Learning LaTeX and the "listings" Package

I recently decided to start doing my homework in LaTeX, for a couple of reasons. Perhaps foremost among these LaTeX is a useful thing to know, being (according to the website) “the de facto standard for the communication and publication of scientific documents”, and I had no prior experience using it. Another is that it has built-in support for typesetting mathematical equations, which is extremely useful to someone who is taking a class in advanced algorithms. (Just try getting your word processor to represent something like xlogba).

At any rate, one of the best things about LaTeX is its extensibility, which is acchieved through the use of packages. One useful package that I found in the course of doing my homework is the listings package. This packages is intended to allow typesetting of source code – as opposed to the \verbatim/\verb! method – including highlighting of keywords and other special formatting for various source constructs (e.g., italicized comments). It even allows you to specify the programming language that you will be using and, if there is no support for one’s language of choice, it is possible to create one’s own typesetting definition for that language.

Anyone interested in a simple way to typeset source code should check it out [PDF]!


The eBayowulf Cluster: continued

Vectra ve6I’ve been meaning to migrate my page about “The eBayowulf Cluster” from my old blog for a while now, and I finally got around to doing it today. There’s not really much new material there – pretty much direct plagiarism from the old page – but then there really hasn’t been much progress of late. (I would like to get some pics up…) This is partially because of a lack of time to dedicate to such “frivolous” pursuits, and partially because I haven’t been able to obtain 11 (or so) 128MB sticks of PC66 SDRAM, and I’ve decided that 5 machines running with 32MB of RAM is a little more low-end than I want to go.

At any rate, I’m still looking; when I luck into a hidden cache of memory, you’ll be the first to know!


Monitors: I'm torn

Dell 3007WFP This week, I’ve been looking at Dell wide format LCD monitors. The Sweetest of the Sweet at this point is the 30″ 3007WFP Ultrasharp (pictured at rightleft). Despite it’s 2560×1600 native resolution, this hulking behemoth of monitorhood comes with a $2,199 price tag – or 1862.66 sq. px. per dollar – which makes it entirely out of the question.

Next in the lineup is the 24″ 2405FPW UltraSharp (pictured at right). Make no mistake, friend, this is an almost equally-beautiful piece of display periphery. However, its on-discount pricetag of $879.20 (1920×1200, 2,620.56 sq. px./dollar) still makes it a fairly expensive option.

Lastly – and easiest on the checkbook – comes the “lowly” 20.1″ 2005FPW UltraSharp (not pictured: redundancy alert!). At 1680×1050, the 2005FPW is the most expensive in terms of square pixels per dollar ($3,046.63)…but it’s awfully hard to pass up at that low, low price.

NEC AccuSync 95F Samsung SyncMaster 712N For reference purpose, I currently have a dual-monitor configuration, with monitor #1 (left) being an NEC AccuSync 95F, and monitor #2 (right) being a Samsung SyncMaster 712N. Both of them are currently set to 1280×1024 (since I got tired of twiddling around with 2 monitors running different resolutions, and the Samsung has a native resolution of 1280×1024), so I’d be losing a few square pixels with any of the above LCDs…not to mention the infinite price differential. Still…man, those things are sweet-lookin’!


The Two Immutable Laws of Blogging

zzzzzz7654210.jpgI happened across this little beauty on gapingvoid this morning. Every blogger should have to know these two laws…


Betsy met the Dalai Who?

Betsy meets the Dalai LamaEvery now and again, I Google old friends’ names to see what they’re up to – i.e., whether or not they’ve done anything that would make them visible enough to put them in the top 10 Google search results on their respective names. I don’t search for everyone I knew, reserving my precious time spent in time-wasting efforts to those people whom I think have a legitimate shot of being highly “PageRanked”. One such person is Betsy “Save the World” Shenk (pictured above), who apparently had the opportunity to meet the Dalai Lama [PDF] during her travels with Operation Smile. The photo’s caption:

At the conclusion of Operation Smile’s October 2004 mission in Himachal Pradesh, India, the team had the opportunity to meet and talk with the Dalai Lama at his residence. After Mission Coordinator Betsy Shenk showed the Dalai Lama pictures of patients whose lives have been changed by Operation Smile, he complimented the team on their efforts.

My initial reaction was something like, “Holy ****! Betsy met the Dalai Lama!” However, upon further reflection I’ve come to the conclusion that the most shocking thing about this is not that she met the Dalai Lama, but that it took her so long to do so. Keep up the good work, Betsy!


The Optimus Keyboard

Optimus KeyboardI know that this is kind of “old news” as far as all the gadget blogs and nerd rags are concerned, but the Optimus Keyboard will apparently be launching on February 1. For those not familiar with the Optimus, each key is an OLED display that will show what the given key is used for at the moment. One example might be that it normally displays all of the letter keys in lower-case unless the Caps-Lock or Shift key has been pressed. Another – it could be configured such that when one is playing NetHack, the ‘Z’ key becomes a wand icon. (For those who haven’t played NetHack, the ‘Z’ key is ‘zap’).

The site tells visitors to keep an eye on the main page for further details. All About Linux asks perhaps the most salient question (for me) – “…will it have support for Linux?”


The UltraSparc T1

UltraSPARC T1Jim Dinan gave a presentation at last night’s Open Source Club meeting on the UltraSPARC T1 processor. With 32 simultaneous threads (8 cores, 4 threads/core), this CMT monster sports a 134GB/sec crossbar and four on-chip MMUs for a total memory bandwidth of 25.6GB/sec. Also impressive: it does all of this with a peak power consumption of 79 watts. (For comparison, a dual-core Xeon (Paxville) consumes around 165 watts.)

NiagraDon’t go rushing out to buy one just yet, though; this isn’t a processor for your Average Joe – at least not if Joe wants to do any floating point computations. The T1 has a single, shared FPU hanging off of the bus. “How many?!”, you ask incredulously. That’s right…one. This chip is meant for data centers (read: high-volume web service/OLTP servers), not for any kind of scientific computing. Another prohibitive factor: price. Keep in mind, this is a Sun “price is no object…until we go out of business because we don’t sell anything” MicroSystems chip we’re talking about; looks like a fairly “standard” server with the T1 is going to run upwards of fourteen grand.

Open Source“So…why is this of interest to an open source club?” Well, that’s probably the coolest thing of all. Sun has begun the OpenSPARC Initiative – the first of its stated goals is, “To significantly increase participation in processor architecture development and application design by making cutting-edge hardware IP freely available” – and the UltraSPARC T1 is going to be the first processor to have its Verilog source released under this initiative.

Update: Anandtech has some more technical details and benchmarks for the T1 (if you can look past the heinous advertising).