Older blog entries for ncm (starting at number 334)

2 Jun 2009 (updated 2 Jun 2009 at 23:46 UTC) »

... and it's "toe the line", not "tow the line". You're standing at a line, following the rules. Oh, and it's "currying Fauvel" -- brushing that famous donkey, Fauvel -- not "currying favor"; and "eat umble pie" -- innards -- not "eat humble pie". Oh, is this too much correctness for you? Never mind.

I set up a backyard pool last weekend, and before I even got any water in it, the frame was swarmed with about a hundred thousand microscopic crawling insects weighing probably a gram, in total. With the naked eye I could just see there was something there, and identify a color. At 160x, one filled the microscope field. They turned out to be thrips, just one of 4700 known species. More species of thrips are known than mammals, with probably thousands more thrip species unnoted. I wonder why they liked my pool.

My brother-in-law gave me a G1 Android phone, and I took it on vacation to read, and even answer, e-mail on. It's the first time I've gone anywhere in, what, 20 years? without a laptop. It worked, but I had to wait to read the mouse-over punchlines to my favorite webcomix until after I got home. Android won't be there until its browser does mouse-overs.

I only just got my Dell Latitude D620 to resume properly from an ACPI "suspend to RAM". I've been using TuxOnIce for the last 2+ years, but have finally abandoned it. This was part of upgrading to a kernel, itself prompted by trying to get my US$2 "Clique Hue HD" (sn9c20x) webcams working. That failed, but I got a pair of 6-foot USB cables, cheap, and the cameras are good-looking even if they won't themselves look. (The microphones work, I think.) My guess is they ended up remaindered for $2 because the MSWindows drivers shipped with them suck. Who knows, the Linux driver might even work someday.

27 May 2009 (updated 27 May 2009 at 06:46 UTC) »
Raph: Seriously, the "degradation" is one of the best things about your LeBe Book typeface. It's beautiful.
27 Mar 2009 (updated 27 Mar 2009 at 01:36 UTC) »
Domanic: I wonder if these fraudulent tipsters are using your tip jar to verify that the account has not been closed, before using it to buy stuff from somebody else. If so, then it suffices to expose your tip jar only to people who have otherwise identified themselves.

I do not wish to take anything away from those who posted on their admiration for female pioneers in computing, nor from the admired pioneers themselves, but hasn't Ada herself been shown to have been a sort of spokesmodel for Charles Babbage, her published work ghostwritten? I seem to recall that something definitely traceable to her indicated a lack of basic algebra. If this is not right I would welcome correction. Perhaps Emilie du Châtelet or Mary Somerville would make a more durable standard-bearer.

26 Mar 2009 (updated 26 Mar 2009 at 00:10 UTC) »

I just looked up Feelspace, a project where they use a belt with vibrators to provide an artificial magnetic direction sense. It immediately struck me that they would do better to use a much simpler system: a single actuator that vibrates (or, better, in my estimation, applies a small current) when your head is oriented to the desired heading, or to a reference heading.

Given distinguishable stimulae (e.g. frequency) it might identify the cardinal points. A single actuator mounted, e.g., at the back of the scalp or near the ear would be much less intrusive than the designs I see on the web site, and fit easily in a hat or pair of glasses with no visible wiring.

The hat form ought to be especially easy to build.

25 Mar 2009 (updated 25 Mar 2009 at 18:33 UTC) »
wingo: Re Didier Verna reporting Lisp achieving image processing performance of at 60% of C ... that's a very low bar. People used to use Fortran because it was much faster than C; now they use C++ because it's faster than Fortran. Fortran didn't get slower. It's no surprise when you say Verna doesn't care about speed -- he also doesn't know about speed. Is pretending supposed to benefit the Lisp community? Maybe it's just traditional.
25 Mar 2009 (updated 25 Mar 2009 at 01:37 UTC) »

In recognition of Ada Lovelace day, I'd like to express appreciation (and awe) for Val Aurora (née Val Henson). Val, incidentally, admires Anita Borg.

25 Mar 2009 (updated 25 Mar 2009 at 00:14 UTC) »
chalst: Thanks for taking time out to reply. I like how Shap says, "I don't think it's a matter of bias" and then explains, in detail, how it really is entirely a matter of bias, both personal and institutional. It must be a leftover academic habit.

I fully agree when you say, "Haskell is the world's greatest language laboratory", but would put it differently: "Haskell is the world's greatest wanklage." (A wanklage is an absorber of language wankage.) In this it has recently supplanted Lisp, which is quite an accomplishment, of sorts. I have come to appreciate the fog of wanklages for their power of keeping discussions of useful and potentially useful languages relatively free of wankage. Unlike you, I don't believe any language's runtime costs can be notably improved; runtime cost is a fundamental discipline, one of very few objective language design disciplines known. (Human conceptual and perceptual limitations are another, albeit less quantifiable.) Abandon it even for a moment and you'll be very lucky if you even end up with a wanklage.

This is not to say that wanklages aren't useful on their own. Several ideas tried out in ML ended up in C++. They're just not useful, themselves, for writing actual, useful programs in. (It was never McCarthy's goal for LISP; Steve Russell first violated that design criterion.) We might express this observation as, They also serve who only stand and wank.

[Update: No offense intended to fans of Haskell, Lisp, or other wanklages.]

chalst: Continuing to follow up, note this from the conclusion of the BitC paper: "It is noteworthy that none of this effort was deemed fundable by the National Science Foundation (which is to say: by the academic programming languages community)." Mm-hmm. All BitC needs now is destructors and exceptions. If they can avoid any analog of "finally", then, they're home free. :-)
chalst: Following up, Bitc looks like it could become quite interesting. Monastic, er, monadic regions, on the other hand, don't. Stack-like resource management, even with "witness functions", is fundamentally limited in ways system designers have no reason to consider accommodating.
bagder: The reply is simple: "http://debian.org/". Short enough for an iPhone. Debian has been ported to iPhone, right?

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