Sunday, September 24, 2017

I have posted an update to my trigonometry-intense floating point benchmark which adds PL/I to the list of languages in which the benchmark is implemented. A new release of the benchmark collection including PL/I is now available for downloading. I have always had a fondness for PL/I. Sure, it was an archetypal product of IBM at the height of the supremacy of Big Blue, and overreached and never completely achieved its goals, but it was a product of the 1960s, when technological ambition imagined unifying programming languages as diverse as Fortran, COBOL, and Algol into a single language which would...

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Friday, September 15, 2017

All 25 of the public domain Tom Swift novels have been posted in the Tom Swift and His Pocket Library collection. I am now returning to the earlier novels, upgrading them to use the more modern typography of those I've done in recent years. The fifth novel in the series, Tom Swift and His Electric Runabout, has now been updated. Several typographical errors in the original edition have been corrected, Unicode text entities are used for special characters such as single and double quotes and dashes, and the HTML version is now XHTML 1.0 Strict. An EPUB edition of this...

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

I have just posted version 2.1 of UNUM. This update, the first since 2006, updates the database of Unicode characters to Unicode version 10.0.0 (June 2017) and adds, for the first time, full support for the entire set of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean (CJK) ideographic characters, for a total of 136,755 characters in all. CJK characters are identified by their nomenclature in commonly used lexicons, and, where specified in the Unicode database, English definitions. The table of HTML named character references (the sequences like “<” you use in HTML source code when you need to represent a character which has...

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Saturday, September 9, 2017

I have posted an update to my trigonometry-intense floating point benchmark which adds Scala to the list of languages in which the benchmark is implemented. A new release of the benchmark collection including Scala is now available for downloading. Scala is a general purpose programming language originally developed at the École Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne, Switzerland. Scala combines the paradigm of functional programming with support for conventional object-oriented imperative programming, allowing the programmer to choose whichever style is most expressive of the algorithm being implemented. Unlike Haskell, which forces the programmer into a strict functional style, Scala contains control structures...

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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Scoles, Sarah. Making Contact. New York: Pegasus Books, 2017. ISBN 978-1-68177-441-1. There are few questions in our scientific inquiry into the universe and our place within it more profound than “are we alone?” As we have learned more about our world and the larger universe in which it exists, this question has become ever more fascinating. We now know that our planet, once thought the centre of the universe, is but one of what may be hundreds of billions of planets in our own galaxy, which is one of hundreds of billions of galaxies in the observable universe. Not long...

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Casey, Doug and John Hunt. Drug Lord. Charlottesville, VA: HighGround Books, 2017. ISBN 978-1-947449-07-7. This is the second novel in the authors' “High Ground” series, chronicling the exploits of Charles Knight, an entrepreneur and adventurer determined to live his life according to his own moral code, constrained as little as possible by the rules and regulations of coercive and corrupt governments. The first novel, Speculator (October 2016), follows Charles's adventures in Africa as an investor in a junior gold exploration company which just might have made the discovery of the century, and in the financial markets as he seeks to profit...

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Monday, August 28, 2017

Last Thursday, 2017-08-24, was interesting. I was programming away when, as often occurs in the mid-afternoon here in the summer, thunderheads boiled up above the Jura, the sky darkened, and before long a full-on thunderboomer complete with high winds, torrential rain, and plenty of flashes and bangs was underway. Then, flash, bang!  When you perceive them at exactly the same time, it's never a good sign. Instantaneously, the auxiliary monitor on my development machine emitted a crack and went black. The UPS units all went on battery, but quickly came back on line. I suspect the event they detected was...

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Thursday, August 24, 2017

The randomX package for Java implements an abstract (pseudo)random number generator which allows, by plugging in specific generators derived from it, a program to use a variety of random number sources, including Fourmilab's HotBits radioactive random number generator. At the start of July 2017, HotBits began to require an API Key to obtain truly random data from radioactive decay. This was necessary to prevent abuse and distributed denial of service attacks against the generator, whose capacity is limited due to the technology it employs. (Users can request an arbitrary amount of pseudorandom data, produced by a cryptographic-grade algorithm seeded with...

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Egan, Greg. Dichronauts. New York: Night Shade Books, 2017. ISBN 978-1-59780-892-7. One of the more fascinating sub-genres of science fiction is “world building”: creating the setting in which a story takes place by imagining an environment radically different from any in the human experience. This can run the gamut from life in the atmosphere of a gas giant planet (Saturn Rukh), on the surface of a neutron star (Dragon's Egg), or on an enormous alien-engineered wheel surrounding a star (Ringworld). When done well, the environment becomes an integral part of the tale, shaping the characters and driving the plot. Greg...

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Hirsi Ali, Ayaan. The Challenge of Dawa. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 2017. Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Somalia in 1969. In 1992 she was admitted to the Netherlands and granted political asylum on the basis of escaping an arranged marriage. She later obtained Dutch citizenship, and was elected to the Dutch parliament, where she served from 2001 through 2006. In 2004, she collaborated with Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh on the short film Submission, about the abuse of women in Islamic societies. After release of the film, van Gogh was assassinated, with a note containing a death...

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Cline, Ernest. Ready Player One. New York: Broadway Books, 2011. ISBN 978-0-307-88744-3. By the mid-21st century, the Internet has become largely subsumed as the transport layer for the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation), a massively multiuser online virtual reality environment originally developed as a multiplayer game, but which rapidly evolved into a platform for commerce, education, social interaction, and entertainment used by billions of people around the world. The OASIS supports immersive virtual reality, limited only by the user's budget for hardware used to access the network. With top-of-the-line visors and sound systems, body motion sensors, and haptic feedback,...

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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Gleick, James. Time Travel. New York: Pantheon Books, 2016. ISBN 978-0-307-90879-7. In 1895, a young struggling writer who earned his precarious living by writing short humorous pieces for London magazines, often published without a byline, buckled down and penned his first long work, a longish novella of some 33,000 words. When published, H. G. Wells's The Time Machine would not only help to found a new literary genre—science fiction, but would introduce a entirely new concept to storytelling: time travel. Many of the themes of modern fiction can be traced to the myths of antiquity, but here was something entirely...

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Rahe, Paul A. The Spartan Regime. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2016. ISBN 978-0-300-21901-2. This thin volume (just 232 pages in the hardcover edition, only around 125 of which are the main text and appendices—the rest being extensive source citations, notes, and indices of subjects and people and place names) is intended as the introduction to an envisioned three volume work on Sparta covering its history from the archaic period through the second battle of Mantinea in 362 b.c. where defeat of a Sparta-led alliance at the hands of the Thebans paved the way for the Macedonian conquest of Sparta....

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Friday, July 28, 2017

Smith, L. Neil. Blade of p'Na. Rockville, MD: Phoenix Pick, 2017. ISBN 978-1-61242-218-3. This novel is set in the “Elders” universe, originally introduced in the 1990 novels Contact and Commune and Converse and Conflict, and now collected in an omnibus edition with additional material, Forge of the Elders. Around four hundred million years ago the Elders, giant mollusc-like aquatic creatures with shells the size of automobiles, conquered aging, and since then none has died except due to accident or violence. And precious few have succumbed to those causes: accident because the big squid are famously risk averse, and violence because,...

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Fulton, Steve and Jeff Fulton. HTML5 Canvas. Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly, 2013. ISBN 978-1-449-33498-7. I only review computer books if I've read them in their entirety, as opposed to using them as references while working on projects. For much of 2017 I've been living with this book open, referring to it as I performed a comprehensive overhaul of my Fourmilab site, and I just realised that by now I have actually read every page, albeit not in linear order, so a review is in order; here goes. The original implementation of World Wide Web supported only text and, shortly thereafter, embedded...

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