Woe is coding.


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Artsy Recycling: follow-up


A while ago I wrote to my mayor to ask for better recycling of electronics and other technological items in my home town. The mayor responded rapidly with good news!

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Asking the Right Question


There are many reasons why you’d like to know if your user liked something or not. It can be used later for recommendation, for example, or to assess whether or not the users want the new feature you’ve just added. And it seems to me that not only the question but also the choices of answers offered matters a lot.

So, let’s say you add an (optional) survey to your application to collect feedback. You can ask a yes/no question like “do you like the new feature?”. The obvious yes/no answer isn’t so obvious. If the users select yes, it means yes, but what if they click no?

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Herding Cats


I’m sure you’ve heard the expression herding cats before. When you’re trying to manage programmers, the expression certainly comes to mind. What if programmers were cats, which one would you be?

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Suggested Reading: Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction 2


John Austin — Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction 2 —
Build A Secret Agent Arsenal
 — Chicago Review Press
2011, 260 pp. ISBN 978-1-56976-716-0

(Buy at Amazon.com)

A quite amusing little books on needlessly complicated hacks, but that can bring quite the ruckus in the office/school. Q-Tip launchers, (paper) ninja stars, rubberband weapons, CD periscopes, … all built from readily available office supplies. In fact, they are all way too complicated, but sooo much fun.

Run, Python, Run!


I still can’t figure out exactly which operations are expensive in Python. My C/C++ can’t help me much because it seems that things aren’t implemented like I’d’ve expected—like lists that aren’t lists, but array lists, leading to O(n) for operations you would otherwise expect to be O(1).

But a friend of mine—Olivier—showed me a simple, basic, yet rather effective tool to profile Python programs (I’m not sure if I should say script or not).

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Log Books


The other day, I was discussing with a friend about my log books, and it seems that, while it’s fairly common with scientists of all sorts, it’s not a generalized practice amongst computer scientists and programmers. But it should: the log book is not only for chemists.

First, the log book serves as… a log. A written trace of your activity during the day. While this sounds silly, it may be useful in retrospect when it is needed to assess time spent on a particular (class of) task(s), to get a good idea of were you are spending your time at work.

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Simple Color Management with Gnome


Some time ago, I complained about laptops having sucky screens, but it seems there is a way to deal with rather bad colors in Gnome.

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Rethinking Graphical User Interfaces


For Christmas last year, I offered myself an iPod, and I found that the interface, made for big fingers on a small screen, is surprisingly friendly and intuitive. OK, granted, some things are harder to find than other (like how to kill or group apps), but the overall experience is agreeable. You don’t feel the thing as a new device that breaks your work-flow, because you can’t have a work-flow on this thing.

Ubuntu 11.04 came out in April and it offered—well, kind of imposed, actually—their Unity desktop environment, and it does break your work-flow. Not because it is clunky (because it is), but because it does not offer ways of doing what you’re used to on a workstation, it tries to replace what you’ve always done by something “revolutionary.”

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Get to Know Conky


While Ubuntu/Gnome/Compiz offer various widgets to monitor computer activity, I think they tend too much to offer a strong visual effect rather than actual useful, structured, information about what’s going on in your computer. Sometimes, it doesn’t really matter. Sometimes you want to know more.

One tool that’s not the mega-eye-candy but is very configurable and actually useful is Conky, a “free, light-weight system monitor for X, that displays any information on your desktop.”

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