Joe Ganley
Writing code since 1979
I have been a professional software engineer for over 10 years. I have written many kinds of software, but my particular strengths are interactive graphics applications, compilers and interpreters, and algorithms.

I also enjoy writing, woodworking, and home improvement. Also this.


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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Home-office obsolescence

Now that our house is fully wi-fi'ed, I find that we spend very little time in the room called "the office," which, unlike in many homes, really serves only the single purpose of being the office. There are so many more pleasant places to work now that I'm untethered: The screened-in back porch, the kitchen table, the table in front of the fireplace. So, we begin to ponder reclaiming the office, probably as a (previously missing) guest bedroom. So far so good, but there are still some functions the office serves that will need to be relocated: It still houses the kids' computer, and the bill-sorting-and-paying area, and most other paperwork-related functions. Some of that stuff could coexist with the guest bedroom (or whatever), but much of it would have to be relocated. Which leaves us with a large set of design- and furniture-related problems to solve. I've always thought those little desk areas in the kitchen were sort of silly, but now I see how that might be useful. Of course, this, my third house, is my first whose kitchen lacks such a nook. I guess we'll just let it happen organically, and see how it ends up.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Will Apple ever be relevant?

Jobs's WWDC talk described a bunch more really great enhancements to OS X, and as always, I find myself wondering if Apple will ever really matter? I love Apple. I love their software, their hardware, their design sense, their quality ethic... I love everything about them except for the fact that as long as 93% of the desktop machines in the world run Windows, Apple is pretty much irrelevant. (Apple zealots, save your flames; I was once one of the faithful, and I know the drill.) I wonder if Apple will ever get enough market share to really matter. As I have since about 1986, I think the path to world domination for Apple is to port their OS to Intel hardware. Meanwhile, as long as I get 10X the return on investment for developing for Windows than I would developing for Apple, I'll have to stick with the hegemony.

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Because my daughter has a couple of severe food allergies, I get email alerts from the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network about recalls due to undeclared allergens in foods. Today I got this one:
Bucks County Distributors is recalling its entire line of food products (148 different products) because none of them include ingredient statements.

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Saturday, June 26, 2004

Parent of the year ... not

We were at a local water park today, and as we were leaving, there was a bit of a scene between a woman and her roughly 10-year-old daughter. Apparently the daughter had lost her goggles, so the mom just picked up a similar pair and, well, stole them. Daughter was near hysteria (her mom kept telling her to stop "dramatizing"), trying to tell her mother that this was stealing and it was wrong and she should return the goggles to where she found them. Mom was totally unimpressed, and acted like the daughter was just being ridiculous. Mom tried to explain that the goggles were very similar, so whoever these belonged to could just have the ones she had lost, as if that were perfectly reasonable. Great lesson to teach your kid, lady. You should be very proud.

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Blue moon

My daughters were having a snack of Lucky Charms this afternoon (ok, I admit it, me too), and we got on the subject of blue moons, and my oldest asked what people meant by a blue moon. We explained that it was when there are two full moons in the same month, and then my wife and I disagreed on how often that happened (she was right), which led us to this excellent site full of valuable blue-moon info.

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Friday, June 25, 2004

Win or loose

I readily admit to being a bit of a pedant when it comes to English, but the very common mistake -- even among otherwise well-written people -- that is driving me nuts lately is this: The word lose, as in "win or lose," only has one freakin' o in it!!!

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Wednesday, June 23, 2004

A disappointing book

I finally read The Stars My Destination after the zillionth person gushed at me that it was the best SF novel ever, and was I ever disappointed. It was certainly full of ideas, and you can clearly see the influence on many later works (especially cyberpunk), but the whole seemed much less than the sum of its parts. In particular, the plot was a thin wrapper around a ludicrous philosophical screed, reminding me of nothing so much as Ayn Rand, whose work I despise. Read it if you're interested in SF history, but otherwise stick to the later works it influenced, that aren't so dated or so burdened by their thinly veiled message.

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Windows -- well, window -- security

No, not the computer kind. The previous owners of my home put window locks on all the first floor windows, which require keys to lock or unlock. One of the windows in my office has a different lock than all of the rest (which all take the same key), so of course I lost the key to that one. It was locked open. So, after a couple of weeks of looking for the key (during which time, of course, the window could not be locked at all), I gave up and went to replace the lock. It was attached with those screws like you see in public bathrooms, that can only be screwed but not unscrewed (even though I see no way a thief could bring a screwdriver to bear on those screws unless he was already in your house), so I had to back them out painstakingly with pliers. On the other hand, using the screwdriver I couldn't use on the screws, I was able to just bust the lock mechanism completely off; but I'm sure no thief would try that, eh? I'm sure Bruce Schneier would have something interesting to say about this situation. Oh, and literally within seconds of destroying the lock mechanism, I found the key -- it was lodged in the window frame where I had apparently opened the window all the way, and the key came out of the lock and stuck in the wood when I closed it.

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Mosquito deleto

A while back I discussed the possibility of eradicating mosquitos. An interesting NYT article today presents the perspective that mosquitos (along with tsetse flies and similar pests) serve a conservationist role, by repelling animals that are destructive to habitats (i.e. people). [via boingBoing]

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Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Gold-plated ladybugs

This afternoon in the garden I found a couple of really beautiful beetles that looked exactly like a ladybug had been electroplated in gold. I looked them up, and they are golden tortoise beetles. Unfortunately, it seems that they are what's been eating my morning glories. They certainly are pretty, though; it's hard to believe a color so metallic occurs in an animal. Maybe there's hope yet for my wish for chrome candy.

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Monday, June 21, 2004

Clocks are big, machines are heavy

In today's Bleat, Lileks talks about how glad he is that clocks are now, by and large, silent. I could not disagree more. I like ticking. I like those old clocks with the flippy numbers so much that a few years ago I bought one on eBay. As I sit here right now, I'm accompanied by a big, fancy cuckoo clock my wife gave me for our anniversary some years ago, which ticks quite loudly. I find the sound indescribably soothing, and when I work elsewhere in my house than the office, I miss it.

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Seamless address import

My wife just lamented that she can't easily look up someone in (e.g.) Anywho and then push a button to import that data into her Palm address book. It strikes me that it's really stupid that they don't provide this; all they'd have to do is have a link to open each entry in vCard format, which you could then open up right in your favorite PIM application. I wonder if any of them do this; certainly Anywho doesn't. Perhaps I'll write a bookmarklet to do this, unless someone else already has.

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Sunday, June 20, 2004


A few weeks ago I read Cory Doctorow's notes on Danny O'Brien's "Life Hacks" talk (site-in-progress here). This talk was about how uber-geeks stay organized, and the biggest common denominator seems to be that their personal information management 'system' is a single, big text file. I've tried this the past few weeks, and I must say it's working really well. It's quick to use, completely app- and platform-independent, you can search it (incrementally, if you have the right editor), you can see it all at a glance using just page-up and page-down, and there's just a single file to back up. The structure is, of course, totally freeform, unconstrained by how a particular app thinks I ought to organize my information. It's like having a huge scrap of paper that I can always find. It doesn't give you reminders or anything, but I never use those anyway.

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Thursday, June 17, 2004

Dream code

Last night I spent the last few hours before bed working, and much of that time I spent on a routine that wasn't constructed nearly as cleanly as I wanted, but I couldn't see an easy way to fix it. Later, asleep, I dreamed of how to restructure it so it was much simpler and cleaner. It has been a couple of years since I last solved a coding problem in a dream, and it always seems to happen, not surprisingly, at crunch time when I'm spending most of my waking hours working.

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The best language I can't use

I'm learning C#, just for fun (from this book, which is really well-written). It's a really, really nice language; they avoided a bunch of what I consider obvious mistakes that Java made, and also added a lot of useful stuff that is missing from Java (much of it to support component-based programming). There are those who complain that it's Windows-centric, but I don't think that really matters. I just wish all these Unixes would go away so I didn't have to use lowest-common-denominator tools to support them, and could instead use something like C#.

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Tuesday, June 08, 2004

The power of user-interface consistency

I'm on a machine running Spanish-language Windows, and I've discovered that the actual text in menus and toolbars is almost totally irrelevant -- I select them based on their location, not their content. In fact, my wife hadn't even noticed that the text was in Spanish until I pointed it out.

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Copyright (c) 1988-2004 by Joseph L. Ganley. All rights reserved except where otherwise noted.