Four short links: 31 May 2011

Disease-B-Gone, Quake Game, Text Adventures, and Unicoddling

  1. Rinderpest Eradicated — only the second disease that mankind has managed to eradicate. This one was a measles-like virus that killed cattle and caused famines. A reminder of how astonishingly difficult it is to eradicate disease, but what a massive victory it is when it happens. (via Courtney Johnston)
  2. Magnetic South — the 6.3 earthquake that trashed Christchurch, New Zealand, has presented the city with a tabula rasa (or, rather, tabula rubble) for the rebuild: what should they build, how, and where? The good citizens are working on this question in many ways, one of which is this online game based on Institute for the Future’s Foresight Engine.
  3. TOPS-20 in a Box — write FORTRAN code on an emulated PHP-10 running TOPS-20 and, most delightfully, play the original Adventure as written by Crowther and finished by Woods. It’s like emulating the Big Bang for text adventures. When you’re done, admire the scholarship in this analysis of the original to see how much Woods added. (Text adventures are the game version of command-line interfaces, and we still have much to learn from them)
  4. Why Does Modern Perl Avoid UTF-8 By Default? (StackOverflow) — check out the very long and detailed answer by my coauthor, Tom Christiansen, on exactly how many thorns and traps lie in wait for the unwary “it should just WORK”er. Skip down to the “Assume Brokenness” section for the full horror. Tom’s been working with linguists and revising the Unicode chapters of the Camel, so asking “why can’t it just work” is like asking a war veteran “why don’t you just shoot all the bad guys?”.
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