Sunday, February 27, 2005


Lots of interesting stuff happened this weekend. After we found this nice projector on ebay, there are no news from the guy. Doesn't he want $1000 cash??

Next, on friday we went with Yao to buy the screen. We went to the store, payed them and then went to a warehouse 30miles souther to pick it up. A nice girl welcomed us, and this must have been the southest I've ever been in my life. Traffic was terrible though.

We tested the screen with Katsouleas' LCD projector, and WOW. Although the color quality wasn't good (contrast ratio 400:1) the size is just stupendous. You can see all the encoding going on in the dvd, even though we used composite video (the worst quality connection) and the video out of my laptop, as the dvd was reproduced by a software dvd player.

However the next day we tried to connect the component video, and the amp died. The receiver just can't reproduce audio anymore, more likely because of some short-circuit somewhere. As of now we have no idea why this has happened. On top of that, I realized that my dvd player doesn't have good component output (the red signal is not working) which means we can't use this player for the projector anyways. One step closer to the unconverting dvd players.

Saturday night, we went with Frankie and Melanie to watch Hotel Rwanda in Arclight Hollywood, so far probably the best movie theaters around here (THX!). The movie was really good and the performances awesome.

Sunday evening, the Oscars. To my bitter disappointment Million Dollar Baby won best Picture and Best Director, totally not worth it. It's not that good of a movie. Aviator still remains the best movie for me for 2004, it was just so complete! As for best actor, all of Jamie Fox (for Ray), Leo Di Caprio (Aviator) and the black guy for Hotel Rwanda had absolutely astounding perfomances. Ray won at the end.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

I think this picture and the title of the post require some explanation.

Once upon a time in the past millennium, a couple left Hong Kong to find a better life in the British lands. The seed of their love grew up there for 14 years before they finally moved to Canadia. The young boy became a brilliant student, focused undergrad and great Master's candidate. But he couldn't live anymore in the cold plains of Canadia so he moved in the City of Angels. Despite all the difficulties he managed to survive, found a nice place to stay, bought some ikea furniture and made new friends. And then one day as he was walking by this building he noticed the flyer: Loudspeaker Design. "Hm, that seems like an interesting course", he thinks.

Once upon a time in the past millennium, a couple went to Lamia to find a better life in the countryside. The seed of their love grew up there for 18 years, all in the same house. The young boy became a brilliant student, focused undergrad wrote a great Diploma Thesis. But he couldn't live anymore in the rough neighborhoods of Athens so he moved in the City of Angels. Despite all the difficulties he managed to survive, found a nice place to stay, bought some ikea furniture and made new friends. And then one day as he was walking by this building he noticed the flyer: Loudspeaker Design. "Hm, that seems like an interesting course", he thinks.

Since the time of the Bing Bang these 2 completely different galaxies where approaching each other. And now, a simple mouse click caused these 2 galaxies to collide and merge once and for all. The Infocus Screenplay 4805 home theater projector bought at eBay last night sealed forever the fate of these 2 young lads. The cost is shared, and it's only a matter of time before the technicalities (shipping the projector, getting a screen) are also over.

An they lived happily ever after into their blue leaf tree...

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

1st successful DVD Copy

I managed to copy successfully a commercial dvd (James Bond, Die Another Day) into my own dvdr disks. This guy was tough because it was dual layered, meaning that the total size of the disk is 9.4GB while the size of the dvdrs is 4.7GB. After trying out several software and burned 4 coasters I managed to find a procedure that allows safe backup. Instead of reducing the size of the dvd video movie (thus the quality) I preferred to backup the movie into 2 dvdrs. I also printed and glued the labels on them , and it looks perfect.

I just subscribed to NetFlix, my first 3 movies will arrive this week. Let's see how this will go...

Monday, February 21, 2005

Projector Research Update

I'm so glad we didn't get that projector the other day. Thank god. It would be the worst buy ever. Here are my new findings:

An initial uncompressed video is in RGB format, the classic 3 colors. What do we get in the TV screens? This is first transformed to Component Video, which consists of Y, Y-Cb, Y-Cr the 3 channels for video. Then this is compressed to Composite Video, which is just a degraded Component Video. TVs show composite video at 480i, that's 480 lines at interlaced format (i.e. every other line is drawn at each pass, while in 480p all lines are drawn at a pass).

DVDs use 480p Component Video. That means: If you connect non-progressive scan dvd player through composite video (the classic yellow cable) to the tv you will get the same quality of standard tv! You don't want to do that! (We have a progressive dvd player hooked up through composite - this will soon change).

First choice is digital (e.g. DVI) at 720 x 480 or greater Second choice is component video (Y/Pb/Pr), or RGB Third choice is DVI at 640 x 480 Fourth choice is S-video (Y/C) Distant fifth choice is composite video (yellow video jack)

HDTV uses either 720p or 1080i (same quality). Now, there are some dvd players out there that upconvert the 480p of a dvd to 720p and provide better resolution. These devices stream the video usually through DVI or HDMI(=DVI+Audio) [better] or through component. DVI/HDMI are uncompressed digital video formats (everything else is analog), and this is how we can get the best of the picture quality.

Weekend: DVD+Website suprises

My current website at usc has been around for 1.5 years. I had people email me just because they read something interesting over there, usually Feynman or my gravity essay. I am guessing that many more people actually read these pages, which means that my work at least has some insignificant impact to someone else's life. This is good because it gives me some hope to start again write some pieces.

This was a weekend of dvd watching. Saturday night, Melania and Frankie came over (first time) and we watched Blow, a not so good movie (Melania fell asleep). But at least they had the demo of the 5.1 system. Today (Sunday) Dimitris came over and we watched The Rock. I have seen this movie so many times. I remember watching it in the theatres for the first time, and in the intermission with Thanos and Karagounis were saying "Damn, this movie needs to have some more action". Such a good action adventure. The final scene with the green flares is my favorite scene ever for ending an action film. I keep getting chills down my spine.

Also Rajay's labmate John and his girfriend (Jehn?) came by on Friday and they also had the infamous 5.1 demo. We definitely need a projector.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Prata:PhD Labor

The newest Prata assignment reminds me a lot of the previous "extensive mathematical manipulations" one. Here is what Balanis has to say for the proof we have to do:

A complete analysis is somewhat complex, laborious, and quite lengthy. The analytical formulations are cumbersome but well documented.

Who will win this week?

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Projector Issues

Buying a projector isn't as simple as I thought it would be. A lot of stuff out there, but it seems that the analog inputs always suck. We saw this $3K projector of a guy, and you could see the pixels and everything and some lines, and the colors weren't perfect.

After some research, here is the case: we will need a dvd player with an HDMI upconverter. This converts the dvd quality to HDTV quality. Then take the digital out of the player and stick it into the digital input of a projector (not the analog composite!). This will yield the best picture quality.

The Prata Battle: 2-2

2 homework sets were perfect. Then in the other 2 we lost (miss an absolute value, and forgot to measure the angle from the maximum direction point). We drew on the last one, because we finally solved this impossible problem but only after we asked Prata and he gave us a hint ( a very critical hint).
What will happen this week?

Friday, February 18, 2005

The Jay Leno Handshake

JAy Leno for a second time he re in LA. But this time we sat in the very front seats, which belong to the guys who stand up when Jay comes out and handshakes. It also happened me to be the first person in the row, so I can see me very clearly! I touched a man who makes $20.000.000 a year and got as close as I could possibly get to a supermodel (Carolyn Murphy, this year's SI Swimsuit Cover Model).

Jay is always fun.

Monday, February 14, 2005

You cannot murder only once

It was inevitable. It was meant to be this way from the moment we got a glimpse of this flyer for some loudspeaker course back last spring. Here we are now, after $1500+ and uncountable man-hours, we just had to complete the masterpiece.

It started with the idea of getting a nice 30" tv to watch some tv. And then we got cable tv. And then a dvd-player. And then 2 pairs of speakers. And then a 5.1 amplifier. And then a subwoofer. And then a subwoofer amplifier. And then surround speakers. And lots of wires. The whole living room (couches, shelves, racks, tables, etc) was adjusted to fit all these stuff appropriately. But that was not enough. We just had to go all the way to the end. We had to finish the crime. I remember Agatha Christie's Poirot saying : "Murder is an addiction. A person that kills someone will very likely strike again. That is the murderer's psychology, once he realizes he's capable of killing he will kill again with much less doubts that time".

So in our case too we had to finish what we started. The idea was conceived today, and it's only a matter of time now to get a movie projector and a projector screen. Probably some used guy worth a few hundred bucks. I am very curious to see when we will actually get it. I wouldn't bet :-)

Saturday, February 12, 2005


The writing in this show is just phenomenal. I keep being impressed in every new episode. So original...

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Prata will win

This proof Prata problem seems unbeatable. And Andrew is masturbating all day long instead of actually doing some attempts. If we ever prove it, it will be a very very close one. We have 1 week to do so.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Some Extensive Mathematical Manipulations

Prata is about to do it again. I can feel it. Problem 3 in next week's homework is to prove a mathematical formula. So I open Balanis (who usually has everything and I read for that specific proof:

After some extensive mathematical manipulations we can get...
Now, Balanis usually proves everything in his book. A skipped proof is not a good sign at all. Damn it!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Almost there

Although I found that this phenomenon (relativistic detuning of particle beams) can happen, we won't be able to see it in this experiment. The reason is that the power of the beam is not big enough; we would need a more powerful or a longer beam. This is somewhat a disappointment (tom will be too) but hey, at least I will have figured out everything that needs to be done in order to actually observe in later experiments.

Monday, February 07, 2005

More Blogs

I just realized it after today's seminar. I just have to keep splitting.


I went to an interesting talk today. The guy was the chair of the newly founded space-something department in USC and essentially talked about the solar wind.

So the sun is shooting particles (protons and alpha particles) in outer space at speeds 750km/sec . This solar wind extends beyond the solar system out to the interstellar matter. However this interstellar matter also exerts a pressure, and at some point the sun's pressure (the wind) and the interstellar matter pressure cancel out. This is the heliopause. However we don't know how the heliopause looks like and what's going on there.

So this guy has proposed two options for measuring that thing. The first one is to measure the ENAs (Energetic Neutral Atoms) that reach earth. What happens here is that the solar wind hits the intestellar matter (At the heliopause) and these particles are reflected back to earth and we can detect them. One week ago their $134M proposal got approved and the spacecraft measuring the ENAs will be launched in 3 years.

The second option is to measure here in earth the reflected UV radiation that is emanating from the sun and it is reflected by the intestellar matter. This offers better accuracy but more sophisticated equipment is required, so this is a plan for 10-15 years ahead in the future.

He also mentioned the the solar sail is coming close to construction; this is a huge 300m ultra-light sheet (spacecraft) that is accelerated by the solar wind and can travel within 20 years outside the solar system. One of my greatest fears is that I will die so young that I will not be able to witness all the exciting discoveries that are yet to come. So I am trying now to suck as a sponge as much as I can.


The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

The Audience

So we had the superbowl party today, where we spent $120 in food and drinks and consumed about half of them. The game really sucked, I am impressed with Americans having a 4-hour long event. Our halftime show was the official premiere of our home theater system: We had a ribbon cutting, then a short presentation for the specs of our speakers (the same one I did in JBL, but faster), and finally a demo from the dolby digital disk.

Sunday, February 06, 2005


Friday night nothing much exciting: We saw Meet the Fockers in Century City (drove Panos there for the first time) and then some Xbox at Sotiris' place. On Saturday 2 more people beta-tested our Home Theater, Joyce (Andrew's canadian x-student) and Yao. Later we watched with Yao on of my favorite movies ever, Conair. I think Conair, The Rock and Armageddon are the movies I grew up with.

The official premiere of the HT System is today. We will have ribbon cutting, presentation and demos before watching the superbowl(?) match. A few people will come over. Let's see how this goes...

Friday, February 04, 2005

The phd pain

After realizing what phd is like, I decided from now on to move all my research related posts to a seperate blog. None is interested in my research anyways.


So I can just call a number from my cellphone and record an audio message which will be posted directly to my blog... Now that is cool I have to admit.

this is an audio post - click to play


First ride with the new car, a 1999 Ford Mustang Convertible. 3.8L (matches my gpa). This car is so much fun to drive. The open top and the huge torque are amazing features. I realized that some of these car that are around for a few decades (mustang, firebird etc) have gone almost to perfection, in the sense that the manufactures now know very well what people need from a car like this, and they have settled down to a few successful deigns.

We drove the 110 up to Pasadena and back, the downtown drifting next to us. It's so good to be able to feel the environment. The only problem was that it was 12C temperature which meant that with the wind blowing at 65mph we almost froze to death and we had to turn the heating on to its full power to survive.

The engine is so powerful. For 65mph with the 4th gear I get 3000rpm. You can accelerate even at 65 or 70 mph up to 80-90 with no hassle. I can't feel I control the car yet, it just forces me to drive aggressively and speedy. But with time everything will come to an equilibrium.