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:: Slashdotted three times! ::

After testing the VoIP Blaster (see below) last night, Anders scooped me on Slashdot. Hope this gets better software written. My correspondence with the Fobbit Phone author goes unanswered.

Update: via some unknown path to this post, the Fobbit author contacted me and we've had fruitful discussion. Points for the loose-yet-directed coupling of the Web.

Link | 24 April 2002 | in Gear | Comments (1)


:: Programming Python ::

I finally accepted Python into my brain.

Nothing is going to match the three-line Perl haiku that do scads of work in a Unix environment; however, coming from a CS background where I fell in love with Eiffel (1989) and waited for the world to catch up (never did), Python's clean syntax, programming-in-the-large-friendly features and real object support appeal greatly.

Reasons I held out/finally caved:

  • Nobody's going to tell me how to indent! (bad Occam experience)

  • The language has matured, my minor nits are gone and it's a joy to behold. (I have trouble finding the edges of dense Python without scoping operators/keywords, but the pattern-matching has to kick-in sometime.)

  • There is lineage before us and a clear path to community-based expansion.
  • ... and the most important aspect to making such a big switch, the library (both batteries included and third-third-party) is getting to be high, wide and self-perpetuating.

Despite Paul Graham's interesting notion of the language power curve, I'd rather be locked down with a syntactic and grammatical straight-jacket, so I make fewer dumb mistakes and concentrate on logic. I was often hanging in the wind with Perl, giving up on any script larger than a thousand lines. Python makes many seasoned, clever choices along these lines. Further, I had to make the tough decision to program web pages in Java (vs a scripting language) as it alone provided a world of sane exception handling in fast-moving, many-new-hands-in-the-templates web applications. We have a choice, now.

Which brings me to the point of this blurb. I highly recommend Mark Pilgrim's diveintopython. It reminds me of my experience with Perl. In the early 90s, I thought I'd try out this cool consolidation of awk, sed and portable UNIX API, Perl, needing to build a client's web site. I picked up Programming Perl (1st edition), and soon realized it was an exemplar of tutorial for experienced programmers. Fast-paced description married to mind-meld examples. diveintopython has the same feel. Using different tactics and forward a decade of methodology, Mark strikes a perfect density with nimble conceptual positioning, direct links to language/library references and advanced topic examples to keep the hardcore monster fueled.

A lazy weekend of reading, a few nights practice converting a few dozen Perl scripts, and I was up and running. I failed trying to find the perfect Py web application environment, but I'll get to that later.

Link | 23 April 2002 | in Coding | Comments (0)


:: VoIP the old-fashioned way, Creative's VoIP Blaster ::

I don't care about video. I don't care about presence. [OK, I do a little--] I don't want to sit in front of the dang computer with cheap crossover phone technology. I just want to talk to the ten scattered folks with whom I run up the phone bill, with comfortable tech, over my expensive broadband. Is that too much to ask?

Solution: Get a two-line house phone, buy one of these ($15, 2 for $20), run this fledgling software on your 24x7 Windows/Linux/xBSD box/server/silo, and talk to Mom by MaBell (line 1) or your buddy in Carjackistan (line 2, using said jack+software) for free. Same phone. Same answering machine. How does Creative's OEM make money on this?

This is brilliant. I tell you what.

A few issues of maturity. The box can set a phone ringing and read DTMF touchtones. No caller ID signals, bummer. A built-in codec does G.732.1, for fairly good voice compression (6.3 Kbps, at the high-end). As sound gets encoded/decoded on the device and no opensource codec seems to exist, multi-way conferencing will be difficult. Payload encryption should be no sweat. The Fobbit software is a great start (cheers to the author), but I'd rather see a wxPython front-end, with user-level software control otherwise. Another project is building Linux Open H.323 support.

Link | 21 April 2002 | in Gear | Comments (0)


Recommended
sites & logs

· Astronomy POD
· NY Times Cartoons
· ...

Section links
· Hack the Planet
· Web Voice
· Paul Graham articles
· diveintomark
· Joel on Software
· Long Bets
· Raph Levien
· rebelutionary
· Lambda the Ultimate
· Adam Langley
· sweetcode

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Friends
· Anders Brownworth
· Ed Homich
· J. Dean Brederson

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“since feeling is first / who pays any attention / to the syntax of things / will never wholly kiss you; ...” — e.e. cummings [Ed: mark well his lies]
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