Credit Card Numbers for Testing

February 21, 2007 | programming
One of the things I have to do on a regular basis is run a suite of regression tests against Copilot’s payment system to ensure that we’re doing basic vetting of invalid credit cards, such as those that do not have valid Luhn checksums. To that end, I was very happy to discover a list of credit card numbers that I could use for testing purposes. The numbers aren’t for valid cards, but should pass any basic validation check you have in a commerce site you write.

Smart Guys Date in Parallel

February 13, 2007 | personal, technology
There are few people in my life I admire more than my father. My father is the one who taught me how to swim, showed me my first BASIC programming, painstakingly explained algebra to me in fifth grade when I got annoyed at the confusing methods our my math teacher was teaching us, and demonstrated to me the value of problem-solving in high-anxiety situations when I was four by locking me in the child restraint seat and leaving me in the garage. I still turn to him when I’m in need of advice,...

The Q Train

February 8, 2007 | personal
In the process of writing my column on transit system maps, I got distracted by a Wikipedia clickfest, and discovered the answer to a longstanding question I’ve had. The Q can indeed go further north than 57th St.—to 63rd and Lexington Avenue, as it happens, where it would one day be able to hand off passengers to the mythical and deadly T train (the always-not-quite-here-yet Second Avenue line). When that happens, I’d expect traffic on the Q to skyrocket.

Maps and Simplicity

February 8, 2007 | personal, technology
Recently, on reddit, someone linked to a map of the US interstate system laid out “subway style.” Rather than including all the geographical features of the United States, the artist opted to realign everything on a relatively simple aligned grid, emphasizing the purpose of the system (“get me from here to there”) rather than the implementation (“via this bridge over this river, using this exit by this town”). The artist himself complains tongue-in-cheek about the complexity of the existing...

I'll See You in Hell, Pachelbel

February 7, 2007 | personal
I hadn’t even heard of Rob Paravonian until over the weekend, when I went with a friend of mine to wander around Duke, but I’ve become an immediate fan. Anyone who’s ever played classical music has developed an intense loathing for Pachelbel’s Canon in D. The song is highly repetitive, playing the same melody over and over, in a giant, musical circle of pain, with only the most miniscule changes over its multitudinous repetitions. It’s like a three-year-old’s take on Bolero. Combine that with...

The Where's-My-Subway-Pass Diet

January 10, 2007 | personal
I have discovered a new, guaranteed way to lose weight fast: lose your unlimited MetroCard. Last week, on my way home, I accidentally dropped mine at some point, likely because my ski jacket has a hole in the left-hand pocket (which unfortunately I didn’t know at the time). As a result, I’ve been walking to work every day—a trek that comes in at an even six miles a day round-trip. The downside is that I have to get up considerably earlier—my commute suddenly takes 50 minutes instead of 15—but...

Renaming Products

December 7, 2006 | programming, technology
Is it just me, or does anyone else enjoy pronouncing MySQL as “My Squeal”? (And of course, PostgreSQL as “Postgres Quell” makes a nice parallel, and is actually a nice hat-tip to the QUEL language Postgres originally used.) I’ve also noticed that if you call Microsoft IIS “Microsoft Ice,” then the increasing rise of Mozilla Firefox seems to kind of balance things out.

Getting Windows Errors While Debugging

November 7, 2006 | programming
I’m probably saying nothing new to any seasoned Windows developer, but it was new to me: if you add a watch in VisualStudio for the value @ERR,hr (no quotes) you get the human-readable error string for the error code that would be returned by GetLastError() if you called it and then ran it through FormatMessage(). I was amazingly happy to discover this little tidbit of functionality, since previously I had thought I had to look up the value on the MSDN System Error pages.

Firefox 2's Kin, or: Well, That Solves That

October 31, 2006 | programming, technology
I say nothing that should surprise diehard Mac users if I say that Mac OS X lacks decent power-user mail clients. Thunderbird suffers from a lot of the same problems as Firefox, Entourage is…well, Entourage, and Mail, pretty though it may be, is heavily underpowered in a lot of key areas. (E.g., you can’t even create nicely formatted lists, which is something I need to do quite frequently.) From this motley crew, I’ve traditionally opted to use Thunderbird. Yes, it’s ugly and doesn’t integrate...

Commodity Media

October 31, 2006 | personal
One of the things that continues to amaze me as computers become increasingly ubiquitous is how entire industries are beginning to vanish because their product has become superfluous. Nearly everyone following the tech sector knows that the decline of the media cartels has already begun: increasing numbers of bands are bypassing traditional recording labels and posting directly to iTunes and similar services; amateur directors are posting videos on sites like Google Video and YouTube rather than...