Wednesday Oct 19, 2005

Something I'm bad at

I've re-discovered something I am bad at. I'm slightly ashamed to admit it, but I am very bad at testing my own code. To be specific, I'm bad at spotting when fixing one problem causes or re-introduces a different one. I already know the fix for this. It is quite simple: write the unit tests as you go along, and make sure they all still pass after you've added a new bit. I let myself slip away from doing this, because I was feeling some deadline pressure. But I just proved to myself yet again that writing tests doesn't cost you time, it saves you time.

Well, lesson learned — properly this time, I hope.


Tuesday Oct 18, 2005

Back again.

I took a bit of a blog break. I was feeling somewhat negative, and the advice is to not post under those conditions, lest you say something you might regret. But the pressure is off, at least a little, so I'm back. Today, I was inspired by the most interesting blog in the world. So here it is: multi-colored chard with garlic and onions, over rice noodles.


Tuesday Oct 11, 2005

Kryptonite at the ready, folks...

This is a little worrying...

Friday Oct 07, 2005

Product of the week

Index cards. 5x3 index cards. I write tasks on them as I think of them, and then riffle through and pick a single one to work on. The system is, only work one card at a time. Somehow it keeps me more focused than writing a list on a sheet of paper.

Thursday Oct 06, 2005

Silly hardware problem

I was working on assembling a PC this evening, and I put in two SATA drives. The BIOS didn't see them, so I couldn't set up the RAID array I wanted. It turns out that the motherboard only supports SATA-150. So I had to physically jumper the drives down to SATA-150. I'd have thought in this day and age, they could negotiate the slower speed, but apparently not. This small factoid may be worth knowing if you're looking at a box that doesn't see its SATA drives. For what it's worth, the motherboard is an Albatron K8X800 Pro II and the drives are Western Digital 2500KS.

Wednesday Oct 05, 2005

Graphic novels I've read recently

I've been reading some Alan Moore stuff recently, and I am really liking it. First I read V for Vendetta (soon to be a movie totally disowned by Alan). Then I read book 2 of Top Ten and the two "spin-off" books Smax and Forty-niners. (Amazon were temporarily out of stock on Top Ten book one, but it's on its way now.) I particularly like the Top Ten world, which is a kind of Superhero ghetto. Everyone on Parallel Earth 10 is a Superhero, and the stories are about the cops on that world. Moore's stories are great, and he's chosen some good artists to work with. The little in-jokes in the backgrounds in Smax are priceless. So anyway, hooray for Alan, Northampton boy made good, and two thumbs up for Top Ten and Smax


Tuesday Oct 04, 2005

No bike ride for three days

I've not had a bike ride for three days. I'm having a slight deadline crunch, and I've also had a cold. But I'm getting grumpy, so this can't go on. Tomorrow, come what may I'll be out on my bike before work.


Friday Sep 30, 2005

Yet more musical emulation

I liked the Prophet emulator so much, I bought the same company's Hammond clone too. Now I can pretend to be Jon Lord being harrassed by Ian Gillan about his organ not working...


Thursday Sep 29, 2005

Another 500 mile month!

Well, probably. I need to do 22 miles tomorrow morning, but that's typically no problem.

(ETA: yup, done.)


Wednesday Sep 28, 2005

Brain-controlled computers

Nature is reporting on their news pages about an electrode-array-bearing cap that a person can wear, which allows them to navigate a virtual environment by visualising walking. Although it takes practice to get used to the system, the breakthrough here is that you don't need to have the electrodes implanted. Just having them held onto your head is good enough. Meanwhile, another group has been using trans-cranial magnetic stimulation to produce an artificial feeling of motion. So that's the start of neural input and output. Maybe I really will live to see cyberpunk technology come true. That would be cool.


Tuesday Sep 27, 2005

Worst episode ever

Smallville, season four. Spell. What were they thinking? Was there some kind of ratings war going on with Buffy? As the title says, and to quote Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons: worst episode ever.

Monday Sep 26, 2005

Getting the boss into trouble

Paul sent me an email suggesting that I should blog about some ancient piece of history from when we worked together, before we both joined Sun. But that would take research, and I can't be bothered today. Maybe another time. So instead, here's a story from back then that doesn't take any research.

Back in the days of SunOS 3.5, when the hot desktop was a Sun 3/50 diskless client, running at 16 MHz, with 4 megs of RAM, the default windowing system for Sun workstations was called SunTools or SunView. It was unrelated to X11, and at least partially implemented in the kernel. Anyway, we used to call it "ScumTools", not because there was anything wrong with it, but only because derisive nicknames were all the rage in the group at that time. So one time, the boss called up Sun tech support, and just automatically started talking about the problem he was having with "ScumTools". At which, the support person got quite offended, and the boss had to apologize profusely and blame the bad influence of the code monkeys.

I'm such a troublemaker...

Friday Sep 23, 2005

mmm... curly...

I just won a fund-raiser auction for some guitar-building wood. You can see it here. Tasty! The money is going to help Hurricane Katrina victims. If you're interested in building musical instruments, be sure to check out the MIMF (musical instrument maker's forum), who's sysop arranged this and some other fundraisers.


Thursday Sep 22, 2005

More computer music fun

When I was a teenager I always wanted a Sequential Circuits Prophet 5. That's a synth keyboard, for those of you not old enough to know. I never got one - it was pro gear at the time, and much too expensive, and these days they seem pretty rare. But thanks to the magic of emulation, I now have the next-best thing — a Pro-53. I got this program today, and it is a hoot. Having never played the real thing, I can't say how realistic it is, but a lot of the preset sounds are surprisingly familiar from those eighties tracks...

Also, the latency problem is apparently not hardware-related, since running this synth as a standalone program and controlling it from my Yamaha piano produces no noticable lag. Excellent.


Wednesday Sep 21, 2005

The Truth Machine

According to a news report on Nature's news page, some proponents of fMRI are now claiming to be able to reliably detect lies by monitoring brain activity. This seems like it might actually be a plausible "lie detector" — unlike the polygraph, which has been proven time and again to be unreliable. I'm not sure what the implications of this are. Certainly one can imagine situations where being able to demonstrate that you are telling the truth about something would be very useful. But suppose it turns out that you don't need to stick someone's head into a giant magnet to do this. Suppose any random social interaction could be measured for degree of truthfulness by either party, using a small potentially concealed device. That could change our world a bit, I'd think.

Anyway, the article made me think of a novel I read a while ago, called The Truth Machine, by James L. Halperin. If I remembered a darn thing about it, I'd give you a mini-review right here, but I don't. So I'm putting it on the "to read" pile. I'll be interested to see how Halperin thinks society would be changed by such technology. (If I recall correctly, the technology was restricted to judicial uses in his novel.)




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