Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Fight against racism

Recently, the radio station HOT in New York broadcasted a racist song mocking the Tsunami victims of South Asia. In that song, they referred to the Tsunami victims as "chinks", "drowning Asians", and "Chinamen". One should point out a basic fact here, the hardest hit area of the Tsunami is Indonesia. The racist who wrote this song does not even have the basic knowledge to distinguish between Chinese and Indonesian. Also, the term "Chinamen" is a racial slur used mostly in the last century. It carries similar demeaning intention as the racial slur "Nigger". Such vocabulary should not be used by any descent human being in America.

Here are some information and protest petitions against the racist station.
We are already well into the 21st century, and we just celebrated Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech last week. It is sad to see that racism is still so deep rooted in the "popular" culture. The road to racial equality is still very long from here.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Mobile live traffic information and navigation (with GPS)

GPS based navigation systems have been around for a number of years now. They typically receive signals from a satellite to find the current position, and then look up the map data (on your Palm, PocketPC, cell phone, laptop computer, or specific GPS device like Megellan/Garmin) to calculate the best way to route you to your destination.

However, the road condition keeps on changing, there could be accidents, construction, or traffic congestion ahead. If the GPS is simply looking up a computer database, they have no knowledge of what's going on ahead. This problem has been tackled recently by a few companies with "live" traffic conditions broadcasted to their GPS system. Typically they collect live traffic information from the transportation department or some local authority, and feed that data to the device. Another valuable information source is the tracking of cell phone signals on the road. These "live" traffic information services, not surprisingly, comes with a subscription fee. A simple search on the web reveals some of these new companies/products: Cobra, Pharos, TomTom, Teletype GPS, etc.

In future, it would be nice if the GPS device can collect and analyze the driving habit (such as average speed) of a driver on some typical roads or conditions, store them on a local device (to protect privacy), and automatically selects the best route for the driver based on the "live" traffic data, and his/her driving history. Also, as our local governments tackle the day-to-day traffic congestion problems, perhaps they will eventually be will to foot the bill for broadcasting the "live" traffic information, instead of relying on private companies that charge a subscription fee. After all, these traffic reports are free public information anyway.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Formal Verification of Software

There is a plethora of Formal Verification tools for software verification in recent years. It should be pointed out that a lot of effort has been invested on formal verification of hardware, and it remains a challenging problem. Software verification is essentially more complex. In hardware we have at least a finite state space (they are all finite state machines); but in software the state space may not be bounded anymore. One couldn't help but wonder why people are rushing to solve a much harder problem while they couldn't solve the easier sibling. The truth lies in the return on investment. Although formal verification of hardware is still unsolved, a lot of easier subproblems have been worked on, and some (like equivalence checking) have been widely deployed in industry. Meanwhile, formal verification of software remains mostly untouched. So there are a lot of low hanging fruits (in the research field) if one simply work on software verification and perhaps borrow/transform some good techniques from the hardware side. At the end of the day, software verification remains a much more difficult problem. So those late to the game are going to be very disappointed after all this gold rush is over.

Sunday, January 16, 2005


Went hiking for a few hours yesterday in Almaden Quicksilver Park. Although it's been sunny for a few days, the trail was still quite muddy. The real estate boom in Bay Area means that every piece of land that can be used has been used, including areas surrounding the park.