Paul Stephens takes a sideways look at the world of IT.
Published: 01/05/2008 | Last Revision: 17/03/2010
One April Fool joke we liked was the email announcing “AdSense for Conversations” (above) which claimed to involve Google listening in on your chats then displaying targeted ads on a screen fixed to your head. The grain of truth counts in spoofs like this, and the idea of Google’s team of blue-sky thinkers (motto: “if it moves – or if it doesn’t - we’ll advertise on it”) targeting the human cranium platform didn’t seem too far-fetched at all. The spoofers pushed things a bit with the in-built teleportation device, but even that isn’t inconceivable from a firm that can scare Microsoft into bidding $42 billion for Yahoo. If you didn’t get the email, see the details at http://adsense.blogspot.com/2008/04/introducing-adsense-for-conversations.html.
More from Short Cuts’ new favourite CEO (now that we’re too scared to lampoon Steve Ballmer), Sun Microsystems’ Jonathan “it’s not just MySQL, it’s the whole developer community’s” Schwartz.
The San Jose Mercury News reported that a video of Jon suffering an April Fool prank had appeared on YouTube then “mysteriously disappeared”. At first we thought he’d gone corporate and lawyered up, but then we thought “hang on, this is Schwartzy” and in a couple of clicks found the video proudly on display in his personal blog.
Jon being polite (hilariously).
It’s also still on YouTube, but sadly we’re not sure it meets the quality standards set by the site’s usual fare of xylophone–playing dogs and people miming to Christina Aguilera CDs. The “prank” turned out to consist of inviting Jonathan to lunch with a man who was pretending to have his jaw wired shut, and the video consists of Jon being impeccably polite to him then grinning inanely when it’s revealed that it was all just zany Silicon Valley humour. As the sole commenter (a first for Jon, surely) on YouTube said, “that was a pretty disappointing prank”.
Now if it had been Steve Ballmer and a man pretending to have a broken leg, and Steve had inadvertently stamped on his plaster cast while ranting uncontrollably about Visual Studio 2008, that would have been good. But we know that kind of thing doesn’t happen these days, your Ballmership, so we won’t mention it again (that’s enough grovelling – Ed). Catch Jonathan’s video at http://blogs.sun.com/jonathan/entry/the_video.
Last November we reported that U.S. Presidential nomination-seeker John McCain (pictured) had said he’d offer Microsoft CEO Steve ‘Mad Dog’ Ballmer a seat in his cabinet if elected. We also poured cold water on the likelihood of this actually happening, pointing out that ‘Insane’ McCain’s chances of making it to the White House were “somewhere on the wrong side of Homer Simpson’s.”
It seems we might have been wrong about that, since Mr McCain is, in fact, now the official Republican Party candidate and, with the Democrats still arguing among themselves, enjoying something of a clear run on the campaign trail.On that basis we’d just like to say, your Senatorship, that we were only joking John McCainabout the ‘Insane’ thing (ironic Brit humour – it’s very hard to fathom, we know), and that we’re big Beach Boys fans, so enjoy any version of their hit “Barbara Ann”, including the “Bomb Iran” one which you allegedly sang to a reporter.
We’re also entirely confident that Mr Ballmer will help to formulate U.S. policy on Dealing With The Worldwide Threat From Linux Developers (sorry, International Terrorists) in his usual measured (nay, self-effacing) way. So that’s all sorted then, and there’s no need – none at all – to send any men in bulging suits and Ray-Bans round. (You’ll have to grovel a lot harder than that if he gets to be President – Ed).
Programming language of the month
No PHP Class of the Month this time because our visit to the PHP Classes Library led us to something even more exciting: a programming language we’d never heard of! It’s called Befunge and according to Wikipedia (where else?) it’s “a stack-based, reflective, esoteric programming language” which was designed to be as hard to compile as possible (although apparently a couple of people have written compilers for it). It’s pretty difficult to program in, too, if this “Hello World” example is anything to go by:
Befunge aficionados will spot the clever multiplying of 4 and 8 to produce ASCII 32 (we normally use the spacebar). The language uses an instruction pointer which can move in either direction through the code (and apparently often does), and there’s automatic infinite looping if you forget to put the @ stop symbol in, which must make development on shared servers a fun experience.
The original Befunge-93 specification, written by Chris Pressey, was superceded by Funge-98 which provided Turing-completeness by causing the instruction pointer to follow a ‘Lahey-space’ model. Unfortunately the PHP-based Befunge interpreter we found at http://www.phpclasses.org/browse/package/3684.html didn’t support Funge-98, and when we tried it, didn’t appear to support Befunge-93 either, crashing with the dreaded “unexpected T_STRING” error as soon as the class file was called. Perhaps we were doing it wrong, but either way we’ll probably wait for the .NET version before trying again.
Standing up for standards
Congratulations to Microsoft whose Office Open XML (OOXML) document format was adopted as an official ISO standard in April after a remarkable turnaround from last September’s ‘no’ decision. Supporters of ODF are crying foul, citing ‘irregularities’ such as the 23 Microsoft partner firms who joined the Swedish standards organisation just before it decided to support OOXML, but here at Short Cuts we can see this for the sour grapes it undoubtedly is. Still, we do like the reasons given by dissident site www.noooxml.org for Portugal’s decision, which include a “lack of chairs in the room” when the matter was discussed. Are there no depths to which those Redmond guys won’t sink?