Tao of the Machine

Programming, Python, my projects, card games, books, music, Zoids, bettas, manga, cool stuff, and whatever comes to mind.


Last week I got DSL. Much faster than my old 56k connection. However, there was one problem: Alltel's (the DSL provider) NNTP service is not so good. The latest messages in newsgroups are at least two hours old. That may not seem like a long time, but if you see an unanswered question in c.l.py that's two hours old, chances are people already replied to it, you just don't see the replies yet. Also, messages expire really quick, in a day or so.

gmane.org to the rescue. It lets you read newsgroups and mailing lists through a NNTP service. Very easy; I now read comp.lang.python (or gmane.comp.python.general as it is called there) through gmane, and lots more (SIGs, python-dev, twisted...) The messages are up to date and don't expire in an eyeblink. Look here for a (long) list of lists.

Not entirely off-topic: It's laughably easy to install DSL on the Mac. It took the install guy several hours to install it on Windows (with USB port). He didn't install it for the Mac, but it didn't take me long to figure it out yesterday. Just tell the PPPoE settings your login and password, and tell Network settings that you're using the Ethernet card. That's about it.

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-03-06 21:37:41   {link}
Categories: general, switch


WikiWikiWeb: Mac OS X.

"The best operating system in the world today. Don't believe that? Think you want a Linux or Windows instead? Look, don't flame on, just try it. Give it a week. Heck, just give it a day. Or a few hours. It's not the prettier gui. It's the way everything works like you expect ... and better than you expect. Apple looked at each of their competitors and each competing application technology, and simply spent the money necessary to out-engineer them. Apple might still die by marketing. Life in monopoly-land is like that. But even if they die, it was worth it. Beautiful, stable, fast, and open - this is it. The best."

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-03-05 11:58:34   {link}
Categories: switch


This site used to have scans online of almost all issues of Zzap! 64, a British magazine with reviews of Commodore 64 (and later Amiga) games. Used to, because it seems most of them are gone, apparently due to server problems.

The good news is that I downloaded all these issues back in 2001, and put them on CDs. The bad news is that these CDs are all in the Netherlands, and I am in Florida. :-) Maybe I should ask my parents to send them.

I knew that storing offline copies of sites would come in handy someday...

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-03-05 01:47:03   {link}
Categories: nostalgia

I want *you*... for PEP 308

I don't like the voting procedure for PEP 308. Martijn Faassen is right when he remarks that it doesn't take people into account who don't want a ternary operator. You shouldn't have to jump through hoops just to vote "no". Instead, you have to do a lot of work, which is discouraging. Maybe that is exactly what the creator of the voting procedure had in mind <insert conspiracy theory here ;->.

IMHO, a proper voting procedure should be easy and complete. Something like this should do:

( ) I want a ternary operator
    Check up to 3 proposals you would accept:
    [ ] proposal 1
    [ ] proposal 2
    [ ] ...etc...

( ) I don't want a ternary operator
Yes, I'm sure this type of voting has its drawbacks too.

On the other hand... I think all this is getting way out of hand. The issue is the possible addition of a silly new operator to Python. This is of questionable importance; yet, a cascade of mails hits the newsgroup, people come with oodles of new proposals (this in spite of Guido initially saying "it's either *this* proposal, or no ternary at all"), people quibble over voting procedures and systems, people even question the integrity of those who should collect the votes. What's up with that? We're not voting for war, or for a new currency. :-) Let's get this over with.

Update. This is better.

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-03-04 23:41:52   {link}
Categories: Python

This is more like it

Slashdot: ISS discovers a remote hole in Sendmail. The very same day, patches are available for various Linuxen and Mac OS X.

Compare this to the patch for the Slammer worm that targets MS SQL Server 2000, which wasn't available quite as promptly. ;-) I had to download it a week ago. Not only took it a long time to find the correct patches in the the Microsoft site jungle; also, the file was 26 Mb or so in size, so it took me forever to download on 56k. To top it off, the patch apparently found it necessary to remove all ODBC bindings from my computer. SQL Server refused to work after the patch (!), and I had to reinstall MDAC and everything.

I normally try to avoid abominations like Outlook and other programs that are security risks, but in this case, I need SQL Server for my work, so it couldn't be helped. I started to get suspcious when one night I apparently *sent* over 1 Gb of data, with no program active to account for it. :-)

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-03-03 22:27:55   {link}
Categories: programming, switch

Why American banks suck

First, give us your money. What do you get in return? Nothing, but we charge you $5 a month just for keeping your money away from you. Sounds reasonable, eh? It gets better: if you want to get money from an ATM that isn't ours, we charge you $1.50, and the other bank does the same. Dief en diefjesmaat.
You want what? A... savings account? We offer < 1% interest. At the end of the year, for every $1000 you saved you might get a whopping $10 from us (but probably less). Of course, the fee compensates for this, so you have to have a pretty vast booty in savings to make this worthwile. Oh yeah, and if you take from savings more than twice a month, we charge a $3 excessive withdrawal fee.
Online banking? Sure. Pay a fee, of course. And in spite of what you might think or expect, your transfer data are *not* up to date. In fact, we make it confusing for you by using a "balance" and an "available balance".
To top things off, we have a "Christmas club" action where you put $100 in every month, and you get the amount back at the end of the year. You cannot touch it during the year. For this we give you no interest or bonus at all.

I would do everything with my Dutch bank if it wasn't for that dollar <-> euro conversation rate. :-( Can't win for losing...

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-03-03 22:07:37   {link}
Categories: general

Zak McKracken

This is a game I played ages ago (1989 I think) on the Commodore 64. It can be seen as one of the first games in a long row of excellent Lucasfilm (later LucasArts) adventures. I can recommend it to anyone. And, anno 2003, it's still playable, on PCs and elsewhere (if you have a decent C64 emulator).

Aliens want to take over the world. The unlikely hero who can stop them is Zak McKracken, tabloid reporter. Travel all over the world, solving (weird) puzzles, using strange objects and meeting strange creatures. Like with all Lucasfilm adventures, this game is well-designed; it encourages exploring and finding surprising (but not completely illogical) uses for objects in your inventory. Importantly, there is a lot of zany humor, making the game a joy to play.

Downloads: PC (or here) and C64 (disk 1, 2, 3).
Walkthroughs can be found at Gamefaqs. (The game isn't easy, but not impossible to solve. Of course, you need a bit of a twisted mind...)
There are also UHS hints.

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-03-01 17:39:46   {link}
Categories: games, nostalgia

Google hacks

Interesting those Google hacks... But why did they provide code examples in Perl? If they had used Python I might actually have been able to read them. :(

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-03-01 11:07:43   {link}
Categories: books, programming

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