my “Experience Index” needs to be updated, so here goes the before/after:

Component Before After
Processor 4.9 7.5
Memory 5.4 7.8
Graphics 6.8 6.8
Gaming Graphics 6.8 6.8
Primary hard disk 5.9 7.9
Base (lowest) Score 4.9 6.8

Not surprising that the video card, now the oldest component analyzed, is the limiting component. I opted not to buy a new one at this time with the Thanksgiving and post-holiday sales forthcoming. The card I have is pretty robust for an older model,[2] and dropping $150-$200 for only a ~2x improvement in rendering speed didn’t seem a priority. I’m hoping that the significantly improved memory and bus speeds will keep the GPU better fed, so it can really be the bottleneck it never was before. It’s also impossible to get a faster card with a passive heat sink. Perhaps I’ll buy a second on eBay and link them instead.

It’s also pretty obvious that the “Experience Index” upper ranking of 7.9 will quickly need to be increased if this sub $1k build could come so close to maxing it out. Perhaps they’ll increase it to 11.

  1. past noon! []
  2. FWIW, it was the highest rated component based on the previous cheesy Win7 benchmark. []

Me! In Concert!

Friday, November 4th, 2011

Thanks to Teresa Campbell of the Cazenovia High School, I have acquired some recordings of our recent Cazenovia Community Band performances. We were only one of several groups which performed at the Cazenovia Choral Festival this year.

It’s been quite a bit of fun playing trombone again. In addition to myself, we have a music teacher who majored in trombone, a woman from a family of trombone players and our director, who plays trombone himself. This allowed us to close out our portion of the concert with The Trombone Rag. (Yes, that’s yours truly on the high notes.)

Without further ado, here are the three pieces for your enjoyment.

  1. Old Comrades
  2. Salvation is Created
  3. The Trombone Rag