Archive for July, 2006

under pressure

July 31st, 2006

I caught about 5 minutes of this fascinating cheapo aircraft reality series program on tv as I was waiting for my noodles to get ready. You've probably seen one of these shows, called "Heathrow <something>" and they try to make it very dramatic and exciting. "Will Jill get on a flight at all today?" "How will Mark resolve the tense situation with the pissed off customers?" Not exactly award winning stuff.

Anyway, they mentioned in passing that Easyjet has just merged with Go Ahead and so they had to turf all the Go Ahead planes to repaint them in Easyjet colors. This job, consuming 12 people around the clock for six days is worth £26,000. Which is interesting. Easyjet, unlike Ryanair, is a dotcom company, every advertisement where you'll see their name it says "Easyjet.com". I guess they were banking that the dotcom suffix would get them more business, because they're so state of the art.

That got me thinking.. putting aside for a moment the advertising costs, if it takes £26,000 to repaint a plane, and Easyjet has... what... probably 100 planes, that's a lot pressure on the shoulders of the guy in Easyjet's IT department who's responsible for renewing the domain name. If he let it expire and the domain sharks got it, he would forever be known as the guy who lost in excess of £2,600,000 on four letters.

Now Ryanair, they're smarter. If they should one day, god forbid, lose their domain name, they can come back with ryanair.net or ryanair.com.nc or whatever. But Easyjet can't, they're committed. Better not let it expire, domain guy.

l33t + creative = genius

July 30th, 2006

As public opinion will have it, geeks are generally harmless. But they are also pranksters. And when you let that personality trait mix with skill and creativity, you have a huge potential for great pranks.

Like this one

empirical algorithms

July 29th, 2006

If you're one of those people thinking "there isn't enough computer science in this blog", today's entry is for you. We deal in applied computer science.

As I was on my way to the supermarket, I was thinking about an algorithm for a coding project I'm working on. Just as I arrived, it struck me: shopping is an M:N problem. It is isn't it? When you're at home thinking "I need to get some food in here", you make a list of things to buy in your mind. Then you arrive at the store and you have your list, but you're confronted with a longer list - the list of things in the store. So as you go from to display to display, you have an option of two fundamental algorithms:

  • for each item in the display, compare to everything on shopping list
  • for each item on shopping list, compare to all items in the store

And whichever you choose, you have to loop that around the other list, so it's a heavy computation. In reality, our methods are somewhat more refined, we associate milk in the diary section with milk on the shopping list without having to compare it with all the other items. But memory remains a problem. How many items can you remember when you go shopping? For me it's about 5-6, anymore and I get very error prone.

Another way to shop is just not make a list at all, just go in the store and for every item, run a heuristic to estimate the need for this particular item at home. The heuristic will accept as arguments many different things, like:

  • current price vs average price for this item
  • the existing supply of this at home
  • the need for this in the first place
  • the craving for this item, if any

So you see, fundamentally, it's a complex system. No wonder amateurs can find it daunting.

babelfish saves lives

July 28th, 2006

No, not really. At least no documented cases yet. But it does do wonderfully unexpected things sometimes. Like this "People behind KDE" interview with Belgian developer Olivier Goffart.

Q. Did you go to Akademy in Spain? Will you go to Dublin?

A. I didn't go to Akademy. The main reason is that I don't understand spoken English. I learnt English on IRC and by reading mailing list. (At the beginning i was using Babelfish to translate mailing lists)

Props for the commitment, Olivier!

you know internet culture is commonplace when...

July 25th, 2006

...stars of the 90s are using it. That's right, MC Hammer has a blog, can you dig it? It even looks like it was made in the 90s.

keep it real