The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Old school journalism

Want to freak out a newsroom full of college journalists?

Sit them down at manual typewriters and ask them to plunk “2011” onto a piece of paper.

They’ll only make it halfway.

“Mine’s broken!” one reporter at Florida Atlantic University yelled a couple of Saturdays ago, when we launched the inaugural ALL ON PAPER project. “There’s no number 1 key.”

Via spin the cat, HOW TO BUILD A NEWSROOM TIME MACHINE « journoterrorist

I don't know whether to be amused or horrified.

I used to write a column for the FAU newspaper The Atlantic Sun (now The University Press) and I certainly remember walking into the weekly meetings on Wednesdays and seeing the layouts for the current issue out on the tables. I would then use an X-Acto™ knife to cut out my column (since they were going to toss the layouts) as a momento.

[If you look closely, you can make out the guide lines]

I wrote most of my columns on my TRS-80 Color Computer but there were times when Wednesdays came around and I hadn't even started my column, much less finish, so on those rare occations, I would grab my manual portable typewriter (a gift from my paternal grandfather, who wanted me to learn how to type if I was going to become a programmer) and literally bang out my column at school.

In fact, the column pictured above was one such column banged out on a manual typewriter, written in the cafeteria as I was eating lunch with a few friends. And on my manual typewriter, not only was there no “1” character, there wasn't a “0” character either!

I also found it amazing that the students had to use a make-shift dark room. What? Is there no dark room at FAU anymore? I distinctly remember there being one, back when I took photography.

[This is what they call a “negative”]

Yes, I know all about removing 35mm film from the canister and loading it onto a reel in total darkness, using obnoxious chemicals to develop the film, and once rinsed, letting the film dry overnight, then coming in the next day, cutting the film into strips of five pictures each, mounting the strips into a protective sheet, making the proof sheet, picking which photos (10 out of 72) to print, placing the film into the projector, exposing the photographic paper and using different obnoxious chemicals to develop the picture (and as much as I like my 35mm camera, I do not miss the expense of buying film nor the expense of having it developed).

[This hasn't seen much use in the past fifteen years] [“It is a good day to jump out of a perfectly good airplane!”—Ken Maier]

So I find it odd that they didn't bother to ask the Art department if they could use the dark room.

That is, if the dark room still exists.

Monday, August 08, 2011

“Oh, THAT'S your address? Of course I totally trust you!”

From
"Mrs. Morgan Sherry" <lolo31@wfj2uad7q.homepage.t-online.de>
To
undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject
PAYMENT NOTIFICATION
Date
Mon, 8 Aug 2011 18:16:11 -0700

Hello Beloved,

I am Mrs. Morgan Sherry, I am a US citizen, 48 years Old. I reside in District of Columbia 20534. My residential address is as follows 320 First Street, NW Washington, District of Columbia 20534, United States, am thinking of moving since I am now wealthy. I am one of those that took part in the Compensation in Nigeria many years ago and they refused to pay me, I had paid over $42,000 while in the US, trying to get my payment all to no avail.

So I decided to travel down to Nigeria with all my compensation documents, and I was directed to meet Barrister Larry Ego, who is the member of COMPENSATION AWARD COMMITTEE and a Human Rights Activist (Lawyer), and I contacted him and he explained everything to me. He said whoever is contacting us through emails are fake.

He took me to the paying bank for the claim of my Compensation payment. Right now I am the most happiest woman on earth because I have received my compensation funds amounting to $15,000,000.00 Moreover, Barrister Larry Ego, showed me the full information of those that are yet to receive their payments and I saw your email as one of the scam victims, that is why I decided to email you to stop dealing with those people, they are not with your fund, they are only making money out of you. I will advise you to contact Barrister Larry Ego.

You have to contact him directly on this information below.

COMPENSATION AWARD HOUSE
Name: Dr Larry Ego (Lawyer)
Email: egodrlarry69@gmail.com
TELL: +234-7042778612

You really have to stop dealing with those people that are contacting you and telling you that your fund is with them, it is not in anyway with them, they are only taking advantage of you and they will dry you up until you have nothing.

The only money I paid after I met Barrister Larry Ego was just $350 for the paper works, take note of that.

Thank You and Be Blessed …

Mrs. Morgan Sherry
320 First Street, NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20534 USA.

I almost skipped over this Nigerian 419 scam but the very specific postal address of the sender struck me as odd … really? From Washington, D.C? I've never seen such a specific address listed in any of the Nigernal scam letters I get. So I decided to check it out.

For the record, 320 First Street NW is about two blocks away from the Capitol Building. It's also the address for the central office of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Somehow, that's just fitting.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tracking down a paper

So I want to read this paper:

META II: A Syntax-Oriented Compiler Writing Language.

Schorre, D. V.
In Proceedings of the 1964 19th ACM National Conference,
ACM Press, New York, NY, 41.301-41.3011, 1964. available as http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/800257.808896

Abstract:

Meta II is a compiler writing language which consists of syntax equations resembling Backus normal form and into which instructions to output assembly language commands are inserted. Compilers have been written in this language for VALGOL I and VALGOL II. The former is a simple algebraic language designed for the purpose of illustrating META II. The latter contains a fairly large subset of ALGOL 60.

The method of writing compilers which is given in detail in the paper may be explained briefly as follows. Each syntax equation is translated into a recursive subroutine which tests the input string for a particular phrase structure, and deletes it if found. Backup is avoided by the extensive use of factoring in the syntax equations. For each source language, an interpreter is written and programs are compiled into that interpretive language.

META II is not intended as a standard language which everyone will use to write compilers. Rather, it is an example of a simple working language which can give one a good start in designing a compiler-writing compiler suited to his own needs. Indeed, the META II compiler is written in its own language, thus lending itself to modification.

Tutorial: Metacompilers Part 1

It's available from the ACM but they want $15 for it. Seeing how FAU is just down the street from Chez Boca, I figure it'll be cheaper to obtain a copy there, especially since the Proceedings of the 1964 19th ACM National Conference is is in the library, on the third floor, call number “QA76.A8”, a familar section of the library (it's where all their computer science related materials are stored).

So I'm on the third floor of the library, looking around section “QA76.” I see books in “QA76.A6”, and then books in “QA76.A68” and “QA76.A88” which quickly followed by books in section “QA76.B1”.

Um … did I miss “QA76.A8”? A closer look and … um … a block of wood? What? Did someone really steal a book and replaced it with a block of wood? Oh, it's just a place holder for material that's only available via microfiche. Interesting, I've never seen that before. I keep looking, and no. There are no books in section “QA76.A8” although there is a small section of empty shelving where books in “QA76.A8” would be, if it wasn't an empty section of shelving.

Sigh.

I head back downstairs to the front desk, where they make an announcement that the library will be closing in thirty minutes, never mind the fact that their stated hours clearly means I should have six and a half more hours.

Okay.

I ask the librarian behind the desk about the Proceedings of the 1964 19th ACM National Conference. ``Yes, we do have it, but these missing fields,'' he said, pointing to some blank fields on the screen, ``aren't a good sign. It looks like they've never been referenced at all.''

``Oh.''

``Are you sure you were in the right area?''

``I believe so,'' I said, hoping the librarian would offer to help look for the material.

``Well, you could fill out a missing book report, or you could request an intralibrary loan.'' It was clear the librarian was not going to help me look for the material.

``I was just interested in reading the paper,'' I said.

``Well, as a student, you can fill out the missing book report to have the listing updated in the computer.''

``I'm not a student, although I used to attend.''

``Oh! Do you have an alumni card then?''

``Um ... no.''

``Oh,'' said the librarian. ``Then you can't fill out the missing book report.''

``Oh,'' I said. Thanks. ``I'll just go look around more for the book.''

Then back upstairs to the third floor.

The section I'm looking in, ``QA76.A'', appears to be mostly math related journals and periodicals. The actual computer books are two rows over, in the isle marked ``QA79.C'' even though all the computer books have ``QA76'' as part of their call number. And yes, halfway down that isle is the volume I am looking for, the Proceedings of the 1964 19th ACM National Conference. A quick look at my cell phone (for the time) shows I have twenty minutes to make a copy of the article. It won't take long to make a copy of an eleven page paper.

Seventeen minutes later …

Man was that horrendous. I wasted a minute trying to start the machine, only to realize I needed to select the paper tray before it would copy. Okay, then I find out it's only 10¢ per copy. That's good. But I can't find the copy. That's bad. No paper shot out of the front. Nor out of either side. It wouldn't come out the back—that would be stupid. The copy machine isn't complaining about a jam. But I can't find the copy.

I spend another 10¢ only to find a lack of copy, and a lack of indication that anything is wrong. I start looking all over the copy machine when I find where the copies come out—an alcove about halfway down the machine, hidden from view by the control panel, behind a sign that says “CATION: ELECTROCUTION HAZZARD—EXPOSED MAINS.” Lovely.

I then had to re-copy two pages due to bad placement of the journal on the copy bed. But I did it. With three minutes to spare before the library closed.

Sheesh.

But I have the paper I wanted to read! Woot!


Small, but with an attitude

I don't really know what to make of this:

[A Mini Cooper with the silhouette of nine vehicles on the side]

Bunny and I were leaving the restaurant and parked next to us was this car with nine silhouetted vehicles on the side. And it wasn't like the car in question was an indestructable behemoth.

[Yup.  It's a Mini Cooper]

Nope. It's a Mini Cooper. Now that's scary!

Friday, August 12, 2011

In thinking about it, I think a solid rubber ball would be more reliable than the Monopolistic Phone Company

All I want is a way to get onto the Internet. In other words—all I need is a pipe.

I don't need crap software that requires 1GB of memory and sucks up 100MB of disk space just to configure a stupid DSL modem.

I especially don't want said software to reset DSL password on my behalf after sitting there doing apparently nothing for five solid minutes. What the XXXX?

And I really hate being redirected by the DSL provider to a webpage saying I have the wrong password and then trying to force an install of software on my computer to rectify the problem.

Thank you so much, Monopolistic Phone Company. You've made my Internet experience so much worse.

Is it too much to ask for a XXXXXXXXX simple pipe?

Apparently it is …

[Some background information: earlier this week the DSL connection started bouncing like a hard rubber ball. The wait time for local help was twenty minutes into the future, indefinitely, but immediate help was available from the Bangalore Help Desk™. All the Bangalore Help Desk™ could do was send a new modem; they couldn't authorize a test of the DSL line. Fine, we elected for the new modem. We'll see if this stops the hard rubber ball DSL line from bouncing up and down.]


Emote, monkey boy! Emote!

A few years ago I linked to a site where you could average human faces together and made a prediction that Hollywood would use such technology to “cast” films.

We're closer to being John Malkovich than ever before (link via Jason Kottke).

Obligatory Picture

[Here I am, enjoying my vacaton in a rain forest.]

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

You have my permission to link freely to any entry here. Go ahead, I won't bite. I promise.

The dates are the permanent links to that day's entries (or entry, if there is only one entry). The titles are the permanent links to that entry only. The format for the links are simple: Start with the base link for this site: http://boston.conman.org/, then add the date you are interested in, say 2000/08/01, so that would make the final URL:

http://boston.conman.org/2000/08/01

You can also specify the entire month by leaving off the day portion. You can even select an arbitrary portion of time.

You may also note subtle shading of the links and that's intentional: the “closer” the link is (relative to the page) the “brighter” it appears. It's an experiment in using color shading to denote the distance a link is from here. If you don't notice it, don't worry; it's not all that important.

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