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Name: Zac Brown
Member since: 2007-08-14 04:08:32
Last Login: 2015-01-07 03:29:36

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Student/Researcher at the University of Miami (FL)

     Major: Computer Science

Presently employed at: Microsoft - Windows developer

Formerly employed at: Google Inc. - Wine developer

Interests: compiler/interpreter design, emulation systems
(ie: Wine), filesystems, concurrency, computational modeling

Arch Linux PPC Developer (
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Free Software Foundation member #5697.

Registered Linux User #356244.


Recent blog entries by rufius

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What exactly is the purpose of Pinterest? I see that people seem to use it. It’s a sort of strange mish-mash between Twitter, Tumblr, and Etsy.


Syndicated 2012-10-16 17:47:54 from Smart (sort of) Pointers

Morals, Ethics, and Religion

Thunk of the day: “While it is useful for religion to inform our morals, it is a slippery slope for it to inform a society’s ethics (and by effect, laws).”

Not profound, but relevant in a society that is vigorously debating gay marriage.

Syndicated 2012-10-15 19:06:42 from Smart (sort of) Pointers

Programming Editors (also some customer service kudos)

I’m a particular individual; a creature of habit. Especially in matters of computers, cooking, and my home, I can get a bit snippy when things do not work reliably and predictably. For the last couple years, I’ve been developing software professionally at Microsoft. The culmination of my efforts (and many others’) will be released on October 26th, 2012 to the general public as “Windows 8″, the most significant change to the flagship Microsoft product since Windows 95.

During those two and a half years, I’ve jumped around from editor to editor, trying to find one that suited my needs. I started with Emacs which I became a fan of during college as an intern at Google. After time, that wore on me as pinky cramp set in and my own inability to convince myself to learn e-lisp. Then I tried Visual Studio for a while but it has its own set of challenges with respect to developing for Windows. Additionally, I’ve never enjoyed using an IDE (as opposed to an editor) to develop C++. I find languages like C++ which were designed before the modern concept of an IDE existed tend to integrate poorly with an IDE anyway. Sublime Text 2 offered a good compromise where folders represent “projects” which worked well with the build system I am accustomed to. Unfortunately, lack of any contextual tagging (Intellisense) proved to be a hindrance as I had to continually use grep and a code indexing service to search for context and follow code flow.

The editors I iterated over earlier were just the ones I used for longer than a trial period. I also played with several commercial editors in the process but was put off by their high price. The short list of these was Lugaru Epsilon (proprietary Emacs clone), Source Insight, UltraEdit, and finally Visual SlickEdit. Most of these editors run at least $100, with SlickEdit being on the higher end at $300. Of the proprietary solutions I tried, it seemed the most promising and powerful. It was clearly designed with scale in mind but at a great cost. It is Visual SlickEdit which is the actual point of the title of this post.

As we finished up Windows 8, I decided it was time to re-evaluate my tool choice again. In reflection, I recall spending a lot of time trying to understand how various code bases worked and navigating around in a web browser to follow references was tedious. Source Insight was able to handle the huge code base that I work in, building the proper contextual tagging I needed, but received such limited updating that it was no longer able to properly cope with heavily templatized C++ code. Given this realization, I could pony up and pay for a more robust editor or continue struggling with my half-assed solution where my editor has zero contextual information about the file I’m editing.

I reinstalled SlickEdit 2012 two weeks ago, and went to work on a couple bugs. After getting it setup properly with the code base and delving into the inner workings of the OLE Clipboard code base, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was for me to navigate around. The first time I tried out SlickEdit, I was not working in such gnarly code and was unable to fully appreciate the depth of its power. I setup a few custom key strokes to streamline my workflow and left the remaining key commands in their default CUA-style layout.

Two weeks with the editor passed quickly, with myself feeling like I had accomplished a great deal more with it than I would have in my former workflow. SlickEdit had sold me with their trial. After receiving the courtesy reminder email from Sean (the customer service rep assigned to me), I thought briefly about it and determined that SlickEdit was worth $300. I emailed Sean, asking for a quote with a discount since I was using a competing product to theirs (Source Insight). He promptly emailed back a discounted price and offered to give me a call to settle the final details. During this exchange over roughly 18 hours, my trial license expired before the licensing department at SlickEdit had finished getting my license sorted out. Sean was kind enough to email me a trial extension license to allow me to continue working. All in all, very impressed.

The thing that really got me with SlickEdit was…

  • The non-crippleware trial period. Smaller software companies often provide a trial version of their software that is crippled, doing a disservice to their potential customers.
  • The prompt response from customer service and willingness to keep them happy. This is a fine line to walk and many retailers screw it up royally. Being pushy and persistent isn’t representative of a customer service representative actually caring or being helpful. They’re just being annoying.
  • The discount for users that are using a competing product. If you’re confident in your product, you ought to be confident enough to offer a discount to bring customers over. They’ll appreciate it and feel like you’re really trying to please them.

In traditional ebaynese review language: A++++++++++++++++++++++++ service. Fast shipping, would buy again!!!!!!!!!!

Syndicated 2012-10-15 03:35:13 from Smart (sort of) Pointers


So, in my infinite wisdom and grace managed to slap a cup of water onto my 6-month old ThinkPad last Thursday. To say this was a bother, is well… an understatement. I did all the necessary precautionary things like shutting it down, pulling out the battery, dismantling it and generally just trying to take care of it.

However, I did need some files off of it so I let it dry out for a few hours, booted it up (was kinda surprsed it did), then proceeded to copy off those files I needed. In the mean time, I was stuck sharing a laptop with the girlfriend which was not really a good setup as I tend to customize everything to my liking.

All the while, I had been secretly wishing that I had a Mac of some sort. I’ve started to get into more development that would be made easier by using Mac, I was tired of fighting with Linux for a half-assed *nix solution on a laptop, and the Windows CLI just isn’t good enough.

Which brings us to Friday night, when I bought a MacBook. Basic White model, the new one though with 802.11 a/b/g/n and the Nvidia 9400m graphics chipset. I’m loving it. Its an excellent computer. Its nice to have a decent command line interface and now that I’ve got it configured the way I like it, I’m not sure I’ll willingly use any other hardware for laptops at least.

Hopefully though, my ThinkPad will recover and then I can give it to my dad to use. That would be nice. Hopefully :)

Syndicated 2009-02-10 04:04:01 from Zac Brown

Genend Update

The server that I was running the computations hard locked sometime during the winter break. Apparently it ran out of disk space while another user was running simulations on it. Wasn’t able to access the machine till I returned to Miami.

Since I had no access to machine with large amounts of memory, I spent some time trying to figure out what was wrong with the training software. Still wasn’t able to find the problem, must be missing something simple.

Upon return to Miami, did the following:

  • Fixed the server, apparently it ran out of disk space from log files created from other user’s run.
  • Researched building a database for taxonomies.
  • Built a database using the BioSQL schema after discovering that Genbank files track phylogeny through recursive ranks.
  • Wrote a Python script to fetch the Genbank file for each of the 625 fasta-format genomes and load it into the BioSQL database.
  • Began revising taxonomic classifier, ~80% done.

Next things to do:

  • Run the taxonomic classifier.
  • While waiting for taxonomic classifier results, tear apart training classifier and figure out whats wrong.

Syndicated 2009-02-02 17:02:11 from Zac Brown

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