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Blog, by date: 2009_feb

from the desk of travis johnson.

Mission Graduate School: Success (from 2009/02/25)

I've officially been accepted to two PhD applied math programs: Northwestern and University of North Carolina. I've also been accepted to the Masters of Science program at the University of Washington. Both of the PhD offers came with full fellowship offers(at least for the first year), which basically means that I just need to go and give them the best bang for their buck with my brainpower for five years, and then I'll have my PhD. Awesome. All three schools are outstanding and have amazing faculty, as best as I can tell.

Professor Kutz has recommended I take some Dynamical Systems(AMATH575, spring quarter) and the Advanced Methods for Ordinary Differential Equations course(AMATH568, summer quarter in some special way). They're both fairly intimidating courses, but it'd be a great confidence boost for next fall, no matter where I ended up, assuming that I lived through the experience. Though, honestly, looking through the previous year's, I think I'm up for it.

I have also booked my tickets to visit both University of North Carolina and Northwestern University. I'll be visiting NU March 15 through 17, and UNC March 19 through 21. I could not be more excited!

GenHosts (from 2009/02/24)

Winter quarter 08, the hosts.allow files used by tcpwrappers was getting unwieldy. For one thing, we had certain groups of hosts that were all allowed to connect to eachother anywhere, some groups that were only allowed one port on one computer, some that were allowed certain parts of machines. It was basically a mess to try and keep up with it. So I wrote a set of scripts to let us update one place and have it synchronize everywhere else, all in very simple XML files.

This worked well, but my bosses also wanted automatic addition to the whitelist upon signing into our customized website. Due to PHP4's messy XML handling and/or my lack of time, I went the quick and dirty route and wrote a MySQL<->XML interface. This also worked pretty well in the end.

This is pretty much alpha software, but it might be useful to someone out there…

My Hint for Foreign ATM Machines (from 2009/02/09)

I've been meaning to write this tip up for quite a while, but now that I've finally gotten some closure on it, I guess now would be a decent time. While I was in Brazil, there were two ATM machine clusters across the street from eachother, both between the beach and the hostel we were staying at. The CITIbank ATMs were more reliable, but the HSBC ATMs were a bit cheaper. At first, it always seemed worth the small extra, but since I never wanted to get much out at a time, I was racking up the bank charges. Also, several people had been using the HSBC ATM without issue, so I figured I would start using that one instead as well. This worked well the first couple of times, but one of the days I went in to get some cash out, it didn't dispense. Undeterred, I went to one of the ATM machines someone else had just (successfully) used and tried there, and withdrew the money. This time it worked.

Now, the problem was that the first transaction went through as well… it just didn't dispense. So when I tried to call up my bank to dispute the charge, it was hard telling them which withdrawl it was, because they were both for the same amount. They ended up giving me a provisional credit(after some cajoling of the Executive Customer Service personel.. a great hint I picked up from Sharvil). Later, however, the amount was withdrawn from my account, saying that they had investigated and not figured it out. What a pain. About 6 weeks later, HSBC finally deposited the amount back into my account.

Anyways, the main lesson I learned is to try to withdraw slightly different amounts each time so that the customer service rep you talk to can figure out exactly which transaction went sour. I'm not sure if the provisional credit was revoked because they investigated the wrong withdrawal or what, but it would have been nice to know with certainty that I had told her the correct one.

Graduate School Applications and Microsoft (from 2009/02/09)

I finally finished graduate school applications last weekend. I applied to University of Washington, University of North Carolina, Northwestern, University of Colorado, and University of Nevada. It's a lot of work getting a bunch of applications out like that: I definitely underestimated it. Hopefully my personal statement measured up to the letters of recommendation that people wrote for me.

I also ended up having an interview with Microsoft that week, just to add a bit to the stress there. It actually went fairly well, though I haven't heard back on the round-two interview yet. They said it would be a while though.

This is going to be another busy week: Comp Sci, German, Math, and Applied Math homework; Comp Sci exam, and research meetings, along with the standard course assistant for AMATH301 stuff. I also need one more class for spring quarter. Currently I'm planning on the intro CAD class for my last 4 VLPA credits, Real Analysis to round out my applied-math education with some pure-math, and a AMATH500 seminar about high performance computing and visualization(which will be taught by Randall J LeVeque and sounds awesome.) Which leaves me at around 8 credits. I've been encouraged to take introductory accounting, a dance class, and probably a lot more… but I'm not too sure yet. It's kinda too bad that the intro electrical engineering class sounds like kindof a GPA-murderer, because I've always sorta been interested in that sort of thing.

HMCP Set, TextMate, and RoR 2.0 (from 2009/02/06)

I found a great little LaTeX homework layout for typesetting math homeworks a while back, and I've meant to write it up for quite a while. It's from Harvey Mudd College's Mathematics Department, engineered to automatically satisfy the department guidelines on how homeworks should be laid out. They also have thesis and poster templates, but the homework installation proceedures and sty files are located on the Homework Class page. Their website also has extensive information on their computer resources. While basically useless for anyone not at Harvey Mudd, it is a model for how this sort of website should look. Everything is clearly detailed at the perfect level, along with suggestions not just for how to do certain tasks, but also when you might want to do something.

I tend to be a VIM guy for working with code, but for smaller scale LaTeX stuff(ie, homework writeups but not the 62-page monster I wrote for AMATH581), I've been using the TextMate program. It's a bit expensive at about $50, but it takes it down to 1 keystroke to recompile the LaTeX file and view it. It's also really good at working with directory hierachies. I believe I discovered it while toying with the programming language Ruby in their 15 minutes to a weblog screencast.

Turns out that the Ruby people have released a 2.0 15 minutes to a weblog screencast. This time they pull some punches(pasting code in), so it's cheating a little bit, but they get a blog with an admin interface, AJAX comments(with an HTML-redirected fallback), and an ATOM feed all tied into one app, which I have to say is impressive even when you have stacked the deck. I hate to give up on Python for web stuff since I'm using it for a lot of other stuff nowadays, but it's all pretty enticing. Find the video on the Ruby on Rails Screencast page.

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