Showing posts from November, 2006

Bjarne Stroustrup Interview

MIT Technology Review publishes an interview with Bjarne Stroustrup , the original designer of C++. He reflects generally on the quality of software and the design philosophy he used with C++.

Put an end to bottom-trawling

Get this: Not only do ocean-floor-scraping fishermen ruin whole marine ecosystems; governments pay them subsidies to do it, because it otherwise would not be economically viable! This is criminal conduct on behalf of the fishermen, the fishing companies and the governments involved. There is no excuse for it. People who make their living based on such disregard for what they are destroying, do not deserve to make that living.

General solutions (when programming)

Here are two of denis's rules of programming (learned the hard way). Rule #1: It is good to avoid working on complex solutions for problems that might not exist. Rule #2: It is good to postpone implementing solutions until you really understand the problems. It follows from these rules that: One should avoid creating reusable code (solution) which will not necessarily find much use (problem). One should generally avoid writing reusable code (solution) until such time as one understands the problem inside out (has solved the problem the tedious way many times). If you do not adhere to these rules, you will create more solutions than there are problems to solve, and the solutions you create will not be entirely appropriate to the problems that actually exist. Thus, the solutions themselves become part of the problem. General-purpose solutions are hard to do right, and one shouldn't generally start implementing such solutions just because there might be a problem. You only sta

Shit, it's raining!

My favorite, poignant quote for the week: "They call this war 'a cloud over the land'. But they make the weather, and then they stand in the rain and say - 'Shit, it's raining!'" As memorably interpreted by Renee Zellweger as Ruby Thewes, Cold Mountain.

The Final Solution (to Spam)

I used to receive 400-500 spam emails per day. At first, I just deleted the spam manually. When this overwhelmed me, I looked at various solutions. I tried an anti-spam challenge-response program. This is software you put between your email client and your mail server. It constantly checks your mail server and sends challenges to senders that are not in its white-list. Major disadvantages: legitimate senders often won't bother to prove they are human; many legitimate senders are in fact automated; and finally, sending the challenge emails themselves gets you listed as a spammer, so outgoing email that you send gets lost. So I quit the anti-spam challenge-response system, and tried an email program with a Bayesian filter. This didn't work quite so well either. Most of the spam got sorted correctly, but an unacceptable amount of legitimate email got classified as spam. I had to download all of the spam emails, and then I still had to browse through all of them sporadically to f

What your taxes are spent on

This is why I think the income tax is a morally reprehensible act. It's all wasted on ridiculous projects like that. It's not the government collecting a modest tax to pay for commonly needed infrastructure. It's the government taking your money and stuffing it into the pockets of people who excel at collecting it. It's all wasted like that. I have no idea why almost no one else is rebelling against that.

Elton John: Ban organized religion

Here's a guy I respect saying something I've been saying for ages: personal religion is fine, and everyone needs some kind of answers to unanswerable questions of existence. But why do these beliefs need to be coordinates by mullahs, L. Ron Hubbards, and popes? Why does there need to be a global para-state based in Vatican that owns something like a quarter of the world - just to coordinate what fictions people choose to believe in? All of this is unnecessary, is manipulative and causes hurt. The world would be served well if organized religion was banned, and everyone just had to find their answers to unanswerable questions for themselves. Whether that means picking them up from the bible or the koran is up to you - but no one should be telling anyone that they are the 'only true source' of knowledge on these issues, because it's really just a method of deceit, manipulation and exploitation. False gods? Just say no.

The fabled distinction between animals and humans

New Scientist reports that scientists want to create part-cow, part-human embryos for research aimed at treating diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. However, there's a problem. These days, they have to ask permission from people who have no clue about anything. Here's what Calum MacKellar of the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics has to say about it: "In this kind of procedure, you are mixing at a very intimate level animal eggs and human chromosomes and you may begin to undermine the whole distinction between animals and humans." The idiots! There is no distinction between animals and humans. When will everyone finally come to terms with that eating meat means killing living beings, and that murder is something we all participate in on a daily basis? That doesn't necessarily mean that it's bad, but please, let us stop pretending. There is no such thing as a single human race either. Everyone is genetically different. Some people are genet

The appeal of C

I've been learning Scheme lately, on and off, an evening here and there, when I take a bit of time off of my immediate development requirements. Scheme is a very elegant language, which I admire for its beautiful syntax. Here's an RSA decryption program in Scheme: (write (number->string (let ((msg (string->number "0FB78CC9...283E9F69...9AA34BC1" 16)) (mod 4847438932...5371616465...9691290563)) (remainder (expt msg 17) mod)) 16)) Simple, eh? The variable 'msg' receives a big fat RSA ciphertext in hexadecimal, the variable 'mod' receives the modulus of the RSA public key, and the public exponent (17) is just keyed in. The code computes (msg**17 % mod) and prints the result as a hexadecimal string. It executes in a blink using the Petite Chez Scheme interpreter, which Cadence Research Systems kindly make available for free. (They make money on the compiler, which I hope one day I'll have a good reason to purchase. I'd like to co

The non-threat of terrorism and its causes

We've seen misled idealistic young men do several horrible acts since the beginning of this century. 20 of them hijacked 4 airplanes and tore down the World Trade Center in New York, killing some 3,000 people overall. Several more blew up trains in Madrid a year later, and four British-bred young fanatics blew up some trains and a bus in London, a year after that. Terrorist explosions also killed hundreds of people in Bali and other places as well. Meanwhile, in the United States alone, there have been some 17,000 murders every year, and some 95,000 rapes. Each year, there were some 45,000 deaths in motor vehicle accidents. In the UK, there are every year some 8,000 alcohol related deaths. Given these figures, one might ask, why not start a war on cars? A war on roads? A war on booze? Oh, wait - our great-grandparents tried that. We all know why. Because we think we can control these risks. We think we won't die on the highway, when in fact the issue is to a large extent ou

Saddam Hussein sentenced to death

I don't think Saddam Hussein led a very enlightened regime, but a few observations are in order: There was no civil war under Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein did not support terrorism and indeed prevented it within his country. Saddam Hussein indeed killed many people and oppressed more with the aim of stabilizing his regime. But stabilizing his regime prevented a civil war with a potentially much larger death toll. Saddam himself didn't kill nearly as many people as the embargo imposed against Iraq by the United States, which caused the deaths of millions of children. Now that Saddam has been removed, Iraq is in a civil war that has so far cost 400.000 or more lives - many more than in Saddam's regime. Now that Saddam has been removed, Iraq is a genuine terrorist haven. It is realistic to expect that things are only about to get even worse. Who, then, is the real criminal? Who is responsible for most of the deaths that have happened in Iraq in the past 20 years? Is it Sad