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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Thursday, July 29, 2004

Assault on Precinct 13 remake!

Stumbling around IMDB, I just discovered that a
remake of John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13 is due out next year! I loved that movie when I saw it back in the early 80's, and had been afraid to see it again because I'm told it didn't age very well. The cast of the remake looks good, too, starring Ethan Hawke and Lawrence Fishburne. I'll look forward to seeing this.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2004


My daughter has discovered the card game War, which got me once again to thinking about it. Specifically, is there a simple statistical measure of the deal that can predict the victor? I could only find one analysis on the web, done by a Patrick Kellogg for a college statistics class. I took his analysis a little further, but reached largely the same conclusions. The two obvious potential predictors are the player with the most aces (which I considered the highest card), or the player with the highest total point value. However, I wrote a program to simulate a million trials, and it turns out that the first player to acquire more than two of the aces still only wins 64% of the time, and the player who is dealt the most points only wins 59% of the time. As Kellogg says, much of the game seems to turn on the exact way the cards are shuffled, and no obvious statistical measure seems to be able to predict victory (much like war itself, perhaps). I also discovered an interesting phenomenon: For certain ways of adding a won trick to the bottom of the player's deck, there are hands that result in an infinite loop. Consider, for example, this deal:
    One: 23456789TJQK2A3456789TJQKA
    Two: 32547698JTKQA2436587T9QJAK
If won cards are added to the bottom in the right order, then play does not change each player's hand at all, so the game never ends. Obviously, this deal is pathological, but in my simulations I did see a hand that oscillated in a complex pattern such that neither player ever had fewer than 25 cards, and that never appeared to end.

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Cellular featureitis

Ongoing discusses phones, and refers to some Russell Beattie posts on same, reminding me yet again that the cellular companies aren't spending their effort where it would benefit me. I don't want my phone to take pictures, or play music, or get video, or to connect to my laptop to provide internet access. I just want a phone that works, that doesn't drop my calls or dissolve into garbled digital Matrix sound effects every three or four minutes. Is that so much to ask? Apparently so: In the latest Wired there is a mini-interview with Cingular VP Jim Ryan, who states that it will be more than 10 years but less than 100 before cellular is as dependable as a landline. I find that supremely depressing, though I assure myself that it's probably pessimistic.

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Nerd tattoos

Via boingBoing, a gallery of geeky tattoos. I don't expect to ever get a tattoo, but I've always thought that if I were to get one, it would be of a NAND layout.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Lindows is not Windows

For those who wonder whether Linspire's use of the name Lindows for their Linux GUI was damaging Microsoft at all, I offer the following: My brother-in-law went to MicroCenter to buy a new PC, and the bozo who worked there told him that Linux+Lindows was functionally equivalent to Windows, i.e. that he could transparently use Linux/Lindows in place of Windows.  The naming of Lindows isn't to blame for the basic ignorance of the typical retail computer salesperson, but surely the similarity of names made that false assertion more believable.

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Friday, July 16, 2004


From a very old Rands post:
There are people who are very good at working at home, but these tend to be the HYPERFOCUSABLE types who are also great assembly programmers.
Well, my assembly is a little rusty, but "hyperfocusable" would definitely describe me if it were an actual word.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Hotel lotta love

Holiday Inn - Ocean CityThe Holiday Inn in Ocean City, MD is our new favorite vacation destination. For many years we've been weeklong condo-rental people, first in Ocean City and, for the last couple of years, in Nag's Head. However, we stayed in this hotel for a long weekend right before Memorial Day, and now we're spoiled for life. Sure, it's smaller than a condo would be, but people clean up after you every day. There's a full kitchen, but if you don't feel like cooking, there's a restaurant right downstairs (and kids eat free). The pool at this hotel is great, with a slide, a vortex, and other fun stuff that entertained all of our kids, from 1 year old to 7 years old, and us too. The beach is right out front, as is the Ocean City boardwalk. Our car didn't move for the four days we were there; the only place we went was Ocean City, to which we walked or took the tram that runs down the boardwalk. We were so impressed with hotel vacationing, and this hotel in particular, that this August (which we'd already booked) will be our last in Nag's Head or in condos; from now on, we'll take two or three days in May and four or five in August at this Holiday Inn. It's a bit more expensive than a condo, but you gain a lot of flexibility: With a condo, you have to stay a week, and you're locked in from the moment you send in your deposit, but with a hotel, you can stay for just as many days as you want, and you can change or cancel your reservation up until days before your stay. All in all, highly recommended; if you vacation in Ocean City, or would consider doing so, check it out.

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Saturday, July 10, 2004

Anti-Microsoft trolls need a hobby

This post about Monad, the command shell in Longhorn, is interesting. However, what's sad is to read the (many) comments to this post. About two out of three are anti-Microsoft trolls about how Unix has had shells for 30 years (Monad is so much more than a shell), or how it's going to make the OS more insecure, or blah blah blah. I swear, you could write a random generator to simulate these people: In response to "Microsoft has added ", the troll generator would produce "Microsoft sucks. [Randomly chosen one of 'Unix', 'Linux', 'Perl', 'Apache', or 'Amiga'] has had for years!" Geez, people, get a new hobby.

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Thursday, July 08, 2004

Dueling financial advisors

I find it curious that two renowned financial advisors can disagree on a topic that seems like it ought to have a single objective, correct answer: Namely, paying down your mortgage. Ric Edelman says to pay it as slowly as possible, Suze Orman says to pay it as quickly as possible. I have to agree with Edelman on this one, at least at today's interest rates. I can take the money I would've payed down on my mortage and put it in a CD ladder and make as much (or more) as the after-tax return on paying down my mortgage. Plus, there's a liquidity benefit: I don't have to sell my house to get at that money.

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Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Don't mess with Special K

Eric Sink has been writing a series summarizing the book The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. I have no idea how the book is, but Eric's summary is quite interesting. As an aside, the Law of Line Extension reminded me of my recent experience with "Special K Red Berries." When I bought this, I assumed it would simply be Special K with dehydrated strawberries added. Not so; they not only added the berries, but they sweetened the Special K substrate! Sugar went from 4g for regular Special K to 10g for Red Berries, and from the third ingredient to the second. This strikes me as a grotesque and stupid betrayal of the powerful Special K brand.

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Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Consumer-product usability

Neilsen recently writes on poor usability in remote controls and in consumer electronics in general. I've ranted about this for many years. In related news, the navigation system in my new Toyota Sienna is horrible. The most amusing usability flaw: A feature that, if used while stationary, tells me it can only be used while the vehicle is in motion. However, when the van is moving, the controls are locked out. You heard right, you can't adjust the navigation system while the car is in motion. Thanks, Toyota, for saving me from myself.

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Monday, July 05, 2004

Legislation without comprehension

Fighting TV legislation stupidity: The EFF's campaign against the broadcast flag and Mike Langberg on the requirement that TVs include digital tuners next year.

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Saturday, July 03, 2004

Work-at-Home Dad

As a father of three who works from home, I have a lot to say about kids that doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the material on this weblog (as if its current contents are somehow coherent), so I've started a separate blog, tentatively titled Work-at-Home Dad. It's pretty embryonic at this point, design-wise, but that'll be improved eventually.

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Thursday, July 01, 2004

VoIP: Not yet

I finally got around to checking out VoIP service, but from what I can learn from ZDNET, it's not quite there yet. It's not a lot cheaper than my current phone service, has some major disadvantages (e.g. no power = no phone), and would require a heavy initial investment in new phone equipment. So, I'm still waiting; I expect that the magic bullet for me will be in a few years when there are phones that combine cellular (for wandering) and wi-fi VoIP (for at home).

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