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simon collis

musings of an omnivorous biped

Microsoft SQL Server has a really nice feature. In theory. It’s called “full text indexes”. Go ahead, read about it on MSDN if you want. This post will still be here when you get back.

You didn’t read it, did you? Actually, that’s OK, because if you ask me, reading it is a waste of time. Here’s why. Read more

Bcpl: The Language and Its CompilerBcpl: The Language and Its Compiler by Martin Richards
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Published in 1981, I bought this when I saw it mentioned in an article on compilers, and someone mentioned this as being a model of what a book about a computer language should be.

It’s interesting to see the way in which this book works, and it’s probably a good model for low-level programming. A fascinating insight into a little-used language these days, and still quite readable even if you can’t get your head round BCPL. Modern programmers new to antique languages will find it strangely fascinating: no strings, no classes, no memory management. It’s about as low level as you can get, and yet there’s concepts in there (write once, run anywhere) that are bang up to date in the latest languages.

A fascinating read for anyone seriously interesting in the history of computing.

View all my reviews

/edit: I originally had the name as “BCPL: The Compiler and its Construction”. Doh.

A fly

Posted by simon on 2014/10/16
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I’ve been a bit quiet of late on this blog – for reasons that I’ll go into at a later date – but I wanted to just share a little incident that happened today.

I work from home now, which means that I have my own little office upstairs. It appears to be a room that the flies like a lot. By flies, I mean houseflies. Your standard, everyday flies. Musca domestica. Not mosquitoes, anything that bites, or anything like that. Just flies. Read more

Comments are fixed now

Posted by simon on 2014/07/30
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Such is the life of the self-hosted WordPress blogger… *sigh*

A letter to Foursquare

Posted by simon on 2014/07/23
Posted in CommentTechnology  | Tagged With: , , | No Comments yet, please leave one

I’ve been a dedicated user of Foursquare for years. If you follow my Twitter, you’ll have suffered my tweets on it for long enough to know that and (presumably) not hate it enough to block me (probably).

Anyway, Foursquare recently reinvented themselves as two apps, instead of one. The new one’s called Swarm. Lots of people don’t like it.

If you read the iTunes app store page, there are lots of bad reviews. There’s also an email address, asking for feedback. Here’s what I sent them: Read more

So did you get the clue from last time? You did? Oh well done you. But it’ll have to wait. You see, I was having this discussion on Twitter and suddenly I thought of another possible British Columbo. One that might – just – shoot straight to the top of the charts.

image: Wikipedia

image: Wikipedia

For those of you who haven’t read the title at the top, let me paint a picture for you. It’s London, 2014, and you decide to see a play. Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit” is on, and the 88-year-old Angela Lansbury is playing Madame Arcati, maybe you’ll go and see that. And then you realise it closed last month – June 7th 2014, actually. So instead, you watch the 1950s version, starring Margaret Rutherford as Arcati.

Well, as good as that is – and trust me, it’s magnificent – there’s perhaps four other Rutherford films you ought to see as well. Read more

My favourite Doctor Who has always been Patrick Troughton. I don’t really know why, but he feels more Doctor-ish to me than any of them, past or present. So when “The Enemy Of The World” and “The Web Of Fear” were recovered (or, mainly recovered), last year, I was downloading them at quarter past midnight. In other words, fifteen minutes after they were released. They’re both good stories, but for me, “Enemy” is the better of the two. It deals with scenarios – dictatorships, food shortages, mass murder – that we can all recognise in the world today.

But my favourite character is Salamander’s henchman, Benik, played with joyous evil by Milton Johns. I mention this because I frequently confuse him with Colin Jeavons. In fact, I wrote the original draft of this thoroughly convinced that Inspector Lestrade was Benik. Read more

Of course, you all got the clue in the last one, right? You know, “Deep Thought”? The computer from “The HitchHiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”. Played, in the 2005 film, of course, by Helen Mirren. Her other big roles have included Queen Elizabeth II… and Detective Chief Inspector (later Detective Superintendent) Jane Tennison in the series “Prime Suspect”.

Prime Suspect is renowned for its gritty realism, its accurate depiction of policing techniques, its treatment of Tennison as a hard-boiled character who regards her femininity as more of a hindrance than an asset… and for the sheer quality of its writing and directing. Read more

image: signs unique. Click to buy it as a fridge magnet from them. Hope they don't mind me borrowing it...

image: signs unique. Click to buy it as a fridge magnet from them. Hope they don’t mind me borrowing it…

In October, 11 missing episodes of “Doctor Who” were found in Nigeria. I mention this not in passing, but because it’s directly relevant to the subject in hand today: “The Avengers”. No, not the Marvel ones. This is the 1960s series starring Patrick MacNee, and heavily influenced by Sydney Newman, creator (not entirely coincidentally) of “Doctor Who”. But I’ll come back to that in a moment.

“The Avengers” began life in 1961, airing on ABC television in the UK (part of the ITV network). Starring Ian Hendry as Dr David Keel and Patrick Macnee as John Steed, the pair initially teamed up to investigate the murder of Keel’s fiancee. A strike meant the first series was cut short, and by the time they were ready for a second, Hendry had left to pursue a film career (spoiler: not a wise move), leaving MacNee as John Steed to hold the show. Read more

That was a tough clue, wasn’t it? “Alice Where Are Thou” – about President Roosevelt’s daughter. Could that be a clue? A detective named Alice? “A clue so large…” was a quote from Poirot – could it be Poirot? Sung by Ernest Pike? Any detective series named Pike? Or a detective who’s also a fisherman? Or likes Edward VII’s favourite tenor? Well, none of the above. Compare the music in these two:

On the right is the opening from “Open All Hours”, the 1970s comedy series starring Ronnie Barker and – in probably his third most famous role – Sir David Jason. His most famous role, of course, has to be Derek “Del Boy” Trotter in “Only Fools And Horses”. But the second? Read more