The story continues in April2008Blog.

May 2007

Thu, 31th

News Feed

Today Rasky suggested that we could use an RSS feed to notify about new articles in the blog.

I wanted to fulfill the same purpose, but with a totally different approach: use git-send-email to notify a mailing-list and tell people: "hey, just subscribe to the list!".

My version is surely too complicated because it employs a chain of 4 different programs (pikiwiki -> git -> git-mail -> mailman). But I like that it can be done without even touching the wiki engine.

A middle-ground solution could be using gitweb's own RSS feed:

But as Rasky notes, this would send notifications also for minor edits: real blog apps would only bother you for new articles.

So, maybe we should filter only changesets that contain a new level 3 header... Hmmm... This can't be done with gitweb, I'm afraid.

We live in an era where we can make very cool things with very little effort. I could hack this versioned wiki engine in just 2-3 days because I could pick the existing PikiPiki and combine it with the existing Git versioning system.

This brings me to the point: the really hard thing in software design is choosing the right ingredients for your sausage. Because there are many ways to bake a pizza, but only a few of them have the quality of being tasty, healty, dietetic, cheap or whatever. And usually, even a good design... err... receipe requires you to choose a few of these qualities you care more.

Q: What do you think is the most elegant way to obtain useful notification from this blog?

You can choose whatever technology to deliver some kind of "notification". You can also use any sensible definition of the words "useful" and "elegant".

Hop hop!

Today I typed cvs up -dP to update Gnash from CVS. And I got the prompt back in less than 1s.

"Something must be broken!", I thought! In fact, it's blazingly fast because we're just 2ms away from Savannah:

PING ( 56(84) bytes of data.
64 bytes from ( icmp_seq=1 ttl=58 time=2.31 ms
64 bytes from ( icmp_seq=2 ttl=58 time=2.21 ms
64 bytes from ( icmp_seq=3 ttl=58 time=2.00 ms

And it's not even in MIT:

traceroute to (, 30 hops max, 40 byte packets
 1 (  1.756 ms  1.695 ms  1.845 ms
 2 (  2.230 ms  1.248 ms  1.150 ms
 3  EXTERNAL-RTR-1-BACKBONE.MIT.EDU (  1.409 ms  1.435 ms  1.374 ms
 4  EXTERNAL-RTR-2-BACKBONE.MIT.EDU (  1.391 ms  1.389 ms  1.426 ms
 5 (  1.428 ms  1.505 ms  1.414 ms
 6 (  12.756 ms  2.162 ms  1.998 ms
 7 (  4.879 ms  2.592 ms  2.485 ms
 8 (  2.713 ms  7.476 ms  13.328 ms

Boston sure has a very fast WAN backbone!

Wed, 30th

Grazie ragazzi! Il sentimento e' reciproco! Uno di questi giorni dovete proprio venire a bere una birra qua a Boston!

More Graphics Headaches

Hehe, more graphics problems keep sprinkling: XorgGraphicsCorruption. CosmicPenguin was kind enough to offload me of the graphics related bugs.

Tue, 29th


And if you really have too much time on your hands, try helping me out on some of these tasks:

Weekly OLPC Reports

If you're interested in our progess at the OLPC lab, we publish weekly executive summaries here:

This is the report that mentions me volunteering for the project:

Fri, 25th

60 Minutes

In this episode of the popular American show SixtyMinutes, our founder NicholasNegroponte reveals a lot of details about the humanitarian role of the OneLaptopPerChild project:

The part about us starts approximately at 1/3 of the show.

You may also find the last part interesting as it specifically addresses the controversial problem of private medical centers trying to save on assistance to homeless people. Marco, you should see it!


Warning: This article is rated PG0xF00F, parents discretion *not* advised.

I've been struggling for the last few days on a the damn X server.

In the RedHat builds, we're still using a pre-release of 1.2, labelled 1.1.99. Now, we need to leverage some upstream work for input rotation that is landing on the Xorg tree right now.

Backporting is not an option, and we want to stay up to date anyway. We'll soon be moving to Fedora 7 anyway. But even the just-released 1.3 that will be in Fedora 7 is not enough, because it has been branched some time ago, we must work from the tip of the git tree, which of course has become very unstable recently.

I've been fighting all the week against all sort of bugs and build problems and, believe me, it's a very energy consuming exercise.

The funniest thing I'm still trying to track are these GreenishBitmaps that nobody else except me is seeing.

It's probably a miscompilation of some kind, but I've long ago ran out of obvious and less obvious ideas to try and I'm now far in the land of impossible things.

All this time I've been in contact with a few X hackers on IRC, including the author of the AMD driver, but even them couldn't come up with a magical solution.

Chat Line

Bernie: Hello Easy!!! It's good to be chatting here in the blog!

I saw this two photo some row below...

Bernie: Hehe... they're part of the WirelessMesh, for testing purposes. An hispanic guy called Miguel (not the same of De Icaza) sometimes fiddles with them. He's lucky because he's very tall. I'd need a ladder :-)

Bernie: Yeah, that's the personal screen of my boss/team-leader ChrisBall. It's 30". One day or another I'll bring here my 24" wide-screen from home.

Bernie: Sorry for not updating the blog... I've been *extremely* busy. I will do it shortly... Promised.

Sat, 19th

Trip to work

I still couldn't solve the problem of getting to work quickly. I can't afford to waste over 2 hours every day like this.

By now, I've tried any possible solution:

And even worse, the red line stops running at midnight and bus no 1 at 1AM. Which forces me to leave from the office very early (for my standards).

If you want to play with the possibilities, I just discovered that the transportation company has a very cool web service that would have saved me a lot of time:
  From: 66 Maywood st., Roxbury MA
  To:  Kendall/mit Station, Cambridge

At the end of the day, the ultimate solution is moving closer to the office or at least close to the red line. Maybe I could afford to spend $600 for a room, but I don't feel like moving right now. I already have enough things on my hands.

Have you considered to put a bicycle in your combo? You may replace a 10 km walk with it and open up new combinations (and ways to get wet...) — PiroPiro

Awful Weather

Today it's raining lightly. Yesterday I took an extra shower in the evening :-(

The WikiPedia was definitely right: weather in Boston can change very rapidly. Must remember to buy a raincoat like RichardStallman's and keep it in my backpack.

What Next?

1. Get employed at OLPC
2. ???
3. World domination!

Just joking, but the truth is that I still need to face a lot of new challenges now.

My next problem will be improving my communication skills. After one month of full immersion, I can still barely understand people talking quickly to each and I clearly express myself using an inadequately poor vocabulary and too slowly in some cases.

These things will improve over time, while my strong Italian inflection is likely to remain forever. If only I could find one, I'd attend to a course to correct my diction now. Actors do them.

Another crucial problem I need to solve quickly is getting a visa that allows me to work here permanently. There are many possibilities, but none guaranteed to succeed. For now, I'm not thinking about it: my employer knows better than me and will help as much as possible.

Last but not least, my job is not easy and requires a good amount of commitment. All my colleagues are extremely smart and more experienced than I am. So I need to work twice as hard to keep up with them.

A very nice workplace and very interesting assignments helps. And, most importantly, I know that what we're doing here is going to have a huge impact on the world.

Andrea Grandi: Your words give me no hopes for my future :(

Bernie: Are you planning to come here? Cool! :D

> All my colleagues are extremely smart and more experienced than I am

More than you? It's not a place for me then :D

Bernie: It's worth trying even if you currently think you're not up to the job. It's a very valuable experience even if you end up returning to your home country for some reason.

Rasky: But can you get a perm visa even without an university degree? I thought that was absolutely out of question... I knew that people without a degree could just get some 1-year temp visa.

Thu, 17th

More Pics

Here are some more pics of MyOlpcDesk.

Wed, 16th

Office Space

Here are a few pictures of the OlpcOffice!

Hack Hack Hack

I've been assigned a problem with an invalid serial port baud rate after resume from software suspend.

I started investigating the hard way, until ChrisBall pointed me on IRC to talk with the KernelHacker DavidWoodhouse, who obviously had a solution in a few seconds. Unfortunately, it didn't work as we expected and MitchBradley of OpenFirmware joined the conversation to help.

Having all the subsystem gurus available to fix your bugs makes things a lot easier... Hehe, I think I like it ;-)

And so tomorrow I'll get back to work on a MandelBug with the Xorg's driver for the AMD chipset. When XVIDEO is enabled and you rotate the display with XRANDR, sometimes the X server crashes, sometimes it just hangs and sometimes it survives with a corrupted display. And the bad news is that gdb also hangs.

How will I fix this? Easy: I'll go looking for the driver authors first thing tomorrow and beg them to send me a fix :-)

By the way, lately I've been hanging regularly in #olpc on FreeNode. My nick is _bernie. Come over to see what's going on!

Mon, 14th

All Night Long

At 9PM, I'm still here and plan to stay as long as I can :-)

<please link to the song "All Night Long" here>

Buried In Work Already

WARNING: Technical AbraCadabra ahead!

Today I met most of the team members and bothered a few of them, starting from DanWilliams who helped me debug a problem with a simple mesh networking scenario involving three laptops.

Today I've also been assigned some work from ChrisBall, who also helped me out with many small things such as a dead battery, accessing the serial console, etc. I'm currently adding a KernelDebugger command to display the ModelSpecificRegister's of the AmdGeodeCpu.

But it seems like I will also refer to RedHat's ChrisBlizzard to be assigned more work. We talked about optimizing the video driver for the AmdGeodeCpu, getting the resistive tablet to work and maybe adding "tapping" support to the capacitive touchpad.

As you know, I like it even more when I'm allowed to ramble through a zillion different things like this!

Sneaky Preview

I'm writing this from within the OLPC headquarters. I came today for a second interview and to get a few tasks assigned to me :-)

I have no time to be more specific. Will tell you the details a little later.

Sun, 13th

Sat, 12th

Fri, 11th

Quite a Trip

Today I'm leaving the safe and familiar BostonCity to boldly go where I've never been before.

The current plan is to drive south to ProvidenceCity, BrdigeportCity, NewYorkCity, PhiladelphiaCity, BaltimoreCity and, finally, WashingtonCity. Maybe I'll even push myself down in FloridaState to go see the SpaceShuttle!

I could use a GPS. I've seen a few TomTom's, but $299 seems way too much to me for a talking map. Maybe I'll buy a traditional map for $10.

Ah, and I will sleep frugally, of course. Hostels and motels when I find them. So, over the next few days I'll be lucky if I have intermittent Internet access and, consequently, I won't probably be able to sync the BrainDump.

Thu, 10th

Car Rental

Today I finally rent a car. It's a SaturnIon, a brand and model I never heard of before.


I felt very comfortable driving all over Europe: Italy, Swiss, Spain, France, Germany, Belgium, and even Greece... But, for some reason, I was quite afraid of driving a car here in the States.

Maybe it's because the road signs are somewhat different and there are a few subtly different rules, such as turning right on red, not parking in front of hydrants, etc. Most probably, it's because I've seen way too many movies where people get stopped by police and thrown in jail quite easily!

Well, so far everything went very well. I mean, except for parking. Parking in downtown is easy if you're willing to pay $10-12 for a few hours. It's a big pain in the ass otherwise... The best way I've found so far is to park near a minor T station and then get the T to downtown :-(

And, of course, the car has AutomaticTransmission, which I managed to learn quickly: the trouble comes when you switch the other way around ;-)

Ok, today I've driven all around Boston just to get used to it. Tomorrow I'll probably dare getting on the highway to see around.

Business Visa?

Today I've re-read detailed information on the available US visa options:

Looks like a B-1 Business Visa would do. To get one, I should go to a US ambassy, and ambassys are usually located abroad. Instead of returning to Italy, maybe I could get an appointment in MontrealCity, which is near to the border and also an interesting place to see.

Wed, 9th

Zip Car

Yesterday I applied for this great service: . Isn't it a good idea? Costs less than renting a car and is almost as versatile.

<rasky> :)

Today I walked to their offices to give them my documents and get the magnetic card. They said they will enable it first thing tomorrow *if* the "insurance risk declaration" I got from Italy suffices.

Simple shopping

Consumers must be very simple minded here. First, most shop names are simply dumb: Pay Less, Save-A-Lot, Big Deal, and so on.

Sounds very meno tasse per tutti to me... — PiroPiro

Second, they try to subtle deceptions such as: "take 2 for $24.xx", and, next to it: "take 3 for $21.xx", Which of course is impossible. It's a trap! The little figures placed exactly where you would expect to see the cents, are indeed a small notice: EACH.

Today I bought a dozen of razor blades ($1.50), a bottle of shampoo ($1.50) and shower gel ($1.50). But I spent $12 for adjusting the two pair of trousers I had bought a few days ago in the mall! $12 EACH, I mean.

Bad Neighborhood

Walking home alone in the night, I may encounter some bad guys:


Better be careful :-)

Tue, 8th

Veni, Vidi, ????

This morning I shown up at OneLaptopPerChild's headquarters. It's again next to KendallSquare, in OneCambridgeCenter.

JimGettys was very kind: he took me to LegalSeaFood for lunch, repaired my ExOh's keyboard (two keys were dead) and introduced me to the team members.

They left me with the usual Hollywood formula: "don't call us, we'll call you". But in this particular case, I felt they were sincere :-)

I hope to be soon a member of the OLPC core team!

Mon, 7th

Alea Iacta Est

As promised... Yes, indeed. Everybody please cross their fingers.

Babbo:Pregherò perchè tu possa ottenere quello che cerchi.

Camy: Mannaggia a voi due ( Bernie e Alberto ) siete cosi..."teneri". Come ho già detto tante volte a Bernie, è fortunato ad avere un babbo cosi! Lo so, lo so che non c'entra nulla con lo stile di questo blog, ma io sono cosi, impulsiva e Bernie lo sa e mi perdonerà. A dire il vero anch'io sto in ansia per lui :-) speriamo bene...

Bernie: Via, non fatemi venire il magone voi due :-)

Sun, 6th

International Dinner

FedericoLucifredi and his wife Irena were so kind to invite me at their place for a fine dinner with appetizers, SirloinSteak (see pic below), several side dishes and... Even a PinotNoir!


There were also Mauro — Federico's colleague at Ximian — and Irena's friend who's a physics professor from Providence and could speak perfect French and, surprisingly, even Italian!

What can I say? I think I got a pound or two that night, but it was worth it! :-)

Sat, 5th


There's a cinema in building 26 @ EmAiTee, and it's cheap. I'm going tonight.


If you're curious, my room rent is $500 per month. Utilities,

It's not cheap, but it's also not too expensive for Boston. They told me that only Manhattan is more expensive here on the east coast.

CurriculumVitae almost ready. A friend told me that I'd better have also a synthetic resume of 1-2 pages for the impatient. I think he's right.

Well, I said I'd be finished by last Monday, but then I managed to slip past my own deadline visiting NewYorkCity, moving in my current room and in other frivolous ways.

Now I have no excuses: the time has come. Next Monday I will write my proposal. Seriously.

Fri, 4th

Exchange Rates

Looks like I'd better convert all my money to dollars *now*:

What do you think about it?

Babbo:penso che $ continuerà a svalutare. Perderai soldi.


I forgot to tell you about the kewlest building in EmAiTee:

See also: stata-link

Fast night

After a long time, I finally get to (ab)use MIT's wi-fi and barf my short-term brain buffer into my BrainDump.

Tonight we went to an Irish pub next to Kendall, where I got to know a few more Ximian employees. I got rumors that the famous kernel hacker RobertLove would be there, so after a while I turned to the guy next to me and asked: "Is RobertLove really going to come?". And he replied: "Speaking."

Another guy told me: "Hi, I'm BAHB". "Pardon?". "BAHB!". "What???". Federico promptly helped me out: "Ha detto che si chiama BOB :-)"

The beer was good. I discovered that a BlueMoon is the nearest approximation of a WeisseBeer I can find here, and I'm not at all displeased by its taste.

Slow day

My landlord has recently switched DSL provider and Internet doesn't work any more: the sync light on the modem flashes. It seems that crappy ISPs are a common disease in the States as well.

Yesterday, he called for service and, finally, they told him they would send a tech today from 8AM to 18PM. They refused to be more specific. And so I've agreed to wait here to let the guy in... I care about it for myself too!


By the way, today I'm exactly 150 pounds (use GoogleCalculator to get it to SI units).

150 pounds = 68.0388555 kilograms

Thu, 3rd


They told me Roxbury is quite an infamous suburb of Boston. And my first impression confirms that: shops are uglier, parks and streets are somewhat dirtier (but not as much as in NewYorkCity!) and, most importantly, some of the neighbors look creepy. Especially in the night, streets are crowded by people with criminal faces and many homeless.

You know I'm not the type who's easily scared off by a bunch of zombies, but I'll feel much better when I'll drive a car.

Moving In

I've finally settled in my room. There's no need to describe the house in detail, as it's the most typical colonial design: two floors plus basement, front and back yards, sliding windows, wooden floors everywhere. You've come to know them very well from the movies.

Today I went to the mall to gather the essentials: a blankets, a pillow case and some bath towels. The bed is comfortable and I was quite tired already, therefore I fell asleep early in the evening and kept on until 8 AM.



Fri, 4th

Alberto: Attento a convertire € in $ perchè € si sta apprezzando,e quindi $ svalutando rispetto a €.

Belle le foto scovate da Massimo. Have a good stay in Btn.

Massimo: Bernie, you taught me: search?q=100+USD+in+EUR

Massimo: Since Bernie could not give us any picture, I had to use flickr: here they are!


Piro: what in the heaven is RMS doing dressed like a camp tent? :D

Wed, 2nd


I went to BankOfAmerica and opened a bank account. I went there wearing a yellow T-shirt and a weary pair of jeans. In the beginning, they referred me to a young guy who quickly tried to offer me a student's saving account. When I queried for interest rates, credit cards, and dollar/euro conversion rates, they finally realized that I was going to move a bit of money.

When I've shown them my balance, they immediately switched me to a very polite girl who took all the time to explain me everything in detail until after their closing time and recommended me to open *3* different accounts to get a rate of 4.80% with no fees! I totally hate when people judge you by your wealth, dressing, or other stupid status symbols, but maybe a bank is the only exception where it makes sense to do so.

Banking appears to be far, far simpler here. I already feel like I know everything while in Italy I still can't read most of the paperwork I get from my banks.

Batt: Or maybe american bankers are so skilled that you are happy while, in truth, they have stolen your money forever :-P

Massimo: Yahr yahr! He didn't realize they already got 4.80% of his balance from his pocket with a magician move! Yahr yahr! Anyway... 4-5% rate is not absurd in the US. It has always been almost like this as far as I can remember (maybe sometimes it was even 6-7%). It's useful for someone (like bernie), but tragic for someone who does not have any money and to buy a house with those mortgages it's almost impossible. Still, the US has got a very low rate in comparison with other extra-european countries.

Tue, 1st

Good News, Everyone!

After a long struggling, I've finally found a room!

And I'll be moving in *today*! But I'm writing on Thursday the 3rd, actually (aren't you thinking fourth-dimentionally yet?).

The room is nice and comes with some forniture, including a desk. It's on the second floor of a house where the landlord lives with her wife and a very friendly puppy.I like it that way: all those houses shared by students I've seen so far tend to become unmaintained and dirty quite quickly, while this one is a real house with a fully operational kitchen, bathroom and even a clean back garden!

My landlord is Armenian, but have been living here in Boston for a long time. My first impression is he's a very nice person, honest and easy going. I haven't met his wife yet — she'll be back on Sunday.

I'm afraid the house is a bit far away from MIT, in southern Boston. But that won't be a problem as soon as I buy a car. There may even be a chance to rent or buy the car readily from my landlord's son.

I don't know the address yet. I should, but I forgot the sheet on the table when I went there. And I can't call my landlord either because I've stolen his cell phone by mistake also. Yeah, I reckon I mustn't a good impression, actually :-)

Camy: the landlord lives with his wife

Do You Speak English?

Some of you will be pissed off by this change, but I'm starting to make some international friends here and none of them could read Italian.

Writing in English is also what I need to improve my writing skills. For the few of you who barely know English, some more reading surely won't hurt! If you're real lazy, translate?u=http%3A%2F%2Fbender is your friend.

As always, I'd very much appreciate being told about any mistake I make.

Massimo: ok, let's start with those horrible contractions my poor eyes had to read: Won't and I'd. Hey Bernie! You already went back home from NYC. Ain't gonna play with ya 'nymore!