This is BrainLog, a blog by Dan Sanderson. Older entries, from October 1999 through September 2010, are preserved for posterity, but are no longer maintained. See the front page and newer entries.

May 2007 Archives

May 24, 2007

A Fair(y) Use Tale [YouTube], a short film explaining copyright law and fair use using clips from Disney films.

Sketchy LISP: An Introduction to Functional Programming in Scheme, by Nils M Hold. Complete contents online, and he's also selling printed versions via

Other self-published computer books by Nils M Hold.

May 23, 2007

Starcraft II announced. Yes, but will it run on the iPhone?

Amiga Inc. got naming rights for the new Kent hockey arena, and Kent is only now learning about the company's troubled recent-past.

As far as I can tell, the only interesting thing about Amiga, Inc. is that they own the name and presumably some of the IP from the awesome line of personal computers of the '80s. None of the awesomeness exists today, so Amiga, Inc. stories really shouldn't catch my eye. Now they're marginally more interesting for having a local presence, albeit a turbulent one.

Recent Commodore stories are similarly odd. I recognize the name and the logo, but what else is there for me to enjoy? What possible relationship between the company of today and the company of yesterday could there be that would capitalize on my nostalgia?

May 22, 2007

Seattle P-I readers will be the test market for new e-paper news screen, "sometime in the next two years." The thing is light and flexible ("as paper"), and it sounds like the display has touch controls. The article (and I presume the underlying press release) avoids words like "device" in favor of a mythical implication that this will be like a normal newspaper that changes what it says in real time. Since that's not what it is, it isn't clear what the consumer value is of this thing's bendable nature. Rugged, thin and low-cost, absolutely, but why would I bend it?

The article doesn't mention how data gets to the device, which implies that it will only update when connected to a computer. So it's not exactly the breaking-news newspaper from the movies, at least not yet. That also probably implies the first few iterations will have Windows-only clients, but now I'm just being silly.

Of course, I'd love to be a tester for an updateable slab of cardboard, and I'd love to replace the huge piles of paper recyc in my kitchen. And I'm not reading jack on my iPod. So this is obviously the best thing since sliced bread, and I can't wait to renew my subscription!

LiteratePrograms, a wiki of literate programs, with special support from the open-sourced wiki engine.

May 15, 2007

A nice introduction to object-oriented programming with JavaScript.

The VOCO Clock, an alarm clock that plays audio messages from Stephen Fry, as your personal valet, to wake you up in the morning. Messages for both sir and madam are included.

The makers of the clock are now offering 10 of the audio samples as a no-cost Creative Commons licensed download, and the remaining 60 as a purchasable download. The site recommends using the samples with Aurora, the free iTunes alarm clock for the Mac.

Can a single thing get any more awesome?

May 14, 2007

The Care and Feeding of a Game Group, from Matthew Baldwin.

Cute hack to style the HTML file selector widget.

Alligator Eggs! I'm not sure how useful this is, but it's cute. Probably a little complicated for my 3-year-old, though.

May 11, 2007

Functional pearls, instructional examples of functional programming.

Introducing, a tool that creates named Python setuptools environments so you can control what software is installed for each project, such as for replicating an environment on another machine.

May 10, 2007

The Omni Group's upcoming task management application OmniFocus is still in development, but now has a nice long (25 minute) screencast demonstrating an early version. The screencast is hosted by Ethan Schoonover, the creator of Kinkless GTD, a set of AppleScripts for OmniOutliner for task management, which OmniFocus will eventually replace.

Frequency of DocBook elements in O'Reilly books, neat.

May 7, 2007

The Complete Javascript Number Reference. Installing Trac 0.10, with a focus on Dreamhost customers. (December 2006.) Installing Trac on Dreamhost. (July 2006.)

Dreamhost wiki on Trac, and on Clearsilver.

I wasn't able to install Subversion 1.4.3 (the latest as of this writing) because the Apache Portable Runtime dependency was too tricky for my blood. Looks like the build is supposed to be able to compile apr from source on its own, but the instructions don't work as written. NatMaster's instructions use 1.4.3, but make no mention of apr, so I dunno. The older Subversion 1.3.2 builds properly without explicitly locating apr. I was able to use the latest versions of all of the other components without a problem.

May 4, 2007

I was all set to write a positive review of BitPim, an open source app for Mac, Windows and Linux to transfer data to and from many kinds of cell phones. After overcoming a bug in the phone auto-detection mechanism, I managed to get it to recognize my LG VX6100 from Verizon and transfer my phone-camera photos to my hard drive, something I've been meaning to do for a long time. To that end, successful.

However, I now realize that the auto-detection bug corrupted my iPod's hard drive. This was simply due to my iPod being plugged in when I started up BitPim for the first time. BitPim tried to find a phone, and I got several errors about disconnecting a device without properly ejecting it, followed by BitPim hanging and iTunes telling me my iPod was now called "IPOD". I don't believe iTunes or another app was using the iPod's hard drive at the time, but regardless, BitPim is obviously to blame in this case.

Alas, I'm not the type to keep my entire music collection on my hard drive and mirror it to the iPod. (I'm one of those laptop-is-my-main-computer and I-need-the-hard-drive-space people.) I have music backed up elsewhere, but it'll take some doing to put it all back together. At least the factory reset of the iPod succeeded.

I wouldn't warn against BitPim entirely, since I otherwise wouldn't have had any good way to get data off of my phone. But without knowing more about the circumstances of my accident, all I can say is be warned: Disconnect iPods and other USB storage devices before running BitPim.

May 3, 2007

Via LifeClever, news of a feature of the New York Times web site I didn't know about: Double-click on any word in a story to pop up a window of reference information about that word.

May 2, 2007

The Worse Than Failure Programming Contest. Implement a 4-function calculator in C or C++ code that is either really buggy, really clever, or both, and win a laptop.

Boy, Pigeon, Crushed Firebox (photo). (Thanks Jason.)


May 1, 2007

Emacs Lisp coding thoughts. Long and cheaply written, but it looks like there's some good stuff in here for Emacs coders to consider.

Fred Fish has died, age 51. "Fish disks" took up a great deal of my time and attention in junior high school, and I remember them quite fondly.

SCons, a new make-like software build system. Written in Python.