Month: June 2007

Golden Brown

Posted by – June 29, 2007

And Stranglers - Golden Brownthen I was humming The Stranglers’ ‘Golden Brown’ out of the blue (sample, 30+ sec, or Daily Motion video).

If you’re not familiar with the song, in short, it’s the only hit I know that has a 6/8 time signature, which is one good reason to like the song. Actually, the instrumental adds another extra beat so once in while which makes this song the only (popular) song I know with a 13/8 time signature making it hard to grasp at times. I was in my early teens when I heard this song first: in a later part of my life this song (when played in an out-of-town club) frequently served as a reminder to get the last train back to my home city.

I’m (for the rest) not familiar with the rest of the band’s repertoire: Wikipedia calls the music of the band a mix of ‘intellectual absurd punk new wave’ and (briefly) mentions that the band players were classical/jazz music-trained. Additionally, the members had different opinions about musical directions, eventually leading to the (inevitable split) in the early 90s.

Freaky Thunder

Posted by – June 28, 2007

Last night and this morning, we had some freak thunderstorm: I’m probably not the only person who had a hard time sleeping. Additionally, the storm brought several power outages: I hear that there are still people without power this PM. Having no power this morning meant lugging around one of the water bottles, playing around with bowls and lots of improvising. And lots of cold instant coffee.

The local radio says that another thunderstorm is heading this way. You wouldn’t say that if you’d look outside the window right now: it’s sunny, quiet but yes, extremely muggy.

Is it safe?

Posted by – June 27, 2007

Last weekend, I was looking up the Numberwang videos at YouTube (earlier) and discovered that I missed one, the German Numberwang’. That one comes with the most hilarious imitation of a scene from a movie starring Dustin Hoffman. It’s at and around 1:10, if you’re in a rush.

This also reminds me of an announcement that the EU and the US have agreed on sharing information of passengers on transatlantic flights. From each passenger the US security agencies will get 34 pieces of information. This information will be kept for 15 years1. I bet this is safe too.

So, Tony Blair is out and Gordon Brown is in. The Prime minister is out and his finance minister is in. This sounds like a familiar scenario. Oh, I remember: when Chretien stepped down, his former finance minister Paul Martin took over. We all know what happened after that.

Not related: everytime I hear or think of the Safari browser, I keep hearing the themesong of Daktari.

1 06/29/07: EU states back accord.

Von Cruisenberg

Posted by – June 26, 2007

The most famous attempt to assassinate Hitler (July 20 Plot) goes to the silver screen and the actor who’s going to play Claus von Stauffenberg is… Tom Cruise.

This doesn’t go over well in Europe, and particularly Germany, of course: First of all, German authorities have something against Scientology. Secondly, Von Stauffenberg’s assassination attempt was one of the most significant events in a Nazi-Germany and showed that not everybody in the army was happy with the direction the nation was heading for.

But with all respect to the ones involved in that (heroic) assassination attempt, when I heard that Cruise was going to play the main conspirator I was thinking of the following (fitting) Tom Cruise-like endings that might slightly adjust our historical view:

1. Tom Cruise dies: that is after he kisses a female, of course.
2. Tom Cruise doesn’t die, but manages to escape. Instead a doppelganger dies!
3. The Aliens die at the end, after they managed to kill Hitler who is then resurrected by the Evil Doer. To be continued.
4. The film closes with a scene of Tom Cruise juggling with a bunch of bottles and a line ‘based on true events’.
5. The conspirators sing ‘You’ve lost that loving feeling’ acapella and then the credits appear.

07/04/07: Cruise film banned from memorial.

Your Windows just broke

Posted by – June 24, 2007

So, you have a Toshiba laptop and Windows doesn’t want to start anymore and shows a message in the form of ‘system config corrupt’ and ‘please insert the original Windows disk and press ‘r’ to start Windows Recovery Console’.

If you read this, it is already too late (that is, unless you have the original XP disk, but this is highly unlikely since your Windows XP is an OEM one). Your only option is to use the Toshiba Recovery Disk (which should come with your laptop) and that one has several options but all of them lead to the ‘one way’: DESTROY UR D474. So: before you run that, use Knoppix to retrieve all your precious data and start the recovery (this is not as hard as it sound: you basically insert the Knoppix disk, insert your USB backup drive and off you go). Or:

If you read this before something bad has happened: most OEM installs don’t include the much needed ‘Windows Recover Console’. This is something you have to install yourself manually and trust me, you will need it.

Most OEMs install basic Windows XP data in the C:\windows\i386 directory: this is the directory you should head for and look for a file called ‘winnt32.exe’. Install the Console by issuing the following command:

YourDriveAndWindowsDirectory:\i386\winnt32.exe /cmdcons

So: if you ran into that error shown above and you did install the recovery console, this is the Microsoft KB article you should read.

The old new

Posted by – June 24, 2007

Yesterday, I downloaded the ‘latest’ Eudora: Officially, there’s a team of developers working on the new open-source version of Eudora (based on Thunderbird, or something like that). Progress is slow, I hear (see also the Penelope project page @ Mozilla). However, if you have Thunderbird v 2.0 running, there’s a plug-ing available that supposedly remaps some of the Eudora functionality to Thunderbird.

Also old: I noticed that Forte Inc. programmers still frequently push out beta versions of their Agent newsreader. Many years ago, I used their ‘Free Agent’ version, which was a lighter less obtrusive version of the ‘paid’ one. There’s no ‘Free Agent’ anymore: as far as I can tell, the only way to get an older version is to do a Google hunt (or use earlier mentioned Thunderbird). Talking about newsreaders, I see that the GNKSA is still around and now, even in version 2.0!

Via Digg (or Slashdot, or Reddit), I found the browser time-line1, now in SVG (link will work in FF, Opera and Safari, not in IE!). My 2006 timeline needs some updating too, I see.

Earlier this week, NASA open-sourced their Robotics framework layer “Claraty”. This is all C/C++ stuff, in case you’re interested. Additionally, at this day, the official website still 404s.

And talking about programming, earlier I decided to take a look at Flex and then removed it after reading some of the code samples: I applaud Adobe for releasing some stuff to the public but I’m not impressed. I read that a team of Microsoft (Silverlight) developers looked into Adobe’s material too and weren’t impressed either, only because they thought that this programming language needed a good IDE, which it doesn’t (at this stage). Looking at the Flex examples, I see murky deep and dark areas of conflicting specifications. Maybe this is why Adobe decided to release the language under an open-source license: after all, most of their business relies on their (quality) graphics software and not their programming languages.

1 I guess it was Reddit

Luscious Jackson – Naked Eye

Posted by – June 23, 2007

I keep Luscious Jacksonreminding myself to add a fragment of Luscious Jackson’s ‘Naked Eye’ to this category so, here it is (link goes to page with 30+ sec. something long something music file).

I’m not sure how Luscious Jackson’s CD ‘Fever In, Fever Out’ ended up in my CD rack. Maybe it was the slight combination of hiphop and popular music. Or (as always), maybe I was reading the liner notes before I decided to buy it: obviously there was a hand of the Beastie Boys in LJ’s music (and I even think there is at least one of them playing in the stylish ‘Naked Eye’ video clip). Or as BeastieMania says:

So from the very start, Luscious Jackson’s primary following were Beastie Boys fans looking for something else to get into.

Personally, the song reminds me of the day I dropped off the CD at a club whose DJ I knew: he actually liked it but mentioned (that after borrowing and playing it for a week in that club), the crowd (most of them goth/alternative music lovers) wasn’t ready for this mix of hip-hop and guitar music. Sabotage!

That said, at the height of Luscious Jackson’s popularity, the band was asked to make a commercial for Gap clothing (YouTube). Apparently, the band split up shortly after that, with all of the members continuing to release solowork. The good news is that the original band members decided to reunite and make a record together this year.

As a sidenote, the versions of ‘Naked Eye’ (videoclips and the several ‘single-edits’ you find on LJs MySpace page) are slightly different from the one that was originally released on the ‘Fever In Fever Out’ CD.

Copy, Paste.

Posted by – June 21, 2007

Via something, I ran into this (online) sarcastic presentation about Copy Paste Programming (Wikipedia). A quick summary:

Best practices: Find the code, copy/paste it, compile, enjoy!
Pitfalls and workarounds: The copied/pasted code does not compile. Copy/Paste larger portion of code.

This reminds me of an actual encounter many years ago, where I was called up by an analyst who was struggling with his code. Upon asking what was wrong, he said the code didn’t work and that it was someone else’s. When I inquired where he had the code from, he said he had it copied and pasted from an existing (and live) application. Right: the context. That wasn’t the worst part, though: when glancing over his design document I found out that it literally instructed him to ‘copy the code from this-and-that application’. I’m not sure who wrote up that document, but obviously someone was in a rush, which evidently came up when I asked the question why he would copy and paste a complete piece of code from another application.

The answer he gave was solid gold.

Computers and other news.

Posted by – June 15, 2007

Earlier this week, I heard that the International Space Station’s computers crashed. ‘It was the Americans fault’, according to the Russians:

Russian specialists believe that the new solar panel installed by the Atlantis astronauts during their spacewalk could be the origin (of the breakdown).

Apparently (just today), the Russians were able to reboot the computers1, 2. If you had a bad computer day, think about it if you were in charge of a multi-billion dollars space station! (Related: Space Station Computers)

So, the budget made it through it, despite the premier’s last minute efforts to get Conservative MPs to vote against the amendments to the Atlantic Accords. The other day, I was listening to a CBC interview with NL’s premier Danny Williams (who apparently doesn’t get along with the federal Tories as reported earlier) and he literally ‘cut into’ Peter MacKay (A Tory MP for NS). Too bad the CBC doesn’t keep recordings online.

Via Nu.nl (Dutch language alert!), I read that Amsterdam Airport was selected best European airport of the year. This is huge! Wait. It isn’t: Even the ACI’s website doesn’t mention this achievement. Their site,though, has an interesting news item (dated 03/12/07), which mentions Halifax airport as the best airport with fewer than 5 million passengers. Other contestants were Ottawa, Porto (Portugal), Malta (Malta) and Sandefjord (Norway). As for Amsterdam Airport (or Schiphol) being best European airport: if I think back at the number of times I flew in (and out) to/from that airport I must confess that I never had any problems there (as opposed to the many problems I had at that other big European airport which I shall not name here).

1 Uh, what now, partially restored?
2 Nope: they still appear to have problems (warning: that’s a non-static link)

Hey, hey.

Posted by – June 14, 2007

Today, I discovered that the StringReaders/Writers in .Net only support UTF-16 encoding, which may lead to some breakage if you’re using it in combination with the XMLSerializer object.

If you really need to maintain UTF-8 compatibility, you should use a MemoryStream. This is actually just as simple as using a StringReader:

  MemoryStream m = new MemoryStream();
  try
  {
    XmlSerializer formatter = 
        new XmlSerializer(typeof(TMakeUpYourMind));
    formatter.Serialize(m, this);
    m.Flush();
    m.Seek(0, 0);
    StreamReader rd = new StreamReader(m);
    try
    {
      res = rd.ReadToEnd();
    }
    finally
    {
      rd.Dispose();
    }
  }
  finally
  {
    m.Dispose();
  }

Don’t forget to ‘rewind’ the stream to position 0.

I’m not sure why this isn’t mentioned in the SDK. Also note to the Visual Studio Express developers: please make this weekly ‘registration of Visual Studio Express’ on my computer stop. I’m sure it’s a bug because everytime I register I get the same e-mail in with the same deals. I’ve already got 12 of them. Please.

Multi-meh

Posted by – June 12, 2007

Meh: Earlier I found out OWL is a web ontology language and that it has nothing to do with the OWL that was wrapped in a box of Borland compilers (Wikipedia on Object Windows Library). Alfons should know more about OWL, unless he hand-coded all his Pascal and C++ code the WinAPI way. I can’t remember. What I do remember was the shock in the developer world when Borland decided to drop OWL in favour of VCL. The rest is history. Of course (with all things legacy), OWL has been picked up by enthusiasts. Slightly related: why do I still use the T-prefix in every other program language I program in? Where did that come from? I presume it was always part of OOP world.

I saw a picture of a person I went to school with and I exclaimed something like ‘Hey, that’s that guy that had all the girls in class swoon’. Afterwards, I thought that wasn’t appropriate, but then, maybe this is what happens after many years. Think of all these thoughts people have when they remember me (‘Oh god, those were the guys with the straight 9s or 10′). It wasn’t my fault. Having Alfons as a formidable competitor was just way too tempting. This also reminds me of the first years of secondary school [which is more or less comparable to the first years of highschool]: for straight A’s students we were actually loosely managed by our parents. The secret of studying is to take things seriously when you’re twelve years old. The other secret is that you obviously need parents who are not too overly involved and give kids the freedom to experiment.

Safari

Posted by – June 11, 2007

So, All browsers together you didn’t hear it here first (MetaFilter, Slashdot and Digg links) and to be honest, it caught me a bit by surprise. I’ve mentioned WebKit here before so, I’m not sure why Apple decided to bring the ‘iTunes experience’ to Windows (quoted from Slashdot).

That means that if you have the room (and memory on your computer), you can finally run 4 different browsers at the same time. There are some slight annoyances in the ‘Safari’ approach: some fonts render ‘too bold’. Reading can be quite a task, particular with websites that use Verdana (for a good example use Safari and open up the MetaFilter website: notice how IE renders that site almost the same). If you look at the screenshot, Opera and Firefox render fonts with a lot less weight, making webpages a lot easier to read, or rather, giving webpages a lot more ‘consistent look’.

On the overall, having another browser for Windows is a good step: first, Safari shows that the K-Developers did some good stuff with their (portable) KHTML component. Secondly, if you’re a web developer, you can finally find out what your site looks like in Safari.

1. Related and discussed before here on xsamplex.
2. Zero day bugs in Safari (old news)

Visual

Posted by – June 10, 2007

While working on billing software, I was planning to write something on visual inheritance in Visual Studio Express (C#): this feature is ‘amiss’ in the lower end versions of that programming environment. I decided not to because the concept is simple (and natural for all object-orientated languages). I like the way how it is implemented in Delphi, naturally, where all forms that work as your base class are stored in a central repository so that they can be reused for other applications as well.

Earlier we saw ‘Babel’ (2006), which I can only describe as ‘a complex story with a happy end’. I thought the end part was surprising, were the viewer finds out that that single phone actually happens in the past. The movie is rated R (nudity, violence and some drug use) by the MPAA.

I read that the bald eagle is soaring in the US. I’m not sure if I mentioned it here before, but there’s a pair of bald eagles living around Middle Stewiacke. I thought this was ironic (More on bald eagles in Nova Scotia).

And last but not least, I ran into one of those ‘ErrorSafe’ popups (it wasn’t stopped by FireFox). If you run across it, the (general) advice is to pull the plug of your ethernet before it starts downloading. In my case it didn’t make the download but if it did, Symantec has a page describing how to remove the program manually. (ErrorSafe was sighted around about.com). I used fandro to verify recently changed or created files.