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July 17, 2012

Fuzzy result matching in Google – it sucks and there’s no way to stop it.

Filed under: Musings, Technology — joel.cass @ 9:41 am

Lately I’ve been having a lot of trouble finding the correct results on google. For example, a few weeks ago I wanted to know what is the quietest carriage (e.g. the carriage with the least number of people) on a peak hour cityrail train. So I search “what is the quietest carriage cityrail train” what are my results? Well, they completely ignored my request and figured I was looking for quiet carriages, not “quietest” carriages. So I get spammed with propaganda about quiet carriages.

Stupid google search results

Next, I tried searching “what is the +++++”quietest” carriage cityrail train” – no effect, same results..

Google shitty search results

So today after during my morning ride I noticed a light squeaking noise from the bottom bracket, so I searched for “squeaky bottom bracket”.. It decided to show results for “creaky bottom bracket”. I then try “+”squeaky” bottom bracket”. Same thing.

Google is not matching my keywords

The fix? Searching for “+”squeaky” bottom bracket -creaky” removed the offending results. But this is just plain stupid, this means that my results may not include pages that contain squeaky and creaky – what if the page I want contains both keywords?

Google tries in vain to render my search query

This reminds me of the days of the “excite” search engine – which was actually pretty good, until they started making the results fuzzy by just showing anything that matched any of your keywords. Then it just turned to shit. And where are they now? Gone.

Google, I hope you get your act together. I love it is free to search the web and lets face it, up to a few months ago the results were pretty good but it’s turning to rubbish. Even just having an option to disabled fuzzy searching would do for most of us!

May 12, 2010

Good, Fast, or Cheap. Choose Two.

Filed under: Musings, Programming — joel.cass @ 4:53 pm

How true is the above statement, really? With the rise of open source products one would think that it’s possible to find a product that ticks all of the above products, and is free to boot.

I found this out recently when I tried using SQL server to load in some website log data so I could generate some reports. Geez, it was slow. It ran at about 45 records per second. Inserting about 64 million records could take a loooooong time. On the other hand, I remembered the faithful MySQL server that I had used a while ago. Loading data into MySQL was fast – about 600 records/sec fast. And it’s free. But is it good?

When actually getting around to running the reports, I was finding that MySQL was falling short. Due to its architecture, sorting operations had to be done by writing a temporary table to disk. This could be worked around by using indexes, however often the indexes would not be picked up, plus the reconfiguration of an index over 64 million records can take 2-3 hours, thus slowing things down.

So either way it was a headache. I know that SQL server is very efficient at sorting and searching records and has its own optimised low-level methods for searching data. If you’ve ever tried to run a database from a compressed drive / folder you would know that certain operations do not work because SQL server accesses data at such a low level. And I think it’s that sort of optimisation that you would happily pay for. Whilst it may be slow on the insert side, it’s fast on the searching side.

So, “Good, Fast, or Cheap. Choose Two.” – I think the saying has real meaning here. An open source product may have the commitment of a small group of developers or no commitment at all. A paid product has a real business motive to keep developers “on the ball”, continually optimising and improving the product.

April 30, 2010

Dump the trains for a new cycling utopia!

Filed under: Cycling, Musings — joel.cass @ 4:45 pm

Obviously it’s been a while since I last caught a train… They are so slow! It’s been well over 20 minutes and we’ve moved around 7km – that gives an average speed of about 21km/h.

21km/h? That’s a relaxed pace on a bicycle. Even on a bad day my average speed will not go below 25km/h. Which gets me thinking: why don’t we rip out the railway tracks and just convert the entire network into a big cycleway?!

It would be awesome, truly. The gradients are tame, the routes are straight, and the paths would be away from dangerous motor vehicles and pedestrians. It would be a cycling utopia.

If only it were possible. Oh well. Still, it’s a great thought. Ms Keneally, are you listening? You’d be able to ride your bike EVERYWHERE! And you might not even need to bring a bodyguard along, either.

Think of all the money you’d save – no more bulky rail bureaucracies, no more expensive repair bills for faulty infrastructure… Seriously, give it a thought!

April 22, 2010

You are invisible!

Filed under: Musings — joel.cass @ 10:03 am

Now that I am using iGoogle, every time I log on I see the default iGoogle page. On the left-hand side is a chat box, and this always grabs my attention:

You are invisible - iGoogle

Who are google to tell me whether I am visible or not? How do they know? Do they have a hidden camera just behind my screen? I can see myself and I am pretty sure I am visible to others as well. Furthermore, when I click the link to “go visible”, I don’t feel any more visible than I was before.

April 14, 2010

Hey hey it’s Wednesday!

Filed under: Musings — joel.cass @ 7:52 pm

If there’s one thing that Channel 9 has made a habit if, it’s flogging a dead horse. It’s bad enough that they are disillusioned into thinking that two and a half men is actually a good show. Truthfully (and many will agree), it isn’t a good show. It’s ratings are only good because the 7PM show is dead boring and no-one watches home and away.

So they’re trying to revive ‘Hey hey its Saturday’ – on a Wednesday. Shouldn’t it be called ‘Hey hey its Wednesday’? Daryl Somers jokes are not any better, and the puppets and co-stars are the same – the same – since the 80’s we have seen a computer revolution, fuel injected cars, quantum physics becoming more than just a bunch of crackpot theories. But they are still stuck in the 80’s. Even Daryl’s haircut is a bit too boofy for this day and age.

It makes me wonder what else Channel 9 are going to bring back – The Paul Hogan show? Back episodes of 90 minutes? It’s worse enough that we’re still watching multi-decade old footage on funniest home videos.

April 4, 2010

Sydney Royal Mystery Show.

Filed under: Musings — joel.cass @ 3:12 pm

After a few visits to the Sydney Royal Easter Show, I’ve come to expect exorbitant admission prices, carnival folk peddling their scammy games and ricketty rides. All that aside, the exhibitions and entertainment made the whole experience quite worthwhile.

We were a bit hungry when we arrived, and one of the first eateries that you see after the entrance is a place called ‘common ground cafe’. It seemed like a good idea, the prices weren’t too bad and the food looked appetising. The place was not just run out of a caravan like all the other places, but in an actual wooden building that looked like it had been sitting in the middle of the park for all time. They had a real colonialist thing going, conservative clothes, men wearing hats, looked like something out of the Amish country.

Whilst waiting for our order, I noticed something a bit funny – all the guys had beards and the girls hadn’t had rather longer than normal hair. Eh, didn’t think much of it for a while and then it just got stuck in my mind – either these people like to take the whole ‘themed eatery’ thing to the extreme, or there was something deeper. Like a cult perhaps, or some sort of travelling restaurant where the men have no time to shave and the women can’t find a good hairdresser.

Well, some research came across this blog post, which mentions articles from a couple of years ago. In particular, the restaurants belong to the ‘Community Apostolic Order’, or otherwise known as the ‘Twelve Tribes’, a cultish sounding sort of organisation (believe it or not) started a ‘carnival barker’ in 1971. Hmm, sounds like they didn’t quite make it out of the carnival business.

Furthermore, according to this article, staff do not get paid to work, but much rather work out of their love for the organisation. So, forget outsourcing, forget foreign subcontractors, if you really want cheap labour, start a church and get your followers to work for you. Classic.

The whole show in general is shrouded in this sort of mystery. If all the workers are volunteers, where does that 33 dollar entry fee go? I bet there’s even a darker truth behind that one.

March 8, 2010

Etiquette 101 for Perth People

Filed under: Musings — joel.cass @ 11:15 am

On our recent visit to Perth I was surprised at how things have changed, from the sleepy relaxed town it used to be, to the fast-paced, disorganised and overvalued sprawl it has become. Many places I was so fond of have turned into McSuburbs, full of samey looking brick-and-tile houses. Traffic was bad, notwithstanding the high levels of aggression and stupidity that we experienced driving around.

People think Sydney is bad – no no no, Sydney is good! Our city in more centralised, our drivers are better, and generally our people are nicer. So, I thought I would write a little equiquette 101 for Perth people.

First things first – Multiculturalism. No matter what your ill-educated parents may have told you when you were growing up, there is no physical or imaginary line between white people, black people, asians and the like. We are all just people. The lines are put in place because of fear. Fear that because they don’t look like you they might be smarter. Or dangerous. That’s a fallacy. Anyone can be smarter or dangerous regardless of their skin colour.

If you see a cross-cultural couple at a restaurant, like myself and my wife for example, do not stare, or to make things worse shake your head while staring, or do any of that other silly judgemental habit, you’re just making yourself look stupid. Which you are, of course. Furthermore – It’s not nice to stare. It just makes everyone feel awkward. If someone needs help, don’t just stare, help them. If you’re staring for any other reason, you’re just creating an awkward situation.

Most people from different backgrounds have to learn a couple of languages – their home tongue and english. A requirement for admission to University, or even coming to the country these days is a good, working level of english. Which means that most of them can conduct conversations with you. In light of this fact, you do not have to speak slower to them in a derogatory manner. If you’ve got a speech impediment or like to mumble (which is the reason why we asked you to repeat yourself), speaking slower does not help. Speaking clearer in the first place does.

Here’s a few tips for driving.

1. It is OK to drive behind someone who is going at the speed limit. It is not OK spending 15 minutes trying to overtake them at the speed limit + 0.00001km/h only to cut in front of them and slow down to 5km/h below the speed limit.

2. If the driver in front of you is speeding, it is not your responsibility to flash your lights at them and make all sorts of commotion until they slow down just so you can tell them that they are speeding. At 11:30 at night it is my choice to drive 105kmh in a 100kmh zone, on a road that is so good it could handle a speed limit of 180kmh easily. I do not need you to tell me about it. I would much prefer to hear from a policeman.

3. Bicycles are road users too. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever before have I seen so many drivers show aggression towards cyclists. On just one ride we were cut off by buses, cut off by cars at roundabouts, not given adequate clearance when riding roadside, even on a dual carriageway. In my mind this is unacceptable behaviour and much more dangerous than speeding.

Compared to Sydney and NSW, the road infrastructure in Perth and southwest is incredible. Never before have I seen roads so straight and smooth, engineered to perfection. Cycle paths are everywhere and it just seems so well-planned. If only the drivers could be better, it would be such a great place to commute. I just couldn’t understand how the Mitchell freeway has a speed limit of 90-100, whereas Sydney’s M4 and F3 have a higher speed limit of 110kmh, of which everyone speeds, yet (seemingly) less fatal accidents happen. It’s obvious that speed is hardly an issue, probably moreso the lack of skill that WA drivers have.

So, for anyone who might think that Sydney is a worse place to live, or a more dangerous place to drive (or ride), think again. Sydney people are open minded, (mostly) considerate, and pretty fair drivers, though arguably more assertive and less aggressive than their WA counterparts. Anyway, that’s my point of view.

October 15, 2008

This looks smart

Filed under: Musings — joel.cass @ 11:21 am

I was wondering what the weather was like in my neck of the woods so I went to the RTA cameras site:

http://www.rta.nsw.gov.au/trafficreports/innersydcameras/gladesvillebr.html

And saw this:

Ironically, there is a traffic light only 20 metres from where this guy is standing. Victoria Road is a pretty busy road – you’d either have to be extremely stupid or suicidal to want to cross where this guy is crossing.

September 10, 2008

The meaning of birthdays

Filed under: Musings — Tags: — joel.cass @ 2:05 pm

This was written a few days after my last birthday…

I must admit that my last couple of birthdays have been slightly depressing – it gets me thinking, what is the importance of a birthday? After all, time is just a convention – a year is a human invention, a day or a month would be almost meaningless if they were not a part of almost any planned human interaction.

But I wonder, what is a birthday exactly? All social contexts aside, a birthday celebrates the position of the earth in it’s orbit around the sun, in a way that, the earth is in the same point in it’s orbital cycle as the day you were born. So theoretically the weather should be similar and the day would be of the same length.

So if you are struggling to think of a reason to celebrate your birthday, don’t celebrate, unless you are a pagan who worships the sun, because the day itself is pretty much meaningless.

How old am I? 27 revolutions of the earth around the sun, thank you very much.

August 27, 2008

Goodbye melbourne.

Filed under: Musings — joel.cass @ 7:41 pm

What a short trip. I met the most interesting taxi driver on the way back to the airport. This guy was an international basketball coach from South Africa. He came over to Australia to escape the place and now he’s driving taxis for a living.

This guy tells me of how he had to catch a plane to the capital city and the engines cut out and the plane had to turn back to the airport. That same day, after he arrived back at the airport, the city was in lockdown, people being shot dead for no justifiable reason. He caught a taxi home, driving through desolate backstreets to avoid the military police. It took three hours.

He came to Australia on a sports scholarship and never turned back. And now he’s driving taxis.

Sometimes I think it’s grossly unfair for life to be like that – it seems bloody hard for some foreigners to get real jobs here in Australia. No one complains because it’s safer or more comfortable to live here, even if the work is menial.

Hmm. I may be wrong. I think I would do anything if it paid well and/or guaranteed some level of comfort or safety. Perhaps it ain’t so bad after all?

It was a great way to finish the trip. I had started to think that Melbourne was full of grumpy stuck up suit wearing corporate slaves after the number of frowns I saw on this trip. This guy had to be one of the happiest people I have ever met.

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