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Name: Matthew Hiller
Member since: 2000-07-27 08:28:36
Last Login: N/A

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Homepage: http://home.pacbell.net/mhiller/


I am the maintainer and primary developer of GNU Denemo, a graphical score editor intended for use in conjunction with GNU Lilypond.

I've also recently started a new job with Red Hat, Inc.'s Cygnus arm, as a gcc engineer. I am hardly the most prolific contributor on the team, but I do have patches in the the tree now. (I'd taken a rigorous compilers course at school, but until starting this job I did not have any experience hacking gcc. My higher-ups on the Red Hat gcc team know this, though, and expect that it'll take me some time before I'm completely up to speed on how to do my job.)

This is my first job out of college; I graduated from Yale in May of 2000 with a B.S. in computer science.

My political opinions tend to be on the liberal side of the spectrum, and I'm a registered Democrat. (For the benefit of international readers, the U.S. Democratic Party is generally the more liberal of the two major U.S. parties, or at least used to be.)

I am, as you might have inferred from my involvement in the development of music notation software, something of a musician. I've been known to do some composing and arranging, and I can play a number of instruments moderately well, although I wouldn't go so far as to say that I'm really good at playing any one of them (or would be interested in putting in the time to develop such skill.) I'm also a juggler; this is another hobby that I've pursued to proficiency, but not mastery.

Hacking free software, though, is different. I want to get as good at that as I possibly can.


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It's occurred to me why I don't like it when the GPL is called "viral".

The negative connotations of the term aside, the "infection" spread by GPLed code is quite reversible. Simply remove any code from the program which is available only under the GPL from the codebase, replace it where necessary, and commence developing with your new non-GPLed codebase instead. Infections (viral ones especially) are usually a bit harder to root out.

A thought on the Kursk disaster (yeah, last week's news, I know). It reminds me of a joke that goes something like this:

A man is going on a week-long vacation, and leaves his brother (who also lives in town) with the responsibility of taking care of his cat (feeding him, making sure that he has fresh water, changing the litter about mid-week, etc.) Halfway through the week, his brother gives him a call and the man asks how the cat's doing.

"Yeah, I was just about to get to that," responded his brother. "She died on Monday. The vet said that it was a heart attack. I'm really sorry you didn't get to see her again."

"Okay," says the man, a little distraught, "I appreciate your forthrightness in telling me about this right away, but... in the future, when you have news like that, it'll soften the blow a little bit if you lead up to it."

"How do you mean?"

"Well, instead of saying that the cat's dead, you'd say that the cat ran out of the house, climbed up onto the roof, and is refusing to come down. Then a few hours later you'll call again and say that she's still up there and you've called the fire department to try to get her down. Then in another few hours you call and say that the fireman managed to grab hold of her, but she scrabbled away and fell off the roof, and she's in the veterinary ER now. And then you tell me that she didn't pull through. That's the way to do it."

"Okay. I think I understand."

"So, how's Mom?"

"Well, Mom's on the roof..."

It makes me wonder whether the reports of crewmembers radioing for help after the accident or tapping on the hull in Morse code were really true at all.

I'm happily playing with a nightly build of Mozilla right now (August 8, fresh off the presses). I've been banging on it a little, and I haven't gotten it to crash yet -- I've run into some bugs, but more of the quirky kind than anything else.

I can do just about everything in advogato, for example, except visit my account page -- it gives me the login screen again. Since this seems to be the only place that I can post diary entries or articles, of course, I had to fire up Netscape 4 to get here. I can reply to articles without any problem, though. :-)

A good night of Denemo hacking tonight -- tuplets are handled a lot more gracefully now. (In fact, as I tested it I realized that I'd introduced a bug a few days ago such that trying to insert tuplets at all would quickly lead to a segfault; quick to fix, though.) I'm gonna have to debug the x positioning code real soon, though; the results were pretty ugly when I put septuplets in one staff against sixteenth notes in another.

On a completely unrelated note, I actually put a new version of my home page together, so if you follow the link at the top of my account page you'll actually find something there.

On the presidential race... I'm liking that Gore's selected Liebermann as his running mate. I've been Jewish all my life and a Connecticut voter (in New Haven, no less) for the past 4 years, so I think I can credibly say that the man is a mensch. Besides that, it gets, like, a good-side-of-the-force Yalie on the ballot. One who I can pretty much guarantee wasn't some academic lightweight legacy... in fact, I wonder if Yale still had limits on the number of Jews it'd would admit back when Liebermann was there. That still might've been the case even that late.

The garlic festival was fun; about what I expected. I was a little confused by the appeal of the wine tasting tent -- I ducked in there briefly to sample the garlic wine -- but then again, I'm not a Californian. Garlic bread, garlic seafood and meat, garlic recipies (though cooking isn't much of a spectator sport, least as I can tell), garlic peanut butter chocolate cups, garlic ice cream... it was a trip.

The traffic wasn't as bad as it might've been, but then again we left the festival early, figuring that we'd already seen what we needed to see and didn't need to hang around for outbound traffic to pick up.

Other stuff -- I got some good Denemo hacking done this weekend, and good for-pay hacking done on Friday and this morning, for that matter. And I bought some furniture on Sunday afternoon; now all I need is a couch for the living room, something mesmerizing to put on the living room wall where the TV's supposed to go, and a roommate, and I'll have a pretty complete apartment.

Oh - and another library trip. The Sunnyvale library's got so much more selection than the ones back at home in Westchester -- it's really refreshing to go there. None of this "No Cryptonomicon available at any Westchester Library System member library" stuff that I got to deal with over spring break.

I came up with an interesting thought a few days ago, and I figured I'd share:

It's strikingly appropriate that the default office assistant in MS office is a paper clip.

My freshman year of high school, I took a drafting class. One of our assignments was to diagram and describe the form and function of a common machined object made up of no more than a few parts. A friend of mine did his report on the paper clip. During the course of his research, he discovered that by most metrics, the standard paper clip isn't well designed. It doesn't do an especially good job of holding sheafs of paper together; tends to mangle the pages a little bit; is not especially durable; and, while not difficult or slow to use, is not as easy or quick to use as it might be. In short, the paper clip does a minimally decent job of accomplishing its intended function, but no better. My friend even had a few diagrams of alternate designs for paper fasteners which were better than standard paper clips along at least one metric.

Nevertheless, the paper clip is ubiquitous, alternative paper fasteners much rarer. I think that this is so because it doesn't even occur to people to look at paper clips with a critical eye, to actively seek out other options.

When one considers the quality, speed, efficiency, freedom, and cost of many Microsoft offerings -- particularly in the desktop market, and especially as compared to what's available in the free software world nowadays -- the correspondence is fairly clear. (Of course, the analogy shouldn't be taken too far. There are many dynamics at work in the software business that are not present in the office-supply business.)

Personal stuff -- I'm looking forward to the Gilroy Garlic Festival this weekend, but I'm told to expect lots and lots of traffic; that I should take alternate routes where possible instead of taking the trickling parking lot that California 101 will become.

Caltrain doesn't ordinarily run trains to Gilroy on the weekends, and they didn't make an exception for this weekend, which just mystifies me. Okay, there is a single train going down and back from San Francisco once on Saturday and once on Sunday that's more of a charity engine than anything else, but that's not mass transit.


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