March 2, 2006

One-man Linux army

March 2, 2006 - Categories: linux

My boyfriend is a one-man Linux army. While all the rest of the people talk about promoting Linux, he actually goes out there and does it all by himself! He’s writing press material, manning booths, giving talks and seminars… Wow.

That’s one of the things I really admire about him. He promotes Linux
and open source not because someone’s paying him or because he hates
certain proprietary software companies, but because he believes it can
make people’s lives better. Free software can help schools spend money
on more important things, like facilities, textbooks, and teacher
salaries. Open source software can help people learn and grow. He
wants people to discover it, so he’ll go ahead and stand under the
scorching sun and talk about Linux to people who don’t see why they
shouldn’t just go and pirate software.

It’s a thankless job among people who don’t appreciate it as anything
beyond an opportunity to get another signature for their visit sheets,
like the way many people attend seminars only for the certificate. But
there’s always the chance that he’ll get a kid interested in free and
open source software, and who knows what will happen then?

I love him even more for doing it, and I wish I could be there to
help. Dear reader, here is a man who cares about the world and does
something to help it, even when other people are apathetic or
pessimistic. This is one of the reasons why I think he’s just so
amazing, and I wanted to share it with you.

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Working with LEGO

March 2, 2006 - Categories: Uncategorized

Thanks to Calum Tsang, I’ve been able to play around with the LEGO
Mindstorms robotics kit without actually having to mess around with
anything that requires spatial visualization. I’ve never really gotten
the hang of getting gears and whatnot to work together. Fortunately,
Calum is absolutely brilliant when it comes to that sort of stuff, so
all I really need to worry about is just making sure that I produce
the right output given the input.

LEGO presents quite a challenge. We use Not Quite C (nqc) to program
the robot, and it _really_ is not quite C. I’ve run into the parser’s
limitations a gazillion times, from wondering why on earth some of the
binary operators don’t accept variables to wishing I could define a
function that returns a value instead of having to pass everything
around in global variables. It’s fun working within those constraints,
though.

Debugging is a mission, too. No println debugging here! Numbers and
beeps are all I have, and the compile-download-run cycle can be a bit
slow. We’re still having problems with the infrared communication
between two of the control modules, but Calum thinks it’s because I’m
flooding the communication buffer. We’ll try twiddling that on Friday
to see if we can get it to work before the competition on Saturday.

Maybe he can teach me how to put together some of the really simple
assemblies – the bumper, perhaps? I’m completely pfft when it comes to
spatial things, but that could be a way for me to ease into it. Just
as Kathy’s circus stuff helped me learn coordination and rhythm, maybe
LEGO can help me learn how to hold spatial structures in my head. In
the meantime, I actually enjoy working within the constraints of the
system.

It’s also a refreshing break from the kind of programming work I
normally like doing. As Calum pointed out earlier, I’m one of the
near-mythical programmers who actually prefers maintaining other
people’s code and (gasp) writing a little documentation here and
there. For these little LEGO contests, all I need to do is hack
together some code that will be thrown away afterwards. It feels more
like a logic puzzle than a proper program. I don’t have the feeling of
working on something that makes someone’s life easier and better, but
I do feel that it exercises my brain and keeps me limber.

So, yeah. LEGO is fun. =)

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Income tax info

March 2, 2006 - Categories: -Uncategorized

From the Graduate Students Union digest:

Your T2202A (the tuition fee receipt from U of T) is not
mailed out – you must download the receipt from ROSI. If you deferred
your Sept.- Dec. 2005 tuition, it will not appear on your T2202A but
you can still claim it on your 2005 tax return. You can get a revised
T2202A once you pay your tuition – call Student Accounts, 416-978-2142
for info about how to get a revised T2202A if needed. International
students: check the International Student Centre’s website for
specific income tax information –
http://www.isc.utoronto.ca/iscservices/taxsession.htm. You can file
your income tax, on-line, for free – this is a service of the Canadian
Federation of Students. For information: http://ufile.ca/home/cfs.asp

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