Tuesday, March 28, 2006

SVM Library in Matlab

For the past few weeks I’ve been using SVM as part of my research project. Until recently I used the SVM functions available in Piotr Dollar’s Image and Video Toolbox for Matlab. I am, however, constantly looking for alternatives. From what I saw on the Internet, it seems that one quite popular SVM implementation is SVM-Light by Thorsten Joachims. Add to it Tom Brigg’s MATLAB/MEX Interface to SVM-Light and you can run it from Matlab. The only thing you need is to put the Patch.exe utility in a folder that is in your system path and follow the installation instructions.

I’m still new with SVM-Light, so I don’t know exactly what all the parameters mean and how to tune them. A-priori it seems to work slightly better in terms of generalization accuracy and also run a little faster (with mostly default parameters and the same kernel function and parameters as Piotr Dollar’s implementation).

If you know of some other interesting SVM implementation, especially one that is available in Matlab, please drop me a line.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Windows XP Tweaks

While installing a new computer, I was trying to remember how to increase the number of simultaneous connections possible in Internet Explorer. So I stumbled on this site, which has an enormous amount of tweaks. Many are not interesting (to me) or already handled by PowerToy’s TweakUI, but I did find several new tweaks I really liked. Specifically I liked (and used) the one about how to add "Copy To Folder" and "Move To Folder" to Explorer context menu.

Another relevant site, with much much more options (although many are too basic to be interesting) can be found here.

Friday, March 24, 2006

I don't want the cellular companies to fry my brain!!!

Since the cellular companies have introduced their 3G solutions, the number of cellular antennae is increasing exponentially. Today I decided to do a little test. I counted the number of antennae on the highway between Caesarea interchange and Kfar Shmaryahu (it’s less than 35 km).

I only counted those antennae that are visible from the highway. I guess I’ve missed some, since I had to look at the road once in a while and also more and more antennae are hidden to the casual eye, to avoid protestations of people who live nearby.

I was able to count more than 40 antennae on this small piece of road!!!!!!

Need I say more?!?!?! Where does this stop???? When are there going to be laws that have the citizens' health and well-being in mind?

Just to set things straight - I'm NOT against cellular phones in general. I myself am using a cellular phone on a daily basis and understand its importance in today's life. I don't, however, like the idea of having antennae spread all around me, only to support 3G features, which frankly I feel are mostly superfluous.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Windows XP Performance tweaks

I’ve been trying to do some tweaks to my laptop’s performance. Found some very nice stuff here. The most interesting to me was how to speed up folder access – it makes a real difference with heavy folders.

In the same spirit – I recently got an incredible USB flash drive. It’s the 2GB Lexar JumpDrive Lightning. It’s an amazing piece of technology. It’s wrapped in a stylish stainless steel case, has a built-in support for password-protected secure area and is really lightning fast. I mean REALLY fast!!! It’s so much faster than a good hard-drive – even working in the secured area of the drive (which is where most of my stuff is stored). It’s got only one (rather small) liability, which is that you can only format it to FAT (no FAT32 and certainly no NTFS), which I detest. But the speed, the speed, the speed, the good software that comes with it, the lifetime warranty, the sustainable case and of course the speed covers for this annoyance.

So I was thinking – well, I could spare half a GB on my flash disk and use it for system paging, maybe this could give my OS a boost? Unfortunately, until now I haven’t been able to set this to work. For some reason, when I define a page file on the flash disk (fixed size), everything seems fine - I’m told to reboot for the changes to take effect, but when I do, the page file is not created on the flash disk (although according to the configuration it should be there). Go figure…

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Seeking for help with the Google Image Search API

I’ve been asked for help implementing my Google Image Search API into a Mac “widget”. From what I understood, writing “widgets” is more or less like writing web pages (JavaScript, CSS, HTML, …). Also, most of the work is already in place, there is only the need to plug in the actual Image Search code. I guess this can be done by using the some kind of Regular Expression engine for JavaScript with the same regular expression I’m using in my C# code.

Is there anyone willing to help? I don’t have enough Web development experience to do it, or time to learn it.

Drop me a line if you’re interested.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Orange (color) soup

Yeah, well in Hebrew it sounds better, since there is a clear distinction between "orange" the color and "orange" the fruit. This post refers to the former ;-)

This is the soup I made last week-end. It's not the first time I've made it, but for some reason, this time it got a particularly great success. And it's so simple...


  • 3-4 Onions/leeks. I even use both sometimes
  • Pumpkin (don’t ask me to give you quantities – I have no idea)
  • 4-8 Carrots
  • 3-4 Sweet Potatoes
  • 3 Sliced Cloves of Garlic
  • 1-2 liter of Chicken Bouillon
  • Some olive oil (or yellow butter) to fry the onions/leeks
  • Salt, Chili powder, Nutmeg


  • Cut the onions (leek) in thin stripes.
  • Fry the onions (leek) for at least 1 hour on a VERY LOW fire. They should NOT burn!
  • Add the garlic. Stir well until you start feeling the smell of the garlic (just a few seconds - it shouldn’t burn!).
  • Add the vegetables (pumpkin, carrots and sweet potatoes) and the bouillon. You may need to add some water to make sure all the vegetables are covered.
  • Leave it cooking at boiling temperature for 1-2 hours.
  • Once all the vegetables are really tender (almost melted), crush everything with a blender.
  • Add the spices according to taste.
  • As you must have noticed, the quantities for the ingredients are not very accurate. To get the best substance, the vegetables should be cut into rather small cubes (around 2x2x2 cm) and there should be just enough liquid (bouillon + water) to cover all the vegetables.
  • When served, it’s nice to add some fresh Basil.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Windows Live - Microsoft's new search engine

[Update 09-Mar-2006] - The Image Search works. Or to put more accurately doesn't work. Just compare the search for "apple cake" with Google Image Search. I really don't see what they were thinking when they claimed to be a worthy competition...
[Update] - After playing a little more with Windows Live I noticed the following:
1. It seems that MSN Search and Windows Live return the same results for all queries. So my guess it they already started merging them into one.
2. There seems to be a significant improvement in the relevance of the results, as compared to MSN Search (in its previous version).
3. It's still too early for me to give an exact opinion and comparison with Google and Yahoo!

A Beta version of Microsoft's new search engine, Windows Live, is now available.
Like most people, I have a set of standard queries I like to try on new search engines, to which I know what to expect. Most of them are image queries, since this is strongly related to my thesis, but unfortunately they don't support image queries yet.
So I tried a web query I like a lot: "ariel shamir". Ariel Shamir is my thesis supervisor, and I like searching his name for the following reasons:
1. He has quite a few publications and should have some kind of footprint on the Internet.
2. His first name, Ariel, is the same as Ariel Sharon the prime minister, and thus many search engines are too much biased by that.
3. His last name, Shamir, is the same as one of our previous prime ministers, Yitzchak Shamir, which incurs yet another (wrong) bias.
4. He is sometimes referred to by his nickname, Arik, adding another level of confusion.

So all'n'all, it's a simple, but tricky query.
Well, here are some results for this simple search:
Windows Live

Some interesting notes about Windows Live's results:
1. Ariel Shamir's actual home page is nowhere to find in the results (at least in the few first tens).
2. Windows Live fell in both pitfalls - the first result is about Ariel Sharon and the second is about Yitzchak Shamir.
3. There are many links to Ariel Shamir's papers and to stuff related to him.
4. Maybe the most annoying of all is the similarity between the results in MSN and in Windows Live. Did they just give it a cool name and an even cooler GUI and leave the engine as is???

To sum up, this is by far not a thorough test, but still a dissapointing one. It leaves me with much less anticipation for the final release of Windows Live than I was before it.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Preventing violent crimes

There has been yet another high-rating violent crime last week-end. Inbal Amram, 20, was killed when she took the car for a few minutes to get her sister. The police has still no clue as to who might have done it nor why.

I’m sick of it! And frankly, I’m truly scared. I have a 2-year old daughter, and if these kinds of things happen so often today, what will it be when she reaches 16?

What drives me crazy even more is that there is a pretty efficient way to prevent this. We all had to endure, during all our school years, these stupid sports lessons. I call them stupid, because for those kids who are much into sports, the lessons were just a game and too easy for them. And for those kids who are really not into sports, it’s boring, tiresome and a waste of time altogether.

Why not use the time, energy and money, in teaching kids self-defense. I’m not talking about a crash-course of 3 lessons. I’m talking about seriously teaching a martial art, throughout all the childrens’ school years, that would teach them how to defend themselves. Make it part of the education program. To be more precise, I would make it obligatory for girls. After all, let’s face it – most violent crimes are performed by men against women.

I know that this is not a very orthodox solution. But I know what you can learn from practicing a martial art for years. You learn discipline, self-control and improve your self-confidence. When the moment comes, you know what to do and are not afraid of doing it. I know that if my girl will start practicing something like that from young age, I will sleep much better at night, when she’ll grow up.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Working on the first SQL For Developers Tips and Tricks post

I've started working on the first post in the series "SQL For Developers Tips and Tricks post". It will cover useful links, things you may not know about Query Analyzer, some guidelines about using SQL Profiler and will show you the 'bcp' utility, which is very helpful to transfer data accross databases.
I hope to post it in the next few days - stay tuned!