The C Programming Language, by Brian W Kernighan & Dennis M Ritchie & HP Lovecraft

December 26, 2009

Seen on JWZ: exactly what it says on the tin.

Exercise 4-13. Write a function reverse(s) which reverses the string s by turning the mind inside out, converting madness into reality and opening the door to allow the Old Ones to creep forth once more from their sunken crypt beyond time.

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Repository of All Human Knowledge – In Anime

December 26, 2009

With regard to the ever-continuing debate about Wikipedia and its validity as a source of information, this volley from JWZ notes the prevalence of the "in anime" section.

Our work here will not be complete until every Wikipedia page contains an "In Anime" sub-section.

Note that both of the cited links are to fairly old versions of the pages (both of which have the In Anime section removed in the current version). Nevertheless, it’s fascinating to watch how the idea of Wikipedia evolves, even as Wikipedia continues to be a popular resource for many.

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Kickstarting a Serious Game, Pt. The Last

December 17, 2009

Seen via crystallabs on Twitter: an article about Kickstarting your indie game.

"Crowd funding of the nature espoused by Kickstarter is a relatively new and unknown business model, and with such things, I’m somewhat realising that it’s best to start small and gradually ramp up to a larger scale. That most of the successful game projects I see on the site are in the low thousands seems to confirm this hypothesis, at least at this present time. I think it’s really a matter of how big one’s fan base is, since the vast majority of my backers are people I already know, whether in person or online, or at least people who have played and enjoyed one or more of my previous games. As such, I can see this fan base growing over time, as current fans spread the word to their friends about my work and they become fans themselves, but as we know, these things don’t always happen immediately."

One thing I would like to see more of in this kind of discussion is the relationship of patrons with the finished product. Most Kickstarter projects offer finished copies to their backers, but it seems to me that if I helped fund it, my "ownership stake" ought to cover making sure I can always play it, or play it on my platform of choice — in other words, source code. Of course, this cuts off business models based on getting funding from Kickstarter and then selling the product afterwards.

Of course, I think Kickstarter IS a really exciting development for the funding of art, and I’m really curious to see what will happen with it.

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adieu Google

December 13, 2009

Lately there’s been some fuss about Google’s new privacy policy, with this post by Joey Hess (on Planet Debian) and Slashdot‘s article about Google’s new opt-out policy.

Joey Hess writes:

With the decade over, and Google rolling out all manner of tracking cookies and javascript, it’s time to move on. Just keeping on top of the torrent of privacy-affecting changes Google is making, and trying to parse the real meaning in the chirpy googlespeak announcements has become more work than the value their search engine adds. (This was the last straw.)

At least for now, I’ll be using Duck Duck Go for search. It’s small, quirky, has features the big competition lacks, and works well enough for my mostly moderate and occasionally intense needs. Sorta like Google in 1999.

While I am in favor of privacy, have not been thrilled with Google’s behavior, and have come to resent the attitude of Google employees and officers, I have to say Duck Duck Go does not meet my search needs. Neither does Bing. Neither does Google, when it comes right down to it. Search is hard, and there are a lot of tricky bits. (Try searching for the Haskell type signature "Int#". For a while it was nearly impossible to find the emacs package "magit", as all you could get were results for "magic".)

So for the time being I’m still using Google Search. With luck, in time everything will just magically get better..

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Ymacs – AJAX source code editor in your browser

December 6, 2009

OK, what? Ymacs:

Ymacs is an Emacs-like editor that works in your browser. Which applies, at this state of affairs, only if your browser is Firefox. It looks pretty good with other browsers, but it seems to be almost impossible to catch all the required key bindings—only Firefox allows what we need. Perhaps it can be “fixed” for other browsers, but I haven’t got the time nor the motivation to try yet.

2009-12-04 — Look ma, M-x! :-) M-x eval_region, even. And TAB completion for command names. Some commands from that list aren’t meant to be called interactively—I’ll start some refactoring for this soon.

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Personality test on how you design software

December 4, 2009

Seen on Coder Who Says Py: a software-design quiz meme.

A good friend of mine has created a personality test to both let you know what kind of developer you are when it comes to designing software as well as gather data for his PhD. If you have the 10 minutes it takes to do the test, please do take it; turns out HR and secretaries don’t like letting PhD students talk to managers to let them give a short online test to their developers.

I’m an improviser (all results are here).

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Literate Programming: Retrospect and Prospects

November 22, 2009

An article on Lambda the Ultimate about literate programming. I didn’t read all of these papers — only the "Programming on a Team Project" — and have never really done any literate programming myself, but it’s an interesting methodology and I sometimes wish it caught on better.

In my experience, healthy projects either have very little in the way of comments, beyond architectural descriptions, or have lots and lots of comments, sometimes one per each line of code (mature projects tend towards this end). I think XP is probably right to suggest that energy spent commenting is better spent refactoring or improving the codebase.

And yet LP still has a compelling power (at least for me)! My feeling is that there are some applications which benefit a lot from a literate style — namely research papers, data analyses, and tutorials. But for everything else I think it’s probably better relegated to the museum of history.

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Cottage Computer Programming

November 19, 2009

Via Suzanne: a fascinating autobiographical article by Paul Lutus.

You may have heard about me. In the computer business I’m known as the Oregon Hermit. According to rumor, I write personal computer programs in solitude, shunning food and sleep in endless fugues of work. I hang up on important callers in order to keep the next few programming ideas from evaporating, and I live on the end of a dirt road in the wilderness. I’m here to tell you these vicious rumors are true.

Personal favorite line?

Also, I’ve been told that good programmers rarely have mates. This is usually offered as evidence of how asocial we are. Without fail, we’re pictured as disheveled cyber-hobos hanging around computer centers, shunning serious relationships, coding for the sake of coding. I can’t really disagree with this view, but there is something interesting behind it-at least for me. I began to notice, as I got more involved with computers, that acceptance by the machine required absolute precision on my part. The slightest misstep caused the instant erasure of many hours of work; the machine would reject everything with perfect dispassion until each detail was just right. Then the program would suddenly function beautifully, and never fail again… The result of this strange relationship was that for a time I became too spoiled for the flesh-and-blood women around me. I got tired of hearing, "If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times-the answer is maybe!"

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Avatars to Have Business Dress Codes by 2013

November 11, 2009

Slashdot has an article about a side-effect of business in the virtual space.

‘As the use of virtual environments for business purposes grows, enterprises need to understand how employees are using avatars in ways that might affect the enterprise or the enterprise’s reputation,’ said James Lundy, managing vice president at Gartner, in a statement. ‘We advise establishing codes of behavior that apply in any circumstance when an employee is acting as a company representative, whether in a real or virtual environment.’

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Toward a freer Android

November 11, 2009

This article on LWN surveys the Android landscape now that "the dust has mostly settled after Google’s shutdown of the Cyanogen build".

Solving the rest of the problems should not be all that hard. If the gmail application never becomes available, mail can be read through IMAP instead – and that might just inspire some people to help improve the somewhat painful email application currently shipped with Android.

The article reads (to me) as a mostly positive "to arms!" with regard to Android. But in the intervening month, I think it’s become clear that Android isn’t a "real" open source platform, and doesn’t really sit well in the Linux ecosystem. Personally I’m still feeling burned about Android, but I have a lot of hope for the N900 and new versions of Maemo.

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