Monthly Archives: August 2016

The Bitcoin blockchain format

The Bitcoin cryptocurrency depends on security and confidence. If a flaw in the design broke its trust or usability, the whole system would collapse.

It’s strange, then, that Bitcoin doesn’t have a specification. This is considered a feature, not a bug:
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When is an algorithm not an algorithm?

The only time the news media use the term “algorithm,” it seems, is for computational methods that aren’t.

Merriam-Webster defines it as “a procedure for solving a mathematical problem (as of finding the greatest common divisor) in a finite number of steps that frequently involves repetition of an operation.” Let’s forget about repetition; almost every computational procedure uses loops. The key word is “mathematical.”

An algorithm produces results that can be mathematically verified. An algorithm for calculating pi will produce the known value to the needed level of precision, or it’s wrong. A search algorithm is an algorithm when its results correspond to precise matching criteria.
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The decline and fall of Adobe Flash

It’s been a year since I last posted about Adobe Flash’s impending demise. Like everything else on the Internet, it won’t ever vanish completely, but its decline is accelerating.
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Olympic file format capriciousness

This blog doesn’t generally deal with cronyist bullying operations like the International Olympic Committee (IOC). But when the IOC get silly about the file formats it tells people they can’t use, that’s a subject worth mentioning here.

The IOC has decreed that “the use of Olympic Material transformed into graphic animated formats such as animated GIFs (i.e. GIFV), GFY, WebM, or short video formats such as Vines and others, is expressly prohibited.”
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Newspeak, emoji style

In Orwell’s 1984, the Newspeak language followed the principle that if you can abolish certain words, you can abolish the thoughts that go with them.

It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought — that is, a thought diverging from the principles of Ingsoc — should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words. … This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and by stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meanings whatever.

Apple is doing something like this with Unicode codepoint U+1F52B (🔫), which the code chart defines as PISTOL, with the explanatory text of “handgun, revolver.” There’s nothing that suggests it’s supposed to represent a water gun or any other kind of toy. However, Apple has elected to represent this character as a water pistol in iOS 10.
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