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My name is Henry the Adequate, and I am a superhero
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  • Henry’s Python Programming Guide - Part 1

    Posted on May 22nd, 2006 Ben 123 comments

    My name is Henry the Adequate, and I am a Python programming Guru. I know all of their movies, and their TV shows, and can quote the dead parrot sketch in my sleep. In fact I do quote it in my sleep. That may explain why I am single, although it could also have something to do with the flamethrower.

    Naturally many old-timers want to know what this new-fangled Python thing is all about. “Henry,” they say, “What is this new-fangled Python thing all about?” See what i mean? So, here, at last, is the article you have all been waiting for…

    What is Python?
    Python is the really neat computer programming thingy, based heavily on Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which was invented by those really funny guys, Monty Python. Lucky for them it was called Monty Python’s Flying Circus, because it would have been really inconvenient and confusing if it were called John Howard’s Flying Circus, or something like that.

    Python is “Object Oriented”. This means that if you are from the far east you are probably going to object to using Python. Nobody knows why. It’s just one of those useless statistics.

    Python is an interpreted language, so you’re going to need to pay some guy who speaks lots of languages to hang around and tell you what it means.

    Python has dynamic typing, and dynamic binding, which means that not only does it make a great secretary, it is also pretty damn kinky. If you’re into that sort of thing.

    In Python indentation determines scope. This breaks with naval tradition, in which it is the captain decides who gets to use the periscope next. Python also breaks with recent computer programming convention, because apparently it is usually the guy with the braces gets to decide. Damn teenagers.

    Python has exception handling. I can’t think of anything funny to say about this.

    Apparently Python can do just about anything. I told it to “feed the cat”, but there was some kind of error. Perhaps if I’d told it to Cat.feed(now) things might have been better.

    Python does garbage collection. Well, it’s a job, you know.

    Getting Started
    The first, and most important, thing you need to do is race out right now and buy the entire Monty Python mega ultra box set and watch them all right away. Don’t sleep. Don’t eat. Just watch python until your eyes bulge out of their sockets like a really furious John Cleese impersonator, and your brain hurts. You can get it from Amazon. Do it now. I’ll wait a bit.

    The next thing, now that you really understand the philosophical and intellectual origins of Python, is to install the computer Python thingy on your computer. Actually many of you will already have it installed, because Python is really popular - especially Life of Brian. Oh, and Fawlty Towers. Yes, I know it was not a Python thing, but it’s still John Cleese, so shut up.

    Anyway, if you don’t have Python installed it is usually pretty easy to get. Depending on your distribution it’s just a matter of “apt-get install python” (Debian based distros), “yum install python”, “up2date python”, “emerge python”, “yast2 you are the worst installer ever. I hate you hate you hate you”. Sorry, you should probably disregard that last one. You could also install something called “idle”, which is named after one of the Monty Python guys - Graham Chapman I think it was.

    Using Python
    There are lots of good tutorials on the basics of programming in this unique and really funny language. I particularly liked the bit in “Live at the Hollywood Bowl” where Eric Idle goes on and on about his holiday. That was great. For other examples, you can look over on python.org.

    Instead of rehashing any of this stuff I am going to discuss the hidden features that make it so powerful for Python gurus like myself.

    1. Speeding up Python: Type the following command, or include it in your program, but without the quotes, “I didn’t ExPecT a kind of Spanish Inquisition”. This enables hyper turbo mode. An alternative command is “No time to lose”, but you need to say it in a really funny voice, and that requires voice recognition software, and a microphone.
    2. Turn on Auto Code: Python’s secret and highly experimental Auto Code feature allows the clever programmer to go to the pub while his computer does all the work. To enable Auto Code, just write a TODO list in plain English, and run the following command: “Manuel! < todo.txt”. Disable Auto Code with “He’s from Barcelona”. Yes, I know it’s from Fawlty Towers. Shut up.
    3. Microsoft Word: Python has an embedded version of Microsoft word. To Access this WYSIWYG text editor, just type “Dead Parrot” while running Python interractively.

    Sample code
    The following Python code is from a project I am working on. It is not fully debugged just yet, but is still pretty damn good, because I am Henry the Adequate, superhero, and python programming guru.

    if Henry wants coffee:
         make some coffee please,
         and also some of those yummy donuts.
    Or else maybe you could offer tea.

    It’s a work in progress. I’m sure the bugs will be sorted out soon.

    Conclusion
    Python is a great and powerful computer thingy. It is fun to use, and allows the program making person to be really productive while at the same time watching some of those wacky pythonesque cartoons.

    Need help with computer stuff? Henry can help. I promise a timely and definitive response to any technical question asked in the comments here.

    Glossary
    promise - vaguely suggest that something might happen, if you’re really really lucky.
    timely - If it occurs at all it will be within the context of the space-time continuum.
    definitive - My response may contain some definitions, such as these.

  • Henry’s Fedora Core 5 Install Guide

    Posted on May 11th, 2006 Ben 29 comments

    So, you’d like to install the latest Fedora Linux thingy. Well I, Henry the Adequate, superhero, am here to help. Soon you will discover that even an idiot can install this great operating symptom.

    What is Fedora?
    Fedora is this operating symptom made by some guy called Colonel Linux. I think this is a different Colonel to the one who makes that chicken stuff, although I suppose it could be the same guy but using a different screen name. Anyway, Colonel Linux got some of his mates together and they made Fedora, and they named it after the Colonel’s hat.

    Getting Fedora
    Yes, that’s a good idea.

    Starting the Computer
    This is really technical. You probably need some geek person to help you with it…. What’s that? You’re still stuck on the previous step? Ok, then…

    Getting Fedora(reprise)
    If you have a friend who is a computer guru like me, you can ask him/her to make Fedora CDs for you. This is not nearly as technical as starting your computer, but is still pretty tricky all the same, so you should probably not try it yourself. If you do not have a computer guru friend, then Fedora can be purchased from linuxcd.org.

    Beginning the Installation
    Put the first CD into the computer. If you do not have a CD ROM drive in your computer the disc can be safely folded to fit into your floppy drive, especially if you have one of those 2.88MB IBM floppy drives.

    Restart the computer. Wait a bit. Hopefully the next thing you see will be a screen that says “Fedora”, with a funny looking “f” next to it. I’m not sure what the “f” stands for. Could be “free”, or “Ferocious Dog - Enter at own risk”. I certainly hope it doesn’t stand for the F word - that would not be very classy.

    Anyway, Just hit the “enter” key, and you’ll be asked if you want to “begin testing CD media”. The other day I was playing some music on my computer and the CD skipped, probably because of some scratches or something, but I thought it would be best for me to choose “skip” at this screen, just to be on the safe side. You should probably do the same thing because you can’t be too careful.

    The next thing may be something about devices. I’m not really very good at keeping notes, so… whatever. Just go “Ok”, or “Next”, or “Continue”, or whatever. sometimes it is even “Forward”. Yes I know this stuff is confusing. Keep clicking on whichever of those is showing and you’ll most likely be ok.

    Soon you’re going to be asked to select a languge to learn while you’re waiting for the operating system to be installed. I chose “Chinese(simplified)”, because that sounded pretty easy. Fedora may be a great operating symptom, but let me tell you right now - as a language tutor it sucks. There was all this chinese all over the screen, with no translations whatsoever. Very disappointing. I restarted the computer, and next time chose “English”, because I’m pretty sure I can learn that one. Then I clicked “Next”. Remember, if you’re not sure about something, or if you’re not up to the bit I’m talking about, just keep clicking “Next”.

    Partitioning the Hard Drive
    Pretty soon you’ll come to the next really important bit, which is partitioning. Partitioning just means deciding which “part” of the computer will hold Fedora. That’s where they get the name from. It is important at this point to choose the hard drive, because the motherboard does not have enough room on it on account of all the cables and other stuff. You could put it on the chipset, but that would make the chips soggy.

    Also, if you have any version of Microsoft Windows on the computer it’s best to choose the option to wipe the entire drive. This is because the viral nature of Windows will cause it to leak over onto the Fedora partition. That would be very dangerous, and might even result in an explosion, or a fire. Fire is beautiful. I love fire…. Anyway…

    Network Setup
    The Network Setup bit is highly technical and really quite confusing, unless you’re a superhero computer guru like me. So, to help the un-guru-like understand this extremely difficult subject, I have defined a few of the terms you will find on this screen.

    • Network: Ask yourself this - “Does the net work?” Well, if you’re able to check your email, or if you can read this page, then the net does indeed work. This means you can just click “Next”.
    • eth0: Uh… This has something to do with ethics. Just some kind of legal mumbo jumbo. You can ignore it.
    • dhcp: “Does Henry Create Peace”. Damn right.
    • hostname: This is the name of the host. Generally speaking, though, a dinner party is not really the right time to be installing Fedora, because of all the distractions. Explain to your host that you must go home soon to finish some very important work stuff. Then get drunk and proposition the hostess. Throw up in the umbrella stand. Get into a fight or two. Stagger home bleeding, drunk, and prepared for an all-night installfest. When you’re ready, click “Next”.
    • automatic: Now this sounds like the one for me. Click “Next” dammit.

    Choosing a password for root
    In this context root does not refer to the sexual act. In fact it refers to the administrator - you know, the guy who fills out all the paperwork. You can choose any password you like here. I chose ******** because my keyboard is broken and that is the only password that seemed to work, but you should probably go with something else.

    Choosing Software
    Software refers to stuff that does stuff on your computer. You don’t really need it, so I’d recommend just clicking “Next” here. You’ll see this bar going accross, with a lot of weird writing flashing by underneath it. I think this has something to do with the language tutor which, as I have already mentioned, is broken. Pity. I would have liked to learn Chinese.

    Rebooting the Computer
    There are times when your computer may benefit from a good swift kick. This is not one of them. Just click on “Reboot”.

    License Agreement
    Don’t you just hate those fascist rule mongers who try to tell you what you’re allowed to do with your computer stuff. Just click “Next”, sorry, “Forward”, because you really have no choice.

    Firewall Configuration
    This is just like the firewall in your car. It prevents you from becoming injured if the computer happens to spontaneously combust. Don’t laugh. It happens. It happend to me the other night, when I was cleaning the hair-trigger on my flamethrower. The computer just burst into flames for no readily apparent reason.

    SELinux Settings
    You only need to worry about this if your computer is facing precisely South East, and even then only if you happen to be a North Going Zax. Such a situation is so rare that I will just gloss over this section and say “Please click Forward.”

    I do so understand it.

    Display
    You need to choose your favourite revolution. I wanted to choose the French one, because of all the chopping of heads, but it just listed some numbers, possibly years, and I couldn’t remember the correct dates for the French revolution. So I just accepted the defaults and clicked “Forward”. I miss “Next”. It was shorter to type.

    System User
    Now you create a username for using the computer. Once again Fedora only accepts ******** as the password. Weird, and not very secure. Nice one guys.

    Sound Card
    This is a rather plain little application for listening to music. Their choice of music sucks though. Pity.

    The End
    Now you have installed Fedora Core 5, and can begin to enjoy it’s linuxy goodness. Congratulations. In my next brilliant Linux article I might tell you about some of the great programs in Fedora, and how you can use them to be more productive. Or maybe I’ll just tell you about the time I defeated the Robot Lords of Chaos armed only with a cheap mp3 player thingy. Yes, that sounds like a good idea.

  • Henry’s Guide to Financing Your Free or Open Source Project and Really Long Article Titles

    Posted on April 26th, 2006 Ben 13 comments

    My name is Henry the Adequate, and I am a superhero computer guy.

    As I’m sure you are all aware, I am a computer programming guru and master leet haxxzor. Such is my fame and great typing skills that I have become an integral part of the Free and Open Source communities. Linus himself calls me for advice - things like “Should I go with a monolithic kernel?”, “How should we handle binary drivers?”, and “Will you stop pretending that you know me - I’ll sue, dammit!” Developers and project leaders come to me for assistance all the time, and leet chick haxxzors swoon at my feet like professional swooners who are really good at swooning.

    Of all the problems that I am called upon by my less-guru-like bretheren to solve the most common is that of finance. How does one go about fundraising for one of those things? Here, in no particular order, are the suggestions I generally offer, and you will find no pie drives, or chook raffles, or prostitution rackets herein, because I am a class act and stuff.

    1. Take control of the blimp at some major sporting event, using those rad cracking skills and the wireless capabilities of a PSP, and broadcast your message for all to see. Remember, only use l33t speak to weed out the morons and plebes.
    2. Crash the blimp in some spectacular and ultimately fatal fashion, which is bound to get you on the news - possibly worldwide - if you do it right. It will also get you free room and board for a very long time.
    3. Become a polygamist and send all of your wives and/or husbands to work in the mines or (**shudder**) retail.
    4. Challenge the Defence mainframe to a game of Global Thermonuclear War. Sell your story to the highest bidder, if there is anybody left to bid…
    5. Get a whole heap of guys to program for free. Wait. That will never work.
    6. Write buggy, insecure code, because this is what the people want, and if you give the people what they want they will beat a path to your door. Remember, billions of Windows users can’t be wrong.
    7. Treat your users like criminals for the reasons stated above, and also because it works for Sony.
    8. Advertise on TV. Your lack of financial success to date is all because you have failed to worship at the altar of television. Don’t worry about paying for the ads - just hack into the network’s computers and give yourself a credit. I recommend advertising during Baywatch reruns, because that’s your target demographic right there, and also because it gives you an excuse to tape the show - you know, to check up on your ads.
    9. Get a breast enlargement so then you can sell advertising space on ebay. It doesn’t matter if you’re a guy - this will still work.
    10. Speaking of ebay - sell copies of your Free Sofware on CD for $500. Those morons will pay anything for anything.
    11. Try prostitution. Ok, I lied. Sorry, no refunds.

    I could go on with brilliant ideas like these forever, because of my superheroic brain, but I won’t, because I don’t want to; and also because I need to save some for Part Two.

    Oh, yeah, one last thing - really long article titles are great.

  • Henry’s Guide to Really Good Writing - Part 2

    Posted on April 23rd, 2006 ben 4 comments

    In Part one I offered some super-charged advice that will have you making mega writing bucks in no time. Now it is time for Part Two - The Legend Continues going on about writing stuff. I really am a legend, you know.

    1. Always add “Part 1″ to the title of your first article on a subject. That way when people point out some really obvious stuff that you have missed, you can just explain that you’re saving it for part two. Also, if you are publishing online, people will keep coming back to look for the next bit. Remember, for every time your page is viewed the US government will pay you one dollar.
  • Henry’s Guide to Really Good Writing - Part 1

    Posted on April 18th, 2006 ben 15 comments

    My name is Henry the Adequate, and I am a super writing person.

    A lot of people are going to try to tell you how to write. For example:http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/004023.html. But those people don’t really know stuff like Henry knows stuff, so I am here to tell you how the professional writing thingy people do it.

    1. Do not start your numbered lists at zero, because you are not a c programming computer nerd guru like me.
    2. Do not use numbered lists, because they suck.
    3. Long sentences are better because you don’t want to waste too many keystrokes on periods and exclamation points and question marks and stuff, and also RSI is a very real and very serious affliction caused by too much punctuation so always join sentences together wherever possible and make really long sentences because that will save your wrists and other bits from getting pains.
    4. Make stuff up, because research is really really hard.
    5. If you can’t spell a word, or if you can’t think of a good word to use, make up a new word, or use a substutsubstetute the word “stuff” instead. Dictionaries are for losers.
    6. Words can mean anything you want them to mean. Humpty Dumpty said so.
    7. Similes and Metaphors are great. Use them all the time. At least one in every paragraph. Even if you don’t know any, just kinda invent something, like a really clever person who invents things.
    8. Tricky writing tricks are really overrated. Plot, characterisation, setting, theme, spelling, paragraphs - all of these are just fascists tools of oppression that really only exist so arrogant elitist morons can pretend they are better than us.
    9. When in doubt steal somebody else’s ideas, because that is easier.
    10. Repeat repeat repeat, because people are morons. Did I mention you should keep repeating yourself? It is easier than writing new stuff, and nobody will notice, because they are all morons.
    11. Most numbered lists only go up to ten. I can have more, because I am Henry the Adequate, superhero.
  • Henry’s Computer Buying Guide

    Posted on December 23rd, 2005 ben 12 comments

    My name is Henry the Adequate, and I am a superhero.

    This is the second in my series of articles aimed at those who wish to become a computer guru like me. Today I will guide you step by step through the process of purchasing a computer.

    Introduction
    First, some ground rules, which I will be calling “The Three Laws of Henry” until I think of a better name.

    1. Henry is always right.
    2. The customer is always right, except where it conflicts with rule one.
    3. A robot must protect itself except where doing so conflicts with rules one or two.

    Ok, so the third rule I stole from some writer guy, but at least I changed the wording a bit.

    Step One - Going to the shop
    I recommend some form of transportation device, unless you live right next door to the shop. Even then it might be a good idea to take the car in case you don’t have enough cash (more on that later).

    Steer clear of those nasty online stores, because the web is a dangerous place full of giant spiders and lunatic crackers who will steal your credit card number and your favourite teddy. I miss my teddy.

    Step Two - Choosing a Computer
    The best way to choose a computer is some form of random selection process. This is because of the following rules which I have cleverly named “Some More Laws of Henry”.

    1. All computers are crap.
    2. All salespersons lie.
    3. All cats are grey after midnight.

    However, and this is the tricky bit, most of the time the salesdroid will try to sell you a computer with Microsoft Windows on it. This is because of rule two above, and also because they are grovelling minions of the evil empire, hell bent on enslaving the population via their nefarious schemes and plottings and viruses and worms and spyware and region coding.

    many people think that region coding is just a way of restricting where DVDs can be played. But the truth is much more sinister and bizarre, and will be discussed in my upcoming article “The Evils of Region Coding”.

    But, anyway, the important thing is that you must not give in to the criminally insane salesdude. Those Windows computers may be all shiny and enticing, but they will suck the soul from your brain, or kidney, or whever it usually lives, and send it screaming to the deepest of hells. Instead you must beat the salesperson about the head a few times with whichever laptop is closest while at the same time chanting “Linux, Linux, Linux, Linux”.

    After you have done this for about ten minutes [s]he will get the message and bring forth the only linux computer in the place. You should randomly select that one.

    Step Three - Buying the Computer
    Point at the computer you have selected, then announce loudly and proudly, “I will buy that computer, and I will pay whatever you want for it.”

    Step Four - Paying for the Computer
    This is the easy part. Reach for wallet/purse, extract cash/credit card/cheque book, pay the evil salesdroid.

    Now don’t get me wrong, it can get a little complicated. Perhaps you have no money, or would very much like to keep the money you do have. Perhaps you are a mindless imbercile who is incapable of operating a wallet. I don’t know. Whatever. The point is that there may be some reason you are unable or unwilling to pay actual money for your new computer. The temptation may be great, but under no circumstances offer sexual favours in return for the computer - not even if you really want to. Instead follow these steps precisely.

    1. Explain that you will return soon with cash.
    2. Wait in car until the store has closed for the night, or possibly until the lights change, depending on your attention span.
    3. Reverse car at extreme acceleration into the store front.
    4. Collect your new computer.
    5. Remove car from store.
    6. Using your embedded flamethrower burn the store to the ground, because that is fun.

    Step Five - The End
    So, there you have it - your very own brand new personal computer.