Friday, October 31, 2008


We had a course in the last year of faculty called "Evolved Interfaces".
It talked about cute stuff like how a menu should ideally hold no more than 7 items, a notion which I later heard, during another course, in the form of "humans have a 3-bit memory", to which I quickly crafted a reply I (very wisely) never uttered.
Besides the cute stuff, the main stuff was about Web thingies. Sitez, Blags, F0rumz, Chats and the likes. We actually had to make a team project which consisted of a website using modern xml-y and javascripty and CMSy stuff and an accompanying blog. The site had hit counters and points (which made up a percentage of the course's final grade) were awarded for hits and Google PageRank. This is why each year around this time, people start putting up weird Messenger statuses linking to their Evolved Interfaces projects. People click the links because they sound intriguing and students get hits. This pollutes Messenger contact lists.
Evolved Interfaces is the only course I've had which mentions "Web 2.0" as a valid concept. I find that revolting.
Semi-off-topic: stupid TV commercial for Orange: "...I'm Reeves, the first too point ooh poet and I'm inspired..." bla bla. No, you're just an idiot who "uploads downtown and downloads uptown" and thinks that's so fucking creative and poetic.
Back on topic, I'm not saying that webby stuff isn't evolved interfaces, but until I can tell my light bulb "dim please" or "turn off please", and my air conditioner "computer, 20 degrees please", I'm not buying it. I mean we're in the 21st fucking century and I still can't buy an affordable, widely-available product that takes voice commands and performs useful stuff such as opening my windows (the real ones not the broken ones), flushing my toilet or heating up my dinner. Or at least changing the TV channel. And intelligently replying to queries such as "computer, tell me how that vote in the Parliament on the teachers' salary raise went". That's what I'd call an evolved interface.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


There are games (such as chess) where player skill matters, and there are games (such as roulette) where luck matters.
I hate games which pretend to require thinking but actually require luck:

Fuck Minesweeper.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I saw a UFO a few days ago.
I first saw it at about 60 degrees above the western horizon.
It was a small sphere (about 1/6 to 1/4 of the moon's apparent diameter) that seemed to turn from black to shiny at regular intervals.
A friend noted it was flying "a few hundred meters up, a km at most".
It was moving slowly towards the west, apparently descending; in about 3 minutes it disappeared behind the building.
Probably some bi-color party balloon drifting in the wind.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


In 2008, this guy is still including dos.h.
Vista's command prompt still uses DOS commands.
In Romania, certain high-school programming contests are still happening in Borland C (on DOS), and many high-school students are still learning programming in Borland Pascal (on DOS).
A few weeks ago a 1990s program didn't work in dosemu with a USB-to-RS-232 converter. Was it failing because of the high clock speed, like the Pascal library? Was it written like the guy's code? Was it failing because the serial converter wasn't emulated accurately enough? I don't know.
Anyway, I thank Microsoft for removing the serial ports from desktop PCs and notebooks (they're not called laptops anymore, because some dissipate too much heat to allow comfortable use in one's lap).
Apart from the once ubiquitous but now outdated dial-up modems and serial mice, serial ports are actually useful for a huge lot of devices and tasks, such as:
  • dial-up modems. Over mobile GPRS or satellite.
  • serial mice. Why occupy a hi-speed USB port with a low-speed mouse? (if you happen to want 2 or 3 mice on your system)
  • serial barcode scanners
  • small serial printers (frequently used for printing receipts)
  • uninterruptible power supplies
  • networking (wireless modules for interfacing low-power sensor networks, for instance. The networks run IPv6, btw.)
  • GPS receivers
  • mobile phones and PDAs (some mobile phone "USB data cables" are actually USB-serial converters)
  • a huge variety of industrial and laboratory instruments (meters, process controllers etcetera)
  • infrared communication (with mobile phones, PDAs, instruments etc)
  • serial console for configuring and debugging routers and other embedded systems and screenless devices. Frequently used by network administrators.
  • microcontroller programming, homebrew hardware, firmware upgrade for various devices
  • small auxiliary text-mode LCD screens to display what song you're playing or what mail you've got or whatever
  • infrared remote control receivers (for controlling your computer from the comfort of your bed/armchair/whatever)
  • low cost, easy to build laser links between buildings (with enough speed - 92kb/s - to stream medium-quality audio, transfer documents or work in a remote shell)
  • etcetera.
There. Fuck you, PC 97.