Friday, August 24, 2007

This line speaks to me

E.W. Dijkstra Archive: Answers to questions from students of Software Engineering (EWD1305): "The programmer should not ask how applicable the techniques of sound programming are, he should create a world in which they are applicable;"

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Guido van Rossum, you're my hero!

Python 3000 Status Update (Long!): "Python 3.0 will break backwards compatibility. Totally. We're not even aiming for a specific common subset. (Of course there will be a common subset, probably quite large, but we're not aiming to make it convenient or even possible to write significant programs in this subset. It is merely the set of features that happen to be unchanged from 2.6 to 3.0.)

Python 2.6, on the other hand, will maintain full backwards compatibility with Python 2.5

The recommended development model for a project that needs to support Python 2.6 and 3.0 simultaneously is as follows:

  1. Start with excellent unit tests, ideally close to full coverage.
  2. Port the project to Python 2.6.
  3. Turn on the Py3k warnings mode.
  4. Test and edit until no warnings remain.
  5. Use the 2to3 tool to convert this source code to 3.0 syntax. Do not manually edit the output!
  6. Test the converted source code under 3.0.
  7. If problems are found, make corrections to the 2.6 version of the source code and go back to step 3.
  8. When it's time to release, release separate 2.6 and 3.0 tarballs (or whatever archive form you use for releases).

The conversion tool produces high-quality source code, that in many cases is indistinguishable from manually converted code. Still, it is strongly recommended not to start editing the 3.0 source code until you are ready to reduce 2.6 support to pure maintenance (i.e. the moment when you would normally move the 2.6 code to a maintenance branch anyway)."

Friday, June 01, 2007

Be Breif

Pimp My Code, Part 14: Be Inflexible!: "You've probably seen some variant of this, but I'll show you my version. In coding, you have many dimensions in which you can rate code:

- Brevity of code
- Featurefulness
- Speed of execution
- Time spent coding
- Robustness
- Flexibility

Now, remember, these dimensions are all in opposition to one another. You can spend a three days writing a routine which is really beautiful AND fast, so you've gotten two of your dimensions up, but you've spent THREE DAYS, so the 'time spent coding' dimension is WAY down.

So, when is this worth it? How do we make these decisions?

The answer turns out to be very sane, very simple, and also the one nobody, ever, listens to:

'START WITH BREVITY. Increase the other dimensions AS REQUIRED BY TESTING.'"

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Seat Up or Seat Down?

I'm a proud seat-putter-downer and occasional pee-sitting-downer and now there is scientific proof supporting my stance... err... seat:


"Discussion and conclusions

For “mankind”, the analysis in this paper has the following appeal: Once again, it has been found that the social norm of leaving the toilet seat down is inefficient; hence, “mankind” may feel vindicated.

For “womankind”, the analysis in this paper is appealing for the following reason: It has been shown that the social norm of leaving the seat down is a trembling-hand perfect equilibrium. Hence, this norm is not likely to go away, at least in the near future."

"Seat Up" may be more efficient, but "Seat Down" results in a more natural social balance.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

A Quantum Leap In Power Generation

This could be really cool, if it's true...

For a long long time now, I've been asking people (any one who has the unfortunate luck to get me rambling about my hair brained pseudo-scientific daydreams), "Why don't we hear more about crazy inventors trying to capture and reuse some of the waste heat that nearly every human activity and technology produces?!" I've always gotten answers like "... well, in this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!". Well, Borealis Exploration Limited, seems to think this concept isn't so crazy. I read this on the Internet so that mean it's true :P

Power Chips plc: "Power Chips™, which use thermionics to convert heat directly into electricity, will be one of the first industrial applications of nanotechnology. These small, solid-state devices promise to improve current power generation and waste heat recovery techniques. Power Chips will deliver up to 70-80% of the maximum (Carnot) theoretical efficiency for heat pumps (conventional power generation equipment operates at up to 40% Carnot efficiency).

Power Chips plc has devised 'Power Chips' which generate electricity by using heat to move electrons from one side of a vacuum diode to the other. The system, currently under development, contains no moving parts or motors and can be either miniaturized or scaled to very large sizes for use in a variety of applications. Whether it is to recover energy from the waste heat of traditional engines and turbines, or to replace them completely with a compact and efficient solid-state system, Power Chips present product engineers and project managers with a broad array of design options.

We are actively seeking licensees and development partners for a number of specific applications of Power Chip technology. Our current development efforts are centered around increasing power density of research prototypes and refining manufacturing processes to complete production prototypes.

More detailed information on Power Chips can be found by reviewing our patent portfolio in the Technology section of this site. If you have specific questions about your potential application for Power Chips, feel free to contact us."

I also wonder about the net amount of waste heat produced by human activity: car engines, air conditioners, camp fires, jet engines, leaving my Dad's back door open in winter, passing gas, and patio heaters, that many Calgarian night clubs use in an attempt to (again, to my Father's horror) "heat the outdoors!"

It's all gotta add up to something and I'll bet someone is gonna crunch some numbers and do the math sometime soon, in light of all the recent environmental awareness that seems to be suddenly newsworthy.

I wanted to share your [website A] message with [another website A member], but there is no way to forward!

This is an excerpt i stole from an email i sent to a good friend of mine who, i really hope, doesn't mind receiving my raving, seemingly unprovoked, rants!

"... On a separate note, let me ask, how do you like [social networking site A]? I really like it. I think it's a thousand times better then [social networking site B] but it still drives me nuts! I wanted to share the info that you gave me in your [social networking site A] message with [another member of social networking site A], but there is no way to forward!

Not only do i have to open my email, and then follow a link, and then sign into [social networking site A] just to read the damn message, but then i need to copy and paste it to forward it to someone?! and i can't send to multiple recipients through [social networking site A] so i need to come back to my email!

It's so dumb! They are trying to drive traffic to their site by providing services that enhances social communication on the Internet and that's great ... but for the love of crap, [social networking site A], don't try to force me to use your site _instead_ of email, when you could integrate with the original social networking tool, that we all, already rely on and have relied on since the early 90's!!!

When someone messages me and you want to notify me via email, SEND ME THE FUCKING MESSAGE BODY TOO!!! I will still visit your site and see your bloody ads while i use the services and features that go above and beyond email, and actually _require_ your system! but whenever you can, for fuck sakes, TRY TO MAKE MY EXISTING TOOLS BETTER, don't fucking try to cripple them!!!

... ok, sorry, i just had to get that out...

it's kinda related to some of the stuff we (a few friends of mine) are working on. We might be trying to [do something] around fixing the lack of integration between social sites. I'm pretty excited about it! I've been thinking about this for a long time, even before i realized all my friends were using [social networking site B] and how terrible [social networking site B] is. Now that everyone seems to be jumping onto [social networking site A], and i'm forced to use their tools in the way they intended, i'm even more motivated to fix some of this stuff."

... and for anyone who had the patience to read this i thank you. some small part of the burden of my rage has now been passed along to you and has lightened the load i carry. I'm really glad the Internet doesn't ever mind receiving my raving, seemingly unprovoked, rants!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Note to self: Always learn and keep looking for the "better way"

Google Testing Blog: TotT: Stubs Speed up Your Unit Tests: "By substituting custom objects for some of your module's dependencies, you can thoroughly test your code, increase your coverage, and still run in less than a second. You can even simulate rare scenarios like database failures and test your error handling code.

A variety of different terms are used to refer to these “custom objects”. In an effort to clarify the vocabulary, Gerard Meszaros provides the following definitions:

* Test Double is a generic term for any test object that replaces a production object.
* Dummy objects are passed around but not actually used. They are usually fillers for parameter lists.
* Fakes have working implementations, but take some shortcut (e.g., InMemoryDatabase).
* Stubs provide canned answers to calls made during a test.
* Mocks have expectations which form a specification of the calls they do and do not receive."

Friday, February 16, 2007

My "Science Scouts" Badges


The "talking science" badge.
Required for all members. Assumes the recipient conducts himself/herself in such a manner as to talk science whenever he/she gets the chance. Not easily fazed by looks of disinterest from friends or the act of "zoning out" by well intentioned loved ones.

The "I blog about science" badge.
In which the recipient maintains a blog where at least a quarter of the material is about science. Suffice to say, this does not include scientology.

The "arts and crafts" badge.
Because you can't have a bunch of badges without an arts and crafts badge. This one assumes the recipient has all manner of "craftiness" with a sciencegeek twist.

The "I bet I know more computer languages than you, and I'm not afraid to talk about it" badge.
It could get ugly when two or more of these recipients get together.