For people who like to make things

The Most Dangerous Programming Errors

Streams at the Great Smoky Mountains
Streams at the Great Smoky Mountains

The Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE) has released their list of Top 25 Most Dangerous Programming Errors. This list and the explanations of the errors are very instructive and should help both novice and expert programmers.  If you’re a developer, I strongly urge you to read this document and make sure you understand the concepts it covers.

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The Tautline Hitch Knot

The Tautline Hitch
The Tautline Hitch

Humans have been using rope as a tool for thousands of years, even before we started recording history.  Knots and rope-tying is one of the few technologies that have persisted essentially unchanged in all of the known human history.  As you can imagine, there are different knots for different applications, and in this series of posts, I would like to share with you the knots that I’ve found most useful both at home and outdoors. more ...

Navigating the Directory Stack in ‘bash’

If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time jumping from project to project in a Linux shell.  I find that I have to switch back and forth between directories.  The bash shell has commands to maintain a stack of directories.  I’ve written some functions that use these utilities to make directory navigation easier. I’ve found these functions very useful, and perhaps you will too. Let’s see them in action first with some examples, and then look at the code: more ...

Follow up: Google Admits Buzz Was Only Tested Internally’

In yesterday’s article about Google Buzz, I guessed that “the problem was that the population for whom the system was designed wasn’t necessarily the only population actually using the system.”  I gave Google the benefit of the doubt:

I am certain Google tested their application thoroughly.  They’ve been known to do extensive usability tests for the seemingly tiniest of changes to their web site.  But even the most well-implemented tests are incomplete if they’re not performed on a statistically representative sample of the audience.

But today, the BBC reported that Google has admitted that they only tested Buzz internally, and bypassed their regular rigorous testing procedures — possibly in an attempt to get it out the door as soon as possible. I’ll let the pundits decide if it did more harm than good to the firm, but it’s a warning to other software developers: skipping testing can lead to embarrassing failures.

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Sometimes Testing Isn’t Enough

A bee.  Buzzing.
A bee. Buzzing.

In the first few days after the release of Google Buzz many people (including myself) criticized Google for exposing their users’ private information.  This was a couple of weeks after Apple got a lot flak for their unfortunately-named iPad, and the same week that we heard reports of a woman who broke up with her boyfriend after finding some suggestive text messages on his cell phone - messages that came pre-loaded on the phone.  I think that all these cases were not caused by a lack testing, but by testing the wrong audience.  Let’s examine these three cases and see what we can learn from them: more ...

Why Should I Use CPAN?

I came across some comments made about an open source program that I had written in perl.  The user was complaining about how he couldn’t get it to install.  The reason was that the program relies on other modules from the archive of open source perl software known as CPAN (Comprehensive Perl Archive Network), and one of them failed to install. more ...

Camera Clock Correction After The Fact

I had this dilemma a few days ago: I had taken almost 4,000 pictures during a vacation 12 months ago. The vacation was in Asia (two continents over), and the time on my camera was wrong. I was importing the pictures into Adobe’s Lightroom, and wanted them to have the correct time just in case I wanted to know when in the day certain pictures were taken. I thought of looking for pictures taken during sunset, and then using solar calendars to figure out when sunset was at a certain landmark on a certain day of the year. But then I had a better idea: more ...

What Is An F-Stop?

In a previous article we looked at how lenses work.  We learned about the focal length.  Today we’ll focus on camera lenses and what the term f-stop means.

The term f-stop is a ratio.  It has no dimensions.  You don’t measure an f-stop in meters, inches, kilograms or even degrees Fahrenheit.  An f-stop is the ratio of two distances.  It’s the ratio of the focal length of a lens to its diameter.  In figure 1, the f-stop is f/d _where _f is the focal length and _d _is the diameter. more ...

Dryer Lint Fire Starters

One of my favorite activities in spring, summer and even early autumn is sitting outdoors by a campfire.  For safety reasons, outside my home I can’t make a campfire on the ground, so I use a standalone fire pit.  The older children, as well as my nephews and nieces like learning how to start a campfire without matches.  I usually use metal and flint. more ...