Blog: 2011-04

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JENNA: We just need to hire some of those ugly people, who have the paper and change the shapes on it.

JACK: Writers? No, we'll do the work ourselves.

—Recent 30 Rock episode

(Actually, the aspiring screenwriters I've known have been quite attractive.)

Typical Documentation

Alright, who let the Java programmers out of their cages? Look, they're trying to instruct others how to do things again!

2. Backup and remove existing SSH keys.
Since there is already an SSH directory you'll want to back the old one up and remove it:

$ ls
config  id_rsa  known_hosts
$ mkdir key_backup
$ cp id_rsa* key_backup
$ rm id_rsa*
3. Generate a new SSH key.

Ill-informed bad advice like this is so prevalent among Java programmers, I'm just gonna blame Java programmers for this one too.

Snack Rooms

Software companies nowadays are big on the snack room. A company's free snacks supply is often touted in recruiting efforts as a major selling point. Computer game company Valve has arranged to do a send up, in "Half Life Snacks." Whoosh.

Slow to Anger, but Not to Meddle

Chat conversation on this Easter Sunday:

A: i had a first date yesterday that i canceled because i got food poisoning friday night
A: so, right after arranging to reschedule it for tuesday night... i go and [...] suddenly throw my back out
A: i can only conclude that catholic god really doesn't want me to go out with a jewish girl
B: Well given it's passover one can only assume that you have another 8 plagues to go before you can go out with her
A: oh no!
B: Are you a first born?
A: yes
A: oh no!

Thoroughly tongue-in-cheek. Speaker A was raised Catholic and has a history of romantic affinity with particular women who happened to be Jewish.

Gittin' Wit' Git

Being unable to avoid Git commits any longer,[*] and not wanting to do it wrong, I need a solid understanding of some of Git.

There are lots of Git tutorials and intros, but finding one by someone who understands Git intimately and knows how to communicate the appropriate abstractions is difficult. One intro that looks a step above most in this regard is Tv's Git for Computer Scientists. I'm not thrilled with the ad hoc and slightly muddled notation for static object model graphs, when standard notation is available, but so far the document is clearer and appears more informed than a lot of the other intros I've skimmed from time to time.

[*] I have actually used a buttillion different software version control and configuration management systems, from SCCS and (the very common) one-off homebrew ones, onwards. They have usually been quirky, and often fragile, or (like Atria ClearCase) complicated and ambitious. My avoidance of Git has been due to a reaction that can be characterized as Oh gawd, not yet ANOTHER system. At the time that Torvalds introduced Git, I was hanging out with Linux kernel hackers, and Git initially sounded like a kludgey weekend hack to make people cooperate better with Torvalds's collection of scripts used for merging kernel patches. Some of the reaction seemed to be cautious or amused, Wait, Linus did what?... However, it turns out that Torvalds had done another good thing, and Git demonstrated its merits and became quite popular. That doesn't mean that reading about and using Git isn't tedious. And, being that Git is now a basic skill in some circles in which I travel, and my immediate need is for only a small task, I'm not inclined to bill any particular client for the tedium. It is fair to say that Linus Torvalds ruined my Saturday evening.

If you want small quantities of interesting materials for projects, is a great place.

If you're prototyping products for mass-production, however, some of these materials products are what should be free samples from the manufacturer. So I imagine that you might be able to go direct to the manufacturer's salespeople when the price is hard to swallow.

Common Vegetarian Mistakes of Non-Vegetarian Restaurants

Virtually all restaurants in the Boston area have vegetarian options, but many do not do it right.

A pretty popular practice is to make a meat dish, except leave out the meat. To really stick it to the vegetarians, try this practice deriving from a dish in which most of the seasoning is done to the meat, and then don't bother to spice up the meatless Carbs of Blandness variation.

The second-worse offenses tend to involve substituting something like spicy shredded beef with unseasoned cubes of tofu or a couple wedges of flavorless microwaved summer squash euphemistically called "grilled vegetables."

If I wanted flavorless, I'd eat my own cooking.

Crypto Is Hard

I recently saw, in a public forum, a representative from a local government asserting that their citizen smartphone apps protected privacy and didn't transmit an identifiable ID for the device.

When pressed, a representative said that they instead transmit an MD5 of the manufacturer's unique device ID.

Now, before you think that through and then risk injury from the force with which you smack your palm into your face... it is important to understand that this kind of mistake when an organization tries to implement security/privacy in-house is not uncommon.

I suspect that most organizations are best off hiring a security specialist for this kind of thing. Perhaps bring in a consultant to sanity-check their design and then implementation.

Don't mean to grandstand here. I don't want that job; I have enough work doing other things. I'm just saying, since not everyone knows that crypto has some magical curse that makes people do silly things with it.

(Also, in the particular anecdote that inspired this blog post, I imagine that the representative might have been mistaken or misspoke, and perhaps their techies did something better.)

Onion on Boston-Area Apartments

"Something Wrong With Literally Everything In Apartment," The Onion, 2011-03-19

That's an unexpectedly nice fireplace to have in a Somerville $1400 2BR. I would've taken that place, if it were in Davis, or on the edge of Porter.

Earlier to... 2011-03

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