Headlines for Thursday:

wp - One-man Linux army 01:22


Priorities - A: high, B: medium, C: low; Status - _: unfinished, X: finished, C: cancelled, P: pending, o: in progress, >: delegated. Covey quadrants - Q1 & Q3: urgent, Q1 & Q2: important
BX@1100 Meet Peter Shepard regarding student feedback : E-Mail from Peter Shepard
AX@1430 Go to the bank
BX@1800 Skype Mark : E-Mail from Mark Chignell
AX@1900 Help out with cooking
AX@1930 Dinner party
BXMake a release of Remember : E-Mail from Richi's server
BXPackage remember-el, really : E-Mail from Joerg Jaspert
CXPlant parsley seeds

1. One-man Linux army: 01:22

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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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2. Working with LEGO: 01:41

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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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3. Income tax info: 17:07

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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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