Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Amazing Ubuntu Conversion!

Okay, we have these cool new workstations. They are Sun Ultra 20s with
  • Two dual-core AMD Opteron 1218 (four cores total) at 2.6 GHz (Santa Ana 90nm)
  • 2 GB RAM
  • Two 250-GB SATA drives (Hitachi HDS7225S)
  • RW DVD, etc.
Of course I quickly installed Ubuntu 6.10 Edgy Eft and I'm now turning it into my workstation.

Here's the cool part. I copied all of my files over from the old system.

scp -r oldhost: .

Since this copied all files including window manager and Gnome configs, this brought over my complete environment! I'm done! The whole conversion consisted of that!

Of course I had to log out and log back in.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Perl, Minimal and as a Beginning

So here's a post regarding a new book, Minimal Perl by Tim Maher (and a Slashdot review).

This is a cool idea, a way to look at a usable and easy to learn subset of Perl if you already know tools like sed, awk, etc. This is, in fact, a large part of how I learned Perl.

The thoughts that this leads to, and which really interest me, regard using Perl as a First Programming Language. Teaching and learning to program is a topic that interests me and I've watched the parade of programming languages used for this purpose with amusement, joy, and more recently, horror.

We used to have BASIC and Pascal (Blissful Sigh), but then moved to C (Incredulous Gasp!), then to Java (Hesitant, Lesser Gasp). Some schools seem to be using Scheme, an offshoot of LISP (Faint to Unconsciousness).

I believe that I understand the reasons for all of these choices at the time they were made. I get it. But, I'm not convinced that some of them are the best First Programming Language. Java is probably okay and, thank goodness, gets out out of using C. C++ was an improvement over C as well. I believe Java is an improvement over C++.

I'm not sure how I feel about teaching beginning programmers about object oriented programming or LISP-based functional, non-procedural programming.

What I've wondered about is trying to use Perl as a First Programming Language. It could only excel in that role if you leave a lot of parts out and focus on a simple, BASIC-like subset of Perl. But is there still too much inevitable wierdness (the weirdness that I love!) in Perl to make this a bad idea? I've thought about a book, Perl as a First Programming Language, along these lines, but I'm not sure I'm convinced yet.

Here's an important example.

Life with Perl used in simple mode is good up to the point you need to write a counting loop. Here's how to do it in BASIC (sort of) and it's typically one of the first things you learn in BASIC.

FOR I = 1 TO 10

or something like that.

Now, think of what we need to do in Perl.

for ($i = 1; $i <= 10; $i++) {
print "$i\n";

Hm. Well, a Perl aficionado might point out you can do this:

foreach $i (1 .. 10) {
print "$i\n";

I'll keep thinking about it.

The Gyroball

Here's an article on what is said to be the first new baseball pitch in 30 years, the gyroball.

Google Apps Premier

Hmm, Google Apps Premier.

But possibly the most compelling aspect of Google Apps -- at least from the standpoint of potential customers considering a switch from Microsoft products -- is the price. Google is offering the whole package for just $50 per user, per year. Microsoft does not publish volume licensing prices for the Enterprise Edition of Office 2007, its latest entry in the office productivity market. The price of a standalone copy of the Professional Edition is $499.

Some analysts believe Google Apps could save businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in IT support and personnel costs alone. "You could buy 1,600 Google Apps licenses for the cost of one IT worker," says Nucleus Research analyst Rebecca Wettemann, who notes that because Google Apps is Web-based it greatly reduces the need for deskside support.

Friday, February 09, 2007

LED Light Bulb

I've heard predictions that they are coming. Well, one is here! An LED-based “light bulb” that is said to output the light equivalent to a typical 70 watt bulb using only nine watts of input power. The cost is between $60 and $70. That's a bit expensive but I expect that they will have a very long lifetime—much longer than a compact flourescent lamp, for example.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The IT Crowd

Mike told me about this series the other day. This British sitcom is one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time (as he said)!

The IT Crowd (on YouTube).

There are six episodes and most are uploaded to YouTube in three parts. Be sure to watch the first episode and don't miss the first part of the second episode (the commercial is my favorite scene of the series).

To find some parts I had to search on “The IT Crowd Ep3” or “The IT Crowd episode5”, for example. There seem to be six episodes overall.