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Diary, March 2006

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Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Nonogram solver

This morning, I discovered that the Nonogram solver did not make much progress since yesterday evening. It is down to 4627 unknown cells. It looks like it got stuck somewhere in trying all combinations in the square consisting of the cells in the rows 66 to 72 and columns 44 to 49, which is coloured orange in the image on the right. In a seven by seven square there are 140737488355328 possible patterns. Early in the afternoon, the solver terminated after not finding any additional improvements, then the one given in the image on the left. About 61% of the nonogram is still unresolved. I modified the program such that is searches all ten by ten squares but with a time limit of five minutes.



During the day it snowed several times, one time quite strong, but the snow did not stay on the ground. This evening, Annabel and I went to the university to play Go. Again it was snowing a little, but this time it was cold enough for some of the snow to stay. When we arrived only Ton was there. We drank some tea, and waited for any play materials to arrive. It was around nine, when we were not expecting anybody anymore that Rudi showed up. He had been slowed because of snow fall on the road from a city to the North-West. Ton asked Annabel for a game, and I played against Rudi. I was given nine stones ahead, and I lost with 18 points. Not that bad. Annabel went outside to play in the snow. On the car there was a thick 3 cm (1 inch) of snow. I had to drive slowly, because the roads were slippery. At our place there was less snow.

Thursday, March 2, 2006

More snow

This morning there was some more snow when we looked outside. The sky was mostly clear with some clouds on the horizon. When I biked to my office the sun added its colour to the landscape. When I biked under the railroad, I was greeted with a cloud of snow dust and when I looked up, I saw that the whole train was surrounded by a cloud of snow. This means that the snow is still rather dry.

Nonogram solver - no progress

The modifications that I made yesterday on the Nonogram solver, have so far not resulted in any progress. I think it all has to do with the time limit, because exactly those squares that could result in making some progress are likely to take a long time. I already have some ideas on "improving" the algorithm for searching a solution. At this moment, I first try to find a single solution to a given square, and next, I will try to find counter solutions that cover the first solution with opposing values. For finding counter solutions, I am using a the same algorithm to find a single solution. The algorithm to find a single solution simple tries to fill the cells row by row. For small number of cells to be filled, this is not such a problem. But if the number of cells that need to be filled, grows, there is a chance that you make a wrong choice early on, and that you have to search a larg number of possibilities. A better strategy is to see if there is a cell that can only be filled with one value, and continue with that cell being filled with that value. Of course, it is also possible to find that a cell cannot be filled with any value, in which case you can immediately back-track. This algorithm is slower in each step, but for a large number of cells, it might be more effective. Maybe it is a good idea to use this second algorithm when the first one fails to find a solution within a reasonable time, say something like one minute. In all the years that I have been writing programs to solve problems, I have never used a timer to determine to use an alternative algorithm. Interesting.

At the end of the day, I implemented the alternative algorithm in the lateste version of the Nonogram solver and started the program.


Swimming in the snow

This evening, when I went swimming, I took the opportunity to swim in the snow, by going outside. The water was rather cold, so I did not stay outside too long.

Friday, March 3, 2006

Some more snow

This morning, there was some more snow on the ground. It was less than a centimeter.

Nonogram solver

This morning, the Nonogram solver, which I started yesterday did not resolve any more cells. I started it again, now checking all fourteen by fourteen squares. In the meanwhile, I am also thinking about other methods, but so far, I haven't got any good idea. During the day, I discovered that the alternative algorithm sometimes also uses considerable amouths of time. It had trouble with the square on the rows 58-71 and columns 80-93. This one required more than 73000 calls to try_all_in_square_slow. At the end of the day it was working on the square on the rows 67-80 and the columns 59-72. Both squares had 120 unknown cells. This means that there is still room for improvement. Maybe I should develop an even "slower" alternative algorithm.


New passport

This afternoon, I arrived at 15:20 at the city administrative office for applying for a new passport. I had made an appointment through the internet. Li-Xia was already there, and Andy was playing with some Lego. I went outside to look for Annabel who was coming by bike straight from school. After a few minutes, I went inside again. Annabel arrived at 15:25. Half past three we were called. Annabel and Andy had to be there because we wanted them to be included in my passport. The lady asked some questions to Annabel to verify that she was our daughter. When she also wanted to question Andy, I told her that he was mentally handicapped. We called him, because he was still playing with the Lego, but he refused to answer any question. The lady said it was okay, and he could continue playing with the Lego. Then Li-Xia and I had to sign some forms. Li-Xia had to sign to allow our children to be included in my passport. It was at 15:42:38 that I paid 55.88 € for my new passport. Next Friday, I can collect it. But before I left, I looked together with Annabel at the Mammoth skeleton that was put on display in the center of the hall. The skeleton was made from the bones of about two hundred different animals.

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Some snow again

During the day there was some snow again. The snow did not stay. There are still some patches of snow from earlier days here and there.

Sunday, March 5, 2006

Small snow storm

This morning, there was already a thin layer of snow on the ground when we woke up. Around ten o'clock, it started to snow again. Quite strong within five minutes there was at least one centimeter of snow on the ground. By the end of the day everything was gone again. It is long ago that it has been snowing for such a long periode of time. It will still continue for some days, they expect.

Monday, March 6, 2006

Guess what: snow again

Around half past seven in the morning, it started to snow again. Big snow flakes were falling from the sky, quickly forming a thin white layer on the ground. In the past weekend the whole Alp region was hit by heavy snow storms and many Dutch got stuck in the traffic while going or returning from their sky holidays.

Wednesday, March 8, 2006


It was raining this evening, when Annabel and I drove to the university to play Go. When we arrived, Erik was already there. Not much later Rudi and Marcel arrived. Rudi invited Marcel for a game, and Erik and I decided to play. A little later, Ton arrived, and he played a game against Annabel. Erik and I did not use any handicap. I had to resign, after I lost a big group, which I could have saved, as Erik pointed out. I made some other small mistakes. Because it was still early, we decided to play another game, which he won with 78 against 56 points. It was still raining when we left. It looks like we wont get any snow anymore.

Thursday, March 9, 2006

Hunters of Dune

I just read first chapter of Hunters of Dune the first novel out of two that Brain Herbert and Kevin Anderson have written as their version of Dune 7, the never written final novel in the Dune Sage by Frank Herbert (the father of Brian). According to Brain and Kevin these two novels are based on the detailed outline that Frank Herbert left behind. So far, the have not shown the intention to publish this outline and the detailed notes that Frank left behind on two 3.5 inch floppies. The first chapter acts as a bridge and does not give us any new information, except that the no-ship has been floating through space for three years without knowing where they are.


Friday, March 10, 2006


This morning, I collected my new passport and handed in the old one. My picture looks a little pale. The pictures of Annabel and Andy look good. For some reason, Andy is on top.

Talk on Go

This afternoon, Annabel gave a talk on Go in school. This morning, I already helped her with bringing a large demonstration board. Yesterday, I bought some black and white magnets. It went well. The children asked a lot of questions when she was finished. She got a 8- on a scale from 1 to 10. Afterwards she played a game of Go against everyone, most of the time playing against two at the same time. She lost only one game, against her teacher, also because she was concentrating on the other game she was playing.

(follow-up on demonstration board)

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

This evening, I watched the arrival of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on NASA TV on the computer. Really interesting that you can follow this life. I wonder how many people followed it here in the Netherlands.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Snow again

I don't believe it, but when we opened the curtains this morning, it was snowing again. Although the snow did not stay on the ground there was enough of it on the roofs, the cars, the plants, and trees.

Monday, March 13, 2006


Yesterday, Treble won the national contest for the Eurovision Song Contest with the song 'Amambanda'. In November 2004, I bought there CD 'No Trouble'. It has been some time ago that I played it. I still like the song 'True Friend' the most.


This morning, I made some phone calls for the vaccinations we need for out trip to China. I especially made some inquiries with respect to the ITP that Andy has had twice, the last time in 2003. According to them, it should not be a problem, but we agreed to spread the vaccinations. I have made appointments for Monday, April 24 at 16:30 (the first possible date) and Monday, May 29 at 16:00. The first time is for Andy alone, the second time for all of us. The children get vaccinations for Hepatitus A/B and Typhoid. We get Hepatitus A, Typhoid and probably the default DTP.

Nonogram solver

The Nonogram solver is still trying all 14x14 squares. It took a long time to process the square on the rows 53 to 66 and columsn 24 to 37. More than 95000 partial solutions were examined. At the moment it is working on the square on the rows 62 to 75 and columns 74 to 87. Both are squares with 180 unknown cells. The last weekend, I have been working on an algorithm which finds all solutions starting from the top. Until row 10, this looked rather successful, but then it hit the combinatorial explosion, and I stopped the program.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Computer problems

When I arrived home, Li-Xia told me that the lixia computer was behaving strange. And indeed it did stop early during the Windows NT boot. After many problems, I managed to start it up in safe mode with everything else enabled using msconfig. It is funny to see, how much is working in safe mode. On Bob Cerelli's Windows Page, I read the tip to use winnt32 /unattend to reinstall Windows NT with leaving all settings intact. When I tried that, I rather quickly got a message stating that some other program was still in the progress of installing something. That could be possible, because I attempted to deinstall CA Antivirus. I had noted that some files were downloaded when Li-Xia started up the computer around one o'clock this afternoon. These files must have been downloaded early during the startup, because I could not find any other events in the various events logs indicating that the computer had startup around that time. So, I thought it was a good idea to uninstall CA Antivirus, also because it was long ago that it had been updated. This morning, when I switched off the computer, two security updates from Mircosoft were installed as well. At first, I thought that these were to blame for all the trouble. I have been googling around to figure out how I can remove the software installation that appears during startup, but I haven't found anything interesting. I did come across Freeware Sysinternals page with lots of interesting tools.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Computer problems (continued)

The problems have not been resolved yet. Yesterday, I did not have time. Today, I have been studying the wikipedia article on Windows NT Startup Process that is also used by Windows XP. I understand that it is the Session Manager that is responsible for the delayed rename and delete operations. When I checked the registery at HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\FileRenameOperations I found that there are no pending file rename operations. So, that cannot be the problem.

I removed the Computer Associates keys from HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE and also from CA_LIC_CLNT and CA_LIC_SRVR from HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Services and HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\ControlSet003\Services. Following, I tried to reboot the system without safe mode, but it failed.

Some time later, I found a RmvHomeDir call in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce to remove the eTrust Antivirus directory. But I suppose that it is never called. There is also a winnt32RunOnceWarning which executes user.exe. I do not know what that means. I decided to remove the RmvHomeDir thing. I also studied Troubleshooting the Startup Process. But I did not solve the problem.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Computer problems (continued)

I finally found the English text of the error message that I get during running winnt32.exe. It is "Existing software not fully installed". But the advices to fix this problem, were not applicable to my situation. I decided to try an XP Repair install as a last resort. That did go fine, until setup rebooted the computer, and reported that it could not continue setup in safe mode. I realized that in boot.ini it still said that the computer should boot in safe mode. What a stupid mistake. Luckily, I played around a little and discovered that if I do start press R on the first choice of the Windows setup CD, you arrive in a very limited command prompt. Very limited indeed, because it does not even have a simple text editor. After some more poking around, I discovered that you could add a new entry to the boot.ini file with the command "bootcfg /add". In this way, I managed to continue the setup. But somewhere halfway the setup, the computer would simply reboot. After having gone through this loop a number of times, I finally conclude, that I should go for a full reinstall of Windows XP. I used the original Windows XP home edition CD for this. (Later I realized that it might have been better to use the recovery CD that came with the computer.) So, after some hour, I end up with an almost empty PC. No data lost, and most application still being executable, while not being installed. It is going to take some weeks, I guess, before everything will be installed again. I decided to keep a logbook of all installment details, just in case I encounter problems again.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Computer problems (continued)

Today, I spend most of my time trying to get lixia working again.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Loosing weight

In the past weeks, my weight has dropped rather suddenly, to my surprise. It always makes me a little nervous if my weight suddenly changes. I recently started eating red grapefruits almost every day. This afternoon, I discovered that research has indicated that grapefruits do have a weight reducing effect. It seems that this recent diet change, might explain the sudden weight loss.



I have often said that in about twenty years, cars that drive by themselves will be regarded safer than "maual" steering. Today, I discovered that Mobileye has developed a integrated camera and image processor that is able to perform some rather complex image recognition real time. The image processor runs on 120Mhz, but has the theoretical equivalent computation power of an Intel Pentium IV processor, running at 4Ghz clock rate. It's architecture somehow resembles the Cell architecture.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Minister Donner

Yesterday, Minister Donner of Justice, quoted the first lines of the chorus of his rap "De Don" in the parlement, saying: "Here speakes Donner of Justice. I do it together with the police". The president of the parlement immediately made some critical remark about this. The evening before, after the government had discussed means to reduce beaucracy, he made the suggestion (as a joke) to abolish marriage, because that would reduce the amouth of paperwork related to divorces.

Big monkey move

Tonight, Annabel and I went to the university to play Go. Soon after we arrived, most of the others also arrived. I played a game against Taco (with 8 stones ahead) and Annabel played against Rudi (with 15 stones ahead). She lost with 44 stones. Not too bad. My game was progressing okay, until Taco played a big monkey move, and I messed it up. I resigned, when it became obvious to me that I was going to loose the group. Would I not have lost the group the score would have been close. We analyze the game a little.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Online Go game

Today, I finished an interesting Go game (SGF), which I played on It's Your Turn against bbruneau. He is one of my fixed playing partners, and we often play quit intensive games while taking time to think about our moves.


Monday, March 25, 2006


Finally, spring has arrived. Just this day the temperatures have gone up. In the past weeks the temperatures have been much lower than average. Botanic experts have said that spring is delayed with about three to four weeks, compared to the past years.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Synchronized swimming

This morning, Annabel left around eight with a people from her synchronized swimming club to travel to the swimming pool De Wiemel in Deurne. It is almost 200 Km driving from Enschede. We had to get up around seven, but because we switched to summer time, it was six o'clock winter time. She was in one of the two teams from Enschede that joined in the national contest for "figure floating" (I am not sure whether this is the correct English term). Her team consisted of seven girls and one boy of her age. The other team consisted of girls ranging in the age 13 to 16. The other team won the first price. The team of Annabel became last. But that might not have been completely their fault, because they did not get points for two of the four figures that the performed, becaused they were swapped according to the program that was send in. Although, I understand that that is how the rules are of this contest, I still do not find it very fair, also because the mistake was not of their doing and that for most of them it was the first contest that they joined. Maybe, they should have given them points, but disqualify them from the contest, than they would have known how they would have scored, if the mistake would not have been made.


Monday, March 27, 2006

Gaining weight

Did I report last Tuesday that my weight had dropped, since that time it has been going up again.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


This evening, we had a dinner with a group of my colleagues in "Het Kosterhoes". We arrived around six o'clock and planned to stay till half past eight. We were finished with the main dish around seven. (I had salmon.) We decided that there was still some time left for dessert. I decided to just have a cup of tea. But it took a long time for the dessert to arrive. Just after half past seven, we made some inquiries about how long it was still going to take. They said it was just ready, and indeed within a few minutes they brought in the plates with dessert. These were normal size plates with large desserts. I was happy, I did not choose a dessert, because it was obvious that these dessert contained more calories than the main dishes. I tried to finish my tea as quickly as possible, but it was hot, and then I left for home. It was just after eight that I arrived at home.

Playing Go

When Annabel and I arrived at the university to play Go, Ton and Marcel were talking. Not much later Taco arrived, and I asked Taco if we could analyse the online game that I finished last Thursday, and he agreed. Marcel and Ton decided to play a game as well. After we were ready, Rudi arrived, and Taco and Marcel decided to play a game, while Ton played against Annabel. Rudi and I decided to watch both games. Annabel got nine stones ahead. She was doing quite good at pushing Ton into the corners and getting a large territorium in the center. At one point Ton hit is bowl, filling one corner of the board with white stones. Ton tried to restore the the original layout, but quickly Rudi got up and whiped the corner clean, and replayed the moves. With some help from Ton and I, he restored the board. At home, I integrated the remarks from Taco with the game.

Thursday, March 30, 2006


This evening, Annabel went to synchronized swimming again. Afterwards, there was a small ceremony to celebrate the results of the contest of last Sunday. A local newspaper came to take some pictures. The older team got flowers, and everyone from the younger team got a large red rose. The older team also decided to give the cup to the younger team. In the coming weeks, Annabel will get the opportunity to bring it home for one week and show it to her classmates. For the two figures that did get points for, they got quite high points. They did quite well, their trainers said. At least they should not have ended at the last place. And they were the youngest team. So, in a sense, they did very good. Over two years, when the contest is held again, they should have a good opportunity to win the first price.

This months interesting links

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