Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Today Russia and a few other countries celebrate Christmas, so I’d like to take this chance to wish Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone still in the holiday mood.

I usually take the time around these days to review the year gone and to make a wishlist for the upcoming one.  But the year gone was mostly spent at work, which I summed up in the post “One year at Qobo” back in August.  Since then nothing much changed – it’s just been work, work, work.  And most of the out-of-work stuff was personal enough for me not to share it online.

So that’s about it.  My three wishes for the 2016 are:

  • I wish for everyone I know (and don’t know) to stay healthy.  Being sick, getting injured and being kicked out of life aren’t fun things to experience or watch.
  • I wish the momentum that we were building up at work starts picking up.  We’ve done plenty to get this thing rolling, and it feels like it’s about to. It would be awesome if it does this year!
  • I wish to travel a bit more.  I’ve done plenty of travels in 2014, visiting 4 countries in summer, but I haven’t been off the island since.  It’d be nice to go to a conference or something.

That’s about it.  Merry Christmas and a Happy New 2016! Cheers!

Jetpack annual report for mamchenkov.net in 2015

This year’s Jetpack annual report for this blog is ready – have a look.  Here’s a teaser:

blog stats 2015

It’s been a busy year, so I haven’t been blogging as much as I wanted to, but overall, I think I did good (have a look at 2014 and 2013).  Just to give you a quick comparison:

Metric 2013 2014 2015
Visitors 58,000 81,000 96,000
Posts 560 628 541

I blog mostly for myself, but it’s nice to see a slight grow in traffic. Although the fact that the most popular post in this blog throughout the years – how to check Squid proxy version – is a little concerning, yet funny.  Well, at least people still find my “Vim for Perl developers” useful, even though it’s been more than 10 years since I wrote that (and probably five years since I promised to update it soon).

But as I said, I’m quite satisfied with my blogging this year.  Hopefully I can continue to do the same in 2016.

 

Sailing the Optimist dinghy

Today I came across a nice picture that shows the parts of the Optimist dinghy.

Optimist parts

I’ve never knew the English terminology, and I pretty much forgot most of the terminology in Russian as well.  But it’s a nice reminder of my childhood.  I’ve spent years sailing this boat when I was a kid.  Here are the a couple of pictures of me doing just that.

Sailor

Sailing

Fun times!

Upcoming Android devices

The touch screen on my Nexus 4 is dying.  There’s a strip right across the center, which doesn’t work anymore.  The device is still alive, but it won’t last long.  In fact, I’ve already borrowed an old Sony Xperia from my brother, for the day when the angels will take my phone to the Android heaven.

With that in mind, I started looking for what’s going to be my next device.  I’m planning to get one closer to Christmas maybe, so not exactly in a rush.  The official Google blog’s post “S’more to love across all your screens” from a couple of days ago came just in time.

Android devices

The line-up covers upcoming tablets, phones, and Chromecast devices.  On the smartphone front, there are two devices – 5.7 inch Nexus 6P built by Huawei, and a 5.2 inch Nexus 5X built by LG.  Nexus 6P starts at $499, which I’m not yet prepared to pay for a smartphone (even though I use it heavily on a daily basis).  Nexus 5X starts at $379, which is much more reasonable.  Both phones feature a fingerprint scanner (finally, away with all those passwords and patterns), and a 12.3 MP camera for better pictures.  Nexus 6P comes in an aluminum body, which sounds nice.

Nexus 5X seems like an excellent option for me.  Of course, I’ll have to wait and see when it gets released, real-priced, and reviewed.

TePee no more …

This weekend I got my first bar ban.  I was asked to leave TePee Strictly Rock bar and to never ever come back.  Which I did and which I won’t.

(This post is here mostly for those people who were there on Saturday and who keep asking me what happened.)

What happened was an escalation of misunderstanding, mostly of what is rock music, what is a rock bar, what is a live gig, and what are the behavioral boundaries.  I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject, but I do have an opinion, with which a few people agree.  Too bad, the band on stage and the owner of the establishment didn’t.

It turns out I was too loud in the crowd.  It turns out I was making the band uncomfortable by screaming requests for something heavier (AC/DC, Rammstein, Metallica, etc) than Bon Jovi and Aerosmith.  Too bad I wasn’t familiar with the band’s repertoire – my bad.  And, it turns out that asking for a refund will get you kicked out.  No problem.  Maybe the band repertoire was a wrong reason to ask a refund for.  Maybe I should have mentioned the horrible sound engineering instead.  It’s too late now anyway.

On the other hand, it looks like some people enjoyed the gig (there are YouTube videos).  So maybe I was inappropriate.  To each his own I guess.  TePee is not a rock bar in my book anymore.  And I’m not a wanted customer in TePee.  Fair enough.

First computer – Tesla PMD 85-1

Once in a while people ask me what was the first computer I could get my hands on.  Mistakenly, I’ve often answered that it was Commodore 64.  But today I did some digging and realized that it wasn’t true.  I did use Commodore 64 too, but that was mostly for playing games – my uncle was a head of a nearby Fire Station and he had one of these in the office, but that wasn’t the first computer I used, and it wasn’t the one I learned to program on.  That honor goes to Tesla PMD 85-1.  Here is a picture to give you an idea (thanks to root.cz):

pmd85

We had a computer lab in school, with 11 of these things.  10 were used by the students and 1 was for the master station for the teacher.  Some of the highlights that I still remember: black and green monitor, cassette tape drive for loading and saving programs (sorry, no hard drives or floppies, or network really, except for printing on a slow and very load dot-matrix printer), a very uncomfortable yet colorful  keyboard.  The keyboard is worth a separate mention.  As seen above, it had blue, red, and grey keys.  It didn’t have an Enter or Escape keys.  But it had two EOL (end of line) keys right next to each other – I don’t remember why though.  And STOP and RST (reset) buttons.  And it was almost QWERTY.  Here is a close-up image from Wikipedia:

PMD_85-1

For some reason, I remember the keyboard slightly different.  Those blue K-keys were to the left of the main area, organized into two vertical columns.  But I was unable to find an image of such model, so it must be my memory failing.

When I was back in 5th grade (that must have been … hmm … somewhere around the year 1990), a new Informatics (that’s how Computer Science was called back then) teacher at school opened up an after hours Computer Club, which allowed all students, and not just the high graders access to the machines.  I don’t remember the name of the guy, or how I got involved with it, but I do remember that I got hooked on it pretty much immediately.

A few times a week, we’d stay for an hour or two after classes and learn Basic programming language.  He’d explain to us some basic concepts such loops, conditions, and variables, and then would let us work on our code.  For the rest of the days, I remember, I was walking around with the paper notepad, in which I’d write source code by hand, debug it, test it, and improve it, so that I could spend less time doing so in the lab.  Machine time was limited (an hour or two per session, with some of it taken for loading the program from tape, typing in changes, and saving back to tape), so you’d optimize for using it to actually run the program, verify the result, and, maybe, try one or two more ideas.

If I remember correctly, I worked on these machines for two or three years.  Then, my other uncle, who was the first real IT guy I knew, got me an IBM XT machine.  It wasn’t an original IBM, but a mix of Soviet countries manufacturers.  But that was great!  That was the closest thing to the modern PC – CGA graphics with 4 colors, 640 KB of RAM, 10 MB hard disk, and a floppy drive!  I thought nothing better was possible until I saw a VGA monitor with 16 colors.  I think then I realized that I’ll never catch up to the technology developing so fast.

And one last bit of memory.  Even though I wrote quite a bit of Basic code while learning English in a specialized school, it wasn’t until I came to Cyprus and started learning Pascal programming language in Intercollege, that I realized that all those words I’m typing into the computer to make it do things are ACTUAL ENGLISH WORDS!  Now that was both embarrassing and empowering at the same time…

Oh, good old days.

P.S.: Yes, I’ve played on Atari too at my friends’, but I never owned one of those.

On dental fear

Apparently, both dental fear and dental phobia are a thing, and not something I made up in my head:

It is estimated that as many as 75% of US adults experience some degree of dental fear, from mild to severe.  Approximately 5 to 10 percent of U.S. adults are considered to experience dental phobia; that is, they are so fearful of receiving dental treatment that they avoid dental care at all costs. Many dentally fearful people will only seek dental care when they have a dental emergency, such as a toothache or dental abscess.

There’s a questionnaire in existence (Corah’s Dental Anxiety Scale) to diagnose it.  I scored 17 out of 20, so, yeah – severe anxiety of phobia, but could be slightly worse.  Treatment, interestingly, can combine both behavioral techniques, such as positive reinforcement, and pharmacological solutions such as sedation and anesthesia.

And, for those who want to explore this even further, Dental Fear Central is a good place to start.