Zone38 Presents...
Letters to the World


A glorious example of NLP gone wrong

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 11:04 pm

I was just checking Zap2it’s page on Doctor Who to see if that show was going to be running on anything other than BBC America, which isn’t on the cable tier I have… and found out it wasn’t going to be, alas. However, I did find this hilarious example of natural language processing gone horribly wrong:

Screenshot from Zap2it's "Doctor Who" show page.

(Description: A screenshot of a listing of Doctor Who-related news, in which the first story is “Elvis Presley’s doctor, who was accused after the legendary singer’s death of over-prescribing barbiturates, sleeping pills, hormones, narcotics to his famous patient, now says that Elvis died from chronic constipation.”)

It took me a while to figure out even how this was relevant, and then I realized it was a naïve keyword-matching algorithm that even ignores punctuation. ::facepalm::

Though I do admit, an episode in which the Doctor and his companion go to visit Elvis could definitely be entertaining!


Fun with 64-bit Windows and Boot Camp

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 4:20 pm

So, on a whim, I decided to try installing a 64-bit version of Windows 7 onto my MacBook. And as soon as I tried to load the Boot Camp drivers, I immediately got an error message claiming that “Boot Camp x64 is unsupported on this computer model.”

Turns out that 64-bit Windows is only supported on the latest generation of Macs. Which my year-old white MacBook, quite obviously, isn’t.

But as I discovered, it also turns out there’s a way to manually install the drivers, which I present here for anyone else curious to try 64-bit Windows on an older MacBook:

  1. Make sure your Snow Leopard DVD is inserted. (You did get Snow Leopard, right?)
  2. Go to the Start menu and type cmd — then press Ctrl+Shift+Enter.
  3. Answer “yes” to the UAC prompt.
  4. Type "d:\Boot Camp\Drivers\Apple\BootCamp64.msi" (with quotes).
  5. Go through the installer!

The only driver that seemed to produce any sort of error at all after doing this on my MacBook was the Bluetooth driver, and that still appears to work; I got my Bluetooth mouse and keyboard working under Windows.

Just putting this out there for anyone else who wanted to see whether they could get 64-bit Windows running.


Bee-lated congratulations…

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 12:34 am

I know, I know, I’m a couple days late with this, but anyway… as a former spelling bee geek (it’s been 12 years, believe it or not), I have to post this…

Belated congrats to Kavya Shivashankar, winner of the 2009 National Spelling Bee— and, for that matter, to everyone else who made it into the Bee, as that alone is a major achievement. You all definitely weren’t Laodicean about spelling, that’s for sure!

And since I forgot to post this after the 2008 bee, extremely belated congrats to Sameer Mishra for winning a great guerdon in that year’s bee.

Edited to add: Oh, yeah, I forgot! Special thanks to the Spelling Bee staff for throwing in “blancmange” as a word this year. As a fan of Monty Python’s Science Fiction Sketch, I salute you; indeed, I even suggested the word on my blog three years ago.


Yet another random administrative note

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 8:31 pm

For those who’ve come here looking for the Forums section that used to be on my site, I’ve closed it— there wasn’t enough interest in it; the one section that did get posts (“Music in Commercials”) served the same purpose as, which I also participate in; and besides, I’ve been so busy with grad school and side projects that I haven’t had much time for moderating/keeping up the forum.

I may be opening a new one in the future, but for now, I feel it’s best to close it while keeping the archives up in a read-only form for browsing. Those can be found here, for those who need it.

Sorry for anyone who was actually interested in this section of my site, but honestly, it’d grown too old and crufty and felt like the section needed a reboot anyway…


Scammy Facebook Ad Fail

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 11:55 pm

I was just checking up on Facebook, and this ad turned up on the margin:

[Facebook ad showing a newscaster with poorly pasted-in hands holding money, with the caption: 'I got fired. But thanks to Google I ended up making more money than my old boss.']

The first thing I noticed was the badly Photoshopped hands. (MY HANDS R PASTEDE ON YAY?)

But then I looked closer. I’m not very good at recognizing faces, but having watched SNL’s Weekend Update quite a bit, I thought that the set in the background looked awfully familiar. And then I realized, hey, that does resemble Seth Meyers…

Google Image Search, and yep. That is, in fact, Seth Meyers. The un-Photoshopped original frame from Weekend Update even shows up in the search results.



How bad UI design caused me to withdraw an extra $80

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 7:01 pm

So I was at the ATM today, wanting to withdraw $20 for a quick lunch. I went up to the ATM, inserted my card, and, as usual, saw the following screen.

Enter PIN Screen



Garden path sentence of the day

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 1:46 pm

First of all, if you’re not familiar with what a garden path sentence is, go read the Wikipedia article on them.

Now that that’s out of the way… this was an actual headline in today’s issue of USA Today (though interestingly, it was reworded in the web version), of which I’ve reproduced the spacing exactly as it appeared in the paper:

Obama’s ad
buys dwarf
TV presence
of McCain

I had to read that two or three times before I realized it had nothing to do with little people starring in Obama ads.


Yet another programming font hack

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 1:06 am

Now that the entirety of Google’s Android phone OS has finally been released under the Apache license, I have modified the Droid Sans Mono font so as to include a more easily distinguishable zero, for the benefit of my fellow programmers. I thought it was a great-looking font for the most part, but the vague distinction between 0 and O simply wasn’t good for peering through long listings of program code.

(Despite the Ascender copyright notices contained within the font files, they are indeed now licensed under the Apache license; check out the Git repository if proof is necessary. I have left the Ascender copyright in the modified font file, in keeping with the appropriate sections of the Apache license.)

So here is the modified font, which I have named “Code Sans Mono Z”. I had originally named it “Droid Sans Mono Z”, but there were potential trademark issues with my using the Droid name, hence the change.

Code Sans Mono Z


SELECT * FROM otaku WHERE geekiness > 9000

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 10:51 am

This is why I should not be allowed to buy action figures at Anime Weekend Atlanta:

Nagato-san likes MySQL

For those unfamiliar with that character, that’s Yuki Nagato from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. She’s an alien android who can communicate with the universe’s Data Entity and alter the state of the universe via rapidly spoken SQL statements. (No, seriously— this is canon. One of her image songs is even titled “SELECT”.)

So naturally, I had to have her posing in front of a MySQL administration interface.

I am truly a complete and utter geek.


Why good test cases are important

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 11:14 pm

I was cashing in some savings bonds earlier today at a bank which shall remain unnamed, and noticed a rather serious oversight in the design of the form they used for this task.

The form was one of those where they give you a limited number of character spaces to write things; I assume it’s because their database was originally designed with certain arbitrary field lengths.

There was an 11-character limit on the ‘city’ field.

I have family in Warner Robins, GA; Milledgeville, GA; and Jacksonville, FL.

Oh, and should I mention this is a large bank that formerly had headquarters in San Francisco?

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