Archive for the 'Computer Science' Category

Interfaith Relationships and Interoperability: An On-Progress Concept

I don’t know why last night (i.e. several hours ago) I found my mind stumbling with the mystery of interfaith marriage, an issue very personal to me (but that’s another story™). A building block had been established as early as [the end of 2009], possibly even earlier. At that time, however, my view was rather based on emotional observation, immature idealism, and narrow view. Those who know me personally know what happened next, but that’s also another story™. Nevertheless, considering how ideas actually evolve and how a man develops, it was somehow normal. Now, I have learnt more, and what I want to write here is a development of the previous idea.

Now I truly understand that interfaith relationships are a VERY HARD concept (pardon me for the capitalisation). Even regular relationships are already hard, considering how two persons under the same umbrella can actually have totally different world views. Never mind extremely conservative ideologies, never mind the fundamentalists, never mind social taboos. In liberal societies, judgments might be far and between, and more religious clerics may be willing to give blessings in interfaith wedding ceremonies, but interfaith relationships are still VERY HARD (again, pardon me). I observe the following things.

  1. A religion in itself is a system with a clear(er) boundary. You either profess or you do not. Although different religions can share the same golden rule, in details, one religion’s view can contradict another’s. This is as opposed to ethnic and cultural backgrounds, which can be blurry, to the point that a friend of mine could say that he was 25% Malay, 25% Chinese, 25% Sundanese, and 25% Batak, although he identifies himself more as a Malay. This is also different from how religions can adopt elements of local culture, like me bearing the labels “Javanese” and “Catholic” at the same time. And even “Indonesian”, for that matter. I cannot see how one can hold more than two religions at the same time without creating a new world view. If you know, please enlighten me.
  2. I now see marriage not only happen between two persons; it also ties the knots between their two families. In this situation, complexity raises by numerous folds, as an additional one person to consider rises the problem’s dimension, eventually creating an [explosion]. While you might be able to make common grounds with your partner, it might not be the case with your in-laws. You may not communicate with them regularly, but even one rare fundamental disagreement with them can spread to you and your partner.
  3. Some problems might be due to lack of preparations by the couples themselves. Love blinds. Add immature decision making, couples might not talk intensively about their differences, and a time bomb is on the make. Even after considering a lot of things, lots and lots of them, eventually in your marriage, you might face a situation which you never thought of before.
  4. Interfaith couples are more likely to divorce [link].
  5. (I might add more later on)

Therefore interfaith relationships in their nature are VERY HARD. I have to be honest: the way I see it, interfaith couples are very likely to be depressing. They are risky and relatively unstable.

***

But there is actually a chance for interfaith relationships to work, right?

For some couples, they do work. I have aunts and uncles who have such marriages. So, is there a formulation to increase global happiness for interfaith couples? Ethnic differences in the past might be obstacles to marriages, but it seems to me they are less so nowadays.

I think I see something from my Computer Science background which can help. The keyword is [Interoperability], which is a study on how different systems can work together and maximise their (united) performance.

The thing is, I am not really familiar with Interoperability. I don’t know advanced concepts, and I am not aware of their current status. I can only say, based on my experience on doing research making use of different libraries, three things.

  1. There are a lot of conflicts. On one occasion, I gave up using one very famous library (let’s call it L1), free but closed source, because the provided libraries were not built with the same configuration as another library (let’s call it L2) which is more fundamental to my code. L1 was built with Multithreaded option (/MT), L2 was with Multithreaded DLL (/MD). L1 doesn’t support L2’s configuration, and vice versa. L1 and L2 broke up and eventually I found an alternative library (L3) which has the same purpose as L1 and can be integrated to the system. Now, what can make a happy ending possible for the relationship between L1 and L2? Either 1) L1’s developers publish L1’s source code so that I can use L2’s configuration when building L1, or 2) I join the company who makes L1.
  2. There are also a lot of gives-and-takes. By a lot, I mean a lot. While a library can provide a very fast implementation of an algorithm, it might lack performance for other algorithms, or they might not exist at all, the solution of which you have to implement yourself. Also, while I aim for as strict abstraction as possible, such that I only allow library-specific code in a wrapper class, it can simply be beyond reach at times. For example, the interfaces to save a data structure in different formats are very different, and I am not sure how I could have a unified access to both formats. Since it lies well down below in my priority list, currently I had library-specific codes inside the main project, with a hope that the future me can move it to the wrapper.
  3. Solving differences and dependencies can be very tough, especially if solutions are obscure, not readily available, or beyond your knowledge and reach when the situation arises. Be mentally prepared, and do give a lot of time for it. Are you willing to dedicate your entire life just for your interfaith marriage, with the possibility of giving up some other dreams of yours?

I do not currently have any idea whether there is a good or bad conclusion for this, or even if it is conclusive at all, but I hope someday I can continue to develop this framework.

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Resolusi 2013

Urut berdasarkan prioritas terendah:

3. Melanjutkan project Anastasia

2. Submit disertasi

1. Submit paper di konferensi/jurnal tier 1

Tentang Perjalanan Seorang Diri

讀萬卷書不如行萬里路

– ungkapan Tiongkok

Minggu kemarin saya kemari.

Fraunhofer IGD

Fraunhofer IGD

Perjalanan terjauh saya, ke negara yang sungguh asing buat saya. Saya ke sana sendiri. Jalan-jalan sendiri. Memang dua hari terakhir saya bertemu teman saya. Tapi secara umum saya jalan-jalan sendiri. Ke tempat dengan bahasa yang tidak saya ketahui. Jadi sebelumnya musti belajar frase-frase penting dulu. Setidaknya cukup untuk membawa saya muter-muter di dan ke beberapa kota. Selain itu, saya juga belajar tentang sistem angkutan umumnya dulu terlebih dahulu. Namun demikian, tetap aja banyak hal yang sempat buat saya kaget. Hari pertama, sudah nyaris bikin masalah karena ketidakfamilieran saya dengan sistem [proof-of-payment]. Lalu, menelepon hotel teman di kota lain karena teman yang dijadwalkan datang pada hari yang sama belum kontak keluarganya ataupun saya. Terus perjalanan antar kota sendiri juga. Di event yang saya kunjungi pun, secara praktis saya juga sendiri. Memang ada dosen dari kampus saya, tapi kami tidak saling mengenal. Tidak ada teman. Jadi saya musti aktif juga mendekati orang-orang asing itu. Ndak buruk sih. Hari pertama bisa dapat teman makan malam mahasiswa dari Swiss dan Liechtenstein (negara ini, bahkan teman saya yang orang Perancis belum pernah bertemu orang dari negara ini). Hari kedua teman makan malamnya dosen Inggris, Italia, dan Swedia. Hari ketiga makan siang bersama dosen dari Jepang dan Inggris. Musti aktif juga membangun jaringan. Agak kaget juga saya. Karena saya selalu menganggap saya ini pendiam *bah*, introvert, dan agak susah berkomunikasi. Tidak luwes dalam bersosialisasi. Tapi setidaknya saya ada bukti bahwa saya cukup multicultural. 😛

Menyenangkan berjalan-jalan seorang diri. Di satu sisi ada kepuasan tersendiri, karena ternyata tanpa bantuan praktis (ada bantuan finansial dan moral tentu saja) dari orang lain, saya bisa muter-muter sendiri di negara orang yang juauh dari kampung halaman saya. Walaupun di sana cuma sebentar, saya belajar banyak hal, baik tentang saya sendiri maupun orang sana. Musti berani tapi lihai, misalnya ketika mendekati orang asing. Belajar juga tentang keseharian orang sana. Tentang makanan dan perilakunya. Dan lain sebagainya.

Jika ada waktu dan dana, saya sarankan pembaca untuk berkelana sendiri sekali-sekali. Sendiri as in sendiri. Saya ingin melakukannya lagi sekali waktu. Semoga pada perjalanan berikutnya, ndak ada masalah yang cukup berarti.

Sekian aja, saya ngantuk. 😛

On Research in Media Technology, Whether It Should Adhere to Public Demand or be Fundamental

This should have been posted earlier this week, but because I had midweek meetings, I could not complete it.

Anyway, this Monday and Tuesday, I attended a 2-day workshop in my campus, about the importance and new directions of research in New Media. We had talks from experts in medical image, sound compression, geometric modelling, etc. Actually, I mainly came there to get the free meals see the scheduled talk from Ming C. Lin, whose research in motion planning in Computer Graphics coincides with me, but it was unfortunate that she could not come because of some immigration issues. However, I found the most interesting part to me is not in the technical talks themselves, but rather in issues which I have written here a few times: whether academic research in should be market-led or fundamental. Well, the workshop specifically only discussed researches in media technology, but I think this kind of debate also occurs in other fields.

For a background, Computer Graphics to me looks like an applied field, in which academicians from various disciplines and backgrounds—Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Pure and Applied Maths, Medicine, Biology, Art, Psychology, and maybe some other fields you never imagine before; Philosophy?—have very close ties with people in the industry. Cross-business-model collaborations are not uncommon, and companies like nVidia, Autodesk, Microsoft, and Pixar have had great contributions in the scientific and artistic advancements alike in Computer Graphics, either from the end-products (movies, games), development tools (modelling software like 3DS Max and Maya), hardware (graphics processors like nVidia geForce), and programming libraries (e.g. nVidia Physx).

Before I proceed further, I would like to introduce the backgrounds of the 6 panelists.

  • [Nadia Magnenat-Thalmann] is a professor who has spent most of her career in Europe, particularly in Switzerland, and just a few years ago came to Singapore to expand her research in new media.
  • [Daniel Cohen-Or] is a professor who spends most of his research career in the USA and Israel.
  • [Susanto Rahardja] is a professor from Indonesia, but got his degrees from Singapore and has been working here as well since the 1990s.
  • The fourth panelist was [Franz-Erich Wolter], a professor from Germany, but was also a professor in some top universities in the USA.
  • We also had [Kari Pulli] as the fifth panelist. I think he is quite international, as he has worked in Finland, USA, and Italy. However, he comes from different background from other panelists, as has mainly worked in the industry.
  • Lastly, there was [Shi-Min Hu], a professor from China.

So the main question is, as I mentioned above, whether research in new media should be market-led or fundamental. The session was started by Prof Nadia as she mentioned that there seemed to be a contrasting difference between funding agencies in Switzerland and Singapore. I know little about research in other countries to summarise it here, but she said that in Singapore, she had always been asked about how her research would benefit the Singapore. I can confirm this one, because I had to fill the same exact question when I wrote a research proposal a few months ago. On the other hand, it is sometimes quite hard to determine how a particular research will benefit the society, because it is often not motivated by what people in the society need, but rather due to curiosity. This view was then also backed by Prof Daniel, who said that he did not like to be “directed”.

An opposing opinion came from Prof Susanto. He mentioned that it is the general preference of Singapore government to support researches which have economic impact. Therefore, if one group desires to conduct fundamental research, they can make a proportion, e.g. 90% for applied research and 10% for fundamental research. Indeed, this proportion was proved to be controversial, as soon after that Prof Franz refuted it, saying that 90-10 proportion was certainly not a good balance (and later on Prof Susanto clarified that it had not been to be rigidly followed too). However, Dr Kari had a somehow approving remark, saying that we should go with respect to the market need. He wanted us to keep in mind though, that companies usually have better resources to conduct this kind of research. Prof Shi-Min Hu ended the first part of the panel discussion with an example of how his research went into commercial product, and his remark on how applied research is important to get money or funding, in order to support future research. He also argued that mere papers cannot change people’s lives, and they have to be implemented in real products before becoming useful.

What sounded interesting to me was Prof Nadia’s immediate wonder, that one person’s preference towards the answer (if any) for this question depends on her/his background. Prof Nadia noticed that there seemed to be different perspectives between developing Asian nations, which often go towards the applied direction, and developed European countries, who already underwent this phase in the past and now prefer doing fundamental things. Prof Susanto actually further elaborated this, by saying that since Singapore does not have much natural resources, what they basically have is human resources. Brains, he said. That is why they have to use this opportunity to develop their nation. However, Prof Nadia admitted that she would be happy to compare the case of Singapore with her home country, Switzerland, which is equally not in possession of abundant natural resources, but can boast its 26 Nobel laureates. Another interesting fact is that, as Prof Franz described, in Germany, both directions are entertained by the government by having two distinct but equivalently distinguished bodies, namely Max Planck Institutes for fundamental research, and Fraunhofer Society for applied research. For example, for the field of Computer Graphics, the former has this [Computer Graphics department in Max-Planck Institut für Informatik (MPII)], affiliated to University of Saarland, whereas the latter has [Fraunhofer-Institut für Graphische Datenverarbeitung (IGD)].

I could not notice any concluding remark in the workshop, hence an open issue. Nevertheless, I think I can relate to Prof Nadia’s statement, that whereas this question is hardly a rigid “this only or that only” question, one’s background plays major role in her/his preference in doing research. Growing up in Indonesia, which I can say is a third-world country, I often read from the positive-sounding-news-deprived newspapers that there are always problems in my home country, and this always motivates me to do something, although not exclusively for my home country, but for civilisation in general, as I wrote in [my previous Indonesian post] (sorry for non-Indonesian speakers), through technology, hence an applied research. However, my stance towards fundamental research itself is divided and inconsistent. I have always expressed my cynicism towards parts of pure science, particularly Mathematics, which do not go to application level. This thought was firstly published in [this very old post], and revisited in the previously linked article. However, attending this workshop advances me one step further. Prof Franz mentioned an important difference between pure and applied researches. While applied research can have immediate impact, pure research can benefit in a somewhat longer term.

I just came across [this page], which seems to be the abstract of an upcoming talk from Eric Lengyel, a well known figure in Computer Graphics, in this year’s [WSCG’2012] conference. It mentions that in search of efficient computation, Computer Graphics researchers have repeatedly re-discover and use linear algebra and geometry theories presented centuries ago, having consistently and exclusively lying in the theoretical realm for the same period of time. A prominent example is the concept of [quaternion], which was invented quite accidentally by Sir William Rowan Hamilton when he was crossing Brougham Bridge in Dublin in 1843, although clues have been firstly given by Leonard Euler and Olinde Rodrigues long before that. It seems to me that in the course of about one century and a half, only theoreticians exclusively used it, until the emergence of Computer Graphics, which often [utilises quaternion as a mean to rotate objects], makes it possible for laymen to use it. So, if you remember that you played Tomb Raider back in mid-90s, you can celebrate yourself for [using quaternion somewhere in its lower layer]. This is a good thing, and I suppose (and hope!) this phenomenon can be found in other new fields of study as well.

A plague to commemorate the invention of quaternion on Brougham Bridge (now Broom Bridge) in Dublin, via Wikipedia (click on it to go the corresponding article)

A plague to commemorate the invention of quaternion on Brougham Bridge (now Broom Bridge) in Dublin, via Wikipedia (click on it to go the corresponding article)

To conclude this post, it seems to me it is always a never-ending question whether one should go fundamental or applied. However, both approaches do benefit people in different ways, and therefore both have to be proportionately appreciated. Although I do realise that some countries might prefer one direction than the other, it is just my opinion that both ways have to be supported.

If anybody attending (or even happened to conduct a talk) in the workshop found that I made some mistakes in re-telling how it went, I will be grateful if you can inform and correct me.

Ndak Tega…

Saya sedang ikut konferensi di Saigon. Konferensi ini dipelopori oleh salah satu profesor ternama dari Jepang di bidang Computer Graphics, walaupun isi konferensi kebanyakan tentang Image Processing dan Computer Vision. Kebanyakan presenternya juga orang Jepang.

…dan kebanyakan mahasiswa Jepang kurang lancar berbahasa Inggris. Bukan soal logat mereka yang Japrish (“informaashon”), tapi memang kurang lancar…

Saya sudah merasakan ini sejak pertama kali ikut konferensi tahun 2008 lalu. Seorang presenter waktu itu membaca skrip presentasi dalam Bahasa Inggris, dan setelah selesai presentasi juga berkata “tolong bertanya secara perlahan, karena saya kurang bisa berbahasa Inggris”. Namun demikian, walaupun sudah ditanyai secara perlahan (mungkin perlahan standar bule sih ya), beliau tetap kebingungan dalam menjawab, sampai seseorang (saya lupa, antara temannya, profesornya, atau moderatornya) menerjemahkan dalam Bahasa Jepang. Waktu itu konferensinya lebih global, dihadiri peneliti dari seluruh dunia. Jadi, ketidaklancaran ini kurang mencolok, karena tertutup presentasi orang-orang lain.

Nah, yang sekarang ini, mayoritas orang yang datang ke konferensi sekarang ini kebanyakan orang Jepang. Dan ini terasa sekali. Bahkan presenter non-invited pertama sudah begitu, membaca skrip dalam Bahasa Inggris. Ketika ditanyai, dia cuma tersenyum dan tertawa tersipu. Akhirnya, sang penanya, yang tak lain moderatornya, bilang, “Baiklah kalau begitu, ada baiknya kita teruskan diskusi kita setelah sesi ini”. Dalam Bahasa Inggris tentunya.

Saya ini kalau ada begitu suka ga tegaan. Kaya kasihan gitu sama presenternya, karena kalau saya ada di posisinya, dengan latar belakang yang sama, saya bakal bingung juga. 😦 Jadi, ketika ada keinginan untuk bertanya, saya malah mengurungkan niat. Juga, presenter yang ingin saya tanyai itu udah “dibantai” sama profesor pelopor itu tadi. Ndak tegaaaaa….

Sejauh ini, saya baru lihat satu presenter yang murid dari Jepang yang lumayan lancar berbahasa Inggris. Dan lumayan ganteng juga. Yaa model-model bishounen kamen rider jaman heisei begitulah *eh*

Being Realistic

And there finally goes my second paper after 2.5 years. Already submitted. Not a great paper, I am not even sure whether it will be accepted, but at least there is a significant improvement from my first.

Sometimes I think that whatever I do, I can never fulfill my ideal dream. I can probably still chase my C–E goals, but never my A-B. No Nobel, no Turing Award, no Wikipedia page, no tenure in an elitist university, no job in Microsoft. Two things. One, coming from a mid-class family in a “third-world country” means that it was really hard for me to get a world-class education with a proper direction. It took me a long detour from Math – EE – IT – CS  – Math again, and I often think that I have wasted some years studying things which can be considered advanced but I won’t use in the rest of my life. My original passion is actually Math and always Math, although later I found that algorithmic, computational, and visual touches make Math much more comfortable to me. Please note that it doesn’t mean I am not grateful. I am really grateful. In fact, given my background, it was among the best education I could get. But it doesn’t mean that I cannot criticise, does it.

Two. Coming from a conservative society means that I have to put family life above everything else. Nah, drop that conservative thingy. I think it is a value shared by many societies in the world. But anyway, after passing certain age, it will be my turn to breed, and at that time I have to spend more time with my descendants. I don’t dare to lead a life a la Erdos. Furthermore, this nerdy gene from the periphery of a Gaussian distribution has to be passed to the next generation.

Well, since goals A–B might not be possible for me, I think I have to think of another way which can grant me a Wikipedia page to contribute as optimal as possible to human civilisation. Anyway, I target to live until about 75, so hopefully I still/only have 50 years plus to do something.

My Erdős Number

My Erdős number is 6, which I found using the Collaboration Distance tool in the website of American Mathematical Society [link]. Continue reading ‘My Erdős Number’


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