Dispatches from Andyland "Your reality, sir, is lies and balderdash and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever!" — The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

August 21, 2007

I’ve always been told that cryptography is not for amateurs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Andrew @ 5:59 pm

On the way into work today, I was listening to the final round of this weeks Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me! and it told of an Australian crime boss who was afraid that his phone was being wiretapped, so he spoke in coded messages. Unfortunately, the code he used as pig-latin, and the police managed to decrypt his messages.

August 18, 2007

Can I have the source code?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Andrew @ 12:54 pm

My older daughter’s favorite game is Animal Crossing: Wild World for the Nintendo DS. She was panicked yesterday because the game malfunctioned and froze up, and whenever you restart the game without saving, then when the game starts again a character, Mr. Resetti shows up and berates you about hitting the reset button. (Sam was trying to blame the freezing up on me, the unit often does that if it stays in a warm car for too long, and she told me that I must have packed up her things in the car too long before we left from the Cape. She also finds it ironic that making the DS too hot makes the games in it freeze.)

There are rumors going around school, that if Mr. Resetti show up in the game too often, that he seeks revenge by destroying your Animal Crossing town. Sam leaned a bit about how software works from her course last year in the Milton Academy Saturday Program. I explained to her that saving the game probably writes out all of the programs variables that describes the town, and one of the variables was a checkbox that says that someone saved the game properly. When you start playing the game, it probably looks at the checkbox, and if it isn’t set, switches to the part of the program that does the Mr. Resetti part. If there is a part of the game where Mr. Resetti destroys the town, what probably happens is that the game was in the middle of saving all of the info about the town when the game was reset. In that case, it might not have enough information about the town to start up again and goes to the Mr. Resetti part to explain to you that the town is gone. (and in a way that you don’t blame the computer.)

From there, Sam asked if we could see or change the computer program on the card. I explained that no, we couldn’t. For her Logo programming, it hides the difference between the source code the programmer writes and the machine code that the computer uses, but for things like an Nintendo DS, the convert it all to machine code and only put that onto the cartridge. Her next comment was interesting, she said “wouldn’t it be neat if you could call up the people who make Animal Crossing and say ‘Can you send me the source code?’ I can think of things that I’d like to change in the game if I could.” and then rattled off a half dozen changes mostly small things. The way a particular character looks, etc.

She wouldn’t have cared, even if I wanted to start to explain to her about Free Software, Open Source Software, the economics of software development, Visible Source, etc. I’m not even sure what sort of state these debates would be in when she gets older. I just told her that it would always be nice to get the source code to everything that you use.

August 7, 2007

A little overboard with the books

Filed under: Uncategorized — Andrew @ 12:46 am

I wound up passing by both Barnes and Nobles book store and Quantum Books yesterday, and I went a little overboard with the book purchases.

At B&N, I purchased, Programming Erlang: Software for a Concurrent World, Beginning J2ME, From Novice to Professional, The Complete Guitar Player, and a book containing both Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I also picked up Circuit Cellar magazine and Sysadmin magazine. (Because I’m now admitting to this being a purchasing binge, maybe I’ll return the guitar book.)

At Quantum Books, there was a 50% sale on O’Reilly books. I bought JBoss: A Developer’s Notebook, Java I/O, and Enterprise Java Beans 3.0.

Throughout this, what I was really looking for was a book on Bluetooth programming. I have an idea of a small hardware project that Bluetooth might come in handy for.

The JBoss and EJB books I bought for relatively practical reasons. I want to read through them enough to make sure I can discuss the subjects intelligently with someone who already knows about them. For the Java I/O subject, even though I know a bit on the subject already, I think there are some holes in my knowledge that the book with smooth out, especially with nio.

The J2ME book is for project ideas. Without knowing much about what can be done for J2ME, I have some ideas of things I’d like to build for a smartphone platform. Hopefully, looking through this would give me an idea of the feasibility.

The Erlang book is trying to gain exposure to a very different type of software development than I’m used to. I may never create anything to run in Erlang, but hopefully learning it will give me yet another way of looking at a problem.

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