Silly bug in Gmail

Not long ago I wrote about how much I love GMail and about a particular feature that I like. Well, today's post is about a bug in GMail which just feels outright silly.

GMail has this feature that you can use it to handle other email accounts. It goes like this: you set your other email account to forward it to your GMail address. Then you can tell GMail that you want to be able to send emails using that email account. In order not to enable fraud or any wrongful impersonation GMail sends out a confirmation email to the address you want to use and if it comes back properly then you can click on a link which enables you to use the other email address when sending emails from GMail. Pretty straightforward.

The other day I was going to add another email address to my GMail account just as I described above. This is where I bumped into the bug. When GMail sent out a confirmation email it didn't come back. I thought that was odd and sent another one. It too seemed to disappear somewhere on the internet. Since this address wasn't very important to me I just left it alone and went to work on other stuff.

The surprise came when I opened the spam box to weed out the false positives (something which I get at least once a week). Lo and behold, there were the two confirmation emails sent out by GMail before.

Excuse me but this just seems silly? Sure I can see that the email has to go through the spam filter. But there are many good techniques for creating a little back door in the filter such that you can make sure the confirmation emails always goes through. This just shouldn't happen.

Well, I've reported it to the Gmail team. I hope they get around to fixing it soon.


Gravity Waves

The following video is an awesome time lapse showing gravity waves in the clouds.

When I first read that the video showed gravity waves I thought it was those pretty much undetectable waves generated by gravitons. But I can't say I was disappointed to see this magnificent display of rolling clouds. I hadn't heard the name "gravity wave" before but I'll be sure to keep it in mind. Oh, what I wish that I could watch these clouds in real life. Another form of wavy clouds that I really wish to see is Kelvin-Helmholtz wave clouds.


Memorable Defences

So it turns out I survived my PhD defense. It was held on Match 23, a month and a half ago roughly. I must say it went very smoothly, almost too smoothly perhaps. The opponent was Jakob Rehof.

I should perhaps say something about they way defenses work here in Sweden. They're always public, anyone can come and listen. There is an opponent who is an expert in the field and who asks most of the questions. Then there is a grading committee, usually consisting of three people, with varying degree of expertise in the field. My committee consisted of Fritz Henglein, Kostis Sagonas and Sibylle Schupp. They also get to ask questions, after the opponent is done. Lastly, anyone in the audience can ask questions to the defendant. After the defense the grading committee will meet and decide whether to pass or fail the candidate. They always pass. Some of you might think that I'm joking here but I'm not, in Sweden they always pass. The reason is that if the PhD candidate might not pass then the opponent should say so before the defense, not after. So once the opponent has agreed to having the defense you know you're going to pass.

Having had my own defense got me thinking about all the defenses I've attended through the years and I thought I'd give a little tour of the ones that I particularly remember.

The First Defense I attended I think was for my cousin Åke Wallin who did his PhD in the area of neuro-psychology. He studied the episodic memory of very old people, in their 80's or 90's. Studying such old people is rather unique, there are very few places in the world were there are large enough groups of old people to make experiments statistically valid. Stockholm is one of those places and is where he conducted his research.

The First Computer Science Defense I attended was that of Urban Boquist. He had written a whole program optimizing compiler for Haskell. I found his thesis a very exciting read, it's really well written and has lots of cool optimization described in a very clear and concrete way. Very appealing. A guy call John Meacham also found this appealing and has taken the ideas from Urban's thesis and put them into a publicly available Haskell compiler called JHC. John has also made sure that you can order Urban's thesis online.

The Best Defense is without a doubt that of Johan Agat. Johan worked in the area of computer security and studies timing leaks. He pioneered the technique of cross-copying to pad programs to eliminate timing leaks. The reason I found is defense so good is two-fold. First, the opponent, Jens Palsberg, gave an exemplary introductory explanation to Johan's work. Everyone understood it. It was as clear an explanation I have ever seen. Normally on these occasions it can be hard, even for other computer scientists who are not experts to follow these explanations. Second, Johan did an amazing job at answering all the questions he had. Even hard, deep question he had very good and well thought through answer to. Very impressive. For these two reasons I find this defense the best I've ever attended.

The Most Pathetic Defense was that of Koen Claessen. If you know about Koen you know that he's an extremely good researcher and his work during his PhD was no different. In fact, it was exemplary. Which is why the opponent and the grading committee really didn't have anything to ask about. It was all just praises from their side, no criticism or hard question. So it wasn't much of a defense, more like an appraisal. Hmmmm.

The Longest Defense goes to Karol Ostrovsky. The poor guy. It seems his opponent and grading committee wasn't properly informed of the standard procedures here in Sweden. Normally a defense take around two hours. Karol's must gone on for like four hours or so. And since it started at 10 am and going well past lunch there weren't many people left in the auditorium the last hours. I didn't stay either, I simply had to get some lunch. But eventually Karol also became a doctor.

The Most Nerve Wracking Defense was obvious that of my own. But as I said, it all went very well in the end.


Quarter Finals

The quarter finals are under way in the snooker world championship in Sheffield. All the players that are left are all good candidates for the trophy. Well, there's at least one match that seems decided, Murphy has a really long way to go if he wants to beat Matthew Stevens. But still, there's a lot of good players in very good shape.

I'm tempted to make some guesses as to how this is going to end. But given that the candidates that I flagged for earlier are both out I probably shouldn't. Although it gives me some comfort that I did a little better that the Swedish commentator on Eurosport: he guessed Marco Fu and Ding Junhui in one of the semifinals, both of which were eliminated in the first round. Sure, I hope for Ronnie O'Sullivan, but Higgins is looking mighty good right now and may just prove to be too difficult. I'm also very impressed by Selby and Stevens. In the end, this is going to be a very tough championship to win.

I've had a bit of an insight about snooker while watching it during the last week. I'm really impressed by the mental strength of the players on the tour. They just never give up. Even when they need several fouls to beat their opponent in a frame they keep going. Likewise many players keep playing very well and fight hard even when their chances to win a match is pretty much zero. You don't see this kind of morale in many other sports.