While we very much enjoyed Wired Magazine’s recent Geek Dad list of Geeky Halloween Costumes, the list seemed to dominated by Sci-Fi movie and TV characters. We felt we could go a little nerdier.


The potential of using iPads (or any other tablet computer equipped with decent cameras) is exciting. However, the hardware costs may be a little more than you normally budget for costuming.

The Invisible Man : Strap one iPad to your front, and another to your back. Initiate a FaceTime session between the two tablets. The iPad in front will display what the rear one is displaying and vice-versa. The net effect on the adult wearer will appear to be a large hole through the chest, but small children can be rendered nearly invisible using this technique.

Indigestion : Requires only one tablet, mounted just above your belly button. Take several videos from antacid commercials and run them in a slideshow loop.

Infinity : Uses the same chest-mounted tablet. Attach a webcam to a long stick protruding from your shoulders and arrange it so the webcam points to the tablet. Display the webcam image fullscreen on the tablet.

Coding T-Shirts for Groups

A group of three could go as public, protected, and private. If you pick up a 4th wheel, they get the friend shirt.

Also for threes, make up shirts with <, =, and >. See how many relational operators you can construct. Extra candy for implementing (or having anyone recognize) the Perl spaceship operator.

For couples, go dressed as && and || and, in conversation, && disagrees with everyone as soon as he disagrees with one thing, and || agrees with everything anyone says once he’s heard on thing he agrees with. See if anyone catches on, or if everyone just eventually decides that && is a jerk.

Another idea for couples is to go as NULL and -> (alternative being * and 0). Stand close together and fall down (or freeze) whenever anyone addresses you.

In 1979, when several members of the SlickEdit team were not yet born, I remember when Voyager 1 started sending back pictures of Jupiter.  The big thing I remember is that we learned Jupiter has rings.  I honestly don’t know if astronomers knew Jupiter had rings and we were just unable to see them from Earth, or if this was a complete shock – but it was big news in second grade science class, where the previous week’s lesson involved gluing macaroni to plates.  Or maybe that was vacation Bible school.  I seem to remember life before my tenth birthday involving a lot of pasta getting glued to plates, and then being spray painted gold by a qualified adult.  Either way, the Voyagers (there were two, but for reasons that will become only slightly clearer later, we are focusing on Voyager 1 here).

In 1990 Voyager 1 was leaving our solar system.  To show the Earth relative to the vastness of space, Carl Sagan convinced NASA to have the Voyager take a picture of the Earth from a distance (according to Wikipedia) of about 6 billion kilometers (to convert to kilometers to miles, I normally look at the little dial on my speedometer, but since it doesn’t go up to 6 billion I had to look it up – this is roughly 3,728,227,153 miles).  The photo, where the Earth is barely visible as about one pixel, became known as The Pale Blue Dot:

How does this tie into SlickEdit?  Poorly, to say the least.  Normally I try to open with a joke, but today it was the Pale Blue Dot.

SlickEdit will let you compare two URLs.  This isn’t a well known fact, so I figured it was an appropriate thing to blog about.  For example, if you wanted to compare two versions of a Wikipedia page, you could fill it out like this:

The output looks like this:

I realize, of course, that the Wikipedia has a built in facility for this, but I needed an example.

I hope this comes in handy for you someday, or maybe you’ll just go, “Wow, that’s kinda cool”.

And as you continue coding (with SlickEdit, I hope), try to remember that all the files in the world that ever needed to be compared,  all exist on that Pale Blue Dot.  Work hard – don’t forget to live hard too.

P.S.: I only want to hear comments about files that were compared in space on the ISS, space shuttle, etc, from people who actually wrote the software, or were in space doing the comparing.  If you were actually in space comparing files, you may use a MUCH higher level of sarcasm in your response.

P.P.S.: The ISS was not there when this picture was taken, but either way I imagine:

  • It would not be visible in the picture
  • The space where the ISS and other satellites exist would probably be covered by the same pixel or so.

If you did compare files on the ISS, Space Shutte, Skylab, or any of the Mercury, Gemini, or Apollo missions, please send us an autographed photo.

If you’re in need of one last gift for the techie on your holiday shopping list, we suggest the following.

Caffeinated Soap
No, we’re not making this up. http://www.thinkgeek.com/interests/giftsunder10/5a65/ 
Between end-of-year project deadlines, gift shopping, and other holiday preparations, a coder can get really squeezed for time. And you don’t want to back a programmer into a corner where they have to choose between sufficient caffeination and personal hygiene. This should avoid any such unpleasantness.

A Blunt Instrument
There are situations in which you simply cannot improve upon a large hammer.  This is the reason that the B-52 has had such a long lifespan. This orange beauty will allow your beloved techie to vent frustration upon keyboards, desks, recalcitrant Solaris machines, etc without the risk of forehead or hand injury.

A “Come home for dinner late” card
It’s surprising how many bugs are found just after the “I’ll be home by 6:15 for dinner” phone call. Your programmer is now torn between a promise to loved ones and a dedication to hunting down that crash before calling it a day. Give them a Monopoly-style “Get out of dinner, free” card so that at least once this year week, they can arrive late without guilt.

A USB-chargeable flashlight
A USB flashlight is insidious in its irresistible blend of techie-seducing features. First off, it’s a USB device. *Anything* USB (and to a lesser extent FireWire) is worthy of investigation. Secondly, it’s the size and shape of most trade show trinkets, which programmers are wired at birth to hoard. Thirdly, it has a genuinely useful function, which all but ensures your coder will make every effort to rationalize this gadget’s place in the laptop bag for years to come.

Carpal Tunnel Therapy
Because sometimes you gotta play hurt.
(Not yet verified, but I think this thing can also make homemade ravioli…)

Yoga Gear
Not only is this great for relieving the tension of long hours frozen at the keyboard, it appears to also be a crafty way of furthering ones career.

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