Disabling search type changes in kiten

Sunday 26 September 2010, 13:08

The Japanese-English dictionary program "kiten" has an annoying misfeature whereby if you do a search that has no results, instead of saying there are no results it will automatically change the search type to try to get more results for you. For instance, an "Exact Match" search might be changed to a "Match Anywhere" search. Google does that sometimes (for instance, changing phrase searches to bag-of-words searches) and that's annoying too, but at least Google warns you when it does it, and the stateless nature of Google searches means that the change is local to a single search. With kiten, the search type change is permanent (even saved in the config file when you exit). That's a problem if you are doing many searches successively, for instance during translation, and you have to keep resetting the search type. It's an even bigger problem if you have the ill-advised, but default and encouraged, "Automatically Search Clipboard Selections" feature turned on: because then just selecting text in some other application can permanently change your kiten configuration.

Disabling huge-ass panel tooltips in KDE4

Sunday 26 September 2010, 12:40

Big news! I've finally achieved one of my most-wanted misfeature fixes with KDE4: disabling the ugly huge-ass animated tooltips in the panel. I think a lot of others wanted this as well, so I'm hoping they'll link here.

Fixing the JED dealbreakers

Saturday 4 September 2010, 18:45

There are many things I like about the JED text editor, and for a number of years it has been my preferred editor for working on C code. However, it has a number of misfeatures that make it unacceptable for other tasks for which I need a text editor, so I have generally been using JED only for C code, and JOE for most other things (including, notably, English-language writing of both fiction and nonfiction in LaTeX and flat text). Just recently I had occasion to try to edit some C code on my laptop, which had a fresh default installation of JED, and it was a horrible experience, and I realized that I had, years ago, made a number of customizations to JED that I'd long since forgotten about.

For my own future reference, and anyone who might be facing a similar situation, here are some notes on changes I made. I decided while I was at it to try to not only bring the laptop's installation up to the desktop's standard so I could use it for C, but also fix as many as possible of the issues keeping me from using JED for other things on both installations, so that I could at least consider adopting it as my general editor instead of mostly using JOE. It remains to be seen whether JED will be able to serve as my all-purpose editor, but so far I've been liking it once I sorted out these issues.

The battle hymn of the Royal Dwarven Kilted Axemen

Wednesday 25 August 2010, 19:56

I got sick over the weekend, probably from all the stress, so for the past few days I've been working from home, and not working very hard. I've also been playing a lot of Dwarf Fortress. This has involved a steady stream of exclamations along the lines of "Goddammit what kind of mother carries her baby into the extremely dangerous aquifer layer?" and "Caution. Siege engine practice area." After one fort got wiped out by goblins (the goblins only killed a few dwarfs, but then the others were so upset they flipped out and started killing each other) I decided that the next one would have a proper military, and that turned out to involve a unit called the "Royal Dwarven Kilted Axemen." So, naturally, I had to share the below.

Disabling the "same directory as current tab" brain damage of KDE's konsole terminal emulator

Monday 2 August 2010, 20:06

So, you have a new laptop computer. You install the latest and greatest Slackware Linux on it, and it naturally comes with a newer version of KDE than what's on your desktop machine. You open the "konsole" terminal emulator as usual, work for a while, and then when you're ears-deep in /etc/acpi/events or somewhere, you open another tab and Whoa! you aren't in your home directory as you expected, your new tab is ears-deep in /etc/acpi/events or some such Godforsaken place.

Well, the first time you figure you just made a weird mistake and typed cd /etc/acpi/events/or/some/such/Godforsaken/place without realizing it (and then, fnord-like, didn't see the command in the terminal window), and you automatically type cd again to go where you meant to be and you carry on. But then it happens again.

So you resolve to lay off the crack pipe for a few days, grit your teeth and type "cd" again, and so it is only on the third time it happens that you finally decide maybe it's not just you, and you make appropriate experiments and discover the horrible truth: the KDE developers inflicted this on you as a deliberate feature! When you open a new tab it will pry into your bash process, figure out where you are, and put the new tab there to prevent your escape. Heaven help you if you weren't using bash.

That ought to be the end of the story, since they at least had the decency to put a check box for it on the "Edit profile" configuration dialog. Below the fold, what happens if you uncheck that box...

A note on similarity search

Monday 19 July 2010, 19:26

Hi! I'm a scientific researcher. I have a PhD in computer science. My doctoral dissertation is mostly about the mathematical background of "similarity search." That means looking at things to find other things they are similar to. I've travelled the world to present my work on similarity search at scientific conferences - and some very smart people with very limited funds chose to use those funds to pay for me to do that.

Argument from authority has its limitations, but I would like to make very clear: I am an expert in the specific area of how computers can answer questions of the form "Which thing does this thing most resemble?" Gee, why would I mention this right now?

Judging covers by the book

Friday 9 July 2010, 09:32

Here are the covers of two different editions of the book Silver Phoenix, by Cindy Pon. One of them is horribly offensive - "like the ugly, stupid, festering toad that you just can't squash no matter how many times you hit it with a shovel" - and the Web logger on whose site I found the pictures and quote thinks it's obvious which one that is.

On the marshmallow test

Wednesday 30 June 2010, 09:46

Show a four-year-old child some marshmallows and a bell. Tell them that you're going to leave the room for a while (fifteen or twenty minutes). Say that if they ring the bell, you'll come back and give them a marshmallow. However, say that if they don't ring the bell, but wait until you come back without ringing it, then you will give them two marshmallows. Record what happens.

Ten years later, assess the child's personality and general success in life by means of a questionnaire sent to their parents. What you discover is that the ones who rang the bell, or who rang it earlier, score relatively poorly on questions that measure social adjustment, "emotional intelligence," and so on. The ones who didn't ring the bell, or rang it later, score much better on those measures, and also score better on the SAT. Shoda, Y., Mischel, W., Peake, P. K. (1990). Predicting adolescent cognitive and self-regulatory competencies from preschool delay of gratification: Identifying diagnostic conditions. Developmental Psychology, 26(6) [PDF]

The part I think is really interesting is what the authors of that paper don't say about the experimental protocol.

An index for all reasons

Sunday 27 June 2010, 16:52

There are probably as many reasons to save money as there are savers. One of mine is as follows: I don't want to be forced to change my lifestyle. In particular, after I'm retired and living on the savings I create today, I don't want to find myself in a situation where, because of changes in the world beyond my control that affect prices, the money I put aside to buy goods for myself during retirement is no longer enough to cover the kind of lifestyle I intended for myself, and so I'm forced to cut back. I want someone else, not me, to be accountable for cutting back to make sure I don't have to, and I'm willing to pay money up front in order to remove belt-tightening from the list of things I have to take responsibility for.

Gerard Kennedy on copyright, other issues

Thursday 24 June 2010, 10:42

Last night I attended a meeting called the "Community Council on Federal Issues," hosted by Gerard Kennedy, Liberal Member of Parliament for Parkdale-High Park and my Federal elected representative. I didn't vote for him; never mind whether I would have, I was living in a different city at the time of the last election. Apparently he holds these meetings periodically as a way of keeping in touch with constituents; this one in particular was advertised as having a focus issue of "Locked out? New Federal copyright laws and you," which was what drew my interest. I didn't take notes and don't plan to report on the entire meeting, but will cover a few points of interest to me.