Switching back from Foxit to Adobe

For about a week I've been using Foxit Reader to read my PDF files. I open a handful of PDF files a day and I've been very happy with the snappiness of Foxit. It's just so much quicker that Adobe Reader to startup and consumes much less memory and CPU while running. All in all, I was very happy with it.

Until today. In the middle of reading a document I started to feel motion sick. Or something like that. I felt it difficult to read the text and it felt like the text was bouncing around on the screen. And once I became aware of this feeling it wasn't difficult to find the source of the problem. The letters was almost literally dancing on the screen. This is what it looked like:

Notice how the baseline of the letters goes up and down? The letters 'l', 'i' and 'v' is placed higher than the other letters. This is what made me feel motion sick.

First I thought that there was something wrong with the document. To verify this I opened it in Adobe Reader with the following result:

No more motion sickness.

So the Foxit story was just too good to be true. Although fast, it is a crappy renderer. As I spend a lot of time reading PDFs with lots of text this simply isn't an alternative for me. I've now switched back to Adobe Reader. And deleted Foxit Reader.



Finally! I've been looking for an application like this for quite some time now. An application that lets me reorder the icons in the taskbar in Windows XP. The program that comes to my resque is
Taskbar++. I love it already.


Rainbow pictures

Just spotted this on digg. Some simply amazing
pictures of rainbows. I just had to blog it! And don't miss the last picture on the page. It doesn't have a rainbow but is still sunningly beautiful.


Laterna Magica

It was several years since I had a reading experience like this. Only a handful of times before have I been captured by a book like this. The book is 'Laterna Magica'; the autobiography of Ingemar Bergman.

I haven't read much of late. Due to my hard work and the sick leave that followed I haven't read a single book in a year. I simply haven't had the strength. When I have picked up a book it has felt like a long and heavy project and I've simply had to put it away. Which has been very frustrating since I used to read quite a lot. During my years as an undergraduate at Chalmers I typically read an hour or so every day. I've come to understand that that's very uncommon.

Laterna Magica is an ancient kind of projector in english known as the magic lantern. It mostly resembles a slide projector but used painted on pieces of glass instead of slides. Ingemar Bergman got a Laterna Magica on his tenth birthday.

Friday last week, Good Friday, my fiance and I went to her parents to spend the weekend. As it turned out we were shown to a new room to sleep in, not the usual one that we normally use. The new room used to belong to my fiance's little sister. On one of her shelves I found a copy of Laterna Magica and curiously started leafing through it. It didn't take long before I realized that I had actually started reading the book. And I just couldn't stop.

This isn't the kind of book I plan to read. First of all it's a biography which is usually enough to scare me away. But secondly, and more important is that it feels extremely pretentious to read an autobiography of one of the greatest filmmakers ever to have lived. It's like reading the book of nobel prize winners. It's like I should read it just so that I can brag about having read it despite what I may think about it. I just don't plan to read books like this. But I'm happy now that I did read it.


Mammatus Clouds

Digg had a very nice link today to mammatus clouds. These clouds simly look amazing! As I've mentioned before I'm just nuts about clouds. When I saw the pictures of the mammatus clouds I took out my copy of the nice "The Book of Clouds" by Dr. John "Cloud Man" Day. Unfortunately the book didn't have very much to say about mammatus and neither has wikipedia. But the mammatus article at University of Illinois is OK. Gee, I wish I get a chance to see this kind of clouds for real some time.

Geek wear

There's some really nice apparels over at cafepress. I'm thinking specifically about geek wear. Like the classic about understanding binary. There is a similar one about time. Since I'm a Haskell programmer there is ofcourse the Haskell shop. I've bought the mouse pad with that Haskell logo. Today, on #haskell, some guy linked to some new cool Haskell related clothes. The first link is simply a nice logo. The other was sime very cute toddler wear, both for boys and girls. But my personal faviourite is a variant on the "What part of ... don't you understand?". Go check it out for yourself.


On Semantic Nuances

Today I had a rather interesting discussion with some of my colleagues. Andreas Abel is visiting Chalmers this week. Since he was working here for some time he is quite good at swedish and so we spoke swedish with him. But he wasn't quite sure of the swedish word for 'scientist' and tried 'vetenskapare' which makes kind of sense consider the general way that one can construct words in swedish but the actual term is 'vetenskapsman'. Which made us realize that the term 'vetenskapsman' isn't used about scientists today in swedish. Although 'vetenskapsman' corresponds to 'scientist' in english it has a different connotation. Instead the word 'forskare' is used which corresponds to 'researcher'.

So what do swedes really mean when they say 'vetenskapsman'? Ulf Norell suggested that it meant a scientist from say 16th or 19th century i.e. way back in history. Similarly, I suggested a scientist which has contributed to what is considered established scientific truths. But we couldn't really decide how precise these definitions were. Michael Hedberg then joined the discussion and said that the word 'vetenskapsman' made him think of Frankenstein or mad scientists in general. I'm not sure that does the job either but it is clear that the term has some very strange connotations which makes it unsuitable for today's scientists.

While it can be very interesting to try to think about what people mean with certain words I must also offer a word of caution. All too many argument are really about the definition of words. Never engage in such arguments. They are completely pointless and lead to nothing. Instead try to understand what people mean when they say something and when it seems strange to you ask them to be more precise. If their definition of a word doesn't correspond to yours then simply accept their definition as a hypothetical viewpoint and move on. There are more important things to argue about.

How to pour Ketchup.

You just got to love it! Here's an article which delves into the mysteries of getting ketchup out of a bottle:How to pour Ketchup (Catsup). Full technical explanation. The thing is, the standard techniques, such as hitting the bottom of the bottle doesn't work very well.

The irony is that this article is mostly useless. People buy squeeze bottles nowadays.


Applications of Randomness in System Performance Measurement

Here is a link to a PhD thesis entitled Applications of Randomness in System Performance Measurement. I haven't actually read the dissertation but the abstract is quite informative in itself. Here's a quote from the second paragraph:
For TCP/IP, changes of a few percent in link propagation delays and other parameters caused order of magnitude shifts in bandwidth allocation between competing connections. For memory systems, changes in the essentially arbitrary order in which functions were arranged in memory caused changes in runtime of tens of percent for single benchmarks, and of a few percent when averaged across a suite of benchmarks. In both applications the measured variability is larger than performance increases often reported for new improved designs, suggesting that many published measurements of the benefits of new schemes may be erroneous or at least irreproducible.

When I read this several papers came to my mind which I suddenly realize doesn't hold water. Just as the above text says these papers report improvements which might just as well be noise.
The abstract then goes on to explain the contributions of the thesis:
To make TCP/IP and memory systems measurable enough to make benchmark results meaningful and convincing, randomness must be added. [...] We show how to choose reasonable amounts of randomness based on measuring configuration sensitivity, and propose specific recipies for randomizing TCP/IP and memory systems. Substantial reductions in the configuration sensitivity are demonstrated, making measurements much more robust and meaningful. The accuracy of the results increases with the number of runs and thus is limited only by the available computing resources.

Next time I'm about to measure the efficiency of a computer program I'm going to read this dissertation carefully. Today's computer system with all their complex ways to trying to speed up things has made measurements much more difficult. It seems that a little bit of randomness at the right place is the key which can alleviate these problems.


I just have to write about this beautiful little thing called Hektor: which was featured on digg. It is a little machine consisting of two motors, a holder for a spray can, a bit of circuitry and wiring and when it is plugged into a computer sprays beautiful pictures. The design is so simple and elegant that the machine in itself is a piece of art. Make sure to watch the videos of Hector at work, they are fascinating to look at. I only wish I could have done this myself.