Sunday, April 26, 2015

Binary to Human Readable

I spend a large chunk of my life reading files created to show what was happening in the applications I work on. These so-called log files are like the computer equivalent of the diary of an obsessive person with no memory. Anyway, every once in a while these logs have data in them that don't correspond to readable characters. And sometimes people forget to take this into account when creating the log files. I'm working with one of those now, and I've had this issue before. After finally tiring of guessing by context what the funky symbols meant, I broke down and wrote this Ruby script.

# A script to convert non-printable binary characters in a file to a
# printable and human readable format.

if ARGV.length != 1
  puts "Usage: ruby convertbintohex.rb filename [> outputfile]\n"

filename = ARGV[0], "rb").each_byte do |c|
  # Binary mode has to be in there because Windows
  case (c)
    when 0 then print "[NUL]"
    when 1 then print "[SOH]"
    when 2 then print "[STX]"
    when 3 then print "[ETX]"
    when 4 then print "[EOT]"
    when 5 then print "[ENQ]"
    when 6 then print "[ACK]"
    when 7 then print "[BEL]"
    when 8 then print "[BS]"
    # 9 is HT
    # 10 is LF
    when 11 then print "[VT]"
    when 12 then print "[FF]"
    # 13 is CR
    when 14 then print "[SO]"
    when 15 then print "[SI]"
    when 16 then print "[DLE]"
    when 17 then print "[DC1]"
    when 18 then print "[DC2]"
    when 19 then print "[DC3]"
    when 20 then print "[DC4]"
    when 21 then print "[NAK]"
    when 22 then print "[SYN]"
    when 23 then print "[ETB]"
    when 24 then print "[CAN]"
    when 25 then print "[EM]"
    when 26 then print "[SUB]"
    when 27 then print "[ESC]"
    when 28 then print "[FS]"
    when 29 then print "[GS]"
    when 30 then print "[RS]"
    when 31 then print "[US]"
    when 127 then print "[DEL]"
    # Extended ASCII characters print as hex values
    when 128..255 then print "[#{c.to_s(16)}]"
    else print c.chr # printable ASCII characters

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Solar Transition Struggles

As market forces and technological advances bring the solar powered future nearer than ever before, it was inevitable that growing pains would start to appear. The New York Times reports on the issues in Hawaii, where the electric utilities are struggling to adapt to consumer home solar installations. I have a great deal of sympathy for both sides of this situation. Certainly,  I favor a future powered by renewal (preferably non-polluting) sources, and residential solar is clearly a win on that front. But on the other hand, I can sympathize with the folks at the utility dealing with a setup their systems were not designed for. Especially since the electric grid is, when measured on the current industrial timeline, comparatively ancient technology. From a business perspective, utilities have to see supporting consumer solar power as a loose-loose proposition since it facilitates the shrinking of their customer base. Ultimately, this exposes one of the flaws of capitalism as it exists now, the new and better-for-everyone technology is going to be very bad indeed for a bunch of entrenched businesses, and they will have every incentive to oppose them. That said, solar power solves so many problems that its rise is ultimately inevitable, and thus the question becomes, can the utilities pivot enough to become part of the new economy, or will they leave the niche open for newcomers?

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Rhythm and the Code

After years of sitting in cubicles next to people who are on the phone every day, I have reached the point where I can get into the zone while listening to music. Especially when I'm tired, it can actually be easier for me to get the code flow going with a good instrumental tune drowning out the random background. And when a driving piece comes on and the program is just flowing out of my fingertips, it can feel incredible. I'm talking stuff like Ride of the Valkyries or the Airwolf theme. But sometimes I'll be stuck on something, pondering deeply, and one of those comes on and it just feels like the music is taunting me for my lack of progress. It's funny how relative things can be.