Profile

Cover photo
Deron Meranda
Attended Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Lives in Ohio, USA
68 followers|19,019 views
AboutPostsPhotosVideos

Stream

 
Cincinnati Bookstores - Another sad day for book lovers, the Cincinnati Ohio area's Books-a-Million store will close next month on March 15.  This store, on the North-West side of Cincinnati, is the latest in an unfortunate series of bookstores that have closed in the past couple years, as I last reported in detail here back in November.  This now just leaves the Barnes-and-Noble chain (but with fewer stores), the Half-Price Books chain, and the regional Joseph-Beth as the only remaining "big" stores.  Cincinnati folks may have to continue driving further to get their hands on books made of paper.
#bookstore #booksamillion
1
Richard Rashty's profile photo
 
Sad trend... Schools are going to eBooks, and IMO the traditional bookstore will be gone 
Add a comment...

Deron Meranda

Shared publicly  - 
 
Programming history - Hey, the Tcl language is 25 years old.  Unless you're also older, you've probably never heard of Tcl, but I remember it quite well.  Despite being kind of a horrible language, it was nonetheless a very important one in computing history. It was one of the very first successful dynamic scripting languages; something you didn't have to compile or muck about with pages of headers or unruly factory-factory classes and other commonplace obstacles.  You could build an app in Tcl in hours, rather than weeks. Of course it's killer app was Tk, which still survives today in other languages. Tk was (is) an amazing graphical application toolkit; and by the day's standards was just about as magical as you could get.  And though we certainly have much better languages today, Tcl paved the way. Read the blog post below...
1
Add a comment...
 
Programming humor - James Mickens, a Microsoft researcher, has published yet another superb article The Night Watch, a story about the life of systems programmers; very witty and humorous, and to those who've done the hardware-level bit tweaking dances, just a bit nightmare inducing.

If you like this article you may find some more on his page at <http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/people/mickens/> (look for the several humor columns links in the Misc. section).  Or better yet, visit the USENIX website and purchase/read more at <https://www.usenix.org/>
1
Add a comment...
 
Gaming History - It's hard to believe that Myst is 20 years old.  I fondly remember spending hours and hours, usually in a dimly lit room, totally immersed in it's gorgeous and moody inventive world.  Perhaps this is a good time to take a little nostalgic trip through my list of the most memorable and influential games. (read on...)

I'm not what you'd call a hard core gamer; and I'm especially out of place in today's dominance of quick-reflex shooters or massively multiplayer virtual societies.  I grew up in the golden age of the Atari, though it was the Intellivision in our house. Certainly several controllers-worth of fun was had; and many pages of paper while trying to map out the complete Pitfall! world.

I think the first game I remember that transcended the idea of a "game" was 1983's Pinball Construction Set by Electronic Arts on the Commodore 64.  It was the first time I saw a building platform, where you could assemble your own pinball machine any way you wanted and then immediately play it, with seemingly correct physics. And then you could move bumpers and paddles around and play your new version.  You weren't just playing the game, you were building it too.

Another game worth mention was Lemmings in 1991.  It was one of the first real-time puzzle solving games I remember, and one in which you didn't so much directly play as much as you assumed a god-like role to the countless little virtual characters who did the real work.  And on the Amiga platform, it was also a two-player game, which was deliciously fun.

When I arrived at college my first year, the computer department was unboxing its very first set of "desktop" computers; with the old PDP-11 "mainframe" freshly unplugged and pushed into a dark corner (though the huge VAX still churned away, loudly, in it's own glass-enclosed room).  It was the first time I saw a Sun Microsystems workstation; with it's huge monitor such a far cry from my Commodore 64.  It was also the first time I saw Nethack being played; and I've been hooked ever since.  Nethack is one of the original dungeon adventure games, and visually consists mostly of letters scattered across the screen. But that's so deceptive.  The depth and complexity of the game play are still almost unrivaled even today. And yes, this 26-year old game is still very playable, and addictive.

The closest I ever got into a first-person shooter was Tomb Raider.  Of course there was the whole seductive Laura Croft attraction to it, but more than anything I was attracted to the extensive worlds she played in.  The seemingly endless series of tombs and tunnels and chambers and secret passages to explore; all mixed with part history and part mystery. Not to mention the intricate traps and puzzles too.  My only problem was that I actually had to shoot things; when all I really wanted to do was explore.

That of course is where the Myst series of games most excelled.  Pure exploration was their primary game play, though puzzle solving gave it energy and immediate goals and story telling gave it depth.  There was nothing to shoot, no trick timing of jumps, and you couldn't die.  But the worlds were so immersive in experience that you often felt as if you were on a vacation to a richly exotic destination.

If you desired direct competition with other people (albeit in a very limited capacity compared to today's massive online games), the Age of Empires series was amazingly satisfying.  It was part world building and resource management, and part military strategy and tactics.  And a whole lot of fun .... except when you lost, that's never fun.

For people who enjoy world-building, it didn't get much better than Rollercoaster Tycoon.  What better way to spend time than to create your very own amusement park, complete with hundreds of virtual little guests to enjoy your creation. From actually designing rides, often with disastrous crashes, to getting to decide exactly what color of flower or hedge you placed in your landscape; this game gave you complete control, from the big picture to the tiniest detail, over a fun little world. At least, that was, until the series was ruined by the full-3-D version; a plague that has destroyed many world-building game series.

When you wanted a bit more challenge to go along with your world building, the games Pharoah and its sequel Cleopatra were tuned just about perfectly.  Maintaining and growing an economy and balancing many often-opposing needs was certainly challenging.  But then you also got to build wonderful bustling cities, and pyramids and elaborately painted tombs.

I'm sure I'm missing many important games, and many more that were really fun though perhaps not as groundbreaking.  But let me end right now with a somewhat more modern ground-breaker of note: World of Goo.  It is somewhat a cross between a puzzle solver and world builder, with fun physics tossed in. It is certainly hard to describe until you've played it, but very hard to put down. .... Oh, and now go read Lost to the Ages which I've linked to below.
#games #myst #nostalgia
2
Add a comment...

Deron Meranda

Shared publicly  - 
 
Technology - Do you trust the devices you use?  Some models of Xerox scanners/photocopiers change numbers found in documents.  Silently.  They will randomly replace, say, a "4" with a "7".  This appears to be an innocent yet frightening software bug involving the JBIG2 image compression algorithms they use. But still, it highlights a potential misplacement of our trust.  As our everyday devices get smarter, can they be used against us?  What if a hacker, or the government, decides to infect our photocopiers next.  Our devices may not just be spying on us, worse, they could potentially attack us too by creating false histories of our lives.  Just like the Records Department in Orwell's 1984; only more efficient.
#XEROX #JBIG2
1
Brent Meranda's profile photo
 
This is a little disturbing.
Makes me wish someone would invent a way to make exact copies of documents. Maybe Edison had something with his electric pen.
Add a comment...
Have him in circles
68 people
Judy Meranda's profile photo
Mary Orse's profile photo
Jennifer Meranda's profile photo

Deron Meranda

Shared publicly  - 
 
Python programming - If you write non-trivial Python code then you have to read a series of blog posts by +Graham Dumpleton about how to implement decorators, and importantly how not to.  This is a somewhat advanced topic and may blow your mind a bit, but you will learn an awful lot, and perhaps more importantly will stop writing broken code.  A decorator may look like a powerful hammer in the Python toolbox, but it is a tool to be used only with finesse and wisdom.  Start at his first post below, "How you implemented your Python decorator is wrong", but there are at least eight articles as of now.
#Python
The rest of the Python community is currently doing lots of navel gazing over the issue of Python 3 adoption and the whole unicode/bytes divide. I am so over that and gave up caring when my will to work on WSGI stuff was leac...
1
Graham Dumpleton's profile photo
 
Hopefully though they will not simply try to replicate the code written there, as some stuff in the object proxy isn't complete. They should use the wrapt module instead, which bundles all that goodness. http://wrapt.readthedocs.org
Add a comment...
 
Programming - Why do most computer languages index arrays starting at zero, rather than one or something else? Seriously.  It is probably not why you think. If you're a seasoned programmer you are probably very confident that it has something to do with address arithmetic or something similar. Here's a well researched article (link below) by Mike Hoye that may just convince you that the correct historic reason is much stranger.

As a followup, Guido van Rossum wrote about why the Python language decided to use 0-based indexing even though it doesn't have addresses or pointers, and it very nearly could have been 1-based.  <http://python-history.blogspot.com/2013/10/why-python-uses-0-based-indexing.html>
1
Add a comment...
 
Cincinnati bookstores - In yet another decline of the brick-and-mortar book store scene, one of Cincinnati's largest stores B&N in Kenwood will be closing by the end of the year. This particular store is closing due to failed leasing negotiations with the new owners of the shopping complex in Kenwood.  Other B&Ns are unaffected.   But all's not lost, read on...

It's a sad day when a bookstore disappears, and I always make an effort to shop them before taking my business online.  There are still some choices, though you may need to drive a bit more.  . Two special local treasures in Cincinnati are Joseph-Beth which holds lots of events, readings, and such; and The Ohio Bookstore in operation for over 70 years; it is a huge 5-story labyrinth of used, rare, old, and collectible books.  Here's my short list of Cincinnati book stores, though there are a few small niche, Christian, and university textbook stores here and there.  And don't forget about our many libraries too.

Chains and new sellers:
* Joseph-Beth in Hyde Park (central)— www.josephbeth.com/
* Barnes&Noble — http://www.barnesandnoble.com/         - in Fields Ertle (North side)
        - in Newport (South side)
        - in Florence (South side)
* Books-a-Million in Hamilton (North-west) — http://www.booksamillion.com/

Used books
* The Ohio Bookstore (Downtown) — http://www.ohiobookstore.net/
* Half-Price Books — http://hpb.com/         - in Kenwood (central)
        - in Fields Ertle (North)
        - in Fairfield (North-west)
        - in Colrain/Northgate (North-west)
        - in Florence (South)

#bookstore   #cincinnati #barnesandnoble  
1
Add a comment...
 
Restoration - Have you ever noticed that old plastic things tend to look sickly yellow.  It turns out that it is mainly caused by the fire-retardant additives that had been used in ABS plastic several decades ago.  But most amazing, is that with a little relatively easy DIY home chemistry, you can reverse this yellowing and restore your old plastic things to their as-new appearances without harming the plastic.  First, a little background...

This yellow stain all centers around the element Bromine (Br), which in its pure form is a red-brown liquid.  This element is widely used in various fire-retardant materials, as it is able to interrupt many oxidation processes.  Since ABS plastic is rather flammable in pure form, small quantities of bromine-based monomers were often mixed into ABS when used in consumer products.  However, over time, with exposure to both oxygen (air) and UV light (sunlight or florescent lighting), the bromine compounds will slowly break down such that the bromine atoms instead pair up with nearby oxygen atoms from the air. And being much smaller than the large monomer molecules, this also allows them to migrate through the plastic and accumulate in even higher concentrations near the surface. This is what you see as the yellow stain.  You can't just wash it off, and most bleaches will damage the plastic while still not completely removing the stain.

To properly remove the stain then, which incidentally is only near the plastic's surface, you need to coax the bromine atoms to give up their bonds with oxygen.  One solution is to get bromine to join with hydrogen atoms instead; where the Br-H is then easily washed away.  Amazingly, this is easy to do.... it involves hydrogen peroxide and a tiny bit of an "Oxy-" style washing detergent.  The hydrogen peroxide, though typically used as an oxidizer, is also an efficient hydrogen donor.  And the Oxi-detergent contains a catalyst called TAED (Tetraacetylethylenediamine).  The TAED allows the hydrogen peroxide to do it's thing with the bromine at room temperature. Incidentally, the detergent part of the cleaner actually has nothing to do with this stain removal; but it's the only consumer-available way to get TAED.

If you also add a few other common household ingredients you can turn this into a gel which you can then brush onto plastic parts.  This gel is commonly called Retr0Bright, by its discoverer.  You can follow the link in this post to much more information about how to make and use Retr0Bright; any safety issues, and also much more in-depth description of the chemistry involved.  Chemistry can be both fun and useful.
#plastic #Retr0Bright
2
Add a comment...

Deron Meranda

Shared publicly  - 
 
security - If you think you choose good passwords, you may want to read about today's state of the art password cracking.  It may surprise you.  Ars Technica invited three experts to attempt to crack a database of over 16,000 encrypted passwords from real users; and they succeeded in determining over 90% of them in just a few hours!  They were even able to discover such seemingly-secure passwords as "Qbesancon321" and "tmdmmj17".  What about your passwords?

This is a very good in-depth and enlightening article — not only to encourage you to rethink how you pick passwords, but also for software developers who build systems that must deal with passwords.  Though if you're building websites, you should seriously consider not ever touching passwords but instead federating.  See https://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/201x/2013/07/30/On-Federation
1
Add a comment...
People
Have him in circles
68 people
Judy Meranda's profile photo
Mary Orse's profile photo
Jennifer Meranda's profile photo
Education
  • Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
    B.S. Computer Science, 1990
Basic Information
Gender
Male
Work
Occupation
Software developer
Employment
  • Independent Software Developer, 2010 - present
  • Cincinnati Bell Information Systems
    1991 - 1994
  • MedPlus
    1994 - 2010
Places
Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Currently
Ohio, USA