Updated Boggle

Posted in boggle, programming at 11:16 pm by danvk

I’ve updated my Boggle program to use the Enable2K Scrabble word list. It’s significantly better than the old linux spell-checking dictionary I’d been using. It contains more of the words with suffixes like -s, -ed, -er, -ing that are so crucial to a high-scoring Boggle board. The updated online Boggle solver remains here. And Hasbro– for requiring a form post to look up a word…

I’ve run several hundred thousand boggle gradients with this new word file and I’ve found a new top dog: plsteaiertnrsges, clocking in at 1,045 words and a whopping 3,625 points! I’ll blog about the process I used to get this in the next week or two.


Code Reads and RSS

Posted in books, programming at 11:26 pm by danvk

I stubmled across “Code Reads”, an interesting new series on famous essays/books in programming. The first was on the most famous of all programming books, The Mythical Man-Month. I heard the book’s title many times before I understood it. The key was finding out that it was about software management. Then it clicked that “man-month” was a unit that implied a doubling of men meant a halving of development time. That the unit is “mythical” is an interesting statement about the dynamics of software development. So there you go.

I wanted to subscribe to the feed, but I couldn’t get the Code Reads without getting all of Scott Rosenyard’s ramblings about the Iraq War and Mark Foley. There was no clear way to subscribe to the just the “Code Reads” category. Google Reader had no options to filter out the articles I wanted. Neither did Feed Burner. I came up with two solutions:

  • Google Blog Search I searched for “Code Reads” on Scott’s site and subscribed to an RSS feed of the search results. This worked great, except that the feed only contained short snippets for each article, whereas the site’s RSS contained nearly-full reviews. Workable, but not ideal.
  • Ask dsandler, resident RSS guru. Through ways I don’t fully understand, he found http://www.wordyard.com/category/code-reads/feed/, which works perfectly.

I guess Scott disabled some category-specific feeds from his blog, but didn’t do a completely thorough job. Here’s hoping it stays that way!


New home for Boggle!

Posted in programming at 12:41 am by danvk

I’ve moved my Boggle program over to danvk.org. To find all the words on a Boggle board, try danvk.org/boggle.php. As a rather extreme example, the best board I’ve ever found is catdlinemaropets, which clunks in at an impressive 2724 points. It’s a cool interface: try hovering over a word in the word list.

How did I find this board and how can I find all the words on a board in 0.366 seconds? I’ll try to blog on algorithms for solving Boggle boards soon.

And mell is SO a word, Nick…

Has Rice removed my web page?

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:05 am by danvk

I visited http://www.owlnet.rice.edu/~danvk and was greeted with a 404 File Not Found page. Has my Rice home page been taken down? I don’t know whether this is temporary or permanent, but as a precaution, I’m going to begin moving my old site’s content over to danvk.org.


Review of Google Reader

Posted in reviews at 11:53 pm by danvk

As promised, my review of the new Google Reader. There are a number of others out there… I’ve read Matt Cutts and Scoble so I’ll try not to hit on their points.

Before the new Reader came out, I’d been using NetNewsWire for about a month and a half. NNW uses the very-standard three pane interface, which I’ve configured to be fully horizontal. Vertical screen space is precious on a widescreen laptop, so this just feels right.


My main pet peeve: when I’ve clicked on a folder, I want NNW to show me all the items in that folder! The list should be completely chronological, and it should include both read and unread items. The read items give me a sense of where I’ve been in this list before. I shouldn’t have to reestablish which articles I’ve passed on every time I update my feeds. I searched as hard as I could, even posted a question on the NNW forums, but apparently NNW just can’t do this.


In short, the new Reader wins! Read and unread items all appear together in a nice chronological list.

The old reader combined every item in every feed into one list, the “river of news” that other bloggers seem so fond of talking about. I couldn’t stand this. It’s just not the way I read my feeds. There are a few feeds that don’t get much traffic, about a post a day, but I read them religiously. And then there are others, with dozens of posts a day, that I occasionally peruse when I’m bored. The two should be separate. In the river of news, my low-volume feeds would drown. The new reader is unquestionably an improvement over the old.

I really like the list view, which combines two of the traditional panes. It feels less cramped than the three-pane view. In all fairness, NNW can do this too:


Unfortunately, this view in NNW wastes tons of vertical space. Even with all the stories collapsed, it can only show six at a time. Google Reader fits thirty. This is a big win for Reader.

In list view, Reader looks spectacularly similar to Gmail. There’s been plenty of speculation about a Gmail/Reader merger, and I could certainly imagine this happening. One of the main reasons I love Gmail is the keyboard shortcuts: j/k (up/down), u (previous view), and g i (go to inbox). Reader has some similar keystrokes. j/k still go up and down in a list, but they automatically expand every story they select. Remember, I don’t necessarily read everything in all my feeds! This behavior makes the keys worthless. The n/p keys do what I want, but as a vi user, they just don’t feel natural.

In some ways, however, Reader has better keyboard support than Gmail. Example: hit ‘g t’


It supports auto-complete, so I can hit “l <enter>” to go to my low-volume folder. This is a really cool way to navigate, and I wish Gmail had it! I think they got the visuals from the Gmail Macros Greasemonkey script. (I may be completely off here) I’d use that script, but it kills “g i” going to my inbox.

I said my “low-volume” folder, but is it a folder or a tag? This is one of the stranger things in Reader. It seems that if you put a whole feed into a container, then that container is a folder. But if you put an individual item in it, it’s a tag. There’s no difference between the two. A tag is a folder is a tag in Reader. The split terminology doesn’t serve any purposes. Just pick folders or tags. I’d go with “tags,” since each feed/item can have multiple tags. That doesn’t make sense in a folder world.

A few other nits:

There’s tons of unread stories in these two feeds. Why only the five new stories from one of the feeds? Shades of NetNewsWire. I’ve got a bug filed on this. Also:

Why aren’t the stories on the home page clickable!?

Reader 2 is an enormous improvement over the old Reader, and it’s already begun to replace NetNewsWire in my regular surfing. I’m excited about subscribing to other people’s shared items feeds, so be sure to import your OPML file into Google Reader and give it a try!

Update: Here’s a link to my shared items.

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