1. Coming to you Live from a Cloudfront Server Near you!

    Wow... it's been a year since I last wrote here.

    Awkward.

    I do have some excuses. This time last year I was in the middle of getting ready to get married. It's not exactly something you can do over a weekend. Unless you get married in Vegas. Maybe. Anyway, we didn't go to Vegas.

    Not long after that I started job-hunting again after feeling the urge for something new. Like so many things, this expanded to fill almost all of my free time, since the application process for development roles is apparently more stressful than doing a presentation in front of thousands of people. Or maybe that's just me? Not sure. In any case, it was a big time sink.

    Then we moved flat. I was offered a job in London, and commuting from Southampton was about as much fun as trimming your toenails with a hammer, so my wife …

    Posted by Matt Spraggs on

    Tags: AWS, Engineering

  2. Loxx: Implementing Bob Nystrom's Lox in C++14

    Last autumn I discovered Crafting Interpreters, a book by Bob Nystrom that gives readers a comprehensive guide to writing interpreters for a toy programming language, Lox. To me the world of compilers and interpreters has always been a total mystery. Okay, so I know what a syntax tree is, and I've occassionally even been brave enough to look at the assembly output for a program I've written. Also doesn't parsing need to happen at some point? Anyway, I was pretty intrigued, so in I dived.

    Bob's book is divided into two parts. The first details how to write a tree-walking interpreter in Java. Code is parsed and a syntax tree is generated from it, which is then evaluated in-place. By his own admission, this isn't a particularly efficient way to evaluate code, so the second part of the book describes how to write a stack-based virtual machine in C, which …

    Posted by Matt Spraggs on

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    Tags: Compilers, C++

  3. Embedded Software Practices: My Take

    A friend and I were discussing the relative merits of LabVIEW the other day. Coming from a theoretical, software-focused background, I struggle with LabVIEW, which I think hides too many of the underlying workings of a program from the user for the sake of simplicity. My friend, on the other hand, does a lot of experimental engineering work and loves that LabVIEW frees him from the need to look at line after line of code.

    This got me thinking: should engineers, particularly those working in electronics, be more prepared to work with low-level code? I mean obviously they work with it already, but my (admittedly limited) experience so far is that few engineers take the time to engineer software that is clear, testable and maintainable. In a world where both hardware and software are advancing at an exponential rate, shouldn't we be cultivating engineers who at least appreciate the need …

    Posted by Matt Spraggs on

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    Tags: Engineering, LabVIEW

  4. Windows 10/Microsoft Rant

    Note: This shitpost was originally going to be titled "Windows 10: My Take", but I changed it, for reasons that should become immediately apparent in the next paragraph.

    You know what really pisses me off with Microsoft's latest OS offering? Windows fricking update. Specifically: why Microsoft hasn't addressed the age-old problem of having updates that can only be installed during the shutdown/restart process.

    Okay, so it's true that I have just been through this little lesson in tedium, all because I had to restart my computer for unrelated reasons, but still. Given that, in the words of Tony Prophet, Microsoft's corporate vice president, "Windows 10 is not going to be an incremental step from Windows 8.1," you'd think this is one of the issues they could address. It's true that I have little to no understanding of the internals of Windows, and I appreciate that part of Tony's …

    Posted by Matt Spraggs on

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    Tags: Reviews

  5. "New" Job!

    So the title of this post was originally going to be "New Job!", but since I've been in my current post since September I figured that might be a bit misleading, so I added some lovely quotes to make it feel less like a blatant lie.

    Since the end of my PhD I've been working in the department of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, doing software engineering as part of a project called SMARTmove. The project aims to rehabilitate the upper limbs of stroke patients using a technique known as functional electrical stimulation (FES). By electrically stimulating the arm muscles of stroke patients as they attempt a series of functional tasks it is anticipated that they will recover some control over the arm that was debilitated by the stroke.

    The electrical stimulation is provided via an electrode array printed onto a wearable sleeve, and the patient's …

    Posted by Matt Spraggs on

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    Tags: Employment, C#

  6. Updates and such

    I'm acutely aware I haven't written here for... [looks for last post] nearly six months. This is mainly due to being busy, which in turn has fostered a "sure, I'll write another blog post, when I have time" sort of mentality. I started thinking this in September and, well, here we are.

    To force me to get my act together and start writing here again, I offer you this mediocre excuse for a meaningful blog post. This isn't going to be very long but is going to be a bit more wishy-washy, so if you don't care for that sort of thing, feel free to ignore the rest of this and check back here later.

    So anyway, what's kept me so busy for the past few months? Well, finishing my PhD by way of writing my thesis was the main thing. The actual writing part filled up my summer entirely …

  7. Brexit

    It's been a while since I last posted here. Sorry. I hope you can forgive me in the fullness of time.

    So Thursday the UK decided to leave the EU for some bizarre reason that I still don't fully understand. Many of those who voted to remain feel angry and cheated out of what may have been a more prosperous future than they are now faced with. However, I don't want to rant and rave about how we've made a terrible mistake. I've already done that on Facebook.

    Sickeningly, there are already stories and rumours of open racism and/or xenophobia between citizens and EU migrants. As a country we cannot let this happen. This is something we have to fight before it becomes a societal norm.

    Here's my simple request, regardless of how you voted: next time you see or hear someone dishing out the racial or xenophobic abuse …

    Posted by Matt Spraggs on

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    Tags: Politics, Brexit

  8. Upgrading Mesa on Debian Stable (Jessie)

    Hello! Belated merry Christmas and a very happy New Year!

    Right, now the social niceties are out the way let's get down to it. I play World of Warcraft (WoW). There, I said it. No/some shame. I also run Linux. LMDE 2 Betsy to be exact. That's Linux Mint but based on the Debian repositories, so I'm not shackled to the whims of Canonical. WoW is targetted at Windows and OSX, but that's okay, as Wine handles WoW fairly well.

    LMDE Betsy is currently based on Debian stable (Jessie), which uses Mesa 10.3.2. Let's see how the Battle.net desktop client renders with this setup:

    Battle.net rendered poorly

    Erm... right... obviously some issues there. Reading around a while back, I learned that this is because I'm running an Intel chipset with an old version of Mesa. To get things looking pretty, I'd need Mesa 10.4 or later. So now …

    Posted by Matt Spraggs on

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    Tags: Tech Help, Gaming, Linux

  9. How to Get Around the Telegraph's Article Limit

    If you read The Telegraph online, you might have seen this appear recently:

    Telegraph Article Limit

    Today I discovered how easy this is to get around: just delete the cookies The Telegraph deposits on your computer. To do this on Firefox, check out this link, and for Chrome, check this link out. Finally, for Internet Explorer, click here for IE 6 to 9 and here for IE 10 to 11.

    Posted by Matt Spraggs on

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    Tags: Tech Help

  10. Jeremy Corbyn: One Week In

    I didn't put Jeremy Corbyn on my ballot for the Labour leadership. He came across as very genuine during the leadership campaign, but I just couldn't get behind his policies. We lost the election because we didn't appeal to enough of the electorate, so running for the leadership with policies that only appeal to one segment of society seemed like pure folly.

    So as you might imagine I was pretty disappointed when the election result was announced. Corbyn was of course tipped to win, but winning in the first round of vote counting with a landslide majority certainly demonstrated a strong mandate for his leadership. I wasn't happy, but I couldn't argue with the democratic process.

    The next few days were like watching a train crash in agonisingly slow motion. Here's a list of Corbyn-related blunders I can think of off the top of my head right now:

    • dropping out …

    Posted by Matt Spraggs on

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    Tags: Politics

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