Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category.

I am officially sick of DVCS

We use Mercurial at work.  It’s nothing particularly new to me; I’ve been working with it ever since SDL, a major open-source graphics library that I’ve been using and contributing to for a long time now, changed over to a HG repository several years ago.  You’d think that I’d be used to its quirks and glitches, all the little things it manages to somehow not get right, by now.  But it keeps finding new and innovative ways to suck. Continue reading ‘I am officially sick of DVCS’ »

Dear Idera, please Don’t Clutter Up our build process anymore

I was compiling a new branch at work today, which used a different version of Delphi than the one I had been working on, and along the way I ran into tons of spurious File Not Found errors from the compiler.  The file was, in fact, right there where it should have been able to find it easily, but it kept erroring out.  After speaking with another developer, I managed to track down what was really going wrong: for some reason, it was finding outdated DCUs from the old build and choking on it, giving an incorrect error.  After deleting the rogue DCUs, everything built smoothly. Continue reading ‘Dear Idera, please Don’t Clutter Up our build process anymore’ »

A new Industrial Revolution?

I’ve written before about the history of steel, how it’s been around for millennia, but was of limited use to civilization as a whole until the details of its manufacture were published.  It’s impossible to overstate what a pivotal moment in human history the publication of steel was: without abundant, cheep steel manufacturing, we would have never had the Industrial Revolution, the beginning of the modern age.

Since then, there’s only been one technology that’s rivaled steel in its revolutionary influence on the entirety of modern society: the transistor.  And again, the more abundantly and cheaply people have been able to manufacture them, the greater their value to society grows.  We even have a famous principle about the mathematics of it.

Well here’s the amazing thing: we might be right on the verge of it happening again. Continue reading ‘A new Industrial Revolution?’ »

What does the Google Code shutdown mean for other services?

My brother lives in Provo, Utah, one of the few cities in the country fortunate enough to have Google Fiber service.  And they are truly fortunate; he describes it as awesome and amazing, the kind of Internet service everyone should have.  But the thing is… it’s from Google.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Google.  But I’m starting to wonder how much I can trust them as, once again, they’ve demonstrated their shifting attitude towards engineering by announcing the shutdown of a highly useful service, Google Code. Continue reading ‘What does the Google Code shutdown mean for other services?’ »

Making people’s lives better… in 4 years.

I don’t think anyone can argue that technology makes many aspects of our lives simpler and more convenient, but it often brings complications with it as well, as we all know.  But every once in a while, something comes along that just unambiguously makes things better.  Stuff like the vaccine, electrical lights, and improved communications technology.

Add to that list just about any “convenience” gadget you can build into a car.  I’ve long maintained that everything from power windows to automatic transmission is, in fact, a safety feature: anything you can get a machine to do for you while you’re driving reduces the amount of distraction you suffer while performing the task, which by definition makes you a less distracted driver and thus a safer driver. Continue reading ‘Making people’s lives better… in 4 years.’ »

Programming and (human) languages

StackOverflow just announced that they’re opening up yet another foreign language version of SO, this one in Japanese.  They’ve already done this in Portuguese, and now it appears they’re continuing on the same path.  When people point out that the “convenience” that this provides would be counterproductive in the long run as it fragments the unified knowledge base that SO has worked for years to build, the standard response is that “learning English is difficult” and this makes it easier. Continue reading ‘Programming and (human) languages’ »

Static Typing Still Matters

I ran across a very interesting story yesterday.  Apparently genetic researchers are having some real trouble with their spreadsheets: important data is being wrongly interpreted by Excel as specific data formats and ends up getting mangled irreversibly, leading to data corruption.  For example, the gene identifier “2310009E13” got converted to the floating point value “2.31E+13,” and the tumor suppressor DEC1 [Deleted in Esophageal Cancer 1] was being converted to ‘1-DEC.’ Continue reading ‘Static Typing Still Matters’ »

Reaching A Human Being

As you may know, those of you out there who are active on StackOverflow and other StackExchange sites, they’ve got a site called Area51 that lets people propose new sites for the StackExchange network.  Proposals that get enough support get launched as beta sites, and successful betas “graduate” to full-fledged SE sites.

Since the purpose of StackExchange has been explicitly stated as not being about discussions, debates, or other “forum chat” stuff but about establishing definitive, authoritative answers to questions that can be answered definitively, I came up with a proposal yesterday that fits that mission perfectly, and would provide a sorely-needed resource in today’s world.  The basic focus of the site would be “How do I cut through useless automated support and reach an actual human being at company X?”  Anyone who’s ever grappled with this problem will know exactly what I’m talking about and why a site like this would be a useful resource. Continue reading ‘Reaching A Human Being’ »

The internet: A ship lost at C

34 years ago, Tony Hoare gave a very interesting, and somewhat prophetic, Turing Award lecture.  In case anyone’s not familiar with him, he’s one of the great pioneers of computer science.  Among other things, he invented Quicksort, and the CASE statement. Continue reading ‘The internet: A ship lost at C’ »

Beds and burgers

What do a bed and a burger have in common?  Not much, at first glance.  You eat a burger and sleep in a bed, and certainly not the other way around.  (You might eat a burger while in bed, if you’re a slob, though.)  But they seem like two completely different products, because they are.

So, let’s be a bit more specific.  What do a bed and a burger have in common economically?

Aha! Now we’re getting somewhere.  That’s obvious: they’re both near-ubiquitous consumer goods.  Produced on a different scale, certainly–you’ll probably go through hundreds or even thousands of burgers between buying one bed and buying your next one–but (in the US at least) you’re almost certainly going to buy both during your life.

Oh, and one other interesting point: they both have to be made to order, because they will go bad if you leave them sitting out for too long. Continue reading ‘Beds and burgers’ »