November 2006

 

Internet Explorer's Cleaner Look

Today the Microsoft update on my Windows machine asked me to upgrade the Internet Explorer to version 7.0. My bank refuses to work with any browser other than IE, so, although I'm using SeaMonkey as my everyday browser, I'm also forced to keep a current copy of IE. The installation's banner reinforced some of the fears I have regarding Microsoft's technical prowess.

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So Long as there's a Jingle in your Head, Television isn't Free

Yesterday I switched from an ancient version of the "free" Adobe Reader to the current version 7.0. I spent the morning studying some fairly tricky technical documents. Within that interval I often caught my eyes glancing to the top right of the Adobe Reader's display window where an advert button flashed as it changed its content. Needless to say, this change of focus interrupted my train of thought, and got me out of "flow mode".

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White Noise Calms Babies

A week ago I told my colleague Damianos Chatziantoniou that drying the body of a newborn baby with a hair drier keeps it consistently dry avoiding rashes, and also calms the baby down. Today he told me the advice worked wonders. Many parents have discovered that sources of white noise, like the sound of a vacuum cleaner or a hair drier, seem to calm down a baby's crying spell.

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Converting RIS to BibTeX

Digital libraries increasingly provide an option to export bibliographic data. Unfortunately, many, like IEEE Xplore, SpringerLink, and Scopus don't support the BibTeX format I use for storing my bibliographies. (To its credit the ACM Portal offers a BibTeX export option. On the other hand, Elsevier's ScienceDirect and JSTOR don't offer any export facility.)

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The Return of Performance Engineering and Trendy Programmers

In the 1950s, when processor cycle times were measured in microseconds, algorithm design and clever programming could make or break an application. These fields continued to be popular in the 1960s and 1970s, because widespread computers were used to attack ever larger problems. Programming was a hip and trendy occupation. Today's $500 computers operating on GHz clocks allow anybody who has (just about) mastered the syntax of a programming language to write code that drives dynamic web sites serving hundreds of transactions each minute. Managers consider code a commodity, and enrollments to computer science degrees are dwindling. However, change is in the air.

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