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.

Look at this. It’s worthless – ten dollars from a vendor in the street. But I take it, I bury it in the sand for a thousand years, it becomes priceless. Men will kill for it. Men like you and me.
- René Belloq, Raiders of the Lost Ark


Whether it be changing jobs, moving to a new house or office, or simply cleaning out clutter, every so often I find myself sorting through the bits of technology-related junk I’ve accumulated over the years. There’s a fair amount of trade show goodies, some of them entirely too cool or valuable to part with. The bulk of it is reluctantly thrown away, including stress-relief squeezy things, can coolers, light up pens that no longer light, and the like. But there are items that always survive the cut, ones that have some sentimentality attached to them.

Professional Developers Conference 2000 pen

I cannot believe this thing still writes after 11 years. It has lived in the glove box of the three different cars I’ve owned since 2000. This was the PDC where Microsoft formally introduced the .NET platform to the masses. I vividly recall the stunned looks on thousands of keynote attendees as they realized all their Win32 mastery was just rendered obsolete. The pen has actually outlasted several .NET technologies introduced at the conference. I’ve got one from the 2003 PDC ready to go once this one runs out of ink.

Cyrix x86 processor

A leftover from my system building days. It was the first real ultra-cheap x86 alternative, and prompted Intel to develop the Celeron line. I placed this in a slapped-together spare parts budget computer (running Windows 95) that I assembled for my wife’s grandparents. Cyrix as a company didn’t last long, but this chip powered that system for over a decade. Now that the grandparents are gone, I can’t bear to toss this hunk of silicon junk.

NeXT Step poster

I got this gem in a trade with my wife’s uncle, a sysadmin, for a Windows Server 2000 license. It’s a panorama of the first generation NeXT system, replete with all black computer, keyboard, monitor, and printer. I’ve been meaning to put it up on my office wall, but I can’t bring myself to stick pins through it, and I can’t justify the cash it would take to frame it.

Do you have anything like this that you can’t seem to part with? Please share by leaving a reply!

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