Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cover Me

I saw this link on Digg that said "Neil Young sings 'Fresh Prince'" (or something similar) and was instantly hooked. I love covers, especially when someone completely outside the genre of the original does the cover. Johhny Cash singing "Rusty Cage" by Soundgarden?

Love it.

Me First and Gimme Gimmes doing "100 Miles" by the Proclaimers? Awesome. (Couldn't find a video of this one).

Matt Weddle singing "Hey Ya" by Outkast?


I don't know what it is about covers, I just like to see other takes on a piece of music. Generally, if the musician doing the cover is good at what they do, they put their own style onto it and I get to hear something that is sometimes completely different from the original, but still holds the essence of that original.

Here's the video of the Fresh Prince cover.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

War and Peace

For about 10 years I have been trying to read the book War and Peace. The first time I started, I got about 20 pages in, got bored and moved onto something else. A few years later, I got about 100 pages in, something came up and I didn't get back to it for a while and by that time I had forgotten everything I had read before. The time after that I got about one third of the way in, something came up again and I gave up one more time. Recently, I was looking for something to read and saw that old nemesis War and Peace sitting on the shelf. I don't know why I wanted to read War and Peace so much. I might be that it's a long book and supposedly a challenge to read and I like challenges. It may be that I am interested in history enough to want to read the book, or it could just be that I like classic books. I've enjoyed Crime and PunishmentThe Count of Monte Cristo, and some other classic books, so why not give War and Peace a shot?

I decided that this time, I wouldn't let anything get in the way of finishing the book. This was especially hard because about half way through War and Peace, the 12th book in the Wheel of Time came out, and I've been waiting for that for a long time. We also purchased the 2nd and 3rd Books of Ember and those tempted me too. Something was different this time; I read the whole book and enjoyed it. I don't think it's a fantastic book, it doesn't rate in my top 10, but I did enjoy the book.

I found some things to be a little annoying in the book. Pierre Bezukhov seemed to change too often; we're not just talking a little change, but his whole outlook on life seemed to change frequently. It does seem to be a big of his personality to find something to grab onto and go after head first, but it seemed that every time Tolstoy was describing his story, he changed his life in some large way. He becomes a Mason, he decided he loves someone, then he loves someone else (this seemed to happen to many characters). I did like how Pierre changed over the course of the book, but I think his intermediate changes were a bit drastic.

Nicholas Rostov was one of my favorite characters, along with Andrew Bolkonski. They seemed opposite ends of the spectrum of characters and ended up in the end at peace with who they were. I think Denisov was great too. He showed courage and compassion throughout the book, but never ended up the way that I would have expected. He didn't turn out as heroic as I thought he should.

I did enjoy the book, but I don't think I'll read it again, unless something makes me rethink that in the future.

I'm on to the Books of Ember and The Gathering Storm for now; I also have a couple more books by Jack McDevitt that I need to read.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


The other day at work, I had a great idea come to me. For the longest time the hardware team at work has been wanting some way that they could write simple debug tests for our test boards, but they didn't want to keep a whole source tree with everything up to date, so I thought to myself "wouldn't it be great if I could write a simple little script parser for them?" Their needs are not great, generally just reading/writing registers on the processor and board, maybe some sort of logging and stuff like that; pretty simple really.

I started thinking I should brush up on my flex/yacc/bison/etc when it occurred to me that there had to be a simple script parser out there already that I could build into my embedded, bare metal, environment. So, I opened up google and typed in "C javascript engine" to see what I could find.

Lo, and behold, one of the first responses was for SpiderMonkey, the JS engine that is used by Firefox. Now, when I saw that, I thought there was no way that SpiderMonkey could possibly work for what I wanted, but I decided to take a look at it just to see what it looked like.

I had previously looked at the v8 scripting engine for another project and so I was expecting a rather large source tree, but SpiderMonkey 1.7 was only 1MB tar gzipped. So, I spent about 30 minutes hacking up the makefile a little bit so it would work for cross-compilation, got onto #jsapi on and asked a couple questions about the custom implementation of dtoa and then got my first static library compiled.

Now, anyone who has ever ported something knows that compilation is a pretty big step, but just having something compiled doesn't mean that it will work, so I didn't have much hope.

I grabbed some simple embedding howto code that evaluated the JS code "22/7" to approximate PI and fired up my trusty compiler. Again, I had little to no hope that it would actually work, but to my surprise I got a nice print-out on my screen of the approximation of PI.

I spent another 30 minutes implementing some wrappers for some native functions (logging, etc) for JS and wrote some simple little test scripts.

I was very impressed by SpiderMonkey 1.7, it was easy to hack up a little to get it to cross-compile, it doesn't require a lot of external libraries (none really) and it runs very nice on my embedded target.

My next step will be to try with one of the releases that includes TraceMonkey and the speed improvements that come with JIT.

I have yet to show my idea to the hardware team at work, but I think they will like it. I will support a simple executable that takes a script on the command line and executes it. They just need to write the simple test vectors they need and don't have to worry about the whole code environment.

Thanks SpiderMonkey!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Coming of the Quantum Cats, part deux

So, originally I was going to post on every chapter of this book. It was a really quick read (I finished it a couple weeks ago). I've been pondering what to write. I liked the book. I didn't love the book. It jumped around a lot between a couple different viewpoints. Basically, we get to know the same character from a couple different universes. I really liked how different the three versions of the same person were. Depending on the history of their world, they turned out remarkably different.

One of them was a low level mortgage broker, another was a high level scientist and the last was a US Senator. They didn't talk about where each one's history differed to get to the point they were at, but it was interesting to see.

I don't know if I would recommend this book to anyone, but if you want to borrow it I think I still have it.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Coming of the Quantum Cats

We have a great little used book store somewhat close to us called Pass the Book. I was able to find a couple books that I have been looking for to fill in my SciFi collection a little bit which is always nice. I was there the other day while waiting for my pizza to get done when I came across this book:

Yes, indeed. "The Coming of the Quantum Cats." How could I possibly resist buying this book? It was $2.00 to start with, and they were having a 25% off sale, so I paid a remarkable $1.50 for this gem. I've decided that I will do a post for each chapter. I will try to not give anything away because I am sure everyone will want to go out and purchase this exceptional literature achievement, but if I do, I'll mark it with "SPOILER ALERT" so you have ample warning. I go into reading this book with the expectation that it will be laughably horrible, but I could be pleasantly surprised and it could be fantasic. I am not holding my breath.

Chapter 1 review to follow shortly.