Hey, it's only democracy in action

Posted by Jim Jagielski on Wednesday, September 27. 2006 in Programming

The Primary Election held in Maryland 2 weeks ago was, to be charitable, a fiasco. Election judges that simply didn't bother to show up, equipment that was either not set up or was still locked up, and, worse of all, e-poll registration machines that crashed at the drop of a hat. Heck, it even happened to me, and I needed to wait for about 15 minutes while the machine rebooted and they had to convince the machine that I had not already registered. Well, it appears that the e-poll machines and the software behind them (both by Diebold) were never really tested. In fact, the primary was just a super nice Beta test for the system. They then tracked the problems down to basically a memory leak. After 40 to 50 people were registered, the machine would crash. Just this week Diebold stated that "Hey, we fixed it!" As proof they ran this super test: they registered more than 100 (*gasp*) people through the upgraded machines and no crash! Wow! 100! Do these people have any sense of scale? This is woefully short of the number of people that the machine will be expected to handle. What sort of testing is this? But what am I complaining about... after all, it only affects one of the cornerstones of a democracy. We can't be bothered with protecting our democracy when we're busy doing it elsewhere.

Stay true to a language?

Posted by Jim Jagielski on Friday, September 22. 2006 in Programming

One thing which I find somewhat troubling, switching from language to language, is that one tends to use idioms and techniques in one language, that are really better suited for another. This is more often problematic when porting and application between languages, but can really happen at any time. It's ever more an issue when the languages share a lot of similarities. For example, consider this Perl code snippet:
($id,$name)=($1,$2) if $line =~ /|name="(\w+)" (.*?)|/;
Now with some very minor changes, this is also valid Ruby:
nid,name = $1,$2 if line =~ /|name="(\w+)" (.*?)|/
But even so, it is a very Perlish-way of writing Ruby. Instead, you could do something like:
if (m = /|name="(\w+)" (.*?)|/.match(line))      nid = m[1]      name = m[2] end
Which is certainly uses more Ruby-like concepts, but is more verbose and not that nice anyway (yes, you could make it less verbose, but stay with me here). I like the Perlish-way better. It's certainly cleaner. So do you write clean, concise code, even if it's not "true" to a language, or do you stay close to the ideals of a particular language, even if it means the code isn't as clean or clear as you'd like...? Me, I'm lazy, so I'll do whatever is easier without being so terse as to be painful. If a language gives me shortcuts, I'll use them, even if it means some language snobs may look down their noses. As far as the above, heck, I'm going to start calling that idiom a "Ruby-ish way" of doing it. Certainly if one started with Ruby and then learned Perl, that's what they would think.

Small side project

Posted by Jim Jagielski on Friday, September 8. 2006 in Programming

I've mentioned a few times previously about the Telaen Webmail side project that I work on. It's pretty neat, since, IMO, a small, lightweight Webmail system is more useful than larger more complex ones, especially if it's designed to complement (instead of replace) more "traditional" Email clients. We recently announced a release candidate for version 1.1.1, which adds some features and fixes over 1.1.0. Anyway, I found it curious that the project that Telaen was based on, (Uebimiau, appears to be dead once again. The Forum is down, and has been for quite awhile, and the site itself is little more than an advertisement for a commercial offering for a webmail system that also seems to be based on Uebimiau. This commercial offering is expensive and has a much deeper list of dependencies and requirements than Telaen (and even Uebimiau) which, again IMO, deviates from what makes them worthwhile. Uebimiau was not being actively developed (that's why we "forked" off Telaen in the first place) and so one wonders how active development on this commercial offering will be. I won't even bring up any licensing issues and whether it's using code or patches that were GPL'ed and not providing their updates back to the community... So, long and short, if you're using Uebimiau (or some other webmail system) and are looking for a replacement, look at Telaen.

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