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NullVoid » 2005 » December NullVoid » 2005 » December

Archive for December, 2005

rubik’s cube

Thursday, December 29th, 2005 -- By ET

I got a Rubik’s Cube.

It is different from the canonical Rubik’s Cube (shown on the left) in that it has different patterns (characters, graphs, figures) on the 6 sides instead of pure colored squares.

The patterned Cube turns to be harder than the canonical Cube.

See the Picture below for an example of patterned Cube:

Note that the centered square can be easily misaligned when you complete the cube. It can be frustrating to try to align the center piece and destroy the completed pieces.

Here is a solution I use, forgive me if this is not absolutely clear, but you can find out the notation from any Rubik’s cube related website,

1 – Complete the 1st side, ignore the centered piece if it is misaligned, note that we have one layer completely finished now
2 – position corners of the opposite side of the completed layer.
put the completed side to the back, the to-be-completed side will be facing you
u-1 f u l-1 u l u-1 f2
Stop once you have all 4 corner’s positioned right (not necessarily oriented, we will address that in the next step)

3 – orient corners
u-1 f2 u f u-1 f u f2
Stop once the 4 corners are aligned and oriented, so basically, the side facing you should have a pattern like this:

X a X
b X c
X d X

where Xs represent the same color, ignore the center piece’s orientation again.

4 – complete side 2

put the completed side on the top, and the side 2 on the bottom, use the following combination to insert the missing pieces of X to the bottom.
b= f h2 f-1
r= f-1 h f

5 – keyhole

the previous step may leave one piece misplaced on the top layer (the completed side), use the following combination to get it back
r= f h-1 f-1 h-1 f h f-1
f= f h-1 f-1 h2 f-1 h-1 f

After this step, we have two opposite layers completely finished, go to the next steps to finish the center layer

6 – position 4 pieces on the corner

Use the following moves to put the 4 pieces on the corner of the center layer into position, use step 7 to orient them
v u2 v-1 u2
7 – orient 4 pieces
v u v u v u2 v-1 u v-1 u v-1 u2

8 – center

If you have a canonical Rubik’s cube, you don’t need this step, after step 7, you are all set. If the center pieces are not aligned, please use this to rotate the top center piece counter-clock-wisely, and rotate the left center piece clock-wisely. Use your intelligence to find out how to orient the center pieces with the minimum moves!
v-1 h-1 v u v-1 h v u-1

Here I can give two great Rubik’s Cube pages, they give pointers to other great resources.



Good and Bad Procrastination

Monday, December 26th, 2005 -- By ET

I knew Paul Graham when I participated MIT’s Spam Conference. I like his essays a lot. It’s good to have the luxury to write such witty essays. I write very short blog entries, as you can see, since I don’t have time to write longer ones. Maybe one day, I don’t have errands to worry about and start to write longer ones. What "errands", you ask, then take a look at his latest article:

Good and Bad Procrastination

Merry Xmas and Happy New Year

Friday, December 23rd, 2005 -- By ET

Happy Holidays to all the friends who read this blog. If you like this blog, then you are very likely to be a hard working, intelligent, warm hearted, open minded individual. :-p Keep up the good work! Best wishes to you all.

MIT values and Confucianism

Thursday, December 22nd, 2005 -- By ET

In a recent address, MIT’s president Susan Hockfield talked about Ben Bernanke PhD ’79, who was nominated to be the Chairman for the Federal Reserve.  Hockfield summarized the values central to MIT that has been exemplified by Bernanke:

  • Personal integrity
  • Analytical rigor
  • Uncompromising drive toward excellence
  • Commitment to public service

I don’t know if these items are official or not, but I like them.  It resembles the famous ‘"Eight Values" in the Chinese traditional confucianism:


A rough translation of the above is:

  1. probe into the element of maters
  2. strive to obtain the ultimate knowledge
  3. learn with faith
  4. cultivate a heart of honesty
  5. establish integrity
  6. support a family
  7. administer a country
  8. establish utopia

See the striking similarity between the two sets of values.

vegas woe

Sunday, December 18th, 2005 -- By ET

Last week, I went to Vegas for a conference (ICIS) and the most important purpose of the trip was to go to a few job interviews with universities to look for a faculty job. If sucessful, I’ll be an assistant professor at some prestigous university next year.

Monday was the busiest day, I had 6 interviews and one presentation. Almost lost my voice after the day. Going back from the last interview to my hotel room in Venetian, on the elevator, I met this guy. He is in his late 30s, quite a big fiture, with a tatoo on his neck (the tatoo is a Chinese character:"Faith"). Obviously, he was a talkative and joyful person – he asked me when we were in the elevator:"Winning?"

I smiled in fatigue:"Not really gambling, I’m here for some job interviews."

He looked at me and said:"You look sharp, man, I’m sure you’ll get the job."

I look sharp? It must be because of my black suit, white shirt and my nice tie. Feeling very warm after a long day, I said, wholeheartedly:"thank you very much!"

He smiled back, and said:"You know, if they don’t give you the job, just go across the street, Mirage is also a nice hotel."

blog, wiki, google scholar, web 2.0 and academic research

Tuesday, December 6th, 2005 -- By ET

Nature has a few new articles talking about what Wikis, Blogs, Digital Libraries, Google Base, and other Internet technologies may mean for the future of scientific communication beyond the confines of scientific journals. 

From the article:"For every ninety-nine mediocre ideas, there will likely only be one brilliant idea. The few brilliant ideas, however, are worth the investment of many mediocre (and chaotic) ones…The few brilliant ideas will survive in the market place of ideas." (quote from Calvin Andrus, head of the CIA’s unit for collaboration technologies)

Paul Myers from U Minnesota is quoted:"Put a description of your paper on a blog, and people far from your usual circle start thinking about the subject." 

Many scientists don’t blog because they fear it has a poor image and could damage their careers. Most younger biologists blog anonymously, "Many fear that their superiors consider it a waste of time, or even dangerous," "Until blogging is seen as normal, this will continue to be a problem."


Skype Alternatives

Friday, December 2nd, 2005 -- By ET

I’ve been using Skype for a long time. Liked it because of the sound quality and ease of use. I had no problem persuading a lot of my friends to use it, even those people who are extremely reluctant to try out new technologies. Skype 2.0 beta has been posted on their website, and the biggest change is that they begin to support video chat now. It is not such a big deal, because I can use MSN messenger or Yahoo messenger’s video chat function simultaneously with Skype’s voice chat. It is good though to have both functions combined in one application. (There is a plugin called festoon that supports both skype and GoogleTalk to add video chat functions, the fun part is that it creates those funny real time distortions of the video). The big disadvantage of Skype is that the protocol is closed source, there are actually a lot of VoIP solutions out there that uses open source protocols.

Google Talk.

Tried it once, the sound quality is pretty good, and it is very easy to set up. The installation file is a few hundred KB. Amazing how Google did it.


This is the biggest threat to Skype in my view, the protocol is based on SIP, which is open, so users can call people using other softwares based on SIP (a lot of them), GoogleTalk is also based on SIP, by the way. After Skype has been bought by ebay, Gizmo is becoming more and more popular.

Some comparisons:

Skype vs. Gizmo UI? Hah! No comparison

Yahoo – Is Gizmo Project a Skype Killer?


This one has a very good UI (user interface), I haven’t tried it. It is funny that the UI is exactly the same as the next one: ineen.com.

See for yourself –>


I noticed the text “Powered by Xten” on this interface, and by visiting XTEN.COM, I found that the UI is actually designed by a company called XTEN, which changed its name to “CounterPath” now. Yahoo, VONAGE.com, MCI are all its partners. Hmm…

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