Fletcher Tomalty

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Dashes vs. Underscores in URLs

The debate over whether to use dashes or underscores to represent spaces in URLs is rather heated in the web development community, but not quite as extremely so as that of whether to use tabs or spaces when indenting code. So, what is better to substitute for spaces in URLs, dashes or underscores?

The simple answer is that, never mind what Google prefers, underscores are the right way to go. Why?

1) Hyphens Already Mean Something

Hyphens and dashes are actually slightly different, but in practice everybody just uses the same character, ASCII number 45, the hyphen-minus. So let’s just pretend they’re the same. The strongest argument against dashes is that they already mean something in English! “Mother-in-law”, “X-ray”, and “twenty-one” are all single words. Inserting a hyphen in the middle of a sentence can completely change its meaning. You can’t just ignore those rules, any more...

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Representing Information

In this day and age, information hits our optical nerves about as fast as we can think about it. Not only is there an incredible amount of data, but the actual information we’re seeing is so global that there are millions of this, billions of that – and how many trillion did the U.S. spend on the wars in the East again? My mother, for example, often tells me that the difference between a million and a trillion doesn’t mean anything to her at all; if she can’t picture either of the two numbers they might as well be the same. The following xkcd comic illustrates this problem well (it’s cropped because the punchline is silly).

xkcd: 1000 times

Of course, it’s a matter of perspective—and political agenda—but the point is that the way we represent information matters, and that two different ways of representing the same information can lead to dramatically different perceptions of it. It would be hard to...

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Hidden Fonts on Mac OS X

It turns out there is a whole host of fonts that, for some reason, are available to certain applications on Mac OS X, but not actually installed into the system-wide font library. I discovered this while looking for Palatino, which I knew was installed somewhere, but couldn’t find in my system fonts. I opened up Terminal.app, ran a simple locate -i palatino, and found exactly what I was looking for. This, however, opened up a whole new dimension to my search: hidden fonts in Mac OS X.

These little treats are literally littered all around the OS. To install them (as with all font files), you just double click on the icons, and Font Book will open up, with a dialogue asking you if you to confirm the installation.

If you have iWork installed, then in /Library/Application Support/Apple/Fonts/iWork, you will find lots of cool fonts that aren’t normally available to the rest of the OS. These...

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Expressing “b is a power of 2” in TNT

TNT does not, as one not currently reading Douglas R. Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach might assume, refer to the highly explosive substance trinitrotoluene. In this case, TNT stands for Typographical Number Theory, a formal system created by Hofstadter in order to illustrate many different concepts to his readers.

Not having had any previous knowledge of number theory nor of formal systems, I am most definitely a novice when it comes to the type of mathematical problems found in the book. So far, however, I have been able to solve each of the presented puzzles, albeit with some difficulty. The one which I have just come across has the most difficult thus far, and after solving it I found myself compelled to share my success with the rest of the world.


In chapter VIII, entitled Typographical Number Theory, Hofstadter presents a few statements (above), asking the reader to translate...

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