Alexander The Great

February 13, 2008

Philosophy of Programming

Filed under: Science,Software — alexanderthegreatest @ 7:55 pm
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Forrest published an article callled Programming With Jackson Pollock.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Mr Pollock’s work, he painted by throwing paint randomly at a canvass. The comparison here is with how computer software is written. I know Forrest is involved with making computer programs, but I didn’t think he had the type of appreciation of philosophy and quantum physics this article hints at – which is why I think it’s interesting enough to point out.

First, the article describes computer bugs as emergent properties – this is the language of chaos theory. Forrest professes that bugs don’t live in individual lines of source code. They live in the interaction between the different parts of software, between other systems in place, and between the user.

This leads to quantum physics, and the concept of entropy. Extremist Christians use entropy to suggest that evolution can’t be possible, because in a closed system, things fall out of order, not the other way around. Criptographers know that an application can borrow entropy from the real world by timing network or disc access, or key strokes.

It’s good stuff. I like it when people make disparate connections visible.


January 23, 2008

Another Blog in ASP.NET

Filed under: Ethics,Science,Software — alexanderthegreatest @ 7:47 pm
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Here’s an example in action – you can tell by the aspx file extension.  Actually, it turns out there are several.  SharePoint naturally has a blog (and wiki) engine built in. So does Community Server. And

  • PressTopia
  • DasBlog
  • SubText
  • T-Blogger
  • ThinkJolt 2
  • TriptychBlog
  • BlogEnngine.NET
  • .Blog
  • .Text (NOT FREE)

There’s an impression that even saying “I need to open some windows – it’s hot in here” will cost you $500 and line Bill’s pocket. That all free software runs on linux. That pigs can fly.

Ok, I made the last one up, but this should conclusively prove that there exist useful, open source applications written for Microsoft technologies, particularly the .NET Framework. The one and only thing PHP has going for it compared to ASP.NET is a perception that it’s the programming system open source examples are available for.

As shown this isn’t the case. Think for a minute – programmers use programming languages. Bill Gates may be a greedy bastard (*), but the people who find jobs writing code targetting his company’s inventions are no more likely to be money grubbing assholes than people who use Macs.

End users have as much control over the way Microsoft behaves as I do over George Bush’s war crimes. Windows users are just like everyone else. Some are generous, some greedy. Some are black, some are Japanese, some are Israeli. The only way we’re a bloc, a monolithic group that acts together, is in terms of the software we’re able to run. (Example? Try running SQL Server on a Mac.)

* On Bill Gates’s greed. He has been the world’s richest man, although a Mexican now holds that honor (eat your heart out, Republican Party!). Bill has donated more than half of his wealth to charity – he’s actually done more than any other human. He’s a shrewd businessman, but deserves respect as a philanthropist.

January 22, 2008

People Use XML in PHP?

Filed under: Americana,Science,Software — alexanderthegreatest @ 6:49 pm
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What the?  A Euro genius who really should be using the Microsoft .NET Framework wrote Quick XML, a class I’m not able to use because its for PHP.

January 14, 2008

MySpaceBook, Killer of Jobs

Filed under: Modern Life,Web — alexanderthegreatest @ 7:43 pm
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No, not Steve Jobs.  YouTube employed 60 people when it was bought by Google, and served more viewers than many cable television networks. Skype has double the customers of British Telecoms, with a staff of 200 people. This is about 90,000 less than the company’s UK staff.

These companies compete with traditional, “Old Economy” powerhouses that, quite often, pay decent wages to their many people. As technology marches forward, we’re seeing job growth that, at best, is mismatched to our past. Those that find good wages today are increasingly service oriented in a broad sense, and require considerable talent. Job skills like PHP, C++ and AJAX are frankly not available to many people. They require not just intelligence, but a combination of access to technical literature, a machine to practice with, and lots of time. (Open source software rarely runs on free hardware.)

On the other hand, Craigslist isn’t forcing people to use it instead of traditional news print. They’re allowing people to. People are choosing overwhelmingly to deal with internet companies that are highly automated rather than job factories, in part because they’re cheaper or free, and in part because they’re frankly better. (Craigslist is full of crazies, but your post goes live in 15 minutes.)

We’ve always been encouraged to vote with our dollars. Why, then, are we surprised when competition has losers, and not just winners? Overall, what do you think – is the web doing more harm than good, or the other way around?

December 31, 2007

XML Purification

Filed under: Science — alexanderthegreatest @ 7:19 pm
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This will be of limited interest to most readers, however it’s still worth covering, in purely academic terms. Brian Keever has written a post on XML Purification, or turning non-compliant into well-formed XML.

Extensible Markup Language is the meta language of the computing gods.  While Oracle and SQL Server have proprietary binary formats which are clearly superior in terms of raw speed, as well as in some instances file size, they’re more than a nightmare for compatibility.  No surprise that different technology has a different set of pros and cons, in fact of design goals.

The law of the land, as delivered to us by Microsoft, is that imperfect XML is unreadable.  Not even a single byte of data may be taken from an XML document with even the slightest flaw. The reasoning makes enough sense, “software cannot be responsible for guessing at a developer’s intentions.” Part of the hype of XML is universal compatibility, though – in fact, XML uses Unicode (UTF-16) to allow for internationalization. Such invalid characters as an accented vowel can destroy the ability to read a document, though.

Thus, Mr Keever has delivered unto us a way to fix such XML that has valid markup but illegal characters.

December 25, 2007

Serial Killer or Software Coder?

Filed under: Modern Life — alexanderthegreatest @ 6:39 am
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I was surprised to know that 1 overlaps both categories.  Killers (serial and otherwise) should be a smaller group than programmers.  Probably even if you adjust for history.

Blog at