Archive for November, 2017

Missing letter sounds

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

So today I thought about how many letters are pronounced like one of the vowels, so I made a list.

In the first column is the vowel, a, e, i, o and u, and following them are the letters that are sounded out by that vowel.

E gets the overwhelming majority. A and O get nothing but themselves.

a a j k 
e b c d e g p t v z
i i y
o o
u q u w

But what about the missing letters:

f h l m n r s x

What makes them so special?

And the sounds that don’t even have letters, like th.

There’s probably lots of language people and phoneme people who’ve worked all this out but I just noticed it today.


The socialism of coding standards.

Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

I’ve been writing in my weird coding style for decades now, and everybody who’s ever seen it has complained that it’s stupid in one way or another.

That’s okay, it’s my style not theirs. Their style is different.

But the one thing that’s assured is that the coding style that is the corporate standard wherever you work won’t be quite like anybody in particular’s style.

Which means that everybody has to code in a way that is not comfortable to them. Everybody has to conform to something they find annoying in some way.

Seems to me, it would make more sense if everybody wrote in whatever style they felt most comfortable with and everybody else had to be open minded and tolerant of everybody else’s style.

Imagine that, having an open mind about other people’s opinions.

This way you could concentrate on figuring out how to convert the solution to a problem into a piece of software and not have to worry about reading it in a way you find awkward while doing it. It removes a distraction.

And just as a final kick in the head: your next job? Their coding standard is going to be different from your current job’s coding standard style and you’re going to have to get used to another style anyway, so why doesn’t everybody just do what they want be be tolerant of others. Sounds a bit libertarian, but that’s what makes sense to me.


Setting clocks

Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

The most uninteresting thing in the world is setting the time on a digital clock.

Cars have clocks on their radios or dashboards, and homes have wall clocks, and nightstand clocks, DVD players and wristwatches and dash cams. Everything has a clock. And if it’s not internet connected, you have to set it every six months for daylight savings time.

There are some ‘atomic’ clocks that set themselves based on the NIST broadcast thingi in colorado, but my experience has been that they only time they can set themselves is when there’s a blackout and there’s no other radio signal noise drowning out the signal from colorado. (not that I ever understood how the signal could bend around the curvature of the earth to get to my house in new york unless it’s bouncing off the atmosphere or something.)

Some people use their phones to solve most of their time problems, and now you can buy a watch that syncs to your phone for $15 that requires recharging everyday, so there’s progress for you.

But for those of us with older equipment like non-internet connected blu-ray players and free low-end dash cams, setting the time on digital clocks can be a pain. Simply because there is no standard interface for doing it.

I’ve been setting digital clocks since the 80s when they first came into existence and there is truly a marvel of different options when deciding how to design the clock setting mechanism. Do you have one button? Two? A rocker switch? Do you cycle through minutes as one number or the tens digit separately from the ones digit? Is there a button to reset the seconds to zero, does the selection of seconds-resetting come after the minutes or after the day setting? Do you cycle through the hours/minutes/seconds once then go to the main display or is there a separate button to get out of setting-the-time mode. Do you always go forward, or can you go backwards? Some clocks will go forward slowly and then speed up if you hold the button down. Some speed-up modes just makes the minutes go by faster, some make them minutes increment by 10 at a time. Some include the hours so you don’t have to select if you’re setting hours vs minutes, you do them both at once, but if you pass the time you want, you have to hold the button down for a long time to skip the next 23 hours and 59 minutes to get back to the minute you wanted. And if you can go backwards, you can only seems to go backwards slowly to compensate for having overshot the time you want going forward, which creates lots of angst when you have to set the clock backwards an hour. Do you go forward and sit through the 23 hours? Even in fast mode that takes a while, or do you suck it up and just sit through the going backwards in slow mode. You’ve all been there, you know what I’m talking about.

Just when you thought there was no way to possibly design a new way to set the time on a digital timepiece… I recently got a $4 watch from some noname brand of watchmaker, and they did something pretty neat: The watch has the feature of showing 12 hour am/pm time or 24 hour time. Every other timepiece I’ve ever used had a separate mode setting to cycle between the two options. This watch cycles through all the 24 hours of 1-12am/pm options and then through the 0-24 hour options, and you implicitly are selecting which of the 12/24 hour mode options you want by which hour setting you stop on.

Why would anybody bother to write a diatribe on all the stupid ways you need to figure out to set a clock?

Why did you bother to read to the end?

It just seems to me it is unlike anything else in this world. Digital clocks have been in homes and cars for over 30 years and everybody has had to deal with them, and in all that time there is no one obvious standard or monopoly system that has won out.

What is it that makes this procedure such an oddity?



Sunday, November 5th, 2017

The ants go marching one by one hoorah, hoorah.
The ants go marching one by one hoorah, hoorah.
The ants go marching one by one,
the little one stops to suck his thumb.
And they all go marching down.
To the ground.
To get out.
Of the rain.
’cause it’s cold.
In the rain.
And it sucks.

Open source software

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

Open source software is designed by a collection of scratched itches. It’s like paving over a cow path and calling it a highway.

Some open source software started off life as a project owned by a company (like eclipse and zfs) and then was handed over to the open source community where it became a bunch of scratched itches.

Eclipse sadly doesn’t work anywhere near as well as it used to. It hangs when doing file searches, it has problems with gtk 3 occasionally…

ZFS still does work, although it’s not as old as eclipse and it’s far more complicated so I think there are fewer people scratching itches per year.

But the projects that started off life as scratched itches and didn’t have the control and concentration of the corporate mindset suffer more, earlier on.

Btrfs comes to mind. I’m sure there are lots of others, but I don’t keep up with that, because I don’t see much value in being aware of all the lousy software that exists in the world.

I meet people all the time who ask me what I do and I tell them, and they sound interested, and then I feel obliged to explain that if they knew what I knew they wouldn’t fly in airplanes anymore and even turning on the toaster is probably a bad idea nowadays.

But the bar is lower now, nobody really expects anything to work well. Nobody expects their privacy to be honored, nobody thinks twice about what life might be life, how much farther along we might be now if everything just didn’t suck so much.