· Naughties
· · 2005
· · · November
· · · · 20 (4 entries)

Regex Update · Back in August 2004, I wrote a piece comparing Perl and Java regex performance, observing that, to my surprise, apparently Java was way faster on what I thought was a pretty common task. Last month, Ben Tilly wrote me saying that Perl consciously accepted a regex slowdown to route around a pathological case where search time could explode to infinity. I asked him to write it up and promised to point to it, and he has. If you care about this kind of thing, read Ben’s piece and don’t miss the comments, which are interesting. Summary: the jury’s still out. See also: Open-Source Regex.
Sheikh Saad · One of the best ways to stay on top of Middle East news is to read Ha’aretz, an Israeli centre-left newspaper with a good web site. Right now both of Israel’s leading political parties are turning themselves inside out, so it’s a good time to be watching Ha’aretz. This is proof that it’s possible to cover both sides of the story in a passionate but even-handed voice. Passion as well as fairness is necessary to the coverage, because remaining calm in the face of these events is not sane behavior. What provokes this little outburst today is A house in the country, a little Jerusalem story that has no violence or brutality or explosions, just sheer gibbering insanity.
UnTiger · I try to stay with the current update of Mac OS X, but the latest, “Tiger” AKA 10.4, is pretty lame. The two big new things in Tiger were Spotlight (find anything on your computer, right now) and Dashboard (hit F12 and there’s a universe of helpful little widgets). Except for, both are too broken to use much. Where I really need search is in my email universe; tens of thousands of messages occupying gigabytes of storage stretching back decades, constituting my augmented electronic mind. The search interface in Spotlight is egregiously stupid; it starts searching as you start typing, retaining all the settings from your last search which (in my case at least) are almost certainly wrong, forcing you to stab frantically at the control buttons (which don’t appear until you’ve started) to point it in the right direction. But the worst thing is, it just can’t find emails that I know are there when I search for words that I know are in them. (There is a solution: Open a Terminal, drill down to the directory where the messages live, then use grep). And as for Dashboard... there’s not actually much there that’s interesting. The two widgets I’ve tried to use are local weather and the airline flight tracker. Only problem is, they give ridiculously, idiotically wrong answers. And while they’re sitting there in the background waiting to give the wrong answer, they grow steadily, burning memory and making your Mac run slower. (There is a solution: Open Dashboard, and one by one remove all the widgets; your Mac will run faster and be no less useful.) Fortunately, the OS X value proposition—a decent Unix with a decent UI—remains solid. I’m assuming that the next big cat will actually include something interesting.
Web Tracking Snapshot · There are many services that claim to be “blog search”, but that’s the wrong way to think about it. There are a (very) few occasions when I want to go and search for “what’s new on X”, and there are lots of ways to do that (the new Sphere is looking good in that space). But what I want to do 24/7, as long as the computer is turned on, is what I call Web Tracking: being told right away when there’s something new on the Web that I care about. I subscribe to a lot of Web Tracking services; herewith a snapshot of my impressions ...
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