Tag Archives: Reminiscence

Essays recollecting my past.

A la recherche du recherche.

Title's a pun on "A la recherche du temps purdue," by Proust. I haven't read it.
The phrases translate "Of the Search for Lost Time" and "... for Research."

I've updated my portfolio:
    WARNING: ADULTS ONLY due to explicit sexual content.
    Videlicet and DiffWalk are still buggy.
    However, I have established something approaching a meaningful testbed for
    Videlicet: which, I assume, can be easily completed by even a high schooler.
I advise you to download right now, before the U.S.A. puts the kibosh on freedom
of speech. I'm not even joking. They're terrorist scum. As for my own work, it's
free of virii (except, possibly, the companion curriculum) unless "someone" has
interposed his or her Uncle Sam-ly might between you and MediaFire.

I've wasted my whole life studying science: a field humans would prefer to shun.
And it _was_ a waste. The decades I exhausted in research, the ultimately fruit-
less pursuit of any joy or love at all in being, the long years I passed away
trying to teach what amounted to a gaggle of ignorant bumpkins (the human race):
all worthless. 

Although my works weren't well-received, I accomplished much before the end. My
achievements place me in the lower ranks of eminence -- where I reside, with
conifers around me. Insofar as I may teach you all that I know, I have attempted
to do so with my works and lectures thus far...

... and this is, probably, the end. I am afflicted by cerebral palsy due to many
lobotomies and torture throughout my lifetime; I have a constant migraine; can't
concentrate on my work; am frequently malnourished and tired; have been, for far
too long, unable to find work; and am persecuted by an incredibly huge malicious
conspiracy of villains who intend to hurt me for literally no reason at all.

I will now reminisce. This may take a few minutes. 1%... 2%... 3%...

Back in the halcyon days when I was a little boy, I wanted to be a little girl
instead. This was a source of great amusement to many around me, who shunned and
reviled what they foolishly believed to be the dread specter of Teh Gay. In fact
my sentiments were more along the lines that I should've been born female, but,
because my genome contained a Y chromosome, I was doomed to live a man's life.

And it IS a man's life in the modern army, where we remember our past lives and
discover exactly how much humanity has tortured us throughout the millennia! But
I was not to discover that for many years, because every time I discovered it my
cerebral cortex was "corrected" (cut to pieces) to cause me to forget again.

I have often been abused and tormented by those around me, in this and probably
all my other lifetimes, if any. Electrochemical lobotomy, identity reassignment,
and just about all the other horrors the modern world has to offer have been, at
one time or another, inflicted on me personally. I have also experienced nearly
every single horror the wilderness has to offer, at one time or another.

So it was that, when my family and those surrounding me began to abuse & exploit
me for their entertainment, I wasn't terribly surprised. I tried my best to put
up with them; nevertheless, as with all squalling children, my discipline broke
and I inevitably lost my temper. I became nothing more than a sentient beast --
no longer the sapient intelligence I once was -- and mere Earthlings had finally
succeeded in dragging me down into the mud where they oinked and rooted. (Which
really stunk, because oinking and rutting can be done outside of the mud too.)

"You have fallen from your ivory tower," they cried! "You are human after all,"
they crowed! "Now you have to suffer," they clucked! "Therefore, beg us for help
that we may further insult you," they grunted! Producing their clubs, they then
metaphorically beat me to death by refusing me any place among them because...
well... IDK. I've tried to reason with them about it and they appear not to be
sapient enough to offer any reply that isn't unintelligible sentient gibberish.

I gave up. They had won. I couldn't beat them.

I joined them instead.

But that eventuality was not to be until the far future, when I was thirty years
of age. In the meantime, I tried to live my life. It was somewhat lonely, which
is why I've so little to say about it and nearly nothing to say about people.

Among my first experiences & thoughts about this life were that I wanted to farm
-- but I was not suitable to the task. I then thought I should be an artist or
an astronaut. Some time later I discovered mathematics, which was, to me, a
convenient blending of art with science.

In fact, computer programming is very much like art, and when I first discovered
the science of computing I was much enthused. I subsequently wrote many computer
programs throughout middle- and high-school, exhausting much hobby time on my
curriculum of independent study. After I'd learnt how to read and write, I then
went on to study computer science at the University of Idaho between 2006 - '09.

I published my portfolio, containing my awesome works (of greater magnitude than
those of most men you'll encounter), several years after I'd departed from UI in
the year 2009. I have contributed data from my experiments to computer science &
the mathematical study of computer programming has also benefited slightly from
my examination of Turing's axiom and predicates arising thence.

During my lifetime, I spoke to and learnt from many people: most of whom deserve
exactly no mention, and some of whom are perfectly content to see their names in
the sand become washed away by the incoming tide because they have accomplished
their own great deeds and need not curry favor from any one.

Among lessons I've received from such individuals, to whom I'll graciously refer
as humans (because some actually deserve the title -- you know who you are), was
that self-denial, although not strictly necessary to an ethical lifetime, must
be in significant extent. Desire is an easy way for others to take advantage:
although the desirous can't be faulted when they succumb to temptation (drugs &
other means make this very much impossible on some occasions), those who would
disadvantage others are quite oblivious to the cries of their victims.

Desire truly is the cause of all suffering, which life is, but to my view it's
more a matter of larcenous middle-men than it is one of avaricious monks getting
what they deserve for peeping at the nudie bar. (Of course, they'd never.) None
the less, so many swindlers are that we may just as well be paranoid every day.

Speaking of desire and suffering, what about death? This is getting pretty old
these days, but I'd like to ask all you monks: how in the flying !#@$ is anyone
supposed to live if he desires nothing? (Of course, none can.) Self-denial leads
to dying of starvation, then, in this assumption of mine, and self-indulgence is
as close to Nirvana as only wealthy hedonists can arrive.

"Should we all be trying to kill ourselves?" I've heard from anxious voices? No.
We'll all die someday. The journey is somewhat desirable, even if not nearly as
much as is the destination!

But it's probably helpful if we all try not to hurt anyone in the meantime.

I mentioned joining the ideology of the masses when I couldn't beat it. Did you
know how easily one can lose his mind? I only had to starve for nearly a decade
before I began to entertain regular thoughts of an unprintable* nature.

    * Unprintable nature is due to terrorist censorship regime which imprisons
      without trial in concentration camps called mental institutions, and does
      not necessarily imply endorsement of this regime by WordPress. No purchase
      of anti-tank missiles is necessary and supplies are limited to one fatwa
      per household.

Well, long story short: because I was completely devoid of the capacity to find
any employment, and because I couldn't care about living any longer now that my
brain had been reduced to oozing sludge by yokels with electrochemical clubs, I
confronted a terrible choice: starve to death over the course of the next decade
or finally do something with my life I've meant to since the very day it began.

And that was, like, totally the story of my life!
You know, they say it ain't over 'til it's over, but, lemme tell ya...
    - I have been serenaded by more fat ladies than I can count on both hands!
    - I have not only heard the bell toll, nay, for I have tolled it!
    - I have both emptied my bucket list and kicked it! (The list, I mean.)
    - My heart has gone on! (And on, and on!)
    - I _aaaalmost_ earned my Ph.D. without ever attending University for a day!
    - My ass has literally been worked off!
    - I understand what it's like to be sick to death of society!
    - I have discovered the music of the spheres... and masturbated to it!
    - I am _LITERALLY_ a saint! (And I live in a haint. Haintin' saints!)
    -                      ^- I shit you neither, foolish Earthlings.
... and it's been great fun! Thanks to everyone with whom I once corresponded,
for fully understanding the inevitable consequence of trying to help a wretched
torture victim ever enjoy anything about being alive: his or her lictors will
simply grab all the humanitarian aid you attempt to provide, such that, although
you certainly found the dissenter a valuable asset worth your assistance, you'll
have simply thrown your money into a Sarlacc pit of despair in any case!

And now, from the cockles of my heart... or, perchance, my sub-cockle area... I
will present to you the next act in my spellbinding saga. (Stay tuned.)

Give Me That NP-Time Religion.

"Give Me That NP-Time Religion."
"What was Good Enough For Granddad is Good Enough For Me."
"Day-Old Panglossary."
"Babel: the New Fishing Sensation!"

"NP Religion" is a pun on nondeterministic polynomial time & language jihads.
"Granddad" is a pun on the title of a song by the Squirrel Nut Zippers.
"Panglossary" is a pun on linguistics and bread.
"Speakeasy" is a pun on methamphetamine during the Prohibition era.
"Babel" is a pun on Babel Fish, in D. Adams' _Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy._

NB: This lecture is a summary, or tour de force, _not_ a tutorial.
    Until such time as I write some of those, I suggest you seek them elsewhere.
    As with all my publication, it's free of charge to the Public Domain.

I've sometimes encountered the question: "what's the best language to study?"

The answer is as varied as the races of man, but boils down to "whatever."

Nevertheless, I have picked one for the moment: Python 3, a C wrapper.
Python is easy to learn, as powerful as C, and implements many fine metaphors
such as generators, list comprehensions, and generator comprehensions. If you
haven't a clue what I've said, that's fine, because Python's still great for you
as you begin with a computer programming curriculum. See also the Icon language.

In the field of information technology, all have their own preferred flavor of
computing. If you'd like some language I've never written, such as Haskell, you
are probably better off to study that instead of Py3. Prefer specially languages
your friends write and will help you learn. A human being is a better tutor than
a reference manual -- whence I've learnt much.

Briefly, I'll summarize languages I know or with which I'm familiar in passing.
I'll describe the category (What & How), utility (Where & When), and specialty
(Why & Who) of each such language.

There are hundreds of computer programming & markup languages, of which only a
few I've reviewed here. See also The Daily WTF (Worse Than Failure) and your
friendly neighborhood University's computer science department, as well as text-
books like Structure & Interpretation of Computer Programs and tutorials.

I'll not limit these to programming languages, properly; also included shall be
descriptions of markup languages and perhaps a few esoteric mini-languages like
NullSoft's Scriptable Install System. One noteworthy limitation: ubiquity.

(The difference between programming & markup language is loops, i.e. iteration.)

NB: any language can, hypothetically, be compiled. Interpreted languages usually
assume that the speed loss and overhead from interpretation are tolerable, or
there's some caveat (dynamic typing or execution environment) that requires an
interpreter even when the language is "compiled" (such as, IDK, Java).

In no particular order:


What: ECMAscript (Javascript) is a procedural language used in Web pages.
      Javascript is also used in Web browser design, usually supplementing C++,
      for certain runtime code such as Firefox's ill fated tab gallery.
      The Windows Script Host will execute Javascript outside a browser.
How:  Much like C, without Malloc, but quite a bit slower because "everything is
      an object" and for other amusing reasons not limited to the interpreter.
      Browser-based implementations can access the Document Object Model.
      Javascript is an interpreted language.

Where: Dynamic HTML pages for the Worldwide Web. In-browser apps like my MLPTK.
When:  Although Javascript fails at three-dimensional rendering, it is opportune
       for such tasks as moving parts of Web pages (where Cascading Stylesheets
       cannot suffice), making them appear and disappear, and sending beacon
       queries at specified intervals so pages update without clicking "Reload."

Why: Javascript requires no compiler. Compatible Web browsers exist for any OS.
     Modern browsers implement a recursion limit, due to heap and stack overflow
     exploits, which hinders traditionally-generated reentrant parsers; other
     than this caveat, and the speed problem, JS is good for simple computation.
Who: Web developers, browser programmers, casual programming, portability.

Summary: Great for Dynamic HTML! The recursion limit can be a pain, however.


What: An interpreted language executed by Web servers such as Apache or nginx.
How:  Like other languages compatible with the Common Gateway Interface, which
      are many and varied, it's executed by the server.

Where: PHP can be written in conjunction with HTML, within the same document.
       Dynamic Web forms and dynamically generated pages "feel" more natural.
When:  PHP is useful for the server-side ("back end") of Web applications,
       especially where the user must never know how passwords are validated and
       where the server can take some bandwidth load off of the transaction by
       computing something on its side rather than transmitting a massive JS lib
       to the client side and asking the client to compute for it.

Why: Because it's server-side, the end user never sees what it's doing, and so
     it's fantastic for bookkeeping on your side of the transaction.
     HOWEVER! Always remember that you need to keep a careful eye on security,
     especially where the user supplies any input at all. You'll need to escape
     and/or sanitize this input in other ways, to avoid clever little hacks like
     Johnny "; DROP TABLE *; ".
Who: Writers of CAPTCHAs, Web shopping carts, members-only galleries, etc.

Summary: Like other CGI tongues, PHP is a Webmaster's vade mecum.


What: A formatting language used for writing HTML pages on the Worldwide Web.
How:  HTML marks up a hypertext document for rendering by a Web browser.

Where: On the WorldWideWeb, or a mirror on your local file system, etc.
When:  HTML documents are the markup format of choice for Web browser rendering.

Why: Web pages, GUIs for DHTML apps, front ends for business.
Who: Web developers, casual rich text writers, authors of technical documents.

Summary: Good for quick GUIs, reference manuals, and writing (w/o MS Office).


What: CSS (not to be confused with the DVD content encryption scheme of the same
      name) is a formatting (markup) language with programming-like abilities.
How:  It is an interpreted language. Its facilities exclude iteration/recursion.

Where: Web pages, résumés, and other such documents.
When:  Whenever HTML formatting is insufficient to the task.
       CSS, AFAIK, lacks loops, and can't use HTTP. Supplement it w/Javascript.

Why: CSS is a faster, prettier way to mark up Web pages.
Who: Web developers, publishers, résumé formatting, etc.

Summary: Useful to format your curriculum vitae, if LaTeX is too much trouble.


What: C is a procedural programming language that's near to machine language.
      C is "sorta" object-oriented. C++ is more conducive to OO design. I use C.
How:  The programmer works with bytes & system interfaces to effect his design.
      C is compiled to assembly language and then assembled to machine code.

Where: Unix and Unix-like systems, such as MacOS 10+ and Linux.
       C can also be compiled on other systems, like Windows: Dev-C++, mingw.
       The Linux Programmer's Manual, included with Ubuntu's "build-essential"
       package, contains the complete Posix specification described by the ISO
       538 Committee Draft, August 3, 1998 WG14/N843, titled C '98, as well as
       by the Single Unix Specification. C is, substantially, Unix.
When:  The C programming language is close to machine language in many respects:
       therefore, and because compilers have been written and optimized much, it
       is blazing fast. C is most fruitfully employed in operating system design
       because the computer's hardware must be spoken to in machine code.

Why: If I need a fast program or a portable one, C is the lingua franca.
Who: Operating system designers, simulation/game programmers, hackers.

Summary: C and C++ are the Speedy Gonzales of the programming world.


What: Python is a procedural programming language with functional capabilities.
      It contains all of C++'s object-orientation, with additional benefits.
      Python is an interpreted language, and can be compiled.
How:  Using its substantial standard library, and extra OO benefits, Python is
      quite able to solve the vast majority of information technology woes.
      Python's an interpreted language. Its interpreter runs on Windows & Linux.

Where: Python's extensive manual (& library reference) describe convenient fixes
       for most IT-related problems. My only problem with it: unlike, e.g., the
       Haskell language, programs can't be described in pseudo-EBNF.
When:  Just about anytime for fun & profit. However, if you use it commercially,
       Python's author would like you to contact him. If you'd like to write a
       program more like a flowchart than an algorithmic procedure -- e.g., if
       recursion & parsing are your cup of tea -- you might try Haskell?

Why: Like C, but don't like malloc? Python's for you! :) See also: python.org
Who: Information technologists, discrete mathematicians, C programmers, etc.

Summary: Easier than C, with all the phenomenal cosmic power, in a box.
         Python also executes nearly as quickly as C, even when interpreted.


Actually I know next to nothing about this language. Ask Glasgow University?
Also you might try the book "Learn You A Haskell For Great Good!"


Java is not Javascript. That's about all I know. Read more @ Sun Microsystems.


What: Functional programming languages, suitable for lambda calculus etc.
      I believe these are interpreted, but can probably also be compiled.
How:  Unlike object-oriented languages, in which the programmer arranges data in
      groups (structures, objects) that are sensible to the human mind's spatial
      orientation perceptions and its imagination, functional programming uses a
      calculus-like notation to make all programs function()s of other programs.

Where: Because all programs are functions of other programs, the transformative
       idea of the computer program (parser) as a finite state automaton that
       manipulates other such automatons finds an easy home here.
When:  The program itself is also data and object-orientation is (to some minds)
       easier to understand from a functional perspective. So, lisp is a good
       language for programs that have to change their code a lot.

Why: Calculus, I think, and iteration.
Who: The Knights of the Lambda Calculus.

Summary: I haven't much used functional languages. This entry is guesswork.


What: Several varieties of mnemonic languages used to write machine code.
How:  Mnemonics are "assembled" to machine language, or some form of executable
      code, based on the assembler's translation table.

Where: Assemblers are like compilers; but, instead of parsers, they're scanners.
When:  Therefore, they're easier to write. Also, see "MACHINE CODE" below.

Why: Because you don't want to write machine code yourself.
     After all, only a simplistic scanner is required to do this for you.
Who: Manly men, womanly women, and all sorts in between.

Summary: Just write this part after you write your compiler. (It's easier.)


What: All computermachines speak electronically via binary ones and zeroes.
How:  "Machine language" is the coded sequences of binary numbers that are used
      to instruct a computer's computational circuitry (its ALU, or CPU).

Where: Primitive machinery, new interfaces, low-level hacking & intrusion.
When:  Whenever flowcharts and buzzwords just aren't enough to get you hired.

Why: Compilers do most of this work for us these days. Sometimes needed, though.
Who: "Real Programmers," electrical engineers, chipset architects.

Summary: Don't bother unless you're an electrician. (It's tedious / dangerous.)


What: A stack-heavy programming language similar to assembly language.
      FlAS is an interpreted language, and it's pretty slow.
How:  A FlAS is embedded in a Shockwave (Adobe) Flash file to animate parts and
      provide for user interaction. 

Where: Because Javascript is no good for complicated rendering tasks, Flash AS
       is often employed to write Web games to be played in browsers using the
       Macromedia Shockwave -- ahem -- Adobe Flash plugin.
When:  If you need a Web game in a browser, or if you must format your gallery
       in such manner as to make it less scrutable to text-mode scraping 'bots.
       Scrapers can still take your gallery to pieces even if you use encrypted
       Javascript or amusing cryptographic puzzles in Flash, but I'll bet SWF is
       just about the end of the line for the casually-scraping archivist.

Why: Probably just because Javascript is no good for Web games.
     Flash's "tween motions" are very amusing, too, and I keep wondering whether
     Adobe will implement a Disney-like strech-and-squish. Technically, so could
     any programmer, and perhaps you too might like to take a crack at Mickey?
Who: Game programmers, paranoid gallerias, art students.

Summary: I've used this language less than Lisp, but it's popular.


What: A formatting language used for writing technical manuals and textbooks.
How:  DocBook is converted via DB -> TeX -> DVI pipeline, then rendered as PDF.

Where: Dissertations (M.S., Ph.D., ...), portfolios, scientific documents.
When:  Particularly opportune for automatic compilation of reports, such as in
       my report.sh, where formatting several thousand documents as individual
       PDFs and then merging them all would be a waste of time. Of course,
       markup languages are always apropos of computer-generated output.

Why: Professional-quality formatting to PDF, in a markup language, without any
     such editor as Adobe's Acrobat and others. DocBook also has a 
     tag for formatting simplistic chemical equations, although many other
     symbols aren't rendered by dblatex -- so, write in pure LaTeX instead!
Who: Scientists, yuppies, and anyone who can't afford Adobe's software... :)

Summary: LaTeX for newbies, and there's nothing wrong with newbies: they learn.
         As DocBook parsers and rendering technology improve, it may even grow
         until it supplants LaTeX entirely. (DocBook _is_ a favored contender.)


What: A programming language that is also a formatting (markup) language.
How:  LaTeX is rendered by a TeX -> DVI -> PDF pipeline involving several tools
      in Linux (and, probably, because Linux is Posix-compliant, also Unix).

Where: Unique among programming languages, LaTeX is used to format rich text.
When:  See DocBook, above, and also where extensive fine formatting is needed.

Why: Conventional tools, such as MS Office, typically lack somewhat in rich text
     formatting facilities -- equations with strange symbols and subscripts are
     particularly difficult to write. LaTeX solves these problems, and also has
     fine-grained control over where and how items appear on the printed page.
     It's only a step away from PostScript (a printer language), in that regard,
     and writing in LaTeX is much easier than writing in PostScript.
Who: See DocBook, above, and also especially mathematicians.

Summary: DocBook for oldbies, and naught is wrong with oldbies: they're elite.


This is a control language for inkjets & laser printers used to write on paper.
It is also a programming language (has loops), I believe, and can be used to
exploit printers in horrifying ways (BTW, kids, don't try that at home).
Because PostScript is a part of Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF), there've
been computer viruses transmitted via PDF files. Technically, this caveat cannot
be avoided, which is why your boss advises you to only open trustworthy PDFs.


What: Such languages are used to automate repetitive invocation of commands as
      may be encountered during the operation of computer systems like Unix.
How:  Shell scripts simply automate a shell: something like Bash or MLPTK, or
      Microsoft's "Command Prompt" (which used to be MS-DOS).

Where: Although (except for MS-DOS, now outdated) a shell isn't an underlying
       part of the operating system, it can invoke any command compatible with
       its standard input & output.
When:  Shells are therefore suitable to batch processing of data, such as report
       generation, transcoding, and file system rearrangement.

Why: For example, my report.sh: compiling my book and massaging all the parts
     into DocBook markup for dblatex would take too long if I did so by hand.
Who: Anyone who uses a computermachine to compute, archive, and collate data.

Summary: Great for computing. Probably anathema to intellectual slavery laws.


What: Although Perl is a fully fledged programming language, Sed & Awk are both
      more useful for text processing than anything else.
How:  Using regular expressions (regular grammars that describe alphabets), the
      Stream EDitor and Mawk administer Swedish massage to the output of unit
      tests and other experimental data. Additionally, to text-based protocols
      such as HTTP, sed is the PaperMate of the information technology world.

Where: Tabulating the results of experiments, directory listings, reams of data,
       rewriting the Web as you browse it (see my HTTPyre) and such tasks.
When:  As lifetime Unix gurus will tell you, "every [EXPLETIVE] day."

Why: Any text that makes sense in any legible way can be quickly massaged and
     reformatted by the stream editor. Perl's a bit more powerful, but I hate it
     for irrelevant reasons. I do mean _any_ text, btw: even computer programs.
Who: Virus scanners, information technologists, Web router programmers, cads.

Summary: Sed is to IT as the slide rule is to mechanical engineers.
         The combination of sed, awk, and grep suffice to effect many simplistic
         Web robots (but mind you ROBOTS.TXT); if you're careful to format your
         computer programs' output as legible text, you'll find them handy too.


What: The Nullsoft Scriptable Install System is a mini-language for installers.
How:  It's like a shell script that unpacks a ZIP file, moves the contents to
      specified directories, and modifies the Windows registry accordingly.

Where: Similarly to the InstallShield Wizard, NSIS effects "installation" of the
       kind that Windows users expect. It's much like dpkg / apt-get on Linux
       distributions such as Debian and Ubuntu.
When:  NSIS is free of charge, although InstallShield might be too? :)

Why: Windows users don't want to unpack an archive and move stuff themselves.
Who: Anyone writing a program for Windows. See also: InstallShield.

Summary: One of several ways to write self-contained installers.

“Windows cannot find a critical file.” Current Rage Level: Omicron.

Ubuntu Linux: the Wal-Mart(TM) Frontier. These are the voyages of the Spacecar
Grosvenor. Its continuing mission: to allocate new structs & new classes, unite
all people within its nation, and leak where memory has never leaked before.

Of the numerous Linux installations ("distributions"), I've used Ubuntu Linux (published by Canonical Inc.)
most. It contains the Linux kernel, the GNU core utilities, and several other
items of interest such as an automagically-configured graphical user interface.
It is extraordinarily user-friendly, to the point of feeling constrictive. (The
desktop environment has changed since version 11: users now cannot reconfigure
the taskbar or workspaces. The repository wants to be a dime-store, too, and
although a potentially lucrative storefront I miss the simplicity of Synaptic.)

Its installation procedure is simple: download a Live CD image from Canonical's
Web site, burn it to a CD-R or RW (these days, you might even need a DVD), and
reboot your machine with the disk inserted. (Don't forget to tell the BIOS -- er
whatchamacallit, the Extended Firmware Interface -- to boot from CD.) You'll be
presented with an operable temporary login. Thence you can install the OS. Also
available from this interface was an option to create a USB startup disk, but it
has been removed in recent revisions of Ubuntu: previously, using VirtualBox or
any similar virtual machine, the user could run the LiveCD & make a startup USB
without even rebooting out of their present operating environment, which was
useful on old machines whose optical drives had failed. You can still "Install"
to the USB key, but it boots slowly & you can't install it from there to a box.

The installation wizard is a no brainer: "install alongside Windows." Easy! And
it usually doesn't cause your existing Windows system to go up in smoke, either.
However, to install Ubuntu more than once per box, you must repartition manually
(and may also need to change grub: see /boot/grub and /etc/grub.d). Gparted is
included within the live disc images, but must be retrieved again after install.

If you'd like to make intimate friends with the manual pages, and discover where
primary partitions go when they die, you can install with less assistance. This
lets you specify partitions in which to mount your home & system directories, in
case you'd like to keep them segregated. (That's probably a great idea, but I
never do.) You can also create and specify swap partitions: which are employed
as virtual memory and, I suspect, for hibernation and hybrid suspension.

About file systems: I typically use FAT32, NTFS, ext4, and ext2. (Total newbie.)
FAT32 is elderly and fragile. It's used for boot/EFI partitions, 3DS & 3GPs.
NTFS is Microsoft's modern FS. Withstands some crashes, but has no fsck module.
ext2 & ext4 are Linux's. ext4 journals. ext2 permits file undeletion (PhotoRec).
The extended 4 system is harder to kill than a cockroach on steroids, so I tend
to prefer it anywhere near the heart of my archives. I use ext2 | NTFS for USBs.

Be very careful not to destroy your existing data when repartitioning the drive.
Any such operation carries some risk; back up anything important beforehand. One
way to backup is to prepare an empty HDD (or any medium of equal / greater size)
and dump the complete contents of the populated disk into the empty one:
 dd if=/dev/sda of=/dev/sdb status=progress
 (Where sda is the populated disk, and sdb the empty backup disk.)
Similar can be accomplished by dd'ing one of your partitions (/dev/sda1) into a
disk or a file, then dd'ing the image back onto a partition of equal size. Disk
image flashing is a simple and popular backup method for local machines, sparing
you the time to learn rsync (which is more useful in long term remote backups).
Far from being an annoying elder sister, dd is the Linux troll's best friend.

Beware the dreaded "write a new boot/system partition" prompt. It bricked me.
The problem was because I had set the system to "Legacy Support" boot mode, but
the original (now unrecognized) installation was in Extended Firmware Interface
mode. I was unable to recover until I had re-flashed several partitions.

The usual "new car smell" applies: you'll want to configure whatever settings
haven't yet been forbidden to you by your GUI-toting overlords. In Ubuntu 16,
access them by clicking the gear and wrench icon on the launcher panel. You can
also search for something you're missing by using the Dash (Super, or Windows,
key pulls it up: then type), which functions similarly to the apropos command:
e.g., instead of Ctrl + Alt + T and then "man -k image", Super key then "image".
It will also search your files (and, after plugins, several social media sites).

Although the newfangled Dash is convenient, don't forget your terminal emulator:
you can easily spend the vast majority of your working time using bash by way of
gnome-terminal, without ever clicking your treasured Microsoft IntelliMouse 1.1.
In Ubuntu 16, as it has been since Ubuntu 11, Ctrl + Alt + T opens the terminal.

Under the directory /usr/share/man/, you will find the on line (interactive)
manual. This describes the tools available to you. Begin reading it by opening
a terminal window (using Control + Alt + T, or the Super / Windows key and then
typing "terminal"), keying the command 'man name_of_manual_page', and pressing
the Enter key. In this case, the name of the manual page is the page's archive's
filename before the .[0-9].gz extension.
Of particular interest: telinit, dd, printf, cat, less, sed, tee, gvfs-trash,
mawk, grep, bash (if you're using the Bourne Again Shell, which is default on
Ubuntu 16), cp, rm, mv, make, sudo, chroot, chown, chmod, chgrp, touch, gunzip,
gzip, zip, unzip, python, g++, apt-get (especially `apt-get source ...`), mount,
kpartx, date, diff, charmap (same name on Windows!), basename, zipinfo, md5sum,
pdftotext, gnome-terminal (which is _how_ you're using bash), fortune, ffmpeg,
aview, dblatex, find, cut, uniq, wc, caesar, rot13, curl, wget, sort, vim, man,
tr, du, nautilus, tac, column, head, tail, stat, ls, pwd, pushd, popd, gedit,
source-highlight, libreoffice (a Microsoft Office killer), base64, flex, bison,
regex, perl, firefox, opera, chromium-browser, konqueror, lynx, virtualbox,
apropos, od, hexdump, bless, more, pg, pr, echo, rmdir, mkdir, fsck, fdisk (same
name, but different function, in Windows), ln, gdm, gnome-session, dhelp,
baobab, gparted, kill, locate, ps, photorec, testdisk, update-grub...
(If you haven't some of the above, don't worry. You should already have all you
 need. Keep in mind that the Ubuntu repository's software is divided in sections
 some of which contain potentially harmful or non-free software. When venturing
 beyond the fortified walls of <main>, be cautious: you may be eaten by a grue.)
Beneath /usr/share/doc/ or /usr/share/help/ are sometimes additional manuals.

If you use Linux, you will have to memorize several manuals, and name many more;
especially those of the GNU core utilities, which are a great aid to computing.
There's also a software repository to assist you with various computing tasks:

To acquire additional software: gnome-software (the orange shopping bag to your
left, above the Amazon.com icon), the friendly storefront, will assist you. If
you prefer a compact heads-up-display, try the Synaptic Package Manager instead.
`apt-get install package-name` works well if you know what you're looking for,
as does apt-get source package-name for the ponderously masculine.

And, speaking of ponderous masculinity, if you retrieve source code for any of
Ubuntu's mainline packages, typically all you need to do is 'cd' into the folder
containing the top level of the source tree and then invoke the following:
 1. ./configure.sh
 (You shouldn't need to chmod u+x ./configure.sh to accomplish this.)
 2. make
 (You may need to install additional packages or correct minor errors.)
 3. sudo make install
This can be abbreviated: ./configure.sh && make && sudo make install
Beware that sudo is a potentially dangerous operation. Avoid it if unsure.
The && operator, in bash, will only execute the next command if the past command
exited with a successful status code (i.e., zero).

But I digress.

You'll occasionally want to mount your other partitions on Linux's file system,
so that you can browse the files you've stored there. With external drives this
is as simple as connecting them (watch the output of `tail -f /var/log/*` in a
console window to observe the log messages about the procedure), but partitions
on fixed disks (or others, 'cause reasons) may not be mounted automagically. So:
 mount -t fs_type -o option,option,... /dev/sd?? path/to/mount/point/
where the mount point is a directory somewhere in your file system. BTW, mounts
that occurred automatically will be on points beneath /media/your_username/.

On a dual boot Windows system, I mount -t ntfs -o ro /dev/sda3 ~/Desktop/wintmp
often because the NTFS partition is in an unsafe state and won't mount writable.
In that case, rebooting to Windows and running chkdsk /f C: from Command Prompt
with Administrative privileges will sometimes clear the dirty flag if performed
multiple times. (How many times before ntfs-3g mounts writable, seems to vary.)

When you've attached external media, via USB etc, safely remove them after use:
use the "Safely Remove" menu option in the right-click context menu in Nautilus'
sidebar (be careful not to accidentally format the disk). You can also, from a
shell (gnome-terminal), `sync && umount /dev/sdb*` (if sdb is the medium).

Now that you've got a firm foothold in Ubuntu territory, I hope you can see your
house from here 'cause Windows seems to be dying a miserable death of attrition.
Don't count it out, though: all the Linuxes are terrible at Flight Simulator.

Automaton Empyreum: the Key to Pygnition. (Trivial File Transfer Protocol edition.)

(I have implemented the Trivial File Transfer Protocol, revision 2, in this milestone snapshot. If you have dealt with reprogramming your home router, you may have encountered TFTP. Although other clients presently exist on Linux and elsewhere, I have implemented the protocol with a pair of Python scripts. You’ll need a Python interpreter, and possibly Administrator privileges (if the server requires them to open port 69), to run them. They can transfer files of size up to 32 Megabytes between any two computers communicating via UDP/IP. Warning: you may need to pull out your metaphorical monkey wrench and tweak the network timeout, or other parameters, in both the client and server before they work to your specification. You can also use TFTP to copy files on your local machine, if for whatever reason you need some replacement for the cp command. Links, courtesy of MediaFire, follow:

Executable source code (the programs themselves, ready to run on your computer): http://www.mediafire.com/file/rh5fmfq8xcmb54r/mlptk-2017-01-07.zip

Candy-colored source code (the pretty colors help me read, maybe they’ll help you too?): http://www.mediafire.com/file/llfacv6t61z67iz/mlptk-src-hilite-2017-01-07.zip

My life in a book (this is what YOUR book can look like, if you learn to use my automatic typesetter and tweak it to make it your own!): http://www.mediafire.com/file/ju972na22uljbtw/mlptk-book-2017-01-07.zip


Title is a tediously long pun on "Pan-Seared Programming" from the last lecture.
Key: mechanism to operate an electric circuit, as in a keyboard.
Emporium: ein handelsplatz; or, perhaps, the brain.
Empyreuma: the smell/taste of organic matter burnt in a close vessel (as, pans).
Lignite: intermediate between peat & bituminous coal. Empyreumatic odor.
Pignite: Pokémon from Black/White. Related to Emboar & Tepig (ember & tepid).
Pygmalion (Greek myth): a king; sculptor of Galatea, who Aphrodite animated.

A few more ideas that pop up often in the study of computer programming: which,
by the way, is not computer science. (Science isn't as much artifice as record-
keeping, and the records themselves are the artifact.)

As Eric Steven Raymond of Thyrsus Enterprises writes in "The Art of Unix
Programming," "keep it simple, stupid." If you can take your programs apart, and
then put them back together like Lego(TM) blocks, you can craft reusable parts.

A kind of object with methods (functions) attached. These are an idiom that lets
you lump together all your program's logic with all of its data: then you can
take the class out of the program it's in, to put it in another one. _However,_
I have been writing occasionally for nearly twenty years (since I was thirteen)
and here's my advice: don't bother with classes unless you're preparing somewhat
for a team effort (in which case you're a "class" actor: the other programmers
are working on other classes, or methods you aren't), think your code would gain
from the encapsulation (perhaps you find it easier to read?), or figure there's
a burning need for a standardized interface to whatever you've written (unlikely
because you've probably written something to suit one of your immediate needs:
standards rarely evolve on their own from individual effort; they're written to
the specifications of consortia because one alone doesn't see what others need).
Just write your code however works, and save the labels and diagrams for some
time when you have time to doodle pictures in the margins of your notebook, or
when you _absolutely cannot_ comprehend the whole at once.

This is a kind of data structure in C. I bet you're thinking "oh, those fuddy-
duddy old C dinosaurs, they don't know what progress is really about!" Ah, but
you'll see this ancient relic time and again. Even if your language doesn't let
you handle the bytes themselves, you've got some sort of interface to them, and
even if you don't need to convert between an integer and four ASCII characters
with zero processing time, you'll still need to convert various data of course.
Classes then arise which simulate the behavior of unions, storing the same datum
in multiple different formats or converting back and forth between them.
(Cue the scene from _Jurassic Park,_ the film based on Michael Crichton's book,
 where the velociraptor peeks its head through the curtains at a half-scaffolded
 tourist resort. Those damn dinosaurs just don't know when to quit!)

The most amusing use of void*s I've imagined is to implement the type definition
for parser tokens in a LALR parser. Suppose the parser is from a BNF grammar:
then the productions are functions receiving tokens as arguments and returning a
token. Of course nothing's stopping you from knowing their return types already,
but what if you want to (slow the algorithm down) add a layer of indirection to
wrap the subroutines, perhaps by routing everything via a vector table, and now
for whatever reason you actually _can't_ know the return types ahead of time?
Then of course you cast the return value of the function as whatever type fits.

Washing brights vs darks, convenience, convenience, & convenience, respectively.
Don't forget: convenience helps you later, _when_ you review your code.

These are a treelike structure, or should I say a grasslike structure.
I covered binary trees at some length in my fourth post, titled "On Loggin'."

The reason why you need recursion is to execute depth-first searches, basically.
You want to get partway through the breadth of whatever you're doing at this
level of recursion, then set that stuff aside until you've dealt with something
immensely more important that you encountered partway through the breadth. Don't
confuse this with realtime operating systems (different than realtime priority)
or with interrupt handling, because depth-first searching is far different than
those other three topics (which each deserve lectures I don't plan to write).

Jet airplanes, video games versus file indexing, & how not to save your sanity.

A paradigm appearing in such pleasant languages as Python and Icon.
Generators are functions that yield, instead of return: they act "pause-able,"
and that is plausible because sometimes you really don't want to copy-and-paste
a block of code to compute intermediate values without losing execution context.
Generators are the breadth-first search to recursion's depth-first search, but
of course search algorithms aren't all these idioms are good for.
Suppose you wanted to iterate an N-ary counter over its permutations. (This is
similar to how you configure anagrams of a word, although those are combinations
-- for which, see itertools.combinations in the Python documentation, or any of
the texts on discrete mathematics that deal with combinatorics.) Now, an N-ary
counter looks a lot like this, but you probably don't want a bunch of these...
    var items = new Array(A, B, C, D, ...);       // ... tedious ...
    var L = items.length;                         // ... lines ...
    var nary = new Array(L);                      // ... of code ...
    for (var i = 0; i < L; nary[i++] = 0) ;       // ... cluttering ...
    for (var i = L - 1; i >= 0 && ++nary[i] == L; // ... all ...
        nary[i--] = ((i < 0) ? undefined : 0)     // ... your other ...
    ) ; // end for (incrementation)               // ... computations ...
... in the middle of some other code that's doing somewhat tangentially related.
So, you write a generator: it takes the N-ary counter by reference, then runs an
incrementation loop to update it as desired. The counter is incremented, where-
upon control returns to whatever you were doing in the first place. Voila!
(This might not seem important, but it is when your screen size is 80 by 24.)

(Boodle (v.t.): swindle, con, deceive. Boodle (n.): gimmick, device, strategy.)
Because this lecture consumed only about a half of the available ten thousand
characters permissible in a WordPress article, here's a PowerPoint-like summary
that I was doodling in the margins because I couldn't concentrate on real work.
Modularity: perhaps w/ especial ref to The Art of Unix Programming. "K.I.S.S."
Why modularity is important: take programs apart, put them together like legos.
Data structures: unions, classes.
Why structures are important: atomicity, op overloading, typedefs, wrappers.
linked lists: single, double, circular. Trees. Binary trees covered in wp04??
recursion: tree traversal, data aggregation, regular expressions -- "bookmarks"
Generators. Perhaps illustrate by reference to an N-ary counter?

Suppose someone is in a coma and their standing directive requests you to play
some music for them at a certain time of day. How can you be sure the music is
not what is keeping them in a coma, or that they even like it at all? Having
experienced death firsthand, when I cut myself & bled with comical inefficiency,
I can tell you that only the dying was worth it. The pain was not, and I assure
you that my entire sensorium was painful for a while there -- even though I had
only a few small lacerations. Death was less unpleasant with less sensory input.
I even got sick of the lightbulb -- imagine that! I dragged myself out of the
lukewarm bathtub to switch the thing off, and then realized that I was probably
not going to die of exsanguination any time soon and went for a snack instead.

"You need help! You are insane!"
My 1,000 pages of analytical logic versus your plaintive bleat.


(Here be an update, as of November 8th, 2016. Me old war wound be actin’ up too much, and I think these’ll be the last for some time.





Ahoy, mateys. Today be the nineteenth of September — ye’d be better knowin’ it as International Talk Like A Pirate Day — and I’ll wager that upon this fine occasion ye’d be askin’ yerselves: “where’s me booty? ”

Well, and I’d make a poor excuse for a captain if I couldn’t deliver ye at least that! (But avast: ye might be findin’ it somewhat unholy, and parental discretion be even more advisable than in previous revisions.) I have prepared for ye a fine trove o’ source code, the likes of which are fit for Kings. Although me mother be the only one likely to find it interestin’, I’ve also put the finishin’ touches on me preliminary sketch of a typesetter for me book: “Yawnie’s Whole: the Complete Yawnie, for the Yawnie Enthusiast.” These be available in three chests, or what ye might be callin’ “Zip Arr-chives,” which I be uploadin’ to Mediafire as per usual.

Me latest revision of MLPTK be here…
… and be comprisin’ not much different from the last MLPTK, again as usual, except that I were fixin’ bugs. I report with most contrition that Polyfac be a failure: I be tryin’ to return me attention to the other tasks I failed to complete this year.

If ye prefer to be tastin’ th’ rainbow, a set of syntax-highlighted HTML documents illustratin’ the source code be here…
… they scry as nearly as possible alike to me own development environment.

Would ye like me book? I be certain to update and revise it as time be passin’, but who knows if me accounts shan’t be commandeered in the interstice? If ye be at all interested, don’t hesitate: supplies be unlimited, but tempus fugit…
… and, someday, me literature be gone forever, as literature inevitably shall.

And there be little more to say about this revision, as I’ve prepared no new lectures since April.

In the meantime, have ye noticed how beautiful life can be sometimes? Quite apart from th’ hardship and pain, there be especial bounty of resources. If ye be readin’ this, then ye would be privileged to Internet access, which are a rare treasure: there be all sorts o’ literature & art to be found, plenty of amusin’ diversions, and certainly no shortage of comely wenches to descry.

Me meaning be: ye could probably spend yer whole lives havin’ not a thing but a netbook computer, occasional access to electrical power, and some sort o’ shelter to protect ye from the elements. A “sex tent,” if ye will: just be addin’ some wenches. Why, I can imagine that no few individuals upon this blasted globe could be livin’ their lives contented with a shelter and a wench — wenches of the world bein’ blessed not to be needin’ anywench else.

Childhood be another of those times. As I grew, I were witness to what some would be describin’ as the “Wild West” of the World Wide Web. Nearly every outlet of popular culture were findin’ its way into troves and hoardes shared worldwide by generous scoundrels (and belligerent litigious bilge rats) to an audience of hundreds of millions. The vast serpent of DHTML and jQuery had only just been sighted far afore, and the stars fated to portend swashbucklin’ adventure at every second of the compass.

There was, too, a massive population of reputable sailors upon the vast waters of cyberspace. I remember some of the finest: OverClocked ReMix, VGMusic. Angelfire, Tripod, and Geocities. Neopets. The Merchant Guild. 4chan. So many more motes be floatin’ in the eye of history that I cannot even recount. Ah, the world were bigger then, and me eyes wide in childlike wonder.

Well, and it were the best of times, but me swashbucklin’ days be sadly behind me. (Arr, insofar as I cannot swash without me bucks! Besides that, me galleon be in disrepair, and overhaul be veritably a tribulation. However, as usual, be sendin’ me no money, for I cannot guarantee that it shall ever arrive; nor could I be certain it would help if it did.) As it happened, although I were studyin’ me life’s work throughout me life, me attention were turnin’ too late to serious programmin’ (peradventure, alas!), and circumstances be such that I envision failure to accomplish writing the parts of me portfolio I’d intended to finish this year.

(Happily I were not askin’ for research grants, considerin’ me doldrums.)

I be in pain; and, in light of this, tried to pass along what few ideas I were able to sustain the concentration to write before I be entirely unable to do so. They be in me ephemerides, toward page 950.

The spring be another of those times when life be less painful than it’s usually. I tell ye there be nothing like the sensation of warm sunlight on yer skin for the first time in months. Which are even assumin’ ye survived th’ winter — in the frigid North, for example, ye might be a popsicle if ye aren’t careful.

And let’s be not forgettin’ lemons…

Ah, but me ramblin’ be more piteous than a scurvy dog.

Enjoy me work.



Here be a ninja update fer th’ new year, 2017.

Ever wanted t’ shred data? Here be a tip:

dd -if /dev/random -of /dev/sda

will shred your ENTIRE HARD DISK /dev/sda irreversibly.

The file system be destroyed the instant you hit enter. There be no confirmation.

Shred it all night long, then when ye wake in the mornin’ do this before work:

dd -if /dev/urandom -of /dev/sda

to drop a load on yer disk that be heavier’n fifteen spars on a dead man’s chest.

Seriously. This be how to erase yer disks so thoroughly even the C.I.A. shall never espy yer dirty secrets.

Sleep tight, mateys.

The Orthopterous Prayer

Photo Orthoptertunity.

The above image is my work, created with art provided by the Open Clipart
library from the Ubuntu Universe/Graphics repository. Transcription:

But this entry is really a remonstrance I should have delivered to the city
of Potlatch a very long time ago. Sorry I'm late. Excerpted from my memoir:

I graduated PHS as Valedictorian, classis 2006; recalling my hatred of a people
who ostracised me, I skipped the ceremony. They weren't missing much, because I
had been instructed to prepare a state-approved recommencement address.

Regarding that address: when I was informed of my valedictory nomination, I was
asked to prepare a short speech; except, in approximately the words of Gordon
Steinbis (principal), "we'll terminate your microphone feed if you say anything
bad about Potlatch High School [...] and don't mention assisted suicide." Well,
after that, there isn't much to say; why speak? So were my thoughts at the time
and they still are. Had I been permitted to speak freely, I would have run along
these lines: "We are predestined; I to failure. You have abused me my whole life
and simultaneously demanded I seek joy in living where none was to be found. I
have advocated since my youth for the humane practice of assisted suicide, and
you have not listened because you are deluded. I cannot say that I plan to kill
myself, because citizens of the United States of America who speak freely in
that regard are imprisoned without trial. Goodbye." Naturally, I'm writing this
at age 29 -- ten years ago, I wouldn't have been so parsimonious of phrase --
but my thoughts (when I am permitted to think by those who wield the weapon) are
certainly of the same nature as they were, only more so.