Older blog entries for pedro (starting at number 77)

Codin' Chip

In the Boy Scouts, there is a thing called a "Totin' Chip". It is "both an award and contract in Boy Scouts of America that shows Scouts understand and agree to certain principles of using different tools with blades" (WP). To get the Totin' Chip, which is a paper card (like a library card or the like) scouts must demonstrate a certain amount of knowledge and responsibility. The Wikipedia page has more on it, of course. The main thing (besides the rules) is that violations of the Totin' Chip code result in one or more corners of the card being removed; when all the corners are gone, you lose your right to tote a blade.

Anyway, I think there should be a "Codin' Chip" -- maybe it's a card, maybe it's an actual chip. If it's a card you lose corners; if it's a chip, you lose pins. Anyway, when you lose em' all, you're done.

Violations can be large or small; for example, not commenting code meant for others to read falls into that category, as does using equality to test floating point numbers inappropriately. Using strcpy and the like is definitely in there.

What else should cause you to forfeit a pin off your Codin' Chip?

Syndicated 2011-09-21 21:59:33 from (l)andscape: (a)lien

Changing references from parens to brackets...

In Word 2007 (at least) in order to change references from using parentheses to using square brackets requires editing XML! Boooo.


Syndicated 2011-09-21 17:15:41 from (l)andscape: (a)lien

Hummingbird TV

Almost as soon as we moved into this apartment in Pacific Palisades, CA, I put up a hummingbird feeder. There are tons of them in this neighborhood, and I've always enjoyed them. Then, A couple years ago, I took cuttings from the ivy growing in our hedge and planted it on our porch. It grew pretty well and soon started its way across the ceiling of our little porch cubicle.

Well, a few weeks ago, I noticed something weird on a branch but didn't pay any attention to it. Until I noticed that a hummingbird was very often on the branch -- and zoomed away every time I opened the door. Then, one day I was working on the porch, watering the plants, and the hummer zoomed up with a mouth full of fluff and spiderwebs and it all clicked -- the bird was building a nest in our ivy.

Now, what else is there for a computer nerd to do than to webcast the whole thing?

Vital statistics: I think it's a female Allen's Hummingbird, but I'm not exactly sure. Yes, that is an egg in the nest. There is one small egg, about the size of a large jelly bean. I've read online that they usually lay two eggs, but there's definitely just one in the nest. The nest itself is probably 6cm long, about an inch and a half. The bird was working on the nest less than a week ago but the egg is visible in the earliest pictures I took with the webcam on 5/4.

The weirdest thing is that the bird is only on the nest maybe 20 minutes out of the hour, or less, and it's not (usually) because of interruptions from us. I don't know if that means the egg really isn't going to hatch, or if that's acceptable in a warmer climate, or what. I'm hoping that if it doesn't hatch, she might "double brood" -- have another round. There are h-birds year round here so that's not impossible.

Images are updated between 6AM and 8PM every night, although I may shrink that some, as you can see, the cameras don't handle the low light very well. I will probably document my setup in a few days for those out there that are interested, but in short, it's basic webcams being driven by a Linksys NSLU2 running Debian Linux.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy!

Syndicated 2011-05-06 13:56:03 from (l)andscape: (a)lien


If I ever open a Beatles-themed day-old bread store, it will be called "Yeasterday"! Bada-boom!

Syndicated 2011-04-23 02:50:40 from (l)andscape: (a)lien

Unintentionally funny DVR episode synopses #243

"Property Virgins. 'A Woman Who Survived a Lightning Strike Is Shocked by Real Estate Prices' Home prices shock a lightning-strike survivor."

Syndicated 2011-04-18 02:37:41 from (l)andscape: (a)lien

random thought

Hardware is just software you can't change.

Syndicated 2011-04-13 20:28:38 from (l)andscape: (a)lien

how to slice a sandwich

What's your preferred sandwich slicing angle? Vertical (shortest cut), Diagonal (longest cut), or Horizontal (medium cut)?

I have always been a diagonal cut man, myself. That's how mom did it. I don't like the way vertical cut sandwiches taste. But currently, I'm more interested in whether *anyone* does the horizontal cut... I don't think I've ever seen that outside of the laboratory.

Perhaps geometry is at work here. Diagonal ...cut sandwiches represent right triangles, which are pretty cool -- arguably more important than parallelograms, since parallelograms can be made from triangles. And of course, 3 is the magic number.

But also, notice that the golden ratio of 1:1.62 appears in vertical cut sandwiches, but does not appear in horizontal cut sandwiches. In our experiments here at Tastytronic Labs, our sample bread measures about 5.25 by 4.25 inches (the units of the United States of America!).

A vertical cut sandwich is roughly 2.63 x 4.25 inches, while a horizontal cut (known as "the devil's cut" in medieval times) results in a sandwich that is ~2.13 x 3.44. By applying the golden ratio (1:1.62) to 2.63 (vertical cut sandwich width), we get 4.26 -- almost exactly the vertical cut length. However, applying it to 2.13 (horizontal cut sandwich slice width) we only get 3.45 -- considerably less than the horizontal cut slice length.

And thus we find a possible explanation for why the "horizontal cut" is so rare. It's at least safe to say that Aristotle's mom did not cut sandwiches horizontally.

Syndicated 2011-04-05 19:22:49 from (l)andscape: (a)lien

libconfig problems in Debian and Ubuntu

Are you still using Hardy Heron? Have you had issues using libconfig -- a configuration parsing library by Mark Lindner -- in Debian or Ubuntu? Here's why. Turns out this has been solved in later releases.

Syndicated 2011-04-02 21:58:59 from (l)andscape: (a)lien

getopts -- another one for posterity

Just a little addition to posterity about getopts. 'getopts' is a handy bash builtin that parses parameter strings. It exists so parameters can be processed in a consistent way, and so you don't have to reinvent the wheel every time you want to use command line switches. It's part of POSIX, is really pretty easy to use, and many languages have libraries which work in a similar way. Anyway, there are many tutorials online, but the one at bash-hackers.org is the best I've seen for bash.

I was inspired to write this post because I've been wrestling with a problem. I used getopts inside a function that I was using for logging. It just wasn't working right and the behavior was strange. The answer, which perhaps should have been obvious in retrospect, is that getopts uses a variable, OPTIND, to index into the parameter list. You can use OPTIND to "shift off" the options you found with getopts, leaving the remainder.

This works great if you run getopts once, at the beginning of a script. But because of bash's scoping, if you use getopts inside a function, the value of OPTIND remains where it was left at the end of the previous getopts execution. So, if you're going to use getopts inside a function, you should reset OPTIND when finished or, to be safe, at the beginning of the function before running getopts.

I'm so glad I spent a few hours chasing that one down.

Syndicated 2011-03-11 18:32:26 from (l)andscape: (a)lien

mairix rocks

If you're like me, and if you're reading this there's at least a possibility you are, you don't keep your email at Gmail or in Thunderbird of Mail.app or wherever -- you keep it the way Ray Tomlinson intended -- on a server where you read it in plain text format. I use mutt with mboxes, but there are a lot of other possibilities. Anyway, after 10 or 20 (or more!) years of archiving your mail, it sometimes gets hard to find what you're looking for. Well, mairix is just the tool for you -- it incrementally indexes messages, and returns search results as a folder of messages for you to look it. It's free software, it's fast, and available in Ubuntu.

Syndicated 2011-02-09 23:09:24 from (l)andscape: (a)lien

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