izard: (Default)
Now our family has three passports.

I had an appointment at Russian consulate Munich at 11.33 to file an application for Jacob's passport. I had to fill it online before coming to the embassy and bring just a hardcopy, two photographs, my passport and a birth certificate. At 11.30 a consulate worker called for my name, and then told me he also needs my photo. I did not have one so he just copied my passport photo and attached it to the application. Then I paid 9 euros, and started waiting. At 11.40, I received Jacob's passport, it was very warm (just printed).

All quick and efficient as usual, thank you Russian consulate Munich!
izard: (Default)
I am playing with a nice piece of h/w I've just bought on ebay.

Any guess what is it? Very well engineered and built piece of electronics. Full pic under the cut
Read more... )

My school

Dec. 31st, 2013 02:05 pm
izard: (Default)
I just read a Russian school's rating that is based on national school olympiad's results. According to the rating, the high school I graduated is #17. (School #239 in Spb is #11th, school #30 is not in top 20, school #40 in N.Novgorod also did not make it to top 20.)

I am glad that the school is getting better. At the times when I was studying there, I think it was not in top 20, but it was definitely in top 50.
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In the previous post I've described how I was programming before I had an access to a PC. Of course, PC did not replace Speccy instantly, at least for me. I could use Speccy almost 24x7 (sometimes I skipped school if I wanted to), and my exposure to PC was very limited in the beginning.

In 1991, I had a chance to play the "Prince of Persia" on IBM-XT for 20 minutes :) In 1992 I seen a video clip from Dune 2 in Moscow "Mir knigi" shop. That was fascinating! Also my school got a class of twelve IBM PS/2, connected on a NetWare network. Of course, in 1991 when they were brand new only high school students had the access, and I was a lot younger. But I quickly managed to get a chance to use them after I had demonstrated that I know the basics of Pascal.

So the following few years (until high school) had been a Pascal era for me. Switching to Pascal from Speccy BASIC/asm was a huge change. Lesson learned: strong/static typing rules!. For a messy person like myself, this is a true bless!

However I did not develop anything but rather I was solving programming olympiads puzzles during that time at school. Then my father bought a 80286 computer with 1MB of RAM and I could use it for about 1-2 hours per day. Not too fancy but with 270MB hard drive we had plenty of space. So I installed Turbo C and had learned the language.

Few years passed, I had been winning 2nd and 3rd places at the regional programming Olympics, but I never went to the national contest (there was funding only for a guy who won the 1st place)

It became more interesting during my last 3 years at the school (1996-1998). I learned C++, Forth, PL/1(but did not like it), installed Linux on our new AMD K5/8MB, got to semi-finals in a city wide Warcraft 2 tournament, and became a Fidonet node (2:5066/44). I was earning some money helping in fixing PCs, but PC upgrades were still far beyond my budget so I spent everything on programming books and CDs with pirated software.

During that time I developed a lot of code and built some confidence and understanding of project sizes I can handle on my own. I developed three major projects: a handwriting recognition app (in C, second place at a national contest), an app solving simple school physics problems (2nd place at a regional contest) and then a simple logical inference system (in Java, and it crashed when I was demoing it at a national contest'1998).

This post became too long so I'll write about Uni, internet and hacking in the next one.
izard: (Default)
My official CV starts with a first full time programming job I got in November 1999. My first task was to develop a patch for a back end of GCC 2.7 to make it generate code for a custom embedded board based on a derivative of m68k. My salary was $200net/mo, which was kind of cool at that time and place...

But I had been programming for 10 years already, and sometimes even earned some money (but cash flow was negative). My story is quite typical for my generation, and some of my traits as a s/w developer have deep roots in programming for 8 bit home PCs of 80-s.

When I was 8 we got a first Moldavian home computer. Moldavian, no kidding! I quickly learned BASIC and developed a game with simple graphics, about 400LOC. I tried learning 8080 assembly but did not understand anything. Lesson learned: Dijkstra was right about mental mutilation beyond hope of regeneration - since that time I still spend too much time debugging and too little time thinking.

Two years passed, and it appeared that a lot of my schoolmates have a Spectrum48k (and some even 128k, but they were a posh minority). We lived in a neighborhood that was built for engineers and workers of an electronics plant (the one that was producing avionics for MiG fighter jets). ZX Spectrum (the "Delta-S" modification) was its consumer targeted product :) I quickly developed one of the biggest collections of pirated games in our school. (Thanks a lot Bill Gilbert and his friends!) Lesson learned: an ecosystem is as important as platform features.

There were so many games on my audio-cassettes that I actually did not write anything interesting on my own at that time. Instead I was spending a lot of time reverse engineering and tweaking other's code. So I mastered BASIC and became more familiar with Z80 assembler. Lesson learned: since that time I enjoy reverse engineering and reading big blobs of source code.

In 1992 my Spectrum went through upgrades: the first was a floppy drive that could read and write 5 inch disks, SD (360KB). The second upgrade was a sound card - Yamaha AY-3-8912. I bought it because it was very cheap, and some newer games that were developed for 128K RAM could run in 48K if there is a sound card and floppy drive. I wished I could do a real upgrade to 128K but that was too expensive. Lesson learned: IO performance is more important than memory and CPU performance.

Upgrading from cassettes player to floppy was the most life-changing upgrade I ever had. Here is why: every summer I spent in Sergeevka village with my grandparents. I tried getting my computer there, but it did not quite work. The mains voltage was fluctuating in 170V-250V range, and saving/loading with a cassette recorder was usually impossible. Same with disk actually, but it only takes few seconds to write 10K to floppy disk so chances were usually high. Lesson learned: that summers taught me to concentrate despite stress and noise and to backup often.

In early/mid-90s PC era had began in our town (more on that in the next post).


Jul. 10th, 2012 02:02 pm
izard: (Default)
In sake of promoting piracy, I'll post a link to a well known web site. Reading their feed I noticed they uploaded a book I liked when I was 9. I was already programming in z80 assembly and knew s/w development will be my profession, but the fairy tale still added +100 to my motivation :)

Highly recommended to anybody who read the book in early childhood like myself. For those who did not, few interesting citations from the book under cut. Sorry it is in Russian only.
Read more... )
izard: (Default)
I was 6 yo, and looking forward to start studying in a school. In summer 1987, my parents and I went to visit relatives who lived by a sea. A Caspian sea. To a small and quite town called Sumgait. It was called by many "the most polluted beach in the Soviet Union" but my parents and I did not care. We went swimming daily, went to Baku for sightseeing (there was nothing to fancy in Sumgait).

Once when our hosts were away, my parents decided to stay at home and told me: "Go play with kids in a back yard ("поиграй с детьми во дворе"). So I went. Back then I did not have any problems getting along with other children. But there it was different. In my hometown there were two groups - boys and girls. Some games were played together. In Azerbaijan I noticed there were three small groups of kids of my age. They were playing as usual. They spoke Russian, adding some words I did not understand. I thought they must be playing different games, so they split.

I went to one group and tried to join, but I was quietly but firmly rejected. Same with others. I realized that what kept me away from a game was a fact that I cannot answer a first question children asked me: "Who are you?". I tried many answers: "Sasha", "boy", "patsan", "schoolboy", but none was right.

The right answer would have been: "I am Russian." Then one of the children's groups (which as you may have guessed were Azeri, Armenian and Russian) would let me in to play.

That was the only case in my life so far when ppl around me were so concerned about my ethnic origin. I grown up in part of Russia which was very diverse, and most ppl around were bi-lingual, but usually nobody cared. Not in Sumgait. Few months passed, and it went really bad...


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