Scripting News for 11/28/2007

The HD is woking! 

The receiver is working with the cheap antenna that it ships with.

Here’s a screen shot from a PBS program about Mexico. Look at how sharp it is.

Now I have to figure out how to get the EyeTV software to record shows in the future.

Very exciting!!

PS: I figured out how to get it to record. But playback seems to be only through their UI. How do I get an AVI file so I can watch it in the den or bedroom? Are they trying to say I have to watch it at my computer? There must be some way to get it to export, or do I have to buy the $39 add-on for that? 🙂

Enough to make me (almost) love Mitt Romney 

“Like all Americans we love our sports teams and hate the Yankees.”

Last line in tonight’s Republican debate, delivered by Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts. 

Joel Spolsky has the Digg-clone I envisioned for Scripting News.

Programming less 

A programming lesson I keep relearning.

The design of the central data structure of an app determines the quality of the app, in every way.

Any extra thought that goes into this, will pay off in:

1. Maintainability of the code.

2. Size of the code (you’ll write less code with a well thought-out central data structure).

3. Simplicity of the user interface (the structure inevitably shows through in the UI).

4. Ability to respond to feature requests.

5. Adapt to new hardware, OS changes, other apps.

6. More “it just works” experiences.

This is why it’s sometimes the right thing to start over from scratch. Programmers often want to start over because they look at the code and it looks complicated, and they think they can make it simpler if they start over. They’re right, of course, it will be simpler when they start over, because it won’t do nearly as much as the mature product does. Once they finish building out the feature set, it may well be just as complicated.

It’s a judgement call. I remember looking at the source of Unix kernel for the first time as a grad student in Wisconsin, and being amazed at the simplicity and obviousness of the code. I couldn’t believe something so simple actually worked. Your code at its kernel level must have this simplicity. But at the edges, where you’re accomdating the minds of users, inevitably it gets a little messy. The key thing to look for is how hard is it to add a completely new feature. It should be easy to do that. If it’s not, it’s likely because of a poorly organized (and therefore not well-understood) central data structure.

I’ve rewritten apps many times, over many years, because when I wrote the first or second versions, I didn’t understand the problem well enough, and the code had turned into a morass of patches and workarounds.

Right now I’m recoding the internals of a special-purpose aggregator. I’ve written many of these, over the years, always quickly, trying to get something running fast, and then lived with data structures that resulted. This time I’m going slowly and carefully, with an installed base of one (me) and ripping up the pavement whenever I find even a slightly better way of doing something. I have other users who are waiting, but that’s life. 🙂

5/7/97: “When a programmer catches fire it’s because he or she groks the system, its underlying truth has been revealed.”

Morning miscellanea 

From the What a Great Idea Dept, this guy has made the Wii remote work with Macs. Thanks to JY for the link. 🙂

I got the Hauppauge 1145 working with the EyeTV software, connected to my Comcast cable line, but I’m disappointed with the quality of the image, lack of HD support (I thought that’s why I was buying it) and the software is too limited. It was able to get the listings from TitanTV when I hooked up to the antenna they provide, but it doesn’t get the listings when I use the cable hookup. There is a way to manually record, but I couldn’t find the automatic way. And the software is “lite” — it costs another $39 to get the full thing. I want to make beatiful recordings of PBS shows like Frontline and Nova (I get the HD versions via Comcast), still not there. But I am determined!

I’m working with people in Italy to organize a conference in February to create a connection betw American and Italian bloggers. Of course the food will be excellent, as will the wine. The Italians will tell us how poorly their country runs, and we will tell them we wish we had it so bad. 🙂

London Geek Dinner, December 7, 7:30PM 

I’ll be in London on Dec 7, as will Robert Scoble, so Hugh MacLeod, the blogger who does those outrageously funny business card size cartoons, is kindly hosting a dinner that evening.

There’s only room for 50 people, and already 40 people have signed up (sorry about that), so if you want to come, please quickly send an email to Hugh.

The details are on this page…

Looking forward to visiting London!! 🙂


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