Links of the Week: September 29th

I’ve been neglecting my links. If I keep this up, they’ll disown me. Don’t worry, they’re worth waiting for. I still need to get around to that Scala article, too.


I posted about Norman Borlaug’s death on the 16th of this month. Earlier last week, I ran across yet another article you really ought to read about him. It still annoys me to no end that the death of some actor overshadowed Borlaug to the extent that the latter was never much heard of in his passing. Really, what is wrong with our society? We’ll shed tears over some actor or entertainer but shrug our shoulders in apathy when a man credited with saving billions from the pangs of starvation passes on…


If you’ve ever wanted to know how AES worked and you’re fond of stick figures, here’s a guide to AES… using stick figures.


During the end of the Cold War, tons and tons of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium went unaccounted for in various Soviet satellite nations. Here’s a great article on one such incident where the US was able to recover about a half ton of highly refined uranium from Kazakhstan.


Over at the DadHacker blog, there is a really, really good post on 30 years of C. I’m not smart enough to be a C programmer, but I do believe that this gentleman makes points so important that every programmer ought to read them. I cannot praise this article enough.

Added October 1st: After having a little bit of time away from paid projects, I decided to refresh my though processes in the realm of functional programming. It’s new to me, and I figured the exercise would be a good start so that I could finally write my next “Learning Scala” installment. Unfortunately, I got side tracked! I did stumble across something pretty fascinating: It’s a guide to learning functional Python. Okay, so it’s not exactly a tutorial, but it has so much great information in it for anyone remotely considering the use of Python as a semi-functional language. It’s worth reading.

Added October 1st: Java is dead. Yeah, okay, I’m joking. There’s a really good article over here written by Chas Emerick. I came across it at a most ironic time: a time right when I was getting ready to pick up my Scala book again! You’ll want to read it as I feel the contents of this article are perhaps the most important things you’ll ever read in the coming months.


Did you know that Amazon’s excursion into other markets is shaking up retail? It’s true, and it’s probably a good thing. For as much revenue as Amazon generates, its yearly profits in 2008 weighed in at a mere $645 million compared to Walmart which made $13,400 million (I’m retaining the numeric magnitude to give you an idea of just how little profit Amazon makes compared to big retails firms like Walmart–thanks to XKCD for keeping me honest!).


Is the Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) a farce after all? It might be. Yes, there are plenty of cases where babies have been shaken violently, and those people should spend a very long time behind bars. However, after reading this article, I’m inclined to feel that there might be some people who were falsely accused, tried, and punished because of the shaky science. (Of course, those cases where a babysitter is video taped committing horrific acts of violence against children aren’t what I have in mind; in those cases, the babysitter is a dangerous and terrifying person who ought to be punished to the fullest extent possible.)

There are some attributes of entrepreneurs that might surprise you.


I ran across a very interesting post titled The Problem with Design and Implementation. It fascinates me precisely because it takes a completely different look at the design and implementation processes of software. The author points out dangerous follies that some development shops make during the design phase and illustrates why writing software isn’t like building a bridge.

Update May 27th, 2010: The author of “The Problem with Design and Implementation” has pointed out some really great additional research! Check out it out below in the comments! Thanks for adding to my (admittedly very minuscule) corner of the web, Yamin!


Links of the Week: September 16th

I’ve been busy with real life stuff so some of the links this week are a little dated as I haven’t been keeping up as much as I’d like with the news! I’ll have another installment for Scala coming this weekend once I work up the motivation. I have some real life commitments that are delaying me.

Oh, and Mumble can kiss my south end. That damn thing froze Windows 7 (RC admittedly) hard enough to corrupt most of the configs for Winamp, Chrome, and a couple of other applications. No bluescreen, no dump. Nothing. Even 1.1.6 did the same thing.

Update: Fixed some ridiculous typos.


Humans are evolving. In fact, we’re evolving faster than anyone thought possible.

Coma-inducing Goodness

Josh linked me this. If you’re really into optical illusions, you might want to take a peak. Some of them are pretty well known, but I saw a few in there I haven’t seen before.


I’m rather sad. Wikipedia claims that the band Running Wild split up. I haven’t been able to corroborate any of this news from the band’s site. I sincerely hope this isn’t the case; they’re an amazing band.

Graphic Design

I came across a few implementations of GiMP that change the user-facing side of the application. I haven’t yet tried them out, but the screenshots look promising. One is called GimPhoto, the other Gimpshop. I’d like to thank Will for linking me to


Showering might just kill you. Oh no! Shower heads are home to zillions of nasty bacteria, and they might cause a pulmonary disease worse than tuberculosis. The problem? No one really knows if it’s possible. The article is mostly hype. Loud noises, end of the world, you get the idea. The Wikipedia article is short but more comforting.


So a really important guy who saved more than a billion people from starvation died this week. No one paid any mind because yet-another-famous-person kicked the bucket at the same time. It’s sad that we pay greater tribute to someone who is famous than someone who saved so many lives. If you’re not sure who I’m talking about (and I’m not talking about the celebrity; they’re not nearly as important in my mind), I’m talking about Norman Borlaug. You really ought to read up on him.

Theater Meets Religion

Hunter linked me something interesting. As it turns out, an auditory theatric release of the Bible will be coming in October. It consists of almost 8 gigs of audio.


Scientists have discovered another mode of energy transfer in Earth’s upper atmosphere. It’s really rather startling to have gone this long before someone finding it.

Here is an amazing video taken from the international space station of a volcanic eruption.


Did you know that kids are a bunch of damn racists? So says a new study that asked a bunch of impressionable kindergarteners loaded questions. I think it’s flawed, because the idiots in charge seem desperate to change the way Americans raise their kids. Rant: I grew up in an area where many of my friends and peers were of mixed race. Guess what I discriminated against most? Age. Kids that were older or younger than me were weird regardless of race, religion, or creed. Race only matters if you’re stupid enough to make a big deal out of it, and that offends me. Yes, racism exists–and that it lingers is pathetic enough–but can we please let this die? Dragging this back out because someone came up with a study that only proves that kids will notice different things that they have no experience with means exactly nothing. What’s this about? It’s about an outlandish group of sociologists (and I use that term loosely) who want to pay penance for their guilty feelings. If they’re not racists, then why the guilt, huh?

The fashion industry is struggling. I find this rather comical.


There are two types of developers. I suspect I know which one I am.

Stupid, Impressionable People

This is my exhibitionist piece for the week. If you want to read something insanely inane, go no further than here. In fact, I’ll quote the relevant part for you:

Commercial salt is refined by drying at a heat in excess of 1,000 degrees which destroys beneficial substances in salt. This heat also causes chemical distortions that turn salt into sodium chloride, a substance that does no good in the body.

WHAT?! Does this person have ANY IDEA WHATSOEVER WHAT TABLE SALT IS? Hint: It’s sodium chloride. Fetch me the clue stick, I’ve got some work to do. Table salt. Sodium chloride. Same thing. Go back to school, please, and get off my Interwebs. You’re already polluting meatspace with your rubbish. I have an article here printed out by a local realtor to prove it.


Late last week, FriendFeed released to the open source community their webserver software. It’s written in Python. Yeah, I know, “Big deal! There’s gotta be a dozen Python web servers out there,” right? Wrong. It’s a non-blocking web server designed specifically for real-time web services. Time to refactor Cited into Tornado, I think!

Speaking of Tornado, Jared over at has been playing around with it a little more than I think is healthy. Jared makes a number of interesting observations, so you’ll definitely want to read his post. Tornado looks to be far more Pythonic than Twisted.

Remember that TCP/IP bug that allowed remote exploitation of most versions of Windows? Microsoft won’t be fixing XP. Nor will it be fixing Windows 2000–not that I’d really expect them to. As an aside, I still find it rather weird that while Windows 7 was declared immune to it, one of the updates I received to the RC was to fix a flaw in–drum roll, please–TCP/IP. Coincidence? I have no idea. The Slashdot article has a few more links.

Ever wondered how negative numbers work in binary? Wonder no more. Most implementations are based on two’s complement. If I haven’t yet addicted you to Wikipedia for the rest of the evening, I need to try harder.

The world’s oldest computer is scheduled to be started up again.

With Oracle’s acquisition of Sun, it’s not surprise that they haven’t mentioned MySQL.

My TCP/IP stack wants a pony. This article is pretty humorous.

Need to access Gmail when it’s down? Here are some suggestions. Obviously, the service isn’t completely down, but you might find that the fancy AJAXy UI might break from time to time.

Web Development

MSIE 6 just won’t die no matter how much we web developers wish it would just pack its bags and go away. Fortunately, there’s a really good cheat sheet on how to fix some of IE6’s bugs.

I have a few other links that I may be adding this weekend when I get some time. Enjoy!

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Links of the Week: September 4th

It’s a week and a half late. I’m sorry. I really am. This Scala book has just been so fascinating! (And I’ve been a little busy with random things.)


A new study suggests that reversing the aging process might be easier than you think.


Here’s another semi-data article that was in my 480+ tabs that I just started getting around to closing. I think it’s worth reading considering Opera 10 was just released this week.


I stumbled upon this some time ago. It’s probably dated, but I think it might be worth reading if you use or have used FreeBSD. If you’re still not sure what the differences are between UFS and UFS2, I suspect this FAQ should do nicely to settle it.


I haven’t heard any more about this since I first read it earlier last month. The President and Congress would like to further regulate venture capital. I’m not sure that’s a good idea. Has this snuck through yet?

So, you’re looking to join a small company. Guess when the worst time to join it is? It’s right after VC funding.

Design Patterns

RESTful design patterns have been around for a while. Here’s how you might deal with RESTful transactions.


So a pacifist gamer (?) decided he’d reach level 80 in what is arguably the world’s most popular MMO game. I guess it really does have something for everyone.

I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of how awesome this is

A Lego engine. An eight cylinder Lego engine, powered by compressed air. I don’t think it gets any more awesome than that (video included).

Also in the category of awesome is this stop motion Post-it artwork.


Shinrog is awesome. If you’re into electronica, his stuff is worth listening to.


Here’s a real bird brain. I know, I know. It’s a Flash video. Trust me, it’s worth it. If you just can’t be bothered letting it download, here’s a summary: A rook (related to the crow) demonstrates his/her observational capabilities and tool use by using rocks to pluck a worm from a flask of water. Going on that data alone, how might you do it? (Hint: You don’t eat the rocks.)

So, you thought that one RFC was a joke, did you? The one about carrier pigeons carrying IP packets? Guess again. This time, someone is using them to transport pictures of river rafting via pigeon. They even suffer packet loss in the form of other hungry fowl.

The Odd and Unusual

So what happens if you perform the calculation 999 999 999 999 999 – 999 999 999 999 997 using Google Calculator? You get zero.

Operating Systems

Speaking of file systems. I had no idea there were so many.

Here’s a hugely useful site if you’re into tweaking Windows. I’ve had this tab open for about 3 weeks, so I can’t quite remember what I was looking up. I’m sure it was something interesting!


I stumbled across a post by Kevin Gessner related to fast array membership [testing] in PHP. It’s very interesting, and if you’ve got an application that needs to test large arrays for value membership, it is also a worthwhile read.

Speaking of PHP, Perplexed Labs has another post also related to speed. No, this isn’t exactly arrays (it can be!). It’s about transferring data into a session quickly.

More PHP-related stuff! This time, it’s a list of things you can do to (potentially) speed up your code. One word of warning: I’m not sure I completely buy their proposals. sizeof and count are aliases to the exact same C call and, in theory, should perform precisely the same. Although, this is PHP we’re talking about…

You should also be careful when dealing with UTF-8 in PHP.

Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s talk about evil code and the projects it inspires.

How about some music sorting algorithms?

Always remember to be DRY, particularly when dealing with URLs and URL rewriting.

Ever wondered what the 17 most widely used JavaScript frameworks are? Now you know.

I’ve always found cutesy but evil stuff to be quite fascinating. It’s proof that operator overloading can be evil when abused.

I promise I’d link to Pulse. Here it is. They have a community edition you can grab for free and it’s a lot easier to use than Yoxos. It’s for Eclipse.


Common WiFi can be broken in less than a minute.


Robert Epstein wrote an interesting article on abolishing high school back in 2007. Whether you agree or not, he raises interesting points. I always remember it as little more than a glorified daycare center.

Speaking of the worth of young people, did you know that Chicago’s greatest crime blogger is a 16 year old with autism?

Heavy things are important! True story.

Did you know that humor is an act of aggression? Sounds like someone can’t take a joke.

Speaking of jokes, there’s another study that suggests most of the world’s stocks are controlled by a select few. I wonder if Captain Obvious is in charge of this one?

Hunter linked this one to me. It’s the social media revolution. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of some of this video’s claims, but it’s worth watching. If you deny the impact of the Interwebs on our society, you’ve got your head in the sand.

The Buddhists really know how to make complex artworks. Sand Mandalas are amazing. More interestingly, they’re created and then destroyed in highly ceremonial ritual after which all of the sand (created from crushed rock no less–no dyes are used) is returned to nature.

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