Sunday, February 25, 2007

Ctrl-D to Quit

As a programmer most of my time is currently spent working in C and DCL (on VMS), bash scripts, and PHP/Javascript/HTML, with a little CBuilder and Delphi thrown in.

Occasionally I use Python, but not for software development. I use Python as a calculator.

Here's a typical session:
# python
Python 2.4.4 (#2, Jan 13 2007, 17:50:26)
[GCC 4.1.2 20061115 (prerelease) (Debian 4.1.1-21)] on linux2
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> 3897 + 705
>>> 4600 * 0.75
>>> quit
'Use Ctrl-D (i.e. EOF) to exit.'

Python is really clever. Python knows that when I type "quit" I wish to exit from the interpreter. Python, however, refuses to accept this request, but instead suggests that I type Ctrl-D to exit. If Python knows what I mean by "quit", well, then, why not just, you know, do it. This cracks me up every time, which shows how easily amused I am.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Warning to Windows Users

If you use Microsoft Windows on a public network your computer may already be under the control of somebody else - and for once I'm not talking about Microsoft here. I am referring to nefarious malware authors, spammers, script kiddies, etc. If you download and install software from the internet your computer most likely is so compromised.

The odds are much higher than you probably imagine.

And, if your system has been compromised, you are probably part of a botnet. From the linked article: "It has been estimated that up to one quarter of all personal computers connected to the internet are part of a botnet."

If your computer is part of a botnet, it can be used to attack servers on the internet, including commercial and military targets.

Now, here is where it gets interesting. "If the United States found itself under a major cyberattack aimed at undermining the nation’s critical information infrastructure, the Department of Defense is prepared, based on the authority of the president, to launch a cyber counterattack or an actual bombing of an attack source."

Yes sir - use Microsoft Windows, and the US DOD will drop a bomb on your house. You have been warned.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Millions of Penguins

The Debian project has thousands of contributors - package maintainers, documentation writers, programmers, and possibly even an infinite number of monkeys. Who can say for sure. I mean, I could, if those damn monkeys would stand still for a moment and let me count them.

Likewise, the Linux kernel has thousands of contributors. Ditto Firefox. Software projects have proven themselves extremely well suited to a distributed model.

Enter A Million Penguins, an effort to create a novel via a collaborative wiki. Anybody can contribute. Anybody can edit.

This seems like a really really bad idea. Awful. Novel writing is a task ideally suited to a single person - two if you count the editor. Seriously, throwing unlimited personnel at a one-person task is a recipe for insanity.

". . . more than six people cannot agree on anything, three is better, and one is perfect for a job that one can do. This is why parliamentary bodies all through history, when they accomplished anything, owed it to a few strong men who dominated the rest."
-- Robert Heinlein