Neil Gaiman writes On Terry Pratchett, he is not a jolly old elf at all.. It’s worth reading. I know that what Neil Gaiman says here is true, because I’ve known Terry, a little. Not as well as Neil does; we’re not that close, though he has been known to answer my email. But I… Continue reading Underestimate Terry Pratchett? I never have.
The C/UNIX library support for time and calendar programming is a nasty mess of historical contingency. I have grown tired of having to re-learn its quirks every time I’ve had to deal with it, so I’m doing something about that. Announcing Time, Clock, and Calendar Programming In C, a document which attempts to chart the… Continue reading Announcing: Time, Clock, and Calendar Programming In C
In the wake of the Shellshock bug, I guess I need to repeat in public some things I said at the time of the Heartbleed bug. The first thing to notice here is that these bugs were found – and were findable – because of open-source scrutiny. There’s a “things seen versus things unseen” fallacy… Continue reading Shellshock, Heartbleed, and the Fallacy of False Prominence
The patent-troll industry is in full panic over the consequences of the Alice vs. CLS Bank decision. While reading up on the matter, I ran across the following claim by a software patent attorney: “As Sun Microsystems proved, the quickest way to turn a $5 billion company into a $600 million company is to go… Continue reading Commoditization, not open source, killed Sun Microsystems
In a recent discussion on G+, a friend of mine made a conservative argument for textual over binary interchange protocols on the grounds that programs always need to be debugged, and thus readability of the protocol streams by humans trumps the minor efficiency gains from binary packing. I agree with this argument; I’ve made it… Continue reading Program Provability and the Rule of Technical Greed
Last night, my wife Cathy and I passed our level 5 test in kuntao. That’s a halfway point to level 10, which is the first “guro” level, roughly equivalent to black belt in a Japanese or Korean art. Ranks aren’t the big deal in kuntao that they are in most Americanized martial arts, but this… Continue reading Halfway up the mountain
If you’ve ever wanted a JSON parser that can unpack directly to fixed-extent C storage (look, ma, no malloc!) I’ve got the code for you. The microjson parser is tiny (less than 700LOC), fast, and very sparing of memory. It is suitable for use in small-memory embedded environments and deployments where malloc() is forbidden in… Continue reading Announcing microjson
I’ve been blog-silent the last couple of days because I’ve been chasing down the bug I mentioned in Request for help – I need a statistician. I have since found and fixed it. Thereby hangs a tale, and a cautionary lesson.
GPSD has a serious bug somewhere in its error modeling. What it effects is position-error estimates GPSD computes for GPSes that don’t compute them internally themselves and report them on the wire. The code produces plausible-looking error estimates, but they lack a symmetry property that they should have to be correct. I need a couple… Continue reading Request for help – I need a statistician
In a blog post on Computational Knowledge and the Future of Pure Mathematics Stephen Wolfram lays out a vision that is in many ways exciting and challenging. What if all of mathematics could be expressed in a common formal notation, stored in computers so it is searchable and amenable to computer-assisted discovery and proof of… Continue reading A Closed Future for Mathematics?
Infinite Science Fiction One (edited by Dany G. Zuwen and Joanna Jacksonl Infinite Acacia) starts out rather oddly, with Zuwen’s introducton in which, though he says he’s not religious, he connects his love of SF with having read the Bible as a child. The leap from faith narratives to a literature that celebrates rational knowability… Continue reading Review: Infinite Science Fiction One
Collision of Empires (Prit Buttar; Osprey Publishing) is a clear and accessible history that attempts to address a common lack in accounts of the Great War that began a century ago this year: they tend to be centered on the Western Front and the staggering meat-grinder that static trench warfare became as outmoded tactics collided… Continue reading Review: Collision of Empires
A Call To Duty (David Weber, Timothy Zahn; Baen Books) is a passable extension of Baen Book’s tent-pole Honorverse franchise. Though billed as by David Weber, it resembled almost all of Baen’s double-billed “collaborations” in that most of the actual writing was clearly done by the guy on the second line, with the first line… Continue reading Review: A Call to Duty
The Abyss Beyond Dreams (Peter F. Hamilton, Random House/Del Rey) is a sequel set in the author’s Commonwealth universe, which earlier included one duology (Pandora’s Star, Judas Unchained) and a trilogy (The Dreaming Void, The The Temporal Void, The Evolutionary Void). It brings back one of the major characters (the scientist/leader Nigel Sheldon) on a… Continue reading Review: The Abyss Beyond Dreams
Sometimes reading code is really difficult, even when it’s good code. I have a challenge for all you hackers out there…
Better Identification of Viking Corpses Reveals: Half of the Warriors Were Female insists an article at tor.com. It’s complete bullshit. What you find when you read the linked article is an obvious, though as it turns out a superficial problem. The linked research doesn’t say what the article claims. What it establishes is that a… Continue reading Reality is viciously sexist
Yesterday I shipped cvs-fast-export 1.15, with a significant performance improvement produced by replacing a naive O(n**3) sort with a properly tuned O(n log n) version. In ensuing discussion on G+, one of my followers there asked if I thought this was likely to produce a real performance improvement, as in small inputs the constant setup… Continue reading Adverse selection and old technology