Archive for September, 2003


List spam rant

I’m on a mailing list that occasionally gets spam. This is ridiculous, it should be easy enough to filter out almost all the spam by requiring that only subscribers can post. Confirm the legitimacy of the subscribers in any way you see fit, and you’re more or less set. But no, there’s this nested list thing, where the members of list B get a copy of every message sent to list A. This is done because presumably the list B members can’t be treated like intelligent adults and expected to subscribe to list A if they want those messages. Setting a requirement on list A such that only subscribers can post somehow interferes with delivery to nested list B, so the most immediately effective anti-spam measure is not available.


A software upgrade in the works will allegedly solve the nested list problem, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a lame idea in the first place.

What’s more, there’s this guy who sends an anti-spam message to the list complaining about every bit of spam that makes it through. Worse, he quotes the whole friggin’ message in his complaint, so now we’re treated to the spam twice. As icing on the cake, his replies are sent high priority, just like the spam he’s complaining about. C’mon, people, think!


Doctor Who is back!

A new Doctor Who series will be on the BBC in 2005.

The new series will be fun, exciting, contemporary and scary. Although I’m only in the early stages of development, I’m aiming to write a full-blooded drama which embraces the Doctor Who heritage, at the same time as introducing the character to a modern audience.

Hopefully I don’t need to tell you how very excited I am.

I missed the last couple Doctors, most of Colin Baker and all of Sylvester McCoy. They were broadcast locally at a point when I did not have a television. So here’s hoping that it won’t be much past 2005 before we see the new series locally.



I wrote a few days ago about TortoiseSVN, a terrific Subversion client for Windows. It turns out that all this time that I’ve been complaining about Windows CVS clients that suck (I’m looking at you, WinCVS), I’ve been unaware of TortoiseCVS. Now if I must use the unfortunate combination of Windows and CVS, I can do so without too much pain.

Maybe it’s not fair to say that WinCVS sucks. But I hate it. When I find the twisted command line CVS options easier to work with than a GUI. when the GUI is a barrier to entry for something as basic as CVS, it’s a problem.

I still can’t find anything good for the Mac. Command line it is. Which is fine.

Update: Jason Long points me to CVL for the Mac, which looks like it would be good if it didn’t crash whenever I launch it.



Oh dear. Hydra has been renamed SubEthaEdit. I think I preferred “#####”.


Wireless Internet at the Library

Hennepin County Libraries are starting to make free wireless internet access available. Yay! I think this just makes sense for a library.



Syncato, new weblog software. That is to say, “an XML fragment management system.” Jon Udell probably summarizes it best:

Kimbro Staken’s new blog software, built on top of Sleepycat’s Berkeley DB XML, echoes a theme I’ve been working with myself for a while. A collection of well-formed weblog entries is, implicitly, an XML database whose contents can be searched and intelligently recombined.

Related note to self: play around with Berkeley DB XML, and an article about using it.


TeaSource celebrates 5 years.

Congratulations to the TeaSource, which opened its doors five years ago (they’ve had an online store a couple years longer). I can’t believe the time has gone by so fast.

Once upon a time, Twin Cities residents were hard pressed to fine quality specialty tea in town. One shop opened up in Minneapolis, but … well, they had attitude problems. Buying tea there just didn’t feel right. Just about when I’d given up, Bill Waddington opened up the TeaSource more or less in my neighborhood. I was thrilled. The selection and quality of their teas is really quite impressive, and the staff most friendly. I heartily recommend it.

And yes, Splendid Table fans, that Bill Waddington, the Splendid Table’s tea maven.

Heh. I’m sure he’d be amused to know that I referred to him as that Bill Waddington.


Good deals at Barnes & Noble

I don’t know if this is a chain-wide promotion or not, but at Barnes & Noble last night I saw they had a few “classic programming books” on sale at 40% off. The ones I noticed were The Pragmatic Programmer and Extreme Programming Explained, but there were a handful of others. In case you’re interested.



I recently started using Subversion for version control instead of CVS, and when I’m on Windows I like to use TortoiseSVN, a Subversion client that integrates with Windows Explorer and makes it very easy to get into the habit of regular commits and updates. Almost too easy.

Mac users are familiar with how when you drag a file into the trash, the can bulges a bit and looks overfull (it no longer bulges in OS X, but it still looks overfull). In User Interface Design for Programmers, Joel Spolsky writes about how this carries the trash can metaphor to a point where it backfires:

The trouble is that neat freaks were distracted by the full trash can. It looks messy. When they wanted to clean up, they would empty the trash. Over time, many people got in the habit of dragging things to the trash can and then mechanically emptying the trash so that the trash can wouldn’t look messy, thus defeating its original purpose: to provide a way to get things back!

I am one of those neat freaks. It takes conscious effort not to empty the trash every chance I get.

One of the really cool things about TortoiseSVN is its icon overlays. You can tell at a glance which files have been edited or added to the repository since the last update:

TortoiseSVN's icon overlays

It didn’t take long to discover that it bugs me to have anything but little green checkmarks on all the files, so I commit at every opportunity. Since TortoiseSVN makes the “commit” command easily accessible on the context menu, this takes practically no time at all. Now, I’m a believer in the principle of continuous integration, but it can be carried to an extreme, especially since I usually work alone. As with the trash can, I require conscious effort not to commit every time a new unit test passes. Committing that frequently is not only unnecessary, it breaks the rhythm of test-driven development (red, green, refactor) so I find it harder to get into the groove. I don’t want to close the Explorer window, so reluctantly I have turned off icon overlays for the time being.

At least until I get used to my new toy.


Just Because You’re Paranoid…

I’m reading Jonathon Rabb’s The Book of Q, a novel about a Manichaean conspiracy. On my way into work this morning, I was musing about similarities between this and Foucault’s Pendulum (not entirely a fair comparison, but hey). When I stepped onto the bus, a the first guy I saw was reading Foucault’s Pendulum. I was immediately suspicious: that’s obviously not a coincidence, right? I started to look nervously around the rest of the bus, wondering how many of the passengers were consipirators.

I really need to stop reading books like this.

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