Browsed by
Month: June 2008

Hawaiian GT-40

Hawaiian GT-40

06-27-08_0853
06-27-08_0854

Parked in front of my building this morning is a Hawaiian Ford GT, which retails for the suggested price of $139,995. Someone has to be serious about their car to bring it all the way from Hawaii. They even have driving gloves that match the seat belts.

06-27-08_0858

This is the first time I’ve seen one parked, I never realized how deep the vents behind the radiator are in the hood.

06-27-08_0857

Like all expensive cars, the motor has its own window.

06-27-08_0855

My Lacerated Digit

My Lacerated Digit

Be careful around those sharp coconut milk can tops, or else you could cut your finger. Then you’d have to go to the emergency room to get your finger glued and a tetanus shot.

I’m just saying, I think it’s best if you take my word for it.

Music History Graph

Music History Graph

Above is a small part of my music listening history as reported to last.fm over the last year and a half. Time is plotted left to right, overall number of tracks by the width of the shape, and the colors represent individual artists. I used LastGraph3, which if given your user name will make a set of graphs from your data.

If you click on the image above, you’ll see the full history. It looks like I go through periods where I listen to a fair bit of music, and then stop, and start again. I think there’s a fair amount of smoothing of the data. I think my history would look even more jagged without smoothing.

I like plots like this because they show multidimensional data using colors and shapes in an intelligent way. Of course the classic example is Minard’s famous depiction of Napoleon’s 1812 Russian campaign. I think everyone should have to learn how to make good plots, and understand how to read one. When I was a TA, I constantly had to remind students the point of making graphs – I think nearly all of them felt it was busy work rather than a way to organize and visualize data; a way to recognize a physical effect.

Just like significant figure errors (I am bothered enough by those to contact newspaper reporters: I’ve done it in the past), I cringe at the sight of misleading or poorly organized graphs. The worst offenders tend to use Excel, whose plots are instantly recognizable as probably being garbage. I also dislike the USA Today charts and many plots seen on the various network evening news shows. Too much artistic influence from graphics artists (no offense K.P.!), and not enough substance.

New Hosting Service

New Hosting Service

Two and a half years ago I moved my website off my father’s computer at home to Site5. For a while it was great, especially compared to serving a website over a cable modem connection. However, over the last year or two it’s gotten progressively worse, something I discussed in this post about a year ago. Also over a year ago, Site5 promised to move everyone to new servers. It hasn’t happened, and my service has gone steadily downhill.

My first two-year prepaid period with Site5 went up in December last year, and I seriously thought about moving. I looked at other shared hosting companies, but I felt I would probably have the same problems on a new shared host. I looked into hybrid solutions, but that too didn’t seem a guaranteed improvement. I liked the idea of Virtual Private Servers (VPS), but I couldn’t find one with enough disk space in my budget.

A few months ago, my lab mate Rick pointed me towards s3fs, which intrigued me. s3fs puts your data on Amazon S3, but allows the data to appear to be local to the server, like another hard drive. You pay for only what you use with S3, and it has virtually unlimited space. Suddenly, a VPS hosting solution fit into my budget. I could pay for a VPS with less disk space than I needed, but still get the power of VPS. It was also an upgrade because now me and my family could upload as much data as we wanted, and it would be much more secure from disk failure than before.

This website and other sites that were on the old server are now being hosted on a machine from linode.com. I’m using their lowest option, which has 10GB of space. I installed Ubuntu Hardy Heron which seems like a solid Linux distribution. s3fs has proven to be reliable and fast enough, although it’s much slower than having the data on a local disk. Using Apache rewrites, my father and I have made it such that when a web browser asks for items on a page that exists on S3, the request goes there instead from this server, which saves lots of time. I’ve also figured out how to shoehorn Gallery2 into using S3.

So far I am very happy with the new server. Oh, and you may not have noticed, I moved my blog to stephenskory.com, although stephen.phratry.net will get you the same thing.