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Alex Belits
This is how my Slashdot user page looks now.

Thanks to Slashdot moderation system and shills exploiting it, I can post only two comments per day, and both of them are at score -1 -- invisible by default. This also never expires.

Oh, and 437 is my user ID. I was among the first people on that site, actively participated in all discussions over 15 years, and until this year nothing even remotely like that happened.

The only way to restore things is to mod my comments up, however scarce they may became, so I ask everyone who sees this and has an account with mod point, to mod them up. Yes, they are insipid, and yes, I can't have a meaningful discussion until this limit will be lifted, that's the whole point.

My comments can be seen at http://slashdot.org/~Alex+Belits/comments

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...and today was my first day at work at Interface Masters. Even committed some code.
Today I was laid off at Meyer Sound.
I have finally uploaded October photos.

New San Francisco photos:
Photo

Sunday Streets Berkeley on October 14:


Walk from Emeryville to Berkeley:


Pearl Street in Boulder, CO:


And a very small section on food:
I got a new camera and taken some pictures...
Photo

I knew that people mis-use Venn diagrams, but this takes the cake -- not only the diagram is the opposite of what it is supposed to mean (intersection of sets instead of union), it also shows a non-empty intersection between a set ("People who think hipsters rule the mission") and its complement ("People who don't")! And that intersection is a superset of the people who supposedly use the product.

So exclusive, no one can possibly have it!

Insane Microsoft troll insists that Linux should drop support for 32-bit x86.
For the whole week my life was filled with pain, medications that I would rather avoid, and spending disproportionate amount of time in bed. The stone was found on Monday, pain was the worst on Monday-Tuesday, and manageable with "merely" Ibuprofen on Wednesday-Friday. I think, I have caught the stone or at least the only large fragment that remained of it, so If nothing will happen within an hour, I should declare it to be over.

Lessons learned:

1. Kidney stones are really, really painful.
2. When communicating with nurses in emergency room, any gesture you make causes people to ignore anything you are saying, and interpret the gesture.
3. Some people's conclusions will be too optimistic. Just because someone was in pain for a while, and the stone was last seen on CT scan in ureter close to the bladder, does not mean that the stone had passed. And when the pain decreased, it does not necessarily mean this, either.
4. When you are discharged in the middle of the night and prescribed something important, insist on going through the hospital pharmacy, or you will return for it in a few hours, then wait in line in the normal pharmacy, all the while feeling excruciating pain.
5. When there is a shuttle going between your home and the train station, and another shuttle between that train station and the hospital, take the damn shuttle!
6. Visiting your work while sick and in pain may help when something important is going on, but you will wonder why people didn't react to the change of your appearance and attitude. As in, "Do I always look like I literally have a thorn-like thing in my side?"
There are many things that probably should be said about the latest Mars landing. I see it as a great achievement in development of technology, it creates new possibilities for both research, and development of even more complex equipment for space exploration, but at the moment one question bothers me:

The whole crane thing was supposed to soften the landing, so rover will not be subjected to rapid deceleration that would happen when a more conventional platform touches the ground. I guess, it's possible that a crane supported by nothing but rockets is more stable while in flight than a landing platform when it touches the ground over a pillow of gas from the same rockets, so there may be less acceleration in the end.

But on NASA TV it was clearly visible that when the whole thing entered the atmosphere, acceleration was more than 10g, therefore each and every component of the rover and its carrier, was supposed to tolerate many minutes of such acceleration. So if the platform can guarantee less than 10g when it touches the ground, it can safely land without any complicated mechanisms, with rover on top, just like it was done for decades with smaller but just as fragile devices.

So  traditional solution has top mount for rover, low-altitude altimeter, rocket engines designed to exploit ground effect while immediately over the ground, but no crane, no procedure for keeping platform extremely stable for the whole time while rover is lowered by the crane then getting the platform away from the rover, and no weird direction of the nozzles to keep gas away from the rover. For me, that sounds clearly superior.

I really can't understand what was the reason for choosing the crane. Anyone has any idea?


I didn't intend to change my haircut this drastically, however I have a firm belief that I have nothing useful to say about haircuts, so even if I think, barber is misinterpreting what I asked for, it's better to accept the eventual result of some consistent effort rather than to jump in with my corrections in the middle.

This is the result. I find it unusual, but I can live with that.
For some reason j_b asked to post pictures of DNA Pizza even though its web site has a panorama of the same.

Oh well, here they are:Read more...Collapse )
I finally got time to continue the list of my complaints about current sorry state of software development. Since no one responded to the previous entry, I assume that either what I have expressed is surprisingly widely understood, or even considered trivial among people who happened to read it, or they are all in such fundamental opposition to everything I said, they ignore it completely. There is, of course, a possibility that no one reads this in the first place.

No matter what it is, I will add another entry:
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...To be continued...
For a long time it bothered me, how a large number of people, some of them professional software developers, misunderstand software development practices on a fundamental level. While I recognize that more than a decade of Microsoft dominance and a about a decade of dotcoms (partially overlapping) could turn any atmosphere poisonous, it should have been long enough since the last talentless dork decided to "study computers" to earn billions by becoming "second Bill Gates" or creating a web site that clones functionality of another web site. Writing things that humans are not supposed to read is got sufficiently unpopular again, so only people genuinely interested in software development would do it, and therefore they would pay some attention to things that are obvious and easy to recognize, right? Apparently not. Like poison that saturated air, soil and water, worst practices continue to perpetuate themselves even among otherwise sane and educated people, and best ones are either ignored or paid lip service to. At very least, I believe, it will be useful to mention what is currently missing.
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...To be continued...
Today I was watching TV and noticed that something very remarkable escaped attention of the famous detective:



What is more interesting, it was already documented at IMDB.

(yes j_b, you asked me to post something, no matter how insignificant -- this counts as something)
For a reason that I don't understand j_b asked me to write a review of Avatar. This is the result:

tl;dr and spoilersCollapse )
After The Great TV Transition To Digital, Comcast for a while kept transmitting everything in analog NTSC, so I was able to use my Hauppauge WinTV PVR-250 for cable, and occasionally watched over-the-air ATSC with HVR-950. It was clear that this was not going to last, and recently all but few NTSC channels disappeared. On top of that, when HVR-950 didn't get a sufficiently strong signal or was otherwise confused, a combination of its hardware, driver and MythTV 0.21 ended up in some weird state that prevented all further tuning until full driver reload, so over the air reception was quite far from the painless experience that I remembered from pre-cable, pre-digital days. Upgrade to MythTV 0.22 gave me some improved HDTV output modes, but didn't do anything to reliable ATSC reception, and definitely didn't turn PVR-250 into a digital decoder -- something had to be done. My 40th birthday was an acceptable excuse to buy another device, so after some research I went to Fry's and brought home HDHomeRun -- a networked dual-tuner digital TV receiver.

Not surprisingly, installation and configuration were quite painless -- receiver got its address from DHCP, MythTV detected the receiver and its two tuners, ran a scan on both, and found a bunch of channels. Just as not-surprisingly, SchedulesDirect produced a channels list full of mis-identified channels (apparently radio stations that were recognized as TV), so the list required some tweaking before becoming usable.

The surprising part was playback. For a completely unrelated reason I have recently upgraded my NVIDIA graphics card, and the new card supports VDPAU. Before installing HDHomeRun I have spent some time tweaking MythTV to make HDTV play on a 1680x1050 monitor with my old AMD Athlon XP 3200+ and HVR-950. In the end everything up to 720x576 was set to ffmpeg decoder, Xv output, Yadif deinterlacer, denoise3d filter, everything above -- NVIDIA VDPAU, Temporal deinterlacer. Most channels played smooth, however it seemed like the time spent getting the high-resolution frames from HVR-950 was sufficient to cause some choppiness -- or maybe it only looked like that due to some dropped or corrupt data because I only tested it with over-the-air reception. With HDHomeRun this problem disappeared -- flawless playback on cable channels regardless of resolution, occasional visibly corrupt frames on some over-the-air channels, but no choppiness.

For some reason closed captions (and only closed captions, not other forms of overlays) on some resolutions cause massive slowdown and dropped frames. Low resolution (with all-software decoding and Xv output) is fine, high resolution (hardware decoding and high-resolution overlay) is fine, medium resolution (apparently higher-resolution text overlay on lower-resolution hardware-decoded video) has problems. Other than that, I have a fully-functional TV and DVR that receives cable and over-the-air TV, on a box with Athlon XP 3200+ CPU and a five years old motherboard.

Obviously, the whole thing only works with non-encrypted channels -- if by any chance Comcast will decide that they should DRM the Hell out of their network, everything will be broken again. Hopefully sanity will prevail, and the amount of breakage that it would inflict on all other existing subscribers will keep them from going into that direction. PVR-250 still receives some NTSC channels, and HVR-950 is still connected for its analog video input and may potentially be used as a backup tuner -- if I (or driver developers) will find out how to keep it from getting stuck.

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For a long time I did not post anything here. I felt that I should provide some clarification about my (usually unflattering) description of Americans and American society, yet any attempt to express it in an entry ended up being too long and barely readable. Without finishing that entry I didn't feel like posting anything else, so I had to finish or abandon it at some point. The following is still too long, however it serves a purpose of clarification by being umm... clear.

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In modern American culture right after two greatest values that are proclaimed to be celebrated the most -- "freedom" (whatever kind of freedom it is supposed to be) and money -- there is "individuality". And just like with first two, overwhelming majority of population lacks everything but the most rudimentary forms of it -- most of people have all their thoughts borrowed from one of the few "camps" ("conservatives", "progressives", "poor me, trying to survive", "technocrats" even), tastes borrowed from one of few popular styles, etc. Genuine interest in anything but few "popular" areas is extremely rare, people rarely diverge from cookbook solutions, fixed aesthetic styles and ritualized social behavior.

Some are quick to blame improvements in mass media and communication. If one has inclination for something popular, he won't have to look past his TV to be presented with multitude of carefully prepared, selected to fall smack in the middle of the range, role models. If he has inclination toward something unpopular, he will likely find a massive crowd of people into the same thing on the Internet, and will follow them, mimicking whatever grown to be popular among the group he joined -- no matter how bizarre or sick.
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I believe, I have an announcement to make -- as of last week, I am no longer poor.

Of course, such announcement goes against traditions of society, and the very fact of me no longer being poor can be disputed depending on the standards of "poor" -- by some I never was poor in the first place, by some I am still poor. I reject the first -- tradition -- because it obviously exists not for the benefit of those who follow it. It prevents people from learning important details of their friends and neighbors' lives and the condition of society as a whole. That leaves it to media and advertisements to paint a picture of either prosperity where the reader is the last person who still didn't benefit from it, or of doom and gloom where the aforementioned reader should be thankful for his supposedly uncommon position of financial stability among the sea of horror and chaos. Also this event is an important illustration to some points I am trying to express in the following long rant-like text, so it has to be brought up.

The second can be countered by presenting a definition that is superior to all others -- a poor person is someone who has to routinely inflict permanent harm on himself and others that he would avoid if he had sufficient wealth or income. In my case this is demonstrably true -- over the last few years I had to tolerate very constrained living conditions, had to eat food of inferior quality compared to my normal diet, delayed some dental care procedures, kept my car grounded due to disrepair and insurance cost thus wasting mine and other people's time when I had to go anywhere beyond San Francisco, imposed my presence on my friends who would be better off without it, missed many opportunities to learn something interesting and useful, and limited my participation in Free/Open Source software development to bare minimum. Considering that despite my still supposedly youthful looks I am almost 40, I count all those things as permanent harm. From this point all my self-destructive activities are strictly voluntary, therefore I am no longer poor.

In terms of absolute dollar value, my primary bank account briefly overshot $10k, and then returned back to that level as I made payments for my previously maxed out credit cards, returning my total amount of debt to about the same $10k. About $1900 that previously was spent on mortgage and maintenance of my Denver condo is now off my monthly expenses list, thus returning some sanity to the whole situation. Yes, it takes that little (or that much) to make a difference between deciding which bills to skip this month and living somewhat normal human life.

As it is probably obvious by now, the reason for this whole event was very simple -- after almost two years of being unused, the Denver condo was sold, so I no longer have to pay for two apartments, the larger and more expensive of which I couldn't even use. I am renting a relatively small but nice apartment in Emeryville, in a building that survived last major earthquake unharmed, it is a 40-minutes walk to my work, and I find it to be a perfectly acceptable living arrangement. The amounts of "debt", "interest", and supposed "loss" I taken by selling the condo below the initial price are utterly irrelevant -- what is important, I have actually spent $50k of down payment in the end of 2001 buying the condo, paid $1700-$1900 per month in mortgage and maintenance payments, and got back about $8k when it was sold. The rest is for all practical purpose is a bunch of fictional money shuffled between banks and mortgage companies in a process that people are finally starting to call by its true name -- the credit bubble.
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If anyone was following the news about massive bailout of American financial companies, he probably heard about AIG and its brilliant decision how to use some of those money -- that is, placing them directly into the executives' pockets. Uncharacteristically for American government, US Treasury insisted on changing that, and apparently AIG will have to bring executives' salaries closer to the sane level, however AIG Chairman insisted that some "bonuses agreed to in 2008, before the firm's problems became known, could not legally be blocked", and therefore tax dollars are still going to line the pockets of those people.

O RLY?

Since apparently everyone involved is either a crook or an idiot, here is a solution that taken me a whole 20 seconds to find: if they won't do it, tax 100% of those bonuses. Yes, government can do that. No, I don't expect it to happen.
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Alex Belits
User: abelits
Name: Alex Belits
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Trogdor, the 1u Athlon/Opteron server.
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