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Archive for January, 2006

The Last Question

January 24th, 2006 No comments

The Last Question is a short story by a certain Isaac Asimov. He is quoted as saying that it is his favourite of his short stories, and I can understand why.

I read it this morning, and I’m so impressed by it. It seems to have an amazing naivety to it, for example, the idea of space ships running on coal, humans using up all the uranium in the world for their power needs, and computers no longer needing transistor but instead reverting back to using “micro-valves”, but then you have to remember that the story was written in 1956. What struck me next about the story is it’s amazing insight – there is a casual reference to an “AC-Contact”, which sounds remarkably like a handheld computer, and computer systems that are natural language processors. These are all things that exist today (albeit in a limited capacity to those expressed in the story), that when written would have been considered pure fantasy. There is an amazing realisation brought through from the story that these things will happen, which is something that I had never really thought about before, and the question remains, what will human kind do when these things happen?

Finally, there is the ending. Which is just masterful. It actually reminds me a lot of the computer in “The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy”, but that is a different story.

The introduction contained on the linked page hints to a further underlying theme to the story, which I do have theories about, but I don’t want to spoil the ending….

N.B. This post has been back dated because I didn’t post it properly!

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Here’s A Question

January 17th, 2006 1 comment

Are all software bugs repeatable? As in, if you discover a bug in a piece of software, is there any type of bug that could not be repeated?

My answer is “Yes, all bugs are repeatable”. Bugs depend on circumstances, so as long as you can repeat the circumstances, then you can repeat the bug.

I’m betting Richard thinks otherwise…. 😉

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Indoor Pools and Pet Penguins

January 13th, 2006 No comments

I think that this story has to be one of the funniest stories that I have ever read.

It involves Penguins, hoax websites, swimming pools, a house, a big refund and some damn fine determination.

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iWeb Produces Crap Code!

January 13th, 2006 No comments

OK, so iWeb was launched the other day, as part of the new iLife ’06 package, and as soon as it was released people started using it and testing the output.

It appears, according to this post, that it produces some pretty nasty output – or should I say that it is not good engineering practice to produce the same output as iWeb!

However, I think that someone has nailed the situation pretty much on the head in the commentsWell, iWeb was built so that you didn’t have to write any code at all, so why care?

So what if there is some unnecessary code? It is a brand new application, and it gets the job done without the user having to write a line of code.

Posted by: Appleologist at January 12, 2006 09:42 PM

My point is this: Yes, it generates some pretty nasty code (although, full credit to Apple, it does parse correctly and conforms to standards), some of which could be cleaned up easily. But, as quoted, the people that will want to use this application are those people who don’t have enough web experience to develop this kind of site on their own, and so don’t care about what it generates – just as long as it looks good on their screen. The site will use up more web space, and more bandwidth, in order to host it, but not that much more.

The people that are commenting on the quality of the code, are going to be those people that know how to produce websites efficiently and correctly, and are people that care about the amount of bandwidth that their company uses, because bandwidth costs money.

Not having used iWeb, I can’t really comment on the use of the application, or it’s intended market, but from the evidence that I have seen, and my perceived target user based for the app, I would say that it does a pretty good job.

(Note To Apple: Please just tidy up the code a little, and get rid of that damn “Generator” tag – that thing just stinks of “Frontpage”!)

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IT Graduates Not Happy With Courses

January 11th, 2006 1 comment

Apparently 46% (in this survey, at least) of UK IT Graduates are not happy with their courses saying that they failed to prepare them for working in “the real world”.

I would sit myself firmly in the 54% of the other Graduates that are happy with what I did at University. I think that may be the 46% were not aware of what they have been taught:Graduates were disappointed they were not taught Java and .NET – despite demand for them in the commercial sector.This makes me think that they have made an oversight. I was taught several languages at University, but only briefly touched on Java, and had no (at University, at least) experience of working with Microsoft .Net. The fact that both of these products (along with other, important, commercial products such as Oracle) are now available as a free download which these graduates could go to learn on their own, is not stated.

Even though I wasn’t taught them fully, I feel that I would not have a problem with switching to these languages. Why? Because I was taught how to program, not how to program in X, Y, or Z languages. The skills are very transferable, if you put your mind to it (incidentally, I am not stating that all programming languages are the same – they are not, but many ideas and concepts do, readily, transfer).

Let me put this into the context of an analogy:

Imagine that, at University, you were taught to drive a car. You were taught what all the pedals were for, how to steer, when to change gear, how to drive in traffic, the whole lot; except the only car the University had available for you to drive and to practice in was, for example, a Honda, and sometimes there was a Vauxhall on offer if you took the right course in your third year.

You then graduate from University, and start looking for a job, advertising yourself as a “driver”, as there is little need for a specific “Honda Only driver (with some experience of Vauxhalls)”.

When you get to your job, you are asked to drive a Ford.

When you immediately get into the car, most things are the same, and you can more-or-less start driving straight away. OK, every now and again, you forget where the windscreen washer is, or it takes you a bit of time to get used to the gear box, but after a while you are driving well. Could you then say that you felt disappointed because your University did not teach you to drive a Ford? Most things are the same, except for a few little levers and things, but the principles are all exactly the same.

University is not about learning specifics – it is about learning principles. The problem with principles though, is that you can’t use “principles”, you have to use an implementation of those principles, which may have included, changed or excluded those principles at will.

Ignoring those principles, and only absorbing implementation specifics is a unwise thing to do.

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Quite A Productive Evening

January 11th, 2006 No comments

Last night, I had quite a productive evening.

After months of neglect underneath my desk at home, I finally managed to get around to finish building my new home server/router. I’ve got the basics working: NAT Routing, DHCP and DNS services working, something that I had had great problems with.

It’s all reading to go now, and I can provide a simple switch with my existing router/server box (currently running SuSE 7.3 because it’s too old to run anything newer!). Once it’s in place, then I can start organising some more of the other services that I use (CVS, LDAP, SAMBA, that kind of thing). My only hold back now is getting files of the old box, and getting all my client computers to switch things like outgoing mail servers to the new IP address.

I’ve also come up with a good way of making sure I back up the necessary files if I ever need to reformat the machine: Keep copies in a directory in my home directory – I have also made notes of the other processes that I have done. Makes sense I suppose!

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Stuff + Cats = Awesome

January 10th, 2006 No comments

I’ve just come across this website: Stuff On My Cat, which I had initially assumed was some womans weak blog about her cat “Honey”, but as it turns out, it’s a bloody hilarious site.

Basically the idea is this: Put stuff on a cat – it can be anything. Take picture. Post to website.

Now, from my experience of putting things on my pet cats over the years, it doesn’t take long for cats to “shrug” these things off, with a mean time of about 5 seconds before they end up on the floor. Some of them must have been sooo hard to take pictures of – I can only admire their dedication.

Here’s some links to some of my favourites:

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How the hell did I miss this?

January 9th, 2006 No comments

Just stumbled across this story on “The Register“: French woman tried to pop out for mid-flight ciggie

Jesus.

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Christmas Is Over

January 5th, 2006 No comments

… at work at least.

We spent 5 minutes this morning tearing down the decorations, which will probably end up in the bin – we are moving offices this year, and we won’t have anywhere to store them until next Christmas, so we will probably have to buy a new set then too.

It seems to have gone incredibly quickly this year (or 2005 at least). Last year’s Christmas seemed to last forever, where as this time, its flown by. Must be getting old.

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This Is Pretty Handy

January 1st, 2006 No comments

This website is probably the best introduction to BSD socket programming that I have seen. It breaks down a lot of the information into clear chunks, and even explained somethings that I still had some questions over.

The only slight problem with it is that it falls into the trap a lot of other tutorials have, and does not properly use PF_INET and AF_INET in the appropriate places, and instead just uses AF_INET (which is wrong, but will still work).

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