Archive for October, 2008

Obscure video games

2008-10-28

10 video games on my shelves that probably aren’t on yours; a mutated meme from Gareth. Actually I have many more books than video games, so it might be a bit difficult to find games that you don’t have. Let’s try. I think I might be doomed anyway. Possibly at least one of my readers not only has all these games, but has a games collection that is a strict superset of mine.

Odama (Nintendo Gamecube). Well, obviously it’s everything you expect from the samurai/fields-of-death/realtime-strategy/pinball genre. One of the more amusing features is that the japanese voice-over is subtitled not dubbed; the endurance-like enthusiasm and vigour of your samurai training officer egging you on in japanese is just hilarious! It even comes with a mike that you clip onto the Gamecube controller so you can bark your orders. Aduvansu!

Starsweep (Sony PlayStation). Eye-watering good puzzle game. I bought it on a whim for GBP 2 and it’s one of my favourite puzzle games ever (right up there with Tetris Attack). It’s the classic stem-the-rising-tide-of-pieces by eliminating them in various combinations. The gameplay is chillingly simple: all the pieces are 1 by 3 (with irrelevantly chamfered ends) and they are eliminated by matching the symbol on their end with their neighbour’s. Pieces don’t fall by gravity; in another simplification you eject a piece from the nozzle of your starfish and place it anywhere on the board where it fits. Like all the best puzzle games, you need eyedrops after a session. Whoever commissioned the cover art had never played the game (or even seen a screenshot): it features tetris pieces.

Rox (Nintendo Game Boy). One of my few “black cartridge” games. When the Game Boy Color came out Nintendo had a problem. Two in fact. One was that consumers wouldn’t buy a new console that didn’t play all their old games; the other was that no-one would make games solely for the tiny installed base of Game Boy Color devices. The solution was the black cartridge: games that used enhanced colour palettes on the Game Boy Color but still worked on the older (black and white) Game Boy. Grey carts were old school Game Boy, crystal (translucent) carts were Game Boy Color only; black carts bridged the gap. Oh, the game. Actually it’s not that good. It’s a falling pieces puzzler based on dice (and I bet the use of colour works out really badly on the Game Boy). Oh, but that reminds me…

Devil Dice (Sony PlayStation). A much better puzzle game based on dice. It’s sort of 3D. You play a small elf that runs around on the top of dice and has the power to move them by rolling them from one of their sides to another. In order to make room for new dice being dropped into the room from the space shuttle you have to eliminate dice by cunningly rolling dice together so their top spots match. Actually, I have no idea where the pieces are dropped from, but traditionally it is the space shuttle that drops pieces in puzzle games.

Bangai-O (Sega Dreamcast). Run of the mill puzzle/shooter with 8-way side scrolling featuring flying robots, fruit, and the most inscrutable translations ever. Trademark “too many bullets” slowdown. Well, how many puzzle/shooters do you know? It’s awesome. Yet another game where I haven’t killed the final boss.

Rebelstar: Tactical Command (Nintendo Game Boy Advance). Gollop’s homage to his earlier days of squad level tactical gaming on the ZX Spectrum. Corporal Jonlan lives! I love the trademark Gollop elements: blasting walls and doors down with grenades; ducking and shooting in locations lovingly furnished with office chairs and toilets; and the ever present action point juggling to decide if you can afford to break cover to pick up your fallen comrade’s rifle. Sadly in this GBA incarnation you can’t booby trap the plant-pots by hiding timed grenades in them; unlike Laser Squad which me and a friend played to death whilst listening to The Cure on loop.

Kirby’s Block Ball (Nintendo Game Boy). There was a time when “if it says Kirby or Mario, buy it” was a good rule of thumb. Perhaps Nintendo got a little bit careless about slapping “Kirby” or “Mario” in front of a title in order to boost its sales, because this is not Kirby’s best outing. It’s merely a mediocre breakout/arkanoid clone. And now dated to boot.

Rocket: Robot on Wheels (Nintendo 64). This is what happens when physicists make knock-off versions of Mario 64. 3D worlds all accessible by wandering around the central hub. You play a unicycling robot in a theme park. The game engine makes a reasonable attempt at realistic physics and many of the puzzles make use of it. There’s not just stacking boxes, optics and ballistics get a look in too. It’s not a great game (especially since it’s competing with Mario 64 on the same console), but it is a good game, and it’s an interesting study in how physics can add depth to gameplay.

UN Squadron (Super Nintendo Entertainment System). From an era when games were hard. I haven’t played this nearly enough (I’m too weak!). It’s a side scrolling shooter with selectable pilots, planes, weapons. The graphics are lovely, and the soundtrack is pretty neat too. There’s a tiny element of strategy and RPG in that you can upgrade your plane with money after each mission, and you can choose which mission to play next based on which tiles on a map you have opened. Did I mention that it’s damn hard.

The Legend of the Mystical Ninja (Super Nintendo Entertainment System). Weird. A side scrolling beat-em-up featuring the usual oriental tropes. And a shop. And a fun 2-player co-op mode. And, just, weird bosses. The 2-player co-op is fun, not enough games do it. I haven’t played it enough.

Perhaps I should’ve stopped at 8 or 9, I was definitely struggling.

Code Monk’s Bonanza Give-Away!

2008-10-27

I am moving. This induces a phase of decluttering. I am getting rid of a load of my vintage computer gear. Mostly 3 Beebs (including 1 Hybrid Music 5000 system), a SPARC, and a Commodore 64.

It occurs to me that readers of my blog are amongst the most likely people to want any of it.

I have tried to divide the stuff into sensible bundles, splitting things up will be a right pain. I haven’t quite decided what set of Beeb stuff to keep yet, and I’m trying a couple of other channels to get rid of stuff. Some things have been tested, but far from everything.

BBC Model B. Containing…
ATPL Sideways ROM RAM board containing…
Wordwise; graphics extension (Computer Concepts); AMPLE; INTERWORD;
2 (I think) sideways RAMs.
Wordwise Manual.
User Guide (worn, bit still hanging together).
Graphics extension ROM User Manual.
Music 4000 keyboard (and manual, and at least 1 disk).
Music 5000 synthesizer (and manual, including originally supplied ROM ID and passcode).
Viglen twin 5.25 inch disk drive unit, 40/80 switchable.
Hmm. This machine must have some sort of DFS installed. I didn’t look underneath the ATPL board.
[update 2008-10-28: the Music 5000/AMPLE stuff is now promised. If someone really wants me to split off the Model B, any other ROMS, the disk drive, or the UG then I suppose I could]

Twin Voltmace joysticks (2 joysticks joined into 1 analogue connector).

Beeb to Centronics printer cable. 2 off.
A Canon BJ-10ex printer.

DFS User Guide (I might want to keep this).

BBC Master 512
And what I guess is a complete set of disks for the 512 side of things:
512 DISC 1, DOS PLUS BOOT
512 DISC 2, GEM APPLICATIONS
512 DISC 3, GEM DATA
512 DISC 4, MISCELLANEOUS
THE 512 MOUSE DRIVER
Those 512 disks are originals. Discs 2, 3, 4 I seem to have a second original set of, and also a set of copies, for backup.
And various 512 related books:
“Master 512 Technical Guide”, Robin Burton; DABS. I only just discovered that this contains the schematic for the 80186 board. Shows how often I opened it.
“Master 512 User Guide”, Chris Snee; DABS. This is an aftermarket book, in particular it is not…
“Master 512 User Guide”, Acorn. This is the manual for GEM and DOS+ (I assume it came with the machine).
“The 512 Mouse Driver”, Tull Computer Services. I suspect I have the mouse (below). Disk listed above.
Mouse. With analogue connector. Says “ACORN P/N 0143210″ on bottom. May or may not be the appropriate mouse for “The 512 Mouse Driver”, above.
GEM running on a Beeb has to be seen to be believed.
[2008-10-28: All the 512 stuff is now promised]

BBC Master 128. PAT certificate for 1992. Containing…
PCB 4.03 ROM. PCB Autoroute 1.04 ROM. And discs (copies) for these.
And various related Master books:
(Master) Reference Manual, Parts One and Two; Acorn.
(Master) Welcome Guide; Acorn.
“The New Advanced User Guide”, Dickens & Holmes. More appropriate than the AUG for the Master.
ViewSheet manual. The Masters come with ViewSheet in the builtin ROM.
View complete and boxed, except for the ROM (that is, the program itself). So no ROM, but what do you get? Vintage 80s box, “into view” introduction book, reference manual, 3 A4/3 reference cards, printer generator manual, disc, and printer generator software on cassette tape. The Masters come with View in the builtin ROM.
Master 128 Elite on disc (copy). It’s in colour, and quite cool.

BBC 6502 2nd Processor (the classic “Tube”). 2 off. [2008-10-31: now promised]
HIBASIC CERDIP EPROM. This is plugged into my Model B, but if you convince me to let go of both my 2nd pros (so I have no need of it) then you can have this too. You can’t have my DNFS.
6502 second processor user guide. 3 off. *sigh* yes, 1 more manual than I have 2nd processors.

BBC z80 2nd Processor (Acorn, not Watford).
An awesome set of manuals for the z80 stuff: “Z80 second processor user guide”, “z80 BBC BASIC user guide”, “CP/M 2.2 with GSX Graphics”, “Graph Plan”, “CIS COBOL language reference manual”, “CIS COBOL with ANIMATOR and FORMS-2 user guide”, “Accountant”, “Nucleus System Generator”, “File Plan”.
And what I assume is a complete set of z80 2nd pro disks. They are copies not originals and they are rather unhelpfully labelled “z80 2nd pro disc 1″ through to “disc 7″. Also “system” and “basic” discs (which I suspect might be copies of discs 1 and 2). I think this set of discs includes a working copy of CP/M kermit that I downloaded from the internet and somehow coaxed onto a floppy.
[2008-10-28: z80 stuff is now promised]

Complete BCPL development system for the Beeb: ROM (real, plastic), 2 books, disks. [2008-10-28: now promised]
BCPL User Guide (the manual for the BCPL kit, but alone, without ROM or disks).
PHX 1 ROM. PHX was the communications ROM used in the Cambridge Computing Service User Area Beebs (mostly, but not exclusively, for talking to UK.AC.CAM.PHX). PHX 1 is the early crappy version.

Needs repair: Microvitec CUB monitor. 2 off. Both of them smoked when I plugged them in. *sigh*

DIN to DIN monitor cable for a Beeb. 3 Beebs, but only 1 monitor cable. Sorry.

“Illustrating Basic”, Alcock. Sadly, not Illustrating BBC Basic.
Ahkter Disk Drive User’s Manual.

Commodore 64, tape deck, some games.

SPARC station I. The “pizza box” original. Associated peripherals:
A couple of big fat SCSI cables and big fat SCSI drives (big, except in storage capacity). A good variety of connectors with strange pin configurations here, but there’s enough to connect all the disks to the SPARC, but I think the daisy-chaining order is constrained.
ISOLAN UTP II Transceiver (2 off), and one cable to connect to the SPARC station I AUI.

Phew.

Taking Climate Change Seriously

2008-10-24

Climate change is serious stuff. The world is getting warmer; the environment is changing; we have less arctic ice. We are only just learning about deep ocean thermohaline circulations just as it looks like we might be upsetting them.

But that’s okay, we seem to be a pretty clever species and collectively we have the power to solve large and complex problems (you know, like moon landings and blue LEDs). Despite the fact that in the long term most species become extinct, I’m optimistic that we can solve our current global warming problem. And in any case, even if we become extinct then life itself will not. The archaea and the other microbes will live on. Good luck to sentient life wherever it next evolves.

Solving climate change will involve serious change. But it will be seriously cool too. New forms of power production will become commercially viable; some existing power plants will become obsolete; it’s probable that we will be driving electric cars (speaking of which, it’s 2008, where’s my nuclear powered hover car goddamnit!); windmills will stride across our moors (yes, in my backyard!).

There is opportunity. Not just in your silly political opportunity of being world leaders and torch bearers for a new world, but real opportunity. Money. Opportunity in acquiring the skills to build lots more nuclear power plants than we ever have (Edit 2008-10-25: used to say “ten times as fast”, but that’s just wrong); in learning how to make an offshore tidal power station last for 50 years with no maintenance; in programming fridge microcontrollers so that they do not draw power at lunchtime when everyone needs the grid power to cook on the halogen hob. We can do this, and then we can sell it to those that were too lazy.

Let us embrace this opportunity now. Friends, let’s join Francis Irving and sign up to Serious Change (.org.uk).

Warning: Generation Green could be in a classroom near you!

2008-10-15

British Gas sent me a link to Generation Green. A classic greenwashing move: they seem to have paid a charity to produce a load of “green” lesson plans as a way to get their trademark embedded into every classroom, and therefore also into the minds of every future energy consumer. Leaving aside, for now, the ethics of corporate sponsorship of the classroom (hint: it’s wrong), what is the content like?

I had a look at Lesson 4 – Exploring sources of energy (part 1). One of the resources for this lesson is the “Energy Source Information Cards”: a series of 10 cards, one for each source of energy (coal, nukes, wind, and so on). There’s a Word document containing these that you can download (lower right of the web page I linked to).

It is from these cards that the students will be taking the factoids and copying them onto their posters in colourful crayon so that the posters can be displayed on the corridor walls in time for the first parents’ evening of term.

So, how are they? Well, a bit poor. On the whole, I’m a bit disappointed that “facts” like these are getting fed to children (and, more worryingly, their teachers). The perfect antidote to this generationgreen nonsense would be to use David MacKay’s book, Without Hot Air (go on, it’s free!). The chapters are bite-sized (especially the earlier ones), and they contain facts, and references, and good stuff.

The howlers in the “Information Cards” are Wind (mechanism wrong way round), Biomass (written by two people that never saw each other’s work), and Wave (written by someone who has no idea where the energy in waves is).

Overall there is a confusion between power and electricity. Every card has a section on how electricity is generated using that source. The Natural Gas card points out that gas can be piped into people’s homes, but there’s no mention of the fact that this is then used for heating not electricity generation. Coal, gas, oil, and biomass can be used more efficiently for heating applications directly than via conversion to electricity, but this is never mentioned. Nor is the fact that this is only of limited use because we only exploit a limited amount of low-grade heat.

There is also confusion about cost. Sometimes high capital cost (hydro) is mentioned, sometimes it isn’t (nukes). Often zero running cost is mentioned (wave) without mentioning capital. The important cost, total cost per kWh over the entire lifetime of the plant, is never mentioned.

There is also some confusion about pollution and global warming. Pollution is bad, global warming is bad. But these things are completely separate. There’s a tendency in the cards to assume that anything emitted into the air is bad, because of global warming and pollution; they’re not always specific enough about which it is.

Perhaps you can pick a different lesson and mock that, then at the end we can collect all our answers together and have a chat and make a nice poster?

Page 1 – Traditional Coal

This card is basically fine. The only things worth mentioning:

“Hard black substance that is found buried deep underground.”

Coal is not always hard (anthracite is, but it’s not the only form of coal), and it’s not always buried deep underground (I have picked it up on beaches).

Page 2 – Natural Gas

Basically fine.

Page 3 – Crude Oil

Typo: “most well knows” should be “most well known”.

There’s a double count in the disadvantages: “Burning oil pollutes the air”, and “Burning crude oil produces other emissions e.g. sulphur dioxide”. The “other emissions” are the pollution from burning oil. Perhaps better would be “Burning oil pollutes the air with sulphur dioxide and other emissions” (as does coal, by the way).

Page 4 – Wind Energy

“Wind is the effect of air flowing from low pressure to high pressure.” No, no, no, no, no. Bzzt. You’re wrong. Following is “The air in the warm regions rises and the cool air rushes in to replace it and this is what we know as wind”. A somewhat simplistic explanation, but that’s okay. The “this” is a horribly ambiguous reference; “this movement of air” would be better.

“As one of the windiest countries in Europe, it is perfect for our climate”. Yes, assuming we want to carpet bomb the British Isles with wind turbines. David MacKay’s ludicrously optimistic sketch of using 1/3 of our offshore coast for wind power (including uneconomical deep offshore wind) and carpeting 10% of our land (!) with onshore wind gives 58 kWh/day per person, or nearly half of the UK consumption. Perfect.

“Once it is built the fuel costs nothing”. Not true: offshore wind turbines need frequent replacement of the gear boxes due to sea-salt corrosion (and this should go in the disadvantages section).

Page 5 – Geothermal

Basically fine.

Page 6 – Biomass

In advantages: “It supports farmers because they can sell their crops for biomass fuel”. Whilst this is true it is seems silly to single out farmers. An advantage of wind energy is that it supports turbine blade manufacturers because they can sell their turbine blades as parts; an advantage of crude oil is that it supports oil drillers because they can sell their oil for fuel. It’s just a silly argument. What if crack cocaine was a fuel, would we be saying “it supports drug dealers because they can sell their stash for fuel”?

The “advantages” contradict the “disadvantages”. “Biomass fuel tends to be cheap” versus “Biomass can be relatively expensive compared to other sources of energy”. “Burning biomass produces carbon dioxide gas which contributes towards global warming”, strictly true but as the same card explains in the “advantages” section: “Although carbon dioxide is released when biomass is burned, it is still a carbon neutral source of energy. The amount of carbon dioxide that is released when biomass fuel is burnt is the same as the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the plants when they were growing.”

Page 7 – Uranium

“It does not contribute to the greenhouse effect because it does not produce smoke or carbon dioxide”. Mentioning “smoke” is absurd. The smoke produced by other sorts of power generation does not contribute to the greenhouse effect, quite the opposite. Smoke is an aerosol that has a cooling effect. Smoke is of course a pollutant, so nukes avoid air pollution, which is worth mentioning.

In advantages: “It produces small amounts of waste”. True, but so misleading. They make up for it in the disadvantages.

“It is not renewable; when the uranium is used it can not be replaced”. True, but worth mentioning the possibility of sea-dissolved uranium, which is replaced (er, I think).

“It is very difficult to turn off a nuclear power station”. Again, true, but it would be good to say a little bit on why this is a disadvantage. The reason it’s a problem is that no-one wants electricity at night but the nuclear power stations generate it anyway; you have to throw it away.

Page 8 – Solar Energy

“Every second, the Sun turns millions of tonnes of hydrogen into energy”. Well intuitively this didn’t seem right to me, but it turns out to be both right and wrong. The sun converts mass into energy at the rate of 4.4e9 kg per second (or 4.4 million tonnes, if you’d rather), and of course that mass is hydrogen. But it’s a little bit misleading not to mention the 600e9 kg of hydrogen that get converted to helium in the process. In other words every second, the Sun turns 600 million tonnes of hydrogen into helium, producing some energy in the process.

Only talks about PV, doesn’t mention solar concentration electricity generation such as the 11 MW PS10 tower in Spain (warning, EU press release).

Page 9 – Hydroelectric Energy

Hmm, it says here “Solar power can be used to create electricity in remote places where it might be very hard to get
electricity through cables”. Oh rly? What’s that got to do with hydro? Nothing, that’s what. Cut-and-paste hack-job.

Then the voice changes. Suddenly we see “we”: “We can control when the electricity is made by opening and closing the dam gates.”, and “Electricity can be generated 24 hours a day as long as we have the water”. It just hasn’t been proofread.

Disadvantages: “It is very expensive to build a dam”. Oh rly? Well, it is very expensive to build a nuclear reactor, and very expensive to build a wind farm the size of Wales, but you didn’t seem to mention that. Just casting about for disadvantages were we?

Another disadvantage: “There can be negative environmental impacts as water quality and quantity downstream can be affected and have a knock on effect on wildlife”. True, but there can be a positive effect on wildlife as well, as water habitats are created upstream of the dam and they are exploited by suitable species.

Page 10 – Wave Energy

“Wave energy is harnessed from the movement of the surface water of lakes, rivers and oceans.” Wrong. Should read “oceans” for “lakes, rivers, and oceans”. You cannot get usable energy from a wave on a lake. And as for rivers, stop laughing at the back. “Turbines can be placed by the shore, where the movement is at its strongest.” The latter bit, “where the movement is at its strongest” seems like a dubious claim to me. Surely the Atlantic waves have just as much movement a few miles offshore? The advantage of shore placement is shorely (sorry!) shorter cables?

“The wave acts like a piston that pushes air up and down an oscillating water column.” Well, that’s one way to get energy out of a wave, and it’s (kind of) how the Islay LIMPET works, but there are many other ways. Pelamis works by using the flexion of a linear body floating on the surface to drive hydraulic rams. CETO works by having a submerged buoy drive a piston to pump seawater inland at high pressure which then drives generating turbines. Salter’s Duck works, as far as I can tell, a bit like a self-winding watch.

“As an island we have lots of access to the coast and therefore could harness a lot of wave energy.” Yeah man, a lot of energy. According to MacKay, the total Atlantic wave energy hitting Great Britain amounts to 16 KWh/d per person or about 1/8 of our total consumption. If we exploited all of that then the Newquay tourism industry would be very annoyed (a disadvantage not mentioned, incidentally).

“It can be unreliable because it depends on the waves – sometimes you’ll get loads of energy, sometimes nothing”. Ah, no. Wave power is about the most reliable source of energy derived from a moving mass. Thousands of kilometres of Atlantic fetch can’t be wrong. There are always waves.

“Some designs can be very noisy”. Surely bogus, because no-one is proposing living next to them. Visually distracting, maybe, and a menace to fishing and shipping, but those disadvantages aren’t mentioned.

That’s all folks! Don’t forget your homework now, pick a lesson and tear it apart!

The music of substance abuse

2008-10-08

As you will know if you’re the person that said it to me, my music collection is full of “wailing bints”. I was listening to the archetype Cerys Matthews wail persuasively and passionately about her true love: Chardonnay. It’s in parts charming and in parts disturbing to hear of those intimate moments she shared with the bottle. It occurred to me that even amongst my meagre music collection there is a great deal said about various addictive substances.

Bob Dylan wails (most unlike a bint) about having just “One More Cup Of Coffee”. Is he engaging in shared family bonding before he goes out to battle? Hard to say. Coffee is a substance of importance to most hackers, and seemingly to musicians too. Kate Bush has her “Coffee Homeground”; The Cranberries think you should “Wake Up And Smell The Coffee”.

I’m not even sure I should mention “Brimful of Asha”, because I have no idea what it’s about. Is Asha a singer whose tunes they are in love with, filling theirs cups to the brim with “Asha on the 45″? In which case the substance isn’t tangible, it’s melody. Or perhaps Asha is a toxic liquor that they drink from small glasses that are for some reason left spinning on the deck. I just can’t tell.

For the younger readers: a “45” refers to a plastic media disc that stored music in an analogue format; the disc has to be spun at a speed of 45 revolutions per minute whilst scraping past a needle made of sapphire in order to reproduce the sound correctly. No, really. Whatever.

The Feeling’s brilliant album “Twelve Stops & Home” manages to capture everything that is good about a British Friday night. Just the title of track 4, “Kettle’s On”, evokes fuggy northern kitchens, late at night, cold hands wrapped around warm mugs. I can’t mention tea without mentioning the insane, brilliant, comical “Cup of Brown Joy“.

The Doors’ “Alabama Song” tells us that Jim Morrison obviously spends his Friday nights crawling from bar to bar, pleading with his friends to show him “the way to the next whisky bar”.

For The Stranglers everything seems “Golden Brown”, and I know they’re not talking about sepia prints. I find it a pleasantly mellow celebration of relaxing on endless warm summer evenings. Perhaps relaxing in The Beatles “Strawberry Fields Forever”, where “nothing is real” (of course their “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” must remain one of the archetypal substance abuse songs).

When Crowded House ask for another piece of “Chocolate Cake”, they’re not talking about a delicious confection, but about the gross and conspicuous over-consumption in modern consumer society. A collective substance abuse that we all (in the developed world) suffer from; addicted to food, sugar, fat, stuff. Mmm, more cake.

It’s a bit of a leap to the stronger stuff, but surely I have to mention Slowhand’s “Cocaine”, and Neil Young’s “The Needle And The Damage Done”. Both of them chilling and haunting. Happily, I’m not haunted by my ghosts, but by the ones that they create for me.

Better go, lest I forget how to program or something.

A small matter of Unix security

2008-10-06

I have discovered a small problem in a well deployed Unix utility. It is (just) possible that this problem has some security related issues.

This code, by the way, is probably in every single deployed Unix system.

What should I do now?

BBC: don’t know their GDP from their elbow

2008-10-03

Why do I subject myself to the horror that is BBC science reporting?

In this article about funding Kopernikus (you know, earth observation) says:

Then, the UK contributed just £11m for the entire first segment, or phase, of Kopernikus (the new name for GMES). This amounted to 4.5% of UK gross domestic product (GDP); industry had expected Britain to participate at around 17%.

Anyone with a gram of common sense could instantly see that this 11 million being 4.5% of GDP is just total nonsense. I’m sure there’s something going on that involves those numbers, but it’s not that. Probably Kopernikus has some sort of funding scale set according to a country’s GDP, but I couldn’t find out what it is, and this article certainly doesn’t make it clear.

Fucking arts graduates.

[2008-10-03: Corrected “countries” to “country’s”. Fucking maths graduates.]

Python and bragging about C89

2008-10-02

People who brag about how cool and modern they are to require a C89 compiler (that’s you Python 2.6) should not be using // for comments. Maybe they meant they require a C99 compiler.

And yes, this really matters. On AIX 6.1 the Python 2.6 configure script selects a C89 compiler («cc_r -qlanglvl=extc89» if you must know). Which barfs on their warthog creating code.

Meh. Maybe I’ll even file a bug report.

C: return and parentheses

2008-10-02

Please don’t write «return(0);». The parentheses are unnecessary. This request generalises. So the NSIDC should not be writing (on line 90 of cproj.c; some sort of Google codesearch link):

return((cosphi / (sqrt (1.0 - con * con))));

Oh yeah. Gotta love those parentheses; they give a nice warm cuddly feeling and make my expressions feel extra protected.

Program as if you know the language. At least a bit:

return cosphi / sqrt (1.0 - con * con);

There. Isn’t that clearer? More parentheses doesn’t always mean clearer code.

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