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Archives for 2009

Conference and a few more photos of Prague

September 4th, 2009

As I was presenting a poster I couldn’t skive the whole conference, so I spent quite a lot of Tuesday listening to presentations. Still managed to get out in the morning for an hour or two, and there was an organized tour of the castle in the evening.

Since this episode is a bit dull maybe it’s a good time to talk about the conference. The two most interesting talks I saw were from Altera and Xilinx. On different days, presumably to avoid a fight. The Altera talk was my favourite, although I don’t really have any experience of Altera’s FPGAs. Talk was by Vaughn Betz, probably better known in FOSS land as the author of the VPR place and route tool. The subject was the problems and opportunities of FPGAs on <40nm processes. The primary argument seems to be that smaller process sizes favour FPGAs over ASICs (traditionally better for performance and volume price). Primarily because doing an ASIC at 40nm costs upwards of $4m for a mask set (and you're going to make mistakes...), plus the physics gets messy when the feature size is smaller than the wavelength of the light used to manufacture them, so you'll need some very experienced engineers. Thus most ASIC users are stuck at ~130nm, whereas FPGA users get many of the speed and density benefits of a 40nm process with a fraction of the NRE costs. The Xilinx talk was along similar lines, but seemed more of a marketing presentation for their latest range of devices. Weirdly enough the speaker got a standing ovation at the end. Academics coveting industrial sponsorship? (The speaker was quite a well-known senior engineer and retiring.) Poster session went OK. Quite a lot of people read it (or at least looked at it for >30s). A few talked to me about it, one guy quite in depth! Felt relieved when it was over.

Anyway, on to the obligatory photos!

Prague photos part 2

September 4th, 2009

Woo! Another exciting episode of Nick’s holiday snaps! I hope you’re all enjoying them…

After going to the first keynote talk of the conference I didn’t really fancy any of the later talks so went out for a walk. Unfortunately the walk lasted over nine hours so I didn’t do any more conferencing that day. I think I had a lot more fun sightseeing though!

This episode covers the centre and western regions.

Back from holiday!

September 3rd, 2009

I’ve survived my trip abroad! Was really good. I didn’t exactly do a lot of conferencing, but I did all I was required to.

Prague is an incredibly pretty city, but some of the touristy areas are a bit tacky to say the least. However they have a truly excellent public transport system and I managed to ride on all the different components at least once; these being: bus, tram, metro, and train. Train (vlacek) was particularly exciting: a little run down, but they have buckets of charm which is sadly lacking on British trains.

Czech food is utterly awesome, consisting largely of salt, fat, and lots of red meat. Non-potato vegetable is rare. Nick heartily approves.

In contrast to previous adventure destinations such as Hull, Prague has an awful lot of things to do (i.e. more than three). So I ended up wandering around without visiting anywhere in particular. This turned out to be a good idea as I achieved high coverage with low expenditure.

I took rather a lot of photos which I’m going to caption and split up into a number of exciting episodes! In this, the first episode, Nick zooms through the skies and visits several communist landmarks before retiring to his bourgeoisie hotel.

Off on holiday

August 29th, 2009

I’m going to be away for most of the next week on holitag in Prague! Ostensibly to present a poster at a conference, but I’ll likely skive off to do some sightseeing. Definitely not going to miss the session on “watermarking, chip ID, and IP protection”: should be very useful for my imminent corporate career.

Doubtless I’ll have a large number of photos to share with everyone upon my return. Joy!

Wielding my fat wad of CZK like a gangsta

Wielding my fat wad of CZK like a gangsta

Spudski Kartoffelstampfer

August 25th, 2009

I have a new potato masher! Received as present from my mum. It is Spudski Kartoffelstampfer. Here it is:


First impressions are good: the handle is soft and comfortable to grip; the shaft is longer than most mashers giving good leverage against the potato. It’s plastic so it won’t scrape away the pan, but feels more robust than most plastic mashers I’ve used. The intricate webbing on the foot of the masher apparently helps to push potato away from the masher instead of sucking it up through the holes, thus improving the efficiency of the mashing process. Nick is doubtful that such advanced mashing technology is within the reach of modern science, but I will investigate these claims the next time I make mash potato.

The packaging gives some overview of the process used to produce the Spudski Kartoffelstampfer. The “spudski” part, I believe, comes from the apparent similarity to a skiing pole.


Obviously the only reliable way to evaluate a potato masher is to use it to mash potato. I will therefore update this review after I have practical experience with it.

UPDATE: mashing was good! Effective but quite difficult to clean afterwards – potato gets stuck in the little holes. I’ve decided I’m not so keen on the mash produced from Maris Piper potatoes despite the recommendation of the British Potato Council for their suitability for this purpose. Expect a detailed survey of potatoes on this blog in the next few months.

Wonder of Modern Science

August 25th, 2009

I received an 8GB microSD card from the tubes today. It is small! But it contains 8GB of datas??! How have have scientists achieved this??!! Wondrous.

Here it is next to its mothership that turns it into a regular SD card:


UPDATE: readers have demanded the microSD card be compared to the coal lump previously featured. Here it is:


We can see that the microSD card is much smaller than the coal lump.

Coal lump

August 22nd, 2009

By popular request, here is a photo of the coal lump extracted from the mine.


Coal Mining Museum

August 21st, 2009

Went to the National Coal Mining Museum on the way up to York on Thursday. It’s fantastic! Well worth visiting if you’re near Wakefield and have even the slightest interest in mining. Best bit was the underground tour with a real miner! Proper northern as well. Got a fist-sized lump of coal out of the mine too.

Outside the NCM

Outside the NCM

Foot disease

August 19th, 2009

I’ve just looked at my feet and something shocking has happened:


The feet display a non-uniform colour! What terrible disease have I acquired?! Stay away: it might be contagious!