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Journal: Hacking the NHL All-Star Game

Journal by TopShelf

With Montreal hosting the 2009 NHL All-Star Game, Canadiens fans are obviously excited to vote online to get their players into the starting lineup for the Eastern Conference. The league found, however, that after barely a day of voting, the "Flying Frenchmen" were in position for all six starting spots, with vote totals that were often 200% higher than rival stars like Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, who are widely regarded as the biggest names in the sport. A script posted on a Habs fan forum enabled users to automatically hammer away at the NHL's balloting site, in violation of the rules.

The league has belatedly added a captcha to the voting page to confound the Greasemonkey crowd, but this episode begs a question: since the NHL boasts that its avid fans are exceedingly techno-savvy, isn't this exactly the sort of competition they'd like to see? For example, alliances could be formed between cities in opposite conferences to get each other's players into the honored slots.

Last year, a similar (albeit more grassroots) drive nearly led to journeyman Rory Fitzpatrick getting named to the Western Conference squad.

User Journal

Journal: The Economic Downturn means Jack to Open Source 2

Journal by Number6.2

We've achieved critical mass. Linux is not going away. Neither is Open Office. Or Apache. Or PHP. Or a host of interesting, innovative, and inspiring Open Source titles. EVERYTHING slows down in a [Re|De]pression. You can kill a major company when the guy at the top screws up (We know you did nothing wrong, Mr. Fuld. Did you do anything *right*?) If you kill Linus Torvalds, does Linux fall down?

I doubt it. We now open the floor to hearsay and innuendo...

Upgrades

Journal: Help me build a new PC 6

Journal by TopShelf

OK, here's the scoop; I may, through my own stupidity, have fried the motherboard in my desktop PC at home, and am facing the prospect of getting a new one, and I'd like to get some input on which direction I should take, since it's been almost 5 years since I last did this.

The PC that may be dead has a P4 3Ghz processor on an ASUS P4C800 Deluxe motherboard, 1GB RAM (DDR400) and some peripherals worth salvaging (hard drives, DVD drive, etc.). I was trying to plug in some additional memory, decided to take it back out and check a few things online before proceeding, and closed up the box. When I fired it up, a rather nasty smell starting coming out of the case, and when I powered back down, I realized I hadn't taken the memory card out after all, and worse yet, it was sitting halfway into the slot. Now when I try to boot I get one long beep followed by two short ones, and endlessly repeating cycle that I haven't been able to get definitive info on as to what it means (some say main memory failure, others the video adapter).

I'm trying to figure out if perhaps the existing memory got fried and putting different DIMMs in might resolve the issue, but I'd rather not pay for that only to find out that's not the problem, and the mobo is indeed toast. So I've started browsing online for a new rig...

What I Do: A little gaming (NHL08), but mostly intensive database and spreadsheet work. I have a blog where I dig into statistical analysis of the NHL, and I'm in the process of designing a database that would be updated after each night's games.

Since it's been so long since I've had a box built, I don't even know where to start. AMD? Intel? 2 or 4 CPU? 2GB RAM? 4GB? 32-bit or 64? I assume, based on everything I've read, that XP is the way to go over Vista (Windows only, please). I'm not looking to blow huge sums of money here, so I like to find sweet spots where the diminishing returns for that extra $ start to tail off.

User Journal

Journal: Mimeprisal... I'm in 4

Journal by TopShelf

Post a comment to this thread, and I will:

1. Tell you why I befriended you.
2. Associate you with something - fandom, a song, a color, a photo, etc..
3. Tell you something I like about you.
4. Tell you a memory I have of you.
5. Ask something I've always wanted to know about you.
6. Tell you my favorite user pic of yours.
7. In return, you must post this in your Journal/Blag/whatever.

User Journal

Journal: U3 2

Journal by Number6.2

I recently brought a new SanDisk Cruzer 4G USB thumb drive, partly because of the price ( $10/G) and partly because of this thing called U3. Take your applications with you! Oh, yeah, Firefox, cygwin, and winamp would disappear from my drive in a heartbeat.

I have learned that the reality is somewhat less than the dream. Plus, on further investigation, there are many out there in IT land who hate this little guy. Anyone else have any experience with this beast?

I bring U3 into the Arena! We who are about to die salute you!

Databases

Journal: Which free (as in beer) database would you recommend? 6

Journal by TopShelf

At the risk of starting a classic flame war, I have a pressing request for assistance.

As a hobby, I blog about NHL hockey, in particular the extension of statistical analysis which until recent years has been about as sophisticated as ancient cave drawings. For the last year or so, I've pursued this by compiling data in spreadsheets for a series of ad-hoc analytical pursuits, but the time has come to formalize my data structures into a database with tables fed by scripts that parse game data as posted at NHL.com. But which free database should I use?

Some operational parameters to consider: I'm envisioning some basic data import tables (I'm developing scripts in Excel to pull the web data down and parse into columns), followed by a series of tables fed by programs which pull data together from a variety of sources (stored in table form for ease of reporting). Most of these tables would only run in the 1,000 - 100,000 range, while one in particular could run as high as 5,000,000 or so. There aren't many instances where multiple indexes over a given table would be required, but the reporting built off these tables could be computationally intense (i.e. exponential moving averages built off of subtotals).

So which DB should I choose? MySQL, PostgreSQL, Open Office's Base? I'm at a bit of a loss as to which direction to go in, and I'd rather not head down a particular path only to find it's not going to pan out.

User Journal

Journal: Another MySQL Interlude 2

Journal by rho

A comparison between the "easy to use" MySQL and the "hard to use" PostgreSQL:

MySQL:

CREATE TABLE up_subjects_books (
BOOK_ID int(11),
SUBJECT_ID int(11),
KEY bo_id (BOOK_ID),
KEY su_id (SUBJECT_ID),
CONSTRAINT up_bo_fk1 FOREIGN KEY (BOOK_ID) REFERENCES up_books (id) ON DELETE RESTRICT,
CONSTRAINT up_sub_fk1 FOREIGN KEY (SUBJECT_ID) REFERENCES up_subjects (id) ON DELETE RESTRICT
) ENGINE=InnoDB;

PostgreSQL:

CREATE TABLE up_subjects_books (
BOOK_ID INTEGER REFERENCES up_books(id),
SUBJECT_ID INTEGER REFERENCES up_subjects(id)
);

Of course, many people don't bother with foreign key constraints and they do such things programmatically. Which, to my mind, makes nothing easier. It simply makes the programmer responsible for data integrity, which is a recipe for trouble.

If there's a better way to do this in MySQL I'd love to hear it. I can't find it in the official documentation, but to be fair I stopped looking when I finally found an incantation that fucking worked. "INTEGER REFERENCES up_books(id)" certainly works, but it doesn't establish a constraint, which makes the whole exercise silly in my opinion. Why on Earth would anybody pick MySQL? I certainly wouldn't, but the server where this Web app currently sits is dropping its Oracle license and they've only installed MySQL.

(Oracle has its own set of oddities and quirks which annoy me, but at least I had confidence in the engine. To my mind, PostgreSQL is so far superior to both MySQL and Oracle for small-to-large database projects it's not even funny. Easy, fast and predictable. For certain enterprise setups I can see where Oracle stomps all over the free software options, and if Oracle were more reasonably priced I wouldn't be opposed to using it. But you have to be a sadist to want to do something non-trivial in MySQL.)

User Journal

Journal: Z1 is awesome! I want it on the iPhone or it's competitor

Journal by NeMon'ess

Z1 is a simple, intuitive system for very rapid text input on a soft "qwerty" keyboard. The user simply traces a quick "connect-the-dots" path, roughly aiming to pass through each letter of a word.

The page after the first link has the videos.

The way I see it, this really is the replacement for 26-key keyboards on cell phones. Z1 comes from the same brains that made the T9 system for text messages. If handwriting recognition never becomes good enough, this will suffice and be faster anyway.

Now what I really want is these lengthwise-slider phones or a clamshell like the Nokia 9500 to get dual touch screens so I can properly surf the net or write stuff. The iPhone's screen is 480x320. What's really useful is 480x640.

How long before a reverse-clamshell phone comes out? Put two screens on the outside, rather than in. Then it folds out on a hinge for double the screen real-estate. If Apple thinks they can make one screen scratch resistant enough, then someone needs to do that to both screens.

Advantages:
1. Can check the time without having the flip the phone over.
2. Can use the camera for video conferencing or seeing what it sees when pointing it away from the user.
3. Hinged design means more space for the screen than on a slider.

User Journal

Journal: Bill Moyers' Roundtable On Impeachment Of Bush & Cheney 17

Journal by NeMon'ess

"PBS' Bill Moyers sits down with The Nation's John Nichols and conservative constitutional attorney Bruce Fein from the American Freedom Agenda to discuss the crimes and abuse of power by George Bush and Dick Cheney and the need to impeach them both. While Nichols and Fein come from different ends of the political spectrum, they are in total agreement on this issue. Congress must put impeachment on the table because if they do nothing to stop Bush and Cheney now, we will see future presidents follow in their footsteps which would be a disaster for our country." - Crooksandliars.com

JOHN NICHOLS: "the Scooter Libby affair gets to the heart of what I think an awfully lot of Americans are concerned about with this administration and with the executive branch in-- general, that it is lawless, that-- it can rewrite the rules for itself, that it can protect itself.

And, you know, the founders anticipated just such a moment. If you look at the discussions in the Federalist Papers but also at the Constitutional Convention, when they spoke about impeachment, one of the things that Madison and George Mason spoke about was the notion that you needed the power to impeach particularly as regards to pardons and commutations because a president might try to take the burden of the law off members of his administration to prevent them from cooperating with Congress in order to expose wrongdoings by the president himself. And so Madison said that is why we must have the power to impeach. Because otherwise a president might be able to use his authority and pardons and such to prevent an investigation from getting to him."

Programming

Journal: How to bring mainframers into the 21st century? 8

Journal by TopShelf

I've recently been tasked with leading the integration effort for a large systems implementation here at work, and am facing a challenge more daunting than any mere technical obstacle; how does one best get hardcore old-school programmers to embrace a new way of integrating our applications?

We're replacing a large, homegrown COBOL application on a mainframe with a more modular, Java-based ERP on a midrange platform. The kicker is that we need to replace over 100 interface points between other internal systems and the legacy app, and the direction we're headed in is to leverage a GUI-based middleware product to accomplish that task, and take initial steps towards establishing a more loosely coupled, flexible systems architecture. I'm convinced this is technically feasible and will reap many benefits going forward (particularly as other major projects come along), but our developers have a hard time letting go of their point-to-point, custom programs with lots of embedded information directing processing for specific customers or situations.

This group is throwing every conceivable objection to the middleware approach, and most of them are failing to make much headway as we develop some pilot projects to build expertise, despite having had ample training and the services of a consultant to provide mentorship as they work their way up the learning curve.

The bottom line is that they are resisting this new method by any means available: submitting lots of trouble tickets for minor issues, not digging through the documentation and throwing up their hands in futility, etc. Has anybody else here in the /. community dealt with such a generational change in development technique with existing IT staff? We're all sympathetic for experienced workers getting pushed aside for younger talent, but if the old dog can't learn new tricks, perhaps it's time to head to the pet store...

Security

Journal: NHLPA rocked by email spying scandal 3

Journal by TopShelf

Just when you thought managerial spying was the exclusive field for tech-savvy firms like HP, the details are now coming out about an electronic spying scandal that brought down the head of the National Hockey League Players Association, Ted Saskin. Over the course of fifteen months, Saskin and an associate regularly accessed the email accounts of NHL player reps who wanted to have Saskin's hiring investigated. In addition, the results of a secret ballot ratifying the league's Collective Bargaining Agreement were provided to Saskin by members of the NHLPA's IT group - so watch out for any resumes listing NHLPA Network Security as a working experience!

Software

Journal: Anyone going to Summit 2007? 2

Journal by TopShelf

I'm heading off to Summit 2007 this weekend, running Monday through Wednesday in Vegas. It's the user conference for Information Builders, and I'm attending to check out sessions regarding iWay, their software integration tool. I just thought I'd see if any other /.ers would be attending...

User Journal

Journal: Tux racing in the Indy 500? 3

Journal by TopShelf

This morning's Indianapolis Star profiles a local programmer who is raising funds to put Tux on a race car for the Indianapolis 500, which runs in later this month. His website has already raised over $11,000 for the cause, which hopes to promote Linux during one of the world's most-watched sporting events. If he can raise $350,000, a primary sponsorship would be available, which would mean a larger logo featured on the side of the car.

The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford

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