Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest

Saturday, December 31, 2011

28c3: A Brief History of Plutocracy

Every wonder where the Rothschild's came from?

Quote of the Day

A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. — Agent K, Men in Black
 Seems like I heard this line a couple of times in last week. I didn't remember where it came from. A little poking around on the net turned up several pages. This page from TV Tropes seems especially relevant.

Friday, December 30, 2011

28c3: The coming war on general computation

Found of Paul O’Flaherty's blog.

P.S. For amusement, compare Cory's comment about bank robbers (just after the 11:45 mark) with this story from China. China story from Iowa Andy. The link to the Chinese story will probably die soon, as soon as I get around to it I will try and upload a copy. It's just one of those stories about what happens when you put flaming jackasses in charge.

Word of the Day

Our word for today is tyle. It comes from P. 263 of Heinlein's Stranger In A Strange Land, where I found the phrase 
". . . admit them and tyle the door."
What does it mean? That's a good question, Bucky. Look it up on Wikipedia and you get a page about Google, with no mention of tyle. Look it up on Google and you get acronyms, clobbered versions of style, computer programming goble-de-gook, and the occasional person using it as a name. Merriam-Webster asks you to sign up for a free 14 day trial. Wiktionary finally gives me a clue: tyles is a Lithuanian word. It is the third-person singular future tense of tylėti. Tyleti is a verb meaning to silence or to be quiet.

So I'm thinking that maybe this phrase "tyle the door" means to mark it inconspicuously, like depression era hobos.

De Agony of De Feet

I am feeling better today. After the agony of last night's headache, any relief at all feels absolutely glorious. I am feeling so good today that I was able to (1) take the lights down off the tree, (2) suck the remaining 17 gallons of water out of the tree stand with a turkey baster, and finally (3) drag the tree out the front door and around to the side of the house. Of course, none of this would have happened if sugar-blossom wasn't in her we're-all-done-with-Christmas-time-to-move-on mode.

I've been feeling kind of ragged for a few weeks now, mostly because I haven't been getting enough sleep. Then the Christmas cold visited our house and now it's my turn to make like big honking faucet. Yesterday I was just kind of dragging, not bright enough to do anything really useful, but alert enough to take care of some chores. Wife & son went to the Blazers game last night and I volunteered to go pick them up afterwards. I miscalculated how long it would take to get there (a consequence of "not bright enough to do anything really useful") and as a result the exit from the game was in full flow when I arrived. I spent a good half hour driving around trying to find a way to our designated rendezvous. I probably could have accomplished the same result by simply inching along through traffic, but that kind of thing just drives me nuts. Eventually, after a cell phone call, two trips across the river, and a couple of wrong turns we were able to connect. Total elapsed time was about an hour and a half. By the time I got home I had the Godzilla of all headaches. Two Naproxen finally game me some relief and six hours of sleep made me feel like a new man. OK, a new man with a cold. But at least that accursed headache is gone.

View Rose Garden Navigation in a larger map
That expedition last night taught me more about Interstate Avenue than I really wanted to know.

Quote of the Day

" The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything."  - Stalin
Came across this on one of Elena's pages.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Year's Worth of Bullets

Don't know how much ammo the US military actually uses. If it's not a state secret, there is probably a Wikipedia page, but I haven't found it. So I came up with my own way of guess-timating. I don't know how much bearing it has on reality, but I would bet that I am within an order of magnitude.

The US military has a bunch of guns. Some are carried by people, some are carried by ships, land vehicles or aircraft. Many only fire a single shot on command, but the electric Gatling gun, aka the minigun, fires a zillion rounds every time you touch the go button. Miniguns only get fired occasionally, but there are a bunch of them. I expect the US military has somewhere North of a thousand of them.

So how many bullets could a minigun fire if you fired it continuously for a solid year? Taking the low end of rate of fire (2,000 rounds per minute), that comes to just over one billion rounds. That is five semi-truck loads of ammo a day. Ammo piled nine inches high over the entire floor of a 40 foot semi.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Price of Ammo

It just occurred to me that our military, with all their modern, electric Gatling guns, probably uses a large quantity of ordinary cartridge ammunition. I wonder how much ammo they use and what it costs. It probably wouldn't even show up as a blip in the overall defense budget (all glory to the DOD), but it is probably still substantial.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Farmland Pricing Bubble

Gramma reports that a farm in Iowa recently sold for $20,000 an acre. $20,000 an acre!?! That's insane! If memory serves, 25 years ago farmland was running around $3,000 an acre. I thought this new price was so far out of line that I did some checking. It certainly looks a bubble to me. This story from The New York Times quotes a price of $11,000 an acre from the same area of Iowa less than a year ago.

A price rising from from $3,000 to $20,000 over twenty five years translates into an 8% annual increase, which doesn't sound too awful, but the change from $11,000 to $20,000 in ten months is more like a 100% annual increase. The value of farmland has been shooting up something fierce over the last 20 years, never mind the weird rise and collapse over the previous 20 years:

This chart and my memory disagree over the price of farmland 25 years ago by a factor of four. Who you gonna believe? Me? Or some revisionist government pawn?

The price of corn is basically what drives the price of farmland, and the price of corn is somewhat volatile. The big hullabulloo over ethanol over the last few years hasn't helped.

P.S. That 8% annual increase is the same amount being used to calculate retirement benefits for PERS (the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System), a system that is looking ever more fragile.

P.P.S. Why is the big crop in Iowa corn, and the big crop in the Willamette Valley (Oregon) grass seed?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Superscripts in Google Documents

I am trying to put together an explanation of some elementary algebra, and I discovered Google Documents has an equation editor that allows you to use some of those fancy mathematical symbols. All I needed was some superscripts (to indicate raising a number to a power).

There is a point and click menu available (click on Insert in the menu bar) and it works, though it gets to be a little cumbersome if you have to use the same symbol more than once. Reading a little further I find that  the help page for mathematical equations claims that several special math symbols can be inserted in an equation by using special words that are prefaced with a backslash. For instance \superscript. I found one other post that claimed many of these LaTeX commands did not work. Fortunately, all I needed this time were superscripts, and they can be done by typing a caret (^) inside the equation box.

I wonder if Google is getting too big for their britches, you know, playing to the mass social networking market, and any kind of special requirements can just go hang. For instance the Search function on Blogger is probably broken again, for the umpteenth time. I have given up using it and now use the regular Google Search to locate stuff in my blog. It often returns multiple links to the same item, but at least it finds things, something Blogger does not seem to be able to do reliably.

P.S. LaTeX is some antique text formatting system that seems to still be in use in obscure, i.e. not "popular" corners of the universe.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Zwibbler Sketching Program

I needed a sketch to go with an explanation I was writing. I could have photographed my pencil sketches, but up close pictures of flat drawings distorts them (the edges all balloon out), my scanner has never worked, and shoot, it should be a simple matter to draw this on the computer. However, all the drawing programs I found are too sophisticated to be easy to use, until I found Zwibbler:

It still took me a couple of minutes to figure out how everything worked. All the other drawing programs I looked at wanted me to wade through 27 pages of conceptual instruction before I could draw a circle.

It took me several steps to produce the drawing at the top of this post, mostly because I couldn't find the crop function in Zwibbler (if there even is one). I drew a sketch in Zwibbler, pressed Print Screen, pasted the screen image in MSPaint, cropped the image there and uploaded it using Picasa to get the final sketch you see at the top.

Quote of the Day

"His belly shook with the force of a thousand suns." - John the younger describing The Pachee's dinner table antics.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Strategic Default

writes the Financial Page for The New Yorker (always? often? sometimes?). This weeks' story is about defaulting on loans you don't want to pay anymore. Businesses do it when circumstances dictate. He argues that homeowners whose mortgages are underwater should do so as well. I agree. I did not agree with his reasons and I said so in a letter-to-the-editor:
“Strategic default” may not be popular, but not for any of the reasons James mentions. For one it is a big hassle, now and for the next seven years until this default is erased from your credit report, if it ever is. Not to mention the hassle of moving, and how are you going to buy another house if you just bailed on your last mortgage? Who is going to lend you the money? For most people, those with jobs who can afford the mortgage payment, it's easier to just keep paying the mortgage.
I posted a possible solution for people who are facing foreclosure a while back. Haven't heard of anyone trying it.

Rare Earths and "National Security"

Rare earths are those elements you find on that separate bar that shows up with the periodic table. (Actually, just the top line of that bar, and a couple of extras.) You don't hear much about them because their uses are a little obscure. Our high tech society is becoming more dependent on them. They get used in things like making alloys for jet engines and the powerful permanent magnets you find in all kinds of electric motors, most notably electric and hybrid cars.

Most rare earths are produced as a side effect of mining a more conventional material. The amount of ore needed to produce rare earth metals by themselves would make it economically infeasible.

Right now China is the biggest producer of rare earths and they seem to have figured out that this gives them an advantage, an advantage they are willing to exploit. Here's one story on the situation.

A guy I know in the securities business mentioned that this is becoming a National Security issue, and hoo boy, did that set me off! If there is one catch phrase that is guaranteed to get me really riled up it is "National Security". That phrase has been used by more self-serving, criminally minded morons than there are seconds in a century. The price of orange juice has gone up by a nickel! OMG! It's imperiling our (glorious, patriotic, American) way-of-life! Call out the National Guard!

Any time someone wants to start a war, they always invoke National Security. I for one am tired of hearing this. If someone says you something is a matter of National Security, put them on your black list. They are without a doubt a self-serving moron. They should probably be shot, but as there seem to be an endless supply of these fools, you would quickly run out of bullets. So save your ammo, you are going to need it.

I think war with China is coming, but it will not be like any previous war. Shoot, it's probably going on right now, it's just obscured by all the other little wars that are being fought all over the world, some of which are proxies for the big one of East versus West.

Be is Back

A few years ago a new PC OS (Personal Computer Operating System) appeared on the scene: Be. Unlike Windows, it was intelligently designed. Unlike Linux, it wasn't saddled with 30 years of obsolete baggage. Or vice-versa. In any case, it was new and it promised to be a heck of lot better than either of our two old warhorses. It failed to make a dent in the market and collapsed.

Now it has been resurrected as Haiku, and this time it's Open Source. I bought a copy of Be back when it first came out. I played with it a bit, but it never became my mainstay. I suspect there were a couple of critical applications missing back then that caused me to continue using Windows. In any case, I used it for a bit, and it seemed solid enough. It just wasn't quite ready for prime time.

I did little reading about it and it seems like Be found its' way into a several professional audio-video machines. This is good. This means that it might be reliable, something Windows and Linux will never get the hang of.

Now all I have to do is create a new partition on my Zbox, which means burning a new CD. I could probably do it with the existing Linux command line tools, but the amount of verbiage I would have to sort through to find the commands (and sub-commands) I need is daunting. I tried. Burning a CD is antithetical to my nature: everything you need is already on this disk, you don't need to waste 27 cents on a blank CD you will only use once. So you have to type a few commands, whassamattar you? Your fingers broken?

No, the problem is finding the instructions I need. It will be quicker and easier to burn a CD with a copy of GParted. I hope it works.

Home Theater Update

I bought a small personal computer a couple of months ago to use with my big screen TV. I installed Linux and we have been using it. It works, but it is far from satisfactory. Let me count the ways it disappoints.
  • The TV is five or ten years old, and the internal dimensions of the screen are not the same as the external ones. There is an area about ten pixels wide all around the screen that you cannot see. When you are watching a full screen image from a show you don't notice this, but when you are trying to do any computer stuff all kinds of things are getting cut off. Fixing this might be possible by digging into the code and / or the configuration settings, but it would take a lot of work determine what would have to be changed to fix this. And there's no telling if it could even be fixed. The video driver is from Nvidia, and even though this is supposed to be an Open Source system, the driver is not.
  • I am using a wireless keyboard with a built in trackball to talk to the computer and it works pretty well, but not really well. It is adequate for doing a limited number of known operations, but for any kind of real computer work it pales in comparison to having a real mouse. I do like the sit-on-the-couch-with-my-feet-up working position however.
  • Ubuntu (the version of Linux I am using) has a real problem with this wireless keyboard. It usually works fine, but periodically it will stall for a few seconds. This is extremely annoying when I am trying to type something. I have gotten so tired of this that I no longer try and type more than a single line of text on that system. If I need to type more, I will take my USB widget and walk downstairs to the basement and use my aging Windows XP box. Whether this problem is the fault of the keyboard or Linux, or a combination of the two, I have  not been able to determine. I suspect Ubuntu.
  • Pretty much all of the video available over the net is of wretched quality. Admittedly, most of the free (read pirate) sites are awful, but some of the prime (authorized, commercial) sites are not much better. NBC in particular was really bad the one time we tried it. I suppose if you are watching on your smart phone it would be okay, although I fail to see the attraction of watching anything on a smart phone, but then I am old. Whatever, dude. In any case, the quality of ALL of the video from the net is much worse than what is available over the air.
  • I am not sure what is going on with Ubuntu, but I don't think I like it. Many things work very well. I mean I was able to get it up and running on this box using only the semi-crippled wireless keyboard. I didn't have to hack into the bowels and recompile the world or even spend a whole lot of time on it. Scratch that last one. I have no idea how much time I spent on it. Ubuntu, or rather Canonical, the commercial operation behind Ubuntu, seem to be trying to make it more Apple like. They are adding new kinds of user interface programs. Maybe they will make it more usable by middle school girls, but I don't care. The latest snafu was trying to find the terminal program. It is basically the equivalent of the DOS box in Windows. Turns out under Linux there are a couple of them and under Ubuntu they are kept in very different places. There is an "application launcher" that allows you to point and click to run various programs. The bad terminal program ("Xterm") is stored under "System" and the good terminal program ("terminal") is found under accessories. Why?
  • Launchpad is a combination forum / bug reporting system for Ubuntu and some other Open Source projects, and it works very well, technically. The organization behind it, well, they are only people. I put in a number of comments / complaints a while back, some of which could only have been bugs, and the only one that seems to have gotten any traction is the one regarding emailing of passwords to Launchpad account holders. I think this may be why I don't have a job in software development.
  • The whole point of this exercise was to build my own DVR (Digital Video Recorder) using MythTV. I bought a USB tuner and installed MythTV, but I have not been able to make the combination work. Admittedly I am only using the little whip antennae that came with the tuner, but you would think I would be able to get something. But no. After much poking around, I finally located the "scan channels" button and pushed it and . . . nothing. Not one stinking channel. I supposed I should try hooking it up to the big antennae in the attic, but I am afraid that is going to open a rathole, and if I am going to have to crawl inside I want my hand on a real mouse. Not this stupid trackball.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Stove Repair

California Bob, who has never paid more than 10% of list for any of his fancy-schmancy kitchen appliances, reports on his attempt to repair his fancy-schmancy range:
The "control unit" (function, temp, timers, etc.) on my old stove is on the fritz. The manufacturer doesn't make them anymore. When you can find one they are very expensive.

A couple places do rebuilds on control units for appliances -- ranges, dishwashers, others. You send in your broken unit, they fully refurbish it and send it back. From their eBay reviews they stay very busy from retail consumers -- 100's per month on eBay alone.  An interesting business and valuable service.

Interesting cycle from repairing your old appliances using manufacturer parts, to having to use aftermarket parts, to scrapping the whole appliance and buying a new one, back PAST replacing the part to having the individual component remanufactured.

This type of niche business made possible by the internet.

Cost comparisons:

New control $429
Reconditioned $244
Rebuild services: $140 - $290 with shipping
New Thermador range: $5,000

Chipmunk Eviction

Michigan Mike comments on the state of the tool market:
I don't buy tools unless they will immediately pay for themselves. At China prices, they do. I'd like a borescope, but I have no use for it, and those are too pricy still, and then I'd just be looking for treasure inside my walls.

Ace hardware is now carrying craftsman tools, and there are only a few Ace tool left on the shelf. 
Which allows him to embark on a new career:
When evicting the chipmunks from my truck air ducts, I needed a 5mm  a 5.5mm and a 6mm socket (GM genius at work) and it so happened there was a set in a clip of JUST THOSE THREE sockets at  the local Ace, with Ace branding, on closeout for like 6 bucks. I got the very last one on the planet. It will allow me to dominate the S10 air duct chipmunk eviction niche market.Heh.

A Heart Warming Story

I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma. I was just a kid.

I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," she jeered. "Even dummies know that!"

My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her "world-famous" cinnamon buns. I knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true.

Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me. "No Santa Claus?" she snorted...."Ridiculous! Don't believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad!! Now, put on your coat, and let's go."

"Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked. I hadn't even finished my second world-famous cinnamon bun.

"Where" turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything.

As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days. "Take this money," she said, "and buy something for someone who needs it. I'll wait for you in the car." Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's.

I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping.

For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for.

I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, the people who went to my church.

I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock's grade-two class. Bobby Decker didn't have a coat.

I knew that because he never went out to recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn't have a cough; he didn't have a good coat.

I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobby Decker a coat!

I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that.

"Is this a Christmas present for someone?" the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down.

"Yes, ma'am," I replied shyly. "It's for Bobby."

The nice lady smiled at me, as I told her about how Bobby really needed a good winter coat.

I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag, smiled again, and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible) in Christmas paper and ribbons and wrote, "To Bobby,   From Santa Claus" on it.

Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially, one of Santa's helpers.

Grandma parked down the street from Bobby's house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk.

Then Grandma gave me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going."

I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his door and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma.

Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobby.

Fifty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker's bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were -- ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.

I still have the Bible, with the coat tag tucked inside: $19.95.

Normally I wouldn't post something like this here. The world is full of stories, good and bad, but this one caused me to tear up something fierce. Now why is that? Is this an especially heart warming story? Or am I just in a susceptable frame of mind? I have been very short of sleep lately, but I think I got caught up this morning. There are a number of other things going on here, like Christmas is coming, and I haven't bought any presents. And my daring daughter is home after five months in the South.

Story from Steve.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sounds versus Voices

I have trouble understanding what some people say, particularly young people and women. OK, most people. A while back I had my hearing checked and my hearing, as far as the tests go, is fine. Doctor told me this is a common problem with older men and the medical establishment has no explanation for it. Today I think I figured out the problem. I don't spend as much time talking with people as I used to. I spend more time just listening to sounds in my environment, and they usually don't include people's voices. Basically, I just don't get enough practice listening to people talk.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sulfer Infused Behemoth Reveals True Colors

From a story in the NY Times. I'm of two minds about Amazon. Sometimes it's just easier to buy stuff on-line, you don't have to drive anywhere. If you know what you want it can be easier to find on-line than in a huge store. But this relentless push to be ever cheaper and more efficient is pushy and annoying. Criminently, why can't people just be happy with success? Why is it necessary to crush everyone else as well? Smacks of ill-breeding. Via Scott, who has a modest used book store.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Text Editors

I just discovered that Notepad++ doesn't do Linux. I dunno, maybe I already knew that. So now I'm in the market for a new text editor. I have encountered a few features over the years that I find really useful, but most of the stuff that shows up on tool bars is not what I want or need, or for that matter, even understand why anyone would want something like that at all, much less think it's so great and useful and handy that it needs it's own toolbar button. Still, having all this stuff that I don't want doesn't bother me if I could get the stuff I do want.

I still use archaic AEDIT occasionally because it can do things most graphical editor developers have not even deamt of. I tried Emacs once. It was insane. Windows Notepad is too feeble for words. I'm still looking for something decent that will work on both Windows and Linux.

What do I want? Let me just tell you:
  • Instant load time. OK, I will give you one second, but it better be because the OS is being stupid.
  • Automatic color highlighting of programming source code.
  • The ability to use invisible characters (like carriage returns, line feeds and tabs) in search and replace strings.
  • A macro facility.
  • Reliability. I don't want an editor that crashes any time I ask it to do something a little out of the ordinary. I also want the cursor to move in a predictable manor when I press one of the arrow keys, unlike the editor I am using right now (Blogger) to write this.
  • Hard or soft automatic word wrap. Word wrap puts the next word on the next line when you get to the edge of the window. Soft word wrap doesn't change the actual text, it just displays the next word on the next line. Hard word wrap inserts a carriage return. Soft word wrap is good for most text that is going to be displayed on the web. Hard word wrap is what you need for computer program source code and for printing. So it is already in there, I just want access to it. Notepad++ allows you to turn soft wrap on and off. AEDIT is the only editor I know of that does hard word wrap.
Recently I have discovered a couple of features on Notepad++ that I really like:
  • File comparison. Open two files in Notepad++ and click on Compare and it will display the two files in side by side windows, along with a thin window along one side which gives a graphic comparison of which parts are the same and which parts are different. Very handy, and much easier to use than the old command line fc.
  • Export of what you see as html. Kind of like WYSIWYG, except it incorporates the color highlighting, which it already does automatically. Very cool.
If there was anything I wanted, it would be a source code formatting function, like astyle, that would automatically rearrange stuff according to your preferences.

Macros are kind of a problem. AEDIT basically spoiled me. AEDIT has a couple of problems. One is that it is command driven. You can't just start typing, you have to tell it you are going to start typing. It only takes one key, but it is a habit thing, and once you have gotten used to typing without having to press that one key, it is really hard to go back. Or forth. The other is that is old, archaic, only does white text in a small, 25 line black box, and only uses fixed pitch fonts. Never mind that fixed pitch fonts are the only fonts really suitable for use on an electronic display.

The AEDIT macro facility is just awesome. It is helped by not being crippled by having to use a mouse or the stupid ALT or CTL key combinations. Everything is done with the simple character keys. Okay, there is one non-character key you need: the escape key.

This means the macros are just a series of characters. You create them just by typing. No control key or alt key combinations, no mousing, just type, type, type. Plus, you can search for anything you can type, like carriage returns or tabs, just by typing them. You don't have to use some cryptic programmer code to represent what you want. This whole graphical interface hysteria has unleashed an army of moronic mediocrity on the world.

If I could really get whatever I wanted, I would want my text editor of choice integrated with my browser, so that whenever I wanted to write something, it would be done using my text editor, not whatever crippled, clumsy, half-wit editor some enthusiastic nitwit stuck in a web page so people could write comments.

Source code on the web

Pieces, again. I may have hit on a way to put high-lighted source code on the web by using Notepad++ and Google Docs. I was using AEDIT and Google's web site thingy, but that didn't work too well, and any highlighting had to be done by hand.

Notepad++ will highlight your source code, but the real trick is the plugin NPPExporter will export your highlighted source code and turn it into html. As a bonus, it turns your tabs into spaces. Pretty cool.

Google's web site thing allows you to paste html into a page, but it filters it, which removes highlighting, amongst other sins.

Google Doc's allows you to upload the whole html file, as is, and then you can publish it as a web page. Which is how we got this: Pieces, again.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


I have been playing with some simple computer programs lately. My most recent program computes the number of possible different patterns for square tiles. I originally wrote it a couple of years ago when I was mucking about with the Eternity II puzzle. I came across it while I was going through some of my old files and I decided to see if it still ran. It does, but it is very slow, so I decided to see if I could speed it up a little. I was successful at that, but the numbers it displays are hard to read. They are big numbers, and there aren't any commas, so I thought I would write a routine to insert commas in the numbers. I ended up writing two. The first one was graceful and elegant, but it used a boatload of variables and constants and was really rather complicated. After a bit of reflection I came up with a more primitive approach that works just as well and is simpler to boot. I needed a name for this routine. I could have called it something like format_integer_for_display_with_commas, but then I struck on encommulate, which I think is a perfectly wonderful name for this routine. You can find the source code to this program here, in Google Documents.

When you edit the contents of a cell, pressing the cursor keys brings in cell numbers. How do you get it to NOT do that?

Someday I will look for (learn how to use) a better calculator. In the meantime, I get by by using Google spreadsheets. My latest difficulty / annoyance was that I couldn't use the cursors keys inside of a cell. I write a formula, and the first time I write it it is usually wrong, so I want to correct it, which means moving the cursor to the place where I need to delete a number of insert a paranthese, but it doesn't work. I press the left arrow key and it inserts some cell address. "I don't want that" I scream at the stupid machine but it doesn't care, shoot, it doesn't even acknowledge me. Uppity gizmo. So I pull up the help page and I explain my problem (which is where I got the title for this post), and low and behold, I found an answer. I am shocked. 
<< IF the LEFT ARROW KEY etc >>

Without saying what is the right or wrong way of doing things, the behaviour you have described is pretty much exactly the same as other spreadsheet applications (including the old version of GSheets, along with by far the most popular desktop one).  In other words, there are two distinct "modes" of editing in-cell:

1. When you type a new entry in a cell, the arrow keys will not move the cursor within the cell, but rather move to a new cell.  However, if you reposition the cursor with the mouse within the cell, you will then be able to move the cursor with the left & right arrow keys.

2. When you go back to the cell in edit mode (not even considering the formula bar), w\you again by default will be able to move the cursor with the left & right arrow keys.
 By A.P.L. on the Google Help Forum