Supersonic Man

September 21, 2013

Java is doomed?

Filed under: Hobbyism and Nerdry — Supersonic Man @ 9:25 am

I was talking earlier about Windows now having a somewhat bleak future despite still being firmly dominant today, and now I have to recognize something else that’s gotten itself into a similar position: the Java language. Over much of the last decade it’s probably been the most widely used programming language… though it’s hard to be sure, and it certainly was never in any position of majority dominance.  But now nobody sees any kind of growth in its future, and other languages like C# are making it look outdated.  Combine that with the well-publicized security troubles which, among other things, nailed shut the coffin for applets in the browser (the one place where the average computer user came into direct contact with the Java brand), and nobody’s seeing it as the right horse to bet on anymore.

Which is a shame, because it’s still one of the most widely supported and most available languages, and it’s probably still the best teaching language in the C-derived family.  It’s going to have to be fairly widely used in schools, even if it drops slowly out of use in industry.  There isn’t a suitable replacement for that role yet, as far as I can see.

Even as it gets into a state where people scoff at it for real work, it might still be unavoidable for a long time as something you have to know.

. . . . .

Another sad observation of decline: I think MS Office is now better at supporting Open Office than is at supporting MS Office.

September 10, 2013

strict doctypes and old markup

Filed under: Hobbyism and Nerdry — Supersonic Man @ 9:49 am

I thought strict doctypes, like XMTML Strict, were just for eliminating all the deprecated HTML tags that were used for stuff that now uses CSS, such as <font> and <center>.  But there are a couple of gotchas with it.  For instance, strict [X]HTML does not allow you to put a target= attribute on a link.  Apparently this is considered a matter of presentation and styling.  But the one that really makes me scratch my head is that <blockquote> is only allowed to contain block-level elements.  What?  The obvious semantics of a block quote are that it should contain text.  But no, now it’s only supposed to contain paragraphs and divs, not act as a paragraph in itself.

(I’m posting this partly just as a sort of note to myself.)

I do try to use modern standards, but my website has content dating back as far as 1996, so no way am I going to clean out all the old <font> tags.

Maybe I should at least validate, since the content there is all fairly new, and generated from a single master page that I can easily modernize.

[update] I did: is now fully XHTML Strict compliant, though still has tons of content that’s stuck at a Netscape 4 level of markup, using no CSS at all.  The front landing page is the only part that uses any modern browser technology, and even that dates mainly from about 2005.

[update 2] I made a spreadsheet of all the HTML pages on assessing their state of modernity in terms of styling.  The current status is:

  • root level: almost everything is archaic except the index page and the one page that draws the most search traffic.
  • the old film-era photo gallery folder (which frankly, has been an embarrassment for some time, and really needs updating, or even just some severe culling) is also completely archaic.
  • the Enron & Friends material is 90% bad, with a light sprinkling of modern style tweaks, but the current events movie reviews in the same folder are 90% good.
  • the B movie folder is good, and the boids folder, plus bits in the Amiga folder and the Reagan folder.
  • two of the biggest folders are good, but they’re both unfinished projects which are not yet exposed to the public.

The question is, which of these archaic areas is even worth updating?  The answer would be, almost none.  They’re all dated, essentially of historical interest only, except for the gallery, where markup is the least of its problems.


April 3, 2013

is Microsoft now the underdog? (WordPress is annoying)

Filed under: Hobbyism and Nerdry,Rantation and Politicizing — Supersonic Man @ 7:15 pm

I think I’ve about had it with Wordpiss.  Their comment approval process is fine for rejecting dozens of spam comments, but it’s terrible for approving a valid comment where you have to actually READ it before you’re sure it’s good.  The only way to read the whole comment to the end, as far as I could see, was to edit it!  I could not find any option for viewing the comment as it would appear if approved.  And then, when I try to follow any links to the post it’s a comment to, they’re links for editing it, not reading it.  This is stupid.

I have a sneaking feeling that Blogger is much easier to work with.  But I don’t want to move yet more of my life on to Google’s servers.  I think they’ve now officially crossed the line into being the new Microsoft — the big dominant choice that anyone who doesn’t like monopolies ought to look for alternatives to.  Since Windows 8 came out, Microsoft might actually now qualify as an underdog.  If not now, then they will soon.

IBM has been an underdog for a while now.  If they achieve the ability to answer natural-language questions before Google does, as they well might, I’ll be rooting for them, even though they were once the bad guy.  But I won’t go so far as to root for Microsoft… the memories of their ways when they were on top are a bit too fresh.

As for blogging platforms… what I really miss is Livejournal.  Why are today’s social networking sites so good for connecting people but so terrible for longer-form writing?  LJ was the one and only time that I saw thoughtful blogging combined with strong social networking in a way where both were able to work to their fullest.

February 21, 2013

pictures on top

Filed under: Hobbyism and Nerdry — Supersonic Man @ 5:01 pm

It was bugging me that the text along the right hand side of this blog would be rendered on top of my lovely pictures. So I experimented, and it turns out that WordPress is perfectly happy to let you add this little adjustment to your <img> tags:


January 23, 2013

Artificial Intelligence — what’s coming

Filed under: Hobbyism and Nerdry,thoughtful handwaving — Supersonic Man @ 8:08 pm

The term “Artificial Intelligence” means a computer or robot programmed to be smart like a person.  It’s a pipe dream so far, but a lot of people think it makes sense that it can happen eventually, and the idea is a staple of science fiction, in which it’s often taken for granted that a hundred years from now, our machines will be as smart as a lot of us are, and might even be considered citizens with the same rights as people.

Is this notion realistic?  Is it possible?  Is it likely?  If it happens, what form will it take?  I think I may be able to help clarify these questions a bit.


December 2, 2012

the end of Windows hegemony?

Filed under: Hobbyism and Nerdry,Rantation and Politicizing — Supersonic Man @ 12:30 pm

Are we finally seeing the first signs of the end of Windows?  Can the vast decaying empire of the Windows desktop finally be about to fall? (more…)

February 4, 2012

instant volume control

Filed under: Hobbyism and Nerdry — Supersonic Man @ 9:38 pm

Let’s say you’re at work and listening to MP3s in your headphones.  And someone comes up and needs to talk.  You have to stop the music… and in the past I’ve found I’m always fumbling to open up the player GUI and hit Pause, and it takes several seconds, during which you’re not looking very professional.

And if you use the taskbar icon to adjust the volume, it makes a loud blatt in your ear as soon as you let go of it.  That’s not much good either.

I decided I wanted a quick keyboard-shortcut way to go play/pause, and to increase or decrease the volume.  Only problem was, at work I’m not allowed to install any outside software.  So it had to be done with nothing but a script.  Turns out the Windows Script Host can emulate the special media-player keys on a multimedia keyboard, like so: (more…)

January 3, 2012

European vs Indian state names

Filed under: Hobbyism and Nerdry — Supersonic Man @ 11:40 am

Some states have names of purely European derivation, such as New Hampshire or Georgia.  Others have names of native origin, such as Massachusetts or Hawaii.  Which category has more states in it?  Turns out, this question is not all that easy to answer.

First, let’s list the states whose names have definite unambiguous European origins.

New Hampshire
New Jersey
New York
North Carolina
Rhode Island
South Carolina
West Virginia

That’s 21 names. Now, the ones with names of definite native origin:

North Dakota
South Dakota

That’s 24 names.  This list is ahead… but it doesn’t have a clear majority.  To settle the question, we have to look at the five remaining states.

New Mexico

Turns out, all of these five are debatable.  What about the name Indiana?  It’s from a term used in European languages, but the term refers to the native people.  How do you count it?  That’s a philosophical question.

What about New Mexico?  The name “México” is of native origin, but the state is named after a country with a European-derived language and culture.  Do you count it as native?

Arizona.  The origin of the name is said to be a Spanish corruption of an Aztec word.  Should you count that as native?  But others say it’s a Spanish corruption of an O’odham name, still others say it comes from Basque, and finally, it might just be short for “árida zona”, meaning dry zone, though you’d expect the adjective in that phrase to be placed after the noun.  So the fact is, no one actually knows whether the name is native or not.

The case of Oregon is even worse.  The name came into use long before there was a United States of America, among people who knew almost nothing about the area, and nobody knows where it came from at all.  There are various theories but they’re basically all guessing and hoping.

Idaho may be the one case where a land speculator just went and made a name up.  He at first claimed it was a Shoshone name, then that he just invented to sound Indianish, but then later someone argued that he got it from the Comanche term for “enemy”, because that’s how they saw the people who lived in that direction.  Again, no one actually knows.

So the odds are that there are probably more state names of native origin than of European or colonial origin, since if you count only two of these five as native that gives them the majority… but we can’t say for certain.

What we probably can do is link the cases of Indiana and New Mexico, since whatever principle you use to decide one of them will tend to place the other on the opposite side.  If you count New Mexico as native then Indiana looks colonial.  So that would make the balance 25 to 22 for the native side, giving them at least a tie, and they have the majority if any one of the three unknowns is actually native.  But it still isn’t settled.

December 20, 2011

Java vs Silverlight: which has the worse developer install experience?

Filed under: Hobbyism and Nerdry — Supersonic Man @ 10:18 pm

So which has the worse installation experience for developers — Java, or Silverlight?  Let’s see the contestants in action…

November 13, 2011

the square-cube law: “All animals jump the same height”?

Filed under: Hobbyism and Nerdry — Supersonic Man @ 6:38 pm

It was a school-age best friend’s dad — a physicist at the Stanford Linear Accelerator — who proposed the hypothesis “All animals jump the same height”.  Now this did not of course mean that a hippo can jump the same height as a gazelle… what it means is “It seems like the ability to do a standing leap to a given height is fairly independent of the size of an animal’s body.”  Humans and cats leap a similar upward distance, and so do grasshoppers.

So the question is, if you apply the square-cube law and the like to the issue of jumping, does scale cancel out?  Or does it only approximately do so?  Is size an advantage in jumping ability, or a disadvantage, or neither?


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