Speed Up

This post pointed me to a tool that I have always wanted without ever knowing it. ccache is a C/C++ compiler cache. It is used to produce code from already compiled sources that have not changed. Its particularly useful for package building environments where package directives change often but the source code doesn’t.

Seeing Dots

I generally don’t get too excited about optical illusions; but this is one very cool illusion. If you follow the rotating pink dot you will only see pink. If you look at the “+” in the center you will see a green dot. Stare at the “+” long enough and you will only see the green dot.

If you are interested in this kind of thing here is a site listing 60 common optical illusions.

Umpire Effect

I overheard a discussion on NPR the other day that exemplified something that I have been thinking about. The discussion was a panel debate on last weeks news. The conversation inevitably centered around the war in Iraq and the current public opinion about the war.

A caller to the radio show (actually I think it was an email submission) made an articulate remark about the failure of the media to accurately report the successes the U.S. has had in Iraq. When the panel responded; they admitted that many military personal in Iraq make the exact same comment to them. Each of the panel members was a reporter of some type (the question of why expert panels are always filled with reporters and professors is left for another day) and as such each of them had heard this complaint a number of times in the past.

Then one panelist responded with the counter-point that “The problem is that I often hear the exact opposite remark; that if we (as reporters) had been more critical of the president when he made the case for war, we might not have ever gotten into Iraq.”

The problem with that statement is that its not the exact opposite remark (the opposite stance would be that the media doesn’t report enough about the current violence in Iraq.) In fact the two positions can actually be explained in relation to one another. Let me explain. I believe, in some cases, people tend to “compensate” for their mistakes by making up for the short coming. Something of an enforced karma. It’s similar to when a baseball umpire makes a really bad call, realizes it as such, and then “compensates” for it by giving his next call to the infringed upon player/team; regardless of what the correct call should have been.

In some ways I think the media is trying to compensate for their own perceived failure to critically report on the argument for the war. The way they are “balancing” things out is by being overly critical of the success of the rebuilding effort. I don’t necessarily believe this umpire effect is intentional; but the evidence for it is pretty strong. While there is no doubt that the insurgency in Iraq is getting stronger, by almost any other measure things are getting much better there. Public projects are at an all time high, as is the number of completed project. Political involvement has steadily increased, oil revenue is up, the majority of law enforcement work is being done by Iraqis now, and GDP is steadily on the rise. What is more, the vast majority of Iraqis don’t want the U.S. to leave yet and think they are better off now then they were under Saddam (even if the really don’t like us.)

Because of the pathological nationalism that was rampant post 9/11 the media felt reluctant to criticize the President. Now that the President is unpopular it is much easier to be critical of him and the war he started. I guess that is really the point of this observation. More than I would like to believe the media is not simply a distributor of information but a reflection of our own prejudices. The umpire effect exists in the media (I have noticed it in a least a couple of other non-national news stories) because it exists among us. It is a way to make life (and baseball) a little more fair; as least from our point of view.

The US EU Divide

Two articles from The American Enterprise discussing the slow decline of U.S. and European ties and how they relate to the differences in our economies. The first article (Europe’s Not Working) covers the failure of European style socio-progressive economic model. The second article (Europe Learns the Wrong Lessons) covers the failure of Europe to accurately identify the solution to their current economic crisis.

In addition to pointing out some of the serious flaws in continental European democracy, the articles are especially interesting in their analysis of Europe’s reaction to such failure. Iraq is not the only reason for Europe to feel frustrated with the U.S. While many of us in the states are continually led to believe (mostly from institutional academia) that our form of capitalism and democracy is inferior in every way to the European model; the reality is quite different. Europe’s excessive social progressivism has lead to a standard of living some 40% below U.S. levels and unemployment rates in the double digits.

While the problem is easily identifiable to those who are on the outside of the European economic socialist mind-set; it requires a paradigm sift for those who are comfortable with the welfare state. The solution is as straightforward; implement a more American/Asian model capitalist environment. Dozens of successful examples exist (Ireland being the closes to home for Europe.) Unfortunately, Europe seems dead-set on continuing down the failed course it has begun; at least for the foreseeable future.

Blinded Arab Ideology

Berry Rubin (via the U.S. foreign service website AmericanDiplomacy.org) has an article about the ideological influence of extreme Islam and its failure to provide tangible results to improving the Arab situation in the Middle East. While some people may consider this victim blaming, the reality is that the Arab response has done a great deal to perpetuate the status quo. The article doesn’t provide a solution to the problems of the middle east but it does enable a framework for better understanding the problem.

I’ve Read 6

The Guardian is running a list of the Top 20 geek novels of the past 100 years (or so.) The HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy places number one with multiple entries for Neal Stephenson and Isaac Asimov. The Lord of the Rings trilogy was not on the list. Probably because, as one responder put it:

I think that (the LOTR trilogy) comes under the category ‘Geek Bible’.

Web-Based MMPOG

Thanks to Jason I have discovered the wonderful world of Urban Dead is a massively multi-player web-based zombie apocalypse game. Create a character (human or zombie) and start to do battle with others online for control of the city. No flash, ActiveX, or Java required. Currently I have two characters; brockers and S1ider but I think one of them will become a Zombie pretty soon based on the fact that I left him sitting outside on the street because I didn’t entirely understand the daily usage limits.

Urban Dead also pointed me to another (admittedly less advanced) web-based MMPOG called Vampires! The Dark Alleyway. brockers can also be found in Vampires.

Loads of Links: CVS

I have been doing an overhaul of our CVS tools infrastructure and in the process added some very nice NEW functionality. Here are some links to a couple of the more interesting tools for CVS tracking, management, review, and statistics.

  • ViewCVS– The standard in CVS web viewing. Supports diff viewing, visual history layouts, Bugzilla support, and color code previews. Its only real downside is that its a python application. Version 2 will be out any-time-now.
  • CVS Web– The original cvs online code viewer. CVSView was originally a python port of this Perl application. Visually it is more flexible (by default) than viewcvs 1.x series.
  • Bonsai-Mozilla foundation CVS code viewer. They have not released a packaged version as of yet.
  • Cvstat-Perl script that generates some general statistics about a given CVS project. Its biggest weakness is that is can only be run against a given project and now the entire CVS repository.
  • CVS Monitor– One damn fine project tracking and project monitoring tool. Includes graphs of file and line activity, web administration, and change-set tracking.
  • Codestriker– Code auditing and review tool. Allows reviews to make line by line comments of projects directly against CVS. Sub-projects can be created to review specific feature proposals. Includes file viewing (via viewcvs or webcvs), color code (via LXR), diff creation, package/file download access, life-cycle management tools, and integrated support for Bugzilla.
  • Bloof-Java based CVS metric tool. Provides interface for analytical processing of version control data. Its capable of providing an amazing number of reports based on hundreds of criteria.