Facebook Chat, With 40% less suck!

Consider me about 2 days late to this game, but it looks like Facebook finally turned on XMPP chatting. This means that as opposed to the horrible, godawful, REST-driven javascript chat client, you can chat with a desktop client! To those familiar with dropped or duplicated chat messages, trying to IM someone online to find that they're actually offline, and the other oddities that come of Facebook Chat, this should be a welcome change. To make things better, Facebook is attaching to the same open protocol Google uses, so existing chat client software can easily get on Facebook.

Details on how to attach are provided by Facebook, but it's generally just "Add an XMPP account as <user>@chat.facebook.com with your Facebook password" Since I found this out at 3am, I really haven't had any way to test the chat functionality's reliability. I remain confident, however, that Facebook got this up correctly.

SSD: Lots of Bang, not too many bucks

For Christmas this year, I was gifted with money, given the stipulation that I must spend it in the coming week. Of course, after having viewed this Screencast on installing an SSD in a MacBook Pro, I decided to emulate the procedure and give my laptop a boost of speed. As noted in the linked page, SSD's are fast, but expensive. Larger capacity drives cost upwards of $500, an amount I wasn't looking to spend. Since I have a decent amount of data on the laptop, doing a full-on replacement of the drive would normally mean trimming out a bunch of data and being constrained by a small drive. However, a company called MCE sells an adapter bay called OptiBay that allows you to install an auxiliary hard drive in the optical drive slot. One of those and a 64GB SSD later, I was ready to install :D

The steps were pretty easy to follow, although the installation was slightly tricky when replacing the optical drive

  • Mount the SSD into the OptiBay with 2 screws (included)
  • Follow the instructions on iFixit on replacing the optical drive.
  • Use SuperDuper to copy your old hard drive to the new SSD (Note that if you have too much data in your home folder at the moment, you will need to delete enough of it to fit and recover it from backup later)
  • Boot up off of the new SSD (and be amazed at the boot time)!
  • If you want to wipe off the old drive (and make it non-bootable, just storage), go to Disk Utility and reformat the old drive.
    • Use the following command to recopy your home folder over to your old drive
    • mkdir -p /Volumes/<VolumeName>/<username> && ditto -rsrc /Users/<username> /Volumes/<VolumeName>/<username>/

      This will make a folder on the old hard drive to store your local data then do a full clone of your home folder over to it.

  • From the User Accounts Preference Pane, Alt-Click your username, then click Advanced Options... Click Open in the dialog, then point to your home folder on the old drive. Reboot your computer, then voila!


Now you have a super-fast boot drive (and applications), while keeping a larger storage for all your mail, documents, etc.

Why I want to go to Law School

This is a quick-and-dirty mind dump of why I am considering attending law school next year (and will serve as a boilerplate for the inevitable personal essay to write on every single law school application ever) As many of you who read this know, I grew up being a 'computer guy' and an all-out geek. I wanted to solve problems that had the one correct answer. Math and logic puzzles seemed like the perfect encapsulation of a problem: While the problem may be convoluted and in slightly verbose language with complicated inter-dependencies between constraints given in the puzzle, after enough raw thought and avoiding logical fallacies, the correct answer was demonstrably generated. One could verify the correctness of the steps taken to reach the conclusion, the correctness of the input, and the correctness of the output. It was neat, tidy, and pure.

Computer Science has provided many a problem with a definite, provable answer, such as the lower asymptotic bound for a comparison-based sort. Proving such a fact is more difficult than solving a sudoku problem, but it has been done. However, while reaching into the upper levels of undergraduate Computer Science: automata theory, metalogic, and foundations of mathematics, it became clear that on higher levels, the logical systems I depended on so much were based on interpretations of symbol systems artificially constructed on top of a hypothetical set theory. Definitely not the neat and pure system I had so naively thought them to be. It definitely was a case of "the more you know, you more you know you don't know."

At the same time, I was lucky enough to be accepted as an IT intern (and then staffer) for Senator Reid's office in Washington, DC. While my role there was entirely of a technical bent, I was able to witness firsthand the almost-antithesis of computable problems: policy making. It was a sudden shock to me to watch debate about important issues, watch two speeches on the same topic from opposite viewpoints, and still both be rationally sound. I appreciated the spirited debate, save for one instance: when basic facts were misrepresented. I believe that basic facts: observable evidence, rigorously-obtained statistical information, and the like are the cornerstone for progress. I believe that the best debate (and the most well-thought out resolutions to that debate) comes from 'true' information and sound inference rules. When arguments are based off of false data or specious logic, they tend to lead to false results. While argumentative styles vary far and wide within politics and debate about non-computable issues in general, I respect arguments that follow a consistent, logical flow.

I suppose I see law school as a way to apply logical argumentation to decide on issues outside the normal operating procedures of engineering disciplines. It would help me bring my expertise in the technology field to a legal system so sorely in need of technologically-apt disciples.

I still haven't decided if this is the best path for me. Perhaps I place law school on too high a pedestal. Perhaps there is a better way to effect change. It is an option I am considering, however.