Ezra -ez- Nugroho’s blog

USA Goes Blue Screen

Posted on | October 2, 2013 | No Comments

Day 2 of US Government Shutdown.

I came to the US back in 1997 not knowing much about anything. Coming from a country with a corrupt government, that crashed into a massive crisis in 1998, I had the perception that the US government was the ideal one, the role model of democratic leadership.

I am probably quite a bit more cynical now. The little bit of knowledge that I picked up here and there resulted in some degradation of the idealism that a younger me once had.

I was shocked when I first discovered that the participation rate of various elections, including presidential ones, are often less than 50%. With all the political noise that is constantly in the air, how come that most people do not care? It’s a bit of a contrast with election climate of the Indonesian government that I grew up with (i.e. pre 1998 crash). Election participation rates were probably always close to 100%, we’d all vote for representatives from 3 parties, and all the party would nominate the incumbent as our next president! It was brilliant, everyone knew the result before the election, but everyone went to vote anyway.

Now I guess I have the idea bubbling in my head (actually it’s been a while), that our votes in the US don’t mater much either. Maybe they do sometimes, maybe.

Another bit of insight I picked up from parenting, something that I’ve been doing in the past 2 years. I noticed that often parents fight in the name of their children, blaming each other, while so doing, completely neglecting their children.

That is exactly the picture I have about the US government now. Democrats and Republicans bitterly fight advocating their perspectives of citizen rights, and then they shut the government down if they don’t get what they want. It’s like fighting for which brand of diapers to buy, and then finally refusing to change diapers all together. Guess who is the looser?

Can we all just grow up and stive to be better parents, in homes and in The House? Or is that brand of diapers, who backed you up in the past election, matter too much?

Who Owns Google’s Neighboring Domains?

Posted on | August 29, 2013 | No Comments

Remember when Yahoo was trying to offer $600k for and got turned down?

The other day I was trying to reach Google to google, but alas, my right hand was a bit off on the keyboard, and I typed instead. I got some strange page before I realized the typo I made. Later I tried to google “whois” to find it’s registration, and Google returns me results for “whois” instead.

Today I tried to explore further, and I noticed that returns random pages each time you hit it. The domain is registered privately via a domain administrator in Panama. A bit deeper digs uncover that the domain is hosted by a domain parking company Parklogic. One can only guess how much money the owner is asking to sell it.

Google seems to own and, and does redirect to

What’s going to be the next expensive typo domains? Taken!

What I Learned Today – 082813: Square Miles

Posted on | August 29, 2013 | No Comments

  1. Our species, Homo Sapient, was responsible in the creation of a new species of mammal, the dog, by domesticating feral wolfs.
  2. The Earth is a giant ball, and maps are generally flat. This means that most world  maps are not accurate in some dimensions. Depending on the way the map is drawn, some areas may look proportionally larger or smaller than other areas. Generally if you look at a typical US map, it projects Canada to be slightly smaller than the US. But if you look at a flat world map Canada looks way larger than the US. But which country is actually larger? And by how much? Google says that Canada is 3.855 million sq miles, while USA is 3.794 million sq miles. So Canada is larger than the US, but only slightly.
  3. Today is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Speech. While I am not an African-American, I knew of a few professors who were life witness of the event 50 years ago. One profound aspect of the event is the fact that 50 years is actually very recent in the span of history. A generation has not passed since the US was segregated.
    As expected, Google has a doodle to celebrate the anniversary. It’s a silhouette of Dr. King delivering the speech while Google logo and the speech text projected in front of him; some phrases enhanced with larger font and bold typeface. I find it a bit disturbing that a cursory glance of the doodle may read “I have a dream…. Google”

What I Learned Today – 082713

Posted on | August 28, 2013 | No Comments

  1. The best Python libxml2 guide is available at:
    1. Getting started with Libxml2 and Python.
    2. Getting started with Libxml2 and Python – Part 2
  2. If you have a little bit of time, too little to start something new, try to polish older work instead. Find those Is to dot and the Ts to cross.

What I Learned Today – 082413

Posted on | August 24, 2013 | 1 Comment

  1. Yesterday before leaving for work, we found a Tomato Hornworm eating almost half a plant and two halves of green tomatoes. The fat green larva was almost 4-inch long!

    This was the largest larvae of any insect that I have seen personally; a pretty shocking specimen. There are a few interesting facts I gathered from a few sources, including that they are parasitized by some wasps, which lay eggs on their bodies. The wasp larvas eat the worm from the inside!  I don’t know if it’s really a dog-eat-dog world out there, but insects surely eat other insects. A few Homo Sapiens eat these worms too, there is even a gourmet recipe published online.

  2. The word: Alimentary means “of or relating to nourishment or sustenance”, a.k.a nutritious. No wonder that an adapted of the word is used as a baby formula brand. The only issue is that I found the word on a food packaging to describe somen noodle: “alimentary Japanese paste”, made in China.
  3. Back to large insects, the longest insect in the world is a specimen of stick insect from Borneo, measuring at 22 inch long.

What I learned today – 082213

Posted on | August 22, 2013 | No Comments

  1. Thanks to Google, I found out that today is Claude Debussy’s birthday. Nice doodle by Google with a serene backdrop of Claire de Lune.
  2. Use awk to print a certain column in a tabulated data, e.g. result from ps. So now you can kill various runaway processes as follows: ps aux |grep (search-term, e.g.wsgi) |awk ‘{ print $2 }’|xargs kill -9. Isn’t it cool?
  3. Electronic kit toys are readily available, made by Snap Circuits! Can’t wait to get a hold on one.
  4. IXI-play: Robot toys for kids is a Y-combinator company. What they show from their video seems promising. I wonder how they select the artists to play in the video(s), and I recognize that song background song that they snatch borrow from  Pocket Pub; probably with their permission!

What I learned today – 082113

Posted on | August 22, 2013 | No Comments

  1. Ex roommate Daniel Dick shared: Popular Bands that started out with painfully awkward names. Learned that Pink Floyd was once named Megadeath, or a misspelling of Meggadeath, not to be confused with that Megadeth from LA. Lots of interesting strange names, some disastrous some may actually work. I’d say Starfish is as cool as ColdPlay.
  2. Which leads me to the List of Best-selling Music Artists page on Wikipedia,; the page is nicely broken down into tiers. Highest tier inhabitants include the usual suspects of da Beatles, Elvis, Jacko, Madona, Elton John, Led Zeppelin??? and yah.. Pink Floyd. Next interesting facts are in the tier 3, U2 and Phil Collins are in the same tier. And actually Genesis makes the tier and is counted separately. So Phil Collins (+ genesis) is bigger than U2? Phil bigger than Bono? Hmm… Next tier consist of the likes of Bon Jovi, but the pack is lead by … Taylor Swift ?? Seriously? She is already that large? Other surprises include how low some big artists are in the list. I would have expected New Kids on The Block to be higher in the list. Although boys bands are typically hated as soon as they are done being loved, NKOTB was once compared to the Beatles. Maybe that’s when they went down. Nowadays people know Mark Wahlberg from his movies, but New Kids who?? I’d also have guested that Beyonce and Black Eyed Peas to be higher in the list.
  3. Understand what Seth Godin means with “The Dip“, and that any projects would be associated with valleys, a.k.a dips that you’d have to go through. Wiser and older Seth suggests that you’d predict the dips before starting any project and calculate if you’d likely be motivated enough to go though it. If not, it’s probably better to not start. So much for my own Donna :(.
  4. What it means to be patient in a Badminton court. Doesn’t mean I master it, though.
  5. Shanmuga Bala made Senior Software Engineer at Zappy’s/CK-12. Gratz!
  6. It’s better to err in the side of over-communicate than under. But yet, sometimes you’d just err, just suck it up and move on.

Donna, the little app that could … have?

Posted on | August 10, 2013 | 1 Comment

To be honest I had a nastier version of this post (at least angrier) running around in my head for a few days.

Donna, an iPhone app with an apt web presence at, is a personal assistant app that was named after the fictional character Donna Moss of The West Wing. She is supposedly “strong, intelligent, and proactive. The traits of a powerful and effective assistant.”

I first heard of the app from a Techchrunch cover on their launch on April 11. The pitch was that Donna knows knows your calendar, and she would remind you that you need to catch your appointments, and she would tell you if you need to make adjustments based on traffic situations. The app was not publicly available then, they were running a public beta, and people could sign up on their website. I signed up, and immediately wrote them an email to

Congratz on your recent launch!
I am extremely happy to find out about it. It's uncanny that I have
thought of the exact same concept for a company. I am not sad that
someone else beat me to it. In fact I am very amused by it, considering
that I am not in a position to implement something like this at
the moment. I have signed up, and I can't wait until I can have you to
assist me.
Please track important dates too! Birthdays and Anniversaries.
Tell us in advance so that we'd have ample time to shop around
for gifts. Please also keep track of what we buy year over year,
so we know what not to buy for our loved ones.
Everyone needs an excellent Executive Assistant.
I need one. I want one, now!

I didn’t get any reply back for that email, and I wasn’t really looking forward for one. The only thing I was waiting for was an invitation for me to use the app, which did not come soon enough. Beta test invitation did not until June 18th, over 2 months after I signed up.

You see, I am somewhat attached to this project, and I actually had a lot of hopes for it. It’s been a while since I thought that I could really benefit from a personal assistant, be it a virtual one. I did toy around the idea of making one, but I wasn’t (and still isn’t) in a position to do so. The next best thing was for someone else to build one for me. You could also see that I am somewhat disappointed with what she actually delivers.

Nowadays, most nights I’d get a notification from her saying “You have no meetings tomorrow! Enjoy the day.”, while every once a while she would remind me of what I do have. She basically doubles as my iPhone calendar in sending me alerts. I barely open the app, because it barely has anything for me!

But the incident that compelled me to write this was a massive traffic jam on 880 North near Steven’s Creek 2 weeks ago. I left from work early because my wife, my son, my sister and my mom were waiting for me to go to dinner, just hours before we were to send my mom to SFO for her flight back to Indonesia. The cause of the hold up was electrical fire that burned trees and vegetation along the highway. That evening, I spent over an hour to crawl the first few miles of my commute home. Had I known it earlier, I could have taken a little detour and reach home much sooner. It would have been great if Donna had told me about the fire.

A few things that I noticed: Donna doesn’t actually know where I live and where I work at. She does not learn about my daily habit and my daily commute. She doesn’t know about my family members, or about my hobbies or preferences. All this information would actually be available from my LinkedIn or my Facebook profile.

It’s debatable if an app should be intrusive enough to know too much about the user’s personal information. But we’ve learned to let Google to parse all our email and to access all our net worth. I would expect that a good personal assistant needs to know a great deal about the person she is assisting to do her job well.

Other than the reminder feature, and mentioned in my email, I’d imagine that Donna should remember important dates, and probably suggest items to purchase as gifts. It would be great if she’d remember previous purchases too, so that I’d know not to buy the same styled handbags year after year for my wife.

She could even suggest some venues for some events. Imagine if she would recommend me places to celebrate birthdays, where to eat every weekend, where to take my son on Saturday mornings. And it’s not far fetched, my preferences are transparent from my yelp checkins. In fact, this would be a great way for Donna to earn revenues, through referrals fees. I don’t know of any way on how the current Donna can get any revenue.

Another feature that I’d love a personal assistant to help me with is just simply to help me excel in life. Help me to be a better parent, better husband, and to build my career better. Maybe even help me to adopt healthier life style. Add a bit of gamification to help me motivated with what I do. Track how many push ups I do over the week, and order me a candy bar from Amazon if I did well.

Another feature could be just adding several personas to choose as the personal assistant. Yeah, Donna was actually a great persona to model from, I actually really like it! But I imagine that if would be fun to be able to choose the voice of your assistant, maybe even some male ones. Watson, the English butler would be quite a hit.

Imagine an app that knows you so well, and takes care of you. Who wouldn’t want that!

My final disappointment is actually not with the app, but with the team who delivers the app. I feel that they are rather sluggish. It’s not just that I was disappointed to wait for 2 months to beta test, but it’s also easy to learn that they started back in 2011, and not launch until mid 2013! They have a company blog, but there have only  posted 2 entries. One to tell their concept, and another to describe the birth of their office! You know what happened to the goose!

I sincerely hope that it won’t be too long before I’d have my assistant on my fingertips. Siri 2.0? C’mon, Tim Cook!

Tips on Setting Up Single Sign On between AD and Office 365

Posted on | May 21, 2013 | No Comments

There are tons of resources available on how to configure single-sign-on between on-premise Active Directory and Office 365, but unfortunately many are incomplete and actually contribute to the confusion. This does not try to be another guide, I simply want to share a few pointers to hopefully make your journey shorter.

The best guide to install and configure ADFS SSO with Office 365 is: Use this as your principal map.


  • ADFS uses ssl cert that is used by default site of IIS. Get that working first before installing ADFS.
  • Download ADFS 2.0 from microsoft. The one that comes with Win server 2008 is ADFS 1.1, will not work with Office365.
  • MS Online Service Module for PowerShell does not work on Windows 2008, although you can install it in a remote server that is joined to the domain.
  • If you invoke MS Online Service PowerShell remotely, it will fail to log in to ADFS, you need to first enable remote powershell invocation on ADFS server.
  • By default ADFS 2.0 is configured to prefer Windows Integrated Authentication method, although it should use form based auth as a fallback. In my experience both the auth negotiation and integrated auth are still buggy. I got SSO to work by using form authentication first. Change this in ADFS’s web.config file, it’s located in the ~/adfs/ls directory under IIS web root. Check this for more details:

Deciphering MSDN Text

Posted on | May 13, 2013 | No Comments

In the past few days I had the privilege to scour pages of various Microsoft’s literature on MSDN and Technet.  Those pages often make me doubt about my intelligence level.

This morning I read this msdn snippet:

However, users may have no access to an Active Directory-based issuer, but have accounts with other well-known issuers. These issuers typically include social networks and email providers. It may be appropriate for your application to accept security tokens created by one of these issuers. This token can also be accepted by an internal issuer such as ADFS so that the external issuer acts as another ADFS store.

I had to read it a few times until I finally understand that the author means to say: “ADFS supports federated authentication with Facebook Auth and Google Auth”

What a relieve!

Must be quite a challenge to write under those heave editorial guidelines, but I guess if we can appreciate abstract arts, then there is certainly a place for abstract writings.

keep looking »