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Published in: on October 26, 2006 at 13:41  Enter your password to view comments.  
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Random snippets from work

Things which will probably make sense only to other computer people.


One of the things I do at work is code readability reviews, which are the intense initial reviews that everyone has to get before they’re allowed to check anything in. (Style correctness, etc) I just noticed that one of the people doing Python readability reviews is Guido van Rossum.


From a thread at work:

> So this is undefined behavior, and the compiler is free to do
> _anything_, including always returning 0x1234

Language lawyers and compiler people are always threatening to do
things like this when standards call for undefined behavior, but they
never actually do it. The world would be a much more fun place (and
we’d probably find more latent bugs) if gcc had a –psychotic mode.

Truer words were never spoken.

Published in: on September 28, 2006 at 12:31  Comments (13)  
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From a chat thread at work tonight:

“We’re engineers. we don’t always need to know why black magic works, we just sacrifice the chickens and hope for the best.”

Yup, one of those nights.

Published in: on September 5, 2006 at 21:37  Comments (14)  
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Shifts in sentiment

Sometime in the past month, there seems to have been a shift of sentiment in our government, and it’s finally become allowable to admit certain things, like the fact that the war in Iraq was an ill-conceived operation, based on entirely unrealistic ideas, and has ended in almost total failure. Of course, this doesn’t quite reach to the highest levels – Bush still makes speeches saying things like “Iraqis are taking control of their country, building a free nation that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself. And we’re helping Iraqis succeed” – but there’s a remarkable willingness of officials involved to finally admit that we’re leaving in the foreseeable future, having achieved little or nothing of the lofty goals which were touted at the start of the war. This article from the Washington Post is a good example; lots of quotes from various people, mostly speaking on background but unusually candid.

At the same time, there’s no conjoint movement to cut back on the encroachments into American civil rights over the past few years, nor do I expect there to be one so long as this administration continues; people have come to expect continuous surveillance, background/credit/affiliations being easily investigated, in cases tagged as “relevant to national security” things like the detention of people without any of the protections we would normally expect in civil society. Recent more subtle changes seem to assist that; for instance, US cell phones are now required to transmit GPS locations (for emergency services, of course…), and Nokia’s latest mobile services API makes it possible to write server-side applications that use that location information – without any software being installed on the cell phone. (Nokia isn’t the only one, of course; that’s just the first example I found to hand) I’ll let the technically minded among you imagine a couple of uses for that; it’s sort of a fun exercise, if you think about it as though you were a police officer, a private investigator, a marketer, or simply an armed robber.

Published in: on August 14, 2005 at 16:09  Comments (2)  
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Technical troubles

I’m remembering why I deeply loathe having Windows boxen in the house.

OK, question for those of you familiar with this sort of thing: I’ve got a box that was, until recently, in use as a DVD player, media station, etc. Apparently in the very recent past, nVidia, as a result of pressure from Macrovision, pushed a new version of the video driver which completely breaks DVD output, causing any attempt to play a DVD to fail with a copy-protection error. Searching a bit on the net found this out – they didn’t bother to call anyone’s attention to the fact, and they just pushed the drivers as part of their automatic updates. It simply requires that one roll back to the 40.72 version.

Unfortunately, doing this seems to have failed utterly; despite the installer claiming to have succeeded, Windows does not believe that there is any driver at all, and the DVD problem is persisting.

Does anyone know a solution to this short of nuke & pave? Or alternately, would anyone like to buy a nice little Shuttle box with a 2GHz Athlon and a gig of RAM, so I can replace it with a Mac mini?

Published in: on April 3, 2005 at 21:58  Comments (14)  
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Request for information

Can anyone point me at a reliable source of information about the activities of frienditto, and if at all possible to their terms of service? (Their site itself is down right now, answering 403, and I’m not certain if this is because they took the site down or if it’s a response to a DDoS) Please respond by e-mail.

Published in: on March 5, 2005 at 12:24  Comments Off on Request for information  
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heterosexuality.Test()

A friend recently mentioned events that caused people to “question the security and reliability of their heterosexuality.” This got me thinking: Good maintenance should prevent this from ever happening. If you ever end up questioning the reliability of your heterosexuality, this is a clear sign of inadequate unit testing.

API and test suite for sexual orientation

Published in: on February 25, 2005 at 00:57  Comments (38)  
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This is just neat.

Google just launched Google Scholar, a search engine specifically for technical publications, books, and so on. It’s incredibly cool, and I didn’t work on this so I’m not personally biased. I’m mentioning this in a locked post since, even though we did publicly launch, I’m always a bit nervous about publicly discussing things.

But… try this out. It’s not just hard sciences and medicine; the social sciences are in there, too.

Published in: on November 18, 2004 at 11:15  Comments (16)  
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Whew.

The past few days have been spent on speed optimizations of code. The sort of really hard-core optimizations that I haven’t done in a few years – the ones where you say things like “*five* integer assignments?!” and worry about indirect versus direct references.

It’s certainly been a learning experience. It’s also involved writing something like 2500 lines of code in the past 36 hours, with a similar dose expected for the next 36.

After this, I suspect I will need a nap.

Published in: on July 15, 2004 at 19:09  Comments (1)  
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Note to self

Any optimization idea that starts with “That’s okay, we’ll just change the way the iterators work” is going to be a pain in the ass.

Published in: on July 8, 2004 at 21:07  Comments Off on Note to self  
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