School Year 07-08, Technology, Uncategorized 2 comments on Chronicling My Visualizaton Project – Start with an error

Chronicling My Visualizaton Project – Start with an error

It seems that you can’t claim that a project has started until there is a bug of some sort that has nothing to do with any code that you have written. In fact, it’s a bug in you setting up your system, which often tends to convince folks that the stars are lined against them, and they should just quit. Don’t quit. Just be patient, and you’ll find the way.

I will be building the visualization that I created for the MovieLens Recommendation System as my project in Visualization. It is probably the most awesome thing that I’ve planned on doing in a long, long time. To do the visualization, I will be taking advantage of an IMDB API written in Ruby by a one Stephen Becker IV. I need the API to pull out information from IMDB that isn’t available in the data that we are given in the text file.

And so today I am setting up the environment as a proof-of-concept, and I immediately run into a problem. Others seem to have had this problem, and seem to have solved it by waving their hands in the air and changing the magnetic field around themselves by just enough to switch the necessary bits on their hard drive. Unfortunately, I was never very good at waving my hand in the air like I just don’t care.

The problem was that an included extension wasn’t building properly, and therefore when it was called it was puking the following output:

monvural$ ruby imdb.rb
/usr/local/lib/ruby/site_ruby/1.8/rubygems/custom_require.rb:32:in `gem_original_require': no such file to load -- hpricot_scan (LoadError)
from /usr/local/lib/ruby/site_ruby/1.8/rubygems/custom_require.rb:32:in `require'
from /usr/local/lib/ruby/gems/1.8/gems/hpricot-0.6-jruby/lib/hpricot.rb:20
from /usr/local/lib/ruby/site_ruby/1.8/rubygems/custom_require.rb:32:in `gem_original_require'
from /usr/local/lib/ruby/site_ruby/1.8/rubygems/custom_require.rb:32:in `require' from imdb.rb:12

I thought to myself, “Well damn, there’s no way I’ll figure this out.” The solution however was quite trivial. Props must go to the blog aki note that had the answer written in Japanese. I used my amazing powers of reading the English characters to solve the issue at hand. The following steps will fix the error:

cd /usr/local/lib/ruby/gems/1.8/gems/hpricot-0.6/ext/hpricot_scan/
sudo ruby extconf.rb
sudo make install

The result was a working program! The first major obstacle tackled, I can now get the information that I want from IMDB. Now I need to learn how to efficiently use Java3D.

School Year 07-08, Uncategorized 0 comments on Software Engineer for Hire

Software Engineer for Hire

Here is my cover letter to the world:

You’re probably familiar with the kid who sits in class and makes comments like, “Java isn’t a real programming language, you can’t overload operators.”
Well that isn’t me.

You’re probably also familiar with the kid who answers all of the easy questions to make it look like they really know what they’re talking about, and then needs to sit in the TAs office to finish up simple programming assignments.
That’s not me either.

I’m the guy who finishes the mundane stuff early on so that I have more time to fiddle with my own projects. I have 3 or 4 start up ideas drawn on paper, and I’ve actually started building some of them, but what I’ve discovered is there’s really something lacking if you don’t have a group of like-minded individuals to share ideas and to tell you that something you’re doing is stupid or awesome equally. I think I’m searching for an environment like the one that you have created because I’m ready to figure out how to revolutionize an industry or an idea. I realize it’s just not something that you can do alone. I’m motivated by the reality that success isn’t random, and that it’s a combination of good people with good ideas. And I think my see it all, touch it all attitude makes me an asset to a small group who needs someone to do it all in the process of starting a revolution.

I’ll be available in July, and my resume can be found here.

just thinking out loud, School Year 07-08, Uncategorized 0 comments on Bringing Computing to Everyone

Bringing Computing to Everyone

Amazon started a contest where a startup was to use their Amazon Web Services (AWS), such as storage, scaled computing, Mechanical Turk, to create a product. The winning entry will win $100,000. I had an idea for this, but I thought that the correct combination of hardware and software didn’t exist yet. I now think that I was wrong, but I’m glad to be wrong. Since I can’t enter the contest, I figured that I would write my idea out here.

What the AWS provides that didn’t exist before is the ability to have truly mobile computing at the small of cost of renting space, bandwidth, and time. In fact the costs are small enough to really bring computing everywhere. If I were to choose where everywhere should start, I would say classrooms all over the country. How?

I think that we’ve reached the point now where the cost of hardware has dropped enough to bring computers into every classroom to the point of 2:1 kids to computer ratio. What about software? Using EC2,, and taking advantage of academic pricing on other products, I’m under the impression that the cost of software will drop significantly as well. The unique idea here is that the pricing of software will definitely change. It will become a single image, stored into an EC2 image, and initiated on the cheap PCs. Software usage, software loads, software flat fee, or some other scheme will be devised for this computing anywhere model. Maybe SaaS will solve the problem for us.

All in all, this was just a ramble more than anything else, but I think that the real potential of this stuff is obvious, but in terms of educating the next generation, invaluable.

just thinking out loud, School Year 07-08, Uncategorized 0 comments on A Plea to Turks Everywhere

A Plea to Turks Everywhere

On the topic of H.R. 106 suggesting that the events in Eastern Anatolia during the dying days of the Ottoman Empire were genocide, I ask my fellow Turks to consider the following argument.

This isn’t an issue of hate, but an issue of reconciliation.

We can continue to sling mud over the definition of a word, or we can move beyond it, and show the world that whatever happened in 1915 isn’t who Turks are today and instead we’re a people focused on progressing as a positive influence in the 21st Century. We’re a model for democracy in a developing part of the world where only bad things happen to people on a daily basis. For better or for worse, we’ve had a woman prime minister. We’ve become a globally pivotal nation, and we need to act as a role model, and not a rebel without a cause.

In my opinion, we should be lobbying the Turkish government not to be as foolish and childish as the American government and to stand as an example of how democracy, a government of choice, works. Democracy should push
forward the thoughts and concerns of the people. How many Americans are concerned with this? Assuredly less than the millions worried about health care, employment, education, etc. If the Turkish government focused on the
domestic issues at hand, and not answering to petty claims by the Democratic leadership, then we would truly trump the American political system which has become a joke since Election 2000.

Another important point to note is that we won’t catch up to the Armenians on this issue. They’re much more organized, and for them it’s as integral an issue as the blood that runs through their veins. Instead we should lead the world to closure on this issue, and allow everyone to reconcile their differences through healthy, non-petty methods.

just thinking out loud, School Year 07-08, Uncategorized 1 comment on When Reason Doesn’t Exist

When Reason Doesn’t Exist

If you haven’t kept track of the recent workings of the U.S. House of Representatives, then please read this link first.

When something like this comes up, the human response is to try to understand why. The main question that I end up asking myself and the people around me is:

“Why when we can’t feed the poor, clothe the needy, medicate the sick, care for the old, educate the young, and protect the earth, do we need to worry about events that happened almost 100 years ago?”

The answers come in many forms. House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) continues to tell us that there is never a good time for resolutions such as H.R. 106 to come to the floor. As such, now is as good as ever. Others, including the chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Tom Lantos (D-CA), say that if we can’t brand all exterminations genocide, then our moral authority looks to be compromised when we attempt to take action on situations such as that in Sudan’s Darfur region. There is also the strongly organized Armenian-American community who have spent nearly 90 years with the support of the NY Times and the various historical scholars around the world asking the world to recognize the events as genocide. Organization, and the money that comes with it, often have a way pushing an issue to the front of the docket. However, there are some alternatives that I’ve been thinking about and have dug up in my research that I would like to offer.

An interesting fact that I found out was that Mr. Lantos is a survivor of the Holocaust. While he was never in a death camp, his views are obviously strongly influenced by his experiences and the losses that he experienced during the war, and there is a strong affinity over this matter between the scholars of Israel and the Armenian people. There is often a quote by Hitler that is attributed to this issue. While the veracity of the quote is contested, it goes something like, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” Therefore, these two groups can find a common theme in their experiences.

A more sinister motive that I suspect however deals with the lack of action by the Democratic leaders in Congress on their promise to end the War in Iraq. Imagine how brilliant it would be if the Democratic leadership claimed that by manipulating the ability of supplies to enter into the Iraq theater, that they could force the troops to come home. By destabilizing all of Iraq, they could make the situation so dire that the very safety of American troops in the region would be questioned. As a result, the war ends, the troops come home, and the Democrats are victorious. If Turkey, who controls 70% of the flow of certain cargo into Iraq, were to close its bases and air space to the United States, and in turn invade the northern portion of Iraq that is autonomously controlled by the Kurds, then this scenario could become a reality. From the article linked above, it is clear to see that Turkey feels the need to have its opinions heard and its autonomy as a nation-state exercised. The result could be devastating for Turkish-American relations, but, more importantly to the individuals involved, devastating to the survival of American troops in Iraq.

One must ask, can a bullet-less army still be called an army? What will be the fate of the innocents thrown into battle as a result of the actions of these 27 representatives who pushed this bill into the House? Are we selling the basic safety and provisioning of American troops over phrasing in an historical debate? I don’t know. The only answer that consistently comes to mind is – why?

School Year 07-08, Uncategorized 2 comments on As Value Added Approaches Zero… What To Do?

As Value Added Approaches Zero… What To Do?

I always thought that I was going to get a Ph.D. It’s what both of my parents did, and I always assumed that I would follow in their footpaths. Now, there’s a very good chance that I’ll be the only Onvural in my branch of the family to not have a doctorate when all is said and done.


Frustration. I don’t think that the value added of a Ph.D is what it might have once been. Once upon a time there were industries built upon their research and development departments. The kind of work that came out of Xerox, Bell Labs, IBM Research, etc. redefined the world around us. Today these hallowed institutions are being passed by, and with them is dying the value of research-oriented development.

Again, why?

Unless industry is directly involved with research, then it will always contain itself to the world of conferences, papers, and academia. I say this because of the overwhelming quantity of research that goes on, and the overall lack of commercialization that comes from it. I also say this because while research for the sake of knowledge is a noble goal, without proper incentives (read this as methods of monetization) it’s usually just a good idea. Case in point is the push for alternative fuel sources. Have we not known for years the harmful affects of carbon-based fuel? Why are we today pushing for alternative fuels? Because gas prices are finally high enough that people are interested in finding alternatives. An industry drives research.

What does this mean?

I think that this will evolve into a generation where breadth is overvalued. Get a breadth of skills, get out into the workplace and innovate. Innovate at Red Hat, Google, Microsoft, wherever, but don’t innovate in classrooms and research labs. Unless your innovation is Google, you’ll be overqualified for private sector work and find yourself underpaid or in academia. I’m not trying to knock academia, but the incentive structure for getting tenure is different than the incentive structure to innovate.

It’s really a shame too, because I thought Melih Onvural, Ph.D sounded pretty cool…

School Year 07-08, Uncategorized 0 comments on Busted…


On the first day of class in Databases, we were asked to write down three expectations for ourselves and three expectations for the professor. We also had to write our names onto the card. In my usual, “I doubt they read this stuff style” (think French journals circa 2002-2003), I wrote down that the professor should:

“Host an end of year party themed around Russia, databases, or some other random topic”

Today, the professor was reading out some of the expectations and rumors that folks turned in on Thursday, and lo and behold read mine out loud to the class. It got a good chuckle, and the professor said it made her happy to read, but for one second I definitely thought that I was in trouble.

Maybe I’ll learn and stop doing these things because professors actually read these things. But I won’t. What’s the fun in taking things too seriously?