Jun 12, 2015

Essays in Idleness by Kenko

1283-1350 Japan. Imperial Court. Poet. Buddhist monk in 1324.

He developed the Japanese aesthetic: beauty is indissolubly bound to its perishability. He wrote, "If man were never to fade away like the dews of Adashino, never to vanish like the smoke over Toribeyama, but lingered on forever in this world, how things would lose their power to move us! The most precious thing in life is its uncertainty." He also saw that perfection chokes the immagination, as there is no room for growth.

From entry 10:

"A house, I know, is but a temporary abode, but how delightful it is to find one that has harmonious proportions and a pleasant atmosphere. One feels somehow that even moonlight, when it shines into the quiet domicile of a person of taste, is more affecting than elsewhere. A house though it may not be in the current fashion or elaborately decorated, will appeal to us..."

From entry 21:

"The wind seems to have a special power to move men's hearts."

From entry 26:

"and when I realized that she, as happens in such cases, is steadily slipping away from my world, I feel a sadness greater even than that of separation from the dead. That is why, I am sure, a man once grieved that white thread should be dyed in different colors, and why another lamented that roads inevitably fork."

From entry 81:

"Possessions should look old, not overly elaborate; they need not cost much, but their quality should be good."

From entry 140:

"If you wish something to go to someone after you are dead you should give it to him while you are still alive."

From entry 157:

"If we pick up a brush, we feel like writing; if we hold a musical instrument in our hands, we wish to play music. Lifting a wine cup makes us crave sake; taking up dice, we should like to play backgammon. The mind invariably reacts in this way to any stimulus. That is why we should not indulge even casually in improper amusements."

Jun 01, 2015

Hard Drive RPM Limits

Here is a quick listing of the real limitations of hard drive RPM as found in a post by TheSSDGuy. The comments underneath the article held a wealth of information, which I've consolidated here.

Source: Why Don't HDDs Spin Faster Than 15k RPM

It is not because the disc might break the speed of sound:

  • A 3.5" disc requires 73,105 RPM to break the sound barrier. The real reason is power consumption, which increases disproportionately with speed.
  • Multiple arms can't be used to increase throughput since at high speeds each arm causes turbuence that makes flying low hard.
  • At high speeds disk substrates (metal or glass) would stretch or disentigrate.
  • Higher speeds also magnify high-frequency flutter.
  • It takes time to ramp up the charge on the write head. As the speed increases the capacity of the disc decreases (unless the write head charge can be sped up).
  • Rotational delay is much less than seek delay, so wrong bottleneck.

May 14, 2015

Concurrency and Painting

This metaphor comes from Herlihy's The Art of Multiprocessor Programming; maybe in the future I'll extend it.

Multiprocessor synchronization and Concurrency is painting a house. You have four workers, two brushes, one roller, one ladder, and one giant can of paint. The goal here is to paint the house as fast as possible.

But having four workers isn't four times as good as having a single one - they have to share brushes and paint trays and ladders. This is called Amdahl's Law which says that the theoretical speedup of multiple painters is equivalent to: 1/(B + 1/n(1 - B)), where B is the work that can not be done at the same time.

A deadlock occurs when two painters each are waiting on the other. One has a paintbrush and desires the paint can, while the other has the can and requires the brush. Often times this can be avoided by making sure resources are acquired in a particular order ie. Everyone acquires paint before picking up a brush.

Dec 25, 2014

iTunes 11 and mp3 files

"I can't import mp3 files into iTunes 11" you say. I hear your pain.

Disclaimer, I am not importing music from audio CDs. If you're looking to do that look at the apple documentation here.


There are various ways of 'importing' an audio file into iTunes. You can drag and drop it into the window (you even get a little green plus), you can 'open with iTunes', and you can iTunes-> File-> Import Media. If none of these worked for you, you're not alone.

You might have thought to change various import settings. Nope! Those won't help you. They are geared towards importing CDs.

If you see a thread on Apple support telling you to download and compile some program to check the mp3 for 'encoding errors', ignore it.


You need to change the file format of the mp3. iTunes doesn't like to work with mp3s, it much prefers .m4a files. Don't Panic! Before you run out to purchase some sort of audio conversion software remember, you have Quicktime. Luckily Quicktime can convert your file and send it straight to iTunes.

How to send your mp3 to iTunes

  1. Open your mp3 in Quicktime (make sure it plays)
  2. Quicktime Player -> File -> Export -> iTunes...
  3. Wait for it to complete.
  4. Check your iTunes library for the new file. I'd check the 'Recently added' smart playlist.

Hopefully this works for you :)

But Wait a Minute...

Why was this so hard? Why did iTunes fail silently whenever we tried to import an mp3 file? Is it too difficult to tell the user what is the matter? Furthermore, Apple definitely knows how to convert this kind of file. Why wasn't that an option?

I think the answer is one of business. Apple wants you to buy your music from the iTunes store. If you already have audio CDs you are allowed to migrate to iTunes, but music from other digital music retailers is discouraged. After all, importing a CD is handled very gracefully by iTunes, therefore any other digital media must have been obtained through competitors.

Failing silently is very poor taste.

Aug 31, 2014

Farnam Street Blog Misc.


Technology is neither good nor bad, nor is it neutral. Melvin Kranzberg

Harris argues that there was a moment weirdly similar to this one: the year 1450. That.s the year when Johannes Gutenberg managed to invent a printing press.

a scholastic world that was initially scattered began to cohere into a consistent international conversation, one where academics and authorities could build on one another.s work rather than repeat it.

Aside from some interesting tidbits, the article was empty.

Aug 25, 2014

Aug 22, 2014

Seneca, brevity of life

Men do not suffer anyone to seize their estates, and they rush to stones and arms if there is even the slightest dispute about the limit of their lands, yet they allow others to trespass upon their life—nay, they themselves even lead in those who will eventually possess it. No one is to be found who is willing to distribute his money, yet among how many does each one of us distribute his life! In guarding their fortune men are often closefisted, yet, when it comes to the matter of wasting time, in the case of the one thing in which it is right to be miserly, they show themselves most prodigal.

And so there is no reason for you to think that any man has lived long because he has grey hairs or wrinkles; he has not lived long—he has existed long. For what if you should think that that man had had a long voyage who had been caught by a fierce storm as soon as he left harbour, and, swept hither and thither by a succession of winds that raged from different quarters, had been driven in a circle around the same course? Not much voyaging did he have, but much tossing about.

The greatest hindrance to living is expectancy, which depends upon the morrow and wastes to-day.

Households there are of noblest intellects; choose the one into which you wish to be adopted; you will inherit not merely their name, but even their property, which there will be no need to guard in a mean or niggardly spirit; the more persons you share it with, the greater it will become. These will open to you the path to immortality, and will raise you to a height from which no one is cast down.

They lose the day in expectation of the night, and the night in fear of the dawn.

This reminds me of Thoreau's life without principle. Though I haven't read it in a while.

Aug 21, 2014

Snippets from, 40 maps that explain the roman empire


"Pyrrhus won two major battles against the Romans in 280 and 279, respectively. But he took such heavy casualties in those battles that he would eventually lose the war — giving rise to the term "Pyrrhic victory."

"The first conflict occurred after Carthage intervened in a dispute on the island of Sicily, just off the southern tip of Italy. While Sicily wasn't Roman territory at the time, the Romans felt this was a little too close to home. They sent an army to expel the Carthaginian troops. The result was the First Punic War, which lasted for more than 20 years. This map shows the situation after the war: Rome gained control of the islands of Sicily, Corsica, and Sardinia making it a significant naval power for the first time."

"The Romans put their least experienced soldiers in the front line (the bottom in this picture), in hopes that the enemy would waste energy fighting them, making them too exhausted to put up a fight when they reached more experienced (and better armed) soldiers further back."

Compare this to putting the least experience in the middle between strong men. In the Iliad king Agamemnon does this to prevent cowards from fleeing.

Aug 17, 2014

Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse

From page 149:

Just so those newspaper readers -- whom he despised and scorned -- longed to get back to the ideal time before the war, because it was so much more comfortable than taking a lesson from those who had gone through it.

From page 182:

The modern man calls this sentimentality. He has lost the love of inanimate objects. He does not even love his most sacred object, his motorcar, but is ever hoping to exchange it as soon as he can for a later model.

From page 192:

An experience fell to my lot this night of the Ball that I had never known in all my fifty years, though it is known to every flapper and studetn -- the intoxication of a general festivity, the mysterious merging of the personality in the mass, the mystic union of joy.

Obligatory penultimate paragraph:

I understood it all. I understood Pablo. I understood Mozart, and somewhere behind me I heard his ghastly laughter. I knew that all the hundred thousand pieces of life's game were in my pocket. A glipse of its meaning had stirred my reason and I was determined to being the game afresh. I would sample its tortures once more and shudder again at its senselessness. I would traverse not once more, but often, the hell of my inner being.

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