What are you going to do?
What I always do - stay out of trouble... Badly.
Thursday, July 31
Sitemeter spinning... What's going on?
Naturally he chose** to do this at a time when I'm coming down with the flu, frantically busy at work, and my head is filled with cottage cheese.
Read the archives, listen to the music, or wander over to the forums where I am conducting an experiment in simulblogging. I'll try to get my brain into second gear and write something interesting for you.
Tomorrow. After I've had some sleep. Sleeeeep... To sleep, perchance to clear the raddled mind of cottage cheese...
As to the new list, as usual there are only a few things they have in common. First, they are not widely known. Second, they concentrate primarily on producing original material; they're primarily writers rather than linkers. Third, all of them seem to post regularly and have done so for several months. Fourth, none of them asked to be placed on my sidebar. (And I suspect they're all going to be surprised to discover themselves there.)Right on the money, particularly that last.
**As an example of my present state, I wrote choosed here and had to go back and change it.
Whenever my trackback counter goes berserk, I know where to look for the culprit: here. Normally I'm more of an old-fashioned, Sean Connery type of guy*, but today I'll make an exception.
Better not go too far, little Susie, or The Bear might find out!
* One ping only.
For the last few days I've been feeling increasingly tired and blerky. I don't want to get up in the morning. Uh, even more so than usual. I have this sort of dull headache half the time. I can't concentrate. Loud noises seem to roll around inside my head upsetting whatever it is that I keep in there. I almost didn't have the energy to write an answer for Frank's little contest.
This morning I woke up with a sore throat and the beginnings of a cough. I seem to be sneezing in spite of my usual anti-sneeze pill of choice (Polaramine). Now the rest of me hurts to match my head.
This means I'm sick. Which is a great relief, because I'd hate to feel like this when I was well.
The Netflix marketing board has the answers for Group E up, which includes...
Vote vote vote vote vote!
Wednesday, July 30
As an experiment, I'm now simulblogging both here and on the mu.nu forums. Feel free to come visit me there. Only catch is you'll need to register before you can leave comments; this requires a working email address but no other details. On the plus side, you get to choose a cute avatar.
You may find other interesting stuff there too, but you'll need to sneak in under the fence to get to it.
I'm a programmer. I program computers. It's what I get paid to do, and then when I'm done, I go home and do some more for free.
I've been programming since I was fourteen, back when a sixteen-bit computer (which today would probably be considered inadequate to control a sewing machine) was considered Wow, sixteen bits! You've got a sixteen-bit computer? Wow! My first computer was a Tandy CoCo - the Colour (or Color) Computer, cheaper and less expandable than an Apple II but with a better CPU (those 6502 owners only dreamed of having a a 6809! The 6809 had a multiply instruction! Take that, 6502 suckers!) and a better Basic - one of the last good programs Microsoft wrote. By the time Microsoft wrote AmigaBasic, they were well on their way to suckitude.
But that's beside the point. Well, no, in fact it is the point. AmigaBasic sucked. It worked, mostly; it got the job done. It didn't support about 90% of the features of the system (unless you jumped through flaming hoops). It broke the Amiga programming guidelines in major ways, so that when later machines came out it didn't work at all. Its suckiness was highlighted by later Basics like GFA and Amos, which were five to ten times faster and actually let you use some of the power of the Amiga. But it got the job done.
My second paying job introduced me to a new programming language: Progress. Progress is a fourth-generation langugage, a 4GL, designed for writing database applications. (Basic is a third-generation language, Assembly language is second-generation. First generation languages are written with numbers rather than letters.)
In my first two weeks working with Progress I learned more about databases than six months of lectures at University could impart. In Progress, the database has a wonderful immediacy. In other languages, you connect to a database, send queries to it, receive results back. In Progress, the database is just there. Searching and sorting isn't something you have to write programs for, it just happens. Want to find all the customers in New York state and sort them in alphabetical order?
And off you go.
for each customer
where state = "NY"
I started with Progress when it was at version 3. By version 6, they'd fixed every problem but one: You couldn't write programs larger than 64k. Sixty-four kilobytes. This was a holdover from the original sixteen-bit implementations of Progress; even though you were running it on a 32-bit computer, a Honeywell Superteam, say, or an IBM RS/6000 (they still make those, by the way, though the name has changed), even though you now had 32 bits at your command, Progress was still stuck in 16-bit land.
It still is.
Servers these days run at 2GHz rather than 20MHz, 64 bits are yours for the asking from any number of vendors, and Progress is still stuck in 16 bit land. These days you can break your program up into functions and procedures, each of which can be as large as 60k themselves, so the overall program can be larger. But you still have to watch your action segment and your expression segment and your text segment and your debug segment and the sizes of all of your procedures and functions, or Splatooie! You added one too many lines of code, now your program won't run any more.
And in the latest, greatest version of Progress, 9.1D, you still only get 32k of local variables, too. Including strings.
No. Well, yes. But what really ticks me off is that Progress is still the best language there is for what I do. There are no languages that even come close. Progress is the second slowest programing language I've ever seen; I downloaded and compiled dozens of interpreters before I finally found anything slower. It's slower than the Unix shell at arithmetic, and the Unix shell doesn't even know what a number is. That's how slow Progress is.
And it's still the best language for what I do.
It's like... Say you have a big family - six or seven kids. Or brothers and sisters, if you like. You need a big car. The only one on the market that seats nine people has a two-stroke, three cylinder engine and comes in a choice of lime green or fuchsia. Seven years later, when you go to buy a new car, it's still the only car that seats nine. It still has that noisy, smoke-spewing engine. Now it comes in twelve different colours. But the price has tripled.
You'd feel a little frustrated, right? You idiots, you might think. Why can't you put a decent engine in this bloody thing? Or you might get upset with the other car companies: Why the heck don't you make a car that can take more than two adults and a hamster?, you might ask.
You get fed up enough that you decide to make your own car.
Which is where I am today. Well, I got there last year, but I'm lazy.
Now, it's a truism in computing (and a true truism at that) that all computers suck. All hardware sucks, all software sucks; the difference being that at least you can kick the hardware - you can only swear at the software. Computer languages - or to be pedantic, the compilers and interpreters that implement them - are software, and they suck too.
Which is why I'm writing my own car. Uh, language. You got that bit, right?
Except that if you're going to write your own language, you have to do it in another language. And all the other languages suck. If they didn't suck, you wouldn't be writing your own language in the first place, since it's hard; you'd be relaxing watching DNA Squared or writing music or solving partial differential equations or whatever it is you do to relax. But they do suck, so you are writing your own your own language, and you're writing it in a language that sucks.
Aargh! You'd write it in your own language, which wouldn't suck so much (for the same reason that your pet or your children are generally less disagreeable than those belonging to other people), only you don't have your language because that's what you're trying to write.
So any attempt to produce a language that at least sucks somewhat less condemns you to writing large amounts of code in someone else's sucky language. It's like having to drive your two-stroke three-cylinder pile of rust ninety miles to the workshop every day so that you can work on your new car. Everything would be so easy if only you already had what you are trying to build in the first place.
It's driving me nuts.
Tuesday, July 29
Look's like the folks at poetry.com have caught on.
I downloaded 39 CDs over the weekend. Legally. All paid for. From Charlie Parker to George Carlin, Motorbaby to Fairport Convention, Mozart to Thelonius Monk, They Might be Giants to, necessarily, The Pixies.
Some of it I'm not sure I like. But that's OK. If that's all I download this month (unlikely), it still works out to thirty-seven and a half cents per CD. Australian cents.
EMusic: They don't suck.
'Scuse me while I listen to Van Morrison's Brown Eyed Girl again.
Stupid review of the day is up now at Game PC. They set out to discover whether Xeons - which are Pentium 4s with a couple of extra pins - can compete with Pentium 4s - which are Pentium 4s without the extra pins. They start by noting that Xeon based systems are more expensive because Xeons cost more, and follow this astute observation by pointing out that dual-Xeon systems cost more again because now you have to buy two Xeons.
Never would have guessed.
They then proceed with the usual pointless benchmarks. Look, if five systems which differ only in the processor get the same score - plus or minus half a percent - then I'd lay odds that the limiting factor is somewhere else. Like - oh, say, the video card. (The benchmarks are games. But that's a given, I suppose, given the name of the web site.)
Pixy's tip: Get an Athlon system - a 2500 or a 2800. Save yourself a thousand bucks, easy, which you can then send to me.
To the Nines by Janet Evanovich
Stephanie Plum's a Jersey Girl. That's New Jersey, in case you're confused. Retrenched from her job as a lingerie buyer (not nearly as glamorous as it sounds), she took the only job she could get: working for her cousin Vinny, a slimeweasel who runs a bail bond agency. So now Stephanie's a bail bond enforcement agent - a bounty hunter.
Which isn't as glamorous as it sounds either. Particularly when you're no good at it, and she isn't. Stephanie gets by on luck, a little help from her friends, and extreme persistence.
This is the nine-and-a-halfth Plum outing, and the series has gotten into a comfortable groove. Which is good - you know what you're getting - and bad - you know, well, you know what you're getting. And that's what you get. To the Nines is smart, funny, and well-written, and it advances its characters maybe an eighth of an inch.
Still recommended. 4 out of 5.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling
Also the latest in a series of bestsellers. In this volume, Harry turns into an adolescent git, blah blah, someone dies, the end.
This takes eight hundred pages. There are a couple of very effective scenes. In eight hundred pages. There's a good two-fifty or three hundred page novel in there, slowly suffocating. It's not the worst eight hundred page pile of excess verbiage I've ever read - Wizard's First Rule takes that laurel - but it needs the attention not so much of an editor's red pencil as a pair of electric hedge trimmers.
Meh. I give it 2 out of 5.
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