The Lumber Room

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

Posts Tagged ‘fixme

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Good software does what you want. Preferably without your having to tell it to. And it matches your mental model of what you expect things to work like.

We have come a long way since the days personal computers were severely constrained in their resources, but some traditions have not changed. The humanized weblog looks at the save icon, but I want to point out that the “saving” “feature” is itself an anachronism. There is no analogue of the concept of “saving” a file in the real world; when you write on a sheet of paper the change is permanent. Why, then, does most software require you to explicitly “save” something if you want to leave it permanent? The answer, I guess, is that a long time ago, a “save” was an expensive action (I remember seeing “Saving…” progress bars), so you wanted users to be in control of when it happened, so as to not annoy them.

Today, personal computers have enough resources that in many applications (such as text editing), there is really no reason for software to insist that you remember to “save”, so as to not lose your work. Still, programs continue behaving this way, partly out of tradition, and partly because no one gives a thought to usability.

Fortunately, the rise of applications on the web brought with it an “everything old is new again” phenomenon and programmers began to take a fresh (and naive) look at everything, which, while often causing them to stupidly repeat the mistakes of desktop programs from decades ago and generally be inconsistent, has also allowed them to throw away meaningless traditions in situations where they don’t matter.

I believe it was Gmail which started this, and now Gmail, Blogger, WordPress, Google Docs, and any number of online text editing applications now “automatically save” your work for you every few seconds, and this idea is finally (slowly) taking hold in desktop applications as well.

Written by S

Tue, 2008-01-22 at 21:42:25 +05:30

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Timing

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The Wikipedia article is not very good; this reference says it can’t be taught, only imitated, and this is an excellent article.

Written by S

Thu, 2007-12-06 at 20:23:00 +05:30

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Continued gender bias in science

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11011110: Continued gender bias in science and lots of links from it…

Written by S

Fri, 2007-04-06 at 03:10:03 +05:30

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Getting stderr in a different colour

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This is the idea. Look at the posts in the thread called “coloring STDERR to terminal” here. Actually, Spliterr, linked to in the first one, doesn’t seem to be working… it prints all the stderr, then all the stdout, then crashes.

Written by S

Sun, 2007-01-21 at 01:03:50 +05:30

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Bash script

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Relocate, using lns from Simon Tatham’s site.

function crude_dirname()
{
    echo "${1%/*}" # everything before last '/'
}

function crude_basename()
{
    echo "${1##*/}" # everything after last '/'
}

function relocate
{
    a=$1
    #Strip trailing slash, if there is one
    A="${a%/}"
    a=$A

    a_act=$(crude_basename $a)
    b=$2
    b_dir=$(crude_dirname $b)
    b_act=$(crude_basename $b)

    echo "mv $a $b"
    if [ -z $b_act ] #If the string b_act has length 0
        then
        loc="$b_dir/$a_act"
    else
        loc="$b"
    fi
    echo "lns $loc $a"


    echo "Fine?"
    read x
    if [ $x == "y" ]
        then
        mv "$a" "$b"
        lns "$loc" "$a"
    fi
}

Written by S

Mon, 2006-10-16 at 21:42:12 +05:30

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Maintenance of this “blog”

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It started as an attempt to handle a perceived overload. It still remains only an attempt. I need to migrate all my Firefox bookmarks, etc. Roaming profiles is still nowhere to be seen.

John Hesch has a detailed account of how he setup WordPress as a PIM in Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5; I need to read it sometime soon.

Written by S

Wed, 2006-10-11 at 17:49:08 +05:30

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Queue psychology

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Three days ago, when I went to the Railways reservation centre for cancelling a ticket, going there early (about 25 minutes before the place opened—it usually takes 1.5 hours; it took only 40 minutes this time), I began to think “I must find out what the optimal time to arrive here is”. Arriving too early (two hours early, say) is obviously stupid, and so is arriving at peak hour. Again, apparently many people had similar thoughts (“If I’m there before the place opens, it will be empty-ish and I can be done soon”), but were awfully inefficient in their implementation: the place was practically full by the time it opened. It rapidly grew after the last 15–20 minutes; so if I’d arrived 10 minutes later, I’d have left considerably more than 10 minutes later. The matter clearly allows for much thought.
I’d almost forgotten about the thought, until I saw this post at the Tasty Research blog.
It is disturbing to see so many people post enthusiastically about queue-butting.
Anyway, it appears that “Queue Psychology” or “Queuing Theory” is quite established:
* Karl Kruszelnicki has some very interesting things to say in Part 1 and Part 2.
* This BBC article takes a look at “evolutionary psychology” in general, and talks about queues in passing.
There are also allusions to a “You are how you wait” article, but I can’t find it on the net….

Written by S

Sun, 2006-09-24 at 15:53:35 +05:30

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“i before e”

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For some reason, people in some countries are taught a “rule” of spelling (as if there were any) that says

I before E / Except after C

or something similar.
A stupid “rule”. We were never taught it, and with good reason, I’m sure.

Here’s a Slashdot post (attribution when I find it — I copied it down and the search engines haven’t picked it up yet…):

I could feign a plebeian ignorance, but I inveigh your deceiving sleights. By seeing correspondence I’ve received, including eight receipts from my leisure activities and a weird lein on my sovereign freight sleigh, a weighty surveillance can be unveiled: SOMETIMES E COMES BEFORE I!

Now, where are my reindeer?! (for my sleigh!!)

Signed, der Weihnachtsmann

There’s an even better version at a page titled The I Before E Deceit Unveiled:

Just when we fancied that spelling had become a science, a prescient foreign geisha woman named Deirdre Oppenheimer came down from the heights of a glacier, tore off her veil, seized an ancient financier, and shamed our consciences grievously. “This society is inefficient!”, she inveighed. “I wasted my leisure becoming proficient in cuneiform hieroglyphs. Either reimburse me with the value of the Einstein coefficient, or I will drag this man back to my hacienda in Muncie, wherein he will forfeit his life!”

I feigned interest, but looked for our feisty concierge Neil, whom I might inveigle into reining in this weird being. But he had gone to Anaheim, Beijing, Madeira and Taipei with Alexei to shop for a beige geiger counter. His absenteeism made me feel like queueing for the exit, but the only sound was the neighing of the sheik’s eight reindeer, chewing their edelweiss.

I turned to Sheila, the Budweiser heiress. “Cease your surveillance of the sleigh and its freight! We must stop the reign of this plebeian atheist!” I must have hit a vein, because she deigned to put down her counterfeit kaleidoscope proficiently, albeit only to point out a weird Klein bottle full of nucleic proteins. “Therein is the skein of meiosis,” she said, “the leitmotif of our species, of seismic importance to our homogeneity. It would surfeit a meistersinger, a sovereign, or even an omniscient deity like Poseidon.”

Decreeing my obeisance, I offered the paperweight, a Meisterbrau stein, and a Holstein heifer to the heister. Agreeing that it was sufficient, she reinstated the old wisenheimer, fleeing with spontaneity via Boeing to Beirut.

John Burkardt

That page is part of a Wordplay page, which I must read soon… looks quite interesting and useful. Others: on Kuro5hin. There is an anagram generator here

Written by S

Mon, 2006-09-18 at 20:56:52 +05:30

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