The Sourcerer's Apprentice

The adventures of David Heinemann in IT & software development

A Brief Update

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Since I’ve been back at university (for a month already!), my blogging has slowed quite a bit. I’ve got a few half-written posts about some of the things I’ve been up to but haven’t had time to finish them yet. In the mean time, here’s somewhat of a summary.

University

I’m currently studying Computing Systems (mostly a mathematics course) and Systems Development B, part time. Having completed Systems Development A two years ago, my memory is a little rusty, but I’m quickly picking it up again. Computing Systems, not so much. I’m not too great at maths, but luckily, I do have a great course lecturer. As a computer scientist, he’s really enthusiastic about the subject and great at explaining it. Hopefully some of his enthusiasm for maths will rub off on me.

PureBasic

Earlier this month, I purchased and started learning PureBasic, a BASIC-inspired programming language. I’m not normally a fan of BASIC syntax, but the fact that PureBasic can compile for Windows, OS X and GNU/Linux without requiring extra packages or DLLs made it seem really worthwhile. Being a procedural language, I found it a little tricky to get used to at first, but now I’m quite enjoying it. The fact that PureBasic is somewhat obscure and costs ~$100 means it probably wouldn’t be useful in the workplace or for writing Free Software, but it looks very useful for writing small utilities.

ArchiveTeam

After spending about a month watching ArchiveTeam, I’ve started assisting them in downloading Windows Live Spaces, which only has a few more days before it is completely shut down. A couple of people have been scraping the web for profile URLs, which I have been splitting up into hotlists of 1,000 and distributing to others for archiving. To simplify the download process, I wrote a couple of Perl scripts (based on wget.pl) which process the hotlists and call Wget to download the profiles. They aren’t anything fancy, but people have found them useful. I’ve also written a scraper to export one’s Xfire game details.

The Dead, the Dying & the Damned

I already posted a little about this here, but thought it worth mentioning again while on the topic of ArchiveTeam. Jason Scott, the founder of ArchiveTeam, suggested that somebody make an RSS feed for website shutdown notifications. I took the idea and expanded on it a little. The Dead, the Dying & the Damned is a new blog I’ve created to notify people of websites and services that have shut down, are in the process of shutting down, or for some reason, may shut down soon. I also try to encourage people to help archive these websites or assist in ArchiveTeam’s projects.

Far Manager

I’m a big fan of the Orthodox File Manager (OFM), Total Commander, but the fact that it is commercial software means I haven’t been able to use it at work. In its place, I’ve begun using Far Manager. Far Manager seems a lot more true to the OFM paradigm than Total Commander, being a console application and having a more traditional feature set and key bindings. I had some trouble learning it and finding good documentation at first, since most of its community and development team are Russian, but luckily, the built-in English documentation seems to provide enough detail on most functions. I’ve actually found Far Manager to be so good that I’m now using it instead of Total Commander at home. When I have some time, I’d like to write up some kind of getting started guide for other English speakers.

Useful Software

I’ve updated the Useful Software page with some new items: Far Manager (see Total Commander), Nearly Free Speech, Pastebin.com.

Books

I recently ordered some Amazon books, and the first half of them arrived today: ’Learning Perl’, ’Learning GNU Emacs’ and ’Masters of Doom’. I also have ’Programming Perl’ and ’Perl & LWP’ on the way. I’m pretty keen to learn more Perl, particularly for web scraping. I’m also determined to finally learn GNU Emacs. I’ve already tried it a few times and been put off by the awful key bindings. Hopefully a solid book will help me to get through it. Finally, Masters of Doom tells the story of John Carmack, John Romero and the success of id Software. I don’t normally read these sorts of books, but the favourable reviews and the Wired article, ’The Egos at Id’ motivated me to grab it.

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