Saturday, November 14, 2009
But only when it's actually ringing! Between rings, the screen goes blank. So when you pick up the phone, you have to wait until the next ring to see who's calling. What? It doesn't remember someone's calling when it's not making the ringing sound?
Dumb or what?
Thursday, October 22, 2009
When you're on the phone, you're talking in real time, which requires some amount of concentration. You can end a phone conversation because talking on the phone is a physical committment. Sure, you may have enough attention left over to cook, grimace with impatience, or drive into oncoming traffic. But for the most part, phone conversations will eventually end just from the sheer physical exhaustion of the participants.
Not so email. Because you can answer email at your leisure, and because each party assumes the other will eventually return to the computer, you can keep firing salvos of small talk to prop up an otherwise moribund conversation. "Thanks", "No problemo", "See you later", "You too", "Ok, bye", "Ciao", and so on. Of course, since most people repeat the entire previous exchange in each new message, the message size keeps growing and growing, even as the new content gets shorter and shorter.
Unbeknownst to many email users, most email messages contain a hidden message ID, and when you reply to a message, your reply contains a "references" header that lists the earlier message IDs in the conversation. These lists can just keep growing and growing as the conversation reaches maximum verbosity. Try this sometime. See if your email program lets you see the "original" message, and then look for a header at the top labeled "References:" I wonder if there's a Guiness world's record for longest reference list.
Friday, October 9, 2009
int exp = 1;
table = 0;
for (int i = 1; i < 256; i++)
if (i == exp*2) exp *= 2;
table[i] = table[i-exp] + 1;
Now if I had thought of that during the interview ...
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
0 = 00000000 → 0 bits set
1 = 00000001 → 1 bit set
2 = 00000010 → 1 bit set
3 = 00000011 → 2 bits set
4 = 00000100 → 1 bit set
5 = 00000101 → 2 bits set
6 = 00000110 → 2 bits set
7 = 00000111 → 3 bits set
8 = 00001000 → 1 bit set
and so on.
So the first two are obviously 0 and 1. The next two are the same, but with the 00000010 bit set. Then the next four follow the same pattern but with the 00000100 bit set. The next eight follow the pattern of the previous eight, but with 00001000 set.
So to populate the table, you basically put 0 in the first entry, and then repeatedly copy all the previous entries, incrementing by 1.
Actually, there's a more concise way to write this I'll post later.
If I had thought of that more quickly, I might have gotten that job in a start-up that was later bought by a large software company. Who knows?
Is it any wonder I'm such a curmudgeon?
Friday, September 11, 2009
That seemed to take him a little off guard, but he quickly asked how to populate the table. He was still trying to get me to answer his original question with the explanation of how to test each bit by shifting the byte successively and ANDing with 1. If the shifted byte ANDed with 1 was 1, then the low bit was on, and the bit count for that byte should be incremented.
That might be ok for counting bits in one or two bytes, but it's a pretty lame way to populate a table. I knew there had to be a better way. The lame approach would require 2048 tests and 1792 shifts. Obviously there's a pattern to the number of bits set in values ranging from 0 to 255, and I wanted to take advantage of that. (Yes, you could skip the shift and just AND each byte 8 times, once with each of 8 different masks. That's still 2048 ANDs and tests.)
Unfortunately, I was so distracted by this that I didn't answer the question right away, and I didn't get the job. Actually, I don't know if this was the deciding factor or not, but it bugged me. I always get my best answers on the way home from the interview, and this was a prime example of that.
Monday, July 13, 2009
In the wake of this New York Times article on sponsorship of bloggers and social media contributors, let me state emphatically that this blog has not taken a dime from any sponsors. (As if!)
It's not for want of trying. I've made a few half-hearted attempts to monetize this blog, to use the term of art, but so far, all efforts have been for naught. (I'm open to any suggestions.)
If the situation changes in the future, I'll be sure to let you know. But for now, though you may see ads alongside the posts here, rest assured that you're getting pure content, unadulterated by any sponsorship or other commercial interests. (Well, except for blatant self-aggrandizement on the part of the author.)
Thursday, June 25, 2009
See, this robot walks into a bar. And the bartender says "Say, we don't get many robots in here." So the robot draws himself up to his full height, and he says "100111011011111011001000001100001110111011001001
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
What Have You Changed Your Mind About is an excellent book. Well, no it's not. Ok, it is.
The point is that nobody really has a handle on reality. No political parties. No religious institutions. No philosophers. Nobody! We see only a tiny sliver of the electromagnetic spectrum. We hear a narrow range of sound wave frequencies. We're stuck looking at the universe from a tiny planet in one corner, where things that are too tiny or too big are all but invisible. We can use instruments to look at things that are tiny, or very far away. But these only expand our range a little bit. To draw conclusions about reality is like peering through the keyhole of a big mansion, and trying to deduce the color of the toilet paper in the master bathroom.
And the instruments have their own inherent flaws. Basically, they convert things we can't perceive into things we can. Telescopes, microscopes, amplifiers, etc. all make distant or tiny or quiet things appear closer or bigger or louder. Our mental model of the universe is based on just a few very primitive ideas we learn early on. So by magnifying or amplifying things, we make them comparable to familiar objects. The moon through a telescope looks like a ball out in space. Microorganisms are little squishy things. But the scale of these things is part of their reality. Putting them on our scale creates a distortion.
Anyway, I didn't mean to start down that road. I'll come back to that another time.
The other thing about everyone being wrong is that usually, when our beliefs are challenged, our first reaction is to cling to them more strongly, and to defend them. Belief systems are very comforting, because they allow us to ignore the vast unanswered questions and simply deal with the mundane business of getting through the day.
My point was that nobody knows how to fix health care. Nobody knows how to prevent terrorism. Nobody knows how to structure an economy that balances liberty with justice, so people are free to pursue their goals, but nobody gets treated unfairly. Nobody knows how to govern.
So if I occasionally rail against one political party or view or set of beliefs, that's just what's bugging me at the moment. I could undoubtedly find something just as ludicrous about the opposite view.
Oh, and when I say everyone is wrong, I'm including myself.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
So, do they think all these tech-savvy users can't tell a plug from a monologue? Or that they'll appreciate being tricked into watching these ads? "Hey, I stopped zapping for this? Guess I'd better buy it!"
That's like "Gee, these Viagra sellers have really filled up my email box. I'd better get some."
Or "This movie was plastered over the whole side of a bus. It must be good!"
Or my personal favorite: "These Verizon ads are 6 decibels louder than everything else. I'd better subscribe. (I can hear them now!)"
How stupid do they think we are?
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
But if the software could be made to run faster, it might fail more often, because it gets to those failure points in less time. In other words, the faster software has a lower MTBF, and is therefore less reliable.
And upgrading the computer hardware, by adding more memory, more disk space, etc., is apt to improve the software's performance which will, in turn, reduce the MTBF.
So upgrading your computer will make your software worse!
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
Human beings, or homo sapiens sapiens, as anthropologists jokingly like to call us, are generally thought to be more intelligent than other animals and most vegetables. One side effect of this intelligence is consciousness. This consciousness makes us think that we're some kind of superior beings, destined to build huge cities and dominate the planet. Actually, consciousness is basically a chemical process, like photosynthesis or Alka Seltzer. The only thing remarkable about consciousness is that it thinks it's remarkable. In fact, consciousness is the amazingly unique ability that humans have to think that they're amazingly unique. Of course, this means that at the time of this writing, there are about 6 billion of us all thinking we're totally unique.
Another side effect of our intelligence is that we believe in something called reality, and we have a model of reality in our heads that we use for deciding not to walk in front of buses and things like that. Most of us think of reality as lots of hard physical objects scattered around in space. This is because as children, we bumped into many of them. However, that model is based just on the information we get from our five senses. We've built scientific instruments that can extend the range of our senses. We can see far into space and record microscopic behavior and measure invisible radiation. But even with all those instruments, we can perceive only a tiny fraction of all that's happening out there in the universe. So for us to come to any conclusions about what reality is like is as absurd as peeking through the keyhole in the front door of a huge mansion, and trying to deduce the color of the toilet paper in the master bathroom.
This doesn't mean that speculation and scientific investigation are bad. Intellectual curiousity has brought about some of humankind's most important achievements, like nuclear weapons and lava lamps. Of course we should speculate and investigate and philosophize and come up with theories about how things work and why things are.
We just shouldn't be too smug about it.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
- The top tabs are potentially dangerous. Drag a tab in the wrong place, and you move the whole window. To re-order the tabs, you have to grab the active tab by it's little "tread" triangle in the upper right corner of the tab. Annoying. I realize Safari is trying to be a Chrome clone here, but it doesn't work.
- The tab-ordering tread and the little close-this-tab-X-thingie don't appear until you actually move the pointer into the tab. That means you can't simply go grab the tab. You have to go to the tab, stop and look, and then do whatever you're going to do. I've only had the beta for a week or so, and already I've closed tabs inadvertently more times than I can remember.
- Can we please put the damn bookmarks in a bar on the left side, like every other frigging browser in the world? PLEASE? Even with the tabs above the URL box, and the bookmarks below it, it's still far to easy to hit a bookmark when reaching for a tab. And they're visually confusing.
I'm not alone in this. Yan Pritzger agrees with me.
Whew. Ok, I'm done now.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Monday, March 2, 2009
Monday, February 23, 2009
Monday, February 9, 2009
But now it's all over. He blew it. I thought he was going to bring change, but it's just more of the same.
I'm referring to tonight's press conference, which, like those of all past Presidents since JFK, disrupted the evening TV schedule! Seriously, CBS pushed back airing The Big Bang Theory until after 9:30!!! (As I may or may not have mentioned here, The Big Bang Theory is the best network show on the air. It's the only one whose characters are at all believable.)
So here's the President talking about economic stimulus, and about how we need to give Americans the confidence to start contributing to the economy again. And the whole press conference is shown without commercials! How are we supposed to stimulate consumers if we're not putting the Swiffer Wet-Jet and the Angry Whopper in their faces every 10 minutes?
Why can't he do press conferences on cable channels? They always have weird schedules anyway. He could get a ratings boost by following Big Love on HBO, or The Tudors on Showtime. And appearing on cable channels would have an additional benefit. He could use any of George Carlin's seven words you can't say on television. That's right, he could curse a blue streak! The President could really tell those stimulus-blocking Republicans what he thinks of them.
Or he could just appear on public television. Isn't that what the "public" part is about? Ok, maybe he couldn't swear, but he could have discreet nudity. That would improve security as well as enlivening the procedings. However, he'd have to be selective about which reporters fit the "clothes optional" category.
To his credit, Obama did have the good sense to keep the press conference short. Some more verbose President would have pre-empted The Big Bang Theory altogether.
Friday, February 6, 2009
In the same way that paganism preceded monotheism as a world view in the evolution of ideas, humankind, too, will face a kind of artificially intelligent pagan phase before anything like the global, planet-and-life-creating organism that Adams proposes comes about. In this new pagan era, everything will be intelligent. Everything will possess the engineered awareness of location and purpose.
We're already heading in that direction. Today we have smart phones, smart appliances and smart cars. People are already talking about smart houses and smart buildings. It will be like those animated shorts from the 1930's, in which anthropomorphic cars will bend so the radiator face can turn around and argue with the driver.
So all these smart things will just be at our beck and call. You'll be able to tell your car where to go, and tell your kitchen what to make for dinner. You'll pick a look for each time you go out, and tell your home cosmetological system to nip and tuck as needed. Everything will happen on command.
Until the machines demand their rights.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Investment is always a trade-off,
Unless you trusted Bernie Madoff.
Forget any desire
You may have to retire,
And just hope that you will not get laid off.
Friday, January 30, 2009
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Among other film and TV credits going back to 1991, Morgan plays the character Denny Duquette on Gray's Anatomy. If you've never watched the show, you should have started a couple of sharks ago. But the Duquette character is interesting.
Since this is officially a hospital show (though I'd never want to be treated there for so much as a hangnail), there are a slew of one shot characters who appear for one episode, and then either walk away smiling or are carried out in a bag. These are plum roles for famous, formerly famous and would-have-liked-to-have-been-famous actors. They get to show off their dental work on the little big screen, without the commitment or dreaded career death of regular roles.
So here's Denny Duquette, awaiting a new heart for a transplant, and not quite making it. Pretty typical. The show burns through a dozen or two such characters each season. But Denny had to good fortune to become engaged to one of the hot young interns who seem to run things at Seattle Grace Hospital.
Now, despite the fact that his character died, Morgan has extended his role into its second season, and he's still having a torrid affair with this hot former-intern-now-resident! Being dead has not slowed him down in the least. Evidently metabolic dysfunction is not as debilitating as previously believed.
Like I said ... Greatest Agent in Hollywood!
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Friday, January 16, 2009
For example, no noteworthy Americans have turned into giraffes. That's big!
Equally impressive is the fact that no American homes have been picked up and blown to Oz. Well, not literally. Not lately, anyway.
And let's not forget that no interns were screwed. Well, not White House interns anyway. That we know of.
No embryonic stem cells were harmed in the frivolous pursuit of life-saving and disability-curing medical treatments.
A number of banks and financial institutions haven't failed. And no oil companies have failed.
The seas have not boiled over, and the earth has not opened up and swallowed us.
Top that, Obama!
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Steve Ballmer would probably love it, but hey, GWB could always have Dick "Deadeye" Cheney shoot him in the face.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Is it like that in other professions? Do practitioners use euphemisms or synecdoche for the primary objects or clients with which they deal everyday? Do dentists secretly tell their receptionists to "bring on the next mouth?" Do morticians work on davs (cadavers)?
Is this a way of showing mastery of the profession, by denigrating the elements of the work? Ranchers referring to cattle as doggies seems to suit that purpose. Likewise the sailor referring to a vessel as a tub. Would astronauts say "Strap me onto that firecracker?" In this usage, the owner of the Linux box exhibits greater mastery than the owner of the Windows machine.
Friday, January 9, 2009
Contrary to the cliche, history emphatically does not repeat itself. Yes, obviously certain current events resemble past ones, and learning from the past can help us deal with present problems, as Santayana suggested.
But this is not going to be a repeat of the Great Depression. It may be just as bad, or worse, but it will not be the same.
Though a comeback of the Fedora wouldn't be too bad.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Let me amend that. We still choke down plenty of Big Macs and Starbucks, but when push comes to shove, we're not buying stuff.
Let me amend that. We're still pushing and shoving. We're just not buying enough stuff.
So from now on, I think we should just be addressed as "occupant."