Efectos Especiales

Ramblings, rants, musings, ideas and observations. Topics include (but are not limited to): programming (especially Python), books, games (especially CCGs and board games), astrology, design, writing, painting, etc.

icon:default #888 (old comments) Back

I've started blogging again... let's see how it goes. New domain, new design, new weblogging software, same old language (for now). The first few posts are up. Oh, and the name was chosen for a reason, which will become clear in due time. emoticon:wink2

I'm still ironing out the bugs and wrinkles and all that. Anyway, here's the link: Interstellar Overdrive

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2006-12-27 17:26 */

icon:default #887 (old comments) Break

OK... it's time for a break again.

I have too many things to do at the moment. There really isn't room for much else beyond work, studying, and pretending to be a parent. There are also a move and a trip to the Netherlands (both long-delayed) in my near future. I don't really have time for any extra burdens.

So, for now, I'm calling it a day. I won't blog or update my site unless absolutely necessary. Projects are on hold for now. This includes Wax, although I will try to make room for urgent bugfixes.

I can still be reached through email, and will probably still show up in newsgroups every now and then.

I'll be back eventually, but not until I've sorted things out.

Veel liefs,

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2006-02-05 20:34 */

icon:default #886 (old comments) Powernazi


/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2006-01-30 18:44 */

icon:default #885 (old comments) Apparently it's not easy being married to a non-geek either :-)

This list, Ten Reasons it isn't always easy being married to a geek, is mildly amusing, and sometimes spot-on.

But, I don't know... I can't help but finding it somewhat offensive as well. How many women would like it if their husbands would regularly write on their blogs about "all the stuff their wives do wrong"? Not very many, I'd wager. I know the aforementioned blog post is all in good humor, and so are the author's other posts that discuss her geek husband, but somehow I don't think many women would see the humor in that if it happened to them.

And what's with this thing about "he forgets to take out the trash"? Many geeks are firm believers in equal rights. How about you take it out yourself? emoticon:smile

(Like many Scandinavians, and unlike many Americans, I don't believe in old-fashioned gender roles. "It's the man's/woman's job to do blah blah blah..." Come on people. It's 2006, not 1950.)

(Just for the record: No, that doesn't mean I condone men who sit around drinking beer and watching TV while their women do all the work. Nor the other way around. I did say "equal rights". :-)

Also, this comment: "My geek husband sent me the link to your blog. How is it possible that this stuff is so universal? We need a support group. Somewhere where we can go to hide from people who feel the need to constantly quote Monty Python and the Holy Grail! I've simply never thought about this stuff. Why CAN he recite entire passages from Lord of the Rings (not to mention remembering all those ridiculous character names) and not remember what he went to the store to buy?" Because memory doesn't necessarily put important things first. It may put exciting and fun things first (among other things), though, even if they are trivial. I suppose there are people who think a shopping list is more exciting than LotR or MP.

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2006-01-26 13:14 */

icon:weird #884 (old comments) The Wells code

I just saw (part of) a documentary (?) about the Bible Code.

For those who are not familiar with the subject, this is how it works:

"The primary method by which purportedly meaningful messages are extracted is the Equidistant Letter Sequence (ELS). To obtain an ELS from a text, choose a starting point (any letter) and a skip (a number, possibly negative). Then, beginning at the starting point, select letters from the text at equal spacing as given by the skip. For example, the bold letters in this sentence form an ELS for the word SAFEST. (The skip is -4. Spaces and punctuation are ignored.)"

I contended that, given a large enough body of text, it is practically inevitable to find letter sequences that have meaning to people. To see if I was right, I decided to write a little program. It can be downloaded here (look for a file of the form els-x.y.tar.gz; currently it's els-1.0.tar.gz, but that might change).

From a programmer's point of view, one way to approach this method is taking a stream of all the letters of a text, then generating new streams from it using skip and start values. For example, if we take the text "abcdefghij", then:

Knowing this, it's not hard to generate all possible streams for a number of skip and start values.

As my sample text, I chose "The Time Machine" by H.G. Wells. I downloaded the Gutenberg text, and removed the Gutenberg stubs. I left the chapter numbers (I, II, III, etc) in. (People who think they don't belong there can remove them and retry the experiment.)

Some of the words I found in the Wells text are:

You can retry the experiment by running demo.py. Edit it to add your own words, or change the range (currently it covers all streams with skips from 2 to 36). Note: it might take a while to finish, depending on the values.

Also: if you see output like this:

Found: china skip: 3 start: 2 index: 6645
 ... [(19937, 'c'), (19940, 'h'), (19943, 'i'), (19946, 'n'),
 (19949, 'a')]

That means the word "china" was found when looking with a skip of 3 and a start of 2. (In other words, a stream consisting of characters 2, 5, 8, 11, ...) (19937, 'c') means that the character 'c' was found at index 19937, where 0 is the first character in the text, 1 the second, etc. (Just regular indexing rules.)

I leave it up to the reader to decide whether this is a confirmation or a refutation of the Bible Code principles... emoticon:smile

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2006-01-22 21:39 */

icon:default #883 (old comments) Windows is cool

Sidnei da Silva: "Today I have the opinion that no matter what other people say, Windows is actually superior to *anything* I've seen in Linux or OS X, except for the networking stack and process management. COM, for example, is very cool stuff."

Windows has its share of problems, serious problems often, and many people consider it to be Evil. But it's nowhere near as bad as fans of other operating systems are trying to make it out to be. In fact, it might actually be better than those systems, overall. A lot of the anti-Windows sentiments expressed by people are true, but a lot of it is FUD, too.

One small example. This happened to me yesterday. I was running DrScheme on Ubuntu. I entered some invalid Scheme code that got into an idle loop. You'd think it would eventually produce a stack overflow or something, but no. Instead it was hanging, and in the process it brought down the whole OS. Alt-Tab didn't work. Clicking the "Force Quit" button didn't work. In fact, nothing worked, the mouse could hardly be moved and didn't react to clicks, and switching to a different app to try and quit DrScheme was impossible. I had no other choice but to reset the machine. Fortunately Ubuntu came back up, unlike a few months ago when a similar crash killed Gnome and a few other things, forcing me to reinstall everything.

The point being: I haven't seen similar behavior on Windows in a long time. If an app misbehaves, I can usually kill it by doing Ctrl-Alt-Del, even if it takes up almost 100% of CPU time and lots of memory. And the Windows DrScheme certainly doesn't bring it down. Apparently Linux, which is touted to be stable, doesn't do so well in this area. (Or maybe it's just Ubuntu, or it's Gnome-related -- I don't know.) I'm sure it's still possible for some apps to bring Windows down, but again I haven't seen this in a long time, and I use Windows a lot. I don't use Ubuntu that much, and yet I've seen this behavior several times recently, and not just with DrScheme.

Come to think of it, I probably haven't seen a BSOD since Windows 98. Yet this myth is still going around that Windows installs crash daily.

OK, let those knees jerk... emoticon:smile

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2006-01-21 20:17 */

icon:default #882 (old comments) Moved

zephyrfalcon.org has moved to a different server... if everything went OK, you shouldn't notice any differences. emoticon:smile

[Update #1] Except that it doesn't work. There seems to be some issue with www.zephyrfalcon.org vs zephyrfalcon.org. Grrr...

[Update #2] It seems to work now.

I am preparing a new site at a new domain name, by the way... but when it will be finished is unclear at this point. In the meantime, I am still studying Ruby, Rails, Photoshop, CSS and Javascript...

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2006-01-20 21:56 */

icon:python #881 (old comments) Zinloos

This has to be the most useless thread that I've seen in a long time in c.l.py. People talking in circles, arguing about what values and objects are and aren't. And it keeps going!

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2006-01-15 13:41 */

icon:default #880 (old comments) Regenjas

An interesting law is proposed in a Colombian town. emoticon:loveit

"Colombian teenagers could be forced to carry condoms in an effort to stop unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. The man proposing the scheme says men over the age of 14 in the town of Tulua should have to carry condoms, just as they carry ID cards, or face a fine. "

But what if you're not sexually active? Then it's a bit weird to carry a condom around... not to mention, useless. One could also wonder why just males have to carry it around and not females. And of course, whether people will actually *use* the thing is yet to be seen.

The catholic church reacts with the usual ridiculous rhetoric... "Father Jesus Velasquez, however, describes the proposals as absurd. "It would be like selling guns on the streets," he said." Um, yeah. Let's see. One item is meant to kill people. The other is meant to prevent unwanted pregnancies and STDs. Makes great sense to compare them.

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2006-01-11 14:03 */

icon:wax #879 (old comments) Wax 0.3.24 released

Not much new since 0.3.22:

Get it in the usual place: http://sourceforge.net/projects/waxgui.

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2006-01-11 00:14 */

icon:wax #878 (old comments) Installing Wax

OK, from now on Wax will no longer have a distutils setup script.

I won't go into a long rant, but suffice to say that repeated attempts to make distutils do what I want (collect the files I want into an archive, and unpack them correctly when installing) failed miserably. I'm sure that distutils is a great tool that works for many a smart programmer. It just doesn't work for me. So from now on, I am not wasting any more time on it. I don't even want to address all the issues here. It's just not worth it.

So, from now on, you install Wax like this:

1. Download the archive.
2. Unzip it.
3. Copy the resulting wax directory to a place where Python can see it, e.g. lib/site-packages.

This change will take effect in the next release of Wax. Setup scripts will be removed from the distribution to avoid confusion.

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2006-01-06 16:01 */

icon:default #877 (old comments) RSS Auction

In search for these game cartridges, I first considered writing my own program to monitor eBay search results. But it turns out that developing an eBay app, even a simple one, comes with all kinds of problems, not in the last place because of all the restrictions (developer license, etc). And while bypassing the eBay API through screenscraping is possible, this is far from an ideal solution.

Fortunately, I then found this site: RSS Auction. You can enter custom eBay searches and have the results delivered as RSS. Perfect!

(Plus, it's free. Not unimportant when you're Dutch. emoticon:wink2)

[Update #1] On second thought, maybe it doesn't work so well after all. The feeds are just sitting there in my Bloglines; they aren't updated even though a simple eBay search reveals that there are new items. Oh well. I knew it was too good to be true. emoticon:bigcry

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2006-01-03 15:39 */

icon:games #876 (old comments) A question...

Does anybody have a copy of Antarctic Adventure for Colecovision laying around? Or Gateway to Apshai?

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2006-01-02 21:10 */

icon:default #875 (old comments) Shades of gray

Robert Jordan: "As the view of the world, as expressed by the evening news and most books, has increasingly become that everything is really just shades of gray, people have grown more and more to want something that says choosing right from wrong may be difficult, seeing what is evil might be hard, but it is not only worth making the effort, it is possible if you try. Maybe not every time, but most of the time by and large. And that is the heart of the popularity of fantasy, and why it has grown. I suspect that somebody has a doctorate in the waiting simply by showing a correlation between the increase in popularity of fantasy on one hand and, on the other, the increase on the evening news and in most literature of the view that right and wrong, good and evil, are just matters of where you stand and how you're holding your head at the moment."

/* Posted by Hans Nowak at 2005-12-28 21:11 */