tim: Mike Slackernerny thinking "Scientific progress never smelled better" (science)
A work of parody by Tim Chevalier, based on "Hackers and Painters" by Paul Graham.

The following is a work of fiction.

When I finished grad school in computer science, I decided I had just wasted eight years, and went to firefighter school to become a firefighter. A lot of people seemed surprised that someone interested in computers would also be interested in fighting fires. They seemed to think that hacking and firefighting were very different kinds of work: that hacking was an inner-directed pursuit of personal pleasure (a little like doing drugs, but slightly more socially acceptable), while firefighting involves self-sacrifice and taking risks for the benefit of others.

Both of these images are wrong. Hacking and firefighting have a lot in common. In fact, of all the different types of people I've known, hackers and firefighters are among the most alike.

What hackers and firefighters have in common is that they both like to jump into situations that most sensible people would steer clear of. Along with doctors, nurses, and traffic cops, what hackers and firefighters are trying to do, at least in part, is save other people from the consequences of their poor life decisions (without passing judgment on those decisions; or, at least, doing so quietly among friends after one gets the job done). They're not doing research per se, though if in the course of trying to mitigate disasters they discover some new technique, so much the better.

Hackers need to understand the theory of computation about as much as firefighters need to understand thermodynamics. You need to know how to calculate time and space complexity and about Turing completeness. You might also want to remember at least the concept of a state machine, in case you have to write a parser or a regular expression library. Firefighters in fact have to remember a good deal more about physics and chemistry than that.

I've found that the best sources of ideas are not the other fields that have the word "computer" in their names, but the other fields inhabited by public servants. Firefighting has been a much richer source of ideas than the theory of computation.
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tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (working)
Well, this is a bit of a break from the usual kinds of rants here, but I couldn't find anything online from anyone who has done this. Maybe no one else has a PowerPC Mac anymore.

Should you need to install the current version of the Haskell Platform (version 2.0.0) on a PowerPC Mac running Mac OS 10.5.8 (no guarantees that it'll work on other versions) that has no pre-installed version of GHC, here's what you need to do:

  1. Install XCode 3.1 if you don't have it. To do this, you need an account at http://developer.apple.com which is free, but asks a lot of annoying questions. Give wrong answers if possible. The actual link to download XCode 3.1 for PPC is somewhere on the site (at least as of 1/15/2011), but requires a lot of digging -- or you could just google.
  2. Download the binary bundle for GHC 6.10.4 at http://haskell.org/ghc/download_ghc_6_10_4#macosxppc -- there is also a binary bundle for GHC 7.0.1, but the Haskell Platform 2.0.0 won't build with GHC 7.0.1, only with GHC 6.12.3. (I tried.) There are no PPC binary bundles for anything greater than 6.10.4 and less than 7.0.1 AFAICT.
  3. Install the binary bundle. The included instructions are fine.
  4. The Haskell Platform requires GHC 6.12.3 to build. So now you'll build 6.12.3 from source using the copy of GHC 6.10.4 that you just installed. Download the source tarball at http://haskell.org/ghc/download_ghc_6_12_3#sources and follow the instructions.
  5. The build may fail with a linker error. But that's okay! It's the stage2 build that fails, and you only need the stage1 build to bootstrap GHC. Set up your PATH so that $FOO/inplace/bin/ comes first -- where $FOO is the top-level directory for your GHC 6.12.3 build.
  6. Download the Haskell Platform source tarball from http://hackage.haskell.org/platform/mac.html -- but instead of just doing ./configure, do ./configure --with-ghc=$FOO/inplace/bin/ghc-stage1 --with-ghc-pkg=$FOO/inplace/bin/ghc-pkg. After that, you should be able to do make; make install like it says.

(I'm writing some of these commands from memory. YMMV.)

It's just that easy!
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Are you running an open-source project? Are you looking for an example to look to as to how to make sure your users don't submit bug reports? Look no further than the OpenOffice community:
"SBA->Mrosin: And PLEASE make it short this time. We're here to work on a software [sic] and not to read books."
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (ignorance)
Why I want to set the entire open-source community on fire sometimes: the comments on this post and this post. (The latter of which is from one of my ex-bosses although I ran into it randomly, w00.)

Apparently, if you suggest that using a picture of a woman's bare ass on the title slide of a technical talk might not be the best idea if you want to make women feel welcome in CS, that is ~censorship~. I also can't decide whether it's those comments are the most special, or the ones asking whether also including pictures of naked men in the slides would have made it OK. Also see: examples of more or less every tactic mentioned in the link to "Derailing for Dummies" I posted before this.

I guess it's another entry for the Male Programmer Privilege Checklist. Also, I feel like I need to burn some more reddit karma, brb.


tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Tim Chevalier

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