Monthly Archives: March 2006

Computer Language Shootout

Just read an article linked from comparing the performance of various programming languages.

On most tests, it’s amazing to see how slow Perl, PHP, and Ruby are. What I did find interesting is that Python seems to be faster than all of the above on most tests. The other point of note, is that Java is in the same ballpark as C/C++.

Most of the test programs seem to be computationally intensive, so you need to be careful about reading too deeply into this. For example, most of the PHP code I’ve written is performance limited by the MySQL queries embedded in it, not the speed of PHP. So I’m not about to abandon Perl or PHP, and I still plan to learn Ruby.

I have played around with Python in the past, and this tells me I should revisit it, and not just mindlessly follow the current fashion for Ruby.

I’ve also been writing some Java recently (which seems to have improved a lot since I last wrote Java code about 7 years ago). The code I’ve been writing is quite computationally heavy, so it looks like it was a good choice. And even if I’d gone for C++, I don’t think any potential performance gains are large enough to compensate for the benefits of Java (rich libraries, garbage collecting, cross platform binaries).

Finally, it’s interesting to note that the three official languages at Google are Python, Java, and C++.

Study suggests that large monitors make you more productive has interesting article about a report on how large monitors increase your productivity. I couldn’t agree more.

I find my 20 inch iMac rather cramped these days, and much prefer the screen area of my 24 inch Dell 2405 (purchased when Dell had one of their crazy discounts in place). Next year, if my finances will stand it, I’ll be on the look out for a 30 inch display (a Dell probably, due to their frequent discounts). I’ve tried using dual displays, but nothing works as well for me as a single large monitor.

It still amazes me that lots of companies provide their employees with 17 inch CRTs, or 15 inch LCDs. Large monitors are so cheap these days, compared to the benefits they provide for anyone who works at a computer all day long.

Five Things

I’ve been tagged by Gary, Five Things…

Here we go….

What were you doing ten years ago?
Finishing off an MSc in Computing Science, and looking for a job

What were you doing one year ago?
Closing down my project on my old day job, and launching my mobile phone site

Five snacks you enjoy:
Walkers Crisps (Salt & Vinegar, Smoky Bacon, and Prawn Cocktail)
Cadburys Twirl Fingers
Cashew nuts
Corn Chips
Prawn Crackers

Five songs to which you know all the lyrics:
I don’t think there are any songs that I know all the words to

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire:
Buy my brother a new, reliable car (he’s not lucky with used cars)
Buy a holiday home somewhere warm
Buy a larger, detached house
Invest what’s left
Spend less time thinking about money

Five things you like doing:
Almost anything that involves computers
Hanging out with friends and family (preferably involving food and/or alcohol)
Watching TV – mostly BBC Four

Five things you would never wear again:
Long hair – it doesn’t suit me
T-shirts with cartoon characters on them
Ties, although it’s occasionally unavoidable
Slippers – barefoot works for me
Wellies – give me Gore-tex walking boots or wet feet

Five favourite toys:
Dell Axim X50v
Xbox 360
Samsung D600 Phone
Garmin ForeRunner 205

Small changes to

I’ve just a made a set of small changes to (and the motorcycle, mobile phone, and wine sites). These changes are somewhat influenced by the current Web 2.0 fashion – cleaner pages with larger text.

  • I’ve increased the font size for both the breadcrumbs at the top of the page, and the title text for the main content. I’ve also increased the padding around these items. This is intended to make these important items more visible
  • I’ve removed a feature. The previous and next links at corners of the review pages are gone. I wasn’t using them personally, they cluttered up the page, and what they did wasn’t entirely clear to a casual visitor. They’re easy to restore if my instinct is wrong, so please complain if you miss them, but I’ll be surprised if I get many comments or e-mails
  • The summary at the top of each review and comments page is now quoted. In my view, this makes its purpose far more clear

New Opera beta for Windows Mobile

I previously posted about Opera launching a beta browser for Windows Mobile. While I was very impressed with the first release, it did tend to crash a lot. They’ve now released a new beta, and it’s far more solid. Sites like Yahoo! Mail and Amazon now seem to work fine. Based on this progress, I’ll definitely be purchasing the final release.

Thoughts on the new Intel Mac mini

I was very interested to see the details of the new Intel Mac mini yesterday. I’m a real fan of Mac OS X, and I’ve been using a 20 inch G5 iMac as my main desktop for some time now. Below are some of my thoughts on the new system:


  • Choice of Solo or Core Duo processors – fantastic. It does mean that as long as you’re not doing disk intensive work, a budget Mac with decent performance is now available
  • Use of a laptop sized hard disk. I originally thought that Apple should move to a desktop sized drive, but it looks easy enough to expand via USB or Firewire, so I think they’ve made the right decision to preserve the small form factor
  • No iPod dock. I appreciate that some people really want this, but I just think it will look very odd
  • Digital audio support – this is essential for using it as a media centre
  • Fully loaded with Airport Extreme, Bluetooth, Gigabit Ethernet, 4 USB ports, and a remote control


  • Although the amount of memory it ships with isn’t too bad (512Mb), expanding it to 1Gb or more is expensive. £70.01 for an extra 512Mb from Apple. And as they ship it with both of the two available slots occupied (256Mb in each), buying a 3rd party upgrade isn’t going to be much cheaper
  • Front Row still hasn’t been upgraded into a full media centre system. It still appears to be just a nice, but overly simple frontend for other programs. It looks slick, but I suspect I’d run into its limitations too quickly for my liking
  • The Mac mini is crying out to be used as a high definition media player, but there is little content available. Once Apple start providing HD content on their store, or ship it with either Blu-ray or HD DVD support, the Mac mini will make even more sense
  • No PVR functionality. I appreciate that this is very complicated, but if Apple could build in support for this (preferably via Freeview in the UK), it would really interest me

So am I going to buy one? If I was going to buy my first Mac, I’d be very tempted by the Core Duo version, upgraded to 2Gb of RAM, with whatever large LCD monitor Dell have on offer at the time. And the Core Solo version with 1Gb is nice as a beginner’s desktop, although it does look rather expensive compared to some of the deals available from Dell.

Given that I already own an iMac G5, I would be buying one as a Media Centre, to replace a Squeezebox. I was ready with my credit card, but in the end, I’m going to sit on my hands for a while. Once the RAM is upgraded, and you add a wireless keyboard and mouse (necessary as Front Row is too basic), it begins to look too expensive for something that isn’t a PVR, or even a proper Media Centre. Still, I may yet be tempted if the reviews from owners turn out to be very positive.