Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fun At Yahoo! In Los Angeles

Last Tuesday night was July's Los Angeles Web Application Developer Meetup. This event is starting to get really good. Not only were there lots of people who came out, but our hosts Yahoo! actually bought us beer too. Hint to future hosts of the meetup... be cool like Yahoo! and provide BOTH a projection screen and beer.

There were two especially fun presentations, at least to me. Jim Bumgardner of Yahoo showed off some of his really interesting web gadgetry. Now I didn't know Jim when I walked into the meetup, but I have seen his work. The man has done some innovative stuff over the years, that is for sure. Also, he has to have one of the best gigs I have seen for a while, getting paid to build really fun things.

He showed several different ways to choose one item from a group of items, without resorting to any of the usual tired UI metaphors. My personal favorite was the Wheel of Lunch.

The other extra fun presentation was Richard Herrera showing Pickleview, an iPhone application created to track real-time baseball scores. Now if they were soccer scores, I would have had to run out and get an iPhone... actually, I may just end up doing that anyhow. But I digress.

Developed in PHP (but we won't hold that against them, will you, dear reader?), Pickleview combines an XML feed of Major League Baseball scores, and mashes it up with Twitter. A pretty cool little application, I would have to say.

Now I am getting interested in whipping up something for the iPhone myself... stay tuned.

Drunk In Space

Apparently, the altitude in orbit is not high enough for more than one of NASA's finest. According to an independent panel, on at least two occasions astronauts were allowed to fly after flight surgeons or other astronauts warned that they were drunk, so drunk that they posed a flight safety risk.

You cannot have a machinist fabricating spacecraft parts who is unable to urinate in a little cup, but a DUI is space is not a problem that NASA is concerned with? I guess the sky IS no longer the limit...

An alternate view is as follows: the astronauts know how poorly designed the shuttle is, and need to throw back a few stiff ones to get back in the saddle. These are likely the more experienced ones who have actually been up a few times, and know the risks. Perhaps they were colleagues with the crews of the Challenger or Columbia. We shouldn't judge too quickly what it takes to do that job, as much as many of us many have fantasized about a journey into space. But they should still need to pass a breathalyser before they fly a 1.7 billion dollar spacecraft.

Monday, July 23, 2007

IronRuby Lives!

John Lam and company have finally gotten something together to release to the world at large for their IronRuby project. I have not had a chance to play with it yet, but as a hard-core Rubyist I will, of course, have to do so.

A few interesting observations from how they have chosen to go about developing this project. One is that they are distributing the source code, albeit as part of the Microsoft Permissive License. I don't really know much about this MS-license, I will have to go find out how permissive it really is.

Another interesting point, is that the IronRuby project will be managed through RubyForge, instead of CodePlex or another of the .NET open source communities. They really want to make an effort to reach out to the Ruby community, it would seem, by being in the old familiar places.

I look forward to playing with it...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Eventually The Machines Will Win

I have never been a big checkers fan. Good thing, cause I would have had to give up the game after the recent "solution" of the game by a team of Canadian computer scientists. Every possible move of every possible game has been mapped, and a checkers playing program can take each of these into account before deciding on its next move. No human player has such ability.

Actually, as it turns out, the best possible outcome in a game of checkers, given two players who each make perfect moves, is a draw.

The next game to be solved will likely be othello, than other even more complex games like chess, which has 1020 more possible moves than checkers.

It is only a matter of time before sufficient computing power allows the machines to contemplate eventualities of which we have not even postulated the existence.

The Singularity IS coming...

Friday, July 13, 2007

Ruby Is More Of A Free Love Kind Of Language

I have been really, really busy lately, which is why I have not had a chance to post anything. I finally caught up on some reading and listening, and John Lam, father of the IronRuby project at Microsoft, has a fun interview on the DotNetRocks podcast. Irrespective of how I may currently feel about the direction over at Microsoft or rock, it is an interesting interview.

My favorite line has to be where John is describing the cultural differences between the users of Python vs. Ruby programming languages. "Ruby is more of a free love kind of language," he says.

I guess when they say that they have drunk the Ruby kool-aid over at Microsoft, they really mean it. But will they wake up hungover and pregnant with a baby they will name "Moonbeam"?