Baruch Even's Blog

I have no subtitle...

Entries from May 2005.

drag-n-drop woes
1st May 2005
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AudioScrobbler
3rd May 2005
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Software
6th May 2005

I've also filed bug reports and feature requests at AlbumShaper, and they get solved one by one. I'm still stuck with a bug that prevents drag-n-drop from working when using the Ion2 window manager.

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Genealogy Research
6th May 2005

I've caused my parents to go out and ask for the missing pieces of information, so now I have better knowledge of my family tree, and hopefully a chance to preserve some of the family history.

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Genealogical Excavations
22nd May 2005

As reported in a previous post, I've been working on uncovering the history of my family. It sounds big, but my intention is not to find where my ancestors where in the 14th century, that requires too many conjectures and assumptions. I'm only looking at what I have which is the grandparents of my grandparents, also known as my great-great-grandparents.

In this cause so far I've enlisted my parents to do the digging with my grandparents, unfortunately, my grandparents never spoke about their past and at this time and their age it is hard to get them to talk about it. So we can only ask small questions and get limited answers.

I had most of the first names of the levels up to the g-g-grandparents, but not the surnames, this was taken from my bar-mitzvah roots work (עבודת שורשים). But now I also have the surnames and they are LEDERMAN, WUNTER, LANDAU and REINIS for my maternal side, REISHTEIN, KAGAN and KOSTRIUKOVA from my paternal side. I also have some better knowledge of where my ancestors came from.

The best part of it is that the digging by my parents revealed photo albums that were not even known to them! I have a picture of my maternal grandfather's father. It is just so nice to actually have a picture to relate to.

I was hoping to get stories out of my grandparents, about themselves and about their parents. But it doesn't seem like it would work. I will need to press my parents to provide their own stories, before they grow too old and become so stubborn.

So far I'd like to thank Yad Vashem for their amazing effort of documenting those who perished in the holocaust. And providing the information free of charge on their website. This has been a tremendous resource when searching for family members who died in the holocaust.

I'd also like to thank Eilat Gordin Levitan for creating an amazing website on the shtetls around Vilna, especially about Kurenets, which is the place where my fathers family came from.

The result so far of this work is a gramps database which I export as relationship graphs, and a family genealogy website which includes information on those who died already. There is also a private website which is password-protected since it includes personal information on those still living.

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Searching Yad Vashem Holocaust Records
22nd May 2005

The three main resources that I used so far for my genealogical research (besides my own family), are:

The Yizkor books resource is the simplest of them, once you know where your family came from you can look the place name in their list and read the Yizkor book, if there is one. Several pitfalls in this route are, the books are in Hebrew and/or Yiddish, if you speak none of these languages, you can try to see if the book was translated to English by the generous volunteers of JewishGen Yizkor Book Project. Another pitfall is that you need to figure out the name of the town, names changed, sometimes subtly, and sometimes not. There are also versions of the name, my mothers family came from Czernovitz, but while under Romanian rule, the city was known as Cernauti. Similar but not exact. You might need to try and search for name synonyms.

The JewishGen website is vast and large, I'll skip describing working with it for now.

So we get to the Yad Vashem website, it provides a very good search engine which enables you to search in multiple ways and many options. And that is it's problem. I have tried to ask them for data dumps or database access to try and develop a more comprehensive search method but they said they are unable to grant my wish. And never replied to my question if doing this externally through their existing search form is OK with them.

So how do I search for my relatives in the Yad Vashem database?

The first stage is to have all your information in an easy to access form, you want to have the family names, before and after marriage, first names, place of birth and place of death. If you have only part of the data, knowing the name and place of birth is the most useful.

I then search for the family and place of birth, for example: REITSHTEIN in Kurenets. This gives a relatively small list that needs to be read through, and verify the matches. You want to look that the mother and father name match. You often get a few bits of information to add to your notes such as profession and time and place of death.

One thing you want to do when finding a match is to see who submitted the witness page, it might be someone you can try to ask for some more information. It might even be a remote relative of yours. One thing useful in the website is to search for other pages that this submitter submitted. There is even a search button in the witness page to do just that. Use it, you may find relatives that you might not have known to even search for. In my case I found Baruch Reitshtein, and through the submitter search I found Ilana Alperovitz, who was his mother or Baruch and the wife of Gedalya Reitshtein, my grandfather's brother.

This sort of invaluable information is something that unless I knew that my family was married to the Alperovitz'es I wouldn't even be searching for.

The next search that you might want to do is in the Yad Vashem advanced search. There you might search by the first names of the parents of your grandfather. This can yield names that might not have had the maiden name.

Pay attention to where peoples were born, sometimes you will find a person who was born in one place and lived in another, this is a clue for you to search for other peoples from that place as well. You could also try to take a map of the area and search for peoples from places nearby your search place, but that is a tedious task and the yields are not guaranteed. In my case the shtetl Dolginov shows a few REISHTEINs, but according to my grandfather he knew them but they were not part of the family.

The catch in these searches is that you can search for each name and place with the options of Exact, Fuzzy, Soundex and Synonym. This creates a lot of options to search for. I found that Synonym is the most useful (and it is the default), but sometimes you got the name wrong and a soundex or a fuzzy search will help you find the correct name.

Persistence is an important virtue when doing your genealogical excavations, I still sometimes return to the search engines to try some other combination that I probably forgot about, or a lead that I missed. In the course of this article I retried looking for the mother of Gedalya Reitshtein, and found the page of Sara-Elka Mekler who was her mother. I didn't find a page for her husband Avraham Alperovitz, but that could mean that he didn't die in the holocaust. Unfortunately the Yad Vashem website only lists positive information on peoples who died but not on peoples who survived. This is left to be asked of their relatives, if they can still be found.

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Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds
23rd May 2005

I've always been a book work, in primary school I was given the right to borrow five books instead of the usual three because I read so many books. Only that in the recent years I've read more technical books than non-technical and I decided I need to rebalance it a bit.

One of the advantages of being a student again is having access to a library, however lame it is compared to the Technion Libraries, it still has a selection of non-technical books. Actually, most of its books are non-technical, the technical ones are rare. So I've went and borrowed a couple of books, I've picked up "The Norton Book of Science Fiction", "Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds" and "Early modern conceptions of property".

I've already read the Norton book, it was a nice collection of science fiction short stories, I really enjoyed those stories and it's been a long while since I read science fiction stories.

I've finished today reading the "Popular Delusions" book and it was fantastic! It talked about historic things, some of them I've heard about in history classes, things like the Crusades, The witch hunts, Duels, Alchemists, and other topics I didn't hear about such as Magnetiser. And it discusses and shows the folly of them in such a fluid language that it really makes it interesting.

The good thing is that since it is a book from 1841(!) it is available for free on the web, I recommend you read Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds By Charles MacKay.

I've also started reading the History of Property book, didn't get too much in-depth with it though.

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Wavelet Project
23rd May 2005

This semester I'm doing a project with Wavelets, The former semester I did a seminar on wavelets, but it touched the topic very lightly, my lecture was the last one and it was the first one that actually touched on wavelets, specifically it dealt with Dyadic Wavelets and Frames.

The seminar itself was very hard since it was very mathematical (I am doing a Math degree), and I need to see that applicative sides in order to grasp the subject better. That is why I took this project.

The project subject is "Finding 'Optimal Base' of Wavelets", It's 'Optimal Base' since one cannot be found in the general sense. The task at hand is to define 'Optimal' by defining the measuring function and then taking a specific class of images and figuring what wavelet base will work best for them under the specific function.

The project deals with images and thus we are looking at 2D wavelets, specifically we are looking at Gabor Wavelets as the source of the possibles bases, by using different parameters to the construction of the Gabor Wavelets we intend to get different bases. This is a very small interpretation of the project but it is necessary in order to complete it in the 3-4 months that is our time-frame.

The current stage is that of reading articles on the subject and trying to locate additional articles that we can read and work on to build our project.

(The we is because this project is done by myself and by Uri Itai)

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LyX
23rd May 2005

Today I finished the creation of the first dialog, this included a move to an MVC separation that is brewing in LyX and it includes the move to libglade to read the dialogs from the glade XML files. I needed to adjust to several weird things and to overcome some very dumb bugs on my side before I got it to work correctly, but it does now.

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Timetabling
23rd May 2005

Actually I don't have too much knowledge about this, I've read quite a few articles on the topic, but I got too busy doing other things that I never got to do anything with this. The original reason I started with this is to solve the problem my uncle has in his school with doing timetabling, they have a very large school spread at two locations and no timetabling program does anything close to usefull. Well, I'll try my hands on this topic when I get more time.

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Privacy Issues in Israel
23rd May 2005
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Misc
23rd May 2005

I'm pretty stuck with the wavelet project, I'm unable to find a clear explanation on how to implement the 2D Discrete Wavelet Transform, Specifically I need to implement the Gabor Wavelet Transform. I'm trying to chase references and articles but so far, I found nothing.

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Wavelet Project 2
23rd May 2005
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Life
23rd May 2005
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Misc 2
23rd May 2005

This thing has 40 seconds shock protection time when playing mp3s of 128kbps, this is the thing that sold me since I mainly bought it for listening in the gym when running on the treadmill, something that usually means a bumpy ride. It's pretty slow to switch songs and when it's in random playing mode, pressing next-song key will go to the next sequential song and not the next random song. But overall it's a pretty good thing.

Speaking about the gym, I now have Calcaneal Spur from running on the treadmill, got some pills from the doctor and switched from the treadmill to the cross-trainer. The ride is less bumpy now.

I still haven't coded anything for a while, between school chores and a bit of rest.

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Posting Hebrew to websites
23rd May 2005
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Misc 3
23rd May 2005

In between I'm learning for my tests and working on my project course (Wavelet Image Compression)

LyX has switched to use some funky construct with templates from the Boost project so now I cannot compile the code from CVS, which also means I cannot work on LyX until I upgrade my compiler (currently egcs 1.12). I postpone this since I intend to switch to Debian unstable which already has gcc 3.0, hopefully this will make sure that nothing Lars will throw in LyX will kill the compiler.

But switching a distribution is such a tedious job, I'll need to find those things that I take for granted and make sure they are installed on the new distribution. I've done most of my preparations by now, I switched /home to another partition (on ext3) and have Debian unstable installed already though it needs updating, but that last mile of actually telling lilo to boot as a default to Debian instead of RedHat is not so easy to do, mentally mostly.

I'll get around to this, promise!

I've switched to using Mozilla some time ago, much better than Netscape 4.7x. I then switched to Galeon since it was even better than using Mozilla directly, even though it misses some features of Mozilla (parts of the Password Management don't work and changing style sheets is impossible), I'll try to tackle this sometime.

The best work I do on Open-Source/Free-Software projects is when it scratches an itch, when everything is perfect for me I have less inclination to do anything.

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Work 1
23rd May 2005

I've started to work full time on October 2001, working with Linux doing various things tinkering with firewall internals and other such fun.

Work sure does saps the time from open-source projects, I've hardly did anything during the past few months. LyX was the first casualty, my own Volume Normalizer suffered too. All I had time for is maintaining my few packages in the Debian project.

One often raised problem with Debian is the distribution of resources, and that it's hard to come by all the information and various services offered in Debian. Jamie Wilkinson (jaq) posted a link to a portal page that he created for his own use, my contribution is a generic portal page that generates a similar page by saving the email and name in a cookie. It was a couple hours of fun with Python and cgi programming in Python.

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Tivo clone
23rd May 2005

I'll create one instead of buying one since I'm not US based so no-one provides any such toy around, and Tivo won't ship overseas. Probably because their hardware is NTSC only. The Bastards!

I'm considering using an Allwell iTV3036 unit as my base platform. But I'm still looking at other options. I'd also like it to serve as a DVD player (an all in one device), I'll probably hook it up to a coffee machine at the end :-)

The Allwell can be mine for about $400 but it only has a 300Mhz CPU which is not sufficient for encoding MPEG2/4 videos. I'll consider using an MPEG2 encoder PCI card to do that.

Another possibility is using my current 700MHz K7 machine by adding a tuner card and a TVout card. But then I won't have any use to the channels on my TV itself. Pretty wasteful. So I want something that has a pass-through mode so that it can actually act like a regular video.

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cvsps memory diet
23rd May 2005

At first I've started to convert it from memory data structures to gdbm, but it got too tedious after a while.

I then found that the cached data on disk, which is a mirror of the memory data, is only 30MB. So I started to look around to find the culprit.

Apparently, there were some huge over allocations, where a log message has a max of 1K in that repository, 8K would be allocated, there were over 15K log messages. For each filename 4K were allocated, a max length for filename was 200 bytes. Revisions and branch information were kept in too large hashes where a linked list would do well. And a few other minor optimizations were needed.

All in all, memory requirement dropped from 500MB to less than 60MB, which is still a lot but liveable. Until such time that the repository grow too much.

I added a small statistics collector/reporter to the code to help guide my way and used the large repository as well as the gaim repository as a base for my decisions, it was fun.

I did notice a need for a statistics collector library for such a thing, it should report max, average, median and such data, I didn't do median because I was lazy. But between the max and average there is such a large difference that a median would help here. Dumping the data and showing histograms would be great for such a task.

Now I need to clear it up at work and submit the patches to the author. I've got one of those all-your-code-are-belong-to-us type of contracts but with a special clause for Open-Source projects, I still need to get permission for each new project to ensure it doesn't clashes with my work related tasks.

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THE Programming Language...
23rd May 2005
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Planet FOSS-IL
23rd May 2005

There was some talk about a Planet for Free/Open-Source Software, but none was setup. So I struck one up in about 20 minutes, searching for feeds was the biggest issue. Linmagazine really need to fix their website usability wise. There are no feed links, not even in the user pages.

Anyhow, I've got some feeds now, and the Planet will update every two hours.

Here it is: Planet FOSS-IL.

Bugs:

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What am I doing wrong?
24th May 2005

I tried, I really tried.

<rant>

I published on whatsup, I'm talking to anyone who'll listen. But still, most of the Hebrew related Debian issues, I hear from other sources and not from the users. I obviously don't have enough time to read all blogs and be on all boards and mailing lists, but can't people at least send me a note when there is an Hebrew bug in Debian, or a package that can be added?

The latest example is aspell-he, I've read on a blog, that there is support in aspell for Hebrew spell checking. And was never notified by anyone on this new addition. And I've already added hspell and myspell-he once I became aware of them. hspell through linux-il mailing list, and myspell-he from a user filing a wishlist bug report on hspell.

If you know of an important Hebrew related application that you want to see in Debian, please let me know. I might not be able to handle all of them, but I can delegate some of them to Lior Kaplan :-)

</rant>

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Public Domain Enhancement Act
24th May 2005
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