Thursday, August 30, 2018

Just checking in...

For those few people who actually follow this blog - I'm still here, and I intend to start posting more regularly again.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Command Line Argument Processing

This is another in my series of "simple programming techniques I don't want to keep reinventing."

#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <unistd.h>

int main(int argc, char**argv)
  opterr = 0; /* disable auto error reporting */
  char opt = 0;
  /* These copies are needed because optind and optarg aren't
     necessarily visible to debuggers, and you often want them. */
  int myoptind = 1;
  char* myoptarg = 0;

  int a = 0;
  const char* b = 0;

  while (((char) -1) != (opt = (char) getopt(argc, argv, "ab:"))){
    myoptind = optind;
    myoptarg = optarg;


    case 'a':
      a = 1;

    case 'b':
      b = myoptarg;

        char erropt = optopt;
        fprintf(stdout, "unrecognized option '%c'\n", erropt);

  if (myoptind < argc){
    fprintf(stdout, "unused arguments:");
    while (myoptind < argc){
      fprintf(stdout, " %s", argv[myoptind++]);
    fprintf(stdout, "\n");

  fprintf(stdout, "a: %d\nb: %s\n", a, b);
  return 0;

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Thinking about gun violence in America

This week's edition of On The Media focused -- once again -- on gun violence.

The whole show is worth listening to, but the last segment really got my attention. It's entitled, "Stopping gun violence without new laws", and it describes a program for addressing urban gun violence - a massively unreported part of the problem. OTM refers to it as CeaseFire, but it changed its name in 2012 to Cure Violence. Cure Violence treats gun violence as a public health problem, and takes a very data-driven approach to solving it. What's really great, though, is that Cure Violence offers a way to do something about guns that the NRA not only can't stop but isn't even opposed to.

They have gotten my support, and I urge you to support them, too.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Tiny Desk Concerts

Today's Doonesbury at the Washington Post led me to NPR's Tiny Desk Concert series. Nifty! The one that hooked me is this one:

Yusuf Islam doing an NPR "tiny desk concert"

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Scott Atran, again

In the aftermath of the November 13, 2015 Paris terrorist attacks, anthropologist Scott Atran has an article in the Guardian discussing how ISIs operates, how and why "the West" fails to understand the true nature of the threat posed by ISIS, and why this misunderstanding is so lethal.

I've written about Atran before; his 2011 interview with Krista Tippett is still timely.

Atran's Guardian piece led me to his comments at the U.N. in April 2015, which contains policy recommendations for Western governments. Those, in turn led me to the website of Peace Direct, an organization I intend to find out more about. A quick read suggests they are on the right track, but then the picture on this page about their work in Pakistan sort of screams "cultural insensitivity"...

Sunday, October 5, 2014


Today's New York Times Magazine has an extended interview with Marilynne Robinson, an author I must confess I've never read. Parts of the interview are just brilliant:

People: Brilliant creatures, who at a very high rate, predictably, are incomprehensible to each other. If what people want is to be formally in society, to have status, to have loving relationships, houseplants that don’t die, the failure rate is phenomenal….Excellent people, well-meaning people, their lives do not yield what they hoped. You know? This doesn’t diminish, at all, the fact that their dignity is intact. But their grief… -- Marilynne Robinson

This notion (fact?) that we are all mutually incomprehensible is at the core of the conflict, and resultant suffering, that pervades our lovely world.

Monday, March 17, 2014

"Apathy works like forgiveness"

A review in this week's NYTimes book review prompted me to re-read "Goodbye, Columbus." It's better than I remembered, and I'm just finishing "Eli, the Fanatic."

Roth is better than "Portnoy's Complaint." This book proves it.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Installing Ubuntu via the Internet using a small USB stick

I needed to install Ubuntu on a new computer that had no operating system on it, and my older, available Windows system does not have a reliable DVD burner. Further, the only USB stick I could find in the house is small - 512MB. No problem, I thought - I used to do network installs of Linux all the time. How hard could it be?

WOW - really hard! These days there seems to be an assumption that everyone is able to download a 2GB iso and burn it to either a DVD or a largish USB stick.

Eventually, though,  I found what I needed:

  • A "mini ISO" for Ubuntu. This is a very small bootable image with just enough bits to be able to run a network install, and...
  • The "LinuxLive" USB creator (aka "lili"), which creates a bootable image of an ISO on a USB stick.
Once I had these, all I had to do was run lili, "burn" the mini ISO to the USB stick, and boot the sucker. I was now in what felt like a late-1990s-era text-mode Linux installer. Hooray!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Honk! 2013

This afternoon Katy and I walked out to Davis Square to take in some of this year's Honk Festival.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A summer at Pinewoods

We've been going to Pinewoods Camp off and on for years, but this summer we've been there more than we have for a long time:
  • the second spring work weekend
  • Owen and Alison's wedding
  • July 4th CDS session
  • CDS Labor Day session
  • and just now, the fall work weekend

We had great weather for this work weekend - cool but sunny, with a breeze to help us cool off from heavy lifting. We put docks up on the bank for winter storage, closed cabins, moved a mountain of mulch, and dug new holes for two of the camp outhouses. Here we are preparing to move the second to its new home, a few feet to the right:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Thanks for the dances, Helene

Helene Cornelius, a long-time Boston English Country dance teacher (and dancer!), died early last month after a fall. I danced with her just a week before she died. The Globe recently published a very nicely-done memorial article, which mentions Pinewoods camp, where Owen's wedding just took place.

Thank you for all the dances, Helene.

Owen and Alison have wed

This past Saturday Owen and Alison were married at Pinewoods. After a wet start on Friday the weather turned beautiful, and the weekend was about as perfect as it could be. Pictures here:

Alison & Owen's wedding

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hi Tech?

This is what the lobby of our office building looks like every time it rains:

Nice work, Equity Office..

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Dancing at Waterfire with the Ladies of the Rolling Pin

My Morris team (well, a fraction thereof...) danced in Providence last night at Waterfire, at the invitation of the Ladies of the Rolling Pin. Several other teams were there, too, including a partial side from Newtowne; we teamed up to dance about a half a dozen dances.

After the dancing I wandered around for a while, taking in the sights and people.

Downtown Providence is quite lovely at night.

There are a few more pictures, and a video clip of the lighting of the Waterfire lamps, in this album:

Waterfire w/LORP, August 2012

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Can you spare 3 minutes... debunk the myth of "You didn't build that!"?

The Romney campaign has been flogging the notion that Socialist President Obama said to business owners, "You didn't build that [business]!" In fact, in context, the "that" in the sentence is clearly referring to"roads and bridges." Obama was talking about all the infrastructure that enables business to thrive.

But don't take my word for it. Take a look at the entire, unedited video of Obama's speech in Roanoke Virginia on July 13th that set off this little firestorm. If you don't want to watch it all, just grab the pointer and drag into 32:30. Then watch the next 3 minutes.

If you want to find reasons to prefer Romney over Obama, at least do so with a little integrity.

The rest of the speech is pretty damn inspiring, too, in this viewer's opinion.

A note: I received an anonymous comment that I will not publish, even though I don't find any of the content particularly objectionable. I don't blog anonymously, and I hold commenters to the same standard.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

My love-hate relationship with Amazon

This morning I read in the Times that Jeff Bezos has pledged $2.5M in support of same-sex marriage in Washington State. I wanted to let Amazon know that I'm happy about this support by its CEO, so I clicked on over to to find their "contact us" link.

Without success.

Unless I'm just hopelessly blind this morning, Amazon doesn't seem to have a mechanism for receiving general feedback.

And so goes the ongoing saga of my relationship with Amazon. for example: I'm a long-time Kindle user; I own every model of the Kindle so far, except the DX. Obviously I like reading on the Kindle. It's great to be able to carry a whole library with me in a small, light-weight package that can go a week without recharging, and my eyes appreciate the ability to change font sizes to accommodate changing reading conditions. Being able to sample a book before buying has made me a more adventurous reader.

But -- the DRM periodically drives me crazy. Subscriptions are especially painful. I was delighted when the New York Times Kindle Edition finally became good enough that we could cancel our paper subscription to the Times; I hated putting out pounds of paper each week in the recycling. But I can only have the Times delivered to one of my Kindles - making it impossible for Katy and I to share the Sunday Times. We can sort of work around this by using the digital access that comes with a Kindle subscription to read the Times on an iPad, but it's not the same.

Then there is Amazon's stance on sales tax. It's just utterly bogus to claim at this point in the history of the Internet that requiring online retailers to collect and pay state sales taxes is "too onerous" or would "suppress online sales." Many online retailers manage this without any problems; surely Amazon could as well. Yet Amazon continues to lobby against this.

Ah, well. Thanks, Jeff, for the good; can you try to do something about the bad?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Boston Dining Cards, 2011-2012

I gave Katy a deck of Boston Dining Cards for her 50th birthday today. As an added bonus, I created a map with showing all the restaurants.

View Boston Dining Cards 2011-2012 in a larger map

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

And now we are Qlikies

Today Expressor Software, the little data integration software company I work for, was acquired by Qliktech, makers of the Qlikview Business Discovery Platform. This is very good development for us; Expressor Studio complements Qlikview very nicely, and since Qliktech is a rapidly growing, publicly traded company,we're going to have a lot more development horsepower to move our product forward.

Expressor has come along way since I joined almost three years ago. We introduced a completely new UI in late 2010, along with a mostly-new data movement engine (the piece I work on), and each of the subsequent releases has added major new functionality.

But beyond the software, we've also become a highly productive engineering team. We've been introducing a new release every 3 months or so for the past 18 months. Without the close coordination we have among our UI, repository, engine and QA teams, we never could have done this without sacrificing product quality -- but we've kept the quality up, and even managed significant internal improvements that helped performance and stability while we did this. This is a great group of people to work with, and even though we've been working our butts off, I've really enjoyed the work.

Next week we're all going to Qliktech's office in Lund, Sweden, for an introduction to our engineering counterparts - and to celebrate midsummer. It's not technically a vacation - but it sure is a nice break from our usual routine. It's a pretty amazing way of welcoming us into the company. Katy is coming with me, and we'll be spending a few days on either end of the trip exploring Copenhagen.

Qliktech, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. (roll credits)

Friday, March 30, 2012

The end of the line for the Juxtacomm patent?

It looks like the U.S. Patent Office has issued a final, please-get-out-of-my-face rejection of essentially all of the claims of the infamous '662 patent, which the Canadian patent trolls software firm Teilhard Technologies has been using to shake down litigate against software vendors, including IBM, Oracle, Informatica and many others.

See my earlier posting about the USPTO's ruling on the '662 patent to find out how access the decision from the USPTO web site, or just follow these links to my copies:
According to Pacer, the current round of litigation is winding down, with dismissals already issued or pending for many of the defendants. At last.

Friday, March 23, 2012

SmileTrain - a protection racket

For literally years now, I've been getting mailings about every 2 weeks from SmileTrain, a charity that helps children born with a cleft lip or palate get the repair surgery they need to lead relatively normal lives. A worthy cause, yes? I suppose - but their fundraising strategy amounts to a protection racket. I quote:

"Make one gift now and we'll never ask for another donation again."

 Right. According to a report by CharityWatch, this is a lie. Further, in 2009 SmileTrain had an overhead rate of about 30%, while claiming that "100% of your donation goes to program - 0% goes to overhead." Part of that overhead was the $678,058 that President and Co-Founder Brian Mullaney received in compensation.

 I hate to see scumbags making money off unfortunate children.