Lo-fi π day

March 15th, 2009  |  Tags: ,  |  Leave a comment

On Saturday, I proposed a “lo-fi π day,” to be observed on 22 July. However, it occurred to me that 22/7 is a better approximation of π than 3.14 (the traditional “π day”); perhaps 22 July should be the “hi-fi π day,” instead.

Two different ways to say the same thing

March 11th, 2009  |  Tags: , ,  |  1 Comment


Mustard watches

January 23rd, 2009  |  Tags: , , ,  |  Leave a comment

It seems impossible that I haven’t already linked to Jean-Yves Girard’s pseudonymous masterwork “Mustard Watches: An Integrated Approach to Time and Food,” but it looks like I haven’t. Enjoy.

Paradox shirts

January 16th, 2009  |  Tags: , , , ,  |  Leave a comment

Over Christmas, I added a couple of t-shirt designs to my Spreadshirt shop. Unlike prior designs, which primarily depict characters from imaginary children’s books and/or 16th-Century debates about the nature of free will, the new designs are depictions of famous paradoxes: the “devil’s tuning fork” and the Russell set. If you’d like one of these designs on a product that’s not yet available, let me know and I’ll cons it up for you.

  • Max for Live?” Sounds exciting. Is it possible for Gerhard Behles to break his own company’s press-release embargo?


Sorted by irrelevance

August 21st, 2008  |  Tags: , , ,  |  Leave a comment

The ACM Digital Library should be useful. It is one of the largest single-site repositories of academic writing about computer science and holds almost every paper published within the last thirty years that bears an ACM copyright. Unfortunately, it does so behind an absurdly ridiculous interface.

Say you wanted to find Tom Knight’s classic 1986 paper “An architecture for mostly functional languages.” This paper appeared in an ACM conference (specifically, the ACM conference on Lisp and functional programming), so you’d be right to search the ACM DL for it. It would be reasonable to assume that searching for “knight mostly functional” would give you a good chance of finding the paper quickly.

If you did this, you’d be presented with a list of results “sorted by relevance.” The most “relevant” results, it appears, are a wide range of papers from the last ten years on speculative multithreading — from conferences, journals, and unrefereed newsletters — that cite Knight’s paper. The ACM’s search algorithm identifies Knight’s actual paper as the 46th most “relevant” search result for “knight mostly functional.” This would be risible if there were tens of thousands of search results for this string. Since there are only 48, it’s completely unconscionable.

Seek and ye shall find, I guess.

Pragmatic [REDACTED]

July 23rd, 2008  |  Tags: , , , , ,  |  Leave a comment

I suppose this is why the Core Animation book I pre-ordered from Amazon in March remains unshipped a week after its expected release date and why Amazon sent me a panicked “we have no idea when this will ship — do you still want it?” message.

In cheerier Pragmatic Programmers news, I watched some of their Erlang screencasts on a recent plane trip and am glad to endorse them. They’re certainly not a substitute for Armstrong’s excellent Erlang book, but they’re a nice taste of some very cool features of the language. I learned of these via DF, whose one-sentence summary of Pragmatic’s products hits everything I love and loathe about them. (Seriously, Bookman makes my skin crawl, and it’s only the beginning.)

(Confidential to readers who appreciate the idea of evaluating technical books on both content and typography: have I got a treat for you, and soon!)

  • It’s probably a little perverse that I think the two most compelling 3rd-party applications on the new iPhone are OmniFocus and BeatMaker. (It would be better, I guess, if my day job involved making beats.)


Delia Derbyshire, braindance oracle

July 18th, 2008  |  Tags: , ,  |  Leave a comment

Pioneering sound designer and electronic musician Delia Derbyshire apparently had a stash of hundreds of unreleased recordings in her attic when she died in 2001; their existence became public knowledge this week. The one that will probably get the most nerd attention is this glitchy excerpt, which Paul Hartnoll describes by saying that it “could be coming out next week on Warp Records.”

I think Hartnoll is only slightly hyperbolic with “next week”, but seriously, listen to that short track. Does it sound like it’s 40 years old, or does it sound like Artificial Intelligence? It could easily be early Autechre or pre-RDJ Aphex Twin.

Think about the pop-culture climate of the day: #1 pop songs in the late 1960s included such innovative, groundbreaking compositions as “Hello, I Love You” and “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” Consider also that Derbyshire wasn’t using synthesizers: just manipulated sounds (from tape), electronic oscillators, and various filters and signal modulators. The article quotes Hartnoll again, regarding Derbyshire’s retirement from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop: “I think she got a bit disheartened and a bit bored with it all when the synthesizer came along and it all became a little too easy.”

Pretty much.

RIYL: electronic lapels, Stockhausen on AFX and vice versa. If electronic oscillators and musique concrète are too modern for you, why not build a cornemuse?

On web standards compliance

May 7th, 2008  |  Tags: , , , , ,  |  Leave a comment

Mark Pilgrim on the Mozilla project’s reaction to Firefox’s ACID 3 scores (which are lowest among all browsers not named “Internet Explorer”):

[M]an, you should all be embarrassed with yourselves. But you’re not, so here I am stepping up, publicly being embarrassed on your behalf. No need to thank me.

It’s kind of like losing a board game and then loudly claiming that you weren’t trying anyway.

Putting the “sans” in

May 7th, 2007  |  Tags: , ,  |  6 Comments

I completely agree with the folks at, who claim to provide “the source for anti-comic sans propaganda.” Comic Sans is facile, ugly, and immediately casts a pallor over any work typeset with it: “this is the product of an unserious human.” Few fonts make me so angry.

[thanks to H., via M.]


April 24th, 2007  |  Tags: , ,  |  2 Comments

Rolf sends a link to this gizmodo article about some company that calls itself “Amiga” and is introducing new computers next week. Sadly, instead of fondly remembering the machine that made computing fun (and, notably, introduced me to emacs in the mid-1980s), I was instead reminded of when I bought the “Amiga SDK” in 2000, which was a hosted, VM-based development environment that ran on Linux. (It also had some bizarre copy protection scheme that didn’t work on machines with more than one ethernet interface.) I don’t know if this soon-to-be-not-vaporware “Amiga” hardware uses the same SDK or not.

After browsing, though, I was reminded of the original bearer of the Amiga name. In the heady days of the mid-to-late 1980s, I used many applications that were way ahead of their time: a real shell on a personal computer, the trackers, Deluxe Music, Deluxe Video, and a wide range of other tools that didn’t have competitors in the rest of the computer world for years.

Fittingly, the current Amiga is also a source for software that has no peers elsewhere, like 2006 Arena Football League Word Search. (I’d be willing to bet that isn’t licensed and would be running the risk of an instant cease-and-desist if it weren’t so far under the radar.)

OS X 10.4.9 seems to demolish Kerberos over ssh

March 29th, 2007  |  Tags: , , , , ,  |  1 Comment

I just installed the OS X 10.4.9 update yesterday. Since then, ssh has failed to forward my Kerberos and AFS tickets to the office. Saying this is a big pain is perhaps the understatement of the decade. (It’s thrilling to log in to my office computer and not have access rights to any of my files — it makes me feel like a secret ninja hacker, just like Matthew Broderick in Wargames!) As far as I can tell, this is the default behavior in the version of ssh included with 10.4.9 (bad idea, Apple). Fortunately, this simple solution worked for me:

  1. Open Terminal.
  2. Using your favorite editor, open the file /etc/ssh_config
  3. Uncomment (i.e. remove the “#”) from the following lines:
    • Host *
    • GSSAPIAuthentication
    • GSSAPIDelegateCredentials
    • GSSAPIKeyExchange
  4. If a no appears in the … part of any line you uncommented, change it to a yes.
  5. Save the file. You’ll need an administrator password.
  6. (Hopefully) enjoy functional ticket forwarding again, like before you upgraded.
  7. Grimace, since you haven’t tested any of your Audio Units under 10.4.9 yet. Be glad you made a backup.

This seems to make ssh slower, but it also seems to work.

Actiontastic goes free and (soon) open source

March 15th, 2007  |  Tags: , , , ,  |  Leave a comment

I’ve been following Actiontastic for a while, installing time-limited betas and hoping that the final version would be released soon so that I could buy it and stop worrying about having a decent GTD system on my computer. Well, I can stop waiting, I guess:

Actiontastic will be free and open source. The free (as in “free beer”) part starts tonight. The code (as in “freely available source code”) will follow when the overhead of a new team won’t crush the project under its own weight. Those with experience getting to 1.0 will understand what I mean.

Crosby is also going to release the source code to actionatr, his upcoming productivity tool web service that syncs with Actiontastic. Nice.