Older blog entries for xach (starting at number 89)

garym: Erik Naggum recently wrote about the "by dummies" thing on comp.lang.lisp. Here's an excerpt:

Never have I seen a book published by a novice for novices, nor heard of such a thing, but that does not mean it does not exist -- the likelihood that I would purchase it or read it is zero, as it would undoubtedly have an off-putting title and cover, probably including the target audience "dummies" or "the complete idiot". I recently reviewed a book in which the author could only be understood to apologize for his lack of mastery of the subject when he chatted endlessly about how hard it was to linearize the material and where he used more promises of what was to come and repetitions of what he had discussed than actual new information in each paragraph, how this and that feature in the topic he discussed "is not easy" to use and understand. It was torture to read and try to lift it to some readable level.

I took a couple pictures to Portland Color to get 8x10s made. The output was a little disappointing; it looks pretty much like a high-quality inkjet print. Which isn't bad, but it's not as nice as the slide. I shouldn't be surprised; I already know that nothing looks as nice as a slide on a light table. I'll have to take some pictures with more vivid colors and interesting subjects, I guess.

I've been working on an interface to Verizon's wholesale order system. Verizon has a website where you can place orders and check their status. Their interface is cumbersome, so a coworker and I wrote a frontend that's much saner and less error-prone. It works acceptably well.

However, Verizon is about to update their web interface, breaking all our software, so I've been looking into alternatives to LWP blasting and HTML scraping. Verizon has an application-to-application interface that uses EDI that looks like it might do the trick. The only downside is wading through literally thousands of pages of "business rules" to find out the small subset we need to work with. It's a scary glimpse into the world of Big Software Projects for Big Companies. It looks like the safe business strategy is to frame programming problems as tedious exercises that can be solved by armies of mediocre drones.

1 Oct 2002 (updated 1 Oct 2002 at 21:18 UTC) »

I found the problem with my prototypes. Turns out order is important and the compiler doesn't see the definition in time to do the right thing. That plus a failure to "use strict" when testing my idea out. Duh.

In other boring news, I got a new computer (a dual athlon like raph's), a new girlfriend, and I'm looking to buy a house. Oh, and I'm going to Hawaii and Super Monkey Ball 2 is a lot of fun.

That is all.

27 Sep 2002 (updated 1 Oct 2002 at 21:09 UTC) »

I've been trying to use prototypes to make new utility functions in perl. The "perlsub" documentation says this:

Perl supports a very limited kind of compile-time argument
checking using function prototyping.  If you declare

sub mypush (\@@)

then "mypush()" takes arguments exactly like "push()" does.

But that doesn't seem to be my experience. I wrote a function called linsert. The definition is:

sub linsert (\@$@) {
    my ($aref, $index, @elts) = @_;
    splice(@{$aref}, $index, 0, @elts);

Then I tried to write mypush using linsert:

sub mypush (\@@) {
    my ($aref, @elts) = @_;
    linsert(@{$aref}, $#{$aref}, @elts);

It doesn't work; the original array is not altered. But if I use the built-in push instead of linsert, it magically works. It seems that this makes it impossible to build a pyramid of utility functions, as the base functions don't seem work as expected unless they're built in.

I also found out that $a and $b are special when "strict" is concerned. I had good luck making a "foreachpair" utility function, but I got tripped up when making "foreachtriplet". Ugh.

23 Sep 2002 (updated 23 Sep 2002 at 13:38 UTC) »
vab: I mailed you about converting the Gazetteer data to the format Zipdy uses. How did you do it? The file format consfuses me.

I just finished reading Catton's Army of the Potomac trilogy. It's pretty cool. I also read Robert Rodriguez's Rebel Without a Crew, which more than ever makes me want to rush out and buy a DV camera and start filming. Well, until I realize that Rodriguez is both intensely creative and obsessively hardworking, and I am neither. Ahh well.

My Togo thread got mentioned in a comment on slashdot, and it's since been spread around. Also mentioned were a bunch of funnier pranks played on scammers. I particularly like the three dollar scam.

My sister recently got back from a missionary trip to the Dominican Republic. Before she left, I gave her my old Nikon 6006. She really put it to good use, taking 20 rolls of slides. I scanned her selection of favorites.

In other news, I get to write perl all day for my job. Then I go home and read about nicer languages and wish I was smart enough to apply them at work. Sigh.

Every time I think I've gotten too ridiculous for Dr. Abed Solomon, he replies. I wonder how far I can go.

I recently started a discussion with a Togolese about helping him retrieve USD$15million from a bank account so he and I can become rich. It has been interesting so far.

12 Aug 2002 (updated 12 Aug 2002 at 17:57 UTC) »
raph wrote:

I got an exciting email a couple of days ago. Somebody smart (you probably know the name) is working on the spam problem, and asked me about trust metrics. I'll post more as soon as it's clear the person wants this info public.

Paul Graham's www.ArcHub.org says:

When you design a new language, you have to write programs in it to know whether it's any good. We decided to use Arc to write a new, free, programmable, spamproof Web-based email service.

I wonder if the two are related!

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