Hope for the Camel’s Second Hump

Today I offer some advice for those currently staring down the barrel of failing midterm grades for CS and Engineering students.

Episode 7 – XLS, XLSX What is Difference?

Today I cover a small “oops” from the UK health center, and extend some thoughts on its relationship to “Real Programming”.

Episode 3 – To College or not to College?

For new and aspiring developers – in this episode I answer the #1 question asked from future coders – should I go to college? Pros and Cons of a college degree and the University system.

Contents: The Cold Truth of Job Seeking. Beware of For-Profit systems. Selecting a Degree. The actual meaning of a Computer Science degree.

Episode 2 – The Decline of Usenet

We return to the early 80s and 90s to discuss the rise of consumer access to Usenet and the following decline of the service and its rise to the ranks of the undead.


  • Show introduction
  • Merging of networks
  • SPAM, SPAM, more SPAM
  • A brief analysis of the “Decline”




  • Music by Audionautix.com – Creative Commons licensed music and commercial options available.

On COVID Research…

Over the past day, I’ve seen multiple articles (three, four, five?) from different people posted on COVID. Generally, posted with an agenda of either orange-man-bad or lizard-people-left-wing-libral-conspiracy. I’m not gonna get into specifics of these debates. I try VERY hard to keep my life positive and mostly non-political. Personally, I’m trying to wear a mask out in public, keep hand sanitizer in the car, and am actively avoiding any/all social situations. Biggest risk I’m taking these days is occasional to-go food and potentially get a beard trim from my barber after the 18th – which I’m only considering because I know how fastidious he is.

Instead, I’d like to talk about basic “Scientific” literacy. Long standing crisis like COVID move too slow for the media to cover on a 24-hour basis. Research takes months or years if done right. Building a simulation or model isn’t like an episode of CSI or Numb3rs. If you see an article talking about “new study says” or “study claims” or generally anything “study” related – take it with a grain of salt. A number of researches are rushing to publish “findings” right now, and the news will happily take those that match THEIR viewpoint, dress them up, and push them as some sort of huge revelation. They aren’t. Don’t confuse the media’s search for content as in-the-field development.

Coming from the standpoint as someone that’s actively developed forecasting models and lately done lots of cloud processing with spatial data: models are hard. They are also limited. I’ve seen multiple recent posts on conflicting models saying conflicting things from preprint papers waiting to be peer reviewed and published. Without thorough review of the collected data, methodology, and analysis these “reports” are near worthless. In data science, epidemiology has had something of a gnarly reputation as a weak science: poor documentation of method, lack of reproducible results, significant examples of p-hacking, poorly documented data sources, “studies” consisting of largely anecdotal data or retrospective with significant bias, etc… Once we get out of today’s weeds, I’m hopeful that we’ll see some better development with increased interest and more realization of the importance of the field. But – if I’m objective, at this point, the “models” have been mediocre at best.

TL;DR – Please, please, PLEASE, stop shouting at each-other over SCIENTIST SAYS THING. We all have our own risk tolerance and concern over relatives or the economy. Chill, sit down, and don’t be a douche. Realize that personal space is now 6′ for a lot of us. You’re gonna see people wearing masks – they may even be Orange-Man voters. If someone isn’t wearing a mask – maybe they have a respiratory issue or some reason they can’t / aren’t. If you favor the shutdown or reopen – realize there are some REALLY good points on both sides and that it’s OK to disagree.

C++ Needs a New GUI Framework

The landscape of GUI C++ development is pain – native Windows gets third tier support from Microsoft, and Android actively discourages native API. Linux is better with Qt and GTK, but GTK on Windows is rough. My go to choice for years has been Qt.

Lately though, it seems Trolltech Nokia Digia The Qt Company has an active dislike of their users. I’ve brought up the idea of Qt at my day job, but the word is they won’t cut a deal amenable to requirements. So we mush on. There’s lots of homebrew garbage out there – especially if you start looking at widget sets on top of Unity. Hey, why not yet another CSS Browser?

In the end – maybe it’s just that the demand for native code isn’t there. Web front-ends are all the rage, and electron apps can do wonders. Why not take a gig of ram for a text editor and chat client – RAM is cheap these days. Still, there’s something hugely missing in development work when you start looking at the interface between C++ and whatever Javascript engine du jour you’ll be running on.

Qt is almost there for so much. Unless you want to make money or distribute an app with a GPLv3 incompatible license or environment. Given Microsoft’s amazing collection of freeware tools, you might expect a license for commercial development to be reasonable. You’d be wrong. The keepers of Qt licensing want $5k+ per developer. The community shouted. They offered a ‘small business’ package for anyone with less than $100k revenue. The community shouted again. Now, they’ve upped that to $250k. Just don’t look at the fine print if you want to distribute embedded works.

What would make a nice GUI library?

  • Some sort of DOM / Canvas model that is intuitive and easily interacts with C++
  • Scripting support with C++ tie-in
  • Stable API that plays well with “standard” C++

Hit those buttons, don’t charge me an arm and a leg, preferable be open source – GPL + commercial would be ok by me, and we’ll talk. Maybe it’s time for a Motif comeback, I miss you X11 days.

Old Man Js 1: Too Many Tools

As I dive more into web programming in an effort to become stronger at the front-end, I figure I’ll drop some notes for any other enterprising embedded / server programmers wanting to join in.

Plodding along on the internet, I’m rapidly discovering that the choice of libraries seems to expose on to an endless array of different methods of building / compiling your web-app. PHP seems much more straightforward in comparison. The first, and most confusing element to me was ‘nodejs’ itself.

My backend is all Python, so what’s with requiring this NodeJS Javascript web server? It’s not a web server, it’s a scripting environment. Well, that makes a bit more sense.

Ok, but why do I need a Javascript environment to use these toolkits? Well, the utilities to compile JS are written for that environment.

Wait, I thought JS was interpreted by the browser? True, but you want something to maintain all the dependencies and automate things like minification and creating map files.

5 minutes in to reading a basic tutorial on several different frameworks, I’ve already had to discover new terminology for nodejs / npm. And, at this point, I haven’t even started down the alphabet soup of different environments:

  • Yarn vs. Npm vs. Bower – Ok, we’ve got multiple competing package managers here to get going… And each has it’s own quirks. Maybe the best answer is to stick with npm since it came with the environment? Crud, looks like these tutorials use yarn.
  • Gulp vs. Grunt. – Ok, so now we start to discover that inside this JS environment are apparently new environments for running tasks… Ok, not too much a problem.
  • Webpack vs. Browserify – Well, these are what I installed this node thing for anyway aren’t they? What am I getting here?

Annoyingly, each JS developer has their own ‘special sauce’ combination of components that yield something for the back-end developer. The larger the application (and the more 3rd party utilities one brings in), the more likely it seems one will need to go ‘off script’ from recommended configurations provided. That doesn’t even begin to raise the shear number of potential library combinations that may (or may not) be tested.

I’m trying to like this Javascript thing, but it’s really reminding of DLL hell days in windows.