Tag Archives: Reminiscence

Essays recollecting my past.

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.

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.