How many eyeballs to make a bug shallow?

March 31, 2009

In the The Cathedral and the Bazaar, Eric Raymond said that “Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.” Of course, what he meant is when you have a large enough tester base and lots of developers, almost all bugs are found, characterized (i.e., how to make them reproducible and what are the effects) and fixed by someone in the developer group. This appears to me as somewhat optimistic and begs the question… how many eyeballs does it take to make a bug shallow?

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Soft-Ignore: Filter buggers in XChat

March 24, 2009

If you, like me, hang out once in a while on IRC to chat with fellow programmers (or with fellow practitioner of your favorite hobby), you may find that some individuals are just not worth your full attention. One easy, and rather definitive way to deal with the problem is to use the /ignore command that allows your IRC client to filter incoming messages from those people, and you just never see them again… quite literally.

However, just /ignoring someone is rude, and may prevent you from keeping a eye on them. You know, the “keep your friends close, your enemies closer” kind of thing.

A long time ago, with a friend, I wrote a mIRC script that shaded the “ignored” people’s text so that it was hard to read (like dark gray on blue), but the text was still available. To view the text, you could either squint or select the text. This week, I present a python version of that script, for XChat, based on the work of Albert W. Hopkins, a.k.a. Marduk, released under the GPL.

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Suggested Readings: Short-Cut Math

March 23, 2009

Gerard W. Kelly — Short-Cut Math — Dover, 1984, 112 pp. ISBN 978-0-486-24611-6

(Buy at

(Buy at

This little book—not even 120 pages—will help you sharpen your mental math skills using a series of tricks, strategems, and special cases that will get you to the exact result, or at least to an accurate approximation, with greater speed. The book is not exactly mind-shattering either; still, it may be useful to learn a few new tricks.

What the Happy Hacking Keyboard should have been

March 17, 2009

The Quest for the Perfect Hacking Keyboard is indeed an eternal one. Over the years, I had great many keyboards and most of them went the way of the dodo. Recently, despite not having other Apple products, I tried the (wired) thin Apple aluminum keyboard. As I prefer very thin keyboard over thick ones, and laptop-style keys to the big M Type keys; it was a very good match. However, after a while, I got unnerved by the extra, useless keypad. In short, the keyboard is too long: as I am right handed, it’s always somehow in the way of the mouse so I started looking for a better keyboard. Again.


So I got the Apple aluminium keyboard, wireless version.

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Suggested Reading: The Myths of Innovation

March 16, 2009

Scott Berkun — The Myths of Innovation — O’Reilly, 2007, 178 pp. ISBN 978-0-596-52705-1

(buy at

(buy at

In this book, Berkun debunks the myths surrounding the new, the innovation, the invention that will change the world, surrounding the inventor, lonely and strange, superman or genius. In ten chapters, he systematically demolishes a series of myths, starting by the myth of epiphany, that is, how an innovation is “revealed” to its inventor. He explains how and why such epiphanies do not exist, and, if they exist, how they cannot be anything but the final step of long, tedious work.

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Your Automatisms Betray You

March 11, 2009

Yesterday someone dropped on the IRC channel where my fellow programmers, computer enthusiasts, and I hang out to get help to find a bug. He uses one of the paste sites (like,, or, pastes his piece of offending code, and so we get a look at the code. Of course, I go over the short program, notice a mistake in the scanf but it took me a full two minutes to notice the loop:

for (c=0; c++; cwe don’t read what’s actually written, but what we think is written, unless we pay the utmost attention to the code—what we should be doing anyway, but do not always. Usually, you zero in on that kind of bug rapidly, as you guide your search from the bug’s symptoms which leads you to defect’s approximate location. If you’re like me—write a little, test a lot—you find those bugs right away most of the times. However, even if you zero in rapidly, you still get a coarse-grained location: module, class, function.

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Fun with Google Maps

March 10, 2009

Our planet is indeed quite a marvelous place. Full of surprises:

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Our planet is a truly wonderful place. Take care of it. Share its beauty. Know some weird feature visible from space? Let me, let us know.