Many things, frequently involving ears 2006 November 13 6:55Posted by diamond in : Health,Random,Work , add a comment
On my way back from seb & sol’s wedding (which was lovely), i was driving through stillorgan. As i drove along, i saw a dog sitting in a driveway up ahead scratching itself. That seemed a bit odd, as it was quite late at night, and you don’t tend to see that many dogs outside after dark. As i got nearer, i realised that the proportions of it’s head and ears were somewhat off. It was only as i passed it that i realised it was a fox, calmly sitting there in the middle of dublin. It then ambled off down the footpath, quite clearly at home.
I recently bought a pair of in-ear sound isolating earphones. They weren’t cheap, but they nicely fulfil the requirement for something very portable that allows me to block out the crowds while commuting. The only problem is that you have to be pretty careful with the volume levels. If, like me, you’re not used to in-ear sound sources, you’re likely to turn the volume up past safe levels. On a few occasions now i’ve had ringing in my ears after using them for a couple of hours. You’d think i’d learn. The other thing to watch out for is that the noise floor of your sound source becomes much more important, as the music will be at a much lower level in comparison to normal headphones.
I flew over to california on the 30th of october, via london heathrow. I was quite relieved that al from my office was also travelling with me, he’s a seasoned business traveller, and knew all the various shortcuts for getting through security etc with minimum fuss. That didn’t stop him from bringing 3 laptops in his hand-luggage however, which produced an amusing scene when he was asked to place one laptop per tray at the security scanner.
For the flights, i’d been given a choice between flying 8 hours to chicago, and then 4 hours to san francisco, or 1 hour to london, and then 11 hours to san francisco. After asking around the office a bit, i opted for the route via london on the basis that the carrier was virgin atlantic, and they were strongly recommended to me by other people who’d done the trip many times. The major aspect in virgin’s favour was the on-board linux-based entertainment system built into every seat. You had an choice of about 50 movies, various seasons of tv shows, music, games, and other misc features. I watched 3 movies on the way over, plus some tv episodes, and was thoroughly impressed. It’s all on-demand, you can play/pause/resume whenever you want. With the addition of a loan of some sound-cancelling headphones from noirin, it made the entire 11-hour flight quite bearable.
The headphones themselves are quite deceptive. After a while, you think they’re not making any difference. Then you turn off the sound-cancellation, and the difference in noise is stunning. The product blurb claims it’s a perceived halving in volume, and for once that’s an understatement. I can highly recommend these for anyone who’s doing any long-haul air travel.
The rental vechicle i opted for is quite a mixed bag. The steering is quite light and well balanced, the transmission is very smooth, and there’s quite a large amount of power available. That said, the suspension is awful, it bounces up and down for ages after the most minor of bumps; the cornering is bad enough that you get tire-squeal even at very sedate turning rates; the braking, while firm, is badly hampered by the suspension preventing the tires from having decent contact with the road. It’s also so long that it tends to stick out of parking spaces into the lanes by a good 2 foot. The lights usually don’t turn off when you turn the switch, you have to flip the switch back on and off again before they change state. The locking system insists on beeping the horn every time you lock the vehicle. Unlocking the back doors of the cab require either 2 or 3 presses of the button, i haven’t figured out any pattern to this yet. The mirrors, for a vehicle of this size, are tiny and far too focused, meaning you have to move your head around a lot to try and figure out what’s around you. The few americans i’ve shown it to have burst out laughing at the size of it, so apparently it’s not just europeans who think it’s ridiculous -) Next time i’ll be opting for something smaller, thought the options aren’t exactly better looking.
Driving around mountain view some evening last week, i noticed a rather odd looking creature crossing the street. At first i thought it was some kind of disfigured dog, or possibly a racoon. Again, the oddly shaped ears (plus some googling to confirm) led me to the conclusion that it was in fact an opossum. In an ugly competition between an opossum and a pt cruiser, i’m not sure which would win (or whether winning is better than losing).
Recently i’ve been playing with rockbox, an open-source replacement firmware for a number of mp3 players (archos, iriver, ipod, iaudio). I have vague plans to work on the interface a bit to include some of the better parts of the rio karma’s ui, which is the best i’ve ever seen in a mobile device. To that end, i’ve bought an iriver h320 player off ebay. Unfortunately, it looks like it has a faulty battery, so i’ve contacted the seller to see about a replacement. The handy thing is that the seller is also here in mountain view, so i was able to drive the 1.2 miles to pick up the iriver in the first place, saving myself on shipping etc. I’m hoping this means i’ll be able to get a replacement easily before i leave on the 20th. The one issue i’ve noticed with the iriver so far is that with earphones like the e2g’s mentioned above, there is a noticeable hiss on the headphone output, regardless of volume level or whether there’s something playing. It’s only detectable with the e2g’s though, so i can probably live with it.
Speaking of the rio karma, i found a project that adds usb-mass-storage-like capabilities to the rio under linux. It rocks -)
My sleeping patterns over here have been a bit weird. The office isn’t conducive to napping, so i’ve had to try and adjust to that. What’s been happening though is that i fall asleep at night with the lights on. Many nights i’ve not actually gotten around to turning off the lights at all, despite waking up a number of times to go to the bathroom. I realised the extent of this when during a night near the end of my second week i came back into the bedroom and was lost, couldn’t figure out why. Eventually i realised it was because i hadn’t walked into this room when it was dark before. Oops. I’ve been sleeping a lot, but not very well, waking up a lot. No real idea why.
People keep asking me how google is, and how the states is, etc. The general answer is that google rocks, and america is fine. This is my second time over here, the last time being this spring to boston with skynet. During that trip, i was unimpressed by the ritual fingerprinting and taking of mugshots. Being treated like a criminal is not my idea of fun. So, i decided that if i had to return to the states on buisness at some point, ok, but such an experience was not my idea of fun, and would not be part of any future holidays. On this trip, i’ve seen nothing that would make me want to change that decision. I even went to McDonalds today, on the tenuous hope that it might be better over here. Ha. They did at least have detailed nutritional information about the food. As it turns out, the meal i ordered had well over 1300 calories. And it would have been another 300+ calories more if i hadn’t opted for a diet drink. Scary stuff. Needless to say that’s the only thing i ate today out of concern for my arteries.
Life at the Googleplex is really really good. They have many on-site masseuses. I have thus far had 2 chair massages, which last 15 minutes, and one hour-long table massage. It took a while to get used to, my mind kept drifting off to things i wanted to go do, but wow the feeling of relaxation afterwards. The campus is fairly sprawling, it takes maybe 15-20 minutes to walk from one end to the other, so each building has a stock of electric scooters to allow people to get around efficiently. The standard issue scooters have a top speed of about 15mph, but the sysops group have scooters with a turbo mode which are good for 20mph. They rock -) It’s also been really good getting to know some of the sysops group over here. The amount of knowledge and expertise they have is mind-blowing. That’s one of the reasons i love working with this company, the sheer amount i can learn here is phenomenal. Sometimes it makes me feel like a child in a shop of shiny things holding a large gift voucher -) And the food… oh the food… vast quantites and variety free, delicious. I’m really going to miss it.
I’m staying in one of the corporate apartments in mountain view itself. It’s got a net connection, and a wireless access point to share it out to the rooms. Unfortunately, this is one of those occasions where wireless sucks. I couldn’t figure out why the wireless reception was so bad. Even with my laptop sitting a foot or two away from the access point, i’d get maybe 50% signal at best. It wasn’t until i ran a wireless scanner for a few minutes that i realised why. The scanner indicated that there were 49 wireless access points within range. 802.11b and g divide the 2.4Ghz spectrum into 14 overlapping channels. In practise, there are only 3 channels that should not interfere with each other, 1, 6 and 11. Here, there are 10+ networks on both channel 6 and 11, and sufficient noise in the spectrum that there is very high levels of interference across all channels, making wireless very unreliable. Gah.
A while ago, i got published in the linux gazette with a piece on some hackery in subversion (a version control system). Last week, i received an email sent out by the editor of the linux gazette to all previous authors (at least i presume so) asking for new article submission. As it happens, i’d been working on another article on kerberos migration which started out as an email that never did get sent. So, i replied with that url saying that it wasn’t finished yet, needed some polish etc, and asked for general remarks on the content. I got a reply that contained the following:
Looks really good. Heck, the only thing that’s actually “missing” (not really missing, but that’s what’s needed to convert it from an email to an article) is a short intro header giving some background.
Incidentally, I really appreciate the good quality of the content that I’ve seen from you, Steve.
That kinda made my day.
I forgot to mention that the 4.7l petrol engine in my rented pickup delivers about the same power you’d expect from a 3.0l turbo diesel engine, which is just pathetic.
Today i 2006 November 1 6:42Posted by diamond in : Random,Work , 6 comments
- woke up after 12 hours sleep
- went to lunch with a hero
- unknowingly queued behind Sergey Brin
- drove my rented 3.7L v6 pickup truck on the road and felt slightly in control
- was approached by a woman dressed as a witch who exclaimed that i was identical to the son from Nip/Tuck (as far as i can work out, John Henson is who she was referring to), and had this likeness confirmed by a fellow diner.
- Had my first ever professional massage, in a chair
Make that a 4.7L V8 pickup truck. I hadn’t realised it wasn’t the base model. Scary scary people.
Just arrived 2006 October 31 1:20Posted by diamond in : Health,Work , 2 comments
I have just arrived in the google apartments in mountain view. I have travelled dub->lhr (1 hour) and lhr->sfo (11 hours) today, and gotten one hour’s sleep in the last 39 hours. I’ve also driven on american highways for the first time ever. The sheer terror of it boggles my fried brain. The absymal surfacing of the roads, the stunningly bad handling and suspension, the aggressive unhelpful road users, aaaaaaagh. And now at last i sleep.
I was too tired to remember clearly. It was in fact 30 mins sleep in 39 hours.
The life that is 2006 October 27 15:48Posted by diamond in : Health,Random,Work , add a comment
Things have been so so hectic since i moved to dublin. Between trying to get up to speed in work, looking for accomadation, starting a new relationship, trying to get a life together, stay sane, etc, there’s not been much room for breathing.
Myself and niall went to see a property in glenageary during the week. I looked up the dublin transport office website to see where the nearest dart station would be, and off we went. Unfortunately, i assumed that the said station was the glenageary one, and didn’t double check it. Compare the route i intended to take vs the route we actually ended up taking.
So, despite careful planning, we ended up being about 10 minutes late, and that only because my father was able to direct us over the phone when i called for help. When we arrived, there was about 15 people standing in a line outside the house, and another 4 or so inside viewing the house with the letting agent. He was taking down the names and numbers of people who were interested, but at best we were on the second page of said list. The house was lovely, and in a really nice neighbourhood, so needless to say it was off the market the next day.
It appears that the “If you haven’t paid tax this tax year all you need to do is give us your PPS number and we’ll take care of the rest” spiel we were given on the first day of starting here wasn’t exactly… accurate. When i recieved my first payslip yesterday (horray for getting paid at least -), the figures didn’t make much sense to me, so i went to talk to the payroll department. “Oh no, you’re on emergency tax, you’ll have to apply to the tax office to get a tax cert”. Huh. Anyway, that’s done, it should arrive in the next week or so… when i’m in california. Next month’s pay check is going to be severely hurting as i’m not going to be able to hand in the paperwork in time for it to processed. It could be worse, it’s just extra hassle i’d rather not have to deal with.
It appears that this whole trying to get into work in the morning from balbriggan thing is having a toll on me. I kinda collapsed on Tuesday night from exhaustion, couldn’t walk straight etc. I guess the biggest problem is the lack of permenant accomadation is preventing me from getting into any sort of routine where i can regulate things like sleeping properly.
I’m off to the states on monday, being collected from balbriggan by taxi at 03:45. There’s then a one hour flight to london heathrow, followed by an eleven hour flight to san francisco. There i’ll be collecting a rental car and driving an hour or two south to mountain view where i’ll be crashing (in the sleep sense) for as long as possible to try and recuperate. Horray for this modern jet-set lifestyle -/ I guess at least i should have a chance to relax a bit.
Asha and Jet 2006 October 12 20:51Posted by diamond in : Random,Work , 2 comments
I had a rather unusual evening today. As i was getting off of the train in balbriggan, i noticed a woman carrying a very large cardboard box off of a carriage ahead. I was thinking to myself that that must have been damn awkward to get onto the train with the amount of people crowded around when she went back onto the train to retrieve a child in a buggy. She was quite clearly flustered, and almost knocked the box off of the platform as i was approaching, so i grabbed it for her. She hurriedly said thanks and tried to move both box and buggy along the platform towards the exit. It wasn’t going well; she was obviously far too stressed and the task was too much for one person regardless. I picked up the box and motioned that i’d carry it out of the station for her.
On the way she asked me if i knew a number for a cab company in balbriggan. I said that i didn’t, but that my car was parked nearby if she’d like a lift. She seemed quite taken aback at the offer, but gladly accepted it, remarking that i was soooo nice, too nice in fact. I replied “Yeah, it’s a bit suspicious”, to which she laughed and agreed. I told her to wait at the station and that i’d be back in about 10 minutes. On the walk to the car it occurred to me that she might well either think better of taking a lift with a random stranger or find a cab in the time i was gone. Feeling a bit stressed that i might be wasting my time i returned to the station to find her sitting on the steps in front smoking a cigarette. It turned out she’d also been worrying that i might not return, and had decided to finish smoking before giving up on me.
I gave her and her daughter a lift home, stopping at supervalu on the way (where she bought me a box of cadbury’s roses to say thanks). She introduced herself as Asha. I later found out her daugher, whose name was Jet, was 4 months old. Asha is of a very mixed descent (i know irish, arabic, and japanese were mentioned in the list), is a single mother, musician with her own sca band, and is trained in a whole bunch of things all of which she regretfully admits are both really difficult and completely useless. She invited me in for a drink, which i declined until she said she wanted to play me a couple of songs she’d recorded. The first was an elvis cover, not really my taste. The second was one of her own, more in the style of pj harvey, which i approve of. After chatting for a while i took my leave as it was quite obvious she wasn’t going to relax and stop trying to say thank you every couple of sentences. All in all, it was quite a surreal experience. Here’s to stepping outside of the routine every once in a while.
I found out today that i’m probably going to the states for work for the first 3 weeks of november or so. This means i’ll probably be able to attend the ubuntu developer summit that’s being held in google hq in mountainview. Horrah -) The whole trip idea however does fill me with some fear. I’m not the most social of people, and i’ll be chucked in at the deep-end over there. I’m sure it will work out fine, i just don’t expect i’ll relax from now until i’ve been there for a week or so and not died yet -)