rfunk: (phone)
posted by [personal profile] rfunk at 11:35pm on 15/12/2008 under , ,
  • 09:38 thinking that the Scion tC may be the closest I can get to my old Saturn SC2 (with bonus sunroof!)... if I can come up with the money. #
  • 12:10 DSL down, must be time for lunch. #
  • 15:40 finally heard from the insurance person that didn't call for a week. But no numbers until tomorrow. #
  • 17:35 got the pidgin-facebookchat plugin going. tinyurl.com/55yyss #
  • 17:45 will probably skip tonight's Columbus Ruby meeting, despite the promise of cookies, due to the promise of bad weather. #
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posted by [personal profile] rfunk at 11:42pm on 21/11/2008 under , , ,
  • 15:50 scored "Advanced" on the annoying PHP test. Good enough for me. Now if only they'd test me on Ruby. Or even Perl. #
rfunk: (Default)
A few weekends ago I went to eRubyCon: three 9-5:30 days with nearly 100 other Ruby programmers learning about the Ruby programming language, how best to take advantage of it, related technologies, and general programming practices.

It was really interesting and I learned a lot, but I won't bore you with the details. (If anybody really wants my notes let me know and I can email them.)

The worst part of it was that the weather was beautiful all weekend, and I was stuck inside an office building all day Friday through Sunday.

It was also a little awkward at times because I knew only a few people there and I'm not very good at meeting people in large-group situations. I did meet a couple people though.

I noticed two interesting socio-technological things though. One was that, at this OS-agnostic tech event, about 80-90% of the laptops people brought were Macs. Even the Microsoft presenter was using a MacBook and running OS X. (The remainder seemed to be split between Windows and Linux.)

The other thing I noticed was that Twitter has become an important way for these tech people to communicate what cool things they're working on. The question people were asking each other all weekend was "What are you on Twitter?" All the presenters gave their Twitter IDs in their presentations. And, when the wireless network was working, people were Twittering during the conference, using it much like IRC (which people were also using). So when I got home I went ahead and created a Twitter account -- to reserve my username if nothing else.


I first heard of Twitter when [livejournal.com profile] stega started using it a couple years ago, but I didn't quite get the point. I still don't, actually. It's most obviously similar to Facebook's "status" feature (and I've semi-linked the two together), but that's just the beginning. It seems to be a single channel used for lots of different things simultaneously -- microblogs, microblog-commenting, conversations within groups, and a fair amount of net-surveying and "lazyweb" research.

One important factor is that Twitter can be used as either a private or a public channel, but that switch is per-account rather than per-message. (I've gotten spoiled by LiveJournal's flexible access controls.) Opening it to the public certainly encourages the community aspect, but may not work so well with the idea of constantly reporting what you're doing. My account is set private for now.

Twitter shares LiveJournal's "friends-list" idea of using your account to see a stream of updates from chosen people, and that alone seems to be a useful way to use it. (Unlike LJ, the people you watch have no special privileges to see what you write.) Other accounts seem to be write-mostly; for example, the Columbus Dispatch puts headlines out on a Twitter account.


While I'm on the social-networking topic, I might as well mention that it looks like the most popular migration target for LJ people now seems to be Facebook. Which of course doesn't have nearly the fine-grained access controls LJ has, shoves the writing into a corner rather than having it center-stage, and promotes meme-like things to top-level constancy rather than making them ephemera. But at least it's sort of community.

One major contrast I've noticed is that LiveJournal is really good for meeting and getting to know new people, while Facebook is horrible for that, but is good for reconnecting (at least superficially) with people from your past.


Oh yeah, one more thing to bring this full-circle. LiveJournal is written in Perl, a language that has been declining in popularity. Facebook is written in PHP, a language that is cursed and annoying while being useful and popular and easy to learn. (MySpace, by the way, is written in ColdFusion, which I thought died five years ago.) Twitter is written in Ruby, the fast-rising language I went to the conference about.
rfunk: (phone)
posted by [personal profile] rfunk at 07:48pm on 05/06/2008 under , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
This week we gained possession of a pair of 8GB iPod Touches, through a surprisingly generous rebate program.

The iPod Touch is unlike any previous iPods, but is very similar to the iPhone. It's basically an iPhone without the phone, camera, or bluetooth. That doesn't sound like it leaves much, but what it leaves is high-resolution video iPod functionality, plus wi-fi networking, built on top of a miniature Mac OS X complete with web browser, email client, and other programs.

Apple's firmware doesn't allow adding apps that aren't already there, other than using web apps designed for the iPhone/iTouch platform. (A new firmware version coming soon will open this up a bit, but not by much.) However, people have figured out ways of fixing ("jailbreaking") the firmware to allow installing third-party apps, and there's even a de-facto standard packaging/installing system to make it easy to get and install programs.

A Linux guy gets started with iPod Touch )
Jailbreak for the good stuff )
Some added applications )
Music! )
Video )

So yeah, quite the fun toy here.....
Mood:: 'geeky' geeky
rfunk: (regular expressions)
posted by [personal profile] rfunk at 09:30am on 12/02/2008 under , , , ,
A few months ago I started going to the monthly meetings of the Columbus Ruby Brigade, basically a computer user group of Ruby programmers.

Short version: three meetings, all useful and interesting )

So I've gotten something useful out of every meeting so far. That beats my experience at COLUG. I think I'll keep going.
Mood:: 'geeky' geeky
rfunk: (Default)
Salon is running a story wherein author David Brin complains that the computer world's deprecation and collective purging of the BASIC programming language (which of course he grew up with) is somehow hurtful to the technological development of today's kids, including his own. He seems to think that BASIC is a low-level programming language that helps kids understand how the machine works. Of course, the only way BASIC is low-level is that it encourages use of goto, like machine language and unlike modern high-level languages. Otherwise it is designed to insulate the programmer from the machine.

It seems to me that Brin is stuck thinking that the way he learned things is the only way to learn them, and he doesn't seem interested in modern options. I grew up on BASIC too, but I got away from it as soon as practical, and I wouldn't recommend that as a way for anyone to learn programming today.

If Brin wants his kid to learn something close to the machine (his major professed goal), he should choose C. If he wants his kid to learn a language that lets him ignore the machine and do higher-level algorithm work (part of the original goal of BASIC), he should choose Python or Ruby. Responses at Salon also mentioned programming TI-82 calculators, Lego Mindstorms, and other options that modern kids have and were unavailable to past generations.

On top of all that, today's technically-interested kids can put Linux or BSD on their computers and not only choose from a wide selection of programming languages to use (rather than the BASIC interpreter built into the computer and whatever else their parents could afford, as the previous generation did), but also delve as deep as they want into how all the pieces of the software and operating system work.

In one sense, however, Brin has a point. He mentions that his son's math textbook includes BASIC programs to demonstrate the algorithms. Since the computer world has rejected BASIC (a message the textbook writers seem to have missed), there is no single universally-accepted replacement. But that's mostly because of Microsoft - unlike every other common operating system today, Windows doesn't come with any development tools since they deprecated QBasic starting with Windows 95. On the other hand, MacOS, Linux, and BSD usually have Perl, Python, and others either built in or readily available for download.

Perl may be the closest we have today to a universally-available programming language -- it's an easy download and install on Windows, is generally built-in everywhere else, and is quite mature and popular. Many complain about its syntax, though most of that weirdness is obsolete and easily avoided. Python would be second (and a better first language), but it too has its quirks (well, one major quirk plus an object-orientation annoyance). Maybe Ruby is the way to go these days.
Mood:: 'geeky' geeky
rfunk: (Default)
Lately I've been noticing a lot of cases where the successor to a given instance of web technology (specifically within the so-called "LAMP" stack of Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP/Perl/Python) isn't necessarily the next version of that instance, but rather something different. "Say what?" Let me explain with the specifics:

Web Server: Apache 1.3 -> LightTPD )
Programming Language: PHP4/Perl5 -> Ruby (On Rails) )
Database Server: MySQL4 -> PostgreSQL ? )
Operating System: Linux 2.4 -> FreeBSD ? Not much. )
Mood:: 'geeky' geeky

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