Another Year, Another Stupid Horsey Tradition

07 November 2006

The lunch and sweeps organised at work today for the Melbourne Cup were too much effort, so I’m now home for lunch. I’m not going to watch the race here either, thanks to an allergic reaction to the advertisement for ‘Dancing with the Stars‘, and then the painfully inane statistics being spouted by Bruce McAvaney.

Instead I’ll sit here enjoying my pasta lunch listening to the tuneful melodies of The Shin’s latest album.

Pet Peeve: Date Formats!

06 November 2006

There is nothing that annoys me more than the variety of different ways different countries write their dates!

The main problem affecting me occurs with Australian/UK and US formats, there is often no way to tell which is which. Most well designs APIs avoid them both, and sensibly order elements year-month-day, but many people decide dates are simple and reimplement it themselves, fools. The PHP date functions expect things to be ordered in the American way, and blindly produce errors for the unwary programmer.

Java solved the problem by adding layers of confusion. If you want to use dates in Java in a particular format, you need to learn about dates, and then date formaters, and then locales, and then cross your fingers and hope for the best.

Beware the evil dates!

Most Effective Five Dollar Upgrade Ever

06 November 2006

I finally got around to replacing the broken IDE cable in my computer last night. It had been limping along with an old UDMA33 cable, and now has a proper UDMA100 cable.


damo@omad:~$ sudo hdparm -t /dev/hdc /dev/hdd
/dev/hdc:  Timing buffered disk reads:   86 MB in  3.07 seconds =  28.05 MB/sec
/dev/hdd:  Timing buffered disk reads:   86 MB in  3.06 seconds =  28.14 MB/sec


damo@omad:~$ sudo hdparm -t /dev/hdc /dev/hdd
/dev/hdc: Timing buffered disk reads:  172 MB in  3.01 seconds =  57.15 MB/sec
/dev/hdd: Timing buffered disk reads:  170 MB in  3.02 seconds =  56.23 MB/sec

Now my media drives are running approximately twice as fast. I should have done it months ago!


28 July 2006

Last Friday I took some time out and entered my first Top Coder competition.

For those who’ve never heard of it, Top Coder is an online competition for computer programmers. There’s several different categories to compete in with the most interesting to me being Algorithms.

Each week thousands of coders from around the world enter, and are given 3 programming challenges, with limited amount of time to compete them. Points are awarded for correct solutions, based on the difficulty of the problem, and the amount of time spent working on them.

I heard about Top Coder from an online interview with a Google employee, who attributes his success in obtaining a much coveted position there largely to his high standings in the competition. He also highly recommended it for anyone wishing to practice their programming skills.
The problems are hard, it’s a bit of fun, and provides good motivation to improve.

Drenched Shoes

21 June 2006

Brisbane has been fairly wet the last few days, and I’ve been having a fun time riding my bike around in it. My favourite thing is the wonderful reflections off the ground at night.

One problem however, is wet shoes. Ideally I should find waterproof shoes or covers, but I’m no-where near that sensible.
The best technique for drying wet shoes (unless you have a fancy clothes drier with a shoe rack), is to place them upside down up at the back of the fridge. Warm dry air rises there, and your shoes will be ready to go the next morning.

Ebay, Stupidity, Video Cards and Fraud

09 June 2006

No-one enjoys feeling stupid. Unfortunately that’s exactly the boat I’m in this morning. Once again I’m a victim of online fraud, only this time it’s thanks to stupidity and greed on my part.

For several months I’ve been interested in getting a newer video card than the lowly Geforce 2 MX I’m currently making do with. It mostly serves well, but I’d like dual-head, and a chance to play around properly with Apple’s OS X, neither of which it can do.

After deciding that an older ATI Radeon was my best bet, I found and paid for a second hand one through the Overclockers Australia Trading Forums. Unfortunately, the card didn’t exist and the seller stopped responding to messages. I wasn’t the only one caught out, and the case is now being investigated by the Queensland Police.

Not to be deterred, I took my search to eBay, and found an absolute bargain on this Radeon 9800 Pro. I took the usual precautions of buying on ebay, and checked the user feedback of the seller. At first glance it was very nearly all good, but when I looked closer, he had only been a member for three months, and had only sold cheap sets of batteries. Now he had listed many hundreds of dollars worth of computer gear, all finishing within a couple of days. I was suspicious, but decided, it’s eBay, what can go wrong, so bid, won, and paid for the item.

Today, the item hasn’t arrived, I check on eBay, negative feedback is starting to filter through, the seller is no longer a member, and I’m feeling very silly. It’s too soon for me to take any action, but it seems I’ll get to try out eBay’s disagreement services. Wonderful.

If something seems to good to be true. It probably is. Listen to your own common sense, don’t be as silly as me.