So… C++? Delphi? Markov Chains?

I have a line on a job that involves porting some code that was originally written in R, then in Delphi, and now the researcher wants it re-written in C++, turned into multi-processor/multi-computer friendly (using MPI?), and turned into a plug-in for R. The program as it is now is pretty primitive – he apparently just puts a bunch of parameters into the actual Delphi code then recompiles and runs, and it outputs into a data file. Obviously the first step would be to have a wrapper program that gets the parameters from a data file, and later a wrapper that gets the parameters from however R passes them to plugins.

It’s been a while since I used C++, and the language has changed a lot since then. Name spaces, STL, Boost, auto_ptr, all this stuff is new to me. It’s going to take some frantic reading to get up to speed. Even worse, I have to read the existing code, which means learning a bit of Delphi/Pascal. And I’m going to have to find a decent IDE for C++ – although the consensus on StackOverflow seems to be to go back to the way I’ve always worked until I started using Eclipse last year: gvim, make, gdb, and a web browser open to the man pages.

Even better, the job would mean working from home. The dogs will be happy about that.

First sign of the end times

I knew the Digital Cinema project that I’d been on for 6 years was doomed. But I didn’t know how doomed until the last week or so, when former colleagues on that project have suddenly started responding to the LinkedIn invitations to connect that I sent them a year ago. I’m guessing there is a lot of resume polishing and network building going on there right now. I’d say “Poor bastards”, but I’m in no better shape right now, except I did all that 6 months ago.

Got a Google Wave account

First impressions on Google Wave:

  1. Who thought that bringing back OpenLook’s “elevator” scroll bars was a good idea? Every user interface expert in the world said they were a bad idea then, and they’re still a bad idea. Actually these aren’t exactly like OpenLook’s scroll bars – instead they move some times, and sometimes they don’t, and they’re just weird.
  2. Why does Google Gears say it’s installed on my browser, but the actual Gears functionality (like being able to drag and drop pictures on Wave) not work? I tried some of the demo programs on the Gears web site and they don’t work either. Is there something I’m missing?

I wish there were more of us on Wave. It looks like a great tool for building project docs in a way that’s less likely to turn stale than just putting up a wiki and saying “update it everybody”.

Why, Google, Why?

I’ve been banging my head against this one for over a day now. My loop that was supposed to run when the value that came back from the cookie was null wasn’t running. It was only after exhausting every other option that I discovered that in GWT (Google Web Toolkit), Cookies.getCookie(cookieName) doesn’t return null when the cookie isn’t found, it returns the string “null”. You know, four characters, starts with the letter “n”. WTF? That’s just plain bizarre.

TEDx Rochester

Hey, it’s been a couple of weeks of interesting conferences. Last week I went to Toronto for Stack Overflow Dev Days, and today I went to TEDx Rochester. (Hey, I did blog about Dev Days, didn’t I? Or did I just write about it on I’ll have to check that later.)

If you’re at all interested in the Internet, and the amazing ways it can bring people together to talk about amazing things, you probably have heard of TED. If you haven’t, head over to and watch all the videos. But don’t do that right now, because if you do you’ll never come back and I’ll just be sitting there waiting for you. TEDx is sort of an attempt to do what TED does at a local level. It’s not organized by TED, but they’re allowed to show TED videos as long as they don’t charge any money and they don’t use it for advertising. So what TEDx Rochester did was get some really amazingly interesting people from here in Rochester, and have them give talks, and every now and then they showed one of the “real TED” talks on the video screen. I think there were 6 or 7 real “talks” and 2 or 3 videos. I wasn’t really keeping count. The talks went from 2pm to 4pm and from 5pm to 7pm. There was food provided at the 4pm break.

Like any conference where there is only one speaker track, there were speakers that I found really interesting, and ones that bored my socks off. There were a couple that I really wondered why they were up there, like the woman who seemed to be showing us her life story and resume, but not really talking about how she did things or why, or the not very good improv comedy troupe. And a couple that didn’t hold much interest for me but I could see they were well done, like the Brazilian guitar guy and maybe the weird artsy dance-like movement thing.

The only real downers were that

  • the food at the break was placed at only one table (as opposed to three tables for a smaller crowd at DevDays) so the line was horrendous
  • like every conference in the world these days, the wifi SUCKED
  • and the woman next to me with the really bad breath who, during anything remotely technical and therefore interesting to me, would, every 5 minutes or so, sigh loudly and then slam herself back and forth in her chair, moving my chair and the next couple on the row. Yeah, my butt was getting pretty sore by then too, but I didn’t disturb and entire row of people because of it.

But those were minor and pretty par for the course. The conference was great and I can’t wait for next years.