*** MOVED ***

NOTE: I have merged the contents of this blog with my web-site. I will not be updating this blog any more.


ICFP 2005 Programming Contest

Yumpee and I participated in the ICFP 2005 programming contest over this weekend. The problem was quite interesting and quite open-ended in that one could keep trying different strategies and play them against each other to see how they fare. In the end however, we ran out of time and we could only submit rather rudimentary cops and robbers - a cop that walks about randomly on the map hoping to catch a robber by serendipity rather than by design, a robber that just tries to rob the nearest bank while trying to avoid cops with a two-level lookup and a robber that walks about randomly on the map merely avoiding running into cops.

In terms of the implementation choice, the only middle-ground for the two of us turned out to be C++. I wasted much of the time debugging silly problems that arose mainly because C++ and the STL do not seem to have been designed with comprehension for lesser mortals like me in mind. Oh and we leaked memory with a perverse and gleeful abandon! (And our memory footprint at the end of any match was still less than the default no-op cop written in PLT Scheme that came with the BDK.)

I really enjoyed the coding binge and it was funky trying to coordinate rapid coding with a fellow hacker in a timezone that was 12 hours behind. At the risk of forfeiting the judges' prize, we still have two weeks to tweak our code and implement better strategies before the other half of the problem is announced. However, I'll be bang in the middle of my vacation during that period so it will entirely be up to Yumpee alone.

(Originally posted on Advogato.)


JumpDrive: Reprise

Today I received a replacement for the dead JumpDrive USB drive from Lexar Media. I am happy with the wonderful customer support service from Lexar Media.

(Originally posted on Advogato.)


"BSA or just BS?"

Some time back The Economist published a small article titled "BSA or just BS?" (subscription required) that questioned the rather dubious statistical method used by IDC on behalf of the Business Software Alliance (BSA) to come up with an estimate of lost revenues due to pirated software and use that to lobby for even more draconian legislation.

In short, they asked a small group of users for the number of applications installed on their computer (ignoring free applications like Firefox, WinAmp, etc.), used the average number of applications per PC thus obtained to extrapolate to get the number of applications installed on all PCs bought in the country and subtracted the actual sales of applications to get their figure for the revenue lost due to piracy. Very bad and rather disingenious use of statistics that doesn't even stand up to common sensical analysis. So The Economist naturally called it a load of crap.

This apparently enraged the BSA which promptly wrote a gem of a letter that appears in the latest issue and that is worth quoting in its entirety:

SIR - Your article on software piracy was extreme, misleading and irresponsible (``BSA or just BS?'', May 21st). The headline was particularly offensive. The implication that an industry would purposely inflate the rate of piracy and its impact to suit its political aims is ridiculous. The problem is real and needs no exaggeration.

Beth Scott
Business Software Alliance

I found the deadpan assertion of the penultimate line rather funny.

The Economist also had
an article on the recently released OECD report questioning the music industry's dubious assertions that the loss of sales of music CDs is entirely due to file sharing via P2P applications (and not at all due to the alarming lack of quality of the "music" churned out by the industry) which it then uses to convince legislators to come up with draconian laws limiting file sharing.

(Originally posted on Advogato.)


Sudoku Mania

The first time I read or heard of Sudoku puzzles was in an article in The Economist. A little over a fortnight later, The Times of India's Bangalore edition started publishing regular Sudoku puzzles of moderate difficulty and I have been hooked to them ever since. For those who can't get enough of them, there is also a GPL-ed Sudoku solver and generator.

(Originally posted on Advogato.)


Dumb's Up

It seems to me that either the manufacturers of cosmetic brands like Garnier, Dove, Fa, Biotique, etc. think their female customers are rather dumb or women willingly ignore the dumb and sometimes condescending text on the labels of many cosmetic products and happily continue to buy them. Perusing my wife's cosmetics collection, I am quite amused by gems of silliness like:
  • a moisturising cream claiming to include the mysterious "Acqua" and "Sodium Chloride" among its ingredients.

  • a skin cream showing off the thoroughness of the manufacturers in certifying it to be "dermatologically tested".

  • a moisturising lotion claiming to contain the cool "HydrOxygen Complex" (peroxide? water?).

  • a herbal shampoo claiming to have "Bio Henna".
Et Cetera.

I guess women would not really get worried about these things till these vile manufacturers start sneaking in Dihydrogen Monoxide into their cosmetics!

(Originally posted on Advogato.)


Judy Arrays

A single data structure that allows ultra-fast searching, takes very little space and is also cache-friendly? "Judy Arrays" could to be the answer.

(Originally posted on Advogato.)

Advogato Abuse

odinv, etc. seem to be dummy accounts created just so that someone could play with Advogato's ranking system and perhaps use it to inflate their own certification.

(Originally posted on Advogato.)