The Lumber Room

"Consign them to dust and damp by way of preserving them"

Archive for February 2007

Coding Horror: Why Can’t Programmers.. Program?

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Written by S

Wed, 2007-02-28 at 09:40:00 +05:30

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Debugging war story

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Beli told me this story of Anshul and his computer at Govindu.

Who would have thought that if touching your computer screen gives you an electric shock, the solution is to go water the owner’s plants?

Written by S

Wed, 2007-02-21 at 21:56:32 +05:30

Posted in funny

Bash Wiki

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Not exactly a Bash wiki, but someone’s wiki with a lot of Bash stuff


xterm -ls -fa 'bitstream vera sans mono-12' -j -bg black -fg white +sb +ah -cr red -s -bw 0

Written by S

Tue, 2007-02-20 at 23:19:49 +05:30

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The only place Americans are welcome

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Written by S

Sun, 2007-02-18 at 00:43:08 +05:30

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You can get smart. You’re not smart.

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Thanks to Larry:

  • Believing You Can Get Smarter Makes You Smarter

    [Social psychologists] taught African American and European American college students to think of intelligence as changeable, rather than fixed — a lesson that many psychological studies suggests is true. Students in a control group did not receive this message. Those students who learned about IQ’s malleability improved their grades more than did students who did not receive this message, and also saw academics as more important than did students in the control group. Even more exciting was the finding that Black students benefited more from learning about the malleable nature of intelligence than did White students, showing that this intervention may successfully counteract stereotype threat.

  • Being told you are smart makes you stupid:

    Of those praised for their effort, 90 percent chose the harder set of puzzles. Of those praised for their intelligence, a majority chose the easy test. The “smart” kids took the cop-out. [...] “When we praise children for their intelligence,” Dweck wrote in her study summary, “we tell them that this is the name of the game: Look smart, don’t risk making mistakes.” And that’s what the fifth-graders had done: They’d chosen to look smart and avoid the risk of being embarrassed.
    [...]
    The only difference between the control group and the test group were two lessons, a total of 50 minutes spent teaching not math but a single idea: that the brain is a muscle. Giving it a harder workout makes you smarter. That alone improved their math scores.
    [...]
    I am smart, the kids’ reasoning goes; I don’t need to put out effort. Expending effort becomes stigmatized—it’s public proof that you can’t cut it on your natural gifts.
    [...]
    So in 2003 the Association for Psychological Science asked Dr. Roy Baumeister, then a leading proponent of self-esteem, to review this literature. His team concluded that self-esteem was polluted with flawed science. [...] Baumeister concluded that having high self-esteem didn’t improve grades or career achievement. It didn’t even reduce alcohol usage. And it especially did not lower violence of any sort. (Highly aggressive, violent people happen to think very highly of themselves, debunking the theory that people are aggressive to make up for low self-esteem.) [Also see another blog.]
    [...]
    A person who grows up getting too frequent rewards will not have persistence, because they’ll quit when the rewards disappear.”

    There’s more in that article, read it.

Unrelated point: Malcolm Gladwell on IQ tests

Written by S

Wed, 2007-02-14 at 10:19:34 +05:30

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~

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(From what I found at the extensive history by Mark Pilgrim, and its links to more extensive sources.)

It might have alternative names like the sqiggle (sic) or even twiddle, but it’s more commonly called the tilde. As in this song:

<>!*”#
^@`$$-
!*’$_
%*<>#4
&)../
|{~~SYSTEM HALTED

, read as

Waka waka bang splat tick tick hash,
Caret at back-tick dollar dollar dash,
Bang splat tick dollar under-score,
Percent splat waka waka number four,
Ampersand right-paren dot dot slash,
Vertical-bar curly-bracket tilde tilde CRASH.

and if you need further proof, there’s this poem:

Waltzing Ma~
Waltzing Ma~
Won’t you come waltzing Ma~ with me…

Now how do I convince my friend who one day saw how it was spelt, decided that everyone around him was pronouncing it wrong, and has been calling it “til-day” ever since?

Added 2009-05: Tilda Swinton, literally.

Written by S

Sat, 2007-02-10 at 10:52:02 +05:30

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Drop down list of country names

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First saw it here:as days pass by » Blog Archive » Form usability, and then here.

The point is that most of the time we don’t really care exactly which country the user is from.

My current plan for the OPC is to have two radio buttons (and one below the other, of course), one that says “India” and the other that says “Other: ” and has a text input form next to it.

Update [2008-07-08]: [Yes, that's what we used, as I remember it, and it went well.]
It turns out that Peter-Paul Koch of quirksmode.org has already done this: Usable Forms

Written by S

Sat, 2007-02-10 at 09:50:58 +05:30

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GNOME and frustration

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There is no way of removing the “Shut down” menu — asked here. I asked here.

Even Linus is frustrated. Start here.
See also this Slashdot thread.

Thanks to mindwarp’s blog, I found that there has been more since the last time — an article points out that Linus even submitted patches to GNOME, while pointing out they were not “welcome”. I don’t know if they were accepted ;-)

Oh, and Linus is right, and he has always been this way.

A good thoughtful look at font selection dialogs here.

From Slashdot:

It’s a result of wanting to change things and realizing the devs didn’t think you needed to be able to change that w/o an hour of googling for which text file to edit, another half an hour of which setting to change and two more hours of figuring out how you did it wrong, how to fix it and then how to do it right.

(here), and

It’s even worse for the old Gnome users. One day, everything is working the way you want it and the next day, you install an “upgrade” only to find 10 features you were using yesterday are completely gone because “there are other ways of doing it and people will just have to adjust to the one way we picked.” It took years for Gnome 2 to get back some of the functionality in Gnome 1.x. Even now, it’s still not the same.
Sincerely,
NOTABUG WONTFIX”

Written by S

Thu, 2007-02-08 at 14:40:13 +05:30

Posted in Uncategorized

Is the Pope catholic? Does a bear shit in the woods?

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No

Written by S

Thu, 2007-02-08 at 11:12:32 +05:30

Posted in funny

Getting xchat to open Firefox instead of whatever

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It’s covered in the XChat FAQ: What’s the deal with opening URLs in XChat on Unix/Linux?.

I manually added the “Open link in Firefox” option, and haven’t bothered figuring out how it works on Edgy’s Xchat (2.6.6), and decided to wait and see how things work in Feisty (Xchat 2.8.0), as the FAQ says everything’s changed in 2.8.0.

Update: I’m using Ubuntu Gutsy, which has XChat 2.8.4, and everything works fine by default, without having to tweak anything.

Written by S

Wed, 2007-02-07 at 21:20:58 +05:30

Posted in compknow

Debian/Ubuntu: Find out which packages are taking the most space

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There is a package called debian-goodies (that’s what it’s called on Ubuntu as well :-)) which has this utility called dpigs — for telling you which packages are “pigging out” on your system. (So install it with sudo apt-get install debian-goodies, and then run dpigs). This and other utilities, from the description:

 debget       - Fetch a .deb for a package in APT's database
 dpigs        - Show which installed packages occupy the most space
 debman       - Easily view man pages from a binary .deb without extracting
 checkrestart - Help to find and restart processes which are using old
                versions of upgraded files (such as libraries)
 popbugs      - Display a customized release-critical bug list based on
                packages you use (using popularity-contest data)

Nice.

Written by S

Tue, 2007-02-06 at 02:20:17 +05:30

Posted in compknow

Tagged with , ,

Great, now J. M. Barrie is “racist” too

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A post at 123 I Love You triggered some Google-searching…
A piece of old news (from 1999!) that I find incredible and disturbing: Someone was fired for using the world niggardly. Found it, with a commentary, here.

This is a perfectly valid word, widely used in literature, and now they want everyone to stop using it? (Apparently, the rule of the idiots extends to words like masticate and pianist, for which I had to read the explanations to understand what the problems were.)

This is hard to believe/accept. I have similar things to say about the euphemism treadmill.

(Fortunately, there seems to a sliver of good news: Tom Clancy continues to use the word.

Bill Garvin’s Guaranteed Effective All-Occasion Non-Slanderous Political Smear Speech. Apparently it has a real-life (rumour) counterpart: See here and here.

Written by S

Mon, 2007-02-05 at 12:42:19 +05:30

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Symbol’s function definition is void: outline-font-lock-level

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Using Emacs and todoo-mode (the todoo library / todoo.el).
I got the message

Symbol’s function definition is void: outline-font-lock-level

whenever I tried to insert a new sub-item (using C-c M-i which is bound to todoo-insert-sub-item) in my TODO file. Searching Google gave someone’s old diary, from which (although it’s in Japanese ;-)) I found that it’s related to Debian bug 244681: emacs-goodies-el: todoo.el doesn’t work at XEmacs21. I’m using GNU Emacs 22.0.92.1 and not XEmacs, though.

Update: Before you try the “fixes” below (and in the comment), try just downloading the latest version from Debian. It appears that this got reported as bug 447760, and got fixed.

Anyway, the fix (I haven’t learnt Emacs lisp, so this may be far from the “best” way to do it):

  1. Open the todoo.el file (M-x find-library RET todoo RET) and find the todoo-insert-sub-item function. (Better, use C-h f todoo-insert-sub-item RET and follow the link.)
  2. Replace (outline-font-lock-level) with a value, like 3 or something. You might also want to do the same in the other place that (outline-font-lock-level) is used — in the function todoo-indent-line
  3. Another solution, if you don’t want to / can’t edit the file (no permissions, for example), might be to define the function (outline-font-lock-level) — put (defun outline-font-lock-level nil 3) somewhere.

    Another solution might be to redefine the function entirely. This requires knowledge that I don’t have, but, for example, making some local transformations, I replaced it with this:

    (defun todoo-insert-sub-item ()
      "Insert a new todoo-sub-item."
      (interactive)
      (goto-char (- (todoo-item-end) 1))
      (insert (concat (make-string todoo-indent-column ? )
                      todoo-sub-item-marker " \n"))
      (backward-char))

    The space after the ? is important.

Written by S

Sun, 2007-02-04 at 20:14:31 +05:30

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