Links: August 20th

I have a wide selection again for you today. I meant to post the Links of the Week yesterday but ran into two problems: 1) I was busy and distracted for most of the day and 2) I think this picture speaks for itself. I wasn’t motivated to sift through all those tabs!


Ket Fenwick has a piece titled “Why People Won’t Read Your Thesis“. He does raise some interesting points, although I can’t really say I agree. First, writing in academia at the graduate level–as I understand it–is to effectively prove that your understanding of a particular subject is not simply extensive but also well-researched. Conversational tones are OK for blog posts and informal writing; I can’t say such a tone is appropriate for academic papers or even documentation. Simply put: Some writing styles are more appropriate for certain disciplines than others. I propose an alternative. If you’re particularly passionate about a given subject and you’re a graduate student, write a book! If it’s important enough such that the average person should know about it, then it’s worthwhile to write material in the writing style of your choice to convey just how important your research is. Academia isn’t going to change. (A little warning about the link: The author’s writing style feels a little awkward and “bumpy” which I think serves to dispute his intent.)

News: International Relations

Ever wondered what other countries think of our political debates? For one, when it comes to health care, the British media is firmly on the side of–wait for it–our media. Although The Independent provides solid numbers, the numbers themselves are largely meaningless without context. Furthermore, since every site I’ve found that provides access to the WHO/OECD data requires a subscription, it’s difficult to gain more data for further study. Whether you’re for or against health care reform, you have to confess that articles like this one are decidedly biased in favor of a system more like Britain’s.

News: Stupid is News

Unsurprisingly, a Virginian woman was arrested when she posted a picture of an officer’s house. The Slashdot summary is biased in favor of the woman, of course, and while this is publicly accessible information, I think it’s important to understand that this woman was going out of her way to post it. The reason certain information in the public eye isn’t a danger is because it typically requires work to acquire. Frankly, I find this ordeal stupid; she got what was coming to her. Were these not officers, I’d imagine she would’ve been charged with stalking! Oh, what a queer world this is.

Along these lines, a judge has thrown out tickets given to citizens who received them for running red lights, declaring the camera program as illegal in Santa Ana, California. Whether you agree with them or not, the tampering performed by the city to increase ticket revenues is a disgrace and endangerment of the public.

News: Tech in the Media

Ever wondered what drives those late-night click fests through Wikipedia or Google? Slate explores why, and it may be a far more basic drive than you think.


Brandon Bloom has an interesting writeup on why he dropped Django. I often wondered how useful Django was for general purpose web projects considering it was originally written as a publishing platform for a newspaper. Not to mention there are many competing frameworks available. Personally? TurboGears is the nicest, but being as TG2 is still stabilizing (IMO) and the documentation is a bit lacking, moving to a Python-based framework is something I’m holding back on. I was originally going to rewrite an ancient project to work under TG2 but chose PHP because of its ubiquity. I’m also reminded of why I dislike PHP so much…


Don’t know the difference between dynamic versus static languages and strongly versus weakly typed? Here is an excellent post that provides some examples of each. In unrelated news, I’m sick of arguing that Python is a strongly typed dynamic language. It’s amazing how many people don’t believe that.

Any idea what makes a programming language successful? It might not be the relative popularity, power, or expressiveness of that language. Instead, take a look at these pictures comparing the lead developers/inventors of each language. See a pattern?

Here’s an interesting blog post detailing “better arguments” in favor of (or against) programming languages. If you have a favorite language to love or hate, this is a worthwhile read, and you might just think twice about complaining that a certain language is “slow.” In the words of a famous meme: maybe you’re doin’ it wrong?

Speaking of PHP which I rail on somewhere in this list of links (where’s Waldo?), here’s a list of 30 best practices for beginning PHP developers. Most of these are pretty obvious, but if you’re just getting started, you really should read this. PHP is an easy language to learn, but it can also result in poor, insecure code if you don’t know what you’re doing. The point that should be listed as #1 is at #16: Never, Ever Trust Your Users. This is true–don’t ever trust input to be correct.

Is Scala reaching a tipping point? I think so. I just started getting interested in it about two to three weeks ago and finally got around to ordering a Scala book. Now, all of a sudden, I’m hearing about nothing but Scala! It integrates well with Java, runs on the JVM, and sort of reminds me of Python-mates-with-Java.


Bone-setting glue might make those screws and plates a thing of the past.

SETI is finally performing real science. Okay, that was harsh. Let me try again: SETI’s search for intelligence outside our own humble abode is being used as a dual-purpose detector and thus far, they’ve made some pretty important discoveries (no ET yet).

Hunter (Trekk) linked me this one, too. I never realized that shampoo bottles can build up a dangerous charge and shock you.

Why do more leaves turn red in the US and yellow in Europe? It might have something to do with a protective mechanism from the last ice age–and insects.

Yes, this is science (even though it’s tech!). If Twitter were 100 people, here’s what it would look like. I could spend hours on David McCandless also has a book coming out in February that looks really good. Put it on your wish list.


Tired of those smug Twitterers (twits?) peddling links to a variety of URL shorteners? I have found a solution. It’s called hugeurl. It does exactly what it says.

Aussie police discovered the merits of passwords when their database was effectively trespassed upon. Why not “cracked?” Simple: They didn’t have a password for their MySQL root user.

In case you missed it, there was a vulnerability in many XML implementations earlier this month. Make sure your libraries are up to day.

Danny Dover has a really good post for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). It’s a cheat sheet for web developers. Actually, he’s got a whole mess of them. I’d link them all, but you’d see a solid sentence of red. Instead, I’ll suggest you start here. It’s a worthwhile read and has made me consider redoing a significant part of this site–except for the fact that there isn’t anything terribly important here! If you have a major web-based project, web application, or simply run your business on the web, you really need to read Mr. Dover’s posts. No, really. You should.

Along a similar thread, here’s a list of 30 web developer cheat sheets linked from DZone.

Oh, and here’s another list–this time it’s of the 16 “most essential” Firefox addons. I use “essential” loosely here. I don’t use most of the addons listed here and there’s several important ones missing. Among them are: NoScript, Flashblock, WebDeveloper, Firebug, and Session Manager. I also use FoxClocks, Stylish, and TabCounter for the LOLcat factor. Yeah, that meme needs to rest. Anyway, maybe I need to make my own list of essential addons?

The Dreamliner has been delayed with even more trouble.

The web versus the desktop. Why is this a neverending debate? Tobias Svensson explores this topic in depth.

Ben Huh (yes, that’s his real name) is puzzled by the success of LOLcats. I am, too.

Weird and Unusual

Hunter (Trekk) linked this one to me. Ever heard the Mario Bros theme played by an RC car? Now you have.

Here’s an adventure in flying (don’t try this). If you wondered what would happen if you were to fly without a government-issued ID, read on!

No comments.

Links: August 12th


New Scientist has an article on the 10 things you didn’t know about humans.

Remember the Ukranian president Victor Yushchenko who was poisoned back in 2004? The doctors who treated him speculate that the strange skin growth he suffered from may have saved his life.


Joe Uhl has a fascinating article on improving PostgreSQL performance (although the tips can be adapted to other DBMSs).


Those jobless figures you hear about on the news–a “meager” 9.4%–might be wrong. Current estimates, including people who have stopped looking, peg unemployment at between 16 and 20 percent. Yeeouch. It explains some of my acquaintances who have been laid off (and good luck finding a job here locally–I’m glad I’ve been doing some freelancing!).


Read more about the Large Electron-Positron Collider and how it discovered Z bosons with mass that changed during different times of the day. Spoiler: It wasn’t the boson.

The Earth’s mysterious hum has finally been tracked down. There’s also another but much older article detailing specific locations.

Wired science has a lot of good related articles all linked together. Here’s one about Earth’s “breathing” cycles. In related news, Earth may have another billion years (bringing the total to 2.3 billion) before the sun fries us all to a crisp.

The first ever asteroid to be tracked from space to ground was recovered back in March.

New Scientist describes five snacks shaped like the universe. While you’re reading, you may as well take a look at a gallery they listed as a related article.

Cassini has spotted a peculiar anomaly in Saturn’s rings .

Planetary collisions do happen and it’s quite spectacular.

Speaking of big things (although things that aren’t really big), it appears that monstrous rogue waves are surprisingly common.


Twitter isn’t as popular among young people as it is among people between 24 and 54 (I’m not one of them). This corroborates with some of my younger colleagues and peers. They see twitter as a pointless waste of time! Oh, if only people in my age group had such insight.

If you like spending time in coffee shops with your laptop, you may have to reconsider.

Windows developers: version checking is evil. No really, it is! Don’t do it. Ever.

Scott Hanselman has an article on 10 things developers should know about Windows 7.

Take the search engine blind-folded taste test.

Here’s how to scale up a quantum computer.

Testing the Limits

Improbable Research tests the limits of the post office by sending a variety of packages with different shapes and sizes. The verdict is counter to what many believe of the post office: most of the weird items made it through. Of particular note: The postal clerks simply noted that bare items (there were many) must be wrapped. Wrapped or not, the bare items (including a football) were still delivered.

No comments.

Links: August 5th

I have a lot of stuff for you today. Eat up. (Minor updates: Corrected some incorrect usage/typos/miscellaneous sleep-deprived stupidity. Also corrected attribution for Yesudeep’s site; see the comments for more.)

Do It Yourself

Ever had jet lag and just couldn’t get over it? Well, now you can in a single day.

Games and Gaming

Crytek, the same company responsible for Far Cry, Crysis, and Far Cry 2, is considering leaving Germany under threat of domestic laws that may ban the creation of violent video games.


Looks like the State Department is pretty retarded. Undersecretary Patrick Kennedy claims that using Firefox instead of IE is an “‘expensive question.'” Gizmodo contributor Dan Nosowitz speculates Undersecretary Kennedy’s mindless ranting may have been the result of his attempt to CYA. Until personnel in powerful positions finally get a clue about technology (hint: won’t happen), things like this will never fully be resolved. Browsers, like IE, will continue to be exploited, and on site security within our government will remain poor at best. To be fair to Mr. Kennedy, MSIE is also “free,” and there are certain costs related to software deployment that have to be evaluated. Worse, some organizations still make use of archaic ActiveX applications that require MSIE6 to run. Helpless are those organizations that cannot upgrade to even the latest version of Internet Explorer without breaking things!


My father sent me a really fascinating link to an e-book collection of General George A. Custer’s various works. If you’re interested in the Old West, you might find this a worthwhile read.

Miscellaneous: Why 9-5 Must Die

Tom Martin writes in an essay on why 9-5 must die: “[I]n today’s knowledge based economy, [the 9-5 work schedule] is an antiquated thought that I believe stifles the most creative of workers.” Whether you agree or not, it’s an interesting notion. I tend to do my most creative work during the late evening when I’m not being bothered by the typical disruptions in work flow.

News: Ridiculous things

There is speculation that the Florida Bay’s ecology is almost certain to collapse. In a strange twist of irony, efforts made to save the bay have been met with lawsuits–filed by environmentalist groups. The agency in charge of the Bay’s restoration knows how to move toward preserving the area, but they’re being blocked with intense litigation! Ridiculous? I think so.

A man stole a car only to be arrested about a week later after falling asleep in a car wash.

News: People like this make me Sick

Yesterday, a man entered a fitness class killing three women and injuring many others. The reason for his violent slaughter? He was rejected before, hadn’t had a date in over a year, and claims it was 19 years since he had sex. Seriously, what’s wrong with people? Rejection happens–get over it. Why couldn’t he have just killed only himself if he were that miserable? Murdering others for one’s own despair is just disgusting, sickening, and evil.

News: War on Terror

The AP reminds us that the midwest was home to foreign detainees in the past. I don’t recall Germans strapping bombs to themselves, however. While the Germans did have a kamakazee-like program toward the end of the war, the pilots were expected to ram their planes into allied bombers, bail out, and return to do it all over again. Source: History Channel’s Dogfights, the “Luftwaffe’s Deadliest Mission.”

News: Weird Things

In Cambodia, landmine awareness has gotten a leg up on the government–for now. In a queer and slightly morbid twist, a Norwegian fellow decided that it would be a good idea to create a Miss Landmine Cambodia pageant. The winner will be awarded a custom-made prosthetic leg. Truth is stranger than fiction.

In Mongolia, there is a journalist hunting for a lightning-farting, acid-spitting death worm. Big foot and Nessie–watch out! Cryptozoology has a new hero.


This article is written specifically for Linux but it can be applied to other Unix and Unix-like OSes. If you’ve ever wondered what, exactly, the load averages from uptime really meant, wonder no more. It’s a great read and explains in terms anyone can understand exactly what the load averages stand for.


Mario is at it again. This time, you can participate in a competition to create an AI version of the mushroom massacring plumber.

Doug Hellmann (menacing name, I love it) writes about in-memory data structures in Python. Check it out if you need a little extra performance in your code.

Joe Marshall has a fun two-part series on “How Not to Write Code.” Go here to read part one and part two. If you’ve enjoyed horror stories from the tech world, this would be a great place to spend some time.

In yet more PHP frustrations, Chris Shiflett writes about how addslashes() and mysql_real_escape_string() work differently. PHP has always been quite good at violating the principle of least surprise but things like this sometimes amaze me. This is also why I’ve been fond of the PDO since it was released: Prepared statements may not be a silver bullet, but they can sure help insulate the developer from stupid library bugs. (Unless the prepared statements are implemented poorly, but you get the idea.)

Steven Levithan (what is it with cool-sounding names today?) covered in 2007 several issues relating to various trim() implementations using regex in JavaScript, why they work well (or don’t work well at all), and how to improve them. If you do a lot of text manipulation client-side, this might be a worthwhile read. It’s an old article, but it still holds a great deal of application even today!

I discovered the article above as a link from another blog post musing the topic of trim() implementations. In this post, Yesudeep J. Mangalapilly (yet another really awesome name which I thought was a handle) explains why a script added by one of the commenters to Steven Levithan’s post blew everyone one else away. Yesudeep also goes into excruciating detail to explain why. It’s a great read.

Updated Thanks for correcting my brain-dead comment in this link, Yesudeep. I had no idea that was your real name. Way to go on my Western-centric stupidity for parsing names weirdly (I blame the various 13 year olds who like using “u” in a lot of things and subsequently pervert real names–go me!).

Why is C# better than Java? Whether you agree or not here are some compelling reasons.


Ever wondered what it’d be like to spend a couple of nights in the Las Vegas Riviera Hotel and Casino? Maybe you shouldn’t.


A new site has been launched about Microsoft’s Internet Explorer version 6. No, it’s not a fan site. It’s a site “run by a group of people who want to see IE 6 disappear as soon as possible.” I like these guys, and they’re right: IE6 is a pain in the neck to develop for.

I read an article that reviewed a new WebKit-based browser called Arora. It’s a cute little browser, and it’s fast. It lacks some utility (you have to go to the View menu to view the page source rather than right-clicking on the document) but it makes up for its shortcomings in speed. I haven’t tested it with 300+ tabs yet. Maybe I will…


Apple is at it again. This time, they’re banning the use of offensive words in a specific application sold via the App Store. Sounds good? Well, not when it’s a freaking dictionary. What sweet irony it is that the same company that made the Macintosh famous in a commercial parody of George Orwell’s book by the same name would censor the English dictionary.

I stumbled across another rant relating to how awesome Apple is. In How IBM and Apple are Kicking Google’s and Microsoft’s Butt, Rob Enderle discusses internal conflicts and focus issues suffered by Microsoft and Google alike and why IBM and Apple are poised to defeat them. It’s a little optimistic, in my opinion, because Apple is well known to do stupid things that piss off their customer base. (See the link above.) Apple may win the day, but if history has anything to show about it, even offering the company an entire industry on a silver platter cannot save Apple from itself. What happens when a company used to catering to niche markets suddenly finds itself immensely popular? Well, we don’t know. I can’t imagine it’s a very good thing. (Anyone else noticing all the articles popping out of the woodwork praising Apple as of late especially when Apple is quite literally slapping customers in the face?)

Is Google killing general knowledge? That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? I haven’t much to say about this other than someone else has already done it for me. Sarcastically. Quote: “Are books killing the oral tradition?” Same idea, same dilemma. Alarmist topics like the one in the article linked here just bug me.

Wanted to see the evolution of Amazon’s shopping cart? Well, now you have.

Weird and Unusual

Van Halen’s contractual requirement to eliminate brown M&Ms is true. There’s a reason for it, however. It makes sense.