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  • Blog Post: Queueing Theory In Action, plus, frogs

    Well that was a lovely vacation. It got off to a poor start but then it improved dramatically. Suppose you've got an "entrance" that is producing some largish number of "customers" on some schedule. You've got a bunch of "servers" who are handling the customer requests. Once a customer request is...
  • Blog Post: Making it easier

    I read an article in a technology column on MSNBC a while back, the upshot of which was “I have umpteen-dozen passwords I’ve got to have memorized these days; I thought technology was supposed to make my life easier!” Really? First of all, let’s leave aside the obvious fact that our column writer...
  • Blog Post: Bug Psychology

    Fixing bugs is hard. For the purposes of this posting, I’m talking about those really “crisp” bugs -- those flaws which are entirely due to a failure on the developer’s part to correctly implement some mechanistic calculation or ensure some postcondition is met. I’m not...
  • Blog Post: Arrays considered somewhat harmful

    I got a moral question from an author of programming language textbooks the other day requesting my opinions on whether or not beginner programmers should be taught how to use arrays. Rather than actually answer that question, I gave him a long list of my opinions about arrays, how I use arrays, how...
  • Blog Post: High maintenance

    The other day I went to buy some snack from the snack machine in the kitchen. The snack I wanted was in slot B-10, so I put in my coins, press B - one - zero, hey wait a minute there's no zero button! And why is it serving me up the snack on the left end of the machine instead of the right? Aha, there...
  • Blog Post: Tasty Beverages

    “ Diet Dr. Pepper tastes more like regular Dr. Pepper.” That was a previous advertising slogan for Diet Dr. Pepper, my personal favourite source of both caffeine and phenylalanine; I’m drinking it right now as I write this. The present slogan is the brain-achingly oxymoronic “ Diet Dr. Pepper:...
  • Blog Post: Customer Service Is Not Rocket Science, Part Two

    I find it irritating, but not surprising, when I get absurdly bad customer service from a business whose business model is based on volume and high margins. But I find it quite surprising, and indeed, greatly amusing , to get absurdly bad customer service from a business whose business model is entirely...
  • Blog Post: How to not get a question answered

    Raymond has had lots of great posts over the years on how to not get a question answered. Some of the ways he points out that help ensure that a question goes unanswered are: Use a difficult or meaningless subject line. Ask a grammatically unclear question . Forget to actually ask a question...
  • Blog Post: Packet Gnomes

    The other morning I got the following question from a reader: I have created a client-server application in C# using asynchronous socket methods [... blah blah blah, a long description of a scenario in which the socket misses packets under certain conditions] My reply was that I believe networks...
  • Blog Post: Writing Code Isn't Rocket Science (It's Worse Than That)

    Today, an old joke: Q: What do rocket scientists say when they want to describe a portion of their work as easy? A: "This bit isn't exactly brain surgery." I think that pretty much everyone would agree that rocket science and brain surgery are both intellectually demanding pursuits. But it seems...
  • Blog Post: Democracy in Action

    I saw Tom Stoppard's play "Jumpers" recently. The line that got the biggest audience response: "It's not the voting that's democracy; it's the counting ." True, that. I've written a bunch more code for my "Google On The Cheap" series but I've been incredibly heads-down between work, planning a wedding...
  • Blog Post: The National Coin Flipping League Championship Series

    No tech today, but a little basic math. In baseball, a sport I know little about, apparently the Boston Red Sox have recently come back from a three game deficit to win a best-of-seven series against their traditional rival team, the New York Yankees. Baseball is a game which attracts statisticians...
  • Blog Post: Anthimeria weirds languages

    A little non-technical rant for a Friday. Professor Thingo, in a recent blog entry, decries the use of "Gestalt" as a verb and asks " Does the English language now allow parts of speech to be used entirely interchangeably? Did I miss a memo? " Though I also would personally balk at verbing "Gestalt...
  • Blog Post: I Have A Mysterious Fifth Sense

    A little fun for a Friday afternoon. The economy must be picking up -- I'm getting cold calls from recruiters again for the first time in about four years. Today was the second (and third!) this month. However, apparently some of them are just a wee bit disorganized. I just had the following conversations...
  • Blog Post: The Attribute Of Manliness

    This is a technical, not a political, current-events, linguistic or academic blog. (You know of course that as soon as I say that, it's because I'm about to post something that is political, timely, linguistic and academic. Foreshadowing: your sign of a quality blog!) Despite all that, I was so struck...
  • Blog Post: Math is Everywhere

    A number of coincidences led to this post -- first, I got an email from one of the Mikes , who encouraged me to digress more from strictly technical topics. Thus I was going through some old email looking for anything off-the-wall and I ran into this old rant about mathematics that I wrote a while back...
  • Blog Post: Reading Code Is Hard, Part Two

    I was thinking about this a bit more and talking with Larry Osterman yesterday, and I came up with some perhaps slightly more germane tips on how to read and debug code that you didn't write. First, it is highly likely that the machine code you're debugging will not match the source code ...
  • Blog Post: Reading Code Is Hard

    Escalation Engineer JeremyK asks in his blog this morning : how do you teach people this “art” of digging deep very quickly into unfamilar code that you had no hand in writing? I myself, I come from a very traditional process of learning how to code, by sitting down and writing...
  • Blog Post: Aargh! Part Seven

    Q: How do pirates keep their socks from falling down? A: Thumbtacks. I am insanely busy with bug fixing and performance testing today, so once more I'll dip into my endless archive of rants about irksome coding practices I've seen one time too many. Gripe #8: Assert the truth, the whole truth...
  • Blog Post: Aaargh, Part Six: One More Thing About Comments

    Gripe #7: Use The Right Struct For The Job I meant to include this one in yesterday's gripe about comments, as this illustrates a time when I found a comment that should never have been there. The person who wrote the comment should have realized that the very fact that they needed to put a comment...
  • Blog Post: Aargh, Part Five: Comment Rot

    Gripe #6: Comment Rot If you've been reading my SimpleScript code you might have noticed that there are very few comments in my code. That's deliberate. Why do we have comments in the first place? We have comments because sometimes the semantics of the code are not clear from the syntax...
  • Blog Post: Writing Code On Whiteboards Is Hard

    Work has been crazy lately and I haven't had much time to work on SimpleScript. It's a lot of work starting from scratch! Right now I'm writing a templatized hash table for the binders and other lookup tables. I haven't written templatized C++ for a loooong time and its slow going. I hope to have the...
  • Blog Post: Customer Service Is Not Rocket Science

    (This post has nothing to do with technical matters except insofar as this story happened in geek paradise.) I was down at Fry's Electronics yesterday -- huge electronics warehouse. Geek paradise. Everything from DVD boxed sets to multimeters. Why I was there is unimportant; let's just say that the...
  • Blog Post: Aargh, Part Four: There is no part four

    I've got all these little rants queued up for days when I'm too busy to post. And Raymond has all these little articles queued up while he's on vacation. And in one of those weird Brouwer Fixed Point Theorem moments of synchronicity, Raymond just beat me to it. His post on how people write incorrect...
  • Blog Post: Aaargh! Part Three

    I'm still at VSLive. Both my talks are done, so its just booth duty from here on in. The talks went... OK. Running VSTO on top of Virtual PC on a laptop was too slow; we'll have to devirtualize that for the next time. Unfortunately they put me in the keynote room, which seats over a thousand. Now...
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