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Archive: January 18, 2016

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already gone

Monday,  01/18/16  08:43 PM

A quiet day of coding, in which I had a most pleasant open source encounter, and otherwise made forward progress on a number of fronts...

Jessica JonesFrequent readers know, I do not watch TV.  And by "TV" I mean, any packaged video content, including shows produced by nonstandard channels like netflix, HBO, and Amazon.  I watch movies and sports, and that's it.  Sometimes my friends will be talking about a great show - West Wing, or Breaking Bad, or whatever - and I'm mystified.  So lately I've been reading and hearing a lot about Jessica Jones, a netflix-produced show starring Krystin Ritter, and I'm tempted.  Should I watch?

Glenn FreyAnd so we've lost another amazing artist, Glenn Frey passed away today.  He wrote or co-wrote and sang lead vocals on so many of those excellent Eagles songs, and went on to have an amazing solo career after.  He will be missed.

I'm already gone
And I'm feelin' strong
I will sing this vict'ry song
'Cause I'm already gone

Trumping all: "the number of Republicans who could see themselves backing a Trump nomination rose 42 - forty-two - percentage points in 10 months".  I'm one of them.

It's pretty interesting looking back over links I had saved for three months.  Trump has gone from wacky outsider who somehow was leading the race for the GOP nomination (but who was surely going to screw up and blow it), to a respected leader widely considered the front-runner.

The Loco CoyoteYep: Texas is like Australia with the handbrake off.  "There is no individual income tax and no corporate income tax, which explains the state's rapid economic and population growth..."  Amazing what can happen if the government gets out of the way instead of trying to help.

One of those correlation vs causality mixups: poverty stunts IQ in the US but not in other developed countries.  Who can explain this?  Why I can.  Let's just turn that headline around: Low IQ results in poverty in the US but not in other developed countries.  Aha.  That's what happens in a meritocracy.  The US isn't all the way there, but it's a lot closer than other countries.

Ponder this: what if Tinder showed your IQ

Related: do smart people have bad sex?

That reminds me to link this interesting analysis by Scott Johnson of the recent Supreme Court review of "affirmative action".  (Otherwise known as anti-meritocracy.)  It turns out the pursuit of "diversity" hurts those it is trying to help.

Pipistrel Alpha electric airplaneYay: A real-world electric plane.  "Perhaps the age of hard-of-hearing flight instructors will be coming to an end:  The aircraft is quiet. There is some noise, but it’s mostly from the propeller, and headset-free conversation is no problem, even at takeoff power."  Excellent.

Loved this, from Mark Suster: Why I Fucking Hate Unicorns and the Culture They Breed.  "If you’re fortunate enough to raise $100 million early-on to build your startup – congratulations. But to all of the 99.999% of other startups out there please know that this isn’t the success by which to measure yourself."  His blog is an ongoing source of great wisdom.


I'll leave you today with Sunset on Pluto.  As you view this, remember: this is a real picture of a real planet.

Sunset on Pluto!

 

open source

Monday,  01/18/16  08:45 PM

go open!In our world there are a vast number of software tools which are "open source".  That means 1) anyone can use them, for free, and 2) anyone can fix them, enhance them, or otherwise change them, for free.  These open source tools are mostly maintained by a small group of individuals, as a labor of love, although sometimes companies will contribute some of their people's time or even their intellectual property, as a sort of public good.

There are a significant number of benefits to open source, but one of the least appreciated is the quick response possible for making enhancements.  I experienced just such a case yesterday.

I'd been working on eyesFinder's Visual Search Engine, adding support for PNG images (we already support JPEG, TIFF, and JP2).  To do so, I chose to integrate an open source library called libpng.  Using this standard library made sense to ensure compatibility with the widest range of possible images, not to mention it's out there and it works, so using it saved a metric ton of effort.

As I started using it, I realized there was an API capability I'd like to have which wasn't exposed; the capability was already there, but it wasn't neatly packaged.  At this point I had two options, 1) use the existing API, or 2) make a custom change to implement a new function which did what I want.  To help me decide, I emailed Glenn Randers-Pehrson, a maintainer of the library.  Two hours later (on a Sunday), I received a response; Glenn had copied John Bowler, the primary developer of the part of the API of interest.  Shortly after that (on a Sunday), I received an email from John.  We discussed a potential change in email, he improved my idea of what should be done, and I offered to make the change.  John replied that he was already making the change, and should have it available in about an hour.  Which he did!

So I now have a spiffy custom slightly-enhanced version of libpng, and was able to cleanly integrate it into eyesFinder's VSE.  And yay, we now have PNG image support.

What's absolutely remarkable about this is that Glenn and especially John gladly gave their time to be responsive and help.  Not only do I have the tool I need, but this version of the tool will be released to "everyone", so everyone will have a slightly enhanced tool.  This process, repeated hundreds of times, yields incredible software; solid, robust, functional, debugged, and secure. 

Some of the most important software around is open source; the Linux+GNU operating system, which runs most of the servers on the Internet (and most of the phones, via the Android derivative), the Apache webserver, which runs most of the websites on the Internet, the Chrome and Safari web browsers, which are based on the open-source webkit library, Open SSL, which provides security for most of the communications on the Internet, MySQL, the database which powers more online systems than any other, etc.  Not to mention thousands of support libraries, some of which encapsulate imaging standards like libjpeg, libtiff, and of course libpng.

It's amazing that this works, and yet it does.  Yay, open source :)

 

twin jet nebula

Monday,  01/18/16  10:33 PM


Here we have the Twin Jet Nebula:

just because
(please click to enbiggen amazingly)

Astronomers believe there are two stars at the center of this system,
a large star which is dying, and has ejected a bunch of gas millions of miles out into space,
and a small white dwarf which is providing the illumination

awesome

 
 

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