From Bad Science:
Writing this column really scares me because I wonder whether everything else in the media is as shamelessly, venally, manipulatively, one-sidedly, selectively reported on as the things I know about. But this week the reality editing was truly without comparison.
Interesting on 2 counts: 1) the particuares of MMR and the fact it could prevent arthma, 2) another data point for the power of the media and its ability to influeunce and mislead.

Certainly, whenever I see artices in normal newspapers aboutr a subject I know well I marvel at how misleading they are.  This is usually appears to be down to the ignorance of the reporter rather than deliberate attempts to misinform.  But then most of these topics that I know well are not politics, big business etc.

Worrying - perhaps the demise of newspapers won't be such a bad thing ( so long as Bad Science maintains a blog!) 


For how much longer? Revisited

I asked "For how much longer?":

I think, with the UK pre-budget, the affordability of a lot of programmes is now in question, including education and health.


For how much longer?

Student grants at risk after botched costing | Education | The Guardian
A department spokesman said: "The government is fully committed to the expansion of higher education and can ensure finance should not be a barrier to those that want to do a degree."
My emphasis added - I suspect we are very close to the point where this statement will prove impossible to fulfill. We ran a huge deficit when times were good - now we have decreasing tax income and extra costs.

The future of Lisp is.........

Lisp50 Notes part VI: The Future of Lisp « Learning Lisp
And unlike some of the talks that were tinged with a little bitterness, a sense of loss, or a sense of nostalgia, Hickey was upbeat and forward looking. “Lisp as an idea is still vibrant, especially among young developers,” he said. “People are excited about Lisp and the idea of Lisp.” ........... After JonL was finished responding, a young developer in the back could not contain himself. “This is the best thing I’ve ever heard in any conference,” he said. “Great work.”

And that’s what the Lisp50 conference was about.

Great series of reports from Lisp50, and a great deal of excitement about Clojure.


Footnotes in Google docs

Official Google Docs Blog: Adding footnotes to your documents
Last week, we added support for footnotes. You can find footnotes in the Insert menu. When you create a footnote, it'll appear to the right of the document margin and a footnote marker (#) will appear within the actual document. You can drag and drop footnotes anywhere you'd like by clicking on the pound sign and dragging it.

But in a printed do or PDF it appears as a normal footnote; nice!!


How to think like Leonardo da Vinci

How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci
Since my childhood, I was utterly fascinated by the figure of Leonardo da Vinci and his achievements. It never ceased to puzzle and amaze me how a single person could be a scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician and writer.

Luciano has done a great summary of a book that I have had for years - a great book which I must look at again. In addition he has pointed to a technology I was not aware of - Freemind Flash browser.

He also has an interview with Mark Forster


Will the credit crunch affect Open Source more than Closed Source projects?

James Robertson raises an interesting point:

Open Source Directions
In the midst of all of this financial uncertainty, I'm really curious as to how various open source projects will fare. Will they suffer because the corporations backing them will pull back? Or, in the midst of layoffs, will they keep plugging away because people have nothing else to work on? Or will corporations keep investing in open source - assuming services revenues hold up?

I have no idea, to be honest - but I imagine that there's going to be an impact.

I have no idea either ( aren't bloggers useless), perhaps there is some data somewhere.  The answer depends on many things including the types of participant, license, business model etc.  For instance:
  • Amateur programmers: the students and others chipping in for the fun and experience of it will continue - perhaps they will do more as their willingness to spend on movies, restaurants, bars goes down?
  • Open source projects which support a pure services play
  • Open source projects which are a foundation for other projects (e.g Eclipse) - affected by the down turn in the license sales but perhaps gaining from sharing development of the commodity components
  • Combinations of the last 2 points - could be spreading the risk.
Of course, what about businesses depending on non-open source?  These will slow down for sure, but more or less than those based on Open Source?

My gut feel says that everyone will hurt, but that any business model which sidesteps a business model which makes their customers shell out large lumps of money will suffer most.  Lot's of small transactions or amateurism will win out !


A good piece of philosophy and a reinforcement of GTD

Merlin Mann makes a learning point out of a minor crisis:Gmail Outage or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love GTD Contexts | 43 Folders
Like thousands of people yesterday, I was annoyed and inconvenienced by Gmail’s unexpected 2-hour dirtnap. But, wow. Apparently, it just irrevocably hijacked the whole day for some folks. And even sent a few into a Dark Afternoon of the Soul that most 19th-century Romantic poets would have found a bit histrionic.

It reminds me that I am not diligent with my context labels; must do better, though even here contexts can be assigned when needed so there is no excuse not to know wht you can do at a particular point in time and space. For instance, I quite often scan my to-dos and can spot the context from the text - assigning contexts just makes this faster, and searchable if you use the right tool


Jython 2.5 Alpha Released!

Frank Wierzbicki's Weblog: Jython 2.5 Alpha Released!
On behalf of the Jython development team, I'm pleased to announce that
Jython 2.5a1+ is available for download. See the installation instructions.

This is great news - I am so glad to see Jython coming back to life!


What do they know?

A new site to find Freedom of Information (FoI) requests:



Another cool emacs utility

Life Is Too Short For Bad Code: Emacs Tip #21: pabbrev (predictive abbreviation expansion)
pabbrev is a yet another package for abbreviation expansion in Emacs. Unlike dabbrev, this one analyzes the contents of the buffers during idle time, and shows potential expansions based on word frequency. This package also shows potential expansions as you are typing. For example if you were typing 'pred', this is what you would see:



Best April Fool by far!!

Damien Katz: CouchDB Language Change
So, after a lot of heated discussion internally, I'm somewhat sad to say that Erlang will not be used in future releases of CouchDB. We are switching the whole codebase to (...drumroll..) Java.


Saving Lisp applications as SBCL images

Nice article on saving and distributing Lisp applications from SBCL:

Freezing Lisp in Time | Mikael Jansson
So, when you're done with the heavy processing and finally want to distribute your work as an application, or maybe resume work later after that RAM upgrade, here's how!

Looks nice and simple. However the image is large! Hopefully someone will chip in with a way of improving this.


Emacs the dark side? huh?

Use Emacs with all your hatred.. « Keeping it Small and Simple
My path towards the dark side has already begun: I’m currently reading the Emacs tutorial (C-h t)


Conferences and sponsorship

reddit.com: Pycon 2008 disappointment
All of this is to say that it is possible to get sponsorship without selling the conference. Not only that, but our experience with PPW suggests that all parties - including sponsors - benefit when the conference remains focused on the attendees' interests.

I think this is important:

Surprisingly, we got lots of sponsorship. Moreover, our sponsors tended to be companies that "got" the programming community and that our attendees were more likely to be interested in. In the end, our sponsors were happy and our attendees were happy.(My emphasis)

The wisdom on conferences is obviously based on the more general case where the audiences can be very varied in interests and in experience - when manning a booth I have been quite shocked by the lack of research by some attendees, but more imprtantly their lack of focus on what they wanted from their visit.


ISO & ECMA : whither credibility

Michael Tiemann sums it up nicely:

What I see in the Geneva proceedings (that have been reported, surely not the whole story) is that ISO believed as I did that product was less important than process, and now ISO must decide whether to acknowledge that it failed, damaging its brand in the short term, or deny it was wrong and risk ruining it forever.


What do you use Common Lisp for?

Xach asked what people do with CL and got rather a lot of responses, most very interesting. None of the big CL apps get a mention yet.

Me? I am playing with it: I use SBCL, Emacs and SLIME. I think I need macros, but I'm not sure yet!


New Powerball

I bought a Powerball Pro about a week ago, as I have been having problems with my wrists (too much keyboard work).

An incredible little device which certainly seems to exercise the wrists and fore-arms. So far I am going fairly slowly (6000 rpm) as it quite quickly makes joints ache :-(

However, after a while I have found that the normal wrist and elbow aches are decreasing - so I am happy. Will post progress again after a few more weeks

Mail in the Emacs World == mew, with gmail

I got the above mail package working in emacs on Ubuntu, but more importantly I got i going with Google mail.

On Ubuntu I installed mew and mew-bin ( I used the latest beta)

To get it working with gmail, you also need stunnel. The real break-through was finding this site and updating it to my settings. Thanks to zhang.

Now I just need to find a copy of bbdb-mew.el and I can hook up with the Big Brother Database. The advertised link is not working for me today: server not found :-(

Once again Sacha Chua is doing something interesting in this space


Ubuntu Mobile

Ubuntu Mobile takes on Apple touch interface

This looks very interesting: good looks like the iPhone, but the possibility of getting lots of interesting extra packages running on it.

Apple has a few problems for me: 1) every time I think about geting a Mac or an iPhone I read something about Apple placing restrictions on what you can do - no personal ringtone loads, only stuff from ITunes store.... 2)restrictions on the software the iPhone can run.

I don't want those types of restrictions - I just feel like I am about to give money to a bunch of control freaks.

So, for people like me, let's hope the Ubuntu Mobile looks good, is open, and runs on decent hardware

Linux vs. Windows: Installation

It is a measure of how much Linux has improved , that now my latest new component was automatically picked up and used in Linux (Ubuntu) whilst I had to download new software to get Windows.

The particular component was a new nVidia graphics card - the end result was great on both systems, though again the Gnome eye-candy was better than Windows (XP).

So Linux, which used to be really bad at automatically coping with all but the most popular hardware seems to be overtaking Windows in my experience.

Is Windows Vista any better ? I won't know until i get new hardware - this box won't cope with it.

Getting the Gunk out

For GTD fans here is an excellent summary of how to get further with the system.

They are all great but the high ( or low) -lights for me were:

  • No tusted place of reference. For me part of this is space - I need to get rid of clutter before getting better equipment. Part is also my hankering after everything being electronic, but life just won't conform!!
  • Blocking out both doing and processing time: my new job gives me far less scope to define regular slots in my diary, so i end up with none at all. I need tro be more dynamic
  • Of course the last point also applies to the weekly review!


Slime Cheat Sheet

Here is a nice summary of Slime commands.

* It includes all of the SLIME commands from the SLIME manual
* It includes all of the Emacs commands from the built in tutorial
* It includes the main Emacs help keys
* The commands are sorted and grouped by functional area
* It’s all fits on one page

Nirvana in beta - weblocks

Weblocks looks interesting:

This is one of the main reasons I started Weblocks framework - I never wanted to write a line of HTML again.
with closures-based actions, continuations-based control flow, stateful widgets, and a shiny new CLSQL backend store1, it may very well be the web development nirvana
I found this amusing:
Weblocks is relatively young, so there still may be some issues that need to be ironed out. Proceed with caution!
Nirvana postponed perhaps?

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More on org-mode

Sacha's book draft continues.

I hadn't seen the filtering on tags feature before, nor the bonus code - of course!

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Is it April 1st? ".. all the remaining emacs users....."

Watch that space
clipped from blogs.zdnet.com

Developers are puzzling over recent clues blogged by a few Microsoft employees regarding a new “Emacs.Net” tool the company is building.

Responding in comments on the Microsoft Channel 9 blog, Microsoft “Chief Modeling Officer” Don Box added a few more bits of information:

There are two kinds of emacs users: those who start up emacs in a top-level window and use M-x shell to do shell work, and those who live in tcsh/ksh/bash and crank up emacs -nw to take over their console/terminal window.

“I was always in the former camp, and I believe that’s the design point for Doug (Purdy)’s project.  If you look up and down our hallway, all other remaining emacs users are in that former camp as well.”

 blog it


Horrid, horrid, horrid!

From the BBC:

The death toll from two Baghdad market bombs allegedly carried by mentally disabled women and set off remotely has risen to nearly 100, say officials. (My emphasis added)

I suppose I have been around enough that I shouldn't be surprised at the depths that a few people can stoop to, but this is real low...

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More on emacs and butterflies.... and org-mode

From Phil Windley
Of course, I use emacs—always have and always will.
Interestingly I use it more and more - the current diver is org-mode which I find to be a wonderful, easy-to-use and light-weight way of tracking things, even though I live in a corporate Notes environment. Notes has many great features, but I just love the text based approach and the ability to filter out TODOs in a single view from multiple files. If I am typing notes in a meeting and there is a TODO I just hit a key combinations and type it in the flow of the notes. Not so good for converting incoming mails to TODOS - if only one tool could do everything!!

org-mode can be found here . Congraulations to Carsten Dominik and the rest ofthe community. Sacha Chua is writing a book including org-mode.

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Real Programmers

xkcd: Damit emacs!!

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This site looks interesting: Tripit

No need to sign-up apparently. However, my ability to test this site out is hampered by my lack of air travel. Next time I book a UK train ticket I will try it out! But I'm not optimistic!!

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Implementing a blog in Common Lisp: Part 2

Velte continues his interesting tutorial.

(defmethod initialize-instance :after ((obj blog-post) &key)
"If :url-part wasn't non-nil when making the instance, generate it automatically."
cond ((eq nil (url-part obj))
(setf (url-part obj) (make-url-part (title obj))))))
The above is an interesting example of "aspect-oriented" programming!! Note the :after keyword and the typng of the argument.

I haven't had time to set this all up and follow along yet, perhaps next weekend will be quieter!!

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More on CouchDB

The SimpleDB comparison in this post seems very important
clipped from www.google.co.uk

That's a great development. Good for IBM picking it up, too.

Not knowing CouchDB too deeply, but the basic gist of it, I wonder how well the approach would translate into a cloud-based system, not too unlike Simple DB?

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Damien Katz of CouchDB Joins IBM

clipped from www.google.co.uk

Great news!

I've accepted a permanent, full-time job with IBM. My primary duties are (drumroll....) CouchDB! So all the stuff I've been doing up until now for free I'll be doing full time and be getting paid for it! Yee Haw!

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