Time travelers are among us

March 29th, 2003 § Comments Off on Time travelers are among us § permalink

Via Simon Willison, an incredibly funny story: “Time-Traveler” Busted for Insider Trading.

“We don’t believe this guy’s story — he’s either a lunatic or a pathological liar,” says an SEC insider.

“But the fact is, with an initial investment of only $800, in two weeks’ time he had a portfolio valued at over $350 million. Every trade he made capitalized on unexpected business developments, which simply can’t be pure luck.

Carlssin declared that he had traveled back in time from over 200 years in the future, when it is common knowledge that our era experienced one of the worst stock plunges in history. Yet anyone armed with knowledge of the handful of stocks destined to go through the roof could make a fortune.

“It was just too tempting to resist,” Carlssin allegedly said in his videotaped confession. “I had planned to make it look natural, you know, lose a little here and there so it doesn’t look too perfect. But I just got caught in the moment.”

In a bid for leniency, Carlssin has reportedly offered to divulge “historical facts” such as the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden and a cure for AIDS.

Officials are quite confident the “time-traveler’s” claims are bogus. Yet the SEC source admits, “No one can find any record of any Andrew Carlssin existing anywhere before December 2002.”

As somebody commented in Simon’s post, the story is a hoax. Anyway, as Keith Devens wrote in another comment, I wouldn’t believe it anyway since I also don’t think God would have allowed time travels when the created the universe.

Vacation

March 28th, 2003 § Comments Off on Vacation § permalink

In less than one hour I’m leaving for my yearly vacation. Twenty-four days to relax and forget about work. Woohoo! Expect a lot less movement on this blog until April 22.

The evolution of programming languages

March 26th, 2003 § 7 comments § permalink

Programming languages, by their own nature, are quickly created and changed. Every new niche, need, or market demands that new languages be invented to meet their requirements. A document, written in early 1995, listed nothing less than 2350 different languages. Another page, which catalogs versions of a program written in various languages, lists more than 500 languages.

Even with such abundance of languages, it’s easy to see that many of them are just variations in overlapping programming concepts. In fact, as the aforementioned lists show, many of them are just variants of a base languages with a few new features thrown in to deal with some unknown demand. If we observe many of the languages created in the last ten years, we will notice that there was little evolution in conceptual terms. Perl, Python, PHP, Java, C, C++, C#, and Delphi exhibit few real differences among themselves. In most cases, those differences amount to nothing more than syntactic sugar, which changes the way some constructions are written without changing their meaning. Just to clarify, I’m using evolution here to denote paradigm changes as opposed to changes that happen because of aesthetic choices or pressures by competitive features. » Read the rest of this entry «

Smalltalk and VisualWorks

March 25th, 2003 § 2 comments § permalink

In the last weekend, I downloaded VisualWorks, the cross-platform Smalltalk environment from Cincom. It was something I had been planning to do for some time, but other priorities kept from really doing it.

I have been a big Smalltalk fan since I first read about it, in the late nineties. Unfortunately, the language is virtually unknown in Brazil and it’s pretty impossible to find work using it (except, probably in São Paulo, where Extreme Programming, which has Smalltalk roots, is stronger.) I was talking to a friend of mine about it sometime ago, and he said jokingly that he considered Smalltalk a myth since he was always hearing about it, but never had actually seem it in use. Also jokingly, I replied he should only try to find information about it if he was prepared to lose interest in other languages for the rest of his life, and that was why people kept Smalltalk a secret. (Actually, I was only partly joking. After I learned Smalltalk, I never found another language with such power and elegance. And no other language is so pleasurable to work with as Smalltalk is. To those who do not know, Smalltalk power lies in its simplicity — the language has only five keywords — and the image-based development model that makes for a rapid edit-run-debug cycle).

Installing VisualWorks is very simple. To me, it was enough to unzip the contents of two files and create a shortcut for the application. The environment is familiar since I’ve used Squeak (an open source Smalltalk environment) a lot of times in the past years. Obviously, there are some notably exceptions as VisualWorks is more geared to professional development while Squeak is intended for educational uses. GUI development is completely different, but one can always resort to tutorials and help files to get started in that kind of programming.

Although I never completed a serious application using Smalltalk (I didn’t know VisualWorks when I started using Smalltalk, and I don’t like Squeak’s deployment model), this time I intend to use VisualWorks to implement a personal project I’ve been planning for some months now. This project will allow me to work with a lot of the Smalltalk and VisualWorks libraries and get up to speed with Smalltalk again. In fact I have downloaded BottomFeeder‘s source code to take a look at how a real Internet application is done with VisualWorks (BottomFeeder is a RSS aggregator), and I will use the next weekend to study it.

So, the fun is just beginning.

A nice gift

March 21st, 2003 § Comments Off on A nice gift § permalink

My wife surprised me yesterday with a nice gift. She bought me The Code Book, by Simon Singh, a book about the history of cryptography. I had been coveting this book for a long time. Thanks, my love!

From Singh, I had previously read Fermat’s Enigma, which is also an excellent book. Well, tomorrow is Saturday, and there’s almost nothing better than spending an afternoon reading a good book.

Hosting matters

March 21st, 2003 § Comments Off on Hosting matters § permalink

I was checking my site’s statistics today, and I confirmed an old suspicion. It seems that my former provider was inflating the bandwidth and used space figures. I don’t know if they did it purposefully, or if they didn’t even realize the number were wrong.

When I migrated the site to Vilago, my new hosting provider, I was surprised to see that the space used by the site had shrunk to half of the size reported in the former hosting service’s control panel. Puzzled, I logged via my shell account in the old server, and checked the actual disk space used. I found that I indeed using only 30 MB of space (for both the files and the database) instead of the 60 MB displayed in the other control panel. Today, I confirmed that the bandwidth numbers were wrong as well. The site is getting the same number of hits it usually gets, but the bandwidth usage is lower. If I had no shell access, I would have to believe the numbers in the control panel, which would likely lead me to upgrade the hosting plan before it was really needed.

Well, hosting matters. When I chose my former hosting server, I did it on the basis of the resources they offered. The actual service turned out to be terribly bad, especially when support was needed. So, the lesson is: know who is hosting your site, and know your neighborhood as well.

Programming Guidelines

March 19th, 2003 § Comments Off on Programming Guidelines § permalink

Keith Devens points to Bruce Eckel’s Java Programming Guidelines, a nice list of good practices for Java. As Keith writes, though, they’re sufficiently generic and can be applied to any language.

PHP Spell Checker

March 19th, 2003 § Comments Off on PHP Spell Checker § permalink

Simon Willison released the code for spell checker written in PHP and using cross-platform DHTML on the client side. It’s an excellent resource that would make a nice addition for any browser-based editing package.

Linux market share

March 19th, 2003 § 4 comments § permalink

An Internet Week article claims that most Linux converts come from Windows, rather than from similar Unix platforms. I think that is somewhat obvious since there are much more Windows users than Unix users. Anyway, the article focused on developers and has some interesting points.

Linux seems to be really making deep inroads into Windows territory. I use a dual-boot system at home with Mandrake Linux and Windows 2000, and I’m slowly moving my data over to Linux. I hope to use Linux as my primary platform by the end of the year. Most of the applications I need exist under Linux, and I’m not locked on Windows anymore. Even my wife, who has limited technological knowledge, uses Linux in a regular basis without any problems. I know a lot of other people with a similar experience.

The biggest challenge to Linux is, of course, the old question about a realistic business model for companies developing a market on the platform. It’s a much discussed question, but I have seem no pratical solutions for it so far. Mandrake Linux, which recently filled for bankrupcy protection, seems to be a typical case. I guess we will have to wait a few more years to see how things go. Meanwhile, I hope the volunteers can keep up with the good work.

Zempt

March 19th, 2003 § 1 comment § permalink

Zempt is a MovableType posting client. I’ve downloaded it (in fact, I’m posting this from it), and although it’s only in a 0.2 release it looks great. It supports a lot of specific MovableType features like multiple categories, text formatting plugins, and pings.

I couldn’t find a way to edit old posts, but it’s probably coming in the next version. Once Zempt supports the full MovableType XML-RPC API, it will possibly be a much better choice for posting to a MovableType blog than w.bloggar.

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