Newsletter for November 4th, 2008
Codename "Election Special"
"If you read nothing else on our site, read our blog!"
(new rss feed with images)
(new rss feed with images)
1. Newsletter Editorial
Greetings and happy Tuesday.. and for all you US citizens, happy election day!
Did you know that I wrote an election prediction program back in 2004? Such prediction programs use standard Markov Chain Monte Carlo methods to simulate millions of possible electoral outcomes in each state in order to estimate the likelihood of a candidate winning the entire election. That program actually led to a similar 2006 online tool for predicting odds of teams winning the World Cup and making betting recommendations. I didn't bother to write one for this year's election, though, because this year there are some very good tools already available online (see below). Regardless of your political leanings, if you are in the US, educate yourself and then go vote! And if you are interested in the mathematics behind gambling and predictions, read a little about Markov Chain Monte Carlo, a truly beautiful and elegant statistical process.
- World Cup Predictor - WCP '06 - learn about Markov Chain Monte Carlo in predicting tournament outcomes
- fivethirtyeight.com - Monte Carlo Simulations of the 2008 US Election
- Wikipedia page on Markov Chain Monte Carlo - Not very inviting but a good place to start
2. Official DC Software Updates
I hope you'll forgive me for taking up a section of the newsletter this month to focus on recent updates that I've made to some of my larger programs on DonationCoder.com.
The most notable update is to "LaunchBar Commander", my program that allows the user to set populate a dock with shortcuts to programs. The update provides a lot of new features and some long requested bugfixes. LBC now has a flexible hotkey system that allows you to assign hotkeys to specific launch bars or subfolders within launchbars, so you can now easily pull up menus at the cursor showing any subset of a launchbar tree. You can also use a hotkey to toggle the visibility of an entire dock. And keeping with this theme, LBC has a totally revamped auto-hiding/sliding implementation, which now works quite well. So you can finally keep your dock hidden offscreen until you need it.
Screenshot Captor and Find and Run Robot have also been updated. If you've been manually downloading the beta releases of these two programs you won't see any dramatic changes, but if you've been using the prior stable versions, there are a bunch of new bugfixes for Screenshot Captor, and a bunch of new features for plugin writers for Find and Run Robot.
And lastly, a note about the differences between Find and Run Robot (FARR) and LaunchBar Commander (LBC). Lots of people get confused about the overlap between these programs. Both utilities are used to launch programs and documents. The difference is that FARR is for keyboard maniacs, who need to locate programs by typing the name of the program, while LBC is for visual people -- who like to have a reminder on screen of their commonly used programs -- think of it like a souped up customizable version of the windows Start Menu. Personally I use both -- LBC for my more common programs, and then FARR for the less common ones.
- LaunchBar Commander v1.83.01 - Launch programs by clicking icons on a dock
- Find and Run Robot v2.33.01 - Search for and launch programs and a whole lot more using just your keyboard
- Screenshot Captor 2.44.01 - The power-user's screenshot capturing tool of choice
- FARR and Screenshot Captor reviewed/featured on Download Junkie
3. Your Participation Requested
We'd love to see your input anywhere on the fourm. However, if you're having trouble deciding where to jump in, below are some general threads that we'd like to see more participation in!
Let me also point you to a revived thread on the forum about suggested changes to the DonationCoder.com approach to raising money. We haven't had a fundraiser in a few years and we depend entirely on donations from users to keep this site running. With the worldwide economic crisis things feel a little scary.. so we need to make sure that we continue to provide a service to the community that people feel is worth supporting, and that doesn't alienate people.
- DonationCoder.com Ideas for Soliciting Donations
- My computer is older than YOUR computer!
- Eggnog season is upon us! Your recipes?
- Things your kids will never know - old school tech!
- An Idea About Starting a New Software Company
4. Help and Advice from Member to Member
If you are trying to make a tech related decision, the DC forum is a great place to turn. Read on for some recent discussions and feel free to join in the conversation with your opinion or post an issue of your own.
5. Amusements and Humour
Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to work we go.. Boring! We can't be serious all the time, can we? Everyone needs to unwind...
- Monday Silliness: "He's a Cat Flushing the Toilet" Music Video - I love this silly song!
- Video: Dogs greeting solider after returning from 14 months at war - Very sweet
- Real Life Tron on an Apple IIgs - Captures the wonder of programming
- Why social networks are a threat to life as some know it - Funny story
6. Games, Games, Games
We are always on the lookout for fun games. Below are some recent "finds" that members have posted. If you have any favourites, post a link to them!
- World of Goo - Indie Game with Great Reviews?
- Tower Defense Flash Game of the Week: Warzone Tower Defense
- Results of IFComp 2008, Competition for short text adventures -- free for all
- The eyeballing game - how good are your estimating skills
7. News You Can Use
DC Member Ehtyar has taken to producing wonderfully weekly summaries of important tech/computer/security news articles that he comes across on the web. A big hit on the forum.
- Tech News Weekly: Edition 42
- Tech News Weekly: Edition 43
- Tech News Weekly: Edition 44
- Another laptop battery recall! (Dell, HP, Toshiba)
- Critical vulnerability in Windows
8. The Weird Wide Web
Here are some recent DC members' finds from around the web. As always, your input is encouraged, so if you come across something interesting while you're surfing the web, feel free to post a link to it.
- Swoopo - A New Take on Online Auctions, or a Scam?
- NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month 2008 begins now
- 55 free online tools
- Free printable shopping lists - neat idea
9. Software Discussion
One of the great things about DC is the range of expertise, experience, and opinion that the user base brings to the forum, be it about development, hardware, tech in general, or software.
- Battle of the Free Online Storages
- Copy (in Explorer): Replace: yes/no/cancel, only. Why not '(auto-)rename'?
- Media Extenders (SageTV)
- RegBench - Registry Benchmarker Utility
- Unofficial Windows-7 news site now up
- Ten Tips for Windows users making the switch to Linux
- Rapid Environment Editor - Freeware Windows environment variables editor
10. Member Contributions and Projects
Mouser is not the only DC coder who has been busy. Check out some recent offerings announced and discussed below, all of it coded by our members. Pay special attention to our Coding Snacks section. Coding snacks are lite treats for the software afficiando. All you have to do is ask... Post a clear description of what you're looking for and one of Donationcoder's resident coding gurus might just take up the challenge.
- AHK Coding Snack: Deluxe AHK Script Manager (AXEM)
- CHKDSK Assist - Schedule CHKDSK Operations
- C-base - the amazing space station
- SavePathCapsMclick: caps+mclick on Explorer win to use it as "Save As" path
- Game Review: Cortex Command
- Dina Programmer Font in TTF format
11. Developer's Corner
The Developer's Corner has been active over the past month. Below are links to some threads of interest. Note that there is more to this section of the forum than simply the discussion of software development - there's something here for anyone interested in tech and entrepreneurial issues.
- Best Python IDE?
- Where to start with computer programing
- Easy, low maintenance club website recommendations please
- Dictionary, list of words, etc.
- C# as a Script
- Processing: Graphics Scripting Language
- Free, non-sucky UML software?
- If and when can you be sued for open source? Donationware?
- 91 Ways to Become a Great Developer