Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Handshaking with Cheating Husbands

David Cowan posted an interesting puzzle on his blog:
My wife and I went to a dinner party with four other couples. At the beginning of the party, some people shook hands. (Obviously, no one shook his or her own hand or spouse's hand, and no one shook hands with the same person twice.) During the party I surveyed all the other people as to how many hands each one shook. I got different answers from everyone. What did my wife say?
Scroll down to the comments section and you'll see I couldn't resist chiming in.

A colleague, who like me subscribes to Cowan's RSS feed, suggested I forward David the Cheating Husbands riddle we struggled with earlier this year. I was introduced to this puzzle in How Would You Move Mount Fuji, a book I truly enjoyed. The original puzzle (with adulterous wives rather than husbands; less appropriate for our politically correct times) was published by George Gamow and Marvin Stern back in 1958.

Rather than emailing it to David, I decided to share it with this blog's handful of faithful readers. So, here is the riddle (courtesy of Amazon and How Would You Move Mount Fuji):

For the laziest amongst you, I also posted the solution here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Fat Neighbor on the Red Eye

I'm in DC waiting for a meeting.

I got to the capital on the red eye from hell: squeezed in a middle seat between a "regular" person and this overweight traveler:


She overflowed her seat and was all over me. Shouldn't JetBlue offer me a rebate?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Tech Corner: Reclaiming 3 GB on a ThinkPad

This weekend's tech project was about reclaiming unused disk space on my ThinkPad T41p.

Most ThinkPads are shipped with a hidden partition called the "Predesktop Area". This partition is over 3 GB in size and includes tools I never use and a disk image allowing a user to restore the ThinkPad to its factory state.

As I frequently backup my 60 GB disk and restoring it to its factory state is not a very appealing option, reclaiming 3 GB of disk space seemed a good idea.

The trick is to make the hidden partition visible and then merge it into the main (NTFS, Windows XP) partition without losing any data.

Unlike many of my weekend projects, this one didn't turn into a nightmare and I encountered no unforeseen complications.

If you want to do the same, here are detailed instructions:
  1. Read the DISCLAIMER below
  2. Download SystemRescueCD (an ISO image of about 100 MB)
  3. Burn the downloaded image onto a blank CD (use IBM's RecordNow! or any other CD burner)
  4. Backup your disk (don't even think of going to the next step beforehand!)
  5. Shutdown
  6. Turn your ThinkPad on
  7. Before Windows XP starts, you will see "To interrupt normal startup, press the blue Access IBM button" displayed at the lower-left of the screen, press the Access IBM button
  8. Select "Start setup utility" (double click the icon)
  9. Go to the "Security" menu and change the status of the Predesktop area to "Disabled"
  10. Save & Exit (F10)
  11. Boot your ThinkPad from the CD you burned above
  12. Hit "Enter" when you see the message "Boot:"
  13. Enter run_qtparted when you get a command prompt
  14. Select the (only) disk on the graphical screen
  15. Select the (only) NTFS partition
  16. Right click with the mouse and choose Resize
  17. Set the new partition size (reduce the empty size to zero)
  18. Commit your changes (File -> Commit menu)
  19. Exit the program
  20. Type: "shutdown now"
  21. Turn the ThinkPad off
  22. Remove the CD
  23. Turn the ThinkPad on and allow it to boot WinXP
  24. It will perform a CHKDSK -- don't worry, it's OK
  25. When booting the first time, it will recognize disk changes and will ask to reboot -- don't worry, it's OK
  26. Reboot
  27. You're done: your disk has now approximately 3.4 GB of additional free space
  28. Get a beer if you think you deserve it
  29. Send me a thank-you email or some clever hate mail
DISCLAIMER: it worked for me, it might not work for you. You're on your own: don't blame me if you lose all your data, your disk fries, Lenovo voids your warranty or your sysadmin kills you. If you work for Goodmail Systems, ask Kevin to buy you a larger disk -- don't follow my instructions!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Amazon's Mechanical Turk

This is pretty amazing, as Nicholas Carr put it, Amazon has out-googled google:
Amazon.com has out-googled Google with its creepily brilliant Mechanical Turk service, a means of embedding human beings in software code. If you're writing a program that requires a task that people can do better than computers (identifying buildings in a photograph, say), you can write a few lines of code to tap into the required human intelligence through Mechanical Turk. The request automatically gets posted on the Turk site, and people carry out the Human Intelligence Task, or HIT, for a fee set by the programmer, with Amazon taking a commission.

More details on Amazon's FAQ for their Mechanical Turk.