All Geek to Me

May 29, 2008

Goto Not the Only Coding Horror

Filed under: Geek Stuff — britinla @ 6:24 pm

Just because you can do something does not mean that you should. This is a solid general principle and it definitely applies to writing code. The very first programs I wrote were in BASIC that only allowed two character variable names. Modern languages enable longer names. This benefits code legibility as CustOrderNo more obviously imparts meaning than CO. This post on TheDailyWTF shows that increased flexibility brings with it increased risk of losing code legibility in variable names that are the length of an entire ZX81 program.


May 23, 2008

Who Changes

Filed under: Geek Stuff — britinla @ 5:44 pm

I was six and at a friend’s house when I saw my first episode of Doctor Who. I was a fan from those first twenty-five minutes. I persuaded my parents to let me see the next five installments that completed the story; then got permission to see the rest of the season. From that point until I left home to go to University twelve years later, I missed just six episodes; two due to power cuts, the others due to holidays. After twenty-six years the show left our screens, but I continued to follow the story through books and by watching re-runs.

One of the reasons that the show endured so long was the clever conceit that allowed the lead actor to change. The eponymous hero is an alien, who when his body ages or is damaged can regenerate into a new one. During the first twenty six years there were seven actors who filled the role. An abortive US pilot featured an eighth Doctor.

I was excited by the return of the show in 2005, especially as it was being led by Russell T Davies. He had written one of the best Doctor Who novels that had filled the sixteen years since the Doctor had last graced our screens and with his television experience seemed a natural as producer/script editor/lead writer. The opening story captivated me and I was a fan of the return. This week it was announced that he will leave his role before the fifth season that is due to air in 2010. I take this opportunity to thank him for bringing my favourite show back and doing so with such style and verve.

I admit that the stories that he wrote include those that I like least and none of my favourites were penned by him, but I love the direction that the show has taken. There has been a great balance of terror, humour, and appreciation of the show’s history. He has given the companions real character. He has written some great moments for the Doctor, not least of which was Rose’s departure; the only moment that the show brought tears to my eyes, though when the Doctor drove away from Jo’s wedding was close. Having made a triumph of the return, I would be worried were his replacement not the brilliant Stephen Moffat, the writer of two of the best episodes of Doctor Who (Empty Child and Blink). I hope that his influence may mark a return to the tone of the Robert Holmes/Philip Hinchcliffe horror inspired period. Now that I am past my childhood disappointment at the change from Jon Pertwee to Tom Baker in the lead role, I recognise that this was the Golden Age of the classic series.

So Thank you Russell and here is to further success with Mr Moffat at the helm.

May 18, 2008

Radio Phone

Filed under: Geek Stuff — britinla @ 9:47 am

Before we moved, I used to drive to work. Now, I walk to the office. This is cheaper, more relaxing, and better on the environment. I generally listen to podcasts on my iPhone while I walk, which adds to the quality of the time. However, I did miss getting an update on news from NPR as the iPhone does not include a radio. I have just discovered that I can listen to KQED public radio, albeit with a 30 minute delay. There is an iPhone optimized web site that streams various radio stations, including the Northern California public broadcaster. The site is called FlyTunes and apart from a slightly odd UI it seems to work well. The stream was not interrupted as I walked from a wi-fi enabled building into the cellphone data connection.

May 8, 2008

Music to My Ears

Filed under: Geek Stuff — britinla @ 2:09 pm

Amazon have moved into selling digital downloaded music; competing with Apple’s iTunes. Amazon’s offering offers two advantages
a) Albums are generally cheaper, although the 99c price for a song is the same.
b) The music is in mp3 format, without the copy protection that comes with iTunes Music.

The Digital Rights Management (DRM) that Apple’s music has limits you to playing music on five computers and the only portable player supported is an iPod. Neither limitation is onerous; the iPod is my music player of choice and the reason that I have iTunes. However they are limitations nonetheless, so the Amazon offering is interesting

There is a small application that allows you to download albums with a single click and control the download process. It also adds your music to iTunes or Windows Media Player complete with album art. The application seems to be required if you wish to purchase an entire album and optional if you buy individual songs.

Google Search by Date

Filed under: Geek Stuff — britinla @ 7:55 am

Via Lifehacker, I came across a possibly useful Google search enhancement. Unfortunately, it is not very well supported through the UI.

  1. Go to
  2. Enter your search term and press <ENTER>
  3. Append the following &as_qdr=d to the URL and press <ENTER> again

A drop down box allows you to limit the pages shown to thos updated in last day, last week, last month, etc. This seems useful, but it is a shame that it you need to use such a clumsy method to access the functionality.

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