Tasty Nuggets from the Programming Front

Several tasty nuggests from Lambda the Ultimate, which I’m enjoying immensely:

First and foremost, not only is there a shell named after my wife, there’s now also a programming language which happens to look rather zarjaz, and might actually persuade me to give Mono/CLI/CLR a look [lambda].

Next, here’s a paper on crash-only software [lambda].

It is impractical to build a system that is guaranteed to never crash, even in the case of carrier class phone switches or high end mainframe systems. Since crashes are unavoidable, software must be at least as well prepared for a crash as it is for a clean shutdown. But then — in the spirit of Occam’s Razor — if software is crash-safe, why support additional, non-crash mechanisms for shutting down?

Finally, an interview with Knuth (from 1996, think I’ve read it all ready) [lambda].

Richard Feynman and The Connection Machine

Richard Feynman and The Connection Machine [lambda]. I’ve been casually meaning to read a biography of Feynman for a while – he sounds like one hell of a guy. Cool picture, too.


iCalShare – just over a thousand iCalendar format calendars for you to download into iCal, Sunbird, whatever… It needs more categorisation in my opionion, and, well, quite why anyone (even my brother) would want to know all of the dates of the latest Yes tour is beyond me, but there you go.


One of the things we study in the Operating Systems course I teach is the Morris Internet Worm. It’s a nice story, but perhaps a little old, and although I’ve spoken about more current exploits, worms, etc., I think I need to include some newer material actually in the notes. The Witty Worm I mentioned yesterday is one candidate, and oh my, here’s another [RISKS]. Hell, in any given month there are probaby a few good candidates…

In the same issue: a reminder of the uselessness of Security Through Obscurity, and it’s bigger, better-armed brother, Security Through Legislation; also, why Caller ID is broken under Voice Over IP.

RISKS is just the best – I can’t believe I’ve been unsubscribed for so long (over a year). It’s scary to read about the scale and repetition of all these problems, then slightly reassuring to realise that intelligent people are paying attention, then deeply troubling to realise that mostly, the people in charge and the people at the sharp end simply aren’t listening or don’t understand.

Exciting things in the world of web programming

This (which I was looking for last night – see below) plus this equals potentially interesting times ahead.

Executive summary of speclation contained therein: Programmers are leaving the Microsoft platform (and not adopting .net in the required droves), because web applications are a much more hospitable world for third party developers; the problem with web applications is that they don’t have the marvy user interface capabilities of conventional desktop applications; now along come Apple with some HTML extensions enabling javascript (i.e. easy) and safe operating-system-friendly ways for web applications to draw directly to the screen in beautiful and flexible manners and we suddenly have a mechanism for funky-ass interfaces delivered over the web. Possibly. If it happens. Oh yes, and Apple have teamed up with Opera and Mozilla over this, so it’s us (the aforementioned) vs them (Microsoft and Internet Explorer), only this time we’ll be creaming their asses. Possibly. Yay!

Robot Baby Rampage

A miscellaneous collection of cool stuff I either came across while looking for something I saw a while ago and now want to tell you about but can’t find, or came across a while ago, for some reason didn’t blog then, and have just come across again… (It does parse, honest – keep trying.)

Bruce Schneier’s analysis of the recent Witty Worm is a scary insight into the kind of crap we can expect to kill our networks from now on [gamma]. Something for this year’s Operating Systems course (chapter 9, “Security”).

Witty was wildly successful. Twelve thousand machines was the entire vulnerable and exposed population, and Witty infected them all — worldwide — in 45 minutes.

Zulu Family Sues Disney Over “Lion” Song [act]. Bash has a copy of the original recording, “Mbube” (Zulu for “The Lion”) on this compilation, and very cool it is too. Recorded in 1939, I think he certainly gets first dibs. I suppose it’s out of copyright now (?), although aren’t Disney guilty of ridiculous feats of copyright extension in their efforts to protect their revenue streams? Which is nicely ironic. So they’re suing for 1.5 million dollars, about 9 million rand, which is probably enough to buy a large chunk of Durban. ;-)

One for an algorithms course: Sorting Algorithms demonstration applet, which is very cool indeed at getting across why quicksort is so much better than bubblesort, for instance [gamma]. :-)

MD5 hashes are getting cracked [via act, although apparently also via slashdot so I guess I'm the last to know].

At the moment we can crack md5 hashes in this character range: a-z;0-9 [8] which means we can break almost all hashes (99.56%) which are created from lowercase plaintext with letters and/or digits up to length of 8 characters.


“Asterix collection” latin quotes translated to English [act]. I will keep it close next time I read these marvellous books…

As you can tell, I’ve been reading Advanced Combo Tricks a bit lately. It’s good, if pig-ugly. OTOH Gimboland is long overdue for a style update so who am I to talk?

Our lungs are dumb. Special air,please.

When I find the time to learn Ruby, I will do it at why’s (poignant) guide to Ruby, for the simple joy of learning a new language via the medium of cartoon foxes. And I will buy the t-shirt [null].

Random quote from sidebar illustrating general bizzar-o-ness of guide:

You could make it seem like I did tons of drugs. Like I was insane to work with. Like I kept firing people and locking them in the scooter room and making them wear outfits made of bread. Yeah, like I could actually be baking people into the outfits.

Logical Methods in Computer Science

Logical Methods in Computer Science, a new open-access, online, refereed journal, freely available on the web. And whose name do we see on the editorial board but Swansea’s very own type theory guru (and my personal exam team nemesis) Anton Setzer. Nice.

Dashboard vs. Konfabulator

Via tr, one for the OS X people, and anyone interesting in the hissyfits that computer people sometimes throw: an interesting article comparing and contrasting Dashboard with Konfabulator, and arguing that the broo-ha-ha about Dashboard being a Konfabulator rip off is unfounded.

Thus, Dashboard is clearly an extension of Mac OS X system-level technologies: Web Kit for layout and scripting; Exposé for the Dashboard window layer; and Cocoa for advanced functionality. Dashboard is the result of advanced Mac OS X technology in action.

Konfabulator, on the other hand, was designed from the start with platform portability in mind. (A port to Windows was announced back in December.)

And this next paragraph…

Konfabulator is not a lightweight or small-footprint environment – every Konfabulator widget runs as a separate process, with its own runtime environment in memory. Most Konfabulator widgets use more memory than typical full-blown Mac OS X applications. Not just Konfabulator as a whole – but each widget. Install it, fire up Process Viewer, and see for yourself. (Ironically, the Konfabulator “CPU Portal” widget seems to leak memory.)

… is particularly interesting, and probably explains why Bash’s super-doovy Powerbook has been running less than optimally lately. Throw your Konfabulator into the road darling, it hasn’t got a chance!

Bill Bailey Blog

Bill Bailey has a blog (thank you, Barbara!). Alas, no mention yet of the recent and rather good thank you Swansea gig, although judging by comments on earlier gigs it wasn’t particularly hatstand, so maybe I’m expecting too much.

Anyway beardy man, we salute you and your broom!

Also, rise up ye masses and demand your rights!

Elektronic – Supersonik

Wow, it seems that the exceedingly cheesy “Elektronic – Supersonik” tune mentioned here is in fact Molvania’s Eurovision entry [null].

Zladko “Zlad” Vladcik rose to prominence in 2002 when he won Molvanian Idol in controversial circumstances – the other finalist, Ob Kuklop, pulled out due to a serious throat condition after one of the judges tried to strangle him. “Zlad” immediately released the megahit, “Juust Az I Amm” – hailed by Rolling Stone as the most incorrectly spelt song of all time.


Pragmatic Programmers

Don’t Live with Broken Windows, a conversation with Andy Hunt and Dave Thomas, aka The Pragmatic Programmers. They talk about the craftsmanship aspect of programming, and the idea, which I’ve always held close to my heart and been called a niggly unproductive perfectionist for, that small problems (in code) should be fixed and not left to fester, grow, and necessitate kludges and hacks. These guys seem pretty clued in.

Part two of the interview is here.

DRY says that every piece of system knowledge should have one authoritative, unambiguous representation. Every piece of knowledge in the development of something should have a single representation. A system’s knowledge is far broader than just its code. It refers to database schemas, test plans, the build system, even documentation.


All via the terribly exciting programming languages weblog, Lambda the Ultimate. Also at Lambda, the beginnings of a programming quotes database, which includes the rather wonderful (to my mind at least) “static typing is to a good programmer what a spell checker is to a good writer“.

Patents we’d like to see destroyed

Electronic Frontier Foundation publishes patent hit list [act].

As part of its Patent Busting Project, the EFF in mid-June began soliciting the public for submissions of patents that were both potentially invalid and used to stifle online innovation. The organization received nearly 200 suggestions, 10 of which it will now formally ask the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to re-examine.

For example:

2. Clear Channel’s Instant Live patent, which covers technology used to produce instant recordings of live concerts. The media giant recently bought the patent and is now going after artists who choose to give fans CDs of their shows.

I was trying to explain to Bash, just the other day, why Clear Channel are evil – here is the Gimboland entry on the topic made – gulp – three years ago, although Salon seem to be making you jump through hoops if you want to read it – sigh.

Linux iRiver ihp-120 notes

Notes on using an iRiver ihp-120 with Linux.