Showing posts from January, 2006

Wow, what a great article

The Great Zucchini is a entertainer for kids parties, which is what I used to do when I was a teenager. I used to be called "The Wizard of Ahhhs" and did magic tricks for 4-8 year olds, so I really connected with this article. I still have a few magic tricks stored away and sometimes long for the days when I practiced my act in the basement and all that.
The article is very long but it hooks you and doesn't let go, I teared up at the end!
Plus the guy is raking in $100 grand a year, working 2 days a week.

My arcade game project

I bought two top-of-the line Ultimarc Mag-Stick Plus, joysticks and a slew of buttons plus the I-Pac 2 interface which takes in all the buttons and joystics and turns it into USB keyboard commands. I even went and bought the wiring kit even though I could get that kind of stuff here (and I have two crimping tools already). Purists might say that the joysticks are a little different than what you get at the arcade, the throw (how much they move) is a little shorter and it uses a magnet instead of springs. They are, in fact, better than what you would get in the arcade and should make for better playability. I remember walking away with sore arms and shoulders after playing Robotron for hours.

The bad news is that I'm not going to build an actual Arcade Cabinet, instead I'll just build a arcade console (similar to this). There are several reasons for this:
There are only two places that I would be allowed to put an arcade cabinet, either at the cottage or in the home office. A…

Learning about arcades games

I'm still hot on building a MAME cabinet and I'm learning a lot.
I've learned that there are 8 position joysticks and 4 position joysticks (and joysticks that do both). The Ultramarc has a nice one that does both and you can switch between the two by moving the joystick a certain way. The reason you need both is that many older games use 4 position joystics and the 8 position doesn't work as smoothly for those games (i.e. if you do a diagonal it doesn't know if you want to go up or right, say). The Ultramarc Mag-Stick Plus also uses a magnet to center the joystick instead of a spring which should mean it'll last forever.
These joysticks are also built very sturdy, they really should last a lifetime (or at least your lifetime).
I though about getting a spinner, but some some strange reason, they are rather expensive, one spinner can be more expensive than two joysticks.
On the other hand you can try to make your own, by canabolizing a mouse - but it won't work …

More on Python Hosting

In a previous post I mentioned that I'm probably going to change web hosting providers. My site is old and decrepid and I want to rejuvinate it. I also want to keep the old URLS (like to my CV) which should be easy to do with TurboGears and/or Apache URL rewrite.
I need to ask myself why I want a site to begin with (my other option is to leave my computer on and have people use my machine directly).
Offsite storage - i.e. backup - I used to pay US$90.00 a year for only 100 MB of space, now I can store up to 1 GB. I'm going to have to use bacula or Unison to do this on a regular basis.
Increased chance of doing something that might make me some money (i.e. a site made for someone else).Backup of my backup. Those sites do daily backups for me.Subversion storage. I have subversion on my home machine that I use, but having it somewhere else is even nicer (especially since someone is backup it up for me).
Automatic updates of patches. My Mandrake home server is so out of date I can&#…

Thinking about my future MAME Cabinet

I'm still thinking about making a MAME cabinet.
I'm trying to piece together which games I would really like to be able to play to figure out which controls I would need. Here's my list so far:

Two 8-way Joystick Games for one person:
Robotron 2048, this is my all-time favorite game two 8 position joysticksBlack Widow I used to play this, similar a little to Robotron
4-way joystick games for one or two players:
Joust, this is a fun but hard gameTop Gunner (know as Jackal in MAME) I played this game a lot.Elevator Action, I liked this game.
Burger Time, fun older game
Ms. Pac Man, a classic
Donkey Kong Jr., another classic I was never that good at.GalagaDefender
8-way joystick games for one or more players:
Gauntlet (et. al) great game but was more expensive.Ghost 'n Goblins, I like this game but found it quite hard tooGolden Axe - popular
various fighting games, I never liked them that much but Victor does.Laserdisk Games (needs Daphne instead of MAME):
Dragon's Lair, I rememb…

Intelligence test

I seem to be particularly good at these types of puzzles (ex. "24 H in a D" - "24 hours in a day"). Staring at them seems to help some.

Here's a teaser: "12 S of the Z"?

It says that 19+ is genius level, I got up to 24. (I guessed "9 P in SA" and this one "7 B in the N T" helped be also get "66 B of the B" and "39 B of the O T" - hint).


Weekly bookmarks

Shared bookmarks for user scott_kirkwood
Slashdot | Beginning Python: From Novice to Professional -- Some pointers for beginner texts tagged as: [programming python renata] | Building a Linux home media center -- tagged as: [hardware howto linux toread]Agile Testing: Running Selenium in Python Driven Mode -- tagged as: [web python testing] JSLog - a Lightweight Ajax logger -- Logging for you JavaScript, good idea - no more alert() boxes. tagged as: [ajax javascript programming web]How to configure and use LIRC -- Infrared programming. tagged as: [howto linux hardware]delicious python -- pyDelicious tagged as: [python api programming]BeginnersGuide/NonProgrammers - PythonInfo Wiki -- Maybe there's something here for Renata to learn Python. tagged as: [python renata teaching]PgWorksheet -- A linux program to do queries for PG, with color coding. tagged as: [python postgres ide linux]How-To Build a Telephone Recording Circuit from an Old Modem - En…

Good open source solutions

People often ask me what's good and free on the net. An obvious answer is which replaces the MS Office suite. Some people don't realise that OOo is also great for doing MS Visio type diagrams and MS Access type database stuff too.
Another recomendation I sometimes make is for Task Coach it's an easy to use task manager which keeps track of what you are doing and how many hours you have worked on each task. As a consultant I'm always being asked for this information. Having the file stored as XML is also nice since I can easily store in in subversion and make programs that that print out reports the way my employer likes it.
The other day I was asked about an open source tool for project managment (like MS Project). I know of one that is very compelling called faces. It's quite a different way of doing project managment, but allows you to manage tasks and resources in a very powerful and flexible manner. Here are some deep linked images showing what …

Python vs Ruby

This chart appears to show that Python is growing, and so is Ruby.

Unfortunately, when you compare it to other popular languages they are all pretty small potatoes still. Amazingly, on that last chart it looks like C is going up again, java is trending a little down. Perl seems to be trending down too, but PHP is holding steady. I've been looking around for a new hosting company and I'm amazed that nearly everyone offers MySQL and PHP, yet there almost no one that offers PostgreSQL and Python (a clearly superior solution). I suppose it's understandable since there's basically only one way to do PHP and Python has a bunch of ways of putting up pages, Java is pretty much in the same boat in that sense.

Video: Lessing slideshow on Google Print

There's a torrent to a nice Quicktime movie narrated by Larry Lessig talking about copyright and fairuse and how Google's Booksearch is lawful. It also makes you think a little about copyright and how the copyright holder might kill innovation.
Via BoingBoing

Hollywood Squares classics

For those of us old enough to remember the original Hollywood'll get a kick out of this! But even if you're not old enough, you'll still a good laugh from this. These are from the days when game show responses were spontaneous. Host Peter Marshall was asking the questions.

Q: Do female frogs croak.
A: Paul Lynde: If you hold their little heads under water long enough.

Q: If you're going to make a parachute jump you should be at least how high?
A: Charley Weaver: Three days of steady drinking should do it.

Q: True or false...a pea can last as long as 5,000 years.
A: George Gobel: Boy it sure seems that way sometimes...

Q: You've been having trouble going to sleep. Are you probably a man or a woman?
A: Don Knotts: That's what's been keeping me awake.

Q: According to Cosmo, if you meet a stranger at a party and you think he's really attractive,
is it okay to come out directly and ask him if he's married?
A: Rose Marie: No, wait until morning.

Q: Whic… has great webhosting at only US$10.00 a month, features that I think are great are:
Full shell access via ssh,
Python version 2.4,The great TurboGears pre installed,
Subversion source code control preinstall with access via HTTP port 80,Trac wiki preinstalled,PostgreSQL or MySQL,500 MB of diskspace,10GB bandwidth per month,No setup fee,Daily offline backup.This looks great, with that much space I can really start using subversion to store my life.
I'm definitely thinking about it about swithing to it.

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DVD-Slideshow, part II

Well this Sunday I spent a few hours trying to make a JPG slideshow with music which I can burn to CD or DVD. So far it hasn't been that great. I realized rather quickly that there are a few steps that I need:
I need to find the best images and collect them. The simplest is to copy the files to another location but leaving them in situ has a great deal of appeal.I need to rotate some images, ideally it should be done lossily.I need to crop some images. This could be done at the last stage on a copy so that the original is unnaffected.
I need to whitebalance, remove red-eye and otherwise fix some images. This requires a better tool and can't be done losslessly.I want to add a comment to each image in the slideshow. Usually a funny comment but sometimes it's just, who is in the image and when it was taken.I need to be able to get the image names (esp. if left in situ) and the comments via Python so I have the information I need to run dvd-slideshow.I started using digiKam whi…

Housing crash in 2006?

Warning signs of the housing crash, is an article warning that we're in a housing bubble that will crash at some time in the future. When people were worried of an over exuberance in the dot-com bubble, the bubble kept rising for years after others said it would crash any day now. But the dot-com bubble is different than the housing bubble. With stocks most people play with their disposable income, with their house it's nearly everything that they own. With mortgages it's the bank that really owns the house, and the banks are so used to making billions in profits every year that when they get spooked they'll may start foreclosing like there's no tomorrow. A little rise in interest rates can make it impossible for people to pay their mortgages.
There are so many areas of weakness in the American economy that it can happen in many ways:
The US deficit is enormous and growing, mostly because of cutting taxes to the rich and the wars they've lead.The US can't …

Weekly bookmarks

Shared bookmarks for user scott_kirkwood
Slashdot | Tapestry Making Web Development a Breeze? -- Ugh, I really need to read this tagged as: [java framework web toread]MonsterGecko, LLC -- A mouse that looks like a gun, great for FPS, might be easier for Victor instead of using the keyboard mouse combination. Problem is, it looks like a gun, may not get by the wife. tagged as: [fun input games]evhead: Ten Rules for Web Startups -- tagged as: [business tips toblog]Mass Transit - How Python wins on the Web -- tagged as: [python tosubscribe]Creating Passionate Users: You can out-spend or out-teach -- tagged as: [toread blog education marketing]Paste Deployment -- Generic deployer for WSGI applications. tagged as: [python toread toblog web]Bertrand Russell : Why I Am Not A Christian -- tagged as: [religion atheism article]HOWTO Install GoogleEarth with wine - Gentoo Linux Wiki -- One of the few products I miss on Linux tagged as: [google howto linux fun]Timezones.png (PNG I…

DVD Slideshow

Twice I've made a VideoCD with a bunch of pictures and a soundtrack to send to my mother. I would play them pretty fast since I know that she knows how to pause if needed. These things were pretty short so could be burned on a normal blank CD instead of a DVD (there were no DVD burners when I first did this).
I did this twice and both times were very painful. What I wanted was quite simple, have a bunch of pictures (in a folder) order by date where I could put in a pithy comment on each one which would show up as some text over the picture. In addition, have a soundtrack play in the background to make the whole thing a little more interesting. I found one program that filled out my needs, but was so full of bugs that several times I lost all the work I had done. Later I tried the program that comes with Windows XP and it was not too bad, but still more work than I wanted.
Now I'm on Linux but I'm here partly because I was hit by a virus where I lost is a bunch of pictures w…

Python overloading

I think when one firsts looks at Python it appears not to be able to do operator overloading, this is not the case. You can overload a great deal of operators like +, in, = and function calls (). In my case I had the following problem.
For a while I've been using a file I call which has a global variable that looks a little like this:
curDatabase = 'testdb'
g_databases = {
'testdb' : {
'desc' : 'Test Database',
'aTSN' : '',
'user' : 'ausername',
'password' : 'apassword',
I have a bunch of little programs which use this information to login to database, to VNC, to HTTP (JBoss) and FTP. The idea is that I don't have to remember password just the name that I gave the machine ("testdb" in this case). But having these passwords unencripted on my machine doesn't make me feel very safe.
I decided that the right thing to do is to use something like PasswordSafe

The Python numeric package confusion

There are several high performance numeric packages for python which can handle large arrays efficiently and quickly. There is Numarray, Numeric, SciPy and NumPy, they are all somewhat compatible and on occasion you can create code that works with either.
Fortunately, it looks like we are down to just NumPy now which makes deciding a lot easier.
You should take a look, it really shows you that with Python you can make powerful and fast scientific programs that are easy to make and maintain.

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Get Perpendicular! Theme song so bad it's good

There's a sort of classic little flash theme song made by Hitachi, that's so bad, it's good. It's sort of a school-house rock ditty they made up for their Perpendicular Technology, it's a classic. Looks like Seagate may come out with something in April, finally.

Doom and gloom in OH SIX

James Hower Kunstler (author of The Long Emergency) has a gloomy prediction for 2006. The article is an interesting read and there are more comments than there is article. I like some of the comments they were very informative as well. The parts I believed in were:
The Republican party will take a huge beating especially with the spying and Abramoff scandal.The TV watching public will be distracted by all the noise from the scandals.Gasoline prices will go to $4.00 a gallon.
The housing bubble will collapse and bring much the economy with it.The US dollar will take a beating.
The good side, as I see it, is that this may force Americans to rethink the way they live. I see people buying smaller, more efficient cars and smaller houses or apartments closer to the city. Living in the city is ultimately healthier for the environment and for people as well. Perhaps we'll see public transport working better as well (think of New York City or England). I think the political scandals are good …

Instant Py just add C code

One thing that makes Python so fast is that a great deal of the libraries are actually written in C and C++. One reason for this is that it's so easy to add a C program to Python, especially if you compare it to say, Java.
It's great, if there's a part of your Python program that's too slow, you can rewrite it in C++. I've done it with Boost.Python for a Python project for my wife and it worked great. There's also SWIG but it's a little more suitable for C programs instead of C++ and I've heard the implementation runs a little slower than Boost's. But it compiles a lot faster so the debug cycle is a little faster.
There a new method to do this in town (at least for Unix) it's called pyInstant. You put your C code in a string and when your Python program runs the Instant.create_extension() method it'll automatically make a make file, create the SWIG interface file, compile it and by the next line you can execute the compiled C code, doesn…

TIOBE Programming Community Index for 2005

Position Dec 2005Position Dec 2004DeltaProgramming LanguageRatings Dec 2005Delta Dec 2004Status

(Visual) Basic8.710%+0.54%A
The TIOBE index runs a bunch of internet queries (through google, et al) and posts the 'popularity'. I'm not surprised that C and C++ are becoming less popular, I haven't programmed in it in a long time and I'm an expert. If you look at the chart it looks more like people are intermingling C++ "C" since as C goes up C++ goes down (and vice-versa). Also, if you add up C and C++ you get it as the winner instead of Java. But that may not work since it&…

Microsoft WMF Vulnerability

There's a rather nasty Windows hole called the WMF vulnerability. It's bad since the hole works on all versions of Windows and you can get infect by just looking at a web site or an e-mail. IE is worse than Firefox but you can get it through Firefox as well (but at least it brings up a dialog first). There are exploits already on the web, you are not safe. Remember, you don't have to click on anything and can still get the virus. In fact, if you use outlook and have the message preview open can get it through you e-mail even when you are not at the machine - ouch.
The easy way to remove the vulnerability (besides installing Ubuntu Linux) is to go Start Menu|Run... and type
regsvr32 /u shimgvw.dll
You won't be able to see thumbnails anymore, but that's a small price to pay. It's not a perfect cure since another program could just re-register the dll. Currently, there's no anti-virus company that blocks this exploit and Microsoft doesn't have a patch ye…

Backing up

Ouch, backing up is difficult. I bought a bunch of blank DVD-R disks (4.7 GB) to do some backing up. I wanted to start with backing up my music files which is about 30 GB (about 7 DVDs). I thought it would be easy but Linux is just lousy with backup programs, just too many. After a bit of looking around, I picked DAR since it's in Python and can be installed with apt-get. But I soon realized I would need to write a little program to do this simple backup (too many options), in addition I need to tell DAR to call growisofs to create the DVDs. What wasn't immediately clear is that an ISO 9660 DVD can't handle files greater than 2 GB (each). I was creating one huge 4.7 GB .dar file and the silly growisofs program would skip the only file (because it was too big) and then burn an empty DVD. After wasting 3 DVDs playing with settings I gave up.
Now I'm using scdbackup which is simpler and does DVDs no problem.
I would be remiss if I did not mention bacula. Here is myfeature l…

Extreme Learning

I'm reading this article (Extreme Thinking) by Michael A. Nielsen and came across this part.
I?d like next to describe a striking moment in a seminar given by the self-improvement guru, Stephen Covey.
Covey has a large group of people in a room, split up into many small groups, each group seated around a small circular table. At some point in the presentation, Covey tells people that he is going to make five points over the next ten minutes, and that after he?s done the person sitting at ?6 O?Clock? at the table is going to explain the material to everybody else at the table.
Well, the first of Covey?s five points is that the best way to learn is by teaching. He starts off making this point in the abstract. No doubt many in the audience are sitting there, nodding their heads in agreement. Then he looks around the audience, and asks people to compare the behaviour of the people sitting at 6 O?Clock to those not at 6 O?Clock. Invariably, the people at 6 O?Clock are assiduously tak…

Cool hand art

Apparently these haven't been touched up digitally. Quite cool.

The future of print

I've e-mail Cory Doctorow a little about this once, but I think that print (magazines, books) are going to be much more varied in the near future. My future looks something like this:
You will buy a book or an article over the web, print is will basically be dead. You may buy a batch of articles (like you would a magazine) if you are too lazy to pick and choose - plus there might be a discount.With high resolution computer monitors/laptops and cheap e-book readers, reading will be more enjoyable from a device than from a paper book. Imagine a e-book reader that weighs less than a paperback, is water-resistant can be read in sunlight or in the dark and changing the page is just a button push.
These e-book readers can hold hundred or thousands of books and articles.You can change the font and font size of the e-book. You can even flash the text one word at a time.
What you read can be put up on you monitor, your living room TV screen, your phone, ipod or your laptop/e-book. This cop…

Weekly bookmarks

Shared bookmarks for user scott_kirkwoodTop SNES Games -- tagged as: [games victor reviews]I Will Knot! -- tagged as: [howto reference diy]Performancing for Firefox | -- Utility for blogging inside firefox, need to try it out. tagged as: [firefox extension blog util]Nokia's open source director on the 770 Internet Tablet -- The little linux tablet that could? tagged as: [linux tobuy toread]Lightweight podcatching client targets Linux users -- Maybe I'd be happier with bashpodder? tagged as: [podcast linux toread]

The 10/20/30 rule for Powerpoint

Guy Kawasaki writes about his 10/20/30 rule of PowerPoint. Summarizing:
10 slides20 minutes30 point font sizeBut read the article, it's ok - it's short.
When Microsoft Office 2000 came out my favorite feature was that PowerPoint's notes were finally first class objects. In other words, your slide notes could could be spell checked, have bold font, lists, unlike previous versions of PowerPoint. I try to make my bullet-points on the slides just a few words, used mostly to remind me what to say next. The real presentation was in the presentation notes. I also put in extra stuff in the notes that I thought was too detailed for the presentation, but if someone asks I could always stop the presentation and look at the notes. I'd also keep the notes in case I had a "brain fart" as my friend used to say - where one would freeze and not be able to think straight.
My tips for presentations: less is more, anecdotes are king, charts and diagrams illuminate, and jokes make …