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Record business protects Irish and British consumers

Music: … from CDWow selling us cheap CDs. Paddy forwards on the news — ‘ will now charge EUR 3 on every CD sold from their Irish site. And they wonder why people download music illegally…’

It seems that IRMA and the BPI both joined forces in this case against CDWow, hence this decision affects Ireland, too. The record industry are very happy — ‘it is not the consumer that will suffer, just CD Wow’s profit margins.’ Not entirely clear how the consumer doesn’t suffer due to a 3 Euro surcharge, but I’m sure they have it all worked out.

Globalisation where it suits the producers, rather than the consumers, is the name of the game here.

More at The Register.

(Thanks, Paddy!)

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US/Ireland Cultural Differences

Culture: Five killed in separate road crashes. Donncha notes ‘There were 2 terrible road accidents this morning. One of them was just outside Cahir, in Co. Tipperary. I drove past there dozens of times in the past and I was shocked to hear the news.’

It’s interesting to note this cultural difference. In Ireland, a road crash with multiple fatalities is national news, on the 6 o’clock news; in California, as far as I can see, it’s pretty much an everyday fact of life — unless there was a juicy ‘road rage’ story attached, it won’t get reported.

Are there more deaths in the US than Ireland? It seems not. The US department, NHTSA, notes that California had 3,956 fatalities in 2001, which works out at 11.47 per 100K population. The Irish dept, NRA (heh — that’s National Road Authority) notes a 2001 rate of 10.7 per 100K population. (However, Ireland’s rate has dropped since then, due to an increased emphasis on road safety; the 2003 rate is reported to be the lowest since the 1960’s. Not sure what it is now, though.)

So, interestingly, the death rate is comparable — so where’s the difference? I reckon it must be simply a PR issue; Ireland’s road safety authorities have made it a PR priority, so that public awareness of road safety is heightened. As a result, road crashes are headline news.


The IKEA Walkthrough

Funny: The IKEA Walkthrough: ‘IKEA is a fully immersive, 3D environmental adventure that allows you to role-play the character of someone who gives a shit about home furnishings. In traversing IKEA, you will experience a meticulously detailed alternate reality filled with garish colors, clear-lacquered birch veneer, and a host of NON-PLAYER CHARACTERS (NPCs) with the glazed looks of the recently anesthetized. … with practice (and this IKEA Walkthrough!) you will soon be able to muster the sense of numb resignation necessary for victory.’ (defectiveyeti)

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Using Subversion With Fedora Core 1

Linux: If you use Fedora Core 1, here’s a yum stanza to download and install Subversion.

Add these lines to /etc/yum.conf:

  name=Subversion at Summersoft


yum install subversion

That’s it! svn will now be kept updated using yum.

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Orkut Down for Tweakage

Social: orkut – under construction: ‘ Based on your suggestions, I’m taking back to the lab for some fine-tuning and improvements. It will likely take a few days to finish them. None of your data will be lost and I should have some nice surprises for you when I bring it back online. I’ll email you when it’s ready and running again.’

Probably taken offline mainly to deal with this wee buglet ;) is interesting on a few levels:

  • the Google link paid off massively. It has a lot more geek cred than it would have had otherwise (especially given the in-my-opinion fugly MSN-style design, and — ugh — .aspx URLs ;)

    As far as I can see, it’s not really Google-affiliated; just written by a Googler in his spare time. The Google names I know don’t seem to be in there, and no games of ‘Six Degrees of Sergei Brin’ are possible ;)

  • the invite-only startup gave it some good initial buzz.

But IMO it needs a few tweaks: the main one IMO is export. Friendster, et al all give the impression that they want to lock you in the trunk so they can ‘monetize’ your network, or something. If that’s the way it’ll work, great, it’s a toy, and that’s all they’re getting from me.

These things are just toys until I can get my data back out again in a machine-readable format (FOAF, RDF, etc.) I want to augment it with other social data; like an anti-spam web of trust based on who I know, and being able to graphviz my social network, dammit! ;)

Brian McCallister has a few more useful comments.

Puzzles: a UK crypto guy says the Voynich manuscript is gibberish and reckons he’s figured out how it was made. ‘They have shown that its various word, which appear regularly throughout the script, could have been created using table and grille techniques. The different syllables that make up words are written in columns, and a grille – a piece of cardboard with three squares cut out in a diagonal pattern – is slid along the columns. The three syllables exposed form a word. The grille is pushed along to expose three new syllables, and a new word is exposed.’

Spam: NY Times on the Spam Conf 2004.

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Debugging Thoughts

Software: Nelson Minar: Primitive Debugging. Nelson quotes Kernighan, ‘The most effective debugging tool is still careful thought, coupled with judiciously placed print statements’, and assents from a viewpoint a quarter of a century later. Strange but true; I find this also. Why is that?

IMO, it’s all usability problems.

  • debuggers are labour-intensive. To print or explore a complex data
    • structure requires lots of typing, or liberal cut and paste from a side window with your debugger commands ready to go. DDD does a very good job of helping with this, since it’s built around a data display model.
    • It’s easy to make a mistake that requires a full restart. If you’re single-stepping through some code, hit a loop, and want to skip several steps, you might select ‘continue until loop exit’ — then find that you’ve gone too far. What can you do? Restart from scratch.

      There is a fix for this — backstepping. However, so far it seems to be only available in research models; I don’t know of any deployed debuggers that support this.

Even given a good debugger, I find myself throwing in a printf() every time. By now, my brain’s hard-wired to debug using printf.

(More correctly, my own equivalent, a ‘JMDB’ statement. This is a little bit of usability sugar; I’ve defined that in my editor as a language-dependent macro to output a ‘JMD’ string — so I can find it easily in code and output — and the file and line numbers, along with whatever data I want to log.)

It’s too late to save me ;)

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