Thursday, July 29, 2010

20% off coupon at Lulu

I just saw that Lulu has a new code for 20% off "site-wide". The coupon code is SANTA. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Assessments 1.46

I just published an improvement to the RB extensions so the RB is snappier. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Assessments 1.45

I just published a small visual change to the Assessments' RB extensions. Enjoy!

Monday, July 12, 2010

e^x in action

Not long ago, I read an article that said the hard drive industry executives expected (!!!) capacity to increase by 50% every year or something like that. I thought these were ridiculous claims because the quoted growth rate is an exponential function and those will eat you alive in no time. But, you know, sometimes these claims are made, most likely by people that do not understand their consequences. So here we are, not two years later, and guess what: hard drives are now having a hard time increasing capacity. The techniques necessary to keep growing are very expensive, and are many years and a lot of investment away. Should we be surprised? Nah...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Assessments 1.41 through 1.44

Version 1.41 of Assessments adds the equivalent of RBSUnitExtensions to the Assessments tools. Also, since the last update, I fixed a couple small bugs. Enjoy!

Update: Assessments 1.42 has visual optimizations that make the UI much snappier. Assessments 1.43 takes the speedup a step further and provides a significant performance boost. Assessments 1.44 has additional speedups and a bug fix for assessment creation with filtered selectors.

A comic by Quino

Quino is the nickname of Joaquín Salvador Lavado, who became famous for making comic strips about a little girl called Mafalda. He also makes comic strips for Sunday newspapers and magazines. Here's one such comic which I like quite a bit... the translated dialog is below.

- Hel...

- In installments, of course. Now we will have to cut back on our expenses a bit but, isn't it wonderful?

- No cables, no plugs, nothing! It feeds by itself with disposable batteries that last almost a month! I subscribed to the service so they will not be so expensive.

- And on top of that, you will see...

- THERE IT IS! It comes with an electronic, bidirectional, servo-stabilized horizontability modifier!

- Ok, but... and this device, what is it good for?

- ...

- I understand. We can't have it, isn't that true? The neighbors from apartment 9A have it, and the sister in law of Dr. Tissera, and Engineer Villalta's wife... but we cannot, right...

- We will have to take it back. In the end, why does it matter? I am already used to us living a life of sacrifices to never be like everybody else!

- ...

- Nobody said anything about taking it back, nobody said anything about taking it back...

- ...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A graphical programming language

The computer programming language Piet produces nice looking programs. Wow...

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

I wish this was fixed...

Sometimes, I get asked about New York. Isn't it a great place to be? Certainly: there's the Met, the Guggenheim, the Museum of Modern Art, and many other wonderful cultural icons. But one of the things that comes to mind is the smell. It's like a well kept secret, but in summer the city (Manhattan in particular) smells. Or, rather, stinks. Every so often I get a look when I describe the stench. How can I say that about New York? Isn't "stink" a bit harsh? Well, thanks to the New York Times, now I can say that the term "stink" is appropriate. Check it out here. Some snippets:

As mounds of refuse go, this one was neither unusually tall nor unusually messy. At about five bags, it rose about two feet off the ground.[...] But by mid afternoon, the temperature had reached 103 in Central Park, and the heat that cooked people’s nerves and the city’s subway platforms roasted this mound of trash, and hundreds like it around New York City.[...] “We don’t have enough trucks and personnel to do everything at once,” Mr. McKeon said. “It takes some time. We do have a large amount of extra trucks today. We’ll put out extra trucks tomorrow also. We’ll be working around the clock until we catch up.” In the heat, the trash that the department and the commercial haulers had not yet collected proved both an olfactory and linguistic problem for New Yorkers. People tried to explain just how awful it was when a piece of chicken sat in a plastic bag on a sidewalk in 103-degree weather. [...] She was at a loss to explain why the nine empty trash bins she stood next to still emitted a repulsive odor. She figured it had something to do with the mysterious liquid dripping from them. “It smells like cat or dog feces mixed with food that been there for weeks or something,” Ms. Bumbury said. [...] “Last night it was smelling something rotten,” Mr. Morales said. “My kids were crying, ‘What’s that smell, Daddy? It smells like a rat that’s dead.’ I said, ‘No, mami, it’s not a rat, it’s the garbage.’ ”

How about doing trash collection at night, when it's cool and trash doesn't have to stand in the heat all day, making the stench unbearable? Or how about not dumping all the bags on the street grates? They puncture the bags, and all the juices go down into the trains and subways just to come up later as hot, sticky, humid stench. I swear am not making this up. Fix it, yes? Please? You can't say there's nobody rich enough to collect taxes from...

Looks like e^x to me...

Check this out: the post office is raising stamp prices again. And, if you look at the price graph carefully, you will recognize a friend of mine: e^x. Really? You wouldn't think the post office has to raise postage by more or less the rate of inflation, which is itself an exponential function. But it's so hard to think about these things properly when we do not have the tools to understand what's going on. Sometimes, it is just hard to get even simple things right. For example, check out the following graph of a^x: how is it possible for a^x to have a negative derivative for some negative values of x? And how about this 2^x plot that doesn't add up? But no. It's not inflation, and nobody mentions e^x because we're not supposed to think for ourselves or something. Instead, we get this:

"This proposed rate increase amounts to another tax imposed on Americans at a time when the economy can least afford it," said Tony Conway, a spokesman for the alliance and executive director of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers.

Tax? How about inflation, isn't that the real tax? How can it be a tax unless wages are not going up in the same way? Isn't that the real problem? And it's not like the private mail carriers are cheap. I dare you to send a sheet of paper to Argentina via FedEx. Sigh...

"Why are you picking on the Post Office? For 44 cents, someone comes to your house, picks up some piece of crap you wrote, and takes it to Wyoming on a plane!" --- Jon Stewart

Monday, July 05, 2010

eBooks appear to handicap reading speed

You'd expect that reading a book is faster on an eBook device, or would at least match the readability of a book, but apparently no. How about that... this is probably a problem far more complex than it appears. Nevertheless, not all that glitters is iGold...