Interested in wikis? Support "WikiSpeedia", an upcoming Q&A site, by "following" it and come up with example questions.

In order to "follow" the proposal and add example questions you need to be logged in at that site with OpenID. Fortunately Google and Facebook accounts can be used for OpenID, so if you already have an account in one of those places (for example, for Gmail) then it is very easy. If not, you can sign up at http://myopenid.com (press the button "SIGN UP FOR AN OPENID").


Speed up Firefox, address bar

Use of the address bar in Firefox is too slow. The address bar is apparently also known by the name "Smart Location Bar", alias "Awesome Bar". There is a very notisable delay when typing in the address bar and opening the typed stuff. For example, "wt slow" to lookup the word slow in Wiktionary (requires setup for "wt" to work).

Fortunately it can be turned off:
  1. Open about:config (type or paste in the address bar(!))
  2. Find browser.urlbar.maxRichResults. E.g. type maxRichResults. Change the value from 12 to 0.
Ah, much faster!


Wikipedia as a Q&A site

Wikipedia can be, and is, used as a Q&A (question and answer) site. Normally, we would think of Wikipedia as the online encyclopedia that anyone can contribute to, but beneath the surface it is also used for other things. There is even a podcast, Wikivoices (although it appears to have died out in late 2009).

For instance, the main entry point for getting help on doing something, the Helpdesk, works as Q&A. This is set in a wiki context:

  1. A new question is a new section and is added to the end of the page.
  2. Any section can be edited on that page, as on most Wikipedia pages, but it is not considered good style to do so.
  3. An answer is posted by editing the new section, preceding ones response with one or more commas to indicate the threading level (who is reponding to whom).
Old questions roll off the page after a few days by automatically being moved to an archive page (an unfortunate consequence is that the original URL to the question gets broken).

As an example, there is the equivalent of a language Q&A site, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Language. It works the same way as the help desk.

Wikipedia is a very large place. Just navigating the various help pages is a challenge. Using Wikipedia in the Q&A fashion described here makes it much more manageable; it is possible to ask real people and get answers.

As a side-note, ironically Wikipedia itself stubbornly insists that a Q&A site is "a website where the site creators use the images of pop culture icons to answer input from the site's visitors" (!) even when it is common knowledge that it designates any website that has Q&A as the main focus.


Bug reporting for the Opera web browser

Finally! A way to report bugs in the Opera web browser:


It may have been there for some time, but like for finding the detailed version history such things are not in the places where you would expect them.


Windows command line reference

The best reference information on the Windows command-line (command.exe or cmd.exe) I have ever found is:

An A-Z Index of the Windows XP command line.

It also covers what is usually only in batch files (.bat or .cmd), like for loops.


Get started when it comes to entrepreneurship may not cut it

I saw this interesting article today: Dangerous Ideas: Getting Started Is Overrated

Some quotes:

"you should develop rigorous thresholds that any pursuit must overcome before it can induce action."

"people who succeed in an impressive pursuit are those

Established, over time, a deep emotional conviction that
they want to follow that pursuit.

Have built an exhaustive understanding of the relevant
world, why some succeed and others don't, and exactly
what type of action is required."


Sites violating Stack Exchange's license agreement

Just to have a reference to it:

There is a post on Meta Stack Overflow that keeps track of sites that violates the licence agreement for the Stack Exchange Network CC-Wiki data (dumps of the content):

Is it legal to copy Stack Overflow questions and answers?


Controlling the play order for Creative MP3 players

With the threat of the Apple fanboys highjacking the new Electronic Gadgets site (a Stack Exchange 2.0 site) currently in public beta (and turning it into yet another unpaid advertisement channel for Apple) I am posting (as a sort of backup) my question and my own solution on how to control play order for Creative MP3 players by manupulating files and file content without requiring software:


How can I externally control MP3 file play order for a Creative ZEN Mozaic EZ300 MP3 player?

By externally I mean one or more of:
  • setting file and/or folder time stamps (say, modification date or creation date) such that the time stamp order is the required play order
  • renaming files/folders such that the alphabetical order is the required play order
  • constructing special files that define the play order.
Is this possible?

I have extensively tried the renaming and time stamping strategy, but with no success. Perhaps I have overlooked something.

I have had the same problem with earlier generations of MP3 players from Creative. But at least on the Creative Zen Stone there was a small button to jump to the next folder (it made this problem bearable). EZ300 does not even have this option (as far as I can tell).

Yes, it is possible using a special file that defines the play order.

It turned out to be deceptively simple.

It can be done with playlists. Creative ZEN Mozaic EZ300 supports M3U playlist files (file extension .m3u). If an M3U file with the right content is copied to folder "Playlist" on the ZEN Mosaic then the MP3 files can be played in the desired order.

A complication is that ZEN Mozaic EZ300 requires 8.3 DOS file names in the M3U file. E.g. the file `HerdingCode-0090-Sara-Chipps-on-GirlDevelopIt-and-Girls-Developing-Software.mp3` must be listed as e.g. `HERDIN~1.MP3`.

Software exists to automate this process, but I describe the manual process below. It also a way to demonstrate what such software does.


1. The files

ZEN Mozaic EZ300 is connected through USB to a Windows computer, drive G:. There are 6 files in folder G:\Podcasts\temp102:

HerdingCode-0090-Sara-Chipps-on-GirlDevelopIt-and-Girls-Developing- Software.mp3

2. The filename transformation

Find 8.3 names for long file names using a Windows command-line window (Win + R + cmd + Enter):

cd G:\Podcasts\temp102
dir /X

Output is (edited for clarity):

DOTNET~1.MP3 dotnetrocks_0583_jay_schmelzer.mp3
GRAMMA~1.MP3 grammar058-however_StartingA_SentenceWithHowever.mp3
HARDDI~1.MP3 harddisken_2010-08-11.mp3
HERDIN~1.MP3 HerdingCode-0090-Sara-Chipps-on-GirlDevelopIt-and-Girls-Developing-Software.mp3

The alternative to finding 8.3 names is to rename the files.

3. Create the playlist file

Create an empty text file in G:\Playlist and rename it to TechPodcasts1431.m3u. Open it in Notepad (or your favourite text editor) and add:


There should be a empty line after the last file (twig0055.mp3). I emperically established that the file will not turn up in the playlist if it is left out.

This playlist file will result in a playlist named "TechPodcasts1431".

4. Play

Unmount the ZEN Mosaic and turn it on.


menu Music/Playlists/<select TechPodcasts1431>/open/
select the first/open/Play




The picture above is connected to the Internet meme lolcats applied to software development, using the brand of O'Reilly Media's characteristic book covers.

This picture originially appeared in a Meta Stack Overflow post, but I think the post was deleted the same day. It could be http://meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/60784/its-friday-we-just-deployed-image-upload-support-now-what. For the same reason I don't know who to attribute the picture to. The original URL is http://i.imgur.com/CInDF.jpg.

LOLCODE is an actual programming language! A Hello World program in LOLCODE reads:



Everything on the use of "etc."

I asked a series of questions on iRosetta about the proper use of "etc." in writing. It is very often used in the wrong way.

1. "Comma before etc.?" and "Comma before etc., part two". Yes, there should be a comma before etc. when used in a list. See also this English Language and Usage question (a Stack Exchange 2.0 site).

2. "Is it always “etc.”?". Yes, etc. never loses its full stop.

3. "Mixed double punctuation -or beating a dead horse". About etc. as the last word before the ending punctuation, in particular a question mark. etc. does not lose its full stop in this case either.

4. "Law, etc. revisited". Use in a particular law text. Bad use is copied over and over in the law field.


Google's calculator

In Hidden features of Google (a question on the first Stack Exchange 2.0 site, Web Applications) there is a great introduction to the calculator that is built into Google search.

For exammple it can do log(), exp(), sin(), dimensional analysis and imaginary numbers (symbol "i")!


Wikipedia featured lists

There is a very long page on Wikipedia with featured lists.

The linked to lists are described as:

The featured lists are what we believe to be the best lists in Wikipedia. Before being listed here, lists are reviewed at Wikipedia:Featured list candidates for usefulness, completeness, accuracy, neutrality, style and prose according to our featured list criteria.
A sample: Sites of Special Scientific Interest, West Midlands , Elements by stability of isotopes, Space telescopes, Solar eclipses in the 21st century, Scientific publications by Albert Einstein, and Amateur radio frequency bands in India.

However the list is dominated by sports...


Don't use "awhile"

Don't use awhile. It should be a while. See Awhile vs. a while - an iRosetta entry.


The Maker, an open source CMS

In the latest installment (2010-06-21) of the podcast "Python 411" there is an interview with the creators of The Maker, an open source Content Management System (CMS) for websites. Official web-site.

It sounded very interesting. But why did they choose such a generic name, now that we live in the Google-age?


Steve Gibson is wrong, wrong, wrong

Steve Gibson claimed in the podcast Security Now, episode 250, that spool used as a verb (as in printer spooling) is not a normal verb, but is an acronym.

Wikipedia starts with the same information, but note "backronym" in the following from Spooling:

"According to Tanenbaum, "Spool" is an acronym for simultaneous peripheral operations on-line[1] (though others may consider this a backronym), or as for printers: simultaneous peripheral output on line."

I asked about this at iRosetta and Donald Remero disagrees with Steve Gibson in his answer.


News on Stack Exchange 2.0

There is news about Stack Exchange 2.0: Interview with Lead Developer David Fullerton.

They are inviting beta testers.


Jump the shark

Updated 2014-09-13

Jump the shark is not yet a meme at The Many Memes of Meta, a page on the meta site for the Stack Overflow family of Q&A sites ("Q&A sites" means "question and answer sites", Wikipedia is useless in this instance).

It is based on Jeff Atwood's blog post Has Joel Spolsky Jumped the Shark? on 2006-09-11.

There are many references both inside and outside the Stack Overflow podcast:

1. 2007-04-26. Episode 232 of the .NET Rocks podcast, 25 min 37 sec - 30 min 15 sec. Joel Spolsky explains/defends the choice of writing their own computer language, Wasabi. MP3 download link (the episode is in two parts, this is the second part). 22.2 MB.

2. 2008-04-29. Episode 3 of the Stack Overflow podcast, 18 min 34 sec (indirect reference to Jump the shark, "wasabi". By Jeff Atwood.). And 20 min 14 sec - 32 min 31 sec. MP3 download link. 21.4 MB.

3. 2008-05-13. Episode 5 of the Stack Overflow podcast, 01 min 02 sec - 03 min 18 sec. Jeff Atwood actually calls it a meme and that several times. MP3 download link. 22.3 MB.

4. 2008-05-27. Episode 7 of the Stack Overflow podcast, 58 min 58 sec - 59 min 44 sec. MP3 download link. 21.9 MB.

5. 2008-06-03. Episode 8 of the Stack Overflow podcast, 06 min 53 sec. Indirect reference to jump the shark by Jeff Atwood: "You are a wasabi guy, it is worse!". MP3 download link. 31.3 MB.

6. 2008-06-03. Episode 8 of the Stack Overflow podcast, 47 min 36 sec. Indirect reference to jump the shark by Jeff Atwood (transcription is difficult): ""I have a mental image of Joel Spolsky like pulling the fridge and being unable to do so. Going "I felt Wasabi would totally solve this problem""". MP3 download link. 31.3 MB.

7. 2008-06-03. Episode 8 of the Stack Overflow podcast, 49 min 50 sec. Indirect reference to jump the shark by Jeff Atwood: "What? You are creating a new language, what, you are crazy. You know what that sounds like, right?, Joel ". MP3 download link. 31.3 MB.

8. 2008-07-22. Episode 13 of the Stack Overflow podcast, 25 min 19 sec. Joel Spolsky makes a reference to Jump the shark. MP3 download link. 30.6 MB.

9. 2008-08-12. Episode 19 of the Stack Overflow podcast, 58 min 48 sec. Joel Spolsky makes an indirect reference to Jump the shark ("... had to have our compiler [wasabi]"). MP3 download link. 32.6 MB.

10. 2008-12-02. Episode 32 of the Stack Overflow podcast, 35 min 28 sec. Jeff Atwood makes indirect/unnamed reference to Jump the shark. MP3 download link. MP3 download link. 32.7 MB.

11. 2009-04-07. Episode 48 of the Stack Overflow podcast, 02 min 23 sec. Joel Spolsky makes a reference to Jump the shark. MP3 download link. 36.0 MB.

12. 2009-04-14. Episode 158 of Hanselminutes. 2 min 03 secs - about 13 minutes. Scott Hanselman interviews Joel Spolsky. Joel Spolsky explains in depth the story behind Wasabi. Some of the reasons are constraints. And later, at 23 min 30 secs - about 27 minutes Jump the shark is directly discussed. Scott Hanselman asks directly whether Joel Spolsky was insulted by Jeff Atwood's blog post.

13. 2009-05-05. Episode 52 of the Stack Overflow podcast, 42 min 30 sec. Joel Spolsky makes a reference to Jump the shark. MP3 download link. 29.6 MB.

14. 2009-05-26. Episode 55 of the Stack Overflow podcast, 17 min 57 sec. Joel Spolsky makes a reference to Jump the shark. MP3 download link. 30.5 MB.

15. 2009-06-02. Episode 56 of the Stack Overflow podcast, 1 hour 14 min 02 sec. The guest makes a reference to Jump the shark. MP3 download link. 34.7 MB.

16. 2009-10-19. Episode 71 of the Stack Overflow podcast, 1 hour 24 min 30 sec. Joel Spolsky makes a reference to Wasabi (origin of Jump the shark). MP3 download link. 30.4 MB.

17. 2009-10-23. Episode XX of Hanselminutes. Hanselminutes on 9 - Spolsky, Atwood, Blyth, Hanselman = Crazy-Delicious || Content-Free?

18. 2009-12-15. Episode 78 of the Stack Overflow podcast, 35 min 25 sec. Jeff Atwood makes a reference to Jump the shark. MP3 download link. 30.4 MB.

19. 2010-01-05. Episode 79 of the Stack Overflow podcast, 56 min 05 sec. Joel Spolsky makes a reference to Jump the shark. MP3 download link. 35.0 MB.

20. 2010-01-26. Episode 81 of the Stack Overflow podcast, 16 min 49 sec. Jeff Atwood makes an indirect reference to Jump the shark. MP3 download link. 32.1 MB.

21. 2010-02-16. Episode 84 of the Stack Overflow podcast, 30 min 34 sec. A member of the Stack Exchange team makes an indirect reference to Jump the shark (Wasabi). MP3 download link. 26.5 MB.

To be continued...


Top 200 blogs by software developers

Jurgen Appelo published a list of the top 200 blogs by software developers. The ranking is based on a metric developed by him.

Scott Hanselman's blog is number one and Jurgen Appelo's own blog is number 23.

Somewhat surprising the Stack Overflow blog is up at the 15th place despite the infrequent postings and it being used mostly for announcements.


This week in Venture Capital mentions Stack Overflow

Episode 6 of This week in Venture Capital (TWiVC) mentions Stack Overflow. The occasion is the Series A round of funding of USD$6 Million.

They speculate that the valuation of Stack Overflow is in the range USD$15 Million to USD$18 Million.

MP3 file. 1 h 06 min 26 secs. 39 MB. Published 2010-05-12.


.NET idiomatic code snippets for regular expressions

Using regular expressions in .NET is far more verbose than in Perl and the examples on MSDN are not very good.

It is also difficult to find idiomatic code for common things on Stack Overflow. Searching will come up with how to make the regular expressions themselves and not how to implement it in terms of C# or VB.NET.

Here is the idomatic code, in C#

1. Simple to match and extract:

string estr = Regex.Match(inputText, @"/(\d+)/").Groups[1].Value;

Where inputText contains the text to be matched and "/(\d+)/" is a sample regular expression. Note that those are forward slashes and are matched literally. What is inside the parenthesis pair is extracted, in this case "\d+" (one or more digits - effectively an integer number). Namespace System.Text.RegularExpressions must be included for this to work ("using System.Text.RegularExpressions;").

2. Replace matched text with some fixed text (empty in this case, effectively removing the matched text):

Regex rgx = new Regex(@"\D");
IDstr = rgx.Replace(inputText, "");

Where inputText contains the text to be matched and "\D" is a sample regular expression (matching everything but digits).

NB: The answers to Stack Overflow question "Regular expression to retrieve everything before first slash" and "Parse filename from full path using regular expressions in C#" does contain some sample code.



Long live Wikepedia!

However, if you want to relax a bit from all the correctness take a look at Uncyclopedia - a website that parodies Wikipedia. It also exists in other languages than English and with local content. For example Spademanns Leksikon, the Danish version.


  • Question mark. "Do some people place a space between the end of their sentence and the question mark? Could the French language have influenced this extra usage? Why do the French always add a space before question marks, exclamation marks, colons, and semicolons? Then in English is the insertion of this extra blank space generally considered bad form?"


Joel Spolsky's turn in Hanselminutes

In the latest Hanselminutes podcast, episode 212, Joel Spolsky (of Stack Overflow) discuss with the host about podcasting. It is very much meta - talking about podcasting. Leo Laporte is mentioned.

Published 2010-04-23. MP3 file (47 min 03 secs. 32 MB).


Converting a SWF file

There is a web page with a Flash video demonstrating Campfire. So what do you do if you don't like neither Flash nor JavaScript for security reasons?

In the source for the page there are some comments about the (default) URL for the video being defined in the file cf_introduction_config.xml. There is indeed a reference to the XML file: http://37assets.s3.amazonaws.com/video/campfirenow/cf_introduction_config.xml.

Downloading this file and inspecting it reveals two URLs:

  1. http://37assets.s3.amazonaws.com/video/campfirenow/cf_introduction.swf
  2. http://37assets.s3.amazonaws.com/video/campfirenow/cf_introduction_PIP.flv

The last file has the file extension normally used for Flash videos, flv. However attempting to download it with Wget results in a 403 error.

The first file, a SWF file (for displaying "animated" vector graphics), can be downloaded, though. It has a length of 9.5 MB. It can be converted to a working MP3 file, so at least it contains audio. I used MediaCoder to get the MP3 file. Could it be played in Gnash and show some animation?

Gnash may be used. From the FAQ, "What operating systems does Gnash run on?" there is this somewhat cryptic statement:

Windows builds are available (compiled against Mingw).

But it is not clear where such builds can be found, if they can be trusted and if they require Mingw to run.

I tried to install Mingw, but it required too much effort. It is not straightforward.

In the end I dragged the SWF file onto Firefox, and it worked! Probably because the plug-in Shockwave Flash was installed. I haven't installed it, and I don't know how it came to be there. Pretty scary. So much for security.



Stack Overflow podcast 87 is out!

After a long hiatus a new Stack Overflow podcast is out! Episode 87.

Direct download MP3 link. 29.1 MB. 1 h 03 min 35 sec.

Interpretor is not a word

I saw interpretor used in a Stack Overflow post. Is it the same as interpreter? Yes, it is. And interpretor is not a word.

I asked at iRosetta and the affirmative answer from Donald Romero was that this word does not exist.

Subsequently I added an entry for interpretor at Wiktionary.

Jump page for Stack Overflow, etc.

I have a jump page for iRosetta, Stack Overflow, Wikipedia, etc.

Of particular notice: iRosetta is a place where you can ask language related question and get very high quality answers. It is based on the same software as Stack Overflow.

Using Firefox without a mouse

It is possible to use Firefox without ever touching the mouse, including opening links. For navigating links on a page the first few letters of a link text can be typed and that link will selected so pressing Enter will open it.

It just requires a few changes to Firefox.

From Firefox: non-Vimperator way to do mouseless browsing?:

  • Set to on: menu Tools/Options/Advanced/tab General/Accessibility/Search for text when I start typing
  • Set option to only go to links; in address bar enter: about:config, followed by Enter. Then: press "I'll be careful, I promise", find the line accessibility.typeaheadfind.linksonly, select it and change the value to True by either hitting Enter or Shift+F10/Toggle (accessibility.typeaheadfind.linksonly is on line 11 when I tried).
  • Turn off case-sensitivity. Set accessibility.typeaheadfind.casesensitive to 0 (same procedure as for accessibility.typeaheadfind.linksonly, see above. When Enter is pressed a dialog box will appear with the current value. Type 0 and press Enter).


Microprocessor for Arduino

The Arduino platform is based on Atmel AVR:

"The Arduino physical computing platform is based on an
ATmega328 microcontroller (ATmega168 or ATmega8 in older
board versions than the Diecimila)"