Texinfo proved very simple to learn and produces fairly good looking HTML and PDF files (although some people prefer texi2html to "makeinfo --html" for HTML output). It can also output DocBook XML files, though I don't know how good the output is since I don't know the DocBook system yet. I am very happy with the tool so far. I haven't learnt a whole lot of Texinfo yet, but since when has that stopped me from making a fool of myself?
There are still some warts that I see with the Texinfo system though:
These rants aside, I am still sticking with Texinfo for the documentation for my little projects, though for "paper-like" stuff, I'm going to prefer LaTeX.
Steve Yegge is now on Blogger for those of you who can't seem to have enough of his rants.
Ranjit Madampath pointed me to a rather hilarious entry on Frameworks in the Joel on Software discussion group.
Planet Scheme used to be available as planet-scheme.yi.org, but it seems to be dead now. I used to like reading the aggregated weblogs of a lot of smart Scheme hackers, the weblog of José Antonio Ortega Ruiz in particular.
Firefox leads to a breakup. I don't know whether I should feel sorry for the bloke who was dumped or the lady who had to change her email address possibly after being bombarded with tonnes of silly emails. I do know that I found this bug report rather funny.
As I had feared, I performed miserably in the qualifying round of the Google Code Jam India 2006. Good luck to the people who moved on to the next round.
What surprised me was how cheap the equipment was (Rs 2,600/- after 4% VAT) and how easy it was to set up. There was a slight complication due to the Huawei SmartAX MT880 ADSL modem-cum-router we were using for our BSNL DataOne broadband connection and the assumptions made by the wireless router, but that is easy to resolve if you know the basics of IP (Internet Protocol). It was also relatively easy to secure the access point.
Of course, this adds a few more cables to the jungle of cables behind my PC that had already made cleaning difficult and any expansion a chore.
By the way, I have been seeing the prices of networking equipment (modems, switches, wireless routers) dropping drastically over the last year here in Bangalore, possibly because broadband has become quite affordable and because more and more people have a laptop or two.
A Philistine Watches "2001: A Space Odyssey"
We watched Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" yesterday. I was terribly disappointed by this movie: most of the scenes were excruciatingly long, the music (when it was present) seemed mostly arbitrary for the scene in question, the "star gate" scene seemed amateurish and long (and looked as if it was designed to induce a headache), the actors were mostly expressionless, etc. On the positive side, I admired the special effects (awesome for 1968) and was pleased to see how they were shown in a matter-of-fact manner instead of the in-your-face style so common these days. I also like the main music score that was composed for this movie and which is the recurring theme throughout the movie.
The painfully long shots reminded me of the "art movies" we had to see in our childhood. At that time, the state television channel Doordarshan (literally "tele vision" in Hindi) was the only thing we could watch on TV. They used to show a movie every Sunday afternoon in one of the regional Indian languages. Being a Malayalee family, we used to watch every such Malayalam movie out of sheer loyalty. Unfortunately for us, Malayalam (like Bangla, but unlike other languages like Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, etc.) seemed to be blessed by a lot of award-winning directors who insisted on making "meaningful cinema" which was anything but meaningful to the vast majority of the population. It was very painful to sit through such movies.
I still remember a particularly painful scene from one such movie (whose name I cannot recall). The first shot shows an empty and untarred village road receding into the distance. After quite a while you notice a small speck on the horizon, very slowly increasing in size, until you can make out that it is a man on a bicycle slowly approaching your viewpoint. He finally passes your viewpoint after about five long and painful minutes. The next shot shifts the viewpoint so that now you see the same cyclist slowly pedal his way through the same road away from you till he again becomes a small speck on the horizon and till you admire the empty road for quite a while again. This shot lasts another five painful minutes. This scene makes you wonder what the point of the director was. Was it to drain all remaining enthusiasm for the movie from the viewer so that he does not apply much thought to the rest of the movie? Was it to filter the true admirer of meaningful cinema, who is masochistic enough to sit through such scenes, from the wannabes? Was it simply to fill up an extra reel of celluloid? Needless to say, after about 10 or 15 of such movies, our family lost all enthusiasm to watch Malayalam movies aired by Doordarshan. Only the advent of cable television brought relief and the ability to watch normal Malayalam cinema on TV.
Back to "2001: A Space Odyssey". In a couple of shots, there is this chorus of male noises in the background that has been warped to sound somewhat like the collective humming of a swarm of bees. That bit is rather painful on the ear as is the very shrill noise emitted by the black monolith on the moon when it is unearthed by humans. I personally also found some bits of well-known western classical music compositions a bit weird and out-of-place for the respective scenes.
The point of this long rant is that I believe that Kubrick could have so easily made this movie much shorter, much more bearable and much more accessible without losing anything of the story. Such a disappointment.
I was bitten by this problem when I tried to extract an archive created on my home PC using GNU tar 1.15.1 on Linux on different systems elsewhere. It seems that the "v7" format is the most portable at the moment, though it has severe problems with long file names and large files. My project does not have long file names or huge files, so I can use this format for the time being to avoid these problems. The long-term solution however is to encourage everyone to use a tar programme that can handle the far better POSIX-2001 format.
The main problem is not only that interval arithmetic is at least twice as slow as ordinary computer arithmetic, but also that the margins of error keep increasing over successive computations. Of course, this margin of error is anyway there in your computations whether you use interval arithmetic or not - at least now you have your "known unknowns" - but we humans normally do not like to face it. There are other problems too, including the difficulty of division when an interval contains the number 0, the non-distributive nature of computations, the necessity to anyway deal with floating-point precision and rounding errors when the endpoints of intervals are expressed as floating-point numbers, etc.
Despite all these problems, interval arithmetic might still be our best bet in attempting to perform meaningful computations on computers. Interestingly, Knuth also expresses a similar view in TAOCP Volume II ("Seminumerical Algorithms"), but sadly does not expand much on this topic.
New HTML Parser: The long-awaited libxml2 based HTML parser code is live. It needs further work but already handles most markup better than the original parser.
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