August 2007

Python 3000 Alpha 1 Available Now!

by Joey deVilla on August 31, 2007

Guido van Rossum’s head on Andre 3000’s body
If there’s an Andre 3000 and a Python 3000,
why not a Guido 3000?

It’s been a long-time topic of discussion in the Python camp: Python 3.0, also known colloquially in the Python community as “Python 3000″ or “Py3k”, and today it got a little more real. The first alpha release of Python 3000 is now available for download, just in time for those of you who want to test-pilot it over the Labor day weekend.

(If you’re waiting to get a final version before downloading, you’ve got a fair bit of time. The current best estimate for the release date of that version is August 2008.)

Unlike Perl 6, which is a radical reworking of the language, where every feature is subject to change, the idea behind Python 3000 was correct a specific set of design mistakes. These corrections are large enough that they will break programs written in existing versions of Python, but which provide gains that are enough to make the trade-offs worthwhile.

If you’re curious about Python 3000, here are some links you might want to check out:

Cross-posted to the Tucows Developer Blog.

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Facebook Development: Photos, Part 3

by Joey deVilla on August 31, 2007

Facebook Polaroid Camera 3

The Facebook development articles continue at the Tucows Developer Blog, this time with Using the FacebookRestClient Class’ “Photo” Methods, Part 3: photos_getTags.

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Even Supervillains Use BitTorrent

by Joey deVilla on August 31, 2007

Forget about what the RIAA and MPAA are saying about Bittorrent: its real danger comes from the fact that supervillains use it!

In Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four issue 549, sonic supervillain Klaw is back with a vengeance. Made of “solidified sound”, Klaw can create sounds powerful enough to kill and destroy. He was believed to be dead, but was brought back to life as a clone by the evil genius, Wizard. How? BitTorrent. Here’s the relevant panel:

Panel featuring explaining Klaw’s cloning via Bittorrent from Fantastic Four #549

This brings up a few questions, including:

  • Who recorded Klaw?
  • What recording equipment would you need to properly capture a creature of living sound, and what format and level of sound quality would do the job properly?
  • What would the size of the file be?
  • Who would download such a thing? “Dude! Never mind the new Arcade Fire album — I want a supervillain in my iPod!”

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When Acer announced that they were acquiring Gateway, I remember quipping to my officemates that “If they really wanted to scrape the bottom of the barrel, they should really buy out Packard Bell.”

Looks like I spoke too soon.

“The Perfect Storm” boat on the wave, featuring the Acer, Gateway and Packard Bell logos.

There is a silver lining to this: gathering them all into a single cesspool makes ‘em easier to avoid.

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Living the Dream

by Joey deVilla on August 29, 2007

What Did You Want to Be When You Grew Up?

According to a Workopolis poll of Canadians, more than 80% of Canadians aren’t doing the job they dreamed of doing when they were children.

3 photos: fireman (carrying a beautiful woman to safety), astronaut doing spacewalk, male stripper in front of screaming women
Possible dream jobs.

The poll posed these two questions to adults:

  • What was your dream job when you were between the ages of 5 and 9?
  • What was your dream job when you were between the ages of 13 through 19?

The results:

  • 7% of those surveys are now working at what was their dream job between the ages of 5 and 9.
  • 13% of those surveyed are now working at what was their dream job between the ages of 13 and 19.

What I Wanted to Be

Both my parents were doctors, so at the age of 5, I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up. This was in the early seventies, and the way I hear my parents tell it, those were some of the best years to be in medicine, from a money-making point of view.

However, at around age 7, I discovered space and astronomy books. I was glued to the TV set when the Apollo-Soyuz mission took place and followed any news about the not-ready-for-flight space shuttle, which was stilled named the Constitution. (A letter-writing campaign from Star Trek fans would later make them rechristen it as the Enterprise.) I thought I might make a good astronomer, space scientist or rocket engineer.

In my teen years, I met my friend Pavel Rozalski, whose dad did some computer/electronics work at a glass company, and he got me into computers. We developed a sort of early Apple Computer working relationship while working on our science fair projects: Pavel played the “Woz” role doing much of the building of our simulator of AND, OR, NAND and NOR gates, while I was the “Jobs” guy, doing a lot of the writing of reports and talking to the judges. Our heroes were the guys who did stuff out of their garages — Woz and Jobs, as well as Hewlett and Packard. From then on, I was hooked on computers. I wanted to do something computer-related when I grew up.

I was also a dabbler in music and graphic arts (especially cartooning — most people at Crazy Go Nuts University know me for being a DJ and a cartoonist rather than an engineering and computer science major), so I always hoped that there’d be a way to combine those two loves with computers, perhaps with some chatting with people thrown in.

I remember reading an article in Creative Computing, one of the premier computer hobbyist magazines of the late 1970s and early 1980s. In that article, a programmer predicted that in the next coupel of decades, computer programmers might get the same sort of recognition as rock stars. I remember thinking, “Yeah, I’d like that.”

I showed the article to a friend of mine who laughed at me. “That’s stupid. That’s why I’m going to be a rock drummer. It’ll be way better — you’ll be coming home, all tired from work, ready to die, and I’ll be onstage and on TV in front of screaming chicks, getting high off the audience’s smoke.”

(Dude: been there, done that. With an effin’ accordion. How ’bout you?)

Finally, at the end of my teens — or maybe just after — I became aware of Guy Kawasaki, who held an interesting position at Apple: Technical Evangelist. I remember thinking “That’s a cool job…maybe I’d like to do that someday.” Since then, Guy’s been a role model of mine.

All this is an explanation for my generally good mood: I’m working at my dream job.

Joey deVilla and Chad Fowler playing the opening number for an evening keynote at RailsConf 2007.
Me and Chad Fowler playing the opening number for an evening keynote at the RailsConf 2007 conference.

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Yahoo! Suddenly Discovers the Prime Directive

by Joey deVilla on August 28, 2007

Captain Picard, his face in his hand in frustration.

In his blog Rough Type, Nicholas Carr points out the hypocrisy in Yahoo’s move to dismiss a lawsuit against them filed by jailed Chinese dissidents. The suit is being filed on the behalf of Yu Ling, wife of Wang Xiazoning, who was arrested on some rather suspciously-totalitarian-sounding charges such as “incitement to subvert state power”.

Nick’s argument is simple and goes like this:

Yahoo logo with swastika flag and Hitler
Believe it or not, this image is from a BBC story on the Yahoo! Nazi memorabilia auction case.
Click the picture to see the BBC story.

Remember back in 2000, when Nazi memorabilia was available for sale on a Yahoo! auction page? A French court ordered them to remove the item since the sale of such items is illegal in France. Yahoo’s top French executive, Philippe Guillanton, argued that:

“Yahoo.com is not doing anything unlawful. It is completely complying with the law of the country in which it operates and where its target audience is,” he said. “Yahoo auctions in the U.S. are ruled by the legal, moral and cultural principles of that country.”

Simply put, it was “screw you and your French laws, we’re operating in America!”

But now that a Chinese dissident has put the legal ball in their court, Yahoo!’s taking a more “enlightened” citizen-of-the-world view of things:

“This is a lawsuit by citizens of China imprisoned for using the internet in China to express political views in violation of China law. It is a political case challenging the laws and actions of the Chinese government. It has no place in the American courts.”

It’s as if they’ve suddenly discovered the Prime Directive.

Carr sums up the hypocrisy so nicely with this line: This time, Yahoo executives are making no mention of “the legal, moral and cultural principles” of the U.S.

Nicely done, Nick! I salute you with a filet mignon on a flaming sword.

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Boing Boing: New Look, and Some of That Old Feel

by Joey deVilla on August 28, 2007

The first thing you’ll notice about Boing Boing if you visit it today is the new cleaner, two-column look:

Screenshot of the new Boing Boing

Boing Boing Gadgets blog logo You might have also heard of its new gadget blog, located at gadgets.boingboing.net, run by Joel Johnson, former editor of Gizmodo and current editor of Dethroner.

The change that interests me most is something that Boing Boing used to have and has now brought back: comments! Along with the comments comes the best person I could think of as an online community manager: Teresa Nielsen Hayden, whose Making Light is something I always cite as the best example of managing comments. For more on her comment-fu, see this article: How to Keep Hostile Jerks from Taking Over Your Online Community.

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