Michael Zucchi

 B.E. (Comp. Sys. Eng.)

  also known as zed
  & handle of notzed


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Thursday, 12 April 2012, 17:11

Worn out dealing with crap

Boy dealing with JavaScript on browsers is quite soul destroying.

If you could just stick with one environment it would probably be bearable to some extent, but even then you just have to add all this crap and worry about tedious details that just aren't required for local applications.

The other guy on the project has so far seemed pretty lost in the whole thing too, as all he has ever programmed in is some micky-soft visual something. Like, ever. And he's been coding just as long as I have.

So i've been dragged in trying to help, or at least occupied trying to keep him focussed. It doesn't help that he's off making sure it runs on IE and fucking around with junk toy web servers and visual studio even though it's far removed from what we actually need. Somehow he's managed to pull in 5+ javascript libraries and is doing stuff that could be done with a few dozen lines of plain code. Seems obsessed with using jQuery even though he is using it in strange ways and doesn't even need it to start with.

I'm kind of not sure exactly that problem that jQuery is trying to solve to start with: trying to make javascript easier for non-programmers familiar with CSS and XSLT perhaps? i.e. certainly not me. It just seems to add more work for a little gain in typed characters. It talks about separating logic from presentation but in reality it's all about manipulating the DOM: i.e. something I would imagine you would generally want to stay away from, as it's a really shit data structure to navigate, and it's all about the presentation layer.

I guess I have to keep reminding myself, most javascript is authored by people who are not programmers by trade.

This is one reason I haven't been hacking much lately.

Oh fun, so now blogger wants to pop up windows to allow a preview does it? I don't think so tim. How strange, it worked ok a couple of days ago.

Tagged hacking, rants.
Thursday, 05 April 2012, 20:38

On green fruit.

I've noticed a trend lately in retail fruit: it's just not ripe when picked.

It's obvious with tomatoes, because despite the bright red colour (easily changed using ethylene, which is how they naturally redden themselves when picked so i'm not too fussed bout that) have absolutely no flavour and the texture is unpleasantly foul. This year I performed a test on a green tomato I knocked off the plant - I put it in a bowl with red ones and waited until it went fully red (about a week - it was a pretty hard green). Even that one, which I knocked of incredibly green, tasted far better than the bought ones, so god knows how green they pick them or how long they keep them before we see them.

For limes (even lemons), tahitian limes should be light green/even turning yellow, smooth skin, soft and full of tart but not bitter juice, not dark green, rough skin, hard, with difficult to extract bitter juice - that means it wasn't ripe when picked. Most of the time they've been picked so green they have barely a couple of teaspoons of bland juice in them. Even kaffir limes - which you don't normally use the juice for - I knocked a few off my plant today which are nicely ripe - more juice in these than the tahitian limes I bought last time (although the taste is a bit unpleasant for me so I don't use it for eating, or haven't found a way to yet).

Cucumbers - they're so green they don't even have seeds yet. And as a result the texture is too hard, the skin too soft, and the taste too bitter - and they spoil very quickly. Last year I picked some old cucumbers that I kept growing for seeds. A fairly thick skinned variety. I kind of forgot about them even though they were sitting on the kitchen counter next to a rice cooker (in the sun most of the hours of winter) - about 6 months later one started to rot and I chucked it in the ground where it grew.

The same for button squash. A couple of years ago I had a ton of them, and when picked just as the skin loses its rubbery feel they tasted a lot better, were a lot bigger (above tennis ball sized) and lasted much longer when picked. They were nice enough just to eat fresh. Yet the ones in the shops are picked about a 4 days too early (which makes them super-green as they ripen quickly), are overpriced, wont keep and taste so bitter you need to cook them to make them palatable.

Seedless watermelon? They've just been picked before they're even ripe so the seeds (and sugars) haven't developed yet (sister was told this by a watermelon grower): i.e. bland tasteless textureless crap.

It's obvious some of this is to try to keep the product looking good for market, particularly when it's then kept for months in cold storage. Some of it is for pest control. But the weird ones is where it is for customer expectations: e.g. the button squash, limes, seedless watermelon, and cucumbers.

And then there's the other extreme which are to cater to market desires - over-sweet varieties of fruit that just don't taste very nice and can't keep because they don't have enough acid in them. e.g. strawberries - usually giant, bland hollow things that simply taste like shit. I have some strawberries growing and they're not much better either - usually tiny, and as soon as they get ripe something eats them or they seem to just dissolve into nothingness.

Or mandarines - giant floppy skinned fruit that's easy to peel, seedless, but quickly starts to taste bad because the fruit doesn't have enough acid to keep it fresh. My mandarine tree has a huge crop again this year after a couple of years of sfa - fairly small, smooth very thin skinned fruit. But it's fantastically tart, loaded with sugar, and juicy - almost like a valencia orange, and last forever on the tree. Something I can definitely put up with a few seeds for.

About the only thing still reliably good is a nice big granny smith apple - good flavour, texture, and they last really well. Pity even eating small amounts of fresh apples just gives me a belly-ache and nausea (I don't know whether it's psychosomatic or because of the acid: when I was staying in Mexico city with Federico they didn't seem to eat anything until mid-afternoon, one day I was so hungry I had an apple on an empty stomach and felt very unpleasantly nauseous for the rest of the day - and I haven't been able to eat apples without a similar reaction since).

Tagged cooking, horticulture, rants.
Thursday, 05 April 2012, 11:29

Wow, javascript sux.

So I had to dirty myself and work on a bit of javascript myself. I needed to find out what communication protocols and techniques are available to me, and how the jax-rs implementation handles various things.

e.g. I needed to pass the parameters derived from a dynamically created user interface, plus some other structures such as an array of objects to the server.

I went with a form as then I don't need custom marshalling code on the browser end, but then I needed to manually encode/decode the array. It didn't take too many LOC to do it in the end, but it took a long time to find out what those LOCs were (albeit most of the time trying to work out how to access the app server jaxb context and how to use it to decode some json embedded in a form field).

But what surprises me about 'javascript' is just how un-script like it is. i.e. it only provides fairly low level of functionality and one has to code a lot of stuff directly. And that's before you get to some of the nasty per-browser differences. So because of both you end up with a pile of half-arsed helper api's which should really be part of the browser - and would be if the vendors could stop stabbing themselves in the back at every turn.

e.g. although you can submit a form, if you want to submit it silently you need to manually create the HTTP data packet yourself ... which is something you don't even get close to having to worry about at the server end anymore and haven't had to for years.

And the other problem is that clearly most people who author javascript just aren't coders, or aren't very good ones. So many of the solutions one finds on the net are full of bad advice, misinformation, or are just pretty much crap examples as a direct result of the blind leading the blind. So perhaps my previous issue is just a matter of finding the wrong blog post or stack overflow question ... but who can tell? (On stack overflow, it seems to be starting to suffer from the wiki-disease a bit, anal 'save the children' do-gooder watch-dogs who want to get thingy about asking precisely the right type of question in precisely the right location: I hope this attitude gets killed quickly as such crap can rapidly deteriorate).

The language itself is ok enough I guess - although anyone wedded to IDE auto-completion (like my work-mate) is lost due to it's dynamic nature, but the browser supplied run-time platform is a total joke. This is pretty much what I suspected and wrote about previously but to have it confirmed is no point of joy.

I'm still left convinced that Apple's embrace of 'HTML5 will save the world' for example is just a cynical part of their marketing campaign against Adobe, and additionally an avenue for people to buy their hardware, realise it just isn't up to the job, and force them to write custom applications then tied exclusively to their proprietary platform. The greedy pig-fuckers.

Tagged rants.
Thursday, 05 April 2012, 09:53

The weekly ups and downs

So I noticed in the analytics graphs an obvious pattern emerge on my google code pages, which is probably due to the hit-rate getting high enough to rise above the noise (the point of which incidentally coincides with when I put up a test release of jjmpeg).

(the numbers have been truncated)

The pattern seems to have been there before, but now it's glaringly obvious. And that is that people are hitting the site only on during working days in the USA (there aren't enough hits yet to determine if there is a trend in the hours too).

So I wonder what that means; it is just working people looking for some free code? Students doing class-work? It seems to suggest that hobby programmers are probably not that interested in it; or that the vast majority only hack during the week-days (which i don't think likely, not to this extent). The only communications i've received have been from cost-free-code snarfers and students, so at least that data point correlates - although the sample is so small it doesn't amount to hard data.

Well whilst i'm on statistics of the site I'll dump a few other observations:

Tagged biographical, philosophy, rants.
Wednesday, 04 April 2012, 16:11

The new blogger

So just this minute I was fortunate enough to have the obviously-ever-increasingly-evil google force me to use the new blogger interface as they've been threatening to do for a few months.

One side effect is that if you visit the blogger dashboard with javascript disabled you get a completely blank screen. Nice one fellas.

Other than that, it's mostly a pointless bit of re-learning that I could have done without. The old blogger GUI was pretty fugly but the new one is hardly the madonna's tit either. The way the 'Save' button changes whilst it auto-saves is surprisingly distracting and very annoying.

Oh and I forgot about that really tedious two-step extra-tab preview. Because I unfortunately had 'convert newlines to <br>' set when I created the blog (or maybe that was the only option back then update now it seems to strip <br> tags and convert to newline, so maybe i can change it now without screwing up all the old posts) I have to check newlines around every image or list or pre-formatted block all the time. Having a tab switch and a re-load makes the preview feature harder to use (i really couldn't give a flying fuck about the actual style-sheet used, I force fonts and sizes so I know nobody else sees what I see anyway).

Only plus is that the 'edit' button is back when i read the blog - that vanished a few months ago for no apparent reason.

Might be time to revisit 'wanki-ee' - maybe all that JavaEE stuff came at a fortuitous juncture after-all. Well, maybe if i had "another day every day" at any rate, as it is there is just not enough time to fix everything wrong in this world.

Tagged rants.
Wednesday, 04 April 2012, 12:02

Web N Shit ... N Stuff.

Hmm, so i've been poking away at webifiying[sic] our client's application.

Overall i'm making pretty good progress: worked out the async ajax stuff / XMLHttpRequest, 'hidden' form submission, RESTful resource mapping, handling long-running tasks and so on. The Enterprise bean stuff is pretty good, and particularly things like JMS, all the bean types, jax-rs, and jaxb. The latter two helping to hide some of the horrible shit going on under the bonnet.

But I dunno ... it's just boring. I probably would've found this stuff neat 5 years ago, and had a puppy over it 15 years ago, but now it's still enough of a pain in the arse having to deal with that given a choice I wouldn't be doing it.

Probably help if i'd had more than 4 hours sleep each day this week ...

Tagged hacking, java, java ee.
Tuesday, 03 April 2012, 15:23


So i've mostly just been using my kobo for reading lately (not a lot, but i'm usually so tired I cna barely go 5 pages before i fall asleep) - and it's crappy software is giving me the shits, particularly when reading text files. I'm not sure I could do much better, but at least I could try ...

It even got me riled up enough to have another go at working out suspend: but again I had no luck. I just can't tell how it's going into suspend mode. If I could work out that I would have enough to keep me happy and I would do some more work on ReaderZ.

But without it i'm just stuck and it just pisses me off.

Update So it occurred to me later that the problem might be more related to the wifi adaptor since I'm always doing this stuff from telnet. If I try to suspend using /sys/ it never recovers and I need to reset the machine.

Tagged hacking, kobo, readerz.
Monday, 02 April 2012, 07:21

Easy Burmese 'tofu'

So yesterday I managed to get away from the machine for most of the day. Actually I got a bit sunburnt pulling out weeds and doing some gardening. Also mowed the lawn and did some work on the compost pile. And planted some winter vegetable seeds in pots: I have never had any luck whatsoever with winter vegetables (if I ever get the seeds to germinate they struggle and usually get eaten to death by bugs), but maybe this time ...

Well, I've been watching SBS's latest food show lately - Luke Nguyen's Greater Meekong - with all the advertising they fill each half hour slot with now it really needs to be a full 1 hour show - but Luke is a good presenter and although the editing could be a bit better he always finds interesting food and people who want to share it.

This week he had some chick-pea 'tofu' soup thing from Burma. The soup itself looked a bit heavy for my liking but although i'm no vegetarian I'm partial to some of the fare they like. I also like to learn about ethnically or geographically important staple grains. Actually it's a bit of a bummer looking for recipes with such ingredients because all you come across is vegatarian and vegan nutters who are looking for a filling main meal - not a tasty snack or accompaniment. It also involved a great deal of work - from a stone grinder, to muslin cloths to a giant stirred pot.

Because i'm lazy, the overnight soaking of the chick-peas seemed enough work for me, so instead I just blended the fuck out of them. I first tried topping up with water but that wasn't enough and I lost track of just how much I added. But I blended for at least 10 minutes and ended up with something akin to cream at the end of it. Enough blending that you could barely taste the fibrous material you otherwise end up with.

Then I cooked it on low with a good dose of salt and a bit of tumeric (as recipe I found suggested). At this point it was pretty much just making polenta. The old man used to make that and toast it on the AGA (which doubled as our only source of hot water as kids) all the time, and we all used to turn our noses up at it; and unfortunately I never learnt to make it before he died, so I had to learn how to make it by trial and error. It's also not something I make very often so I usually forget the finer details ... but I guess 'stir constantly until you're sick of it' pretty much sums it up. It didn't go quite as hard as the polenta i've made, but then again maybe it had more water in it. By the time it turned into a bubbling lava-pit my arms were tired so I decanted it into a cotton-lined dish and let it cool.

It looks and smells like polenta but tastes a lot better. Texturally it was fine: soft and creamy with no hint of fibrousness, I'm sure not straining it affected the result but what I ended up with was quite ok.

I diced and fried some up and it was pretty much like tofu in texture on the outside, moist on the inside, and tasted ok just on it's own (closest flavour I know would probably something like a papadum). Tofu isn't something i'd normally buy since it's pretty bland and I just don't know how to select it. The pre-cooked stuff is dry in addition to bland.

Since I also made up some hummus with some of the chick peas, I had a bit of a anti-pasto arvo snack. Some olives, hummus, biscuits, fried tofu, chilli sauces, and some fresh chillies as well (and beer and wine of course).

Amongst the chillies I picked I scored a triple-habanero from the garden ... I get doubles fairly often but this is the first triple. Unfortunately my habanero crop isn't so great this year, but I noticed I still have a few hundred (~5litres) in the freezer from last year so i've started trying to use them more often - but as they are so potent, I'm sure I will still end up with more than a winter's supply worth!

Tagged cooking, horticulture.
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