Tue, 28 Oct 2008


— SjG @ 6:13 pm

Today is the 2nd anniversary of the day my poor sweet beast died, or rather, that we put her out of her misery. That’s a lot more complicated to say than, simply, it’s her jahrzeit.

Kina in the Garden

Kina in the Garden

When I was walking home this evening, who should run out and greet me but the elusive Buddy (aka Snowball aka Princess). I have seen him maybe once or twice in the last six months (there’s been construction nearby, and I figure he’s just been hiding and keeping a low profile).

He got his petting and I got my temporary pet.

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Mon, 20 Oct 2008

Fixing crap PHP applications

— SjG @ 1:18 pm

I regularly end up in the situation where I have to fix a crap PHP application.

The latest one has lots and lots of PHP 3.x-era code, that references hashes without quoting the index, e.g.,

$foo = $bar[baz]

Now, the PHP interpreter understands this in actuality. It figures out that since the constant is not defined, the programmer probably meant that the index should be ‘baz’. It does, however, throw a well-deserved warning.

The code I’m trying to fix throws lots and lots of warnings. Rather than wade through all the warnings to find which ones are important, I started with the following:

find . -name \*.php -exec grep -ne '\[[^\$0-9\'\''\"]' {} \;

The thousands of lines of output convinced me bigger guns were needed.

So we got ugly.

find . -name \*.php -exec perl -p -i.bak -e 's/\[([^\$\d\'\''\"]+)\]/\[\'\''$1\'\''\]/g' {} \;

Note that that’s one line, and that WordPress seems to want to change some single quotes into back-ticks. Don’t be fooled!

All those extra backslashes and single quotes are to allow passing single-quotes within the regex, and not have bash consider them problematic.

Also note that this could be catastrophic if you have regular expressions in the code you’re operating on — do a diff with the backup version, and merge back the regexes.

I’m sure there are far more elegant solutions… primary among them, not using crap PHP apps in the first place!

Sat, 13 Sep 2008

Generating Plausible Fake User Data

— SjG @ 6:45 pm

So it’s a familiar problem, where you’re developing a data-driven application, and you want to optimize the queries that will run against your database (I’ll have more interesting stuff on this later). The problem, of course, is that to really optimize those queries, you need a lot of sample data.

So I needed to do some address lookup code against a huge collection of users. But because there was the possibility of having to demo the prototype, I really didn’t want 100,000 users named “Foo McBar” living at “10101 Binary Place.” So, with the help of the almighty Internet, the all-frobnicating Perl, and the all-knowing US Bureau of the Census, I created a quick, semi-flexible script to generate people with plausible names and addresses that, if not Google-mappable, at least had agreement on city/state/zip. The city/state/zip is a collection of 250 random zip codes. If you have good zip code data, you can easily extend this to be complete! Names are generated from the most popular forenames and surnames, with a probabilistic bias towards the most common ones. The script also allows you to specify “pick one of n item” type fields, pick a number from a range, plausible email addresses, not-very-plausible phone numbers with or without extensions, and the ability to export as CSV or tab-delimited.

In principle, this should be easy to adapt to other countries, although you’ll need lists of common first names, surnames, street names, and a way of mapping cities to regions, states, districts, cantons, or whatever’s appropriate.

You can grab a copy of it here. It requires a Perl interpreter with the Text::CSV and Getopt::Long CPAN modules.

Usage: [OPTIONS]
   -t, --header : header, a colon-delimited list of column headers
   -f, --format : format string, a colon-delimited list of column contents
       data types:
         fn - first name
         ln - last name
         a1 - street address
         a2 - apartment number
         c - city*
         s - state*
         z - zip 5*
         e - email address
         pne - phone (US), no extension
         pwe - phone (US), with extension
         [a,b,c] - one of a, b, or c
         {a,b,c} - one of a, b, or c in decreasing probability
         [x-y] - a number between x and y, inclusive

         * city, state, and zip will be agree to create a valid address
           if you need multiple addresses, use the code ! to reset the
           synch. The reset works on a left-to-right scan of the format string.

   -n, --number : number of records to create

  -c, --csv : output CSV format (otherwise, tab-delimited).
  -v, --(no)verbose : verbose mode (default false)


Viajante:samuelg$ --header "First:Last:Age:Email" --format "fn:ln:[10-100]:e" -n 5 --c

or, more exotically:

Viajante:samuelg$ --header "First Name:Last Name:Address:City:State:Zip:Super Power" --format "fn:ln:a1:c:s:z:[Invisibility,Invincibility,X-Ray Vision,Flight,Likes Squirrels]" -n 5 -c
"First Name","Last Name",Address,City,State,Zip,"Super Power"
Roseanna,Best,"8821 7th Str.",Manati,PR,00674,Flight
Euna,Crawford,"8195 Lee Str.","Fort Washington",PA,19034,Invincibility
Ted,Williams,"7140 Birch Ave.",Monroe,CT,06468,Invincibility
Mariano,Miranda,"2657 1st Way",Lyford,TX,78569,Flight
Tammy,Flowers,"2135 Washington Blvd.",Duluth,MN,55806,"Likes Squirrels"


Mon, 1 Sep 2008

Baltasar and Blimunda

— SjG @ 3:56 pm

A translation of Memorial do Convento, written by José Saramago, translated by Giovanni Pontiero, Harcourt Brace & Co, 1987.

I don’t really understand why Saramago’s work is so compelling. And I can’t give a pithy summary as to what this book was about. I could, perhaps, follow the example of countless others and say this book is a love story set in the still-mostly-medieval Portugal of the 18th century, but this would be inaccurate. Yes, there’s the romance between the titular characters, but one that we see as distant outsiders. We know more about the quarrying, transporting, and history of the portico-stone of the Basilica at Mofra or of the peccadillos of the Portuguese royal family than we really do of Balthasar and Blimunda’s love.

If anything, this book is less a romance than a musing on the fundamental inequities of life, a rambling explication of the abuse of power, or a celebration of the lives of simple country folk. Yet these descriptions too do poor service to the book; they leave out the fire, the lyricism, the anger and passion. It’s a powerful monument to the downtrodden and forgotten; a sneer at the Church; an idyll; a history; a tall-tale of music, second-sight, and alchemy.

And, like The Cave (the only other Saramago I’ve read), the language is challenging, funny, brilliant, and the book is hard to stop thinking about.

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Fri, 29 Aug 2008

“Save the Planet”

— SjG @ 8:18 pm

Maybe I’m a curmudgeon, but I’m getting heartily sick of the exhortation to “save the planet” (and even the debate about cretinous comments by Rep. Michele Bachmann about salvation).

But here’s the deal — when people say “save the planet,” they don’t mean that. Come on. We puny humans can’t destroy the planet. Sure, we can poison the surface, and make it inhospitable for many of the species who presently inhabit the place (ourselves included). Yes, we can wipe out forests and cause extinctions. But the planet’s been through worse — much worse — and probably will go through worse again.

So let’s can the “save the planet” talk and say what we really mean: preserving conditions that keep us comfortable.

Rant over.