November 2002 Archives

Programmer speak

The next version of Perl, the computer language I use professionally, will be based upon an assembly / abstraction layer called Parrot. Now, although once Parrot is built you can use it to run any number of languages - Perl, of course, but also Python, Ruby, and stupid Turing Tarpit languages such as Intercal and Befunge - you first have to build Parrot.

It turns out that it's actually easiest to first build a miniature, cut-down version of Parrot, and then use that to build the rest of Parrot. This is the time-honoured tradition of bootstrapping (i.e. pulling yourself up by your bootstraps - this doesn't work in real life, but it works in computers because they ignore Newtonian physics).

Someone, last week, came up with the ideal name for this miniparrot.


This courtesy of the perl-6 digest of this week. See also other Jargon File examples of programmer speak, such as ambimousetrous, depeditate, feeping creaturism etc.

Sneakernet now extends beyond the office

Wired (via MPT) mentions:

the emergence of CD-R copying amongst normal people: A previous generation of computer junkies called it sneakernet. Rather than relying on the slow, buggy network connections of the day, we hand-carried tapes and floppies to one another’s mainframes. Now, sneakernet is in the schoolyard, bringing reluctant musicians to fans royalty-free, without the Net’s assistance.

I think the author doesn't realise that the reason why people used the sneakernet was because it was easier. So, even if you network interface is the bees' knees, it's still easier to put a bunch of MP3s onto a CD for a mate, than require them to sign up to your network administration thingy where they can download all the MP3s they want.

The (CD-RW/DVD-ROM/DVD-RW/I don't know what other buzzwords) drive in my machine rips CDs at something like 30x speed, and that's at the highest quality it knows about (192 bps and all the trimmings). I can read new web pages while it rips Mark Knopfler, and not know that it was doing that. When it comes to burning a new CD, I can tell it to burn close to 9 hours of stuff, in MP3 format, and it takes it barely half an hour (I think - I don't remember how long it took in actuality).

The major problem, of course, is that it takes far longer than that for the human ear to listen to all these MP3s. Josh, Mike, I'm sorry, but I haven't listened to all of your stuff yet - not surprisingly, as I have something like 3-4 CDs' worth of music, in MP3 format, which is *huge*. Stuart has ambitious plans about making your MP3 player an automatic taste arbitrator and mixer extraordinaire - kudos to him if he manages it.

I'm running out of steam here - any suggestions?

Every web page should be bloggable

OK, so that's extreme. But I saw an otherwise very interesting page and wanted to comment on it, but couldn't. And that made me feel, unjustifiably, that what the guy himself had to say was wrong.

It's making me think about how commenting should work - should you require people to sign up for some commenting system beforehand, on the basis that in the long run it will be better, or should you let them comment willy-nilly? I still have to think about this,

Those bastards at Real have sunk to a new low

You now have to enter a valid credit card to download the latest RealPlayer. (Go to and try, if you don't believe me.) Bastards. I hope they get chargebacks aplenty and lose their merchant account. Fucks.

Dangers of cannabis

The BBC (via Gareth) reports that cannabis is more dangerous than tobacco, and particularly:

clinical studies carried out in the sixties and seventies may well underestimate the ill effects of smoking the drug. This is due to increased amounts of THC - or delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, the major active chemical compound - in the cannabis consumed today.

This is, to me, far more interesting that the rest of the article, which, fairly predictably, says "You thought that cannabis was safe, but that's because there hadn't been any decent studies done on it beforehand, because it was illegal and not an acceptable study matter for proper scientists." Why has cannabis become more saturated with THC in recent decades?

I'll note also that so far the major objections have been that, rightly or wrongly, cannabis smokers hold the smoke in their lungs longer than cigarette smokers, and that increases the cancer risk. So what happens if you ingest cannabis rather than inhale it?