Phil Mayes

Archive for the ‘Computers’ Category

Grammar

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

I just ran into this sentence in Six programming paradigms that will change how you think about coding

You’re probably used to type systems in languages like C and Java

and marveled at its ambiguity. “Used” and “type” have several different grammatical meanings. As Hobbes (of Calvin and Hobbes) said

Verbing weirds language.

(The article itself is very interesting, and the reddit comments are good, too.)

Chicken

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

Q. Why did the multiprocessing chicken cross the road?
A. to To other side. get the
– Jason Whittington

SOPA and the power of the Internet

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Firstly, there is an excellent explanation of SOPA’s potential impact here. Check out the video in the first link.

What is so striking about this, apart from the breath-taking over-reach of the bills, is the about-face in Congress as a result of the Internet strike. This is the latest example of the Internet providing citizens with the means to have their voices heard. Other recent examples include Verizon backing off a $2 bill payment fee, Bank of America dropping a $5 debit card fee, Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring.

NPR critiques patents

Friday, July 29th, 2011

An excellent NPR story on patents has been getting attention, and Forbes uses it to argue in favor of invalidating software patents.

The equivalence of patents and source code

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

The Software Freedom Law Center has filed a Supreme Court brief re Bilski, and I loved this idea within it:

“The source code of a program which performs the steps described in a software patent is distinguishable from the literal patent only in that it expresses the same steps in a different language. Therefore, since anyone may copy or publish the actual patent without infringing, it must also be permissible to communicate its claims in source code form.”

Windows is Stupid

Friday, May 8th, 2009

I have an application with a main window.  It opens a find dialog that can remain open, i.e. it is not modal.  I mark it as STAY_ON_TOP so it does not disappear behind the application window.

The application pops up a message box to announce that the search term cannot be found, but it CANNOT BE SEEN because it is located behind the find dialog.  I can’t even move the find dialog out of the way because the message box is modal, so I cannot transfer focus to the find dialog.  The only way out of the dilemma is to blindly press a key – space bar, escape, etc. – that dismisses the message box.

So after more than 20 years of development, Windows is still too stupid to realise that it is presenting an invisible modal dialog to the user.

Skype Users are Revolting

Friday, February 13th, 2009

On Feb 3, 2009, Skype announced the release of Skype 4.0 after extensive beta testing.  But on the community forums, users are complaining that New interface is very BAD. Old was perfect, SKYPE ME MODE no longer available in version 4, Missing features in 4.0 (i.e. public chat and shared groups) and much more.

The old release, 3.8, remains available on the download page because “Accessibility features have not yet been completed in this new release”, and users appear to be defecting en masse and reverting to the previous version.

Lawyers Shut Down Internet

Friday, February 13th, 2009

I exaggerate, but check out this Slate post about a law firm that successfully objected to someone linking to their website.

How the Internet affects our future

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Salon discusses the Internet and the two poles of “Google is making us stupid” and “the Internet will liberate humanity.”

In “A Brief History of Everything”, Ken Wilber resurrected Arthur Koestler’s holons: autonomous structures that are themselves part of a larger structure, for instance, cells within our body.  We ourselves are part of the larger structure of society, and it has just developed a global voice and conversation via the Internet, Youtube and social networks.  The 2008 election was the first in which a significant peer-to-peer conversation took place unmediated by the powers that be, the main-stream media.

The trend in our culture has been a wider and wider identification.  We grow up identifying with our family, our tribe; all else is a threat, an enemy.  As we mature, we extend the net of empathy more broadly, until we include all of humanity and beyond.  Education and communication are essential aspects of this, and the Internet offers a world-wide conversation to facilitate this.

But I want to speculate further, to suggest that maybe this is the next step in evolution, that we do not only use DNA to pass on life, but the whole of culture also; the Internet is the flood that finally is joining all the small puddles from around the world into a melting-pot of ideas and empathy, and and from it, great things will arise.  We are part of a larger thing that has a life of its own, and we can no more understand it that a cell can understand the body it is in.

Finally, I will counter the nay-sayers by pointing them to Steven Pinker: A brief history of violence, wherein he talks about how violence has decreased across the millenia, centuries and decades; proof that we can change, that we are not trapped by our lower selves.

The emergence of a collective conversation

Monday, October 27th, 2008

This election is like no other, and here’s why: it’s a populist election for the first time.  What has created that is technology: the internet, video cameras, easy video editing, YouTube and social networking sites like Digg.  In all previous elections, what people thought was filtered through the media; to get your voice heard, you had to write to the editor, hope that he picked your letter, and suffered his editing.  Or you could talk to your friends; your opinions were well communicated, but could not travel far.

This time, what people think has been available to everyone, and opinion is no longer the province of a few.

Opinions are great, but they’re just that: opinions.  Video recorders, cameras and editing software have enabled people to provide evidence.  Yes, it can be cherry-picked, incomplete and misleading, but the net effect is a broadening of the information from which we build our opinions; no longer do we have to rely on Fox, NBC and the New York Times.  The results are in the form of Obama’s stunning victory next week.

Of course, the internet existed in 2004, but look at these start dates: Digg, November 2004; YouTube, February 2005.  For the first time in history, a national conversation is taking place, and the results are about to show.