Sunday, July 31, 2005

Sycamore Canyon Hike

Sycamore Canyon Hike Map
Originally uploaded by IvyMike.
I took Friday off and hiked through Sycamore Canyon, a 16- mile round-trip hike in the Point Mugu State Park in Southern California. It was quite a bit longer than my normal hikes, and I thought I was sore after the hike. As it turns out, that was child's play compared to when I woke up this morning. The link on the photo goes to a (soon-to-be-annotated) Flickr gallery of photos from the hike.

Here's what my Forerunner 201 GPS had to say:
  • 17.93 Miles in 5 Hours, 18 Minutes (I took a wrong turn at one point, turning a 16 mile hike into an 18 mile hike)
And the heart rate monitor:
  • Average 140 BPM
  • I was in my heart rate zone for 4:40:09 (between 132 and 172 bpm)
  • 4908 Kcal (!)
I spent a few hours today writing a python script to massage my GPS data into a format I liked for Google Earth. Google Earth will import the data directly from the GPS unit, but it's not quite what I want, since it imports all data from my GPS as a single track, not split into separate hikes. Google Earth uses GPS Babel to communicate with the GPS, but it just doesn't know about the Forerunner-specific extensions. In the end, I used Garmin's own software to download the data and export into Garmin's custom XML format, and then my script massaged that into a Google Earth KMZ file, with each hike showing up as a separate "Placemark". (The KMZ file includes local hikes from the last few months.)

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Forgetting Go

About five years ago, I learned the rules of Go and eventually got to somewhere slightly better than 15 kyu. This means I was about to move from "total beginner" to "seasoned beginner". I played a lot of 9x9 and 13x13 games as I was learning, so I was ok at tactics and life & death problems, but I missed out on a lot of the rich strategy that shows up in 19x19 games.

A few weeks ago I thought, "I should pick up where I left off." HA! I played a few games against Many Faces of Go this week. I used to be about even with MFOG in 13x13 games, but tonight I barely beat MFOG in a 13x13 game...with a four-stone handicap in my advantage. I need to crack out the books and start playing on KGS again, I guess.

Monday, July 18, 2005

EULA virus

When you install a software package these days, you'll almost certainly get a click-through license agreement. Click "Agree", or you can't install the software package. You've just been screwed by an EULA, for "End User License Agreement". (I recommend pronouncing EULA like Euler: "oi'lÉ™")

Why "screwed"? Even though they're often lengthy documents not comprehensible by the layman, and even though everybody just clicks on "Agree" because they have to, EULAs have been held up in court. There is no reason the average person should have to read and understand these things to use their computer.

Getting my current system up and running has forced me to agree to dozens of EULAs (all unread) in the last few weeks. Who knows what terms and conditions I've inadvertently "agreed" to.

I once saw a proposed system where users would set up a "EULA agent". Software installers would publish their terms via a standard API to the user's agent, which would automatically reject licenses that didn't meet the user's preferences. That seems complicated and unworkable, and there's very little incentive for such a system to come about. A lot of spyware companies (and maybe even some "legitimate" businesses) benefit from an incomprehensible EULA; nobody would ever agree if they understood what they were doing.

Here's my modest proposal for a real solution: The EULA virus. (Insert mad-scientist laugh here!) The EULA virus would interpose on the standard text widgets used by InstallShield, NSIS, WISE, and the other popular installation systems. It would recognize and replace standard licenses with random other licenses ("This product is distributed under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public License") or change a few key words (Swapping "is" and "is not" could probably create the necessary havoc.) After a random amount of time, the virus would delete all traces of itself from the infected system.

What's the point? Proving a EULA violation would become difficult or impossible: "When I installed Microsoft Office, it said it was in the public domain. Oh sure, it doesn't say that NOW, but I probably had a virus at the time." That ought to kill EULAs forever, and we will finally be able to install software without having a lawyer present.

Saturday, July 16, 2005


Planarity: "Arange the vertices such that no edges overlap."(Flash) It's the video game equivalent of knot untying, but for some reason I can't fathom, I'm addicted. This is a screenshot of the beginning of level eleven; I made it to level twelve, but Firefox locked up.

(Bonus points: Describe an algorithm that a human could use to solve these puzzles.)

Monday, July 11, 2005

Kite Flying 2001

mike flying kite 10a
Originally uploaded by IvyMike.
Over the past five years, I've become hypersensitive to caffeine. My extreme dependence on the drug started to worry me, so I stopped all caffeine a week ago. It sucked: I got headaches and felt logy all week.

I was going to post an entry titled "Rage Against the Caffeine" but I had nothing more to say and was just looking for an excuse to use that title. I guess I'm sneaking it in here.

I did manage to find enough energy to revive a few old hard drives and salavge the buried treasures stored on them, including these photos of me flying a kite back from 2001. I trust Flickr more than I trust myself, at least when it comes to keeping good backups, so posting them is probably the best way to preserve them forever.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

MMORPG sweatshops

1UP.COM has an article about sweatshops with workers who earn gold in online games, which then sells for real-world cash on Ebay. Cory Doctorow predicted the practice in his short story "Anda's Game". (Salon registration or daypass required)

The practice is fascinating, to say the least. I've always wondered if any of the struggling online games might try to reach profitability by secretly creating and selling gold through back channels. Having an exclusive license to print money in your own game seems like it would be too enticing to pass up.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Ricky Gervais Live8 clips

Ricky Gervais clips from BBC's Live8 coverage

(Four clips, QuickTime)

Monday, July 04, 2005

My weekend so far.

How to install Windows XP in 5 hours or less. Five hours seems optimistic, although with all the practice I'm getting, I'm getting better.