Virtuous cycle

Bartlomiej Owczarek weblog

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Got a fixed phone number… from skype

I wanted to renew credit for skype calling, but in the process I discovered that I can set up a fixed phone number as well.

This is really cool, and just in time when I thought that it would be nice to have some kind of a fixed line number. But a fixed number without having to get actual fixed line is even better.

Unlimited local calls don’t hurt either.

If I figure how to set up a fax on this number, then it would really satisfy all my phone related needs.

Update: unfortunately it seems faxing is not really something you can do on voip.

Google solved 90% of search: Microsoft has a problem

Microsoft believes that search is still far from maturity. Steve Ballmer emphasized how much search sucks currently at recent analyst day presentation. “It’s still 10 blue links on a white page”. “50% of searches don’t solve the problem”. And so on.

It’s important for Microsoft to believe that search is still a space for radical innovation, because to say otherwise would be to admit that the game is over and that Google won it. Customers are unlikely to switch from Google, unless other vendor presents a serious advantage over Google’s search.

On the other hand, Marissa Mayer just described a slightly different view on future of search, a future of incremental (and laborious) improvements rather than disruptive innovations:

(afterward she softens this point somehow – guess the original message might have not resonated well with Google’s investors)

Search is a 90-10 problem. Today, we have a 90% solution: I could answer all of my unanswered Saturday questions, not ideally or easily, but I could get it done with today?s search tool. (If you?re curious, the answers are below.) However, that remaining 10% of the problem really represents 90% (in fact, more than 90%) of the work.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, it is Google who is best positioned to use its critical mass to slowly but surely improve search.

Google might be actually right in its view of the market, but search (information retrieval) is not the end of the story, right…

Surprise: HP wifi printer can’t print through wifi

I spent a good part of my day configuring a stupid HP printer.

Other highlights of the day included handling a visit of Ikea workers, who arrived with faulty furniture and now require another follow-up for replacement, scheduling another driving exam (last two attempts: one overslept, one missed due to calendar mistake), and watching the apartment being cleaned.

Not that productive day really. But these things need to be done to move forward so it’s not a complete waste of time either.

At least unpacking and assembling the printer (HP L7780 all-in-one) was kind of fun:

But then it turned that the best I could get from device’s wifi connection was scanning, but unfortunately not printing.

Files sent to the printer were like signals dispatched to alien civilizations, sent and gone met in a silence with no outcome whatsoever.

Maybe it’s the problem of HP’s lousy drivers for Mac.

Since printer is next to the router, lack of wifi is no big deal. But still frustrating to pay premium for functions which end up not working anyway.


I have this rather large file with loan data and I’m playing some statistics on it. During the day it was standard pivoting. But now in the evening I decided to check whether I can get anything by a fancy black-box clustering.

The best thing to get, of course, would be a set of clusters with significantly different loan performance (i.e. share of bad loans) that the others.

I’m using Cluto.

It is not particularly user-friendly. It requires input files that I need to kind of manually generate from Access and then fine-tune. And it is not excel add-in, but a command line program. But thanks to this it can handle my 100k records (my Excel version has 64k rows limit).

So far no results. But wait… just finished computing using the graph method. It took 17 minutes.

Nope. At the moment most distinctive cluster is ca. 6.5% better that the average in case of defaults. And ca. 11% in case of defaults considered fraud. I’m not impressed.

Guess they need to give me more data from the application. Currently I test on 6 variables and some are loan and not customer related so there is a field for improvement.

Or maybe I should read the manual some more and figure what what are the different optimization methods.

Perl script to migrate from SPGM to Zenphoto

I’m rather proud of myself, because, in something like two hours, I created a first perl script since, well, maybe 6 years.

The point of the script is to copy data (gallery and image description) from my current gallery called SPGM, to the new one called Zenphoto. SPGM stores data in plain text files, while ZP keeps in the database.

Got it working, and then found out that Zenphoto doesn’t integrate with wordpress so well. And that it is much less pretty inside, that I had thought. Eh.

Anyway, below is the script and some details in case someone might find it useful. (read more…)

Another way to hack md5 hash

Look up the hash in Google.

Heh:) Security nugget of a month for me.

It’s all right to rebuild and work hard

It’s been a while since I read something work quoting on Guy’s blog, but today I found lots of good stuff in this guest post by Glenn Kelman:

4. Good code takes time. One great engineer can do more than ten mediocre ones especially when starting a project. But great engineers still need time: whenever we?ve thought our talent, sprinkled with the fairy dust of some new engineering paradigm, would free us from having to schedule time for design and testing, we?ve paid for it. To make something elegant takes time, and the cult of speed sometimes works against that. “Make haste slowly.”

5. Everybody has to re-build. The short-cuts you have to take and the problems you couldn?t anticipate when building version 1.0 of your product always mean you?ll have to rebuild some of it in version 2.0 or 3.0. Don?t get discouraged or short-sighted. Just rebuild it. This is just how things work.

Right on time. There is one more hidden gem in this post but I will not comment on it.

Sky sails

Some Christmas technology news – return to wind power for moving ships. Introducing sky sail, which is actually a kite:

Sky sails

Not as beautiful as classic ships, but nevertheless elegant. Fully automated. Can save 30-50% fuel. They could add some solar power covering, for the kite to be truly 21st century.

The product is going commercial in 2008.

Looking for ISP

I spent half of Sunday trying to choose the future Internet provider. I wouldn?t have to, but the guys need to know which wall plug is to be moved close to the computer, and as usual they need to know it just now.

The problem turned out to be like a puzzle. All the components dependant on each other. On top of that, the providers seem to be trying to make comparison as difficult as possible.

But in the end, I reached the following preliminary results:

TPSA (Telekomunikacja, Polish telecom): in the beginning I had high hopes for them, because of their new ?multipacket? offering. Includes TV and is wi-fi (livebox) enabled by default. But then it turns out that the basic TV packet is quite poor, and together with its upgrade, the TP option becomes the most expensive. Even leaving aside the (in)famous quality of service. But still a nice try, as for TPSA. Let?s hope for better.

UPC made a good impression. Seems good price for value as far as broadband. But TV has quite limited collection of foreign channels, no French or Russian ones, and no Italian (but no one has Italian channels). I would go for it if I decided not to have a cable TV in the beginning (which makes quite a lot of sense considering that I will not have a TV).

Astercity rules as far as TV offer. They have the most comprehensive set of foreign channels including some Russian and French. Even though no Italian.

But quite pricey, too, and I will have to confirm the wi-fi thing. It may require to have a 2mbs link in order to be allowed to split the signal. And this kind of link is not exactly cheap.

So the conclusion: UPC has a nice net, Aster a good TV, while TP a slow net, few TV channels and of course the most expensive fixed line. Read: move the TV plug.

Not all Sunday was wasted in ISPs, however, because the rest of it was wasted on finding stuff like WC brush and towel hooks. Yes working on a new apartment is a pure pleasure. This month I just have to write off.


More geeky stuff… (too much time on my hands to screw around with technicalities?)

I was playing with Zenphoto, and it is a heck of promise as far as a gallery script replacement for my site. I even managed to run it on this server, which was, quite as usual, quite challenging because its software is outdated.

Even mod_rewrite functionality (the one responsible for pretty urls) seems to work.

The value added to my current script is that ZP seems well written, works on the database as a decent script should work and supports comments, rewriting, and quite a few other features that I miss. It is likely that I would manage to integrate it with WordPress as well.

But a show stopper for me is lack of sub-albums support. It should be part of the next release, and hopefully it will come out soon, because the script itself is really the best I have across so far, its issues with my server notwithstanding.

Update: Judging from the author’s plans, it might take quite long before the subalbums functionality will see the daylight. But I can wait, probably. No better option on the horizon, anyway.
(weird feeling about this open source software, you peek into author’s life and discount his personal plans)

Upgrading to WordPress 2.0, first try, failed

I decided to upgrade to WordPress 2.0 this evening. First I started on my test site, ie. on the account I still have on the university server.

I copied the files, made database backup, uploaded new wordpress in, copied old files into its directory, renamed old wordpress installation to make the way for new one, renamed the new one to take over. Ran the upgrade script. Script said it worked. And the site itself… bingo, everything fine!

Looks cute, this new version, and this shiny post editor. Right away I start with my “production” facility.

I copied the files, made database backup, uploaded new wordpress in, copied old files into its directory, renamed old wordpress installation to make the way for new one, renamed the new one to take over. Ran the upgrade script. Script said it worked. And the site itself…

500 Internal Server Error


1 hour of unsuccessful tries to repair the thing.

I rolled back. Thanks God the database backup was flawless…

Making friends with Axiom

For the sake of my newly found interest in neural networks, I need to go back to the basics first, including certain elements of linear algebra and mathematical analysis. Without this most basic foundation, I will not go very far with the topic.

In order make myself a bit more efficient and the exercise easier to follow, I wanted to employ a computer system to do all the boring stuff. In this view, I found Axiom to be a decent toy to play with.

There is little chance that I will ever need more from the system than it now offers; 30 years of development have been invested in it. Axiom was originally developed by IBM and open sourced in 2002.

The documentation allows to get started fairly quickly. Unfortunately, the Windows interface leaves a lot to desire, and the graphics module is not available; everything would work just fine on a Linux system, though (I may need a Linux box a lot sooner that I expected).

I look forward to making some progress on the weekend.

Tracksy under-reporting traffic?

TracksyI started using Tracksy on 4th December. It is a free traffic monitoring tool. It provides everything I was looking for, including lots of useful reports and a fast interface. On top of that, Tracksy doesn’t put any ads on my website. Yet I have a small problem with it: the number of reported visits doesn’t seem correct. (read more…)

Website up and running

After having spent (too) many hours on the task, I managed to finally get this website of mine into more or less organized shape. I didn’t expect it would take so long, but a lot of things have changed since I was last doing this sort of stuff, and I forgot a great deal, too.

Nevertheless, it’s a pity that the end result is so far from perfection. Still it’s good to have something for start and improve gradually later on.

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