November 11th, 2008


Firefox bookmarks, tabs, and tracking cookies: are you saved?

Can anyone please recommend:

  • a workaround for the problem in Firefox where if you import bookmarks from the Organize Bookmarks window, they don't automatically update? ETA, 06:50 CST Tue 11 Nov 2008 - I wrote this problem down when it was occurring in Firefox 2, but it seems to still be present in Firefox 3.

  • a tabbed browsing session saver?

  • a whitelist for what tracking cookies are safe to keep, if authenticated?



Stripping the Polymers

In September, 2001, I bought Sting, an HP iPAQ 3635. It served me well for about four years, and then I upgraded to Angrist, an AudioVox 6700 Pocket PC smart phone. It's still gathering dust in a corner of my house.

One of my main gripes about Sting was that it had a great lithium polymer battery that lasted for 7-8 hours for the first year, but then developed a severe case of battery memory. That's when you charge a battery up fully, drain it down a little bit, and then charge it back up again, and its charge capacity and time to depletion drop as it ages. I've had terrible battery memory with nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries, moderate effects with nickel-cadmium (NiCad), mild effects with lithium ion, and pretty severe effects with lithium polymer (I've replaced the battery in Angrist several times already.)

When I called HP tech support, they told me not to let it drain so badly that I couldn't boot without plugging the PocketPC into its charge cradle, because it "strips the polymers from the battery". I'm not sure what that means, but it sounds dire.

Which brings me to the actual subject of my post. When I get a little overloaded, I simply increase my power consumption, where "power" here means caffeine, calories, and morale. Well, you can imagine what happens when I get to 0% on any of the above.

Moral: If you have an advisor who's willing to go past hibernation... don't strip the polymers.



Cribbage, or crib, is a card game traditionally for two players, but commonly played with three, four or more, that involves playing and grouping cards in combinations which gain points. Cribbage has several distinctive features: the cribbage board used for scorekeeping, the eponymous crib or box (a separate hand counting for the dealer), two distinct scoring stages (the play and the show) and a unique scoring system including points for groups of cards that total fifteen.

According to John Aubrey, cribbage was created by the English poet Sir John Suckling in the early 17th century, as a derivation of the game "noddy". While noddy has disappeared, crib has survived, virtually unchanged, as one of the most popular games in the English-speaking world. The objective of the game is to be the first player to score a target number of points, typically 61 or 121. Points are scored for card combinations that add up to fifteen, pairs (plus triples and quadruples), runs and flushes.

Cribbage holds a special place among American submariners, serving as an "official" pastime. The wardroom of the oldest submarine in the fleet carries RADM Dick O'Kane's personal cribbage board onboard, and upon decommissioning it is transferred to the next oldest boat.


Ben McBride (bdm7935) introduced me to cribbage as part of his fall, 2006 term project in CIS 730. Does anyone one my friends list play it? I still haven't quite got the hang of it, but I became intrigued by it mainly because of the multiple modalities of the game and its rich and complex combinatorial properties.


Steiner Tree Problems

The Steiner tree problem, named after Jakob Steiner (1796 - 1863), is a problem in combinatorial optimization.

The Steiner tree problem is superficially similar to the minimum spanning tree problem: given a set V of points (vertices), interconnect them by a network (graph) of shortest length, where the length is the sum of the lengths of all edges. The difference between the Steiner tree problem and the minimum spanning tree problem is that, in the Steiner tree problem, extra intermediate vertices and edges may be added to the graph in order to reduce the length of the spanning tree. These new vertices introduced to decrease the total length of connection are known as Steiner points or Steiner vertices. It has been proved that the resulting connection is a tree, known as the Steiner tree. There may be several Steiner trees for a given set of initial vertices.

The original problem was stated in the form that has become known as the Euclidean Steiner tree problem: Given N points in the plane, it is required to connect them by lines of minimum total length in such a way that any two points may be interconnected by line segments either directly or via other points and line segments...

The most general version is Steiner tree in graphs: Given a weighted graph G(V,E,w) and subset S of its vertices, find a tree of minimal weight which includes all vertices in S.

The Steiner tree problem has applications in circuit layout or network design. Most versions of the Steiner tree problem are NP-complete, i.e., thought to be computationally hard. In fact, one of these was among Karp's original 21 NP-complete problems. Some restricted cases can be solved in polynomial time. In practice, heuristics are used.

                    -excerpted and adapted from Wikipedia

This is another problem family that colleagues in Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering introduced me to.

The Steiner Tree Page created by Joe Ganley is a (no longer maintained) repository of links to various sites, algorithms and implementations such as GeoSteiner by Warme et al., and catalogs of variants.

Has anyone reading this done a project on Steiner trees, or is anyone currently working on related problems and interested in the topic?

  • Current Mood
    curious curious

Named Entity Recognition

To be cross-posted to comptranslation and bayesnets.

Named entity recognition (NER) (also known as entity identification (EI) and entity extraction) is a subtask of information extraction that seeks to locate and classify atomic elements in text into predefined categories such as the names of persons, organizations, locations, expressions of times, quantities, monetary values, percentages, etc.

Most research on NER systems has been structured as taking an unanotated block of text, such as this one:

        Jim bought 300 shares of Acme Corp. in 2006.

and producing an annotated block of text, such as this one:

        <ENAMEX TYPE="PERSON">Jim</ENAMEX> bought
        <NUMEX TYPE="QUANTITY">300</NUMEX> shares of
        <TIMEX TYPE="DATE">2006</TIMEX>.

        - Wikipedia

Does anyone reading this work on this or other natural language processing (NLP) and, more generally, Human Language Technology (HLT) tasks such as machine translation, information extraction (IE) including gist summarization, modeling of second language acquisition or foreign language acquisition, and textual entailment?

  • Current Mood
    working working