Thursday, December 30, 2010

KISS ubuntu on a tablet for grandma || WIP

What I really wish worked but doesn't because unity's bar likes thinking my tablet pen clicks are drag-and-drops, and can't make sure that single-click always brings that icon's window above everything else:

Tabmixplus settings: TMPpreferencesfirefox.txt

 [post in progress:]
out-of-box, ubuntu 10.10 maverick meerkat works mighty fine on fujitsu t4220 lifebook. suspend, brightness, suspend. hibernate I'm not sure about.

wubi install in chinese
vista: change boot order
ubuntu: autologin after 3 secs
ibus -- gconf-editor, super_l (not mod4, not super) to next-in-menu,
i wish tegaki was more useful :/
theme: giant red cursor, noticeable scrollbars
appearance: giant font sizes
firefox: giant font, tabmixplus settings to "single window single tab" mode, gmail autologin, minimalist gmail extension (last update: aug 2010, not completely function as of today but still nice), disable check for add-on updates, disable history except for cookies, install adblockplus, some flash stuff
firefox: add bookmarks, remove other buttons from toolbars, set homepage to gmail
gmail settings: keyboard shortcuts off, hide a lot of labels, Fail: about:config not needed, Fail: Prism doesn't work, Fail: it's ~/桌面 not ~/Desktop

discover "bug"? where dragging ibus language bar to any of unity's bars "locks" the bar :/ to fix, have to log-out, select "U. desktop edition, log-in and fix, log-out, select "UNR", log-in. I guess if you place it correctly, keeps me from having to worry about grandma dragging around the language bar. LB only needed because Pinyin allows switch to English, but this isn't reflected anywhere except on language bar, while turning Ibus on/off (aka switching to English) is reflected in notification area. Also, I hate that I can't move the Ibus icon around or make it larger.

lol at the random popups that turn up in english

ubuntu: disable screen locking (screensaver and suspend), edit power settings, disable automatic updates
remove crap from unity default menu, struggle in main to remove rest of icons, Fail: one desktop, experiment with double-click vs single-click, Fail: cannot change unity icons / menu bar size,

contemplate UROP working on ibus or a chinese handwriting recognition engine. could earn mone and chill with grandma more.

reflect that chrome netbook app was teh fails since i didn't describe my vision of an all-GUI gmail interface. nor integrating with chinese handwriting recognition.

:/ if only ibus and tegaki worked better. i skipped reading 小王子 with grandma for this, but i don't feel like I accomplished all that much...

Fail: can't solve issue of double-click unity, firefox is left with "another process already running", which if you close working window, click or double-click on FF icon doesn't work. Must hit close. (also, that pop-up is entirely in English :/)

Mouse settings: maximum drag and drop, minimum double-click,
keyboard: don't repeat key when hold and press,

Switch to Sand theme for more visible scrollbars. To investigate: how to make that "blue outline" when you're in a particular text input box more visible.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

1and1: Shell access on (Linux) Home and Beginner accounts / Installing Prestashop || WIP

[Shell access on 1and1 (Linux) Home and Beginner accounts ] ...kind of. In a ghetto way.
(||WIP: format code, links. organize in steps.)

According to, Home and Beginner accounts don't have shell access (you can't ssh, only ftp) which sucks. Also, their ftp upload speed is insanely slow on my computer for whatever reason. Working off of the genius of, I can avoid learning PHP for a few more hours.

  1. create a getpresta.php file
    1. <?php
      echo shell_exec( 'echo This is a wget started at time:' );
      echo shell_exec( 'date' );
      echo shell_exec( 'wget ""' );
      echo shell_exec( 'echo This is a unzip php started at time:' );
      echo shell_exec( 'date' );
      echo shell_exec( 'unzip' );
      echo shell_exec( 'echo This is a unzip finished at time:' );
      echo shell_exec( 'date' );
  2. ftp to your 1and1 site (u1234123, and your password)
  3. copy over getpresta.php
  4. go to
    This should not take too long (more than 2 or 3 minutes)! If it takes too long, hit refresh. you may need to delete any partially-downloaded or unzipped files via FTP.

For Prestashop:
create .htaccess file for php5
AddType x-mapp-php5 .php

[edit 27 jan 2010: fixed missing ?php line, updated version from 1.3.4 to 1.3.6]

Tegaki: chinese handwriting recognition on ubuntu maverick [meerkat 10.10]

In short, in a terminal, type in:
sudo apt-get install ibus-tegaki
sudo apt-get tegaki-zinnia-simplified-chinese

Pinyin / keyboard-based Chinese IME works well enough in Ubuntu, but tablet recognition is iffy.

The tegaki 0.3.1 packages are already in the meerkat universe repositories. (ibus-tegaki, tegaki-zinnia-simplified-chinese), so it's super straightforward.

(if when you type in above the terminal says "can't find package", you need to enable to universe repositories. Via command line: Via GUI: go to [Applications > Ubuntu Software Center > Edit > Software Sources] and make sure that "universe" is checked.

Maybe you also need to install libzinnia0, not sure.

Yay, that's it! If you need to, start the Ibus daemon. [System > Preferences > Keyboard Input Methods] should prompt you to start the daemon if you haven't already. Then go to [Input Method > Select an Input Method... > Other > tegaki] and hit [Add].
You can also try [... > Chinese > Pinyin]  and hit [Add]. Note that that's a capital-P! "pinyin" is for typing the tone marks.

Now you can select "tegaki" as an Ibus input method like normal (by clicking the keyboard ibus icon in the notication area), and I think the default keyboard shortcuts are [left-alt + shift] for switching inputs and [ctrl-space] for turning Input Methods on and off.

Tegaki does some weird hogging-the-input on my computer sometimes, though, and I can't even turn it off via IBus>Restart. I have to go ps x | grep ibus, sudo kill -9 [process #], ibus-daemon (to restart ibus), which is silly.

I can't get the wagomu engine to install though. :/ grr it keeps saying "can't find wagomu.h"

Also, ibus and tegaki are teh fails compared to Vista [Business and Up]'s Tablet PC Input Panel recognition. Tegaki is unsuitable for my give-tablet-to-grandma project. Sometimes it works beautifully, but my dad and I spent 15 minutes trying to write "那" before we gave up. Also, there's no way to enter in pinyin to shore up the recognition fail, and there's no way to easily enter English characters. There's no way I'm going to tell my grandma "Then you go down to this corner here and click and pick English handwriting recognition."

I was puzzling over this and then I used Vista Biz's tablet pc UI and it did address all of these issues (of course, some issues are obviated because its handwriting recognition feature is, for the most part, accurate, so there's no need for a back-one-stroke in addition to a back-entire-strokes and delete-all-characters-I've-approved-but-not-yet-inserted = 3 delete buttons).

Of course, this means I should haxor on the tegaki code, but ?? I have no idea where to get started and wish I could just skype with the developer for 30 minutes. I bet that would save me 20 hours of confusion.

Also to consider:
  • Running Vista Business in a VM inside Ubuntu (if I can find or order the restore media), writing code to access its input panel technology
  • Plunking down 40 euros for
Alternatively, I could keep spamming my living group's mailing list and hope someone's interested enough to tackle this with me, or start spamming SIPB's mailing list

Also, my ssh is still more broken than not so I can't even anti-social-tastically whine on Zephyr and keep my daily realization that I hate computers from polluting the internets.

Useful command line of the day:
apt-cache search [search term]

apt-cache search tegaki


Monday, December 27, 2010

Zencart, Prestashop, and LAMP (on Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat 10.10) ||WIP

|| WIP: add links, fill out zencart, format with code tags

Yay for adapting instructions from books that only explain how to do things on Windows!

Anyway, I hate any sort of reinventing the wheel, so here goes.

Also, I would like to note that Zencart is so much more responsive than Prestashop when I installed both on the localhost server on my netbook, it's not even funny (<1 second compared to 5+ seconds to load the homepage). Maybe it's because I installed the sample data for Prestashop but not Zencart, but it would make sense that software created back then is much less of a (database-calls?)-resource-hog than software made nowadays, unfortunately.

My system:
Ubuntu 10.10

Set up LAMP (localhost server)
sudo tasksel install lamp-server
Explanation: Ubuntu/Debian software comes in packages and tasks, which are collections of packages.
Useful commands:
sudo /etc/init.d/apache2 restart

sudo apt-get install phpmyadmin
IMPORTANT: Hit "enter" when you tab down to select apache2 (see * in pic below) Otherwise, it gets rather painful.

Google will tell you to make a symlink, ala sudo ln -s /usr/share/phpmyadmin /var/www/phpmyadmin (, but apparently that has security issues and the correct method is to 
sudo apt-get remove phpmyadmin
sudo apt-get install phpmyadmin
and hit Enter this time. 



Apache2 looks for sites in /var/www by default ( This directory is root-access only, so we'll download the zip and unzip inside a regular directory so that they unzip with the right permissions (unzipping the the /var/www does NOT work, if I access any pages with my web browser I'll get "503 Permissions" errors).
Let the normal folder be ~/MyProjects/presta, and let the folder we'll want to install into be /var/www/pshop.
  1. cd ~/MyProjects/presta
  2. Download zip of version you want:
    wget “"
  3. Unzip in normal nautilus:
  4. LAMP-specific: Now move to the apache localhost server directory:
    sudo mv /var/www/pshop
    (Explanation of /var/www:
  5. http://localhost/pshop/install in a browser, finish the first step,
    and get to Step 2: System and Permissions.
    (This is more reliable than following which was apparently outdated list of files I need to chmod.
    1. Fix gd2:
      sudo vi /etc/php5/apache2/php.ini
      Add extension=php_gd2.dll in there anywhere
      (php-gd2 package was already installed when i checked in synaptic, otherwise we need to install it)
    2. Set appropriate file permissions: (Hint: Hit the "update" button on the page after you chmod, NOT the refresh button) 
      cd /var/www
      sudo chmod 777 pshop
      cd pshop
      1. Prestashop v.1.4 alpha 2 (aka 1.4.06):
        sudo chmod 777 config upload download tools/smarty/compile tools/smarty/cache/ sitemap.xml
        sudo chmod 777 -R img mails modules themes/prestashop/lang translations themes/prestashop/cache
      2. Prestashop v1.3.5:sudo chmod 777 config tools/smarty/compile sitemap.xml
        sudo chmod 777 -R img mails modules themes/prestashop/lang translations upload download
    3. If you want to check that your permissions are correct (and not hit bogus "503 permissions" or "you need javascript" errors):
      ls -l | grep js
      should output:
      drwxr-xr-x   5 root root   4096 2010-12-26 11:28 js
  6. Click Next to go to Step 3. Database Configuration.
    1. Create a database for our prestashop site.
      In another browser tab or window: go to http://localhost/phpmyadmin
      In the field [MySQL localhost > Create new database], type in “pshop” and hit [Create]
    2. In the tab with http://localhost/pshop/install, enter in your details
      Database Server: localhost
      Database Name: pshop
      ... your MySQL username and password (what you use to login to PHPMyAdmin] ...
      Hit [Verify Database] to make sure you entered everything correctly
    3. Pick "full" or "simple" install
  7. Click Next. Wait a few seconds (an animated bar will appear at the top of the screen)
    Step 4. Now we can visit our site @ http://localhost/pshop, yay!
    but if we visit our backend, http://localhost/pshop/admin, it will remind us to delete the install folder and rename the admin folder:
    sudo rm -r install
    sudo mv admin sekrit123
    sudo rm readme*.txt
  8. Now, login to admin @ http://localhost/pshop/sekrit123 (obviously, you should use something other than "sekrit123" for your folder)
  9. Screwed up Prestashop? No problem, just delete the folder and the database and repeat above steps again.
    1. cd /var/www/
      sudo rm -r pshop
    2. go to: http://localhost/phpmyadmin/index.php?db=pshop
      or, more flexibly, go to http://localhost/phpmyadmin and on the left-hand side click the name of the database you want to drop
    3. Click on the "Drop" tab in red. It warns you that you're DESTROYING a database, click okay (this always makes me feel like going "mwahaha!" ^^)
    4. Copy the prestashop folder you downloaded and unzipped over to /var/www again.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Profs should learn customer support best practices to help students || post-in-progress

you know what frustrates me about the way stellar and professors and TAs handle questions?
I feel like they don't implement Customer Support best practices. :P "Create an FAQ". (
Really, that's what it boils down to. "why are you answering questions individually instead of..." "why does no one use the forums" ...
I think this should be a crucial issue for Stellar.

Of course, I really respect my professors and TAs and they were all super-awesome and superhumanly patient with me.

|| this is a post-in-progress || to do: add links ||

[ctrl-shift-c]: chrome "inspect element" versus gnome terminal "paste" rant

Merry Christmas all! :)

I've been having a lot of fun doing all the things I wanted to do during the semester, but didn't have time to (thanks MIT). Unfortunately, this isn't "developing girl crushes" or "playing more games" or "watching TV" or even "hanging out with friends IRL." It's been "let's learn drupal, and certificates, and try to understand fourier transforms, and not fail classes next semester [:/ this is already starting to stress me out], and learn Chinese, and hang out with my family." Now there's only a week of Winter Break left before I head back to MIT and do Everything Ever during IAP. O__o;

Mrmm. Maybe there's something wrong with me. Oh well! :D

[rant follows]
Anyway, I wanted to say, WHY? Why is Chrome's "inspect element" keyboard shortcut set to [ctrl-shift-c] and, more importantly, why can't I change it? 

GNOME terminal uses [ctrl-shift-c] as the shortcut for copying (because [ctrl-c] isn't paste but rather "quit this thing right NOW") so I'm in the terrible habit of always hitting both by default now. But then I'm pasting code from Chrome and this "Inspect Element" thing comes up and eats an inch out of my 5 vertical inches of screen-space and now I've got this weird blue box following me around and my netbook is like "uhm what no haz processing power" and I'm like "aughhh I just wanted to copy something" and then I escape out of Inspect Element (hint: hit [ctrl-shift-c] again) and I try to [ctrl-shift-v] in terminal and it turns out that in the midst of fighting with Chrome, I'd totally forgotten about hitting [ctrl-c] as well. So nothing copies. Except now I go back and there's a good chance that since I just hit [ctrl-shift-v] in terminal, now I'm going to try to hit [ctrl-shift-c] in Chrome, AGAIN.

Also, however Chrome is integrating flash [video], it fails mightily compared to FF. I can run vimeo movies without skip in FF but not so for Chrome.

FF does seem slow on most pages compared to Chrome though, but that may be because of the 800 plugins I have installed.

Also, the download bar in Chrome is useful, but can't they have an "autohide" or "slide out" option? because it eats up 10% of my vertical screen space. It's like viewing the world through blinders.
[Edit 1/10/10: So it turns out there's an "x" all the way to the right that I missed due to having electrical tape covering that side of my screen]
Actually, I'd love it if the address bar only came up when I hit [ctrl-l] because I have everything else at my fingertips [ctrl-left arrow / right arrow], [ctrl-r] except for the delicious "tag" button (speaking of which, that's a rant for another time). Also, I'm forced to use the "system title bar" to have a good idea of what page I'm on (consider when I'm looking up answers on Ubuntu Forums and have 20 tabs open from that site... the favicons don't really help me distinguish pages). That bar eats up another 5% of vertical screen space, which is rather unfortunate.

Lately there's been these weird glitches, I think in both FF and Chrome, where the system title bar displays a page title for a page that I'm not on. Not sure if it's an effect of having 6000 tabs open, but I hadn't noticed it before a week ago.

ecommerce: magento vs. zencart vs. drupal ubercart

|| WIP: add links to relevant articles ||

Are you going to be using shared hosting (this is probably true for most small businesses at first)? Don't use Magento; it requires your own dedicated top-notch servers to run at good speeds. Magento is also extremely complex.

Are you solely ecommerce or do you want the flexibility to build a community around your products?
Use Drupal to build community. Also, searching for "migrating from zencart to drupal" gives more hits than vice versa; admittedly, only one or two major posts, but reasonable enough.

Do you need multilingual support?
Don't use drupal 6, the current version, because apparently it is made of fail. Wait for Drupal 7. While you're at it, consider waiting for UberCart 3, or its apparent competitor Drupal Commerce.

I think I'm returning to Zencart. Who needs social websites, anyway? x.x

Prestashop seems nice (although I really like the OpenCart backend and apparantly the Smarty template Prestashop uses is made of fail, there's not a good gallery of shiny opencart websites and free themes to convince me of the frontend). However, slow.

Loading times / speeds of zencart and prestashop:
( hitting refresh on the main page
on localhost server on my hp2140 )

  • Zencart with all sample data ("full install"): 1 second
  • Prestashop full install: 16 seconds =(
  • Prestashop simple install: 2.5 seconds

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

useful bash / vi commands

it's always fun to realize your ghetto workarounds were obsolete decades ago.

Instead of Tomboy > Ctrl-D "insert timestamp"
Try bash ~$ date

Instead of converting
fooemail, email2, email3 

by hand (end, delete, ctrl-arrow, space, delete, ...), try

~$ vi emails.txt

Also, "watch" for monitoring terminal (to your monitor) outputs instead of "tail -f" for monitoring file outputs

And [!] for accessing [history] commands by their number, and the [up-arrow] for previous commands

Also, ever tried to copy-paste a pdf table? (e.g. the innumerable schedules that professors think Must Be In PDF and put up on Stellar =/ has anyone heard of HTML? For the most part it's just as standardized and accessible and I don't end up with 600 files, 200 duplicates scattered my filesystem). It fails miserably, but again vi comes to the rescue, easily.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Yay! fixed it's group reordering issues. It sounds like it might've just been Chrome.

I was just wondering again if had become another one of those neglected, forgotten projects that the developer never passed on. Thank you, twitter and twitter search for being a fairly reliable to find out the most recent status of some project or other.

But I guess I have to agree with ... wish had better support :)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

technology review

bad: stacks of technology review, at EC desk, unread
better: keep a dozen for EC people to peruse and return after read, donate the rest to schools / other deserving people (parents? have the option to pay a bit and have it shipped to parents?)

I don't know why we all get free copies of technology review, but really, you only need a dozen per dorm or thereabouts, not 500. It's wasteful.

Friday, December 17, 2010

PDFs need: image "links" where you can hover over the link and there'll be a lightbox (or popup? O.o because need zooming buttons) of the image. Useful for lecture notes when they refer to images on say the previous page, where even "view> dual" doesn't work

Also / alternatively, a "view>dual" on pdf readers that let's you choose how the 2-pages-views are split (this working whether you're "view>continuous" or not is optional), e.g. create (2page) from
(1,2) (3,4) ..
(2,3) (4,5) ...

Ubuntu still needs a tabbed pdf reader...

Monday, December 13, 2010

making wheels

metal circles are really useful, but how do you make them?
for wheels, bike rims...

Anyway, I'm thinking of this again, because I recently visited Haystack Observatory, and they have this giant metal circular track that's bent railroad track. [edit: and by giant I mean 50'+ diameter GIANT) And because of imperfections in the circle which come from bending railroad track, the concrete is actually cracked as the antennae rotates. Is that the state-of-the-art of giant metal circle making?

1. Maker Faire NYC:
giant 5 ft wheels: apparently they just picked the rim up as trash from electrical work around the city

2. Mars's Pennyfarthing:
which sits rider-less at MITERS because he miscalculate and his legs won't reach the pedals-
apparently, there was round table of the right-ish diameter (3 feet?), so he just took the ?steel? and literally rolled it with his hands...


3. Bend some conduit? They... probably wouldn't stand up to use though, if you can bend them that easily.

4. Plastic instead of metal -- melt plastic bags and form as appropriate (Star has this up on Instructables somewhere)

Would metal casting work? For small wheels, I guess there's no reason why not.
Make induction furnace to melt aluminum (Josh is building this). Pink styrofoam insulation cut out in the shape of a wheel with a bit sticking out. Sand to bury the styrofoam except for a small bit. Pour Al, melt styrofoam to nothingness.

The internets hold few answers.

Machine 'em: some amazing model train wheels here:
(details here:

The English wheel threw me for a bit, but it's more for planar curved surfaces, not rims:
(see pics here:

anyway, I should stop punting (aughhh 2.005, I just want to throw in the towel and fail the final and go on my merry way.... >.<) (is it a hub motor? O.o)

[edit 16 dec 2010 -- yay finals punting] Well, yike bike's hubless so it's clearly not a hubmotor ^^;
Also, page 25 on this guide says custom wheels can be made with "three plates: Two outer flanges, one (or more) slightly smaller middle."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

zephyr needs: 
persistence between logins (provided by screen right now) (logs aren't really the solution)
a GUI (people are working on webzephyr)

integration with stellar (for logs for classes)

So many things to learn!

I don't need to take a class to get permission to learn something.

I'm in course 2 (mechanical engineering) because I like 2.007 (robots! FRC!) and 2.008 (toy yo-yos) and 2.009 (product design). While I was looking forward to 2.009 to magically give me the skills to build everything ever, Charles has been building stuff for so long that he thinks of 2.009 as rather institutionalized and drawn out. Haha, such different perspectives.

also, because course 6 is very depressing to be in for someone coming in with relatively little background :)

things learned from failing my 6.005 project earlier this week: debug early. try out test-based coding. start inhaling caffeine earlier.
Also, ignore everyone else concerned about not getting As (I just want to pass, this semester. This semester was special, it's okay that I screwed up).

There's so many opportunities here. It's hard for me to keep a coherent idea of what I want to do.
* help out with Sana (software)
* help out with RFID cowtagging (hardware)
* continue work with La Vaquita
* do better in classes
* UROP in research, not building
* interact with people on hall more
* learn more about energy
* do mediocre in classes, make awesome things / work on my own crazy ideas
* do mediocre in classes and making things, participate in awesome activities (jiu jitsu, caving, radio, newspaper, flying, debate, a gazillion things that I'd like to know more about)
* talk to my grandma more
* talk to my friends more
* sleep more??
* draw, practice languages, cook

Speaking of conflicted identities, should I drink my tea sweet or bitter? As a Southerner or as a Chinese-American? :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Wow, coding does not understand time limits. Everything takes 3x as long as hoped for... simple things turn out to not be so simple.

But I'm really happy. Despite maybe we won't finish on time, we definitely won't have the coolest project, but I'm happy to be getting course credit for learning to code. I'm happy that I have an excuse to burn hours coding.

This is only possible, of course, because I have less homework this week-- I don't have 2 psets, which if done fully would require roughly 10 hours each.

I should be studying, though, which is the point of no psets. Oh well. I think I'll just enjoy my caffeinated sleep-deprived moment, where I marvel at the difference between my confidence at the beginning of the semester and the end of the semester.
"I can't code" -> "If only I could code more efficiently, could code better..."

But I'm not daydreaming about all the things I wish I could do if only I could code... I'm having fun chomping down on little chunks of coding ideas and really learning stuff.

And my team members are really nice and supportive.

Now back to coding a networked anti-battleship game in Java... oh and throw in the design amendment with cheating and hash checking and AI... now force-feed to students, some of whom have never written any GUI or network code before :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

grooveshark ui thoughts

grooveshark seems to time out faster with the update

i wish they would give a small audio beep-beep 10 seconds before stopping the music and asking me to hit "resume, so instead of the music stopping entirely I can switch over quickly, hit a "i'm still here" button, and the music never stops flowing.

right now, like with pandora ads, i only really notice grooveshark when I'm annoyed by its asking me to hit resume

twitter for peer discovery, 6.005

why I wish I was able to exhale code:
using twitter instead of udp for peer discovery (why do you need a server? just playing antib over twitter)
cracking the hash -- use rainbow tables? hmm. how did they do it?? can we do it better? mmm. can i just join their team temporarily to work on their AI? lol.

[edit dec 7 2010] asuther suggested the twitter idea, after I ran into the lounge and explained how "everything must twitter" was fulfilled by a 6.005 team that had a working twitter button in their game
and hash cracking is a natural route for AI because of the very weak security system we're using (no salts, very low key entropy)

I accidentally a 6.005

and itś eating my life and making me wish I knew how to code / had nothing to do except 6.005


why am I in this class? I can´t program.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

e resources shortcut links, mit

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Stellar thoughts

Features I would like:

some way to "sync" to the Materials or Homework sections, so that I automatically get new psets.

a forum that people used, or some way to find people willing to pset around the same time / place (that... that sounds like a smart phone app sort of thing, actually. But I don't have a smart phone >.>)

It sounds like they're changing the backend for Stellar NG and not so much the front-end.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

[free] Open Office Resume Template for Undergraduates (MIT) - for UPOP

(free, I don't care how you use it)

[update 4/3/11: I've since changed the design based on feedback, primarily addressing the date/location formatting inconsistency, the small font, the multiple colors (shades of gray) and font sizes, and really killed more information off of my resume to make it less crowded.]

There's an openoffice (.odt) resume template there. Along with the
  • resultant PDF (or  
  • here if you prefer google docs), and a  
  • screenshot of what it looks like in OpenOffice if you want a preview (the table lines are invisible when you export it).
    [EDIT: 15 Nov 2010] I tried exporting to .doc; it's fairly messed up, but possibly fixable. I'm not interested in fixing it, but good luck.  
  • Here is the template in .doc

It looks nicer when it's filled in :)

It's what my current resume is based off of; sort of derived from one of the UPOP sample resumes (if you're in UPOP, sign in and see "Resources")
I remixed it from one of the openoffice templates, the one that has blue borders.

Also useful:

As a preview, this is what the English one looks like:


Anyway, documentation for my template:

The relevant styles (edit> styles and formatting, find the style you want, right-click and hit "modify") are

  • resume (for the leftmost column titles)
  • Heading 1 (for the company/lab names)
  • description/title (for the job descriptions)
  • bullet list (for all the bulleted text)
  • Default (for all the other text, dates, etc.)

If you want to change the order of your rows or something, you have to Create New Row, Copy Old Row and Paste into New Row, finally Delete Old Row.

However,  In openoffice, Copy & Paste either doesn't preserve the formatting (e.g. the date column) or doesn't copy anything at all is there's a "dimension mismatch" in a sense

Thus, for moving rows or creating new sections, note that there's two types of sections. (A)The "skills" section with just a field for bullet points, and (B) the "experience" section with a company name+date+location and a field for bullet points. (see screenshot if you're confused)

  • If you're moving same-type sections around:
    • Select (left-click, drag) appropriate (B) rows / (A) row, and Right-click> Row > Insert... > Before / After.
  • If you want a different section:
    • To move a section (A) from before (B) to after (B) (or vice verse)
      • Follow above to create new (B) section
      • Then select the row for (company name+date+location) and Right-click > Row > Delete
      • Copy over (A) contents
      • Delete old (A) row
    • To move (B) to before or after (A)
      • Think of it in terms of moving (A) to before or after (B) (yes, be an engineer and solve problems), because you can't "add rows" from (A) and then copy (B) over because (B) is "richer" than (A) so it won't "fit"

Yay, you keep it so that all the columns are aligned together.

For bullets, Format > Bullets and Numbering,
"width of numbering" is what really effects the spacing between the bullets and the text
"minimum space numbering <-> text" sets a minimum, so it may or may not effect your spacing
"indent" sets the spacing between the table cell boundary and your bullet

Also, see Format > Page if you want A4 instead of letter, or to adjust the page margins.

See Right Click > Table > Borders to adjust the "Spacing to Contents" fields

Also note the checkbox "Table Boundaries" when you right-click, that lets you toggle viewing of what it looks like when export to PDF, aka without the table boundary lines drawn in if you set Table > Borders to the "Line Arrangement" with no lines like I did.

View > Nonprinting Characters is useful for troubleshooting things like the mysterious, hard-to-get-rid-of blank line that appears after the table. (something about a table is attached to a paragraph so there always has to be a paragraph)

If you get a blank line which creates a new page after the table, go to the end of last cell in the table and hit "shift-ctrl-del" ("del" by itself on the blank line does nothing, and backspace goes into the table instead of removing the line). The line will come back if you save and re-open the document, though *shrug*

Saturday, November 13, 2010


In One Day, All Children... , which chronicles the founding of Teach for America from the founder's viewpoint, she mentions that part of the inspiration was seeing people with good educational backgrounds flourish at Princeton where others with backgrounds that prepared them less adequately struggle to do well at Princeton.

Is this an anecdote, or is there a causal relationship between the two? I just realized that somewhere I got it into my head that "Regardless of background, everyone who comes to MIT can do well because (a) their inner potential (b) MIT's resources." I would be interested in crunching data for rough approximants such as neighborhood wealth of graduating school and GPA.

In other news, MIT FML has some oddly encouraging people on it who have good advice for adjusting to MIT.

[Edit 14-Nov-2010]
Maja (my freshman roommate ^^) recommended Waiting for "Superman", a movie that came out recently on this topic. I've yet to see it, but Maja says that it's good.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


(draft-ish, as most of my blog posts are)
Ever since spending 12 weeks in China (that is, incredibly, more time than I spend in a semester at MIT learning 6000x things... Man oh man did I waste my time this summer, in some senses), I've called into question a lot of my own beliefs.

I'm a passionate believer in the ideas behind the Millennium Development Goals (or here if Wikipedia's sad), so it seems like I should also fall in the group of people who agitate for human rights. Growing up in the United States of America, I should be a passionate believer in democracy. To me it should be
... depressing (depending on your viewpoint) ... that Obama has failed to press Russia or China very hard on rights, given how little leverage Washington has with these powers--and how such pressure has backfired in the past.

To add to that, this summer I found out that one of the relatives I'm closer to is child-less because she spent 20 years in prison. She loves children all the more for it. In fact, I learned that the story of my family's ties to the Communist Party are just as convoluted as the story of Communism in China itself (My grandfather's picture is in a small museum about the Revolution. He had a chance of being high up in the Community Party, but since my grandma, originally also a Party member, became leftist, in part due to the Party's treatment of aforementioned relative, he had to choose between staying with her and career advancement. He chose her.)*
*(don't hold me to the details here -- my memory ain't the best)

In some sense, then, my summer was invaluable. Irreplaceable, since my grandma passed away recently. My rant on the Chinese hospital system, I'll save for another day.

My heart cries out that we still live in a world where the injustice of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, of Aung San Suu Kyi, these wrongs can be perpetuated for so long. Where there are so many human rights violations in China.

Speaking of which, how do many Chinese think of the Tibetan situation? They buy the line that, in order for China to remain whole, we need to speak a common language. That's the function of Mandarin, why Tibetans are being taught Mandarin in schools. It's a net benefit to them -- many Tibetans, the western regions of China in general, are poor and can achieve better living standards by working with other Chinese, with the government. In America, everyone loves the Dalai Lama. He stands for peace, for love -- how could I not support him?

But my own relatives are more ambivalent. Because they've been prejudiced into not hearing what he actually stands for? If I supported the Dalai Lama, should my heart not equally cry out at the injustice being perpetuated on the Tibetan people by insisting they be a part of China?

Have the Chinese people been blinded by government propaganda, by growing up with biased textbooks? What is the truth? (Is there no truth? No way to know which way is truly "right," whether in two hundred years Tibetans will become a proud part of the ethnicities of China? Whether Tibetans will "gain" more than they "lose" from being a part of China?)

I get such strongly contrasting opinions from my friends in the USA. Since I live in the USA, I should be an ardent patriot, right? Since I believe in human rights, shouldn't I research our policies, defend my country with fierce debate and rhetoric?

The USA...

My beliefs became ever more conflicting when Arka, putz's resident Patriotic Indian (i.e. very proud of Indian democracy) told us how many Indians view Gandhi, that favorite of human rights activists and Westerners. That many Indians dislike Gandhi for tearing their country apart into Pakistan and India. That the independence of India was inevitable due to Britain's changing place in the world, and did not arise from the charisma of Gandhi. I'd never considered this, that perhaps Gandhi wasn't a universal standard of Good.

The USA...

Where our security services gets away with whizzing foreign citizens around and wrongly imprisoning people for years (and these are just the people we hear about). Where Guantanamo Bay exists. Where we decide to invade a country halfway around the world.

Where a relative of mine was arrested and made fun of in their local newspaper for not interpreting the police officer correctly and speedily enough (the arrest was baseless and unnecessary). Where the freedom of the press sometimes results in human deaths and other tolls, despite journalists' best efforts.

This kind of shattered my illusions about and belief in the fairness of our justice system. Do I still believe in its overall fairness and justice? Do I believe its the best possible approach given our human fallibilities? I don't know.

I'm not unpatriotic. I love America and the opportunities it afforded my parents to let me get to where I am today; the opportunities it affords me today. As my parents have said again and again, though, only they who love me so much would ever give me the criticism that I need to hear. Perhaps it's something similar for me... I love the promise of the USA so much, that I would like to see the reality of the USA get even better.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Reuse, and Societal Norms

Instead of valuing reuse like valuing recycling, society seems to attach a stigma of poverty and lower-class status to it. If you have money, why would you want to wear a shirt that someone else has given away?

My parents definitely have this mentality. I suspect that they may be particularly sensitive to this, as they've worked extremely hard to go from being very poor immigrants to where we are today. I should be dressing up, aspiring to be high class, not reusing.

On the other hand, I have, for some reason, grown much more radical ideas concerning reuse and appearances. Reuse@mit is amazing. I wear other people's cast-off shirts for activities that I know will destroy my shirt. My bike frame and front bike wheel are from different salvages, and my bike is painted in ghetto coloring to discourage theft.

This is possibly due to my indecisiveness at spending money. Since I've made so few purchases in my lifetime, and since some of those have bit me (due to my inexperience), I'm even more reluctant to spend money. Is it the best deal for my money? Is it a good investment?

For some reason, I find it difficult to internalize that time is more valuable than money. Buying all the recommended textbooks, even used, would save me much time and improve my grades, perhaps helping me earn a scholarship that would make the textbook costs 1000x worth it, but I can't seem to rationalize this to myself. Right now, I walk around without a bike lock, because what if I buy the kind of lock that can be jimmied open with a bic pen? What if I drop $30 on a worthless lock? Instead, I leave my bike lying around unlocked...

Or build projects -- op-amps cost <$1, but there's shipping. So I should wait until I have a giant list of things I need to buy, right?

So you see, I fail as a maker.

Anyway, now you should agree, society is bent on destroying the environment.

6.005 svn and eclipse notes

recently updated to maverick, which broke many things.
also, have to install things on new windows 7 (which is a failed triple-boot and more like a single boot since I can't boot Ubuntu when the win7 drive is attached)

6.005 instructions are for Subclipse. When I reinstalled everything, I went with Subversive instead. So here are some instructions for installing Subversive:

Download eclipse for Java developers (unpack zip where you want, run eclipse, no "installation") Instructions for Helios:
  1. Help > Install New Software >
    • Work with: Pick "Helios -" (should be one of three given options)
    • Under "Collaboration" select Subversive SVN Team Provider (Incubation)
    Next >
    • Agree or not agree to license as you wish
    Install > (takes <10 seconds for me)
  2. Restart Eclipse.
  3. Window > Open Perspective > SVN Repository Exploring
  4. Automatically pops up: Install Connectors (Subversive Connector Discovery).
    Lists several options under Subversive SVN Connectors. I have no idea what the differences between the options mean. I picked SVN Java Kit 1.3.2 which seems to be working fine.

    "Install" (blah Connectors, blah SVNKit preselected for you) windows pops up

    Next >
    • Accept license agreement, if you so wish.
    Finish > Ok (to Software Warning)
  5. Restart Eclipse. (doh, this is silly, I could've sworn last time I only had to restart once, so these instructions are not optimal)
Now to add the 6.005 SVN repository. (remember to pull your folder via SVN Admin!)
  1. Window > Open Perspective > SVN Repository Exploring
    Click the [ ]+ button (the tiny one that looks like a cylinder with a green plus sign next to it)


    "There is a problem with this site's security certificate" > Trust Always >

    "User Credentials" > well yea, enter in the user name and password you created when you did Lab 0.1 > Ok

    "Create master password for recovery" > Yes or No as you wish. I hit No.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

the MIT bubble

Gosh darn it MIT. I keep trying to get back up on my feet, but you just keep kicking me in the face. Repeatedly. While all my TAs and professors look on in disappointment.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Translation of Keyboard Labels into Chinese (or, On Translating Computer Terminology)

Google images and every image search fail.
I ran into this issue trying to teach my grandma to use the computer / trying to explain the difference between all the arrows on the keyboard (take a look--there's the arrow keys, then the enter key, and the backspace key, then there's the random ones on the number keys...)

All I can say is, why?? Why does everyone like taking pictures of the right-side of the keyboard, or low-rez pictures, or pictures with artful blur applied??

And why does google image's algorithms fail in this case? What would be the right search terms? If I try searching for "chinese keyboard labels" I get pictures of keyboards with bopomofo or something crazy stickered all over them, and the "ctrl" etc. keys aren't translated. Wikipedia informs me that tech-savvy people in China just say "Scroll建" (scroll key).* Technical glossaries are out-of-date and definitely don't include translations for "caps lock". **

* (see table at bottom of控制键). 
** (If you know a bit of Chinese, see the right side top search bar at If you don't, for the first drop-down option, pick "英汉" if you want to translate from English to Chinese, then type in your term in the text entry field below it. The "中/英文名 " field tells you the translation).

In China this summer I definitely had issues with technical  / computer terminology in Chinese. My relative asked me if I left my "U 盘" at her house. I was pretty sure I didn't have any dishes that were U-shaped or anything crazy like that. It took a few minutes for me to figure out that that's what USB drives / flash drives are called in China, and I only figured it out by analogy with hard disk, aka "硬盘". Where can I learn this on the Internet?? 

Internet, I am disappointed in you.

Anyway, here's my best guesses, defaulting to more complete translations (大写锁定 instead of caps 锁定). Some are blank still. I should stop punting. I think someone on hall has a Chinese keyboard, so I'll update when I get around to it.

Esc 退出

Tab 制表
Caps Lock 大写锁定 大小写锁定键

Ctrl 控制
Windows Key n/a
Alt 换档
Backspace 回格
Enter 回车
Shift 上档
Task Key

Insert (Ins) 插入
Delete (Del) 删除
Home 起始
End 结束
Page Up (PgUp) 上页
Page Down (PgDn) 下页
Num Lock 数码锁定
Print Screen (Prnt Scrn) 印屏幕
System Request (SysRq) n/a
Scroll Lock 卷动锁定

Pause 暂停
Break n/a
Arrow keys方向键 (上,下,左,友)

I may have failed to mention this, but is a great source for technical term translation. 
e.g. For Chinese: to

(see for a look at how easy it is to volunteer to help translate terms. Well, easy in terms of UI and not personal knowledge of Chinese).

[Edit: 11/7/10]
Oh hey, look, even more useful! Microsoft Language Portal's Terminology Search: If only Launchpad's Rosetta (their translation software that runs on the aforementioned launchpad sites) allowed searching like this as well...

[Edit: 11/8/10] Of course, on further research, all of the links here fail the "U盘 = USB" test. Meh.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Itches (things that I want to make when I'm competent and not hosed) : Calendars, DIYbio, Email for Elderly

Itches I would like scratched / will scratch myself once I both (a) can code and (b) have time:
(above disclaimer added since I don't want to be one of those "I have this cool idea please code it for me" business people...)

Events for MIT: is good but not comprehensive. Instead, I have to manually create a Google calendar entry for each event that gets mailed to me (Autosuggest often doesn't pick up on these emails, for some reason). I think a solution specific to MIT would be used by a lot of people (e.g. Gcal seems confused by our completely-number-based rooms). Some way of mailing events, or some sort of "event ical link" so that I could one-click add them to my calendar would be nice.
Some merging of the calendar feature of Noontime Networks and would be ideal.

Noontime Networks: (a) automatically grabs Stellar calendar information, and (b) lets users share calendars they've created with each other. However, you have to sign-in to access these, and almost everyone on there is a Sloan grad student.

(b) is important because many classes don't have a Stellar calendar, so I have to create my own (e.g. from the syllabus) Existed for one semester, never maintained. Nice idea.

International Email for Elderly:
Because I shouldn't need to teach my grandma how to use Gmail to get an email client in Chinese. She really does not need to know about labels, and the interface is non-intuitive for someone who's not familiar with computers / email. Alice (my best friend) drew a cartoon instruction manual and it's still confusing for her, and I can't explain this long-distance (Boston is a bit chilly for her to move up here =] ).

There are (non-free, non-open-source) email programs for the elderly already, but they're all in English (and being non-open-source, I can't translate them).

Also, keyboards are such fail. Why are there so many different arrows on the keyboard? Why is it difficult to find keyboard translations? (Google Images, I don't want images of super-special keyboards, I want images of normal keyboards sold in China, with backspace and other key names translated, not with weird labels all over the keys).

Right, that's why I want a tablet. **

In addition, I hope that there's good open source tablet software for Chinese character recognition. I did try one variant once a few months ago and didn't find it easy to use (it was an ibus input method, ibus-handwrite). I was trying it out on my netbook, and the input rectangle was awkwardly located right on top of my bottom panel, so that I couldn't reach the ibus icon to turn it off the way I normally do.

Speaking of which, eclectus is an awesome Chinese dictionary tool (it has integrated handwriting recognition, so it's not an input method but inside eclectus you can write words and search for them).

And laoshi looks very promising, although all the example lessons were in traditional Chinese (and they were for beginners). Of course, the goal of Laoshi is that you can make your own lessons.
Eek, I just checked the Laoshi website and looks like it hasn't been touched since the summer. I hope it's still being worked on.

Things that I want to make:
cereal dispenser - for putz breakfast co-op -- this could actually be a nice straightforward weekend project to learn more machining with

hot glue molded  lego gummis, (hot glue is nontoxic, right? Or I could go the Jello mold route. Hmm.) -- kept putting this off because the instructables called for food-grade silicon, and I have this aversion to spending money for some reason >___<;;
 I'm also reluctant to take working (even if obsolete) things apart. This... this creates issues for building things. Seriously, op-amps cost $5. I should simply buy some. (special low-power op-amps, common ones (like LM786 I believe) can be found at MITERS).

weld a breakfast cart?

touch tablet? / email in international languages, calendar for MIT... crowdsourcing of gcal, or email of events) **

isolate bioluminescent bacteria from squid* (who doesn't want a vat of glowing bacteria? =) I want to streak plates and get messages, like bio-art. See (also see Mario bio-art!

* I tried about 2 weeks ago, didn't get any glowing bacteria. Bad squid / wrong kind / not fresh enough, or too high saline content (I had it about 1.5x sea salt content by accident). Or perhaps there was glowing bacteria, I just needed to let my eyes adjust more. (also in Boston) (he's not responsive to email).
Apparently the easier / more rigorous way to go is to find people who know where to order Vibrio directly, but then it's no longer highly accessible to anyone with a kitchen.

Also, missed the DIYbio meetup at Sprout because I was hosed :( I didn't even volunteer at the last Swapfest (the MITERS frosh seem to have it handled, though. Also, the MITERS frosh are awesome this year and make me even more aware of my incompetence).

**Well, tablet was solved with iPad / netbook tablets. (Now that the price for a netbook tablet is under $300, I might just buy one instead of hacking my own by backward-hinging a netbook and a digitizer) (I want it for grandma, but I would be tempted to use it for myself instead >____>)

Punted learning:
Urdu / Hindi (same thing! >__>)
everything in the world ever
how to be awesome / not incompetent / not hosed

Augh, I should stop punting 24.900 (which, by the way, is an awesome class which involves a lot of doing your own fieldwork by studying a friend who speaks a foreign language natively =] ).
(It's Intro to Linguistics)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Surviving MIT

Attended dinner with Committee that's searching for a new dean of engineering.
Yay free food and good conversation! Alex Slocum and Graham Ramsay cooked. They're really involved in ESG as well and are generally amazing. They were also taking lots of Flip video (vlogging) so that other students can enjoy our crazy conversation too.

See for the "Deans getting to know Students" topics: They'll be twice monthly at different dorms.
(this one was in talbot lounge at East Campus)
Course 2 tutors!
They ask that you go to office hours and TAs first. And I should just bug people in my class. I don't mind explaining things, other people shouldn't, right? I'm not actually dragging them down.

Anyway, things that I'm learning at MIT:

Tips: Go to office hours even if you're completely lost and/or haven't started on the pset. It never hurts to go to office hours!

Read over pset when first comes out. Even if it's scary and lots of words you don't know, it'll key your memory for lecture (and help lecture be more concrete and involve your brain more).

Pset groups are amazing. Try to start on pset with other people. Even if you think you're the only one terribly behind or lost, you can at least help other people stay up / be motivated to finish the pset.
The point isn't to evaluate you, it's for you to learn -- so it's if you're stuck or behind and just ask someone to explain a problem to you. Pointers take little time for other people to give, but can save you so much time.

At the dinner, there ended up being lots of course 2 / general talk as well. Discussion: GIRs should included basic "manufacturing" skills such as how to iterate a design. How to create a technical drawing, use solidworks, and manufacture it (get a more complete picture than just milling from a drawing or creating a drawing with no idea how to mill it).
(2.670 failure points) 2.670 is the mandatory course 2 "learn how to machine" class.
6.131: many people come in not knowing how to use an oscilloscope.
Course 6 intro for non-6 people: programming generally useful. (Theoretical physics professor: when people look for UROP, he asks 1. have they ever touched an oscilloscope 2. do they know any programming).
and statistics, since it's needed for almost any experiment/precision engineering.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Gmail Tea House (Fox) theme fixed

Yay my gmail theme changes according to the time of day now.
No longer is it noon eternal!
I wonder who fixed it? Who with magical powers suddenly noticed, and how? What was broken?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

status update

found out today
there is no tabbed pdf reader for ubuntu
(workaround: browser that supports pdfs)

that's silly, should be fixed.

status: actually truly hosed (tooling for entire weekend -- starting friday night -- and still going to be behind)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

triple-booting xp, ubuntu, windows 7

I don't actually use Windows XP ever, I only use Ubuntu. But I'm not sure what to do with all the files on XP. My hard drive is only 60 gb. Ideally, I could just wipe out the xp partition and install windows 7.

However, I have to install Windows to use Solidworks.


I'll be documenting my progress as I go along.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

trips to nyc

if you buy early enough, price Boltbus ~= price chinatown bus (e.g. fung wah) ~= $15. And there is slow internet and power on the Boltbus.

Fung Wah bus runs out of Canal Street, Chinatown NYC, until 11pm.
2 am buses do sell out, at least on the website.

Chinatown shops start closing around 8pm and most of the pastry shops are closed by 9pm.
Fruit seems to be marked up significantly at night, as opposed to midday.

Fung wah tickets are good for any time in the day. Or at least my 7pm one worked fine for 9pm. So probably a good idea to check-in and get in line early if you really need to make some time, because people from other times may join in.

If you can't find a printer, holding your laptop screen up to the check-in window works fine.

8 pm is probably the latest for leaving NYC and catching the Red Line.
The last Red Line train leaves South Station around 12:45 am (not midnight). Earliest one is 5 am. South Station closes at night, so if you're coming in on the bus, stay at the bus station if you're going to wait it out.

Chinatown buses have sketchy accident rates.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

6.02 lab 2 notes

matplotlib does not format subplots nicely (labels overlap)
To fix, at bottom after created all subplots, add 2 lines:

hspace = .6 ## I experimentally determined this value worked for me
p.subplots_adjust( hspace=hspace )

(assuming import matplotlib.pyplot as p)

It's magic, I pulled it from

Also, shortcut for closing all windows (instead of individually right-click and 'c' them all)
Type into the IDLE shell where the figures where generated,



Saturday, September 11, 2010

random mit websites
interesting concept, not sure if still actively used, entirely Sloan graduate students and six undergrads.
fell out of use after last semester, doesn't seem to be maintained (all the classes people are signed up for are from last semester)

there are some really weird posting there. bad taste (chorallaries concert) picked out some highlights.
quotes from MIT classes (sub to personal classes [of friends] on zephyr for more quotes)
and whereis, and ... see previous post (tips and tricks for frosh)

Nice talks (video)
(Have you seen the machining ones? Nice way to get a base even if you don't remember everything.
More nice talks (video)
some good pdfs on there from past talks
Of course. (Also useful when studying for exams, often has old finals esp. for GIRs). Have you seen Walter Lewin's lectures? They're amazing. Physicists are amazing, whatever my dad may say :)
~Oh dear. I could go on forever. So many videos to watch while doing laundry. (I was so engrossed in these during charcoal sorting UROP that I lost my ID and keys, a.k.a. $45 official value, in a random tub...)
international opportunities
international development opportunities (link's a bit buried
volunteer opportunities
Will be a nice place for ideas shortly. (in beta)
Check out the PSC blog in the meantime

Some tips and tricks for frosh

(for freshmen at MIT)
~~Terrible formatting, because I don't care enough. If I didn't make it a link, google it.~~

There's new frosh on hall, so it's time to answer all the goodies such as how to subscribe to the Reuse mailing list. Around this time of year, popular mailing lists get multiple "subscribe" emails (which don't do anything) sent out to the entire list.

I'm reusing a lot of material from my previous posts, but this post will be terse and aimed at people already at MIT, not prefrosh with too much time on their hands :)

First off, there's a comprehensive FAQ at It's lovely, use it. Try searching for "mailing list" and this wonderful article pops up: How can I add or remove myself from e-mail lists? (Hermes).  Check out the "Browse by Category" view too.
For more FAQs, see is worthy of skimming too (especially the Email section which tells you how to forward or split your mail to Gmail).
For more detailed info, some of which is obsolete, see 
And if you want in-person help, the student computing group SIPB has an almost-always open office on the 5th floor of the student center. They're really friendly, and they have sharkbananas! :D

Speaking of gmail, you can use plus-forwarding and the deliveredto: operator to easily catch all your MIT email in a filter. chpobox to $ and when you create your Gmail filter, in the "Has the words:" box enter deliveredto:$

~Reuse and free-food~
Frosh asks: How do I subscribe to reuse, free-food, other mailing lists?

To subscribe to the free-food mailing list, type in
blanche -a kusername free-food

at an Athena prompt. (where kusername is your Athena username)

To subscribe to the Reuse mailing list(s), go to and sign up. See for more details / more ways to sign up (scroll to the very bottom).
Note that reuse is actually a Mailman list and not a Moira list so blanche doesn't work.

You'll first get an email asking you to confirm the subscription, and then you'll get a welcome email. (I thought I'd confirmed, but I never got a "Welcome" email... so I hadn't).

Consider also (requires Yahoo account)

Oh, and general internets, you can add yourself to the MITERS email list! See Feel free to call to see if anyone's in and the space is open. It's exciting when the phone rings, no one ever calls :)

Oh, and as an MIT student there's a lot of free software too, e.g. Windows 7.
Also discounts at places such as Digikey. Ask around.

Debathena, Lucid currently, runs on the computer clusters at MIT. It's based off of Ubuntu, which is a popular Linux distribution.

If you're new to linux, just remember the man command. E.g.
man blanche

Apropos is also useful, combined with "piping" it to further refine the search results, e.g.
apropos print | grep lp

If you're confused, try
man apropos
man grep

You can install Debathena on your computer,

~Tips and Tricks~
If you forget the combo, type in
tellme combo

Shortcut to class websites is co (aka or, e.g.
(At MIT, unless you're using google's Chrome browser, there's no need to type out "")

To look someone up, go to and select People Search. Or at a terminal, try

finger $athenausername

Lost? Wondering where in the world is building 31?
("cluster" is a useful search)

~Getting Stuff~
Shaw's: If you live at EC, instead of hitting mass ave and turning right, cut through Stata and head to star's via the MIT Museum. Ask an upperclassman to show you the route. Takes 11 minutes one-way.
Seven Eleven is 5 minutes away from EC and has the cheapest milk.
Verde's @ student center is open 24/7 (during the school year). Most things are noticeably marked up.
Haymarket has the cheapest fruit and veggies (and sketchy meat), open on Friday and Saturday only, get there early (9 or 10am works for Saturdays). See for more tips.
Chinatown is 17 minutes away by T.
There's food trucks on the T-stop side of MIT medical.

Free things:
Mailing lists: free-food, vultures@csail, reuse and reuse-ask
Also, stuff on 35 loading dock is up for grabs, cool stuff shows up sometimes. There are freegans aka [food] dumpster divers at MIT, although I don't know if anyone relies on them for food. ask around if you're interested. Around the start and end of semester many nice things show up in dumpsters as well.
Dan Fourie on hall (putz aka 2w) has a google calendar, ask me for the link or find it on his website.
There's also, although many events are not listed on there (see flyers around campus instead).

Floorplans: (for those hard-to-find reuse posts)

Getting books: (compares prices from APO book exchanges and a bunch of online sites, search by class #),
APO Bookex (Best way to get cheap textbooks. Get there early on the first day, before opening time).
MIT Press has a loading dock sale every semester, but there's no way of knowing what books will be there. Definitely go the first day when they're not open to dealers. Prepare to spend some time browsing.

Best way to find books is MIT Worldcat (linked from libraries)

~Athena Filesystem~
Three important folders:
/Public         Files here are by default accessible by everyone, including people on the internet
/www      Similar to public. If you use scripts (see below) things will appear here.
/oldfiles   Contains a day-old backup of all your files. Has saved people in the past.
If you're on Athena, you can fire up Nautilus (the file manager) and

cd /mit/$athena-username
See for more info. Call it recommended reading.

If you're on ubuntu, try Places > Connect to Server..., select "Service Type: SSH", fill in appropriately. Alternatively, open up Nautilus, hit Ctrl-L and type in sftp://$$username
On Mac/Linux, you can open a terminal and
ssh $username@linux

On Windows, you can download PuTTY.

Want to set up your own wiki or wordpress super-easily? See

Some odd building connections: 3rd floor of 24 (ESG building) connects to 3rd floor of 34, the 30 buildings are connected on the 3rd floor, there's a Windows cluster with dual monitors in 37, and there's a Mac cluster with media software on the 1st floor of 26 (sometimes has classes in it) (has a scanner).

[Edit: Saturday, September 11, 12:22 PM]
How could I forget Amazing lifesaver. Calls your room phone (need certificates) and plays song (e.g. Puff the Magic Dragon) over voicemail at set time.

Oh, and if you're at all interested in artsy things, we have the Student Art Association which offers heavily subsidized art classes and has a great workspace with tools on the 4th floor of the student center. See for classes.

[Edit: Saturday, October 2, 1:17 AM]
Other good loading docks in addition to 35:(loading docks in general tend to be nice)
Stata basement, back of the parking lot. That's actually a place for recycling electronics. So there are monitors, random old electronics, random old lab parts, power supplies, printers, rolly chairs at various stages of decay, and such down there regularly. sometimes couches.
N52, MIT museum. I've seen couches, bike parts, random rubber wheels

Friday, September 10, 2010

6.005 installing software
ubuntu 10.04 (lucid) on mai netbook
my best guesses as to what packages to install:

Ubuntu Software Center (the shiny UI package manager) or synaptic or apt-get install

eclipse (Extensible Tool Platform and Java IDE)

then install subclipse

if you have a slow processor
eat some ice cream and come back after ten minutes
the progress bar hangs @ 60% for a while, just let it run (don't Force Quit eclipse like me and deal with stupid errors)

[Edit 7-Dec-2010] Note that the eclipse package that comes with Ubuntu (the one that's installed if you go to [Ubuntu Software Centre]) is an outdated version, Galileo. Because subclipse or just SVN access got very messed somehow during my update from Lucid to Maverick, I ended up downloading the newer version directly from the Eclipse website.
I do like Helios more, however note that if you install Galileo, don't completely uninstall it, and then download and untar Helios, funky things happen. For instance, I use the DockBarX applet (aka win7-like GUI for managing windows) and if I run Helios from the directory I unpacked it in, the eclipse icon will associate with Helios appropriately, but clicking on the icon if no eclipse is running will launch Galileo. Of course, one can easily without [right-click>Properties>Edit Launcher] and pick out the right file to launch.

[edit 8 dec 2010]

Friday, August 6, 2010

Re: Food and Feminism -- China Summer 2010

Diary : Wednesday, August 4, 3:45 AM

What's up in China? Weather's hot, there's lots of people, and I'm enjoying the chance to really dig in and practice my Chinese. Sometimes I can't resist the temptation to watch hulu and browse English blogs like I'm used to, but my Chinese has improved a lot even if not as much as it could have.

Darn characters, I feel like I've learned a lot, and then I realize there's 2000 more (on my list) to go, and I'm already getting them mixed up. Then I have thousands of 词语 (words) I need to learn once I learn the characters that compose them. Meh. (for an amusing rant about learning Chinese, see here:  Why Chinese Is So Damn Hard).

Wait, did I mention the awesome food? Many of my relatives are older-generation Chinese (aka super-客气 《polite》) who will shove insane amounts of delicious food at me, who are and all say "你吃的这么少,回去你妈妈一看瘦了那么多会说我们照顾的不好" 《you eat so little, when you go back home mom will be shocked at how skinny you are and will say we didn't take care of you properly》. I feel like crying (I believe OTL sums it up), 'cos the other thing about China is that it has way more skinny people and the fat people are not nearly as fat as Americans. -____-|| I thought I was average-size, but I can't fit in a vast majority of the pants around here, haha. 

For me, not keeping track of how much I eat and trying not to care much about how I look stems from crackpot readings during my impressionable years about the never-before-possible equality in anonymity that the Internet afforded. Of course, nowadays the Internet seems primarily to have let people air their prejudices without bothering to think at all and spread mass hysteria and just FAIL about Vaccines Are Teh Evil ... Ugh. Some level playing field, more like level spitting field =___=;;

I've never liked wasting food, and in college since I (absurdly, I know, but the truth) pride myself on crufting food (well, actually fellow putzen and the free-food mailing list are more consistent sources than CSAIL's vultures), food has always seemed precious and delightful to me. However, surrounded by relatives who own a beauty parlor and skinny girls and guys everywhere, I may not be able to stubbornly insist on this philosophy much longer. The words of my auntie echo in my head, "青春年都浪费了~" 《youth / pretty years wasted like this》. Also, as a half-putzen once said (roughly), "I'm going to be eating food for the rest of my life." (I still find it impossible to sympathize with that viewpoint though, it's simply too foreign to me).

Oh dear, what would the feminists say? If they could agree in the first place, that is. For me, my freshman roommate, Maja, has reinforced that idea that there's no reason why smart techie girls can't dress up and look girly too. On the other hand, I can see the strings of society tugging me along into dressing up because that's how a girl of my age should act, and it makes me want to bare my teeth and growl at the whole thing. The convention that "you should dress up now to take advantage of your youthful prettiness while you can" doesn't sit well with me.

Also, people like to believe that their society is 平等的 《equal》yet every single adult here who has commented about my major has said something along the lines of "哦,机械-女的学这个还是挺少的" 《oh, mechE... few girls study that》 in a kind of slightly-weirded-out way (though perhaps I am just insecure and they are simply surprised). I must admit that it's worse than America. One time, I mentioned that I was interested in mechE, EE, or bioE, and the guy automatically assumed that I was most interested in bioE. Sorry bioE, point against you, much as I hate to let stereotypes like that influence my decisions. Sometimes I'm afraid that, instead of naturally trying to figure out my own likes and dislikes, I've cast myself into an "anti-stereotype" stereotype.

Ah, I just rediscovered the 2010 i3 EC video on my laptop. I miss EC and MIT a lot. Social stresses abound there too, but at least I don't have to deal with any myths about MIT students being geniuses (uhmm.... no. just no. See #2.) and I don't have to deal with erroneous jabs at Linux versus Windows. (Maybe that's my technical elitism (#9) talking here, but I have to have some superiority complexes to cover up my insecurities =]).

Seriously though, Ubuntu / Linux fits me way better than Windows ever will. Way more customization possible (my putey shiny shiny), powerful bash, clean software installs, zero(-ish) worry about malware, super-easy switching between languages, frequent updates, they more than make up for any mucking about to fix display or Internet or whatever issues.

(Also, I secretly found it fun when I was stuck with a text-only terminal when I screwed around with X back when tablet support was not so great. Linux is self-documented to a very nice extent. I think man man helped me find apropos which helped me find nano and everything was dandy).  >__> <___<

Well, that's long enough for one blog post. I conclude with this pic:
Some of the delectable food available in China ;P
(I purposefully asked for dishes I wouldn't be able to get in America). I think my relatives called them 木虫, although that must be one of several common names. They actually taste quite nice. If you close your eyes, all you can tell is that you're eating something friend, crunchy, and small. :D

The kids I was with were squeamish about eating this dish, actually. But they do really like pig tails (dish visible to the left back).

EDIT: 08.07.10: Entomophagy
Oops, I labeled the pic in the last post incorrectly. They're actually 竹虫,bamboo worm [larvae], not 木虫。I looked it up because someone told me that I'd eaten some sort of precious 冬虫夏草, aka Caterpillar Fungus. Hee.

Or so wikipedia says, at least: