If you’re going to procrastinate, procrastinate with the best!

As Tucows’ new resident developer schmoozer, one of my job responsibilities is “building community”. That’s a rather touchy-feely crunchy-granola primal-scream-session-is-over-let’s-have-a-group-hug-ish way of saying “talking to people who are doing interesting things in the geek world so you know what’s going on out there.” If these people gather in one place, the job of talking to them becomes much easier.

Lucky me, Joichi Ito, better known as “Joi” (you pronounce it like “Joey”, and for a while, he spelled it that way too) has his own IRC channel, #joiito, on FreeNode’s IRC servers. It’s become a hangout for lots of people, many of whom you might have heard of: Mark Pilgrim, Cory Doctorow, Halley Suitt, Marc Canter, AKMA, Aaron Swartz, Elizabeth Lane “mamamusings” Lawley, Kevin “Morbus Iff” Hemenway, Dave Sifry, my boss Ross Rader and many other characters. Maybe I can get Elliot on there — he and Joi have some kind of mutual admiration society going.

The atmosphere is friendly and the conversation flows like delicious pork gravy down Marlon Brando’s throat. Jeanniecool plays den mother to us all, while AKMA serves as the chaplain and I play part-time court jester. Once you’ve figured out the commands for jibot, a bot that heralds you entry into the channel, you can have it announce your presence with a quick summary of who you are! It’s like a 19th-century salon with intellectuals exchanging ideas and bons mots, except for the lack of absinthe. We’re working on that.

To join the channel, point your IRC client at and then /join #joiito.


Eckel on Python II has two more parts of an interview with Bruce “Thinking in C++/Thinking in Java” Eckel in which he talks about why his new favourite programming language is Python. They are:

  • Part 3: Type Checking and Techie Control

    …the idea is that the programmer is able to say, “I would like a Bag of Cats.” The thing says, OK, as long as I can perform these various operations on Cats that I want to, I don’t care if it’s Cats or whatever. That’s what you get for free with Python without any of that [C++] template syntax. It turns out that’s incredibly powerful. It makes your programming a lot easier to write and, I think, to read.

  • Part 4: Python and the Tipping Point

    A few years back I was having dinner with Guido van Rossum, and I said, “Life is better without braces.” That ended up being a conference slogan, along with a smiling character who looked like he had just gotten his braces off. The next year, I suggested to Guido a slogan that I think somebody else probably said first, “Python. It fits your brain.” That’s what I was talking about when I said, “My guesses are usually right.” Python allows you to get into this uninterrupted flow, and just go with that without having to think too hard, even if I have to look up the way a library works.

If you haven’t read them yet, there are also the first two parts of the interview:


Truth is at least as strange as science fiction

You might’ve heard of DARPA’s latest announcement, which has been described as a web site where you can “wager on terrorism”. If you haven’t, here are some links:

This idea isn’t a new one — it’s gone by the name of Idea Futures or Prediction Markets for some time. The general idea is described as…

Our policy-makers and media rely too much on the “expert” advice of a self-interested insider’s club of pundits and big-shot academics. These pundits are rewarded too much for telling good stories, and for supporting each other, rather than for being “right”. Instead, let us create betting markets on most controversial questions, and treat the current market odds as our best expert consensus. The real experts (maybe you), would then be rewarded for their contributions, while clueless pundits would learn to stay away.

The idea behind the “terror futures market” would be to harness the collective knowledge, insight and instincts of as many people as possible and give them a financial incentive to contribute. Viewed this way, it’s kind of like the peer-to-peer software approach: decentralize what would be too costly to maintain or what only a large collective would have (thinkers), and centralize the thing that you need most (ideas).

The idea of tying it in with the Internet isn’t new either: a guy I actually know — Marc Stiegler — wrote about this in his science fiction novel, Earthweb. In it, the entire world places bets on the strategies and weaponry of an invading alien race, and these bets are used to guide a crack team of soldiers sent to stop them.

The problem is that it’s a political hot potato. It’s too close in “feel” to a dead pool, and it runs the risk of annoying friendly and neutral nations and enraging enemy ones (imagine trying to maintain some kind of diplomatic decorum when someone’s betting that you’ll be killed in a bloody revolution in next year).

My bets would be:

  • At least some people in DARPA or other policy analysis think tanks have been playing this sort of game for some time already.
  • The announcement was made to test what the public’s reaction would be (the marketing phrase is “Let’s run it up the flagpole and see who salutes!”).
  • Plan B, should the public react unfavourably, would be to make it private, by-invitation-only and run in secret.

One iBook 500, cheap to a good home

This weekend, I picked up my first-ever Powerbook. I debated over whether to get the 12″ or the 15″. Both have the 867MHz processor, but the 15″ version has two additional features: a 1MB level 3 cache and a faster graphics card. However, portability, and more importantly, budget, determined that the 12″ with the combo-drive (CD recording and playback / DVD playback-only) and RAM maxed out to 640MB was my best bet.

Now that I have the Powerbook, the 500 MHz iBook that I bought used is redundant. It has served me well, helped pay the rent and will make a great machine for someone who’s doing writing, Web surfing and even some programming (I used it for PHP/MySQL development). I just needed a faster box on which to do my work and master the complexities of unix-y network hackery.

I bought the iBook in November and put another 256MB RAM into it for a total of 384MB. It has a 10GB hard drive, with about 2GB free. One of the reasons it went so cheap is that the trackpad doesn’t work. The warranty ran out before it went kaput, and I’m told that replacing the trackpad would require replacing the motherboard, which would cost as much as buying a new machine. When I used it, I plugged a Logitech optical mouse into it, and I’ll include this mouse with the laptop. The battery doesn’t last terribly long, either — I treat it more of as protection against a fuse blowing rather than as a battery. A replacement battery should solve that problem. Otherwise, it’s a pretty solid machine.

My asking price: CDN$800.

As a price comparison, the Toronto store CPUsed is selling a used iBook 600 — slightly faster, with a 20GB hard drive and 128 MB RAM — for CDN$1300. You can see what else they’re selling used on their price list (remember, it’s a Canadian store; all prices are in Canadian dollars).

If you’re interested, drop me a line!

Recommended Reading

Low End Mac’s review of the iBook 500.


Pardon the silence

Once again, work has kept me terribly busy. I’ll be back with more bloggy goodness on Monday.


Worst Date Ever: yes, there’s actually more to the story

Such as, would you believe, another date? One that might be even more harrowing? Even though neither ABBA nor butterscotch schnapps are involved?

It’s true. I’ll pick up the storyline next week.


Contrary to what you might think, there is a lack of Navy SEALs information in this blog

It’s an unusual day for email here at The Adventures of AccordionGuy in the 21st Century. First, spam for a dimensional warp generator. Then, email asking why I’m not a bitter man. Now this:

Date: 7/23/2003 06:53:39 -0700




I am contacting you about cross linking. I am interested in because it looks like it’s relevant to a site that I am the link manager for. The site is about US Navy Seals products including: Navy Seal training, workout videos, manuals, survival gear, Luminox watches, and fitness books.

I don’t think I’ve even ever mentioned the phrase “Navy SEALs” in the blog.

But hey, if any Navy SEALs want date survival training, I’m a black belt!