The Train Crash Dilemma

You have, no doubt, at least heard of the train crash dilemma. Put simply, it goes something like this: A train is approaching a two-way switch. On the currently selected track, there is a group of five people who will be hit if nothing changes. On the other track, there is a single person who will be safe if nothing changes. You are in a position to be able to change the switch direction. Would you act (change the switch) or do nothing (leave the switch alone)? Continue reading “The Train Crash Dilemma”

SourceCop Redux

Quite some time back, I mentioned SourceCop in a diatribe on source obfuscation. Today someone apparently representing SourceCop wrote a comment on that post which reads very much like a commercial for their product. I did not approve the comment because my blog is not a sales platform and also because it was quite long. I have, however, chosen to reproduce most of it here and address the points it makes. You may want to read the previous article for context. Continue reading “SourceCop Redux”

The “St. Ives” Riddle

I’m sure almost everyone has heard the “St. Ives” riddle in one form or another. It goes as follows:

As I was going to St. Ives,
I met a man with seven wives,
Each wife had seven sacks,
Each sack had seven cats,
Each cat had seven kits:
Kits, cats, sacks, and wives,
How many were there going to St. Ives?

There are a few variations to the above. This discussion is based on the above text as written so any criticism bringing in other versions or what have you is not relevant.

There are a few different answers for it. The general consensus seems to be that the correct answer is one. My assertion is that the general consensus is wrong. My reasoning generally parallels the reasoning that leads to the conclusion that one is the correct answer but the final conclusion differs.

First, the narrator is going to St. Ives. Normally, if you meet someone on the road, it’s because they are going in a different direction or are not going anywhere at all. (It seems that “meet” had a much tighter definition in the time when the riddle was first framed so this is actually reasonable.) In either of those cases, the only mentioned person or thing going to St. Ives would be the narrator. Thus, the answer is one, correct? After all, we know the narrator is going to St. Ives. Except that doesn’t fit. The rhyme specifically calls out “kits, cats, sacks, and wives” in the question. Note that it does not include the man or the narrator! That means that neither the narrator nor the man with the wives can be included in the answer.

The other assumptions I made to arrive at the above are:

  • The narrator is not a wife. That is a reasonable assumption but there is no actual evidence to support it. If the narrator happens to be a wife, that allows you to justify an answer of one. However, bringing in unstated information is generally not considered valid for a riddle since that would allow any random answers to be justified.
  • The second to last line is not there for mere decoration or to fill out the rhyme. That is a reasonable assumption since doing anything other than considering the entire text is cherry picking and that can be used to defend all manner of answers.

You could argue that everyone is going to St. Ives depending how you interpret “met”. Considering the age of this particular riddle, it’s reasonable to assume that “met” refers to oncoming traffic. If, however, we apply a looser modern interpretation of “met”, perhaps the narrator caught up with the man’s party, which is not unreasonable if he is travelling with seven wives. That would mean everyone is going to St. Ives. In that case, you would have to do the calculation and arrive at 2800 (the total number of kits, cats, sacks, and wives). Again, one suggested answer for this circumstance is 2801 but that’s not defensible at all, even if you do interpret things to include the narrator and the man. In that case, the answer would be 2802. However, as noted above, the question specifically enumerates the kits, cats, sacks, and wives so the man and the narrator should not be included. That means only 2800.

I should note at this point that there is a variation where the narrator only meets the seven wives and there is no mention of the man. In that case, if you count everyone and everything, then 2801 would be valid. However, as long as the man is mentioned, 2801 cannot be defended.

Civilization V – Venice

With the impending Civilization VI release, I thought it would be amusing to do a few posts about Civilization V, particularly because it looks like I won’t be able to purchase Civilization VI when it is released because all signs point to there being no Linux port. In fact, rumour has it there won’t ever be one and the reported reasons for that are complete BS. But that’s beside the point.

Just recently, I decided to finally play a game as Venice. I set it up as the one city challenge since, why not. Venice is only allowed to found one city anyway. The only difference for Venice in the one city challenge is that it is not possible to control additional cities (puppets). Continue reading “Civilization V – Venice”

cphulkd sucks

One of the unfortunate things about my day job is that I have to manage a server running cPanel. Some folks insist on cPanel because it has all these fancy gewgaws, features, widgets, and the like. However, once you start trying to manage a server running cPanel for more than a few trivial web sites, you start to discover just how terribly engineered it is, and it has absolutely no excuse for that. One particular feature I recently tripped over hard is cphulkd, which is cPanel’s answer to brute force detection. Continue reading “cphulkd sucks”

The PHP Encryptor Scam

At $dayjob, I recently encountered a WordPress installation that was created by some overseas developers on behalf of our client. Let’s call the client Fred. So Fred asks me to make a duplicate of his site on a subdomain so he can have some development work done without messing up the live site. That’s perfectly reasonable and ordinarily poses no problems. You just duplicate the WordPress files and database, update the configuration file, maybe fix a hard coded URL or two, and Bob’s your uncle. Alas, this time it was not that simple. Continue reading “The PHP Encryptor Scam”

Responding to Mythbusting Linux

I just encountered a video done by one Matthew Moore. He calls it “Mythbusting Linux”. You can find it over on Youtube here. For the most part, what Matthew says in the videos is accurate enough. However, there are a couple of points where he misrepresents or misunderstands the specific situation. Continue reading “Responding to Mythbusting Linux”

Adopt vs Adapt….

I was just reading a professionally published novel. Normally, you expect some competency from the editors in such situations. To be fair, it is clear that there was editing and the editing was consistent. However, the editing had a consistent glaring error.

In at least three cases, the text read “adopt to”. In those cases, it was being used in constructions like “adopt to the new policies”. That is wrong. You can adopt a new policy but you cannot adopt to a new policy. The correct word is “adapt”. When your town adopts a new policy, you have to adapt to it. Now, in two cases, it was crystal clear from context that “adapt” was the intended word. In a third case, it was less clear and a case might have been made for “adopt”. However, it would have been a bit weak.

There are other usages throughout the same work (different words) that are potentially questionable. However, in those cases, a reasonable case can be made that it was a stylistic choice, a result of inner monologue by a character that didn’t understand nuances correctly, or what have you. There are other cases that are clearly typos or otherwise errors. However, the instances of “adopt” were significant in that they were consistent. That is, someone actually believes that they are correct.

It’s unfortunate that such an error slipped though. The novel in question is an otherwise excellent read.

Stupid Email App Design (Android)

I just encountered, for the umpteenth time, what is probably the single stupidest design decision I have ever encountered in the history of email applications. With the default Android email app, it is impossible to change the IMAP or POP3 username once the account is created. You can change everything else, including the username for SMTP, but not the username for incoming mail. The only way to change the username for incoming mail is to delete and recreate the email account, which is something you don’t want to do if you are using POP3 and storing email on the phone

Of course, you may be wondering why this is an issue? After all, usernames don’t change, do they? Wrong. There are two cases where usernames change:

1. You change email providers. That doesn’t always mean your email address changes since you may be changing the hosting for a domain. In that case, username required to log in to the new mail server might change.

2. Your email host changes the way it operates its email server and that changes the login format required. For instance, going from requiring “username” to requiring “username@domain”.

These two things happen more often than most people realize.

So, by the collected powers of the universe, good, evil, and neutral, fix the <bleeeeeeeeeeeep> default Android email app to allow changing the <bleep> username for incoming mail!

Traffic Signals and Pedestrians

A recent discussion about a New York City request to Google proved somewhat interesting. The request itself was for Google to add an option to its navigation type products to avoid left turns. Their reasoning was that left turns are an inherently dangerous operation and reducing the number of them would be overall beneficial. One commenter brought up another question that is somewhat interesting, though. Continue reading “Traffic Signals and Pedestrians”