Older blog entries for wspace (starting at number 27)

Next time you develop a tool call it a "Distributed mobile data-driven XML application". Interoperable. Buzzwords compliant. Great.

But now there is a new problem whenever a bug is detected: where is the bug.


I have to draw a lot of boxes and arrows diagrams, so I am currently hacking on a Python module for creating diagrams in .eps.

That is useful when you need to include it in LaTeX. There will also be SVG support, but first I want to get the design right. It has a Box, Circle (Curve), Text and some Arrow classes already, with dash, rotation and scaling support.

It is not just for drawing, but for programming such diagrams. The idea is to be able to write a program like

p = pyps.FileContents()
b1 = pyps.Box()
b2 = pyps.Box()
a = pyps.Arrow()
p.connect(b1, b2, a)
print p.epsText() 

in this example without having to specifiy coordinates at all. I am still thinking about the design for the connect method so that is not there yet. An example created with pyps is here. It was created as .eps and then translated to PNG with ghostscript (Windows install). Also shows a weakness of the Windows ghostscript: it could not find all the right fonts.

It has been a while doing such OO things, but this seems like a good case for OO. If you feel like trying it out, your comments are welcome!

Once it is mature enough, maybe there are other people who would like to join and start a project at Sourceforge.net?

Better writings with an editor?

I read several writers who wrote books back in the 1970's. They did not have editors then, just typewriters. Seeing a smart remark of one of those writers recently in the newspaper, it made me wonder if today they would even write better. It is so hard to write without an editor! Would their books be even better when written with an editor? Are we writing better books these days?.


On second thought, maybe XML isn't all that bad. What about handling tabs, unicode, namespaces, processing instructions, schema declarations, ...

But recently I had to "code" a lot of small XML snippets with an editor. Not just configurations files, all sorts of stuff. Maybe I can come up with a simple translator tool, from human-readable-editable to XML and back. Should not be too difficult. Except for all the fancy XML stuff mentioned above.

If you *are* using indentation, why use XML?

The example by Linus:

    # This is an example
        passwd Make1Up
        timeout 50

yourhost.com passwd Crappy4You timeout 0

instead of

    <!-- This is an example -->

<host>yourhost.org <passwd>Crappy4You</passwd> <timeout>0</timeout> </host>

Agreed, much more readable. And parsing is no problem.

But the XML example is not using attributes, and his readable version doesn't have something like it either. The order of elements in a list is significant in XML; the order of attributes is not (it is a *set* of attributes). And you need to have 1 root element in XML.

I have been thinking a bit about it but I am still not sure what a good readable format would look like.


    # This is an example
    host protocol=http [myhost.com]
        timeout 50

Every line has to start with an element, unless it is an attribute or text content of an element.
Attributes have an =.
Text content goes inside square braces, and may be on the same line as the "last" attribute.
Indentation of elements gives the tree structure: top down + indentation corresponds to the root-left-right traversal of the data tree.

But this format does not make clear that the order of attributes is irrelevant. So I am not happy with it yet.

12 Nov 2003 (updated 12 Nov 2003 at 14:12 UTC) »
A solution for spam

How to avoid spam?  A solution is to only open emails
from people that are on your contacts list.  But then
it will be impossible for people to contact you if
they are not on the contact list.

To get on your contact list people have to register their email address at your homepage. To avoid spammers from registering, they also have to recognize a word displayed by a picture, and type it in. There are tools for generating such pictures automatically from a dictionary.

This is the only real solution I can think of. And it will not be difficult to write a CGI script in Python that can handle the registration. I wonder if it has been done already, do you know?

Hey, the word-in-a-picture recognizing thing is also a solution for "blogspam", or guestbook spam.

Look at www.blogshares.com, a site for trading virtual
stocks in blogs. I managed to get this "blog"
registered there, via some trick I forgot in one
of my earlier postings here (they want you to link to
them, once or so).

I don't get it. I did not write here anything for over
a month. And still there are peeps trading my shares
there. While there are others with active blogs and
*huge* share value that don't see much trade. Weird.

mikehearn: You mention
a) High level programming languages are a good thing.
b) C is *the* language for sharing code on linux/OSX/cygwin/solaris/etc.
In the case of Python a lot of time is put into wrapping C libraries. Indeed I believe this is the wrong way to do it. I also believe the other way around is possible, but very hard perhaps, and expensive. Instead of wrapping C libraries: translate Python to C and use the C compilers.

How was your holiday? Hope it was as good as mine! We stayed home, no going to faraway places this year, just enjoying the garden and home.

A friend claimed it would not be possible to do something like a roguelike via CGI. So I did a fun little project during holidays:


You can get the source and some notes and a Tkinter GUI for it at


Biggest problem was not the software design but getting CGI to work. The permission issues drove me nuts. It turned out that after creating a new db you have to wait a while before you can use it. Geez.

Unfortunately I am not a webserver wizard so my friend was right it is too slow. But it *is* fast enough with Apache running on my local machine.

If I can find somebody who can improve the performance (perhaps host it?), then it would be fun to add multiplayer and other things. The architecture is simple so adding stuff is not difficult.

There are so much people blogging now that I started to use an RSS aggregator to check what's new. I then moved all the blog URIs that supplied RSS to another subdirectory in my bookmarks (called favorites in Internet Explorer). After a while I realized that I don't use these bookmarks anymore since I read their blog via the RSS aggregator (I use effnews). I only use blog bookmarks for blogs that don't have RSS (or broken RSS :-) And I think more people are doing it this way.

So, if you have a blog, and you want to stay in people's bookmarks, don't RSS.


7 Jun 2003 (updated 7 Jun 2003 at 15:08 UTC) »
Beta Education in The Netherlands and other small Western Europe countries

In my Dutch newspaper: "Multinationals complain about not enough beta scientists". Or something like that, difficult to translate. In newspaper headers they put as little words as possible, making it very hard to translate it to another language with as little words.

I don't know very much about all tech sciences, but I do know something about the computing science situation here in The Netherlands, because of my job. The situation with computing science here is worrying indeed. There are not much students doing CS at the university, it should be at least about 2 times more, year in year out. Surrounding big countries like Germany and France have twice as many students (in percentage) and they still could use some more. Why is the number of students choosing computing science here so small? Just because it is difficult? That could be the case but that would be very bad, it would mean the students are just too lazy, which does not correspond with my optimistic view.

How about prospects for the students? I feel this is the reason. If you get your M.Sc. in CS here and find a job then you will make a lot less money than if you have a M.Sc. in one of the management "sciences" or economy or even psychology, so called "gamma" sciences. It doesn't really matter what your major is. Just get a M.Sc., and as long as it is not too technical you can get a manager or salesman job and get paid a lot more. If however your education is beta, you will never have more than about 60.000 euros a year to spend, no matter how good you are. Unless you switch to a management job, showing "exceptional communication skills" and other "skills" like that. And 60k is really exceptional. The average is about 30k. Try to support a family with 30k a year. For managers and salesmen their "salary" is only part of their income, they often make more money with under-the-table-money, stock options and other extras. So the difference in expected income between beta and gamma is even much bigger than outlined here.

So it is no wonder there are not many people choosing a beta study. And the big companies (here that is Shell, Unilever, OCE, Philips, ...) used to have no problems with it. They just get more people from India and Eastern Europe and Russia and China and other poor countries. Everybody has to speak English anyway. It takes a little more time to learn English for somebody from India, which is a totally different language zone, than for somebody speaking a germanic language already, like Dutch. But look at my writings: I feel the English sucks, in style and in grammar. Believe it or not, where I work they think my English is good. So maybe it isn't such a problem after all to hire people from other language zones. At least for beta jobs.

But now these companies are getting "worried", the article says. They are afraid they will find themselves in "an unfit knowledge ecosystem". Or however you translate that. And of course they blame the government. Yeah riight. Like a government in a small country like The Netherlands can do anything about it.

Big successful software gets developed in the USA and UK, where everybody speaks English natively. Big European projects often fail because of the bad English education of the participants. This makes communicating with your coworkers really hard and often crazy. You should see the emails I get from people in France or Italy. I'd prefer them to write in their own language and then I'd use a dictionary to understand what they write. And what they write won't look so silly so it would be easier to take it serious. As it is now, you *know* they use the wrong word so a dictionary doesn't help. You have to guess.
Come to think of it, is there even one big successful European software project?

Attracting people to some kind of education is subject to (job) market workings. Like many things in this society. I think the solution to the looming future undereducation in beta science here is simple to solve. But I don't think it will happen. It's the money, stupid.

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